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Election 2007: ALP National Secretary discusses the result.



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Election victory issues Radio Interview ABC Breakfast 29th November 2007

KELLY: Tim, good morning.

GARTRELL: Good morning, Fran.

KELLY: In 2004, Labor didn’t even get close which made 2007 seem even higher than Kevin Rudd’s Mt Everest, famed Mt Everest. When did you know you had them beat?

GARTRELL: Well, you never take anything for granted. We were comfortable during the campaign. I was particularly comfortable after Kevin Rudd comprehensively defeated John Howard in the election debate. That was a pivotal moment of the campaign. I became most confident after our campaign launch when Kevin Rudd basically pulled the shutters down on excessive spending and from that point onwards we were pretty comfortable about a victory.

KELLY: Now I’m going to press you on this because if anyone knows what the internal polling was saying it’s you, former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said this week that he’d thought for most of this year the Coalition had no chance. Was there a point for you even before the campaign, before the election where you thought, you looked at the figures, we’ve got this won?

GARTRELL: No, you never take anything for granted and there’s always lots of undecided voters. I think that’s a rewrite of history. We went into the campaign knowing we had to have a good day everyday and we had to do things like win

the debate and win the launches and Kevin Rudd’s strong leadership came through.

KELLY: A lot of reasons have been proffered for Labor’s win if, again, if anyone knows how the polling tracked with the issues as they emerged along the way, it’s you, what was it that turned voters to Labor in such a big way?

GARTRELL: Look, there’s a few things that happened. Firstly, I think the Government overreached in the 2004 election campaign, making unsustainable promises on interest rates, promising to keep them at record lows, 30 year lows, but the big moment was when the Government used its Senate majority to introduce Work Choices and without even ever promising to introduce Work Choices and that was a big betrayal of voters, working families in metro and

regional Australia, and I think that was the moment where things really, really shifted.

KELLY: Kim Beazley said that’s what brought a whole lot of voters back to Labor and then they just stayed there. Was that it, then?

Tim Gartrell

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GARTRELL: No, not at all. We needed to make the case that we were the best party to govern for the future and the final ingredient and the most important ingredient was Kevin Rudd and his plans for the future, his education revolution and his extremely strong leadership and tenacious leadership.

KELLY: How important an ingredient was John Howard because former New South Wales State Liberal Leader Peter Coleman, who’s also Peter Costello’s father-in-law, said yesterday he thought John Howard’s egomania was his fatal flaw. Was this an election that John Howard lost rather than Kevin Rudd won?

GARTRELL: No, the big fault of John Howard I think started with hubris and arrogance after they introduced Work Choices and one of the most important moments of the campaign was on the 27th of March 2007 when John Howard said working families have never been better off and that was followed by

comments from Peter Costello that there’s no housing affordability crisis, Mal Brough that there’s no childcare crisis.

Governments that say things like that, in my view, are doomed. You cannot just go around skiting, telling people they’ve never had it so good, particularly when interest rates had gone up, particularly when there was a housing affordability crisis and particularly when Work Choices had ensured that working families weren’t better off.

KELLY: When we spoke to Liberal leadership aspirant Malcolm Turnbull yesterday, he eluded to the death of ideology in politics. He said he wasn’t ideologically driven - “I’m not an ideological person, I’m a practical person, I come with a long experience in business.” Is this the new politics - an ideological free zone? US commentator E. J. Dionne who’s often on this program observed that Kevin Rudd relied on voters’ exhaustion with the ideological categories of the past.

GARTRELL: No I don’t agree with that. I think there’s some very Australian things that happened here - Work Choices, “never better off” - all those things were very specific to Australia and I think Malcolm’s trying to do what all Liberals are doing now and they’re just trying to very quickly shed their skin.

Here we are five days after their election loss and they’re all distancing themselves from the past. You’ve got Malcolm Turnbull, Brendan Nelson all basically saying that Work Choices, they should think about dumping Work Choices. But Brendan Nelson, for example, said that Work Choices legislation was about Australia’s future. All these people backed in Work Choices and backed in the policies of the Howard era. They were all Cabinet ministers. They can’t just simply say oh no sorry we’ll just shed our skin and we’re completely different now, we’re a new brand of ideology-free Liberals - warm and cuddly but not standing for anything. You either stood for what you did in Cabinet or you don’t and if you don’t, you don’t stand for anything.

KELLY: But does Kevin Rudd stand for an ideology?

GARTRELL: I think Kevin Rudd has a progressive agenda but his moved the

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Labor Party more to the centre ground. The key thing here is where the Liberal Party are going and they are going to the right of voters and I think what we’ll see now is a Liberal Party that’s characterised by division and extremity and they have an extremism that will emerge.

KELLY: Well seeing you’ve raised the Liberal Party, let me ask you, they do have their leadership contest now. If the two contenders for leadership are Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull, I don’t know if you’d describe either of those as the type to move voters to the right but whoever gets up, who would you prefer to be facing to be running a campaign against in three years time and are you relieved Peter Costello’s not there taking the fight up?

GARTRELL: Well what happens today I think is irrelevant because Tony Abbott has basically signalled that it’s game on. Tony Abbott has signalled that the Australian public won’t be denied his “people skills”, as he says, he’s going to make future leadership tilts. He said I’m not ruling out future tilts at the leadership - that’s plural - so I think what happens today, it will be irrelevant. I think there’ll be continuing division and disunity within the Liberal Party.

KELLY: Tim Gartrell, Kevin Rudd chooses his front bench today, the first time it’s the leader choosing it alone. Does that mean factionalism is dead in the ALP or would you like it to be headed that way?

GARTRELL: Look, I think it’s been heading that way for quite a while. I think what Kevin Rudd is going to do is lead a modern Labor Party.

And the golden era for factionalism was the 1980s. There will always be a role for groupings within any political party. They exist within the Liberal Party, they exist within the Greens. All modern political parties have groupings but the rigid factionalism of the 1980s is a thing of the past and I think you will see Kevin Rudd, this will be another aspect of Kevin Rudd’s new leadership.

KELLY: So the focus of the whole sort of notion of a title of factional boss should be a thing of the past, factional meetings should be more like an afternoon tea meeting as someone described it?

GARTRELL: Well look, as long as people are grouping around ideas it’s fine. It’s when people group around factions for factions’ sake that it’s a problem and I just think Australian society has moved on, the world has changed and you’ll see Kevin Rudd pushing forward a modern Labor Party.

KELLY: Just briefly, the count goes on. Some seats still undecided. What about Maxine McKew, can she yet claim to be the next member for Bennelong?

GARTRELL: Well, I’ll leave that to Maxine but we are very, very confident of picking up Bennelong.

KELLY: Tim Gartrell, thank you very much for joining us.

GARTRELL: Thanks, Fran.

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