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Minister discusses Liberal Party leadership.



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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Parliamentary Library.

 

It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in an y other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.

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AM

 

Thur sday 13 September 2007

Minister discusses Liberal Party leadership

 

PETER CAVE: Even the Howard Government's loyalists admit it's been a disastrous week for them. 

 

And as we've just hear
d the Prime Minister has effectively been forced to foreshadow his retirement in order quell leadership speculation and demonstrate that the Government is planning for the future. 

 

But its case for re-election has been damaged, and ammunition has been handed to an already rampant Opposition. 

 

Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey is one of the 18 members of the Cabinet who was canvassed about whether he thought the Prime Minister should resign. 

 

He's in our Canberra studio with Chief Political Correspondent Chris Uhlmann. 

 

CHRIS UHLMANN: Joe Hockey, good morning. 

 

JOE HOCKEY: Morning, Chris. 

 

CHRIS UHLMANN: If most of the Cabinet doubts the Prime Minister's the right man to lead the Liberal party, why should he lead the nation? 

 

JOE HOCKEY: Well the Cabinet overwhelmingly, in fact, absolutely, supports John Howard. It is a unanimous view of the Cabinet that John Howard should lead us to the next election and beyond. 

 

CHRIS UHLMANN: And has that always been your view, your personal view? 

 

JOE HOCKEY: Well, I'll tell you what, Chris, I learnt an early lesson in politics. Private conversations are based on mutual respect and trust, and if people feel that every private conversation ends up being revealed on AM, even though this is an important program, or on the front page of a newspaper, you'll never have a trusting relationship. So I keep my advice confidential to me, and the other party. 

 

CHRIS UHLMANN: I guess the question that many people will be asking is, do you have conviction without courage? 

 

JOE HOCKEY: I have conviction and courage, and I'm prepared to back the man of steel, John Howard, to lead us to the next election and beyond. 

 

CHRIS UHLMANN: If we are to believe much of what's been reported and much of it has not been denied, then most of Cabinet, at some stage, believed that the Prime Minister was not the best man to lead the party. What changed their mind, beyond the Prime Minister saying that he wouldn't go? 

 

JOE HOCKEY: The universal view of the cabinet is that John Howard should lead us to the next election, should lead us beyond the next election. Last night, he indicated a timetable for retirement, but he also outlined the fact that he has some future plans, which we'll hear more about in the next few weeks, which cabinet has also discussed.  

 

Those future plans will be about locking in economic prosperity, in my area, helping to focus on how we can deliver full employment, so that every Australian who wants to get a job can get a job, and focusing on the things that matter to everyday Australians, such as, how do we ensure that you've got reliable waterflows, not only through your taps, but into the farming areas of Western New South Wales and Victoria, how do we ensure that we've got reliable electricity supply across the country, bearing in mind the challenges of managing greenhouse gas emission? 

 

How do we ensure that we lock in economic prosperity, so that working families have greater choice in their lives, rather than being beholden to the bank? 

 

CHRIS UHLMANN: Even the Prime Minister now has effectively admitted that at some stage, it's important that he does leave, and that the party regenerate, why not now, why wait for another election and another however many years? 

 

JOE HOCKEY: Well John Howard's the Don Bradman of Australian politics… 

 

CHRIS UHLMANN: And even he retired. 

 

JOE HOCKEY: Well, Don Bradman retired, and John Howard's flagged that he will retire in the next term. But if you've got a Don Bradman in the team, and you're going on an Ashes tour to England, you don't readily give up your Don Bradman. We have a great battle ahead of us in the lead-up to the next election, we want to have all of our efforts focused on delivering for the Australian people. 

 

CHRIS UHLMANN: You talk about a team, but how can you be a team when one man gets to decide what's in the team's best interests? 

 

JOE HOCKEY: Everyone decides what's in the team's best interests, and the whole team… 

 

CHRIS UHLMANN: Clearly not, because everyone decided, then the Prime Minister made the decision in the end. 

 

JOE HOCKEY: Chris, the whole team yesterday, decided to back, unanimously, John Howard, as the leader of the party into the next election and beyond.  

 

Now you compare that with the Labor party, where everyone knows, everyone in this building, and I suspect across Australia knows, that Julia Gillard is sitting back with a handbag full of knives, waiting for Kevin Rudd to stumble. You ask yourself, have a look at the teams. What happens if Kevin Rudd does stumble? Do you want Julia Gillard to be Prime Minister of Australia? 

 

CHRIS UHLMANN: But isn't this now, this focus on a team, effectively admitting that the Prime Minister cannot beat Kevin Rudd in a head-to-head battle? 

 

JOE HOCKEY: Well we're not electing a President, we're electing a government. And a government is made up of members right across Australia, and a ministry made up of talented people.  

 

We're prepared, pound for pound, to lay down our credentials against the Labor party's, bearing in mind that no-one really believes, Chris, no-one really believes, that with 70 per cent of his front bench former union officials, Kevin Rudd will have the courage to stand up to the union bosses. 

 

CHRIS UHLMANN: Now, Minister, to your own portfolio, and a new study has found that some of Australia's 1.7 million retail hospitality workers have lost up to a third of their income since the introduction of WorkChoices. Surely that's an indictment of the laws? 

 

JOE HOCKEY: Well, Chris, this is another example. I think this is the 12th academic report commissioned by state Labor governments, and in this case, again, commissioned from an ex-union official who happens to be an academic, that claims on the basis of flawed data that somehow, overwhelmingly, all Australians are worse off.  

 

I mean, lets be fair dinkum about this. Since the introduction of WorkChoices, real wages, that is, wages after inflation is taken out, money in people's pocket has increased by 3 per cent, jobs 4.3 per cent, 417,000 new jobs created, 85 per cent full-time, and strikes at the lowest level since 1913. And you know what, people have greater job security, if you've got low unemployment and a strong economy. 

 

CHRIS UHLMANN: Joe Hockey, we'll have to leave it there, thank you. 

 

JOE HOCKEY: Thanks, Chris. 

 

PETER CAVE: Mr Hockey was speaking to Chris Uhlmann, in Canberra. And as you heard at the end of that interview, there's new research out this morning, commissioned by state Labor governments in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, about the…problem with that story, we'll move on.