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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 16 September 2008: Liberal Party leadership.



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THE HON. DR BRENDAN NELSON MP

16 September 2008

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. DR BRENDAN NELSON MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

Subjects: Liberal Party leadership.

E&OE………………………………………………………………………………......

DR NELSON:

Firstly I congratulate Malcolm Turnbull on his election to the leadership of the parliamentary Liberal Party and obviously the Opposition of Australia. There is absolutely no question that I will do everything that I possibly can to support a change of government in 2010 and to support Malcolm Turnbull becoming Australia’s next prime minister.

Every Liberal, every member of our party, every supporter of our party, I thank you for the support that I have received from you, and now all of us need to get behind Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop and the leadership team here to make sure that we not only keep the Government to account but indeed we change the government in 2010.

I’d also like to thank my wife Gillian and my family who have made enormous sacrifices to allow me to do the job over the last nine and a half months.

As all of you know… I think Samantha Maiden once said to me, do you realise that Leader of the Opposition is the toughest job in Australia? And I said, I’ve heard that but I’m looking forward to finding out. It has been a great honour, an enormous honour for me to be the leader of the Liberal Party, the Leader of the Opposition. It is an extraordinarily important role in Australian political life and for that reason especially, amongst others, I will be strongly supporting Malcolm Turnbull in his leadership. It is also clear increasingly to Australians that we are worse off under Mr Rudd and the Labor Government than we were under the Coalition. Our world now faces quite significant economic challenges to say the least. We owe it to our country to see that we have good government and most importantly we have a very strong, credible and attractive alternative. I believe that Malcolm Turnbull will provide that.

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I know that you will ask me about, so I will say it. Brining on the leadership spill was indeed the right thing to do. My view was that it was not in this country’s interests to continue to have the kind of speculation which was existing, to continue to distract all of you in the media and Australians away from the main issues that concern all Australians - keeping your job, keeping your house, feeding and clothing your children, the plight of pensioners, the fact that Australians are worse off. In my very strong view it was the right thing to do and I deal with things on my terms.

QUESTION:

Dr Nelson, Mr Turnbull said you declined an offer to stay on the frontbench. Will you explain why?

DR NELSON:

Well look, I think it’s important that Malcolm and his new team have every opportunity to present the future and to work as they see fit. I neither seek nor indeed will I accept a frontbench position. I will continue to represent and work hard for the people of Bradfield and I will do everything I can to support Malcolm Turnbull in that regard. Those of you in the gallery can keep me to account in that, and if you think in someway I’m not doing that I’m sure you’ll point it out to people.

QUESTION:

Will you stay in politics as… in your local seat and would you rule out any future challenges between now (inaudible)?

DR NELSON:

I’ll be working very hard to seek preselection for the Liberal Party to represent the people of Bradfield at the next election and I will do everything I possibly can to support the team. Look, the most important thing - the reason I went into public life originally - the most important thing is the service of our nation. Do everything we can to make this country an even better place than the one that our generations had. That is what it’s about. What it’s always been about for me and it always will be.

QUESTION:

So you won’t rule out a challenge?

DR NELSON:

Well look, I’m not going to be challenging. No, of course not.

QUESTION:

Dr Nelson do you think that the leadership of the Liberal Party came to you too early in your career, given that people had expected that Mr Costello would become the leader and you were the bloke who put your hand up?

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DR NELSON:

Well look, I think it’s important in life that you stand up to the plate, you take on responsibilities and you make opportunities not for yourself but indeed for others in the service of Australia through the Liberal Party. I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to achieve. To come out of government after 11 and a half years and come into opposition where the punitive next leader Peter Costello chose not to be the leader, is to say the least a significant challenge on all fronts. But when you look at it in terms of what we have achieved: the Kyoto ratification; to bring the party to the ‘sorry’ table for forcibly removed generations of Aboriginal children and keep the party together on that issue; the abandoning of WorkChoices, which had to be done in my view, strong view, before Christmas last year; the by-elections that we undertook. We had the biggest swing in 30 years in the electorate of Gippsland when the Labor Party actually turned up. The elections that have been held in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. To keep out parties together whilst having different views on wheat marketing. Many other things. I believe that we’re in a strong position and also that Australians are increasingly aware that Mr Rudd is not the person that arrived in the catalogue last year through the letterboxes.

QUESTION:

You said you would support Malcolm Turnbull? Did you have enough support from Mr Turnbull when you were leader?

DR NELSON:

Well of course. I believe so.

QUESTION:

(Inaudible)

DR NELSON:

Steve, the answer to that is no. And everybody in my office has just lost their job.

QUESTION:

Dr Nelson you’ve been relentless in saying that you would be the leader to take the Coalition to the next election. Even last night you were very confident that you would win today? Was that a lie to the Australian people or did you think you had the numbers or what went wrong?

DR NELSON:

Well, again, that is all a matter of history now. My colleagues have made a decision to today on terms which I set and they have chosen Malcolm Turnbull and now every member of the parliamentary party, every Liberal, every Australian that believes in a

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better Australia needs to get behind Malcolm Turnbull, which is precisely what I am doing.

QUESTION:

Do you think you were given a fair go?

DR NELSON:

Well you guys can ask yourselves that.

QUESTION:

Dr Nelson is there anything different you would do? I remember the Press Club where you gave a very emotive speech and people were criticising you. You talked about seeing people (inaudible) suicide. Do you think you were too emotional for the Australian people and that’s why the polls really hadn’t turned around for you?

DR NELSON:

Well I’m myself. And I can only say that I stand by every word that I said at the National Press Club address. That’s me. And as far as the polls are concerned, the most important thing is when Australians have actually had a chance to vote since November last year, whether in Queensland, New South Wales local government elections, Northern Territory, Western Australia, whether in Gippsland, whether recently in a very large field without the Labor Party in Mayo, it’s quite clear that Mr Rudd and the Government already is being exposed to the Australian people. They’re waking up to him.

By the way, by the way, I would say to you that in terms of authenticity I’d back myself against Kevin Rudd any day.

QUESTION:

Just on climate change, Dr Nelson - do you think you’ve got a mandate in the party room on climate change? 41-45. A very close vote. There were a lot of people in the party room, do you think they want that tougher line that you were talking about last night?

DR NELSON:

Well, I can only repeat to you what I said to my colleagues last night and that is that in my view we need to take a stronger line in defending and protecting Australia’s national economic interest in relation to climate change. I said nothing more nor nothing less.

QUESTION:

Dr Nelson, you were the leader for nearly 10 months, do you have any regrets during that time?

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DR NELSON:

That I didn’t see my wife enough. That’s the only one.

QUESTION:

Why didn’t you resonate to the Australian people? What was your undoing?

DR NELSON:

Well, you guys ask yourselves.

QUESTION:

(Inaudible) hanging around on the backbench had anything to do with your downfall in the party room?

DR NELSON:

Sorry, what was that?

QUESTION:

Do you think with Peter Costello hanging around on the backbench, did that have anything to do with your downfall in the party room today, do you think?

DR NELSON:

No. Michelle?

QUESTION:

Do you think you could have beaten Mr Rudd?

DR NELSON:

Yes, I do.

QUESTION:

Gillian, what’s your feeling at the moment. Relief or disappointment?

GILLIAN ADAMSON:

Malcolm, I’m very proud of my husband. I’ve never met nor expect I will ever meet a finer man, and I’m proud to be standing here beside him and I look forward to seeing more of you.

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DR NELSON:

Now she’s going to make me cry.

QUESTION:

Dr Nelson, you may have lost the leadership but you are one of the sort of few that does have cabinet experience [inaudible] a lot of people in the party. Wouldn’t it be in the Coalition’s best interest if you did go on the frontbench and help the team or…?

DR NELSON:

Well look, I think the best thing to do - obviously I will do everything I can to support Malcolm and the team - but it’s also a part of regeneration. I had the privilege for six years to be a cabinet minister in the previous government. I spent five years as a backbencher; a year as a parliamentary secretary. I’ve now had 10 challenging months as the leader of the Liberal Party and the Opposition.

I think it’s important now that Malcolm have the opportunity to bring on new people. I’m very happy to provide whatever advice, support, anything I can possibly do for any of my colleagues. And, as all of you know, all of you know, at no stage have any of you had me doing anything in twelve and a half years to undermine my own colleagues. I’m not about to start.

QUESTION:

Would you consider going back to the frontbench?

DR NELSON:

Probably not. I’ll leave my options open.

QUESTION:

Will you be arguing your point on climate change from the backbench, arguing for a tougher line, possibly different models, on an emissions trading scheme?

DR NELSON:

I’ll leave any discussions on policy or anything like that to internal political processes.

QUESTION:

(Inaudible)

DR NELSON:

Sorry?

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QUESTION:

Will Mr Turnbull stand up for all those families in a Tarago?

DR NELSON:

Look, this is a very important point that I think people frequently forget. Mr Rudd and his family, to their great credit, have more wealth than Mr Turnbull. And let us not live in a country where the measure of a person, a man or a woman, is determined by their success or otherwise.

We are Liberals and we believe in encouraging and rewarding and celebrating success in life, whether it’s economic or social. It’s very, very important and you’re damn right that Malcolm Turnbull can stand up for workers, he can stand up for pensioners, he can stand up for large families. And it’s very important that Australians never allow themselves to be verballed into believing that a person is incapable of understanding the plight of someone else by virtue of their own economic circumstances.

QUESTION:

Dr Nelson, most of your colleagues were surprised by your decision to [inaudible]. Did you speak to Peter Costello before you announced calling that meeting?

DR NELSON:

I spoke to him late yesterday.

QUESTION:

(Inaudible)

DR NELSON:

Well, look, I’m not going to go through it all now. Look, I spoke to Peter Costello and a number of my colleagues many times over the last nine or 10 months. Look, I’m not going to go into any of that now.

I thought it was important - you know what I mean - I thought it was important if we want to focus on the plight of whether it’s pensioners, people trying to keep their homes, people trying to keep their jobs and, more importantly than me or my circumstances, more importantly now with what’s happened with Lehman Brothers, I mean, our country is now going to face another significant challenge, and in the end that will wash through every household, every small business, every part of Australian society. And it’s very important for our country and for Australians that we have the Government actually on the ball with a plan which gives Australians confidence that they are able to actually get across it.

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QUESTION:

(Inaudible) delivered a pretty impressive speech and pretty powerful, how would you describe his leadership style?

DR NELSON:

Who’s that?

QUESTION:

Mr Turnbull.

DR NELSON:

Well, I think it’s terrific.

QUESTION:

Did Julie Bishop back you in as deputy leader, Dr Nelson? Did your deputy back you last night or was she doing numbers for Mr Turnbull?

DR NELSON:

I’m not going to comment on any of that.

I will just say in relation to Julie Bishop, it’s been a great pleasure to work with her, a pleasure to have her as my deputy and she is a great deputy and I’m sure she’ll serve Malcolm very, very effectively in the interests of our party - a very, very good deputy. I couldn’t have had a better deputy.

QUESTION:

Dr Nelson, some of your colleagues would point to your bumbling management of climate change a month or so ago when you promised to toughen up your position (inaudible) rolled by your frontbench is the moment that you lost the leadership. Do you agree with that?

DR NELSON:

I’m not going to comment on any of that. And on that note I think we’ll finish.

Thanks.

[ends]

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