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Transcript of doorstop interview: Melbourne: Monday 29th September 2003: Ministerial reshuffle \n

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Transcript Jenny MacklinMP

Acting Leader of the Opposition Federal Member for Jagajaga




MACKLIN: This is a major ministerial reshuffle that John Howard has announced today. It’s a reshuffle that removes ministers who have been found to be incompetent from the Liberal’s front bench - moved from major portfolios, particularly Health and Families. And that, of course, says a lot about the serious problems that this Government confronts in these very important portfolios. The biggest change is Tony Abbott being moved into Health. This is John Howard putting his number-one attack dog in to really destroy Medicare. Labor’s primary concern is that we will now see Tony Abbott take on Medicare.

JOURNALIST: What’s the message, do you think, Mr Howard is trying to sell … because this is not a small reshuffle, the whole Ministry’s been turned upside down.

MACKLIN: This is a very significant reshuffle, a reshuffle that sees ministers who have been targeted by Labor moved into other portfolios. Philip Ruddock moved away so that he can’t be questioned about ‘cash for visas’. Daryl Williams moved away, an extraordinary move for Daryl Williams. He can’t even get a national security hotline into the telephone book and now he’s in charge of Telstra. We see Amanda Vanstone out of Families into Immigration. Disgracefully we see Senator Paterson who’s completely failed to protect Medicare being moved in to take care of Families. We know that this government has failed to look after the interests of families and Senator Patterson will give Australian families no confidence that their interests will be better served as a result of this reshuffle.

But the number one concern that Labor has with this reshuffle is that John Howard has put Tony Abbott in to destroy Medicare. Tony Abbott has been out kicking heads, making industrial relations a number-one political issue, really making it harder and harder for Australian workers. Now Australian families are going to feel the heat as Tony Abbott takes on Medicare.

JOURNALIST: Does it smack of an election to you at all?

MACKLIN: It smacks of John Howard realising he has serious problems on his front bench and he had to do something about it. He had to get rid of Wilson Tuckey. He’s done that but, of course, he realises he has a number of problems with a number of his senior Ministers and so he’s been forced to act.

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JOURNALIST: Do you think we are any closer to an election with this reshuffle?

MACKLIN: It will take some time for these Ministers to get on top of their portfolios so, no, I don’t expect so.

JOURNALIST: Has it caught you by surprise?

MACKLIN: I wasn’t expecting the reshuffle today. But I am not surprised that we see so many senior Ministers being moved when you think of the enormous problems that this Government confronts in Health, in Family and Community Services, in the areas of national security and so on. So it reflects the problems the Government has confronted as a result of ministerial incompetence.

JOURNALIST: Are you looking forward to sparring with Tony Abbott in Parliament?

MACKLIN: I’m education, but yes.

JOURNALIST: Has Labor any plans to reshuffle their front bench to counter these…

MACKLIN: No we won’t be having a reshuffle - we had a reshuffle not so long ago.

JOURNALIST: Do you accept the reasons given for this reshuffle?

MACKLIN: No, I don’t. The reasons given for this reshuffle do not meet the reality. The reality of this reshuffle is that we have serious ministerial incompetence. We have a major problem with Medicare, and now the Government has put its number-one attack dog, Tony Abbott, in to destroy Medicare.

JOURNALIST: What do you think his first move will be in the portfolio?

MACKLIN: Tony Abbott, we expect, will really take Medicare on. This Government has wanted to destroy Medicare for a very long time and now they are putting their number-one attack dog - the person who we know likes to really swing it around in the Parliament and outside - and he’s now taking on Medicare.

JOURNALIST: Has this been announced today to detract attention from Mr Crean?

MACKLIN: I doubt that very much.

JOURNALIST: Will there be a Labor reshuffle?

MACKLIN: I just answered that.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that Kevin Andrews will make an impact in Workplace Relations or just carry on the same…?

MACKLIN: I don’t think Kevin Andrews will be anything like Tony Abbott. His whole approach as the Minister for Ageing has been to do nothing, to have a review of everything, and I expect we’ll see very little out of Kevin Andrews.