ABC Radio Melbourne Mornings

Subject/s: Liberal Party chaos.


Subject/s: Liberal Party chaos.
JON FAINE, HOST: We are joined by the Labor Shadow Attorney-General, from the Labor Party, Mark Dreyfus QC who was one of the principal architects of the move that’s just failed - and narrowly failed - to have Peter Dutton referred to the High Court for the confusion over his eligibility under Section 44 of the Australian Constitution for it to be resolved. Mr Dreyfus, good morning to you.
FAINE: What was the point of trying? Were you seriously thinking there would be enough people crossing the floor to support that motion?
DREYFUS: This was an opportunity for people on the other side of the Parliament - Liberal party, National Party members who care about our constitution to hold true to what they said last year, particularly the Prime Minister that when there is doubt about the eligibility of a member of the House of Representatives it ought to be referred to the High Court to clear the matter up. There is absolutely doubt about the eligibility of Mr Dutton but all of the Liberals and Nationals voted against referral and so the vote was lost 69 to 68.
FAINE: Did someone cross the floor?
DREYFUS: The crossbenchers voted with Labor to refer Mr Dutton to the High Court.
FAINE: But that was not enough?
DREYFUS: That was not enough. Of course we’ve already had extraordinary events this morning of Mathias Cormann and Michaelia Cash and Mitch Fifield holding a press conference to announce that they are switching their support to Peter Dutton as Prime Minister and I think we are expecting that there will be a meeting of the Liberal Party room soon at which Peter Dutton, extraordinarily, will be elected Prime Minister. The Liberal Party is tearing itself apart.
FAINE: It’s doing what the Labor Party did not that long ago, is it not?
DREYFUS: It’s now a long time ago. We’ve had tremendous unity delivered by a Bill Shorten leadership since the election in September 2013. We have spent our time getting ready to govern, producing a very detailed set of policies, showing, I think tremendous discipline. We will continue to do so. We say that an election cannot come soon enough.
FAINE: Give us an insight into the Labor Party’s strategy and tactics. Does the Labor Party prefer an election where Bill Shorten goes up against Peter Dutton?          
DREYFUS: It doesn’t matter. Changing the leader will make no difference. Both Peter Dutton and Malcolm Turnbull voted for all of the bad policies the Liberal Party has put forward since Abbott won the election in 2013.
There’s no difference. It’s the same party still committed to huge tax cuts for big corporations, tax cuts for the banks, committed to cutting funding to schools, cutting funding to hospitals. We are looking forward to the election.
FAINE: So as matters stand, this afternoon there will be a Liberal Party room meeting, and the party will elect Peter Dutton it would seem now inevitably to be the leader.
By this afternoon’s Question Time it will be Peter Dutton leading not Malcolm Turnbull. Malcolm Turnbull has said he won’t trigger a by-election so we then wait for a new ministry to be selected and sworn in and then it’s business as usual with a new Prime Minister is it not?
DREYFUS: I doubt that one could ever say it’s business as usual from this Liberal Party or this Liberal-National Coalition. This Liberal Party is now two parties.
It’s torn itself apart over this and I know I’m not sitting in the Liberal Party room but that’s what it looks like. This is a fight to the death about the direction of the Liberal Party, whether it’s to be a right wing party or whether it’s going to govern from the centre and I think that we’ve now got the answer from the Liberal Party. It wants to be a right wing party. It wants to go down the path that Peter Dutton’s been indicating now for years, that Tony Abbott’s been indicating for years. 
Where that leaves the so called moderates, or those who would want to govern from the centre in the Liberal Party, who’s to know. It’s almost a split in the Liberal Party, that’s what it looks like. And certainly they have been paralysed now for months with this division and inability to focus on the things that matter to ordinary Australians, which is getting on with the job of providing hospitals, providing schools, providing TAFEs, providing universities, keeping Australia’s safe, the issues that matter. And dare I talk about climate change, on which there is now no policy. We have no energy policy. We have no policy delivered by the government of Australia to bring down our emissions.
FAINE: Well we will see where indeed it gets too soon. Thank you for your time and your quick response to our request for an interview.