ABC Radio National interview

SUBJECT/S: CFA dispute; election wrap-up




SUBJECT/S: CFA dispute; election wrap-up

FRAN KELLY, HOST: Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus is a senior Victorian, a frontbencher in Bill Shorten’s team. Mark Dreyfus, welcome to RN Breakfast.

MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Morning Fran, thanks for having me.

KELLY: The front page of your hometown newspaper, the Herald Sun, screams “Burn the Votes”. Has the CFA dispute cost you any chance of winning this federal election?

DREYFUS: Oh look Fran we’re disappointed this dispute has run on for now nearly three years but I think Victorians are very very clear that this is a state issue. And it’s going to be resolved by Victorians sitting down and negotiating, by the marvelous volunteer firefighters and the marvelous professional firefighters who work together in the Country Fire Authority, with the Victorian government. That is how this dispute is going to be resolved. And it’s very unfortunate that Mr Turnbull has tried to muddy the waters in this dispute by trying to turn it into a federal issue which it is not.

KELLY: It may not be a federal issue and it may not be reverberating outside of Victoria but it does seem to be reverberating with the people who live in Victoria and that is going to intrude perhaps on their intentions. Some of your colleagues are furious, one is quoted this morning in the Herald Sun saying: “I think this is one of the most unhelpful interventions from a State Premier I have seen in my time in politics. I think Mr Andrews should be watching his back.” Should Daniel Andrews have done more to sort this out?

DREYFUS: I’m not going to comment on unnamed sources like that. This is a Victorian dispute, it’s very unfortunate that it’s run on as long as it has, but I have faith in the intelligence of Victorian voters to realise this is a state dispute which is going to be resolved as a state issue…

KELLY: Well let me give you a named source, retiring Labor MP Anna Burke who is warning that the CFA dispute could cost Labor seats.

DREYFUS: Well I don’t agree with that. I don’t think that Victorians will in any way vote tomorrow on anything other than federal issues and it’s quite shameful that Mr Turnbull has tried to intervene, standing on the front steps of the Victorian parliament if you please. He’s got no solutions, he’s got no helpful thing to say. He’s just trying to inflame an issue and drive divisions, quite disgracefully drive divisions between excellent volunteer firefighters and our excellent paid firefighters who we admire and respect and it’s going to be resolved by the Victorians at the state level Fran, I can’t say it more clearly than that.

KELLY: Well I think you’re absolutely right, the Prime Minister is trying to ramp this up for political purposes, no doubt about it…

DREYFUS: …and should be ashamed of himself for trying to do so.

KELLY: But he gave a shout out at his National Press Club address yesterday to the Liberal candidate in the seat of Chisholm in Victoria yesterday, that’s Chisholm, the seat held by the retiring Labor MP Anna Burke. Could you lose Chisholm because of this?

DREYFUS: Well that’s just more arrogant talk from Mr Turnbull. We’ve had a fair bit of that from him up until now, and it’s more of the same. I know in my electorate and I know throughout Victoria how well volunteer firefighters work together with paid firefighters. It’s been a very very long-running dispute. Some of these issues pre-date even the current EBA negotiations. It’s going to be resolved by Victorians sitting down and talking to each other.

KELLY: Will you hold Chisholm?

DREYFUS: I think we should hold Chisholm and I’m looking forward to winning this election.

KELLY: Will you hold Bendigo?

DREYFUS: We are the underdog in this election, but the seats we have now got, I expect to hold and I expect to win enough seats to win this election. We are in this election to win it, we’re very proud of our campaign, the people will decide tomorrow.

KELLY: The polls have it at 50-50, so you’re within your rights to feel that you have a chance, a similar result in Galaxy too, two polls today, 50-50 and 49-51. That’s Labor 49 and the government 51. But Labor’s primary vote in the Ipsos/Fairfax poll is as low as 33 per cent. You can’t win an election with a primary vote at 33 per cent can you?

DREYFUS: We’re planning on winning tomorrow, this is also an election at which more Australians are voting, 15.5 million Australians are going to be voting tomorrow. It’s also where more Australians than ever before are voting for parties other than the major parties. And I don’t think anybody can confidently predict the result of this election. These polls, all of them are within the margin of error and as I say we’re planning on winning tomorrow.

KELLY: I agree, the polls are within the margin of error on the two-party-preferred, but if your primary vote is at 33 per cent, it’s obviously being impacted by that high vote for neither of the major parties. The coalition is clearly worried about that. It’s taken out full-page ads today urging people not to vote for independents and minor parties. Do you have the same advice for voters?

DREYFUS: We think they should be voting Labor. We think they should be voting for fairness, we think they should be voting for the united team that we have presented over the last three years, they should be voting for a secure future for Medicare. That’s our advice for voters.

KELLY: Labor had high hopes in the middle of last week, really your spirits were up. The scare campaign seemed to be working a treat, some strategists were talking if not winning, then certainly coming close, picking up 15-16 seats. Where are your confidence levels now?

DREYFUS: We are in this election to win it. We know how important it is that a government of a Labor Party that stands for fairness wins. We know how important that is for Australians. Today is the first day – just to give you an example – of the full roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It’s an incredibly special day for the 460,000 Australians with a disability. It’s going to improve their lives. It’s a reminder of what politics can achieve, what was achieved by the last Labor government. We had to drag the coalition kicking and screaming to support the NDIS, and I’m incredibly proud today to see its first roll-out and I say again Fran, that’s why we’re in politics, why we want to win government so we can achieve fairness for all Australians, so that we can achieve better outcomes, protect Medicare, properly fund schools, real action on climate change, ma rriage equality, the things that Australians want.

KELLY: Well Labor has been criticised by some, not all of course, for focusing as you did there on the provision of services rather than talking on the overall health of the economy.

DREYFUS: We’re just as focused on the health of the economy but what we want is budget repair that is fair. Our outcome returns Australians to surplus at the same time as the coalition but we get there in a different way. And that’s why as many commentators have said, this is an election with a very clear choice. We are offering budget repair that is fair, we are offering structural reform of the economy, structural reform of the budget, which is why we get to that surplus in a different way but over the longer term, because of that structural reform we have been prepared to make a much more secure budget and fiscal outcome.

KELLY: With respect Mark Dreyfus it is maybe sounding a little desperate now, Bill Shorten’s media release today says ‘Malcolm or Medicare: you can’t have both. One day left to save Medicare, Mr Turnbull is destroying Medicare brick by brick.’ Now Mr Turnbull has said quite clearly that all elements of Medicare will remain under his leadership.

DREYFUS: Well we’ve seen what has happened under past Liberal governments. They attack Medicare, we saw what happened before the last election when Tony Abbott said no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no cuts to the ABC, no cuts to the SBS and what happened? There were cuts to all those areas. Particularly cuts to health. Malcolm Turnbull had to be dragged away from his privatisation course, but he is still bent on cuts. Cuts to pathology services, cuts to doctors incomes which will decrease bulk billing and increase the amount of money people have to pay to go to the doctor.

KELLY: What’s your theory Mark Dreyfus for why, at the end of this eight-week campaign, the polls remain where they were at the beginning. For all the miles you’ve driven and walked, for all the effort you may have put into letterboxes, all the hands you’ve shaken, all the phonecalls made doesn’t seem to have made one jot of difference. Do you think that voters aren’t listening?

DREYFUS: We don’t decide elections by polling Fran. We decide..

KELLY: No of course we don’t….but nevertheless it is interesting don’t you think that after 55 days we’re at 50-50 today.

DREYFUS: I’d resist reading….it’s as if you’re saying the polls already decide…that the election is already decided because the polls have said such and such.

KELLY: Well the polls say 50-50.

DREYFUS: The polls say 50-50 and that shows that Labor is able to win this election, we are planning on winning this election tomorrow and it’s been a hard-fought campaign but it’s a campaign that I am very proud to have been part of because we are presenting a very clear choice.

KELLY: Obviously you don’t want to project to the possibility of Labor losing, but if Labor loses under Labor Party rules the leadership is thrown open, there will be a ballot. In your view, should Bill Shorten remain as Labor leader if Labor loses?

DREYFUS: I am focused on tomorrow, Fran. I am planning to win this election tomorrow, I’m planning on us winning nationally, and can I say how proud I am of our leader Bill Shorten for the campaign he has fought and indeed I am proud of our team, and the policies we have presented to the Australian people.

KELLY: Mark Dreyfus, thank you very much for joining us.

DREYFUS: Thank you very much Fran.