Interview with David Speers & Kieran Gilbert - Sky News First Edition

Re: ALP Leadership

DAVID SPEERS: A clearer insight into what a return to him would mean for Labor, what it would mean for the country and what and why he thinks Julia Gillard is so certain to lose the next election.

As we wait for Kevin Rudd, let's bring in a Labor front bencher, Parliamentary Secretary, Mark Dreyfus, joining us from Melbourne, a strong supporter of Julia Gillard.

Mark Dreyfus, thanks for your time this morning.  Kevin Rudd, we'll see whether he's going to announce he's contesting the leadership ballot on Monday.  What would be your message to him at this late stage?

MARK DREYFUS: Well, my message is the same to all of the members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, which is that we have to have finality on Monday and I'm looking forward to getting that finality on Monday. 

As Greg Combet said on Wednesday, enough's enough and we should get back to the job of governing the country and getting on with managing the economy as we've been doing. Managing the economy in the interests of working people and the interests of working families and getting on with more of the achievements that we've achieved so far.

DAVID SPEERS: But even if Kevin Rudd loses on Monday in this - as we expect in a caucus ballot, do you acknowledge that the sort of things that have been said in the last twenty-four hours mean that Labor's going to absolutely struggle to get on with those jobs that you outlined?

MARK DREYFUS: I don't accept that for a moment.  I think what we've seen in the last few days is members of our Parliamentary Labor Party explaining to the Australian public what happened in June 2010, which is that Kevin Rudd lost the confidence as leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.

And trying - and explaining to people why it is that so many of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, I'd say an overwhelming majority support our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and there are very, very clear reasons for that, they're the reasons I have, which is that she has achieved so much in the face of what I would think is fair to describe as tremendous adversity.

She's shown herself to be a woman of tremendous resolve and it has to be remembered, we've got a finely balanced Parliament here, David, and our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has shown, in her skill at negotiations in her resolve, that it's possible to govern.  Despite the finely balanced Parliament, we're the first minority Government since 1940 and despite that, we have achieved so much since the last election. 

Laying the foundations for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, getting on with the national broadband network to replace the hundred-year-old copper network, taking action on climate change, something very important to me and I think to very, very many Australians.

DAVID SPEERS: So do you acknowledge - Mark, do you acknowledge that mistakes have also been made by Julia Gillard, both in terms of communicating the messages she seems to acknowledge but also on policy.  I mean things like the broken promise on the carbon tax, the East Timor Solution idea.  There have been mistakes made.

MARK DREYFUS: And the Prime Minister rightly acknowledged that we've made some mistakes.  There's no Government in the history of humanity that doesn't make mistakes from time to time.  But what's important and I say this again, is to look at the achievements. 

What we're hearing at the moment in the heat of a political contest, that will pass.  What's going to matter in the long term is the achievements and I'd invite people watching to think about the state of the Australian economy at the moment.  We have low debt, low inflation, low unemployment, lower interest rates than when we came to office and if ever it was clear that we've got a Government that is managing this economy in the interests of working people...

KIERAN GILBERT: Mark Dreyfus...

MARK DREYFUS: ...it's now.

KIERAN GILBERT: ...it's Kieran here.  Mark Dreyfus, it's Kieran Gilbert here.  I want to ask you though - I know you're saying that beyond Monday you move on.  But the reality is that the Government is, essentially, facing what is a civil war.  And it's ongoing and it's going on very, very publicly on the front pages of the papers, all of the television news, radio, it's dominating all the media coverage.  This is a bloody and ugly internal battle that we're seeing here. 

If Kevin Rudd - and on top of that, Kevin Rudd does must say forty votes or close to it on Monday, how do you realistically think that this is going to be the end of it because surely it's not going to be.

MARK DREYFUS: I do think it will be the end of it and it's about accepting the decision of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.  We've had leadership contest before and political parties are able to put those contests behind them.  The Liberal Party...

KIERAN GILBERT: Even if Kevin Rudd gets forty votes, you think that Julia Gillard can move on without the confidence of more than a third of caucus.

MARK DREYFUS: Absolutely.  This is about the majority of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.  As it happens, I'm confident that there will be overwhelming support for the Prime Minister but a majority decision is sufficient.  And you could look at the recent example of our political opponents the Liberal Party, who've had several changes of leader but they've been able to move on and indeed our political party has had changes of leadership in the past and has been able to move on.

What's important is that we get finality on Monday, not drift, not continuing dissention, but finality on Monday and that's why I'm very pleased that we're going to a contest, a vote, in the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party on Monday morning.

DAVID SPEERS: Can I ask you this, Mark Dreyfus, Julia Gillard's going to have to reshuffle or make some changes, given she does have the Foreign Minister anymore or at the moment.  What do you think and I know this isn't your call, it's the leader's call, but what do you think about these Ministers like Kim Carr, Robert McClelland, Martin Ferguson, who have basically said things are stuffed under her, we need to change leaders.  Should they stay on the front bench really?

MARK DREYFUS: Well I don't accept your paraphrasing of what my Parliamentary colleagues have said...

DAVID SPEERS: You know what I mean.

MARK DREYFUS: at all, but it's a matter for the leader as to the choice of her Ministry.  And I am confident, because I can look across the depth of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party that Julia Gillard is going to be able to be - to choose a very, very strong ministry and that she'll be serving as Prime Minister, assisted by that very strong ministry.

DAVID SPEERS: So when you talked a little earlier about the need to move on from Monday, whatever happens, just in that context, what you're saying is there needs to be harmony at that level as well.  These Ministers shouldn't be punished by being dropped from Cabinet.

MARK DREYFUS: It's a matter for the Prime Minister but people are able to work together in the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.  We've shown that in the past and we'll show it again in future, despite differences.

One of the ways in which Parliamentary parties work and indeed, one of the key principles of Cabinet government, is that people can have differences and nevertheless work together in the interests of the Australian people.  That's what I'm looking forward to doing after Monday when we're going to get an ending to this.

DAVID SPEERS: Alright, well you're still going to have Kevin Rudd there in the caucus and the clear position from the Rudd camp has been that even if he loses, this won't be the end of it.  And certainly he's not ruling out this being a two-stage process here, so what can be done about that? 

I mean it's all well and good to say everyone should be harmonious, but it's pretty clear there's going to be continued agitation or continued waiting for further deterioration in the polls from the Gillard Government, with the prospect of another tilt some months down the track.

MARK DREYFUS: Well I don't accept that scenario at all.  I'd say again, it's important that we get to an ending on Monday and that's the reason why the Prime Minister has called a vote on Monday as to the leadership and that will be an end to the matter and I'm very confident about that.

KIERAN GILBERT: Mark Dreyfus, I want to ask you though about the claims that have been made or the accusations made - they've been sort of simmering behind the scenes for some time but they're now very much in the public.  Wayne Swan with his statement the other night, that extraordinary statement, accusing Kevin Rudd of being behind the leaks of the 2010 election campaign and we've seen Stephen Conroy, other Ministers making those same accusations of Kevin Rudd. 

Do you think Mr Rudd owes his party an explanation this morning when he speaks to the cameras as to whether or not he was or was not responsible for those?

MARK DREYFUS: That's entirely a matter for Kevin Rudd as to how he chooses to approach this leadership contest, as to what he says to the Australian people, but I would say it's important...

KIERAN GILBERT: Do you think he did - do you think he was responsible for those leaks?

MARK DREYFUS: I'm not going to comment on whether or not he was responsible for those leaks.  That's for others.  I do say, as I said a moment ago, that many of my colleagues feel it important to explain the reasons why Kevin Rudd lost the confidence of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party in June of 2010 and some of them have felt it necessary to comment on Mr Rudd's conduct since.  But I'm not going to be doing that. 

What I'm saying is that Julia Gillard is the right person to lead our country.  She's the right person to lead the Government of Australia and I'll be voting for her on Monday.

DAVID SPEERS: Mark Dreyfus, look, thank you so much for joining us this morning as we await further developments on this story.  We'll let you go.  Thank you for talking to us this morning.

MARK DREYFUS: Thanks David, thanks Kieran.

DAVID SPEERS: Mark Dreyfus, the Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.