SUBJECT/S: Liberal Party leadership crisis.

MARIUS BENSON: Tony Burke the consensus this morning seems to be that Tony Abbott is likely to survive the spill motion in the Liberal party room, how does Labor feel about that?

SHADOW FINANCE MINISTER AND MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS, TONY BURKE: The astonishing thing watching this from a distance, is the view from the Liberal Party that the big question they have to decide is who should be doing the selling of their policies, not whether or not they should be keeping their policies. The biggest issue for us this week is the fact that the higher education legislation and changes for $100,000 degrees are all before the Parliament. They’re the issues that will affect people’s lives, they’re the issues, the Medicare GP Tax, the changes that came down at the Budget, the changes to pensions, the cuts to family payments, they’re the changes that caused an unpopular Prime Minister to see a community backlash. He was already unpopular, the public’s never been hugely in love with Tony Abbott, but they still elected him at the last election. It’s the policies that they’ve pursued that have caused the decline in the public’s attitude towards the Liberal Party. The fact that the Liberal Party is in complete denial about this and thinks it’s about personalities is perplexing looking at it from a distance.

BENSON: Well you might find some common ground there with Liberal’s who say they want to be talking about policies not about personalities, but if you haven’t got your leader settled it’s hard to concentrate on policy issues. Is it fair to say Labor would be happy to see Tony Abbott survive and preferably have a damaging leadership battle drag on?

BURKE: Doesn’t really matter from our perspective, the challenge from our end has been that policy debate. If there was one comment that Tony Abbott’s made over the last few days that I 100 per cent agree with, it’s when he stood up and said 'We are not the Labor Party'. I think if anyone was is doubt about that they worked it out on Budget night. People know absolutely that there is a very different agenda for Australia from this Government. It’s not an agenda for the economy, most of the economic statistics have been going south. It’s not an agenda for the Budget, because they’ve doubled the deficit and debt’s been blowing out in much higher levels anyway. What this is, is a set of priorities where every time they’ve had the chance they’ve favoured people who need the least help and have hit people on lower and middle incomes, that’s what they’ve done every time. It’s the policy debate that matters and no matter who’s in charge over there as long as the Liberal’s think that their policies are fine, it’s just the messenger or the salesmanship that’s the problem, then they haven’t heard a thing.

BENSON: If you look at recent years in Australian politics is one of the lessons both Labor and the Coalition seem to be pretty good at opposition but they make a fair hash of governing?

BURKE: I don’t accept the concept there of governing, I do think it’s true at the last election the Australian people sent an almighty message that they don’t want infighting, they don’t want treachery, they don’t want plotting. They want the only story that comes out of Canberra to be about the Australian people themselves and what’s happening for Australia. That message was so loud and so clear, that’s why we changed our party rules to make sure that this sort of stuff couldn’t happen in the Labor Party again and for the Liberal Party to have not heard that message in an election that they won is pretty astonishing. 

BENSON: And who do you think will be sitting in the Prime Minister’s chair when Question Time rolls in this afternoon?

BURKE: Don’t know, when we sit down and work through what questions we’ll be asking in Question Time I think we’ll probably know what the questions are but we won’t know who they’re directed to until a bit later in the day.

BENSON: Tony Burke, thanks very much.

BURKE: Good to talk to you.


Tony Burke