TRANSCRIPT: TELEVISION INTERVIEW - ABC INSIDERS - SUNDAY, 21 OCTOBER 2018
SUNDAY, 21 OCTOBER 2018
SUBJECT/S: Scott Morrison’s Wentworth disaster.
BARRIE CASSIDY (HOST): Now we're joined again from Sydney by Labor's Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke, good morning.
TONY BURKE, MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS: Good morning, Barrie.
CASSIDY: History was made last night, but what are you saying was the biggest single cause?
BURKE: Last night the people of Wentworth made a very clear statement that they've had enough of the instability. They've had enough of the division. We still haven't had an answer to the question as to why Malcolm Turnbull isn't Prime Minister of Australia. And people have absolutely had enough of that. They've watched now, as we've had three prime ministers, three treasurers, three Senate Leaders, looks like we’ll get four Deputy Prime Ministers, the way the National Party is going. People have realised whether it is an Abbott Government, a Morrison Government, a Turnbull Government, Tony Abbott has always been in charge. The hard-right agenda has made this government incapable of dealing wish issues like climate change and people have had enough of it.
CASSIDY: Now though that the people of Wentworth have got it out of their system, you can't expect that kind of response around the country at a general election, every seat is very different.
BURKE: Every seat is different. I don't think we would be expecting every seat to deliver the biggest swing in history, but that's what we saw last night, and as a result of seeing that, Australia now has a minority government in a hung parliament. Exactly what at the last election the Liberal Party was claiming was the threat if you vote Labor. All the things that they said at the last election we're now dealing with the exact opposite.
CASSIDY: Julia Gillard governed with 72. They've got 75. It can be done?
BURKE: It can be. The problem for them is when they had 76 they still couldn't deliver stable government. They haven't been able to keep control of the Parliament, even with a majority because their own members have been so obsessed with their internal issues that you get so many occasions where they don't all turn up to vote, they don't pay attention to what they're voting for. The chaos isn't simply a feature of their numbers, it is a feature of their arrogance and a feature of how out of touch they are.
CASSIDY: Just a bit of history, when Bob Hawke left the Parliament in 1992, his seat was lost to an Independent, Phil Cleary. He go the a higher primary vote than Kerryn Phelps got last night. 12 months after that, Labor went on and won an election. It is a sobering thought, isn't it?
BURKE: I don't think you can pull out any precedent that involves the biggest swing in history. That's the nature of what we saw yesterday. And the real test about what yesterday was about, we have to look at it from the perspective of Scott Morrison. Scott Morrison told us that yesterday, if an Independent won, that that would mean not just instability in the Parliament, but he said economic instability. Now, if that's his position, that means he has actually spent this whole campaign arguing that if we got the result we got last night it would cause instability in people's lives and in the economy. Now, I don't see how he can argue that and not then say that we have to have an election. Either Scott Morrison was lying the whole way through the election campaign and he is now going to simply cling to power because he is the advertising guy and he really just uses whatever argument he wants each day, or we have an election. I don't see there is any middle ground there, given the arguments that both he and his Treasurer put about instability in the economy.
CASSIDY: So what are you prepared to do about that? Will you now consider bringing on a vote of no confidence?
BURKE: To get to a vote of no confidence you need 76 votes and we want to see a Shorten Labor government be elected at a general election. That's what we want to see. In terms of what the numbers will be, there will be a whole lot of analysis back and forth, but think about it in these terms: The last time - and we have had this term a situation where numbers were exactly like this, because both the Wentworth and Bennelong by-elections were on at the same time. At that point they cancelled a week of Parliament, and while Parliament wasn't sitting, gave in to what Labor and the cross-bench had been calling for and that was the week when they called the Banking Royal Commission. This government has had many periods during this term where they have shown that they are incapable of governing, even with a majority. Now we have a hung parliament.
CASSIDY: Labor’s vote was 11.4 per cent, down about 6 per cent. That's embarrassingly low, isn't it?
BURKE: Scott Morrison and others and all the commentary was making clear and obviously congratulations to Tim Murray for the campaign that he ran, and I should have said at the start congratulations to Kerryn Phelps on her victory. But all the commentary was making clear, particularly during the final week, that whether or not the Liberals won this seat was going to be determined by who came third, and people heard that. It is the most strategic voting that I've seen - a whole lot of people not taking anyone's how-to-vote. The people of Wentworth knew exactly what they were doing and a large number of Labor voters did decide the best way to make sure the Liberals didn't win was to vote directly for Kerryn Phelps and that was reflected in the vote yesterday.
CASSIDY: To put it another way, you ran dead, you cynically drove down the Labor vote because you judged you couldn’t win and you wanted Kerryn Phelps to win?
BURKE: I’ve described exactly what a whole lot of Labor voters did. You can see that exactly there. The person telling people exactly how this would turn out was Scott Morrison. You go to his own media conferences, he was making clear to people that if Labor came third in that particular by-election, that was the most likely scenario that would get rid of the Liberals. People heard that and said the prime thing they wanted to do was to get rid of the Liberals and send a message to the Liberal Party and if you watch Scott Morrison's speech last night where he was bizarrely comparing people handing out Liberal Party how-to-votes to the athletes at the Invictus Games, he has not heard a message. He is the same angry, advertising guy who he was a week ago.
CASSIDY: Just one final question: The issue I raised with Kerryn Phelps on whether you would support the Government's legislation, and that is if the refugees go to New Zealand, you would see to it, along with the Government, that they would never be able to travel to Australia?
BURKE: The most important thing here is that we, same at Kerryn Phelps said, that we listen to the medical advice with respect to children. And if children need treatment and assessment, we shouldn't have a situation where the doctors are saying one thing and then the minister is blocking it. Bill Shorten and Shayne Neumann released an announcement about a private member's bill during the week which is our attempt to try to do something about that. What I don't want to see, Barrie, and I'm sorry to give a longer answer, but it's important - what I don't want to see is everybody in their corners the way we saw when the Malaysia agreement was on the table, and Scott Morrison blocked that from Opposition. Half the people who drowned, drowned after Scott Morrison had blocked the Malaysia agreement. There are children in a genuine situation of crisis, the medical experts all tell us that. We've put forward a way of dealing with that. Scott Morrison said something during the week, we’re yet to find out whether that was just something he was saying in advance of the Wentworth by-election, or whether it’s something he actually believes.
CASSIDY: Thanks for your time this morning.
BURKE: Good to be back