TRANSCRIPT: INTERVIEW WITH GEOFF HUTCHISON: MORNINGS - ABC 720 PERTH
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 23 FEBRUARY 2011
TOPICS: Labor leadership.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Mr. Smith, good morning to you.
STEPHEN SMITH: Good morning Geoff.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Who's going to get your vote on Monday?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, I’ve made it clear in the past, and I am very happy to do so again today, I am a strong supporter of the Prime Minister. There will be a ballot on Monday and I will vote for Julia Gillard.
But, I’ve said on the ABC, and any number of other outlets, that I strongly support her- but the most important thing on Monday is that once this matter is resolved, that it is resolved finally, and whoever the loser is goes to the backbench and renounces any leadership aspirations- because we need to get on with the job of governing because we can't continue in this way.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Is Wayne Swan right? Has Kevin Rudd been given all the opportunities in the world only to waste them with his dysfunctional decision-making and his deeply demeaning attitude towards other people, including Caucus colleagues?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well in any leadership ballot, people will say what their view is. I prefer to use my own words and my words are this, which is, in the past number of people have said there was no explanation as to why Kevin was defeated by Julia Gillard for the Prime Ministership during his first term. And that all had to do with and went to the way in which Kevin operated and worked as Prime Minister.
In the end if you wanted to find one sentence, it became impossible for Kevin's colleagues to deal with him effectively and that's why he was removed, and that's why in my view Julia Gillard remains the best person to take the Government and the nation forward.
She's done a very good job in very difficult circumstances, and a lot of those difficult circumstances have gone to the undercurrent and the undermining of leadership speculation and that's why on Monday, when there's a ballot and there's a decisive outcome from the ballot, people have to get on with the job of managing their affairs in their electorates managing their affairs in their portfolios and managing the nation's interests and putting this behind us.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Can you give me an example of Kevin Rudd’s dysfunctional behaviour as Prime Minister that you experienced?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well it's a matter of history, and people have put down the record, and I'm not proposing to give a character assessment or a running commentary–
GEOFF HUTCHISON: But it is interesting and important that you do give something of a character assessment - forget the running commentary bit - Kevin Rudd has already said in Washington today that I am the one to save this Government and I can save Australia from Tony Abbott.
The people outside Caucus seemed to like him a lot more than Caucus does, so tell me, what were his failings as Prime Minister?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, firstly this ballot will be determined by the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, as it should be, that’s the first point, so the people who have worked closest with Kevin and worked closest with Julia, either as Cabinet Ministers or as backbenchers will make that judgment.
I simply make the point that when Kevin ceased being Prime Minister his popularity was very low and the Government at that time under his leadership found it very difficult to make any policy or political progress. Frankly, we were frozen, and that's why the change was made and that's why since Julia became Prime Minister we’ve seen reform effected in a range of areas which has been very difficult to effect, but she has done that, and done that from the position of a minority Government.
I simply make the point that if you want to summarise in one sentence why the Cabinet and the Caucus and the Party moved away from Kevin it was because it became increasingly difficult if not impossible to work difficult issues through with him.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Meaning he was not that interested in listening to your point of view?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well it's not a matter of listening to a point of view, it's having a sensible conversation and judgment about what is in the nation's best interests and doing that around the Cabinet table. You can't run the Commonwealth of Australia and protect its national security interests and protect its economic security interests by every day running off what is on the front of a newspaper, or what you might want to do on TV.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Mr. Smith can I [inaudible] some candor here - because a lot of questions are being asked about the entitlement of Kevin Rudd to return as Prime Minister? Did the power go to his head?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well Geoff, I've given you my analysis. Kevin has said this morning that he regards himself effectively as the savior of the Government and the Party–
GEOFF HUTCHISON: And what does that word tell you?
STEPHEN SMITH: That's not my view. That is not my view. We are a minority Government. We are working through a very important reform program. Whether it's by putting a tax on pollution, whether it's by making health reform across the board, we are working through a range of important reforms and the Prime Minister is managing that from a minority Government status.
That creates in the first instance a very difficult political circumstances and that's not helped by someone else out there saying, believing, pretending or asserting that he can do a better job.
We’ve now got the vehicle to end this and we need to end it once and for all on Monday with a ballot where a Caucus can make a decisive judgment. And the important thing about that judgment is that once that judgment is made that then has to be the end of it.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Do you think the public doesn't know Kevin Rudd the way Caucus knows Kevin Rudd?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, the public, the community, will make their own judgment. When Kevin's Prime Ministership finished, he was, if you looked at opinion polls, he was very unpopular.
There are some people in the community who support Kevin; there are some people who don't. So people are entitled to make their own judgments. But the judgment that has to be made on Monday is a judgment by me and my Parliamentary colleagues about who we believe is best placed to run the Government, to manage the Government interests but most importantly, who can manage the nation's interests, can manage the national security interests of the Commonwealth and can manage the economic interests of our nation's people.
And as I said at the start of this interview, and before, I strongly support Julia Gillard as the best person to do that.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Do you, briefly, expect Julia Gillard to win and win handsomely?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, I expect that the Prime Minister will be returned by the Caucus. I see that Mr. Rudd's supporters are out there saying that he's got at least 40 votes. I've been through a number of leadership ballots at State and Federal levels, from a number of different positions either as a Party official or as a Member of Parliament and in the end the best judgment is not the speculation but the outcome on the day. And as I say, Monday morning we have an opportunity to effect an outcome and to leave this behind us and to get on with the job of running the country.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Thank you very much talking to me.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks Geoff, thanks very much.