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Transcript: Liberal Party Room Meeting

8th February 2015  |  Comments  |  Transcripts

8 February 2014

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON MALCOLM TURNBULL MP

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW

SYDNEY

Topics: Liberal Party Spill Motion

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JOURNALIST:

Can you confirm you'll throw your hat in the ring if the leadership spill motion gets up?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look, it's a beautiful morning, it's a lovely morning for a walk. Have you got the papers?

JOURNALIST:

Have you read them?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I've read them online

JOURNALIST:

One says you could be treasurer.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well there are all sorts of interesting reports in the papers, but right now Lucy and I are going for a walk and I hope you have a great day.

JOURNALIST:

Will you declare your hand today do you think?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

These are all interesting things to speculate on. Now look, I don't want to be rude, but we're going for a walk and I'm not going to make any statements about these matters here this morning, so much as I'm gratified by your curiosity, flattered by your interest, I think this is just the time for a morning walk. So if that's OK, we're going to walk, please don't trail us down the street, because you'll trip over and hurt yourself.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think the party would benefit from some certainty, knowing whether there is another contender in the mix or not?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, I'll just make this point to you and I hope this is the end of our discussion out here on the footpath. You said to me "do you think the party would benefit from knowing what might happen, what I might do for example in the event of there being a spill motion carried.

There’s certainly a lot of members who have asked me about that, plainly. But it’s very important to remember that the leadership of the of the Liberal Party is, as John Howard said, in the unique gift of the party room. It is the unique gift of the party room. Now what that means is that members of the party room have got to have the time to talk to each other, backbenchers talking to each other, backbenchers talking to frontbenchers, frontbenchers talking to frontbenchers, and so forth. And that’s the whole point of parliament that people come together and have a talk. That’s what we’re paid to do by our constituents.

So it’s really important that we talk to our colleagues directly rather than giving them advice or lecturing them, or trying to communicate with them through the media, through the megaphone of the media. So that’s really the point no matter how elegant or tired they are at six o’clock in the morning! You should go to church after this you’re looking fantastic. So that’s really my point.

I believe that we as a party, one of the great strengths in the party is that we’re a grassroots organisation and we’ve got to respect our members, our branch members, and we’ve got to respect our members in the party room. Whether they’re the Prime Minister or the newest elected backbencher. So that’s my focus, I’m talking with them and no doubt as this develops, there’ll be other things said.

Let me give you an example and I want to pay a compliment to the Prime Minister about this. There was speculation in the press – and some of it was pretty wild speculation in the press – that the Prime Minister would demand there would be a show of hands. Now I know that wasn’t right because Tony Abbott respects the right of the party room to make its own decisions without any pressure, without people feeling that if they go one way or other they’d be subject to some sort of recrimination or vindictiveness, or something like that. So a secret ballot is important. After all we as the Liberal Party believe in secret ballots for unions, so we can hardly complain about it there.

So Tony has really done the right thing in saying, consistent with tradition when I was the leader, it should really be a secret ballot. And he’s also, I think, shown great respect for the party room by saying that the meeting should be on Tuesday, which is the normal party room meeting. Now that’s very significant because again you’ve had people in the press saying it’s going to be brought forward to Monday in a rush. The virtue of having it Tuesday, and I know Tony Abbott very well you know he’s a good friend of mine. And this is why he has said in Townsville it will be on Tuesday because he knows that members coming to Canberra, who will have been getting lots of phone calls and talking to constituents and many of which will be uncertain, will want to have the opportunity to sit down and talk to each other in the nation’s capital, in the course of that Monday leading up to the Tuesday.

JOURNALIST:

How will you vote?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well cabinet ministers are all expected to support the Prime Minister on a spill motion.

JOURNALIST:

So you will?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well of course.  Look, can I just say this to you: I know people keep saying to me, they say every day, do you support the Prime Minister?  I’m in the cabinet, of course I support the Prime Minister.  Everyone supports the Prime Minister --

JOURNALIST:

Do you want to be the Prime Minister?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

No, no, just hang on.  But we are not some kind of -- we're the Liberal Party, we are Australia.  And again, quoting Tony from yesterday, we don’t require our MPs and ministers to pledge loyalty morning, noon and night.  I’m in the cabinet.  I’m in the cabinet.  I support the Prime Minister.  Julie Bishop has said she’s in the cabinet. 

She supports the Prime Minister.  I mean, you don’t have to keep saying that all the time and the demanding of it from you is just not Australian.  I mean, we’re on the team.  It’s like saying to someone playing for the Roosters, do you support the team?  Do you support the team?  It’s just a ridiculous question.  Of course we’re part of the team.  But we have a process going on. 

It’s been brought about by some -- it's been instigated by some members from Western Australia who I know but no one would ever imagine they have been doing that on my behalf or anyone else’s behalf.  This is a grassroots issue that has been raised.  And that has got to be respected.  And so look, I hope that explains where things are going. 

My focus is, I respect the party room.  You can never consult with the party room and the members too much.  I mean, Tony is there and hence I am there in my position because of them.  We’re there because of them.  You know, we talk about leaders winning this and winning that; the reality is that we are there because each and every one of those Members of the House of Representatives won their seat.  That’s why we’re there and we’re there because of their support.  So we have to respect them. 

JOURNALIST:

Are you saying that you won’t declare one way or the other whether you’d like to stand before that spill motion?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

No, no.  I’ve said what I’ve said.  I hope I’ve explained the context.  Remember we’ve got to respect the party room and the time they have to deliberate on this free of pressure, free of being given advice through the media.  Of course our colleagues are entitled to say what they like to the media but my concern is talking to my colleagues and respecting them, respecting them.  Because they are the ones who have to make the decision.  As it happens, Lucy and I are going for a walk and I hope that you’ll now head back to wherever you’re going and leave us to have a nice day.

ENDS

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