14 September 2015
TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON MALCOLM TURNBULL MP AND
THE HON JULIE BISHOP MP
PRESS CONFERENCE, PARLIAMENT HOUSE
Subjects: Liberal Party leadership
Thank you all very much. Julie and I are sorry to keep you up so late.
This has been a very important day in the life of the nation, of the government, and of course of our party. As you know the party room, a little while ago, re-elected me as leader of the Liberal Party and elected Julie as the deputy leader of the Liberal Party. I want to say at the outset what a great debt the nation owes, the party owes, and the government owes to Tony Abbott and of course to his family, Margie and their daughters.
The burden of leadership is a very heavy one. Tony has discharged that as leader of the party and of course as Prime Minister over many years now and the achievements of the government that he has led have been formidable. The free trade agreements that have been negotiated represent some of the key foundations of our future prosperity which I will talk about in a moment.
And of course restoring the security on our borders has been an extraordinarily important step, enabling us for example to offer the increased and generous arrangements for Syrian refugees last week. So I want to thank Tony very much indeed for that.
Can I just say briefly, and as I said the hour is late and I want Julie to be able to say something to you as well. This has been a very important, sobering experience today. I am very humbled by it. I am very humbled by the great honour and responsibility that has been given to me today. We need to have in this country, and we will have now, an economic vision, a leadership that explains the great challenges and opportunities that we face.
Describes the way in which we can handle those challenges, seize those opportunities and does so in a manner that the Australian people understand so that we are seeking to persuade rather than seeking to lecture.
This will be a thoroughly Liberal Government. It will be a thoroughly Liberal Government committed to freedom, the individual and the market. It will be focussed on ensuring that in the years ahead, as the world becomes more and more competitive, and greater opportunities arise, we are able to take advantage of that. The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, that is innovative, that is creative.
We cannot be defensive, we cannot future proof ourselves. We have to recognise that the disruption that we see driven by technology, the volatility and change is our friend, is our friend if we are agile and smart enough to take advantage of it. There has never been a more exciting time to be alive than today and there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian. We will ensure that all Australians understand that their Government recognises the opportunities of the future and is putting in place the policies and the plans to enable them to take advantage of it. Now, Julie.
Thank you and I realise the hour is late. First I want to congratulate my very dear friend of many years Malcolm Turnbull on being voted in as the Leader of the Liberal Party. That means he will become the Prime Minister of this country and I am confident that he has the passion, the energy and the vision to lead this country at this very challenging time. I thank Tony Abbott for his service as the Leader of our party and particularly for the effort he put in at the 2013 election when the Australian people knew they could not afford another moment under the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government. It’s a great honour to be elected as the Deputy of this party again. I have served as the Deputy for eight years. And I have also, for the last two years, had the honour of being Australia’s foreign minister. I am excited about continuing to serve as the deputy under Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership and I am thrilled at the prospect of continuing to serve the Australian people as the Foreign Minister. I came into the Liberal Party, and came into Parliament, because I believed in the values of the Liberal Party because I believed that they provide the most hope and the most people in this country. And as a believer in the Liberal Party that was created by Robert Menzies, I am firmly of the view that the values and beliefs of the Liberal Party are as relevant today as they were when this great party was formed 70 years ago. In Malcolm Turnbull we have a leader who will be true to those Menzian values and beliefs and I’ll be honoured to serve this party and this country in my current role.
Mr Turnbull. Mr Turnbull.
We’ll just take a couple of questions because it is so late. Mr Coorey.
Mr Turnbull, I know it’s early days but is it your intention to serve the full term or do you think we need to go to an early election to receive your own mandate, you own mandate as Prime Minister from the people?
My assumption is that the Parliament will serve its full term.
Who would your Treasurer be and do you envisage changes to policy substance as well as leadership style?
There will be, inevitably, there will be changes to ministerial arrangements. I’ll be meeting with the ministry tomorrow morning. I expect – ministers will continue in their current position, unless of course they choose not to for the balance of the week and we’ll make ministerial changes after the parliamentary sitting week is over. As far as policy changes are concerned let me just say this. It’s not a question of leadership style. Nothing, well there are few things more important in any organisation than its culture. The culture of our leadership is going to be one that’s thoroughly consultative. A traditional, thoroughly traditional cabinet government that ensures that we make decisions in a collaborative manner.
The Prime Minister of Australia is not a president; the Prime Minister is the first among equals. And you can see that the partnership between me and Julie, the partnership with our colleagues will be a very clear cultural demonstration that we are operating in a traditional cabinet manner. And that means Lenore that I’m not going to make policy pronouncements from this podium tonight. Of course policies change, they change all the time, but they will be when people should have the confidence that we will be making decisions in a thoughtful and considered manner, recognising the significance of the work we have to do as the Government of Australia.
There were only 10 votes in it in the end; there are obviously some in the Party that still have reservations about your leadership. How have you changed and what do you say to reinsure those people?
Well the challenge for any leader – sorry now I can’t see you, there’s a photographer in front of you; hello you’re still there – the challenge for any leader and every leader is to ensure that he or she brings together in the case of the Liberal Party the broad church of the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party is the largest, most diverse grass roots political organisation in Australia. Our Party Room is remarkably diverse, both in terms of peoples’ life experience, their former occupations and their views on many issues. This is why a culture of engagement of, consultation, of collaboration is so absolutely critical. That is how Cabinet governments and parliamentary systems are meant to operate. And Julie and I are determined to ensure that going forward that’s how it will operate.
Now, we’re just going to take one more.
Mr. Turnbull, from the West Australian.
Oh well, The West Australian (laughter). Well, I’ve got to look after the Deputy Leader! Now hang on. Can you guys just let us see Mr Probyn? He’s a familiar face but it’s nice to talk to him rather than a lens.
Can I just ask you about a couple of key policies questions. On gay marriage – how will you progress that one? And secondly, on climate change, two of the key doubts, if you will.
Well, let me make this clear. The policy on climate change that Greg Hunt and Julie in fact prepared, is one that I supported as a Minister in the Abbott Government and it’s one that I support today. So again, just going back to what Lenore said, policies are reviewed and adapted all the time but the climate policy is one that has been very well designed. It was a very, very good piece of work.
And can I just say we have already announced climate targets for Paris in December and I expect those targets to continue.
Won’t Mr Abbott be very confused about what has gone on today.
Well, we are a parliamentary system. We are a Westminster system – a ‘Washminster’ some political scientists call us. But we are a parliamentary system and so the leader of any parliamentary party remains leader only so long as he or she has the confidence of the Party Room. As John Howard always used to say, the leader serves at the pleasure of the Party Room. So when the Party Room changes their mind about that, when they make a judgement such as they have made today, then the leadership can change. And that is inherent, that’s one of the characteristics of a parliamentary system and one of the flexibilities that it has over other systems.
Now just, just – can I just really take one more? Fran, there you are.
I was going to ask you to come on the program in the morning but I can ask you that later. But you talked a lot about the economic vision, the economic challenges. Joe Hockey took a little offence at that and said you were wrong. Are you talking about the fact that the economic directions were incorrect or just the capacity to have the conversation and explain it to the people? Are you going to change the economic direction or are you going to change the way you tell the story?
Fran, let me put this to you. In terms of talking about the economy, talking about business, a key element is confidence. And you build confidence by explaining, as I said earlier, explaining what the problem is, making sure people understand it, and then setting out the options for dealing with it. And you’ve seen in my own portfolio of communications, where I’ve had to deal with very big business problems, whether it’s with NBN or indeed with Australia Post. That’s the approach I have taken: Laying out what the issues are, getting the facts straight, explaining that and then presenting a path forward and then making the case for that path forward. My firm belief is that to be a successful leader in 2015 – perhaps at any time – you have to be able to bring people with you by respecting their intelligence in the manner you explain things. Now we’ve got some great leaders in Australia at the State-level, but let me just point to one international leader, John Key for example. John Key has been able to achieve very significant economic reforms in New Zealand by doing just that. By taking, by explaining complex issues and then making the case for them. And that is certainly something that I believe we should do. Julie and I both as retired advocates, in our own way, are very keen to do that again. Now the hour is very late, everyone should go to bed, thank you very much indeed.