ABC News Radio Transcript- 10th February 2015 – Interview with Marius Benson

News reporter: Yesterday Liberal Senators and MPs backed Tony Abbott as leader, although 39 out of 100 Liberals voted against him. One of those who backed Tony Abbott was Queensland Senator Ian Macdonald; he is speaking to Marius Benson about the way ahead now for the Government.

Marius Benson: Senator Ian Macdonald, it is a fairly chilly outlook for the Prime Minister as he looks across the party room today, knowing that 39 of them don’t want him in the job.

Senator Macdonald: Well I wouldn’t have thought that.  I thought it was a significant expression of interest yesterday. Look the party indicated yesterday that they didn’t want a spill and wanted to have Tony there. It will be interesting to see how things develop.  Tony had made a number of commitments, which I and a number of others accept and we will see if those commitments will be put into practice 

 Marius Benson: Where you surprised to see 39 votes against the Prime Minister?

Senator Macdonald: Not really, I thought it was about what everyone would have expected.  I do understand those who did want a spill.  There has been concern which is fairly obvious. The Prime Minister has made commitments and he understands there needs to be a complete change of approach not just from him but from the whole of the cabinet.

Marius Benson: The Prime minister has worked very hard to win support before that vote.  He has opened the door on renegotiating the submarine contract in South Australia with greater local involvement, he spent an hour on Thursday, a pretty critical time with for the Prime Minister with you to try to win you over because you have been a fierce critic of him for 16 months.  How did he do that.  How did he get your vote on side?

Senator Macdonald: Well Marius, you might recall 2-3 weeks ago he was ringing everyone and having a long chat to them.  I happened to be overseas when he rang me and I wanted to speak to him face to face.  He arranged for a meeting and it just happened to be last Thursday that both of our diaries connected.

Marius Benson: But you have been a fierce critic of him since he dropped you from the Shadow Ministry pre-election 2013 and obviously you have not been part of the Ministry since.  Did he offer you a promotion an improvement in your own circumstances to win you over?

Senator Macdonald: Well Marius, can I just correct you on one thing.  That sort of comment in particularly annoys me. Now I know you won’t believe this but I am approaching 70 and I didn’t have any expectations of being a minister after the last election. Regrettably I had hoped that Tony Abbott might leave me there to finish the job on Northern Australia which unfortunately seems to have gone astray. And to answer your question, the premise of your question is wrong but no he didn’t offer me any inducements. I’m not in this for inducements.  I am in this for good government for Australia.

Marius Benson: Do you think the new approach, a better consultation and so on is enough or does the Prime Minister needs to make specific changes to the Ministry, to his staff and his office?

Senator Macdonald: There matters for Tony. Tony understands the concerns raised, the various issues which you’ve mentioned.  It will be a matter for him to meet the expectations he has raised with many of us in a change of approach of the government. Whether this involves changes in the Ministry or his own staff or the way he deals with things is really a matter for him. I think the ministry is reasonably good, bearing in mind that everyone who is in Parliament thinks they can do a better job than everyone else, that’s human nature. But look, Marius I make this point as well, people are blaming Tony but the whole cabinet needs to accept some responsibility. There has been too much, in my view, yes Prime Minister from Cabinet and I don’t think the talent of the Cabinet Ministers has been matched by their courage. Many of them should have said months ago, “hey guys that co-payment I understand why you want to do it but you have to understand that it is not fair”. So whilst there is criticism directed at Tony as he’s the leader, across the board in Cabinet you  need a group of talented people who are prepared to call it as it is and to express their views.

Marius Benson: Senator Ian Macdonald, thankyou very much

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