ABC Rural Queensland Country Hour with Craig Zonca Transcript 9th February 2015

Craig Zonca: The first sitting day for Federal Parliament for 2015 has been anything but business as usual, as you have been hearing through the morning. The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott has survived a spill motion bought against him in the Liberal Party room, 61 votes to 39. So does this now end the leadership speculation? Long serving Queensland Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald was one of those that was able to cast a secret vote this morning; he joined me a short time ago. I asked the Senator if he was one of the 39 that supported the spill motion. 

Senator Macdonald: No, I made my position very clear a week ago. I oppose the spill motion and I hoped it wouldn’t happen and I thought it would be defeated and of course that is what happened. 

Craig Zonca: Do you see it as a clear win for Mr Abbott or does it still leave the door open for a further challenge? 

Senator Macdonald: I think most people are like me. We want Tony Abbott to succeed. We want Australia to get on with the good government it deserves. I have a view; some wouldn’t agree with me, that Australia always needs Liberal Governments to get them out of the mess left by Labor Governments sometime in the past. So it is important for Australia for there to be a Liberal Government after the next election 

Craig Zonca: But that said, internally with this going on in the Party, some political pundits have said that this simply tested the water and may lead to a further challenge rather than strengthening the resolve.   

Senator Macdonald: Well Craig, what I was getting around to saying was that I stood on the booths on Queensland election all day Saturday and the feeling and the mood was toxic. Unless we change I would have fear for the next Federal election. What I think that has happened is that Tony Abbott has accepted that he and his ministers haven’t been as collaborative as perhaps they should have been and haven’t taken the Australian people with them, haven’t explained why some tough measures are needed. Tony Abbott well understands that and as he said in the party room today and as he said to me privately last week in a long discussion I had with him, he accepts that, and he is determined to change and he is determined to take the Australian public with him. I think he can do it and I think that Australia will be better for it. But he knows, as I know, that unless things do turn around there is a course of action that needs to be taken. Tony himself will take that if things don’t improve. I think things will improve and I think we can go on to give Australians what they expected when they voted for us. If they don’t I would expect that Tony would do the right thing by Australia and move on and allow someone else. I don’t think that’s likely and I believe that he will be able to turn it around.   

Craig Zonca: Well what time frame are you putting on this Senator? You said things need to improve, by when? 

Senator Macdonald: Well look, I don’t want to put time limits on things like that in this business. Tony Abbott and I and others have been there for a long time and understand how things occur. It’s not just opinion polls, I might say, it is what people out there are saying. We can get a feel for how things are going and Tony Abbott certainly will be able to get a feel for how things are going and if things change as he said it will and I am sure he will do that, then I see us going forward very positively. I do think that he can turn the Australian voting public around. 

Craig Zonca: Why then do you think Queensland voters are so disillusioned with your Government at the moment, Senator Macdonald?   

Senator Macdonald: Well it was a convergence of a couple of difficult issues. Look I make no secret of the fact that I opposed the co-payment proposal; it came up stupidly in the budget without warning and without discussion. I opposed the fuel excise increase, the paid parental leave, Queenslanders don’t like that. It’s not just I who oppose these things, I am simply reflecting what people in Queensland have told me. Tony now accepts he got those things wrong so there were issues and there were State Government issues that came into it as well. The state election result was just a convergence of unhappy times. But I think that can change around. 

Craig Zonca: Senator Macdonald are you effectively giving Tony Abbott an ultimatum change or fall on your sword? 

Senator Macdonald: No I am not giving him an ultimatum, Tony Abbott himself understands he has to change he is determined to change and determined to take the Australian people with him. I give him credit for that. I give him the benefit of the doubt and go will along with him and see that it happens. But he knows, as I know, if that doesn’t happen then something else has to happen and as I say Tony Abbott doesn’t need people telling him that. He has been around long enough to work that out himself.

Craig Zonca: Queensland Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald reflecting on what has transpired over the past few hours on the first sitting day in the National parliament in Canberra.

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