Interview on ABC News Radio with Marius Benson

6.30am Friday – 6 February 2015

(Passage in brackets and asterisks – do not appear on News Radio Web Site)

Question: Senator Ian Macdonald you met the Prime Minister for an hour yesterday, that is a pretty long meeting for a pretty busy person? 

IM: Well we had a good discussion about a range of things. It was a private meeting obviously but a number of issues which we discussed were spoken about publicly before. The Paid Parental Leave, co-payment and Northern Australia. I felt I had a good reception. I think the Prime Minister listened intently to some of the concerns I had raised.

Question: Did the Prime Minister specifically ask for your support in the leadership battle?

IM: No and I am not sure that there is a current leadership battle. I am again on the public record saying that I don’t think there will be a spill and I don’t think there should be a spill. I don’t think it achieves anything and that is the Labor way, that’s not the way we do things.

Question: How certain are you that there won’t be a spill?

IM: I haven’t been spoken to by anybody. I just don’t think it’s the right way to go and I don’t think it achieves much.

Question: But do you think the support is there from the party for Tony Abbott’s leadership now?

IM: What I and all of my colleagues are determined about is that we don’t want the alternative which is Bill Shorten. We don’t want to go back to Labor and debt and deficit and dysfunction and that is the real focus for most of us on our side. We want Tony Abbott to succeed. We think it is in Australia’s interest to keep a Liberal Government, not just now but importantly after the next election and again as I have said publicly that requires a change of approach and I think we might be getting that change of approach.

Question: What’s the change? What Change do you expect now?

IM: A range of things but I believe, and Tony has said publicly, that he will be more consultative. He will be more using what I think is one of our greatest resources and that is a very intune backbench, people who are very much involved with their own electorate, what I might call ordinary Australians, who understand what people out there are thinking. *(I think Tony would do well to listen to those people and I think that is going to happen.

A change of approach across the board and I mean as you know, Tony Abbott has conceded that some of his recent announcements have been wrong. He has accepted that the co-payment, the Paid parental leave and various other things weren’t the right way to go and Marius it takes a big man to admit their mistakes and to do something about them, and Abbott has done that and I give him all the credit for that.)*

Question: A specific change that has been pointed to as needed by some of your colleagues is that there needs to be a change in staff in the Prime Minister office and that Peta Credlin needs to go.

IM: I said something about Peta Credlin over a year ago, I haven’t had anything to do with her since then. That is a matter for Abbott of course *(but look Tony can read the papers, he knows what people are saying, he knows the concern that others have raised. I think across the board we do need to look not just at the Prime Minister’s office but at the Liberal Party organisation more widely. I think that needs to be a bit more independent, a bit more upfront with frank and fearless advice. So I am hopeful that those things might all be looked at but they are matters for the Prime Minister and I am sure he understands what people are saying and as I say, he can read the papers.)*

Question: Can you remind the listeners of your views of Peta Credlin – that she has to go?

IM: Well I really haven’t had anything to do with Peta Credlin and very little to do with the Prime Minister’s Office since I made those comments. There on record and I was concerned as others had been, about what’s seen as centralised control but as I say there not matters at the forefront of my mind at the present time.

Question: You don’t believe there should be a spill? If there is a spill will you vote for tony Abbott?

IM: I just think it is hypothetical

Question: It is hypothetical but it is very real. You always deal in hypotheticals in politics, little else really.

IM: No it is against Standing Orders to deal in hypotheticals Marius.

Question: Well we’re not in question time now

IM: But look, I am not at this stage convinced that a spill is in the best interest of the Liberal Party but more importantly not in the best interest of Australia. We don’t want to go down the Labor path. Spills are the Labor way and so I am hopeful that that won’t happen. Anyone who did speak to me a couple of weeks ago I advised them against it but I have to say that I haven’t had any conversations with anyone about spills or leadership issues in the direct sense, in the last week.

Question: None the less your colleagues, including Christopher Pine the latest of them says a spill is entirely possible. If there is a spill will you vote for Tony Abbott?

IM: It depends on what happens. A spill is not a vote for Tony Abbott or any otherwise mind you; a spill is to open up the room to contenders.

Question: If Tony Abbott is a contender will you vote for Tony Abbott?

IM: Well Marius, I don’t think there will be a spill and I wouldn’t support a spill.

And that is always been my position

Question: But you’re stopping short of saying that if there is a spill Tony Abbott has your backing?

IM: Look I support the Leader, I always support the leader but it is hypothetical. It is difficult because I don’t know if Tony Abbott would stand, I don’t know who else might stand. You are asking questions that simply I am not capable of answering. I support the Leader and I hope there won’t be a spill. I don’t think there will be a spill and as I say I don’t think that is in the interest of Australia. And the Interests of Australia, is having a Liberal government after the next election. Spills don’t resolve anything.

Question: Senator Ian Macdonald thank you very much.

IM: My pleasure

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