Eliza Harvey: The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott is under increasing pressure over his leadership. This week he acknowledged concerns from within his Government over recent policy issues like Medicare and Higher Education. Liberal Senator for Queensland Ian Macdonald joins us live now from Ayr in Queensland. Senator thank you very much for your time. It’s been reported that Tony Abbott has been phoning backbenchers, has he called you?
Macdonald: Well he did call me but I was travelling back from an overseas Parliamentary Delegation. So we didn’t get to speak but we’ll talk some time in the next couple of weeks.
Eliza Harvey: What do you plan to tell him about the concerns of your constituents at the moment?
Macdonald: Well can I say first of all I’ll tell him what a great job he and we have done last year, stopping the boats, getting rid of the Carbon and Mining Taxes, starting to turn the budget around. That’s the first thing I want to say to him. I then want to reinforce the messages I have already given him and Peter Dutton and Susan Ley about the co-payment. They knew my position on that very clearly and I’ll reinforce that and I’m pleased to say that I hear that we’re going to have a complete re-look at that. And that’s fabulous. There are some issues like that but of course I want to mainly talk with him about Northern Australia which is a great passion of mine, which is a great initiative of the Government for Northern Australian and I expect within the first couple of months of this year we will have the release of the White Paper on Northern Australia which will set the blueprint for enormous opportunities in the north of our country.
Eliza Harvey: Are people up your way talking about the leadership of Tony Abbott?
Macdonald: Not at all. At the moment what people up here are talking about is the State election being fought entirely on State issues. People are remembering that the State Labor Government that they threw out with an overwhelming vote last time, left us in the State with some $97 billion worth of debt. People are worried that that sort of thing might come back. People up here are talking about things like how great it is to have so many more doctors and nurses in the State Health System. We’re also in Queensland I have to say, very pleased that you can walk down the streets now and not be subjected to some bikie attack or drive by random shooting. All those sort of things have been done by Campbell Newman and his team and that’s the sort of things that people are thinking about. They certainly don’t want to go back to the bad old days of Labor and more debt and deficit and inefficiency.
Eliza Harvey: Speaking of health though is the Federal discussion on how to keep the Health System affordable clouding the Queensland campaign?
Macdonald: Well I think that Queenslanders understand the situation as I do. Look something has to be done with the blowout of the health budget. It’s unsustainable at present. I think every Australian accepts that. But how do you fix it? I think the initial proposal brought on without any warning, without any discussion with the Party Room I might say, in the last budget was the wrong approach. I’ve told Tony that privately and indeed publicly and I’m delighted to hear that we are having a complete re-look at it. Something has to done but it needs to be fair and I think that’s what people are interested in. As I say and I don’t want to overemphasise this, but the number of new nurses and doctors we have in the Queensland Health System in the last 3 years is something that is really been noticed in Queensland and that at the moment is the most front of mind health issues I think in this State as we approach the State election.
Eliza Harvey: How then Senator Macdonald can Campbell Newman’s Government, a Government with an unprecedented majority be fighting for its life?
Macdonald: Well we’ll see next Saturday how it is going but I think within this next week people will start to focus on just what this is all about. You know, do you want to go back to the $97 billion debt and increasing under Labor? Labor have during the whole of this State campaign not brought forward one credible policy on how we’re going to address the debt they left. They haven’t brought forward one credible policy on law and order or on health and they’re the things that I think in this next week, you know when all the hype and razzamatazz finishes, people will focus on those sort of things and will, you know, make I think an appropriate judgement.
Eliza Harvey: The Premier’s getting out and about in regional Queensland, there’s clearly some concern about how the LNP is going to go in its own heartland, how do you think the LNP is going to go in the regions?
Macdonald: Well look I’m, as you know, mainly from the north. We’ve got a great team of members up here since the last election. I can’t think of a Labor member up in the north, and all of our local members have been working so hard in their own areas for 3 years solid. I think that will have a big impact, but things that really count to people in the north and as I say that’s mainly health, education, law and order, very important, those sorts of things will tell very heavily. A number of minor, well not minor but specific initiatives, like the stadium for Townsville will I think bring a lot of support in the Townsville region. But across the board we have such a great team of State Members in Cairns, Gavin King, David Kempton, Mick Trout, in Townsville John Hathaway, David Crisafulli, Sam Cox, Jason Costigan down in Whitsunday and they’ve all been working so hard and have done so much for people that I think people will recognise that when they go to cast a vote next Saturday.
Andrew Geoghegan: Senator, are we to read anything into the fact that the Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been largely absent from the campaign trail in Queensland?
Macdonald: Well look, I’m one of those who think if you want to have a vote on Federal Leadership or Federal issues you do that at a Federal Election. This election next Saturday is all about State issues. It’s whether you want Campbell Newman or Ms Palaszczuk, if you want more debt and deficit or if you want a plan to fix Queensland. Whether you want the bikies under control or whether you want to let them run free again. I mean these are the issues, they’re State issues, it’s got nothing to do with Tony Abbott or the Federal Government I have to say.
Eliza Harvey: Senator Ian Macdonald, Liberal Senator for Queensland thank you very much for your time this morning.
Macdonald: That’s my pleasure.