Transcript - ABC 666 with Ross Solly

Andrew Leigh MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
Member for Fraser
27 June 2013

Ross Solly:                  Let’s go to Andrew Leigh, now, who is the Member for Fraser. Andrew Leigh was with Adam Shirley yesterday afternoon saying that he would stick by Julia Gillard. Andrew Leigh, good morning to you.

Andrew Leigh: Good morning Ross, how are you?

Ross Solly:                   I’m ok, how are you feeling today?

Andrew Leigh: These decisions are always gut-wrenchingly difficult, Gai would have found exactly the same thing. I looked around the faces in the Caucus Room yesterday, and nobody was smiling. These are incredibly hard decisions for us all. People of good will made different decisions yesterday, and I certainly respect that.

Ross Solly:                   Were you tempted at any stage yesterday, Andrew Leigh, to switch allegiances?

Andrew Leigh: No, I’ve always been a strong supporter of Julia Gillard’s, but in everything that I’ve said, I’ve always said that the big differences in Australian politics are not between individuals, they’re between parties. Gai rightly pointed out the risks to Canberra if Tony Abbott is elected Prime Minister and the risks to the important reforms like the price on carbon, like the schools reforms, like, you know, even making the best of Australian international diplomacy with the UN Security Council seat. There’s very much that’s at risk at the next election.

Ross Solly:                   Andrew Leigh, you have spent a lot of your life studying political trends and the like, why in the end did a majority of your colleagues lose faith in Julia Gillard?

[Audio interruption - line drops]

Ross Solly:                   Let’s go back to Andrew Leigh. Hello Andrew Leigh.

Andrew Leigh: G’day Ross. Don’t know what happened there.

Ross Solly:                   I don’t know. I thought maybe a question was too pointy, but you’ve never run away from a question before so I didn’t think you were this time. No, I was just asking you, Andrew Leigh, why you think all of a sudden the majority of your colleagues turned against Julia Gillard?

Andrew Leigh: I think that the honest view of people in the caucus was that Kevin Rudd could do a better job in the next election, and I very much hope that that’s the right view.

Ross Solly:                   Are you convinced that’s the case?

Andrew Leigh: I made a different decision from Gai and from a majority of my caucus colleagues. When you sit in a Labor caucus surrounded by extraordinary people, you’ve got to have a respect for that team as well. That team has come to a different decision than mine, and there is a huge amount of accumulated wisdom, knowledge and understanding in that room, so I respect it, I’ll run with it, and I will be backing Kevin Rudd every day until polling day.

Ross Solly:                   Do you hope to hold on to your job as a Parliamentary Secretary?

Andrew Leigh: I’ve said to people around Kevin Rudd that if they would like me to step down, I’d be happy to do so. It’s really whatever’s most useful for Kevin and for the new leadership team.

Ross Solly:                   But if the opportunity is there, you’d prefer to hold onto it, you think you can still do good things even though you backed a different leader?

Andrew Leigh: I’ll do whatever the Prime Minister wants me to do. If he thinks that somebody else can better serve in my role, I’ll very happily step back. Because he has to have those opportunities, if he wants to use the position that I have the honour to occupy at the moment for somebody else, he should absolutely be able to do that.

Ross Solly:                   Kevin Rudd did say there would be no retribution so I suppose this is a chance to test it. Yourself and Kate Lundy, who both showed loyalty to your leader, an opportunity if you want to continue on, for Kevin Rudd to show that he’s a man of his word. Maybe the first test for him, Andrew Leigh?

Andrew Leigh: Look, I wouldn’t see it as retribution, Ross. I mean I do...

Ross Solly:                   That’s how politics works though, isn’t it, Andrew Leigh? Let’s be honest about it.

Andrew Leigh: Not at all, no. I genuinely think that there are many people of talent in the backbench, and I think if Kevin comes to the view that he wants to use one of those people in the role that I occupy, that he wants me on the backbench, and that he thinks he’s got a better chance of Labor winning the election, then I’m entirely happy to do that. I mean I’m a very low ranking member of the executive team, and so I...

Ross Solly:                   Oh, Andrew Leigh stop talking yourself down.

Andrew Leigh: But you’ve got to think of the team.

Ross Solly:                   Gai Brodtmann says that she thinks she’s seen a changed man in Kevin Rudd, a changed man from the man who caused so much divisiveness in the party when he was leader. Have you seen changes, do you believe that a leopard can change its spots?

Andrew Leigh: I’ve never criticised Kevin, Ross. I’ve always thought that he’s an extraordinary person, ever since I first…

Ross Solly:                   A good leader though? A good team-builder? A good team man?

Andrew Leigh: Look he’s somebody who I think achieved extraordinary things in his first period as Prime Minister, then as Foreign Minister. He’s somebody who’s incredibly articulate and thoughtful across policy areas ranging from foreign policy to health.

Ross Solly:                   But a good team man, Andrew Leigh? Is he a good team man, was he a good team man?

Andrew Leigh: I think he’s worked well with people in the past, clearly there’s been personal frictions around the place, but I’ve never experienced any of that. He’s always treated me with respect and decency. And again, we’re going to go into this election with a choice between parties, and that has always been the biggest choice. The policy differences that separate Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd were never large. The policy differences that separate Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott are massive, and as Gai has so articulately pointed out, are incredibly damaging for Canberra if a Liberal Party government were to be elected, and that’s why I’ll be fighting hard right up to polling day.

Ross Solly:                   And what were your thoughts when Bill Shorten went public last night just before the vote, to say that he was going to support Kevin Rudd, and saying he was doing so because he thought this was in the best interests of the Labor Party?

Andrew Leigh: I think that that’s the only right basis on which to make this decision. You can’t make these sort of decisions from self-interest or career advancement, you have to make them based on what’s best for the party. And I respect that there were a 102 people in the room yesterday and people came to different views. But I think the vast majority of people did so based on what they thought was best for the Party.

Ross Solly:                   Good to talk to you Andrew Leigh, thank you.

Andrew Leigh: Thank you Ross, have a good day.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.