SKY NEWS AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 26 FEBRUARY 2018
SUBJECTS: Show ponies; Squatters; Barnaby Joyce; Michael McCormack.
DAVID SPEERS: Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer. Thanks for your time this morning. We heard Michael McCormack quickly have a shot there at Bill Shorten, saying it would be the worst thing for Australia for him to become Prime Minister, indicating that he wants to work closely with Malcolm Turnbull to stop that happening. What does Labor think of this new Nationals leader?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: The Nationals are a party made up of squatters and show ponies. You’ve seen them over the years chose from those different groups to lead their party. The challenge has been that the squatters haven’t connected with the electorate and the show ponies haven’t been interested in public policy. So now they’ve gone back to a leader who I guess it’s more clearly in that Ian Sinclair, Earle Page, John Anderson style of leadership but somebody who comes to the role pretty fresh-faced. I shadowed Michael McCormack through the Census debacle and I felt sorry for him that he’d been handed an ill prepared Census by Alex Hawke and Kelly O’Dwyer who had had the job before him. But I didn’t feel as sorry for Michael McCormack as I did for the millions of Australians who lost time on Census night when the website crashed.
SPEERS: Ok. We recall the issue at the time and you were very full of criticism back then. Look, perhaps a harsh take on the National Party and its makeup, you say, between squatters and show ponies. Nonetheless, this is an invigorated new leader who says he’ll be out there fighting for regional and rural Australia. Without Barnaby Joyce though as leader this is going to be a very different leader, you say perhaps in the Ian Sinclair mould for the party – I don’t disagree with that. I think that’s probably some sharp analysis, a sharp take there, Andrew Leigh. But it does mean a different dynamic. It does mean Labor in the Parliament won’t be able to go after Barnaby Joyce, he’s not sitting on the back bench. You’ve had a lot of fodder there for the past few weeks. Where do you think the questioning will go on that front today, this afternoon in parliament? Is Labor still going to be trying to probe the job placements for Vikki Campion, other matters around Barnaby Joyce?
LEIGH: Our concern has never been here with personal issues. It’s always been with the use of taxpayer dollars and indeed that goes more broadly to the Nationals. My concern is that the Nationals have consistently failed to deliver for regional Australia. You’ve got regional towns that are really doing it tough these days. You look at George Christensen’s own electorate, which is hurt significantly by the cuts to penalty rates that the Liberals have pushed through. And yet they don’t have a member in George who is willing to support Labor on motions to ensure we restore penalty rates. We need to see from the Nationals a willingness to stand up against the Liberals, rather than just to tuck quietly into line. Australians won’t get to see the new Coalition agreement between the Liberals and Nationals, I’m guessing. But I expect there is very little in there for the regional towns that the Nationals claim to represent.
SPEERS: Andrew Leigh, we’ll have to leave it there. We’ve got to keep moving. We appreciate you joining us with that initial Labor reaction to that news. Thank you.
LEIGH: Thanks, David.