2 February 2015
Transcript - #2015012, 2015

Interview with Denis Walter, 3AW, Melbourne

SUBJECTS: Prime Minister's National Press Club address, leadership speculation, voter intentions

DENIS WALTER:

Joining me is the Honourable Bruce Billson, Member for Dunkley and Minister for Small Business.

Mr Billson, good afternoon.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Good afternoon to you Denis and to your listeners and I was at the Australian Open tennis as part of a great weekend in our great state.

DENIS WALTER:

Oh how good was it?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Extraordinary.

DENIS WALTER:

I had six days of joy broadcasting down there; it is a fantastic time to be here in Australia and especially in Melbourne because we do the events so well.

What’s going to happen here with Tony Abbott from your perspective?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Today is a big day. I think it is a chance at the Press Club for the Prime Minister to map out what the Government is doing in terms of building a strong and prosperous economy and for a safe and secure country.

We have to implement our Economic Action Strategy, there has been a lot discussed about how well the selling of that has gone and it is beholden on all of the team to get out there, to engage, to outline to the Australian public why these changes are so important at a time when you sense the electorate might not be that keen for change.

Although I think quietly most of your listeners would realise we cannot stay on the track that we inherited from the previous Government. That is where we are at.

Lots of other discussions going on but I am very much focused on the important work of improving our prospects for the future.

DENIS WALTER:

It is interesting; this concept of one term governments and it seems to be becoming the norm rather than the exception. Whoever it is needs to be able to sell what the story is, what the picture is. But I wonder sometimes whether as voters we just want what we believe will give us the best outcome for ‘me’, it’s all about ‘me’ all the time.

MINISTER BILLSON:

I think that is part of it because it is perfectly understandable for people to evaluate things from their own perspective. I think most people have in their heart the desire for our country to do well and we know when we are borrowing $30 million a day just to pay our debts. The debt trajectory means we risk passing on to the future generations our inability to pay our way today.

That is inter-generational theft and that is not what I want to be a part of and that is why getting the budget right, living within our means, investing in the infrastructure that we need, making sure we can fund those important works and services that we all rely upon for the future – that is all part of it.

I guess my role as a Cabinet Minister, and the role of all Ministers and in fact all people in positions of leadership in public life, is to be able to articulate why there is a need to change. What the case for change is. What the challenges are if we do not make changes and we opt for a more comfortable sleep-walk into the future, where we think it is all beer and honey and there is no need to do important and serious work of getting the nation back on track.

So that is the challenge, and it is perfectly reasonable for people to view these things from their own perspective. My task is to make sure that perspective is a longer term one and a rounded one and that is the challenge we have before us.

DENIS WALTER:

What is the mood at these sort of times Bruce, we’re talking about a Prime Minister who is in peril - his position is in peril at the moment.

It must be an odd feeling because at one point you could be working with this person and then suddenly voting against them?

MINISTER BILLSON:

What drives me and the community that I represent and the role that I carry is not whatever happens on the day-to-day basis in terms of media speculation or whatever the story of the day is – many of your listeners have mortgaged their house to go into a business, to create opportunities for themselves and other people around them.

We know that small business and family enterprises are the engine room of the economy. At times I get a little frustrated that politics and the governance of our country starts looking like a reality TV show, when there are very serious matters at stake here.

There is a need for sober, sure-footed leadership to take our country into the future. At times, distractions are frustrating but I do not lose sight of what people expect of me in my role.

Frankly, it is why I got involved in public life. The community I represent down Frankston way, a great part of the world, but this is a world of great possibilities for all of our citizens and our nation but we need to be able to win those opportunities and that is what the reform agenda is all about.

So much of the other stuff does not take us in a positive direction but gee it burns up some air time on electronic media and you see lots of columns written about it.

DENIS WALTER:

Bruce Billson, thank you for joining us on the program.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Good to speak with you Denis and best wishes to you and your listeners, and we are coming to footy season as well so you will see our great state shining as the clouds move in a little bit.

DENIS WALTER:

Who do you follow?

MINISTER BILLSON:

It is interesting, as a character building member of public life and politics, not surprising I am a Richmond supporter is it?

DENIS WALTER:

You’re on the ascendency, that’s good.

MINISTER BILLSON:

We have not peaked early but there is optimism there and if we win a few rounds early in the year, the bandwagon will not be big enough to get all those Tiger supporters back on the team!