6 February 2015
Transcript - #2015017, 2015

Interview with Tom Elliot, 3AW Drive

SUBJECTS: Leadership, Coalition Government’s plan for our nation

TOM ELLIOTT:

Joining us now, the Minister for Small Business in the Federal Liberal Party Bruce Billson. Good afternoon.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Good afternoon to you and your listeners.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Now what did you think about what the Prime Minister had to say 15 minutes ago?

MINISTER BILLSON:

I think he was right on the money.

We are not the Labor Party. We are better than this.

There are some very, very substantial challenges that the nation is facing.

We have a plan. We have a settled experienced team. We know we have got to lift our game- let us get on and do that and if there is political energy to be available let us put it into the task of improving things for the Australian people and our nation and that is where our focus should be.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Well it should be there. You say we are better than the Labor Party; we should be devoting our energies towards doing the right thing by Australia. I agree but that is not what is happening right now and that is not what is going to happen over the next four days is it?

MINISTER BILLSON:

That is the concern Tom is that we have got so much to do. This Government is this country’s best hope.

We know there are challenges ahead. We have got the team to deal with it.

There is no option to just turn the other way and hope that the economic climate, the Budget repair task, the reforms that we need, the encouragement of small business – these are all crucial challenges of our time and we have got to deal with those.

The Labor Party is inciting grievance and disagreement….

TOM ELLIOTT:

You say you have got the team to deal with it but why are some of the junior members of the team like Luke Simpkins and Don Randall from WA, why are they basically casting doubt on the team?

MINISTER BILLSON:

That is one of the beauties of our team to be honest with you Tom, no one is in lockstep. You are not thrown out of the Liberal Party if you have a different point of view.

They have raised their point of view and they are entitled to do that; but this sort of hope that the grass is greener on the other side without knowing what that looks like; and then without appreciating that the real challenges and the headwinds that we face as a nation and as a government are not miraculously going to go away.

TOM ELLIOTT:

I agree. But can I tell you, my guess is that most people listening to this are going well this all sounds great but the fact is there is a leadership spill call for Tuesday and we would like to know who is going to be governing the country. If it is not going to be Tony Abbott, who else?

Who do you think, if anyone, will put their hat in the ring on Tuesday?

MINISTER BILLSON:

I do not think the spill motion will get up because I think the vast majority of my colleagues and the feedback I have had from on the ground working with colleagues in their electorates, the strong message is get on with the important work that is ahead of us. Implement the action strategy and I think that will be the message.

The spill motion will not get up and then we have all got to knuckle down and get on with the hard work of getting the country back on track Tom.

TOM ELLIOTT:

If there is a spill motion and someone else does nominate will you unequivocally vote for Tony Abbott?

MINISTER BILLSON:

That is right. That is what I will do.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Ok.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Tom that is what I took to the electorate. That is the leader of our team. This team is stable, experienced, we have the plans.

We know the Senate is a challenge at the moment- everyone knows that, and where we are able to implement our plans without mindless obstruction, you are seeing successes.

Where we run into challenges is where the influence is beyond our control; with a motive to disrupt and dislocate and even disturb the Australian public. These are our challenges.

TOM ELLIOTT:

But Mr Billson almost every government faces a hostile Senate and that is the test of any leader, is not the easy task but the hard task like an obstructive Senate.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yes exactly right Tom.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Another thing I have heard is that, I agree the motion will not get up or if it does get up there will not be any other challengers, but I have heard that Tony Abbott will be given six months by the Party to turn things around and then he will be asked to step down. Is that true?

MINISTER BILLSON:

No. This is not just about Tony Abbott. We have all got responsibilities here Tom, all of us, the whole team has got responsibilities here. It is not as if it is solely Tony Abbott’s responsibility. He is the Prime Minister who got us so close to an election win in 2010, got us over the line, helped formulate the policies and the programs that earned the support of the Australian public.

We have got to get on with our work. We have got to get on with our work. This is too important to let this sideshow and this reality TV stuff go on.

TOM ELLIOTT:

So will you be ringing some of your potentially recalcitrant colleagues over the weekend and saying to them – look vote against this motion, stick with Tony Abbott, he is going to lead us to the next election. I mean will you be telling people that?

MINISTER BILLSON:

I will not be ringing and harassing people but people are ringing me. I am an experienced Member of Parliament.

TOM ELLIOTT:

But what are they saying?

MINISTER BILLSON:

I am no factional warrior. People value my insight and experience and colleagues ring me. Now if they are looking for my input I am happy to provide it.

TOM ELLIOTT:

So what are they asking you? What are all these colleagues asking you, even though you are not a factional warrior, what are they asking?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well they ask me what is my take on what is happening. How can we lift our performance? How can we make sure our plan is the focus of our work and not the personalities?

And then when I am with them out in the communities, as I have been week after week talking to small business people, those who have got their house on the line to create jobs and opportunity for others – the message is clear:

Get it together, get on with the plan, work and improve your performance. That is what people are on about. Not this kind of shifting personalities around while the real challenges that we face seem to be a secondary thought.

TOM ELLIOTT:

When you are out in your electorate do most people say we support Tony Abbott? Because that is not what the opinion polls say.

MINISTER BILLSON:

No they do not get that personal. Some do. What they want to see is the Government succeed because they understand that the Government’s success equals the nation’s success and their own success.

Most people do not engage in the personality side of it. They know that is easy. Everyone can have an opinion about someone’s personality. They know the hard work of governing is a challenge of a whole other order and however they might feel about personalities, it is that work of good governing that people keep urging me to focus my energies on and that is precisely where they are.

TOM ELLIOTT:

Bruce Billson Minister for Small Business I appreciate your time.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Good to talk with you Tom and best wishes to you and your listeners.