10 February 2015
Transcript - #2015018, 2015

Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News Agenda, Canberra

SUBJECT: Leadership

KIERAN GILBERT:

First though, to the Minister for Small Business and Cabinet Minister Bruce Billson. Minister thanks so much for your time.

You were over there right with the Prime Minister walking out of the party. I know you were with him during the party room meeting yesterday as well. Were you shocked by the number that voted for the spill?

MINISTER BILLSON:

It surprised me because I could not see any good coming out of the spill.

Right now we need clarity of purpose to build on our strengths which frankly are unity, a clear sense of purpose – a plan that we are implementing.

Some achievements today already and I thought the best thing we could do was focus our efforts, get the best contribution from everybody and start off the year well.

But we have got clear air now to get on with the job. I think the Herald Sun in Victoria the front page summed it up well – Get on with it.

That is the message that I have been receiving as I have travelled around the country talking with colleagues, small business community representatives, those who have mortgaged their houses to have a go and create jobs and opportunity in our economy.

They want us to get on with it and that is the opportunity now.

KIERAN GILBERT:

The Prime Minister though, he said it was a chastening experience. It was interesting, his tone yesterday, it was a very authentic response from him. Are you surprised that he has not had that sort of approach before?

I guess people are saying he is being chewed up by the system or the approach. He has not really been allowed to communicate as he is as a leader. He has been formulated in everything he has done.

MINISTER BILLSON:

One of the things that I admire about the Prime Minister, and there are many, is his authenticity.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Has not come across though has it?

MINISTER BILLSON:

And that has been my feedback to him when he has asked ‘what do you think?’

I think you are a patriot. You are an authentic Australian leader who is not in it for yourself. You are in it for building a stronger Australia. Creating more opportunities.

He is not in it for self-glory. He is doing all the work and putting in all the effort and energy he can muster in the interests of our country. He is a patriot and an authentic in that commitment.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Did you see more of that yesterday? Because to me, as someone who watches this stuff very closely, I just sort of thought his approach yesterday was the most authentic I had seen him in his tone ever.

MINISTER BILLSON:

I think that is a reasonable observation, but he did describe it as a near death experience. So that certainly focuses the mind.

The role of Prime Minister has so many demands on it, so many, and you know when you have got many balls in the air and so much responsibility and hope and ambition for the country, not for yourself, but for the country.

There is an awful lot going through the Prime Minister’s bandwidth. Now concerns that get raised, perhaps they are juggled and mixed in amongst a whole range of other things.

Here was a clear opportunity and this morning is a clear chance for our colleagues who are gifted, experienced and bring much talent to the team - to bring forward their contributions as they are able to do every party room.

KIERAN GILBERT:

If he doesn’t maximise his opportunity now, of course you would be dumb to write him off given his track record of proving everyone wrong at every turn. But the reality is, and talking to your colleagues in marginal seats especially, you can understand why they are worried because whole swathes of them are going to get wiped out if he does not lift his game.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Few are more marginal than me. Let us be frank about that. Where things are not turned around there is a whole number of colleagues with so much to contribute for the good of our nation who may not have that opportunity after the next election.

We are all here to do good and to give our best so that the country can be its best and that is the message that I have heard - and they want to have that input. They want to feel that that is embraced, embedded in our policy thinking and our development.

KIERAN GILBERT:

So should the Prime Minister throw away the slogans? The three-word slogans?

MINISTER BILLSON:

I am not going to buy the argument that the slogans are what the Prime Minister is about. The slogans are not what the Prime Minister is about.

There is a clear plan that we took to the electorate. That was overwhelmingly endorsed. Our positive action agenda was what enabled our team, led by the Prime Minister, to defeat Kevin Rudd.

People forget how widely popular he was, and Julia Gillard. But we were able to shine past that superficial bit of Rudd and Gillard and Rudd to point to the damage and harm they were doing to the country. We provided that content and we have an opportunity for the back bench to add to, and enhance, and imbed their input into that content.

KIERAN GILBERT:

It is not just about the Prime Minister though is it because you have seen repeated calls about, rightly or wrongly, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff. Described as the gatekeeper by a number of backbenchers, certainly privately, and the Treasurer as well again front page of the Financial Review this morning that Ministers are saying that he has got to go.

MINISTER BILLSON:

I am not into offering a commentary on the Prime Minister’s staff. That is his call. Who he puts around him and supports him in his important work –that is his call.

We have got a great team. An experienced team. A collegiate team. A real shared sense of purpose.

Now it is up to all of us. It is up to all of us. It is like on the sporting field: The skipper sets the tone and usually provides great insight into what the opposition is about and helps rally and bring our best game from all of us, to bring the best out of all of us.

KIERAN GILBERT:

So why then this leak against Joe Hockey?

MINISTER BILLSON:

I do not know what that is about but it has got to stop. It has got to stop.

You know me. I never leak to you. I do not background you. Anything I say in the media is on the record. That is what an honourable person does.

Now for us, leaking is corrosive. It is corrosive. It is damaging. It is unbelievably unhelpful and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What we need for people who have got a contribution and an input and an insight is bring it into the team. Help it enhance all of our efforts so that we can bring our best game with the best contribution from all of us.

That is what is good for the country and that is what is good for our team.

KIERAN GILBERT:

It is even more so when you look at the other story around today on the front page of News Corp. Simon Benson reporting that nine people lied to the Prime Minister in terms of their vote. Six of them Ministers.

MINISTER BILLSON:

I have no feel for that.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Is that not the spiral you are talking about? Because once that sort of shot is across the bow then others will….

MINISTER BILLSON:

It has got to stop. I know it might make people feel great that they are feeding the media cycle. And perhaps at some point down the track they hope they might some reciprocity. A cheap free kick in the media on a yarn that makes someone look good.

It has got to stop. It has got to stop.

This is a team sport that requires the best contribution of all of us and if there is an opportunity for any of us to lift our game – have that conversation, point out what positive action steps we can take. Bring our best efforts because that is what the nation needs right now.

We are the best hope for this country. You just interviewed Bill Shorten. He had nothing constructive to say. His whole purpose is to inflame and incite grievance and hope that that will get an electoral outcome. There is no upside for the country there.

We are the best hope for this country because we have a plan. We know the work that needs to be done. Our success and the nation’s success and the success of our citizens are interwoven. That deserves our best game. That is what galvanises us around the Prime Minister. That is where my energies are Kieran.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Bruce Billson thanks for your time this morning.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Appreciate it.