PM: Earlier this evening Julia Gillard came to see me and has requested a ballot for the leadership of the Labor Party. As a result of that request I will be writing to the Secretary of the Caucus to convene a special meeting of the Caucus at nine o’clock in the morning. It’s important I believe, in the interests of the Party and the Government, for these matters to be resolved as a matter of urgency.
I was elected by the people of Australia as Prime Minister of Australia. I was elected to do a job. I intend to continue doing that job. I intend to continue doing it to the absolute best of my ability. Part of that job has been to steer this country through the worst economic crisis the world has ever seen in 75 years. I believe the Government has acquitted itself well to that task. Part of the reason the Government was elected was to deliver fundamental reforms in the health and hospital system. I believe the Government has acquitted itself well to that task as well. Part of what the Government was elected to do was also to deliver fair outcomes for pensioners in Australia, and I believe we’ve done that well by increasing the pension to the extent that we have.
These are important reforms; infrastructure, education, health, hospitals, closing the gap with Indigenous Australians, also the apology to the first Australians. As Prime Minister of the country I’m proud of each and every one of these achievements. There is much more to be done and we intend to get on with the job of doing it.
It’s become apparent to me in the course of the last period of time, the last several weeks, that a number of factional leaders within the Labor Party no longer support my leadership. That is why it is imperative that this matter be resolved.
I therefore will be contesting the leadership of the Party, and therefore the Government, tomorrow at that ballot. I think it’s important for stability for the Government and the Party that this occur. As I said before it’s far better these things are done quickly rather than being strung out over a period of time.
I’d say one or two other things as well.
If I am returned as the leader of the Party and the Government, and as Prime Minister, then I will be very clear about one thing, this Party and Government will not be lurching to the right on the question of asylum seekers, as some have counselled us to do.
Also on the question of climate change, we will be moving to a timetable on emissions trading which is of the Government’s decision, contrary to the views of some in terms of when that best occurs. These are important reforms for the future, there’s much work still to be done.
Right now obviously we’re in the midst of a debate on the future of the taxation system. This is a hard debate, a hard debate which has been waged in previous times as well. Tax reform is never easy, a lot of paint has been taken off the Government on the way through. It’s also been difficult for previous Governments engaged in the business of hard reform. We don’t resile from that challenge. However, this obviously has created some challenges and tensions within our Party, and I mentioned before, having lost the support of certain factional leaders.
Therefore, it’s time to get on with the business of resolving this as quickly as possible as the national interest is at stake. I conclude with where I began.
I was elected by the people of Australia to do a job.
I was not elected by the factional leaders of the Australian Labor Party to do a job, though they may be seeking to do a job on me, that’s a separate matter.
The challenge therefore is to honour the mandate given to me by the Australian people. We’ve made mistakes on the way through, I’ve been very upfront about that. But, in navigating this economy through the worst crisis the world has seen; in keeping hundreds of thousands of Australians in jobs who would otherwise be on the unemployment queues; of that I am fundamentally proud and we intend to continue that reform. Before you ask your questions, I’ll take two or three questions and then as you may appreciate I have some other work to do.
JOURNALIST: Do you think you can win tomorrow?
PM: I believe I am quite capable of winning this ballot tomorrow based on the soundings that we’ve taken most recently, then I believe there is a strong body of support for the continuation of my leadership.
JOURNALIST: Has Julia Gillard told you she’s standing against you?
PM: I indicated before that Julia has asked me to have a ballot of the leadership of the Labor party, I’ve responded to that request. I’m sorry if I didn’t make that clear before.
JOURNALIST: How do you feel personally, do you feel betrayed?
PM: Look politics is a tough business, but the business of politics is about doing what’s right for the country.
I can say in full and honest conscience that I have taken every decision that I have taken so far as Prime Minister in the nation’s interest. A lot of those decisions were hard and rough on the way through but I’ve appreciated the strong support of my colleagues on the way through as well. They have been a fantastic team. But we’ve gone into some heavy weather of late, a few people have become shall I say a little squeamish at that. I’m not for getting squeamish about those things, I am about continuing the business of reform and providing good, strong, proper government for the people of Australia, the people of Australia who elected me as Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned asylum seekers and the ETS, are you talking about a change of policy in both those areas?
PM: I am being very plain about what I said before. And you’ve heard me say things about asylum seekers policy, and recently. I believe it is absolutely wrong for this country and absolutely wrong in terms of the values which we hold dear, to get engaged in some sort of race to the right in this country on the question of asylum seekers, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. That’s the direction the Liberal party would like to take us, under my leadership we will not be going in that direction.
Furthermore, can I say this, on the question of emissions trading which you have raised and obviously is a matter of great controversy in the community. Let me be very clear. Action on climate change cannot be achieved in the absence of an emissions trading scheme. We need a price on carbon. And that price on carbon needs to be put on it within a reasonable timeframe. That would be the decision of the government, assuming I am re-elected as Prime Minister.
Last one for you, Malcolm.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister would you expect Ms Gillard to stand down as Deputy Prime Minister if you get up and win tomorrow?
PM: I am simply calling for a ballot for the leadership of the Labor Party, I believe that’s the right and responsible course of action to undertake for the simple reason that that was the request which has been made of me.
My fundamental interests are to preserve the good name and standing of this Australian Labor Party, and to act in the national interest on behalf of the Australian government. We have large challenges ahead, not least of which is an upcoming G20 summit in Toronto, at which I am currently scheduled to lead an Australian delegation. This G20 summit will deal with a whole range of fundamental reforms to the financial system, which goes to the interests of the Australian banks and the cost of credit in this country.
These are important national interests to pursue, it is one reason why I’ve decided, apart from others, that it’s important to resolve this matter of the leadership as a matter of urgency. There are national interests at stake here, which go beyond the personal interests of me as an individual, which go beyond the personal interests of me as a politician, which go beyond the personal interests of me as a Prime Minister. Those national interests should be equally in our thinking at a time like this. My party’s interest is important as well, these two matters should be resolved as a matter of urgency and I have a few urgent things now to attend to.