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Subjects: Election outcome; Labor’s Mediscare campaign; Leadership; Cory Bernardi; Humanitarian Programme.





Congratulations on retaining your seat. But it wasn’t easy, there were some odd types at play there including I think GetUp and the unions, I heard Ray talk about outlaw motorcycle gangs doing laps and all sorts of things.  Must have been, I don’t know if it’s the toughest fight you’ve had to retain your seat, but it might have been a bit ugly there on occasion?




Luke we had the whole circus in town there’s no question about that. We had GetUp people flown in from Sydney and Melbourne trying to scare old ladies at night into believing they weren’t going to have their Medicare card come Monday and they spent a lot of money.


GetUp is obviously just a front for the Australian Greens and people should really consider whether they want to donate money to GetUp because they haven’t supported a Coalition candidate around the country, they’ve supported only Labor and Greens candidates.


They ran full time on the ground for eight weeks at a cost I’m told of close to a million dollars. They were running radio ads and really there was no contest frankly from the Labor candidate or from the Labor Party it was all GetUp. It was all CFMEU and unions otherwise. So that’s the modern reality.


I don’t mind a good political stoush, but you do like to have it on a fair basis. The lies and deception pedalled by GetUp and the CFMEU I think was quite remarkable.




Indeed. Look we sometimes have this happen, we have it too often. We should never have it happen in a perfect world. Now it will happen, maybe next time it won’t, then the time after; now don’t you think it’s time we get serious about the way elections are conducted particularly what’s portrayed in advertising  and what candidates say and then what’s allowed to be run in an ad, it’s appalling?




I think that’s exactly right Luke, I think Mr Shorten tried to distance himself from this grubby Mediscare campaign, but the fact is he is the leader of the Labor Party and a decision was made by the Labor Party to send out what amounted to a fraudulent text message purporting to be from Medicare itself and that would have had an influence on people and in marginal seats as we’re seeing now where the vote can come down to one or two hundred, that can decide whether one party forms government or the other.


As I say I think most Australians want a fair contest, they’re happy for a robust contest, but they want the rules of the game to be fair and the difficulty on this occasion is that the Labor Party has been quite deceptive.


Now there are lots of messages for the Government out of the election and we hear those messages and we’ll work on a number of policy areas. I know the Prime Minister’s committed to making sure we hear the messages from the Australian people out of this election.


But the tardy side to it was that there was a very deceptive campaign run by an Opposition Leader who said he wanted to be a union leader and he certainly demonstrated it during the course of this campaign because it really was a first class grubby effort by the Labor Party.




I agree and I just think it’s a shame that they get as a reward all those extra seats and there’s no consequence. You’d like to think the consequence will be with the people will not buy it next time. But they shouldn’t be able to do it to start with.


Anyway in this poll today 40 per cent it said rated Medicare as the most important issue of the campaign and only 20 per cent thought that border protection was an issue.


Just coming back to the campaign itself. Do you think the campaign got it wrong by going too soft on Shorten, don’t you think they should have spent some time reminding us voters of what they were like only three years ago. They were hopeless.




Well Luke in part I think we are a victim of our own success, the fact that we’ve stopped boats, got children out of detention, we’re cancelling visas of bikies and others to make our community a safer place and essentially the issue had gone off the radar.


Now we highlighted on a number of occasions that 50 members within Bill Shorten’s own party were vehemently opposed to our policy on border protection and I suspect some of them will rethink their position and be strongly against the Government’s position on borders and boats and I think they will without the impost of an election, without the discipline of an election, I think you’ll see break-outs from the Left of the Labor Party now on this issue  and it will be important test of Bill Shorten to see what legislation he supports and what he doesn’t in the Parliament.


I think it’s important for the analysis of the election, the campaign, the decisions that were made, to be conducted in due course, but frankly these are insiders’ issues.


I think what Australians want to know is that in Medicare for example we’re spending a billion dollars more this year than we did last year, the bulk billing rate is higher under this Government than it was under Labor and we’re investing in the Medical Research Future Fund which will provide support for the scientists, many of whom are based in Queensland, to try and find the cures for tomorrow.


So there’s a lot that we’re doing, a lot that we can speak about, and I think Sussan Ley’s doing a great job as Health Minister, but the ins and outs of the campaign I think the party officials will slave over that, but for us we want to get back to business.


We want to make sure that we can provide the jobs. It is a very unstable economic market internationally and we need to recognise that and we’re not immune from it in our country and we have to take decisions that are in our country’s best interests and that’s why we want to form a government and get back to business as quickly as possible.




Yeah I understand that. Look in the Western Sydney there were some problems and, I don’t know, some of the feedback we get here is that the Prime Minister just doesn’t connect as well as perhaps Tony Abbott previously did. Do you accept that?


Do you accept that it appears, on the available evidence, that Tony Abbott was really good at connecting in those areas? It became so important three years ago and the now Prime Minister perhaps doesn’t as well? He has to work on that, doesn’t he?




Luke the Prime Minister, if you look at all of the published polls as well as the internal ones that we saw during the campaign, Malcolm Turnbull was absolutely the preferred Prime Minister compared to Bill Shorten and it’s a two horse race.


The race was between Turnbull and Shorten and people not only believed that Malcolm Turnbull would be a better Prime Minister, but he was the preferred Prime Minister because people vote for leaders that they think suit the times and the reality is our economy will face headwinds as we’re seeing coming out of Europe and the UK, out of Asia and including China our major trading partners and that will affect jobs and small businesses in our country so we need somebody at the helm that has the experience to steer us through what will be difficult times. So I think the Prime Minister has a great ability to connect with people and I think you’ll see over the course of the next three years his leadership come into its own and that’s why all of us are very strongly supporting the Prime Minister.


We want to form a government and get on with business and make sure that we can address the issues that are of most concern to the Australian public.




See there are people who would be more conservative than the Prime Minister, people like the former PM, people like you and there’s lot of voters that find that appealing so we end up with a situation today. Firstly I’d like to see the Prime Minister extend the olive branch and invite Tony Abbott into the new Cabinet, maybe you could comment on that and what do you make of this talk of Senator Cory Bernardi and this potential breakaway conservative party?




Well Luke look I think the first priority before any of us think about portfolios or anything like that is we need to form a government.


And it is a tight election as we say both because people wanted to send a message to the Coalition, but most importantly because Labor ran a deceptive and tricky campaign. I think people around the country increasingly will become angrier and angrier because they think they’ve been deceived by Labor and by GetUp and by the Greens. That’s the reality of this campaign.


So the priority for us in a difficult circumstance is to see the count unfold in a number of key seats. I believe that we can form a government. I don’t believe the Labor Party has the ability, or the numbers, to form a government and that’s our sole priority.


Now if the Prime Minister can form a government then decisions can be made about who’s offered portfolios and who can be in the Ministry, but at the moment our priority is to make sure that we can form a government and implement what we think is a strong plan for the economy, for jobs and growth, as well as border protection.


All of the issues that we’ve faced behind the scenes, we will be talking about more over the course of the next couple of years because the people smuggling threat has not gone away. This is a global problem and if we take our foot off the throat of people smugglers women and children will drown at sea again and that’s not a situation we’re going to allow to recommence.


So there’s a lot that the Government needs to get on with and we’ll do all of that. 


Now in terms of Cory, I mean, Cory is again a great warrior of the Liberal Party. He fights for causes he believes in, he is a very good friend and he is a big part of the Liberal Party’s future, there is no question about that.


He is aggrieved as I am by the activities of GetUp because in my own electorate GetUp just told flat out lies about hospital funding which was increasing and they had signs saying that it was decreasing. The real gripe they had against me was our stance on borders, but I think Cory’s point is that he wants to call these groups out and have truth in what they’re saying and counter their views with another side of the argument so that people can make up their own minds instead of being brainwashed by GetUp and their fanciful arguments because all they are really doing is peddling the business of the Greens and the Labor Party.   




He was also aggrieved, wasn’t he, with the performance of the, during the campaign and the Prime Minister. I mean he has made that point. 




Well Luke, he has and others have as well. I mean we have lost colleagues who were good people and they have lost their seats and we grieve for those. There will be a grieving process to go through, but most importantly…




…..really Wyatt Roy, Peter Hendy ….seriously…




Well I think if you look across the board the Liberal Party has always been a broad church for decades and decades. So there are those of us that are on the conservative side of the party and those of us that are on the left wing side of the party and that’s what makes us a strong party because there is a balance of views and there is a contest of ideas. 


But all of us unite behind the Prime Minister because the alternative of Bill Shorten running Treasury with the CFMEU looking over his shoulder would be a disaster for small businesses and for families in this country.


So look we will go through all of that internal process, but I think the opportunity now is for all of us to unite behind the Prime Minister to form a government, get back to business. I think people after two months have had enough of politicking and campaigning, they want the Government to get on with it and that’s exactly what we want to do as well.




A quick one on your portfolio which I assume and hope is still your portfolio when you finally do cross the line.


We are hearing today that fewer that one in five migrants are finding a job within 18 months of arriving in Australia. A new study has looked at the experiences of around 2,400 humanitarian migrants showing more than 80 per cent have managed not to gain employment in the first year and a half here.


Gee that’s a pretty poor outcome, isn’t it? Or should we just accept that people in these circumstances who arrive here are going to take a lot longer to contribute?




Well if we look at the overall numbers, so not just the Refugee Programme, but the overall numbers, there are a lot of people that we bring in from the four corners of the world from countries where people have received education, training, they are well skilled, they go into jobs, they set up business, they employ Australians, they make an amazing contribution. And that is the vast majority of the skilled intake that we take through the Migration Programme into this country.


There is in the Refugee Programme and by definition we are bringing people from war torn parts of the world from predominately Africa and the Middle East and those people do require intensive assistance. We provide that through settlement services, English language lessons, accommodation, education, support to get into jobs and it costs a lot of money for us to provide that support and we are happy to do it.


I got in trouble during the campaign for saying that I didn’t agree with the Green’s proposal to increase the number from 13,000 to up to 50,000 because of the reasons that you highlight.

We want people, as has been the history of migration into this country, to come to our country to work hard and to contribute, to make a great success of their lives, to educate their children and provide a start that they could never have imagined possible. And that is the history for decades. Migrants have come to this country, they have worked hard and they have contributed.


But the reality is that we have people coming though the Refugee Programme that do need to be provided with significant support and it comes at a huge cost. We are one of the most generous nations in the world, but the argument that we should triple the programme overnight I think would create more problems and I don’t think the Greens and frankly Mr Shorten who supported the policy knew what they were promising at the time.


I think that we have got a good balance and we do need to help people into work because people are most productive for their society and for their family when their working. And we want people to integrate into our community, take the opportunity that we have given them and they can do that through work and integrating into Australian society and that’s what we want through the Migration Programme. 




Alright. Good stuff. Congratulations again. Glad you are back and Ray will no doubt catch up with you next week. Thanks a lot Peter. 




Thanks so much Luke.



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