Leigh Sales: Good evening, I'm Leigh Sales and this is the 7.30 programme. The Prime Minister looks primed and ready to go to the President and ask for a snap general election to be held in May, trying to hit a timetable of a 5 May election day. The reason behind the Government's want of a federal election looks like it would be a way to catch the National Party, struggling to get their support higher than 30%, off guard. The Government, sitting ahead of the National Party with a combined 27 point lead, now looks to see who will win the majority of the left if the election were to be held. Joining us tonight is the Deputy Leader of the Progressive Alliance and Cabinet minister Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd from Labor, and the Shadow Treasurer of the National Party Scott Morrison. First, we dive into the psyche of Kevin Rudd.
Rudd was Australia's Prime Minister from 2008-2010 before being deposed by Julia Gillard, who in the face of dismal numbers during the general election potentially losing to Tony Abbott at the next federal election, only for the Labor Government to be defeated by Abbott under the rule of Julia Gillard, opening the door for the Progressive Alliance to start to pick off key Labor seats at the 2012 federal election, setting them up to challenge Labor as the party of the left. Labor under Rudd again came in third at the 2016 election and formed part of the coalition government as of now. Foreign Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, welcome.
Kevin Rudd: Quite an auspicious welcome, Leigh. Thank you for having me.
LS: Let's begin with Labor's third place currently in the polls, and their status as the third party, swapped with the Progressive Alliance since 2016. You are currently sitting at 12% of the Government's 57% polling. Is Labor at risk of being put permanently in third place?
KR: Oh, Leigh, what a question to lead out on. I think that we should instead be talking about Labor's contribution to the government. When the Prime Minister wanted to form a formal coalition with us for the Parliament, she had to incorporate Labor's key issues into the Government's agenda. Hillary had to compromise and bring forward Labor's proposal for increasing the rights of workers and unions in pay and workplace disputes, she's had to compromise and give the Fair Work Commission more powers to settle disputes and enforce them. She's had to compromise and not pursue the privatisation of the investment bank, but instead use it as a way to get the Federal Government to contribute to state and regional projects. Remember, her idea for the investment bank was to make it a private entity that took more into account the profitability of the project, not if it contributes to the greater good. Labor has done a good job in moderating some of the more economically conservative elements of the Progressive Alliance and gave Australia a true centre-left, economically and socially progressive government that it needed.
LS: I'm going to have to challenge you on that. I have the manifestos right here from the last election, and Mrs. Clinton clearly promised that she wanted an investment bank backed by the Treasury. It says it right here, and Labor called for the same thing. You weren't the one who changed her mind. She made that up herself.
KR: But Leigh, you fail to realise that I'm the Deputy Prime Minister, sitting at the Cabinet table and hearing these things. She maybe posed as a champion of the left, but she took a hard turn to the right initially once she got into Government, and it is only with Labor's Cabinet members and support that she backed down and delivered her own manifesto promise. That is something that we did for the people of Australia.
LS: Yes, but how is that Labor's contribution. Again, it's in the Progressive's manifesto in 2016, it's even in their manifesto in 2012 but not in the Labor one that you took to the 2012 election that you lost. So, how can you claim to be helping the Progressives stay on the left if they had one of the most progressive ideas before you did?
KR: Leigh, we can go back and forth all night. I promise you, when I was leading the Labor Party...
LS: You're leading it now!
KR: ...We were putting it to the party; we have a different mechanism to the Progressives. They can just put whatever they want in; we have to put it past the unions and the party membership before it is officially in our manifesto.
LS: Let's move on to another topic: the Government has taken Australia out of neutrality. This was a proposal that was pushed heavily by you and Malcolm Turnbull onto Hillary Clinton, have you decided that you got it wrong?
KR: No, but times change. Europe is dangerous and we are looking to bring ourselves closer to our allies and contribute to the efforts in Dromund Kaas. As the Foreign Minister, I've been happy to work with the Prime Minister on our foreign policy, with our Civil Service, and with DFAT specifically to maximise Australia's reach.
LS: Is that why we have been so slow to move on the Omnibus situation or invite new EU members to Canberra or Sydney?
KR: Leigh, you're only focusing on the negatives and not the achievements of the coalition.
LS: Because the achievements aren't the only thing the public deserves to know about Labor's record in the coalition. The Prime Minister has put her credentials forward as a trading, economically sound leader of a competent government, but as you are the nation's chief diplomat, you are responsible for the fact that aside from meetings with Theresa May and Sam Courtenay, Australia has done nothing on the international scene.
KR: I do not agree with that. The Prime Minister reached out to Turkmenbaijan and responded to that crisis much to the leadership that I and DFAT put forward to her. As a coalition, cabinet government, each minister has to fight for their department's agenda with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet and then we take some collective decision making with relevant ministers and the PM.
LS: So it's even more important that you, the Foreign Minister, are fighting for Australia's voice to be magnified on the world stage. We're a large economy, a nation of riches from its culture and people to its minerals and resource wealth. You are also the leading minister in the Department. Why aren't you getting on the Trade Minister to get more business to Australia?
KR: The Government has made trade deals with Angleter, the Duxburian Union, and the United Kingdom, 3 of the 4 largest economies in Europe, and we are ready to get a deal in place with Inquista, the largest economy in Europe. We are the fifth largest economy in Europe, we are doing well. Why don't we look at the economic growth, the strongest of the developed economies in Europe, in part due to our good trade arrangements. Leigh, this is the kind of talking down of Australia that the people are tired of...
LS: With all due respect, Deputy Prime Minister, if I am talking down anyone, I'm talking down you and the fact that you are not holding up your part of the deal as the Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Australia. Anyway, we have to come back after the break. Tanya Plibersek, the Deputy Leader of the Progressive Alliance and Scott Morrison, Shadow Treasurer up next.