Subjects: Leadership, GST
GARETH PARKER: The post-mortems are not quite done with yet. The Attorney-General - and I'm talking about the events of last week of course, the Attorney-General is Christian Porter. Christian, good morning.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Good morning, Gareth.
GARETH PARKER: Was it worth it?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: You're talking about the events of last week?
GARETH PARKER: I am indeed.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: They shouldn't have happened, those events. I mean I've consistently supported Prime Ministers. I did support Tony Abbott to the end and Malcolm Turnbull. I just, I think it is not good for the country to have a situation emerge where Prime Ministers who are elected aren't allowed to serve their terms. That having been said, I have every confidence that Scott Morrison will pull this together and provide good stable leadership for Australia. He's obviously a massive friend of our state and was the architect behind our GST deal and fix. But I can't say, hand on heart, that it wasn't a completely terrible week for the country, obviously for us as a party, and we've got a lot of work to do.
GARETH PARKER: Can you look voters in the eyes and explain to them why the change was necessary, why this had to
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I don't think that this should have happened, but it did happen and that's where we're at. So I'm not going out to sort of offer a pretence that I think that what happened last week was a desirable thing. It really wasn't. So I'm not going to be one of those politicians. But nevertheless, it has happened and we did it to ourselves and I wish that we had not done it to ourselves. But our responsibility now to individual electorates and to the Australian people as a whole is to keep doing the good things that we have shown ourselves capable of doing. Keep creating the jobs, keep creating the economic growth, keep driving forward serious economic reforms like the GST fix and we've got to get ourselves back on the road very quickly. I think that's what Scott has done; I think that he's chosen a very balanced cabinet and a cabinet that represents something of a generational shift for us as a Government. But Gareth I'm not going to get in the business of saying that it was something that should have happened or it was a good week because it wasn't something that should have happened and it wasn't a good week.
GARETH PARKER: So yesterday we spoke to your colleague Ken Wyatt who, in fact it was Monday we spoke to your colleague Ken Wyatt, who told us that there were, I mean, he's been getting a heap of feedback from his electors that they are angry. Some of them expressing that anger in extremely direct terms. Is that the feedback you're getting from your voters in Pearce?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Yeah, well I would certainly describe a very high level of frustration. It is a fact now that the last Prime Minister that served a full term was 2004 to 2007, being John Howard, and I think that as a nation we'd got very use to that level of stability and then of course we've now had four changes of elected Prime Ministers since that time. And I think people are very, very frustrated with it. So I listen to that frustration, I understand it. Certainly my view's always been that you should not have duly-elected prime ministers deposed in this type of way and I completely understand people's frustration. I share it. I think it was a very disappointing week.
GARETH PARKER: Alright. Well it's not just about the Prime Minister of course. We've lost Julie Bishop as well. It will be for every Western Australian MP to explain why they didn't vote for her. It seems that she didn't garner a single vote and now the result is we've lost a very effective Foreign Minister and the WA Liberal Party's most saleable asset from the frontbench. That's not a good outcome?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I think that first of all it has to be said that Julie has been Julie has been utterly outstanding in every single aspect of her contribution to public life. I took a view when it was clear that the spill motion had been passed and there were a majority of people in the party room who were in favour of it, and I was not one who voted for the spill motion, but nevertheless, when it was passed, you need to make decisions and one thing that was playing on my mind in all the time I had available to me was the fact that this really represented something of a generational change in, not just our party's structure, but I think in the way in which the entire Cabinet and Government was going to be structured. So something that played into my mind was the fact that there were two candidates who represented pretty significant generational change.
GARETH PARKER: So why did you back Peter Dutton?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, it's a very difficult decision to make in those circumstances. I was expecting that the spill motion might well fail so, and I voted against it, but it got up very narrowly. I think that both Peter and Scott are excellent candidates. They've both done very, very well in their individual portfolios and you just exercise a judgement on the floor of the room. But I think they're both excellent candidates. I'm not going to sort of get into one over the other. One did not succeed, the other is now Prime Minister and I think that Scott's going to do an amazing job.
GARETH PARKER: Dutton of course has his supporters in the party room and in the community as well. But there is very little evidence to suggest that Dutton would be an electorally better prospect.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, people will have different views about that and this is not a science in the sense, like mathematics is a science, Gareth. People have different views and instincts about who can win elections and how they can communicate to voters and individual Members of Parliament who see their colleagues close up all the time form their own views about these things. But I think that both Scott and Peter have got obviously huge roles to play. Scott Morrison is our new PM and I think that Scott is a very good communicator and he's someone who can distill what are often very complicated issues and problems, whether they're about energy or the GST, as we've seen, into simple transmitted information that people understand and get. And I think that the way in which Scott devised our GST fix and put it together and communicated it, evidences that he is a person who can cut through and maybe that's something that we need to get much better at as a party, is explaining the way in which we have managed to have major policy improvements, reforms and successes in simple ways that translates to people.
GARETH PARKER: But given that you've described Scott Morrison's role in that GST plan as an architect of it. You've said that he's a friend of Western Australia. It's all the more mystifying that you and so many of your WA colleagues backed Dutton.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I went into that room having assured myself that all three candidates who might be, or who had indicated they would be candidates if a spill motion was successful, I went into that room fully assured with respect to each of them. But they all supported the GST fix. That wasn't really the major issue. All of them…
GARETH PARKER: A lot of voters have interpreted it that way. A lot of commentary I've seen both on social media, emails that I've been getting to the program, people saying how could our Western Australian MPs back Dutton. Because even Scott Morrison himself said ahead of the ballot that Peter Dutton's electricity plan - taking GST off electricity - would jeopardise the WA GST deal. It was basically the only major policy pronouncement he made in a very brief and weird campaign to become PM.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well as I said, I had assured myself that all three of the potential candidates, should a spill motion be successful, were all fully 100 per cent supportive of the GST fix that we had outlined and it will be a reality. So obviously I made myself assured of that fact because I fought for that fix for five years and I was part of the small group of people with Scott that designed that fix. And it is a fix and it is workable and it's far in advance of anything that Labor has on offer. But I was absolutely assured that all three of the candidates were in support of it and would keep it and that they were 100 per cent committed to it.
GARETH PARKER: Okay. I'll come to Labor's plan in a minute because there's some new information about today. But final question on leadership stuff, how culpable - how much blood on his hands does your colleague Senator Mathias Cormann have? Because he is the key to the whole shooting match. His withdrawal of support for the Prime Minister brought the whole thing crashing down.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Look it doesn't help to rake over the coals of that. I think that Mathias made a decision and tried to do what he was thought was right in all the circumstances. And as I understood, his decision and his motivations, as expressed in that press conference, is he'd reached a view that the situation was no longer tenable. Now, that's not an unreasonable view to reach I think in all of the circumstances that he was presented with.
GARETH PARKER: Bill Shorten says that he will legislate a 75 cents in the GST floor within 100 days. That's a pretty simple message. Do you think that West Australian voters will buy it?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I wouldn't be buying it from Bill Shorten. I hope West Australians don't get duped by simplicity over actual reform. I mean, the reality is that we have a plan that actually reforms the GST system that gives us a floor early, then a higher floor, then changes the formula, which must be the absolutely critical issue here. That has been what has created the unfairness, is having this hyper-equalisation. That's what means that some states have an incentive to keep gas in the ground. That's what means that some states actually are incentivised not to reform their tax system. So what Bill Shorten is doing, you're right, is simple. But I think that if West Australians fully understand this problem, probably have a level of sophistication of understanding well beyond everyone else in every other state.
So simply floating into town and saying something which is simple doesn't actually, in my view, get the job done. What you've got is an alternative, is both a floor and a change to the formula, and the change to the formula is critical and that's what eventually lifts Western Australia up to 83 cents and well beyond that, is because we're not having this very, very high level of equalisation that existed under the previous formula. So, I would be keeping all of those statements with a massive grain of salt next to them. What you've got is a Scott Morrison-led Liberal National Coalition that has a clear fundamental reform, well expressed, fully-funded, that fixes the GST problem once and for all and does it in a way that the other states can live with. And does it in a way that fixes the formula and that's the main game in town for West Australians.
GARETH PARKER: Alright. Well while you're in the Gold Coast with Attorney-Generals from our closest security allies, he is in your seat campaigning to take it. Would you consider a switch Curtin if Julie Bishop ups stumps at the next election?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: No.
GARETH PARKER: So it's Pearce or bust?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, Pearce is my home. It's where I live. It's my electorate and my community. I've spent five years helping fix GST. I've spent five years making Ellenbrook rail a reality, making Yanchep rail a reality, extending the Freeway north, making the NorthLink project a reality, which is the single biggest project in the history of roads in WA. This is my home and my community and Bill Shorten is very welcome to visit from time to time. But he's not the one at the grassroots on the coalface making life better for the people in my community. I've been doing that for five years and I have every confidence that that is going to be something that is noticed by the 100,000 people in my electorate and I'm not going anywhere.
GARETH PARKER: Thanks for your time this morning, Christian.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Thanks Gareth.
GARETH PARKER: Okay, Christian Porter the Attorney-General.