GEOFF HUTCHISON: Now, I think the ABC's Barrie Cassidy put it pretty well today. Following the coup of last week in Canberra, he said the bills are coming in. First we learn that Julia Banks, the Liberal Member for Chisholm in Victoria, is resigning at the next election because, she says, of the hundreds of emails and calls she has received from her constituents, all saying they wanted Malcolm Turnbull to be Prime Minister and Julie Bishop Foreign Minister. Julia Banks, incredibly, was the only Liberal to take a seat off Labor at the last federal election and now, because of what she calls bullying and intimidation, she's going. You may have heard a Liberal back bencher say: oh well, you shouldn't go, that's just the rough and the smooth of politics today. But I wonder if you think that that is the acceptable face of politics; I tend to think not now.
Also, the new reach, the new Reachtel Poll of Malcolm Turnbull's own seat, Wentworth, incredibly now places it on a knife edge. Now, of course that's just speculative stuff; the people of Wentworth have not cast their votes yet, so you can place whatever value you want on it, but it suggests a swing of 17 per cent to Labor that would suddenly make this super safe seat a 50-50 option. The bills, says Barrie Cassidy, are now coming in.
I'm joined by the Attorney-General Christian Porter; good afternoon.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Geoff, thanks good to be with you.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: We understand Scott Morrison tried to convince Julia Banks to stay but she wants out. This was the only candidate able to pick up a Labor seat at the last election, how big is this loss?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I'm obviously disappointed that Julia's made that decision; she's a fabulous person and she was a great campaigner at the last election. I must confess, I've been locked away in a room with five Attorney-Generals from our intelligence sharing partners around the world this morning, so I've really only seen a brief reel on TV about the circumstances of her decision, but it's obviously a decision that she would've made far from lightly. But of course, it's a very disappointing decision; she's a great candidate, great Member of Parliament, lovely person.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: And while the Prime Minister talks about moving on, a Liberal woman is leaving because she is tired of being bullied by blokes who, we presume, were trying to have Peter Dutton elected Prime Minister.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Look, I've seen again the reports but I just have to say to you, Geoff, I'm not in any position of any knowledge about any of those circumstances. I'm sure that's to be elucidated upon; it'll be others who do that. But they are terrible weeks when any political party, whether it's the Labor Party or the Liberal Party, go through them; you know I voted against the spill motion, as I voted against the spill motion with respect to Tony Abbott before that, so I've had a view that you shouldn't be doing these things when you've got duly elected Prime Ministers. I think they're terrible weeks, I'm not going to pretend here that they're not terrible weeks.
But our job is to rally under the new prime ministership of Scott Morrison; been a great friend to the state on the GST and provide government which is progressive in the sense that we keep delivering on things that we have been able to deliver. I mean, the great shame of all of this is that Malcolm Turnbull produced a million jobs; 410,000 jobs last year - a record in the economic history of Australia. And we've just got to try and keep that type of outcome and output going, but it has been a terrible week.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Why did you vote for Peter Dutton?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, as I said, I voted against the spill motion. So, in effect, I voted for the Prime Minister, but when the spill motion was carried, you've got a decision to make on the floor of the House. I certainly went into the room fully assured that the three people who had bid to be the candidates were all fully supportive of the GST fix and were all 100 per cent behind that.
And look, you see all of your colleagues have all their strengths and weaknesses and both Scott, Peter are, I think tremendous people, both doing really good work in their portfolios previously. But these are just decisions that you make.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: I guess that's what we have some difficulty understanding, because we're not you and we're not part of those spill motions. Here was you talking to Peter and Paula exactly a week ago publicly endorsing Prime Minister Turnbull.
Excerpt from interview previous week CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, what I would say to them is that there has been one Prime Minister who has fixed this problem for WA and that is Malcolm Turnbull, which is a very significant reason why he has my support and why he should have the support of West Australians.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: See, that's what we don't understand; how do you explain the categorical support on air and then your actual vote to reward the man who wanted, among others, so desperately to bring Malcolm Turnbull down?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I think that's rather unfair, Geoff, because I supported the Prime Minister - I voted against the spill motion. So any suggestion that there wasn't that support and previously, I might say that when a spill motions and challenges were mounted against Tony Abbot, the view that I've always taken is that when you're a member of executive government that you support the prime minister of the day, which is exactly what I did.
Now, it's not about rewarding or unrewarding people, I supported the prime minister by voting against the spill motion. Now when the spill motion succeeds, against my view that it should've been against my vote, then you need to make a decision on the floor about three candidates that are involved in what is going to be the future rebuilding of a political party in a government.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: So can you say today with hand on heart that you still wish Malcolm Turnbull was Prime Minister of Australia?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I mean I opposed the process Geoff. I mean that much is clear and on the record, so you know me saying that I wish things worked out differently is a very easy thing for me to say. I wish things had have worked out differently, but they didn't and when a spill motion is carried in the party room, you've got to make decisions then and there about what you think is the path forward.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Are my semantics being annoying if I ask you to say: if you believe it, I wish Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was still leading the Liberal Party?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I mean clearly by virtue of the way I voted that's exactly what I believed and hoped would happen. But it didn't happen. I think that Scott Morrison's going to make an excellent Prime Minister. I mean he's been a fantastic Treasurer; we're moving back towards surplus, we've got expenditure under control. He was the architect along with others that were assisting from Western Australia to fix the GST problem that's bedevilled our state for so long. So I've got enormous confidence that he's going to be a great Prime Minister and is going to lead our party and our country very well. But again if you're asking me, am I pleased with what happened - of course not. And had I wish it not happen; that is the case.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: My guest on the program this afternoon is the Attorney-General Christian Porter, 1300 222 720.
Look I understand, how like Linda Reynolds yesterday on the program; you say that you wish the events of last week hadn't happened. But she's been elevated into the ministry; you've been returned as Attorney-General and you do want your electorate and our listeners and people right across the country to accept that you're getting on with the job. But do you also except in the minds of many people; and then we talk about the people in Julia banks' electorate, who sent her hundreds of e-mails and calls saying how unhappy they were; do you accept that out of the bubble, people don't see it as business as usual?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well they're extraordinary events and I'm not pretending it, nor would I ever pretend that they’re not. And last week was a week that shouldn't have happened, but I can't undo that nor can Scott Morrison, nor can Peter Dutton. So, the best thing I can actually do is get on with my job, keep representing the people of my electorate, keep bringing the funding in for infrastructure to make sure that the great projects that we've funded Ellenbrook Rail, Yanchep Rail and the freeway extensions North are produced on time and in accordance with promises. But you know, if you're asking in theory, do I understand people's frustrations, I don't just understand them, I mean of course I share them. And as having been in the middle of all that, it is a dreadful thing to have happen and it's not in the best interests of the country that it did happen. But it can't be undone.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Do you think and I know we've had the explanations of the numbers that had to be played out, do you think Julie Bishop understands why she did not win your support?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: I can't possibly answer a question about what Julie, who is a fantastic contributor of Australian politics…
GEOFF HUTCHISON: …but you've not had a conversation with her about it at any point?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Oh look I had conversations with Julie during the process. I think that Julia has been one of the most remarkable contributors to Australian politics and public life that our country’s ever had. But Geoff, the reality is that when you vote for someone, a group of people are upset that you voted for one person, if you voted for another person, another group of people are upset that you voted for that other person; I mean that's the nature of choice.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Okay. I guess I was just curious to know if after the fact whether there's been any communication with her on that, that's all.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well I mean I haven't spoken to Julie since the events. But a lot of my colleagues I haven't spoken to since the events because you get on with your job and you're onto the next task and requirement in your portfolio and in your electorate.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Okay last couple of questions; my guest on the program this afternoon is the Attorney General, Christian Porter. We don't know what Julie Bishop's plans are. Do you commit to staying on as the Member for Pearce even if it may be that there is a much easier to hold seat of Curtin that might become available?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: I'm not going anywhere, Geoff. I honestly don't know how many times I can answer the same question the same way. But I'm contesting Pearce. It's my intention to keep working hard in Pearce, to keep bringing the infrastructure in, to keep making sure that I'm doing the best by my constituents to my ability. I'll stand for election in Pearce. I'm not going anywhere else.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Last observation and from what we've learned today about Julia banks, do you worry that there will be more bills to pay before the next election, whether there are other Julia Banks who might, in their words, choose to put a kind of principle over their political future?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well I can't predict the future for you Geoff, but if I can put it this way…
GEOFF HUTCHISON: ….I guess what I'm asking is do you have an awareness that this is a consequence of last week and it's perhaps an understandable consequence and you'll have to live with that as a government.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well I mean I'm just as I've said previously and publically and I'm not going to pretend the events of last week were desirable or helpful. I mean they were neither of those things. Not for any person who's campaigning in a marginal seat, not for Australians at large, not for constituents in my electorate. But I can't pretend otherwise, but the best thing that I can do to serve my constituents is to keep working for them each as individuals and for all the communities in my electorate of Pearce, and to keep discharging my duties as Attorney-General for the Commonwealth to the best of my ability. These are the things that are inside my power to control. So lamenting things that I didn't want to have happened and we would prefer to have not happened, is not a very productive way to spend time going forward. What I want to do is support our new Prime Minister to the absolute best of my ability and keep helping the people of my electorate.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Appreciate you talking to me today. Thank you very much.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Cheers, Geoff.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Christian Porter is the Attorney-General.