SUBJECTS: Malcolm Turnbull’s bid for Liberal Party leadership; Peter Dutton’s non-apology



MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATION, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURALISM: Well it’s deja vu here in Canberra. Another day, more talk of Malcolm Turnbull seeking to fulfil his lifelong ambition to become Prime Minister of Australia. Before members of the Coalition party room get too excited, I think we need to get some facts on the table about this bloke. This bloke talked the biggest game in Opposition about what he was going to deliver when he got into government. But he is someone who has actually failed on every count. Have a look at the cost of the NBN. In April 2013 it was around $29 billion. Today, that has blown out to $56 billion. So not only has this government doubled the deficit, they’ve nearly doubled the cost of the NBN. Then have a look at the scale: Malcolm Turnbull said that the NBN under the MTM – the multi technology mix – or as we all know it, Malcolm Turnbull’s Mess, would be rolling out at scale by now. We haven’t even had fibre-to-the-node technology turned on (at scale) yet. And then have a look at the timing, the timing of when this government promised they would deliver the NBN to every household, by the end of 2016. That promise didn’t even last until the end of 2013. This is a minister who has utterly failed to deliver, who has been instrumental in breaking that promise on the NBN, who on his watch broke Tony Abbott’s two other major promises the night before the election of no cuts to the SBS or to the ABC - on Malcolm Turnbull’s watch. This is a bloke who talked a big game. We need to remind everyone about this bloke’s poor judgment. Just remember his time as Opposition Leader, the Godwin Grech episode amongst many others. This is a person who cannot deliver for the people of Australia and who should not be trusted.

I also think it would be remiss not to mention something about Peter Dutton’s non-apology yesterday. Just to see what these people really think about climate change, and how they really view our Pacific Island neighbours, is really something despicable. He wasn’t sorry about the substance of the comments. He was only sorry that there was a boom there. He was only sorry he got a dressing down by the PM’s own media office. You can tell that by his own words, sorry he distracted from what should have been the story of the day. This sort of non-apology just demonstrates the absolute unfitness of these Ministers, and of this Prime Minister’s own unfitness, to be the leader of this country.

JOURNALIST: Do you have any insight into how those comments by Peter Dutton have been received by some of Australia’s multicultural community?

ROWLAND: I certainly do. Not only does this impact on our nearest neighbours in the Pacific, it also impacts on other countries in our region and the Subcontinent, including places like Bangladesh for whom it’s a really serious issue. I have had feedback over the last couple of days from some of those groups and it is a sorry state of affairs when they say they’re actually not surprised by these sort of comments, but nonetheless they’re extremely offended that they should be laughed at.

JOURNALIST: Would it be fair to say they’d be more concerned about Malcolm Turnbull [inaudible]?

ROWLAND: I don’t care who they have as their leader. This is the same mob, with the same policies. I think it’s more important that the people of Canning, and the Prime Minister wants to talk about the people of Canning, I can bring this back to the importance of the NBN. The people of Canning are well aware of the importance of the NBN in their future. They are well aware that this is a Prime Minister and also a Communications Minister who has left them an electorate divided. Some of them have access to fibre to the home technology and they’re very happy. Others have been completely left off the map. So it doesn’t matter who is leading, it’s the same old policies from this government.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

ROWLAND: Let’s have a look at his record though. It might have been a bit of a sugar hit when he took over as Opposition Leader, and then his bad judgment set in. This is a person who is true to form when he talks the big game but just fails to deliver.

JOURNALIST:  Is that just Labor saying, ‘beware of the sugar hit, we tried it and it didn’t work out so well’?

ROWLAND: Look, we lost the 2013 election for a number of reasons and I have no doubt that our inability to resolve some of those issues was a big part of it. But look, we paid a price for that. And this is a government, this is a Prime Minister, who has said ‘we don’t want to be like Labor was in the last term’. So who knows what road they are going to go down. Whether they are going to stick with Tony Abbott or wait for the outcome of the Canning by-election, or whether Malcolm Turnbull is going to make his move. But I don’t care who it is leading the Liberal Party. They can bring it on any day as far as I’m concerned.

JOURNALIST: Is there any element of Labor thinking people should have their verdict with Tony Abbott?

ROWLAND: It doesn’t bother me either way who is leading and what circumstances this guy gets voted out. Whether he’s voted out in the party room by his own colleagues or whether he gets voted out at the general election. But let’s just remember, this was a guy who waxed lyrical about the importance of the people’s right to choose, so the ball is in his court.

JOURNALIST: So if there was a takeover, should there be an election then?

ROWLAND: I’m happy for the election to be called any time under any circumstances. Thank you.