LAURIE OAKES AND MALCOLM TURNBULL, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
LO: Mr Turnbull, welcome to the program.
MT: Morning Laurie. Good to be with you.
LO: How are the knife wounds?
MT: I’m unbarred.
LO: Well I guess as a Republican, you're shocked that the Queen has now joined this left-wing climate change conspiracy?
MT: Well, Nick Minchin has talked about there being a left-wing conspiracy about climate change, I don't agree with that, but I do note that the Queen has urged Commonwealth nations to take the lead in combating climate change and that might perhaps make Tony Abbott, a noted monarchist, reconsider his position. He's changed his mind a few times of course, so there's always scope for another shift.
LO: Political careers end in tears, it is a trite statement, but true since Menzies? Is it happening to you?
MT: Certainly not, I'm not given to that.
LO: No tears.
LO: Well putting principle ahead of pragmatism is never a good career move either, why are you doing it, why don't you give the Minchin-ites what they want and just delay this legislation?
MT: Look the Minchin-ites do not want to delay consideration of the legislation, they do not believe that climate change is real, they do not believe that humans are causing it and they do not want to do anything about it. Nick Minchin made that very clear in the Four Corners programme as did a number of his acolytes. What he is trying, what he is is a climate change denier. He stands for doing nothing on climate change. He said a majority of our party room do not believe that humans have any impact on climate change. Now that is a view contrary to the opinion of the vast majority of Australians, contrary to the opinion of every government in the world, and every major political party in the world. Now, if Nick Minchin wins, if he wins this battle, he condemns our party to irrelevance, because what he is saying on one of the greatest issues and challenges of our time, one that will affect the future of the planet and the future of our children and their children, Nick Minchin is staying ‘do nothing’. He wants us to be the ‘do nothing on climate change’ party and he has been, he's on the record about that, and when he talks about a delay or a deferral, what that means is denial.
LO: But if you …
MT: That is political death for us.
LO: If you agree to delay, you could probably save your leadership and live to fight another day. You must know in your heart that you are going to get done on Tuesday?
MT: Laurie, I will win on Tuesday and I am not interested in becoming a mouth piece or a Patsy or a tool for people whose views are completely wrong and are contrary to the best interests of our nation, our planet and indeed the Liberal Party. Just remember this, John Howard was a noted sceptic about climate change, he had doubts about the science. But John was enough of a leader to recognise that we had to act. And the emissions trading scheme that is currently in the Parliament this coming week and which must be passed this week is one which is very similar to the scheme that John Howard took to the last election, John Howard himself has said that. Nick Minchin and Tony Abbott and Kevin Andrews for that matter, were in that Cabinet. They didn't object, they went along with it and now they say "We didn't ever believe in it". What does that say about their integrity.
LO: But this is destroying the Liberal Party.
MT: Well they are destroying the Liberal Party, there is a recklessness and a wilfulness in these men which is going to destroy the Liberal Party. Remember this: we took an ETS to the last election. John Howard did. We then had a party room meeting back in October in which we overwhelmingly agreed to take a set of amendments, Rudd's ETS to the government. And the basis of that negotiation was if you agree with what we're asking, or enough of it, to satisfy us, then we will vote it through. Then we will give you what we want, we will pass the bill with our amendments. We achieved massive concessions, everyone was amazed how much the government gave us. We went back to the party room, and as you have note in your column the party room, by a majority, not a huge majority to be fair, but by a majority, agreed with the recommendation of the Shadow Cabinet. So we shook hands with the government, an agreement was done and we agreed to support those amendments.
LO: Then the Liberal Party fell apart, now...
MT: No, no, no, what …
LO: If you survive on Tuesday, the Liberal Party will remain bitterly divided, it will remain in melt down won’t it?
MT: Laurie that’s not the… look, the only way the Liberal Party can get over this is to get this issue passed. If this issue is not resolved, the climate change war that Nick Minchin and his wreckers have started will continue to destroy the Liberal Party until such time as we are destroyed by Kevin Rudd in an election.
LO: But if you survive, could you work with the people, the 14 frontbenchers who have now resigned, your whole entire Senate leadership. You couldn't work with them, they couldn't work with you, it's untenable.
MT: I don't bear grudges, I've worked with plenty of people that I've had fallings out with over the years, we've all done that, I'm not a hater.
LO: They proved it, and they’re not going to stop, are they?
MT: Well, the reality is this, Laurie, you cannot fight the Australian people. The vast majority of Australians want action on climate change, they want to see practical action on climate change, they are horrified that a major political party would turn its back on this great challenge, and say, as Nick Minchin has said, it's all rubbish, it is just a left-wing conspiracy, we don't need to do anything about it. Nick Minchin thinks the planet is cooling, he doesn't think there is any global warming. Why is he right and every other world, every other government and all the world leaders are wrong?
LO: You don't have a lot of scientists to tell you that the Liberal Party is at boiling point.
MT: That's true, party warming.
LO: You say you will win on Tuesday, some think you might or might not beat Tony Abbott, some of your own numbers men think you won't even beat Tony Abbott, but if Joe Hockey runs against you, you will be creamed, won't you, absolutely creamed?
MT: Well, Laurie, the challenge … Joe Hockey has told me as recently as last night that I have his complete support. Joe is absolutely at one with me on the need to get this legislation passed, he was part of the Shadow Cabinet and a very vocal part of the shadow cabinet that made the decision to seek these amendments and to support the deal that Ian McFarlane was able to reach with the government in the national interest. Now, if Joe were to become leader but - so if he was the cuddly friendly face of the Liberal Party but spouting Nick Minchin’s lines, that would destroy him and the party. And he knows that. He has got too much character to be suckered into that.
LO: Well he is under pressure from all sides, he's been told he's the only leadership contender who could reunite the party, who could heel the party, that it's his duty to the party to do that. Now I bet John Howard didn't tell him yesterday, look after yourself Joe don't worry about the party. I know that Joe Hockey was quite angry with Peter Costello for walking away from the leadership when the party needed him, and thought Peter avoided his duty, he won't do the same will he, he will run.
MT: But you see Laure the big difference there is with Howard and Costello there was a -- it was purely an issue of leadership, they didn't have any significant differences on policy. What we have here is primarily a policy difference, there are plenty of these people on the hard right that don't like me, they think I'm, you know, too tolerant, too much of a middle of a road person, and I understand that, they have the same reservations about Joe Hockey by the way. What they want, they do not want Australia to take action on climate change, and however much they back and fill and pretend and use weasel words, when they say they want to delay it until after this or after that, what that means, and we know, because they're all on the record, I'm not putting words in their mouths - they want to do nothing.
LO: But as you say, Joe Hockey is not a climate change sceptic or climate change denier, are you saying he lacks the character to develop a climate change policy and push it through against these people?
MT: Well, Joe and I have talked about this a lot. And Joe believes that if this bill is not passed nobody in our party, including him would have the capacity to present a credible alternative climate change policy. Because Rudd will say, look, you guys took an ETS to the last election with John Howard, we put up an ETS, you presented some amendments, we agreed to them in large part, you said that's great, a deal is done, you had the support of your party room, it was confirmed within 24 hours by a second vote in the party room, he would say, now you're ratting on it and you expect us to believe you're fair dinkum with an alternative climate change policy when you have got people like Nick Minchin and Tony Abbott there saying that climate change is bunkum and we don't have to do anything about it.
LO: But this is not just about climate change, this is also about Turnbull, there are people in the party who loathe your style, they say you're autocratic? You don’t …
MT: Compared to who? Compared to John,. John didn’t … One of the biggest reforms …. Look, I took all of this to the party room, that's a fact, and you know that. I took the amendments to the party room, I took the consideration of the amendments to the party room, when the hard right, the climate deniers didn't like the decision of the party room, they demanded a spill and they lost again. Within 36 hours of losing that spill the started calling another. They will not give up until they've bullied and intimidated the majority of the party into agreeing with their position.
LO: They won't give up while you're there either will they?
MT: They will never give up.
LO: Isn't that an argument for Joe Hockey?
MT: They will not give up, they will not give up until they are crushed in an election, and bizarre thing is they mightn’t give up then because we got hammered into the ground in 2007 on climate change even though we were doing quite a bit, simply because we hadn’t ratified Kyoto. We go to the next election with a climate credibility that makes John Howard look like a Greenie, what do you think the people of Australia say to us? That these men are leading us into an electoral catastrophe.
LO: But these men will point to today's opinion poll which shows that 60% of Australians think that we should delay an emission trading scheme until a global arrangement is reached at Copenhagen and 81% of Australians reckon they haven’t got enough information to make a judgement about an ETS.
MT: Well …
LO: Now that's an argument in favour of the Michin-ites delaying.
MT: It is, for a start there is an opinion poll with a much larger sample taken in Queensland, a pretty Conservative state.
LO: Exactly in favour of your course of action.
MT: Yeh, that’s right. So there are opinion polls all over the place. Let me put it this way. Australians elect people to Parliament to lead, and to take leadership decisions for the future of their country. Most people don't understand the detail of every law in Parliament and they say it's up to you, my representatives, you're the ones that have to do the work, you're the ones that have to do that, we're trusting you to get it right. So that is a fact. Now, so far as Copenhagen is concerned, Copenhagen is next week. We know what's going to happen at Copenhagen..
LO: Very little.
MT: There’s not going to be a global agreement, it will be, I would say somewhere between a modest and a reasonable step forward, along the road to a global agreement, which will take some years to develop. It was our policy in government, John Howard's policy, to have an emissions trading scheme and start cutting emissions in advance of a global agreement and with the view to promoting it. Now, Tony Abbott, who of course is now is furiously against an ETS had an ‘op-ed’ in The Australian not so long ago, in which he said ‘passing the ETS before Copenhagen could provide some encouragement towards global agreement’, which is really what was our policy back in government and is Kevin Rudd's argument now. There is no sincerity or genuineness on the part of these people when they say they want to have an open mind. Nick Minchin is determined to do nothing on climate change, and he has had...
LO: And determined to get rid of you.
MT: No, but Laurie, he is determined… he is on a course of action that is calculated to destroy our party. We had an approach which was responsible and measured, which would have enabled us – just let me finish - to amend the emissions trading scheme and to get it passed and get it off the agenda. This issue is killing us.
LO: But it can be argued now that the party has been destroyed and the only way you an put it back together again is with Joe Hockey. So let me ask you this...
MT: If we put the party, doesn't matter if it's Joe Hockey or Billy Bloggs as the leader, if we put the party back together, in accordance with Nick Minchin's wishes, then we will end up becoming a fringe party of the far right, that is what he is doing to what used to be a Liberal Party. John Howard's broad church is being shattered by Nick Minchin.
LO: Well some people will think that Joe Hockey is the only chance of restoring it. So let me ask you this, if, as I suspect will happen, Joe Hockey announces in the next 24 hours, he will run for the leadership if there is a spill. Will you run against Joe Hockey or will you at that point concede defeat?
MT: I am running, if the Liberal Party want to remove me as leader, that is … just remember Laurie, I was confirmed as leader on Wednesday, four days ago.
MT: If the party room wants to remove me as leader, then everyone in the party room should have a say in that and they should take their responsibility for it.
LO: And if you lose?
MT: Well, I'm not contemplating losing but I just say this to you, that we have to be a party that responds, responsibly to the great challenges of our time. And being a party with no action on climate change, with no policy on climate change is reckless, it’s irresponsible and it is unworthy of a great political movement.
LO: But if you get tossed out of the leadership on Tuesday, could you continue as a liberal MP serving people you regard as climate change deniers and sceptics and disloyal wreckers, you'd have to leave Parliament, wouldn't you?
MT: Laurie, I'm focussed on winning but I just say this to you, these people, just remember, the course of action I undertook in seeking amendments to the ETS was undertaken with the support of the Shadow Cabinet and the overwhelming support of the party room. It was from the moment the party room endorsed that Nick Minchin started to undermine it with a group of his supporters on the right. They did that Four Corners programme in which he incredibly said the majority of the Liberal Party do not believe humans have anything to do with climate change, so he set out to brand the liberal party in exactly the same terms as our harshest critics in their most exaggerated moments of hyperbole on the Labor Party have tried to brand us. So in effect he caricatured our party as being a ‘do nothing party’ on climate change falling directly into Kevin Rudd's trap. Can I say Nick Minchin and Kevin Rudd agree on one thing, they want to have an election on climate change, and you have got to ask yourself which one of them is smarter?
LO: Final question, I suppose if you're right and if you lose, are you saying that if Liberal Party is not worthy of winning the next election?
MT: Laurie, I'm not going to make a comment on that, I just say this to you, you and I know that a political party that has no credible policy on climate change is not capable of winning an election.
LO: Mr Turnbull, we thank you.
MT: Thank you very much.