Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Interview with Paul Kennedy, ABC News Breakfast

Program: ABC News Breakfast

E & OE – Proof only

Subject: Peter Slipper; Tony Abbott’s attacks on the Prime Minister; Labor delivering for Australian people.

PAUL KENNEDY: Jenny Macklin, thanks for your time this morning.

JENNY MACKLIN: Good morning.

PAUL KENNEDY: What do you know of a discussion between Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor, and them advising Mr Slipper that his position was no longer tenable?

JENNY MACKLIN: Only that which has been on the media, so I wasn’t part of those discussions. I was informed about 7 o’clock last night that Mr Slipper was going to come into the Parliament and tender his resignation. That’s now been clear to everybody, and I think as many people have said, it was the right decision for him to make. Obviously, as a human being, a very difficult one but nevertheless for the Parliament, the right decision.

PAUL KENNEDY: So were you pleased to hear that resignation?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think we all could see that the time had come for this to be dealt with, and I think it was dealt with in the right way by Mr Slipper himself, deciding that what he had done needed to be acknowledged. He apologised for those remarks, which obviously were inappropriate, and he made his resignation. So I think we can see that it was very difficult time for him personally, but the Parliament really does need to be able to continue to get on with the business of making sure we deliver for the people of Australia. And of course, even though we have seen the events of last night, and many other difficult times over the last two years, I think the thing to remember is that the Government is actually continuing to get pieces of legislation through the Parliament. Around 400 different bills have passed the Parliament.

PAUL KENNEDY: If it was the right time for him to go, why wasn’t it the right time for him to go several hours before?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think what actually happened earlier in the day was the Prime Minister decided to speak out for herself against the abuse that she has sustained, not only from Tony Abbott, but from Tony Abbott and many others outside the Parliament. I think that’s what happened during the day. And you would have seen Mr Abbott use the same language that Alan Jones had used just a few weeks ago. Tony Abbott saying the Government should die of shame, Alan Jones saying that Mr Gillard, the Prime Minister’s father, had died of shame. These are the most offensive remarks that a Prime Minister should have to put up with. And of course it’s been a long litany of outrageous remarks from the Leader of the Opposition. So I think you saw from the Prime Minister a decision to speak up for herself, and to say these sorts of sexist remarks are not going to be tolerated any longer.

PAUL KENNEDY: So are you saying the Prime Minister took the opportunity to return fire, rather than focus on the motion, which in theory you agreed with?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well in fact we saw the Prime Minister indicate at the start of her remarks that she thought the Speaker’s comments that had been published were unacceptable. She made that very clear at the start of her remarks in this debate. But then she went on to make very plain that she thought the abuse that she had attracted from Mr Abbott over a long period of time, was completely outrageous. I’ve been in the Parliament a very, very long time now. I’ve seen a lot of feisty debate, and it is a place for tough debaters. But it is not a place for personal abuse, and every single day, Mr Abbott sits across from the Prime Minister and abuses her. He calls her names across the table repeatedly. And it is just time it was called out.

PAUL KENNEDY: Isn’t it time for the Prime Minister to rise above that and not respond when there is business to be done in the Parliament?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think in the main that’s exactly what she does, and today we’ll be introducing legislation for the money that we’re going to provide to community service workers so they finally get a decent pay rise. I’m building a National Disability Insurance Scheme. This is the stuff of Government that we’re actually getting on with. And this is what the Prime Minister does day in, day out. She is one of the toughest, hardest-working Prime Ministers we have ever had. And she’s delivering huge things for the Australian people. But yesterday, after hearing Mr Abbott say that the Government should die of shame, use the same language that Alan Jones had used two weeks prior against the Prime Minister’s father, I think she had every right to speak out for herself, and that is exactly what she did.

PAUL KENNEDY: So what happens with your numbers now, and what role does Mr Slipper play in this Parliament moving forward?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’ve demonstrated over the last few months, while Mr Slipper had stood aside from the Speaker’s chair, that we can get on with the business of government. I’ve heard some of the other independents indicate that of course we have to work for every vote, and that is exactly the way it is. It is a minority government, we do work for every vote. We are still delivering major changes. We’ve just delivered some of the most significant tax changes to triple the tax free threshold, so that low-income people keep more of what they earn. That’s the sort of Labor reform that we’re getting on with. And we know that we’ll continue to do that with the support of the crossbench where that’s justified.

PAUL KENNEDY: Was it a mistake now, do you concede it was a mistake to install Mr Slipper as the Speaker? It was commentated at the time as a brilliant political strategy. Do you concede now that that was a bad move?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I don’t think any of us knew about these text messages, I certainly didn’t. And if you look at the experience of the Liberal-National parties, they preselected him I think right back from 1984. So he had obviously had a long period of support, personal support from Mr Abbott, a written reference from Mr Abbott to the preselectors of Fisher. Mr Abbott went to Peter Slipper’s wedding. So plainly there was a lot of friendship on that side of the Parliament. We can now see that very inappropriate things were written. Mr Slipper has made his decision to resign and I think that’s the right thing.

PAUL KENNEDY: Jenny Macklin, one final one, Labor MP Daryl Melham resigned as the Federal Caucus Chairman yesterday. What are you reading into that?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think it’s very important to actually listen to what Mr Melham has said, which is that he has served the caucus, and served it very, very well for eight years. And I want to take this opportunity to thank Daryl for the way in which he has been the chair of caucus. He does respect the caucus enormously….

PAUL KENNEDY: …but was it a coincidence that this happened on the day of Parliament when there was such anger, and some people are criticising the actual debate that was in Parliament?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well this happened in the caucus before all these other events. I think they’re completely unrelated.

PAUL KENNEDY: Minister Macklin, thank you for your time this morning.