RN DRIVE - Greens and Liberals preference deal

May 10, 2016


PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Mark Butler is the Shadow Minister for Environment and the National President of the Australian Labor Party, he’s in our Adelaide studio, he’s been very patient with us. Thank you for joining us.




KARVELAS: Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek have today ruled out any official coalition to form minority government with the Greens. But is it possible that you would agree to something less formal?


BUTLER: Well I think what Bill Shorten and a number of people from our party have been making clear over the last 24 hours, when there’s been this frenzy of discussion about hypotheticals, is that we’re a party of government. We have been for 130 years and our game plan is to win majority government. I don’t think that would be any surprise to your listeners.


KARVELAS: I heard the Greens say today that you might say that. You might say that you wouldn’t form minority government but actually if you were in that circumstance you wouldn’t actually honour that commitment. That’s what they’re saying.


BUTLER: Well I think there are two points, the first is the one I just made, which is that we’re a party of government and we have been for more than 100 years and the game plan for this election and like every other election we’ve fought for generation after generation is to win majority government. But I think you’ve also seen a number of people say over the last few years that our experiment between 2010 and 2013 was not one which is looked on favourably in hindsight. So I don’t think members of the current Shadow Cabinet and leadership would be willing to revisit it. But that really is a hypothetical point. The main point to make is that we are in this campaign to win it.


KARVELAS: It’s not really a hypothetical point because you could be in that situation.


BUTLER: Yeah, hypothetically. It’s hypothetical. It’s only day two Patricia. We’ve got 53 more days to deal with this. We’re in this campaign to win it.


KARVELAS: It’s also hypothetical that you might win government.


BUTLER: Absolutely but it’s our game plan. I think everyone out there would expect the Labor Party, and the Coalition for that matter, running this campaign on the basis that they can win majority government and set out their plan for Australia’s future. Now our plans are different but the Australian people want two major parties of government to be running to win a majority government.


KARVELAS: So what about something less formal? And how would that work? You’d have to negotiate every single bill, every single motion if you were in that situation wouldn’t you?


BUTLER: Well we’re not going to do it Patricia and you’re not going to draw us into this over the course of the next 53 days. Our game plan is to win majority government, that is the plan Bill Shorten, Tanya Plibersek and all of the rest of us have. Whether we’re Parliamentarians, candidates, or ordinary party members stomping the pavement to win the election.


KARVELAS: Everyone wants to win in their own right.


BUTLER: That’s our game plan and that’s what we’ll be focused on for the next 53 days.


KARVELAS: Okay, but if you were in a situation where you’d have to cobble together an alliance to form government, are you saying to me you’d rather go to the polls again rather than do another deal with the Greens?


BUTLER: Well I think Bill Shorten has made that clear and I think that’s a very common position across the party. We are in this to win government. If hypothetically we only got 74 seats in the parliament it would be a matter for other members of parliament whether they backed us. But that is a hypothetical that we’re really not engaged or focused on at all, Patricia. We are focused on winning more than 76 seats and being able to implement the policies that now for many, many months, in a way I think unprecedented for an opposition in Australia, have been laying out before the Australian people.


KARVELAS: The Liberal Party director Tony Nutt put out a statement today saying that no decisions had been made regarding preferences even though I know the Labor Party has been saying there has been a preference deal, there hasn’t been one yet, has there?


BUTLER: Well I think Tony Nutt should have a conversation with Michael Kroger who can’t walk past a microphone or a newspaper journalist without outlining the preference negotiations he’s having with the Greens Party, not just in Victoria, Michael Kroger’s stomping ground, but well beyond Victoria as well. Look there’s a little way to go in these things, they tend to take some time to roll out but Michael Kroger is a very influential person in one of the more significant branches of the Liberal Party and he’s been telling everyone who wants to listen, that he’s doing a preference negotiation with Richard Di Natale.


KARVELAS: Isn’t he doing it to make you shift resources back to those seats that the Greens are trying to take rather than those suburban seats, other marginals which they need to get. Isn’t it about making Labor unstable in their strategy?


BUTLER: Well that’s a matter you’d have to put to Michal Kroger. But it’s probably no surprise the Liberal Party, a person like Michael Kroger is trying to ensure a maximum chance of the Liberal party winning government. The big question really is why would Richard Di Natale be involved in negotiations that pour resources and energy into pushing out accomplished, progressive members of parliament like Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek just to name two; whilst at the same time negotiating a deal that will make it easier for the Liberal Party to take seats off the Labor Party in suburban Melbourne therefore easier for Malcolm Turnbull to retain government. That’s the reason that people are scratching their heads about this negotiation.


KARVELAS: Labor’s reliance on the Greens cost you the chance at an Emissions Trading Scheme in the past. Would you ever compromise with them again on climate change legislation?


BUTLER: Well it wasn’t just our reliance on the Greens in the last Parliament that forced us to move from our preferred form of an Emissions Trading Scheme with a market determined price. It was also the fact that the Greens in the previous Parliament, the Parliament between 2007 and 2010, voted with Tony Abbott on two occasions to crush an Emissions Trading Scheme in that Parliament. Now if they’d not done that I think most people agree that an Emissions Trading Scheme by now would have very deep roots and be largely an accepted part of the political convention in Australia. Now they have to answer for that. It was a very ruthless tactic on their part that reflected a view at the time, that the perfect was the art of the possible, and I suspect in the quieter moments they regret it because still we are fighting the climate wars in Australia. Six years on from that we are still fighting the most basic element s of climate change policy while the rest of the world has moved on. The world is moving to a clean energy future, taking advantage of the enormous investment and job opportunities that come along with that.


KARVELAS: Focusing just on the Labor party now your candidate for Herbert, Cathy O’Toole, is the latest example of dissent in the ranks over offshore processing. Isn’t this just a case that your pre-selected candidates are really out of step with the policy of the party because they don’t agree with it - you’re actually a deeply split party over this issue?


BUTLER: Well I’m not sure that’s a proper characterisation of Cathy’s position. I’ve read some transcripts of a press conference she did with Bill Shorten on this, she made it very clear she supports Labor’s policy.


KARVELAS: Sure but I’ve seen the pictures of her outside Ewen Jones’ office with placards saying “Let Them Stay”.


BUTLER: But I won’t pretend and I’m sure Bill Shorten won’t pretend that there aren’t occasions where members of the Labor party express their personal views. We are a broad church as is the Coalition a broad church and over the years there have been a number of prominent Liberal MPs and candidates who have expressed their personal views about their party’s position on this. The important point to make is that the Labor Party went through a very long, deep debate about this which was resolved at the national conference last year and the Labor Party’s position could not be clearer on this. Now that doesn’t mean that Labor Party members and sometimes Labor Party candidates won’t express a personal view about it but that doesn’t change at all the fact that the Labor Party has a very clear, determined position on this issue.


KARVELAS: But Cathy O’Toole didn’t say that she supported turn-backs, she said she fully backed the policy. She’s a member of Amnesty International which really deplores offshore processing. Bill Shorten had to physically step in when she was asked to elaborate at today’s press conference, I mean he tried to shut her down.


BUTLER: Well I read the transcript, I haven’t seen the footage, the transcript seemed very clear to me. The journalist had a number of goes at Cathy and they asked the question in a number of different permutations and she made her point very clearly that she supports Labor’s policy. That doesn’t mean that people won’t have expressed a personal opinion about one aspect or another of the policy because we are a broad church, it’s happened on the conservative side of politics as well over the years, that doesn’t mean that the Labor Party’s position isn’t crystal clear. Our position is clear. It was strongly determined at the national conference last year if we’re elected on July 2 it will be implemented in full by a Shorten-led government.


KARVELAS: Many thanks for your time Mark Butler, I’d love to speak to you again throughout the campaign, we have enough days there’s no doubt about that.


BUTLER: 53 of them, Patricia, I’m sure we can fit it in.


KARVELAS: I reckon we must be able to, thank you for joining me. And that’s Mark Butler, he’s the Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water and also the National President of the Labor Party.