Russell Broadbent is the Liberal MP for the federal seat of McMillan, Victoria. Mr. Broadbent today spoke to One Cuckoo Short of a Nest on topics ranging from the federal Liberal party’s chances gaining seats next election to issues in the electorate.
The video of this interview can be viewed below. There is a transcript of the interview below the video.
A note: There are two mistakes in the questions to Mr. Broadbent. One is that it was not specified that offshore processing was in relation to asylum seekers. The other is that the quote from Peter Costello’s memoirs is inaccurate. The error is that in the interview it is said that Mr. Costello would have ratified Kyoto if John Howard had stood down after the election. The memoirs actually state that this policy change was lined up for if Mr. Howard had stood down after APEC. These errors should not alter the meaning of the replies.
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OCSN: Mr. Broadbent, when Tony Abbott recently became leader of the Liberal Party you immediately gave the new leader your full support. My first question to you is where do you think you stand in the Liberal Party? Mr. Abbott is firmly a Liberal dry as he asserted with the reappointment of Philip Ruddock to the front bench, however back in 2006 you Petro Georgiou, who I’ve seen described as a dissident, and Senator Judi Moylan crossed the floor on [then PM] Howard’s policy on immigration of offshore processing [for asylum seekers]. That was very much the stance of a Liberal wet. Do you see yourself as a wet or a dry, or do you not believe in this classification in the party?
Mr. Broadbent: Well, I don’t believe in the classification in the party as you have put it because I’ve never put myself in boxes, I’ve always seen myself to be actually in the centre. I take a common sense point of view to each situation as it arises rather than I have a view on all things about…. in only one way, and I don’t. And so that affords my the ability to make a decision, and have the respect of my party to make a decision on the issues as they arise.
OCSN: Do you see some members of your party as having this kind of wet-dry divide, I mean the party is obviously divided over, well, for example, climate change which is very much a progressive or non-progressive, sorry, which is very much a modern or an old fashioned party stance in the party which is split right down the middle… over this issue do you see the divide in that aspect?
Mr. Broadbent: Yes, there is a divide in the aspect you have described however, it’s more along the lines of groupings, groupings of people. Especially within the Liberal party, groupings of people out of New South Wales, groupings of people out of Victoria, people who see themselves to be on the right but then when tested don’t actually align with that group, so, it is a moving feast in opposition of people that are grouping themselves together rather than a wet or a dry. As people like... it’s simplistic to describe it in that manner.
OCSN: So, so do you see… so there are distinctive groups within the party but is the party as a whole do you feel united on major policy… on most major policy?
Mr. Broadbent: 80% we would agree, not only with the rest of the party, 80% of the situations that arise in the Parliament are supported by both parties, the Greens, by independents; there is a view about where the nation should be going. We argue about the 20%, and sometimes the 20% gets the largest amount amount of play because it’s the controversial issue. But basically the Liberal party as a whole would be aligned with each other right across the board.
OCSN: You mentioned a while back on your website that the Liberal party doesn’t support Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. You did however mention that a report commissioned by the coalition, the Pearce Report, indicates that a broader approach needs to be taken in the form of an Emissions Trading Scheme. The report suggest also that the Canadian System should be investigated. Your support of Abbott’s outright blocking of the scheme would seem to go against this. Would you still consider an ETS in combating climate change if those investigations suggested in the coalition’s report were carried out?
Mr. Broadbent: The leadership change of last year meant that the group following Abbott’s lead on this issue won the day, and I as a member of Parliament have to respect that my party decided, which I’m a part, my party decided where they wanted to go on the issue, and it’s up to me to support that. I don’t see this as a conscience issue as I have stood in the past, this is a policy issue. The party has taken a stance on a policy issue, and it’s up to me to see where the party goes on this. Unless they were… unless I saw it that they were outrageously wrong, and with a total inability whatsoever to deliver on climate change. We’ll have to see what he comes up with next week in his approach to how we might combat climate change.
OCSN: Do you yourself believe in climate change as being an issue for Australia?
Mr. Broadbent: It’s an issue for Australia and an issue for the world.
OCSN: So you do believe that it exists?
Mr. Broadbent: Absolutely.
OCSN: Peter Costello mentions in his memoirs that if Howard had stepped down after the last election [edit: should be APEC] he would have ratified Kyoto. Would you have supported the ratification of Kyoto as a definitive course of action for… for combating climate change.
Mr. Broadbent: No, I think it was a.. Kyoto was a political statement to garner support for perhaps the climate change… general climate change issue, general environmental issue and because we hadn’t ratified Kyoto, although we had performed very well as a nation in regard to the Kyoto targets, but because we hadn’t ratified it became a political issue, a political statement. So, the Government, he would have ratified Kyoto, as a political statement he would have ratified Kyoto, very much the same as Malcolm Turnbull would have ratified Kyoto to get it off the political… plate.
OCSN: So do you believe that was Kevin Rudd’s motive for ratifying… for agreeing to the protocol?
Mr. Broadbent: Well I don’t know what Kevin Rudd’s personal motives were, but it was a political tool he used in the run up to the last election.
OCSN: You have said recently that you “learnt early that in politics you do lose some times.” After last election where the Liberal party didn’t gain any seats and in fact lost many, did you feel the party could make a quick comeback and win the next one? You have lost your seat twice yourself.
Mr. Broadbent: Yes but we held very well at the last election campaign here in this electorate, and we’ll be working very hard to do that again, we don’t take anything for granted we will be working very hard to do that again the next election. History shows that there’s only one party that’s only had a one term Government. It would be very difficult for the Libs to come back wholly to government at the next election campaign, the Liberal-Nationals, but you never know in politics, we have to keep trying.
OCSN: Do you think that the Liberal party could rather quickly recover from this rather turbulent term in opposition?
Mr. Broadbent: Whenever you’re given an incentive, or a goal, yes, people will work together very quickly. It’s up to any party to look at their leaders, support their leaders, get in behind their leader and back their leader as best as they possibly can. I have… that has been my approach all the way through even if I’ve had disagreements, always backed their leadership as best as I possibly could.
OCSN: Do you think that the Liberal party may gain a significant number of seats next election or is it too early to tell?
Mr. Broadbent: It’s too early to tell. The polls at this stage are horrific for the Liberal and National parties. I mean, if the polls remain as they are today, we will be wiped out. But, they always come closer come election time. So you can get closer to the point at election time, that’s when you’ve got to make… when people begin to make their decision about who they want to support for the next election campaign. And so until you come up to that time of the election and people begin to focus, they’re not focussing, they are focussing on the tennis and everything else at the moment, it’s only when they have to make that decision people will probably garner support for the party of their choice.
OCSN: Do you feel confident in the policies as they stand at the moment in gaining a large swing of voters?
Mr. Broadbent: Well the policies are not out there yet, from either the Prime Minister or the… the government have their policies of the day so the, they are governing, they are making decisions. There will be a budget out in May, that’s more policy run out. And the Liberal Party and the National Parties have not really put their policies out for the people and they won’t do that yet until the run up to the election campaign. But quite often people make a decision early, if they have made a decision early it will be very difficult for us to win at the next election campaign. But, in politics, you just can’t say what next week will deliver. We don’t know, so you work hard, this could be the first time there is a turnaround and Rudd becomes a one term government but we’ll have to see how that works out. It’s seat by seat, state by state, seat by seat, and whoever ends up with the largest number of those seat wins.
OCSN: After all, yeah, a week is a long time in politics.
Mr. Broadbent: It is.
OCSN: We are now at the start of a new decade, where do you see the Liberal Party in ten years?
Mr. Broadbent: I would hope I see the Liberal Party in Government in ten years, with a new Prime Minister, that is comfortable in the role of Prime Minister and governs for the whole country. Governs for the whole country, and has regard for those who are least able to look after themselves as a priority.
OCSN: Labor’s National Broadband Network is set to help connect rural areas of Australia to high speed internet. How could the electorate of McMillan benefit from such a scheme in relation to small business and home users?
Mr. Broadbent: If I believed their national broadband scheme was going to work and actually would get to those rural subscribers, which I don’t believe it will and we’ve just had a meeting with the communications people today about small areas of McMillan that can’t get ADSL. Now, I don’t believe that Labor’s program, at 43 billion dollars, will deliver outside of the 80%, 85% of Australia that can get it now, because it won’t be commercially viable. They have no business plan and I think it’s a bucket of money that can be used much better elsewhere, and I believe that communications, as a whole, internationally communications are moving so quickly that we don’t know what we’ll be using in three years time or a years time. So, why would we be trying to introduce something that may be out of date by the time we introduce it at such an enormous cost to this country? And I thought that Governments were moving out of the control of communications, and that was supported by both Governments, and now we’re finding ourselves intervening in controlling communications. Governments should be getting out of that and letting the marketplace drive what happens in communications. And then the people in the remote areas, at least through the agreements with Telstra, and only through Government support will we be able to get the sort of coverage to those people that they desire.
OCSN: So do you believe the National Broadband Network’s company should be privatised as soon as possible?
Mr. Broadbent: No I don’t think it should go any further than its gone I don’t… I’m not a believer in the National Broadband Network. I just don’t think it’s going to happen. I think it’s going to fall in a hole… well, fall in a communications hole. I think that communications, as I said before, worldwide are moving so quickly we just don’t know what sort of new facilities we’ll be using in that time.
OCSN: In November of last year you were involved in a debate on the National Bike Path Program were you were strongly advocating bike paths as a benefit to community health, transport and the environment. Darren Chester mentions Moe, a city in your electorate, and other cities in the Latrobe Valley would benefit from bike trails between them. Are you planning such a scheme in this area?
Mr. Broadbent: There’s a fantastic trail between Warragul and Drouin now, which is being regularly used. I mean, it has a huge high use rate for walkers, runners, bike tracks. So if there were an opportunity to promote such an idea, it would be great. But there’s a fairly great distance between those two and you’d have to consider the expense of doing that and whether the opportunity is there for the facility to go through. But, look basically bike paths while supported nationally, through some programs, they are a state and local government responsibility and we have to have regard for that. So, it’d be up for the state to say look it’s a great idea and we’d like you to fund it. We’d have to consider it in the budget outliers then.
OCSN: Through your website, you have asked your electorate for some local solutions to what you describe as a financial storm. This is of course in relation to the global financial crisis. From this request and from your own opinion, what action do you have planned to shelter your constituents from this storm?
Mr. Broadbent: I don’t think there’s anything that I can do to shelter my constituents from the financial crisis that engulfed the world. All we need to be doing though is be very careful about the financial decisions we make and the investments we make… and make sure that they are prudent investments and any advice that can be given through Government or through or any other organisation, should be taken on board. So, you know, you have got to work with your accountant, you have got to work with people, and I suppose that if you are too greedy and you invest in things that look too good, they probably are.
OCSN: Mr. Broadbent, thank you for your time.
Mr. Broadbent: Thank you. Thank you very much.
With thanks to Mr. Russell Broadbent and his office
Interviewer: William Kulich
Sound and Video: Name removed by request
Produced exclusively for One Cuckoo Short of a Nest.