AMELIA ADAMS: We'll go to federal politics now and things seem to be going downhill for the Labor Party after a difficult weekend for the Prime Minister. There are dire polls out today and mining magnate Clive Palmer has just announced he wants to run against Wayne Swan in the next Federal election. We're joined now by senior Labor Minister Craig Emerson. Dr Emerson, good morning to you.
CRAIG EMERSON: Good morning Amelia.
ADAMS: Now first up: should Wayne Swan be worried by Clive Palmer's announcement this morning?
EMERSON: This is a great opportunity for Wayne Swan and the Labor Government to demonstrate the stark contrast between Labor - which is committed to sharing the benefits of the mining boom through the mining tax, the small business tax breaks, increased superannuation for the working people of Australia, and extra infrastructure investment - and the Coalition as represented by Clive Palmer. Mr Abbott, who believes that the mining industry already pays too much tax, would give the money back to Mr Palmer. We have a fundamentally different view, and that view will obviously be expressed in the ballot box by Wayne Swan. And we welcome in that sense Clive Palmer's coming out into the open as an LNP candidate for Wayne Swan's seat, because we will show the Australian people what's at stake here.
ADAMS: All right. Now the latest Galaxy poll puts Labor really in a pretty grim position. Are you bracing for defeat at the next election or do you think you can turn your fortunes around?
EMERSON: Not at all. Political parties have been well behind in the polls in the past; will be in the future. What's really important is whether a government does govern in the national interest with an eye to the nation's future, and that's what Julia Gillard is doing. We're not going to roll out of bed every morning, check the opinion polls. We'll do what's in the best interests of the Australian people: engaging Australia in the Asian Century; providing more jobs, better jobs; great career opportunities for young Australians; and creating a fairer country. These are our imperatives, and that's what we're focused on rather than the opinion polls that do actually come out pretty regularly these days.
ADAMS: Dr Emerson, you were one of the key backers of Julia Gillard to remain as leader in February's leadership spill. Given these polls and the slump in popularity, do you regret that decision now?
EMERSON: Not at all. And the reason that I supported Julia Gillard and I always will is that she shows the necessary guts and determination to act in Australia's national interest; not being overly anxious about opinion polls coming out regularly. What the Australian people expect is a leader who will make the tough decisions for Australia in our long-term interests, who's prepared to look to the horizon and beyond it. There's been legitimate criticism, Amelia, of governments that are poll-driven and pander to the 24-hour media cycle. We're anything but that, because we are committed to a secure future for Australia and particularly for the working men and women of this country.
ADAMS: All right. Now, a big weekend as well for the Prime Minister. One of the questions going round this morning, really: why did Julia Gillard wait this long to sack Craig Thomson and to deal with the Peter Slipper affair?
EMERSON: There was really a convergence of the two issues: that is, the issues around Peter Slipper and also the ongoing issues with Craig Thomson. And the Prime Minister formed the judgement that there was at stake the sort of standing of the Parliament in the minds of the community. So she formed the judgement that Craig should move to the crossbenches and that Mr Slipper should not resume the chair while these allegations are outstanding. Of course, neither of them has been charged with any offence. Craig Thomson will still vote in the Parliament. The Coalition believes he shouldn't. Yet their own practice in relation to their own MPs in the last Parliament and in this one is that when allegations are made, indeed when police investigations are underway, they should be able to vote. What we say is let's just have one standard here; not one for the Liberal Party and another one for the rest of Australia.
ADAMS: All right, Minister Craig Emerson. We will have to leave it there. Thank you so much for your time this morning.
EMERSON: Thank you.
- Minister Emerson's Office: (02) 6277 7420
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555