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Nick Minchin

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate
Shadow Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
Liberal Senator for South Australia
Nick Minchin


Senator the Hon Nick Minchin

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Kent Town SA 5071

36 Grenfell Street
Kent Town SA 5067

Phone: 08 8362 8600
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Senator Nick Minchin on ABC AM ProgramEmail this pageBack

Friday, February 20, 2009 Printer Friendly Version

Friday 20 February 2009
Reporter: Lyndal Curtis

TONY EASTLEY: Sometimes in politics a bad week is just that; a week. But the Opposition's problems aren't likely to disappear come this weekend.

The rumblings over the departure of Julie Bishop, forced to walk away from the shadow treasurer's job, will dissipate. Even the public differences between Tony Abbott and his leader over what pensioners should get will largely be forgotten.

The controversy over the sacking of a little known South Australian Senator from his job as a shadow parliamentary secretary for taking a poison pen to one of his colleagues will pass as well.

But the ever-present spectre of Peter Costello on the backbench will not, which inevitably leads to chatter about leadership sometime in the many weeks ahead.

Nick Minchin is the Coalition Senate leader who's had his disagreements with Malcolm Turnbull in the past. He's speaking here with chief political correspondent Lyndal Curtis.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Nick Minchin, is this a week you would rather forget?

NICK MINCHIN: Well, I have been around politics long enough Lyndal to know that every political party has good weeks and bad weeks and I guess this is one that we'd rather forget.

It's been a bit untidy but I think what all Liberals should do is focus on the fact that the House of Representatives is resuming next week. Question Time is resuming for the first time for several weeks and it's our responsibility to hold the Government to account.

We also have Senate Estimates next week where we will be grilling the Government over a whole range of policies, particularly its management of the economy.

LYNDAL CURTIS: But there are simmering tensions in the party, particularly between the conservative and moderate wings. Do you believe that Malcolm Turnbull should be doing more to try and appease the concerns of the conservative wing?

NICK MINCHIN: I strongly support Malcolm Turnbull's leadership. I accept and support the decisions he's had to make this week and as I say I urge all Liberals to get behind our leadership team of Malcolm and Julie and hold the Government to account next week in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

LYNDAL CURTIS: One of those decisions was the sacking of Cory Bernardi from his position as shadow parliamentary secretary. You praised Senator Bernardi's work saying he'd done an outstanding job. Was his sacking justified given the circumstances?

NICK MINCHIN: Senator Bernardi is one of the rising stars of the Liberal Party and has a very strong future but not all political careers go in an upward trajectory - just ask John Howard. And Cory has got to understand there are setbacks in political like as in life in general and he'll learn from this.

I accept the decision that Malcolm Turnbull has had to make in this case but as I say, I look forward to Cory returning one day to the frontbench because he has a lot to offer the Liberal Party.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Would you like to see him replaced in his shadow parliamentary secretary role by a conservative MP?

NICK MINCHIN: Well I have discussed with Malcolm the array of talent that we have on the Senate backbench and there is a lot of talent there and I am sure that Malcolm will choose someone with considerable talent to replace Cory as a shadow parliamentary secretary.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Are those factional alliances important, important to keep them in balance?

NICK MINCHIN: Well what's important is putting the best team possible on the frontbench and we give our leader the responsibility of choosing that team and I know Malcolm is focused on picking the best team possible and I'm sure that's what he'll do.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Some have said the outbreak of infighting this week is a continuation of long standing tensions in the South Australian Liberal Party. Do those tensions exist and are they hurting the rest of the party?

NICK MINCHIN: Oh well as John Howard used to say often, Liberal Party like the Labor Party is a very broad church with a whole range of views. But we are united in supporting the fundamental values of the Liberal Party and we are united in taking the fight to the Labor Party. And our responsibility as Her Majesty's loyal Opposition in holding the Government to account and that's what we'll be doing next week in the Parliament.

LYNDAL CURTIS: You have had disagreements over policy this week too. Yesterday senior frontbencher Tony Abbott questioned whether a pension rise at this time is affordable. Malcolm Turnbull says you remain committed to the rise. If the Government was to put legislation into the Senate for a pension rise of at least $30 a week, would you back it?

NICK MINCHIN: Well the Coalition policy was announced last year under Brendan Nelson and that is to support a $30 a week increase in the pension. I thought that Tony Abbott's comments were completely misrepresented. I thought he was simply saying that the Government in a panic spending $42-billion last week has obviously made the Government's fiscal and budgetary situation much more difficult.

LYNDAL CURTIS: But he did question whether it could be afforded.

NICK MINCHIN: We believe pensioners are a top priority. It is our policy that the pension should be increased by $30 a week and that's what we'll support.

TONY EASTLEY: The Opposition's Senate leader Nick Minchin, speaking there with Lyndal Curtis.

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