Sky News To The Point

05 July 2016



SUBJECT/S: Election 2016; Division and disunity in the Liberal Party; Superannuation

KRISTINA KENEALLY: Welcome back to To The Point. We're about to be joined by Jim Chalmers, who has won his seat of Rankin. Congratulations Jim Chalmers. 


KENEALLY: I think you had like an eight percent swing to you or something ridiculous like that. What do you put that down to - your personal popularity, your fine representation?

CHALMERS: It was a big swing to us in Rankin. We're very pleased with it and we're very grateful for the swing that we got. A lot of good volunteers, a lot of good people contributed to it, so it was a great team effort. 

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Why do you think that you did so badly the first time you ran? Do you think people associated you too closely with Wayne Swan back then?

CHALMERS: Ah, geez that's in record time Peter that you brought that up, usually you kind of ease into that.

VAN ONSELEN: Well I wasn't actually planning to but I heard this sudden talk about this eight percent swing and I thought to myself, what's changed, you know? Over the three years.

CHALMERS: That says more about you than it does about us, my friend. This is permanently in your mind.

VAN ONSELEN: Over the three years of people getting to know you, they've decided you were great, which is a compliment. What was it about you that they didn't like when it started?

CHALMERS: Kristina, any questions?

VAN ONSELEN: I've actually got another one. I do want to ask you this. Do you agree with Bill Shorten that Malcolm Turnbull should resign, given the result this election? And if you do agree with him, what's the difference with Julia Gillard not resigning or not being called on to resign after 2010?

CHALMERS: Look, I think either way, whether he just falls over the line or falls just short - you know, either outcome, Malcolm Turnbull's Prime Ministership is in tatters. I think that's been the clear lesson from the last couple of days. And the main difference between the example you raised and now is there is a civil war raging in the Liberal Party. There's not a lot of support for Malcolm Turnbull to stay on as Prime Minister.

VAN ONSELEN: Really? Because I'm going to call BS on that. There's a lot of loud people that are unhappy about it but--

CHALMERS: I'm going on your reports.

VAN ONSELEN: Well, most of them are commentators. I mean, you know - Credlin, Andrew Bolt, Cory Bernardi is not impressed, neither is Eric Abetz. But fill out the names in the Parliament and that's vocal critics, I think, rather than mass majority.

CHALMERS: I don't think anyone could objectively say that the Liberal Party is united behind Malcolm Turnbull. And I think we've learned a lot about the guy in the last couple of days. We've learned a lot about Bill Shorten in this campaign too, and people have liked what they've seen. But they've also learned when it comes to Malcolm Turnbull, whether it was that pathetic speech he gave on election night, or whether it's been a couple of days of wandering about Point Piper in the designer trackies since, having a big mope about the outcome...People don't like what they see in  Malcolm Turnbull and that really just continues the disappointment that people have had in him since about Christmas.

VAN ONSELEN: Well I can agree with you, for what it's worth, about that speech on the night. I didn't think that was very good.

KENEALLY: No, I'll agree with that as well. But let me ask this. We are looking potentially at going back to the polls, believe it or not. I mean, if neither side can form a majority.


KENEALLY: No, you don't think?

VAN ONSELEN: Well, I'd like to see it actually, but I don't think so.

KENEALLY: This is a bit of crystal ball-gazing, but really, is the result going to be much different if we go back to the polls? And if we do, my view is Malcolm Turnbull can't lead his party. But we've heard a lot of chatter about Labor leadership as well. 

VAN ONSELEN: That would just be bizarre to me.

KENEALLY: Yeah, what's going on there?

CHALMERS: There's nothing in that whatsoever. The only united party in the Federal Parliament, united big party, is the Labor Party. I think that's one of Bill's great triumphs of the last three years, not just the three months. The way that he's brought people together. He's done a terrific job of it. I think any objective observer would recognise and celebrate how united Labor is and has been.

VAN ONSELEN: I totally agree with you on that. I think you're right, I think it is united and I think it should be united. But tell me what's going on when Anthony Albanese makes observations like "no-one's leader forever", and Tanya Plibersek is asked three or four times whether or not she supports him on the night of the election, when he's had this thumping result, and then sort of refused to answer. I'm agreeing with your premise, Jim Chalmers, but why are they being mealy-mouthed? Why aren't they just saying, I'm one-hundred percent behind Bill Shorten, there is and will be no challenge, no matter what? As opposed to saying, we're in extra-time of the game at the moment?

CHALMERS: Oh, look, it's not for me to sort of go through all the words that my colleagues say. I've spoken to a lot of colleagues over the last few days. Everyone is absolutely unanimously behind Bill, because of the job that he's done. Because of the leadership that he's provided. And also because I do think there's a recognition in the Australian community that we need unity in our political parties. The Liberal Party is unable to demonstrate that and we are. 

VAN ONSELEN: We've got pictures by the way, live pictures while we're talking to you, of Bill Shorten and his wife Chloe. And I can see Jim Middleton there! Our colleague here at Sky News. He's on the hustings now, he must be enjoying himself.

KENEALLY: He's up in your state of Queensland.

CHALMERS: He's in Longman I think, and it is worth a big shout-out to what happened in Longman. That was just one of the incredible results on the night. Terrific campaign by Susan Lamb, on the issues that matter to people up there. One of those big swings that we got. And Susan will make a terrific member. It's really great to see Bill, unlike Malcolm, Bill is going around the country mixing with people in the aftermath of this election. And it's terrific to see the reception he got in Penrith yesterday, and the reception he's getting there in Longman today. It's a great thing.

VAN ONSELEN: The permanent campaign continues. Let me ask you this Jim Chalmers. What's your response, or what are your observations, to Liberals or at least Liberal-leading commentators, conservative commentators perhaps might be a better descriptor, who are out sort of suggesting that the problems with Malcolm Turnbull are the fault of "bedwetters" who didn't have the fortitude to stick with Tony Abbott. Do you think that Tony Abbott would have done better in this campaign?

CHALMERS: Impossible to tell. I mean, I'll leave that to--

VAN ONSELEN: Would he have been better placed to take on a scare campaign on Medicare, do you think? Given his comments ahead of the 2013 election about cuts, and then his actual actions when it came to cuts in that 2014 budget? Are they right that Tony Abbott would have just driven over the top of Bill Shorten?

CHALMERS: I can't imagine that happening, no. He's a more disciplined campaigner than Malcolm Turnbull, that's for sure, but it's impossible to tell whether he would have done better or worse. I think one of the great things about this campaign is that it was fought on issues, policy issues and we have the courage to put some

VAN ONSELEN: Are you guys frightful?

KENEALLY: I was going to say one of the ways we can test this hypothesis is Tony Abbott can come back, what do you reckon about that option?

VAN ONSELEN: That frightened label, you're saying that Malcolm Turnbull should resign, are you fearful of a Tony Abbott comeback? Would that send a shiver down the spine of marginal seat holding Labor MPs?

CHALMERS: No, no the spine would stay un-shivered in that situation! I would say this about Turnbull though, really seriously. The situation that we find ourselves in now with the likelihood of a minority parliament, I don't think that Malcolm Turnbull has the temperament to deal with these sorts of situations where he's not dominating the parliament, where he has to deal with people with a range of views. I don't think Malcolm Turnbull has the psychological makeup to make a fist of this situation that he finds himself in now.

KENEALLY: So let me ask you this, Jim Chalmers. Superannuation was reportedly an issue for the Liberal Party in its campaign. Its superannuation policy apparently divided its base, deterred its voters, that's what a lot of the conservatives are now trying to spin. But Labor hasn't ruled out taking on the Coalition's superannuation policy, whether you get into Government or if indeed they form Government, you haven't ruled out supporting it. Have you had any further consideration and are you doing this for base political reasons?

CHALMERS: Of course not. Superannuation was a big factor in the election. I think the big mistake that the commentary is making is to assume that it's only Liberal Party members that it impacts on. In my experience right through middle Australia, people were worried about the mess that the Liberal Party made of superannuation. It did diminish confidence in the system and in people's retirement incomes. And so I think the impact was more up and down the income scale than a lot of the commentary has conceded. And we get too easily caught up in this sense that people weren't donating to the Liberal Party or showing up to hand out how-to-vote cards. I think it was a broader problem. All we said, and I've probably had more conversations on these issues with stakeholders and the general community than anyone in the last couple of months, and people wanted us to avoid making the same mistake that the Government made in rushing to judgement on some big, complex, drastic changes. So we said all along we want to tackle those poorly-targeted tax concessions at the top end of super. We are prepared to consider all of the ideas on the table, but we're not going to rush to judgement because when you do that in superannuation, you've got a big chance of making a mistake. The Liberal Party couldn't even explain or defend their changes in the context of the campaign. So we make no apologies for saying to people, 'look, we want to get this right, you know that we want to make savings in super, you know we want to tackle the tax concessions, let's make sure that we get it right because you can't just keep chopping and changing.'

VAN ONSELEN: (audio cuts out) ... frontbench?

CHALMERS: Sorry, you cut out for a second, Peter.

Would you like to see the Deputy Prime Minister come back on the frontbench?

VAN ONSELEN: Barnaby Joyce?

KENEALLY: The Deputy Prime Minister?

CHALMERS: The Former Deputy Prime Minister?

KENEALLY: Wayne Swan, I believe is who you are referring to, is it Peter?

VAN ONSELEN: Does he fall out of memory that quickly?

KENEALLY: No the question was poorly --

CHALMERS: You said the Deputy Prime Minister, I thought it's got nothing to do with me whether Barnaby Joyce goes on the--

KENEALLY: You did say the Deputy-- 

VAN ONSELEN: It's like the United States, they hold their honour don't they?

KENEALLY: No it's not. I can tell you, nobody walks from calling me Premier.

VAN ONSELEN:  Alright, allow me to rephrase. Would you like to see the former Deputy Prime Minister come back on to the frontbench? I mean it's a serious question. I mean, if he doesn't want to that's fine, it's always good to have mentors on the backbench, don't get me wrong, but genuinely would you like to see Wayne Swan come back, he's got a lot to offer --

KENEALLY: Jim Chalmers, you can think about that. We're going to listen to Bill Shorten.

BILL SHORTEN: We're saying thank you. We're saying thank you to people in Queensland and thank you to people right across Australia who chose to back Labor, who went for a change of Government. And what we're doing here on Tuesday after Saturday is saying that for us, our commitment to the Australian people is not just asking for their vote one Saturday every three years. For us, it's a cause every day of the week.

JOURNALIST: How do you like the new boss?

SUSAN LAMB: Fabulous, isn't he? He's fantastic. I’ve been absolutely excited to be part of Bill's team.

VAN ONSELEN: Back to you, Jim Chalmers. You've had some thinking time, a bit like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

KENEALLY: Maybe he phoned a friend.

VAN ONSELEN: Maybe he did. Maybe he rang and asked Wayne Swan. But it's a serious question. I don't mean it at all as a gotcha question, it's a genuine question. No problem with mentors on the backbench, so no problem if you think not or if he thinks not, but what do you think?

CHALMERS: I think he's got so much experience and so much to offer that he should be able to make that decision for himself. I certainly think that Wayne has got a lot to offer. He's not just a proud part of our past, he's a proud part of our future as well. He won Lilley very convincingly. He's making a big contribution to international debates around tax fairness and other things and I think whether he's on the frontbench or not, he's got heaps to offer, and there's no bigger supporter than me of him.

KENEALLY: In many ways he can say things that perhaps a member of the frontbench can't say in certain circumstances. He can write op-eds, he can make observations that are powerful in a way that perhaps when a minister makes them it's not. I appreciate your point, it is quite useful having him there. Look, just before we let you go, have you got any predictions on the seats that are still outstanding in Queensland?

CHALMERS: The one I'm really looking forward to is I'm hoping Zac Beers holds on in Flynn. Anybody who has met Zac knows that he will be an extraordinary Member of Parliament from up there in Gladstone. He has all of the ability to make a terrific contribution and so I'm hoping Zac hangs on. Capricornia and Herbert will also be close. And my great mate next door to me in Forde, Des Hardman, he's only up by a little bit and they're counting at the moment. So there are a lot of cliffhanger seats, but it would great to see Zac and Des and some of the other colleagues join us in Canberra.

VAN ONSELEN: It's very unlikely that the fellow next to you in the seat of Forde is likely to get up based on postals in my read. I just say that purely on the numbers. But do you actually think that the Liberals are a shot in Capricornia and Herbert because they think they're an outside shot, but notwithstanding those postal analyses of the past, I find it hard to see how they get there in those seats. They would need both to get to a majority in my view.

CHALMERS: Yeah, I had a quick look on the way here, Peter, and I think when you compare how much they won the postals by last time compared with how much we're up now, it's about an even number, so literally I think those two are a coin toss. You're right that things are difficult in Forde, but people have underestimated us in Forde before, and if anyone can do it, Des can do it. And he's quite popular among the kinds of constituencies that would postal vote. So I'm not prepared to write Forde off yet. I feel quite good about Flynn and some of the others will be a coin toss.

VAN ONSELEN: Do you want to put a bottle of Grange on Forde? I'll do that with you.

CHALMERS: I don't have a bottle of Grange!

VAN ONSELEN: Neither do I but I don't think that I'm going to have to buy one either.

KENEALLY: I'm about to get one. I'm about to get one.

CHALMERS: That's not a bad idea.

KENEALLY: Jim Chalmers, thanks so much for joining us on To the Point.

CHALMERS: Thanks to you both.