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The Vote: ‘The last time I spoke to Morrison he told me to go get f—ed’

Today, we speak to someone who has made that choice, former Independent Tony Windsor, on how to navigate a hung parliament and how Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese would act in those negotiations.
Read Transcript

As the election tightens, there is a very real possibility that neither major party wins the 76-seat majority they need to govern in their own right.

If this happens, they will have to convince independents and minor party representatives in the lower house to join them and form a minority government.

For independents in this scenario, it’s an enormous choice – who do they support, what do they ask for, and who do they make prime minister?

Today, we speak to someone who has made that choice, former Independent Tony Windsor, on how to navigate a hung parliament and how Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese would act in those negotiations.

 

Guest: Former independent MP, Tony Windsor.

 
Read Transcript

RUBY:
From Schwartz Media and 7am, I’m Ruby Jones, this is The Vote: your essential guide to the 2022 election.

As the election tightens, there is a very real possibility that neither major party wins the 76-seat majority they need to govern in their own right.

If this happens, they will have to convince independents and minor party representatives in the lower house to join them and form a minority government.

For independents in this scenario, it’s an enormous choice – who do they support, what do they ask for, and who do they make prime minister?

Today, we speak to someone who has made that choice, former Independent Tony Windsor, on how to navigate a hung parliament and how Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese would act in those negotiations.

It’s Tuesday April 26

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RUBY:
So, Tony, are you good to go?

TONY:
Yep, yep. And I can call you Ruby, can I?

RUBY:
Oh, please call me Ruby. And I'll call you, Tony.

TONY:
That'll do.

RUBY:
So, Tony, there's been a lot of talk about the possibility of a hung parliament after this election about the chance that neither major party will get enough votes to form government on their own. And so in 2010, you famously delivered a minority government to Julia Gillard along with several other independents. And I was hoping that you could take me back to that time to the end of election night. Neither party has enough seats to form government, and as an independent, you're in the middle of all of that. What's it like, Tony? 

TONY:
Oh, well, this is quite an exciting time, a little bit of pressure from time to time. But essentially on the night of the election, a lot of seats are unknown.

Archival Tape -- 3AW:
“Good evening, Tony Taddeo here in the 3AW newsroom covering the 2010 election, and at this stage, the result is still up in the air-…”

Archival Tape -- 3AW:
“If anybody thought that this was anything other than a cliff-hanger election, then the results that we're seeing now proves that it is in fact what we all expected, and that is a very, very close election indeed…”

TONY:
Even though in the 2010 period the people were on the television at 10 o'clock at night, saying or demanding ‘what are you going to do if it's a hung parliament?’

Archival Tape -- Kerry O'Brien:
“Now, I understand that we've got Tony Windsor standing by … Tony Windsor, you can hear me ok?”

Archival Tape -- Tony Windsor:
“Yes Kerry, I can hear you.”

Archival Tape -- Kerry O'Brien:
“Good.”

TONY:
There were indicators that it may well have been a hung parliament, but it wasn't on that particular night. So it takes a long time to get through the counting, particularly if an election’s close. 

Archival Tape -- Kerry O'Brien:
“Both the Labor and Liberal members of this panel, neither can see a way really to the government in their own right with 76 seats. So that does certainly seem the likelihood. But it sounds to me as if you will want to sit down with your independent colleagues and have very careful discussions that presumably could take place over several days before you consider talking with either of the major party leaders. Is that the case?” 

Archival Tape -- Tony Windsor:
“Oh, very much so. Actually, I've had a phone call from Julia Gillard earlier tonight just to congratulate me on winning the seat…” 

TONY:
Y’know, if there's a clear majority, well they can call it on the night, but Antony Green wasn't calling anybody on that Saturday night because it was a very close election. 

RUBY:
Mm-Hmm. And so in the days and the weeks that followed, then what was it like as the negotiations progressed? What kinds of things were you weighing up and considering? 

TONY:
Well, it took about 16 days, I think, before the poll was declared. 

Archival Tape -- Julia Gillard:
“Obviously, this is too close to call. There are many seats where the result is undecided and where it will take a number of days of counting to determine the result.”  

TONY:
I remember Oakeshott and I were criticised by the media for not making a decision earlier. Well, it's very difficult to make a decision when the election hasn't been called in terms of the absolute numbers.

Archival Tape -- Kerry O'Brien:
“The horse trading has begun as Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott attempt to convince independents…”

TONY:
But during that time, Oakeshott and myself and Bob Katter set up a process that we’d be guided by, and part of that process was obviously to talk to both sides of politics, to arrange meetings with departmental heads, Treasury head and others to talk about the economy. That process unfolded where we spoke many times with Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott and others. The Shadow Ministries and ministries and many people said probably a fortnight of meetings took place, and at the end of that, we were, you know, asked to make a decision, which we did.

Archival Tape -- Tony Windsor:
“Well, I guess what you've really been wanting to know is who will form the government before making a statement as to how I will vote. I'd just like to thank both leaders for the way in which they've treated us as individuals through this process…”

TONY:
It became very clear that Julia Gillard was the only real choice in that Tony Abbott didn't believe in the NBN, the climate change was some sort of Hocus Pocus thing. Most of the issues I ran on, he disagreed with until a couple of days before the end, when he panicked and promised anything particularly wanted. Well, that wasn't a good basis to make decisions.

Archival Tape -- Tony Windsor:
“My vote will be going to the Gillard government. I won't support no confidence motions, trivial, no confidence motions. I will support supply, and I will reserve the right to represent my constituency on any vote in the parliament, and also reserve the right to move a no-confidence motion in the Government as I see fit. Thank you very much.”

RUBY:
And the rest is history, I suppose. But in a couple of weeks time there could be independents from around the country, walking into similar meetings, having similar conversations to the ones that you were in 2010…what do you think that's going to be like for them?

TONY:
My advice would be along the lines of what we actually did. I don't think I'd do anything any differently. I'd establish a process. I'd be strongly representing the issues that that your own electorate elect you on and and push like hell on those particular issues. And you would be surprised how far I get. 

Most of the independents that I know of that are standing this time are just outstanding candidates. You know, I don't think we've seen a period of time where people of this calibre, people who really do care about the present and the future, have presented themselves for parliament. 

I'd be saying very strongly to the independents: Take your time; work it out; be satisfied with what you're doing and run with what you've done. Rather than be railroaded into making quick decisions because you've got some pressure from the media or someone in your electorate that's making a big noise 

RUBY:
And there are concerns that people have about minority governments, though, Tony, one of them is that, of course, in a minority government, it's not the voters who decide who forms government, it's the independents and whatever minor parties who are joining with a major party. Don't you think that the people have the right to be legitimately concerned in that case about what kind of deals might be done in the process of deciding that government?

TONY:
The discussions we had and people are genuinely concerned. They do want transparency in relation to any deals. I don't see the things that we did as deals. They were transparent. They were in writing both from the government and from ourselves. And I'd be saying to independents now make it very clear what you've done. You know, if you've done - call it the deal for the sake of the argument - if you've done a deal on making adjustments to, you know, climate change or the integrity of the parliament or something, making those demands, make that very clear in the terms of your negotiations with both sides of politics. Whatever we do has to be upfront.

The government of the day will always have the numbers on the committees in the lower house, but in a hung parliament, all the members, the government and the opposition and the independents all have an equal say in terms of how debate can take place in those committee processes.

One of the things a minority government does is that it takes some of the power away from the executive and the Prime Minister's Office themselves. That's where the power is.

Well, in a hung parliament, you remove a lot of that power, and you actually empower the parliament itself.

RUBY:
We'll be back in a moment. 

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RUBY:
Tony, we’ve been talking about the upcoming election, the Independents who are running, and the situation they might find themselves in if they make it to Parliament. You’re on the advisory council for Climate 200 - which is backing several so-called ‘teal’ candidates, who are running on an integrity and climate platform. And I just wonder - particularly when it comes to climate - how much influence you think these independents will actually be able to wield? 

TOBY:
Well, if it's a hung parliament, they'll make the decision. There's no doubt about that, in my view. You know, even the Liberal National Party that aren't keen on doing anything about climate change they will do to get into power, if that's what's going to happen. And Barnaby Joyce and his cronies will be told to go behind the shed whilst it happens. If it's the Labour Party, they will do it. So in a hung parliament, the issue will be resolved. And that's a great thing that the independents are able to, you know, put to the name. If it's not a hung parliament - I think there's probably still an 80 percent chance - say there's five…five independents, six or seven independents, whatever the number is, that group will articulate the need for environmental change, climate change issues, renewable energy, all of those things to such an extent and do it in such a logical fashion that their voice will be heard not only in the Parliament, but in the community. And a lot of the time decisions that governments make aren't made in their party rooms, they're made in response to what the population is actually saying outside the room. And what those independent voices do is give the capacity of those issues to be expressed in the parliament and create a community push for change. Either way, there is no downside for the community, whether it's a hung parliament with independents or, or a majority parliament with independents. 

RUBY:
And Tony, hung parliament or not, any independents who are elected will spend the next three years negotiating with whoever it is that forms government. And so I was hoping that you could tell me what you make of the two options that independents have in front of them now. What's your opinion of the coalition under Morrison and conversely, of what a potential Albanese Labor government might be like?

TONY:
Well, I know both people. I obviously had a lot more to do with Anthony Albanese than I did with Scott Morrison, so my view of Albanese when I first went into the parliament - years ago - he'd been there for some time. I thought Anthony was a bit of a smart arse, actually, but no one worked harder to keep the hung parliament together than Albanese. And I had developed a high regard for him because of that, with his work ethic. He wanted the parliament to be successful, and I think it was. I didn't have anywhere near the contact with Scott Morrison. I remember one time, though, that he was representing, I think, Eric Abetz from the Senate and Scott Morrison was representing that minister in the House of Representatives on a workplace relations issue and I remember the Business Council of Australia were involved, and we were working with them, and Morrison had misled them and misrepresented me to them, but he didn't realise we had good contacts in that particular organisation, and they let us know what was going on. And I think I gave Morrison a bit of a caning, and he turned up in my office, very flustered and an angry one day with with a motion for an amendment - I didn't agree to the amendment that was written on it, and he became quite agitated and he said “Well, what am I going to do now?” And I said, “Well, if I were you, I wouldn't vote for the bill.” And he said “Well, okay, well, you can go get fucked.” So that was my final conversation with Morrison, and I think he'd struggle because his nature is more dictatorial where Albanese is more consensual. All the meetings we had with Anthony Albanese, there was never a swear word. Never a swear word or a loud word. It's about trying to form relationships and get things done for the benefit of the people and I think we achieved that in that parliament. I think Scott would struggle. He'd probably try hard but I think he would struggle.

RUBY:
Right, and so given everything that we’ve been talking about, and the magnitude of the challenge ahead for whoever is elected - how important do you think this moment, this particular election is Tony?

TONY:
This is a critical election, in my view, and people say you shouldn't take sides? Well, I think this is the election that this government has to be thrown out, mainly, in my view, because of the detrimental impact that people like Barnaby Joyce have had on stalling the nation for 10 years, absolutely stalling the nation. No political policy agenda, just sheer politics and dogma. So there's an opportunity there for and I'll be supporting independents, I think there’s an opportunity for some of the parties and the independents to actually get in there and fix the place up. 

RUBY:
Mm-Hmm. Well, it's going to be fascinating to see how it all lands.

TONY:
Yes, it will be. A great Saturday night, I think.

RUBY:
Tony, thank you so much for your time today.

TONY:
Thanks very much, Ruby.

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RUBY:
And also in the news today,

 

Emmanuel Macron has beaten far-right candidate Marine Le Pen to become the first French President to win a second term in 20 years.

 

Macron, a centrist, won by a slimmer margin than he did last time against Le Pen, winning 59 per cent to 41.

 

At a victory rally he acknowledged that quote: “a number of French people have voted for me today, not to support my ideas but to stop the ideas of the far right” and promised to try to heal divisions in French society.

 

And, Defence Minister Peter Dutton has compared Russia and China to Nazi Germany.

 

Dutton used remarks on Anzac Day to say the only way to ward off threats from authoritarian countries was to be a quote “strong country” and credited the government with increased defence spending.

 

I’m Ruby Jones, this is The Vote from 7am, your essential guide to the 2022 election. Episodes of the vote will continue to arrive in this feed for the next few weeks, as we explore the issues facing voters, analyse the latest developments and cover the aftermath of the 2022 election. 

 

See you tomorrow.

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