Leader of Nationals – Transcript – Interview with Michael Rowland, ABC News Breakfast

Leader of The Nationals – Transcript – Interview with Michael Rowland, ABC News Breakfast

The Hon David Littleproud MP

Leader of The Nationals

Tuesday 16 August 2022

Transcript – Interview with Michael Rowland, ABC News Breakfast – Topics: Scott Morrison

Michael Rowland:

Nationals Leader David Littleproud was a Cabinet minister in the Morrison Government. He joins us now from Longreach in Queensland. David Littleproud, good morning to you.

David Littleproud:

Good morning. Thanks for having me.

Michael Rowland:

Thanks for coming on. You were Agriculture Minister in the Morrison government did the former Prime Minister’s swear himself in as agriculture minister?

David Littleproud:

Well, I can’t tell you that, but I presume not. And I hope not.

Michael Rowland:

But the question is, how would you know?

David Littleproud:

Well that goes to the core of the issue that we’re discussing at the moment and the necessity for it. And I think that’s why it’s important that Mr. Morrison gives an explanation so that there’s clarity, understanding. The institution of Cabinet is very important and part of the executive government, of the democracy that we hold dear. And so it’s important that there is trust within that institution, particularly Cabinet.

And that’s why I think the best thing that could happen now is Mr. Morrison gives an explanation and clarity around the decisions that he made around signing himself into those three portfolios.

Michael Rowland:

The Prime Minister’s response yesterday was that since leaving the Prime Ministership, he hasn’t engaged in day to day politics and not not commenting further. Clearly, you believe, given what you’ve just said, that’s not good enough?

David Littleproud:

Well I respect had this not come up that it was his right not to engage in day to day politics. He’s a former prime minister and he was trying to offer the dignity of that and maintain the dignity of that office having left it. But now that this has been revealed, I think it’s important he owes it to the office of Prime Minister and the exalted position that we in this country hold that position to be, that he should reflect and actually give an explanation to clear this up for a degree of clarity.

And I think that’s the the honourable thing to do to give respect to the highest office that any Australian can be elected to in this country, and one that we should always be fierce custodians in protecting the honour of.

Michael Rowland:

Okay. And just on that, does the former prime minister’s behaviour regarding these secret ministries bring into question the Westminster system of government we all cherish here in Australia?

David Littleproud:

Well, I don’t think so. I don’t think we need to jump to conclusions. And and I think it would be unfair to cast aspersions on the Governor-General if if he’s made a determination, I would suspect it’s all within the remit of the Constitution. It’s just the reasoning why and I think it’s the fact that and that’s another reason why I think out of respect to the Governor-General, the former Prime Minister needs to give an explanation too to also honour that position in our democracy. So I think it’s important we understand the reasoning. And while it’s probably within the Constitution, I think it’s important there’s transparency about the reason why it was used and why the Governor-General and others were put in a predicament of the decision of the former prime minister.

Michael Rowland:

I guess the criticism, one of the big criticisms being levelled at Mr. Morrison is certainly over what he did, but also his secrecy. Does that concern you?

David Littleproud:

Well, if you have a cabinet process, you should respect that cabinet process and you should respect your colleagues and the collective wisdom of that cabinet process. And that’s where better decisions are made when you draw on that collective wisdom of those sitting around the cabinet table to make the proper decisions for our nation. And I think that’s important that if you are to make these decisions that full transparency to your Cabinet colleagues and understanding of that decision brings better decision making from that institution. I think that’s really the opportunity that was lost by the former prime minister in not bringing his colleagues into that knowledge and understanding. And I think we would have averted a lot of this conjecture at the moment.

Michael Rowland:

Now, as far as what we from what we know, the former prime minister became co health minister and co finance minister when there was a great deal of uncertainty over the pandemic and concerns about what would happen if Greg Hunt and Mathias Cormann, the Health and Finance Minister respectively, got seriously ill. But fast forwarding to early last year, he, according to these, this new book swears himself in as resources minister. What do you make of that?

David Littleproud:

Well, obviously, I think it’s also important to understand, while in the middle of that pandemic, there are a number of subcommittees within cabinet. So under that financial side, there’s expenditure review committee and my understanding under the health side, in dealing with the pandemic, National Security Committee was engaging in the decisions around the pandemic. So there are there are institutions within Cabinet.

That also allows for the collective wisdom of those ministers to come together to make decisions, and then they’re ratified by Cabinet. There are unilateral decisions, small unilateral decisions that ministers can make all within the remit of the institutions that are set aside as a minister.

But look, with respect to the resource portfolio, it’s quite obvious that the Prime Minister, and I don’t think it was, it was anything new to anyone that he had an issue around that PEP11. I can’t give you the ins and outs of that. I wasn’t the Resource Minister, so I’m not sure of the details of that exact project. But normally the normal process would be if there was conjecture, then it would be brought to Cabinet for the collective wisdom of Cabinet to discuss and to make a determination on.

So that is really aware where I’d have to understand why the Prime Minister wanted to sign himself into the resource portfolio when if there was a project of conjecture, then Cabinet would normally discuss that.

Michael Rowland:

Would you support a fully fledged inquiry into all of this?

David Littleproud:

Well, I think that could be averted if the former prime minister comes forward and gives an explanation. I think he owes that to the high office of prime minister. As I said, this is the highest office in Australia you can be elected to it should be respected at all costs.

We should be fierce custodians of that of that position and make sure that the honour of it is upheld. So I think first and foremost, if Mr. Morrison was to come forward and give an explanation, I think that would that would ease a lot of conjecture and explain hopefully a lot of his actions.

Michael Rowland:

David Littleproud, appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

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