The Observer Effect - Transcript of 8 September 2013


08/09/2013 - The Observer Effect - Episode 15 Segment 1



ELLEN FANNING:  Good evening and welcome to The Observer Effect viewing the events of the week through the eyes of the people who shape Australia. 


Tonight, Warren Mundine, the true Labor man who followed the light on the hill only to find Tony Abbott and the Liberals; Blanche d’Alpuget on the cult of Kevin; and Rebecca Huntley will tell us what we think will happen next. 


Warren Mundine is a man who it can be truly said has walked both sides of the street.  He was once at the apex of power in Labor as the National president of the ALP; then earlier this year he stunned his old party when he joined up with then opposition leader and now Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, to lead his Indigenous Council. 


Warren Mundine's shift of allegiance was dramatic and it mirrors a shift hundreds of thousands of Australians themselves have now made on the ALP.  Warren, welcome to The Observer Effect. 


WARREN MUNDINE:  Thank you very much. 


(Audience clapping)


ELLEN FANNING:  I don't want to start with last night.  I want to start with six years ago when you were National President of the ALP and Kevin Rudd was swept to power, what were your hopes on that night for Kevin '07? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  Well, we all had high hopes really because Kevin had really lifted the benchmark about what could be achieved and what could be done, and I remember that night because we worked very hard, I went back to ‑ actually it was Bill Shorten's offices and the celebrations, I have a photo of myself with two beers.  I said I'd have a beer if we won the election, and then I'd have a second beer if John Howard lost his seat.  I did have some ‑ I did have some hesitations about that as well because it was such a lifting of the bar that we had to do.  It was almost like we had to solve all the problems of humanity but I, you know, I was confident of the team that was elected. 


ELLEN FANNING:  It's an extraordinary thing to say.  There you are sitting there as the confidante to the new Liberal Prime Minister and you're having a beer when John Howard lost his seat.




ELLEN FANNING:  Whatever dreams there were six years ago, I guess they came crashing down for Labor last night, although I have to say looking at Kevin Rudd give that concession speech, you would not have known it.  Have a look. 


(Footage played)


KEVIN RUDD:  I know that Labor hearts are heavy across the nation tonight, and as your Prime Minister and as your parliamentary leader of the great Australian Labor Party, I accept responsibility.  I gave it my all, but it was not enough for us to win.  I'm proud that despite all the prophets of doom that we have preserved our Federal Parliamentary Labor Party as a viable fighting force for the future.  (Crowd cheering).


ELLEN FANNING:  Now, he sounded like a saviour last night, like he saved the Labor Party; and then Tony Abbott stepped up and said, well, remember it was the worst electoral outcome for Labor in terms of its primary vote in a hundred years.


WARREN MUNDINE:  Well, it was ‑ it was the worst.  If you excuse the Lang Labor movement in the '30s, it was the worst vote that the ALP has ever had since ‑ almost since the beginning of federation.  And, you know, I just found it quite interesting that that whole scenario, but it also really is an insight into Kevin Rudd. 


It's really funny about this ‑ everyone had this romance with him outside who didn't know him.  You talked to anyone who's worked with him or anyone who's known him, they can tell you a million stories about Kevin.  Everyone has their own little story about Kevin and they're not very nice stories in how he operates and how he works. 


Look, he ‑ he to me, the first thing he did was run the wrong style.  It's a presidential style.  Everyone raves on about presidential styles in Australia.  It's not our system.  Our system is a Westminster system. 


ELLEN FANNING:  So what did you think of the speech? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  Look, I just ‑ I thought of the speech just as I thought of the speech that he did at the launch of the ALP last Sunday at Brisbane.  It was all full of spin, it was all full of very high hyperboles, the whole lot of stuff like that, and there wasn't much substance to it.  You know, this idea, and I think Bob Hawke got it right at the ‑ last night when he made the comments, that, you know, we're all cheering and happy that we didn't get the disaster that we thought we're going to get, but the difference between what we thought we're going to get and the difference of what we got is only a handful of seats.


ELLEN FANNING:  You were at one stage not very long ago the beneficiary of the New South Wales right.




ELLEN FANNING:  People like Karl Bitar, Mark Arbib, indeed Eddie Obeid, were the people who ensured you could become the president of ALP.




ELLEN FANNING:  Of the National party.




ELLEN FANNING:  How much is that New South Wales machine to blame for the sort of spin and populism you're talking about? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  I think they have a lot to blame for it.  We can always look at Kevin and blame Kevin Rudd for the problems of the Labor Party, but he didn't get there by himself.  People had to build up the numbers and build up the resources for that.  Look, I have got to say, I'm a businessman, I work in business, worked with some very large corporations around the world, and I have never seen a better operating machine than what the New South Wales right machine is. 


And despite ‑ I'm happy to declare that I actually met Eddie Obeid.  I know there are a lot of people running around saying that they didn't.  In fact, anyone who was going to go into any position with the Labor Party did meet him. 


ELLEN FANNING:  Are you comfortable with that now that he's found to be corrupt? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  I was never comfortable even at the time with it, but, you know, this is the way that politics was going.  You always felt not happy about things, but you just couldn't put your finger on what was going.  I tell you it was the most disciplined machine I had ever seen; the most media savvy machine I had ever seen.  Companies would love to hire people like that who could deliver that type of service.


ELLEN FANNING:  So what went wrong? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  What went wrong is exactly that, you're so disciplined.  It was easy to ‑ from people outside to ‑ to influence that process because every one went along with what had to be done because of that discipline.


ELLEN FANNING:  Is Labor ‑  you have talked about Labor having a messiah complex of not addressing the underlining problems because they have a messiah complex.  What do you mean by that? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  Well, the Labor Party has always ‑ always been praised as leaders.  In fact, there's probably more books written about ALP leaders and the ALP people than the Libs or anyone else in Australian's history, but there was substance to it.  You know, they were the people for their time.  You know, we may disagree and argue about some of things they did, but for that time they were good.  So they were built on really strong foundations.  What we've got now is we've got people who are very good at spin and then we're turning them into the messiahs. 


Like the idea of bringing Kevin, the man who knifed Kim Beazley, and then was knifed by Julia Gillard, then knifed Julia Gillard, those were all done ‑ those three knifings were all done ‑ four knifings, in fact, were all done...


ELLEN FANNING:  It's hard to keep count (laughs).


WARREN MUNDINE:  Just keep up with it.  It's like the Senate in old Roman times, you know, Julius Caesar, there's that many knifings going on.  But you ‑ they were all done not on delivering good policy.  In fact the policy never changed in any of those knifings.




WARREN MUNDINE:  Not one iota of policy changed.  It was all about who could pick up the most votes, who could do the best spin for them.


ELLEN FANNING:  How hard was it for you to quit the party?  I read a tweet you put out last night:  "Like many Australians today, I voted Liberal for the first time.  Yes, you, Joe" ‑ to Joe Hockey...




ELLEN FANNING:  ..."Labor has become a party of spin, not workers."  I mean that ‑ you did that last night.  You put the vote down "1" yesterday for the Liberal Party, was it hard to break away from Labor personally? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  Look, it's a journey I have been doing for a number of years.  Look, I went into the polling booths at the last State election like many Labor supporters, when you look at the statistics, just about half of the Labor supporters deserted the party and voted Liberal. 




WARREN MUNDINE:  I did.  I stood ‑ I've got to admit I stood in that polling booth for about 45 minutes.


ELLEN FANNING:  This is at the State election? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  Yes, State election.


ELLEN FANNING:  In New South Wales.


WARREN MUNDINE:  To actually cross that Rubicon was so difficult to do because I grew up with the Labor family.  You know, I grew up generations of Labor supporters and Labor people and it was, you know, I was thinking ‑ I was standing there and thinking, "If I do this" ‑ because my father's passed away now ‑ "my father will turn over in his grave."  And in the end, I rationalised it all and got through it.  This one, you know, just so sick and tired of it all, it was very easy.  Took me about five seconds to go into the booth and walk out. 


ELLEN FANNING:  You talk about your father.  I mean, you've written of your father that he was a Labor man to his bootstraps and that he was ‑ he and your mum were living in their first home, was a humpy on the Clarence River.


WARREN MUNDINE:  Yeah, that's right.


ELLEN FANNING:  And it was the AWU getting them equal wages that meant that they could climb and claw their way into the middle class.




ELLEN FANNING:  So the Labor roots are strong.


WARREN MUNDINE:  The Labor roots are very strong.  And also Keating, Paul Keating, made a comment several years ago about looking at that dragging yourself out of poverty, dragging yourself out of that situation.  We were very ‑ we were a working family, and my father had this very simple philosophy, simple working class approach.  If you spoke to my father and said, "Mr Smith across the road, what do you think of Mr Smith?", he'd only ‑ he'd only say a couple of words.  He'd say, "He's a worker", and that meant this bloke got up in the morning, went out, worked, brought his money home, fed his wife and kids, housed them, got them to school, educated them, made sure they were safe and all that.  It had so much connotations to it. 


And then the opposite, he'd say, "I don't like his bloke, he's not a worker", just straightaway you knew what it meant.  So that's the type of person he was. 


ELLEN FANNING:  How did you grow up?  How many kids and what was it like? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  Well, there was 11 siblings of us.




WARREN MUNDINE:  You can imagine 11 of me, bloody ‑ (audience laughing) ‑ a bit scary.


ELLEN FANNING:  Your ‑ your mother must have been a worker with 11 kids.


WARREN MUNDINE:  It's quite funny actually.  I rave on about my father, but the real champion had to be my mother because she was 4 foot 11.




WARREN MUNDINE:  4 foot 11, my father was 6 foot 3.  They were very ‑ a bit of an odd couple actually (audience laughing).  And she was the strength of the family because my father was an old‑fashioned bloke, you know, and he actually told me one day, "I'm not your friend, I'm your father.  My job is to bring you up, give you values for life and to ensure that you carry those values through." 


ELLEN FANNING:  And they were Labor values in political terms.


WARREN MUNDINE:  Oh, very working class Labor values.  Look, the Labor Party, I just don't see it as a working party anymore.  It's long lost.


ELLEN FANNING:  Where does your drive come from to succeed, to come up from such humble beginnings in terms of money, not in terms of love, and drive yourself on to be really counsel to a Prime Minister? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  If I told my parents that I was going to do that when I was kid, they would probably put me in therapy.  (Ellen laughing).  It is a drive ‑ it is a Mundine curse, of course.  You see Anthony, you see Tony.  So we were all very driven, but people say you're driven but to me it was a very simple thing.  It's ‑ we saw something that needed to be fixed so we'd go over and fix it, and then we'd do that, and then we'd see something else that needed to be fixed and then we'd go and do that, and that's the sort of attitude I had, yeah.


ELLEN FANNING:  The arc of your move is remarkable.  I mean, you have come from those Labor roots, you have described all the way through to marrying into one of Australia's better known conservative families.




ELLEN FANNING:  You're married to the daughter of the conservative commentator Gerard Henderson.  There you are two, lovely couple.  How did that come to be? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  I'm a very sexy man.  (Ellen and audience laughing).


ELLEN FANNING:  She couldn't resist you.


WARREN MUNDINE:  She couldn't resist me.  I can convert anyone.  Nah.  That's another thing, that's another journey.  It's an interesting journey.  I knew Anne and Gerard, of course, through politics, they run the Sydney institute.


ELLEN FANNING:  It's a think‑tank here in Sydney.


WARREN MUNDINE:  Yeah, Sydney, think‑tank here in Sydney, and that's how I met Elizabeth through that process.  And she ‑ and we were friends and she ended up being on my board.  We had no relationships or anything at that stage, and was only in the last 18 months that something twigged and I had nothing to do on a Friday one day and so we got married.  (Ellen and audience laughing). 


ELLEN FANNING:  And I tell you what, you'll have a long and happy marriage to tell me if you go home and mow the lawn.


WARREN MUNDINE:  Yeah, that's why I'm in trouble for being here.  Doing tweets everyday.


ELLEN FANNING:  We better move on then, haven't we?  You're going to be key adviser to Tony Abbott as we say.




ELLEN FANNING:  Let's have a look at Tony Abbott last night giving his victory speech.  It was a very subdued speech.  


(Footage played)


TONY ABBOTT:  A good government is one that governs for all Australians including those who haven't voted for it.  A good government is one with a duty to help everyone, to maximise his or her potential:  Indigenous people, people with disabilities, and our forgotten families as well as those who Menzies described as lifters, not leaners.  We will not leave anyone behind. 


ELLEN FANNING:  It's an interesting line, "We will not leave anyone behind".




ELLEN FANNING:  There was a kind of a quiet in the room when he said that.  People were still trying to work Tony Abbott out.  Were you surprised that he said that? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  I'm not surprised at all.  Look, there's no secret, publicly I have acknowledged this, when I first met Tony, I didn't like him.


ELLEN FANNING:  What didn't you like? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  He's a very standoffish type bloke he was, and he ‑ and to me he had very, very conservative values and some ideas, but he was ‑ he's an interesting guy because I first met him when I was on the John Howard's National Indigenous Council, people asked me, "Why did you go in it?"  Well, because the Labor Party encouraged me.  I was part of ‑ we had to deal with Indigenous issues, we couldn't wait 11 years before the Labor Party got back in.  We had to deal with Indigenous issues now. 


So I met him then.  I wasn't too crazy about him, but it wasn't until 2008 when Jenny Macklin, who was a Minister of Indigenous Affairs, then asked me to help her negotiate some stuff through the Senate, and Tony was the negotiator for the Libs.  I found that interesting that she asked me and I said, "Why?"  I said, "Because I don't like this guy."  She said, "No, no, he's of similar background", she said.  I said, "What, is he Aboriginal?" (Ellen laughing).  She said, "Your similar backgrounds.  Youse will get on well", and I said, "Nah, I don't think I will, but I'll do it", so I went out there and we use to meet in Redfern on a ‑ and have a cup of coffee at a coffee shop there on the corner, and by the second meeting we had signed off on the agreement. 


And then Tony at the end of that meeting he said to me, "Well, why don't we continue this conversations because I really want to know about Aboriginal people and Aboriginal affairs", and I said, "Yeah, sure."  And from those conversations we've become mates.  And this is one of the things that people don't understand about Tony which I admire is that he's a man who will listen and learn and grows in that.  Now, over that period from 2008 to 2013 now, I'm not saying some of our discussions were friendly and that, we did have our arguments about things.


ELLEN FANNING:  What do you argue about? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  Well, we argued about, you know, should Aboriginal communities should be closed because there's no jobs there, we argue about a few things, but the interesting thing and I think it's part of his Jesuit background, I'm a Marist background, he's a Jesuit background.


ELLEN FANNING:  Two Catholic boys.


WARREN MUNDINE:  Two Catholic boys, the difference is that Jesuits are more intellectual and thinkers and...


ELLEN FANNING:  Just ask them, they'll tell you.


WARREN MUNDINE:  ...Marists are workers, we do all the work and they just think about it.  (Ellen and audience laughing).  And when you have a revolution, they usually shoot the Jesuits and keep us because we actually do the job.  (Ellen laughing).


ELLEN FANNING:  Have you shared this with Tony Abbott, this view of the world? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  I did, he disagreed with me, but anyway.  It was one of our disagreements.  But he kept on coming back and asking more questions and more questions.  Like one time, we had an argument once and he ‑ a couple of weeks later he rung me up and said, "Look, I was interested in what you said.  I don't necessarily agree with it but I'd like to learn more about that.  So let's keep our conversations going", and we did. 


And I noticed ‑ and this is one of the people don't understand of Tony ‑ he grew.  To me he grew as opposition leader.  He come in ‑ he wasn't really good at the beginning when he was opposition leader, but we've seen the result of it last night.  He won the confidence of the Australian people and got the job as Prime Minister.  He grew in Indigenous affairs.  To me, we just totally disagreed in it, but now we're very much one on one on it.


ELLEN FANNING:  We'll take a quick break, Warren, and we'll be straight back after that. 


(End of segment 1)

08/09/2013 - The Observer Effect - Episode 15 Segment 2


ELLEN FANNING:  Thank you.  We're talking to Warren Mundine, former National President of the ALP and now Tony Abbott's choice to lead his Indigenous Advisory Council. 


It's said of Abbott by Laurie Oakes in fact last night, that he's quite like Hawke; he figured out who he needed to become ‑ to become Prime Minister and he set about doing that.  And another journalist David Marr who has written a lot about...  


WARREN MUNDINE:   That's a big call.  It's a big live‑up, I tell you.






ELLEN FANNING:  But Marr says of him that he wants to be transformed by the role, by the job, that he will become in his mind a better person...




ELLEN FANNING: ...when he becomes Prime Minister.  Is there something to that? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  That's true.  I reckon ‑ I do agree with that.  It's a bit interesting David Marr and I actually agreeing on something (Ellen laughing).  But it's ‑ yeah, I do agree that because that's what happened to the opposition position.  It's really funny, prior to ‑ about six months prior to him getting the opposition position, and this is after we'd become friends, I don't know, something I saw in him.  I saw in him that he would make a good opposition leader and he would make a good leader of the Liberal party. 


Malcolm Turnbull, that's no criticism to Malcolm of course, but Malcolm Turnbull was the leader then but I just saw something in Tony, and so that's why I actually text him ‑ this is an unknown story ‑ I text him two days before the challenge and said, "When are you going to run?"


ELLEN FANNING:  And this is in 2009? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  Yeah.  And he run and he got the position because I had the confidence in him, I saw something in him, that would ‑ he would rise to the occasion and he would become a better man of it.


ELLEN FANNING:  I want to play you a bit of footage now of a young Warren Mundine.  It's 1985.


WARREN MUNDINE:  Not the one with the moustache? 


ELLEN FANNING:  Yes, it is.  And it is a forum to discuss how Indigenous Australians should respond to the planning for the celebrations of the bicentenary.


(Footage played)


WARREN MUNDINE:  Should Aboriginal people be celebrating 200 years occupation of Aboriginal land?  Or should we be out on the streets being vocal and telling the world, "Look, we're in the going to put up" ‑ you know, "The last 200 years we have been copping here, we're not going to put up with it anymore."  And as far as I'm concerned, any Aboriginal that gets out there and accepts money that has been put out as a package for this bicentenary is actually accepting blood money.  We've still got people with leprosy and we still got tremendous problems.  These problems have not been our problems, they're the problems of the European population of Australia. 


ELLEN FANNING:  What do you think looking at that? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  That's my evil twin.  (Ellen and audience laughing). 




WARREN MUNDINE:  He comes out every now and again (Ellen and audience laughing). 


ELLEN FANNING:  Are you still that guy inside?  Do you still have that basic belief that the starting point for any journey of reconciliation between Indigenous and non Indigenous Australians is to look square‑eyed at the history without blinking and black arm banding and all the rest of it and say, "This is what went on.  This was an Indigenous country and non‑Indigenous Australia took it, and now what are we going to do?  How are we going to live together?"


WARREN MUNDINE:  I'm a great reader of history.  I love ‑ I have been reading history since I was a kid, and learning the lessons globally of what happened with people, and I'm ‑ as you can see from my badge I'm a Western Sydney Wanderers supporter, put a plug in there for them, and ‑ so I'm a soccer guy, a football guy ‑ and I met Croatians and Serbs, and I learnt about the history of the hatred of a Catholic, and Irish ‑ of Irish ancestry too.  The republicans verse the loyalists in Ireland, and learn about the hatreds and that. 


And if you don't learn about each other, you do not understand each other, and you don't hide warts and all, both sides, then you're forever going to repeat history.  And that's what I learnt from those people.  You know, there's a bizarre story of Mladic who was commander of the Bosnian Serbs taking Richard Holbrooke down to a river and saying, "This is where they murdered my people", and Richard Holbrooke said, "Wow"...


ELLEN FANNING:  He was the US diplomat.


WARREN MUNDINE:  US diplomat who was in charge of the peace negotiations and he was shocked and horrified and said, "When did this happen?" and he said, "In the 15 century they brought these people down and murdered them", and that's the history of not resolving these things. 


Inside me, there are very important ‑ I'm a great lover of human beings.  Human beings fascinate me and that, I learnt the lessons.  I try to learn the lessons of resolving these issues.  And unless we confront our history, unless we deal with it and move forward, not with recrimination, and move forward then we're always going to have the problems. 


Guilt has got to be put out of this.  I think this is one of the problems that we're having in Indigenous affairs at the moment.  Why we're not confronting the issues that are going to resolve it, the anger and the guilt.  The anger on the Aboriginal side; the guilt on the non‑Aboriginal side.  We have got to deal with that, move on and start doing real work.


ELLEN FANNING:  I want to take you back to the last experience of the Liberal government and it was a divisive time as you hinted at earlier, even a scarring time.  You had John Howard refusing to apologise to the stolen generation, and his criticism of what he called the black armband view of history.  Have a look.


(Footage played)


JOHN HOWARD:  Reconciliation will not work if it puts a higher value on symbolic gestures and overblown promises rather than the practical needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in areas like health, housing, education and employment. 


ELLEN FANNING:  And so you have there the Indigenous people, Indigenous leaders in that audience turning their back on John Howard.  So John Howard is gone, but many of those who...


WARREN MUNDINE:  That had a profound moment on me.


ELLEN FANNING:  Why is that? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  Because people ‑ whether you like to hear what people have got to say not...




WARREN MUNDINE: have got to listen to them, and turning your back on people I found very insulting.  I didn't like what John said as well but you have got ‑ if you're going to really make peace, you have got to confront each other and look each other in the eye, and that's what's happen ‑ I'm always remember Yitzhak Rabin shaking hands with Yasser Arafat and the reluctance in ‑ Yasser Arafat put his hand down and the reluctance of Yitzhak Rabin, but then he had that second and then he just shook the hand. 


And afterwards people said to him, "Why did you do that?  Here you were shaking the hand of a terrorist, a man who has been murdering Israeli people", and he said, "You don't make peace with friends.  You make peace with your enemies and to do that you have got to look at them in the eye and talk to them." 


ELLEN FANNING:  So now we come to the Abbott administration, and here are some of the key people you'll deal with:  Senator Eric Abetz.  He's in charge of employment if he keeps the role in government.  He said, "Invasion is an inflammatory term that does not help anyone.  White settlement, albeit in today's terms in a clumsy manner, sought to give rights to the Indigenous people." 


And then you have got Christopher Pyne who talks about the undue emphasis on Indigenous history in the school curriculum, the history curriculum, the primary school curriculum and he says, "We must not allow a confidence sapping, black armband view of our history to take hold."  He'll be the education Minister. 


Tony Abbott might have been won over but what about people like this? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  Well, as Yitzhak Rabin said, "You don't make friends with friends.  You have got to make friends with your enemies."  Now, I'm not saying Christopher Pyne and all them are my enemies, they're great blokes, shouted me a few beers a couple of times which I like, it's ‑ we have got to sit down with the people like that.  We have got to sit down with people like that and negotiate and work our way through.  If we don't do that then we're just going to continue the sins of the past.


ELLEN FANNING:  Just thinking of Pyne and Abetz, do they need to go out to Indigenous communities and spend some time and go on that journey? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  They have to.  I don't think you can really understand another person until you actually sit down and have a cup of tea with them.  And that was my mother's thing, she used to always sit down and have a cup of tea and cakes, probably why I ended up with heart disease, but it's ‑ you've got to do that.  You have got to sit down and talk to people.  You can't understand people from a distance.  You can observe them and there's nothing wrong with that.  You can observe them and they can observe you, but then you have got to sit with them and chat.


ELLEN FANNING:  Let's turn to Abbott himself.  Here he is speaking at the Garma festival in Arnhem Land which was about four weeks ago.


(Footage played)


TONY ABBOTT:  So Galarrwuy, I believe things will be different if there is a change of government.  I've said before, let me repeat it, it is my hope that I could be not just a Prime Minister, but a Prime Minister for Aboriginal affairs, the first I imagine that we've ever had.  I will have ‑ (crowd clapping) ‑ as well as that, a Minister for Aboriginal affairs in the cabinet in Nigel Scullion, who's a regular visitor here at Garma, and is here today. 


What's more, Indigenous programs and policy will come within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet because Indigenous policy and programs should not be an add‑on, they should not be an afterthought, but they should be at the heart of a good Australian Government. 


ELLEN FANNING:  Tony Abbott has famously said that he wanted to under-promise going into this election and over-deliver, and it seems to me that the thing that he's really staked his reputation is on the issue of Indigenous affairs and what he calls the great national failure which is continuing Indigenous disadvantage.  What will you do with the council?  What will he do differently? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  Well, the interesting thing is we here not going to do much differently because there's so much stuff out there that people have done over the years, we're going to be, "Why has it failed and why hasn't it worked?"  First thing we're going to do is an audit, for want of a better word, a review, look at what's been done over the last 30 or 40 years.  I have got to report back to the Prime Minister by February ‑ March, February. 


A couple of things are missing from Indigenous affairs.  We tend to go and process, we tend to spend a lot of money for very limited outcomes, and we have got to change that.


ELLEN FANNING:  And do you take the axe to things that don't work?  Do you have a clear idea and say, "That's not measuring up", off it goes? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  Look to be honest, we've avoided that type of conversation because as soon as you stand up and say, "I'm going to axe your program", you get resistance, fighting and brawling. 


ELLEN FANNING:  How hard is ‑ yeah.


WARREN MUNDINE:  What we want to bring people, this is the important part ...




WARREN MUNDINE: ... this is the point we have got to get.  What we have to do is bring them on a journey so they explain to us how they operate and why this has happened so we understand it, and they understand, we want outcomes in this areas and then we'll start moving forward.  It's not about axing programs or bringing new programs in.  It's about results and that's what we have got to focus on.


ELLEN FANNING:  And would it ever be about sending the military back into Indigenous communities as it was done under the intervention? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  Not as far as I am concerned.  Actually military does have a play.  One of the ideas we're looking at is how do we get surgery and medical stuff into Indigenous communities.  And I just had ‑ sitting there one day and a cup of tea, as I normally do, I said, isn't ‑ it was during the tsunami of Indonesia, Sumatra, and the Indian Ocean.  I said the military has got to train for emergency services in war situations, so they have got to go in there, set up a hospital, do surgery, then move it on...


ELLEN FANNING:  So can you see field hospitals in Indigenous communities? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  I reckon that's something ‑ something we could play.  One, the military trains because ‑ for operations and State emergency operations in setting these things up.  The Aboriginal community get medical service and things happening within their communities, so we have got to get innovative, we have got to think differently.  And it's not about cutting programs or bringing new programs in.  It's about focussing on the outcome and then putting in place how we do that outcome. 


ELLEN FANNING:  Now, a final question to you:  it's ‑ you were saying to me before that after your tweet last night you got a lot of people bashing you on the head.




ELLEN FANNING:  And I'm sure there are people lining up Indigenous and non‑Indigenous to wallop you over the head because you're talking to a Liberal Prime Minister and I notice your distance cousin Gary Foley reckons you were having a bromance with Abbott and that you...


WARREN MUNDINE:  That's what my wife reckons too.


ELLEN FANNING:  Does she? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  Yeah, there's evidence of it. 


ELLEN FANNING:  It is a bromance.


WARREN MUNDINE:  We won't tell you what happened after that photo.


ELLEN FANNING:  Well, he calls you the white sheep of the family which I guess is rude.  As you embark ...


WARREN MUNDINE:  (Laughing). 


ELLEN FANNING:  It's funny. 


WARREN MUNDINE:  It's funny.  Gary has always been a funny guy.


ELLEN FANNING:  As you embark on this journey with Tony Abbott, you know, with all ‑ I can see the passion in you for all these ideas you're having.  How do you feel today, this Sunday?  Are you optimistic?  Are you full of trepidation about the next three years and the promise you have been able to ‑ you've lit the flame, haven't you, with Tony Abbott? 


WARREN MUNDINE:  All of the above.  Look, I read that article too.  I thought it was a great article.  I agreed with half the stuff Gary said in that article, which made me worry.  It's ‑ one, is that we have got to not take ourselves serious but we do have to be serious, if people can understand that.  We're not to be precious that we've got all the ideas and we have ‑ we know everything.  Is it going to be easy?  No, it's not going to be easy, it's going to be bloody hard, but we have got to be prepared to put those yards in and to move ahead because if we don't, the status quo is just not good enough.


ELLEN FANNING:  I wish you and I wish us all the very best with it, Warren Mundine.  Please thank Warren Mundine. 


WARREN MUNDINE:  Thank you. 


ELLEN FANNING:  That is wonderful.  That was a great conversation.




ELLEN FANNING:  We'll be right back with Blanche d’Alpuget after the break. 


(End of segment 2)


08/09/2013 - The Observer Effect - Episode 15 Segment 3


ELLEN FANNING:  Next to a story of politics, ambition, vengeance and dynastic intrigue and, no, it doesn't involve the Australian Labor Party.  Author Blanche d’Alpuget best known for her biography of her husband, the former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, has returned to writing fiction. 


Set in the 12 century and called The Young Lion.  It follows the life of the adventurous young man who became the King of England.  Blanche, thanks so much for joining me.


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  Thanks, Ellen.


ELLEN FANNING:  What was the election night like last night from the Hawke/d'Alpuget household?  Was Bob cranky or is he beyond that? 


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  He was way beyond that, and we were in a television studio all night.


ELLEN FANNING:  Of course.


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  I was somewhat amazed by Kevin's speech, his concession speech.  I thought, this is Hillsong.






ELLEN FANNING:  What did you mean by that?  Happy clappy? 


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  Well, it was happy clappy, it was cultish.


ELLEN FANNING:  Yeah.  And what do you think accounts for that? 


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  I don't know, but a need for heroes.  Certainly a need for heroes. 


ELLEN FANNING:  There seemed to be a sense that that he hadn't lost, that he was a conquerer in some sense.


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  Yes, well, that's ‑ that's how cults operate.  (Laughing).  It was very odd.


ELLEN FANNING:  The cult of Kevin.  And do you think that's what's afflicted Labor these past few years, the cult of Kevin? 


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  Many things have afflicted Labor and I don't think I want to go into them.


ELLEN FANNING:  All right.  Well put on your hat as a writer.  Six years of Labor from a writer's point of view, what genre does it fit:  Tragedy, comedy or farce? 


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  Tragicomedy.






ELLEN FANNING:  That's a nice way of putting it.




ELLEN FANNING:  And it hasn't been a particularly good story, I would have thought from a writer's point of view in that we all knew the ending, has that been the greatest failure? 


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  Yes, that's a bit of a failure to it (laughs).  Not sufficient anticipation.


ELLEN FANNING:  Look, we know Kevin's run is over, I wonder if I could get you to ‑ we're all starting to explore, aren't well, what Kevin might have been about, what the last 10, 12 weeks was all about, and certainly the Chaser boys had a view. 


(Footage played)


REPORTER VO:  First it was women for Gillard, the supporter group formed to boost Julia Gillard's flagging leadership.  Now, with Kevin Rudd at the helm, another group is gaining prominence. 


“Fletcher Gatts,” Psychopaths for Rudd:  “As a psychopath, it was so inspiring when Australia got its first elected psychopath Prime Minister.” 


“Derryn Saunders,” Psychopaths for Rudd:  “Yeah, I felt really proud to be a psychopath, or at least I would have if I had any feelings.” 


REPORTER VO:  “The group says Rudd has proven that psychopaths can achieve anything they want and that they no longer have to settle to being CEOs, television executives or South African paralympians.  The group has been active throughout the campaign although some psychopath volunteers have proven less stable than others.  And doorknocking efforts have sometimes been counter‑productive to the cause.” 


(Girl Screaming). 


REPORTER VO:  “Just days out from the election, Rudd is also rallying the psychopath base to carry out a revenge attack on his make‑up the artist.” 


KEVIN RUDD:  “I want your support to do this.” 


REPORTER VO:  “A move that has been condemned by the group Men with Short Fuses for Abbott.” 


GROUP MEMBER:  “A lot of people have written off Kevin Rudd this election, but people wrote Charles Manson off once too.” 


ELLEN FANNING:  It's full on, isn't it?  (Audience clapping).  So when you were younger you wanted to be a psychiatrist, who's at the centre of this cult:  is psychopaths fair enough.


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  No, no, I don't think so, no.  I think it's ‑ it's sad, really.  It's sad. 




BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  No, it's ‑ it's a sad comment on where we are at a society that we're craving for heroes which is part of the ghastly celebrity culture in which the ‑ the West now lives, and this spills over into politics. 


ELLEN FANNING:  So now, Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister, do you see any similarities in his journey, his long journey, to the Prime Ministership and the journey that Bob was on becoming ‑ going from the kind of raucous, larrikin, trade union leader into the Statesman Prime Minister.


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  I think all those who really succeed as Prime Ministers have the idea when they're very young that that's what they're going to be, and they pursue a path towards it, and I think that was absolutely true of Gough Whitlam, it was true of Malcolm Fraser, certainly true of Bob Hawke, certainly true of Paul Keating and John Howard and Tony Abbott.  It's something that is not easily achieved, and it must be a distance goal that's set and then pursued.


ELLEN FANNING:  And it's interesting though, as I was saying about Hawke, Hawke obviously had to change himself, mould himself, become another person as a grown‑up long away from the childhood ambition to become Prime Minister, and similarly Abbott did.  He fulfilled that role for John Howard as being the, kind of, the classic attack dog role, every Prime Minister needs one, to become something else.  Is there a similarity between the two of them like that? 


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  Yes, maybe slightly reversed because Bob had to become somebody else to become ‑ to be trade union leader.  He had to become a much rougher character from the rather gentle Christian boy that he'd been brought up, and so becoming Prime Minister he reverted more to his natural state. 


ELLEN FANNING:  And Abbott? 


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  I don't know.  I don't know enough about him. 


ELLEN FANNING:  I want to turn to you as a writer.  Your role as a writer now, and there was a wonderful interview this week that was conducted with Clive James, now ailing in the UK.  It was conducted by Kerry O'Brien, and Kerry took a look at Clive's writing, and his great sense of humour, and also his poetry, have a look. 


(Footage played of “The Kid from Kogarah” ABC)


KERRY O'BRIEN:  “But now I have slowed down I breathe the air as if there were not much more of it there, and write these poems which are ...”


CLIVE JAMES:  ‘... which are funeral songs that have been taught to me by vanished time, not only to enumerate my wrongs but to pay homage to the late sublime that comes with seeing how the years have brought a fitting end if not the one I sought.’ “Which gives thanks to the fact that I'm here at all, that I'm here to write it, that I have the power and the powers to reflect on experience.  Most people don't get that.  A lot of people get subtracted from the world without a chance to comment.” 


ELLEN FANNING:  So there he was, you know, racked with emphysema with this intense urge to write, and we saw the same thing with Christopher Hitchens in his last days.  Do you relate to that? 


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  Yes.  I'm not dying of emphysema yet, and I think that closeness to death certainly focuses the mind, there's no doubt about it, but I have an intent urge to write and it's the most joyful thing that I can experience. 


And particularly this ‑ this period of writing for me, I think the earlier period was writing out experiences I had wanting to share with people, experiences of Asia at a time when Indonesia was little known to Australians.  I wanted to explain to them what it was like, what it felt like.


ELLEN FANNING:  So now you have written this book about Henry, Henry II of England, and this swashbuckling character, the romance to get to the throne, and I wonder what delving into this period does to nourish your soul.


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  If I just tell you the story of the book.




BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  Eleanor of Aquitaine is returning from the second crusade with her husband, Louis the King of France, whom she loathes ‑ from whom she wants a divorce which has been forbidden by the Pope.  One day outside Paris, I mean literally one day outside Paris, she's approached by a handsome stranger, Geoffrey the Handsome, the Duke of Normandy.  Geoffrey is a great charmer and a womaniser and his intention is to seduce Eleanor to make her into his spy in the French Court to help him put his son Henry on the throne of England, and everything goes wrong from there on. 


ELLEN FANNING:  And why that story?  Why does that appeal to you? 


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  I have been interested in the 12th century since my 20s when it was very fashionable to say of anybody with whom you disagreed, which was basically anybody over the age of 30, "One of the great minds of the 12th century", and one day I thought, "I don't know anything about the 12 century."  So I started buying books, reading about it, and I discovered it was a period of great flowering, it was a Renaissance before what we think is the Renaissance, the Italian Renaissance of the 16th century, so 400 years before in the 12th century you had this marvellous flowering of knowledge, of culture.  You had the great gothic cathedrals built.  You had the wonderful stain glass windows, you had the troubadours and you had the beginnings of romantic love.  And it was a time of certainly of Warlordism and fighting.  Henry spent nearly all of his life fighting, putting down revolts from rebellious barons, but it was just a really fascinating period with a lot of fascinating new ideas. 


ELLEN FANNING:  What did you reflect in your own psychology or your own lived experience about those times, what reflections did you have? 


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  I feel some kind of personal connection to him.  He's a ‑ he's a real person to me, and when you go into ‑ writing fiction is about imagination, you go into a certain zone, and so I just write down what I can see in front of me. 


ELLEN FANNING:  And when that process is over, will you miss him? 


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  I'll miss him dreadfully, but I have got another three books on him to come, so this is ‑ this is the first of a series which will carry right through to the end of his life.


ELLEN FANNING:  That's wonderful.  Do you feel now that you're in your own Renaissance of ...




ELLEN FANNING: ... of your life as a novelist? 


BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  Absolutely and my great age.


ELLEN FANNING:  Well, it's been a pleasure to talk to you.  Please thank Blanche d’Alpuget. (Audience applauds.) 

BLANCHE d'ALPUGET:  Thanks Ellen.  Thank you. 


ELLEN FANNING:  We'll be right back after the break.  You can join the conversation online using #observersbs or find us on Facebook, Rebecca Huntley from IPSOS research will be with us when we return. 


(End of segment 3)

08/09/2013 - The Observer Effect - Episode 15 Segment 4


ELLEN FANNING:  Welcome back.  Our next guest has spent the past five weeks observing us observing the pollies.  Dr Rebecca Huntley was a guest on The Observer Effect back in late June.  As director of the Mind and Mood Report, Dr Rebecca Huntley is Australia's greatest eavesdropper. 


In the past two weeks she's been in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland with groups of voters aged from their late teens to their mid‑70s.  And it turns out we're concerned about “the economy, stupid,” and what we really wanted to talk about is how to educate Australians for the post‑mining economy. 


Rebecca, we're pretty grumpy, pretty cranky out there; is that right? 


REBECCA HUNTLEY:  Yeah, we've been cranky for some time actually.  One of my theories about why we've been cranky is Australians have been forced to focus on politics or party politics a little bit more than they normally would, given over the last number of years we have woken up and said, "Who's going to be Prime Minister today."  So I think the fact that we have been focussing on politics quite a lot and the tumult of politics rather than what we should be doing in terms of policy has made, I think, voters quite grumpy.


ELLEN FANNING:  Yes, what did they make of the campaign, the selfies from Kevin and the very disciplined campaign that Tony Abbott was running...




ELLEN FANNING: ... repeating lines that had sort of got him to where he was at the beginning of the campaign.


REBECCA HUNTLEY:  There was a general sense of the campaign was a bit policy‑free, and in similar ‑ we saw very similar things said about the ‑ this campaign that we said about 2010, although in 2010 voters said, well, one party wants the NBN and the other one doesn't.  This election, it's like one party wants a good NBN, and the other wants not a very good one.  There weren't a lot of policy issues people could really focus on. 


ELLEN FANNING:  They were told it was about trust.




ELLEN FANNING:  Did they believe that?  Is that what they were looking at? 


REBECCA HUNTLEY:  Well, I was ...


ELLEN FANNING:  "Don't trust Kevin, don't trust Tony."


REBECCA HUNTLEY:  I think this stuff around trusting politicians is like a ridiculous conversation because people don't trust politicians.  So to say that you trust one or the other, to say this is a verdict of people trusting Tony Abbott over Kevin Rudd, it's just a misreading of the result of the election.


ELLEN FANNING:  So what are the expectations from what you have heard of people for Abbott as Prime Minister? 


REBECCA HUNTLEY:  Tony Abbott's really lucky he's got a good majority and low expectations.  That is so much better than being Kevin Rudd with a landslide and high expectations about delivering on really big picture policies.  That's not an argument for small politics.  It's just a reality.


ELLEN FANNING:  And it's one that he designed...




ELLEN FANNING: part of the campaign to offer stable government...


REBECCA HUNTLEY:  That's right.


ELLEN FANNING: ...he was saying there's been such a breach of trust...




ELLEN FANNING:  ...and he literally said, "I'm going to underpromise and overdeliver."


REBECCA HUNTLEY:  Absolutely and I think that's really important for a political figure that's been ‑ had kind of a not very positive figure for the majority of Australians.  There's still a bit of a question mark over the kind of guy he is.  And so his role will be stability and just getting to know Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, the kind of person he is.


ELLEN FANNING:  And so what do people expect?  What do they tell you they expect from him? 


REBECCA HUNTLEY:  I think the only two things that really stand out that people will expect him to do is repeal the carbon tax, and quote/unquote, stop the boats.  And with the boats all he really needs to do is reduce them to less than they've been under Labor. 


Although I have to say this about the discussion about asylum seekers.  What we have found in our research, even amongst people who don't want asylum seekers to come by boat to Australia, there is a fatigue about the extent to which the asylum seekers question has taken over mainstream politics.  So one of the things we hear a lot of is, "Look, I don't really want boat people to come here, but why is this the biggest issue in politics" as opposed to education, as opposed to health, as opposed to the economy.  It's like we're talking about this issue as if our nation is going to be made ‑ is going to be broken or not on this issue. 


So I think there'll be a bit of happiness, a bit of kind of relief if it doesn't take centre stage.  But really getting rid of the carbon tax will be something that he needs to act on for his own credibility.  And then the rest of it is really focussing on the economy and jobs.  If he can really take the mainstream debate back to that, then I think he'll do reasonably well.


ELLEN FANNING:  And will it be easy for him to meet the expectations of the electorate? 


REBECCA HUNTLEY:  Yes, because they're not great.  And I think that again he doesn't have a reason.  I think also his personality, compared to Kevin Rudd who is kind of full steam ahead doing a million things at the same time, I think his steady‑steady approach and not having a kind of, "I want to make history in my first hundred days."  I think he should do that as well, and really kind of take a very modest approach to his agenda.  We're headed into football season and then we're headed into cocktail and beer season.  Australians will emerge, you know, from the hangover at the end of ‑ at the end of...




REBECCA HUNTLEY: ...January and February, and might tune into some of the things he's doing.




REBECCA HUNTLEY:  So he's got some time.


ELLEN FANNING:  And sometimes, and maybe you've observed over that...




ELLEN FANNING: ...35‑year sweep of research...




ELLEN FANNING: ...that you can get your hands on, the Prime Minister of the day matches the mood or the tone of the country.  Is that the case this time? 


REBECCA HUNTLEY:  Well, that's a really interesting question.  Look, I think that this was ‑ I think that that was very much the case in other elections.  I think this is a very different kind of election.  It's an election where people were so fed up with the ‑ not so much necessarily the way the Labor Party governed but the way the Labor Party governed itself, that they were prepared to take a leap of faith on a figure that had consistently shown to be not particularly popular.  And that is a very interesting combination of factors. 


I think that the fact that Tony Abbott has remained the most stable figure in Australian politics for some time now, reflects one of the things that Australians are looking for, which is a period of certainty.  After the global financial crisis, after the highs and lows of Kevin Rudd becoming Prime Minister and then the ‑ some of the disillusionment around, for example, the climate change debate, they're looking for some kind of steady‑as‑she‑goes period of government, and if he can deliver that, then, yes, I agree it reflects the time.


ELLEN FANNING:  That's interesting.  So if Howard was relaxed and comfortable, perhaps Abbott is steady and certain.


REBECCA HUNTLEY:  Yes, I think that's right.


ELLEN FANNING:  A great conversation.  Thanks so much for being my guest.  Please thank Rebecca Huntley.  (Audience clapping). 


And those great photos of the campaign behind me are from Mike Bowers of The Guardian. 


And that's all we have time for tonight, but you can join the conversation online using #observersbs or find us on Facebook. 


And don't forget you can catch Paul Daley's terrific blog, Effectively Observed on our website.  I'll see you next week when we talk to the real‑life Rake, Barrister Charles Waterstreet.  I'll see you then. 





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