E&OE…

KIERAN GILBERT

With me on the program now, Liberal frontbencher Zed Seselja, the Assistant Social Services Minister. I want to ask you first of all about Barnaby Joyce, he’s come out swinging at the Liberal Party today because of some of the criticisms about the Nationals getting the Government into hot water with the citizenship issue but he says “my name is Barnaby Joyce, the only reason you’re in Government is because the National Party held all their seats and won one more”, he’s not going to cop too much flak.

SENATOR SESELJA

Well look we’ve got a very strong Coalition, and Barnaby Joyce obviously, has been a very very important part of it and a great leader for the National Party. We can go back and forth on that sort of stuff, it’s probably not all that helpful, there’s no doubt that the Nationals performed well in the last election, I think if you look at the overall numbers, there’s I think 60 Liberals and 16 Nats so we all play our part in a different way for our Coalition and it’s important that we work well together. That’s not just a good thing for us as a Coalition, it’s a good thing for our nation because the Coalition has been the longest standing coalition, I think certainly in the Western world.

KIERAN GILBERT

Is it good for him, do you think, to recognise that he is the junior partner? As good as he is in retail politics and he might resonate in the bush? The Country Liberal representation, as you point out, is pretty big.

SENATOR SESELJA

There’s obviously different roles. The Liberal Party is obviously the larger partner in that, we take our relationship with the National Party very very seriously. It’s very important for stable government, it’s very important to the nation generally and they represent regional Australia, as do many many good country Liberals too. There’s no doubt about it, we’re committed to regional Australia, we’re committed to Australians in the cities as well, and we represent all of them.

KIERAN GILBERT

Look at the Newspoll, not just the Newspoll but the context of the week with Cash, controversy around the workplace minister and those raids, and then the citizenship ruling. Some of the assessments have just been withering of the Turnbull Government right now, basically writing off his leadership, saying he’s no chance, move on, Graham Richardson, my Sky News colleague, today saying Julie Bishop should stump up. What do you say to some of these critiques of the Prime Minister and the Government at the moment?

SENATOR SESELJA

Well I say that we’re certainly not going to be distracted by them. Of course last week wasn’t a good week but there’s a number of factors that go into that and sometimes that happens in politics but the armchair experts will give all sorts of advice, what the Prime Minister and the Government will do is get on with governing. Can I make this point too, and some of those very same armchair experts have been a little less than honest in trying to make out that somehow the Government’s lost its majority or doesn’t have a majority in the House of Representatives, that’s not true, we still have a majority in the House of Representatives, that will continue, and we’re very hopefully, obviously, that Barnaby Joyce will win the seat of New England and that majority will increase.

KIERAN GILBERT

The Labor strategy will be to try and break off members of the Coalition on bank royal commission or penalty rates. George Christensen comes to mind as being one person that might acquiesce in that sense, are you worried about that?

SENATOR SESELJA

Well, look, I know George’s expressed some views on some of those issues in the past, we’re all aware of those, he’s expressed some of those very publicly from time to time but I don’t think George would want to take the opportunity from one of his good friends and colleagues, in Barnaby Joyce, his vote not being there to get things through the Parliament which George knows wouldn’t otherwise happen. Obviously he would reflect on whether or not that was a fair strategy.

KIERAN GILBERT

And potentially could end the Government. If it’s seen a no-confidence vote in the Government, if one of those bills were to get up, that effectively would be seen as a vote of no-confidence.

SENATOR SESELJA

George would consider, I’m sure, very carefully, as would all members of the Coalition, the importance of their vote and I’d be confident that George wouldn’t want to take advantage of the absence of Barnaby Joyce to pass legislation with the Labor Party.

KIERAN GILBERT

Senator, appreciate your time as always, we’ll talk soon.

[ENDS]