NICK CHAMPION: Good morning. It's ringing like a bell. The numbers hit 26, we've got four more to go till number 30. The Prime Minister's own standard on the leadership of this country, which is that you cannot be behind in Newspoll for 30 consecutive Newspolls.
That's what the Prime Minister said when he knocked off Tony Abbott. That's the commitment he gave to his party room, that he would perform better. What do we have? Number 26, he's behind in the polls. We all know there is four to go. The countdown commences. It's ringing like a bell for the Prime Minister, who is failing his own test. He's begun the year in a pretty horrible fashion. I know there are some who are saying he's got some sort of holiday bounce. But let me remind you, for 26 consecutive Newspolls he's been behind and he's well on his way to 30 consecutive Newspolls. His own standard. His own test and he's failing it miserably.
JOURNALIST: The Newspoll also showed Labor's primary vote continued to be low and the Prime Minster continued to be ahead of Bill Shorten and your own members think another member of the Front Bench might make a better leader. So it's not necessarily great news for Labor is it?
CHAMPION: Labor's got a strong primary vote, stronger than the last election when we had a record bounce back. We nearly claimed Government against a first term Government. We know this is a test of the Prime Minister. It is not Labor's test. It is not the pub test, or anybody else's test. It the Prime Minister's own test from when he launched his leadership. When he came out before these cameras here at Parliament House and said that you can't be behind for 30 consecutive Newspolls. If you are then that's the trigger for a challenge, from your party room. We know now number 26, four more to go. Whatever gains he has made over the holidays, they are not nearly enough to erase this very difficult test that he has set for himself. It's a pretty tough test he set for himself. 30 consecutive Newspolls. That's a long time to be unpopular in this country when you occupy the Prime Ministership. You wouldn't have thought anybody could exceed Tony Abbott's unpopularity, yet here we are, number 26, four more to go. We know this is a very tough test he set for himself and if he doesn't make it, he will have to face his party room and the wrath of the voters.
JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull's the Liberals are unlikely to run a candidate in Batman. If that seat falls to the Greens should Bill Shorten [inaudible]?
CHAMPION: Well what an act of political cowardice from the Prime Minister. He's calculating that it would be better for the country for him not to be represented and his party not to be represented in a by-election. An act of extreme political cowardice, not just in the face of the Labor Party but in the face of the Greens. A sort of calculation that this will give the Greens a leg up when the Prime Minister and the rest of the Liberal Party always tell us that the Greens are worse than Genghis Kahn. Now they have got such little courage, such little backbone, that they will not even fly the flag in a by-election in Melbourne.
JOURNALIST: Isn't it just pragmatism?
CHAMPION: It's not pragmatism, it's cowardice. Political cowardice.
JOURNALIST: On the other matters related to by-elections. The Coalition's firmly behind its members while also calling for Susan Lamb to step down. Do you think that we'll see more referrals to the High Court?
CHAMPION: All the referrals should be a joint referral and anybody with a cloud over their head after the deceleration process that we went through last year should be jointly refereed. This should be a matter not of partisanship but of simply referring people to the umpire. That way we can get back to talking about jobs and wages, healthcare, schools, all the things my constituents care about. Frankly I never get asked about citizenship, except for the odd joke. What they want us to be doing is getting back to the job. And the easiest and quickest and most fair way to do that is through a joint referral. We've offered that up to the Government, they continue to play politics on this and seek partisan advantage when they really shouldn't. A joint referral would fix it up.
JOURNALIST: Mathias Cormann said this morning that the Government offered Bill Shorten a chance in August?
CHAMPION: That's not quite true. At the end of the last sitting, we moved a motion in the House. The Government could have come on board with that motion. It refereed everybody to the High Court, and the High Court could have decided. Instead what we had is the Government continually trying to calculate on this matter. The issues in Batman where they're not putting up a candidate in a very calculated and cynical fashion. That's a betrayal of their own voters in that seat. They've got thousands of people in that seat who want to vote Liberal and now won’t have a choice.