TONY JONES: Now when you talked all this over with Mr Howard after taking your soundings, was Mrs Howard there as well?Not any more, it doesn't. [UPDATE: Sorry, I mistakenly thought this referred to the ministers meeting discussing the leadership, but actually it's about when Downer reported those discussions back to Howard. More coffee helps...].
ALEXANDER DOWNER: I'm not going into personal details of meetings I have with anybody, be it John Howard or President Bush (laughs) or President Putin (laughs) or President Yeltsin, in years gone by, (laughs) whoever it may be, I'm not going into that.
TONY JONES: Not even who was present at the meetings?
ALEXANDER DOWNER: It doesn't matter. (dead serious silence)
Downer's quote comes from this Lateline interview. Tony Jones did a good job of making Downer squirm, with some tough questions like this:
TONY JONES: Do you think, just to sort of finalise this issue, I mean you really think though it is what the founders intended and what the voters want, to see a Parliament so completely dominated by the majority Government that they can orchestrate proceedings pretty much at will, and that the Speaker seems to back them on that?And some honest brokering like this:
ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, with the greatest of respect, I think that's ... not that I would accuse you of this, but that is putting the question from a very Labor perspective. I ... sorry, to tell you, I've been a member of Parliament for a very long time, I'll never forget, I will never forget the abominable way the Parliament was abused during the Hawke and Keating years... [blah blah]
TONY JONES: You mentioned earlier [Rudd] was pinged on not having the detail in his head about the tax rates. You've got them in your head have you?Downer also criticizes Rudd for what was or was not discussed during his 45-minute off the record talk with Bush at APEC. Hypocrisy reigns supreme as Downer refuses to reveal details of his own meetings with the PM:
ALEXANDER DOWNER: Yeah, well I'm not aspiring to be the Prime Minister. But I mean, that of course is not a trick question, it's a predictable question so maybe it's not fair to ask me, but I know that the highest tax threshold comes in at $150,000, it goes up to.
TONY JONES: Could you actually go backwards and do them all like the Treasurer did in Parliament today? You're checking your notes...(laughs)
ALEXANDER DOWNER: (laughs) I do myself attest that I think you'll find that the next threshold, the 40-cent rate comes in at $75,000.
TONY JONES: Don't look down, don't look down. Not allowed to look...
ALEXANDER DOWNER: Don't look down. I think I know them pretty well. I think you'll find that the 30-cent rate, that comes in at about $30,000. But I mean, I'm not trying to be the Prime Minister...
TONY JONES: Alexander Downer, I'll relieve you from having to look down at that bit of paper that's obviously got the tax rates written on in front of you.
ALEXANDER DOWNER: (laughs) Not at all, how can you be so cynical?
ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, I'm not going into what I personally thought or said and you probably won't even read that in my memoirs, I'm a foreign minister, you know, discretion comes very naturally to me, I don't go into what I privately think and say to people. It doesn't get you anywhere, but I think I could put ...
TONY JONES: It might get you quite a good price from a publisher if you do want to write everything that you know into those memoirs.
ALEXANDER DOWNER: I hate to spoil my own prospects, but I really don't respect the kiss-and-tell approach to public life at all, not at all.