Subjects: Pauline Hanson; housing affordability; Budget.
HOST: Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese join us for Two Tribes on this Wednesday morning, International Women’s Day. Anthony Albanese, good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
HOST: And Christopher Pyne, good morning.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Will.
HOST: We’ll kick off with you if we can Chris. Now you’d remember very well this time 20 years ago Prime Minister John Howard was under a fair degree of pressure to come up with some kind of strategy to deal with Pauline Hanson. There was discussion around whether he should attack her – get on the front foot, and start denouncing her policies – or whether he should just try to avoid giving a running commentary on everything that she said. What is the strategy now with the resurgent One Nation Leader?
PYNE: Well the strategy that John Howard adopted which was ultimately successful and which we have adopted as well was to explain that while Pauline Hanson can highlight problems, she can’t actually highlight solutions – she doesn’t have the solutions to those issues. So she is really a grievance box as opposed to a person with executive power who can make a difference and I think we are starting to see with some of her comments in the last couple of days that she has views that I don’t think are necessarily mainstream like on vaccination, for example, where she is prepared to open the door to some of the wilder conspiracy theories on vaccination which Anthony and I have been dealing with for, in my case 24 years and in his case 21 years with people who make wild claims about vaccination and quite frankly put children and those who are in contact with children at risk.
HOST: What’s your assessment, Albo, of the manner in which she is being handled at the moment? It was quite a successful a successful strategy in the end by the Howard Government in 2001. Ron Boswell the Nationals senator who had done a great job documenting some of the rattier positions that One Nation was taking. He ended up beating her in what effectively came down to a head to head battle for a Senate spot. Do you think that she is, is she a harder person to tackle this time around?
ALBANESE: Well I think her views are pretty much the same. We’ve seen that – her views, that she has a right to have, but she’s just wrong and it is important that people in mainstream politics are prepared to point that out. John Howard of course also said and did put her last on ballot papers – her party. That isn’t happening in Western Australia. She is in fact receiving the Liberal Party’s preferences before the National Party. So I think that is a mistake frankly by the Liberal Party to do that. I think in terms of her views, people need to just point out, soberly, where they are wrong. Christopher has just done that with regard to vaccinations but with regard to her views that would divide the community, she is just wrong as well. She was wrong when she said Asians were swamping Australia 20 years ago. She is wrong now when she says Muslims are swamping Australia. I think most Australians when they take a step back, judge people according to the nature of their character, not their background and it’s important that we as a society, if we are going to stay harmonious, continue to do that.
HOST: We’ll turn our attention Christopher Pyne to the upcoming Budget. The Treasurer has put on the agenda housing affordability and a package of reforms to deal with that that will be announced in the lead-up to the Budget. The contentious issue appears to be changes to Capital Gains Tax. Where do you stand on reform to that particular element of this housing affordability situation?
PYNE: Well Will, we’re not in favour of putting up taxes and Labor …
HOST: But are you in favour to changes to Capital Gains Tax as it currently operates.
PYNE: Now that’s not our policy. Labor wants to put up the taxes …
HOST: No, no, no. Is that your position? What’s your position on Capital Gains Tax?
PYNE: Our position is not to change Capital Gains Tax on housing. Labor wants to …
HOST: And that won’t change in the Budget?
PYNE: We’ll you’ll see everything in the Budget and as you know it’s a very old-fashioned rule that you don’t rule things in and you don’t rule things out in budgets. But our policy is not to increase the Capital Gains Tax or negative gearing changes. That’s Labor’s policy. We believe that there are a whole raft of things you can do about housing affordability and the most important is to create more supply of land and housing for people who want to buy houses. The problem is that the state Labor governments have restricted supply and as a consequence, it’s just basic economics – if you have less supply and more demand you push up the prices.
HOST: Anthony Albanese, is the sum of Labor’s position when it comes to aiding housing affordability going to remain axing negative gearing or is there more to come?
ALBANESE: Well, that’s not the sum of our policy at all, David. That’s one element …
HOST: You can blame me for that one, Albo.
PYNE: They are like Bib and Bob though, Anthony.
ALBANESE: David would probably have been wrong as well I think it is fair to say.
HOST: But in Will’s defence, that has been your big headline-grabbing policy though, hasn’t it Albo?
ALBANESE: Absolutely it has. But that’s not it. We also agree with issues of housing supply and one of the objectives indeed of our negative gearing/Capital Gains Tax changes is to boost supply because you would still be able to negatively gear properties – new properties bought, which were new, not existing properties. So what you would see is the investment market turn towards new properties rather than old properties. And what’s happening at the moment is that, you know, I feel sorry for young people turning up to auctions and they’ve got to compete against investors and John Alexander to his credit has pointed that out. Indeed the Government, this time last year, before we came out with our policy, the Government was saying there were excesses in negative gearing. There are. They need to be dealt with and that’s just one element. We also need to deal with social housing as well. We need to deal with homelessness. We need to deal with it comprehensively across the board. And just statements about supply are one thing; you need to have a strategy to actually do that.
HOST: Chris more broadly on the framing of the Budget I notice that in an interview with The Australian a few days ago Scott Morrison talked about some of the really super-ambitious and politically draining attempts that you guys made in your first Budget when Joe Hockey was still Treasurer and Mr Abbott was PM to make those huge savings and he seemed to be suggesting that you guys don’t have the stomach for a huge fight again with the Senate particularly when logic would tell you that making huge savings is not going to get past the House anyway. Is that a bit of a change in direction for the Government?
PYNE: Well you’ve got to be politically sensible and in the 2014 Budget the then Prime Minister and Treasurer proposed a whole range of changes which we hadn’t taken to the election and the Senate blocked and they became what was called zombie legislation. In other words, it never likely to be passed and still sat on the books. Now Mathias Cormann and Scott Morrison have methodically gone about dealing with those issues and either removed them from consideration or managed to get them passed in a modified form. They are getting on with sensible government. That’s what you have to do, The Australian public gave us a Senate that we don’t control, which is the normal situation, and we have to work with the crossbenchers or the Greens or the Labor Party to pass legislation.
HOST: Do you think that sort of lingering sense that you guys are a bit too hard or a bit too tough in terms of the provision of services; is that one of the things that helps explain this 10-point gap that has come about and is this new strategy that seems to be taking shape ahead of this Budget something that you will use to turn that decline around?
PYNE: Well you know polls come and go and there’s not an election for two and half years so you know I am not focused on the polls. I am focused on creating jobs and investment in the defence industry and re-skilling the workforce and doing the infrastructure we need down at Osborne to be able to build submarines and ships. Polls will take care of themselves eventually but we are going about the normal process of government for a Budget and that’s what Scott Morrison is doing as the Treasurer – it’s steady as she goes. I think we are going to see the outcomes from that kind of approach. We’ve had a record increase in jobs. The last quarter in terms of the national accounts showed a bouncing back in terms of growth much above what was expected by the markets and for the first time in living memory defence industry showed up as one of the drivers of the economy. So we are doing the job that we are supposed to be doing and we have to balance the Budget – something Labor obviously never achieved and in fact hasn’t achieved since 1989. We are the party that balances the Budget, that doesn’t increase taxes to do so and lives within our means.
HOST: Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese, thanks you both for joining us for Two Tribes.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.