Jun 6, 2014

Transcript interview on the Today Show

Subject/s: Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal leadership, Budget, Clive Palmer

WILKINSON: Well, they say a week is a long time in politics and for the Coalition by any measure this one has been a doozy, all set off by last week’s dinner between Clive Palmer and Malcolm Turnbull. Now the Communications Minister has reportedly infuriated colleagues overnight after failing to fully discount leadership speculation while Prime Minister Tony Abbott is overseas. Take a look.

TURNBULL: It is a straight question but I don’t think there is any member of the House of Representatives who, if, in the right circumstances, would not take on that responsibility. But I am very, very happy doing what I’m doing.

WILKINSON: Malcolm Turnbull there. Well, we’re joined by Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese. Good morning to both of you.

ALBANESE: Good morning.

PYNE: Good morning Lisa.

WILKINSON: Christopher, I will start with you. Is Malcolm Turnbull right?  Do you all harbour leadership ambitions?

PYNE: I certainly don’t and Malcolm made it quite clear last night (laughter). I can’t get a word out.

WILKINSON: You’re talking to me Christopher. You are talking to me.

PYNE:  You and 500,000 Australians. No I don’t think … Malcolm made it perfectly clear last night he thinks his leadership capacity is between nil and negligible in terms of being leader again and I think he ruled it out pretty well.

WILKINSON: He did go onto say that you can never say never in politics. I’m paraphrasing. But he said you never know what will happen in the future because politics is a changing game.

PYNE: I think that question has no right answer from when you are asked about leadership ambitions. Whatever you say feeds speculation. I think Malcolm made it perfectly clear he believes his chances of being leader again are between nil and negligible, which is not much less than that. The leadership ambitions that are on display in Canberra are the ones between old people’s choice over here and the factions’ choice Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek of course is in the background as well. I mean Labor has not settled their leadership because Anthony Albanese won the people’s vote from the branch members and Bill won the faction’s vote from the caucus and until they resolve that on our side of the House Tony Abbott’s both the people’s choice and the party’s choice.

WILKINSON: Although Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull in a popularity competition Malcolm Turnbull seems to win every time. Would Malcolm Turnbull eventually make a good Prime Minister?

PYNE: Look Malcolm has been the leader and that has ended and he’s happy being the Communications Minister. He’s doing an excellent job and I think he’s been selling the Budget as well as anybody in the Government.

WILKINSON: So why would Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones, both strong conservative supporters, attack Malcolm Turnbull. It all looks very uncohesive. Do you think he was right when he called them bullies last night?

PYNE: Well I think that’s a good question for Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones to answer.

WILKINSON: But from the sidelines, were you shocked by their level and depth of attack?

PYNE: I’m not really on the sidelines. I’m in the leadership group of the Coalition.

WILKINSON: Well then you would have an opinion.

PYNE:  So my view is that Malcolm is doing a fantastic job, he’s a great member of the team. I think the whole team is working well.

WILKINSON: But that was very unhelpful.

PYNE: Which bit was unhelpful?

WILKINSON: Well Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones. It‘s really divided the party.

PYNE: Andrew and Alan have to make their own decisions. They’re not members of our party room, they are independent media commentators and how they see things is a matter for them. My view is Malcolm is doing a sensational job as Communications Minister, he’s doing a great job as a member of the advocates of the Coalition and he should be allowed to get on with his job.

WILKINSON: Anthony Albanese, you must be loving this.

ALBANESE: Well, the fact that Christopher has said that Tony Abbott’s the people’s choice. The last poll showed that Tony Abbott was not only less popular than Malcolm Turnbull, but “don’t know’’ and “someone else’’ got more votes than Tony Abbott as preferred leader of the Liberal Party. Christopher got…

PYNE: I got 1%.

ALBANESE:  It was actually less than 1%.

PYNE: That was the Today Show staff.

ALBANESE:  You were you an asterisk Christopher, I’m afraid. Sometimes it’s best to not be in the poll.

PYNE: He is cruel, isn’t he?

WILKINSON: There is talk though this morning, I mean, we have one of the front pages here, of a possible cabinet reshuffle. Is that on the cards?

PYNE: No, it certainly isn’t.

WILKINSON: Definitely not?

PYNE: Definitely not. Just more speculation. We’re trying to get on with the Budget ….

ALBANESE: The reason why this is an issue, to get away from all the personalities, is that they’ve had a shocker of a budget. If the budget had had any credibility, any common decency, other than attacking the Australian values on education, on health support for Medicare, on pensions, then you wouldn’t have this speculation. It’s because they have got the policy wrong that the personality issues are rising to the fore.

WILKINSON: What do you think of the sideshow politics that are going on at the moment with Clive Palmer?

ALBANESE: Well that’s a part of it as well. Clive Palmer is a populist. Clive Palmer is a former life member of the LNP. He knows this is a shocker. It’s a shocker particularly in regional Australia. Who voted for a new tax on petrol? Who voted for a cut to pensions? Who voted for a charge every time you go to the doctor? Who voted for cuts to education? Nobody and Clive Palmer knows that. So he is, he’s an opportunist, he’s trying to fill a gap that is there of people who are traditional Coalition supporters who are angry with them, and the dinner with Malcolm Turnbull, I suspect, was just part of feeding into that.

WILKINSON: Well we’re just a couple of weeks away from the big change in the Senate where we know that Clive Palmer is going to get control of the Senate and his party. So I would like you both to finish off with this sentence: Clive Palmer taking over control of the Senate fills me with…

PYNE: Hope for the future.


ALBANESE: He is already trying to suck up.

PYNE: Is that how you are finishing the sentence?

WILKINSON: It probably works.

ALBANESE: With concern.

WILKINSON: So you have hope for the future with Clive Palmer having that sort of control?

PYNE: I have hope for the future Lisa that a new Senate not controlled by the Green left, which it has been under Labor and the Greens will recognise the need to do things like balance the Budget, to live within our means, to deliver the kind of taxes and infrastructure that we need in Australia.

WILKINSON: You would trust that to Clive Palmer?

PYNE: I think that the Senate will work very well with the Government. In higher education in my area, for example, I’m looking forward to working with them to bring about reform to the higher education sector because we are getting on with the job.  Anthony Albanese has never delivered a tough budget.

ALBANESE: I’ll make this point. This is karma coming home. For the last parliament they said we don’t negotiate with anyone, we don’t deal with anyone, how  dare Labor talk to the crossbenchers. Guess what they are not only talking to them they are taking them to dinner.

WILKINSON: Thank you both gentlemen, have a good weekend.