Subjects: John Howard, Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, marriage equality plebiscite.
FORDHAM: Christopher Pyne is the Minister for Defence Industry, Anthony Albanese the Shadow Minister for just about everything. Albo, good afternoon.
ALBANESE: Good afternoon.
FORDHAM: Christopher good afternoon.
PYNE: Good afternoon Ben and Anthony.
FORDHAM: Lovely to talk to you both on this very special occasion – the one year anniversary of the Turnbull Government, Happy birthday Christopher.
Thank you and I’m just sorry that Anthony didn’t get the chance to ask a question today. But he is like the man in the Iron Mask this guy; Bill won’t let him out into the public eye.
ALBANESE: I don’t think it can be said I have been quiet lately.
PYNE: If it wasn’t for me and all the media interviews you do with me around Australia, they’d be hiding you.
FORDHAM: They’ve even written a book about Albo recently.
ALBANESE: I’ve got a book and a beer, you are just jealous.
PYNE: Yes, I’m in your book.
FORDHAM: Now listen, George Brandis, the Attorney General has made a statement about Malcolm Turnbull in the Senate this afternoon. Now I think I’m going to give George Brandis the ‘getting ahead of himself just a little bit’ award for the day. Let’s have a listen to Attorney General George Brandis:
BRANDIS: Now this evening Senator Ketter there is a great event in this Parliament House, a great event. It is the launch of John Howard’s series on the great Robert Menzies. And I believe Senator Ketter that history will show that Mr Turnbull will rank with Sir Robert Menzies and the great John Howard as one of the great Australian Prime Ministers.
FORDHAM: So, Malcolm Turnbull up there with Sir Robert Menzies and John Howard.
ALBANESE: Well of course George Brandis hated John Howard. He called him a rodent.
PYNE: Rubbish, he denied that. Outrageous.
FORDHAM: Christopher, do you agree with that assessment from the Attorney General?
PYNE: Well I think Malcolm Turnbull will be a great Prime Minister and I think he has been in the last twelve months to be honest. I mean, we now have economic growth at 3.3, business confidence up, consumer confidence up. We’ve created over 200,000 jobs in the last twelve months. We did the national innovation and science agenda that I handed down in December last year.
We’ve attempted media ownership reform for the first time in over 20 years. He’s fixed the National Broadband Network. You know, we’ve actually been a very busy Government. And I think Malcolm Turnbull will go down in history as a great Prime Minister and I think he’ll have hopefully a lot more years there to do that job.
FORDHAM: Albo, I’ve got a feeling you may disagree?
ALBANESE: Well Malcolm Turnbull has a plan to get rid of Tony Abbott, but he hasn’t had a plan to govern. Tony Abbott said last week that the Government was in office, but not in power and certainly Malcolm Turnbull isn’t in power. He hasn’t been able to implement the things that he believes in, that he said he would do for so many years: action on climate change, action on public transport, support for marriage equality, support for the Republic. On all of these things, he is conflict with not only his own Party; he is in conflict with himself.
PYNE: But he’s just delivered the Omnibus Savings Bill today, with Labor’s support. Labor has finally got around to supporting their own savings measures they promised at the election.
ALBANESE: Well Labor fixed it up – Labor made it fair.
PYNE: The truth is, we were told by many people in the media, and by the Labor Party, we wouldn’t be able to get anything through the Senate, anything through the Parliament. And in the second sitting week, sitting day number five, we’ve actually got a major $6.3 billion worth of savings through the House of Representatives and it will go through the Senate.
FORDHAM: Sure, on the record of activity though, Christopher, Malcolm Turnbull has presided over the second lowest level of legislative activity of any recent first term PM. That’s the record.
PYNE: Well, congratulations, because thank god we’re not simply assuming that passing legislation is somehow doing work. Now Labor measures their success by how many bills and regulations they impose on the Australian people. We actually have days in this building, in this Parliament and the last Parliament where we abolish as much legislation and regulation as we can to get rid of red tape. So we don’t measure our success by whether we’ve imposed more rules and regulations on the Australian economy.
FORDHAM: Albo, are you guys still going to stand in the way of this plebiscite? It looks like you’re going to block it.
ALBANESE: Well, there is not a reason why the legislator shouldn’t do the job we’re elected to do. Why is this special? Why is this different from education, or health, or jobs, or the economy, or dealing with the myriad of issues that are frankly far more important to your listeners than…
FORDHAM: Because it’s more of a conscience – it’s a conscience issue.
ALBANESE: Well, have a vote, have a vote. There will be a Parliamentary vote anyway.
FORDHAM: But on a conscience issue like this, I don’t know. We’re going to have a vote.
ALBANESE: There should be a conscience vote.
FORDHAM: Well why can’t we all have a say? That’s the promise we were given at the last election. We were promised we would all get a say.
ALBANESE: Are you saying that it’s more important than whether we go to war, what happens with education, what happens with our economy? I think that’s an absurd argument. The only reason why this is there is because of the conflict between Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull and Malcolm Turnbull had to do this deal with the right of his own Party and say that he would agree with this, even though he is on the record saying he supports a conscience vote of the Parliament.
FORDHAM: Christopher, there is no guarantee this plebiscite will happen. Can you acknowledge that?
PYNE: There’s one very good reason why it should happen and why Anthony Albanese’s completely wrong about there being no reason to have it. And that is that at the election, we got elected. We got a mandate for a plebiscite.
ALBANESE: Are you saying that’s the only reason why people voted? Well we’ve got a mandate to vote against it.
PYNE: No you haven’t, you lost the election. That’s the point.
ALBANESE: We’ve got a mandate – I got elected. Have a look tomorrow; you’ll see me across the Chamber.
PYNE: Don’t try change the definition of mandate. We all know what it means. It means that the public voted for the Government…
ALBANESE: I have a mandate, you have a mandate.
PYNE: No, the people voted for the Government’s platform. The platform included a plebiscite.
ALBANESE: People didn’t vote for the Government’s platform. If you had 51 per cent of the primary vote you could argue that. The truth is, you didn’t…
PYNE: You’re just splitting hairs. The simple truth is the Coalition won the election.
ALBANESE: Which is why you don’t have the numbers in terms of the Parliament to get this through.
PYNE: The Coalition won the election and we went to the election with a plebiscite as our policy, and it was endorsed by the public. And you’re standing in the way because you don’t think the Australian public are smart enough to be able to have a say on a big social change like marriage equality.
ALBANESE: No I don’t think $170 million should be spent on a talkfest and an opinion poll when there will still have to be a vote of the Parliament afterwards. It won’t change anything.
PYNE: Bill Shorten and you, by supporting him on this, are basically saying to the public, well Bill Shorten’s said it; that this will be a homophobic debate. Essentially he is saying that the public out there in their homes, when they go to vote, when they have these discussions, cannot have this in an orderly, civil way. And I think that’s massively insulting. There’s absolutely no reason why the public shouldn’t have a say on this massive social change and they can do it maturely because they’re Australian.
ALBANESE: But it’s not a massive social change. It will have no impact on you or me, or Ben. All it will do is give a group of people who currently don’t have the right to enjoy the fruits of marriage that we have, the celebration in front of their family and friends.
PYNE: Well the plebiscite will pass. Let the people have a say.
ALBANESE: We’ve had that – it’s called Newspoll. We know what people think. It’s a poll- at $170 million.
FORDHAM: All this talk of marriage equality, love is in the air by the sound of this.
PYNE: I hope so. We need a lot more marriage, a lot more love in the air.
ALBANESE: That’s right, why if you support marriage wouldn’t you want more people to be a part of it?
PYNE: I want more marriage. Exactly, I’m in favour of the marriage equality plebiscite.
FORDHAM: Alright you two, time out. You’re off. I’ll talk to you soon, thank you very much. There’s Anthony Albanese and Christopher Pyne, trying to sort through the mess in Canberra.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.