Feb 4, 2015

Transcript of radio interview 2GB with Ben Fordham & Christopher Pyne

Subjects: Liberal leadership; Julie Bishop; Malcolm Turnbull; Tom Uren State Funeral

FORDHAM: That’s right, Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese joining us every Wednesday on Sydney live. Christopher Pyne, good afternoon.

PYNE: Good afternoon Ben and good afternoon Anthony.

FORDHAM:  Anthony Albanese, good afternoon to you sir.

ALBANESE:  G’day Ben, g’day Christopher.

FORDHAM: Once upon a time Christopher, you would have a field day about Labor leadership, this time it’s you guys in focus. The latest today is that we’ve had Malcolm Turnbull accused of doing the ring around and canvassing backbenchers for support. He’s come out to say that’s not the case. You’ve also revealed today that Julie Bishop is a little bit miffed that her loyalty is being questioned. I’ll tell you what, from the outside looking in, it doesn’t look good.

PYNE: Look, it’s not a week that we’d like to see repeated over and over again and neither was last week and I think I said that last week too, so it something that needs to be put behind us and people need to get on with the job of putting the Australian people’s interests first which means jobs, means looking after families and the Prime Minister started to outline that in his National Press Club speech on Monday around childcare reform and small business tax relief etcetera so that is what we should be doing. I can tell you categorically that Malcolm Turnbull has not been ringing colleagues and canvassing for support because I asked him myself point blank and he told me that it was not true, so I can tell you it was not true.

FORDHAM: When was that conversation?

PYNE: Today, of course, after I’d seen the reports.

FORDHAM: What time?

PYNE: Well.. what.. late in the morning. I don’t know the exact time. It was late in the morning.

FORDHAM: I’m interested how a conversation like that plays out. Tell us about it.

PYNE: Haha! No. It was a private conversation.

FORDHAM: Well you’ve just revealed the contents of it?

PYNE: Well there you go.  You’ve got it. You’ve got it. An exclusive on your radio show Ben.

FORDHAM: Let me go if I can to you Anthony Albanese, be honest, are you guys sitting back rubbing your hands together saying its nice that someone else can experience what we’ve gone through for the past few years?

ALBANESE: Christopher is certainly right that Australians deserve better than this and this shouldn’t be the focus of the government. They just don’t have a plan to govern. They had a plan to get there – it was the three word slogans and repeating the mantra, and they were pretty successful at it. They won the election by a considerable margin. But since then, there’s no narrative to this government, there’s no purpose for this government, and it’s not surprising that it’s collapsing in and on itself at the moment. It’s an extraordinary performance. It’s only been just over a year since they were elected. This is a government at war with itself.

FORDHAM: Their efforts have not been helped by you guys in the Senate, and others in the Senate by blocking just about everything they’ve tried to put through there, particularly key Budget measures, I mean, people wanting to go to the doctor and pay five bucks just to go and see a doctor, things that most Australians would say well okay, if we have to cop that medicine we will if it’s for the greater good, but you guys ran a very effective campaign against it. You haven’t helped.

ALBANESE: Two points there Ben. The first is that Medicare, we believe, should be paid for through the tax system so that I should pay more than average punters out there listening to your program on $65,000 a year. And we believe that’s the appropriate system. We don’t believe that you move to a system whereby you get better care the more money you pay. We don’t believe in undermining the universality of Medicare. The government said very clearly prior to the election, there’d be no changes, “hands off Medicare”, it would stay the same. The other thing that’s quite extraordinary is the narrative that said this was about Budget savings. They’ve said the money will go to a medical fund that no one heard about until Budget night, so it has no impact on the Budget in terms of the Budget bottom line. This is an example of how the Government just hasn’t thought things through. They’re undermined by an examination of the detail of their own argument.

FORDHAM: Let me underline that word, undermine, and flick it back to you Christopher Pyne, and ask you why are the likes of Dennis Jensen and Warren Entsch, why are they trying to undermining the Prime Minister just 24 hours after he tried to reset the agenda at the National Press Club, and what do you make of their behavior and why isn’t anyone going hard at them over that. I mean, if it’s treachery, why don’t you call it treachery?

PYNE: Well Ben the important thing is that people feel that they’re included in the Government so going out and calling a backbencher a traitor wouldn’t exactly be a good start to that conversation. I as a Cabinet Minister and as Leader of the House as the Education Minister, I try to engage with the backbench on a daily basis as Leader of the House. I have an education hour once a week when Parliament is sitting so my colleagues can come and sit down and talk to me about issues in education as well of course dealing with all the correspondence that they send me.

ALBANESE: I wouldn’t mind coming to that Christopher.

PYNE: You’d be very welcome, Anthony, you’ve got quite a lot of problems; it could take more than an hour I think to go through all your problems.

FORDHAM: Why did you feel the need Christopher Pune to ask Malcolm Turnbull whether he had been canvassing the backbench?

PYNE: Because I was sitting next to him at the time and I saw the report of the tweet from Julia Baird so I thought that I should ask him and he told me. I mean why on earth wouldn’t I? Malcolm and I are very good friends, we’re not sitting here in a monastery where you can’t speak to each other.

FORDHAM: I feel a bit sorry for Julie Bishop’s loyalty being questioned. I gather from your comments today Christopher Pyne that she’s quite annoyed about the whole thing.

PYNE: I think Julie has been unfairly maligned in the press by some of the stories suggesting that she was not being as loyal as she should have been. The truth is that she has been a steadfast deputy for seven or eight years and she quite rightly felt that she shouldn’t have her loyalty being questioned.

FORDHAM: If I can go to you Mr Albanese you’ve have a pretty heavy day, Labor party figure and a good friend of yours Tom Uren has been farewelled today at a State Funeral at Sydney Town Hall. Can you tell us about that send off today and I’m gathering that it’s continuing in some way, shape or form?

ALBANESE: It was a wonderful sendoff and Tom Uren was someone who even people who disagreed with some of his views respected him. He fought for this nation being a Prisoner of War for four years to the Japanese, suffering the deprivation and trauma that occurred to people who worked on the Burma-Siam Railway. It was actually fantastic to see today at his funeral, someone from the other side of politics, Sir John Carrick, who also served, a great figure in the Liberal Party, a giant of Australian politics, there he was, aged 96 at Tom’s funeral. He came along with former Prime Minister John Howard. It was a wonderful send off to Tom and it was one that he deserved. Tom was a man of conviction, a man of principle. He was much loved. He made an extraordinary contribution over 93 years – defending Australia, as a sportsman, as a parliamentarian and as a political activist.

FORDHAM: It is nice to see when both sides of politics can put their differences aside for one common goal, sadly it sometimes takes a funeral to get you all together but not you two, you’re here every single week.

PYNE: Can I just say that I know Tom Uren was a particular favourite of Anthony’s and in fact I tweeted soon after his death that I passed on my condolences but also noted that he was a particular favourite of Anthony’s and it’s because I think he was a politician of conviction and that is exactly what people respect. I don’t think people always need to agree with you but if you seem have the courage of your convictions I think that goes a long way.

FORDHAM: Well said, good to talk to you both, we’ll chat to you again next week.

ALBANESE: Indeed we will.

FORDHAM: Anthony Albanese and Christopher Pyne.