Subjects: Parliament, welfare reform, Gillian Triggs.
FORDHAM: Well when we need to feel better about ourselves and our jobs we take a peek into the lives of Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese who just a short time ago were yelling at each other across the dispatch box in Question Time in Parliament. Now they are together as one on the airwaves to talk to us this afternoon. Christopher Pyne, hello.
PYNE: Ben, how are you?
FORDHAM: I’m very well. Were you kicked out of Parliament today?
PYNE: Absolutely not. I haven’t been kicked out of Parliament since this Parliament began.
FORDHAM: That’s because you have the Speaker on your side.
PYNE: No, it’s because I’m behaving myself.
FORDHAM: Anthony Albanese, good afternoon.
FORDHAM: Have you been kicked out today?
ALBANESE: No I haven’t today. The Speaker did kick out Brendan O’Connor who was sitting next to me, which raises her toll well above 300 on one side and about three on the other.
PYNE: Well the Labor Party are behaving badly and I have to say that my record has now been broken by a fellow called Nick Champion, you could be forgiven for never having heard of him, he’s the Member for Wakefield in South Australia. He’s passed my record and he’s passed Anthony’s record so neither of us are in the box seat for the record of being thrown out.
FORDHAM: I’ll tell you what, I was tuned in today, obviously I’m interested in politics and I love watching what’s going on and my listeners love it but you get to a point you just go, look this is too much, you can’t actually hear the person who’s at the dispatch box because of all the noise in the background.
PYNE: Yeah it’s true. The Labor Party are very badly behaved.
ALBANESE: Christopher of course sees everything as being one way. The truth is that the Parliament isn’t functioning terribly well. We don’t have any answers to questions from Government ministers. You have a very one sided interpretation of the rules. And that means I think there has been a lack of respect for processes. I agree it’s a problem on both sides.
FORDHAM: It was woeful when you were in Government and it is woeful now that Christopher’s now in Government.
PYNE: But Ben I’ve got to say this. We have actually sat last year for more weeks than since 1991 with me as Leader of the House.
ALBANESE: And you still haven’t gotten the Budget through.
PYNE: We’ve had 300 out of our 400 programs are through both houses of Parliament but that’s just a lamo statement from Anthony Albanese.
ALBANESE: You’re just whinging your Budget hasn’t passed.
PYNE: We have had more questions answered than since 1997.
FORDHAM: Hey, hey, hey! You’ve had your time to argue in Question Time.
PYNE: Fair enough.
FORDHAM: Ok. Let’s talk about our social security system. I mentioned this morning, well I was mentioning on air this afternoon, every morning now that I’m not in TV in the morning anymore I get to live a normal life, relatively, and I wander up the road to get a coffee, and I wander past Centrelink and every morning there is a queue of people waiting outside, waiting for the moment the door opens and I was watching them this morning. I then cast my eyes to everyone who’s marching off to work for the day and we have these statistics that 8 out of 10 taxpayers go to work to solely support the system and while some of these people, most of these people are all deserving, the help they’re receiving, there are clearly people gaming the system and today we’re told that that is going to change Christopher. Scott Morrison stopped the boats, can he stop the rorts?
PYNE: Scott Morrison is a very talented and able Minister in a very good Government and he did stop the boats. Labor said it couldn’t be done. Labor said it was absolutely impossible to stop the boats. Well, he stopped them. We went down from 800 boats arriving under Labor with 50,000 illegal arrivals to none. And now the job has been given to him by the Prime Minister is to make sure that that those people who are being supported by Centrelink and as you say, many of them are entirely deserving, are getting what they deserve and not any more than that. Obviously the Australian taxpayer is very happy to support people who are on perhaps difficult times or have disabilities etc, but they have to make sure that they’re getting what they deserve and no more than that.
FORDHAM: Alright, let me bring you in Anthony Albanese. Eight out of ten taxpayers now go to work solely to support the welfare system. How is that sustainable?
ALBANESE: I’m not sure that’s right, that 80% of Australian taxes do nothing but support the welfare system. People go to work to support themselves, of course, but I certainly agree with you that if people are not entitled to payments they shouldn’t receive them. The other thing is that people should be encouraged to get into work. Work achieves not just an economic benefit but creates a more fulfilling life – for your kids, for people around you in your local community. One of the big problems that we have is clusters of disadvantage whereby young people can grow up not knowing people who do go to work each day, who do work hard and that can create a real problem in terms of their ability to look forward to a better life. I support people getting payments who deserve it. I also am concerned that with this welfare reform that’s being proposed that people shouldn’t just have their payments cut. That shouldn’t be an excuse. If people are deserving of payments they should get them. I grew up as I think you know Ben, it was just myself and my mother, she was an invalid pensioner, she had rheumatoid arthritis that was acute. She simply couldn’t work.
FORDHAM: People like your mum need to be protected.
FORDHAM: And that’s why when you’ve got other people who are lining up behind them and beside them taking the you-know-what and we all know that there is a section of those recipients who are doing it. The other thing today is the simplicity of the thing. They’re talking about simplifying. You go through the list here which is 27 allowances, 19 supplements, 9 payments, 5 different pensions, 4 assistances, 3 benefits, 2 scholarships, 2 bonuses, 2 different schemes – it is a very confusing system. Anyhow, we’ll leave Scott Morrison to sort that one out. Can I ask you both about Gillian Triggs briefly; the war between the Australian Human Rights Commission president, Gillian Triggs, and the Government seems to be intensifying. There’s talk about the AFP have been asked to investigate whether a job offer in exchange for her resignation broke the Criminal Code. The Government is standing by their claim, Christopher Pyne, that Gillian Triggs was biased.
PYNE: Well, I think the Government certainly is not at war with the Human Rights Commission or Gillian Triggs. But I think we were shocked, and most Australians were shocked, that when Labor had 2000 children in detention, Gillian Triggs talked to Ministers Burke and Bowen about launching an inquiry into children in detention and decided that it was politically motivated and shouldn’t go ahead. And yet under this government we now have 200 children in detention having got 1800 out that Labor put in there and the Human Rights Commission decided now was the time to do an inquiry into children in detention. I think that is passing strange.
FORDHAM: She shouldn’t have had that conversation while the Government was in caretaker mode should she Anthony Albanese, with Burke and Bowen?
ALBANESE: Well this is a Government that sees everything as being about them. This is actually a report that is about the children. It actually doesn’t …
FORDHAM: I understand that but just on my question, she shouldn’t have had that conversation when the Government was in caretaker mode should have she?
ALBANESE: People talk to politicians but she makes her own decision as a statutory officeholder. It is outrageous – the attack on an independent body. She made that decision and she alone. The suggestion somehow that she acted as a partisan person: if you look at her report it is critical of the regime in terms of the treatment of children under both this Government and the former Government. That’s the truth.
FORDHAM: But talking to a couple of ministers, talking to a couple of ministers about the timing of such an inquiry while the Government is in caretaker mode.
ALBANESE: Who says that that happened?
PYNE: Well, it hasn’t been denied.
ALBANESE: Who says that that happened?
FORDHAM: It hasn’t been denied.
ALBANESE: Well I wasn’t there and you weren’t there either and nor was Christopher.
FORDHAM: Well, the allegation has been made by the Attorney-General George Brandis and it hasn’t been denied.
ALBANESE: Well George makes lots of nonsense. What we know is that the head of his Department told Senate Estimates yesterday that he was basically instructed by the Attorney to go off and say to Gillian Triggs: Well the Government doesn’t have confidence in you. We think you should go. But there’s another job which was specifically offer to her.
PYNE: No, That’s has been specifically denied.
ALBANESE: No it hasn’t.
PYNE: It has. It was denied by the Foreign Minister today in the chamber.
ALBANESE: He said this and I will quote him: “In that respect, the Government would be prepared to consider positively a senior legal role for her, which I specifically mentioned’’.
FORDHAM: But hang on.
ALBANESE: (Inaudible) …. and Nick Greiner lost his job over it.
FORDHAM: Anthony this happens everywhere. I mean this happens in just about every industry, particularly in high profile ones where you can say to the person listen we don’t want you running this department anymore because we’ve got some concerns over you. We’re not going to put you out on the dole queue. We’re going to move you to this other position. Are you happy with that?
ALBANESE: There is a reason why statutory officers can’t be replaced when governments change, just as judges can’t be replaced, so that they are independent of the political process.
PYNE: A moment ago Anthony was saying that this should be about the children, not about the politics and now all he has done is talked about the inside the beltway stuff. The simple truth is the Government should be congratulated for getting 1800 children out of detention. It should be congratulated for stopping the boats.
FORDHAM: Are you happy to congratulate the Government over that, Anthony?
ALBANESE: I am happy where there are less people in detention.
FORDHAM: So congratulations?
ALBANESE: No, I also want a proper response to this report, not the sort of extraordinary attacks on Gillian Triggs and the Human Rights Commission that have taken place and that are now the subject of an AFP investigation.
FORDHAM: Gentlemen, we’ll talk next week. Thank you very much.
PYNE: Look forward to it.
ALBANESE: See you then.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.