Aug 29, 2018

Transcript of Radio Interview – 5AA Two Tribes – Wednesday, 29 August, 2018

Subjects: Defence, Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce, Liberal Party, election, Parliament, cross benchers.

HOST: It’s a big good morning to the new Defence Minister Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese. Good morning.


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning gentlemen.

HOST: Chris, we should say first off congratulations on the promotion. However, it’s probably not the circumstances under which you would have wanted to be promoted.

PYNE: Obviously I am delighted to be the new Defence Minister and I’m looking forward to the challenge. But it wasn’t in the circumstances that I would have preferred. But that’s life and you have to get on with it.

HOST: How do you get on with it?

PYNE: Well I have some very important responsibilities. We are seeing in our region the growth or the return of great power competition between China and the United States, which is a particular challenge in foreign affairs and defence and also the economy. We have the biggest build-up of our military capability in our peace time history – $200 billion over the next ten years to maintain our military edge – and I am responsible for the oversight of that as the senior Minister in the portfolio. We are building our military-to-military relationships with countries like Japan, India, Indonesia, having a particular role in the South Pacific and we still have the ongoing issues around people who have been fighting in Iraq or in Syria returning to South-East Asia – as we saw in Marawi in the southern Philippines – and creating difficulties there. So it is a very exciting role. I am looking forward to it.

HOST: We get all of those portfolio challenges, but you know talking about all the various trouble spots and hot spots around the world, the biggest one in Australia has been in the Liberal party room in the last week and you’ve got people going on Four Corners still tipping buckets on each other. You’ve got people who are clearly deeply emotional about the events of last week. Some of them are saying that their hearts aren’t really in their jobs any more. How do you draw a line under that given that the hatreds were exposed for the entire nation to see?

PYNE: Well you’ve got a job to do for the Australian people. Being a Member of Parliament is not about yourself; it’s about serving others. And I’ve done it for 25 years and you have to pick yourself up and you’ve got to get on with it because the people that you are serving, they are the ones who you need to be interested in, not your own feelings or your own ups and downs. As the Frank Sinatra song says, you pick yourself up and get back in the race.

HOST: Albo, all the polling that has come out subsequent to the leadership dramas last week has Labor miles in front, people saying fait accompli the next election. How do you guard against a Scott Morrison resurgence? How do you guard against just getting complacent on your own side?

ALBANESE: First can I say congratulations to Christopher in terms of his promotion. I think that Christopher Pyne acted honourably last week in his dealings within his party. But it’s been a debacle, that’s the truth. And the Australian people are sick to death of it. I am in Darwin today. But wherever you go, anywhere in the country, people stop you to say they are angry about what’s become of their Government and I think moves like making Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce special envoys, whatever that means, which seems to mean that they get taxpayer-funded travel around, I think just rubs it in really. It’s time that some of those people frankly moved on and left the Parliament. They are so bitter.

HOST: Well on that point Albo, let’s put that to Christopher Pyne. You mentioned drawing a line under it. Can you draw a line under it as a party with chief agitator Tony Abbott still in the Parliament? Should he go?

PYNE: Well he has been re-preselected for the seat of Warringah. That is a matter for the electors of Warringah and it is obviously a good Liberal seat and they will re-elect him I hope, because I want the Morrison Government to be re-elected. He has a particular interest in indigenous affairs. When he was Prime Minister remember he used to spend a week a year working in an indigenous community building a school or whatever and Barnaby Joyce has a particular interest in the drought, farmers, the plight of farmers. So harnessing a positive energy from both of those men on behalf of the Australian people is a good and constructive move on behalf of the Prime Minister.

ALBANESE: Well that is a triumph of hope over experience really. The idea that these people are going to wake up this morning and say: “Oh boy, I was Prime Minister, now I couldn’t even make it to Parliamentary Secretary, I am an envoy. I will be constructive,’’ is just absurd frankly. These people have shown they are absolutely determined to wreck the Liberal Party, to wreck the Government, to wreck anything they don’t control and I think it is time that people actually assessed Tony Abbott. I keep hearing: “You know, but he was such a good Opposition Leader’’. Well, you know wrecking things is really easy. That’s what he did to his own Government, he did to the Turnbull Government, he helped to wreck the Labor Government, it’s true. But that doesn’t add anything to the national interest and my concern is that the Government when it  prorogued the Parliament essentially, stopped it sitting last week, I think at that point in time it really went too far and it was time essentially to call an election.

I think there should be an election. The Australian people should get a say in who the Prime Minister is and I think that should be done as a matter of urgency. It should be done this week basically. Parliament shouldn’t return because Scott Morrison doesn’t have a mandate to be the Prime Minister. He is someone who was essentially the Steven Bradbury of the Liberal Party race and, you know, good luck to him. I have a pretty good relationship with Scott and I am pleased for him as I am pleased for Christopher with his rise. But, you know, really the Australian people should be given a say.

HOST: Chris can I ask you have you made a decision yet about whether you will run again, because it did really strike me watching Four Corners the other night just how dispirited so many people feel after what was really a horror week and friendships tested and in some cases shredded. Do you ever just think stuff this for a joke, I have been there or almost three decades and have had enough?

PYNE: I have never thought stuff this for a joke, no. I have been re-preselected for the next term. Obviously, I have to face election. I intend to face election and be re-elected in Sturt. It will be my tenth election campaign. I very much enjoy working on behalf of the people of Sturt and in spite of whether you are a Cabinet Minister or the Deputy PM, as Anthony was in the last Rudd Government, the most important job you’ve got is representing the 110,000 people thereabouts in your electorate who support you or not support you at the election as their local member.  And that is my primary job. Everything else on top of that if you like is a bonus. I think I can make a contribution beyond being the local Member for Sturt but my first job is to be the Member for Sturt and  I continue to be into the future. I’m only 51. Let’s face it.

HOST: Yes you are very young.

PYNE: I am not as old as Anthony.

ALBANESE: Christopher will be running when he is 81.

PYNE: I’ll be walking slowly at 81.

ALBANESE: They will never get him out of there. And think about Caroline. I mean, you know …

PYNE: She doesn’t want me to come back home all the time.

ALBANESE: Exactly. Exactly. Think of the children.

HOST: Hey Christopher, to Albo’s point about him saying you guys should call an election now. As the Leader of Government Business in the House, are you confident that when Parliament resumes Monday week that you are going to be in a position to operate numerically; that you are going to be able to function as a Government?

PYNE: Yes I am. I think we will definitely be able to do that. Obviously I have had discussions with the crossbenchers and I am confident that they will continue to support us on matters of confidence and supply. Sure, there could be some votes that don’t go according to plan. When Anthony was the Manager of Government Business or the Leader of the House they lost 76 votes – 76 votes.

ALBANESE: But not one on legislation. We were there with 70 votes in the House of Representatives ….

HOST: Yes OK. Let’s not talk history, right now though, ….

ALBANESE: They are hopeless. They can’t run ….

HOST: … I just want clarify one thing. Are you clear yet on the status of Rebekha Sharkie’s vote as it comes to the guarantee of supply?

PYNE: Well I understand that Rebekha Sharkie and Cathy McGowan will meet individually with the Prime Minister. But my understanding is that while Rebekha will vote according to her conscience on matters of legislation and procedural matters, she hasn’t deviated from her position that she is prepared to support the Government on confidence and supply in order to maintain stability and that is certainly the case for Cathy McGowan and Kevin Hogan and Bob Katter. So four out of the six cross benchers have indicated, or I believe have indicated, they will not change their position on previous occasions that they would support us on confidence and supply.

HOST: Chris Pyne, Anthony Albanese, always great to catch up. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.