Subjects: Clive Palmer, minor political parties, ABC, by-elections, Lucy Gichuhi, GST, Wayne Swan.
OLIVER PETERSON: It’s time we bring in two of the heavy hitters of Australian politics, none other than senior Government Minister Christopher Pyne. Good afternoon.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Ollie, how are you going?
PETERSON: I am very well. It’s good to be speaking with you and good to also have on the line senior Labor MP Anthony Albanese. G’day.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Greetings from a very cold and wet Canberra.
PETERSON: I’m sure it is. It’s been a little wet over here as well in Perth so maybe we’ve got a little bit of the Canberra disease.
ALBANESE: I’m sure it’s warmer.
PETERSON: It is a bit warmer – 16 degrees right now. Christopher Pyne, we’ll start with you. Senator Brian Burston has joined team Clive Palmer – the Australia United Party. Does Clive Palmer’s return to Australian politics worry any of you in the Government?
PYNE: The UAP is back.
PETERSON: It is.
PYNE: And bigger and better than ever. Look, Clive is a great showman and he has managed to take an opportunity, which is the resignation of Senator Burston from One Nation to gain parliamentary representation again. I must admit I got along pretty well with Clive Palmer when he was in the Parliament as the Member for Fairfax, but his career came to an end pretty quickly and I don’t think that he will be embraced by the Australian public in a big way. In fact, I would be surprised if he was re-elected. It was interesting to see The Courier Mail’s handling of this because when he was running for Fairfax they were giving him a great run and today they basically said: “We are not going to go to this again, surely’’. So while I welcome all people to politics, I don’t think that the UAP is going to be a major force in Australian politics again.
PETERSON: Anthony Albanese, we’ve seen billboards right across the country. There are plenty of them here in Perth. But it is not a new practice, pollies swapping parties. But really, we don’t need, or do we need I should say, some reform to stop this nonsense? Brian Burston last week was in One Nation. This morning he is an Independent and by lunch he is in the UAP. Why can’t we ban individuals from swapping parties when it suits their own personal interests?
ALBANESE: Well it’s pretty hard to ban it, the truth is. But there is a real question about ethical behaviour. If you are elected on one platform and all of a sudden you end up in another political party, I don’t agree with people doing it essentially. It’s up to people to have their own, I guess, sense of morality and what is right. The fact is that a whole range of people now have been in Nick Xenophon’s Party and then they are Independent. There are people who have replaced people who have never been elected.
PYNE: That would make your head spin. The Nick Xenophon Team makes your head spin with the number of changes they have had.
ALBANESE: The fellow in Tasmania who was number two on Jacquie Lambie’s ticket, he used to be in the Clive Palmer Party, but then ran as the Jacquie Lambie Network, I think it was called. Then she gets knocked out, the number two gets appointed, says he will be an Independent and then joins the National Party.
PYNE: Quite a journey.
ALBANESE: People, I think, deserve a bit better than that. But I tell you what, here is something that Christopher and I can agree on, I think. People should really think very hard before they move away from one of the parties of government, be it Labor or the Coalition, because you just don’t know what you’ll get. And now we have the Greens have got two senators who are resigning. One of them, Senator from New South Wales Rhiannon, is going, and she is being replaced by someone else. The Queenslander who replaced Larissa Walters is now resigning so that he can run for a lower house seat and Larissa Waters can come back. So I think it’s all a bit of a mess when you look at it, whether it is One Nation, the Greens, Nick Xenophon’s Team, all of these minor parties, the various permutations from Clive Palmer, Jacqui Lambie etc – I reckon vote for a party of Government.
PYNE: I think it also demonstrates that too many people see politics as a plaything of the pollies when in fact being elected to Parliament is a privilege that is bestowed on you by the Australian public – in Grayndler in Anthony’s case, in Sturt in my case – and resigning, creating vacancies like Nick Xenophon got elected to the Senate and within 12 months he’d decided he was going to run for the lower house. He got replaced by somebody who wasn’t on the Xenophon ticket – somebody who was just brought in from outside. The person who was on the ticket, he ended up in the Senate as well, now he is sitting as an Independent. You can’t play with your seats as though they are just pieces on a chess board. The public give you the responsibility to be a Member of Parliament and you’ve got to take that seriously.
PETERSON: Yeah absolutely. Christopher Pyne, you’re not going to sell the national broadcaster, but from the calls within your party and the weekend’s headlines, it puts you on a collision course with the ABC.
PYNE: Well of course we’re not going to sell the ABC. It’s a public broadcaster and it has a very, very important role, not least of which in rural and regional Australia. And it’s much loved across Australia. I mean, I don’t always agree with the ABC’s coverage of the Government. I’m sure that Labor Party doesn’t either, quite frankly. I remember John Howard used to say to me when we were in Parliament together, that oppositions always like the ABC because at least they give you a run. And governments don’t usually, because the ABC is always holding them to account. That doesn’t mean I always agree with the ABC. I don’t and I think they give the Government a pretty hard time. But there’s absolutely no plans whatsoever to sell the ABC. It will not happen under a Coalition Government. But our party is allowed to pass resolutions. That’s part of the democracy that we live in. It’s not a Stalinist party, and the parliamentary party has the privilege to either implement them or not implement them. And we’re not going to be implementing the sale of the ABC.
PETERSON: Anthony Albanese, will Labor’s strategy now to be to launch a Mediscare style campaign against the Government over the future of the ABC?
ALBANESE: Well the Liberals know the price of everything and the value of nothing. The fact is they don’t like anything that has the word public in it. Be it public broadcasters, public education, public health.
ALBANESE: There’s a theme when it comes to the values of the Liberal Party. And we gave the Coalition the opportunity in Parliament today to have a debate opposing the sale of the ABC and Christopher and his colleagues shut it down.
PYNE: We don’t need to debate it because it’s not going to happen.
ALBANESE: They wouldn’t allow a debate. Well, you say that, except the enormous pressure.
PYNE: Why would you debate something you’re not going to do?
ALBANESE: Well, no one spoke up at your Liberal Party National Council on the weekend supporting the ABC.
PYNE: Yes they did. Mitch Fifield did.
ALBANESE: Well he didn’t do a very good job, did he? What he did was bag the ABC.
PYNE: He is the Minister for Communications.
ALBANESE: He bagged the ABC and he got rolled. It went through by a majority of 2 to 1. And what we know, is that this is similar, remember when Malcolm Turnbull used to believe in climate change and doing something on it?
PYNE: This is such a desperate throw of the dice.
ALBANESE: The Liberal Party came up, and the Nats it must be said, attacking them and eventually they ended up with Tony Abbott’s policy, with Tony Abbott in charge.
PYNE: What a long bow this is …
ALBANESE: When it comes to the ABC …
PYNE: To climate change …
ALBANESE: It’s a matter of your base, you are shifting further and further to the right, further and further to the right …
PYNE: You are desperate for material (inaudible).
ALBANESE: Further and further to the right …
PYNE: Your federal (inaudible) are going to vote for weaker border protection …
ALBANESE: And you want to flog off …
PYNE: You’ve got people like Ged Kearney in witness protection …
ALBANESE: Our National Conference has been delayed because you’re having by-elections in Perth and Freo, where you’re not even running …
PYNE: You’ve got half your guard in witness protection …
ALBANESE: Where you’re not even running in WA.
PYNE: Poor old Ged Kearney, in witness protection so she doesn’t talk about border protection, because we all know she wants to have a porous border, honestly.
ALBANESE: Now you’re managing to somehow try and segue away from the fact that your party has a national policy of privatising the ABC.
PETERSON: Well there you go, we can already see the theme and the flavour and we’re still maybe – maybe – a year away from a Federal election so the battle lines are starting to be drawn. I know a couple of other issues. Christopher Pyne, is $200,000 a year salary a lot of money here in Australia?
PYNE: Two hundred thousand dollars is a very high income, but it’s not – from our point of view we actually want to change the tax system so that people don’t – people pay the same rate of tax from $41,000 to $200,000. With our tax changes people being paid four times the salary would actually pay 13 times the tax. So we’re strongly maintaining a progressive tax system because we think it’s important in Australia and $200,000 is …
PETERSON: So is Lucy Gichuhi out of line when she seemed to give an interview saying that it’s not a lot of money, $200,000 dollars?
PYNE: Well I don’t know the context of Senator Gichuhi’s comments in Kenya. I’ve only seen what’s been reported in the newspaper. Truth is $200,000 is a high income, of course it is, and MPs are lucky to be paid it. And of course they work pretty hard too. But the truth is it is a high income and people should feel that they are privileged to receive it.
PETERSON: All right, if we crystal ball this then Anthony Albanese …
ALBANESE: This is another one of those turncoat Senators, she got appointed, didn’t get elected by anybody, got appointed to replace the Family First Senator and now sits as a Liberal and says $200,000 isn’t a lot of money, when the median income in Australia is about $55,000.
PETERSON: Will you help the government though this week Anthony Albanese, and over the coming two weeks with its pledges here to cut personal income tax and cut the company tax cuts? If we crystal ball it, in two weeks will the Government be celebrating the fact that they got it through the Parliament?
ALBANESE: Well we certainly want to provide assistance to low and middle-income earners. But we’re very sceptical about a plan that says in three terms time we’ll make a decision about what the tax rate should be and we’ll make that decision on the basis of someone on $41,000 a year should pay the same marginal rate of taxes someone on $200,000 a year (inaudible) …
PYNE: Well Bill Shorten wanted to do that …
ALBANESE: We think that’s nothing progressive about such an approach that doesn’t have …
PYNE: But 13 years ago …
ALBANESE: … any steps between $40,000 and $200,000.
PYNE: Well 13 years ago Bill Shorten said that we should have only three tax rates in Australia. He advocated for three tax rates and now he said it’s the worst thing that could possibly happen. See the problem with Bill Shorten is you can’t trust him. He is completely inconsistent and we can’t afford him and Labor. If you’re a retiree right now you’d be terrified of a Shorten Government, because they’re coming for the retirees and pensioners’ savings because they have to fill their black hole, because they want to spend as much money but they haven’t got enough revenue so …
ALBANESE: Pensioners will always be better off under Labor.
PYNE: Well if only that were true …
ALBANESE: Always be better off under Labor.
PETERSON: All right we are almost out of time gentleman. I just want to whip through a couple of other topics before we go. Anthony Albanese to you – is Wayne Swan the right person to be president of the Labor Party?
ALBANESE: He’s been elected and I certainly congratulate him. I supported Mark Butler that’s the fact of the matter, in the ballot.
PYNE: You launched his campaign.
ALBANESE: Wayne Swan, he is a loyal servant of our party. He has been a Member of Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister, a Treasurer, he’s been Queensland State Secretary, so he’s someone who brings in a knowledge of how to campaign and I think he’ll be a very good National President
PETERSON: All right, we’re picking up from a theme – we spoke with you last time, Anthony Albanese. If the captain of your team Bill Shorten goes down with a season-ending injury, will you be able to work with the President should you be parachuted into the leadership role?
ALBANESE: That’s not going to happen. But I work very closely with Wayne Swan and I look forward to working closely with Wayne Swan as a Minister in a Labor Government.
PETERSON: All right Christopher Pyne …
PYNE: Bill doesn’t stand too close to the railway yards, I can tell you.
PETERSON: Will the Productivity Commission report into the GST be made public this week? Will the Treasurer Scott Morrison make that public?
PYNE: Well we quite sensibly, I think, asked the Productivity Commission for advice about the GST and how it’s arranged and when that report is available, it will be released so that the public can see exactly how the Government’s thinking is being informed.
PETERSON: All right we look forward to the next two weeks of Federal politics thanks for giving us a few minutes of your time on the Odd Couple on the Monday Agenda, here on Perth’s 882 6PR.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.