Subjects: Malcolm Turnbull, NEG, Tony Abbott
OLIVER PETERSON: What a time indeed for the Monday Agenda to have the Odd Couple with us. I speak of senior Government Minister Christopher Pyne. Good afternoon.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good afternoon Ollie.
PETERSON: And senior Opposition member Anthony Albanese. Hello to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day Ollie.
PETERSON: Well I think first of all Christopher Pyne we might start with you because it has been a very busy day, or busy couple of days, on your side of the fence. Is the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, a dead man walking?
PYNE: No, quite the opposite. Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership is absolutely secure.
PETERSON: He’s got the full support of Cabinet?
PYNE: One hundred percent support of the Cabinet.
PETERSON: Including Peter Dutton?
PYNE: The so-called putative challenger Peter Dutton has made it clear to Malcolm Turnbull, to me, to the media, that he supports the Prime Minister. What we are seeing here is an enormous beat-up because unfortunately there are some sections of the bubble, or inside the beltway here in Canberra, that would much rather focus on a story that isn’t happening rather than the things that people care about like energy prices, jobs, the economy, growth, tax cuts.
PETERSON: Then if energy policy is so important, why has the Prime Minister had to do an about-face and back down on his National Energy Guarantee? Why has, all of a sudden, he has had to remove these emissions targets Christopher Pyne if he doesn’t have the support of his own party?
PYNE: Well because out of 100 people in the party room, four said they wouldn’t support it, which means we haven’t got the numbers in the House of Representatives and politics is the ruthless application of arithmetic and if you haven’t got the numbers, you can’t get something passed, so the Prime Minister very sensibly, with the support of the Cabinet, has done everything other than what is required to be done by legislation, like take the big stick to electricity companies, introduce the default pricing for consumers, which will help 1.2 million Australians get lower prices, introduced divestment powers that will allow us to take the electricity companies apart if they are not doing the right thing down the track, which I am sure they will do if that power exists. The NEG, the National Energy Guarantee, is in place. The only thing that is not going to be done is the legislation for a 26 per cent Renewable Energy Target, because we don’t have the numbers and we can’t trust the Labor Party because Bill Shorten just wants to play politics with everything. He has had months and months and months to say whether he supported the Government’s National Energy Guarantee but he …
PETERSON: Well let’s ask Anthony Albanese. Have you seen the National Energy Guarantee? Has it been leaked to you?
ALBANESE: No-one has seen it. It changes hourly and today in Parliament we had the preposterous circumstances whereby the Prime Minister said he couldn’t guarantee getting it through the Parliament because he wanted Labor to give a guarantee we would support it, but he wouldn’t show us the legislation beforehand. So he wanted a commitment that we would vote for something we haven’t seen and nor has anyone else. We asked in Parliament did it exist and he said yes and then just tied himself in knots. This is …
PYNE: Labor is just playing politics Ollie. This is pathetic. And Anthony Albanese is better than that. Anthony Albanese is better than that.
ALBANESE: We are sitting back watching.
PYNE: Bill Shorten pretends to be this character who is interested in bipartisanship. He has refused to support the NEG for months. Now, today, the Government has admitted that we don’t have the numbers to get it through the House of Representatives so we will do everything other than what is required by legislation and Bill Shorten is trying to pretend: “Oh I am shocked. Why didn’t you come and talk to me. I’d love to talk about how to do it in a bipartisan way’’.
ALBANESE: You won’t even sit down and discuss …
PYNE: Bill Shorten is a political fraud and everyone can see through him.
PETERSON: Julie Bishop, the Foreign Minister, has earlier today said she has seen a move like this before and I suppose it is in relation to the leadership rumblings of the Government. Anthony Albanese, you lived through all of this with Kevin Rudd, with Julia Gillard, with Kevin Rudd again. Do you think Malcolm Turnbull’s days are numbered as the Prime Minister?
ALBANESE: Well he certainly looked that way today and I think that’s unfortunate if that happens, in terms of if we basically remove four elected prime ministers in four terms, I think that would be in indictment of our political system. But it’s very clear that the dogs are barking on the Coalition side. The circumstances whereby the Prime Minster has had to withdraw his own legislation, well not even introduce it, is just a humiliation for Malcolm Turnbull. He used to believe in action on climate change and now he is saying: “Oh well don’t worry about that, don’t worry about emissions targets, don’t worry about everything that I have said’’. And bear this in mind – this isn’t the first lot. This is the third iteration. We had the Chief Scientist come out with a policy. Then we had a Clean Energy Target. We have had various iterations of this policy. Last Tuesday he declared victory. On Friday he changed the policy. Today he has changed the policy again and we are being asked: Do you support it? Well we don’t know what it is we are being asked to support.
PETERSON: Ultimately Christopher Pyne, all Australians obviously want to pay cheaper prices for their electricity. How do you go and sell that message now to the Australian public when it appears as though there is disunity within your ranks?
PYNE: Well, because we have a much tougher policy now than we had even a week ago. We are introducing new powers to give the Government the capacity to break up energy companies that do the wrong thing by consumers, assuming that those powers are necessary. We’ve introduced new powers to the ACCC to monitor the pricing of electricity companies and to enforce a default price which will help 1.2 million consumers have a lower price. We are supporting recommendations from the ACCC that allow us to underwrite support for new infrastructure in energy production, whether it is coal, gas, hydro or other forms of power. So in fact prices are already coming down. Prices will continue to come down because of the Government’s policies.
ALBANESE: They are coming down because of the Renewable Energy Target Christopher.
PYNE: No they are not. They are coming down because of the …
ALBANESE: Four hundred dollars of the $550 is because of the Renewable Energy Target.
PYNE: Absolute rubbish. You always interrupt me.
ALBANESE: You’ve had an incredibly long run Christopher.
PYNE: Excuse me. The reason why the energy prices are coming down is because the Prime Minister said to the gas companies last year if you don’t allow more gas into the market and if you don’t stop exporting the gas we will stop you from doing so by taking away your permits and that has been one of the main reasons why prices are coming down. If Labor was in power and we increased the Renewable Energy Target to 45 per cent, prices would go through the roof. We have seen that film before. It is called the South Australian energy market.
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that the Government’s own Energy Security Board, chaired by Kerry Schott, says that the NEG will make a difference of $550. Four hundred dollars of that is what is already in the system through the Renewable Energy Target, will reach 24 per cent in just two years’ time, by 2020. So what the Government is saying, this is the thing that Abbott and these Neanderthals are revolting over, is the difference between 24 to 26 – two per cent increase over an entire decade and what Kerry Schott’s committee says is that that is responsible for $400 of the decrease and $550 is the total. The other $150 is just due to the reduction in the risk premium by there being some certainty. Now in order to have certainty, by definition you need both sides of Parliament to be on that table. But …
PYNE: You didn’t give us that support.
ALBANESE: We haven’t been given any opportunity.
PETERSON: And if you are given that opportunity, would you consider supporting it Anthony Albanese?
ALBANESE: Of course we’d consider supporting it. We have said that consistently. We haven’t got the legislation. What we have said is we want to support renewables. Yes, we want to be able to adjust it because we do have a higher target because the evidence is that more renewables will lead to cheaper prices.
PYNE: The evidence is not in South Australia …
ALBANESE: That’s what the Energy Security Board say. That’s what all the providers say. All of them say that that is the case.
PYNE: You have been saying for months that 26 per cent was low and you wouldn’t support it.
ALBANESE: It is too low.
PYNE: And then you colluded with the Victorian Government to make sure that they slowed down the process and you have done everything you can frustrate ….
ALBANESE: You cannot possibly blame us …
PYNE: And now you are trying to pretend …
ALBANESE: … that you have Tony Abbott and Craig Kelly and all these crazy people in you party room who want to have a Government funded and subsidised new coal-fired power station.
PETERSON: Talking of Tony Abbott there Christopher Pyne, over the weekend and being reported in the Sydney Morning Herald today is that he spoke to the Young Liberals in Tasmania saying that he looks forward to serving under a Dutton Government. Can you still work with Tony Abbott?
PYNE: Well Tony Abbott’s got a lot to say. He has been saying a lot for several years and it doesn’t surprise me. Whatever he says he has a different view about the direction of the Government. I think the public have well and truly factored the Tony Abbott matter into their support or non-support for the Turnbull Government and I don’t think that he has an impact when he says things like that, if he said it, because I think the public have well and truly worked out that Tony Abbott is not a big fan of the current Prime Minister.
PETERSON: Well we put out a poll this afternoon on our website and Tony Abbott was the winner of our poll on who should lead the Liberal Party. In second place Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and third place Peter Dutton. So 6PR listeners are certainly ….
ALBANESE: Where was Christopher?
PETERSON: Well Christopher unfortunately wasn’t on our list. But we can add you to our mix. Christopher, would you like to challenge?
PYNE: Well that’s the only poll of that nature Ollie in the country.
PETERSON: That’s it?
PYNE: No other poll in indicates that the public want Tony Abbott to be the Prime Minister of Australia again or the Leader of the Liberal Party. In fact the poll that was published by IPSOS today showed that 66 per cent of Coalition voters support the National Energy Guarantee.
PETERSON: Would you rather that Tony Abbott just went quietly off into the distance and stopped entering the public national debate right now?
PYNE: Look we are a democracy. If Tony Abbott thinks that he is helping the Government by his interventions, well that’s a judgement call that he has made.
PETERSON: Anthony Albanese, you’d be probably be happy that the spotlight is not on you this afternoon. All of a sudden you are probably measuring up your desk as the Infrastructure Minister in a Shorten Government.
ALBANESE: Well we take nothing for granted but the fact is that Tony Abbott is trying to blow up the entire show, campaigning against a target that he set as Prime Minister. He was the one who signed up to Paris. He was the one who said 26 per cent to 28 as his target and he walks around like he had nothing to do with it. I mean, I think his behaviour is morally repugnant. I don’t know how he can have frankly any integrity at all and Peter Dutton is just Tony Abbott’s glove puppet. He is just there being used, waiting for this to drop into his lap and I do feel some sympathy for what Christopher is going through because the hypocrisy of the Abbott forces here is quite breathtaking and every time they come up with a new position, the Abbott forces just move the barrier, they move the line. So it’s impossible for us as the Labor Party. We want to be responsible, we want to be co-operative, we understand that the greater amount of unity in the national interest is required here. But it’s impossible because we can’t even get a discussion about what the position we are being asked to agree with is.
PETERSON: All right gentlemen, we are almost out of time. Final words for you both. Christopher Pyne, do you believe there will be a challenge within your ranks in the coming weeks or months?
PYNE: No I don’t. I have been around a quarter of a century. I have seen as many leadership ballots as Anthony Albanese. He might have the wood on me on that one because he has been in the Labor Party because of the Gillard/Rudd period. But I do not think there will be any change in leadership. I think the party is extremely united behind Malcolm Turnbull and he will lead us to the next election
PETERSON: Anthony Albanese?
ALBANESE: I think it’s a mess and I think it’s likely that there will be at least one challenge.
PETERSON: At least one challenge. Gentlemen, really appreciate your time. We’ll let you go back into the bear pit of Federal Parliament. Thank you.