Subjects: Energy policy, Newspoll, company tax, wages.
OLIVER PETERSON: It is time to bring in the Odd Couple – Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese. Christopher, good afternoon to you first.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Ollie, thank you very much for having us.
PETERSON: Now I think we have got Anthony Albanese back from his quick trip to London aboard the Dreamliner with Qantas. Albo are you back in Australia?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I am back indeed mate.
PETERSON: You are back. Anthony Albanese is back. Christopher Pyne we might ask you first this afternoon: the Monash Forum – is there a group of disgruntled backbenchers amongst yourselves in the Liberals and the Nationals wanting to tap the Prime Minister on the shoulder and ask him to sort out the energy crisis?
PYNE: Well no there isn’t. But there is a group of people who are interested in policy development around energy and that is a very good thing. These kinds of various groups or journals have been going forever. I started one called the Conservatives for an Australian Head of State during the republic debate because I wanted there to be a republic and there has been these kinds of different policy forums for ever in politics. I mean the Labor Party have got them. They are called the Left, the Right and the Centre Left and the Left Right Out. They’ve got their own various groups that discuss policy and we should as well. So I don’t see any harm in it at all. We have the National Energy Guarantee. What this group wants is for coal to be given as good a chance as any other form of energy to provide lower prices and reliable power and we agree with that. So the good thing about the National Energy Guarantee is it is quite agnostic about what type of energy supplies Australian households and businesses, whether it is hydro or water or solar or wind or coal or gas for that matter.
PETERSON: Anthony Albanese. Do you suggest that this particular group is only interested in sorting out Australia’s energy position?
ALBANESE: If only that were the case, Christopher thinks. The fact is that this is about undermining renewable energy, a growth that is a global phenomenon, not just something that is happening in Australia of course. But it is also about undermining Malcolm Turnbull as he heads towards 30 Newspoll defeats and it’s no accident the timing of this ginger group, the leaking of it through Peta Credlin, Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff. This is a case of killing two birds with one stone here. The fact is that the banks don’t want to lend money for new coal-fired power. The market is having its say on these issues and it’s remarkable that the Liberal Party that used to champion the free market has people on its Right wing who want to go to something that is more resembling of sort of state Socialism in imposing coal-fired power than it is any approach of the free market.
PETERSON: Christopher Pyne Anthony Albanese just mentioned there that the 30th Newspoll which we expect out next Monday will show another loss for the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. Should he call on a spill?
PYNE: Ollie, nobody is talking about the Newspoll except people inside the beltway in Canberra in the Press Gallery. If you walk down the main street of my electorate, not one person stops me and says “Oh, I want to talk about the Newspoll’’. They will stop me and talk about energy prices and reliability and cost of living and the good work we are doing on jobs, creating 420,000 jobs, and defence industry and ship building and submarine building. They are talking about all things that people care about. Not one person ever says to me “I am completely focused on the next Newspoll’’ and nobody can seriously tell me that is the issue that people are concerned about in Australia today.
PETERSON: So if we want to stop those questions, though, and the annoying chatter from the Press Gallery and people like me Christopher Pyne, why doesn’t he just call a spill though? There probably won’t be a challenger and it’s all resolved and we move on and we talk about policy?
PYNE: Because we are talking about policy. We are talking about jobs. We are creating jobs. We are focused on the economy. We are focused on growth. In Western Australia I am focused on the Henderson precinct and trying to make sure we have a viable, growing, exciting ship building industry there and (inaudible) and maintenance and I am doing the same thing here at Osborne. We just announced the combat reconnaissance vehicles that are being built in Queensland at a cost of $15.7 billion – the largest army acquisition.
We are getting on with the business of government. I am not distracted by polls and I don’t think anybody is. And the Newspoll quite frankly, they said we were going to lose the Bennelong by-election. They were 50 per cent wrong. They said that Tasmania was going to go down to the wire. The Tasmanian Liberal Government won and won well. They said they couldn’t pick the South Australian election and the South Australian Liberal Party won and won well. They said Xenophon was a likelihood of being the Premier of South Australia. He didn’t even win his own seat. So let’s focus on what matters, which is real contests and real policy and we’ll let other people in the Press Gallery wonder worry about the Newspoll.
PETERSON: All right, there’s some buoyancy there Christopher Pyne. Is that what you are feeling as well Anthony Albanese? Is, all of a sudden, the Labor Party in the gun?
ALBANESE: Well of course Christopher Pyne said no-one is talking about polls and then went on to talk about a range of polls. The fact is the Government is completely distracted by the Newspoll number 30, which was the excuse that Malcolm Turnbull himself gave for knocking off Tony Abbott, an elected Prime Minister.
The fact is that Malcolm Turnbull leads a bad government with no direction, no narrative and no sense of purpose and I think that people can sense that out there, that it is too focused on itself and there’s a range of issues that Christopher raises, some of which I would frankly agree with, that the business of Government does have to go on. But the Government in so many areas is completely distracted by its internals and there’s no doubt that that is why this ginger group on energy policy has been formed. That is why you see the constant undermining of the Government by its former prime minister; now its former deputy prime minister – both sitting on the backbench. And in my area of infrastructure you just see a lack of cut-through and a lack of government presence there in WA. I, as you know, have now notched up five visits to WA this year.
PETERSON: You are always here.
ALBANESE: Christopher speaks about Henderson. He just doesn’t ever visit it.
PYNE: Rubbish. I have been there more often than you have. The only reason you are always in Western Australia because nobody wants to see you in Sydney. They are all sick if you, thoroughly sick. You are more welcome in Adelaide than you are in New South Wales.
ALBANESE: I am very popular in my seat Christopher.
PETERSON: Christopher Pyne, do you think that the Government will be able to get the numbers to be able to pass your company tax cuts?
PYNE: Well I certainly hope so because the company tax reform will help create jobs and higher wages and growth. And don’t take my word for it. That is what Bill Shorten used to say when he was in the Gillard-Rudd-Gillard Government, as did Paul Keating, as did Chris Bowen, the Shadow Treasurer. They have all been saying exactly the same things that we have been saying for many years and now for pure political expediency are trying to have a fight about it. See, Labor’s model is to fight about everything. They are not the least bit interested in policy. They know as well as I do that if we cut the company tax rate, there will be more jobs, there will be more investment in businesses in Western Australia and elsewhere, and if they were in government they would be planning to do something very similar.
PETERSON: The line in the sand has been drawn though Anthony Albanese – if Labor forms a government at the next election, company tax cuts would be off the agenda.
ALBANESE: Well absolutely because we just don’t see that as a priority. You have at the moment record profits taking place and that is simply not flowing through to an increase in wages and that is why people are under pressure in terms of their living standards. The fact is that this is a government that is relying upon the trickle-down effect, that somehow if you cut company taxes – and indeed many of the companies that have been quoted as supporting this don’t pay any actual company tax in reality – that somehow it will trickle down and workers will benefit. Well workers know better than that, they know that that is not the way that it works.
And at the same time the Government has refused to put forward a positive submission when it comes to the minimum wage. You have the retailers putting forward a submission calling for no increase at all in the minimum wage which means of course in effect a real wage cut and that really shows why it is beyond belief that somehow these people who think there should be no increase at all in wages would somehow just pass on a company tax cut through to their employees. It defies reality and it just shows that this is a government that is out of touch. Our priority isn’t cutting company taxes. It is investment in education, investment investment in health, investment in child care …
PYNE: You‘ve had a fair run.
ALBANESE: … investment in the future.
PETERSON: All right gentlemen, unfortunately we are out of time this afternoon. Appreciate your time this afternoon on the Odd Couple segment.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having us Ollie.
TUESDAY, 3 APRIL, 2018
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.