Subjects: Higher education, NSW election, Operation Slipper
FORDHAM: Christopher Pyne, good afternoon.
PYNE: Hi Ben, how’re you going?
FORDHAM: I’m all right. Anthony Albanese, good afternoon sir.
ALBANESE: G’day Ben, g’day Christopher.
PYNE: G’day Anthony.
FORDHAM: Now, should we be calling you Mr Pyne or Christopher or Mr Fix It? What should we be calling you these days?
PYNE: The thing about the Abbott Government was that we were elected to fix Labor’s messes, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. So in higher education, for example, they cut $6.6 billion from higher education, didn’t allow the universities any chance to gain extra revenue, which has damaged our chances of having the best higher education system in the world and I’m trying to fix that. I’m fixing Labor’s problems, I do that every day.
FORDHAM: 122,000 extra students went into our universities, Anthony Albanese, but no money was provided by the Labor Government to fund all of those students.
ALBANESE: That’s nonsense. Labor increased substantially the funding for tertiary education. What we’ve seen from Mr Fix It across the corridor is that he’s trashed the building. What he did was hold 1700 research jobs held by scientists to ransom and acted like he was in student politics.
PYNE: That’s not true. The National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme –
ALBANESE: I gave you a chance Christopher –
PYNE: But you tend to go on too long Anthony.
ALBANESE: I gave you a chance Christopher.
PYNE: You’ve got to let it be a little more free-flowing.
ALBANESE: It’s not the Government, you don’t have Bronwyn in charge here like the Parliament, mate. He trashed this reform. He actually managed to go backwards. He got less votes this time than he did last time and it’s not surprising because of the way you’ve mishandled it and Australians don’t want $100,000 degrees. It’s as simple as that.
FORDHAM: You did have a strange way of wooing the crossbenchers, Mr Pyne, when you threatened those research jobs.
PYNE: Well I didn’t. In fact I found the money. See the problem is that Labor –
FORDHAM: When you say you didn’t, anyone who watched Insiders on the weekend would say that you did.
PYNE: Labor defunded the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme. Penny Wong admitted yesterday it was a lapsing program and they had no intention of refunding it. It was too important to lose. So like all sensible ministers, I found saving measures which were in the reform bill to fund the continuation of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme. Labor was opposing that, crossbenchers were opposing it, the Greens were opposing it. The only people threatening those jobs was the Senate. Now when that became obvious that was a distraction, I went away and found the money, which will be revealed in the Budget where that’s come from, so that can continue. But the only person threatening jobs was the Opposition, which is a politically opportunistic Opposition, the Greens, who are irresponsible, and the crossbench, who didn’t want to support the legislation.
FORDHAM: Anthony there must be some good behind Christopher Pyne’s package here if all of these vice-chancellors at universities around Australia have shown overwhelming support for elements of his higher education package.
ALBANESE: Well, deregulation means they can go out there and charge more.
FORDHAM: Well, vice-chancellors – they don’t have a reputation of being money-hungry individuals who only care about the profit or the bottom line. I mean these are people who genuinely care about the welfare and the education of people who go through their universities.
ALBANESE: What you can have if you have an Americanisation of universities –
PYNE: That’s just rubbish –
ALBANESE: – you can have a system which encourages closer links to industry and greater making of money for the institutions. I don’t cast aspersions on the VC’s. They’re entitled to put forward their view. But Australians support the university system that has served us well. It’s a system whereby students have access regardless how humble their beginnings and that has served us well.
FORDHAM: Let me go to state politics in New South Wales. The Opposition Leader Luke Foley has secured a preference deal with the Greens. The Greens declared that they would direct their preferences to Labor in 25 seats at the March 28 election. Christopher Pyne, the Greens and Labor back in bed together?
PYNE: Well of course they are and I will be interested to hear what Anthony thinks about this because he’s has spent a lifetime fighting the Greens in his own electorate and here is Luke Foley from Anthony’s own faction hopping into bed with the Greens, supporting their policies in a number of areas and making the choice for New South Welshpeople very, very stark. They can either have a responsible government led by Mike Baird which is getting on with the job, or they can have the Green-Labor alliance. Now, last time they had a Green-Labor alliance, in Canberra, they introduced the carbon tax. So goodness knows what Luke Foley will do with the Greens if he gets elected.
FORDHAM: Is this a case of whatever it takes, Albo?
ALBANESE: This is politics with preferences being granted in 25 seats. That means they’re not doing it in 68 seats – they are not giving us preferences.
PYNE: Twenty-five key seats.
ALBANESE: So for goodness sake, we are putting forward our own policies. Luke Foley is the former shadow minister for the environment. Labor has a proud record of supporting national parks. We saved the North Coast forests in New South Wales under Wran and Carr. We have a proud history when it comes to the environment. We are putting forward our own policies. The Greens are out there off the planet. They support, for example, no airport at Kingsford Smith. They want to shut it, but they oppose Badgerys Creek and Wilton as well. So I know people will be able to get in with a parachute into Sydney. I’m not sure how they’ll get out.
PYNE: And now you’re attacking the Greens.
FORDHAM: I’m just writing this down.
PYNE: Don’t you need to make a choice, Anthony? Your Labor leader is in bed with the Greens.
FORDHAM: I’m just writing this down Anthony – ‘the Greens are out there off the planet’. So is that the message that Luke Foley needs to hear and get rid of this preference deal in those 25 seats?
ALBANESE: There’s no preference deal. The Greens are choosing Labor ahead of the Liberals because Labor won’t sell the electricity assets that everyone in New South Wales and all of your listeners currently own. It’s a bad policy.
PYNE: You want to have your cake and eat it too.
ALBANESE: We’re putting ourselves forward.
PYNE: Luke Foley’s getting into bed with the Greens.
ALBANESE: Do you support the Shooters and Fishers policies that are going to give you preferences?
PYNE: Do you agree with the Greens that we should scrap the $18 billion coal industry in New South Wales?
ALBANESE: For goodness sake. Of course I don’t. We support Labor’s policy and what we’re asking for is primary votes.
PYNE: But you have an alliance with the Greens.
ALBANESE: We have no alliance with them.
PYNE: You’ve got an alliance with the Greens.
ALBANESE: That’s not true.
PYNE: And their policy is to scrap the $18 billion coal industry with 20,000 workers.
ALBANESE: That’s not true, Christopher, and you wouldn’t know. You probably haven’t been following the New South Wales election because the New South Wales election is a Federal Liberal free zone.
FORDHAM: Just let me jump in here. I’m guessing it’s more of understanding is it, this preference arrangement, as opposed to a deal, Albo? Is that what you are saying?
ALBANESE: Well the Greens are choosing to give their preference to Labor above the Libs which is about electricity privatisation because they know that that is a rotten deal.
FORDHAM: Let me find something you’ll both agree on. This Saturday thousands of Australian Defence Force personnel will take part in parades across Australia to mark the end of the war in Afghanistan. I don’t think there’s been anywhere near enough promotion of this
happening on Saturday. Many of my listeners have backed this up this afternoon to say they we didn’t even know that it was happening this Saturday. You would be both endorsing, and I will start with you Christopher, the fact that people get out there in large numbers this weekend and support the men and women who served in Afghanistan.
PYNE: Well definitely and as the senior cabinet minister in South Australia, I will be giving a speech on Saturday as part of the commemorations of Operation Slipper as it was called. I think a cabinet minister in every state and territory is giving a speech simultaneously about this very subject and we obviously want to honour the servicemen and women who fought in Afghanistan for our own safety, for our freedom and for the freedom of those people who have been benighted by the Taliban regime for all those years.
ALBANESE: Look it’s a great thing and we should welcome home people who served on behalf of us, on behalf of our nation. I think one of the things that we should regret (and on Saturday I was talking to some of the veterans themselves up in the Blue Mountains) is that those people who came home from Vietnam didn’t get celebrated. And I think regardless of what people thought of our involvement there, it is vital that we as a nation unite to support our veterans. I happen to support very much our engagement in Afghanistan. It is a critically important engagement supported across the spectrum and I think they deserve a big cheer. I have nothing but the highest admiration for people who put their lives on the line to defend freedom.
FORDHAM: Well let’s make sure we have plenty of Sydneysiders getting out there in force 10 o’clock Saturday morning George Street in the CBD.
ALBANESE: Good on you for promoting it.
FORDHAM: No worries.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.