Subjects: NSW election; poles and wires; traffic; the Labor Party; Paul Keating; Millennium Development Goals, gallery of photographs of Leaders of the House.
BEN FORDHAM: Christopher Pyne, the Minister for Education, and Anthony Albanese, the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure. Christopher, good afternoon.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good afternoon, Ben. Good afternoon Anthony.
FORDHAM: Isn’t he polite, Anthony? He always says good afternoon directly to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh, he is a polite gentleman some of the time. G’day to both of you.
FORDHAM: Good day to both of you. Now NSW heading to the polls on Saturday, Premier Mike Baird, Opposition Leader Luke Foley, they’ve been campaigning across the state. It’s looking good for Mike Baird going into the polls. Albo, you would almost concede this Wednesday afternoon that Labor is not going to win the state election, wouldn’t you, almost?
ALBANESE: Oh no. I don’t take voters for granted and I think the issue of privatisation of electricity is cutting through out there. I’ve been in a number of electorates during the last month and people are concerned about the long-term sustainability of the Budget and they are concerned that all of Mr Baird’s promises are all predicated on that. It’s like selling your house to go on a holiday. You can have a good holiday, but what happens when you come back?
FORDHAM: They are leasing the house, aren’t they?
ALBANESE: Well, that’s right. If they had any confidence at all, I think it must be coming through when the Liberals are doing ads saying it’s not privatisation, we’re not selling anything. Well, that’s nonsense. That’s just treating the electorate as mugs.
FORDHAM: Christopher, are you ready to call a Liberal victory on Saturday? I know I am getting ahead of myself. Usually we wait until at least five minutes after the polls have closed. Are you ready to go? You are always keen.
PYNE: Well, I would never count my chickens before they hatch but I think in terms of the poles and wires debate I think the Labor Party campaign has been described best by Martin Ferguson on the 11th of March, 2015, when he said it’s just deliberately misleading the public, creating unnecessary fear, trying to scare people into voting Labor – not on merit, but on misinformation. In many ways I am ashamed of the party. That’s Martin Ferguson – a very well-respected Labor figure, calling out Labor’s campaign for what it is – a campaign of misinformation and fear. Now, Anthony Albanese just talked about privatising electricity. But 49 percent of the poles and wires will be leased, which means of course the public will still own the asset. So it’s just not true and I think Labor has been caught out by a very smart NSW public which knows they have been fed a campaign of lies.
FORDHAM: Gentlemen, I’ve got to quickly got to Graham who has called in. You will understand why when you hear the seriousness of this. Graham, good afternoon. What’s happening on the Princes Highway now?
GRAHAM: Mate, there’s a deer on the side of the road. It actually was on the road. It’s just moved off on the side of the road halfway up Mt Ousley.
FORDHAM: A deer?
FORDHAM: But he’s off the road now?
GRAHAM: Yes he’s just moved off the road. He’s having a little feed on the grass on the side.
FORDHAM: We’re assuming it’s a he Graham. Thank you very much. Back to Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese. I’m sorry about that fellows but you never know, particularly when people are driving along the road and all of a sudden there’s a deer in the headlights.
Now, there are a lot of Labor people who have come out though, Anthony Albanese, questioning the approach that has been taken by Luke Foley. I mean when you go through the list: Eric Roozendaal, Michael Costa, Paul Keating, Mark Latham. I can’t believe I am quoting Mark Latham, but he says the only conclusion any sensible person – and we know that Mark is sensible – can draw is that electricity privatisation is overwhelmingly good for NSW. What I am worried about with Luke Foley is the denial of facts. Now I know that you are not going to pay much attention to Mark Latham, but Paul Keating Albo: “I support the Premier’s view about this.’’
ALBANESE: Paul Keating is strongly supporting Luke Foley in this election.
FORDHAM: But not this key policy.
ALBANESE: Well, Paul Keating has supported at various times privatising assts. There’s no secret there. The problem here is it’s a bad deal. It’s a bad deal. It’s a one-off sugar hit that will then take away $1.7 billion from the Budget that could be used to fund nurses and police and teachers. The State Government says that it is under fiscal pressure. Well, the way that you deal with that isn’t to hang on to the debt and to get rid of the assets that produce a return to the government. That is the concern here.
PYNE: You guys are just being troglodytes. Morris Iemma tried to do this. Bob Carr wanted to do it. Paul Keating has described Luke Foley as an obscurantist. In other words, that he is against change for no good reason.
ALBANESE: Paul Keating has not said that at all.
PYNE: He said there are still some obscurantists …
ALBANESE: Paul Keating has not described Luke Foley in that way at all and you just gave yourself up. (Pyne interrupting) Don’t verbal Paul Keating. You are better than that Christopher.
PYNE: That’s what he said …
ALBANESE: The fact is that …
FORDHAM: Hang on, hang on, what did he say? Christopher, you read out what you say he says. What did he say?
PYNE: On the 28th of November, on the ABC news online on he said there are still some obscurantists in the Labor Party. There’s still some there. This is about electricity privatisation. Now, last time I looked Luke Foley was opposing the poles and wires policy which means
that he is …
ALBANESE: He is, very proudly. He is, very proudly. And so are most people. Luke Foley wasn’t the leader of the Labor Party then.
PYNE: But he was opposing the poles and wires.
ALBANESE: Luke Foley is with the mob. You can be with the elite.
FORDHAM: It’s been revealed that Labor would have doubled the amount spent on foreign aid if they were in power, so we’re told. Shadow Foreign Minister Tanya Plibersek wanted to spend more than $44 billion on foreign aid between 2013 and 2014 compared with the government’s $25 billion spend. So that would hit the taxpayer with an extra $18 billion bill. Mr Albanese, what do you make of this?
ALBANESE: I make of this that the Daily Telegraph should have an authorisation at the bottom of it at the moment – ‘authorised by the Liberal Party.’ They are campaigning hard each and every day against Luke Foley and New South Wales Labor. That’s fine, they’re entitled to do that, but it should be seen for what it is – article after article in that newspaper bagging Labor. The fact is …
FORDHAM: Well, have they just made this up have they?
ALBANESE: Absolutely. Since John Howard …
FORDHAM: But where did they get this figure from?
ALBANESE: I have no idea.
PYNE: Well I can tell you.
FORDHAM: I want to get to this. Where did it come from, Christopher?
PYNE: Well, Tanya Plibersek has said that the Labor Party will meet the Millennium Development Goals – she said it three times – that 0.5% of GDP will be in foreign aid. Now that’s $18 billion more than is currently being spent.
ALBANESE: When? When?
PYNE: Now we took over from the Labor Party, I think everyone accepts that they didn’t deliver a surplus ever but delivered $123 billion of deficit into the future and we were elected on the basis of getting the budget back under control. One of those areas where we made reductions is foreign aid because we think we shouldn’t be borrowing money from foreign banks to then send it overseas in foreign aid. Now, Labor on the other hand want to increase the foreign aid budget by $18 billion to meet that 0.5% commitment.
FORDHAM: Let me go back to Anthony. I’m guessing, and I know you’re not the foreign affairs minister or the Labor leader, but I’m guessing that is not an official Labor policy, is that what you’re saying?
ALBANESE: Well, since John Howard the Liberal Party have had the same target of 0.5%. The same target that we’ve had … so you could argue exactly the same in terms of plucking a figure out. The fact is because of the reductions that have occurred, of course the target won’t be able to be met under the same timeframe. But that is something that the Liberal Party have shared since John Howard. There is also – it’s important to say this – there’s a self-interest there. We did things like fund schools in Indonesia that stopped young Indonesian kids going to schools that are funded by the jihadists.
PYNE: So you do want to increase the foreign aid budget by $18 billion?
ALBANESE: You’re just making it up Christopher – we fund schools in Papua New Guinea under this government, under this government, as they should. We fund health because of the proximity to Australia, the spread of disease in PNG, and in today’s world can mean it has an impact on us.
FORDHAM: Well, today there’s not going to be any cut to foreign aid in the upcoming budget because it looks like Julie Bishop and Joe Hockey sorted that out during the week.
ALBANESE: The old eye roll!
FORDHAM: Yes, the eye roll. Now there was a bit of a secret meeting last night I understand and you both attended and no journalists were allowed to go to it. What was this all about?
PYNE: Well, you can’t be coming to everything.
FORDHAM: What was this all about?
ALBANESE: Away you go Chris.
PYNE: No, you ago ahead Anthony.
ALBANESE: Well, it was a terrific event that Christopher hosted outside his office for the current (himself) and past Leaders of the House and included myself, the current Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and Peter Reith and other people from all sides of the Parliament came. It unveiled – for various positions around the Parliament – Speakers, Prime Ministers – there are portrait galleries – in this case, it’s photographs of everyone who’s held the office and it was actually a nice convivial get together outside what’s now Christopher’s office and used to be mine. And it’s a good example – not enough of it happens I think – where we get together on a friendly basis, put down the swords.
ALBANESE: And it was a very good occasion.
FORDHAM: Well if you’d like to have more of those friendly occasions Albo, I know that you’re taking a holiday next week. Christopher, you could always go with Albo on holidays together if you wanted to spend more time together.
PYNE: That might be a bridge too far.
ALBANESE: For everyone concerned, I think. I’m looking forward to having my much better half, Carmel Tebbutt – of course retires from State Parliament on Saturday and we realised that our son’s 14 and we actually have never had a long holiday ever as a family in his entire life.
PYNE: I don’t think Carmel or Nathan would really be pleased if I joined the holiday.
ALBANESE: No, we’re looking forward to turning the phone off!
FORDHAM: Well you get a holiday from Christopher as well.
PYNE: I might be wrong! But I don’t think so.
FORDHAM: Well Christopher, maybe you could lend Albo your wetsuit, he could always use that while he’s away.
PYNE: He wouldn’t be able to get into my wetsuit. We’d have to get him a bigger wetsuit.
FORDHAM: Oh, please!
ALBANESE: Now he’s being mean after I was so nice before. I’m sure Caroline wouldn’t want me coming on – and Christopher’s kids – don’t want me on their holiday either.
FORDHAM: We’ll talk to you both soon, thank-you. Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese – the odd couple.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.