Subjects; Mother’s Day, Greens leadership; foreign aid; French ambassador; Budget
BEN FORDHAM: Christopher Pyne, the Minister for Education and Anthony Albanese, the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure. They’ve had a little bit of a time off, a little bit of holiday time. They are back into it, with the Budget next week. Christopher Pyne, good afternoon.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good afternoon Ben.
FORDHAM: And Anthony…
PYNE: I had no time off at all.
FORDHAM: Oh, here we go.
PYNE: I’ve been at work. I just missed your show for four weeks while Anthony has been doing the hula in Cuba, I understand.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s just one complaint after another. Poor Christopher’s got to work.
FORDHAM: Anthony Albanese, good afternoon.
ALBANESE: G’day Ben. How are you?
FORDHAM: Let’s test the honesty of politicians here for just a moment. I just mentioned Mother’s Day this weekend. Have either of you organised anything for your wives for this weekend?
ALBANESE: We actually will be driving up to Port Macquarie – wait for it Ben, there’s a punchline.
FORDHAM: Oh, your lucky wife. She gets a car trip to Port Macquarie.
ALBANESE: There’s a punchline. It is her parents’ 60th wedding anniversary.
FORDHAM: Have you got her a present?
ALBANESE: It’s coming. My son has got her a present.
PYNE: Carmel loves a car trip.
FORDHAM: Christopher, have you organised anything for Mother’s Day so far this weekend?
PYNE: We have morning tea with my mother.
FORDHAM: Have you organised a present?
PYNE: Why would I? Carolyn is not my mother.
ALBANESE: Ha, he’s too cheap.
FORDHAM: Have you organised a present for your mum?
PYNE My children have organised … yes, of course I’ve got a present for my mother. My wife has organised a present for my mother. My wife has organised a present for her mother.
FORDHAM: Enough of that, let me get onto the news of the day, the Greens have a new leader after the surprise resignation of Christine Milne, did either of you guys see this coming?
ALBANESE: No, I certainly didn’t and I wish Christine all the best, she’s been in political life for 25 years and she’s entitled to have some me-time for herself in retirement. I wish her all the best. I don’t agree with many of her views, I have to say but I didn’t see it coming and I think it is a bit rough for the Greens who talk about process from time to time and criticise the major political parties both Labor and Liberal. I mean if we had the sort of process, either political party for that matter whereby you have an announcement and an hour later behind closed doors you just select a replacement it’s pretty clear that it’s a bit rough regarding any input into who the new leader should have been.
FORDHAM: What’s gone on here Christopher?
PYNE: Well I think it’s interesting that both Adam Bandt and Christine Milne have gone. Obviously there are deep divisions within the Greens, we’ve known that for some time and it starts to remind me a bit of what happened to the Australian Democrats who were a very popular third party for twenty five plus years but when they started to fight amongst themselves then their voters turned right off because they saw them as no better than the major political parties and on this occasion I have to agree with Anthony and say their process reminds me a lot less of the major parties and a lot more of a secret society.
FORDHAM: Albo your boss, Bill Shorten released a statement and I focussed on the last line of that statement a little earlier, he said I’m proud to lead the only political party that gives its members a say in choosing their leader but I thought, no hang on a moment, didn’t the members want Anthony Albanese and didn’t the MPs and the factions go for Bill Shorten? The members wanted you Albo.
ALBANESE: The important thing is that we did have a process, and it was open and transparent and the membership did get a vote…
FORDHAM: They had their say but their say didn’t count.
ALBANESE: People had their input and I haven’t complained about the process, I’ve got on with the job of having the honour of being a part of the Labor frontbench team and I think it was a really good process and I think it is one of the reasons why being in a pretty strong position from the end of 2013 so people could see there was a mature debate about policy and about future direction.
PYNE: Give someone else a go! What really happened was that Anthony was the people’s choice, Bill was the faction’s choice and Anthony’s own faction split and Kim Carr from Victoria backed the Bill Shorten candidacy, or some of his people did at least, and gutted Anthony Albanese, and now they’re doing it again over the federal presidency.
FORDHAM: Well, Anthony will have his time. Anthony will have his time. Don’t worry about that. We will dissect the Budget next week because, of course, it will be the day after the Budget. We’ll get to have a conversation about all of that. But there is a report today in the Sydney Morning Herald that Indonesia may be facing a cut in aid in next week’s Budget. You know, a lot of money that goes off overseas, no doubt there’s a bit of quid pro quo here and a bit of back-scratching that goes on and we’ve got important trading partners. But do you think anyone would object if we were, say for example, going to change their $600 million to $500 million a year and maybe give $100 million to our farmers who are stuck in the middle of the drought? Anthony?
ALBANESE: I think we’ve got to look at what our national interest is and we have a national interest in funding education, for example, in Indonesia that makes sure that girls can go to school and that you don’t have schools run by some of the more fundamentalist groups who are preaching in a way that is divisive. I think that is in our interest. I think that Australians do accept that Australian foreign aid that goes to give a kid clean drinking water is something that we, as a relatively rich country, have to contribute to. There’s already been $11 billion worth of cuts to foreign aid.
FORDHAM: Christopher, are there going to be more cuts next week to foreign aid?
PYNE: Well, you will see that in the Budget and that is part of the ERC process. Obviously we have to make rational decisions about foreign aid when we are faced with the belt-tightening that has had to go on since the defeat of the Labor Government, who were profligate spenders. Foreign aid is an area where we have reduced spending into the future. It continues to increase, but not as fast as Labor promised. Labor promised to put $11 billion more into foreign aid. But they’ll have to find that money, which I assume they would do with higher taxes.
FORDHAM: You are committed to that are you Anthony, replacing that $11 billion?
ALBANESE: We’ll make polices and promises at the appropriate time, and certainly not according to Christopher Pyne’s timetable.
FORDHAM: Okay, let me ask you this one before I let you guys go. Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he doesn’t concern himself with trivia when asked about reports that the ambassador Stephen Brady offered to resign after his partner was asked not to take part in an official welcome. I think everyone knows the details of this by now. This was when the PM was flying into Paris and Mr Brady’s partner, Peter Stephens, was told not to take part in the airport greeting because protocol says partners are only there if the Prime Minister has his partner there and Margie Abbott wasn’t there at the time. Is this one giant beat-up Christopher?
PYNE: I think this is a really embarrassing story on the part of the media. The truth is that I have had dinner with Stephen Brady and Peter Stephens and Tony Abbott for their farewell, for Stephen Brady’s farewell to leave Government House and go to Europe. Tony Abbott is not in the least bit concerned about people’s sexual preferences and for the Sydney Morning Herald to try and write this story in the way that they did, I think cast them in a very negative light.
FORDHAM: It was a bit harsh, wasn’t it Albo?
ALBANESE: I think what should happen here is just for the details to be made clear and then people can move on. I think the concerning thing about the story was that the resignation was offered. And I think that’s what’s raised questions.
FORDHAM: Isn’t is clear that the protocol states and he should know this as a diplomat that the partner is only there when the Prime Minister is travelling with his partner? I mean Tony Abbott took Peter Stephens and Stephen Brady out to dinner that night in Paris.
ALBANESE: I wasn’t there, so I’m not aware of all the details but frankly in terms of the scale of a story I think that people are entitled to accept explanations when they are given, but I think it’s not surprising that an explanation was asked for given the resignation appears to have been offered.
FORDHAM: Sometimes people just have dummy spits, don’t they?
ALBANESE: Well, a lot of the time things can be misrepresented and unfortunately when you’re in public life you’ve got to give the explanation and I think often if it’s a choice between the stuff up and the conspiracy, often it’s just the stuff up.
FORDHAM: Are you two going to be behaving yourselves when Parliament resumes?
ALBANESE: I always behave Ben.
PYNE: That will depend on Anthony I guess. Until I came along he had the record for being thrown out more than any other MP in the Parliament. And now I think my record’s been broken by a wayward Labor MP called Nick Champion.
FORDHAM: I’m glad I’ve got two of the biggest trouble makers on my show. I’ll talk to you next week.
ALBANESE: See you then. I hope this year’s Budget goes a bit better than the last one.
PYNE: I don’t think you mean that. I don’t think you mean that.
ALBANESE: It was a shocker. A shocker!
PYNE: I don’t think you mean that Anthony.
FORDHAM: Ok gentleman. See ya.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.