Subjects: Government cuts, child care, Malcolm Turnbull
FORDHAM: Well this is a real joy because usually…
PYNE: It’s a treat for us too.
FORDHAM: Are you coughing into the microphone, Christopher?
PYNE: Well where’s the cough button? There’s usually a cough button.
ALBANESE: He’s a bit slow mate.
FORDHAM: Isn’t he?
ALBANESE: He’s a bit slow.
FORDHAM: I don’t usually have you guys face-to-face but I’m in your world today, in Parliament House Canberra. Anthony Albanese, good afternoon.
ALBANESE: Shouldn’t you be between us?
FORDHAM: No, I know you’re close and Christopher, good afternoon.
PYNE: Good afternoon.
FORDHAM: How are you both?
PYNE: Very good.
ALBANESE: Good to see you in Canberra.
FORDHAM: Rearing and ready to go for 2017, fired up?
PYNE: You’re back.
FORDHAM: I am back.
PYNE: Did you win your last Walkley when you used to work here?
FORDHAM: What a great segue into the Walkley. There you go. Thank you. See what he did there?
PYNE: He was one of the youngest winners of the Walkley ever.
ALBANESE: Don’t raise that mate. If Karl Stefanovic is listening, he’ll just burst into tears.
PYNE: He’s won one award.
FORDHAM: He’ll want two.
PYNE: He’s got a Logie though.
ALBANESE: My media adviser has won two.
FORDHAM: Matthew Franklin, that’s right, working for The Australian newspaper.
PYNE: I’ve always wanted to win a Logie.
FORDHAM: I did have a flashback today, just quickly before we get down to business of being a 20 year old, so 20 years ago and having my boss at Radio 2UE say you’re going off to work in the Press Gallery in Canberra, and I said no I’m not, and she said yes you are. And I came off and drove the red Mitsubishi Colt containing all of my worldly possessions and turning up in this place.
I know you guys are here every day, but it is something special, walking into this building.
ALBANESE: It’s a fantastic building. I worked in the old Parliament House…
PYNE: So did I.
ALBANESE: And I’ve got to say, this structure is the most visited building in Australia, as well, it’s a great tourist attraction and I think it says a lot about Australia as well. The whole design of people being able to walk over it is something that we’ve managed to protect, in spite of some of the fear.
FORDHAM: But aren’t they going to be taking that away with a fence?
ALBANESE: No, you’ll still be able to get to the top.
FORDHAM: Aren’t they building a Donald Trump style wall around the joint.
PYNE: You’ll still be able to get to the top but you won’t be able to walk over it. But you haven’t been able to for years because of, you know, terrorists. I sat next to you at a lunch.
ALBANESE: But you can walk up the side now.
FORDHAM: But is there going to be a fence? Is there going to be a fence?
ALBANESE: There will be a fence.
PYNE: There has to be.
FORDHAM: What did you say; you sat next to me at a lunch?
PYNE: We met at a lunch at the Great Hall, do you remember that?
FORDHAM: Yes I do.
PYNE: Amanda Vanstone was your big fan. She said you’ve got to meet this guy Ben Fordham.
FORDHAM: True story. How do you remember this stuff?
ALBANESE: But you didn’t remember him.
FORDHAM: I remembered Amanda Vanstone.
ALBANESE: That’s the key.
PYNE: That’s why I keep winning elections. I’ve got a good memory.
ALBANESE: That’s why you keep winning pre-selections.
FORDHAM: Now listen, Christopher, truth serum right, now I can look you in the eyes because you’re right across from me. Did you put a gentle rocket up Malcolm Turnbull to get him to fire up in Question Time today?
PYNE: He did a great job. I don’t think Bill Shorten was expecting that, so it was great.
FORDHAM: Did you put a gentle rocket up Malcolm Turnbull? Did you have a talk to him about that, because it had you written all over it?
PYNE: Well I am the Leader of the House, so we talk tactics all the time throughout Question Time. So we had to decide whether we did or didn’t speak on the suspension. Sometimes we shut it down. John Howard often used to take them and use them as an opportunity to explain our position, and I thought it was a good opportunity to do that today and Malcolm did a sensational job. I think Bill was a bit shocked.
FORDHAM: Where is this Malcolm Turnbull that we saw this afternoon, where’s he been for the last 18 months?
PYNE: He’s been there all the time.
FORDHAM: No he hasn’t.
PYNE: You haven’t been looking closely enough.
FORDHAM: I’ve been looking very closely.
PYNE: The person who really enjoyed it of course was Anthony. He really enjoyed the speech.
FORDHAM: Well I noticed there were people on the Labor side laughing as he was ripping into Bill Shorten.
PYNE: They wouldn’t do that would they? That’s shocking.
ALBANESE: Well Bill Shorten ripped into Malcolm Turnbull and there was a return of serve. And then of course Jenny Macklin…
PYNE: She took us apart.
ALBANESE: Outlined, well she outlined that what it’s about isn’t actually Malcolm or Bill, it’s actually about those pensioners who are going to lose – a million of them, a million Australians will be worse off, a million Australian families as a result of the announcement that was made today.
FORDHAM: Why is it rubbish?
PYNE: Well the reality is that Labor supported these changes that before the election and said that they would support them…
ALBANESE: That’s not right. That’s not right; these are part of the 2014 Budget.
PYNE: And as usual have changed their mind, as they always do. But what we’re trying to do is get a million families better off in terms of childcare, which is unaffordable under Labor. The lowest income people will be paying $15 a day for childcare, which means they’ll be able to get back to work if they want to work. And in terms of more days of work, lifting their income, lifting their household, this is great news in Sydney.
FORDHAM: The other aspect to it is the Youth Allowance. So young people claiming Youth Allowance will have to wait four weeks. I think it was originally suggested it would be six weeks when it was floated back in 2014. Is that fair Albo? That’s fair enough isn’t it, that if you’re aged 22-24 well you’ll go off the Dole and onto Youth Allowance, which is less, or…
ALBANESE: It’s not fair enough if you have no income over that period. What are you going to do, Ben, if you have zero income for four weeks – what do you do? How do you buy food, how do you pay rent, how do you look for a job?
FORDHAM: I suppose it motivates you to go out there and find some work.
ALBANESE: On that basis you’d never give anyone anything because they’d be really motivated then. But four weeks, people who don’t have someone else to look after them won’t have any income at all.
PYNE: We’re not talking about 16 year olds. We’re talking about people aged 22-24.
ALBANESE: That’s the point. They won’t have any income at all for that period of time.
PYNE: We want people to be getting into training or getting into work as much as we can.
ALBANESE: We want people to be getting into training and work too but those opportunities have to be there and you can’t starve people into submission.
FORDHAM: Well I suppose Albo it reaches the point where you’ve got to say well where are we going to find some savings? Where are we going to make this system sustainable, because as it’s going it’s not sustainable, it’s not going to be sustainable? So it’s easy for you to say every time no we don’t want to do that.
ALBANESE: Well we’ve put up savings, Ben. How about you look at the Capital Gains Tax and negative gearing proposals that would also help deal…
PYNE: They count taxes as savings. See this is the point.
ALBANESE: No, no, we’re changing the tax regime so that, in terms, of see budgets are expenditures and revenues, and that would have an impact.
FORDHAM: But what about in welfare? What about in welfare, what are you doing in welfare?
ALBANESE: Well in welfare, what we’re doing and we did, we made a number of changes and indeed in the Omnibus Bill we supported changes last year, but what we won’t support are changes which simply aren’t fair and the decision today will mean less income, not just for pensioners, but carers, disability support pensions, sole parent pensions…
PYNE: Hang on. You’ve had a good run. The reality is before the last election Labor put up a whole lot of so-called policies for the Budget, ending with a net $16.5 billion more spending. So Labor’s idea of savings measures was to go to an election saying we are going to spend more, we are going to put up taxes, which they think are savings – actually they are other people’s money which they are taking into the Federal Government and then spending. And after all these things that Chris Bowen talked about, you are going to spend more money – $16.5 billion more.
ALBANESE: It’s simply a matter of where your priorities are.
PYNE: And of course we are in deficit. That actually would be money they’d have to borrow from overseas.
ALBANESE: You have all these multi-nationals. Why don’t we try and get multi-nationals to pay some tax. Why don’t we do that?
PYNE: That’s exactly what we have done.
ALBANESE: You haven’t done that.
PYNE: That’s exactly what we have done – measures you opposed, measures you opposed. And this is the hypocrisy of Bill Shorten.
ALBANESE: You haven’t done that. They are getting a free ride from this government because this government has prioritised attacking the poorest people in our community.
FORDHAM: And what are you going to do going forward as far as doing something about the ballooning welfare bill?
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that we think that there are issues there but they are issues about proper targeting. What this does is hit people at the lowest end, at the lowest end.
FORDHAM: But that’s where welfare is. That’s where welfare is directed.
ALBANESE: It’s not. It’s not. It’s not and certainly not under this government. I’ll tell you what welfare is from the taxpayer. Welfare is negative gearing. That enables people to reduce their tax paid to the Government as a result of being able to compete against your first home buyer who is struggling to get into the Sydney housing market.
PYNE: But you can’t seriously be suggesting that people on higher incomes get more welfare than people on lower incomes?
ALBANESE: I’m suggesting that the negative gearing and Capital Gains Tax (inaudible) … are a form, are a form, of welfare.
FORDHAM: There’s been plenty of middle class welfare that probably came in at the end of the Howard era as well.
PYNE: We are trying to pare that back.
ALBANESE: These are changes from Howard and Costello. Your minister said that today.
FORDHAM: They are trying to do something about it though.
ALBANESE: These are their changes. When they were in Government…
PYNE: The supplement that you are talking about the Howard and Costello Government introduced when we had a $22 billion surplus in the Budget.
ALBANESE: That’s right. When you had a boom, rather than invest in infrastructure or invest in education or invest in skills, or invest in the productive side of the economy, which would have helped.
PYNE: Labor inherited a $22 billion surplus, money in the bank and after six years of Labor we had a massive ballooning debt, we had a budget deficit because you don’t know how to stop spending money.
ALBANESE: That’s rubbish.
PYNE: I love you Anthony, but you don’t know how to stop spending money.
ALBANESE: We had something called the Global Financial Crisis.
PYNE: You are like the Paris Hilton of governments.
ALBANESE: But your debt is more now. You have octupled the deficit.
PYNE: We were coming off your base.
ALBANESE: You’ve increased the deficit by eight times when there is no global crisis.
PYNE: So you were great financial managers were you? No budget deficits?
ALBANESE: We got Australia through the Global Financial Crisis.
PYNE: Australians got Australia through the Global Financial Crisis.
ALBANESE: Two hundred thousand jobs created…
PYNE: Australian business got Australia though the Global Financial Crisis.
ALBANESE: As a direct result of our economic stimulus – recognised as the world’s best.
PYNE: You are just a big leftie spender.
FORDHAM: Let me see if I can find something for you two to agree on, and I don’t know if you will? Is Ahmed Fahour, the boss of Australia Post, being paid too much at $5.6 million per year?
PYNE: Yes he is.
ALBANESE: I reckon the mob would absolutely say he is.
PYNE: He is. And that’s why the Prime Minister spoke to the chairman of Australia Post today and said…
FORDHAM: He spoke to them did he?
ALBANESE: He appointed the board.
FORDHAM: He spoke to them did he?
ALBANESE: He appointed the board.
FORDHAM: And what’s he said?
PYNE: He said in the media he though the chairman and the board should reconsider.
ALBANESE: The chairman and the board that he appointed.
PYNE: Yes, well we appoint the board but we don’t pick the salary.
ALBANESE: He appointed the board.
PYNE: Anthony you’ve got to get you facts right. We appoint the board and the chairman. They choose the salary. It’s too much, It needs to be reduced.
ALBANESE: Malcolm Turnbull appointed all of his mates. He was the Communications Minister. He replaced all of the boards.
PYNE: The board has to consider it…
ALBANESE: But why did it happen in the first place…
FORDHAM: Can I take a call. Kelly has called in, Kelly.
CALLER: Hi Ben. I need to take a Panadol right now.
PYNE: I know. He is hopeless.
CALLER: Listening to these two is like listening to two toddlers fighting over a toy. And you are wondering why the Australian people have had enough of the major political parties and going elsewhere. Honestly, what have they done today? What have they done today to help the average taxpayer with anything – health, education, transport, infrastructure, climate change, anything? And all they do is attack each other, calling each other parasites and what not. We don’t care. We don’t care how you feel about each other. We want you to work together for the Australian public. You serve us. That’s what your job is. That’s why you get paid. That’s why you go to Parliament. We are fed up.
FORDHAM: She’s got a point.
PYNE: I blame you.
PYNE: Because you start this every time.
FORDHAM: I ask you about the issues and you guys feral each other. But this interview is representative of what happens inside this Parliament.
PYNE: You get Anthony all juiced up and everyone terribly excited and I have respond.
FORDHAM: Juiced up? What are you suggesting he is on performance enhancers?
PYNE: But I do agree with the caller.
ALBANESE: We don’t even get a cup of tea.
PYNE: We’ve done three things today in this parliament that the caller needs to know about. We’ve introduced an amendment to the Australian Building and Construction Commission courtesy of Derryn Hinch changing his mind about the timing of when that should begin – the transition period – which is very important in terms of productivity in the building and construction industry. The last time there was an ABCC productivity improved by sixteen percent.
We introduced the child care reforms – massive child care reforms and of course the Enterprise Tax Scheme. So we have been very busy talking about constructive things.
ALBANESE: And what I’ve been doing today, I’ve been speaking about an infrastructure report, as one of the comments that your listener made, talking about High Speed Rail, talking about the need to deal with urban congestion in our cities, public transport. That was actually quite a good debate from both sides in the Parliament. You tend to get a focus on the sort of argy bargy, but a lot of time there is agreement.
ALBANESE: And indeed we get bagged all the time for agreeing with each other too much.
PYNE: For being too friendly.
FORDHAM: But what we see on the news is you guys ripping each other’s heads off and I’ve got to admit I enjoyed seeing Malcom Turnbull find a bit of ticker and some mongrel today. We’ll talk to you guys next week.
You go and reflect on what Kelly had to say.
PYNE: Kelly had a good point to make.
ALBANESE: She did and we will try to be nicer next week and you have to be nicer in the questions you ask.
FORDHAM: Anthony Albanese and Christopher Pyne. We’ll talk to them next week.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.