Subjects: Submarines, Omnibus legislation, marriage equality
INTERVIEWER: Anthony Albanese and Christopher Pyne join us – good morning to you both.
PYNE: Good morning Will, good morning Albo, and David.
INTERVIEWER: Now can we start with you Chris Pyne? We just conducted a pretty extraordinary interview with Dick Smith following on from that full page advertisement he took out yesterday in The Australian with regard to the awarding of the future submarines contract to DCNS; in which he raised a whole host of concerns about the capacity for Australian industry to change a nuclear model into a conventional submarine; in which he questioned whether we should in fact build something of this sophistication in Australia at all. But he also made some other pretty extraordinary accusations on our program, and I’d just like you to listen and perhaps respond to this:
DICK SMITH: It was to get two seats for the Federal Government, but in fact it only got one seat.
INTERVIEWER: That’s a pretty serious allegation though that’s being levelled then at the heads of Defence (inaudible) to say they can be so easily browbeaten to put lives at risk for the sake of two seats.
SMITH: Well they’re told they don’t have a career unless they do what they’re told and if you’re telling me that the heads of Defence would want to convert a nuclear submarine that doesn’t yet exist into a piston engine powered submarine, that’s ridiculous. I can’t believe, once we pointed that out, that that was a nuclear submarine they were going to base the design on, everyone just laughs.
INTERVIEWER: It’s your portfolio area Christopher Pyne, what do you make of that?
PYNE: Well look, Dick Smith and the four businessmen who are taking out these advertisements, they’re entitled to their opinion, but they’re misguided. They’re wrong, they’re misinformed, and they simply don’t have all the facts at their disposal, and I can’t tell much more than that. I mean, they’re just not right.
INTERVIEWER: What do you make of it Albo? I mean the suggestion that it’s some sort of seat buying exercise?
ALBANESE: Look this has bipartisan support I think Dick Smith, I had a bit to do with him as Transport Minister, he’s a good person but he does like getting his name in the paper.
INTERVIEWER: We mentioned that to him, about his perennial…
ALBANESE: He does like getting his name in the paper, and we’re talking about him now, so his KPI has been met. Every election he is going to run for a seat. And every election he gets a front page splash. And every election he doesn’t run.
INTERVIEWER: I’ll change tack – I want to talk to you about the Baby Bonus, because it sounds like an agreement has been reached between the Government and the Opposition about some of the budget saving measures, over which the Treasurer Scott Morrison and the Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen have been crunching the numbers.
Now one of the things that looks like it’s going to fall by the wayside is the Baby Bonus, which currently gives new parents two grand for baby number one and $1000 for every child thereafter. To you Chris, as the relevant Government Minister, do you think it’s fair that new parents are being enlisted to the cause of budget repair?
PYNE: I think we have to clear that up. According to Matthias Cormann, who is the Finance Minister, the Baby Bonus that you’re talking about is not what is being removed here. This was an extra bonus as part of the child care reforms the Government proposed in 2015 that the Labor Party in the Senate never supported. So in fact it’s a spending measure that’s never been implemented, so it’s not actually taking anything away from young couples as you’ve suggested.
INTERVIEWER: So it was scheduled to come in, was it?
PYNE: Yes, it’s never actually been implemented, according to Matthias on Steve Price. So I think what’s happened is that there’s been a conflating of the two phrases – Baby Bonus. This was a proposed spending measure that the Government wanted to go forward with, but the Senate didn’t support, and we’re simply now not going to go ahead with that and Labor agrees with that. So no one is actually losing any money.
And the wider issue of course of spending measures. I mean there’s a difference between spending money when you have surplus budgets and growing revenue, as we had under the Howard-Costello period, and then implementing spending measures in a time when you have budget deficit and debt, and we’ve had since the Rudd-Gillard period.
INTERVIEWER: What do you think of the thrust of these savings, Albo? A lot of people who are sort of stuck in the middle of about the $80,000 combined family income. Do you think people on that level of income, should be expected, or be regarded as being in a higher income bracket and should be expected to make some of the higher sacrifices?
ALBANESE: No, that’s not the case. But the truth is that if you’re on $80,000 you’re not wealthy, but you’re more wealthy relative to if you’re on a Disability Support Pension, or an Aged Pension, or on NewStart and these people would have been hit by the cut. The deal that has been done is a good one, it is a compromise deal, it makes savings for the Budget. But it also in terms of the Baby Bonuses is a good example; you can’t ask people to tighten belts at the same time as you’re introducing a new payment, which is what the Government proposed.
We got rid of the Baby Bonus as part of bringing in Paid Parental Leave and the Coalition promised to get it back. It hadn’t gone through the processes, Chris is right there, it hadn’t been implemented, but Malcolm Turnbull promised, as part of the deal, with the Nats after he became the Prime Minister a year ago to bring it back. It is good that the Government has recognised that it is not a sensible proposition. And I think Matthias Cormann and Chris Bowen deserve credit for coming up with some common sense solutions.
PYNE: I agree.
INTERVIEWER: Well that’s tremendous.
ALBANESE: There you go, that’s just stuffed up your program.
INTERVIEWER: It had to happen eventually. It’s a pleasant change from last week after the Sam Dastyari stink.
ALBANESE: We’ll get on the Swans and the Crows.
PYNE: I thought you were a Hawthorn supporter?
ALBANESE: I am mate, but I’m cheering for the Swans on Saturday. See that just proves I don’t just say what people want to hear. It’s a very brave thing to do, but I’m doing it from the distance of Canberra.
INTERVIEWER: You are a typical Sydney bandwagon jumper, mate.
ALBANESE: I think the Hawks have got a good chance, the Bulldogs, and the GWS.
PYNE: GWS is going to be hard to beat.
INTERVIEWER: You’re the type of Sydney AFL fan that would stand at the footy shouting ‘knock-on’.
ALBANESE: Mate, how many Sydney teams are in the top four again? Two. So we do know something about this sport.
PYNE: It’s a nice change, it’s a good thing.
ALBANESE: Poor old Port Adelaide.
INTERVIEWER: As much as I’ve enjoyed this sort of you know, match segue into football that we’ve somehow managed to achieve, we might drag it back to Canberra just for a brief moment…
PYNE: We’re all in shock that we agreed with each other about something.
INTERVIEWER: I know, it totally blew things out of the water.
PYNE: Someone has fallen off their couch at home in the suburbs.
INTERVIEWER: Chris Pyne, could you just explain to our listeners how it’s going to come to pass that this 10 member committee that will oversee the advertising that will accompany the plebiscite debate on both sides. How are they going to possibly assure that it’s not going to become hateful, or it’s not going to become beyond the pale.
PYNE: Well it’s two reasons; one the people who will be put on the yes and no committees will obviously be sensible people. We won’t be putting people on who want to say hateful things about anybody on either side of the debate. Secondly, the advertisement that they want to run will need to be approved through the Government Service Delivery and Coordination Committee, which is called the SDCC, it’s the government advertising committee.
So that’s made up of members of the Government, of course, and various public servants and others and that will not be approving advertisements that denigrate people or discriminate against people. So I think that they are important valves to ensure there is a reasonable debate and I, quite frankly, trust the Australian people to be able to conduct this debate in a sensible way and I’m a bit shocked that Bill Shorten who used to support the plebiscite now doesn’t trust the Australian people.
INTERVIEWER: What do you think Albo; can it be done without rancour and hate speech and abuse?
ALBANESE: I think if people have a look at the sort of material that was put around during the Federal Election campaign in seats like Barton and Banks and I’m sure in seats in South Australia, then unfortunately it is difficult to see how it can be done without some rancour and without hurt.
I think the big issue here that people are missing out on is it’s the term ‘marriage equality’, the key here is equality. Why is it that this issue is being singled out for a plebiscite unlike issues that frankly are more important to most people: jobs, the economy, the subs, education, health. None of that goes to a plebiscite, none of that goes to a debate.
And what we’ll end up having is a debate about the value and relative merit of people’s relationships and that, to me, is not appropriate. The Parliament should do its job, we should have a vote, like we had a vote to change the Act, we can have a vote to change the Act back. That essentially is what our job is to do – we’re legislators. And the plebiscite won’t avoid a parliamentary debate and a vote; it’s just a step in between. Why is this issue being singled out for a step in between when other issues aren’t?
INTERVIEWER: Chris and Albo, thanks for joining us. And before we let you go, Albo, we’ve got to say, or we would say, good luck at the SCG on Saturday but honesty forbids and if you do get up you’ll be defying history because the Crows have won 11 out of the last 17 at the so called home of football there in Moore Park.
ALBANESE: I’ve been to quite a few actually. I don’t think I’ve seen the Crows not win at the SCG.
INTERVIEWER: Well the last one wasn’t so good, we won’t talk about it.
INTERVIEWER: No the last one was forgettable but the rest were excellent.
ALBANESE: That was in Adelaide wasn’t it?
INTERVIEWER: No that was where we won, but the one before that in Sydney we got absolutely smashed by your …
PYNE: Albo follows any team, it doesn’t matter.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you guys.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.