Subject: Bob Day Senate vacancy.
HOST: Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese join us. Good morning.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning, Will.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
HOST: Now Chris, we want to start with you if we can. I know this is obviously a matter for the High Court now, but do you as a Member of the Federal Government have a view on whether Bob Day was validly elected and also whether the Senate spot that he held should remain with the Family First Party?
PYNE: Well, I don’t have a view about whether he has been validly elected or not. That’s a matter for the High Court to decide, not a matter for me to have an opinion about. And the High Court will also decide, as it has before numerous occasions over many decades, about who and how that person, he, will be replaced. He’s resigned now. This has happened before and it’s not new to the High Court and they will know how to resolve the impasse. Obviously he has resigned from the Senate so that therefore definitely means there is a vacancy that needs to be filled. Whether there is a countback, whether Family First get to replace him, as has happened before, with One Nation for example some years ago, is a matter for the High Court to determine.
HOST: What’s your assessment of it Albo? Is Labor all over this because you are excited by the possibility of getting the former South Australian Senator Labor’s Anne McEwen back into the upper house?
ALBANESE: We are all over it this like the Australian public I think. We want to know when the Government knew there was an issue here. It says that it got advice last Thursday. The question is when did they ask for advice? How long have they known? There is a big question mark over whether Bob Day was eligible to ever sit in the Senate. If they knew that but were happy to count his vote in, why has this issue just come up now? Why was there no transparency over this issue? It’s not like there hasn’t been a focus on Bob Day, I’ve got to say, in the last few weeks. I was wondering why Christopher Pyne was gagging debate on bills like the ABCC and a range of other legislation last week – rushed it through to the Senate. But given the Senate wasn’t even sitting, maybe now that makes a bit more sense.
HOST: Is that a fair assertion Chris? Was the government trying to sort of squeeze the remaining drop of political life out of Bob Day to suit its legislative agenda?
PYNE: Well, the ridiculousness of that statement is proven by the last thing that Anthony said, which was that the Senate wasn’t even sitting. So why would I …
ALBANESE: But it was the week coming up. You were pretty keen.
PYNE: Stop this nonsense and your conspiracy theories. I was getting the legislation through the House of Representatives because the Senate only has 12 sitting days left for the rest of the year and, as Anthony well knows, the Senate doesn’t deal with Government business for all of those 12 days. It spends plenty of time giving speeches about matters of interest to them. And I wanted to make sure they had all the legislation the Government wants through waiting for them when they get back and therefore we got it through the House of Representatives.
ALBANESE: When did you know that there was a problem with Bob Day though? When did you know?
PYNE: Only yesterday.
ALBANESE: That’s the first time?
PYNE: That’s right.
ALBANESE: They didn’t consult you even though they got legal advice last Thursday?
PYNE: That’s right.
ALBANESE: And you are the Leader of the Government in the House? Your show is more dysfunctional than I thought.
PYNE: Bob Day doesn’t sit in the House. Bob Day sits in the Senate. Stop your rubbish. You know that is all rubbish.
HOST: Can we set aside the politics and the constitutional element of this and focus on something that we have done this morning on the program? We spoke with Aaron earlier who is one of the people that has been left out of pocket and left without a home as a result of Homestead Homes falling down and starting this whole mess. I want to get sense from each of you, and perhaps we’ll start with you Albo, of your assessment of Bob Day’s handling of this entire scandal in its entirely, given he is not now speaking to the media, he’s given no explanation to people like Aaron who we’ve spoken to on the program about his current predicament. What is your estimation in terms of Bob Day’s handling of this entire scandal?
ALBANESE: Well I think Bob Day’s handling for the issues relating to his business going back now a very long time, back to when he was head of the HIA and arguing to privatise everything on earth, has been appalling, People have been put in a terrible predicament. I saw on TV last night the footage of homes where the wall doesn’t meet the ceiling and where quite clearly people are massively out of pocket. I saw contractors who are owed thousands and thousands of dollars. The human dimension of this is just terrible and Bob Day, who likes to be all pious and lecture people has, I think, a lot to answer for about the role that he has played here. And it’s not good enough for him, who was quite prepared to be in the public eye, to just disappear and pretend, you know, there’s nothing to see here. Well, there is a lot to see here and explanations needed to be given.
HOST: What do you think Chris? Do you think that if he had his time over could have handled it differently? We’ve had a lot of people on the show who are owed large amounts of money and are none the wiser about whether they are ever going to be getting it from him.
PYNE: Well, I’m not going to join an all-in brawl on Bob Day. I think it is very sad that Bob Day’s business has gone under. The truth is it was a very sound business until he bought Huxley Homes in NSW. Obviously Huxley Homes has mishandled very badly their business. I don’t think you can blame Bob Day for the fact that there was poor workmanship on the homes that he was the owner of the whole business. He wasn’t turning up to work every day doing that work. I mean, certainly Huxley Homes has got a lot to answer for and Bob Day has said that because of the insurance provisions of his business all of those people’s homes will be properly restituted and so they should be.
HOST: Chris he has also admitted himself that maybe he took his eye off the ball by embarking on a political career when he was still had a very important day job building people’s houses, often building people’s first houses. You know how serious a proposition is a political career. You can’t do two jobs at once.
PYNE: I agree with you and I agree with him. I think he is very regretful, very regretful that he didn’t put the proper provisions in place for Homestead Homes – his overall business. I think that is a great shame for him. He was a very sound businessperson. I think the fact that he was in the Senate meant that he couldn’t have done both jobs as well as he would have liked to have. I don’t think we should be attacking him personally for that mistake. People do make mistakes and I think Bob Day is a very solid citizen. I think it’s a great shame that those people’s homes need to be fixed and that is a matter for the businesses. But I don’t think you can sheet all that blame back to Bob Day. I’m not going to sort of turn up with burning embers and pitchforks and say, you know, burn Bob Day politically. I think that is ridiculous. Obviously businesses do go through and this is what has happened here and Bob Day is very upset about it. I don’t think he is pleased about what happened and I think that if he could have his time again he would do things differently.
HOST: I think the thing that a lot of our listeners are struggling with now though is this sense that there is so much clamour over who will fill the casual vacancy now there is a constitutional fight about which party would fill the casual vacancy, and there’s a sense that in the pecking order of importance the people who are owed thousands of dollars have somehow been forced right down to the bottom of the list.
PYNE: Well that’s only the media’s obsession with this latest thing. I mean the truth is that the number one priority is for those people’s homes to be fixed – for them to get their contracts fulfilled. That’s the number one priority. The High Court will decide how Bob Day’s casual vacancy is filled. The most likely outcome for that is that there will be will either a countback or Family First will fill it. If there is a countback, it’s very unlikely that anybody other than Family First’s second candidate will fill it. So people should take a cold shower and calm down because there’s not going to be suddenly another Labor senator in the Senate. There isn’t going to be a by-election. The High Court will make their decision. What has happened in the past is that sometimes the casual vacancy has been filled by the political party who the member represented and other times there has been a countback in the Senate and usually the person who was number two on the ticket gets elected.
HOST: We are going to have to leave it there. Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese, thanks very much for joining us as ever on Two Tribes.