Subjects: Female representation in Parliament, Newspoll.
HOST: Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese. Good morning to you both.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning gentlemen.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning team.
HOST: Chris Pyne, can I start with you? A big topic of conversation this week has been the prospect of the Liberal Party introducing a quota system on account of the fact that you just don’t seem to have too many women on your side of politics at the moment. Labor did it. They are about 50-50 now. Is it something you need to contemplate?
PYNE: We won’t introduce a quota system because it goes against the grain of the Liberal Party that every selection should be based on merit. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a lot more women in the Parliamentary party. We’ve gone backwards in terms of representation over the last couple of decades, whereas Labor has gone forwards and they have done a good job at balancing their caucus. It doesn’t mean that I think Labor should be in office by the way. Far from it. But on our side of the House we need to do more and we need to encourage women to run for pre-selection. We need to help to train the women about how to compete in pre-selections and Kelly O’Dwyer has started a fund in Victoria which we can all contribute to around the rest of the country to support women who get pre-selected to win seats from the Labor Party. So there are other ways to do it. We just haven’t been doing it effectively.
HOST: So you say the Labor position at the moment on the distribution of gender is laudable. They achieved that by way of a quota system initially, didn’t they?
PYNE: Yes and the problem with a quota system is there is always that doubt hanging over the heads of the people who have been chosen because of an affirmative action policy that they weren’t as good as other people in that particular race. Now I am not saying that all the women in the Labor Party aren’t as good as the men who were running in the pre-selection, but that doubt lingers because of the affirmative action policy.
HOST: How does it work on the Labor side, Albo? One Labor example of the moment, because of the fact that a well-known politician of the female persuasion is departing the local stage as the Member for Adelaide, we’ve now got a situation where Steve Georganas and Mark Butler …
ALBANESE: She’s only got one thing wrong with her, that Kate Ellis.
HOST: Thank you mate.
PYNE: You have beautiful children.
ALBANESE: No, it’s certainly not the children, and it’s not the dogs, including Zorro.
HOST: I’m being ganged up on by both of you. But you guys, to maintain your affirmative action targets, you are going to have to knock off either Mark Butler or Steve Georganas at the end of this term aren’t you.
ALBANESE: Well that’s not right, that’s not right.
HOST: But you are over the male quota now aren’t you?
ALBANESE: No, that’s not right. What we are doing is ensuring that the number two person who will go in from the Senate will be a woman and we also have a female candidate in Boothby. So what we have done is to ensure that there are structures in place that have driven the change, that have made Labor, I think, better, stronger and more representative of the community most importantly that we seek to represent and half the community are female and that should be reflected in the Parliament. One of the practical ways that we have done for example, that has driven the actual outcomes in New South Wales where we have 100 per cent rank and file pre-selection – if there is a woman candidate she gets a weighting of 1.2 for every vote for them. So guess what? The power brokers that exist in parties, whether it be the Liberal Party or the Labor Party, have an incentive to find and to support, where everything else is equal, a good woman candidate above a good male candidate because they have a greater chance of being elected and that has driven the change right through the party at both federal and state levels.
PYNE: And at the next election there will be a lot more women running for the Liberal Party and the Coalition than at the last election. For example, we have Georgina Downer pre-selected for Mayo. We have Anne Ruston …
ALBANESE: Yes, but she won’t win.
PYNE: … heading our Senate ticket in South Australia. We have Nicole Flint in Boothby. In Tasmania we have just elected two women on winnable positions on the Tasmanian Senate ticket. In Queensland we replaced a male senator with Susan McDonald for the Liberal Party at the next coming election. We have two women running in the Northern Territory in the two winnable seat there.
ALBANESE: But you have replaced sitting Liberal Members …
PYNE: Hang On.
ALBANESE: … who are in safe seats.
PYNE: Hang on, I let you talk and I didn’t interrupt you. We have had one woman replaced in Brisbane. We have had many other women now being pre-selected across Australia. The Nationals have pre-selected a woman for their number one on the Senate ticket in New South Wales. So there is a lot of movement. For the Liberal Party, by the way, we actually hold most of the firsts for women in Australian politics – the first woman to get elected to Parliament in South Australia; the first woman to be a cabinet minister in the national Parliament. We have had most of the firsts when it comes to women. We have had more Cabinet ministers in our governments over time who have been women than the Labor Party.
ALBANESE: That’s not true.
HOST: Hey just setting gender aside though, if Monday’s Newspoll is to be believed, hardly any Liberals are going to be gaining seats at the next election whenever that is held Chris. I wanted to get your thoughts though Albo. What does it say about Bill Shorten that after the chaos that the Liberal Party subjected us to and the fact that there was no widespread public clamour for Scott Morrison to become Prime Minister, that he is now ahead already of Bill Shorten as preferred PM?
ALBANESE: Well most people when they have taken over leadership positions, particularly prime ministers, have had a bounce in the polls in terms of the people are prepared to have a look at them and give them a go. What’s significant is that the Liberal Party would lose 30 seats based upon that Newspoll. So we’d see 30 extra Labor members. So for all of Christopher’s talk about women candidates in seats that are marginal but are held by Labor, they are not going forward.
HOST: But is Bill Shorten your Achilles heel? I mean, in the glare of an election campaign, and campaigns these days are increasingly presidential when it comes down to a choice between not just two parties but two individuals, if you have had four years of apparent stability on the Labor side and policy development and all that, and everyone has seen a lot of Bill Shorten in that time and, you know, four out every five people haven’t really got any time for the bloke.
ALBANESE: Well, they are prepared to vote for, and are saying they will vote for, the team that is led by Bill Shorten.
PYNE: He is deeply unpopular and he is very untrustworthy.
ALBANESE: That would give us 30 seats off the Liberal Party; would reduce them to a little corner of the Parliament.
PYNE: And you expect that to happen on election day do you, that they are going to have a 56 to 44 per cent result?
ALBANESE: No, I think things will tighten up as they inevitably do. But we have, I think, a stark contrast between Labor putting forward policies concentrating on the national interest and a Government that has become a rabble and that’s concentrating on themselves.
PYNE: I don’t think that you will be able to keep saying that. But the truth is that people have looked at Bill Shorten and they think he is a phoney. And they are looking at Scott Morrison and they realise it is authentic and the reality is that, as David said, there will be a large focus on leadership at the next election and of course the economy is growing very well. There are huge numbers of jobs coming into the system. We are funding the essential services that the Australian public want, whether it is defence or health or education or aged care, and I think the next election is more than competitive for the Coalition as long as we respond and listen to what the Australian people are interested in.
HOST: Good on you guys, Chris Pyne, Anthony Albanese – Two Tribes. We’ll do it again next week.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.