Subjects: Liberal Party, Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Australian political system.
HOST: Good morning to Anthony Albanese and Christopher Pyne.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning gentlemen.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day. I think that Two Tribes is now just about the Liberal Party. I am redundant.
HOST: No. We will get to you Albo.
PYNE: Boom tish.
HOST: You will have your turn.
HOST: You guys changed the rules to make it too hard. You can’t have any fun these days.
HOST: I would argue that what the Liberals are going through now is something that was invented by the Labor Party about 10 years ago Albo. But we will get to that shortly because we are going to start with Chris. Now Chris, you are obviously a Malcolm Turnbull loyalist and you tried yesterday to do your level best to prevent Peter Dutton from becoming Prime Minister. The consensus though is that Malcolm Turnbull’s position is untenable. Given that that is the case, what is Plan B?
PYNE: I don’t think that is correct that Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership is untenable. Yesterday he won 48-35. A number of people who voted for Peter Dutton have indicated to the Prime Minister in writing that they will support Malcolm Turnbull and not support another spill motion. That means that in fact Malcolm Turnbull’s position has strengthened, not weakened, since yesterday’s vote. I don’t believe that we will see another spill in the short term. In fact I think the Government is skating close to the precipice and my colleagues need to understand that. We have three colleagues who have indicated they would sit on the cross benches if Peter Dutton becomes the Prime Minister and in that situation, you know we could well be at an election within a matter of weeks. So people need to really take stock of the destruction that they are wreaking on the Government and that this is actually a zero-sum game. One party wins, another party loses. And if the other party wins it will be the Labor Party in government and Bill Shorten will be the Prime Minister. That is what people are playing with.
HOST: But how can Malcolm Turnbull go into Question Time today when everyone in Australia knows that more than a third of his ministers don’t want to work for him?
PYNE: Because he has more than 50 per cent plus one of the party room ballot and that is a win. There is an old saying in politics that one vote is a win, two votes is a landslide and three votes is wasted effort. The truth is of course that it is a saying, but what it means is that a win is a win is a win.
HOST: Given how much damage, and it is undeniable damage that he has sustained in the past 24 hours, what do you make of the theory, and it is a strong one, that rather than the more progressive people in the Liberal Party copping Peter Dutton ending up seizing power, that you come up with a compromise candidate, namely the Treasurer Scott Morrison, and that for the good of the party, to stop the blood-letting, Malcolm Turnbull should walk away and that Scott Morrison should contest a ballot?
PYNE: Because Malcolm Turnbull was elected Prime Minister in the 2016 election. He is the person who is most popular in the country to lead the country. All of the polling indicates that he is vastly more popular than Bill Shorten. The public willed Malcolm Turnbull to succeed and they want him to win and to do well. The idea of removing him simply because there are a group of people in the Liberal Party who have tried to destabilise his leadership and that the answer to that is for them to win and for him to walk the plank is quite frankly absurd. Malcolm Turnbull is the Prime Minister. I support him. A majority of the party room supports him. The public wants him to stay. Stability is our watchword for the future. Instability will see Bill Shorten as Prime Minister of Australia and potentially very soon.
HOST: We will get to Albo in a tick. Thanks for your patience Albo. One final one to you though Chris.
PYNE: This happened to him the other day too, if you remember.
HOST: It did. It did.
ALBANESE: I had nodded off.
HOST: We will get to you shortly. Neither of you were disappointed about playing the role of mute either.
PYNE: He did it better than me.
HOST: Chris, would you serve under a Dutton Prime Ministership on the frontbench?
PYNE: I don’t believe that there will be a change of leader. I believe Malcolm Turnbull will lead us to the next election and with a growing economy, with a million jobs in the last five years, with reform in education and health, in aged care, in child care and defence industry that we have been able to do as a Government I think we will win, especially when the contest is between Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten.
HOST: But what if you didn’t? What would you do?
PYNE: I’m not going to speculate about that because my view is that Malcolm Turnbull will lead us to the next election and I am a loyal member of his Cabinet.
HOST: Albo, what is wrong with our political system? This is the fourth time now in less than a decade that the Australian people have voted for X and got Y.
ALBANESE: I think there is a bit of a cultural problem. I bring it back to – I don’t want to blame any individual – but I think the rise of Tony Abbott to the Opposition leadership in 2009, where he had a ruthless and relentless negative campaign against the Government, including between 2010 and 2013, when Julia Gillard was the Prime Minister, the argument that an elected Government wasn‘t legitimate, I think, did a lot to damage the fabric. We saw motions in Parliament every single day to suspend standing orders and to disrupt and wreck and the problem is that Tony Abbott brought that wrecking strategy into Government as the Prime Minister and he is still doing it now.
HOST: OK, but tell the truth Albo. That might have sounded too strong. I’m certainly not suggesting that you are lying. You can say what you like about Tony Abbott, but you were a massive Kevin Rudd loyalist right through that whole torturous process within the ALP. Surely you would have to concede that this knifing, backstabbing, backgrounding model that the Liberals are now paralysed by themselves was pioneered and perfected by the ALP with what happened to Kevin Rudd in 2010.
ALBANESE: I say that publicly. I said it in Parliament again last night that the mistake of the 23rd of June, 2010, where people woke up the next morning and saw that there was a different Prime Minister and there was no lead-up to that at all. You will well recall people including the caucus chair, Daryl Melham at the time, as he left Parliament House saying the ABC were making it all up.
ALBANESE: Which is what most people thought. That changed politics in this country.
HOST: Because I’ve got to say and to both of you and you Chris, I mean as Defence Minister the big story here has been the insecurity for the workers at the ASC. You guys on both sides of politics, not to put too fine a point on it, are giving our listeners the shits because it looks like you are just talking about each other and not talking about the voters.
PYNE: Yes and I absolutely hate it. And I agree with them. They are right. Those colleagues of mine who want to have this introspection here in the bubble in Canberra, fed by the media, but they are obviously giving them the story, are not talking about the things that people care about.
Those 90 workers at the ASC, I am happy to be able to say that we have put in place, I have done this as Defence Industry Minister, a number of other projects which means that even though they might not be wearing ASC t-shirts they could well be wearing Offshore Petrol Vessel t-shirts, Collins Class Sustainment and Maintenance, Osborne South Shipyard and Construction, Osborne North Submarine Construction, scholarships at the Naval Shipbuilding College. And that is what I have done. We have created about 1200 new positions across the shipyard so even though the 90 are at risk on the Air Warfare Destroyer because of course the Air Warfare Destroyer is finishing, I believe they will all get jobs across the shipyard so that we won’t lose their skills from the workforce.
Now that is the kind of stuff that we should be doing. When Anthony was the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, every day he got up and he tried to do jobs for the Australian public that made their lives better and as Defence Industry Minister, that is what I want to be able to focus on every day and I think I have done for the last two years. But these kinds of ludicrous distractions, the public are right to be furious about them.
ALBANESE: Can I say this David, I agree with what Christopher just said. The Whitlam Oration speech I gave a couple of months ago, that got written up by people who never read it, talked about his. It talked about the political culture. It talked about the need for more consensus across the political spectrum between unions and business as well. The form of politics that we have descended into at the moment is a huge problem and I tell you what people missed perhaps in the poll that was out on Monday was there was a 32 percent vote not for the Liberals or the Nationals or Labor, but for someone else.
HOST: We made that point yesterday on air.
ALBANESE: Now what that shows, well – great minds think alike David. You know 32 per cent are voting for what ends up being chaos because we know what happens when we have the minor parties in control. They swap around and you don’t know what you are getting. But that is an indictment of – we need to do better – the Coalition and the Labor Party – need to do better.
HOST: Is this where potentially someone like a Peter Dutton might well be a more dangerous political adversary for Labor at the next election? Nineteen percent of that 32 you mention are from other – largely One Nation, Bob Katter in Queensland and others. If the Liberals are led by a conservative more able to galvanise the conservative vote, doesn’t that make him potentially more dangerous than Malcolm Turnbull for you?
ALBANESE: I think it is delusional. I think the idea that you win elections from either the hard right or the hard left in Australia is delusional and Peter Dutton we’ll see, if he was the Leader of the Liberal Party, we’ll see people who are currently in the Liberal column go across to us because he’s divisive. When he was Health Minister he was the guy who wanted a GP tax. He was the guy who cut health. He’s the person who has shown on asylum seeker issues no capacity for any empathy with people at all. I think that he would alienate the great mainstream of Australia, which is basically in the centre and I think that he would be a disaster for the Liberal Party if he was Leader.
HOST: I note that Christopher didn’t interrupt you once as you were providing that free character assessment there Albo. Was any of that wrong Chris?
PYNE: Well I think Malcolm Turnbull is the best person to lead the Liberal Party to the next election. I have been saying that for many years. I have strongly supported Malcolm Turnbull. He is the person with the biggest brain in the room and he is the kind of guy who I think the Australian public warm to. If he wasn’t being attacked from within his own side I think we would be in a much better position politically and I don’t think that we should change the leadership. I think that the disease of the last 11 years in politics, when people feel that there is a bit of pressure on the first thing to do is smash glass and change the Leader, is very destructive and I would leave you with one statistic. We have had six leadership spills in the Liberal Party in the last ten years. We had four in the previous 50.
HOST: The numbers do speak for themselves.
PYNE: They do.
HOST: Chris Pyne, Anthony Albanese, as always a rollicking chat and that was a particularly good one. You guys are absolutely in the thick of it over there in that mad house and we appreciate you making time for us here in Adelaide. We are particularly glad too Chris that you gave us that answer on that ASC question because, as you both said in your own different ways, that is exactly what politics should be about. Chris Pyne and Albo, good on you.
PYNE: Thanks a lot.
ALBANESE: See you guys.