Subjects: Retirement of Christopher Pyne.
HOST: Well, perhaps giving us something of a taste of the future, he jokingly last night tweeted that he’s looking forward to becoming One Tribe, Anthony Albanese’s on the line. Albo, good morning to you.
ALBANESE: I reckon me arguing with myself would be gold.
HOST: Well, guess what Albo? You get to audition in that capacity this morning because, I don’t know, maybe Christopher’s just turned off all the alarms now.
ALBANESE: He’s given up. He’s given up.
HOST: He’s checked out already.
ALBANESE: He’s gone. He’s slept in.
HOST: Normally he’s extremely fastidious. He’s normally even quicker than you when it comes to calling in, but we’re chasing him down ourselves so hopefully we’ll get him on the line shortly.
ALBANESE: I can speak on his behalf perhaps.
HOST: What do you reckon he’ll say?
ALBANESE: I reckon he’ll say, “I’ve recognised after all these years that my party is hopeless, the Government is hopeless, all is lost and that’s why I’m going.”
HOST: “I am leaving a sinking ship”. Hey Albo, last time we spoke …
ALBANESE: “I’m so in favour of subs I got on one and it sunk.”
HOST: We only make the best here in South Australia. Hey, when we last spoke a couple of weeks ago …
ALBANESE: They are meant to sink, by the way.
HOST: Yeah, they just come back up again. There was a great poll out for Chris, clearly wasn’t great enough that he wants to stick around after the next election, but you made the point then that you don’t think you’re targeting Sturt, has that changed with Christopher Pyne now stepping away from the seat?
ALBANESE: Look, I think it’s a whole new dynamic. On a serious note, I very much wish Christopher well, for both him and Caroline and the kids. I spoke to him after his resignation and I must say he wasn’t having second thoughts, and I think that it opens it up. He’s obviously been a very strong representative. He’s also been, I think, a progressive within the Liberal Party. He’s obviously supported Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership strongly and was a strident opponent and blocker of Peter Dutton becoming the Prime Minister. I think that would reflect the views of his electorate, of Sturt. It’s a progressive electorate, and I think we certainly are targeting Boothby in Adelaide with Nadia Clancy who we think is a fantastic candidate. I think we’ll wait and see how it goes.
HOST: Do you shift your focus now though? Incumbency – the word meaning the level of support for a long-term sitting member has – can be worth five percent, even more in some seats. He’s been there for three decades almost. Does it mean that you guys now regard Sturt as winnable?
ALBANESE: I think we regard all seats as winnable as our starting point, but we’ll be campaigning there. We regard the sitting member in Boothby, who supported Peter Dutton as Prime Minister, as being an asset for us in the election campaign. It’s not always a plus.
HOST: Those flyers are out in the seat, that’s for sure. Christopher Pyne now is on the line. Christopher, good morning to you.
PYNE: Good morning. I apologise for not being available when you were ringing. It’s very unlike me.
ALBANESE: I’ve been speaking on your behalf, Christopher.
PYNE: I’m sure you’d have been saying nice things too, especially now that I’m retiring. When you’re retiring everybody wants to be nice.
HOST: Chris, can we ask, was there a moment or event that galvanised your decision to quit?
PYNE: No, not really. I decided in January and February down at the beach and then back to work, I thought I’d better think about whether I’m going to go on or not. I went to Canberra on about February the 6th to get ready for Parliament and do some ministerial duties and thought, “I’m not certain I want to necessarily be here after the election,” and I thought, “I’ll get them through the two weeks of the sitting, and think about it on the weekend.” I did that and I decided enough was enough. Twenty-six years have been great, I’d been very lucky, but it was time for renewal and I told the Prime Minister on Tuesday and told the world on Saturday.
HOST: So how do you want to be remembered and, separately from that, how do you think you’ll be remembered?
PYNE: A difficult question. Look, I’ve absolutely loved being a local member of Parliament, representing my electorate and dealing with the individual constituent concerns which, for those people who come to see a Member of Parliament, or write or phone – to them that’s a very big issue in their day, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing that. So solving their problems has been a very exciting part of the job. Then there’s the big parts of the job, like the Submarine Project, the Hunter Class of frigates, the Space Agency, the various things that I’ve brought to our State, and invested in through defence capability. But I guess if you summed all that up I’d like to be remembered as a fierce advocate for my electorate, for my State, and for my country.
HOST: A lot of people, in covering your departure, talk about the factional player, the numbers man.
PYNE: Well, as you said in your column on the weekend, you can’t actually get to be a Cabinet Minister, a Member of Parliament, an advocate for your side of politics, unless you win the internal battles which are inevitable in every political party, to get elected. There’s a lot of people who wanted to be the Member for Sturt over the last thirty years, or wanted to be Minister for Defence or Defence Industry, or Education, or whatever it might have been, but I played politics in the situation where I was in a position to get appointed to those jobs or to get elected. Now, there’s a lot of people who turn up with a handful of want and a mouthful of gimme, but unless you’ve got the numbers, you don’t win.
HOST: Do you have any concerns now, you step aside at the same time as Julie Bishop, and you’re probably one of the most influential, progressive voices within the party, that it’s been lauded by some on the Right as a sort of a returning to conservatism in the Liberal Party federally? Have you got any concern about the shift or where the party is broadly?
PYNE: Look, the Liberal Party has been a broad church since 1944. We’re not shifting to any particular political dynamic. There’ve always been a large number of people who would regard themselves as more to the centre of the political spectrum in the Liberal Party, particularly in South Australia, and there are people who regard themselves to the right of the political spectrum, but one person retiring, in my case, doesn’t mean that that has changed that shift or that dynamic. There’ll always be two wings of the party and for the party to be successful both of those wings need to be healthy.
HOST: Do you want to respond to Julie Bishop suggesting that you were influential in orchestrating, in denying her the leadership of the party?
PYNE: I don’t see any point in raking over those old coals, it’s time to look to the future and I’m sure Anthony’s desperate to say something about how much he likes me.
HOST: He got a huge run at the start.
ALBANESE: I’m just being polite now, Christopher.
PYNE: Thank you. Thank you.
ALBANESE: Can I make this point though? On Saturday I put out a positive tweet about Christopher. We’re genuine friends. One of the things that we’ve spoken about is that we would catch up post politics, and that’s something that I won’t do with all of my side, let alone people on the other side. Some of the responses to that, I just say to people look, you can have political differences whilst having having respect for people from the other side, and Christopher and I have a friendship, and if people don’t like that, well frankly, bad luck. I genuinely wish him well, both privately and publicly, and I stand by that. I am disappointed at some of the polarisation that has happened in politics. It seems to be exacerbated by Twitter and by people saying things behind fake names or in private that they’d never say to your face. Christopher has been an honourable opponent.
HOST: It’s a generous assessment. You guys are like Sam and Ralph in the Warner Brothers cartoon – you tear each to shreds during the day and then knock off.
PYNE: Morning Ralph.
ALBANESE: Morning Sam.
HOST: Chris, finally, have you got any ideas about what you’re going to do next, because you’re young enough to have a second career?
PYNE: Well that was a big part of my consideration. One, I’d been in Parliament for over a quarter of a century. Two, I’m fifty-one, and three, it’s nice to choose your own time of departure in politics, and it’s quite frankly very rare. Most people lose their seats or their pre-selection. But my intention is to have another career, to go into business, to promote defence, defence industry, to work with businesses here in South Australia that want to export, trade, grow, and I think that’ll be something I’m excited about. I’ll bring that same energy to that passion that I’ve brought to politics and I’m looking forward to it.
HOST: A lot of ex-politicians Christopher, go into the media. You’ve always been a sensational media performer, maybe could we find a role for you here behind the microphone?
PYNE: Maybe as a guest commentator every now and then. I could come in and replace you so you could go on holiday.
HOST: I like that idea.
ALBANESE: I’d have to come in too.
PYNE: You would.
ALBANESE: But they wouldn’t let that happen because the ratings would jump.
HOST: You never want to be replaced by someone that’s better than you, that’s for sure. Guys, we would love to keep Tribes going up until the election. Obviously after that we’ll have to have pack down and rethink.
ALBANESE: After that it’s One Tribe, we’ve done that deal.
PYNE: Well I’m in.
HOST: I’m not sure what ACMA would think about that. Good on you, Chris. Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese, thank for joining us this morning. We’ll do it again next week.
ALBANESE: Good on you, guys.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.