Subjects: Liberal Party Division, Clean Energy Target, Marriage Equality
HOST: Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese join us on the program. Good morning to the both of you.
PYNE: Good morning gentlemen.
ALBANESE: Good morning. I think it’s two different tribes this week. I’m sort of redundant to the tribes going to war.
HOST: No, we’ll get to you shortly Albo. Well look, obviously enough, we will start with you, if we can, Christopher Pyne. Obviously the last few days has been dominated by the fallout from the comments that you made in that speech, which was tape recorded after the Liberal Council meeting in Sydney on Friday night. Do you now regret making the speech that you made?
PYNE: Well David, I dealt with these matters on Monday night on QANDA, comprehensively, in front of 900,000 viewers and 200 people in the studio audience and my intention is not to canvass them again but simply get on with the job.
HOST: Well this is your first interview with an Adelaide audience and people here have been captivated by the fallout from this, which is very much continuing. So I apologise for continuing to ask you a few more questions about it. It’s been reported this morning, Christopher Pyne, that your position as Leader of Government Business in the House is now under threat and that there are people in the Coalition who are urging Malcolm Turnbull to remove you from that position. Are you aware of that push and do you think that it might eventuate?
PYNE: Look, David, I think the Australian public aren’t very concerned about the machinations of the Government in Canberra, what they are concerned about is the Government’s policies; things like ending the school funding war that’s bedevilled the country for decades, bringing back the rule of law on construction sites, regulating the unions in the way that we’ve done, delivering company tax cuts and income tax cuts and childcare reform, vocational education and training reform and in my own area, of course, more jobs in the defence industry.
HOST: But this is why Christopher, this is why people are interested in it, because right now no one has any faith that the Federal Government is focusing on those issues. All they hear are these internal ructions.
PYNE: I don’t think that’s true.
HOST: I’m telling you it is the case; it’s what we hear every morning on the program.
PYNE: Since the Budget, which has been very well received, the Federal Government has been focused on delivering higher wages, better outcomes, lower inflation, lower interest rates, (inaudible), bringing back a surplus, all those things we’re getting on with.
HOST: Well with respect, this is filibustering. This is you filling the gaps by talking about other things to avoid talking about the very real fact that your Party appears to be paralysed by factionalism. We saw yesterday, that the immediate past Prime Minister Tony Abbott, totally provocative act, went out and issued his own manifesto for good government. The question, and can you please answer it, how does the Liberal Party move beyond this factional infighting?
PYNE: Well I have answered the question, with great respect, David. I said I’ve dealt with this comprehensively on Monday night on QANDA and I don’t intend to canvass it any further because I think the South Australian public would much prefer we were talking about jobs at Osborne in the submarine and ship yard project that I’m running down there for our state and our country and I think they get very sick of these internal discussions about politics inside the bubble, whether it’s Labor, or Liberal, or the Greens. I see Lee Rhiannon is being attacked in New South Wales, internally in her Party and I just don’t think the public switch on. I heard the Prime Minister on Neil Mitchell the other day in Melbourne and all Neil Mitchell wanted to talk about from what I could gather was these same issues and the Prime Minister said let’s go to phone calls.
HOST: Well how about you leave it to us to determine what our audience is interested in.
PYNE: You don’t have to be aggressive about it Will.
HOST: You keep telling us what our audience wants to hear. We’re getting tweets and texts at the moment.
PYNE: Well I have a (inaudible) idea of what people want to talk about. I represented them for 24 years.
HOST: Sure, but we’re getting tweets and texts to the contrary at the moment. One right now, Tim Cummings, saying wrong Christopher, we are interested. So we’re going to have to stick with this for just a moment. It looks like the Government’s position and Malcolm Turnbull’s position is becoming untenable.
PYNE: Look I’ve answered these questions. I’m getting on with the job and I’m not dealing with internal machinations on 5AA radio.
HOST: Can I just ask you Christopher, almost on a non-political level here; how do you keep doing your job when you wake up and someone’s called you treacherous, someone’s called you two-faced, someone’s called you disloyal, untrustworthy, a pest, someone who never graduated from student politics – is it wearing you down?
PYNE: Well that’s a charming way of trying to get me to say something new on the subject in order to keep the story going but I won’t be doing so.
HOST: Well let’s go over to you, Anthony Albanese. This is probably the most you’ve ever enjoyed the Two Tribes segment. But that said I’m not so sure you should, because it strikes me that every single time the word faction gets mentioned in Australian politics, a voter for a non-major party is born. How in the hell do we move beyond this fixation with the inner working of Australian major political parties that we seem to have at the moment?
ALBANESE: I think that what we’re seeing here is the fallout from knocking off a first term elected Prime Minister. We went through something very similar; I know how this movie ends because I’ve been a part of it. And watching Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull in this cage fight of a downward spiral that they’re in, they are dragging the whole Government with them and the truth is that there are issues, Christopher is right, there are issues that are far more important than the personalities of politics. Issues like the fact that penalty rates will end this Sunday at a time when Christopher has acknowledged that we actually need wages to increase and the opposite is occurring.
The Government had a recommendation about a clean energy target. They agreed to 49 of the 50 recommendations except for the one that actually matters and they’re hamstrung there by their internal divisions. On marriage equality; I mean for goodness sake, the Government actually tried to implement its policy of a plebiscite. It failed. It failed; it delivered its commitment and now I don’t see there’s any breach of Liberal Party policy for there to be a vote of the Parliament and then people will wonder what the fuss was about.
HOST: Just on that point, sorry to jump in Albo. On that point of marriage equality, can I jump back to you Christopher? Not trying to resuscitate or return to the comments you made on Friday night but can I ask; is there any kind of renewed push within Coalition ranks to force Malcolm Turnbull to change position over the manner in which we would get to same-sex marriage being legalised?
PYNE: Well we would probably have marriage equality now if the Labor Party and Bill Shorten had supported the plebiscite.
ALBANESE: No one wants it.
PYNE: That was to be held in February, and assuming it was carried, and I think it would have been, then we could have had the law in by February/March. The only person who has stopped marriage equality in this Parliament is Bill Shorten. The reality is that we had a policy to give everybody a say, and I think that was a good policy, so that if marriage equality came about, the whole country could feel they’d been part of the decision. Not just the people with a vote in Canberra, and unfortunately Bill Shorten blocked that.
HOST: Is that a fair assessment Albo?
ALBANESE: That’s just nonsense. Its rot and Christopher knows it. He doesn’t support a plebiscite, nor do most people in the Liberal Party. This was just a fix to avoid internal divisions. We’re not having a plebiscite about the clean energy target, about education funding, about penalty rates, about a whole range of things that actually impact far more people than the marriage equality decision will. This is a Government that is just hamstrung by its internals. That’s the problem here, and that becomes a problem for the nation. And now you have people going after Christopher Pyne. I would welcome Christopher Pyne not being Leader of the House because half their front bench struggle to find where the Chamber is let alone know how the Parliament actually functions.
You’ve got people mouthing off against each other, mostly anonymously, and that is what they’re concentrating on. They’re not concentrating on the needs of the Australian people and that’s why the Government continues to trail in the polls.
HOST: As you alluded to though Albo, this is something that was not only invented but mastered by the ALP, during the Rudd-Gillard period. It’s tragic that it’s occurring again, albeit on the other side.
ALBANESE: It certainly is not good for the Australian body politic, you’re right. Will alluded to the issue of the impact on the major parties and, having a look at these internal divisions, there’s no doubt that it is having an impact. It had an impact on us when we were in Government; it’s having a massive impact on the other side of politics. I don’t think it’s healthy for the way that politics is conducted and, frankly, Tony Abbott’s hypocrisy over issues like the renewable energy target, which is the precise target that he presided over, and now he just wants to pretend it had nothing to do with him. That’s the sort of dishonesty and opportunism in politics that puts people off.
HOST: Chris and Anthony; thank you for joining us this morning, and Chris in all sincerity, we do wish you well in trying to put a line under this, because we are with you. We spend 90% of our program talking about things like power bills, talking about the impact that the bank tax is going to have.
We do, as a general rule want to talk about issues that do affect our listeners very, very much so, but when it gets to a point where the fighting looks like its preventing the Government from doing its job we do feel duty bound to explore those issues with some energy too. Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese, always a great segment, thanks very much for joining us today.
PYNE: It’s a pleasure.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you guys.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.