Subjects: Nick Xenophon; Clean Energy Target; High Court
HOST: It’s that time of the week – Chris Pyne, Anthony Albanese -Two Tribes. Good morning to you both.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning. Did you say “that’’ time of the week or “best’’ time of the week?
HOST: I said “that’’ time of the week but I imagine for certain people it’s the best time of the week.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s our highlight. What sad lives we lead.
HOST: I bet you say that to all the hosts. We’ve missed you both terribly last week, Chris and Albo, so it’s good to have you back.
ALBANESE: I didn’t. I was on a beach.
HOST: Oh really? Oh mate, not one of those travel rorts was it?
ALBANESE: I had some time off.
HOST: Personally funded time off.
HOST: Always good to clarify. Hey we’re going to kick off with you Chris. The big story here politically in South Australia has been a local one over the last few days with the announcement by Nick Xenophon that he is ending his Federal career to run for the state seat of Hartley. Now when we interviewed him the other day he confirmed that at the moment he’s only got candidates lined up to run in seven Liberal-held or nominal Liberal seats, promising to find some candidates for Labor seats. But this is a bit of a nightmare scenario for the Libs isn’t it?
PYNE: Well Nick Xenophon is a celebrity candidate who is leading a shambles of a party. Already he has lost his first candidate and John Darley, his former member, he has also lost him by the way, is pointing out what it’s like being in the Xenophon team. It’s a one-man band and anyone who votes for Nick Xenophon is essentially re-electing a Labor Government for another four years, so it’s a 20-year Labor Government and I don’t think anybody wants to do that. So his shambles of a party lost its first candidate on Saturday. He claims to have all these special arrangements in place to make sure that didn’t happen. His first candidate didn’t even last 24 hours. I think the South Australian public are far too smart to be fooled by this celebrity cult figure and I don’t think that he’ll have nearly the impact that people say because people want to change the Government. They want policies about energy like Steven Marshall released yesterday. They want solutions to their problems. They don’t want more of the Xenophon circus that we’ve seen in Canberra.
HOST: Albo to you, you’ve probably had reasonably limited dealings with Nick Xenophon …
ALBANESE: I was the Leader of the House in a minority Parliament, so I have had a fair bit to do with Nick over the years. I’ve got a good relationship with Nick. I’ve no issues with him. The problem when you vote for parties led by people like, whether it’s Clive Palmer, or Pauline Hanson or Nick Xenophon, is you don’t know what you’re getting except for Nick Xenophon. These parties do have a history of getting people elected and then them abandoning their parties and of course that is the danger. We have seen, as Christopher said, one candidate hit the fence already. It’s pretty clear that the conservative side of politics are a mess in South Australia. You’ve got Cory Bernardi out there with his Australian Conservatives. You now have Nick Xenophon standing against the Liberal Party member, whoever they are in Hartley. And you’ve got Steven Marshall, a Liberal Leader, who called for a vote for Labor just before the last state election. And I don’t think he inspires anyone in South Australia and I think that’s why you have this mess in the non-Labor forces in South Australia.
HOST: But it’s not quite right to describe Nick Xenophon as representing the non-Labor forces, though.
ALBANESE: Well he is not a member of the Labor Party and has never been a member of the Labor Party.
HOST: But he is doing you guys a massive favour here by muddying the waters.
PYNE: He’s all things to all people. That’s the thing about Nick Xenophon. He’s like a frog on a lily pad. He keeps leaping from one lily pad to the next depending on the issue. He’s completely inconsistent. His first partner Ann Bressington, in the Legislative Council, she left him. John Darley has left him, so he’s lost both of his state representatives. He wants us to trust him that he’s got it right this time. He lost his first candidate on Saturday. He’s got Skye Kakoschke-Moore, the Senator, at the moment involved in a similar issue to the one of the candidate he lost.
HOST: No it’s not. That’s just a bit of silliness, though isn’t it? That’s not similar.
PYNE: Part of it is the same …
HOST: He made light of domestic violence.
PYNE: Yes that was the more-serious aspect to that, there’s no doubt about that but the first part of it was the other issue with Toni Collette and yet Nick Xenophon said that’s a big joke, we were supposed to laugh about that. I don’t think that is very funny.
ALBANESE: We will see it all played out in the fullness of time.
HOST: That’s right.
ALBANESE: One thing about Jay Weatherill is he actually leads a united team. He does have the experience; he is prepared to stand up to Canberra, in particular for South Australia’s needs and to take them on when we see a lot of South Australia bashing going on from the Coalition Government. Not from Christopher, of course, to be fair …
PYNE: Well the front page of the Advertiser today is about how we’re providing eight thousand jobs in shipbuilding, so we hardly not supporting South Australia.
HOST: That is a big story. Can we talk about some things in the Federal political sphere for a moment, namely the future of the Clean Energy Target? Christopher Pyne, does it have a future in your Government?
PYNE: Well what’s important is we get energy policy right. What Steven Marshall announced yesterday is practical methods to ensure that electricity in South Australia is affordable and it’s reliable, in stark contrast to the Weatherill Government, which has given us the chaos that we have at the moment.
HOST: Yes. Steve Marshall was on earlier. We had a long chat about that. What about the Clean Energy Target though, federally?
PYNE: Well the Clean Energy Target is simply one of the options that is available to government. But what has happened of course in the last five or ten years is that renewable energy – solar and wind – has become competitive against coal and other forms of energy – and gas – and we have to consider all that in setting the energy policy by the end of this year, which we promised to do. But the gas mechanism that we have put in place has caused gas prices to start coming down quite dramatically because domestic supply is increasing again, whereas Labor allowed all that to be exported when they were in Government. We are fixing that problem.
ALBANESE: The export deals that were signed by John Howard with China in 2002? The fact is that what we have is the Government asked for a report from the Chief Scientist. They received it. It called for a Clean Energy Target. It’s not Labor’s preferred option, but we have been constructive because we know, like the Business Council have said again just this morning, that what we need is certainty. We need to stop this nonsense of it being a part of the argy-bargy of politics. Malcolm Turnbull knows that. Christopher Pyne knows that too. But they haven’t got the ticker to stand up to Tony Abbott, who is completely off the reservation. He’s gone to London and made this quite frankly bizarre speech about how global warming is fantastic for everyone, completely ignorant of the increase that has occurred in terms of natural disasters and the impact that it is having around the world, not the least of which is in the northern part of Australia.
HOST: Can I ask you Chris Pyne, what did you make of Tony Abbott’s speech about climate change?
PYNE: Look, Tony Abbott’s got his own views. They are not necessarily always the views of the Government but I believe …
ALBANESE: The Government is following him.
PYNE: Of course it’s not. The reality is that Malcolm Turnbull is getting on with the job of fixing the mess in power than was created by Labor …
ALBANESE: The Chief Scientist made the recommendation months ago.
PYNE: … no more stark that in South Australia. That is the reality of it and we’ve lived that here. We’ve got the lived experience of Labor’s policy, which is ideological, whereas ours is a practical, all-of-the-above approach that just wants to create lower prices and more reliable power and that is what South Australian voters are looking for and Australian voters are looking for around the country.
ALBANESE: When you got rid of the carbon price you said that prices would fall.
PYNE: They did.
ALBANESE: Wholesale prices have doubled. They have doubled. You have been in government for four and a half years and you act like you have been in government for four and a half minutes.
PYNE: When we got rid of your carbon tax, it was the biggest single drop to electricity prices in recorded history.
ALBANESE: Absolute rot. Just keep telling people that.
PYNE: It’s a fact. It’s a fact.
ALBANESE: So, are prices lower now than they were when you came to office? Is that right?
PYNE: I just said the factual statement that when we got rid of your carbon tax …
ALBANESE: Complete nonsense.
PYNE: … the biggest single drop in electricity prices in recorded history. It’s a fact.
ALBANESE: Complete nonsense.
HOST: Speaking of costs to taxpayers guys, I just want to read out some names to you and ask you a question. D.M. Bennett QC, A.L Tokley SC, Flecknoe-Brown, del Villar, B.E. Walters QC, E.A. Bennett, A.N.P McBeth. C.R.C. Newlinds SC, P Kulevski, R.J. Scheelings, B.W. Walker, G.E.S Ng. These are all QCs and SCs that are representing people in the citizenship court case that is going on at the moment. That’s not to mention the Government’s counsel – those representing the Attorney General and the Solicitor General of the Commonwealth of Australia. Have we got any idea, has anyone put together any sense of what this is costing the Australian taxpayer to have this going on in the High Court, acting as the Court of Disputed Returns at the moment?
ALBANESE: Too damn much. You know there is absolutely no need for that number of lawyers to be sitting in the High Court for essentially what is … the Government should have been represented. That’s fine. But the idea that you have got each of the people who the Government is arguing – five of them have exactly the same case which is: I was ignorant, don’t blame me. There is no need for this extraordinary waste of taxpayers’ dollars.
HOST: What is your take on it Chris?
PYNE: Well unfortunately we have to get to the bottom of what Section 44 means because this citizenship issue has come up. I don’t know what the cost is to the taxpayer. It’s very unfortunate that we are in this position but the reality is we have to find out what the foreign allegiance to another power exactly means when you didn’t know that you were a citizen of another country. But before we finish can I just clarify my remark before. I wasn’t suggesting for one minute that Rhys Adams’ case and Skye Kakoschke-Moore’s case was the same in all its parts. There was only one aspect of it which was the same – certainly not the domestic violence – making light of domestic violence – issue. But the part about the groping of the wax figures, not obviously people themselves, of Halle Berry and Toni Collette, that’s the part that I was comparing.
HOST: Yes. We get it.
ALBANESE: Now I am more confused.
PYNE: Any inference to the contrary shouldn’t be taken and I would apologise to Skye Kakoschke-Moore if she thinks that. That is certainly not what I was meaning.
HOST: For your benefit Albo, I know you are a Sydney bloke, but it’s become a bit of a thing here in South Australian politics, groping wax figures in you spare time. But you know, we just put that down as one of the little quirks of life in South Australia. You’ve got to make you own fun here in Adelaide. It’s always great to catch up with you both. 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.