Subjects: Budget; citizenship; Fremantle and Perth; polls; date of by-elections; Jane Prentice; party democracy; shipbuilding.
OLIVER PETERSON: Christopher Pyne, good afternoon.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Ollie, good to be with you again.
PETERSON: And Anthony Albanese, good to be talking with you again as well.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s good to be here, particularly after my Rabbitohs beat your Dragons yesterday.
PETERSON: I didn’t think we were going to discuss the rugby league today Albo.
ALBANESE: I just had to work it in early.
PETERSON: Well you certainly put this on the back foot so I will go to Christopher Pyne first and give him a free kick if you like here because the lines in the sand really have been drawn here after last year’s Budget and Budget Reply speech. Christopher Pyne, doesn’t your Government’s plan really encourage Australians to want to work harder, particularly earning between $50,000 and $200,000 per year. Is Labor’s plan lacking in that real opportunity for Australians, as I say, to work harder?
PYNE: Well the good thing about our plans is that we are basically abolishing bracket creep so the more you earn, you won’t suddenly move into a different tax bracket and still be paying the same or even more tax because we are reducing the number of thresholds from four to three and we are proving that we are the party for aspirational Australians. Now Bill had the same policy in 2005. He said we should have three tax rates and now he says that that is not progressive enough because you see the problem with Bill is ‘Unbelieveabill’. He can never be trusted and that is the problem with his response to the Budget last week, nobody believes it, whereas ours was sensible and measured, it grows the economy and reduces tax.
PETERSON: All right is Anthony Albanese, as Christopher Pyne says there, is your leader ‘Unbelieveabill’?
ALBANESE: Our leader has a plan that is realistic, that is fully costed, that will deliver not just tax cuts for those who most need it in the form of double what the Government is offering; what we will also do is invest in education and health and infrastructure and be able to pay down debt sooner because we are not having the big giveaway to big business and the big banks.
PYNE: This is where it becomes unbelievable you see. So they are going to have apparently less tax, more spending and pay back debt.
ALBANESE: Well, we are not giving away $80 billion.
PYNE: Anybody who is managing their own budget knows that you can’t actually spend more, take less revenue in and also reduce your credit card at the same time. This is Labornomics, you see. This is what happened under Rudd and Gillard and we are all going to go through the same experience if Bill wins next year.
PETERSON: It has been a tough week Anthony Albanese for the Labor Party with the dual citizenship crisis obviously reaching a new height last week – four MPs embroiled in this. Now, didn’t your Party in particular say that you were better, your processes were better, there would be no problems? Why didn’t your MPS like John Alexander or like Barnaby Joyce from the other side of politics, declare the fact that they had citizenship issues last year and head to a by-election back in 2017? Why is it dragging into 2018?
ALBANESE: Well, hang on a tick. Barnaby Joyce sat in the Parliament and in the Cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister after he conceded that he was a citizen of New Zealand – quite extraordinary. These people have all renounced their citizenship. They went through a process which was in accordance with the previous High Court rulings and there was a change there and therefore they have been impacted. Then they have done the right thing – resigned. Those by-elections need to be held and I note that the Liberal Party isn’t even entering the field in Perth and Fremantle. They are not even giving their rusted on voters the opportunity to vote for the Liberal Party in those by-elections. I find that quite extraordinary.
PETERSON: Yes, let’s come to that in a moment, but on to the point Anthony Albanese. Last year, particularly Bill Shorten said that your processes were ridgy-didge effectively, paraphrasing for a moment here, that everything was OK.
PYNE: Rolled gold.
PETERSON: Ok rolled gold, there you go. So what was wrong with Labor’s processes and now does Bill Shorten have a leg to stand on when it comes to the dual citizenship saga?
ALBANESE: Labor’s processes relied upon the previous High Court rulings. What occurred, say for example Josh Wilson there in Fremantle – he was preselected on a particular day. On that very day, he applied, filled out the forms to renounce his citizenship. He sent it off with the payment that was withdrawn from the bank the very next day. Now it wasn’t finalised, the processing of that, until after the nominations had closed – after he had nominated for the seat because he was a last-minute candidate due to the withdrawal of the person who previously had been preselected. So the reason why the courts have in the past have said that that’s OK is obviously that it relies upon another country – the High Commission of the UK in this case – to process the application, which is not within the power of the person applying for the renunciation of their citizenship. Now Josh did everything that he could …
PYNE: This is a very long answer.
ALBANESE: … clearly that wasn’t enough.
PETERSON: Christopher Pyne?
PYNE: He’s just trying to talk out the interview. We all know that Bill’s credibility is shredded. Anthony knows it. Everybody knows it. He took a very arrogant line last year when Malcolm Turnbull held out the hand of bipartisanship and said let’s refer a number of MPs who have got a cloud over their head. Bill wrote a very rude letter back on August 17 saying that he had absolutely no reason to co-operate with the Government and he has been found heavily wanting. And that is because Bill lives day to day. At least Anthony Albanese believes in things, whereas Bill thinks if I get through the next 24-hour news cycle, I’m in front. And that is why the people don’t trust him.
PETERSON: Well he is in front at the moment on the two-party preferred poll. But Anthony Albanese, perfect opportunity to ask, on the preferred PM question it is 46 to 32 per cent when it comes to Malcolm Turnbull verses Bill Shorten. Is there another alternative in the Labor Party, Anthony Albanese, who might be able to close that gap?
ALBANESE: I tell you what. In Perth and Fremantle I will make this prediction – Labor will do better than the Libs, because we are actually running. Because we are actually running.
PETERSON: Well there is no candidate there Christopher Pyne …
ALBANESE: We are actually putting forward our case. We are actually running in Mayo too even though it is highly unlikely that we will win because we think that is the right thing to do. And what matters of course on polling day is who wins Government and according to both the polls that are out today, if the election was held on Saturday, the week after the Government brought down its Budget with all the hoopla that goes with that – all the advantages that it has – they would still lose and Labor would win the election.
PETERSON: Christopher Pyne, are you disappointed that the WA Liberal Party has decided not to field candidates in the Fremantle and Perth by-elections? Let’s be honest, Fremantle you’d have next to no chance, but Perth on a margin of only around 3 per cent. Are you surprised that your colleagues over here didn’t preselect somebody?
PYNE: Ollie, the by-election is decided on the boundaries from the last election. So it’s about a 6.5% Labor seat. The new boundaries don’t kick in until the 2019 election. A government hasn’t won a seat off the opposition in a by-elections since 1920 and even when Labor was at its lowest ebb in Western Australia, when we got 57 percent of the two-party-preferred vote and Labor got 43, they still won Perth and Fremantle. When we won 12 out of 15 seats they still won Perth and Fremantle so they are as Labor seats as you’re ever gonna get. So we’ll focus on Longman and Braddon and Mayo, all of which we have a better chance in and we’ll let the Greens take on Labor in those two Perth seats. Of course, you can vote Green and you won’t change the Government and you won’t hurt the Opposition, but you can protest against the $220 billion of new taxes that Bill Shorten wants to levy on Australian companies and individuals.
PETERSON: Preselection issues…
ALBANESE: I never thought I would hear Christopher Pyne tell people to vote for the Greens.
PYNE: Well, I’m just saying they could vote for the Greens and it wouldn’t change the Government.
ALBANESE: That is historic. Next thing you know he’ll be saying…
PYNE: I wouldn’t say it your seat, Albo. I wouldn’t say it in Grayndler. I’d never say it in Grayndler. I was wearing a Save Albo t-shirt at the last election.
ALBANESE: One of the points that’s got to be made too is; let’s call these by-elections. I read today that these by-elections might be put off ’til July. Now, the only reason why that would happen would be if Malcolm Turnbull didn’t want the scrutiny that will come if by-elections are held on 16th June, which is when they should held.
PETERSON: Do you have a date for the by-elections, Christopher Pyne?
ALBANESE: Why aren’t they called?
PYNE: Well, the Speaker decides the date of the by-elections and of course because of the citizenship debacle that Bill Shorten has visited upon the Australian people yet again, we need to make sure that all the processes are in place; that this doesn’t happen a third time. So the Government with the AEC will go through its proper processes. They’ll give advice to the Speaker. The Speaker will make a decision and of course we’ll be running in the by-elections. We’ve already announced candidates, just as we would whenever it’s called and the date is immaterial. It’s the outcome that matters, and these elections give people an opportunity to protest against the $220 billion of new taxes that Bill Shorten wants to levy on people.
ALBANESE: Protest against an opposition. That’s a new pitch in a by-election.
PYNE: If I was in one of those seats I’d be voting Liberal.
PETERSON: Talking of by-elections, talking of preselections Christopher Pyne, I need to ask you about the Assistant Minister for Disability Services, Jane Prentice. She is out after eight years of service. She’s being replaced by Julian Simmonds. Is there a gender issue in the Liberal Party, Christopher Pyne?
PYNE: No, there isn’t. I mean one of the good things about the Liberal Party is that we are an internal democracy. We don’t have the candidates being chosen in smoke-filled back rooms at the Labor Party conference, like the Labor Party does, particularly in Western Australia where you’ve had a history of that. We actually give our members a genuine vote. I know Anthony Albanese is in favour of the members having a genuine vote in the Labor Party and I defeated a sitting member in a preselection. That’s internal democracy. Jane is a good friend of mine. I’m disappointed to see her defeated but that’s the choice that the preselectors of Ryan have made and everyone will just have to get on with it.
PETERSON: Anthony Albanese, would you like the members to have a vote as well?
ALBANESE: I always am a supporter of direct democracy. In the Labor Party we have direct votes in New South Wales. We have 100 percent rank and file preselection. That’s how I got into Parliament. In terms of the candidates, obviously there were truncated processes because of the by-elections being called. But both the candidates in Perth and of course in Freo have very strong grassroots support in the Party. The tragedy here is the lack of representation from women on the frontbench and now on the backbench of the Liberal Party and the National Party. We saw on one day last year the extraordinary circumstance whereby there were no women sitting on the Liberal Party frontbench because Julie Bishop was away and Kelly O’Dwyer was on maternity leave. It’s quite outrageous that someone like Jane Prentice who actually has a great deal of capacity particularly in the area of cities and urban policy; who was making a contribution, has just been rubbed out by someone who was her former staffer, who told her clearly that she was going to be okay and at the last minute has sprung this coup on her with an impact on the Liberal Party meaning that Malcolm Turnbull should intervene and say: ‘That’s not good enough. Just steady on there, young fella – this woman’s has got something to contribute’. She’s a frontbencher in the Government and the Government hardly have any women on their frontbench.
PETERSON: Christopher Pyne, can we just move to a meeting you had last week with the State Government’s Paul Papalia. You had a meeting of course around a particular area. I know that you like to tell me you’re very popular in Henderson around shipbuilding and the like, but we did see reports out of The Australian late last week that Austal may no longer have some of the work on the offshore patrol vessels. Are you able to confirm that Austal and Lürssen will not be working together on the offshore patrol vessels or are you hoping to have a solution here?
PYNE: No, Austal and Lürssen have failed to come to a commercial negotiation which is disappointing for Austral, but it’s still good news for the people in Henderson because the 10 offshore patrol vessels we built there, by Lürssen in conjunction with Civmec trading as Forgacs which is building a brand spanking new shipyard at Henderson costing a million dollars, so there’ll be 400 to 600 direct jobs and about another 400 to 600 indirect jobs at Henderson in shipbuilding. It confirms Henderson as the other hub of shipbuilding in Australia alongside Osborne and Paul Papalia and I had a great meeting last Monday in Canberra to talk about investment in infrastructure and planning for the Henderson precinct to take full advantage of the Government’s $200 billion build up of our military capability, the largest in our peacetime history. So there’ll be other work for Austal. They said in their statement that they had plenty of work in building ferries and taking advantage of other Government Defence contracts like the future frigates. They’re bidding into the United States for more combat vessels, so that they’re a healthy company. Unfortunately they and Lürssen and weren’t able to come to commercial terms and that’s life in commerce, I’m afraid. The jobs will still happen whether they’re wearing Austal shirts or Lürssen shirts, the jobs will still occur in Henderson.
PETERSON: Alright Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese. We are out of time for the Odd Couple segment, but we’ll do it all again soon. Thank you very much gentlemen.
PYNE: Great to talk to you.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having us.