Subjects: Medicare, Gonski, Tony Abbott
HOST: A very special Two Tribes today, because we are joined in the studio by Christopher Pyne. Anthony Albanese joins us on the line. How are you going over there in Sydney, Albo?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good, mate. I understand Christopher has brought reinforcements to the studio, is that right?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Today Tonight are following me around today, hoping for a major scandal to unfold.
HOST: What have they heard?
ALBANESE: He has brought that, and all of his friends.
PYNE: Thank you, Anthony: I can always rely on you.
ALBANESE: Tell them to give me a call – I’ll give them some dirt!
HOST: Don’t worry, we will pass your number on afterwards, Albo. Now, look, we were saying before the 8:30 News, we want to at least start the segment with what we call the Spin Free Zone. I think our listeners would like us to try to get to the bottom of what is, or isn’t, happening with Medicare because it has been the big issue that Labor has been focusing on for the last week. So to you, Chris, what is the Government looking at changing?
PYNE: The Government asked the Productivity Commission to consider whether there was a better way to deliver the payments system for Medicare through I.T. changes, and whether that meant that we should partner with the private sector. Which is exactly what Chris Bowen said in 2009, in September and December, would be a good idea; and he began that process.
Labor has tried to turn that into a scare campaign, saying that we want to privatise Medicare. It is a big lie, and even the President of the AMA, Michael Gannon, has today said that the idea of having better I.T., and asking the private sector to help, is nothing even close to privatising Medicare. So after three years of Bill Shorten as the Leader of the Opposition, all we have got from him is a desperate lie in the last ten days of the election campaign. Whereas we have an economic plan for jobs and growth.
HOST: Is that true, Albo? Is this the exact thing that Labor looked at doing when Chris Bowen was in charge?
ALBANESE: No, it’s not. What we know is that it is in Labor’s DNA to support Medicare and it is in the conservatives’ DNA to try and tear it down.
PYNE: Answer the question.
ALBANESE: We know that they are attacking Medicare in a range of ways. One of the ways they are doing it is by freezing the payments in terms of bulk billing, at $37.50.
HOST: But they want to privatise it, as is being alleged?
ALBANESE: Well, that is about privatisation, that is about taking away bulk billing from people in Christopher’s electorate and other electorates around Australia –
PYNE: Bulk billing rates have gone up to 85% under the Coalition –
ALBANESE: Christopher, you got your crack, and now it is my turn.
PYNE: But you were using spin and I was being factual.
ALBANESE: Oh rubbish. If you told the truth, what you would say is that ‘the Liberal Party will get rid of Medicare bit by bit, every chance we get’ they undermine it. That’s what they’ve done consistently, that’s what they’re planning to do. That is why you don’t set up a privatisation task force unless you are about privatising it.
PYNE: It wasn’t a privatisation task force, it was exactly the same thing that Chris Bowen was considering doing.
ALBANESE: It was a privatisation task force, and you’ve been exposed on it. And now you are busy trying to tread water and say ‘oh no, that’s not like us’ – exactly like before the last election. You, as the education spokesperson, said that the Gonski funding would remain regardless of –
PYNE: This is just all spin –
HOST: But you did say that about Gonski, though.
PYNE: Let’s not jump from issue to issue. We did exactly what we said we would do-
ALBANESE: You did not.
PYNE: Which was to match Labor’s funding, dollar for dollar, for the first four years.
HOST: The quote was, we are on a unity ticket with Labor; but the funding was different in the end.
PYNE: I am not going to get distracted from Labor’s big lie about Medicare –
HOST: One at a time guys.
ALBANESE: Christopher’s had his go; and this exposes how vulnerable they are on this issue. Because when you press the button, you get a response. And there is a response because they know what their position has always been on Medicare – they’re supporters of private health care, not public health care –
PYNE: You’ve got union bovver boys ringing little old ladies in my electorate –
ALBANESE: [inaudible] –
PYNE: Oh rubbish, you sound like you’re in the speaker’s corner at Hyde Park on your soap box.
ALBANESE: We are still up to my answer to the question –
PYNE: You haven’t stopped talking since you got on the show.
ALBANESE: You’ve interrupted continually; you’re showing off before your entourage.
HOST: We are going to shift to another topic now. I think the chances of getting anything resembling clarity… you’ve both made your point. This has been an election campaign that has dragged on, and it needed something like a lightning rod: it needed some hero to drag it out of what had been a mire that had been going on for so long. And we received that hero this week, in the Fake Tradie. Christopher, do you feel vindicated that the man labelled the Fake Tradie was in fact quite legitimately someone who works on building sites –
PYNE: He’s a full-on trade.
HOST: He seemed to be wearing a gold watch, though: I don’t know what that was about.
ALBANESE: And a bangle.
PYNE: Here he goes again, Anthony’s having another go. This is the sneering left, incapable of believing that a tradie should have a decent watch. As far as the sneering left is concerned, unless you’re eating a goats cheese and quinoa salad and sipping on a soy latte, you’re not allowed to have a political opinion in this country.
This is a classic example of why the Liberal Party represents people like Andrew MacRae and the tradies who are trying to get ahead, and the Labor Party represents this sneering lefty class who doesn’t think that people like Andrew MacRae have any place having an opinion. I think it’s hilarious how wrong they were. He’s a real tradie and he supports the Liberal Party and good luck to him. There’s a lot of tradies who do.
HOST: Why did so many people jump to the conclusion that he must have been an actor or a fake, Albo?
ALBANESE: I think they just had to have a look, I think it was the bangle more than anything. Not many people go onto worksites with bits of metal hanging off them, for obvious reasons, in terms of safety. As soon as I saw it I thought, ‘hello, this bloke’s probably an actor’. That’s what I thought when I saw it.
HOST: Maybe because this election campaign has been going for so long, but in the last week two streams of thought have emerged. One goes to the prospect of what a likely loss would mean for Bill Shorten, and the other is what the prospect of a possible narrow victory would mean for Malcolm Turnbull.
I will start with you Christopher. The speculation involving Tony Abbott has been that after the election he will say, ‘I’d like to come back to the Ministry’. A lot of his supporters think that he has a lot to offer on the front bench. Do you think that Tony Abbott has something to offer as a Minister and should return to Cabinet?
PYNE: Well David, I don’t think you should cross the finishing line and declare victory until you’ve crossed the finishing line. We’ve still got ten days to go in the election campaign and we’re a long way from finalising the results. Dividing up the spoils of victory when you are still ten days from an election I think is particularly stupid.
HOST: But it is being done by people from within your party. You’re certainly not suggesting they’re stupid are you?
PYNE: Certainly not by me. Anybody who is dividing up the spoils of victory ten days out from an election does not know about campaigning and does not know about the Australian public. The truth is, we are fighting for every primary vote between now and Election Day. We’re the ones with an economic plan, and Labor has a big lie. I hope on Election Day we get the endorsement of the Australian people to implement our plan for jobs and growth.
HOST: But has Tony Abbott still got something to offer?
PYNE: Tony Abbott’s a terrific guy –
HOST: But as a Minister?
PYNE: I’ve known him for twenty-odd years, and I think he is a terrific guy. But I am not going to get caught up in this silly distraction about who is going to be in the Ministry when we haven’t even won the election yet.
HOST: What about you, Albo: would you run for the leadership again?
ALBANESE: Well, you’ve just got your headline there – ‘Pyne attacks Dutton and Abbott: distances himself’ – for the film crews that are there with you.
HOST: You guys are both frustrated headline writers and de facto radio interviewers.
PYNE: Anthony is a frustrated DJ.
ALBANESE: We are here to help. I will be DJing tonight at the Corner Hotel, in Richmond, in the Greens’ heartlands.
HOST: But quickly, to wrap it up: would you run for the leadership again?
ALBANESE: I am running for the Ministry. Bill Shorten, I think, is in a position to win, if you look at the polls. I want to be a Minister, that’s what I want to be.
HOST: So you’ll stick with him after the election, no matter what: that’s what it sounds like. That’ll be what you do?
ALBANESE: Opposition’s pretty miserable, let me tell you. What I will be doing hopefully, on Sunday morning, is dusting off my little ministerial folders.
PYNE: It sounds like he is waiting like a big black spider. Straight after the election he will be announcing his candidacy for the Labor leadership, believe me.
ALBANESE: So when will Abbott re-contest the leadership, that’s the question.
HOST: We are going to have to wait until Saturday week. it’s the one day every three years where people like Chris and Albo tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
ALBANESE: Hey, imagine how chaotic next Wednesday is going to be.
HOST: I know! This segment might go for two and half hours.
ALBANESE: Can I propose, on air – without Christopher’s consent, but I am sure he would agree: next week David and Will take the day off and it’s just me and Christopher.
PYNE: The ratings would go through the roof.
HOST: Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese thanks for joining us, we’ll do it again next week in the last week of the campaign.