Subjects: Unemployment, the economy, Labor’s policies, urban policy, Bali Nine
WILKINSON: Welcome back to the show. Australia’s economy is reeling with news yesterday that unemployment has reached 6.4% – the highest it has been in 13 years. The dollar is near a six-year low and today we are learning that our nation’s debt may balloon to $1 trillion within a generation. To discuss all of this and more we are joined by Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese. Good morning gentlemen.
PYNE: Good morning Lisa.
ALBANESE: Good morning.
WILKINSON: I will start with you Christopher. This is the week that we officially start with good government. How on earth are you going to get us out of this mess?
PYNE: Well I have to say, although people don’t necessarily want to hear it, the debt has been left to us by a Labor legacy of spending profligately for six years and I think people know that.
WILKINSON: But you have increased it?
PYNE: Well, we are we trying to do something about it. If we hadn’t made any changes at all in the Budget, it would have risen still to $667 billion under Labor. We’ve introduced a lot of savings measures, revenue measures and we’ve reduced that from $667 (billion) dramatically. But Labor is still blocking $28 billion of savings in the Senate, $5 billion of which they introduced themselves in government then they are voting against in the Senate. So on the debt bomb, Labor is to blame for the problem and they are now mugging the people who are trying to bring about the solution.
WILKINSON: But you can’t keep blaming. You have to come up you with more solutions. Because what we you are doing is not enough.
PYNE: What we are doing is good work but Labor is actually blocking a lot of it. But we’ve still got 70 to 80% of the Budget through. My higher education reforms I still hope will go through in February-March – over this next period of the Parliament sitting. We’ve also got to get growth going so it’s pleasing to see ANZ job ads are up, business registrations are up, household starts are up. The ABS statistics yesterday on unemployment were disappointing but even the ABS head David Kalisch himself said that they weren’t necessarily reliable. So there are lots of green shoots in the economy and the government has a plan. Labor has no plan other than to oppose everything the government is doing and try and blame us for the problem that they created.
WILKINSON: There is a feeling Anthony that Bill Shorten really needs to start putting some policy forward so we can see that Labor does have a strong alternative.
ALBANESE: Well, Lisa, they were so excited about graduating from Opposition they decided to have a gap year. They themselves have declared this week that good government starts today. That is an admission that they have been a bad government up to this point. And they certainly have been. They doubled the deficit. When it comes to the response to your question, Christopher had nothing to say about unemployment. Unemployment hit a 12-year high yesterday of 6.4%. That is the highest it has been since the last time Tony Abbott was the Employment Minister. If there is such a Budget crisis, why did they forward an advance payment of $1.5 billion for the East-West project in Melbourne? One point five billion dollars has been forwarded. We wouldn’t do that for a project that doesn’t stack up. That is what they did. We will be responsible. We will put forward all of our policies well prior to the next election.
WILKINSON: But people are really keen. Bill Shorten is doing very well in the polls. We have seen all of that this week. But people are really hungry now to see something. I don’t know that people want to wait another 12 or 15 months before they start seeing real answers to this problem.
ALBANESE: Well of course you need to see what their Budget will be next time around. We have put forward policies. In my area I gave a ten-point policy proposal at the National Press Club last year on cities. We want to engage in issues of dealing with drive-in, in drive-out suburbs, deal with urban congestion. We will fund urban public transport. We will fund infrastructure projects based upon the benefit to the national economy, rather than based upon politics. We’ve got a range of policies out there Lisa, but we will also hold the government to account.
WILKINSON: All right, let’s move on now. There was a rare moment of bi-partisanship in Parliament yesterday where Julie Bishop and Tanya Plibersek made emotional pleas for mercy for the Bali Nine drug others smugglers. Take a look.
FOREIGN MINISTER JULIE BISHOP: I ask others to place themselves, just for moment, in the shoes of these young men and their families – sons, brothers – facing death by firing squad.
SHADOW FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER TANYA PLIBERSEK: In 1988 my husband left prison after being charged and convicted of a similar crime to these young men. I think about – I didn’t know him at the time, this was 30 years ago – what would the world have missed out on? Well, they would have missed out on the have three beautiful children that we have had together. They would have missed out on a man who spent the rest of his life making amends for the crime that he committed.
WILKINSON: Both women making extremely emotional appeals and it was wonderful to see. But those appeals appear to be in vain with news just hours later that plans are under way to move Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran from Central their Bali jail to an island in Central Java to await their execution. Christopher, has the government really done enough where this is concerned to save these two men?
PYNE: The government has done absolutely everything it possibly could do and the Labor Party has all supported the government’s actions the all the way along. The problem is the way Indonesians see this matter is that they have five million, they say, five million drug addicts in Indonesia. They take a very, very firm line on drug smuggling. Obviously we are totally opposed to the death penalty and it was my idea that Julie Bishop and Tanya Plibersek move that motion yesterday in the Parliament and I made time as Leader of the House for them to do that. I think it was a very good thing. That is the first time that we have done that in a situation where Australians are facing the death penalty. So it was ground-breaking. The government has done everything it can. At the end of the day Indonesia is a sovereign government. They are their laws. We don’t support them. We don’t agree with them and it will be a great tragedy, a great tragedy, if those two young men face the death penalty soon.
WILKINSON: Anthony, we every give over $600 million to Indonesia every year in aid. If this goes ahead should we do something – either remove withdraw some aid or should we remove our ambassador? Should we do something to really say just how strongly we feel about Australians being killed?
ALBANESE: Look, I think making government threats to the Indonesian Government is not going to be constructive. That’s the truth. You will have no criticism from me about the government’s action on this matter. The truth is that (there are) some things the Australian public know that the Australian Government have done. There are other things that are best done with a bit of discretion. I had a discussion one-on-one with Julie Bishop last night. I am certainly convinced that she has done the best she can do under difficult circumstances. This is an issue that must be above politics. I understand some of the public frustration that is there in the public. They want to know more – “Why aren’t you doing more?”. Some of what the government does with an issue like this is best done quietly.
WILKINSON: It was a very interesting week. We want to thank you for all the entertainment that you have given us this week. It is nice to finish on a note of, at least, bipartisanship. Anthony and have Christopher, thank you very much. Have a good weekend.
ALBANESE: Thanks Lisa.
PYNE: Thanks. Lisa.