Dec 11, 2015

Transcript of television interview of Today Show, Nine Network

Subjects: Bill Shorten; indefinite detention for terrorists; Tony Abbott’s white-anting; Coalition instability

PETER STEFANOVIC: A bad thing is just about right there because it is going from bad to worse for Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten.

An embarrassing new video has caught him texting while driving. He has apologised saying, “Like most drivers, I always try to do the right thing. There is no excuse. I shouldn’t have done it and won’t do it again.”

So to discuss we are joined by Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne and Shadow Transport and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese. Good morning to you chaps.


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Peter.

STEFANOVIC: First of all, better start off with the texting, with the texting and the driving. It is an embarrassing picture, it’s an embarrassing headline. What was he thinking?

ALBANESE: Well, George Thorogood got it right with the intro and Bill has said exactly that – that he did the wrong thing, that he won’t do it again. He hasn’t made excuses. He has put his hand up. It is a regrettable incident but it is one that he has done the right thing and apologised for.

STEFANOVIC: Politically, we’ve said this before; he is a dead man walking. Are you the man to take his place? I know that you have been asked that many times before.

ALBANESE: Good try, but the truth is that Bill Shorten is the leader. We went through a process of instability during the last period when we were in government. We learnt from that. We have a system whereby people made it clear that whoever was elected leader after the election would lead us to the next one. And Bill Shorten will lead us to the next election.

I think in terms of the way that we finished the parliamentary year was extremely positive with the government in trouble over the Mal Brough affair and in trouble in policy issues with GST all over the place – said they wanted a debate, but tried to avoid any responsibility for one.  And of course Ian MacFarlane defecting from the Liberal Party to the National Party. Then there is Tony Abbott engaged in a civil war within the Coalition.

STEFANOVIC: We will get to that in just a few moments. Christopher, I will bring you in now. I have got to sympathise with the Opposition Leader here somewhat because most people in one way or another text while they’re driving at some point. I see it all the time. Surely, you have done it before?

PYNE: Well, Pete, the truth is this is one of those cases when you are hot you are hot and when you are not you are not. Bill has had trouble with a hot coffee in his lap that caused him to run into a few parked cars a couple of months ago and now he has had this unfortunate incident with the texting.

My strong advice to Bill is keep both his hands on the wheel at all times and then he’s not going to get into any trouble. But obviously I sympathise with him because obviously things aren’t going very well for him. We have finished the year on a positive of course which is that jobs are up again. Yesterday unemployment was down.

The government’s innovation and science agenda has been very well received this week. So we have a domestic economic plan which I think the public is very much embracing. So we have finished the year on a positive and next year will be all about jobs and growth and hopefully Bill will keep both hands on the wheel.

STEFANOVIC: Have you ever texted while driving?

PYNE: Well, before it was illegal, probably, but now that it’s illegal I would try and avoid that, and that’s  why my wife does the driving so I can be on my phone if I need to dealing with my emails and things.

STEFANOVIC: Alright, moving on Malcolm Turnbull wants to see jailed terrorists locked up indefinitely. Is this something that you support the Prime Minister on?

ALBANESE: If people are a threat they should be kept away from those who they threaten. Certainly my gut instinct is to be supportive of such a proposal.

STEFANOVIC: Not too much?

ALBANESE: We will wait and see the specifics, of course. But the threat to society is real. We know that that’s the case. We have seen it here in Sydney, we have seen it in Paris, we know that there are people who would seek to do us harm. The public have every right to expect that governments will do whatever is necessary to protect the public from those who would do us harm.

STEFANOVIC: Christopher, what sort of support do you think this will get at COAG?

PYNE: I think that it will get a lot of support. A lot of the States already, I know South Australia for example already has preventative detention for violent  offenders and sex offenders who have not been rehabilitated. What Malcolm Turnbull wants to do is expand that to terrorist offenders who have not been rehabilitated.

I think that is a very sensible step and I think the States and Territories will embrace that and it is a step in the right direction. We have to as a government and as all State and Territory governments, protect our citizens as our number one priority. The second priority must be providing the jobs and growth necessary in the economy to make sure we all have a happy life.

STEFANOVIC: Moving on to a topic we just alluded to a little bit before, the former Prime Minister said after he was ousted that all of this sniping has to stop, yet here we are, here he is throwing all these darts at the government which could be seen as somewhat hypocritical. Christopher, has anyone thought of bringing the former Prime Minister in, checking him in, pulling him into line?

PYNE: I don’t think that we are going to check him; I think that he is probably perfectly well and happy. Look, he is not saying anything that is against the government’s policy. He is out there advocating for his particular views, and I have a lot of respect for Tony Abbott. We are all just getting on with the job in our portfolios, mine particularly in innovation and science.

I spent the week talking about the government’s new proposals around commercialisation of research and creating the environment for enabling of risk and science, technology, engineering and maths subjects, etc. So we’re getting on with the job. He wants to talk about those issues. He is not saying anything that is outside the government’s policy and I welcome all players in the debate.

ALBANESE: Good try saying Tony Abbott is happy.

STEFANOVIC: It must be politically destabilising for the government.

ALBANESE: Of course it is. Tony Abbott is not happy and he is engaged in destabilisation. He is engaged in a deliberate campaign to derail the government’s agenda.

It is no accident that every time the government has had a major announcement ready as they did this week, Tony Abbott is out there undermining it by stopping them talking about what the government about wants to talk about and talking about his agenda and whether it’s consistent with the Turnbull agenda.

These are people who don’t like each other, who have very different political agendas and Tony Abbott really wants the top job back.

And he has a whole bunch of people around him who are determined to undermine this government. So Malcolm Turnbull is at war with is Tony Abbott.

But Malcolm Turnbull is also at war with himself over marriage issues like climate change, marriage equality and a range of policies where he frankly compromised himself in could order to get the leadership.

PYNE: I could be talking about how you want to be the leader of the Labor Party but I am not practising old politics like you are because the public is not interested in all that nonsense.

ALBANESE: Tony Abbott is practising old politics. Tony Abbott is practising the politics of undermining the leader.

PYNE: The public wants to know what we’re all going to do for jobs and growth. We have an innovation and science agenda –

ALBANESE: I agree with you. Someone should tell Tony. Ring him up Christopher, if he will take your call! I doubt whether he will.

PYNE: You don’t have a plan.

STEFANOVIC: We are out of time unfortunately. We could keep talking for hours, but we’re probably not going to get anywhere, but thank you very much for coming in.

PYNE: Happy Christmas.

STEFANOVIC: Happy Christmas to you both too.

ALBANESE: Merry Christmas.

PYNE: And have a good New Year.