Subjects; SA election; Batman by-election; tax policy; Russia.
BEN FORDHAM: Let’s get ready to rumble. We love Friday chats with Anthony Albanese and Christopher Pyne and the tax battle continues. Labor says it won’t offer compensation to pensioners affected by its plan to scrap $59 billion in refundable tax credits on share dividends. This was the policy announced by Bill Shorten this week. Let’s welcome Anthony Albanese. Albo, good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be here.
FORDHAM: And Christopher Pyne, hello Christopher, how are you?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good thank you, Ben. Nice to be with you.
FORDHAM: Look, before we get to the tax plan, state election in South Australia this weekend. You’re the man in Adelaide. Your prediction for tomorrow?
PYNE: Well, the Labor Party’s had a lackluster government and a lackluster campaign and Steven Marshall on the other hand I think has done all the things to show why he deserves to be elected. I don’t think Nick Xenophon has performed well in the last five weeks. He’s been found wanting on policies and candidates and therefore I think that we will win. I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch…
FORDHAM: I think you just did.
PYNE: I think we will win a majority government.
ALBANESE: He’s clucking!
PYNE: That’s my prediction. The South Australian public deserve a change of government after 16 years.
FORDHAM: Alright, hold on there Christopher, we have a few things to get through. So we got your prediction; the Liberal Party will win the state election in South Australia tomorrow. Batman by-election same day tomorrow in Melbourne. The Libs aren’t involved there. It’s down to the Greens and the Labor Party. You confident Labor will get up, Albo?
ALBANESE: They both have something in common, Batman and South Australia; in one the Liberals aren’t running at all. In the other they’re not really running, which is why Nick Xenophon has emerged as an alternative Opposition Leader, because the South Australian Libs under Steven Marshall are so hopeless.
FORDHAM: Just stick to the question. Batman by-election?
ALBANESE: South Australia is important!
FORDHAM: No, South Australia’s in South Australia. Batman is in Victoria.
ALBANESE: I understand that.
FORDHAM: Who’s going to win the Batman by-election?
ALBANESE: I know where they both are. Labor is running in both and Labor will win in both.
FORDHAM: Labor will win the Batman by-election?
ALBANESE: Labor will win in both. People have an opportunity tomorrow to have Ged Kearney, a voice in government, or they have someone who can sit back, wait until decisions are made and then decide whether they will protest or not. Ged Kearney will be the first nurse put into the House of Reps.
FORDHAM: This isn’t a chance for both of you to put up your election posters.
ALBANESE: Well, you asked the questions! You’ve got to expect the answer.
FORDHAM: Questions, as opposed to using it as a chance to flash your election posters. Let me ask you about the timing of Bill Shorten’s tax announcement this week. You must admit even Ged Kearney, the Labor candidate in the Batman by-election seemed to acknowledge yesterday that this was pretty ordinary timing, the fact that this has been announced this week.
ALBANESE: The fact is that Labor, unlike previous Oppositions is prepared to put our policies out there, to argue for them, to do them well in advance of an election. Not wait until the usual processes, which is government getting into office and they say ‘oh look, things have changed, we’ve got to announce this new cut or this new policy’. Labor is putting it out there for all to see. It’s good policy. Every economist in the country knows that this policy was never intended to actually provide cash refunds. It was designed to reduce tax liabilities down to zero. And when it was introduced of course, superannuation wasn’t tax free for everyone above the age of 60.
FORDHAM: Okay, if it’s such a good policy, Christopher, why has it gone down like a lead balloon all over the country, this policy from Bill Shorten?
PYNE: Well Ben, Bill Shorten’s tax grabs are starting to make the landing on the beach in Saving Private Ryan look like a tea party. It’s an absolute fiasco because there’s 1.1 million Australians who are on low incomes, largely, going to have their income reduced. 610,000 of those are on incomes of less than $18,200 a year. It has not been thought through. Whoever came up with it has obviously not got the competence…
FORDHAM: Well, it wasn’t Albo who came up with it. It wasn’t you. It was the boss, Bill, right?
ALBANESE: It has been thought through.
PYNE: Albo has run a million miles from it this morning, as has Ged Kearney this week.
FORDHAM: He called it good policy!
ALBANESE: It is good policy.
FORDHAM: You should be staying away from it.
ALBANESE: It is good policy and every economist in the country knows it.
FORDHAM: Rubbish, every economist in the country. Why don’t you ask Ross Greenwood, Today Show and Channel 9’s Finance Editor? He called it out within hours saying this is going to hurt the people that Labor doesn’t want to hurt and that’s why there will be sweeteners at some point from the Labor Party.
PYNE: Absolute incompetence.
FORDHAM: Can I ask another quick one? Russia, we’ve got this cold war emerging at the moment in the UK. Also the United States taking on Russia. Theresa May, within one week of this poisoning attempt in the UK, she kicks 23 Russian diplomats out of the country. Why is it that four years, nearly four years after 38 Australians were killed by a Russian missile on MH17 our official line in Australia is ‘we’re waiting on a report’. Can you believe that?
ALBANESE: We should have seen stronger action and Theresa May has shown strong action in the UK. This is the first chemical attack in a Western country for a long period of time and the UK deserves praise for what they’re doing. Australia supports it, as we should.
FORDHAM: Christopher, when is Australia – you’re are a member of the Government – when is Australia going to get serious about the deaths of 38 Australians as a result of a Russian missile? Theresa May showed us how it was done this week, kicked ’em out of the country and took decisive action in Australia. Nearly four years later, we’re waiting on a report.
PYNE: Well, that’s wrong. I think you conflating the two issues is quite unfair. The truth is that the separatists in the Ukraine shot down the MH17 and there’s been an ongoing investigation which points the finger at Russia. The Dutch are leading the prosecution in that case because over half of the 298 people who were killed on MH17 were Dutch. Australia has supported the Dutch and the Ukrainians throughout the investigation. We’ve done absolutely everything required of us. We’ve applied sanctions to Russia as a consequence and nobody has criticised Australia’s reaction to MH17 until you this morning. On the other hand…
FORDHAM: Well hang on a moment, that’s not true.
PYNE: No, hang on. No, no.
FORDHAM: Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott criticised it this week; he said it wasn’t good enough and it was disappointing. So what you just said was wrong, Christopher.
PYNE: He was the Prime Minister at the time so if wanted to…
FORDHAM: …and he called out Russia within hours of that attack.
ALBANESE: Christopher’s never met Tony Abbott, you need to explain to him who he is.
PYNE: Well he didn’t expel 20 – it’s a very serious issue – he didn’t expel 23 diplomats, so four years later being an expert on the Government’s reaction as it should have been four years ago is very easy. What’s happened in the last fortnight though is really serious in London because the nerve agent used could only have been produced by the Russians. So either the Russians allowed it to be used, or they’ve lost control of that nerve agent stockpile in Russia. And that’s why they are very much…
FORDHAM: I’d love to be able to talk about it further, but in all seriousness, I’ve got the boss in my ear saying ‘wrap this up’.
PYNE: Well, you raised a very serious issue at the last minute.
FORDHAM: Good luck to everyone involved in the…
ALBANESE: Where’s Karl been? Last time I saw him he was jumping in the Yarra River.
FORDHAM: He’s still in there.
ALBANESE: Hasn’t been seen since.
FORDHAM: Thank you very much. He’ll be back next week. Thank you very much Christopher, thank you Albo.