Subjects: Lack of public respect for politics and politicians; bullying, female representation in Parliament; football finals.
GEORGIE GARDNER: Five prime ministers in five years, allegations of bullying and intimidation, and policy gridlock. Australians are sick of it. The Government is meant to serve its people but these days it seems like it is only serving itself. We put it to you, asking on Facebook: do you trust our politicians? More than 13,000 of you voted. Ninety-four per cent said no and just six per cent said yes. Joining me now is Anthony Albanese and Christopher Pyne from Melbourne. Good morning to you both.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks for having us.
GARDNER: Christopher firstly, your response to that poll?
PYNE: Well look Georgie, a lot of people like the politician that they know, like their local member, often, but they don’t like us as a group. And I think that is the case for quite a lot of different professions in Australia – union leaders, even sometimes journalists – we all tend to get down below on the ladder unfortunately in terms of most trusted profession whereas dentists, chemists, doctors are always closer to the top. I think this, unfortunately, comes a bit with the territory, but there is no doubt that the last 10 years has been tumultuous in Australian politics and I think it has been a tremendous shame and done us all a great disservice. And it is time that, as you say, the politicians, that the Government and the Opposition, for that matter, stopped this constant civil war, if you like, in politics and put the people’s interests first and that is exactly what the Morrison Government intends to get on with doing.
GARDNER: Anthony, there is clearly an absolute vacuum of trust and respect for politicians.
ALBANESE: There is.
GARDNER: What are you doing about it?
ALBANESE: There is. Well it is one of the things I was talking about in my Whitlam Oration a couple of months ago, was the fact that there is a disconnect between what Australians want from their politicians and what they are getting. The fact that we have had now four elected prime ministers …
GARDNER: So what are you doing about it?
ALBANESE: … turfed out in their first terms. Well we just have to be better. First we have to acknowledge that there is a problem and the Liberal Party at the moment is copping it in particular, but there is a general problem as well with the way that Australians see their politics. The fact is that Christopher and my segment here on the Today Show has outlasted now four prime ministers. That says a lot.
PYNE: We are leading by example.
ALBANESE: Christopher and I have been consistent, but it is no wonder that there is disillusionment when you talk about – today in fact, it is five years since we lost office. If you had said five years ago we would have three prime ministers with only one election in between, but three prime ministers, it’s no wonder people are disillusioned.
GARDNER: Christopher, Julie Bishop has come out swinging this week as you know, calling out the appalling behaviour in Parliament – her words – which she says would not be tolerated in any other workplace across Australia. Liberal MP Julia Banks was bullied and intimidated so badly she quit. What does that say about the Liberal Party?
PYNE: Well, I don’t think it says particularly about the Liberal Party. I don’t think Julie Bishop was talking about the Liberal Party. She was talking about politics in general and there is no doubt that politics is a robust business and it is probably time that it started to get more modern, more up with the times. People expect a different workplace. The antagonism that exists between Opposition and Government has been a feature of our politics for a very long time, for 118 years, and you can go back to the early speeches of the Commonwealth and you will find exactly the same comments being made. But the last couple of weeks and the last five years as Anthony points out, the last 10 years as I said before, has taken things to a new level and I think we need to recognise that this constant excitement and chaos …
GARDNER: But the problem is you are not recognising it. You are not recognising it and Julia Banks – her allegations were dismissed as scuttlebutt, innuendo and rumour.
PYNE: Not by me.
GARDNER: But by Michael Kroger. She was told to toughen up. Can you imagine how offensive that is for a woman who is so appalled by her treatment that she is quitting? That is unacceptable.
PYNE: It is unacceptable and I agree with you entirely and whoever said that people needed to roll with the punches, it was a particularly bad choice of words because what we all need to do is be a lot more caring of each other. Now as Anthony pointed out, we have managed to be on this show for five years without having any kind of major falling out. It can be done and people need to grow up.
GARDNER: More than grow up I would suggest. I would suggest start respecting women. I mean can you imagine, what woman would want to enter politics these days?
ALBANESE: Well of course and that is what Julie Bishop has pointed out. I might point out that Julia Gillard’s treatment as Prime Minister was disgraceful.
GARDNER: Of course it was. But it was your party …
ALBANESE: We’ll that’s not right. The fact is that …
GARDNER: Well, you rolled her.
ALBANESE: The fact is that our party, our party, has 48 per cent of women. One of the ways in which politics can get more respect is to be more representative of the community. It is a good thing that we have 48 per cent. We will hit 50 after the next election I am confident.
PYNE: I think it’s fair to say though Anthony …
ALBANESE: It is also good that now we have indigenous Australians in the Parliament on both sides.
ALBANESE: It’s a very good thing that that has occurred. We need to represent the people.
GARDNER: Of course. We do hold up 50 per cent of the sky.
PYNE: After 11 and half years of one Prime Minister with John Howard, it was your party that started the rot by rolling Kevin Rudd in the first term.
ALBANESE: Yes and that was a mistake.
PYNE: That was a mistake and unfortunately it set the pattern for the next ten years and I think we all need to say to the Australian public we respect your choice when you vote at an election. I mean it can be changed so easily.
ALBANESE: I think the other thing that is happening is that in 2010 one of the big problems was people woke up the next morning and thought, “Hang on, we voted for Kevin Rudd, how is Julia Gillard the Prime Minister?’’ What has happened now is that people think they voted for Malcolm Turnbull and there is no explanation of why he has been knocked off, none at all that passes muster frankly. And until the Government can work out some sort of narrative other than “we don’t like him’’ then they will continue to be in trouble and it doesn’t matter how many speeches Scott Morrison gives in Albury or wherever, the Australian people I think will mark the Government down.
GARDNER: Just on that speech from our new Prime Minister, who we didn’t vote for, yesterday, Christopher, it talked about a new generation of Liberal leadership but it didn’t outline any new course of action, instead harking back to the golden era of the Menzies Government. I mean that is gone, that’s done. We want to hear of a progressive government, forward-thinking, giving our kids hope.
PYNE: Well Georgie it wasn’t a speech designed to announce new policy proposals or new directions, it was a speech about where the Liberal Party comes from in terms of its values, what it believes in, and that is why it harkened back to the founding the party in 1944, because those values around support for the individual, families, communities, multiculturalism, small business, they remain the same. So it wasn’t a speech designed to say here is a bold new policy; it was a speech about the kind of person that Scott Morrison is and it needs to be seen in that context. And I think from that context it was very good rendition of the kind of person we now have as Prime Minister, who I think will resonate very well with the Australian people in a way that Bill Shorten simply doesn’t because people don’t trust Bill Shorten.
GARDNER: All right. Well I hope you are right. I want to end on something light and happy because it has been a terrible week. Who is your football team that you are supporting this weekend Anthony?
ALBANESE: (Points to cardinal and myrtle neck tie) My beloved Rabbitohs, playing Melbourne tonight.
GARDNER: Of course, wearing your colours on you.
ALBANESE: Go the Rabbitohs.
GARDNER: And Christopher?
PYNE: Well of course I am a Crows ambassador Georgie, so thank-you for raising the finals. But my second team is the Demons. I am a Melbourne supporter because that is my Redlegs colours, red and blue, so I will be supporting the Demons in the finals.
GARDNER: Well we wish you luck. I think you both need it.
ALBANESE: It would be nice if the Dees do well. It’s been a very long time.
PYNE: It has been. It’s time to give them a go.
GARDNER: Thank you both, We will see you next week. OK. Over to you Karl.
KARL STEFANOVIC: I just never want to see Christopher Pyne’s red legs.
PYNE: You’ve seen them before Karl. Stop it.
SYLVIA JEFFREYS: You devil.
ALBANESE: That’s too much information.
PYNE: You saucy minx.
STEFANOVIC: Like a flamingo across the Serengeti.
GARDNER: Saucy minx!
JEFFREYS: It’s nice how football brings everyone together in our country. Very good. Thank you Georgie.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.