May 22, 2015

Transcript of television interview – The Today Show, Nine Network

Subjects: Refugees, polls, DJ Albo

LISA WILKINSON: We’re joined now by Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Shadow Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese. Good morning to both of you.



WILKINSON: Christopher, the Rohingyas are facing genocide in Burma. As a signatory to a number of refugee conventions, surely Australia can change the no boats policy in extreme circumstances such as this?

PYNE: Well, I have deep sympathy for the asylum seekers who are in this position right now Lisa, there’s no doubt about that. But we do have a process and they have to go through the same process as everyone else. Now, getting to Australia is winning the lotto of life as we all know. There are tens of thousands of refugees throughout the world who’ve applied to come to Australia. We’ve increased the humanitarian group from 14,000 to about 18,000, recognising that we have responsibilities as part of our international obligations. I want those people to be able to come here as much as anyone else. They have to come through the correct processes and apply as refugees along with everyone else around the world. And I’m glad that Indonesia and Malaysia are recognising their responsibilities as they are the first country that those refugees have come to. But we can’t allow open slather on our borders because that will take us back to the chaos that occurred under the Gillard and Rudd regimes.

WILKINSON: Anthony, speaking of which 50,000 refugees arrived in Australia during your time in government so this is a sticky area for Labor, but what would you do if you were in government?

ALBANESE: One of the things I think that needs to happen is a regional solution and Australia must play its part in it. I frankly don’t think that Tony Abbott was very Prime Ministerial yesterday. You can be opposed to people smugglers and I am, and Christopher is, but we need to be very careful about drawing a distinction between them and people.

These are kids just like mine or Christopher’s on these boats around the Andaman Sea. The idea of pushing them off and seeing people die is something that we find abhorrent. One of the reasons that offshore processing is in place is to stop people dying at sea. And that is a bipartisan policy. But there are international responsibilities and Australia, along with other countries in the region could help advance the long term solution by playing a part in that regional solution to this particular problem.

WILKINSON: Alright. Let’s move on to opinion polls now. Business confidence is up. Consumer confidence is up. The Budget seems to have been well received, even Tony Abbott’s approval rating, is up, which brings us to Bill Shorten’s leadership. He’s just not cutting through, is he?

ALBANESE: I think Bill Shorten has held the Government to account. We had the most unfair Budget that we’ve seen in living memory last year. This year, it’s a little bit less unfair but the cuts are still there to education, the cuts to health, and we know that if Tony Abbott gets a second term then the pension cuts and other measures that have been taking off the table temporarily will be put straight back on.

WILKINSON: But Tony Abbott’s had a pretty terrible 12 months, leading up to the Budget, a drover’s dog should have been able to knock Tony Abbott with a feather. Is Bill Shorten’s leadership even being discussed?

ALBANESE: No, not at all.


ALBANESE: Because we went through a period of instability with Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. I think the Australian people want stability.

WILKINSON: You’re saying anyone’s better as long as it’s stable?

ALBANESE: No. What you’ve got under Labor is stable. We made a decision about Bill Shorten being the Leader of the Labor Party and he’s done a good job. You have a look at where we’ve been in polls. Even the worst poll at the moment has us on 50/50. The other polls have us ahead still as we have been almost since the last election.

WILKINSON: The government has had a terrible year, things have started to come good in that time. Bill Shorten has never really cut through. I’ll tell you what Laurie Oakes said about him this week – ‘Shorten is no performer. If he is an actor at all, it is of the ham variety. He lacks timing, he lacks pizzazz, force, gravitas and he’s unconvincing’.

PYNE: And they’re his good points.

WILKINSON: Anthony, back in 2013 it was the factions that put Bill Shorten in but the rank and file overwhelmingly voted you in. They got the wrong guy, didn’t they?

ALBANESE: The Party voted for Bill Shorten. I accepted that decision and what I’ve got on with doing is being a part of Bill Shorten’s team. Doing work on infrastructure and cities in my policy work, and I look forward to being a Minister in a Bill Shorten Government.

WILKINSON: Chris, the truth is you’d much prefer to go to an election with Bill Shorten as the Leader, wouldn’t you?

PYNE: Well Lisa the code for everything that Anthony’s just said is ‘I’m available’. That’s the code. You’ve just heard it. I want to be a team member.

WILKINSON: Are you available Anthony?

ALBANESE: I’m not available. We have a Leader. The Leader is Bill Shorten and he’ll lead us to the next election.

PYNE: I’ve heard that before too.

ALBANESE: All the polls show that we’ll win. The only team that’s been unstable is the Coalition. 39 of Christopher’s caucus colleagues voted for an empty chair against Tony Abbott just earlier this year.

WILKINSON: They seem to have forgiven Tony Abbott, not only the Party’s forgiven Tony Abbott but the electorate appears to have forgiven Tony Abbott as well.

ALBANESE: That’s not the case. That’s not the feedback on the ground I get. There’s one sense for which there’s a bit of relief that they didn’t get hit with a baseball bat like they did last year. But they’ve still –

PYNE: – you’ve had a lovely run this morning. I know that you wanted to talk about leadership all this time, but –

WILKINSON: You’d be arguing for a double dissolution right now, wouldn’t you?

PYNE: I think the difference is that in the Budget we were talking about childcare and families, small business, the Budget’s been well received because we’re talking about the things that people care about. Labor is still talking about bringing back a carbon tax, opening the borders. More taxes on superannuation. Labor’s response to everything is to increase revenue rather than actually look back at what we’re spending money on and deciding if that’s the priority, and I think that’s why Labor is suffering. Bill Shorten hasn’t been through any kind of process of looking back on the Gillard-Rudd years and deciding what they did right and wrong. They’ve just tried to paper over the divisions. Anthony was the people’s choice. He wasn’t the Caucus’ choice, and I think people want Anthony and they don’t want Bill Shorten. And who wouldn’t? Look at him!

WILKINSON: I know, look at him.

ALBANESE: I’m not sure I want your endorsement Christopher, I’ve got to say.

WILKINSON: We probably should finish with the biggest story in Canberra this week and it was DJ Albo. Let’s have a look at this. This is Anthony Albanese as DJ. Look at that. The bomber jacket, the polo shirt, jealous much Christopher?

PYNE: Yes I am jealous, actually. I am, very jealous.

WILKINSON: I would have thought so.

ALBANESE: It was good fun.

PYNE: The closest thing I’d come to that sort of thing is doing Triple J radio and that’s about it.

WILKINSON: Look at you two cool groovers. You need to go to the next one I think, Christopher.

PYNE: And maybe I should do it too.

ALBANESE: The next one’s a charity event in Sydney on a Friday night. Reclink Community Cup who do a lot of work with disadvantaged youth.

PYNE: I’ll have to see what my wife and four children think.

ALBANESE: The Education Minister would be very welcome there, I’m sure.

WILKINSON: So you’ve got to rock out the leather jacket again.

PYNE: I might need your advice on the music though, that’s the only thing.

ALBANESE: I wouldn’t let you near the music.

PYNE: We’re an auction item for charity at the Midwinter Ball this year, Anthony and I.

WILKINSON: Oh, what do you think you’ll go for?

PYNE: Goodness knows. Goodness knows. Hopefully you’ll bid on us, Lisa.

WILKINSON: I think Karl and I should bid on you.

ALBANESE: Absolutely.

PYNE: I think you should too.

WILKINSON: We see you every Friday morning. We don’t need to pay for you.

PYNE: We’re part of the family.

WILKINSON: You’re worth a lot. Thanks very much gentlemen, we’ll see you next week.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you.