Mar 18, 2016

Transcript of television interview – Today Show

Subjects: Senate reform, election timing, Safe Schools, Nick Xenophon’s pyjamas

PETER STEFANOVIC: We are joined now by Minister for Industry and Innovation, Christopher Pyne in Canberra and Shadow Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, good morning to you both.



STEFANOVIC: These laws will inevitably pass, why is Labor holding it up?

ALBANESE: We’re not doing that. The Government has set this schedule. The fact is that it says everything about this government that the last thing they do before they rush to an election isn’t something to help average Australians, it’s something to help themselves, a fix of electoral system by the new Coalition, that is the Liberal Party, the National Party and the Greens.

STEFANOVIC: But Labor had basically supported these reforms up until quite recently.

ALBANESE: That’s not right. That is absolute nonsense. The fact is that these reforms will result in potentially one in four Australian’s votes being put in the bin.

Not counting to elect anybody at all. And one of the things that has happened in the Senate overnight is that Labor senators have asked Mathias Cormann, in the Senate, very clearly, will it be OK to advocate a ‘just vote one’ for the Senate, and he’s refused to answer that question.

Because that’s where this is headed, essentially, moving to optional preferential. One in four Australians, whether we like it or not, do not vote Labor, Liberal, National or Greens in the Senate.

This potentially means that all of those votes won’t be counted to elect anyone. That’s not democracy.

STEFANOVIC: Christopher, a big laugh?

PYNE: Well, Peter, I mean what Anthony Albanese is saying, he’s trying desperately not to look like a fool, but the Labor Party and the crossbenchers are basically saying that they want to keep the Senate here all day filibustering today and overnight to stop individuals from allocating their own preferences and the crossbenchers are basically admitting that they couldn’t get elected unless they game the system.

That’s why they want to keep the current system as it is. Ricky Muir got 497 votes and got elected to the Senate.

ALBANESE: How many did Anne Ruston get?

PYNE: A lot more above the line than Ricky Muir did. She was on the party vote.

ALBANESE: How many did she get? Who’s heard of her? She’s a minister! Who’s heard of her? Who’s heard of Anne Ruston?

PYNE: Stop shouting over people on morning television, Anthony. Obviously a bit worked up this morning. The truth is, Ricky Muir got 497 votes, everyone knows the crossbenchers have gamed the system.

That is what Labor is fighting tooth and nail to defend, to stop own individuals from allocating their own preferences and allow preference whisperers to keep on gaming the system.

It’s wrong, and that’s why the Government is fixing it.

STEFANOVIC: There is a point. Doesn’t that suggest the system is flawed?

ALBANESE: Look, we don’t argue the system is perfect, far from it. But there are ways to fix it that don’t result in voters having their ballot papers placed in the bin.

For example you could get have a threshold whereby you need to get 3% or 4%, and unless that happens your votes get distributed.

That happens in a range of electoral systems around the world. But what we are seeing with this is the essentially a fix that will help the Coalition and help the Greens, so that they then rush to a double dissolution election which is not necessary, but because of these changes, that’s what it’s all aimed at.

We don’t even know when the Budget is going to be.

PYNE: You won’t vote for the ABCC bringing back the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

ALBANESE: Well, you didn’t vote for it this week. You won’t give us a chance to vote on it.

PYNE: And you won’t vote for the Registered Organisations Commission.

ALBANESE: How do you know?

PYNE: You’ve had a chance for two and a half years.

ALBANESE: How do you know? You’ve blocked debate on it this week. You say it’s important but you’ve blocked debate on it.

PYNE: Anthony, you’ve had two and a half years to vote for the Australian Building and Construction Commission, it was the first bill we introduced in 2013 in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

You’ve been voting against it for two and a half years, you voted against the Registered Organisations Commission, you don’t want to clean up the building and construction industry, you want to stay close to the CMFEU which has given you $7 million since 2007.

That’s what this is all about. If there is a double dissolution election it’ll be because Labor and the crossbenchers combine to stop the cleaning up of the building and construction industry.

ALBANESE: You don’t know even know when the budget is going to be, Christopher.

STEFANOVIC: Let’s hold it there. I’ve got to move on. We’ve got more topics to cover. Christopher, the Safe Schools debate raged yesterday. Conservative backbenchers have the Prime Minister on the ropes.

Certainly seems like that’s the case. Will Malcolm Turnbull give in to the backbench bullies and pull the funding?

PYNE: Well Peter, Simon Birmingham is the Minister for Education and he is handling this issue very sensibly. He had an inquiry by Professor Loudon from WA, not exactly regarded as a lefty liberal, he’s a conservative Western Australian educator, and he will release his report and the Government’s response in due course.

But this should not be decided, quite frankly, by people who want to make an issue out of the sexuality of senior school students who might be struggling with the position that they’re in.

This should be decided sensibly and calmly, that’s how Simon Birmingham will deal with it, and we’ll all know soon enough how it can be tweaked.

Maybe the Safe Schools Coalition program can be improved, can be tweaked, but it was the Labor Party that initiated it when they were in government.

They have a four year contract. I’m getting on with the job of things like the media ownership laws, Senate reform, things like the national innovation and science agenda, and this is something of a distraction from the Government’s main agenda which is jobs and growth.

STEFANOVIC: While I’ve got you there, Chris, a number of MPs who are departing at the next election have made farewell speeches yesterday including Ian Macfarlane, Teresa Gambaro, Mal Brough.

Do they know something? Do they know the election is nigh?

PYNE: Well obviously, it is an election year, Pete. There will be an election, it’s due in August/September. Now, therefore, they’re giving their last speeches because they’re retiring at the next election.

It’s not an unusual timing for them to do that and I’m glad that they had the chance to do it.

ALBANESE: It’s totally unusual, the fact is we are supposed to have a Budget on May 10, then a Budget session where the Budget gets scrutinised over five sitting weeks, and you have today, or last night, you had a range of people give their last speeches.

We don’t know when the Budget will be, we don’t know when the election will be. This is a government that doesn’t have a sense of purpose, that’s lost its way, a Prime Minister without an agenda, that has just fallen on itself in six months.

STEFANOVIC: Just finally fellas, we have a picture of Nick Xenophon in pyjamas in Canberra at the moment.

ALBANESE: No one needs to see that, Peter.

STEFANOVIC: Just a quick answer. Are you a flannelette pyjama type of guy or are you cotton pyjamas?

ALBANESE: That’s between myself and my wife.

PYNE: Hahaha! Good answer.

STEFANOVIC: What about you, Chris?

PYNE: Well, I don’t know if the Loony Tunes pyjamas get him the girls but obviously Nick Xenophon thinks so.

ALBANESE: Could I just say Christopher has been very principled on Safe Schools.

Malcolm Turnbull should stand up to the bullies in his own party, because this is about bullying of young people in schools and should not be partisan.

STEFANOVIC: Christopher Pyne, Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for joining us this morning, have a great weekend.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you.

PYNE: It’s a pleasure. Thanks.

ALBANESE: See you soon.