Subjects: Superannuation; Parliament; marriage equality; Pauline Hanson.
LISA WILKINSON: Welcome back to the show. Well, it was a late one for the Senate last night with the Government finally passing their $6 billion Budget savings bill with the support of the Labor Party. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. The victory came at the expense of Malcolm Turnbull’s previously iron- clad superannuation policy. For more we are joined now by Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne, here in the studio for the first time in a long time, and Shadow Transport and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese, I can’t help noticing, has run away. He’s in Canberra.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I haven’t run away. I am still here making sure that nothing happened in the Parliament at the last minute like the last week.
CHRISTOPER PYNE: He knew I was going to be here and he has as scurried back to Canberra to avoid me.
WILKINSON: All right. Well let’s get on with it. Now Christopher, your super policy has been passed as we said. But this is not the one that Malcolm Turnbull took to the election and said he had a mandate for – the one that he said was going to be his greatest achievement.
PYNE: Well Lisa, two things about that. The only thing, or the significant thing that has changed is that rather than having a $500,000 lifetime cap, dating back to 2007, we are having $100,000 a year from now on. So that’s basically consultation. There is still going to be a cap.
WILKINSON: But it was iron clad. That’s not iron clad.
PYNE: Well, people want government that is prepared to consult with people to get the right policies. I mean, consultation is not weakness. Consultation is strength. Malcolm said he would run a Cabinet Government where everybody was included and people felt they owned the decision. The Government now entirely owns this decision because everyone is on board and I think it is a better policy now than it was three or four months ago. So it should be a win.
WILKINSON: So how are you deciding which policies you have a mandate for and which you don’t because it seems bit rubbery at the moment?
PYNE: No, it’s not at all.
WILKINSON: A little bit.
PYNE: We have a mandate for superannuation reform, for fairer super, more flexible super. We’ve managed to achieve $6 billion of savings around superannuation but we’ve made it fairer so we can bring back the Low Income Superannuation Tax Offset but people on very high incomes pay 15 per cent tax on their super over $1.6 million worth of assets. So it’s fairer, it’s easier to understand and it delivers the savings that the Government wanted.
WILKINSON: Well Albo, Labor came on board helping to pass both the super policy and the omnibus changes.
ALBANESE: Well no, no. The super policy hasn’t passed. All that has happened is that they have changed because of the pressure from people like George Christensen and Eric Abetz, who appear to be now running the Government. Mr Turnbull is happy to break his election promises on superannuation in order to placate the Right, but he is not prepared to break, he says, his election promise on his absurd plebiscite on marriage equality. This is a government that has to deal with its own internals before anything actually happens in terms of the Parliament.
WILKINSON: Well Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says Labor is becoming a bunch of policy lapdogs because you are helping them pass a lot of policy at the moment.
ALBANESE: Look, we are being constructive. We are not like they were when they were the Opposition – just saying no to everything. What we did was ensure that we protected all of the poorest people – the people who were targeted for cuts – people on Newstart, single parents, disability support pensioners, carers. We ensured that they won’t get a real cut. Yes, there will be some pain for some people further up the income scale, but that is consistent with Labor values. I think this week saw the Parliament function well, as it should in terms of deliver savings but deliver savings that were fair.
WILKINSON: You’d have to say the PM is racking up a few wins at the moment wouldn’t you Albo?
ALBANESE: Well this is a win for the country. We do need, because the Government has tripled the deficit, we do need some Budget repair. But we need to make sure that it doesn’t trash the economy. One of the problems of targeting the poorest people is that they are the people who spend money. That is why the Reserve Bank are cutting interest rates to stimulate demand, to keep that growth going. Now we also need to make sure that we are consistent in terms of fiscal policy – that we don’t hurt people through unfair cuts, but at the same time hurting people at the bottom end is also bad economic policy. The Government recognised that.
WILKINSON: All right.
PYNE: It sounds like some Shakespearean soliloquy. How long are you going to go on for?
WILKINSON: Let’s move on.
PYNE: It’s like the opening scenes of The Tempest or something.
WILKINSON: Pauline Hanson has delivered her much anticipated maiden speech to the Senate, giving flashbacks to her maiden speech in the lower house back in 1996. Let’s get a reminder.
PAULINE HANSON: Now we are in danger of being swamped by Muslims. But they are a culture and ideology that is incompatible with our own.
WILKINSON: Well as it happens, you can’t see it there, but the Greens walked out, although we are finding out this morning it was all planned beforehand on a white board in Richard Di Natale’s office. You are a fan of the political stunt Albo. Was that a good one?
ALBANESE: Well, I think all it did was help give Pauline Hanson more publicity and I don’t think that’s a good thing. Look, we have a bipartisan policy of support for multi-culturalism – of respect for every individual. You know, what happened to the commitment of 20 years ago? We were being swamped by one group, by Asians, according to Pauline Hanson. This week it was a different group. I think what we need is more harmony and politicians to bring people together, not try and divide us.
WILKINSON: Christopher, the Greens didn’t like it, but everybody else swarmed around Pauline Hanson. She’s a very popular woman at the moment. What did you think of her speech?
PYNE: Well obviously I didn’t agree with most of the elements of her speech. But I guess the point is she has a right to say those things. I don’t know why the Greens wanted to give her so much publicity. That seems a very counter-intuitive measure. I agree with Anthony about that. She had 500,000 votes across Australia so you can’t reject the fact that half a million Australians thought that she represented their views. So what Anthony and I have to do and others have to do…
WILKINSON: Is keep her sweet?
PYNE: No – convince those people that actually we have the better solutions to the things that they think are problems.
WILKINSON: Who have you got looking after her in the Senate?
PYNE: I don’t know, I don’t think we have anybody particularly looking after her. She can look after herself. She’s got three colleagues of her own as well.
WILKINSON: She’s certainly got some power behind her.
PYNE: Obviously if we need her support on bills and things we’ll try and gain that. It doesn’t mean we are going to change our values. I’m sure Labor is not going to change theirs either and at the next election we are going to try and convince those half a million Australians they should be supporting us rather than Pauline Hanson.
WILKINSON: All right. We are going to have to leave it there but our mission next week is to get you both in the same studio at the same time. Can we have an agreement, gentlemen?
PYNE: I think he he’d have to come to Adelaide.
ALBANESE: I’ll be in London.
WILKINSON: Like star crossed lovers you two.
PYNE: Go the Crows.
WILKINSON: Yes indeed. Go the Crows. Thanks Christopher, thanks Albo, good to see you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.