Feb 19, 2016

Transcript of television interview – Today Show

Subjects: Government debt; Budget 2016; Scott Morrison; Blankety Blanks

KARL STEFANOVIC: To help us make sense of all of this, Christopher Pyne along with Anthony Albanese. Good morning lads.



STEFANOVIC: First up this morning, have a look at this number. This is the worrying number. National government debt in Australia, it’s more than $410 billion. It’s going up on average by $10 million every hour. Christopher Pyne, what are we going to do about that figure right there?

PYNE: Well, one thing that would help that would be the $30 billion of savings that are blocked in the Senate by the Labor Party and the crossbenchers. I mean, we are trying to repair the Budget; we have for the last two years.

Labor votes against every savings measure, supports every tax change, and they have their own spending ideas. I mean, Labor thinks you can keep spending, keep increasing taxes, the public are over that.

STEFANOVIC: Does that worry you, when you look at that number right there? You can see it just there.

PYNE: Well, I mean Australia is a big economy. We want to reduce the national debt. We have reduced it, already with the measures that we’ve employed.

STEFANOVIC: It’s not enough though.

PYNE: We have more savings in the Senate, but Labor doesn’t want to take any of these difficult decisions. They want to increase taxes.

STEFANOVIC: At the moment though, spending is outstripping revenue by $100 million a day.

PYNE: And Labor will not pass in the Senate the measures necessary to get that under control. I mean, the Senate is a block on the economy. The crossbenchers and Labor, in fact the Greens, are more cooperative than the Labor Party and the crossbenchers.

STEFANOVIC: The Greens also want to legalise ice.

PYNE: Well, I don’t agree with that policy.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Anthony, obviously the debt was getting racked up well and truly when you were in government as well.

ALBANESE: Well, debt’s up, and spending is up. Unemployment is up. This is a government that doesn’t have a plan for the economy.

I mean, the whole of Australia was pleased when we got rid of Mr Angry, and we got Mr Smiley. Now we know that what we’ve got is Mr Waffle. Nothing is happening.

There is no narrative for this government. They don’t have a plan for the economy, some two and a half years into government.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, you know that three hundred thousand Australians will move to a higher tax bracket in the next four years according to the latest figures. How will you, if you come into government address bracket creep?

ALBANESE: Well, what we did when we were in government of course was reduce taxes. Taxes as a proportion of the economy are higher now. It is the Government that tried to introduce a 15% GST.

STEFANOVIC: So you’re going to have less revenue?

ALBANESE: No, what we will do is make sure we have the appropriate revenue, but also the appropriate savings measures but also target it in the right way.

STEFANOVIC: If you have less taxes you have less revenue.

ALBANESE: What we’ve already put forward is $70 billion of savings. We’ve put forward a plan on tax. We have a plan on superannuation. This government isn’t governing.

PYNE: Karl, they include in their $70 billion tax increases. Now, a tax increase is not a saving. It’s a tax increase. They have $100 billion of new taxes.

Apparently $100 billion of new spending. It’s like nothing ever happened in the world around trying to reduce taxes and make government smaller.

Labor wants to increase taxes and increase spending.

ALBANESE: Taxes are higher under you, Christopher, and spending is higher under you.

PYNE: We want to reduce spending, and Labor won’t pass that in the Senate.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, but are you actually going to do anything?

PYNE: Well, in the Budget in May, you will see that we’ll try and address the issues around things like bracket creep; certainly we want to do that.

We want to do that through reducing spending. But if Labor and the Greens, and their friends in the Senate crossbenches keep blocking those savings, it makes it very difficult to govern.

STEFANOVIC: Why don’t you just double dissolution then, get on with it?

PYNE: Well, that’s an option. That’s a live option. Of course it is.

ALBANESE: You were praising the Greens a minute ago.

PYNE: There’s not only issues around savings measures, there’s also the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Labor doesn’t want to clean up construction and building in Australia. They want the CFMEU to continue to be a lawless organisation on building and construction sites. It’s bad for productivity.

STEFANOVIC: The perception is that Malcolm Turnbull’s too worried about being popular, rather than making tough decisions.

PYNE: We’re not going to get pushed into making announcements around taxation or tax reform –

STEFANOVIC: You’ve had two years, you’re not doing anything.

PYNE: Just because the media and the commentators say we haven’t, Karl. When I’m out in my electorate people aren’t demanding to know what tax reforms we’re going to be putting forward in the Budget. They’re quite happy –

STEFANOVIC: They’re demanding to know, they’re wanting you to get your bank account in order.

PYNE: Yeah, they’re quite happy for us to govern sensibly and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We’re not going to do the negative gearing thing that Labor wants to do. Pushing up rents –

ALBANESE: No, you’re going to do something of your own but you won’t tell the Australian people what you’ll do. You’ve left open negative gearing changes.

PYNE: Labor’s negative gearing policy will push up rents and push down property prices.

ALBANESE: This is a government that have a series of talking points but they have no sense of purpose. What is the reason why Malcolm Turnbull took over from Tony Abbott apart from getting the keys to The Lodge? It’s beyond me, and it’s beyond the Australian people.

STEFANOVIC: I don’t think Malcolm Turnbull and the government have had a great month.

ALBANESE: They’ve had a shocker.

STEFANOVIC: But they’re still a mile in front of you and Bill Shorten doesn’t even register on the popularity stakes.

PYNE: 64-19.

ALBANESE: We’ll wait and see what happens at the election, Karl. But what we know –

PYNE: You might be the leader by then.

ALBANESE: What we know is, in terms of this government,, is that Australians are disappointed. They had this sense of relief when Malcolm Turnbull took over. And now we have a government at war with itself.

We’ve had another ministry sworn in just this week, another five new ministers. The revolving door, everyone’s getting a turn on the front bench and no sense of purpose.

I mean, Scott Morrison’s the first Minister, let alone Treasurer to ever go to the National Press Club and say absolutely diddly-squat.

STEFANOVIC: That is true.

PYNE: It’s not true. Just because he says it, doesn’t make it true.

STEFANOVIC: I watched it! He made more sense talking about unicorns!

ALBANESE: Diddly-squat. That’s the technical term.

PYNE: This from the government that had 78 ministers in six years.

STEFANOVIC: Well, what did he say?

PYNE: He talked about our sensible measures back to –

ALBANESE: What policies? Name one.

STEFANOVIC: He didn’t actually say any sensible measure. He just said ‘sensible measures’.

PYNE: We are not …the government… the public does not want us to rush around announcing all sorts of reforms …

ALBANESE: The term’s almost over!

PYNE: They want sensible government and that’s what we’re providing. They don’t want negative gearing changes to make rents more expensive and property prices dropping. Where’s Labor getting all this money from?

STEFANOVIC: Just before we go, you’re a great friend of the program. We love having you and Anthony on. Just between us, when’s the election?

PYNE: Well, it’s due in about September this year.

STEFANOVIC: It won’t be September. It has to be earlier. Can we just get on with it?

PYNE: I’m particularly liking this new set we’ve got from Graham Kennedy’s Blankety Blanks.

ALBANESE: They can’t even make a decision on that.

PYNE: It’s nice to bring it back out again.

STEFANOVIC: Are you serious? Why don’t you have a look at the national debt?

PYNE: Give it a polish up. Pop it on the telly. Lovely. Graham would be pleased to see it being used again.

ALBANESE: They have no plan. Just talking points.

PYNE: Oh, they’re your talking points about the plan.

STEFANOVIC: I quite like that Blankety Blanks.

PYNE: I love Blankety Blanks. It’s a great show.


ALBANESE: You would have gone well on that.

PYNE: I love Blankety Blanks. ‘Pull it, Peter!’

STEFANOVIC: You would have gone very well on Blankety Blanks.

PYNE: I would have been good at Blankety Blanks!

ALBANESE: You would have been a star up there!

PYNE: All you had to do was pick what the audience was saying was the most likely thing. Easiest show in the world.

STEFANOVIC: Same as government.

ALBANESE: Misspent youth.

STEFANOVIC: Righto. Righto, you two.

ALBANESE: Maybe they should give up on government and just have a new series of Blankety Blanks.

PYNE: You could have been Ugly Dave Gray. He was quite popular.

STEFANOVIC: Over to you, Lisa.