Feb 26, 2016

Transcript of television interview – Today Show

Subjects: Election timing; Senate reform; Malcolm Turnbull; house prices; negative gearing; polls; Defence White Paper; Townsville Stadium

LISA WILKINSON: Welcome back. Well, there’s more speculation this morning that we could be heading to an early election. The Herald Sun reports Malcolm Turnbull is considering going to the polls in early July. For more we have Anthony Albanese here in the studio and Christopher Pyne in Adelaide. Good morning gentlemen.


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Lisa, good morning Anthony.

WILKINSON: Christopher, it is true an election in July, probably July 2?

PYNE: Well, the election’s due in August or September so an election in July would not be regarded by the public as an early election. We haven’t had an election in July since 1987. So it’s as good a time any as any. I don’t think that there is any plan to have an election in July.

But the Senate does continue to block the government’s legislation, particularly legislation that we actually have a mandate for like the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the Registered Organisations Commission, both of which we then took to the last election to clean up the building and construction industry in Australia.

It is difficult when you get elected with a mandate and Labor teams up with the cross benches or the Greens to block that mandate.

WILKINSON: OK so July 2 it is. When we have that double dissolution that means the end of minority parties and people like Jacqui Lambie in the Senate. Will you be glad to see the back of them?

PYNE: Well, it doesn’t. If they can win the quota, if the electoral reforms pass the individual voters will get to have their preferences determine the outcome of the election rather than preference whisperers making deals in back rooms.

But if Jacqui Lambie can get the quota, which is 14% for a half Senate election or about 7% for a full Senate election, then she and anybody else can get elected.

But if you get half a percent like Ricky Muir you don’t really have any right to complain. You are supposed to get 7%, not half a percent.

WILKINSON: Okay, well they’re going to have to get busy on the hustings. Anthony, the Labor Party had a good result in the polls this week, 50-50 on the two party-preferred. Bill Shorten though is still struggling as preferred PM. Shouldn’t the numbers be better?

ALBANESE: The 50-50 poll was quite promising, I think, for the Labor Party. What is clear, parliament this week again has reinforced that Malcolm Turnbull had a plan to get rid of Tony Abbott but he doesn’t have a plan to govern?

You have the extraordinary circumstances whereby Labor has a tax policy out there, the government has said it will increase housing prices, it will decrease houses prices, it’ll have every impact possible on the economy.

They have been all over the shop this week. I think that Malcolm Turnbull has been a great disappointment to the Australian people. They expected something different from Tony Abbott, instead it is very clear the government has no plan and now they are trying to rush to an election. Which, of course, Christopher says is normal timetable. For goodness sake. It’ll be a double-d!

WILKINSON: Simon Benson in the Daily Telegraph agrees with that assessment Christopher and the numbers in the polls, not so attractive for the government. Malcolm Turnbull preparing, it would seem to abandon serious tax reform.

Have the polls actually spooked the PM, is that why our government appears to be just wandering around looking for policies rather than delivering them?

PYNE: Well Lisa, there have been three polls this week, the Liberals have been ahead in two and drawing 50-50 in one. So, I don’t think the polls are worrying anybody in the government. Labor has a tax policy on negative gearing which increases taxes and then they want to spend that money. It increases house prices on existing – on new houses I should say.

WILKINSON: Careful. Careful!

ALBANESE: Remember Kelly O’Dwyer.

PYNE: I’m sorry, she was right. It increases house prices for new houses. It reduces house prices for existing houses and it pushes rents up. That’s economics 101 because it takes demand from one area away, on existing houses by removing investors, and puts them into a new pool for new houses and that new demand will increase prices.

So the laws of economics mean that prices must go down for existing houses, must go up for new houses, because there is more demand for one and less demand for the other.

ALBANESE: The extraordinary thing from that confusing analysis from Christopher is that he has no policy himself. I can’t recall a time, whatever you say about the Howard government, they actually had plans, they had policies, and we had debates. This is a one-sided debate where Labor is putting policy out there showing leadership.

PYNE: What rubbish.

ALBANESE: And the government is behaving like an opposition.

PYNE: Just because you don’t understand doesn’t mean that other people don’t.

ALBANESE: Every answer in Question Time begins with “Well, Labor…” that’s how they begin. The Malcolm Turnbull that we got at the beginning of the changeover, he would stand up and smile and speak about the new politics and having a mature debate with the Australian people, all of that has gone. He’s channelling Tony Abbott.

PYNE: Yesterday they announced the Defence White that Paper.

WILKINSON: That is true. We will get to that in just a moment Christopher. But didn’t  the Prime Minister justify that his move into the PM’s chair saying that we could trust him to deliver a stronger economy, but to date he hasn’t really done anything different to Tony Abbott.

PYNE: That is not right, Lisa, that’s Labor’s analysis. But the truth is the economy is getting better. The reality is why would any government be salami sliced on tax policy when we have a budget to deliver in May?

ALBANESE: There’s a cut through line for you, Christopher. I mean, for goodness sake.

PYNE: Governments announced their tax policy in budgets. They don’t announce their policies on the run like the Labor Party is. And let’s not forget Labor wants to increase taxes so they can spend more money. What we want to do is reduce taxes and reduce spending. That’s the policy we will take to the election.

ALBANESE: We’ve got a plan for housing affordability.

WILKINSON: Okay, talking about spending the government delivered the Defence White Paper yesterday promising 12 submarines, 12 offshore patrol vessels, nine frigates, three warfare destroyers  and an unmanned surveillance  aircraft.  All at the cost of $195 billion. Where on earth is all of this money coming from, Christopher?

PYNE: Well, there is an extra $29 billion in spending over the next ten years, Lisa. That is easily affordable in our budget. The extra spending is $30 billion. What we actually announced yesterday in defence the Defence White Paper and the defence industry policy statement is quite an historic document.

We have certainly committed to the 12 submarines that we always promised, that Labor didn’t do anything about when they were in government. And we have made defence industry really the third pillar of defence and national security in Australia alongside the defence forces and our intelligence forces.

This is great news for those people who are working in advanced manufacturing and high-tech industries. This will drive the economy, it works alongside our agenda with innovation and science and research. It is unadulteratedly good news for Australia, particularly for South Australia,  which is a big defence industry state.

This means jobs, it means growth. Labor did not ask one question about this, this week. They were so busy playing politics, talking about their talking points…

ALBANESE: See if you can use a sentence without saying Labor, Christopher, there’s a challenge for you.

WILKINSON: Well, Labor does support this broadly was the statement yesterday. Unfortunately we’ll have to leave it there.

ALBANESE: Defence policy should not be an area of partisan politics. It shouldn’t be subject to argie bargie.

PYNE: Well, you did nothing about it in six years.

ALBANESE: There have been 1500 jobs lost in ship building on your watch.

PYNE: Because you did nothing.

ALBANESE: On your watch. Here is a challenge for you. Between now and next Friday see if you can work out that you’re the government and start acting like it.

PYNE: You did nothing in six years.

WILKINSON: And see if you can use the word salami again in this segment.

PYNE: Salami sliced! Salami sliced.

ALBANESE: That’s their economic narrative for the country. It’s a train wreck, Christopher.

WILKINSON: Thanks very much Albo. Thanks Christopher. Hope you have a good weekend.

PYNE: Thank you.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you. And build the Townsville Stadium!


PYNE: Stop talking.

STEFANOVIC: Build the Townsville stadium? Hear, hear. We’ll get onto that in a little bit.