Feb 6, 2015

Transcript of television interview – Today Show, Nine network

Subject: Liberal Party leadership crisis

STEFANOVIC: Welcome back to the show. It has been a week the government would rather forget with a number of MPs publicly calling for Prime Minister Tony Abbott to resign. For more on the tumultuous week in politics we are joined by Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese. Gentlemen, good morning to you. As they say in The Hunger Games – let the games begin. [HUNGER GAMES MEME featuring Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop] Do you like that Chris? Disunity is death and your party died a few a times this week. I want you to have a listen to this.

DENNIS JENSEN: I texted the Prime Minister letting him know that he no longer enjoyed my support as leader.

ARTHUR SINODINOS: I have always supported Tony Abbott but that ongoing support is not unconditional.

MAL BROUGH: Do I unequivocally support is the Prime Minister? No, I don’t.

ABC REPORTER: Is your support for the Prime Minister unconditional?

ANDREW ROBB: Of course, I mean… he will retain the authority and the leadership of the party on performance.

STEFANOVIC: Do you need to be reminded how long you were in Opposition?

PYNE: Well, it was six years. I remember it very well. I have been in Opposition twice.

STEFANOVIC: That doing you any favours?

PYNE: It is not doing us any favours and it has been a couple of weeks that we would rather not see repeated and obviously we need to be focusing on what the Australian people want rather than other distracting issues. We need to get back to about talking about the Budget, talking about jobs and families and childcare and small business and education, and the things that affect people’s daily lives.

STEFANOVIC: I agree, I think there is an appetite for that in the public but while there is still a running dialogue with your own party members, that is a problem. This morning the SMH reports that Malcolm Turnbull had a secret meeting with the PM to discuss leadership. It’s amazing how many secret meetings are made public.

PYNE: – I don’t think they are very secret when everyone knows about them!

STEFANOVIC: Well That’s what I’m saying. I mean who’s revealing the secrets?  Was it Malcolm that revealed that secret do you think?

PYNE: There wasn’t a secret meeting last week between Malcolm Turnbull and the Prime Minister. All the Cabinet were in Canberra last week for two days of meetings and we all had meetings with the Prime Minister of one kind or the other.  Malcolm had a regular meeting with the Prime Minister.

STEFANOVIC: It has just been leaked that he was underwhelmed by the PM’s response in terms of handling the leadership crisis.

PYNE: Well, look, as I said, Karl, this has been a week that we would rather not repeat, as was last week. We can’t have too many weeks like this or we will blow the opportunity that the Australian people have given us to help make their lives easier.

STEFANOVIC: You are on the clock?

PYNE: That is absolutely right.

STEFANOVIC: All right, Sky News is reporting three Federal Government ministers believe there will be a vote next week. Do you believe there will be a vote in the Liberal Party room next week?

PYNE: Well I don’t know. There could be a vote every Tuesday because we have a party meeting and people could move a motion or the leader could say that there should be a motion. I don’t know whether there will be a vote on Tuesday.

STEFANOVIC: See, this is the problem, even you saying that is an indication that you don’t know.

PYNE: Well I’m the Leader of the House. My job is to find out what my colleagues are thinking.

STEFANOVIC: And you can’t shore it up though?

PYNE: …  and I’ve been talking to my colleagues and there is obviously some people who are saying that there should be a vote on Tuesday because they said it publicly, they have said it privately.

STEFANOVIC: As a result of you saying what you just said though, there is going to be speculation that there is going to be a vote because you haven’t done anything about it.

PYNE: I can’t rule it out. I can tell you this thing though Karl: I will not be moving a vote on Tuesday in the party room. I know what I am doing and I am certainly not moving any kind of motion on Tuesday.

STEFANOVIC: The Prime Minister, you believe, has the numbers at the moment?

PYNE: I assume that the party room knows that the worst thing we could possibly do is change the leadership right now. We have to support the Prime Minister. I have been supporting him very strongly in the last ten days while this has been going on. I have been doing as much media as I possibly can, as I am this morning because I believe that he remains the best person to be leader of the party.

STEFANOVIC: Does he have the numbers?

PYNE: That’s a very inexact science but I hope he does, yes.

ALBANESE: Well, that’s an extraordinary statement from Christopher Pyne, who can’t confirm that the Prime Minister has the numbers. That means that he doesn’t.

PYNE: How can I? It is an inexact science, Anthony, isn’t it?

ALBANESE: You and I have both been in politics a while and when you start having senior people not able to say that the Prime Minister has the numbers, then it’s over.

PYNE: I hope he does and I will certainly will be supporting him if there is any kind of ballot on Tuesday. But I can’t speak for all of my colleagues in a secret ballot and it is really hard obviously to do so.

STEFANOVIC: Even your dialogue now, as Anthony there seems to point …  to the fact that there is something happening. I’m not reading anything you’re saying, you hope he has the numbers you don’t who know definitively and you are a guy that should know the numbers.

PYNE: One can never exactly know how people are going to vote in a party room ballot. We have had colleagues out this week talking about a change of leadership. Obviously I’m not a person revealing here on the Today Show that there has been speculation in the press about leadership. There has obviously been that speculation in the press and that is why you then have people like Scott Morrison, Joe Hockey, me, Julie Bishop, others, Malcolm Turnbull even coming out very strongly this week and saying we supported the Prime Minister and we will continue to do so.

STEFANOVIC: Will he be certainly Prime Minister next Wednesday?

PYNE: I certainly hope so.

STEFANOVIC: OK. Anthony, you going been through all of this. I am you going to remind you of it because, you haven’t been saying much this morning.

ALBANESE: I don’t have to.

PYNE: He is getting off scot free today. His time will come.

STEFANOVIC: His time did come two years ago you were critical of the push to kick Julia Gillard out of the Lodge. Here’s a reminder:

ALBANESE [clip]: I have despaired in recent days. I informed the Prime Minister that I would be voting for Kevin Rudd in Monday’s ballot. I like fighting Tories. That’s what I do. That’s what I do. It has been very difficult.

STEFANOVIC: You are a very decent man. This can be very painful.

ALBANESE: It can be and that was a period, that was the January/February in 2012 challenge, that was a period whereby I wanted to focus on governing the country. We were focusing on ourselves. The extraordinary thing is that that’s where they’ve begun. They have begun with conflict.

Since they got elected they have shown they just don’t have a plan to govern. Tony Abbott was very good as a destructive Opposition Leader tearing a government down. He had a plan to get into government but no plan to govern. There is no narrative. There is no sense of purpose for this government.

STEFANOVIC: Well Bill Shorten doesn’t have a plan to govern either. He is just doing what is Tony Abbott did in Opposition. He has no plan to govern.

ALBANESE: That’s not right.

STEFANOVIC: How will he fix the deficit?

ALBANESE: What we have been doing, Karl, is defending fundamental tenets of Australian society like Medicare, like access to education. That’s what we have been doing, because the direction the government has wanted to go in, as a whole – not just the captain, the whole ship – is to fundamentally change Australia to a less fair society.

STEFANOVIC: OK. One final leadership comment from you. A busy day ahead?

PYNE: Well, leadership changes, leadership challenges are very traumatic, as was the case for the Labor Party, as has been the case for the Liberal Party in the past. I would just urge all of my colleagues to remember that we are there to serve the Australian people and put their interests first and last all the way through.

STEFANOVIC: All right, thank-you you two for being with us today, we appreciate it.

PYNE: Pleasure.

ALBANESE: See you with a new leader next week.

PYNE: See you next Tuesday.

ALBANESE: I won’t be at your meeting Christopher. Thank goodness.

STEFANOVIC: Do you want to be?

ALBANESE: I wouldn’t mind a video feed from the Today Show that morning.

STEFANOVIC: All right, we will see what we can do. Thank you guys.