Feb 24, 2017

Transcript of TV Interview- The Today Show

Subjects: Tony Abbott, Liberal Leadership tensions, penalty rates

LISA WILKINSON: And they are here and there are political fireworks this morning with Tony Abbott’s strongest ever attack on the Government or more particularly Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, warning he must change policy now or risk losing the election. Take a look:

ABBOTT COMMENTS TO ANDREW BOLT: Plainly there are lots of people concerned about our direction and plainly the risk is that we will drift to defeat if we don’t lift our game.

WILKINSON: So, what do our pollies think? The Minister for Defence, Christopher Pyne, is in Adelaide this morning and here in the studio, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese. Good morning to both of you.


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Lisa.

WILKINSON: Christopher, you won’t be surprised I’d like to start with you this morning. Now Tony Abbott says lift your game or face defeat, and the polls do certainly do back that up, has he got a point?

PYNE: Well look, all the views of backbenchers are very welcome in the Government and he is a backbencher and he is free to state his views, but look, we won’t be going down the track of putting a freeze on immigration for example, which Tony Abbott wants to do, because it would be catastrophic in places like Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania, most places outside the capital cities for example.

We won’t be slashing spending. Tony Abbott tried that of course in the Budget of 2014 during his leadership but of course a whole lot of zombie legislation sat in the Senate, unable to be passed. We’re getting on with the job Lisa of creating jobs, of dealing with cost of living issues because of rising electricity prices and unstable energy, because of some of Labor’s policies of the past. We’re dealing with childcare affordability and accessibility. We’re not going to simply get distracted by some of these issues. The public want us to get on with good government and that’s what we’re doing.

WILKINSON: Well he’s watching it all obviously from very close quarters and he describes the current situation as a collision of toxic egos and someone’s vanity project. This is getting very personal.

PYNE: Well look Lisa, as I said the worst thing we could do is get distracted. The Government is working very well in Canberra. The Cabinet is very united behind Malcolm Turnbull…

WILKINSON: But he’s not making it look that way, this has got a feeling of a remake of the Rudd, Gillard, Rudd years. Have you got a plan to make it stop because he really hasn’t stopped since he lost office?

PYNE: Well that’s a matter for Tony Abbott and I think the Australia public are factoring that in to their equation. They’re pretty happy with the Government, they are pretty happy with Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. The last time Tony Abbott was leader one of the last polls had him at 30 per cent to Bill Shorten’s 48 per cent as preferred Prime Minister. So we are on the right track with Malcolm Turnbull and with the Government’s policies, more important, we are focussing on the bread and butter issues that the Australian public are interested in, like childcare, like jobs, like ensuring that they have the kind of standard of living and cost of living that they can afford. And we’re not going to be distracted – like I’m not distracted from building a national defence industry which is good for our country.

ALBANESE: The Government is a shambles, Lisa, and I’m almost reluctant to intervene in this blue between a virtual Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne. But the fact is that Tony Abbott is stepping in because there’s a vacuum, because the Government doesn’t have an agenda, doesn’t have a sense of purpose, and Tony Abbott’s solution is to say “take what I did in the 2014 Budget and go more extreme, go harder”. He just hasn’t got the message at all. Tony Abbott is delusional and the government is dysfunctional.

WILKINSON: All right, well let’s move on, and a major political battle has erupted over the weekend wages issue after yesterday’s historic ruling by the Fair Work Commission to slash penalty rates. Now Anthony, Bill Shorten is the person solely responsible for reviewing the penalty rates as Workplace Relations Minister back in 2012. He backed the review and then last year as Opposition Leader he pledged that he would accept the decision and yesterday he said he’d do everything to block it. What gives?

ALBANESE: Well the fact is that this is a disastrous decision for hundreds of thousands of Australians who rely upon penalty rates in order to pay their bills, in order to pay their mortgage.

WILKINSON: But it was an independent review and Bill Shorten back it.

ALBANESE: This is a disastrous result and outcome. Bill Shorten made it very clear that he couldn’t conceive of a decision by the Fair Work Commission, I mean we have had a hundred years of Industrial Relations Commissions decisions, this is the first one that has ever actually cut pay rates. This is a real cut to the standard of living from some of the lowest income people in society, whether they be people struggling to work, do the second job, whether they be students, whether they be people just trying to get by, and we rely upon penalty rates. This is mean-spirited, and some of the commentators out there who earn hundreds of thousands of dollars are talking about what a great decision this is for jobs. I think there’s no self-awareness amongst some of those people.

WILKINSON: All right. Unfortunately –

PYNE: Bill Shorten knows all about –

WILKINSON: You’ve got a very quick word Christopher, very quick.

PYNE: Bill Shorten knows all about taking away people’s penalty rates because his AWU did that to the Clean Event workers when he was the Secretary.

WILKINSON: All right, we’re going to have to leave it there, we have run out of time. Gentlemen, always good to see you.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you.

WILKINSON: See you next Friday.

ALBANESE: See you at the next brawl.

PYNE: Looking forward to it.

ALBANESE: We await Tony Abbott’s comments during the week.

PYNE: It’s Pyne v Albo, not Pyne v Abbo.