SUBJECTS: Craig Thomson Saga
Ross Greenwood: Christopher Pyne, thanks for your time her in Parliament House tonight. The budget is out tonight. It was an important question time, but it seems it was completely distracted by the matters Peter Slipper and quite clearly Craig Thomson.
Christopher Pyne: Well, that’s the whole problem with this budget, Ross. It’s dead on arrival. The Government has been totally overshadowed by their mishandling of the issues that are dominating the news. One; getting rid of Harry Jenkins last November and replace him with Peter Slipper, which has dramatically backfired like an exploding cigar in the Prime Minister’s face and secondly their whole mishandling of the Craig Thomson affair.
The pity of it all is they could have dealt with the Craig Thomson matter three years ago. They have let themselves bleed on Craig Thomson for three years and remarkably allowed the Fair Work inquiry report to be released the day before the budget with all the damning revelations of the misuse of HSU member’s money allegedly by Craig Thomson as national secretary of the HSU.
Greenwood: You raised the point and raised, if you like, that Craig Thomson be suspended from Parliament for 14 days while the Parliament gets time to investigate whether he has appropriately used money in terms of his election campaign. Do you believe he deserves his place in the Australian Parliament?
Pyne: Well, we don’t and we think that a suspension for 14 days was an appropriate motion for us to move today to express our real concern about the standing of the Parliament; the integrity to which the Parliament is being held. I don’t think it’s any surprise to your listeners that we understand the horror they view in the 43rd Parliament and we followed the precedents. There’s been three precedents where members have been suspended for an extended period of time in the last 100 or so years.
Greenwood: Generally you indicated today that was about effectively abusing the Speaker or not retracting comments against the Speaker at that time. This is quite different isn’t it?
Pyne: Well, it was effectively about bringing the Parliament into disrepute, those three previous precedents and our view is the Member for Dobell has brought the Parliament into disrepute and as members of Parliament we need to protect our own reputations and the reputation of the Parliament. This is the most significant Parliament in the country and the Australian people have no confidence in either the Government or the Parliament.
Greenwood: But the point was that that particular motion was knocked out. So the Parliament voted that down. Does that imply that those on the Labor side, those on the crossbenches are now effectively endorsing the behaviour of Craig Thomson? It seems like a very fine line they have to tread.
Pyne: And I didn’t know where they would fall on that issue. I’m surprised that the Labor Party and Tony Windsor and Robert Oakeshott lined up with Craig Thomson to protect him, which makes a mockery of the fact that they’ve excluded him from the caucus, but they still want his vote in the Parliament because of course if he’d been suspended for 14 days he wouldn’t be voting in the Parliament so they’ve effectively said today he’s good enough for the Parliament, but he’s not good enough for the caucus.
Greenwood: The vote on the motion that was put to actually install the Labor MP, Harry Jenkins, into the Speaker’s seat while Peter Slipper waits for the Federal Police investigation, that was much closer. 72 all. The Deputy Speaker, she did not have to ultimately use her vote because the motion was tied and as a result was voted down because of that. That was much closer and you certainly saw more support for that from the crossbenchers.
Pyne: Sure. Andrew Wilkie voted with the Opposition on both the matters and Bob Katter voted with the Opposition on the first matter to do with Harry Jenkins. And the purpose of that motion was to say the last five months should be expunged effectively and we should go back, restart the clock and put Harry Jenkins back in the chair because he should never had been out of it in the first place.
Greenwood: It is a numbers game because you as Manager for Opposition Business are constantly testing to see if you can find numbers to roll the Government on any given issue. This is what your day job is effectively to try and see if you can find the numbers because that will ultimately weaken the Government and could lead to either by-elections or lead to the transfer of the balance of power from the Government to the Opposition. Is that really what you’re about?
Pyne: Well what we’re trying to reflect is the public’s desire for an election. My view travelling around my electorate and Australia in general , the people want an election, they want to get a government with a clear majority and if we can defeat the Government on the floor on a significant matter or on a no confidence motion then there would be an election.
Greenwood: And is it justification for the approaches that you and also Mal Brough in Queensland have made to James Ashby who was working for Peter Slipper, the Speaker?
Pyne: Well I’ve never had any discussions with James Ashby about this Federal Court action that he’s taken. But as Manager of Opposition Business I spend some time in the Speaker’s office and of course the Speaker used to be a member of the Coalition so I’ve known his staff for many years. So speaking with his staff and him is not exactly an unusual thing to do and why wouldn’t I do that? So in terms of the Federal Court action though I had no knowledge of it.
Greenwood: And in terms of where the Parliament now sits because there is a Budget that goes through literally in the next hour or so, is it still a guarantee of the Coalition that it will allow the Budget and these money bills to pass?
Pyne: Well we haven’t voted against supply since 1975 so we have no plans to block the supply for the Government. But there are individual members within the Budget that will be in separate bills and different bills we might well consider not supporting. But in terms of the supply and the Government’s budget we certainly haven’t made a decision to change our practice since 1975.
Greenwood: And it’s not until you actually have the numbers that you are desperately seeking that you could even be in that position to have that power ultimately.
Pyne: Well this is obviously all hypothetical but I don’t think the numbers would be on the floor of the House to block the Budget, no.
Greenwood: Interesting. Christopher Pyne, as I say the Manager of Opposition Business, it was a hectic and very rowdy Question Time today led by Christopher Pyne for the Coalition and we appreciate your time here on Money News.
Pyne: Pleasure Ross.