SUBJECTS: Confidence in the Government; Labor leadership
Linda Mottram: You’ve been calling for the Government to do something about Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper. Now they’ve acted. Isn’t that what you wanted?
Christopher Pyne: Well Linda they haven’t really. The Prime Minister has done quite a David Copperfield magician’s trick here. She wants the public and the press to believe that she’s taken action on Craig Thomson but in fact while she continues to receive Craig Thomson’s support in the Parliament in fact nothing as changed at all. The only difference is Craig Thomson won’t have to put up with the tedium of Labor Party caucus meetings but in fact she still gets his support.
Mottram: But he is still a member of the Parliament and he gets to vote and as such if he votes with Labor so be it, surely?
Pyne: Yes but the politics of this is the Prime Minister wants people to believe that she’s taken decisive action and showing real leadership three years after the Coalition first asked her to do so. And yet she wants people to believe that she’s doing that but in fact it’s a smoke and mirrors trick. Labor still receives Craig Thomson’s support, still receives his vote. So in fact nothing has changed. She’s just doing her usual trickiness to try and fool the public.
Mottram: The Howard Government in the past has relied on the votes of MPs who have been under a cloud over various allegations. What’s the difference?
Pyne: Well the difference is that Craig Thomson, the allegations against Craig Thomson, are very dramatic. We’re talking about the potential misuse of hundreds of thousands of dollars of HSU member’s money. His union has been deregistered by the ACTU. The Government has acted to put the HSU into administration. Craig Thompson has been accused of very serious allegations.
Mottram: Yes, Mr Pyne, but they are still allegations. That’s the point isn’t it?
Pyne: That’s true and I guess that’s why the Prime Minister felt she needed to act because it’s a corrosive cancer within her government. This sense that she doesn’t take action because she’d rather hang on to power in the face of all other evidence to the contrary but I don’t think she’s falling anybody. I think the public believe that there needs to be an election, that we need a government with a clear mandate so that the Government can get on with governing for the good of the people. Putting the people first rather than political survival.
Mottram: Mr Pyne we have a lot of callers to this show who say that regardless of what the political mire may be the Government should see its term through, that it does have policy achievements and that these voters want to see those carried through. You wouldn’t want to see an early election if that’s the view of voters would you?
Pyne: I think there should have been election almost immediately after the 2010 election which ended with a Parliament where a Labor Government was supported by two conservative MPs in two conservative seats.
Mottram: That’s just because you guys couldn’t get the Independents across the line to support you.
Pyne: But Linda the problem with this Government is that it’s never been legitimate. It’s never been legitimate because it governs with less seats than the Coalition, even more so today, and with the support of conservative MPs sitting in conservative seats. That’s why its never had any legitimacy and that’s why its never been able to convince the public it deserves to run its full term. The only way to resolve this is to give the people a say so that we can elect a government that has as its primary focus the governing for the people rather than governing for its political survival.
Mottram: Christopher Pyne is our guest this morning, Leader of Opposition Business in the House. Give us a call if you sit in the seat of Dobell in particular and have a view on whether Mr Thomson’s vote should still be accepted by Labor if he votes in their favour which he says he will. Mr Pyne, it is about the numbers though and the Government does still have the numbers even though there is some shakiness around that. The Government does still have the numbers doesn’t it?
Pyne: Well look, Linda, its not really about the numbers it’s actually about good government, it’s about good government for the Australian people. I think we have a government that got elected on the basis of a promise that they would introduce no “Carbon Tax” under a government that the Prime Minister led, a promise she promptly broke. We have a government that relies on a faustian deal with the Greens to stay in power and various side deals with cross benchers in order to prop itself up. We have a government where it’s suborned the member of the Coalition into being the Speaker over Harry Jenkins who was a honourable and fair Speaker, and that’s all ended in tears as we’ve seen this weekend. Unfortunately this is a government that is fackling the confidence of the Australian public, in both its government and its incompetence and its doing it damage.
Mottram: Okay, have you sought or held meetings with any of the independents, particularly Andrew Wilkie, I think, to try and win them over, to topple this government?
Pyne: No I haven’t and I don’t know anybody in the Coalition that has. I mean, I read closely what the independence are saying in the press, Andrew Wilkie is clearly at the end of his tether with this government and that’s of course of the Speaker deal, the deal with Peter Slipper into the Speakership was designed to side-line him so the Prime Minister could break yet another promise, this time on “Pokies Reform”.
Mottram: Okay, so there’s no doubt that the government has allowed the Thompson affair to drag out until now, I mean, its years and years. Doesn’t the government get any credit for acting on the Slipper affair far more quickly?
Pyne: Well the government gets no credit for the matter to do with the Speaker because the Speaker, Peter Slipper should never have been in that role in the first place. The government provides the Speakership and yet because the Prime Minister wanted to shore up her numbers in the parliament and break a promise to Andrew Wilkie over “Pokie Reform”, she suborned a member of the Coalition into taking Harry Jenkins role, of course she gets no credit for it. This is a exploding cigar which has blown up in her face.
Mottram: So how do you balance then, the right to the presumption of innocence in the case of both of these men with questions of integrity? I mean, you’re playing a hard political game with this and yet the presumption of innocence shorely must still stand for both.
Pyne: Well, the Coalition believes they should have the presumption of innocence. If the Labor Party that introduced the Fair Work Act and under section three hundred and sixty one of the Fair Work Act, that suspends the presumption of innocence, in fact, puts the owness of proof on the accused to prove that the accuser is false. So, in fact the Labor Party, against the Coalitions wishes, suspended the presumption of innocence in the Fair Work Act under section three hundred and sixty one, the Opposition voted against that, the government insisted on it, employers have been complaining about it ever since saying you should fix it and now their being quosted on their own cretard because of their desperate support eighteen months ago for whatever the Union wanted.
Mottram: Okay, will we see a motion of no confidence in the government next week? Will you move one?
Pyne: Well, we will do whatever is necessary to restore confidence in the parliament and in the government and at the moment however, Tony Windsor and
Robert Oakeshott seem to have made it clear that they will continue to prop up this terrible government. Therefore there’s not much point in having a motion of no confidence that simply ends with a result that we can already predict if those two gentlemen are going to keep propping up this government. Andrew Wilkie’s indicated that he thinks the government’s time is up, the Opposition obviously thinks that. If Tony Windsor and Robert Oakeshott move such a motion we will definitely support it.
Mottram: Okay, Christopher Pyne thanks for your time.
Pyne: That’s a pleasure Linda, thank you.