SUBJECTS: Sports funding; Privitisation; Carbon tax
Richard Glover: Christopher Pyne, are we sport obsessed and if we are does it matter and why is it so?
Christopher Pyne: I think it’s great that Australia is sports obsessed and I think it would be great if all the countries were as sports obsessed as Australia. I think the reason we talk about it as much as we do is because we’re constantly surprising ourselves at how much better we are at sport than we think a country of 22 million people should be.
Glover: Is it only because we keep spending taxpayers money ensuring that should be so when we could spend the money the National Disability Insurance Scheme or something else?
Pyne: No, I think that is a complete red herring because people find it hard to explain why Australia is so good at sport. We haven’t been good at sport since the Los Angeles Olympics although I do agree with Hugh that the Fraser Government and then successive Government’s have invested heavily in the Australian Institute of Sport until more recently, but we’ve been competing and doing well at the Olympics for over 100 years and I think the Australian public are always a bit surprised we are as good as we are, but I think the explanation is we are a very healthy country. We live around the coast; we therefore get very engaged in swimming and yachting and water sports and we love all that. I think that is the explanation. We should be proud of our sporting achievements. They are legion.
Discussion about Australian’s loving sporting achievements.
Pyne: I don’t want to interrupt Cheryl, but I think that means more to the British than it does to the Australians.
Cheryl Kernot: I wouldn’t be sure about that. I like to beat them at the Ashes.
Pyne: Yes, but the British think beating us at the Ashes the most important thing they could possibly do as a nation whereas the Australians think beating them is just another cricket game.
Kernot: It’s still special.
Pyne: We were the world champions for so long that I think the British felt it so much more keenly.
Kernot: We’re not now though.
Pyne: We’re not now, but I think we were for so long the British felt it much more keenly that we were always beating them and I think the Australians regarded them as an easy beat until the last few years.
Discussion about privatisation of Sydney Ferries.
Glover: Christopher Pyne?
Pyne: Well I agree with Cheryl that generalisations are always a bad thing. I do think that competition is in itself an important break from both public monopolies and private monopolies. I think that private monopolies are just as bad as public monopolies but I think competition brings into play the shareholder value, the fact that the private sector has to answer to its shareholders, it has to turn a profit. I mean I’ve seen over the years very very poor public delivery of transport services or hospital services or other kinds of services when there was no other competition in that particular market and, of course, I think competition in itself is a good thing. So I wouldn’t say privatisation is always a bad thing or always a good thing. I think that’s a poor generalisation but I do think competition in itself is good for the consumer because it tends to drive down the price.
Pyne: Well I mean Cheryl and Hugh are right. Not everything works perfectly that’s privatised but nor is it always a failure. I think the problem with some of these debates is that they become intensely ideological. You know, I think there are some things that are horses for courses. Hugh’s right, you couldn’t privatise the army, but in other areas you know privatisation has been successful, but only where there is competition. But if there is monopolies, monopolies always tend to become inefficient and costly because there is no competition.
Glover: And the privatised Sydney Airport is an example of that, isn’t it?
Pyne: Well it’s hard to have two airports running privately in Sydney.
Kernot: No no, Barry O’Farrell would say yes we could.
Pyne: Well that’s a matter for the New South Wales State Government. But let’s see how the ferry service fares. Knowing Gladys Berejilian who is a very intelligent and effective Minister, I am sure it will go very well.
Kernot: Christopher, where is the one big sparkling example of the success of privatisation?
Pyne: Well the other success of privatisation, Cheryl, is that taxpayer’s money is not continuing to be spent to prop up potentially unprofitable enterprises.
Kernot: But they’re still paying more. They’re paying more in prices to private enterprise.
Pyne: The Commonwealth Bank has been a success. The Commonwealth Bank, which was privatised by the Keating Government, of course has been a success and competes with the three other major Australian banks in the market.
Glover: Although if we hadn’t sold it we would have been able to exercise downward pressure on interest rates by having a competitor in the market.
Pyne: But you can’t have an unprofitable bank even if it is run by taxpayers because then you are simply using taxpayer’s money unwisely.
Glover: OK Christopher, a rather snippy SMS here about your comments about sport and how we were so fit. They say, look, Mr Abbott is fit but Christopher is not sporty.
Pyne: (Laughs) But I beat Mr Abbott in the race out of the Chamber, so that can’t be true.
Discussion about Nielson polling
Glover: Might the carbon tax stop being such a negative for the Government as time goes on and people see well they’ve got some more money in their bank balances and it’s not really costing them all that more at the supermarket.
Pyne: Well there’s a couple of aspects to that I think. The first one is that the Government has spent billions of dollars literally in the last few months trying to buy the happiness of the Australian people with the introduction of the carbon tax. And yet in the AC Neilson poll today they’re still 56 – 44 behind, which seems to suggest people aren’t very happy with the Government. In terms of the carbon tax, well lets have the next election, it will be a referendum on the carbon tax. If the Government can win an election based on the carbon tax, good luck to them. But I think one of the reasons the carbon tax is so monumentally unpopular with the public and the Government too is because Julia Gillard lied about it before the election. She said there wouldn’t be a carbon tax and then introduced one.
Glover: Well that part of it might be still working for you but you did try and get a big scare campaign going on its impact and it seems that already that is being whittled away. That people sense it is not as bad as they thought it might be.
Pyne: Well I don’t sense that in my electorate but if the Labor Party thinks that is the case then good luck to them. Let’s hope they keep thinking that right up to polling day.
Discussion about swimmers being under pressure at the Olympics and times when panellists have been under pressure.
Glover: What’s a time in your life you have felt under the most pressure… what about you Christopher Pyne?
Pyne: Well I think it’s a clear winner and that was the night of my preselection for Sturt in 1992. Because I was 24 and I was running against a sitting Liberal member in Sturt to defeat him and my sense was that if I didn’t I wouldn’t have a political career to speak of at any point in my life.
Glover: How much did you win by?
Pyne: Well actually I won two thirds to one third so it was actually a great result in the end. On the day I was 24, he was 59, he’d been a Member of Parliament for 24 years which was longer than I’d been alive and it was quite a gamble. So at the time I thought well if this doesn’t work I’d be a lawyer and a barrister for the rest of my life and I actually wanted to be an MP. So I felt under a great deal of pressure and ever since then I’ve always felt that nothing else was quite as bad as that day.