SUBJECTS: State Labor reshuffle; Nova Peris
Journalist: To steer us through in their own unique way this election year for federal politics, we have Mark Butler, Minister for Mental Health and Aging and Minister for Social Inclusion. Good morning to you Mark Butler.
Hon Mark Butler MP: Good morning gentlemen.
Journalist: And Christopher Pyne, Shadow Education Minister and he’s Leader of Opposition Business in the house, good morning to you Christopher Pyne.
Hon Christopher Pyne MP: Good morning gentlemen and happy new year to you and all your listeners.
Journalist: Now off air you are both speculating that would we see the Speaker in a onesie?
Pyne: Or unitard?
Butler: I think that was more a hope then a speculation. I think he has got to lift the bar.
Pyne: Or a mankini…
Butler: … a mankini no… Michael is my local member, I see him a lot and love him dearly as a local member, I’m not sure I would like to see him in a mankini though.
Journalist: No… Well he might have been working out, but I think there is a universal view in this studio that…
Pyne: A mankini would be going too far, but I think a unitard would suit him.
Mark Butler: Well I think he has good driver muscles in the legs, he rides his bike a lot, very good driver muscles in his legs.
Pyne: Poor old Lyn Breuer though, bit of a shock to her. She seemed to be happy in the service and next minute she is out on her ear.
Journalist: She is a bit down in the dumps….
Journalist: But you would know Chris Pyne that the job of Speaker, it’s a plum job. Particularly in federal politics and both parties dish it out pretty ruthlessly as a prize. Do they not?
Pyne: I guess that since the Left has so comprehensively done over the Right in this reshuffle that they would have to give some bauble to the Right somewhere along the line so Michael Atkinson had to be given the gig. So the Left of course are crowing after their terrific victory this week in the reshuffle.
Journalist: I’m told the Right are pretty happy that they have another member in caucus because they’ve got Tony Piccolo to jump ship from the Left to the Right to get his gig in the Cabinet.
Pyne: I don’t think Jack Snelling is that happy about being publicly humiliated by standing down as the Treasurer.
Journalist: Mark Butler, do you have some concerns? You’re close friends with Jay Weatherill. You are from the same faction the Left, that he is taking on more than he can chew in being both Premier and Treasurer.
Butler: Well this is a bold move, and I think he is taking on a good deal as Premier and the Treasurer, as leader of the economic direction of the Government and the State. But I think it’s a really positive and strong move. Clearly across the county, but particularly here in South Australia, the economic direction of our State is the major issue that’s focusing the minds of South Australians, and I think particularly in the lead up to an important election twelve or fifteen months away, the fact that the Leader of the Government, the Leader of our Party, is taking very clear responsibility for economic strategy in the government I think a very positive move. It will be a tough fifteen months for him. He is not going to get a lot of sleep I suspect. But I’ve known him for a very long time and I’m very confident he is going to be able to do both jobs very well.
Pyne: I think it’s interesting, my wife said to me this morning that one photograph in the newspaper that stood out to her was the one of 2002 Rann Cabinet with a red circle around Jay Weatherill’s head as the only one from 2002 who is still there, and her comment was what that just proves of course is that he has been involved in every decision that the Labor party has made that has gotten us into this position we’re into financially with this massive debt and deficit.
Journalist: Did she really say that? Or did you..
Pyne: She really did! I was a bit surprised, I’d been playing tennis with Felix Pyne because he is going to be a top ten player of course.
Journalist: He’s the new Ken Rosewall…
Pyne: No one knows who Ken Rosewall is anymore Matthew… Ken Rosewall was using a wooden tennis racket.
Journalist: Well what did Felix say about it? Did Felix say “mum’s right”?
Pyne: Felix said nothing about it, but as I came back in with Felix, Felix and I walked back in and my wife said exactly what she just said, and I repeated her faithfully.
Journalist: By the way I’m not suggesting your wife doesn’t have her independent thoughts.
Pyne: Oh I know you’re not. She did say that.
Journalist: It does sound like a script that might be flying around.
Pyne: I was surprised. I thought clearly something is getting through.
Butler: It’s good to see we are starting the year with the most sophisticated analysis of the political..
Pyne: It’s very good analysis.
Journalist: Excuse me Mark Butler but you were the one who brought mankini into this discussion.
Butler: No no I said onesie. You brought in mankini.
Pyne: It is the first day back of the year.
Journalist: Alexander Downer, does Alexander Downer need to lead the State Liberal Parliamentary Party? Christopher Pyne?
Pyne: Does he need to? I don’t get the impression that he wants to do so. He has not indicated any interest in seeking the leadership of the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party had a ballot last year with Martin Hamilton Smith and Isobel Redmond. Isobel Redmond won it…
Journalist: By one …
Pyne: she is the leader and the parliamentary party are behind her as far as I’m aware.
Journalist: I spoke to one of your colleagues who said that Pyne is really pushing for Downer.
Pyne: So now I’m being asked to respond to anonymous gossip from so called colleagues. I can’t test that claim you’ve just made.
Journalist: You could deny it?
Pyne: Well of course I’m not pushing for Downer. I’m pushing for a Liberal Government in South Australia that removes this terrible State Labor Government where we’ve got $750 million a year that we are now paying out in interest repayments because of the massive debt Jay Weatherill has run up in the last 11 years. And I think Isobel Redmond and her team are well placed over the next 15 months to prove to the South Australian public why they should be given the keys to power in this State.
Journalist: Mark Butler who would you be more worried about running the state Liberal party? Would you prefer your friend Jay Weatherill to be going up against Isobel Redmond or against Alexander Downer.
Butler: Well before I respond to that I think it’s important I say that my wife told me at the kitchen table this morning she was convinced that Christopher Pyne is driving the Downer for Liberal Leadership as well just to add that dynamic. Look I think this is an extraordinary thing for Isobel to have to face this sort of shadow campaign that Alexander seems to be happy to let run, I mean the point is that he hasn’t come out and definitively said he is not going to be a candidate for any Liberal seat or the Liberal leadership and I think that’s why..
Pyne: But he has, he has done that he has indicated that he is very happy with what he is doing.
Butler: He clearly hasn’t done it definitively enough, more for a whole lot of people on background to talk about the prospect of Alexander coming back; it’s dominated the media for the party. In response to David’s question I suspect Jay doesn’t really have that much of a view about who he is going to oppose. I mean he knows the Liberal Party will be the Opposition, he knows the Liberal Party has a range of policies for example, about the services that are provided through health systems and through education systems to the South Australian population and whether that is a platform presented by Alexander Downer, Isobel Redmond, Steven Marshall or Martin Hamilton Smith, Jay’s ready for it and he’s got a very strong alternative vision…
Journalist: Now, if you don’t mind we’ll go onto the federal issues and this ‘captains pick’ as it is being described by the Prime Minister Julia Gillard in dumping Trish Crossin a long serving Senator and her plan to install Olympian Nova Peris to become the Party’s first indigenous female Federal Member. Do you have concerns about the process and the fact that there is effectively no local input into any of the pre selection here, this is going to be parachuted in on the PM’s whim.
Butler: Well I’ll be on a National Executive meeting in a few hours time…
Pyne: You’re a faceless man.
Butler: To consider the proposition by the Prime Minister. I think this is, to use Warren Mundine’s words this rights a wrong that the Labor Party has committed for a long time, I think it’s well beyond time that the Labor Party had an indigenous, a strong indigenous Leader in the Federal Caucus and I think Nova is going to be that person.
Journalist: Even if you have to wrong somebody to right a wrong.
Butler: Sometimes to get these things done the National Executive, the Party nationally needs to take a strong decision, you can wait for years and years for a strong thing like this to happen organically and it just doesn’t happen. But this is deeply unfortunate for Trish I think who has been a strong Senator for the Territory for fifteen years but I think in the overall interests of the Party this is a positive decision by the Prime Minister and I know Nova a bit and she is going to be a very strong Senator for the Northern Territory.
Journalist: Has the Prime Minister done Nova Peris much of an honour by involving her in a messy preselection row. Because something as important as this, the first aboriginal female woman, surely it could have been done in a clean way, rather than getting her involved in a messy preselection row.
Butler: Look there are always in hindsight cleaner and better ways to do these things as a matter for process but this will be a story for a couple of days. The bigger story in the medium and long term is the sort of contribution Nova is going to make to the Territory and the Federal Parliament and I’m very confident that is going to be a very positive story.
Journalist: And you’re not worried at all that she is not a Member of the Labor Party?
Butler: Look we don’t do this very often and I’ve been on the Executive for more than a dozen years now and I think this is the second time we have done this sort of thing. We run a couple of hundred candidates every federal election, sometimes you just have to take a hard decision and suspend the usual rules of the Party to make a real difference to the makeup of the Party. This is not something we do very often at all but I’m convinced this is right.
Journalist: I think the last time you did this in South Australia was with Nicole Cornes, would I be wrong there?
Pyne: That didn’t go so well.
Butler: I can’t remember whether we had to do that in relation to Nicole Cornes.
Journalist: Ok. Chris Pyne?
Pyne: I’ve got nothing against Nova Peris I mean who could, she’s obviously a delightful person and I’m sure she’ll make a contribution. But the truth here is that Labor has been embarrassed by the fact that the Coalition has elected through its democratic processes without any Federal Executive intervention three indigenous Australians to the Federal Parliament, Mal Brough, Ken Wyatt and Neville Bonner, going back thirty years. We didn’t do it by parachuting someone in, we allowed the Party membership to vote them in and they got elected on their own merits. Labor has been embarrassed that Warren Mundine has sought preselection numerous times and has been rebuffed by the faceless men of the New South Wales Labor Party and so in this ham-fisted way I think they have damaged Nova Peris’s entry into the Senate by it appearing that she is being parachuted in out of the embarrassment by the Prime Minister and the Labor Party that they have never been able to democratically elect an indigenous Australian to the Parliament.
Journalist: Just quickly in your Ministerial hat Mark Butler before we talk to Ian Henschke we spoke to a young woman this morning, Jodi Owens who is disabled, very capable and highly capable and has held good jobs at reasonably high levels in administrative roles and has come to Adelaide and has comprehensively failed to get a job and her disability in her wheel chair has been a factor. Now we had that speech we heard on AM from Kurt Fearnley and Ita Buttrose saying talking the talk is one thing but we have to start treating people with disabilities as equals. Are you concerned when you hear these sorts of stories?
Butler: I am, and I think that it’s a challenge for the whole country. I think we’ve come a long way in the last twenty years in terms of the capacity of people with disabilities to find a place in the work place. But clearly our workforce participation rates as a country for people with a disability are still lower than the average of the OECD. So we’ve still got work to do. But in terms of broader services as well that’s why it is so important this year that we confirm the NDIS as well as a range of the disability employment services program that Kate Ellis overseas. I think there is still a job of work for the country.
Journalist: And just quickly I think the NDIS has bipartisan support. Thank you to both of you by the way, Chris Pyne Mark Butler and your wives…
Pyne: And Felix.
Journalist: And Felix.