SUBJECTS: Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper scandals; Confidence in the Government
Latika Bourke: Well, you must be applauding Julia Gillard today. She’s done two things you’ve long be asking for in asking Peter Slipper to step aside as Speaker and for Craig Thomson to lead the Labor Party.
Christopher Pyne: Far from it. All the Prime Minister has done today is confirm what the Opposition has been saying for three years and that is it’s untenable for her Government to be propped up Craig Thomson given the cloud hanging over him, but today all she’s done is ask Craig Thomson to move to the cross benches. He might be sitting in a different part of the chamber, but he’ll be voting with the Labor Party. She hasn’t damaged herself holding onto power one iota. In fact this smoke and mirrors trick would put David Copperfield to shame. It’s a magicians trick and she’s not fooling anyone. She’s disowned Craig Thomson, but until she disowns his vote she’s expecting to stay in power with the tainted vote of Craig Thomson.
Bourke: Tony Abbott has asked for Craig Thomson to be denied voting rights in the Federal Parliament while this goes on. Is there any precedent in that?
Pyne: Certainly. When Mal Colston was under a cloud in the Senate the Government of the day, which was the Howard Government refused to accept Mal Colston’s vote. If Julia Gillard wasn’t doing anything more than simply cauterising her leadership, which she’s doing today then she would not accept Craig Thomson’s vote. He’s already indicated Latika that he intends to vote with the Labor Party on every vote. So in fact she hasn’t changed the position of the Parliament at all. If she was serious that her Government shouldn’t be tainted by the tainted vote of Craig Thomson she would do what the Howard Government did with Mal Colston and refuse to accept his vote.
Bourke: But Christopher Pyne, there are no charges laid against Craig Thomson. There were charges laid against Mary Jo Fisher. Why did you continue to accept her vote in the Senate?
Pyne: There are different kinds of cases, as well as you know Latika. Nobody is seriously suggesting that the case involving Mary Jo Fisher is exactly the same as the case involving Craig Thomson. With the case of Craig Thomson the Government has moved for the administration of the Health Services Union. The ACTU has expelled the HSU from the union movement. The claims are that hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on personal expenditure, prostitutes, interstate travel and campaign expenses when Craig Thomson was the secretary of the Health Services Union. What the Labor Party has done is replaced Ben Chifley’s light on the hill with Craig Thomson’s red light on the hill and they’re all rushing towards it with their credit cards. The truth is there’s no comparison. The public knows that. Common sense tells us that and until the Government refuses to accept Craig Thomson’s vote, they are simply trying to fool the Australian public yet again that they’re somehow acting appropriately when they haven’t changed anything at all.
Bourke: Christopher Pyne, Federal Parliament resumes next week. Are you going to move a no-confidence motion in the Government now that you’ve been denied the opportunity to move one on the Speaker?
Pyne: The Opposition hasn’t been denied an opportunity to move a no-confidence motion in the Speaker or the Government. We can do that at any point. The Speaker remains the Speaker.
Bourke: But Peter Slipper is going to step aside for Anna Burke. You are going to support Anna Burke aren’t you?
Pyne: Peter Slipper has stood aside from the chamber, but he’s still the Speaker. Technically we could move a no-confidence motion in anybody we wanted to, but that’s besides the point. The Opposition doesn’t support this Government. We’ve already lost confidence in it and everyone knows that and Andrew Wilkie today has indicated he’s lost confidence in the Government.
Bourke: Why not test that on the floor of Parliament then Christopher Pyne?
Pyne: This isn’t about the numbers in the Parliament, it’s about the judgement of the Prime Minister and her integrity and the integrity of the Parliament, but Tony Windsor and Robert Oakeshott continue to prop up this Government. While those two gentlemen continue to insist that there’s “nothing to see here, everyone move on people, there’s nothing to be concerned about” there’s no point in the Opposition moving a no confidence motion. Those members should move a no-confidence motion. Tony Windsor and Robert Oakeshott should move one and the Opposition should support it, but while they continue to prop up a very bad Government, which is getting worse they will get themselves further and further into the mire with the Labor Party and the revenge on election day from the Australian public I think will be of Titanic proportions.
Bourke: It could take from now until the next election for Peter Slipper’s case to be resolved. Should he just stand aside from the Parliament?
Pyne: Well, that’s up to Peter Slipper. That’s up to Peter Slipper. We didn’t make Peter Slipper Speaker. The Labor Party made Peter Slipper. The Labor Party supported Craig Thomson for three years and continues to take Craig Thomson’s vote. The Labor Party has to resolve these issues. If Peter Slipper wants to stand down from the Parliament that’s entirely a matter for him. Certainly it was the right thing for him to stand aside from the Speakership. Whether he goes any further than that – what’s in his best interests and the best interests of his family – is a matter for him.
Bourke: Do you have any knowledge of anyone in the Coalition aiding James Ashby to make these claims against Peter Slipper?
Pyne: No I don’t.
Bourke: Is it possible that anyone in the Coalition did?
Pyne: I haven’t got the faintest clue. The first I knew about the Federal Court action was when I read it in the News Ltd papers Saturday week ago. I had no specific knowledge of these allegations.
Bourke: You’ve claimed some political scalps today Christopher Pyne, but are you worried in general about this brutal brand of politics taking place here in Canberra and the damage it’s doing to the parliament and the institution?
Pyne: I am. I’m very worried about the brand of politics in Canberra at the moment. I think this has been a terrible Parliament. It’s been a Parliament, which has been as you said brutal, but it’s all because of the Prime Minister’s desire to hang onto power post the 2010 election. Her determination to do a deal with the devil of Faustian proportions with Bob Brown and the Greens to bring them front and centre into the Government.
Bourke: You don’t take any responsibility for the brutal brand of politics we’re seeing?
Pyne: Well no I don’t. It’s the Opposition’s job to hold a bad Government to account and there’s been plenty of material with which to do so. It was the Government’s choice to play a dance with the Independents in conservative seats in Tony Windsor and Robert Oakeshott. It was their choice to do a deal with the Greens and bring Bob Brown into the Government and they are all paying the price for that. It was their decision to suborn Peter Slipper into leaving the Coalition and taking the Speaker’s chair and ditching Harry Jenkins, an honourable and fair Speaker in the process. These are all bad judgement calls the Prime Minister’s made and she is reaping the whirlwinds of her yesterday.
Bourke: Christopher Pyne, we’ve run out of time. Thanks for joining us on ABC 24.