ABC RN with Fran Kelly

05 Feb 2018 Transcipt

ABC RN with Fran Kelly
05 February 2018

SUBJECTS: Newspoll; Private Health Insurance; Susan Lamb Citizenship; Batman By-election;

FRAN KELLY: Christopher Pyne, welcome back to breakfast.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Fran, it’s nice to be back with you right at the beginning of the Parliamentary year.

FRAN KELLY: Yes, to kick things off, and let’s keep is going this way. Labor’s lead over the Coalition has narrowed to 4 points, 52-48 2 party preferred. Malcolm Turnbull stretched his lead as preferred PM. Is the government back in the game?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well Fran, polls come and go, you shouldn’t comment on them when they’re going well because they won’t always go well, sometimes they’ll go poorly, but the truth is the only poll that really matters is the one on election day in 18 months from now. I’d remind you that we’re only half way through the Parliamentary term, it’s a three year term, and there certainly won’t be an election in 2018. But the really interesting thing out of that poll is that both Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese are more popular Labor leaders than Bill Shorten, and I think this is going to be a very bleak year for Bill Shorten.

Unfortunately for him the public have found him out, and what we’re seeing on dual citizenship, of course, is his total inability to act like a leader. A leader would have required Susan Lamb to resign from the House of Representatives when clearly she is still a UK citizen.

FRAN KELLY: I’m going to come back to all those issues, but stick with the Newspoll for a moment. It is the 26th negative Newspoll, Malcolm Turnbull’s set the bar himself at 30 when he challenged Tony Abbott for the leadership. It’s an inconvenient truth but it looms. Was Malcolm Turnbull right all that time ago when he said that 30 Newspolls indicated that the Coalition was on the road to defeat and a leadership change was necessary?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I would remind you in those days, Fran, which seems like the very dim, distant past, that the Prime Minister at the time was also behind Bill Shorten as the preferred PM so we can’t just refer to certain parts of polls and ignore the rest of it. But that is not a great comparison…

FRAN KELLY: It was Malcolm Turnbull’s own comparison.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well Malcolm Turnbull said himself at the end of last year that he regretted making that comparison…


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: And the truth is we are in a good space. At the end of last year in a real electoral contest, not a poll, but a real electoral contest in the Bennelong by-election the Newspoll was 50% out. It said that there would be a 10% swing and there was a 4.7% swing, so the truth is that you have to rely on a lot more than just polling, and in the Bennelong bi-election we won it much better than all the political pundits said we were going to and in fact the Newspoll said that it was going to be lineball. So let’s rely on people voting as opposed to just polling because polling is very different today that it was when I was elected 25 years ago.

FRAN KELLY: Okay, let’s talk about your strategy for winning then, because Malcolm Turnbull was pretty much trash talking Bill Shorten yesterday. He said voters face ‘the frightening prospect of the most anti-business, anti-investment, anti-jobs Labor leader we’ve seen in decades. Is that how you’re going to win the next election, mounting a scare campaign around Bill Shorten?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Bill Shorten has taken quite a left turn, there’s no doubt about that. I mean the days of Hawke and Keating wanting Labor to look like they had economic credentials seem well and truly over.

FRAN KELLY: Well, he’s standing up for the battler isn’t he? He’s focusing on cost of living pressures for people that haven’t had wage increases for a few years now.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: The best way to stand up for battlers, for workers, for middle income Australia is to grow the economy, to reduce taxes, to increase wages, to keep inflation low, to keep interest rates low. It’s not to trash the economy or trash the budget. The reality is if Bill Shorten is elected Prime Minister of Australia the economy will suffer, unemployment will grow, inflation will grow, the Reserve Bank will have to increase interest rates, and the budget will blow out. This man at the last election had $160 billion worth of news spending measures. Now, he’s taken the playbook from Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and thinks if I have a populist platform that appeals to everybody’s nascent desire for more cash from the government then somehow that will get me elected…

FRAN KELLY: Don’t you think a 2% cap on health insurance premiums is the sort of policy people would like to see. They don’t trust, do you think they’re in a mood to trust trickle-down economics?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Fran, if Labor was elected they would abolish the private health insurance premium.

FRAN KELLY: No they won’t, they’ve said they won’t.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: They said that before Kevin Rudd was elected and as soon as he got elected they tried to abolish the private health insurance premium rebate, that’s what they tried to do. They instantly tried to abolish it, and they reduced it if you remember. Labor, in their DNA, hate private health insurance and the idea that they would do better in private health insurance than the Coalition is, quite frankly, laughable, as laughable as their ‘Mediscare’ campaign when they said that the Coalition was going to abolish Medicare. Well, last time I looked I went to the doctor a couple of weeks ago, it’s still there.

So the problem with Bill Shorten is he’s been found out, he has no credibility as a leader of the Labor Party, and his left wing turn that he’s taken, his Jeremy Cobyn playbook, is all very well for red meat at the National Labor Party Conference, which is what this is all about and keeping the unions on side to keep Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek at bay, but it’s no way to run a country. And the reason we will win the next election is because we have the right economic policies to grow jobs, wages, keep inflation and interest rates low and improve the budget bottom line, that’s exactly what Scott Morrison, Malcolm Turnbull and the government are doing.

FRAN KELLY: You’re listening to RN Breakfast, its 17 minutes to 8. Our guest is Christopher Pyne. Christopher Pyne, Parliament’s back for the New Year and the citizenship mess goes on. Bill Shorten said yesterday that he wants both sides to ‘reach a sensible compromise, to stop the nonsense’, is there any chance of a detente here.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well Fran, the Coalition has fixed its citizenship issues, we had a by-election in Bennelong, John Alexander did the right thing and resigned.

FRAN KELLY: Sure, we all know about that, but now we’re starting again. Is there any chance of a detente, is there any chance of both sides agreeing, okay we’ll leave it at this, that Labor won’t pursue Jason Falinski and you won’t pursue those 3 or 4 Labor MPs.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Jason Falinski has absolutely no case to answer. Even Labor’s own legal advice said that the Polish government would not recognise Jason Falinski as a national or a citizen. So that is a distraction, a smoke screen, an embarrassing fig leaf that Labor has thrown up to cover the fact that Susan Lamb, the Member for Longman, is still, right now, a UK citizen. She’s sitting in the House of Representatives and she is a citizen of the United Kingdom. It is disgraceful and scandalous that Bill Shorten is so weak and incapable of acting like a leader that he doesn’t require Susan Lamb to resign.

FRAN KELLY: So what’s going to happen, are you just going to keep saying this for the next 3 months if Bill Shorten doesn’t refer Susan Lamb will you refer her, will the government refer unilaterally?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Fran, the problems are all on the Labor Party’s side…

FRAN KELLY: Yeah but if they don’t do it what will you do?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: We will decide what to do at the appropriate time. We would like to see Susan Lamb resign straight away, she should be resigning this morning, she should have resigned months ago like John Alexander did. There is no way she can be pretending she’s not a UK citizen, her own barrister’s opinion that she lodged in the House of Representatives says she is still a UK citizen. So the problems are not on the Coalition side, so trying to find some moral equivalence here between the Coalition and Labor is lacking credibility.

FRAN KELLY: No, I’m just trying to ask what they’re going to do, will you refer?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: We will refer if necessary if Labor refuses to do the right thing. We would like Bill Shorten and Susan Lamb to step up and do the right thing as John Alexander did, we’d rather not refer people unilaterally but the truth is we have a whole lot of other Labor people that need to be considered, Justine Keay, Josh Wilson, Emma Husar. None of these people are out of the woods but we at the moment regard the case of Susan Lamb as open and shut, and Labor trying to pretend that there is some moral equivalence between Jason Falinski and Susan Lamb lacks all credibility…


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: It’s an old fashioned tactic, but it’s not going to work, the problems are on the Labor Party side. Bill Shorten needs to man up and act like a leader.

FRAN KELLY: And if he doesn’t refer then, as you say, you will refer it necessary.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: There’s no need for Susan Lamb to be referred to the High Court Fran, Susan Lamb’s a UK citizen, she’s admitted it herself in her barrister’s opinion. There’s nothing for the High Court to find with Susan Lamb, Susan Lamb is a UK citizen right now.

FRAN KELLY: Can I just ask you about the Batman bi-election. Labor faces some pretty stiff competition in the Melbourne seat of Batman will be between Labor’s Ged Kearney and the Greens’ Alex Bhathal. The Libs aren’t going to field a candidate we understand which gives the Greens a much better shot at winning. There’s a big anti-Adani campaign rolling out across Batman. If the Greens do win will you accept that the result is akin to a referendum on the Adani coal mine?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Whether the Adani coal mine goes ahead or not is really a matter for the economics of the mine, which will be a decision made by Mr Adani. It’s not a decision…

FRAN KELLY: Nothing to do with the attitudes of people.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, it’s not a decision for the government to make. Anastacia Palaszczuk has given them the necessary approvals from a development point of view and an environmental point of view to go ahead with the Adani mine. If the economics stack up it’s a matter for Mr Adani. The truth is that the coal that would be produced from the Adani mine would be much better for the Indian economy to be burned in energy producing facilities than the coal from other parts of the world.

FRAN KELLY: So you think it’s a good idea, you’re a supporter of the mine?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I’m very strongly supportive of Australia as a good environmental citizen ensuring that better coal is part of the environmental solution than pretending that all of our energy needs can be met by solar and wind, we’ve seen that story, that’s the South Australian economy’s story. The truth is that Labor in South Australian pretended that you could have a coal free future and we are the state with the highest and most unreliable electricity prices and unreliable energy in the country, and one of the highest in the developed world and we now have $200 million being spent by the South Australian Labor Party on diesel generation to try and make up for the shortfall of their failed policies.

FRAN KELLY: Christopher Pyne, thank you very much.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: It’s a great pleasure Fran, thanks for having me.