Doorstop - Adelaide
Doorstop – Sturt Electorate Office, Magill
2 March 2019
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well thank you all very much for coming this morning, today as is no surprise I am announcing the end of my 26 year parliamentary carer. I was elected in 1993 at the age of 25 And at the age of 51 I made a decision that I had the chance to start a new career, and go ahead with a new life after public service of more than a quarter of a century. It’s been an absolute pleasure to serve as the member for Sturt and it’s been a privilege to represent the people of Sturt, obviously it’s nice to leave when people are asking me to stay rather than when people are asking me to go and as someone who defeated a sitting member in preselection 26 years ago I can tell you that it’s great to be able to choose the time of your leaving. I’ve been very fortunate to serve at very senior levels in the Australian government in the Howard government in the Abbot, Turnbull and Morrison governments, obviously a particular highlight has been the opportunity to create in south Australia and in Australia a shipbuilding and submarine building industry worth 90 billion dollars that’s going to last for decades and decades in to the future, protecting our national security, building our national capability and of course also creating a defence industry that could have been lost after the loss of the car industry many years ago. So I would like to thank the electors of Sturt, I would like to thank my family and my staff for creating the opportunities for me to do what I’ve done for over a quarter of a century, I’d like to thank the prime ministers that have appointed me to their executive, right back in 2006 I had the chance to create headspace, the youth mental health initiative, I’m very pleased that that’s still going survived the Labor government, is thriving , has become part of the institution of Australian mental health which I’m very pleased about and I’m happy to answer any questions.
QUESTION: What will the new career be?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I’ll go into the private sector and try and create a business, I had two years as a lawyer, some would say I was pretending to be a lawyer while I was campaigning for politics, and I think there’s some truth to that, but I intend to go into the business world and see where that takes me.
QUESTION: has this been a difficult decision to make?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No, no, not at all its been one that I started thinking about in January when I was down at the beach and had to sort of think about what I wanted to do in 2019, whether I wanted to keep going I thought about it over January and February, I went back to parliament for two weeks to get them, get the party through those two weeks, given we’re in a minority government at the end of that I thought about it more carefully over the weekend, I decided that I wanted to leave and told the Prime Minister on Tuesday and obviously we’re announcing it today but most of the coverage was put out yesterday.
QUESTION: When will the government face [inaudible]
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well it’s a bit confusing situation what you’ve created for me here, I’ve got cameras over there and cameras over here so you’ve made it difficult for me [laughter]
QUESTION: Minister so Tuesday was the first day you actually mentioned to the PM, look I’m going to quit politics?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: That’s right.
QUESTION: Has the turmoil the governments been putting itself though played any part in this decision?
No not at all. Whether we win the election, in May or whether we lose the election in May, I would have been making exactly the same decision, I believe we will win the election in May and I think we’ll win Sturt too, but I’m not leaving because I’m worried about going into opposition I’m leaving because 26 years is a tremendous run, I was elected on a platform of renewal 26 years and 26 years later it’s time for renewal again in Sturt and that’s got nothing to do with our electoral prospects.
QUESTION: but as opposition leader you could have helped renew the liberal party after its loss though, that’s not, is that not an appealing thing?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well there’s a lot of could have beens in politics, and there’s a lot of wannabes, I’ve been fortunate enough to rise to being number 5 in the government, which is the most senior cabinet minister from the house of representatives from South Australia since federation, I’ve been fortunate to be the longest serving non-Labor member of parliament from south Australia since federation and you have to know when to go and it’s nice to go when people are asking you to stay,. Rather than when they’re trying to sort of plot to remove you. And being leader of the party that would have been a tremendous thing to do for the party and the country and also for myself, but, but I’m very fortunate I’ve been the deference minister the deference industry minister, an education minister, an industry minister, an aging minister, a parliamentary secretary for health, for social security, and a backbencher as well as the member for Sturt, I think I’ve covered the whole gamut of opportunities that have been available to me and I’m very fortunate.
QUESTION: Would you like to see a woman replace you?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well the criteria for who should replace me in Sturt is very simple, first of all they have to be a person who knows how to campaign and knows how to win the seat, Sturt has never been an easy seat to win, and I’ve won it nine times, so the first criteria is the person has to be able to win and campaign to win the seat, second, they have to be an effective representative of the eastern and north eastern suburbs, that means it has to be somebody who is from the area and knows the area well. And has known the area well for some time, not some blow-in from outside the electorate, and thirdly they have to be somebody who can be a cabinet minister in an Australian government. I’m the first cabinet minister from Sturt since 1949 since it was created, Sturt is the kind of seat that deserves a cabinet minister so it needs to be somebody of that calibre and the criteria is overlayed with the fact that it has to be based entire on merit.
QUESTIONS: is that person James Stevens?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well it sounds like there’s an echo! Is there an echo in here?
QUESTION: Does that mean that James Stevens is the man that you want to see succeed you?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well James Stevens is a very fine individual he is the chief of staff of course to the premier Steven Marshall, has one of a handful of people who were the brains behind our south Australian election win last march, he’s the president of my federal electorate conference he’s been campaign manager for Sturt for the last 4 elections so he does fit the criteria.
QUESTION: what’s the process for that in terms of that when do we know who the person could be?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well that’s a matter for the party and the choice of candidate is a matter for the Electoral College in Sturt and I wouldn’t presume to get in front of their decision. The state executive will meet I’m sure today or early next week, under john Olsen to determine a process for the replacement of me in Sturt there will be a preselection, a full preselection, everyone will get the opportunity to vote in the plebiscite system, and that’s the way it should be.
QUESTION: Do you have any concerns that your own And other recent resignations will affect the election for the liberal party?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Look people have got to retire sometime. Being in politics is not a life sentence. And I’ve been there for 26 years. And I didn’t want to run again so you know when you get to that point where you decide it’s time to go it would be running under false pretences for me to ask the voters of Sturt in May to redetect me. And then post the election cause a by-election. I don’t believe in unnecessary by elections I’ve been saying that for the last few days because I don’t, and I think the Morrison government will replace itself, will renew, Linda Reynolds will become the minister for defence industry and she’s a very fine individual and if we win the election in May and I expect we will, she will become the minister for defence and that will be a marvellous thing as well, so the wonderful thing about politics is that there’s always somebody behind you climbing the ladder who wants to replace you so there won’t be any number of people who’ll be able to replace me in Sturt and as the minister for defence in time.
QUESTION: Have you offered or discussed with the prime minister or offered to resign from the ministry?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No. I haven’t.
QUESTION: Why not? When Steve Ciobo has done that?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well because being the minister for defence carries certain responsibilities, it’s a very serious role, I’m a member of the national security committee of the cabinet, there are a number of very serious issue and challenges that Australia faces in the indo-pacific, in the middle east if course, the minstyer for defrence is responsible for troops who are in Afghanistan, in the UAE, in Iraq, the Sudan, the Golan heights, the Sinai, Lebanon, other parts of the world and we also have to settle down the pacific step up which is the big announcement made last October about raising our position in the south pacific, making a bigger investment in the south pacific there are ongoing issues around insuring that the submarine project, the hunter class frigates project, the joint strike fighters the ground based missile defence system, the loyal wingman which we announced at Avalon, there are a whole lot of significant projects which needs some continuity of approach, now I’ve been in the portfolio for three years and that consistency right through to election day I think is really important whoever becomes the government which in hope will be the Morrison government, expect it will be, they’ll be able to just take on that role after the election. And that sort of consistency is important when it comes to national security.
QUESTION: Would you have fought this election if it was still a Malcolm Turnbull –led government?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No.
QUESTION: that wouldn’t have made any difference to your decision whatsoever?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No. I’ve a great supporter of Malcolm Turnbull, he and I are close friends, I’m a great supporter of Scott Morrison, he and I are close friends I didn’t make this decision because of the outcome or otherwise of the election, I made it because 26 years is 26 years, I’ve had a tremendous opportunity to make a difference to the country in which I live and it’s time to go.
QUESTION: So the leadership spill didn’t encourage you to announce this decision a little earlier than you’d hoped?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No.
QUESTION: As a leading moderate figure in the liberals, has the party’s push to the right concerned you at all especially in the last couple of years?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I don’t agree with the premise of that question, I don’t think there has been any kind of shift to the right as you’ve put it, in fact I think the liberal party is very much a party of the centre right, as we saw in the outcome of the leadership ballot last year, Scott Morrison was chosen because I think he represents a centrist position on economics, determined to be more supportive of small business, the individual, giving people their own taxes back to spend as they choose in terms of social policy, hastening slowly without being anti-change. That’s exactly the kind of liberal party that I leave and I don’t accept that there’s been any kind of swing in any particular direction.
QUESTION: overnight however, though there seemed to be two themes emerging on social media –
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Social media [laughter]
QUESTION: a lot of people supportive though of what you’ve done and what you’ve done for south austral but there was also this sentiment of what seemed to be right wing members of the party that were sort of delighted that you were going, who’s going to replace you as that moderate voice in the party though? Who’s up and coming that people can look to that will be that voice that you’ve been for so many years?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I long ago learnt Matt that if you read the comments on twitter, or Facebook , you’d probably go completely mad in politics because there’s a lot of crazy people on twitter and Facebook saying a lot of bizarre things and the really terrifying aspect of that that Anthony Albanese and I have often laughed about it those people have been out in the community forever, it’s just that we’ve never seen them before and now they’re actually on social media with a voice which is kind of frightening when you think about it. So I don’t pay any attention to people on social media whatsoever. I love Instagram and I do that myself and if someone attacks me on Instagram I’ve learnt that you can block them and I very happily block them, I’ve long ago given up on twitter and Facebook, my staff do that because it’s an echo chamber of bitterness and hatred so I’m not going to worry about what people say on social media. There are a myriad number of good liberals across Australia not least of which in our own state, Steven Marshall our premier here and other members right across Australia who represent a centrist and centre-right view of politics which is the resting position if you like of the Australian public over the last 75 years since the second world war the coalition has governed for a huge percentage of that time, I think it’s more than two thirds of that time, as I said on election night famously in 2016, we are an election winning machine, and the left of course scorned and scoffed at the suggestion, sneered at it actually. We’ve won 6 of the last 8 elections, and the 7th was a draw and we lost one out of the last 8, so the Australian public believe in the liberal party and the national party as the party that best represents their values. That hasn’t changed and there are dozens of liberals who represent that centrist and centre-right view which is the one that the Australian public have been the most comfortable with, electorally, proven by electoral wins for most of the last 75 years.
QUESTION: But we’ve seen minority governments turfed out at elections before, why would this year be any different?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Minority governments are, have existed right across Australia so I’m not sure of the purpose of your question. Whether it’s a minority government or a majority government, I mean every election I’m told is told the years of independents and the independents are going to sweep the pool, if you look at the House of representatives there’s 150 members and I think you could possibly say that Andrew Willkie is a genuine independent and Cathy McGowan but most of the others, Kerryn Phelps potentially, but all the others started as liberal or national party members who defected or in the case of the greens, a different political party. So the Australian public like’s stability, they don’t like to change everything. Independents create instability. And I believe that this election will be decided on the basis of who’s going to tax the Australian public less, who’s going to make sure that the economy is stable, and continues to create jobs, who they can trust on national security, and not on border protection and that’s clearly the coalition. Labor has opened a significant flank on border protection by weakening our border protection, they’ve have $200 billion proposals for new taxes if there elected they’ll smash the economy, the housing market, the savings of the retirees and people just don’t trust Bill Shorten.
QUESTION: you say people don’t like instability how do you think the leadership turmoil of the last few years will affect the coalition’s chances?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I think people have largely moved on from that, I think that’s been very clear since Christmas since the beginning of the year, I think people are focusing on the future, who has a plan for Australia economically in terms of national security and border protection and they are assessing Labor and liberal, they’re assessing Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten is coming up second.
QUESTION: it’s hardly the stability you saw in the early days of your career though is it?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I think I’ve answered the question.
QUESTION: You mentioned headspace earlier, you’re obviously very proud of the work you’ve done in defence as well, what else do you walk away today feeling most proud of?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I’m very happy, to have created the national innovation and science agenda, the NISA, when Malcolm Turnbull first became the prime minister, we did that very quickly, but it was very comprehensive and it showed that the government can be agile it’s had good impacts on things like the raising of venture capital and flexibility in our economy. I was pleased when I was the minister for education to introduce things like compulsory literacy and numeracy testing for testing graduates to reform the national curriculum to broaden the use of phonics, in our curriculum in primary schools, particularly across remote and regional schools and indigenous communities in particular, I attempted of course university reform twice, only to be thwarted by the student unions who seemed to harry and harass the cross benchers, another reason not to vote for independents in the senate, so I’ve certainly had a go and I’ve been given the opportunity to have a go by successive leaders of the party and that been a tremendous thing. And in defence and defence industry, I think we can count some of the largest projects in Australian history have occurred on my watch in the last three years, they could have gone a different way. We could have been building submarines in France, Germany, or japan, instead we’re building them here in Osborne creating 8000 jobs in this state alone, that’s just one example we’ve done the same for the air force and for the army so it’s been the largest renewal of our military capability in our peacetime history.
QUESTION: You’ve been a career politician, you’re an expert on parliamentary standing orders, but how are you going to translate your skills are you enter into the private sector in the next phase of your career?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well that will be determined by my potential employers not by me making claims about that today.
QUESTION: What did your wife and kids have to say when you said right its official, what was the reaction?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I think they’re very pleased, I think they’re looking forward to me coming home, I mean I’ve tried to, all of my children have been born since I’ve been a member of parliament, my children are aged 11-18 so they’ve only known the political life, I think it’ll take some getting used to me being around most of the year, and- but I’m sure they’re looking forward to it, it begins a new chapter for all of us. And at 51 I’ve got the chance to, for hopefully another 3 decades of existing on this earth and making a difference somewhere so I’m looking forward to spending a lot of that time with them.
QUESTION: is it a bit emotional to give on this career that you’ve had since your twenties?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I’m happy to be retiring. So I think that makes an enormous difference, I’m not leaving with regret or bitterness, I’m not being forced out of office in some hideous scandal, so I’m very happy to have been able to make my own decision to retire on my own terms and one of the things I’ve learnt in observing my former colleagues over the years is those people who didn’t get to choose the timing of their departure either because they lost in preselection or they lost their seats is quite different in the way the approach the rest of their lives than those who did. I’m very fortunate to have decided to leave where I’m making that decision, no one’s forcing me to go.
QUESTION: is there anything you’d do differently?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I probably wouldn’t have told John Howard in 1993 that he was, his time was over, we wouldn’t go back to him, that led to some period in the freezer for me, but I learnt a lot in that ten years on the backbench and no, in 26 years I’ve had 16 years on the front bench, I’ve been in the cabinet for 6 years, I’ve been the leader of the house and the manager of opposition business for 10, in the leadership group for 10 years, so I think you could say that I overcame that eventually, I had youth on my side so that was a great advantage.
QUESTION: And getting into politics so young? Was that something now you could look back on and say that was the right decision?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I think I was a bit young at 25, at the time I thought I knew everything, so I was preselected at 24 of course so it was very young, I have 18 year olds now so the idea of them in 6 years’ time going into federal parliaments kind of scary, so I can understand why some of my peers at the time thought he’s a bit audacious.
QUESTION: Do you have a sparring partner from the opposite side you’re going to miss?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Yes, I’m going to miss Anthony Albanese, I’m going tom miss Richard Marles from the other side, look I’ve tried in my political career to never be personal and when people have criticised me, and they have, sometimes quite you know, mendaciously, I’ve always assumed it wasn’t personal and maybe I’ve missed the social signals there but I’ve always ignored the personal and focused on the issue and moved on from you know short term arguments with colleagues on both sides and I sort of leave I hope with a lot of friends on both sides of the aisle, but I will miss some of the Labor members, and Sarah Hanson-Young is another person I’ll miss despite the fact that we don’t agree on anything. I’ve always found her to be very good to deal with. Penny Wong people I went to university withy like Mark Butler and others on the other side, sure I’ll miss them, but you know, I’m not going into the tomb! I’m, I intend to be around in politics, in south Australia in particular for a long time to come, I’ll just be not quite on the front line, it’s time for others to step up and they’ll do that, but I’ve never tried to be personal or vindictive, and I hope that means I’ll leave with friends across the political spectrum.
QUESTION: anyone on your own side you’re particularly not going to miss?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: [laughter] I certainly won’t be answering that question.
Ok thank you all very much. See-you.