13 Mar 2016 Transcipt


13th March 2016

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning, and welcome to Pyne & Marles here on Sky News Live on Saturday morning, March the 12th. This is the show where we, the politicians, get to talk directly to you, the viewers. I'm Christopher Pyne in Adelaide and my colleague in Melbourne is Richard Marles. Good morning, Richard.

RICHARD MARLES: Good morning, Christopher. You've had a big week. You’ve been hosting the Prime Minister for three days over there in Adelaide and we've got Malcolm Farr announcing this morning that you’re going to be spearheading the new economic statement. Is the next step becoming Australia's Treasurer, Christopher?!

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: (Laughs) Richard! I think there’s been quite enough movement at the station in the last six or so years in Australian politics. I'm just very happy to be the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science for years into the future and I want you to be the Shadow Minister for Immigration years into the future. I think it suits you very well!


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: What have we got on the show today?

RICHARD MARLES: Well, can I say, I'm working on change there - but I just want to make this point. If you’re about to become the Treasurer of Australia, you’ve got to promise me you're going to announce it on our show, because we need that scoop!

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, this is the show where all the big stories occur, so definitely, I'll be breaking it on this show for certain!

RICHARD MARLES: Well, that's the appropriate commitment you should be making! This week, the Prime Minister was in South Australia talking industry policy and we'll be talking about that this morning. There has been more news during the week in relation to the government's resettlement program in Cambodia, along with a discussion about what might have been occurring in relation to conversations between Australia and Iran, and Tony Windsor came back to Canberra this week to announce a comeback against Barnaby Joyce. We'll be discussing all of those issues this morning, as well as meeting Maggie Evans-Galea. Maggie is one of Australia's leading female scientists and we’ll be talking to her about how we can get more people pursuing, and particularly women, pursuing science. But, Christopher, the newspapers - what's in the headlines this morning?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, I think the most interesting headline this morning, Richard, is the discussion about the ABCC, the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and Senate reform, because the crossbenchers who’ve been blocking the ABCC legislation, along with the Labor Party and the Greens, now want to reverse the order of discussion. They want to bring that on and push Senate reform off. But this week will be an historic week, because in the Senate we will debate Senate reform. Hopefully, we'll pass Senate reform, and individuals will get to make their own decisions about preferences rather than preference whisperers. There will still be plenty of time to deal with the ABCC, as long as the Senate doesn't delay on Senate reform.

RICHARD MARLES: Well, I think what has become clear over the last few weeks is you’re going to have an election on the 2nd of July, that's patently clear. In fact, there are ministers who are openly talking about that with people around the traps. So you do have an issue in terms of timing and, you know, in an election year when the Coalition dust off the election playbook there is always a chapter in it called ‘Union Bashing’. There is no way you are not going to make the ABCC a double dissolution trigger - so the question now is how you’re going to make that happen if you are not talking about it next week?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, we already have the union story, because of the Registered Organisations Commission, which you've blocked twice in the Senate with the required three-month gap. But the ABCC remains a government priority, especially following the Heydon Royal Commission, which found fraud and blackmail and bribery and unlawful behaviour in the CFMEU. So, we want the bill to be passed by the Senate. We don't want a double dissolution - we want the bill to be passed.

RICHARD MARLES: Well, I think, one way or another, you are going to find a way to get the ABCC well and truly into this election. This week, we saw Tony Windsor come to Canberra to announce a comeback to the Federal Parliament as the candidate for New England against Barnaby Joyce. Have a look at this.

TONY WINDSOR: It's not about sending Barnaby Joyce a message. It's about winning the seat.

BARNABY JOYCE: I listened to his speech today - it was rather rambling, cranky and disjointed.

TONY WINDSOR: I like Malcolm Turnbull, but he's got to start to do something and the reason he can't do it - well, one of those reasons - is his deputy dog.

BARNABY JOYCE: He is trying to protect his legacy with Ms Gillard and the Green/Labor Party/Independent alliance.

RICHARD MARLES: Christopher, I think the interesting thing I got from Tony Windsor's announcement this week were the issues that he was speaking about - NBN, climate change, need-based funding for schools. These are, indeed, all really critical issues for regional rural Australia out there in the bush and yet these are issues that the National Party are really no longer championing. I mean, if you look at climate change, there couldn't be a constituency more sensitive to climate change than farmers and yet the party that represents them has their head in the sand, essentially saying that climate change doesn't exist. I reckon this raises real issues for where the National Party goes and I think that's the point that Tony Windsor is tapping into.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I don't think Tony Windsor is in the least bit interested in the issues, actually, Richard. I think this looks like an ego trip to me. I think he has put together a grab bag of different policies that he wants to talk about, all of which involve more government spending, like a typical, populist independent candidate. I think he wants a grudge match. He left in 2013 because he had elected the Julia Gillard Government, which was a catastrophe for Australia, and yet he represented a conservative electorate. And now, three years later, he is hoping that people have forgotten about his role in the disastrous 43rd parliament and he wants to get back in. I think he’s missing the limelight and he wants a bit of - a bit of a light shining on him in the middle of the stage.

RICHARD MARLES: But the thing is, Christopher, he is polling at 38. I mean, the ReachTEL poll that has been published, I think today, has him on 38. So he is a serious contender here and I think, whatever else this means, this is a royal pain in the butt for Barnaby Joyce and, indeed, for all of you. It's going to keep Barnaby Joyce off the national stage during the election campaign and it’s going to have him holed up in his seat, isn't it?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, Barnaby Joyce can deliver. He can deliver in government, as the member for New England, he can deliver as the Deputy Prime Minister and a cabinet minister. Tony Windsor can't. Let's not forget, Richard, before the 43rd parliament, which was the hung parliament, the first time since the Second World War, nobody had ever heard of Tony Windsor outside of New England because he’d never delivered anything for his electorate, because independents are impotent because they can't be in government.

RICHARD MARLES: Well, I reckon this is going to be a real issue for Barnaby Joyce and it’s a real issue for the government. You’re going to have one of your key players off field. But maybe this is Malcolm Turnbull’s plan - maybe he actually wants - maybe he wants Barnaby Joyce holed up there in New England.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I don't think so! But I think our timer has run out. This week, as you mentioned before, Richard, the Prime Minister was in Whyalla announcing effectively the saving of the steelworks there run by Arrium. We're bringing forward the purchase of 72,000 tons of steel. Let's have a look at what the Prime Minister had to say about that.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: The ARTC will fast-track a major upgrade to the east-west national rail network. This boosts productivity in South Australia and, indeed, in the whole national freight network. It also provides a very large order for steel to the Arrium steelworks in Whyalla and will help ensure its continued operation and viability.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, this is great news for Whyalla, but also South Australia and, in fact, for the entire country, Richard, because Whyalla’s steelworks are the only ones that build construction steel. They are the only ones that build railways. So this is good news for them. It secures jobs, it secures the town, and it's a great example of the government's attitude towards procurement policy using the enormous Federal Government dollar to help drive Australian industry, Australian jobs, Australian innovation. So I had a big hand in it and I must admit I'm very pleased for my state, but also the country.

RICHARD MARLES: Well, well done, Christopher. I mean, there's no doubt that this is welcome in relation to the decision, but I think it's too early to proclaim the saviour of Arrium just yet. I mean, the South Australian government are saying that, even with this decision, there may well be a need for co-investment. So I think the question is whether or not the government ultimately is going to be prepared to actually provide some industry support to Arrium and therefore the steel industry. But if this somehow represents, you know, a new-found love of industry policy on the part of the Coalition, is there an admission in this that you got it wrong with the car industry?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, no, not at all, because the car industry didn't want to - Holden didn't want to remain in Elizabeth. They said it wouldn't have mattered how much government money had been given to them, they were always leaving. Whereas Arrium wants to keep building steel at Whyalla and it’ll go a long way to helping Arrium and, rather than just giving Arrium a government grant - a taxpayer handout - I'm using my powers under the Anti-Discrimination Commission to help protect Arrium from unfair competition from Asian Steel and the government is bringing forward procurement decisions - we're not just giving them a government grant.

RICHARD MARLES: Well, whether or not this was a good week for those in Whyalla, it was certainly a fantastic week for those people in Cadiz, in Spain, as we saw the announcement of the building of the two new supply ships in Cadiz. They love the Turnbull Government over there in Spain. You ought to go there, Christopher, because they would absolutely…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, Richard, I find it remarkable…

RICHARD MARLES: ..fete you there!

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ..I find it remarkable that you would raise this, given that Labor were the government in 2011 that decided only the Spanish and the South Koreans could tender for it. But we've run out of time right at the end of that.

RICHARD MARLES: You - you've got to get there. You have got to get to Cadiz, Christopher. This week we - we also…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: But you made the decision!

RICHARD MARLES: (Laughs) This week, we also saw some more news about the government's resettlement program in Cambodia and there was also discussion, leading up to the Iranian Foreign Minister's visit to Canberra next week, about a proposed return deal with Iran. Have a look at this.

PETER DUTTON: We're working with the UN, we've obviously made a significant announcement in terms of the numbers that we want to take from Syria. So the bottom line here is that we want to preside over an orderly program and we'll - we’ll continue to work with our partners, but individuals that are within the regional processing centres to help them return to their country of origin.

RICHARD MARLES: What we see here, Christopher, again, is the government talking big in terms of what it was able to achieve with countries overseas, but the delivery is very small.


RICHARD MARLES: There has been this proposal that there's going to be a return agreement with Iran, but already we've seen the Iranian Foreign Minister - the Iranian ambassador, I'm sorry, come out and pour cold water all over that. But I think the other point here, Christopher, is, even if there is some return agreement with Iran, which would be a good thing, it does not solve the fundamental question of getting people off Manus and Nauru and having a credible third country resettlement option for those people. You have simply not reached some kind of agreement with anyone in the world there and what's happening in Cambodia stands as the emblem of the abject failure of the government in this regard.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, Richard, again, it's remarkable that you and the Labor Party would be trying to lecture the government on border protection. The fundamental threshold decision, or question, was whether we could stop the boats having you reopened the borders - and we did. 50,000 unauthorised arrivals occurred on your watch, on 800 boats, including 9,000 Iranians, and you're now saying the threshold question is how they're resettled. The threshold question is, if Labor's re-elected, those boat - those borders will be reopened again and the people smugglers will be back in business. It's incredible that Labor has so completely lost sight, yet again, of what the important issues are. We'll resettle people. We've got the wherewithal to do it. You’ll just bring more people to Australia in an unauthorised way.

RICHARD MARLES: I love it when you talk like this, Christopher, because what it reminds us all is that you’re so much more comfortable being in opposition than you are in government. I mean, here we are, two-and-a-half years down the track, and ultimately your attack lines are still based on what you were saying three years ago.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, what’s your solution?

RICHARD MARLES: Well, the issue right now is about finding resettlement and our solution would be to re-engage with the UNHCR, make peace with the global community, so that you actually get some assistance from the global community in resettling these people, because…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: You've got no solution at all.

RICHARD MARLES: ..there is no question that we have to get people off Nauru and Manus. It's time for a break, but join us afterwards when we will be talking with Maggie Evans-Galea, one of Australia's leading female scientists, about getting more people, more girls, more women, to pursue science. Join us then.


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, good morning, and welcome back to the Pyne & Marles Show, the show where we get to talk directly to you, the viewer, without any journalist filter, which can be scary for some, but not for Maggie Evans-Galea, who is a senior researcher at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne. She joins us this morning to talk about women in STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths. It’s a big agenda of the government. Maggie, thank you for joining us. The first question I have for you is…

MAGGIE EVANS-GALEA: Thanks for having me.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Thank you for joining us. And what's the hurdles - explain to me, perhaps, the hurdles that stop women from moving from undergraduate degrees in STEM subjects on to postgraduate study, research, careers in science, technology, engineering and maths - because that seems to be the blockage.

MAGGIE EVANS-GALEA: You've hit the nail on the head. So, for women in science, we have around 50% of our science graduates are actually women and even around 50% of our PhDs are women. But then, when they enter the post-doctoral phase, this is the formative years of their life, both personally and professionally, and so not only are they sort of thinking about their career aspirations, they're also thinking about finding a partner, having a family, settling down and starting life. And unfortunately, the minute a woman takes a career break, it's referred to in the field as ‘career suicide’ and that is because it interrupts her track record, her ability to produce papers and grants - which is the currency of science - and then she's not as competitive as her peers who don't have career breaks. And, as they move up the ladder, we lose women. So we're around 25% women at level C, which is about three steps in to the post-doctoral phase, and once we hit the top echelon of professor, level E, we drop to around 17% women at the leadership level.

RICHARD MARLES: So, Maggie, this question of dealing with women having children and then getting back into the workforce, it's something which is not unique to science and yet it seems as though science is particularly having an issue with it. Do you think that there are cultural issues within science which are particularly - which make it particularly difficult for women to pursue science further on in their career?

MAGGIE EVANS-GALEA: I think cultural issues affect a lot of sectors, but particularly science. It has very much a boys’ club culture because it's a male-dominated field. But in science, we also have very strong metrics around how we measure success in science and a lot of that really focuses on how many publications you have, the quality of those publications and the grants that you can pull in. And so it's really also the hyper-competitive nature of the system - if you can't keep up an elite athlete style of track record, it's very difficult as a woman to stay competitive and interruptions to your career for children or health can really impact that.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: So, Maggie, one of the solutions to this is the Athena SWAN program, which has been running in the UK for a little while, and I understand that you're an advocate for it. Could you explain to the viewers what the Athena SWAN program does and the equivalent here in Australia, called the SAGE? I think they'd be interested to hear about it.

MAGGIE EVANS-GALEA: So, the SAGE pilot is a pilot of the Athena SWAN program from the UK and this really is an opportunity for research organisations in Australia to up the ante and to really increase their innovation and productivity, because we know that, with equity, we increase our productivity. Diversity brings innovation. And so it's really an opportunity for those organisations to commit to change, and so what they will do is, we have 32 of our leading organisations in Australia who have agreed to do the pilot - which is fantastic, it's a great commitment - and they will dig deep and look at their own statistics within their own organisations and really ask, who's working part-time, who's doing the teaching, who's serving on what committees? So, for example, are more women serving on the operational committees rather than the decision-making committees? And then, once they have those statistics as their evidence base, they can really think about what policies they can introduce within their own organisation - because this is in the context of their own building - is really to improve things and to increase support for the women in STEM. They then have to track that change over time and, if the policies are working and they can prove that they're working and that this is sustainable improvement for women in STEM, they're up for an award. It's like the Olympics - you win a gold, silver or bronze medal. And so the Athena SWAN initiative has a number of bronze and silver awards given to their institutes and, in Australia, we will start at the bronze level, which is the baseline, and see where we go from there.


RICHARD MARLES: Maggie, getting science more involved with our economy, I think, is one of the real economic challenges - micro-economic challenges that we have and key to that is obviously getting people to pursue and study science in general - men and women. Do you think that we need to be raising the profile of science more generally within our community? Alan Alda was in town raising just this point over the last couple of days. Do you agree with him in that?

MAGGIE EVANS-GALEA: I totally agree with that and I think it's actually been really exciting over the last year to see science hit the national agenda in Australia, you know, big-time. I think it's - it's on - both political parties are very supportive of science…


MAGGIE EVANS-GALEA: The public really is also supportive of science and I think, if we could raise the profile and get our scientists communicating more with the public, it really will engage everyone in the process and that's what we want.

RICHARD MARLES: Well, Maggie, thank you very much for joining us today. As I said, I think it is absolutely critical that we have more people engaged in science. The stats are actually going in the wrong direction, but your work, I think, is really critical to that, so thank you very much for joining us today.


MAGGIE EVANS-GALEA: Thank you for the opportunity, thank you.

RICHARD MARLES: So today's viewer question is, how do you organise an extra sitting of parliament? This is a really important question, because, as we broke first last week, we've now discovered that the budget is not going to be announced on the 10th of May, but will be done earlier. So, Christopher, you’re the expert in this area. The sittings of parliament are a resolution of the House of Representatives. Does this mean we’re going to have to have some motion go through the Reps next week if you want to bring the budget forward?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, Richard, the first thing is to stop your misleading of the Australian public yet again.


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: The government has not made a decision - the government has not made a decision to bring forward the budget at all. The budget is due for May the 10th. There is a lot of speculation about whether it might be brought forward and I think, for the general Australian - member of the Australian public - they don't care less when the budget is, as long as the budget is good. But obviously the mechanics for a...

RICHARD MARLES: But the language says it's going to be in May.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, it will be in May. It has been in May for years. And it's a good time to have a budget - especially a budget delivered by a Coalition government, rather than a Labor Government! But if we're going to bring it forward, there doesn't need to be a resolution of the house next week. There can be a resolution of the house, because, as you know, the sitting pattern is a motion, but it can also be changed by the Speaker if the parliament is not sitting, because they get advice from the government and the government has the numbers - and long may it be so.

RICHARD MARLES: Well, again, we've heard it first here. So nothing has to happen next week. It's within the government's power in the break to bring the budget forward - that's very good to know. Now, we want to throw to this grab from Alex Hawke in the last sitting week, which I think spoke to the way every member of the Liberal Party ultimately feels about every member of the Labor Party. Have a listen.

ALEX HAWKE: We handle disagreement well (LAUGHTER) and you're allowed to disagree on policy and it’s a liberal party - a genuinely liberal party - and you laugh because you’re a collective, you laugh because you’re a bunch of Communists.

RICHARD MARLES: Does Alex Hawke speak for you all, Christopher? Are, at the end of the day, we just a whole lot of - bunch of Communists?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, we know, Richard, that as soon as we scratch a Labor member, we find a Maoist, or a Trotskyite, or a Leninist!


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: We don't know whether they’re necessarily Beijing-leaning or Moscow-leaning! But, deep down inside, we all know you’re wicked Communists!

RICHARD MARLES: Oh, well, it is great to get to the bottom of things when we finally reach the end of the show! And we know exactly how Liberals ultimately think - it's all about Reds under the bed!

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: It doesn't stop us liking you! It doesn't stop us liking you, Richard!


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: You know, Communists can be very charming people. I knew a lot of them at university - they're very charming!

RICHARD MARLES: Good to know! Well, look, it has been great talking with you again, Christopher, this morning, and can I thank all the viewers for joining us here. Do so again next week at the same time on Saturday morning, on Pyne & Marles on Sky News. We'll see you then.