ABC RN Breakfast with Fran Kelly
09 April 2018
SUBJECTS: Newspoll; Energy Policy; Electoral Redistribution;
FRAN KELLY: Christopher Pyne, welcome back to Breakfast.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Fran, it’s nice to be with you.
FRAN KELLY: If it was good enough for Tony Abbott to be given the boot after 30 bad Newspolls just helps us understand why not Malcolm Turnbull?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, because it was just one of the measures for the difficulties the government was facing at the time, the other two were that we were failing to get an economic narrative through to the public, well Malcolm Turnbull I think has achieve that, we have created 420,000 new jobs in the last 12 months, the economy is growing and looking very strong, I think the public feels that way. And secondly, Malcolm said he’d return traditional Cabinet government to the government of Australia and that’s what’s also been happening. But of course the Newspoll is just one poll Fran, let’s face it, I’ve been in politics a long time…
FRAN KELLY: I haven’t seen any positive Newspolls for the last long while, have you?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Really? On Saturday the Fairfax-Ipsos poll had the government at 50-50 and the thing about the Fairfax…
FRAN KELLY: It also had a 52-48 on one measure, so both polls are saying the same thing.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Except that the Newspoll, Fran, doesn’t ask people what their second preference is, it applies the preference flow from the last election, whereas a good poll asks people what their second preference is. And if we listened to the polls Nick Xenophon would be Premier today, because Newspoll said he would be, and we wouldn’t have won the Bennelong by-election and we wouldn’t have won Tasmania. So polls are polls are polls, at the end of the day the only one that counts is Election Day and in the last few months we’ve won Tasmania, South Australia, Bennelong, New England by-elections. When people are actually asked to make a decision rather than express an opinion they are not supporting Bill Shorten or the Labor Party, they’re supporting Malcolm Turnbull or the Liberal Party.
FRAN KELLY: Okay, so let me get your view, you’ve been looking at politics for a long time; you’ve been in it for a long time. How do you think things are, because the Prime Minister has said the contest with Labor is finely balanced but the election is there to be won, but when he was going after Tony Abbott in 2015 he said after those 30 Newspolls ‘the trajectory is clear’. What do you believe the trajectory is now, you believe it’s for a Coalition win do you?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I think things are looking pretty good, the economy is very strong, and that’s showing up a lot in discussions with the public. The public are much more interested in jobs and the economy and national security than they are a parlour discussion about Newspolls or any other kinds of polls. And I remember when Mark Latham was leading John Howard 54-46, that was only four months out from the 2004 election and we won 53-47, there was a 7 point turnaround and if you’re leading 50-50 or 52-48, that really is neither here nor there. I am actually surprised that the polls are as good as they are, because if you read the newspapers…
FRAN KELLY: 30 negative Newspolls and you’re surprised they’re as good as they are?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I am, because if you actually listen to the media and read the newspapers you would think the government was on the skids and that we couldn’t win a trick…
FRAN KELLY: Never mind listening to the media, if you listen to your former leader you’d think the government was on the skids. Tony Abbott told a constituency meeting just a few weeks ago that the government was in massive trouble.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: The government isn’t in massive trouble. The polls are about 50-50, that’s not a bad position to be in. When John Howard called the 2004 election we were 52-48, exactly the same number as the Newspoll today, we were behind in the polls when he called the election…
FRAN KELLY: In what year was that?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: 2004. Governments often continue behind in the polls, and then during the election campaign the polls change and people have to make a decision. There’s an enormous difference between making a decision and expressing an opinion, and I’d remind you that late last year the Newspoll said that Nick Xenophon was going to win a majority of seats in South Australia and be the Premier, he didn’t even win his own seat.
FRAN KELLY: Sure. You’re listening to RN Breakfast, it’s 18 minutes to 8. Our guest is Christopher Pyne, front bencher, manager of government business in the House of Representatives. Tony Abbott says he will continue to challenge the government on policy, in fact late last night he posted a video on Facebook outside the now defunct Hazelwood Power Station in the La Trobe Valley. He said on that post that wholesale power prices in Victoria have risen by 80%, now new coal fired generators need to be built. Now apart from the fact that he was talking about wholesale power prices and that doesn’t have anywhere close to a direct correlation to retail power prices, how unhelpful is that?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: The good thing about the National Energy Guarantee, Fran, is that we have an agnostic view about what kind of power delivers lower prices and reliable energy to households and businesses…
FRAN KELLY: That wasn’t my question though, how unhelpful is Tony Abbott posting that Facebook post?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I think the public have factored in Tony Abbott as a political force in Australia, they know that he has strong views about certain things and he’s expressing those views, it’s a democracy, he’s entitled to do so. But the only thing that’s stopping us winning the next election is distraction and disunity; if the government was completely united and we didn’t have the constant media speculation, Bill Shorten would not be 50-50 in the polls…
FRAN KELLY: Do you accept, though, that the media speculation is not out of thin air that it is because people like Tony Abbott schedule a Polly pedal at the Hazelwood Power Station on the day of the 30th Newspoll, for instance?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Fran I understand the media just can’t make things up, I understand that, so obviously there is fodder there that is allowing this to run. But the reality is we’re focused on the things that the public are interested in, and that’s the economy and jobs and national security. They don’t like Bill Shorten, they don’t want the CFMEU running the country, they like Malcolm Turnbull, he’s 20 points ahead of Bill Shorten in the Ipsos poll, and the reality is that they would much prefer Malcolm Turnbull to be Prime Minister of Australia. He’s the kind of guy they think should be the Prime Minister, Bill Shorten isn’t. So we can win the next election, in fact, I think we will win the next election with Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister, and I’m actually quite pleased the polls are around 50-50 because it means we are in a very, very competitive position.
FRAN KELLY: Just on the leadership, because there has been in the media recently a little bit of unsourced, unnamed scuttlebutt, or whispers within the Coalition about leadership says if the budget fails to lift the government’s stocks, it says Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership could be in trouble. That wasn’t exactly a full throttle endorsement we heard from Eric Abetz there was it? He said in those circumstances he’ll continue to lead the party, I am not aware of any move against Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I thought Eric’s statement was perfectly straight forward; there isn’t any move against Malcolm Turnbull. The party room wants him to be successful in the same way as the public do. There is no challenge to his leadership; he is delivering excellent government in Australia, the kind of traditional Howard-like government that you would expect from Malcolm Turnbull. He will lead us to the next election and I believe he will win it, and I think when people have to make a decision between Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull, between Malcolm Turnbull and the CFMEU running the country, they will not choose the union movement or Bill Shorten. Bill Shorten wants to have 6 new or increased taxes, he would kill our economic growth and he would kill jobs in Australia, and the public know that.
FRAN KELLY: You’re listening to RN Breakfast, Christopher Pyne is our guest. It’s going to be a tough battle on current polling, now I know you don’t accept that but on current polling if an election was held this week you’d lose 14 seats. There is a redistribution of electoral boundaries going on in Victoria and the ACT, and in South Australia there is one coming up too, on Friday I think we find out the proposed redistribution results. The number of seats will be reduced from 11 to 10, Labor says your seat of Sturt is ‘the best candidate for abolition’, do you expect your seat to be wiped out?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Look, it’s a matter for the Electoral Commission, Labor would love to abolish my seat, they’ve tried to beat me for 25 years and failed to do so. I’m not surprised that they would prefer to abolish my seat rather than win in a genuine contest. But you can’t excise the eastern and north eastern suburbs from the electoral map, as much as some of my opponents would like that to happen. So I will be standing for the seat that roughly covers the current electorate that I hold…
FRAN KELLY: Hang on, so just let me be clear, if the seat of Sturt is wiped out in this redistribution you will stand in another seat?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Of course I will, I’m a Member of Parliament, I’m a Cabinet Minister, and I’m a member of the leadership group. And if my seat is merged with another seat I will look at the boundaries and determine which is the best suits the Liberal Party, the best suits the government, that best suits my chances of winning, where I live, where my office is, what I’ve traditionally represented, all the normal things that you would decide in choosing to run for endorsement for a seat, and then I’ll go through the normal party processes. But we are a long way away from that…
FRAN KELLY: Only four days aren’t we, we’ll know on Friday.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: There are 11 seats Fran, and I know that the Labor Party would like everyone to focus on my seat, one has to be merged with surrounding seats and there are 11 prospects for that happening and mine is just one of them. And I would remind you that the Liberal Party’s submission is that Adelaide be merged with the surrounding seats, that touches 6 other seats and it’s probably the easiest seat for a merger. Labor picked out my seat because they like to have a bit of fun with me, they actually haven’t made any substantial submission to the Electoral Commission, but it is a matter for the Electoral Commission, I’m very happy to see what they want to show us on Friday, then we’ll make some decisions.
FRAN KELLY: Christopher Pyne, thank you very much for joining us.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: It’s a pleasure Fran.