Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts.These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Meet The Press -

View in ParlView


30 August, 2009



'MEET THE PRESS' PRESENTER PAUL BONGIORNO: Hello and welcome to 'Meet the Press'. Trying to shift
attention off itself and onto the government is proving difficult to for the federal Opposition,
but it did get some help late in the week when the government announced a $1.7 billion blow-out in
its schools stimulus package and tighter guidelines. The week began with defiant Nationals
splitting with the Liberals on climate policy. Then on Tuesday, Dr Brendan Nelson pulled the pin on
his leader.

LIBERAL MP DR BRENDAN NELSON: (Tuesday) The Liberal Party will not win the next election if it is
not unified, does not have a sense of purpose and does not base its decision-making in principle.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER JULIA GILLARD: (Monday) What Malcolm Turnbull should regret is his complete
inability to lead his political party, let alone the Coalition he notionally leads to a sensible,
considered and united position on climate change.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Next day, the Opposition leader confronted his naysayers on emissions trading.

OPPOSITION MALCOLM TURNBULL: (Tuesday) It remains the policy of the Coalition and if there are some
colleagues, particularly some in the National Party, who wish to take a different route, then they
are entitled to do that, but that is not our policy.

PAUL BONGIORNO: The Manager of Opposition Business, Christopher Pyne, is a guest. And later the
Nationals Deputy Senate Leader, Fiona Nash. But first, what is making news in the nation's papers
this Sunday August 30? The 'Sun Herald' reports on the funeral of Senator Ted Kennedy - 'Farewell
to a liberal warrior: US mourns the last Kennedy brother' the headline. At the funeral mass in
Boston, the Kennedy family was joined by President Obama and a who's who of American society. The
'Sunday Mail' says 'Medicare's million-dollar doctors cashing in'. More than a thousand doctors
claimed more than $1 million in Medicare benefits last year, with one GP alone claiming $1.4
million. The 'Sunday Telegraph' has '50,000 families can't pay their mortgage'. The big banks have
been given mortgage payment holidays and hardship concessions to thousands of customers, revealing
the true picture of the financial crisis. And the 'Sunday Age' reports 'Forgotten children to get
formal apology'. The Federal government will say sorry to thousands of people who were abused or
neglected as children after being placed in institutions or foster care. And it's welcome back to
the programme, Christopher Pyne. Good morning, Christopher.


PAUL BONGIORNO: Just going to the blow-out in the schools programme - for whatever problems there
have been with that programme, don't the benefits outweigh the negatives? It's been a stimulus,
it's provided jobs and provided much-needed refurbishment?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, Paul, the Coalition has never said that we don't think that schoolkids
should have good facilities or infrastructure - clearly they should. But we've also said there
needs to be a visceral-like focus on waste and mismanagement to ensure that taxpayers are getting
value for money. We're now talking about a $16.2 billion project. That's a tremendous amount of
money. It's a once in a generation opportunity to do something for schoolkids. What we've actually
seen is profiteering by business, skimming by State governments, waste and mismanagement to the
tune that the programme is now blown out substantially by $1.7 billion, which is very embarrassing
for the government but more importantly, it indicates that this once in a generation opportunity is
being squandered and the government needs to listen to what the Co-ordinator General has said last
week and we await the Auditor General's audit to this programme to see what guidelines really
should have been put in place but the horse may well have bolted.

PAUL BONGIORNO: The minister says it's a sign of success. She says it's the demand that has led to
the blow-out. Can you blame her for wanting to put signs on every school to show how well the
Government is doing for parents and kids around the country?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, Julia Gillard would say that, of course, but what she hasn't said is that
she's seriously asking people to believe that the Government thought one out of ten schools would
say "No, no. We don't want the $3 million. We don't need it." Clearly that was never going to
happen. You wouldn't want to stand between a governing council, a Parents and Friends or a
principal and the opportunity to build some infrastructure or do something in a school, but she
seriously expects us to believe that the department - herself - thought that that anything up to
$700,000, schools would say "No, we don't want any money." In terms of the signs, I have no
problems with the government putting up display signs praising Madam Leader and Dear Leader for
their greatness, but when we're in government, once the project had finished, the signs came down.
What is interesting about what this government is doing in a very cynical political ploy is they're
demanding that the display signs stay in place until after the next federal election, even if the
project finishes next month.

PAUL BONGIORNO: We will come back to that. This is what Julia Gillard had to say. She rejected your
complaints about the billboards outside those schools.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER JULIA GILLARD: (Friday) It's a bit cute by half for the Liberal Party, that
has always opposed this economic stimulus, has opposed every building in every primary school,
every job that's been supported through economic stimulus, they're opposed to, to now enter into a
criticism about this matter given its track record in government. We are just engaging in what has
been standard practice.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, the Deputy Prime Minister says 'standard practice'. You've released a letter
today that you've written to the Electoral Commissioner. What is the main point you've made to him?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: We're very concerned that the signs breach the political advertising rule around
polling booths. Obviously, governments are not entitled to advertise themselves at a polling booth
in the lead-up to an election. We're concerned these sign will breach that rule because they are
blatantly and transparently party political and it may well be that those signs need to be removed
before the election is called and I would like the Electoral Commissioner to give us a ruling on
whether the signs are actually in breach of the political advertising rule at polling booths.

PAUL BONGIORNO: And if they are, what, polling booths would have to be put somewhere else?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, if they are, it throws the whole thing into confusion. Either all the
primary schools that are used as polling booths will no longer be able to be used as polling
booths, so the Government's desire for self-promotion will disenfranchise or cause voters to have
to find new polling booths they may be used to for decades or you may have an army of workers
removing these signs when the election is called because they're in breach of the rules. Clearly
this would be solved if the Government simply allowed the schools to remove those display signs
once their projects have finished, which most voters would think was entirely commonsense. Once the
project is over, the sign comes down. Julia Gillard is claiming this is standard practice. It was
never standard practice in the previous government to force signs to stay up after a project had
finished until a federal election was over.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Julia Gillard says you're embarrassed by the fact you opposed the stimulus and you
don't want the signs reminding voters in your electorate outside every school. Is that the case?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I think Julia Gillard is more embarrassed about the fact that she's becoming a
jack of all trades and master of none. She clearly has too many jobs on and she's not doing any of
them well.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Time for a break. When we return with the panel, Malcolm Turnbull gets a lift in
the polls, but will it be enough to turn his leadership around? And Kevin Rudd's hospital visits
are becoming political candid camera.

WOMAN: I would like you to do something.

PRIME MINISTER KEVIN RUDD: OK. I always get worried at these points.

WOMAN: I would like you to take over the hospital.

KEVIN RUDD: (LAUGHS) Yes, well, I think you just got yourself onto television.

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on 'Meet the Press' with senior Liberal Christopher Pyne and welcome to the
panel, Jennifer Hewett, the 'Australian'. Good morning, Jennifer.


PAUL BONGIORNO: And Malcolm Farr, the 'Daily Telegraph'. Good morning, Mal.


PAUL BONGIORNO: Malcolm Turnbull's approval lifted four points in the Newspoll but it didn't seem
to cheer him.

MAN: First of all, congratulations on the improvement in today's Newspoll.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Just remember there's another one in two weeks. (LAUGHTER)

JENNIFER HEWETT: Christopher, no-one in the Liberal Party, perhaps not even Malcolm Turnbull, seems
very confident that this dire situation in the polls will turn around. Do you think there should be
some kind of Christmas deadline for the leadership for that situation to improve, to make sure the
Liberals are at least viable for the next election?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, Jennifer, the next election is not for good 12 months from now, so, in
fact, what the polls say at the moment is quite frankly pretty irrelevant to the outcome of the
next federal election. Malcolm Fraser always used to say - I know it's a very tired line, but it's
still true - the only poll that counts is the poll on Election Day. I've seen governments enter
elections well ahead when the actual starter gun is fired, but by the time they get to the
election, things have tightened up considerably. It would be a sad day if political parties decided
their leadership on the basis of Newspolls from one fortnight to the next. I think we're made of
much tougher stuff than that.

JENNIFER HEWETT: Well, of course, there's elections and there's by-elections. The timing of Dr
Brendan Nelson's departure is very awkward for the party, to put it mildly. There's been a lot of
talk about him being a nice guy, but do you think in choosing his departure now, he's actually
guilty of an act of gross disloyalty to the party he once led?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Not at all. Being in politics is not a life sentence. People are entitled to
leave it if they choose to do so, and Dr Brendan Nelson has decided to leave. I would simply say
that this by-election is in no way a test of anything in politics. By-elections come and go, and if
we take the Wentworth by-election in 1995 at the height of Keating's unpopularity when he had just
cancelled the L-A-W tax cuts, the Liberal Party managed a 0. 1% swing to it and that was 12 months
before John Howard led the party to a massive and crushing victory in March, 1996. So by-elections
12 months out from elections are actually pretty irrelevant. They get exciting to people outside
the beltway, but don't mean anything to the outcome of elections.

MALCOLM FARR: Is your problem, put very simply, the fact that it's nothing to do with leadership,
or opposition policy, but the simple fact that voters think Kevin Rudd is doing a good job, better
than you could do?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I think, Malcolm, the thing about politics in Australia is that - "No-one wants
to say their own baby is ugly" is an old saying. The public just chose Kevin Rudd to be Prime
Minister only about 18 months ago or almost two years ago. They're not about to turn around and say
they made a mistake, so they will cut him a lot of slack for a long time. That makes opposition
difficult and the real test of being in opposition is those of us who have the intestinal fortitude
to fight it out - to come up with the policy development, to hold the government to account right
through to the next election. Certainly the next election is going to be tough. No-one assumes that
it's not going to be, but the ingredients are there for us to win it and we have to be united and
focussed and I think we will do very well at the election. But opposition is difficult. No-one will
wave a magic wand and say, "Here's all the issues you need to get rid of the government." The
public will need to be convinced that Kevin Rudd needs to be changed and that's what we've got to
do at the next election.

PAUL BONGIORNO: On Tuesday morning before he knew that Dr Nelson was about to quit Parliament,
Malcolm Turnbull said if Kevin Rudd insists on bringing back his emissions trading bill in November
before Copenhagen, the Coalition will negotiate that afternoon. This was Dr Brendan Nelson.

DR BRENDAN NELSON: (Tuesday) It defies commonsense, let alone violates the best interest of
Australia, for us to legislate the most significant change in the economic architecture of this
country with a new tax, before we know what the major emitters in the rest of the world are going
to do.

MALCOLM FARR: Now, Mr Pyne, what Dr Nelson said then is official opposition policy. Anything else
is a Malcolm Turnbull add-on. Isn't that right? He was enunciating official policy, which is to
have a vote on an ETS after Copenhagen?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Look, Malcolm, what we've always said is that we believe that the bill should not
be debated before Copenhagen - that we should come back in February, because whatever happens in
Copenhagen, that will inform the bill and the Emissions Trading Scheme that is established. So
therefore, legislating before Copenhagen makes absolutely no sense.

MALCOLM FARR: You'd like it in November, then?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: But we're the opposition and we don't get to determine the Government's
legislative agenda, if only we did, so of course we want it to be debated in February. We said that
all along, but if the government brings it back in November - and they're perfectly entitled to do
so - they could bring it back next week if they wanted to, by the way...

MALCOLM FARR: You could block it then, too. You could block it then. You don't have to try to amend
it. You could block it until after Copenhagen.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, you could do if you wish to, but on the other hand, you could also make
sensible amendments and have a rational debate about an Emissions Trading Scheme, which after all,
is our policy to have an Emissions Trading Scheme, so we will put amendments, we will negotiate
with the government like we did on the renewable energy targets and if we can get an outcome we can
support, we will do so. If we can't get an outcome that we can't support then we won't, but that's
how politics works and we can't make that decision until we know what the bill looks like and until
we know if our amendments are accepted or not.

JENNIFER HEWETT: And how likely is it, do you think, that you will get an outcome you can accept?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I can't predict that, Jennifer, but I can say I think Kevin Rudd definitely wants
to have an Emissions Trading Scheme in place before he goes to Copenhagen. His vanity seems to
demand it and therefore I think the Government will be open to negotiate with the Opposition as
they should be.

JENNIFER HEWETT: And are you willing, as Tony Abbott suggested, to forsake your principles just for
the pure politics of it?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No-one suggested that. What I've said is that we need to move amendments to
negotiate with the Government. If we can get an Emissions Trading Scheme that is acceptable then we
will support it. That is actually our policy - to have an Emissions Trading Scheme. Would I prefer
the Government to bring it back in February? Yes, I would, and I think the whole Coalition would
and that would be the commonsense thing for the Government to do, but they want to have a bill to
wave about in Copenhagen and they're the Government - they get to set the agenda.

JENNIFER HEWETT: The Nationals certainly don't agree with you on that. How viable is it given you
have such a fundamental difference on such a fundamental policy to continue on in this type of
Coalition on an issue like this?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, Jennifer, the National Party and the Liberal party are just that - they are
a Coalition. We are two separate parties and therefore we are entitled to have two separate views
about particular issues. We've had different views on different issues in the past. If we were one
party, we would have merged as one party decades and decades ago. Instead, we've maintained our
Coalition. The Nationals are entitled to go their way on particular bills if they wish and, quite
frankly, we're entitled to go our way as well. So therefore it won't make any impact at all on the
activities of the Coalition, regardless of what they do on the Emissions Trading Scheme. But I
would remind them, of course, that an Emissions Trading Scheme was National party policy at the
last Federal election as well.

MALCOLM FARR: Mr Pyne, earlier in the year, Julia Gillard said you're a 'mincing poodle'. Is she
liable to reassess that appraisal any time soon, because you've been snapping at her over the last
couple of months.

PAUL BONGIORNO: More like an Alsatian I would say!

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: (LAUGHS) Look, I think Julia Gillard likes to be involved in the politics of
attacking the man rather than the ball. I prefer to attack the ball. What I've done over the last
6-12 months is highlight the fact she is a jack of all trades and a master of none. This week we
saw a back-flip on the Youth Allowance, we saw a $1.7 billion dollar blow-out in the investing in
schools policy, the schools stimulus debacle and we saw her back-pedalling on the award
modernisation program. So far she's also, of course, had a $1.4 billion blow-out in
computers-in-schools, and trading centres has been a flop of a policy. So I think most people are
starting to realise that Julia Gillard is good at debating, she is good at delivery, but she's not
actually good at, on the ground, making a policy work and that is where the rubber really hits the
road and that is how people get judged.

PAUL BONGIORNO: OK. We won't put you back in your kennel. Thank you for very much for joining us
today, Christopher Pyne.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: It's a pleasure, thanks.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Coming up: Nationals Deputy Senate Leader Fiona Nash. Syndicated cartoonist Zanetti
sees the millions of dollars in compensation for renewable energy targets as money up in smoke.
Renewable energy, how it really works? More fuel?

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on 'Meet the Press'. Last weekend, the Nationals took a very hard line
against emissions trading. On Tuesday, Malcolm Turnbull restated it as policy and challenged
Nationals' claims that business was against the ETS.

OPPOSITION MALCOLM TURNBULL: (Tuesday) There is every bleeding business organisation, every major
company with a stake in this, is saying to me and to Andrew Robb our shadow spokesman in this area,
that we must engage and seek to amend and improve the government scheme.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Welcome to the program, the Nationals Deputy Senate Leader Fiona Nash. Good
morning, Senator.


PAUL BONGIORNO: Are the Nationals not only at odds with the Liberals but with business as well?

FIONA NASH: No, not at all. It simply defies commonsense when the rest of the world is not on
board, when we haven't been to Copenhagen, when Australia emits on 1.4% of emissions, and from the
Nationals' perspective, when this is all going to land in the lap of regional communities and
they're going to be the hardest hit, it just has no commonsense whatsoever to support it.

PAUL BONGIORNO: You talk about the regions and farmers, but aren't they being hardest hit by
climate change? Isn't there also a view in the bush - in the regions, if you like - that something
has to be done?

FIONA NASH: The view in the bush is overwhelmingly that they don't want to be belted by a new tax.
That is overwhelmingly the view that we're getting through to us, and what we can see is that even
if agriculture is excluded, the costs that are going to be there from this new tax are going to
fall right in the lap of farmers. Things like transport, fuel, electricity, the input costs,
packaging, cement, fertiliser - everything is going to land in the lap of farmers, even if
agriculture is excluded, and it simply makes no sense to support this scheme when there is going to
be no benefit we can see for the environment.

PAUL BONGIORNO: So no tax on carbon of any sort?

FIONA NASH: Well, what we're saying is that there should be absolutely no negative effect on
regional communities. Our job as Nationals is to be champion of regional communities. We're not
going to do anything that will have a negative impact on regional communities. We're not going to
support anything that has a negative impact on regional communities.

MALCOLM FARR: Senator, two weeks ago at a Nationals party room meeting, you suggested a leadership
spill motion, which wasn't proceeded with. Why did you do that?

FIONA NASH: Well, I certainly don't comment on party room matters. Anything like that is a matter
for discussion with my colleagues. I don't make any comment.

MALCOLM FARR: Well, you did propose that spill motion. Do you have any doubts about the leadership
of Warren Truss?

FIONA NASH: Certainly those matters are for the party room only. Warren is a very decent, very
intelligent man and I fully support the letter.

MALCOLM FARR: Do you think that Barnaby Joyce could become leader from the Senate?

FIONA NASH: I think you would have to be blindfolded and have earmuffs on to not know that he does
communicate well out there with the people. Certainly from the Senate, I work with him very closely
as part of the leadership team in the Senate and I see what a very good job he does in that Senate
leadership role.

JENNIFER HEWETT: Do you expect that Warren Truss or he will be leading the Nationals to the next

FIONA NASH: I'm certain we will have a Nationals leader for the next election that will be
absolutely championing the cause of regional communities.

JENNIFER HEWETT: I'm sure you do think he'll be championing the cause, but do you think it will be
Barnaby Joyce rather than Warren Truss?

FIONA NASH: I think the thing that people are really interested is not so much the leadership, but
those issues out in regional communities that they're really hurting about - health and education,
the ETS, water. There's a whole range of issues out there that we're on top of the game about,
that, really, leadership is right down the list for those people in the street that I'm talking to.
They're really hurting. They can't get access to hospitals, they're having issues with water. The
Government's really falling off the trail on that, so we need to make sure that those are the
issues we're focussing on and not other issues on the couch.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Senator Joyce has been described this week as the spiritual leader of the
Nationals, is that good enough?

FIONA NASH: He certainly has a lot of spirit. We're a very good team. I think one of the things
we've really been focusing on is making sure we refocus back on the regions and people know our
message and what we're selling. Perhaps in the past we have not done that as well as we could.
We've now got a very specific set of regional policies. We're unashamedly parochial in being out
there batting for the bush and we will continue to do that.

PAUL BONGIORNO: How will that work in Queensland? There is a party up there called the LNP. I mean,
are they going to have two policies, the one party?

FIONA NASH: Well, certainly the arrangements in Queensland are a little different. I'm sure
Queensland will find a way through that to make sure that there is a good set of arrangements in
place, but it's very much focusing, for the Nationals, on those seven million people who live
outside our capital cities. Regions versus cities is a bit like David versus Goliath, and we need
to make sure that the Nats are in there championing the David, if you like, and making sure we look
after them.

JENNIFER HEWETT: Senator, you said it defied commonsense to negotiate on the ETS now. A business
obviously does want the Coalition and the Liberals to negotiate. Are you saying they defy
commonsense - they don't know what they're talking about?

FIONA NASH: Our focus is absolutely on the regions. We've seen from reporting that we're not
pulling this out from under our hat. Regional communities are going to take a 20% hit to their
economies, so our job is to make sure we do the right thing by those communities. We've seen
regional communities for years now be right at the hands of drought, they're right at the wall.
Now, to put an extra tax on them, right now, that's going to have no clear effect on the
environment, is just simply stupidity and not supporting an ETS does not mean that we don't support
a cleaner, healthy environment.

MALCOLM FARR: But you do support an ETS. It's part of your policy, as Mr Pyne just said. It's
Nationals party policy for an ETS.

FIONA NASH: What Christopher Pyne neglected to say was single desk for wheat was also a policy
going up to the last election which the Liberals changed their mind on.

MALCOLM FARR: But this is your policy, not just Liberal policy.

FIONA NASH: Ah, but he's talking about it in context of Coalition policy. So I think that the point
to make as well is it's evolving. We can always make sure that we come to the right decisions. If
we need to change policies, we can, and certainly with single desk we are still supporting our
farmers and making sure they have the arrangements in place that they need in terms of their

PAUL BONGIORNO: Just briefly - and we're just about out of time - so you're happy with the
direction that Senator Joyce wants to go as a strong National Party very distinct from the

FIONA NASH: I think we are a separate and distinct party. That's our role. We're focused on the
regions and we have to make sure we do everything we need to to bat for those regions and ensure
they're championed.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you very much for joining us today, Senator Nash. And thanks to our panel,
Jennifer Hewett and Malcolm Farr. A transcript of this program will be on the web. Until next week,