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Transcript of joint interview with Lisa Wilkinson: Today Show: 12 February 2016: Barnaby Joyce; reshuffle; Christopher Pyne's aspirations; Stuart Robert; Monty Python

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Subjects: Barnaby Joyce, reshuffle, Christopher Pyne’s aspirations, Stuart Robert, Monty Python

LISA WILKINSON: Welcome back to the show. Well, another huge week in Canberra wi th two senior ministers retiring. Another minister engulfed in scandal and a new leader

last night for the National Party.

All of this ahead of an expected Cabinet reshuffle this weekend. Anthony Albanese and Christopher Pyne join us now to make sense of it all. Good morning to you gentlemen.


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Lisa, Anthony.

WILKINSON: Good to have your company. Christopher, I’ll start with you. Barnaby Joyce was elected Leader of the Nationals last night. Is this the beginning of the end for the Coalition?

PYNE: Hahaha! This is a Coalition, Lisa, that has lasted since 1923. People are often predicting the end of the Coalition, but since 1923 even when the Liberal Party could govern without the Country Party, in 1975, 1977 and 1996, we still chose to stay in a Coalition.

So we've got to be about one of the tightest Coalitions in the world ever and we absolutely welcome Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash as the new leadership team of the Nationals. I think they will be progressive, forward looking, hardworking and I think it's a great new era for the Nationals.

In saying that, obviously I pay tribute to Warren Truss who I think has been a great Leader of the National Party over the last eight years, but he deserves to go when he wants to go and he's retiring this week, as we have seen.

WILKINSON: But Barnaby and the PM have got to be uneasy bedfellows, don't they? The PM believes in climate change, Barnaby does not. The PM encourages foreign and particularly Chinese investment, Barnaby does not. Barnaby is actually on the record as saying, "I don't like Liberals."

PYNE: Hahaha! Well, he likes me and I like him and I'm a Liberal.

WILKINSON: You are not the only one in the Liberal Party, Christopher, as much as you would like.

PYNE: What? Who says?

ALBANESE: He thinks he is.


NE: Somebody should have told me that a long time ago. Look, Malcolm and Barnaby are a great team because they're ying and yang in politics. They represent all sides of the political spectrum, except of course socialism, and as a consequence, they will be a very, very formidable electoral team, but also they will be good for Australia because Barnaby has a particular skill at connecting with rural Australia.

Of course, as Leader of the National Party, you'd hope that would be the case. I think Malcom is extremely well respected right across Australia, particularly in the cities though where obviously he comes from.

WILKINSON: Okay, you've done the big sell.

PYNE: He's going to be great.

ALBANESE: The last time Malcolm Turnbull was the Leader of course, Barnaby Joyce helped to neck him. He led the charge. These two don't like each other. They don't agree on fundamental policies and we're going to see, I think, a great deal just of conflict within the Coalition just like we see a great deal of conflict between Malcolm Turnbull of old and Malcolm Turnbull of new.

Conflicted with himself on climate change, marriage equality, all these things that he said that he stood for that people were thinking there’d be a change from Tony Abbott, well, we got a different suit, but the same policies.

PYNE: I think Anthony was wishing that Barnaby was Leader of the Labor Party, because he is stuck with Bill Shorten.

ALBANESE: Poor old Christopher Pyne thinks the Liberal Party was around in the '20s. Menzies hadn't the even formed it then, Christopher.

PYNE: It was called the Nationalist Party, Anthony, do your history. Do your history, my friend!

ALBANESE: It was the UAP, but anyhow.

PYNE: Actually, it wasn't. It was the Nationalist Party, and it became the UAP in 1932.


WILKINSON: What remains to be seen is whether anyone can work with the man who threatened to euthanize Johnny Depp's dogs.

ALBANESE: I think when Malcolm is overseas, Barnaby Joyce, Acting Prime Minister, is going to be pretty interesting.

WILKINSON: It certainly will. Moving on, Christopher, a reshuffle is on the cards this weekend. Are you aiming for a promotion?

PYNE: I've got all the promotions I need, Lisa.

WILKINSON: Innovation and science is exactly what you wanted to do?

PYNE: I'm the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science at a time when the Prime Minister is absolutely focused on innovation and industry and science. I established the National Innovation and Science Agenda in December last year.

I've got a lot to do. I’m Leader of the House, I'm in the leadership group. I'm the Member for Sturt. I have plenty on my plate. I don’t want to change my portfolio one iota.

WILKINSON: Well, Stuart Robert's got plenty on his plate at the moment as well. Isn't it time he was stood down?

PYNE: Look, Stuart has had a challenging week.

WILKINSON: To say the least.

PYNE: These weeks come and go in politics. But it has been challenging and obviously there is an investigation being conducted by Martin Parkinson, the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. That is the appropriate thing to be doing. When he provides a ruling to Malcolm Turnbull, he will make a decision. Labor's position on this, Lisa, is that there should be an investigation and the guy should be sacked at the same time. They want the penalty to be applied before the investigation.

ALBANESE: Labor's position is pretty clear which is that Stuart Robert has declared himself guilty as charged. The rules are very clear.

The rules are that you can't act as a private citizen in the interests of a company while you're a minister and this week we had in Senate estimates the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirm that both the Chinese Government and the company would have thought that he was acting as a Minister.

This is a junior Defence Minister going into China, in the interests of a private company, not telling the Department of Defence that he's the junior Minister for, not telling Foreign Affairs and Trade, attending meetings with a Chinese government minister, with the company present, but no one from the Australian bureaucracy in terms of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This is game over. Everyone knows it.

Stuart Robert knows it which is why that he's stonewalled every question that he got this week.

WILKINSON: Would you be comfortable with somebody conducting themselves that way remaining on the frontbench, Christopher?

PYNE: Well, Lisa, it would be wrong of me to prejudge Martin Parkinson's investigation of this matter.

WILKINSON: Alright, so it's a non-answer.

ALBANESE: This parrot is dead, Christopher. It's like the Monty Python dead parrot sketch. He's going into the shop, saying, "It’s ok, it's nailed to the perch.” He's nailed to the Cabinet table, it's absurd.


NE: You have been running than that joke all week. It's worse than my Zsa Zsa Gabor joke which I've been running. You can't get any more blood out of that stone.

ALBANESE: It's much better graphically though, Christopher. People are Googling away, as we speak now, "dead parrot sketch Monty Python".

PYNE: Zsa Zsa Gabor's had more of a run this week than she's had in years.

WILKINSON: No! This is must watch TV. We do not want people on their computers.

PYNE: She is still alive, by the way, Zsa Zsa.

WILKINSON: Isn't that amazing.

ALBANESE: Unlike Stuart Robert's ministerial career, she is still alive.

WILKINSON: The problem you have got though, Anthony, is the PM has now got an opportunity to refresh the frontbench, leading into the election.

They're well ahead in the polls. This has got to be a problem for Labor.

ALBANESE: What do you mean an opportunity to refresh? The last refreshing was about a month ago.

PYNE: September.

ALBANESE: This is revolving doors when it comes to -

PYNE: September, Anthony. Not a month ago.

ALBANESE: You have these all these vacancies. You have all these vacancies occurring. There have now been at least five changes to the ministerial team since Malcolm Turnbull took over. You have Tony Abbott. Clearly the Stuart Robert issue is a proxy war for Tony Abbott versus Malcolm Turnbull.

You’ve had leaked documents, including Tony Abbott's letter and the letter to Tony Abbott from Stuart Robert which didn't mention the private company business, it just mentioned going to China.

That suddenly appears out there in the media. The chaos and the division within the government is front and centre, which is why Malcolm Turnbull hung on to Stuart Robert until Parliament got up for a one week break.

WILKINSON: Alright. Final question to you, Christopher. You ruled out a GST increase yesterday. Did you have the Prime Minister's backing to do that?

PYNE: Well, we've said, as the Prime Minister has said all week, Lisa, that the case for a GST increase has not been made. The treasury modelling indicates that if there was a 50% increase in the GST, it would have a very marginal impact, if any, on GDP growth.

Now, we're a practical government that wants to create jobs and growth. I've always been sceptical about increasing the GST because it is a tax that falls most on those who are least able to pay it and I don't think that is a fair exchange to then reduce personal income taxes on those who will can most afford to pay it, but we will take a tax reform package to the election.

It will involve significant reform because we have a plan about how to create jobs and growth, we’re doing it now, we created 301,000 jobs in the last 12 months, whereas all Labor wants to do is talk about insider games in Canberra, about who is fighting with whom.

ALBANESE: We wanted to debate the GST, and you've just said exactly what I've said on this program two or three times when we've been asked, but you just stonewalled.

PYNE: Well we agree then. We're in agreement. You should be happy.

ALBANESE: You said you wanted a debate and then you squibbed it.

PYNE: You should be cheerful about it.

WILKINSON: Alright, well you have a lot of work to do because there are warnings this morning that we are about to officially become the most taxed country in the world so good luck with that one. Good to see you Anthony, good to see you Christopher.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you.


NE: Good morning Lisa. Thank you.