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Transcript of interview with Chris Uhlman: ABC News 24: 25 November 2010: Parliament; anti-siphoning; NBN

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Transcript - ABC News 24 - 25 November 2010

Published 25/11/2010

SUBJECTS: Parliament; Anti-siphoning; NBN

Uhlman: Yes they both here Ali. Anthony Albanese, good afternoon. Christopher Pyne, good afternoon. Anthony Albanese I can just see you checking your watch are you going to give us any indication when you want to get out of here or should I ask Christopher Pyne?

Albanese: Well I think you should ask Christopher. I think the Opposition have decided- its almost like they're in the Senate holding their breath till we give up on the National Broadband Network, trying to, I don't know what the strategy is besides inconveniencing people, but they're also inconveniencing they're own people as well because it wont change the outcome.

Uhlman: Christopher Pyne when is going to end, because of course the outcome will not be changed.

Pyne: Unfortunately the government has made a mess of the tactics in the Senate last night and again this morning. For some reason they can't get their act together on the floor of the Senate. All the Opposition wants to do is properly scrutinise the massive structural separation of Telstra, they won't release business case, they won't have a cost benefit analysis by the Productivity Commission. Our senators are simply holding them to account and properly scrutinising the legislation, as Julia Gillard said holding up to the light, twitching it one way or another, making sure it

hasn't got any hidden hooks in and unfortunately the Government hasn't managed its business in the Senate well. This happens at the end of every year, and this year is no different.

Uhlman: Anthony Albanese, didn't the Government look like it was kicking screaming not to give information out.

Albanese: Nah, not at all. We've had five Senate inquires, five reports into the NBN, we've had the McKenzie Report. There's a wealth of information out there. What we weren't prepared to do is compromise our commercial interest and issues by publishing our full business plan because it would have been inappropriate, given

that the ACCC is looking at a range of issues that isn't completed yet until after November 30.

Uhlman: Alright I might pause there for a moment because Stephen Conroy is on his feet in the Blue Room. He's talking about anti-syphoning laws which is about the sort of sport we can watch on television, lets hear a little bit of that.

--Conroy Speaking--

Uhlman: Alright we'll leave Stephen Conroy there and we'll come back to that a little later over the course of our broadcasting this afternoon to got through that list of, but essentially it means that none of the events that currently go to air on free to air television can will be lost from free to air television or that there'll be some capacity for those second tier events for some of them to go to the digital channels which are merging on free to air television.

Christopher Pyne you said that during that that some of the conversations were colourful and robust, would you say that colourful and robust is what you've seen under the new rules that we see in the lower house?

Pyne: Well look Chris, I've just heard what he's just said about the anti-syphoning laws, the only point I make about that before I answer your question is that its been announced after Question Time in the House of representatives and the Senate on the last day of sittings for the year, so I think our shadow spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull will want to look at the detail before we start popping the champagne corks to ay this is a great outcome. It will be very fascinating to see, I mean if it was such a good idea, why wasn't it announced when it could be scrutinised by the Parliament. But we'll have time to do that. Look Parliament this year has been fascinating obviously. It's the first hung parliament since the 1940s. It's been interesting from the point of view that the independents have almost always voted with the government. They are lining up with the Government and they will have to bear the consequences of the Governments mistakes, and there will be mistakes. No one really believes that the Government can successfully roll out a $50 billion national Broadband Network, when it hasn't even been able to give roof batts away for free, or build school halls without wast and mismanagement, so we will see when the rubber hist the road, just how well the National Broadband Network is rolled out. We've obviously seen problems in schools in Tasmania for example where it's only been one third of the speed they expected with their broadband.

Uhlman: Anthony Albanese the House is working as far you're concerned, fifty one Bills have gone through.

Albanese: It's working very effectively Chris. What we are seeing is the Government being able to get its agenda through. 51 pieces of legislation passed,

none defeated. Indeed, no amendments that weren't supported by the Government were passed to any of our legislation. And that includes some pretty big legislation including the structural separation of Telstra that is still the subject of some debate in the Senate. It includes reforms in the health and hospital area in terms of establishing the network. It includes the changes to the Federal financial relations to allow for the changes in terms of the GST associated with those health reforms. It includes, this week, child care changes that will make a big difference to families and the way that child care operates in this country. So the legislation is going through, it is working constructively, at the same time we've had more that 90 hours of private members business. We saw the first private members bill carried this decade with Andrew Wilkie's bill to provide some shield protection for journalists in terms of their sources and I am sure that's legislation you would support. So it terms of the Parliament functioning effectively, it is.

Uhlmann: Does it work for you, Christopher Pyne? Because it seems to a certain extent that the answers are shorter but you're not getting obviously as much detail in the answers as you would like. And it seems that the questions have been de-powered on occasions.

Pyne: Well nothing's changed in question time. I mean, we are still getting the 'slag and bag' from the ministers, the Prime Minister in particular is past master of the old 'slag and bag' of the Opposition. The only thing that's changed in Question Time is that there is four minutes of slagging and bagging rather than the up to eleven minutes we used to have under the previous Parliament. So that's an improvement I guess you'd have to say, an incremental improvement. The Opposition has had a good five weeks in Parliament. We have held the Government to account. What we're really seeing is that the Government doesn't have an agenda, next year they have seventeen sitting weeks, it's the record smallest number in fifteen years. They don't want the Parliament to sit because they're worried about losing any votes at all. More importantly, they don't want the Parliament to sit because they haven't got an agenda other than the Greens' agenda.

Albanese: The fact is that we do have an eighteenth reserve week. The week that's been taken off is that in recent years for many years, Parliament has sat for the first week in February, the week after the Australia Day weekend. What happens the first week of February? Christopher's four young kids, I'm not sure if all four of them are at school?

Pyne: One's yet to get there.

Albanese: One's yet to get there. His three children, my son, go off to school. Guess what? I want to be there to sit down with his new teacher, I want to be a part of his new adjustment. That was an approach that was made to me, it's an important

reform. I think it's a good thing that people will be able to experience that in terms of that first week in February. So we are coming back on February 8 rather than February 1. The other thing is though, Christopher speaks about records, this Parliament was convened in a record short time since federation in between a government being sworn in and the House of Representatives sitting. Normally, elections happen toward the end of the year, the Parliament comes back the following February. The last time round I was sworn in as a Minister in December, February Parliament sat. This time round we sat immediately because of the circumstances to show that we had the confidence on the floor of the House but we sat for five pretty intense weeks. So in terms of scrutiny, this Government has made itself available. In terms of Question Time, anyone who watches it knows that Christopher and his team haven't quite taken the hints from the speaker about the nature of the questions. What we see is essentially a continuation of the sloganeering from Tony Abbott and put with a question mark on the end rather than any specific questions which require a much more specific answer.

Pyne: The problem with your Government is that it doesn't matter what kind of question you ask them, you get exactly the same answer. And we had hoped that Harry Jenkins would interpret the 'directly relevant' rule much more tightly. He started off being much more tight about what could be included in an answer, that has blown out entirely. I think the public well know that whatever question you ask this Government, they give you exactly the answer they want to give and it's really up to Harry Jenkins to bring them back to the field. The point is, next year's sitting pattern, there's a seven week break between March and May - there is no reason at all why we can't sit... (inaudible). If the best reason we're not starting till February the 8th is so that members of Parliament can see their kids off to school, a lot of Australians would love that luxury wouldn't they?

Uhlmann: Well gentlemen, unfortunately we are going to have to make an end.