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Budget 2011: Transcript of interview with Ali Moore and Anthony Albanese MP: ABC, Lateline: 13 May 2011: Budget; Leader's Budget reply; population policy

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Christopher Pyne, MP 

Shadow Minister for Education, Apprenticeships and Training  Manager of Opposition Business in the House 


Transcript - ABC Lateline - 13 May 2011

Published 13/5/2011

SUBJECTS: Budget; Leader's Budget reply; population policy

ALI MOORE: Well, to discuss the big issues in Canberra this week, which, of course, include the budget and population,

we're joined now by the Coalition's Christopher Pyne, he's Shadow Minister for Education and the Manager of

Opposition Business in the House of Representatives, he's in our Adelaide studio; and with me in Sydney is Labor's

Anthony Albanese, the Leader of the House and Minister for Transport and Infrastructure.

Gentlemen, welcome.



ALI MOORE: Anthony Albanese, three days after the budget and the Greens say they want to remove the harshest

welfare changes. If you can't get the budget through the House and through the Senate in its entirety, what will it do to

your wafer-thin surplus?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We're very confident we will get it through Ali. We believe we've got the balance right, dealing

with an economy that has got some softness in the short term, but dealing with that long-term strength, making sure that

we get the budget back into surplus by 2012-13.

So, we're very confident that we'll get it through. We'll be advocating our positions. In the Opposition Leader's speech

last night it was pretty clear that there's no alternative coming from the Opposition; that was 30 minutes of wasted

opportunity. So, we've got a case to put, we'll continue to advocate it.

ALI MOORE: Christopher Pyne have the got the balance right?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well it's interesting, isn't it Ali, that already in the first answer to the first question Anthony

Albanese wanted to get off the subject of the budget and start attacking Tony Abbott. And that's what we've seen since

Wednesday. The Government hasn't tried to defend its budget, it's embarrassed about the fact that it doesn't really have

a surplus, that the budget doesn't include the National Broadband Network, it doesn't include the carbon tax, even

though it includes the mining tax.

And so on Wednesday they were already talking about Tony Abbott. Yesterday they spent Question Time attacking

Tony Abbott. Last night and today they've been attacking Tony Abbott and tonight, Anthony Albanese has opened by

attacking Tony Abbott. It's very unusual for a Government not to actually want to talk about their budget, but because

this budget has been so poorly received and is such a bad budget, I can understand why they want to get off the budget

and onto attacking the Leader of the Opposition.

ALI MOORE: Well let's just pick up that point Anthony Albanese. Has it been poorly received, because of course before

the budget the Prime Minister made the point that she thought Tony Abbott had narrowed the political agenda to just

two issues: asylum seekers and a carbon tax. This was the opportunity to shift that agenda; do you think it's worked?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We've done just that. Today the Prime Minister was in western Melbourne, speaking about our

mental health initiatives. The Treasurer was in Brisbane, speaking about, particularly, the strength of employment that is

coming. I, myself have been in Kempsey, on the north coast of New South Wales, talking about our additional $1 billion

for the Pacific Highway. And then I travelled up to the New England region with Tony Windsor, again there, two

important initiatives in terms of Bolivia Hill, this particular accident spot on the New England Highway, and planning

money for the Tenterfield Bypass.

So I was out there today, selling the positive messages in the budget. We have done that with our portfolio ministers

right around the country. It has been extremely well received.

ALI MOORE: Well let's look at that, the reception of it, and go back to that question about the Greens, Bob Brown and

the harshest welfare changes; is there room to move, will you negotiate with Bob Brown on some of what he would call

the harshest measures?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well what we're about in terms of the welfare measures that are in the budget, this isn't just a


ALI MOORE: Yes, but will you negotiate with him, or is it a non-negotiable position?

ANTHONY ALABANESE: ... this is a carrot that's there as well in the form of real training. We're going to make sure that

we take the opportunity that is there from the future growth that is projected to make sure that all Australians can enjoy

the benefit of work. So giving them the dignity of work, giving them a hand up by proper investment in skills and training,

which is what the economy needs ...

ALI MOORE: So that's a no to negotiation then is it?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: ... but it's also what ... Well we're advocating our position Ali. And a few days on from the

budget, the truth is that all the economic commentators have given it a big tick. As our management ...

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: None of that's true.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: ... of the economy has received a big tick when compared with coming through the global

financial crisis ...

ALI MOORE: Well let's just let ...

ANTHONY ALBANESE: ... that Christopher Pyne just wants to wish away.

ALI MOORE: ... Christopher Pyne jump in there. A big tick?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, if you read Alan Kohler and Robert Gottleibsen, you wouldn't say that this has been given

a big tick by economists.

Alan Kohler has written that it is a deficit and surplus built entirely on shaky parameters. That the Government is relying

on no change to the circumstances in the last 12 months. That they couldn't keep their forecasts from MIEFO to today,

that that had blown out $8 billion. That next year's deficit has blown out by $10 billion and that they assume that we will

believe that they will deliver a surplus in two years time, relying on increased revenue of apparently $73 billion, and yet

the Treasurer has been completely incapable of describing where that extra revenue is going to come from. Robert

Gottleibsen said, it was the most vicious attack on middle income Australia since the Whitlam-Cairns budget of the early


So far from being well received by economists, economists, one, think the budget is fraudulent; and two, they think it's

an attack on middle Australia; and three, most of them are waiting until the carbon tax details are finalised, because

everyone knows the Government will have to introduce a mini-budget, because this budget doesn't include a carbon

tax. Which means every aspect of it, its revenue forecasts, its spending, its growth forecasts, inflation, unemployment

forecasts, all utterly unbelievable ...

ALI MOORE: Well Anthony Albanese, is that ...

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ... because it doesn't include the carbon ...

ALI MOORE: ... right?


ALI MOORE: Will you have to put in a new budget when you put out the details of the carbon tax?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Absolute nonsense. You look at what Christopher said. He said it didn't include the National

Broadband Network, well, investment in the National Broadband Network is an investment in an asset. It's not about a

debt, it doesn't add to the deficit. So ..

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: So you're ruling out a mini budget?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: ... all of their so-called savings are, of course, a complete nonsense.

Secondly ....

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Are you ruling out mini budget? ...

ANTHONY ALBANESE: ... when it comes to ...

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: because I understand that you're not ruling it out.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Mate, you can't just make things up and say then 'are you ruling something out?' It's a

nonsense like all of what ...


ANTHONY ALBANESE: ... they have said this week. ..

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ... has indicated that ...

ANTHONY ALBANESE: ... the fact it is ...

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ... there's very likely will be a mini budget.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: ... the fact is.

ALI MOORE: Christopher Pyne we'll just let Anthony Albanese finish his answer.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The fact is ...


ANTHONY ALBANESE: ... that, just like the GST in terms of the detail, weren't included in the first budgets when they

were announced by John Howard, we couldn't have included the climate change measures in the budget, because they

haven't been finalised yet. So it is ...

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: The mining tax is in the budget.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: ... a nonsense and they know it. And they know it is the case.

The mining tax, the mining tax ...


ANTHONY ALBANESE: ... we're very clear about the details, the way that that will operate.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: That's not true.

ALI MOORE: OK, we're going to need to move on.

Christopher Pyne?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well the mining tax is still being negotiated with industry and it starts ...

ALI MOORE: Alright let's finalise that point. Anthony Albanese is that correct? Are the finer details of the mining tax

known? It was in the budget.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We do know what's happening with the mining tax and Christopher would believe that Treasury

were part of a conspiracy, and I heard Andrew Robb say that just this morning, that somehow Treasury were a

conspiracy on the $11 billion black hole, which was the last time they tried to add something up, there was an $11 billion

black hole found by Treasury. So they made the decision that they wouldn't even bother last night, they wouldn't even


ALI MOORE: Christopher Pyne can I ask you, as you say, a lot of economists have criticised these cuts. In fact, they've

said it's not tough enough, others have criticised the cuts to spending. You as the Coalition, the Opposition, seem to be

in that camp as well; on the one hand you say 'this is very nasty for families', on the other you say 'Government

spending is too high, it's putting pressure on interest rates', it seems to be a bob each way. What won't you pass? What

will you reject out of this budget to make it better?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well Ali what we are saying is that the Government has tried to pretend that they're making $22

billion worth of cuts to the budget, and yet they're spending $19.8 billion worth of new spending. So, in fact, there's

about a $2.2 billion cut to spending in the budget, but, in fact, budget expenditure over the forward estimates increases

quite dramatically. And we're saying that the priorities that the Government has are the wrong priorities.

So, for example, while they're increasing spending on border protection, in fact, detention measures, so they're

spending more money on asylum seekers; they are actually cutting the money for families through the cuts to the family

tax benefit part a and b; and they're actually cutting the prosecution of people smugglers ...

ALI MOORE: Does that mean that ...

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ... so we think they've got their priorities wrong.

ALI MOORE: ... when this goes to the parliament, will you reject those measures on asylum seekers and people

smugglers and will you reject those measures on the family tax benefits?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, the budget is made up of many different bills, so there will be appropriations bills and

there'll be specific measures bills which we will examine as each bill is presented towards the parliament.

Obviously the general rule of thumb is that the Opposition does not oppose appropriations bills, but there are of course

specific measures that are raised as part of these bills, in the parliament, and we aren't going to dance to the

Government's tune of announcing what we will do about those right now.

I mean we are, we're surprised the Government's dropped its budget so quickly. I mean what I'm amazed about is that,

48 hours after the budget, the Government doesn't want to talk about its budget anymore.

ALI MOORE: And I'll get to that in ...

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: What we are going to do is go to through the process methodically and properly. As they

present bills ...

ALI MOORE: Alright.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: we'll make decisions at each of those times

ALI MOORE: And we'll get to that other issue of moving from the budget quickly in a minute, but just a final question to

you, Anthony Albanese. Was it a mistake for the Treasurer to describe this as a Labor budget, a point made by John

Howard during the week, that really when you're talking about a budget, you're talking to all Australians?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It was a Labor budget, Ali, and we make no apologies for that. Because ...

ALI MOORE: So where does that leave the other half of the Australian population?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: ... because what a Labor budget is about, is embodying the values we have, the values of

fairness. Take, for example, just one measure, the measure to increase payments by up to $4,200 for 650,000 people

whose family payments, when the teenagers hit the age of 16, the payments drop. We know that the costs of a teenager

on their 15th birthday to their 16th doesn't go down, it tends to go up. So we provided ...

ALI MOORE: It's more the political characterisation, though isn't it?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: ... we provided ...

ALI MOORE: Does it cut off half the population?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: ... we provided that support there.

No, it's Labor that is committed to jobs. It is the Opposition that have said they opposed our action in terms of the

economic stimulus plan. Because of that, there's 200,000 more Australians in work. They opposed the actions that

we've taken that have created 750,000 new jobs, they oppose the action that we took to deal with the reconstruction of

Queensland and other parts of Australia affected by the floods and natural disasters earlier this year. They're just

opposed to everything.

ALI MOORE: Christopher Pyne, too negative?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Look Ali, the reality is, this is not a budget that looks after working Australians or middle

Australia. It taxes tradies and small businesses more, through the changes to the fringe benefits tax. It taxes every

Australian through the mining tax. It freezes the spending on family tax benefits parts A and B, the supplements for

those, so that middle Australia misses out. And of course ...

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Middle Australia ...

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ... we can't forget that in months there'll be ...

ANTHONY ALBANESE: ... isn't the top 2 per cent, Christopher.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ... a great, big, new carbon tax, which will drive up the cost of living of every Australian; hurting

families and singles and pensioners ...

ALI MOORE: Alright.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ... and self-funded retirees and households. So it's a sad characterisation that the best thing the

Government could come up with is to describe the budget as the same name as their own political party. ...

ALI MOORE: Alright, we are almost out of time ..

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ... The truth is the budget should have been for, should have been about reducing cost of living,

it shouldn't have been about adding to cost of living.

ALI MOORE: Okay. Let's move on to the other big policy that was announced earlier today, more a strategy than a

policy, I guess. And Anthony Albanese, it would seem unusual in a budget week to announce something like a

population strategy, which has been the result of a very long consultation process and clearly you want to put some

attention on it.

Two questions: one, does that beg the question as to whether or not you've really got the traction with the budget that

you'd hoped to? And, secondly, no targets, no limit, no specifics in this population strategy; how do you, you're

Infrastructure Minister, how do you possibly plan for the future with no numbers?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, Ali, the reason why the policy was announced this week was because there were

measures in the budget that were announced on Tuesday night. There were a number of liveable communities

measures, policies to create jobs where people live, to deal with issues like urban congestion, to deal with the way that

we plan cities. There was a pilot program also in my portfolio of liveable cities as well.

And we'll have further things to say about the way that we deal with our cities and population growth, dealing with the

challenge of urban congestion, dealing with those pressures they are on.

ALI MOORE: But how do you plan with no numbers? I mean the Business Council, for example, it says that this report

does not provide any foundation for planning or investment?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What it says is that you won't have a target in terms of 'this is the ideal population target'.

ALI MOORE: But how do you plan without a target?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It recognised, it recognised, that there's limitations, and the report speaks about the limitations

that are there on Governments' ability to determine exactly what the population is. Now there are times, for example,

now at the moment we need skilled migration, there was a range of skilled migration measures in the budget, very

specifically there.

But it's no accident that in budget week, when we had initiatives announced, hence Tony Burke's release of the strategy


ALI MOORE: Christopher Pyne, are you in favour of a big Australia?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, can I just say, Ali, to answer the question you've also asked Anthony Albanese, I've been

in parliament 18 years and I've never seen a Government try to and kill their own budget by the end of budget week, by

raising a whole new issue. I mean, it really speaks volumes for what the information they must be getting back from the

public about how poorly this budget has been received. And the fact that we've already moved on to the carbon tax and

the need for an election to be called before there is a carbon tax. And now they are trying to shift the debate from their

budget and the carbon tax and the need for an election to the population policy.

ALI MOORE: That's a point that you've made. So do you support a big Australia?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I have no difficulty at all about bringing the right population measures to Australia that

ensure we have the skills necessary to keep wages at appropriate levels, and to ensure that we can do the things we

need to do in this country to keep being a manufacturing nation, a mining nation and an agricultural nation.

Obviously, what we've said in the Opposition, is that we will set bans in government of population growth, and we'll seek

the advice of the Productivity Commission each year about what the target should be going forward into the future.

So, we won't say whether we're in favour of one particular population or another, because that will change from time to

time depending on the skills that are necessary and depending how the economy is coping with current populations and

how the environment is coping.

ALI MOORE: Well I do believe we have a ...

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: What I find most remarkable from a political point of view is that the Government would have

killed its own budget, three days after releasing it because, of course, the salesmanship of it has been so woeful that

they've moved on as quickly as they can.

ALI MOORE: Alright, I was going to say, before you got to that point, Christopher Pyne, I thought we had a point of

agreement, and that was you can't set a target, am I right?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Absolutely. What we need - a sustainable population, that's the key. And Christopher keeps

going back to the point ... it's as if they didn't read the budget.

I don't know what they did in those six hours in the lock up, Ali, because these measures were in the budget on

Tuesday night.

This is part of the selling of our budget. And all we get from the Opposition is this mindless negativity, over and over


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Look, I know that's your line for the day. ...

ANTHONY ALBANESE: ... over and over again. ...

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ... I know that's your line for the day, you've been saying it all through the interview.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I mean, to ....

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I mean the truth is, yesterday the Treasurer was asked, Anthony, when was the last year that

the Labor Party delivered a budget surplus and he either didn't know, or he was too embarrassed to say it was 1989-90.

Yesterday ...

ANTHONY ALBANESE: You didn't even commit to a surplus last night ...

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ... he was asked what the interest rate was on the debt ....

ANTHONY ALBANESE: ... didn't even commit to surplus ...

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ... he was asked last night, he was asked yesterday ...

ALI MOORE: Well I think you're both getting the last word at this point.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ... what the interest was on his debt, and he couldn't say what the interest rate was on the extra

$50 billion the Government wants to buy. ...

ALI MOORE: Alright Christopher Pyne ...

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ... The Government wants to ...

ALI MOORE: I'll have to leave it there because we'll be out of time. ...

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ... us to believe that ...

ALI MOORE: I know exactly what you're going to say, because you have already said it this evening. I have to leave it

there because we're out of time.

Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese, we could go all night, but we can't.

Thank you very much for joining us.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you.

See you Chris.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: That's a pleasure.

See you mate.