Hon Christopher Pyne MP
2 February 2013
SUBJECTS: Labor Government resignations; South Australian State Leadership
Pyne: Well thank you all for coming out to Kmart Firle in my electorate for my first campaigning day since the Prime Minister announced the election date on September 14. Of course despite the Prime Minister’s assurances that we’re not in a campaign, I’m sure I’m not the only candidate or Member who is at a supermarket today across Australia selling our message to the Australian people about the need for change. Today I’d like to comment on the Prime Minister’s press conference this morning. If the last three days have been as bad as they’ve been for the Government, goodness knows what the next three years would be like if Labor is re-elected on September the 14th. This has been a horror start for the year for the Prime Minister and the Labor Party. It bears the resemblance to a plot from Home and Away rather than a adult Government running one of the world’s most important democracies and economies. We’ve had the Trish Crossin debacle, Craig Thomson being charged with 149 offences, Tony Sheldon the Head of the Transport Workers Union slamming the Labor Government last night in Canberra. We’ve had the resignations today of Chris Evans the Senate Leader and the Attorney General, Nicola Roxon. We’ve had the bungled handling of the announcement of an election campaign and the list goes on and on of bungles and embarrassments. It’s time to put an end to this soap opera, the Australian public are sick of it, the only way we can do that is by changing the Government. The Coalition offers a plan for a safe and secure Australia and a prosperous and strong economy. We are the adults in the room, we are ready for Government.
The Prime Minister’s alibi today about the resignations from her front bench doesn’t stack up. She said she’s been talking to Nicola Roxon for twelve months about resigning from the Cabinet and yet twelve months ago she was defeating Kevin Rudd in the leadership ballot and then appointed Nicola Roxon as Attorney General. To me, I know that Nicola Roxon has cited family reasons for her resignation and I understand that. She has one child, I have four children and I and my wife know the pressures of family, so I feel for the decision she’s made. But the alibi of the Prime Minister doesn’t bear out the reality when apparently this all started twelve months ago. She also said today that the idea that Robert McClelland was going to cause a by-election was mere speculation, well it’s not speculation that Robert McClelland has applied for a job with the New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission. The Prime Minister is starting to resemble Comical Ali from the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein where she simply keeps repeating a nonsense enough that she thinks people will start to believe it. Can I say finally that the Prime Minister needs to do a lot more to convince people that the Government is stable and secure than simply doing press conferences and making up stories. This morning she said it would be for the Speaker to decide if there would be a by-election. I firmly believe now given the resignation of Robert McClelland, the fact that Peter Slipper is being charged with offences, that Craig Thomson is being charged with offences and the resignation of Nicola Roxon that the Prime Minister called the election on Wednesday for September 14 because she wants to be able to say if anyone resigns that there’ll be no by-election and the election will be on September the 14th. That is cruelling the Australian democracy; she is denying Australians their chance to be represented in the event that any of those members resigns. She said this morning in fact that there could well be other resignations. She needs to come clean because her Government is dysfunctional, it’s divided and it’s not good enough for the Australian public.
Journalist: Is it possible for her to recover after these two resignations we’ve seen over the last 24 hours?
Pyne: Well it’s been a horror start to the year for the Prime Minister. I think I gave at least 6 or 7 examples. If one of those things had happened to any government, you would think that the government was teetering on the edge of disintegration. So I think the Prime Minister will find it very difficult. My understanding is that there are more resignations to come. I said that last night on Lateline and David Bradbury ridiculed that suggestion and then we found out that Nicola Roxon was resigning and I think that there are more resignations to come from the front bench and I understand potentially from the Parliament.
Pyne: Well last night I relied on information from the Press Gallery in Canberra which proved to be devastatingly accurate and that’s where my information is coming from that there might be more resignations in the wind from both the front bench and the Parliament.
Pyne: Well I can’t tell you that, I didn’t realise there’d be just one with Nicola Roxon there could be others but I can’t tell you exactly I’m not a member of the Prime Minister’s staff or the Prime Minister.
Journalist: Were Roxon and Evans like rats off a sinking ship or…
Pyne: I think Nicola Roxon and Senator Evans have had a gutful of a dysfunctional, divided and hopeless Government. A Government without trust, a Government without competence and as professional politicians, I think they’d rather be part of an outfit that exhibited some professionalism rather than the Keystone Cops approach that this Government evinces.
Journalist: Is it hard though to remain on that moral high horse when you’re defending Mal Brough who’s been demolished in the Federal Court for conspiring to bring down a government?
Pyne: Well all of those matters to do with James Ashby and Peter Slipper and Mal Brough are contested. There are appeals, there are applications. Justice Rares decision is the subject of an appeal, Mal Brough will contest that, so it’s hard for me to comment on that.
Journalist: Just onto state politics now that Isobel Redmond has quit will you butt out of state politics for a while?
Pyne: Well look I’m not in state politics, I’m very happily in federal politics. I’m here with the voters of Firle talking to them this morning as I have done for 20 years in March which is hard to believe.
Pyne: I’m very pleased that the State Parliamentary Party is working out its leadership issue. It appears that Steven Marshall will be elected unopposed that’s what all the pundits are saying and I look forward to them offering a genuine alternative focussed on the economy. I think there’s a bit of an exaggeration in South Australia about the so-called division in the Liberal Party. There has been a long standing myth that Nick Minchin and I for example haven’t always seen eye to eye, but only recently I asked Nick Minchin to rejoin the South Australian campaign committee and he agreed to do so and I’m glad he did so that we can all of our best people focussing on defeating a very bad State Labor Government and getting Liberals into power in South Australia and in Canberra.
Pyne: I think Steven Marshall is a very intelligent, smart, politically savvy man, he is a very good Member for Norwood, he was a very successful businessman, but he was a compassionate businessman, he won an award for the support of his employees with a disability, i think he’ll be a tremendous success as Leader of the Opposition, i think he will offer a genuine alterative in an economic sense for the state. He represents a new start for the South Australian Liberal Party and I look forward to the South Australian voters embracing him next March.
Pyne: Yes I do.
Journalist: There have been some comments directed at yourself saying that Federal politicians should just butt out of state politics. Do you take any offence to that?
Pyne: I’m sure that wasn’t directed at me.
Journalist: With the changes to the Labor front bench is there any possibility of changes within the Opposition front bench?
Pyne: No, Tony Abbott made it clear at his National Press Club on Thursday that everyone on the Opposition front bench could expect to have those roles should we be fortunate enough to be elected.
Journalist: Could the reshuffle play into Kevin Rudd’s hands?
Pyne: Look there’s no doubt the Kevin Rudd forces have never given up their desire to be back in control of the levers of the Labor Party and this is the whole problem with the Labor Party. There’s always someone who wants to grab the levers from the leader. Julia grabbed them from Kevin, Kevin would like to grab them back from Julia, his supporters have always been manoeuvring, and I think the calling of the election on Wednesday was designed to do two things. In hindsight we now know it was designed to avoid a by-election in seats like Barton and Fisher and Dobell and potentially in Nicola Roxon’s electorate. And we know it was designed to stop Kevin Rudd. I actually think it will have the opposite impact. I think it will focus the minds of Labor Members of Parliament who are concerned about losing their seats and they may well change the leader because of the fact that Julia Gillard has put an end to many of their existences in politics.
Pyne: I’ve known Rob Lucas since 1984 when I first joined the Liberal Party. He’s been in Parliament since 1982. He’s a very wise, sensible politician. I agree with him that the state parliamentary party should manage its own affairs in the best interests of the State. We need a Liberal Government not a Labor Government in this State and I think there is every reason to believe that now the Liberal Party has determined on a course of action that the focus will be on South Australia’s economy and a new start for the Liberal Party.
Journalist: The fact that you’re going to put up a first term MP as Leader of the Opposition, does that not show how thin the talent ranks are with the State Liberals?
Pyne: I think what it shows is how tremendously successful Steven Marshall has been at bridging all aspects of the Liberal Party in South Australia and indicating to his colleagues his intelligence, his articulateness and his political savvy and that they believe in him as a person that he can lead the Liberal Party to victory and be a good Premier