Doorstop – Parliament House, Canberra

Transcript
  • Minister for Education
  • Leader of the House

Subjects: Holden, Alex Somlyay, Commission of Audit, Review of National Curriculum

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:
Well today we've seen from Stefan Jacoby at General Motors in Detroit the shredding of Jay Weatherill's credibility on the issue of why Holden announced its closure last year. Jay Weatherill's election strategy is completely in tatters. It's basically a carcass swinging in the breeze. Jay Weatherill had planned to run his whole election strategy around blaming the Federal Government for the economic woes in South Australia.

Today we have found out that in fact, Holden made the decision entirely of its own to close its operations in South Australia and in Victoria, and in fact, it said Victoria, Stefan Jacoby has said that no amount of money at all from the Federal Government would have caused them to make a different decision. That is starkly in contrast to what Jay Weatherill said last year in his own press release. He said Holden had made it abundantly clear that if support committed by the previous Federal Labor Government remained on the table it would stay in Australia. That is a palpably false statement from Jay Weatherill. As is his other statement, 'my first concern is with the workers, their families and everyone connected with the car industry'. In fact, his first concern was with his own base political survival.

Jay Weatherill stands condemned today, condemned for using the suffering of families in northern Adelaide and in Melbourne, trying to use their suffering for his own base political survival. Jay Weatherill should apologise to the workers at Holden, he should apologise to the South Australian public for the deceitful and misleading way that he tried to use their suffering to get himself re-elected in the coming State election in March. And he should resolve to fight the election campaign on his own flawed record as a Cabinet minister for 12 years in Labor Governments in South Australia that have done not one thing to prepare South Australia for a post-manufacturing industrial age, to expand our agricultural base, to work on infrastructure that would support biotechnology industries, our universities, and of course, the other industries in South Australia like mining that the Labor Government have so manifestly failed to expand and develop at a time when Queensland and Western Australia have done just that.

Labor in South Australia have thought that more taxes, more red tape, slower approvals would actually improve their economy. Jay Weatherill stands condemned. He should apologise to the South Australian voters and start telling the truth about his own failed government.

QUESTION:

Mr Jacoby has also said free trade agreements have made the market so open it's fundamentally impossible to produce vehicles in Australia. Can't this be sheeted home to previous Coalition governments as well as Labor governments over time?
 

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Well, free trade is a global phenomenon. Australia has been a pro free trade country since the debates between the protectionists and the free traders in the early part of the last century. So I don't think Mr Jacoby is saying General Motors decided to close their operations in Australia because of the attachment that the Australian governments of both Liberal and Labor persuasion have had to free trade over generations.

QUESTION:
But do you acknowledge that the free trade deal with Thailand made it possible for cheaper vehicles to come in from Thailand and that made it harder for Holden?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Mr Jacoby also said, I think you’ll find, that if the Australian Government had decided Labor or Liberal to increase tariff barriers, that would have made also bad decisions for manufacturing in Australia because of the cost of doing business in this country. You can't have it both ways on that argument.

QUESTION:
Premier Weatherill has also said that the Federal Government is holding off on cooperation in terms of infrastructure projects. Are you freezing out the South Australian Government for political reasons?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Well that's another false statement from Weatherill. And my colleague Jamie Briggs I think has released a statement on that matter today. We have written to the South Australian Government about infrastructure plans. The bottom line is that Whinging Weatherill has to stop blaming everybody else for his failure. Rather than seeking to grab hold of our own destiny in South Australia, Jay Weatherill thinks if he whinges enough, the South Australian voters will feel sorry for him and re-elect him. The future for South Australians lies in our own hands. We have to grasp our own future through mining, through agriculture, through technology, through higher education, and Whinging Weatherill is not doing our State any good by just sitting there and demanding more money like a mendicant from Canberra.

QUESTION:
But are you happy to go down there and start doing some deals on infrastructure before the March State election as a sign that you are actually - you're not freezing them out?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

We've already announced significant infrastructure in South Australia, the north/south road corridor, for example. We're working very closely with the State Government, including Tom Koutsantonis who is the Minister for Transport, and Steven Marshall and his team of course in Opposition, to ensure that whoever wins the election in March and I hope it's the Liberal Party after this appalling performance by Whinging Weatherill, I hope that the Liberal Party that will be the party that we do do the deals with eventually over infrastructure. But are working on the north/south corridor. Other infrastructure will be announced in the coming months to boost the South Australian economy.

QUESTION:
With the Labor Government?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

With whomever is in government.

QUESTION:
If the manufacturing sector in strife, where are the next jobs coming from in South Australia, where do you believe they're going to be create and what is the Federal Government doing?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

There's one thing the South Australian Government could’ve done over the last 12 years, David, and that was not to slow the process of approvals down for Olympic Dam to seven years from the beginning to the end, so that BHP Billiton had all that time to change their mind about the Olympic Dam expansion. The State Labor Government and unfortunately some of the unions in South Australia used the Olympic Dam expansion as a honey pot. They thought they could extract enormous amounts of money, rivers of gold from BHP Billiton. In the process they slowed the approvals down so much that BHP Billiton were able to change their mind when iron ore and other prices, gold price, copper prices changed on a world market, uranium obviously after Fukushima that is one example of how the State Labor government has failed South Australia monumentally. You might not know this, but there is more mining activity in the Northern Territory than there is in South Australia. That's how badly our State Labor Government has handled our economy and in fact, Jay Weatherill said only recently that he believes very fervently that government, big government is the answer to South Australia's problems. More tax, more regulation, more welfare.

QUESTION:
My question was about what the Federal Government was going to do…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

We want to get the Olympic Dam back on track.

QUESTION:
Is that really viable with iron ore, sorry, commodity prices being…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Sure. We want to expand the economy. We want to reduce red tape, reduce taxation, we want a government in South Australia that wants to join us in that effort, making faster approvals for mining, for agriculture, finding new markets. Like our free trade agreements with Korea, South Korea that have already been announced. We're getting on with the job of trying to build the economy. Jay Weatherill is getting on with the job of finding new ways to blame Canberra for his own failure.

QUESTION:
What chances do you think there really are of Olympic Dam getting going?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Well I'm always positive, David, about the future.

QUESTION:
Mr Pyne, Warren Truss has this morning suggested that this budget will be very tough and potentially very politically unpopular. How tough and unpopular is it likely to be?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

I will leave those questions to Joe Hockey, the Treasurer.

QUESTION:
(inaudible)

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

I think everyone knows that Labor has left news a mess. We've got off to a good start but there's a lot more to be done and in the budget in May, people will see how we are going to try to reduce taxes, by abolishes things like the carbon tax and the mining tax. The strange taxation that Labor put on self-education expenses has gone, which Labor of course is voting against in the Senate. These things over the next six months especial in the new Senate from July 1, will give us an opportunity to reduce tax, reduce red tape, get bureaucracy out of the way, build the economy, create jobs. Because that is the central role of all Governments and the budget will outline exactly how we are going to do that.

QUESTION:
But it appears that due to the state of the budget, politically unpopular, there will be some decisions that won't go down well.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

I think the public elected a new government overwhelmingly, with a massive majority quite frankly. Because they knew that they had to put a government into power that would make the decisions that were necessary to create jobs and get the economy moving again.  I think the public is well aware that the debt and deficit strategy of Labor has never worked and wasn't working under the Gillard and Rudd Governments.

QUESTION:
School funding, Mr Pyne, will there be other cuts in education, expect there to be deep cuts in your portfolio?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Well we have said in the election there'd be no overall cuts in education and that remains the case.

QUESTION:
The government is closing four relatively small detention centres next month. If the government's so confident its policy is working, why not close more, some bigger ones?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Well I think it's great news that we are - our policies are working to protect our borders. The number of boats arriving has slowed from the deluge under Labor to the trickle that we now see. And that's full credit to Scott Morrison for the job that he's done. I'm sure other detention centres and facilities can close as the requirement for them lessens and that was the experience under the Howard Government. Labor of course left us with quite a different legacy.

QUESTION:
(inaudible)

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Could you try that again?

QUESTION:
What is the Federal Government saying to Toyota (inaudible) stark comments about Holden?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Well Toyota has to make its own decisions about its future and of course we want Toyota to stay and we will give them all the support that it is available to them under the Government’s policies.

QUESTION:
How surprised are you, Mr Pyne, by the Fairfax Media allegations against Alex Somylay suggesting that he employed his wife?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Look I am not aware, I mean I have read the story, but all I know is Jonathan Swan's report, but I don't actually know the details behind it. I'm sure if there's any wrongdoing it will be pursued and I've never employed a family member so it's not something I'm familiar with.

QUESTION:
Pursued by whom?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Pursued by the appropriate authorities, I guess. If somebody lays a complaint. I understand that no-one's done that.

QUESTION:
Is it a reminder that MPs really should avoid employing family members?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

That's our policy and Mr Abbott made that announcement late last year. I think from January 1, the Minister of State has made a declaration to that effect. So Mr Abbott and his team believe that should be the case.

QUESTION:
When I called him yesterday, Mr Somlyay said "well I'm retired, mate”. Not answering, not responding.  Do you reckon that's fair enough, he's retired, move on?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

It's your job to pursue people for stories and comments, not mine.

QUESTION:
But tens of thousands of alleged fraud, can we draw a line under that with the retirement of an MP?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

These are questions you need to put to Mr Somlyay.

QUESTION:
Mr Pyne, Tony Shepherd the head of the Commission of Audit, has agreed to front a Senate inquiry tomorrow afternoon.  Is there anything out of bounds, can he talk about the kinds of cuts they're looking at, kind of savings, privatisations, that sort of thing?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

I doubt very much he will be preluding his first report. I'd be shocked, I assume he will be answering questions about the process but that's a matter for Mr Shepherd and the Senate committee that's meeting tomorrow.

QUESTION:
..a fair bit of criticism of the particular appointments to the curriculum review, particularly Donnelly.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Particularly in the Fairfax press.

QUESTION:
You would've been affair that that would've been coming. Is there a risk through those appointments that the perception of the openness of the panellists given their particularly Donnelly's strong views in the past?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Dr Donnelly and Professor Wiltshire are both excellent appointments. I think they'll do a tremendously good job at putting students first and ensuring that one of the pillars of our election campaign in education, which was principal autonomy, teacher quality, a robust curriculum and parental engagement, one of those is obviously the curriculum. They will ensure that it's row robust, worthwhile and use. And it tells the truth. It not only tells the truth. It not only tells the truth about our past in terms of those things that we would regret, like the treatment of Indigenous Australians, but also the truth about the benefits of our association with western civilisation since we were colonised in the latter part of the 1780s.

QUESTION:
How can they bring an open mind given particularly Donnelly's comments in the past?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Everybody in Australia has a view about education, because everyone has been to school. Many people have a view about universities 'cause many people have been to universities. Whomever had been appointed there would be criticism of their particular views. Both men will do a very objective job and make sure our curriculum is the best in the world there's no reason we should settle for second best, give our students the best chance possible. Quite clearly our results have been declining for the last 30 years. There's been a particular education establishment in power in education in the last 20, 30 years, and I think it's time for some fresh eyes to look at whether we're doing the job that needs to be done for our students.

QUESTION:
Mr Pyne, what do you think is the most egregious example of this Commie pinko hijacking of our curriculum?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

They're not phrases that I would use and that was a waste of a last question.


[ends]

For more information

Media Contact: media@education.gov.au
Non-media queries: 1300 363 079