Channel 10 The Project with Tommy Little, Georgi Coghlan, Carrie Bickmore and Waleed Aly
- Minister for Education and Training
- Leader of the House
CARRIE BICKMORE: Well to help us answer that question, we are talking to the Education Minister Christopher Pyne. Well, Prime Minister Pyne does have a nice ring to it, yeah?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: [Laughter] Carrie - no, I think we have a very good Prime Minister in Tony Abbott and we are 100 per cent supportive of him continuing in that role. I don't think too many people are - have Prime Minister Pyne on their lips today.
WALEED ALY: So, just to be clear, Minister - of all colleagues of yours that we have mentioned - Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop, your very good self, Joe Hockey - are you saying they would all make worse prime ministers than Tony Abbott?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No, I am saying that we have an excellent Prime Minister who's been elected in 2013, who is making the strong and important decisions, Waleed, that need to be made. Sure, people love a distraction, they love a leadership contest or speculation, because they distract people from the big issues, but the issues like debt and deficit and building the roads of the 21st century and providing for those people in our community who need to be provided for - that is the job the Government is getting on with.
GORGI COGHLAN: Well Minister, your government is in trouble. This isn't just an Australia Day issue. Recently we are hearing, of course, that Rupert Murdoch and others have called for the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Peta Credlin to be sacked. Why is she getting so much attention?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I think she's getting a lot of attention because she is a very important part of the Government, the enemies or opponents of the Government would like to tear down one of the major struts that is holding the Government in place. And Peta Credlin played an important role in getting us elected and people would dearly love to see her go down, because it would weaken the Government.
WALEED ALY: Sorry, I'm just wondering for how long you have considered Rupert Murdoch to be an enemy or opponent of the Government? Given you have said that they are the people calling for Peta Credlin to be sacked?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, I am rather talking about our enemies in the Labor Party and the Opposition, the Greens, etcetera, who would love to see this story continue on for some time.
WALEED ALY: But they're not the ones making this call. This call has come specifically from Rupert Murdoch and he is a lone voice, but he seems to be leading the charge at the moment. Is he your enemy?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No. Of course not. Rupert Murdoch has got better things to do than be the enemy of a particular government. He is a citizen of the United States, a former citizen of Australia, of course, he is a great Australian, but just because Rupert Murdoch says a particular thing doesn't mean that the Government is going to respond to that particular request from Rupert Murdoch.
CARRIE BICKMORE: With Rupert Murdoch's comments, with Andrew Bolt's comments - the Prime Minister's decision, the knighthood was pathetically stupid. Have you guys lost a cheer squad?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Look it's fine for friends not to always agree with each other, obviously we don't expect journalists like Andrew Bolt to support or - say that the government's doing a good job, because he's a professional journalist. He has to call it as he sees it. I have always appreciated his contributions. I would say the same thing about some of the press in the Fairfax press or even the ABC.
WALEED ALY: You left out one massive network in that answer, Christopher Pyne. Do you want to...
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: And Channel Ten of course! And Channel Ten. And you, Carrie, and Tommy and Waleed and Georgi. You are all going to contribute to public policy! I think in fact The Project has made public policy much more accessible to a lot of Australians, I think you do a great job.
WALEED ALY: That's great. But it isn't going to make me go any softer on you right now.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Waleed, you have never gone soft on me ever! All the radio interviews we've ever done you have always got stuck right into me. That's fine. That's democracy.
WALEED ALY: Damn straight! Let's get into some democracy right now then.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Take the gloves off!
WALEED ALY: The Australia Day debacle which really seems to have triggered all of this, it isn't where it comes from. Isn't the heart of this problem that the Government had a budget that the voters have emphatically rejected, and your education portfolio, which you have mentioned, is a major part of that. There's pollings showing that support for that has fallen off a cliff in the last few months. Do you accept responsibility for the predicament the Government is in right now?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No. Not at all. Good government policy isn't always immediately popular. But good government policy is what makes our country great. It what's made it great for many decades. When the Labor Party introduced the Higher Education Contribution Scheme, it was opposed by the very same people that are opposing the reforms that I'm introducing right now.
CARRIE BICKMORE: Well, we appreciate your time tonight. Chat again soon. Thank you.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: A pleasure.