SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Another storm has erupted over the influence of the Prime Minister's chief of staff Peta Credlin. In a leaked text message, a senior Liberal describes her as the “horsewoman of the apocalypse”. He goes on to say I do hope you can negotiate the removal of Credlin. That would be a huge win in itself. She has F'd the parliamentary wing through her non-understanding of team harmony and she has F'd the organisational wing. Now the party's honorary Federal Treasurer Philip Higginson reportedly also texted: “stay tuned for the hatchet job on me, it's hurting me mainly watching the party suicide”. Leaked text messages there. For more we are joined by Education Minister Christopher Pyne. Minister good morning to you.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Samantha. Happy Saint Patrick's Day to you.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Happy Saint Patrick's Day to you, too, minister. Now that description of Peta Credlin is far from flattering, do others in the party feel the same way about the Prime Minister's chief of staff?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well no they don't and I haven't seen the reports of those messages because I've been focusing on trying to reform universities for students and for Australia so I haven't been getting across that kind of inside the beltway story but I can tell you that the parliamentary party here is completely united since the spill motion around the Prime Minister and around his chief of staff and we're getting on with the job of doing the things that Australia needs; creating jobs, supporting families, reforming childcare, changing country of origin labelling, improving the way we deal with foreign investors with our land. We're just getting on with the job, Samantha.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Okay but you know the expression “horsewoman of the apocalypse” is pretty serious. When private text messages between people at the top level of your party are being leaked to the press like this, does it not show that many within the party are extremely frustrated with the Prime Minister's office?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well it sounds to me like a very old story being re-heated yesterday and today. I can tell you that I, as a Cabinet minister, and all of my colleagues are focused on one thing and one thing only and that is delivering good government for Australia and I think we're getting on with it; that's certainly the feeling that I get moving around the country that people feel that we are focused on their issues and we're not going to be distracted.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Okay now your former South Australian colleague Amanda Vanstone was on the ABC last night warning Australia that backbenchers will move to dump Tony Abbott as leader unless his poll figures improve. Do you honestly believe that Tony Abbott will be leading you to the next election?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well not only do I believe that Samantha but I believe that we'll win the next election with the support of the Australian people. The more people have looked at Bill Shorten the more they've discovered two things – he is an empty vessel and he doesn't know how he's going to pay for all his promises. Now for the last 18 months he's been running around telling everyone they can have whatever they want, like children in a chocolate shop. Unfortunately he has to actually explain where the money's coming from and he can't do that. Now I have great faith in the common sense of the Australian people. They know that you can't just make promises, you actually have to back them up with where the money's coming from and Bill can't show that. I think most people realise that he is a lightweight, doesn't believe in anything and he has nothing to back up his promises.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Okay let's talk about university. You're currently obviously involved in negotiations with independent senators over your uni deregulation reforms. Are you getting any closer, you having much luck here? I mean it must be like mustering cats, are you any closer to getting it through the upper house?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Look Samantha, it's very difficult. The crossbenchers are proving hard to corral behind these reforms, which is very unfortunate because I've cleared away every possible hurdle. Everything the crossbenchers have asked for we have delivered so we've reduced the 10-year government bond rate for the interest down to the CPI, we've created a $100 million structural adjustment fund, we've cleared away the issue of the 20 per cent cut to the Commonwealth Grant Scheme for students, we've de-linked the funding for the research from the bill. So there's absolutely nothing left now except the really important part, which is the deregulation of universities – the reform that will be good for students and good for unis and good for Australian international education. That's what's left, that's the most important part as I've always said since last year, since the Budget in May and the crossbenchers now have no impediment for why they shouldn't vote for it. If they now don't vote for it, I don't think anybody will say that I didn't try everything possible to get it passed.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Ricky Muir says you should take your higher education reforms to an election. What do you make of that?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well in 1987 when the Labor Party introduced the Higher Education Contribution Scheme, they didn't take it to the election but the Coalition still voted for it in the Senate and allowed it through because it was the Government's policy. It was a Budget measure. Unfortunately today the Labor Party and the Greens are just political opportunists. They believe they know better than 40 out of 41 vice-chancellors and every peak body in the university sector. Universities are pinching themselves yesterday and today at about how generous the Government is being and yet the Labor Party and the Greens are still playing politics and I think it's unfortunate the crossbenchers are proving difficult to get to support this reform. But, you know, I don't give up easily Samantha. I'm not known for giving up easily and I'll keep on trying to get these reforms through.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Okay we shall wait and see. Christopher Pyne thanks for your time this morning.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: It's a pleasure, thank you.