Christopher Pyne in Paris on Thursday. Photo: Latika BourkeParis: Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has flatly rejected the suggestion he is angling for the role of Defence Minister and issued a stern warning to his colleagues engaging in cabinet reshuffle speculation to focus on the jobs they have and not the ones they want.
Speaking to Fairfax Media at the Institute of Advanced Studies in National Defence in Paris, Mr Pyne fended off recent media speculation that he is undermining his senior colleague and current Defence Minister Marise Payne.
This week, one unnamed backbench Liberal MP told Fairfax Media Mr Pyne, who is more senior in cabinet than Ms Payne, was a “menace” and clearly positioning for the Defence Ministry.
“Whoever would be saying such a thing is a liar,” Mr Pyne responded on Thursday, local time.
“Marise Payne, as everyone knows, is one of my close personal friends, we share a house together in Canberra.”
When asked if it was possible to have friends in politics Mr Pyne said: “I do, Marise Payne’s my friend. We’ve been friends for over 30 years… the relationship between Marise and I is working extremely well.”
Mr Pyne said he did not want to be the Defence Minister.
“No, I want Marise Payne to be the Defence Minister and she will be the Defence Minister. I want to be the Defence Industry Minister and people should stop worrying about what jobs they don’t have at the moment and get on with the jobs that they do have.”
Mr Pyne has this week been in Britain and France and will on Friday travel to Saudi Arabia to spruik Australia’s defence exports. He also visited the DCNS submarine plant in Cherbourg, France, to monitor progress on Australia’s $50 billion contract to build 12 new Barracuda submarines.
That media event went off the rails when the minister attempted to shut down journalists questions about the embarrassing leak of sensitive data relating to a submarine design being built for the Indians.
DCNS chief executive Hervé Guillou appeared unprepared for the media’s questions and at one stage said he didn’t know if he was denying that his company had previously claimed the leak was “economic warfare” from their German rivals.
Mr Pyne insisted the visit was a success.
“Well I had a great visit to Cherbourg yesterday, to DCNS, it was terrific to see their operation there,” he said.
But he conceded the event could have been better handled but said that had no bearing on the company’s ability to deliver the submarines.
“Whether they are as polished as members of Parliament and cabinet ministers in press conferences is really not important to whether they can deliver twelve submarines to Australia.”
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