SUBJECTS: Opinion polls; Malcolm Turnbull; Mal Brough; Islamic State; Mufti of Australia; immigration, Darwin port.
ANDREW BOLT: Joining me is Anthony Albanese, Labor’s Infrastructu
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, what we’re seeing is an immediate lift in the polls for Malcolm Turnbull. It’s a shiny new thing for people to look at. But when people look at the substance, I think we’ll see a very different outcome.
BOLT: Well, how do you get to that point? I mean, what does Labor need to do to take up the fight to Malcolm Turnbull?
ALBANESE: Well, we need to continue to put forward policies, as we have in areas like multi-national taxation, infrastructure investment, superannuation. But also, I think that Malcolm Turnbull was failure last time he was Opposition Leader. There’s nothing to suggest that he’s changed. There’s one additional element, which is the lack of authenticity from Malcolm Turnbull. He believes in climate change action. He believes in marriage equality. But he’s abandoned those policies and put his own personal political desire to be prime minister before his own principles. And I think people will see through that. Secondly, the judgement questions are still there. Just like he trusted Godwin Grech last time, already, early on in his prime ministership we saw him appoint Mal Brough to the position in charge of ministerial responsibility for the integrity of the parliamentary process and yet Mal Brough is under investigation from the AFP about the Peter Slipper and James Ashby affairs and, indeed, there was a raid just this week on Mal Brough’s house. Now, Malcolm Turnbull should have been aware of that, and should have avoided that potential conflict. And thirdly, of course, there’s a great Malcolm ego, which is still there for all to see. Malcolm Turnbull’s idea of a conversation with the Australian people is him talking and them listening.
BOLT: Well, why isn’t Bill Shorten cutting through? Does he, too, lack that, you know, authenticity factor?
ALBANESE: Well, it’s a difficult time for an Opposition Leader with a new leader of the Liberal Party. The fact that the Coalition changed leaders suggests that Bill Shorten had indeed been successful, particularly in his opposition to the draconian measures of the 2014 budget.
BOLT: Listen, this week, Malcolm Turnbull suggested a ceasefire and a power-sharing deal in Syria that could involve supporters of the Islamic State. Can you see such a peace plan working?
ALBANESE: Well, look, absolutely not and it’s an extraordinary thing for Malcolm Turnbull to leave open, such an option. But, again, it’s typical of Malcolm Turnbull. He doesn’t know when to stop talking and make a clear statement. Clearly these people who want to destroy Western civilisation and return to barbarism have no role to play in any civilised arrangements going forward. These people need to be wiped out because what they seek to do is to wipe us and our way of life out. It’s that simple, and Malcolm Turnbull needs to be very clear in his language about that.
BOLT: Tony Abbott says we can’t defeat the Islamic State until we, and others, send troops there, whether… probably Special Forces, something like that. Even Hillary Clinton, running for president, Democratic nominee, is now suggesting the same thing. Are they right?
ALBANESE: Well, what I’d be doing is taking advice not so much from politicians but from the appropriate defence officials, if I was, again, a member of the National Security Committee of the Cabinet. That’s the way to go forward. But quite clearly, we need to defeat this scourge, because it’s not just what is happening on the ground in Syria and Iraq. What they want to do to the populations if they were ever to get full control of Syria – we would see a wipe out of the Alawites, of the Christians, of all the minority groups, indeed also of those people in Sunni population who happen to disagree with them. But also we see them expanding where the attacks are, not just in Paris, but in Beirut as well.
BOLT: But that support, you see, Anthony… That’s right, but after more than a year of coalition bombing, they’re still there, right? And in fact, they’re still there after four years. Do you need to send in at least Special Forces in targeted raids in concert with other countries to take them out on the ground? Because the military officials say you can’t do it from the air.
ALBANESE: Well, that, of course, is worthy of consideration, but upon advice of the military officials. But also, of course, there is the Syrian army there as well.
BOLT: The Mufti of Australia this week listed five causative factors he said led to terrorism attacks like we saw in Paris. All involved claims about Australia’s alleged cruelty to Muslims, our racism, etcetera. How dangerous is that kind of victimology?
ALBANESE: Well, it’s completely unacceptable, because what it does is provide some sort of excuse for this behaviour. There is no excuse for the fundamentalist form of Islam leading to terrorism being found to be somehow in the name of religion. What we know is that no religion gives sanctity to death and the sort of ideology that has come through that, and surely –
BOLT: Well, I’m not sure about that in Islam’s case. And that’s the whole point. You need the Mufti to actually start leading that interpretation. Listen, the…
ALBANESE: Well, the Mufti –
ALBANESE: – he has a critical role, particularly in sending messages to young people. And I note that he made a further statement on the following day, but he needs to be very careful about the messages that are sent out there, particularly to his own community.
BOLT: I agree. The 12,000 refugees we’re now taking in from Syria and Iraq – isn’t the best way to help the persecuted without endangering Australians is to say that those 12,000 should all be Christians?
ALBANESE: No. What we do is we have a non-discriminatory policy. But what we’ll do is assessment of, appropriately, of people’s status as asylum seekers. And there’s no doubt that Christians have, in particular, suffered since the Syrian civil war began.
BOLT: It sounds like a no-but-yes, let’s not discriminate, but let’s take in Syrian Christians. I think that’s probably the way to go. But listen, quickly, before we run out of time, President Obama this week complained to Malcolm Turnbull for not tipping him off that the Northern Territory Government had just leased the port of Darwin to a Chinese company linked to the China’s Communist Party when the port is actually sometimes used by Australian and American Defence Forces. Turnbull laughed it off saying Obama could have read about it in Darwin’s newspaper, rather than the Wall Street Journal. Have a look.
(CLIP) TURNBULL: I suggested that they should invest in a subscription to the Northern Territory News.
BOLT: Well, do you think there’s anything … Reason to be concerned about this leasing deal?
ALBANESE: Well, there’s that lack of judgement from Malcolm Turnbull. Darwin Port is an incredibly important strategic asset for our nation and because of our arrangement with the United States for joint training in northern Australia, it is important for the US as well. And it is extraordinary that there was no heads-up given to our ally in the United States, but can I go a step further and say that there was no heads-up given to the Australian public either? And of course the Federal Government is directly involved in this because they have a policy as well of a 15% additional payment to any state or territory government privatising an asset. Now, there are other… If, if the port needed to be privatised, and I think there’s an argument to keep it, frankly, in public hands, such a strategic asset, but, of course, if you look at Sydney Port and other ports around Australia, there are funds with Australian investors prepared to invest in such assets. But to give up a strategic asset to a company that has links with the People’s Liberation Army in China is, I think, a grave error of judgement and the fact that Malcolm Turnbull laughed this off is, again, I think, symptomatic of his lack of judgement that characterised the last time he was Leader of the Opposition.
BOLT: Anthony Albanese. Thank you so much for your time.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.