Subject: Sam Dastyari, Coalition disunity, Banking Royal Commission, marriage equality, Murray-Darling Basin.
HOST: Two tribes go head to head. Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese join us. Good morning to you both.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Will.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
HOST: Albo, we might start with you this morning because the Sydney Morning Herald has carried a pretty extraordinary story about the conduct of your colleague Labor Senator Sam Dastyari and it tells the tale of just a couple of weeks after he was forced to resign from Shadow Cabinet given his dealings with a Chinese businessman and accepting donations from him, he met with that businessman, a Mr Huang, in his home in Mosman at which, according to the Sydney Morning Herald article, he gave Mr Huang counter-surveillance advice, saying they should leave their phones inside and go outside to speak. He said that, according to the article, the meeting came just a couple of weeks after senior political figures, including those in the Labor Party, were briefed by ASIO that this Mr Huang was a person of interest to the Australian intelligence agency. At a time when we are considering divided loyalties in Parliament and dual citizenship is grounds for people to have to resign, why should Sam Dastyari still get to sit in Parliament?
ALBANESE: Oh look, what an absolute beat-up this is and of real concern is the apparent laissez faire attitude that the Government has towards using the security agencies to try to make a partisan political point.
HOST: So you have no concerns about Sam Dastyari’s conduct whatsoever?
ALBANESE: I have no concern about Sam Dastyari’s loyalty to Australia. If anyone looks on social media this morning they will see photos of Mr Huang with Malcolm Turnbull, with Tony Abbott, with Barry O’Farrell, with Mike Baird, with all of these Liberal Party leaders, state and federal. And what we have here is a whole lot of innuendo basically. They say that this occurred. On what basis is that knowledge out there? The allegation is there were two people as part of the conversation – Senator Dastyari and Mr Huang. And it purports to know as fact what happened in that conversation. I just find it extraordinary.
HOST: What do you think he would have wanted to say to Mr Huang that he wouldn’t have wanted the Australian Government and intelligence agencies to know?
ALBANESE: Well I wouldn’t have a clue because I wasn’t there. Nor were you and nor was anyone else at this alleged meeting.
HOST: What is your assessment of this Chris? What do you think?
PYNE: Well I think there’s three points to make arising out of what Anthony just said. The first is of course is there’s absolutely no suggestion that our security agencies have anything to do with this story whatsoever and for Anthony to say that we used the security agencies is really a very wild allegation. The first the Government knew about …
ALBANESE: The article says that it does.
PYNE: … the story was when a journalist approached us on Monday afternoon and asked us for a comment so the idea that the security agencies have got something to do with this is a wild claim by Anthony and he really should withdraw it. Secondly …
ALBANESE: It’s in the article Christopher, in The Herald.
PYNE: I didn’t interrupt you.
ALBANESE: But it’s in the article.
HOST: One at a time guys please.
PYNE: Secondly, there is a huge difference between being photographed with a donor at a party function or fundraiser, which as we all know happens millions of times a day, and having a conversation and a meeting with Mr Huang and for some reason wanting to not have anybody able to hear what was being said in that conversation. I think Will hit the nail on the head when he asked Anthony what were the comments that Sam Dastyari wanted to make to Mr Haung that he didn’t want anybody to hear. That is the question Sam Dastyari needs to answer and it is a very serious matter and Bill Shorten brought Sam Dastyari back onto the frontbench within months after the last time he was sacked because he was having people pay, donors pay, his personal bills. And Sam Dastyari’s at the centre of Bill Shorten’s apparatus that will form government if he wins the next election.
HOST: Changing tack now guys, and we are going to throw this one first to you Chris, but we will get to you shortly Albo. Chris Pyne, how is Malcolm Turnbull going to manage the prospect of having a bank Royal Commission that he clearly doesn’t want to hold?
PYNE: Well we don’t think there should be a Royal Commission because we are getting on with the job right now of protecting consumers’ interests by some of the measures that we have introduced that have been supported by most political parties and that a Royal Commission, while it might satiate some people’s views about the banks, will actually slow down the process of mediation, of compensation, of getting people who have been wronged by the banks righted again because it will take years, it will cost probably hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money and the biggest winners out of it will be the lawyers.
HOST: So should the National Party MPs who are agitating for one pull their heads in?
PYNE: Well the Government doesn’t have a policy to hold a Royal Commission.
HOST: But some Government MPs do because you are in Coalition with these people.
PYNE: That’s right and the thing about Coalition is that unlike the Labor Party, we don’t take a Stalinist approach to these kinds of matters …
HOST: Maybe you should start.
PYNE: No, I mean, part of our democracy is allowing people to have their own views. Of course, as I said yesterday, this kind of display of disunity is only helping the Labor Party. But it will pass, as all things do.
HOST: Hey Albo, we know what your views are. You guys are in favour of a bank Royal Commission obviously …
ALBANESE: As are all of your listeners.
HOST: Well probably a lot of them. I don’t know what the exact figures are. The human barometer. Are you guys on an election footing right now in the ALP? Do you think that this Government could fall over before Christmas? Are you guys ready to hit the button and start campaigning?
ALBANESE: This Government could fall over today. They are an absolute rabble. They have stopped governing. I mean it is no accident that in amongst all of this chaos the Sam Dastyari sort of story emerges as a look-over-here concept.
HOST: It’s a pretty good story Albo, with respect. You have spent your life fighting against these questionable New South Wales Right characters. I reckon over a beer you might have a different view about Sam Dastyari.
ALBANESE: No. Of all the things from time to time I have been critical of the New South Wales Right for, this is just absurd, this example. But what we have is a Government that doesn’t know what it is doing on the banking Royal Commission, is tearing itself apart over marriage equality, isn’t showing any leadership. Yesterday in Bennelong they came up with a $100 million pork barrel announcement because a by-election happens to be on, having cancelled a $2.1 billion fund to build a rail line, something real, between Parramatta to Epping, when the change of Government occurred in 2013.
This is a Government that just doesn’t have a narrative, doesn’t have a sense of purpose, is fighting within itself and where I read today that a whole lot of Government members have essentially given up. They cancelled Parliament this week.
HOST: Chris Pyne you’ve got a chance to right the ship of state next week. How important is the final week of Parliament and what can you guys do to get control of the agenda again?
PYNE: Well we haven’t lost control of the agenda to start with. But next week we have to do two things. We have to resolve the issues around dual citizenship because there are two Labor members and the Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie who have serious questions to answer about their citizenship when nominations closed in the election last year. So we’ll have to resolve that. And we also have to deal with marriage equality because the bill will come from the Senate down to the House of Representatives and most of our week next week will be dealing with the marriage equality debate. I am sure there will be amendments moved and debate had about that. It will be the Parliament doing its job and every vote will be a conscience vote, although I understand Labor has withdrawn a conscience vote from its members.
ALBANESE: That’s not right.
PYNE: It’s bizarre.
ALBANESE: Well, it’s just not right.
PYNE: Well in the Senate, in the Senate, not one Labor Senator, in spite of there being about half a dozen who are very opposed to marriage equality, have voted for any amendments to the Bill in the Senate.
ALBANESE: That is because the amendments are crap Christopher. They are tactical.
PYNE: That’s the technical term for it.
HOST: Albo, can I just quickly ask you about a local issue that you may have some insight on?
ALBANESE: They will be voting against marriage equality. They will be voting against the bill because we have a conscience vote but they recognise this for what it is – conservatives trying to stop the vote.
HOST: Albo, I want to get your take on the South Australian Government’s move to hold a Royal Commission into upstream rorting of the Murray-Darling Basin, given it affects New South Wales. What do you make of that measure taken by SA?
ALBANESE: It’s a terrific idea. The Parliament voted for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan with a few exceptions – one Green, a couple of Libs, a Nat, all voted, and Bob Katter, there were about half a dozen votes I think from memory voted against the plan. Overwhelmingly it was adopted by the Parliament and what we have seen in New South Wales is real concern with bureaucrats being involved in activities that essentially result in South Australia suffering because they are at the end of the basin.
HOST: Chris Pyne, you’ve come out and described it as a stunt. Are you concerned that Steven Marshall has agreed to it?
PYNE: No. There are five inquiries into the Murray-Darling Basin on at the moment. This is the sixth inquiry. What I said was that we all know that Jay Weatherill was hoping that the Federal Government would oppose the Royal Commission because he wants to have a fight with Canberra. His whole political strategy for re-election is fighting with Canberra, so he keeps raising issues that he can try and have a fight with. We are not going to give him a fight because if he wants to have State Royal Commission that doesn’t have powers interstate to compel anybody to do anything, that’s really a matter for him. We all know everything with Jay Weatherill and his Government is about politics. So this is just more politics about the election campaign. But he is quite welcome to have his Royal Commission and whatever it finds we will look forward to getting its findings.
HOST: Christopher Pyne, the Member for Sturt; Anthony Albanese, the Member for Grayndler, always great to catch up. We’ll do it again next week.
WEDNESDAY, 29 NOVEMBER, 2017