Subjects; WA infrastructure, weapons manufacturing, Australia Day, Labor Party, National Integrity Commission
OLIVER PETERSON: Yes we do call this The Odd Couple. This afternoon we’re joined live here in Perth in the studio on 6PR by Anthony Albanese. Good afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day Ollie. Good to be in Perth again.
PETERSON: It’s good to see you here in Perth.
ALBANESE: It’s a beautiful day here, I’ve got to say.
PETERSON: What are you doing here?
ALBANESE: I’ve been doing all sorts of stuff. We did a press conference at the Morley to Ellenbrook rail line. We’ve got the $700 million. I’ve been down in Fremantle with Josh. I’ve just had a meeting with Rita Saffioti, the Infrastructure Minister.
PETERSON: You’ve been busy.
ALBANESE: I’ve been to the City of Stirling. I had a tour of the urban renovation that’s going on around Scarborough Beach, the new pool and various proposals that are there for light rail and a new road to take pressure off that growth in that city with the Mayor and with Tim Hammond. Then I’m catching up with Tim Hammond later and tomorrow I’m with Lauren Palmer, our new candidate for Hasluck, so I’m everywhere.
PETERSON: You’re everywhere but on the phone, as we call it The Odd Couple, senior Government Minister Christopher Pyne. You’re not here. Good afternoon.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Ollie, how are you going? Anthony loves getting out of New South Wales because he is hated there. He’s always desperate to get to any other part of the country…
ALBANESE: Where are you Christopher?
PYNE: I’m home in Adelaide. I got home this afternoon. I opened a new factory in Canberra this morning that’s creating remote weapons systems called EOS. And, of course, yesterday we did our big defence export strategy announcement and spent the day spruiking that in the eastern states so another very busy week for us. We’re all back on deck, no more holidays.
PETERSON: Jobs by manufacturing weapons? So who and what are we going to be making Christopher Pyne and who are we going to be selling it to?
PYNE: Well we’re in the middle of the biggest military capability build up in our peacetime history – $200 billion. And the next logical step is to try and turn that into jobs, manufacturing, advanced technology, work here in Australia and export as much of that as we can to friendly countries overseas. So things like remote weapons systems, ships, missiles, guns, protective vehicles like the Bushmaster, radar, sonar, we make all of that in Australia. We should be exporting it. No government has tried to do it before and the Defence Export Strategy is the biggest investment in defence export in all time and obviously it will go to countries like the US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Europe and then those countries in Asia where we’re happy to export defence products to like South Korea or Japan and there are others as well.
ALBANESE: My concern I guess is that the Government has dropped the ball in advanced manufacturing in areas like renewable technology. Today, one of the things that came about with the roundtable with Josh Wilson is talking to people from Kwinana about the potential that’s right here in WA for growth of industries around lithium. There’s a great prospect for that here in WA, so we need to look at the full scale of how we create jobs in the 21st century in advanced manufacturing. We’ve been really good, for example, over the years at having new innovation in renewables whether it’s solar or wind or wave technology here in WA. We often haven’t been good at commercialising it, making sure that we create jobs.
PYNE: That’s true, we need to fix that.
ALBANESE: Wherever it is, I’m certainly for jobs, and that’s one of the issues I’ve been discussing here today, indeed with Rita Saffioti, it was about manufacturing of the rail carriages. That’s one of the things, as METRONET expands here, how do we make sure we maximise the number of jobs and the economic benefit right here in WA from that project?
PYNE: Anthony’s also had some ideas about Australia Day too, which he has been spruiking which he might like to talk about.
ALBANESE: I have ideas everywhere.
ALBANESE: Christopher is taking over here, Ollie.
PETERSON: No, that’s fine. I think Christopher Pyne read my mind because I was going to ask about that next, Anthony Albanese. You’d like a referendum; you want to bring the republic debate and recognising Indigenous Australians in the Constitution to come to a head.
ALBANESE: One of the things we’ve seen increasingly in the lead up to Australia Day is a debate that can be quite divisive about whether Australia Day should be commemorated on January 26, about the implications for the First Australians, many of whom feel not surprisingly quite traumatised, to be frank, about the consequences for Indigenous people of European settlement.
So one of the things I’ve proposed is, there’s been pretty broad support across not everyone in the Parliament, but certainly Christopher is someone who supports Indigenous recognition in our Constitution and a republic. So why wouldn’t you, on Australia Day, instead of changing the date, enhance the date? Make it one that all Australians can feel a sense of ownership of, one that we recognise, not just what Australia is today in 2018, but the fact that Australian history didn’t begin in 1788, it goes back at least 65,000 years.
But also take the opportunity on Australia Day to have a vote to say, do you think on this day we should have an Australian head of state? And to advance that debate as well. I’ve put this forward as an idea, I don’t think it’s the only idea. Noel Pearson had some constructive suggestions on the weekend as well. His proposal is to have a two day celebration; January 25, about prior ownership if you like, and January 26, about the British declaring sovereignty over the nation. Whatever people think of that, of course, it certainly wasn’t with the consent of Aboriginal people.
PETERSON: So Christopher, does Anthony’s idea have merit?
PYNE: Well credit to Anthony for at least having a view about Australia Day. You know his boss, Bill Shorten, he wants to walk both sides of the street. He can’t say whether he is in favour of a national holiday being on Australia Day or not because he is terrified of the left of the political spectrum and he doesn’t want to offend the right of the political spectrum. But good credit to Anthony for at least having a view about trying to make Australia Day an Australia Day for everyone. I haven’t examined his idea closely.
I am a republican, but I think it’s too soon for us to try for a republic until the Queen is no longer on the throne, and I am in favour of Indigenous recognition in the Constitution. I’m disappointed that the model that the group came up with that we asked to look at is one that is probably unlikely to be passed by the Australian public, which is effectively a third chamber of the Parliament.
ALBANESE: That’s not right, with respect, Christopher.
PYNE: I still think we should pursue Indigenous recognition, however, and whether we do that on Australia Day is something I think we should be debating. It’s a free country and good luck to Anthony for having a go. I notice that he’s not too worried about whether Bill likes it or not, and quite happy to be putting himself out there. This could be the year of Anthony Albanese.
PETERSEN: Yeah well that’s a question, interesting, that Christopher Pyne raises. Is Bill Shorten going to support this idea or is this, Anthony Albanese, your time to make your play take over the leadership of the ALP?
PYNE: It’s his time to shine.
ALBANESE: I have had a chat with Bill and it’s up to him to speak for himself. I’m not going to pre-empt that, but certainly it’s consistent with Labor policy, which is to support both Indigenous recognition and of course to support a republic. So it’s a matter of how you get there. One of the things I very consciously didn’t do was say ‘this is Labor’s view’, because once you do that then the Coalition say ‘oh, well, we’re against it’. And quite often the Labor Party does the same thing. In politics I think people want to see ideas debated. People want solutions, not just arguments. And that’s the spirit in which I’ve put this forward. The fact that Christopher essentially was pretty supportive at least of the concept that I’ve put forward there, if I was saying ‘this is Labor and the Coalition shouldn’t do this’ – you know, I’ve done it deliberately to try to lift up the debate in the spirit, if you like of reconciliation.
PETERSEN: [inaudible] processing of asylum seekers when he was immigration minister in 2014?
PYNE: Well, what we’ve always done since when we’ve been in government, when Howard was in government, the Howard Government was in power and since we’ve been in power is to stop the people smuggling trade. Now, Labor got it started again. Fifty thousand unauthorised arrivals on 800 boats. When we came back into power the Abbott Government made it absolutely clear that we were going to stop the people smuggling trade. At least 1200 people that we know of had drowned at sea in that period. There were 2000 children in detention and the Abbott and then the Turnbull Government stopped the boats and kept the boats stopped. Now that is a major national achievement. I haven’t delved into all the ins and outs of Scott Morrison’s role as Immigration Minister but I’m sure everything he did was designed to end the people smuggling trade and Labor is now saying that they agree with that. So Labor agrees with the methods that the Government has adopted and that must really stick as a bone in the throat of many people in the Labor caucus who of course had a very different view when they were in power.
ALBANESE: Well, Christopher is really sticking to talking points of course of everything being about Labor v. Liberal. What this is about is whether a minister acted appropriately or not, and I note that he couldn’t say that he did.
PETERSEN: Alright let’s move on. Anthony Albanese, today Bill Shorten was talking about setting up a federal watchdog to crack down on government or public service corruption. Is this a dangerous tactic by the Labor Party? When you look to New South Wales, there were a couple of state MPs that went towards the corruption watchdog in NSW and are now behind bars.
ALBANESE: It’s a good thing wherever corruption exists that it’s weeded out and that people are punished for it. I think it’s about restoring faith in our institutions, including in our parliament. It’s something that in recent times has grown in support and it’s something that’s about us fulfilling, if you like, the demand that’s there and responding to the public so that we can then get on with the business of government with the confidence that’s there, from the public, that if there is anything untoward going on, then there will be a body with Royal Commission powers with the capacity to investigate it and to recommend to the police that action be taken.
PETERSEN: Is it necessary, Christopher Pyne?
PYNE: Well, Bill Shorten has breathtaking hypocrisy. This guy is no anti-corruption campaigner. I mean, for goodness sake, he did everything he could to block the Registered Organisations Commission. He did everything he could to block the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Now he’s been embarrassed by the behaviour of people like Sam Dastyari and has decided that he wants to have a National Integrity Commission. Well, that’s what we have the anti-corruption branch of the AFP for. That’s why we have the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. We have the structures in place to deal with corruption at the national level. Now maybe we didn’t get the state level, and that’s why they set up groups like the ICAC in New South Wales and the Corruption Commission in Queensland, but federally we have those structures in place already. All Bill Shorten is trying to do is distract people from the fact the took far too long to act on Sam Dastyari who is now not – still actually a Senator by the way – I’m not sure he’s yet resigned, might be resigning next week to make way for Kristina Keneally. We are having a look at a National Integrity Commission because there was a Senate inquiry into this last year. We’re having a look at their report and reviewing it, but we certainly aren’t committing to it, not just because Bill Shorten’s on a knee jerk anti-corruption campaign.
PETERSEN: Alright, the battle of ideas is off and running in 2018. One last one as well. I see Bill Shorten today says he wants to lower private health bills. Is there a mechanism, gentlemen, in government to be able to put the pressure on the health insurers to put down or put the brakes really on rising health insurance costs?
PYNE: What Bill wanted to announce today basically would put up health insurance premiums by 16 percent according to Deloitte. Now, that is an independent report. Bill Shorten and the Labor Party have never supported private health insurance. He twice was asked today whether he would rule out getting rid of the private health insurance rebate. He couldn’t do it. There are 13 million Australians with private health insurance, many of them pensioners and young people. Bill Shorten and Labor have never supported private health insurance. Now he wants to try [inaudible] and what he wants to do would increased private health insurance premiums by 16 per cent.
ALBANESE: So Christopher would have you believe that since lunchtime there’s been an economic analysis of what Bill Shorten said in his speech. I mean seriously, that’s farcical. What Australians know is a couple of things. One of the things they know that is that if you look at the profit levels of the health insurance companies, the yield for investment is enormous. It’s up there, and beyond in some cases, of that of the banks. They also know that – and I do as someone who has private health insurance, whenever I’ve had any medical procedures done, I end up having to pay for them – because they’re told ‘oh, no private health insurance doesn’t cover that’. That causes a great deal of frustration there as well. My view is private health insurance, and it’s Labor’s view, has an important role to play in the health system, but let’s [inaudible] people’s living standards and just raising it in itself will certainly do that, will put a focus on private health insurance and on the fees which they charge. I don’t understand why Christopher thinks that that very concept is a bad thing.
PETERSEN: Well it’s been good to see you in Perth today, Anthony Albanese. Christopher Pyne, we look forward to welcoming you to Perth soon.
ALBANESE: He’s not very welcome here, Ollie.
PYNE: I am. I’m very popular there in Perth. If you go down to Henderson, to the maritime precinct, they want to carry me on their shoulders.
PETERSEN: I believe Christopher Pyne, that you’re celebrating 25 years in the Parliament this year and there’s a wild party planned in Adelaide which I’m told will be the biggest party that Adelaide has staged in years.
PYNE: Well, Anthony, he’ll have come to make it a wild party.
PETERSEN: DJ Albo could attend.
ALBANESE: Anything’s possible. I’ll bring along a few desks to spin.
PETERSEN: Alright, Christopher Pyne. Thank you very much.
PYNE: See you soon. Thank you.
ALBANESE: Thanks Ollie.
PETERSEN: Good on you, Anthony Albanese. It’s twenty-four past four.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.