Subjects: Melbourne attack; family; extremism; republic.
OLIVER PETERSON: It is, of course, time for The Odd Couple with Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese – and Albo is a no-show at the moment. Christopher Pyne, after all of this time he has spent over here in WA, maybe he has forgotten how to get here?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, that’s a big surprise but I’ll try and represent him fairly and honestly.
PETERSON: It’s a free kick for you while we wait for Anthony Albanese to join us but …
PYNE: I’m sure he can’t be far away.
PETERSON: I’m sure he can’t be far away at all. Appreciate you joining us this afternoon on the Monday Agenda. I want to start with the fact that the Home Affairs Minister – obviously your colleague Peter Dutton – he wants to review the pathway to citizenship in light of the Melbourne terror attacks. So, what laws could your government have changed, I suppose, to prevent Friday’s incidents?
PYNE: Well, that’s a very good question. Random attacks by radicalised extremists of whatever persuasion, in this case an Islamic extremist, are almost impossible to police. But the makeup of our society and community and who we allow to become citizens and migrate to this country in the first place, is something that is more within the control of governments. Now we still have people in Australia who, the agencies in Peter Dutton’s portfolio, in my portfolio for that matter, are monitoring it all the time. Because we need to protect Australians from those people, who are in some cases, returning terrorist fighters from the Middle East, it’s a terrible problem to have. But when a person drives a vehicle into the side of the street that bursts into flames and then stabs people in these random attacks, they are difficult to control. But on the same token, I think Peter Dutton quite sensibly is suggesting that we always keep all of our laws under review to make sure that the safety of the public is our number one priority.
PETERSON: Absolutely and you’ve got laws at the moment obviously before the Parliament which you’re hoping that the Labor Party, Anthony Albanese and his mates, will support here – in regards to allowing spy agencies to have access to those encrypted messages, on the likes of WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger if they suspect somebody is planning a terror attack. Now, why isn’t the Labor Party getting on board in supporting this sort of legislation?
PYNE: The Labor Party is always a bit more reticent to limit the civil liberties of the Australian public, that’s their default position. The Coalition believes strongly that we need to have whatever powers are necessary to be able to monitor those who may be a danger to the Australian public. Now, I’m not saying that Labor is softer on these issues than we are, because it’s largely bipartisan. But they do reserve the right to consider the civil liberties of Australians as sometimes a higher priority than we do. We believe, in the Coalition, that our number one priority as a government is the protection of the Australian people and where there are laws that need to be changed to give us more powers, we seek to change those laws. But I think Labor generally comes on board in the end. They just they just reserve the right to ask questions first before they give their wholehearted support.
PETERSON: Well let’s see if Anthony Albanese, who has now joined us, can give his wholehearted support. Good afternoon and welcome to the Monday Agenda, Anthony Albanese.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day, my apologies. I’ve been having an important milestone in my life. My son has just left – seeing him off for his Year 12 Formal. He had his last HSC exam last Thursday, so it’s been fairly chaotic in the household, in Marrickville, tonight.
PETERSON: Is he wearing the South Sydney Rabbitohs tie like his father?
ALBANESE: No, mate. It took some debate as to which tie, but he looks fantastic and I’m sure he will have a good night. It’s an important milestone in his life and it’s important for his mum and dad too, given he’s our one and only hope.
PYNE: Is that year 12? Is that the end of Year 12, for Nathan?
ALBANESE: Yes that is it. Full-time. It seems like only a very short time ago that he was in primary school.
PYNE: I’ve got my twins finishing this year as well. We’ve got the same …
ALBANESE: Your twins?
PYNE: Both my twins, of course, are finishing Year 12 right now as we speak. My daughter had her second exam today and (inaudible) Barnaby has finished his exams. So it’s quite an emotional time for us parents, actually, Ollie.
PETERSON: It is, I can hear that, absolutely.
ALBANESE: Our children were born around the same time. And actually Christopher and I were on a policy committee, some 17, almost 18 years ago on the economics policy committee – and we actually first bonded by talking about our kids coming along. He did the two-for-one deal.
PYNE: We did. We got the two-for-one deal.
PETERSON: And here you are all these years later talking to us here on radio in Perth. Albo, let me ask you, is Islamic extremism Australia’s greatest national security threat?
ALBANESE: I think it is fair to say that there is a consensus about it being an enormous threat. I don’t think trying to rank threats is terribly productive. What we know, is that it is a serious threat, and it’s been called out. I don’t disagree with the comments of the Prime Minister. I have made similar comments myself. We have to acknowledge it for what it is, we need to work with people from the community to ensure that what is a very small minority and they’re a small minority, of course, who do nothing consistent with the Islamic religion. All the great monotheistic religions whether it be Christianity, Judaism or Islam, all actually have respect for their fellow human beings. There is an ideological trait of fundamentalist Islam that essentially sees people who aren’t like them as being somehow the enemy and that of course is not unique to that ideological position. You have unfortunately extremes of various lots, but it comes down to an ideological position and it is one that has to be acknowledged and it’s one we have to guard ourselves about as the community.
PETERSON: Christopher Pyne, were you disappointed when Anthony’s colleague there, Anne Aly, came out on the weekend saying that the Prime Minister looked politically desperate in his remarks about the terror attack?
PYNE: Look, I thought that was unnecessary, of Anne Aly, and I thought it was wrong. What Scott Morrison said was absolutely factually true. The terrorist who killed Sisto Malaspina in Bourke Street and injured others – it was self-professed as part of an Islamic, radicalised strain of Islam that as Anthony called out is completely unacceptable to us. And stating that as a fact doesn’t cast aspersions on all other Muslims in Australia. In fact, it’s really a very long bow to say that is the case and I think again Anne Aly was quite wrong to do that and pretending that this wasn’t a terrorist attack involving a lone wolf who was a radicalised Islamic extremist, pretending it is anything other than that would, quite frankly, be bizarre.
PETERSON: Albo, let me ask you …
ALBANESE: I think one of the points I’d make, is that the people who have most been hurt by Islamic fundamentalism are fellow Muslims. And they would argue that indeed these people, including whether it’s a lone wolf or people involved in Islamic State, aren’t being true to their religion. And most of the killing that’s gone on in the Middle East has been against people who are of Islamic faith.
PETERSON: Christopher, let me ask you, Bill Shorten wants to hold an expensive plebiscite – ask the community if we want to ditch the Royal Family and become a Republic. Do you think the Australian public have an appetite for another plebiscite if Labor wins the next election?
PYNE: I think it’s a bit of a red herring. I think the Australian public are much more interested in the economy, unemployment, delivering surplus budgets, national security. I mean we had a referendum in 1999, I voted yes for change and I’m a Republican. I have nothing against the Queen or the Royal Family, but I have to say I think we should have an Australian Head of State, not a British Head of State. But I do think that what Bill Shorten specialises in is trying to raise issues that are red herrings so we don’t talk about other things that matter to people, like jobs and the economy. Because Labor’s prescription, of course, is more taxes, more spending, less jobs and more union power. So I’m not surprised he keeps trying to find these red herrings.
PETERSON: Is it a distraction, Albo?
ALBANESE: You can chew gum and walk at the same time. We have a plan for the economy, a plan for jobs, a plan for infrastructure – including in WA – a plan for education, proper funding of schools, a plan for hospitals – with Medicare as the centrepiece of our health policy. But you can also say, that we should have an Australian Head of State. And I think that the time has come. It’s a bit rich for a government that has spent $120 million on a voluntary postal survey – that it didn’t need to have – on marriage equality, to tell us what we knew. The idea here is to have essentially a two-stage process. The first one to be whether people want an Australian as our Head of State. And the second one would then be a subsequent referendum on the model. It seems to me that is a sensible way to go. It is inconceivable that we will continue, into the Never Never, to have a head of state who is the King or Queen of England, and that’s not a criticism of – I’ve met the Queen, I respect the Queen and I certainly think that the young royals are attracting a great deal of affection and for very good reasons, they’re doing a fantastic job. You can do all of that and still say that we would recognise, we’d still be part of the Commonwealth, but we would have an Australian as our Head of State and surely we’re mature enough as a nation to be able to do that.
PETERSON: Gentlemen thank you very much. We are out of time. Really appreciate your company on Perth Live this afternoon.
PYNE: Thank you, Ollie.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having us on.