Subjects: Canberra, foreign interference, Royal wedding, republic.
HOST: It is Two Tribes time on a Wednesday morning – Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese, good morning.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning gentlemen.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning from a very miserable Canberra out here today.
PYNE: I like it actually.
HOST: It’s bracing isn’t it?
ALBANESE: It’s got that sort of wet, cold, fog.
PYNE: That wet air feel. But I like it. It is nice to have a change. Imagine if we lived in North Queensland and we would be always warm.
HOST: I could think of worse case scenarios to living in North Queensland. Is Canberra a good place for the capital? I mean, we are probably not going to be able to move it now, we are sort of stuck with it.
PYNE: It’s too late now.
HOST: But what do you think, because it was put there to defuse the Sydney-Melbourne rivalry?
PYNE: The capital should have been put in Adelaide.
HOST: I agree
ALBANESE: I think Canberra is a great place for the capital. It’s Australia’s largest inland city. I think it has got, in the time I have been coming here, it has really become much more a real city. It’s got quite a vibrant life around. I think it’s a good lifestyle for families to live.
PYNE: It’s very different in the last 25 years. There’s no doubt about that.
ALBANESE: It has really done. That’s what an ACT Labor Government does for you, you see. They improve liveability.
HOST: Calling it a Government Albo? It’s like city council on steroids.
ALBANESE: It is but they do a very good job. Andrew Barr is a very good Chief Minister.
PYNE: Oh stop it with your politics.
HOST: On a serious issue, is there an issue in Canberra at the moment with infiltration of the Australian Government and political parties by operatives close to the Chinese Communist Party? There is a front page story in The Australian today regarding comments made by Andrew Hastie in Parliament yesterday where he reveals and names someone identified as a co-conspirator by the FBI in the bribery of a UN official – someone who has close links to the Communist Party of China and also is a political donor in this country. We’ve had the Sam Dastyari affair fairly recently too. Do we have a problem Christopher Pyne?
PYNE: I don’t think we have a problem, but I think we need to be aware of all those kinds of issues around foreign interference and that is why the Government and quite frankly the Opposition are sitting down working together on foreign interference laws. George Brandis as the Attorney General just before he retired from politics revealed the Government’s plan around foreign interference laws, basically following on from a lot of the stories out of the United States that deal with their election. And our Attorney General now, Christian Porter, is sitting down with the Labor Party and the Parliament to work out what we can do in a bipartisan way to make sure that what is pretty low-level in terms of the stories that keep appearing every now and then doesn’t become a significant challenge for democratic government down the track.
HOST: What is your reading of this Albo? There’s a lot people – your old sparring partners from Labor’s New South Wales Right faction – people like the former premier, served for a decade, Bob Carr as Premier of NSW, does a lot of lobbying work now with Chinese business interests. There is a closeness there isn’t there?
ALBANESE: Well China is our most important trading partner.
HOST: I get that.
ALBANESE: The idea that someone who is involved in business in China has connections with the Chinese Communist Party is like saying they have connections with the Chinese State. The Chinese Government is the Communist Party. It is no more extraordinary than someone in Australia having contact with myself and Christopher Pyne as part of the Australian Government apparatus.
HOST: The Andrew Hastie comments though, are a bit more extraordinary are they not Albo, because he is talking about Chau Chak Wing being linked to the bribery of a UN official?
ALBANESE: Well the gentleman is an Australian citizen. That’s one point. Secondly, there’s no suggestion I don’t think from any of his comments there’s any inappropriate interference in any Australian political processes. I was with Christopher Pyne at the opening of the Chau Chak Wing Building in Sydney at UTS where he donated a substantial amount of money to build the new facility, which is quite an extraordinary design known as the Paper Bag Building here as part of UTS as a contribution.
Look, I think that we do need to be, as Christopher said, vigilant about any outside interference that does occur. We need to work through that in a bipartisan way and we do that. Julie Bishop I think might even be in China at the moment. But she is engaging with the Chinese Government. Steve Ciobo was up there last week. That’s a good thing that we have contact and that we build a positive relationship whilst maintaining of course a strong relationship with our major ally in the United States.
But I think the concern here is the suggestion as I read it from Mr Hastie’s comments is that information that he got as Chair of the National Security Committee he has released in the Parliament under parliamentary privilege. I find that quite extraordinary. I’m sure that they were probably rogue actions. I don’t suggest that it was authorised by Malcolm Turnbull, but there really needs to be an explanation about whether this is abuse of his position in that, according to his own statement, he has used information given to him in a briefing by another government’s agency to give a speech under parliamentary privilege about allegations from a different government, whilst being chair of the National Security Committee.
HOST: Just quickly before we let you go guys, you are both republicans. We saw an outpouring of warmth and interest here in Australia towards the wedding of Harry and Meghan last Saturday night. Chris, do you think that Australia will ever become a republic?
PYNE: Yes I do. I think we will become a republic, most likely when the Queen is no longer on the throne. I don’t think there is a lot of point in trying to become a republic while the Queen reigns, but I think when that generational change occurs, it is very worthwhile trying to achieve an Australian head of state. It’s the only office …
HOST: That could be within three or four years.
PYNE: Well, it’s the only office not available to an Australian and it is our Head of State. Now I find that remarkable. I loved the wedding by the way. I watched it with my family. I was quite surprised. I had no intention of watching it but I became quite absorbed. It was quite a spectacle. It reminded me that there is a lot of show business associated with this particular institution and it was great fun and I think from that point of view it was terrific. But that doesn’t change my mind about being a republican by the way.
HOST: Do you agree with that Albo?
ALBANESE: I agree with all of it, including maintaining my commitment to an Australian head of state and the republic. But the wedding was a hoot. It was an absolute hoot.
PYNE: Don’t get Will started. He didn’t watch it. He tried and he changed channels.
ALBANESE: Thank goodness the Souths-Cowboys game ended at about quarter past seven. So then the TV got switched over. I watched it. I didn’t have a choice, but I am glad I did. Weddings are joyous occasions and isn’t it a good thing that two people who clearly love each other – you could just see it, it’s real – and what a wonderful event. And why shouldn’t people get some enjoyment out of it?
HOST: That’s why people listen to Two Tribes too. The same sort of reasons. Feel the love.
ALBANESE: Because we all love each other.
HOST: Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese , Two Tribes on a Wednesday morning here on 5AA.