Subjects; Afghanistan, Banking Royal Commission, submarines
HOST: Good morning to Anthony Albanese and, back on deck, Christopher Pyne. Good morning to you both.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning gentlemen, it’s nice to be back.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning. Welcome back, Christopher. Anne did very well last week. I thought your position was in jeopardy.
PYNE: (Inaudible) thought that 5AA were going to bone me.
ALBANESE: I thought they were.
PYNE: Yes, well, they’ve been wanting to bone you for a long time. I keep insisting that they keep you.
HOST: Because he makes you look good, is that the thinking there Chris?
PYNE: That’s exactly right. I don’t want (inaudible) Labor person on the show.
ALBANESE: It takes a lot to make Christopher look good. He looked good in that gear in Afghanistan, didn’t he?
HOST: That was a very smart look.
PYNE: It was a very interesting few days, I must say, in the Emirates and Afghanistan. They’re doing a marvellous job, our soldiers over there.
HOST: How long were you in Afghanistan, Chris?
PYNE: I was there overnight in Kabul, two days, and I was in the Emirates for a day.
HOST: What’s it like going to a place like Kabul? Is it pretty intimidating?
PYNE: Well it’s fascinating. It’s a war zone and it’s a very dangerous one. There were eight terrorist attacks in the area around the protected part of Kabul in the 72 hours before I got there. Missiles fired at our camp at Camp Qargha on the 19th of September, which thankfully didn’t cause any casualties but did a bit of damage…
HOST: So a nice break after the recent party room meeting then?
PYNE: It was actually probably safer in Afghanistan than it was in Canberra (inaudible). There are seven million people living in Kabul now and 17 years ago there were 450,000. And there are eight million children at school in Afghanistan now, 40 per cent of whom are girls. And 17 years ago there were 800,000. So there’s been a lot of change but a lot of work to do unfortunately. It’s not a conflict that’s going to be resolved quickly and it’s our longest running conflict of 17 years that we’ve ever been involved in. So it’s a pretty serious business.
ALBANESE: I think it’s a very good thing that Christopher went. For the troops to see that there’s bipartisan support from the representatives of the Australian people, for what they’re doing over there making a difference. The ways to combat terrorism aren’t just about security; they are about things like education so I’m very pleased that Christopher raised that.
HOST: Hear hear to that. Now enough of the bipartisanship.
ALBANESE: Yes, let’s get into it.
HOST: This Banking Royal Commission – this untoward outbreak of love has to end. We’ve had a lot of feedback, Chris, over the last few days since the interim report on the Banking Royal Commission was produced. What more can the Government do to stop the banks get away with what they’ve been getting away with?
PYNE: Well that’s a good question. Already the Government has established the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, the banking executive accountability regime, given $17 million more to ASIC and new powers to actually regulate the banks. But I think we now need to examine this report closely, which is what Josh Frydenberg is doing, and return with a regime that ensures that banks put the customers first and profit second. I mean the really damning evidence out of the Royal Commission, and they had nine thousand written submissions and it’s the interim report so there will be a final report in the coming months. The really damning evidence was the fact that there was so much greed involved in trying to get money out of customers as opposed to looking after customers’ money, which is what the banks have always been for.
HOST: What’s Labor’s position on this now Albo? Having seen the interim report, you guys are champing at the bit to go after them, aren’t you?
ALBANESE: Well we need to hop into some of these roosters. I mean these people have ripped Australians off. They’ve behaved not just in an unethical way, but in a way that breaches the law, it would appear, in a range of ways. We need to hold them to account. That’s why we called for the Banking Royal Commission. Don’t forget that Christopher voted against the Royal Commission, like Scott Morrison, 26 times. They said it was a waste of time, that it was a stunt.
Quite clearly it was necessary. This is why you have a Royal Commission. Not why they want to have them for, which is always into their political opponents. This has been in the Australian people’s interest and one of the things that we want to see is more of the victims have the opportunity to tell their stories and get their evidence out there and that’s why Clare O’Neil is going to be holding hearings including, I think, today in Adelaide to provide people with that opportunity to tell their stories.
PYNE: Well I’m glad we established the Royal Commission and I think the Parliament was…
ALBANESE: Glad we forced you into it.
PYNE: Well I’m glad we did it.
ALBANESE: 26 times … (inaudible).
PYNE: I mean we could go back in time to when Bill Shorten was the Minister responsible and a lot of these big scandals broke across the financial sector. But I’m not going to be political about it because I think what’s more important is that we did create the Royal Commission, there is a report, it does have recommendations. I’m sure Labor will support the Government in implementing those recommendations and we need to move forward protecting the consumer, who should be our number one priority.
ALBANESE: Well we’ll be leading, not supporting the Government, which is what we’ve had to do on these issues – leading from Opposition.
PYNE: Well I’m not sure to point score. I think political point scoring is passé.
ALBANESE: Because you’ve been –
HOST: Can we move off the politics of the Royal Commission for the moment and move to the future submarines project? Because a lot of our listeners, they rightly, I think, see that it’s an integral project in the economic future of South Australia and there’s some question marks that have been raised by some cross bench Senators, Cory Bernardi and others, Christopher Pyne, in recent days when it comes to the strategic partnering agreement, this thing that needs to be signed before we get underway with the design phase and get the ball really, seriously rolling. And they’re saying given the delay they’d like the see the project be revisited. My question to you is, is there a chance that this agreement won’t be signed before the next election?
PYNE: Well there is a contract. It’s called the design and mobilisation contract and it’s been in place for the last two years and unfortunately a lot of people, of course, don’t understand the intricacies of it. It’s a massive project. There’s a design mobilisation contract which is operating now. The next contract is the strategic partnering agreement, which is over the next several decades and it’s important that it be got right. The submarine project is on schedule and it’s on budget. The planning for the submarine yard and the design of that is underway right now and works will start very soon. The design of the submarines is underway right now. There are 40 Australians in Cherbourg France working on the design and the workforce is starting to be set up at Osborne, through the Naval Shipbuilding College and by Naval Group. So nothing has stopped because of the strategic partnering agreement negotiation. They were always going to take a long time, because it’s the most important part of the project in terms of the length of time – the next three decades. So I’m making sure Australia’s interests are foremost and the French are making sure that they get a fair deal as well and I think that is important. And I hope the South Australian public remember that Rex Patrick, Tim Storer, Cory Bernardi and Stirling Griff lost their nerve and said we should abandon a $50 billion project, which is not only critically important for our economy but vitally important to our national security, and that should be our number one consideration.
HOST: Are we assured of the sustainment work on the existing Collins class subs as they continue to fill the breach until the future submarines hit the water?
PYNE: Well by 2024 there will be 5,000 people working at Osborne. To put that in perspective there are now about 1,800 people working at Osborne. So there’s a huge increase in activity. There’ll be the Hunter class frigates being built next door to the submarines that are being built following on from the offshore patrol vessels and we have no plans to move sustainment and maintenance at this stage from Osborne, because it’s where it’s being done. But of course we need to have contingencies, depending on what happens over the next ten year, but there are no plans to move that sustainment and maintenance. But you’ll always find an expert in defence, a retired Commodore, Admiral or General or whatever, who all have an opinion about these things. But I’m the person in charge of this project and I can tell you it is on time, it is on budget and it will deliver 12 regionally superior submarines for Australia.
HOST: Albo, the ABC are reporting Federal Opposition sources that suggest if a strategic partnering agreement, this current stage of the process that Christopher Pyne has outlined, if it’s not signed before the next election then you guys could in fact review the entire project. Is that accurate?
ALBANESE: Well it’s not my area of responsibility, of course, so I’m not on top of these issues. That’s the truth. But I think it is fair to say that we have to be bipartisan on this issue. We recognise that this is a very important project for South Australia in particular, but also for the national interest, and I would hope that we would work these things through. And I would hope that what would occur would be any questions that Labor has over these issues should be raised with Christopher directly and worked through. Because we don’t want this to be the subject of any argy-bargy.
HOST: Absolutely, good on you. Anthony Albanese. Christopher Pyne. Two Tribes, done it again.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.