Subjects: Marriage equality; Royal Commission into nuclear energy, GST debate; need to invest in South Australian infrastructure projects
PRESENTER: Well, they are two of the most experienced political operators in Australia from either side of the ideological divide, and they are going to be slugging it out here on FiveAA breakfast at 8.30 every Wednesday.
PRESENTER: I’m looking forward to this, David.
PRESENTER: Absolutely. It’s going to be a lot of fun. The Member for Sturt and Industry Minister Chris Pyne and the Shadow Infrastructure and Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, good morning to you both and thank you so much for joining us here on FiveAA breakfast.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Dave, good morning Will, and good morning Anthony. Thanks for having us.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day Penbo, g’day Will, g’day Christopher.
PRESENTER: Guys, you’ve got a bit of form with this over the years. You’ve done stints on the Today Show. You do a bit of stuff on Sydney radio, so the format is always plenty of fun so you can get stuck into each other as much as you want.
PYNE: We might get stuck into you instead!
PRESENTER: Hang on. That’s not how this is meant to be.
ALBANESE: We’re in different cities here, so I’m on Christopher’s home turf. We do Ben Fordham in Sydney on – this afternoon, in fact.
PRESENTER: Who generally wins that one?
ALBANESE: My home field.
PRESENTER: Well, it’s good that you’re playing an away game for each other, Albo.
ALBANESE: Ben Fordham usually wins.
PRESENTER: Guys, we wanted to kick off with the issue of same sex marriage. It’s quietened down over the past couple of weeks but the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop breathed new life into it yesterday when she made these comments.
[AUDIO] JULIE BISHOP: I think the Australian people should have their say. I have absolutely no concerns about it myself but I know that there are a lot of people who are deeply concerned about the issue.
That’s why I think a plebiscite where the Australian people get to have a vote on it, on an issue as fundamental as this that goes to the composition of our community, the way we treat each other, how we feel about each other.
I think that’s an important issue for a plebiscite and that’s why I support it and look forward to the Australian people having their say.
PRESENTER: We’ll start with you, Chris. Do you think that Malcolm Turnbull, who is obviously a supporter of same sex marriage, has been true to himself by sticking with the process which Tony Abbott laid out?
PYNE: Well, the party room had a many hour debate about the process and while I was on the side of people who believe we should have a free vote in the Parliament, the view that was overwhelming was that we should put it to the people. The only poll published on that shows that 70% of the public like that idea.
They want to have a say on an issue which is going to be quite important to our society and so what’s wrong with giving the public a say? I want everyone to have a free vote, whether it’s me or Anthony or you and Will or the general public, and then once the decision is made, the Parliament will implement whatever that decision is.
PRESENTER: What about you, Albo? You’re from Labor’s left which has long championed this cause. What do you think of the plebiscite process? Are you worried, particularly if you have an equally funded yes and no campaign, that it might flush out some sort of ugly hostilities toward gay people?
ALBANESE: I’m not worried about it. I know that it will happen. Anyone who has a look at the sort of content of the emails that we receive knows that an equally funded yes and no campaign will unfortunately bring out some of the more bigoted elements.
You can of course have different positions on marriage equality, and still have respect for individuals but for some people out there, that’s not the case. We’ve seen homosexuality linked to bestiality, for example and quite hurtful comments.
I am concerned that this idea of a plebiscite is essentially a cop out by the Liberal Party room. If you ask people, do you want a plebiscite on the GST, I’m going to war, do you want a plebiscite, on paying taxes, of course people will say yes.
PYNE: I think the Irish managed it very well. I have great faith in the Australian public to be able to have this debate in a sensible way. Almost every election is conducted in a sensible way. There are always funny elements on all sides of debate and having faced eight elections, and I think Anthony’s faced seven, we see plenty of extreme views. But that doesn’t mean that the great majority of the Australian public can’t have a proper debate, and if the Irish can manage it, I don’t see why we can’t.
ALBANESE: We have a system in Australia whereby parliamentarians are elected to make decisions. We know what the overwhelming of the public think about this and the truth is if this change was made, for the overwhelming majority of Australians it would make absolutely no difference to their life.
PRESENTER: Do you worry, I’ll switch it back to Chris Pyne, if I can Albo, do you worry that as we saw with the republican referendum back in 1999, I mean you’re a republican, you support gay marriage, do you think that it’s easy to run the negative campaign against it saying, oh, we’re going to have to go and vote on this, it’s going to cost so much money, a lot of that negativity will feed into it and harm the yes vote?
PYNE: I think there was a vast difference between the republic debate and this debate. I think a lot of Australians who are very sensible thought that there was no need to change our constitutional model, because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
That worked very well with the Australian public. I think with this debate, the overwhelming view is that it’s time to change, that in my case, I think there are so many children now of same sex households that they deserve some legal stability around the households in which they live. I think the world has changed dramatically.
When my 86 year old mother is saying “let them in, why wouldn’t we want them to be part of what we have? We value marriage, if they want to value marriage why would we exclude them”, I think that’s a very big change in society and I don’t think that this will be conducted in a negative way. I think it will be seen as a big positive for Australia.
PRESENTER: Speaking of another large and sometimes emotion fuelled debate, nuclear power and engaging in the nuclear fuel cycle has been a discussion that has been enabled largely in part thanks to Premier Jay Weatherill, a member of Labor’s left faction here in South Australia’s Royal Commission into the nuclear fuel cycle.
We had the Prime Minister in the studio last week who said that after chatting with Brett the cook he’s largely supportive of the concept and there’s some value in engaging in it. Is it time for the Labor left faction federally, Anthony Albanese to engage in that debate as well?
ALBANESE: I have a very firm view on this, and it’s been a consistent view, which is that when someone can show me that there’s a solution to the issue of nuclear waste then I’m prepared to have a further discussion about any involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle. But whilst that remains an outstanding issue, I don’t think it can be just wished away. That’s my concern. It’s one I’ve held for a long period of time.
I respect the fact that Jay Weatherill, as is his right, as the Premier of South Australia is having this inquiry, but hopefully that’s one of the things it’ll look at, because those issues haven’t been resolved, certainly to my satisfaction, and I don’t think to anyone else’s either. It’s a case of putting off what the problems are in the nuclear fuel cycle for someone else to deal with.
PYNE: There are countries around the world which have managed to solve the issue of the storage of nuclear waste, so I think that is a bit of an old fashioned argument. I certainly welcome the Royal Commission in South Australia being conducted by Kevin Scarce. You couldn’t accuse Kevin Scarce of being a Labor or a Liberal lackey, so he will come up with fair and reasonable findings on all of these issues and I agree with Anthony…
PRESENTER: I thought you previously said, Chris Pyne, that it was just a distraction from the Repat and the Modbury Hospitals closing?
PYNE: Well, it might have been at that particular time, but when it hands down its findings hopefully…
ALBANESE: Don’t look for consistency from Christopher.
PYNE: ..sooner rather than later. Well, you’re so consistent that you’re still arguing about things to do with nuclear waste that people were talking about in the seventies.
ALBANESE: Mate, there are ships floating around the world with waste on them that don’t land. There is an ongoing issue, Christopher, with nuclear waste.
PYNE: You just don’t want to fall out with your left supporters, that’s all that’s about.
ALBANESE: Not at all.
PYNE: Well, I’m looking forward to the Royal Commission’s findings and if Kevin Scarce can convince the Australian public through his Royal Commission that we should go down the track of investing in a nuclear industry, well I’m interested in having a look at it. I’m not convinced but I’m happy to look at it.
PRESENTER: Hey, we want to switch now to the GST. Christopher, are we going to see you walking around Burnside Village with a ‘vote for me and I’ll put the GST up to 15%’ placard?
PYNE: I’d love to be able to go and campaign at Burnside Village but the proprietors of Burnside Village don’t want any people like me hanging around, handing out my leaflets.
ALBANESE: If you took that principle, you’d never go anywhere, Christopher!
PYNE: That’s right. I think I should just gate crash Burnside Village and hand out my leaflets.
PENBERHTY: “Man arrested at Burnside Village.”
PYNE: I go all across my electorate handing out leaflets and talking to voters, but Burnside Village won’t have me. It is a real problem.
ALBANESE: You’re not welcome in my electorate, either, mate.
PYNE: I am so. They love me in Grayndler. They love me.
PRESENTER: It’s a hard sell though, isn’t it?
PYNE: Look, we haven’t made any decisions about changing the GST. Obviously Jay Weatherill thinks it’s a good idea to increase the GST and hand over the money to the states for education and health.
ALBANESE: You’re the government. It’s not his decision.
PYNE: Well, it’s a state tax. There are other Premiers like Mike Baird in favour of increasing the GST and handing it to the states and also changing the tax mix. Look, I think we are mature enough as a country to have a debate about it, to have a discussion about it, but the Government is far from making a decision about it.
What the Treasurer is working on at the moment, of course is making sure we can live within our means and there will be a midyear economic forecast handed down at the end of this year, so we will see more then in terms of how we’re going fixing Labor’s mess.
PRESENTER: Hey Albo, we’ve got almost one in ten South Australians out of work. Why would the Labor Party be trying to demonise business and talk about, we’re going to go after the big end of town and companies and do something by jacking up company taxes, it’s going to make it less likely that businesses are going to hire.
ALBANESE: We’re not doing that at all.
PRESENTER: That seemed to be what Bill Shorten was archly hinting at over the weekend.
ALBANESE: Absolute nonsense. I was with Bill Shorten on Saturday at a public forum and what we were talking about was indeed the creation of jobs, about education, about health.
One of the things that they could do in South Australia to create jobs today is restore the funding for the Gawler line electrification that I put in the Budget when I was the Infrastructure Minister. Get on with that project which would create jobs today.
PYNE: If I was Bill Shorten, I wouldn’t be standing on a railway platform with Anthony Albanese.
PRESENTER: Well, he was the rank and file choice to lead the ALP.
PYNE: He was the people’s choice. There’s no doubt about that.
PRESENTER: Who knows, maybe this segment will be the springboard for a renewed tilt at the top job. Anyway, we’ll regroup next week. Albo, thank you to you and also to you, Chris Pyne, we will catch up with you every Wednesday and it’s great having you as part of our breakfast team at FiveAA.
PYNE: Thanks for having us.
ALBANESE: Talk to you next week.
PRESENTER: Cheers guys.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.