Subjects: Donald Trump; defence; 457 visas, nuclear waste facility.
HOST: Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese join us. Good morning to you both.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning gentlemen. Good to be with you. Thanks for accommodating my time change.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning and that’s yet another favour that Christopher owes all three of us.
PYNE: If we could possibly get our tongues into gear this morning.
ALBANESE: It’s a bit earlier.
HOST: It is a bit earlier – half an hour earlier. You’re not a morning person, Albo?
ALBANESE: Very much a night person. My Italian genes shine through there.
HOST: That’s right, dinner at nine.
ALBANESE: I have been known to see your good self, David, late at night.
HOST: Yes that has happened a couple of times as it has also with Christopher over the years too.
ALBANESE: But what goes on tour ..
HOST: Stays on tour, right. That’s getting into dangerous territory. Let’s get to the issues. Now Chris one of the things you are going to be doing today is addressing a subs conference in Canberra today. It seems like that has suddenly taked on new importance given comments attributed to Rudy Giuliani in the US overnight – front page of The Australian this morning. He’s expected to be the Secretary of State under the Trump presidency. He has talked about a massive increase in the size of the US military and it’s increasing its navy capacity too. It means that nation would have the scope to fight what they call a two ocean war. Do you welcome this apparent commitment to the Pacific, or do you fear that a build up like this might be destabilising?
PYNE: It’s very much in Australia’s interests that the United States has a very deep engagement in Asia. So the comments coming out the new administration that indicate that they will not be taking their eye off our part of the world are very welcome, whether that is economic or military or in any other soft diplomacy ways, we want the United States to be able deeply engaged in the Asia Pacific region and so those comments are good signs from Australia’s point of view that we’re not going to see an isolationist America in the future.
HOST: What’s Labor’s assessment of this Albo? I saw Paul Keating last week on the 730 report – obviously like a lot of people on the broad Left no fan of Donald Trump – and he was saying that he thinks the Trump presidency could be used as an argument for Australia to perhaps, not back away from ANZUS, but to, you know, temper the relationship; make it less slavish, our relationship with the yanks and start going our own way with more sort of joint partnerships like the one Mr Keating pulled off with President Suharto.
ALBANESE: Well I think certainly the future of Australian foreign engagement has to be three pronged – the alliance with the United States, but also very importantly engagement in our Asian region as well as engagement through multi-lateral forums like the United Nations. Under the Keating Government in particular there was a pivot to Asia. I must say that that’s been largely continued in a bipartisan way in terms of the engagement. I noticed the first country that Malcolm Turnbull visited as Prime Minister was Indonesia and that’s a good thing. We are a part of Asia but it is also good if the US is engaged in our region. But I think at this stage there is a bit – I understand it; we are all sort of trying to reinterpret what US policy will be – but I think it’s a wee bit early yet. President-elect Trump gets sworn in in January and I think in between now and then there will be people trying to work out what exactly it means and I suspect that we won’t know until sometime into his presidency given his lack of experience in terms of an administration.
HOST: There’s been a lot of talk in the last week about the implications of the Trump presidency and the fact that political parties now have a real challenge across the Western world to bring the people who feel like things like free trade agreements that the world has sort of passed them by; that the opportunities they keep hearing about haven’t manifested themselves in their neighbourhoods and so forth. Here’s a question for both of you, and Chris I will put it to Albo first because Labor has led the charge on this one area, but I want to give you the chance to respond. Labor’s position, Albo, on 457 visas – foreign workers coming into Australia – that looks very much to me like an attempt to try to capitalise or mollify the sort of Trump-style sentiment that exists among blue-collar workers in Australia.
ALBANESE: Well it is consistent with the position that we have held for a very long time. We have spoken I am sure about the coastal shipping issue, and that is the best example in my portfolio, whereby Australian seafarers used to take a vessel – the Portland – from Portland in Victoria across to Western Australia and back again and they were replaced as a result of the Government granting a temporary licence so-called for something that’s a permanent task. So they were replaced by foreign workers being paid foreign wages and that is completely unacceptable. We do have in the legislation there an Australia first policy, if you like, whereby if an Australian-manned ship is available then it has to be used. But that legislation was ignored and that’s a major campaign that we have taken up over the last 18 months with regard to the maritime sector in particular.
HOST: What do you think of the criticisms that have emerged this week Chris Pyne? Do you think that the 457 arrangements need to be tightened up or do you sense that there’s a bit of – it’s more about politics than policy?
PYNE: Well David, Labor are very much Johnny come lately to the tightening up of the 457 visas class. In fact it’s this Government under Tony Abbott and now Malcolm Turnbull that have been tightening up the 457 visas, requiring local labour market testing to be done, reducing the number of days you can stay after your visa expires and your job is finished so that you can’t compete for another job, And in fact when Bill Shorten was the Minister for Employment, that’s when 457 visas spiked in spite of the ANZ job vacancies measure remaining static. Under Bill Shorten 457 visas rose to 60,000 – 60,000 457 visas when he was the Minister for Employment. So we have seen Bill Shorten trying to wear Donald Trump’s clothes on this particular subject but in fact of course Labor don’t want to support all of Donald Trump’s policies because they were the people that allowed 50,000 unauthorised arrivals in Australia. Donald Trump wants to take a very firm grip on his borders, as has the Abbott and Turnbull Government in the last three years.
HOST: Albo, just before we let you guys go can I ask you about a South Australian political issue? Is it time do you think for Jay Weatherill to drop his push for a nuclear waste facility in this state given opposition within his own party and now on the other side of politics.
ALBANESE: That of course is a decision for him. But it is clear that there is substantial opposition to such a proposal. My understanding is that he has proposed having a vote. I don’t know that that will be any different from the panel-type system that he set up to assess public opinion and certainly, unless there was complete bipartisanship on a proposal such as that, I can’t see it being adopted.
HOST: Do you think most Federal Labor figures would be against it Albo?
ALBANESE: I’m not sure how much they have thought about it. I think they would probably bring their own views to it.
HOST: You’ve got the Greens breathing down your neck though in your seat in Marrickville there in the trendy Inner West of Sydney. You’d be less than thrilled wouldn’t you? ALBANESE: No, they are way back, David. You should follow the news, mate.
HOST: I know you beat them. But they haven’t exactly gone away.
ALBANESE: They came third. I beat the Greens and the Libs combined. A decision on this should not be based on politics. It should be based on principle and that is what the South Australia Government should do.
HOST: What do you think Chris? Are you surprised that your friend and in a way one of your acolytes, Steven Marshall, has come out so implacably against an idea that a lot of Liberals think has got merit?
PYNE: Well I am not surprised that he has done that because when you delve down deeply into the issue, the so-called benefits seem to be quite inflated when this was first raised. What surprised me is that Jay Weatherill is running such a chaotic government that we now have poor Kevin Scarce – the former governor – being used to do a report and putting a great deal of effort into producing a very considered report which Jay Weatherill then puts to a citizens’ jury, who didn’t even hear evidence from ANSTO or ARPANSA – the national organisations that deal with nuclear issues in this country and yet heard from the Australia Institute and then obviously, inevitably, rejected the idea of an international waste dump in northern South Australia when Jay Wetherill seems to have set it up to fail and now is talking about a referendum. So I’m scratching my head as I am sure a lot of South Australians are about what purpose the South Australian Government is. It seems to be lurching from one fiasco to another.
HOST: Based on our interview with him yesterday Kevin Scarce isn’t that thrilled with any of them at the moment. But look, we’ll leave it there.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.