HOST: Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese, good morning to you both.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Will and good morning David and good morning Anthony.
ALBANESE: Good morning team.
HOST: We’ll start with you if we can Chris as the member of the Government of the day. Just to what Theresa May said, if you think about it in the context of terrible events in Melbourne in the last 36 hours, what are we doing? What can you as a member of our national government do to make sure that we no longer have this completely intolerable situation where someone who has A, been charged, albeit acquitted, with very serious terror charges, and subsequently has become an ice addict, a violent criminal roaming the streets attacking people at random, still evidence that he is radicalised, that he subscribes to radical Islam, ends up on parole. It just seems to be an utter failure at every single level.
PYNE: Well I agree in relation to this particular individual and the Victorian parole system that it has been an utter failure. For example the assailant in Melbourne, he got out on parole the day that he could have got out on parole. It was almost automatic. I know there is a process for parole and I am sure there is in Victoria as well. But he got out virtually automatically the day that his parole became available to him and I think that is a complete failure. The Prime Minister has said at the last COAG meeting – the Council of Australian Governments meeting – the Prime Minister said that he wanted the states and territories to review their parole laws. This Friday again the states and territories and the Commonwealth are meeting and I think the Prime Minister is going to take a very clear line that we need a nationally consistent approach to parole and the idea that violent criminals, and certainly criminals with terrorists convictions, would be able to access parole as seemingly as easily as this individual is clearly a failure of policy at the state level in Victoria. In terms of what we are doing nationally, I will give Anthony an opportunity to respond and then perhaps we could talk about that.
HOST: Albo to you, if you had to summarise what Theresa May said in that grab we just played it is almost like all bets are off, we need to just tear up the rule book, start afresh and, you know, to put things on the table that may have been unpalatable five years ago. How far is Labor prepared to go in having this conversation?
ALBANESE: Well look quite clearly Christopher is right that it was a policy failure with this individual in Melbourne just like it was a policy failure with Man Monis in Sydney. What we need to do is to examine, as we did with the Man Monis terrorist action in Sydney, have a proper examination of how that went so wrong including the fact that he was able to be in Martin Place at that time given his long, long history of violent actions towards people, including people he was close to. And clearly though we need to uphold the rule of law – I mean that is one of the things that distinguishes us from those who support Islamic terrorism and so I think we need to be sober in our reflection. It’s certainly understandable the climate that is there in London at the moment and it’s not surprising that you are having a debate as we will on an ongoing basis. We in Australia, I think, have benefitted from the fact that we have a bipartisan approach to these issues, that when legislation has been brought forward it has been examined in detail by Senate committees and by processes that are established. There are joint committees that have looked at it, made improvements and made sure that we’ve done all that we can to keep Australians safe. One of the advantages I think that we have in this country is that we do have at the national level very good security agencies.
HOST: Phil Coorey is writing this morning in the Fin Review Malcolm Turnbull wants the Federal Attorney General to have the final say in granting parole to prisoners who pose a terrorist risk. Now it has been reported on Sky News now Chris Pyne that George Brandis the AG is unveiling some parole changes today. Is that one of the powers that the Commonwealth is looking at implementing?
PYNE: Well David I wouldn’t want to pre-empt the Attorney General’s announcement, certainly in area as sensitive as terrorism. But I can tell you that Australia has the toughest laws in terms of terrorism of any country in the world and since the Turnbull Government was elected we’ve gone even further. We now have power to take away the citizenship of people convicted of terrorist offences who have dual citizenship. We now under Malcolm Turnbull have extended the capability of our military in Iraq and Syria to hit the terrorists who aren’t necessarily on the front line in whatever they are doing, whether they are in logistics, whether they are in information gathering, whatever they might be doing, sitting on their computers sending out messages to people, to kill these individuals. That is the Government’s policy and it is working and I must say Labor has supported us in these measures.
HOST: Can I move on to something more contentious and something where last week both of you were lock step with the head of ASIO about the nature of our refugee program and any links to terror events. Can I get both of your thoughts now, where do you stand in the conversation that a lot of our listeners I reckon want us to have? Say with a country like Somalia where Yacqub Khayre, the bloke in Melbourne originally came from, should we as a country have a conversation where we say perhaps for a while, or even in the medium term, it is simply too dangerous to take people from a failed and highly radicalised nation such as Somalia through our refugee program?
PYNE: Well David, I’d say two things to that; firstly I’d say being a refugee doesn’t mean you are a terrorist.
HOST: No of course not.
PYNE: And terrorists are radicalised extremists who have become terrorists and we’ve had in our country examples of that of people who are born in Australia with no background in particularly the country that you’ve mentioned. Secondly I’d say that having that conversation as you put it, it might satisfy the whims of certain people, but one of the most important things we can do to stop terror attacks in Australia, and it’s working, we have disrupted 12 terror attacks in the recent past and arrested 63 suspected terrorists, is the intelligence we gather from the communities from which these people come. Now if we push those people to the extremities of the debate and treat them all as the enemy we will not get that intelligence. So we have to be sensible and sophisticated about how we respond to these threats.
HOST: What’s your take on it Albo?
ALBANESE: Well Duncan Lewis, the head of ASIO, didn’t make those comments from a position of ignorance. He made those comments on the basis of evidence and fact. This individual in Melbourne came here as a child. The evidence here is that he was radicalised much later on and that seems to be the pattern of whether they be Australian born or people who’ve come here as children. They seem to be young men, some of whom are converts to Islam from an Anglo background, over there fighting in the Middle East with IS. What we know that they have in common is a commitment to a fundamentalist Islamic ideology that is extreme and supports actions to destroy our way of life and that they’ve been subject to hatred from particular preachers. And one of the things that ASIO is doing at the core of its charter to keep us safe is engaging within those communities to make sure that they can keep on top of these issues.
HOST: We’re out of time. Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese it’s a long conversation and one that’s going to continue, sadly for quite a long time.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.