Subjects: Greens Political Party; negativity in political debate; Finkel report.
PRESENTER: Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese, good morning to the both of you.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning gentlemen.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Greetings from Armidale.
PRESENTER: Armidale, New England? You must be cold up there Albo?
ALBANESE: It is a bit chilly, let me tell you.
PRESENTER: It’s the coldest part of Australia. It’s unbelievable up there. Gentlemen can we start with the whole Greens fiasco and ask the same question to the both of you and it is two-barrelled. The first question being if they are disqualified, and they have been disqualified – they’ve been made to resign from their positions in the Senate – should they repay the money that they have been paid by the taxpayer? And the other part is does this law still make any sense in a country that is proudly multicultural like we are here in Australia? Chris Pyne, you are in the Government, you can go first.
PYNE: Well the Constitution is pretty specific, Will, and the bottom line is whether it is New Zealand, Canada, Bangladesh, India or any other country in the world, if you are a citizen of another country you cannot be a Senator or Member of Parliament. It’s very, very specific in the Constitution and what is incredibly remarkable is that two out of nine of the Greens Senators, so almost a quarter of them, couldn’t have organised their citizenship properly. I mean, it’s hardly a secret that’s the Constitution – and by the way this has happened before over the years in decades gone past, so everybody knows in this building – you must get your citizenship sorted out.
PRESENTER: Should the repay what they have been paid?
PYNE: Well there is a process for that. There is an administrative process that people go through and I’m sure that that will be looked at in the same way as it has been looked at with Senator Bob Day and the very briefly Senator Rod Culleton. But that is Scott Ryan’s portfolio, not mine, so I will leave that up to him.
PRESENTER: What do you think Albo?
ALBANESE: I think that it’s hardly an onerous duty to ensure that you are a citizen of Australia and nowhere else and I find it remarkable frankly. When you nominate for preselection in the Labor Party certainly you have to provide your birth certificate and if that’s the birth certificate of another country, then you have to provide your proof that you have renounced your citizenship of that country. That‘s just sort of Politics 101 and it is amazing that these two people have been pretty careless about it and they have paid a price.
PYNE: There’s obviously some pretty serious ructions going on in the Greens because we have had this big issue with Lee Rhiannon, the NSW Greens Senator, who has been under the pump within the Greens and I am wondering whether these revelations about Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters are all payback, not necessarily from Lee Rhiannon of course – I wouldn’t make that allegation, I don’t know – but payback within the Greens for the fight that is going on.
ALBANESE: Well Lee Rhiannon could be the leader by the end of the week the way it is going.
PYNE: Lee could be leader. You might end up the Leader of the Greens. That might be the only party you end up leading.
PRESENTER: Finally we might see the Senate ushering in a five-year Stalinist plan.
PYNE: A great leap forward.
ALBANESE: I think that Lee Rhiannon’s leadership of the NSW Greens – long may it be maintained. I’ve always found my local Greens candidates to be great assets when I am seeking re-election.
PRESENTER: Hey Albo, I want to ask the next question to you and it is about the fact that you are in Armidale up there in the beautiful northern tablelands of NSW. You gave a speech last night – because I know how to party I read it yesterday at home – you gave a speech at the University of New England where you talked about, you lamented the fact that the major parties in Australia have developed a habit of using negativity to win elections. I want to ask you two questions. Firstly was this a leadership speech? And secondly, is it a bit rich to lament negativity when we do hear so much of it in the course of any given day? Even in terms of the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday of the new Home Office structure, you know, Labor was trying to spin that as being some sort of factional deal organised by the PM. Is it a little bit hypocritical given that negativity seems to be the order the day?
ALBANESE: Part of what the speech was of course was lamenting the idea that a debate about policies inevitably gets drawn back into a debate about personalities. I think that part of the problem is the 24-hour media cycle and giving the Earle Page lecture here at the University of New England was an opportunity to give a serious speech that frankly quite often, you know, in an era whereby politics is run with 140 characters, you are not able to get into that serious discussion. So it was an attempt – I hope people do have a read of the speech; it certainly wasn’t a partisan political speech – it was an attempt to put forward some thoughtful ideas.
PRESENTER: It was quite self-critical I thought because the big passage in there where you talk about the idea which Labor pretty much invented seven or eight years ago – seven years ago – about knocking off sitting prime ministers has been one of the worst things to have happened in politics in the modern era.
ALBANESE: Well it was and we suffered for it. That was a mistake which I think helped to contribute to the negative nature of politics and I was certainly critical of Tony Abbott, but I also think that him being knocked off has led to the instability that is there in the Coalition Government at the moment that is damaging policy outcomes because of that internal focus that is there. I mean, one of things that I spoke about as well of course is that Labor has learned the lessons and is putting forward ideas. I gave as an example the fact that we were brave enough to put forward the reform of negative gearing and capital gains tax on housing affordability. Bill Shorten deserves credit for that.
PRESENTER: You’ve obviously got a country to run Chris Pyne, but have you had a chance to catch up with some of the points that Albo made last night in his speech?
PYNE: Well David, I’m looking forward to reading it but it is very clearly a staking out of leadership ground by Anthony Albanese.
ALBANESE: It indeed is a critique of that sort of nonsense.
PYNE: Now you had a very good run Anthony, you had a good run. I didn’t interrupt you once while you laid out your manifesto for leadership. What we very clearly have seen, because Bill Shorten is a full-on negative politician, that’s his model, his model is to be against everything the Government raises. Sometimes he pretends that he is going to support it, but he never does. We had the Mediscare campaign in the last election, which was a base lie. And what Anthony is doing, which I think is very sensible, is laying out a different agenda for the Labor Party and saying if you want to do something different to what Bill Shorten is doing, which is this constant negativity and attacking the Government and never being able to find anything good in what the Government does, here’s an agenda that I am laying out. And I think it will be very popular with the public and with the Labor Party which of course is why he was the people’s choice of the Labor Party grassroots in the leadership ballot.
PRESENTER: I think you will like the speech too Chris because as someone who copped it a few weeks ago for a few off-the-cuff remarks, everything being seen through the prism of factionalism is something that Albo tries to skewer a bit.
PYNE: Well I look forward to reading it.
ALBANESE: Someone has got to back you up Christopher.
PYNE: I am going to read it, study it and do a critique on it.
PRESENTER: We’ll look forward to that next week. You can report next Wednesday morning.
ALBANESE: I also used in the speech, I mean the Finkel report is an example of an opportunity that is there whereby Labor has been constructive. Let’s get on and implement the review on energy policy, provide that investment certainty that is necessary.
PRESENTER: Good stuff. Chris Pyne, Anthony Albanese.