Subjects: North Korea; marriage equality.
HOST: Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese are on the line. Good morning to you both.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
HOST: Thanks for your patience guys. Now we’re just going to cut to the chase and climb right into this North Korea story. Just reading from the piece that is up on the Australian it says a spokesman for the Korean People’s Army in a statement carried by the North’s state-run KCNA news agency said the strike plan on Guam would be, quote, put into practice in a multi-current and consecutive way at any moment once Leader Kim Jong Un makes a decision. This is a pretty dramatic escalation isn’t it Chris Pyne?
PYNE: Well David, firstly on a lighter note, congratulations on the birth of Charlie to you and Kate.
HOST: Thank you Chris.
PYNE: Welcome back today. But yes, we are living in very serious times and the dangers in North Asia, because of North Korea’s bellicose behaviour, are very serious for us. Obviously the United States have a pre-eminent role in protecting countries like Australia, Japan and South Korea, its other allies in the region and we and them are working together to put the necessary pressure on China to assist in ensuring that North Korea behaves itself and stays within its borders. We’ve heard this kind of bellicose language from what we used to call sabre-rattling from Kim Jong Un in the past and so far he has undertaken tests and not, of course, threatened either Guam, the United States, Australia or elsewhere. But we do have to take this very seriously and the Government here in Canberra is taking it very seriously and it puts into perspective many of the other debates that we’ve been having when of course the Australian public would expect the Government’s first priority to be their national security and their defence. And that’s why as Defence Industry Minister I’ve been working with Marise Payne, with the Government, to build up our defence capability to ensure that we can protect Australia from any threats.
HOST: The only possible non-violent way that this seems capable of being resolved is, as you sort of alluded to, if Beijing starts to put some pretty strong private pressure on Pyongyang to pull back, but are we being too alarmist in saying that in the absence of that the scenario looks particularly grim?
PYNE: Well you are correct to warn against alarmism. It would be wrong to sensationalise this threat. It’s not, of course, in the interests of China or Russia for North Korea to adopt a more threatening posture where they actually put into practice some of their language and one has to question the capacity of North Korea to actually match their rhetoric with actions, but also we wouldn’t want to be complacent and we’re not complacent. But it certainly isn’t in China’s interest for there to be an escalation of tensions in North Asia and so I do think that they will respond and have responded in the past to these kinds of serious situations. And Japan, South Korea, Australia, Singapore, the rest of South East Asia and America, of course, have a very keen interest in ensuring that that happens.
HOST: Albo, is your reading of the situation that Australia is prepared if there was to be a conflict that broke out in the Northern Asia region?
ALBANESE: I think we are. At the moment of course the intimidation, if you like, is directed towards the United States and their statement that the North Koreans have made went on to say that they would take such action if provoked by the United States so there’s a caveat even on their threats. Part of this no doubt is aimed at the domestic audience of Kim Jong Un. That is what dictators tend to do to distract from the fact that there are disastrous consequences domestically from the regime’s failure to even provide basic essentials for its population at the same time as it’s spending money on arms. So we do need to, I echo Christopher’s thoughts on this, we do need to be sober about it, but we do need to take it seriously as well; not be alarmist about it but to give it the consideration that it deserves and to work in diplomatic ways with China. We do have a relationship with China, we have relationships indirectly with countries that have a relationship with the North Korean regime and we should place whatever pressure we can on them to do the right thing to pull this very strange regime into line.
HOST: Just quickly Chris, we know you’re on a tight schedule, do you agree with Senator George Brandis’ comments last night that Australia could see same-sex marriage being legalised before Christmas?
PYNE: Yes I do. I very much hope the Senate will pass the Bill to have a compulsory attendance plebiscite this week, which would mean that we could have marriage equality by the end of the year, assuming we get a yes vote, and we shouldn’t just assume that will happen. People will need to campaign for it. And secondly, if that doesn’t happen, we will have a postal vote. The postal vote would be held before Christmas and we could in the last sitting fortnight of the year pass marriage equality again if there is a yes vote for the postal ballot. I will be campaigning for a yes vote as I am sure Anthony Albanese will be as well. But we wouldn’t want to underestimate the opponents of marriage equality. They will say anything and do anything to stop it happening and we have to ensure that people understand the facts – that this is simply about giving every Australian the same equal rights to be married as those of us who are of different sexes in marriages are entitled to today.
HOST: Chris we will let you go. We know you have got a meeting to go to. We just want to delve into what Labor’s role in all this is going to be from this point on. So thank you for your time.
PYNE: That’s a pleasure.
HOST: Thanks Chris. Anthony I am just interested, from the Labor side all the rhetoric about the potential postal vote or what would appear to be an inevitable postal vote to in part potentially resolve this issue has been this is effectively the worst idea ever, it’s not scientific, it’s not binding, it’s pointless, it’s a waste of money. But don’t you own part of ….
ALBANESE: It’s all of that.
HOST: Yes, Ok. But don’t you own part of that given that there is a still a ball that is in your court and the plebiscite whilst less than ideal from your perspective, has got to be a better option than a postal vote. So don’t you own the postal vote in part now if that is the path that we go down as a result of the legislation being defeated?
ALBANESE: Oh come on. This is a dumb and a dumber proposition when we could have a vote in the Parliament, do the job that we are elected to do and we are paid to do, this week. We’ve had the proposition put before the Senate for a plebiscite. It has failed. It will fail again. It’s the Government’s responsibility. People in the Government don’t even support it. Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t support it. Christopher Pyne doesn’t support it. They have been put in this position by Tony Abbott and his supporters who raised this for the first time just to try and delay what is inevitable. What I find extraordinary about this is that I think there’s very broad acceptance across the Parliament regardless of what way people vote on same-sex marriage, that this is going to happen. That’s the view. So if we have all of this convoluted scenario whereby the Government is putting up a position that, you know, they will have this vote in the Senate and if it fails they have a fall-back position they have already advanced. If it succeeds there’s be a vote if it fails then there won‘t be a vote …
HOST: Are you risking that predicted outcome to play smart politics on this because it is less scientific than a plebiscite.
ALBANESE: We are doing everything but playing politics with this. We are sticking to the fundamental principle of the way that our democracy works and the way that you change legislation is the way that John Howard changed it; is the way that the Marriage Act has been changed many times before, this hasn’t been a stagnant Act; which is by a vote of the Parliament. And you can have all these things before then but what you get back to is a vote of the Parliament. We know that’s where this is going to end. It will end that way one way or the other. And why should we be hostage to the dysfunction of the Coalition? And what is more important is that the people who are directly affected by it, that’s not that many people. Most people will have their existing relationships, marriages, continue on unaffected by this. The people who are directly affected tell us we do not want other people to sit in judgement about our relationships. And that is a principled position that is very important.
HOST: Good on you Albo. We will do it again next week. Thanks very much for that.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.