Subjects; Bennelong by-election, marriage equality.
HOST: Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese join us, good morning gentlemen.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Will.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning from Melbourne.
HOST: Now guys, bombshell news yesterday that the former premier of New South Wales Kristina Keneally will be Labor’s candidate in John Howard’s old seat of Bennelong at the upcoming by-election caused by the dramas over John Alexander’s citizenship. Kicking off with you if we can Chris, would you describe Mrs Keneally as a political asset or a liability?
PYNE: Well she is certainly a celebrity candidate and we have seen a lot of celebrity candidates come and go in politics over the last couple of decades. She has a profile; there is no doubt about that. But she comes with very significant baggage and she is not John Alexander. John Alexander is doing a great job as the Member for Bennelong. He is very well liked. He won that seat from another celebrity candidate Maxine McKew and he has turned it into a 9.5 per cent Liberal seat. So he works the electorate very hard, particularly the ethnic communities there and he is well liked, whereas Kristina Keneally seems to be having a flight of fancy. She is obviously bored in the media. Goodness knows how she could get bored in the media and she is obviously looking for exciting opportunities. Well that is not what Bennelong should be used for. We’ve got a good local member and he should be re-elected.
HOST: Albo, you have spent much of your working life at war with Kristina Keneally’s former faction as the most senior member of the NSW Left faction. You have railed against the influence of the likes of Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi for decades. What does it say about her judgement that she threw in her lot with that crowd?
ALBANESE: Well Kristina Keneally is, I think, a very good human being and she certainly dissociated herself and gave important evidence against them before the Independent Commission Against Corruption. There has been no suggestion ever of anything other than her being absolutely above board at all times.
HOST: Didn’t she sort of owe her political existence to them?
ALBANESE: Well Kristina Keneally is her own person and one of the things I think that will reflect very badly on the Government is if they run this line that she is somehow this weak woman who owes everything to a bunch of blokes. She will teach them the hard way. She certainly is her own person. She showed I think incredible fortitude in the lead-up to the 2011 election. She was the Premier. My wife, to declare an interest, was the Deputy Premier at the time – Carmel Tebbutt – and they campaigned right up to election day knowing full well that there was no prospect of success at the end of that after 16 years in office. But Kristina, I think, always engages well with people. She showed yesterday her class yet again in the media conference where her candidacy was announced and I think she is a formidable candidate and what we are really seeing here is that the Labor Party is saying we are going to have a crack. The easy thing for us to do was to say “Oh well John Alexander is high profile, he’s re-running for the seat. There will be a lot of sympathy for him given the circumstances of his resignation because his father who came here more than 100 years ago had given him British citizenship.” But we are not doing that because Kristina and Labor want to see the end of this Government and it can’t come too soon.
HOST: We are about 45 minutes away from having the result of the same-sex marriage postal survey revealed and in the event that Yes does get up, which appears to be the likely outcome, all attention turns to the legislation governing same-sex marriage. Chris Pyne, are you a supporter of the Dean Smith bill or the Patterson bill that is conservative backed?
PYNE: Well the Dean Smith bill has already been through a committee process. It has cross-party support across Liberal, Labor, Greens, cross-benchers and the Senate is sitting so my understanding is if there is a Yes vote Dean Smith’s Bill will be introduced later today formally. The Second Reading debate will begin tomorrow in the Senate and basically go until it is finished while the Senate is sitting and then by the end of the week of the 27th of November they will just keep sitting open-ended until it is done, assuming there is a Yes vote in the plebiscite. And of course James Patterson and anybody else in the Senate, it’s open to them to move any amendments that they want. What emerges from the Senate is then a Private Member’s Bill which has probably been amended or not as the case may be, depending what the Senate decides. It comes down to the House of Representatives where we get a report and then we begin debating that report from the Senate. That is the process.
HOST: Do you believe the ultimate piece of legislation, the one that comes back to the Lower House, will be one that features any of the sorts of religious protections that appear in the Patterson Bill?
PYNE: Well I haven’t studied James Patterson’s Bill closely. I have read the Dean Smith Bill and I am quite comfortable with the religious protections that it embodies because it means that churches and religious civil celebrants and churches with function centres or buildings will not be required to marry same-sex couples and neither should they be required to do so. But I don’t support allowing businesses to refuse service to gay couples. I’d ask people who think that is a good idea to cross out the word gay and insert black or Jew and see how they would go with that.
HOST: Albo, to you then, are you as confident that the Bill, should the Yes vote ultimately get up in about 45 minutes’ time, are you as confident that the passage of the Dean Smith will be as smooth as Christopher Pyne has outlined?
ALBANESE: I think that he has outlined it very eloquently as the second-best Leader of the House there’s been in recent times. Look, I reckon that the ongoing attempts, and I don’t cast aspersions on Senator Patterson’s bill or motives because I haven’t seen it, but for goodness sake, people are sick of this debate. We’ve had the vote of the Australian people. We’ll know at 10 o’clock what it is. If it is a Yes vote, let’s just get it done and stop the blocking tactics. We’ve spent $122 million of taxpayers money to find out what we already knew, which is that Australians do support marriage equality. When Yes gets up today at 10 o’clock there won’t be more gay people. There won’t be more lesbian people. It will be exactly the same as it was at 9.59. People want this to happen. There are strong protections in the Dean Smith bill. They have been through a process, as Christopher said, a Senate process, submissions. I think the sooner this gets done, and you know what, next year we won’t be talking about this because it won’t have any impact on the overwhelming majority of your listeners. It just means that there will be a little bit more activity, in terms of economic activity. It will be good for the economy. It will be good for tourism and people can just express their lifelong commitment to each other in front of their family and friends and won’t that be a good thing.
HOST: To quickly wrap things up guys, you’ve got almost 50 years of parliamentary experience between you and you have seen plenty of elections, federal and state, and also referendum questions come and go. Your quick tip – what is the result going to be? You go first Chris.
PYNE: I think it will be a Yes vote and I think it will be 60 per cent plus.
ALBANESE: Yes 61.
HOST: No worries. You heard it here. Gamble responsibly.
PYNE: We’ve got to stop agreeing. Stop agreeing with me all the time.
HOST: You guys are on a unity ticket on this one. That’s why we get Cory Bernardi on from time to time in the interests of fairness.
ALBANESE: That wouldn’t be Two Tribes. That would be called barking dogs or something.
HOST: Christopher Pyne, Anthony Albanese for Two Tribes.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.