Subjects: Nick Xenophon, arms exports, Australia Day.
HOST: Welcome back to Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese. Good morning guys.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning, nice to be back.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Greetings from Perth.
HOST: Good to have you both back fellows. Happy New Year. We look forward to another …
ALBANESE: It’s a bit early from Perth.
HOST: I was going to say Albo, you just should be just getting home.
PYNE: Exactly. He’s just getting home from clubbing and being DJ Albo. We all know that. He has got his wooden beads around his neck, rainbow colours.
HOST: Try not to bite into your yeeros if you can while we are chatting Albo.
PYNE: … hessian bag.
ALBANESE: You people are just projecting on your own behaviour.
HOST: Chris has had a few late nights in his time I reckon.
PYNE: Goodness gracious no. I am home in bed by 10pm every night. That is always my rule, as you would remember from university Dave.
HOST: Absolutely Chris. Before we get into Federal matters I want to start by just discussing the pretty remarkable situation here in South Australia right now and beginning with you if I can Chris, almost asking you to set aside what you do for a day job. Can you believe the figures Nick Xenophon is getting in the polls?
PYNE: Well, I don’t believe them and I will tell you why. We polled in Sturt. I will let your listeners into a little secret. We polled in Sturt three times before the last federal election and every one of them showed me losing to the Nick Xenophon candidate. By election day the Nick Xenophon candidate came third with 21 percent. Labor got about 22 per cent and I got about 45 per cent primary vote. Now, if we responded to all the polls, published polls, party polls, you know, we would not be doing our job which is to be sensible, considered, methodical parties putting together policies for government. And the difference between Liberals and Labor is that we are parties of government and the Xenophon phenomenon is simply a protest movement. And it’s a revolutionary movement and, as we both know, revolutions don’t usually finish very well. Nick Xenophon has never had executive power of any kind. He simply amends other people’s work and if he was to have the balance of power or, even worse, to govern the state, there would be an investment drought in South Australia. There would be a jobs drought. We would fall even further behind Tasmania as we did in the recent ladder of states’ economic success. It’s the last thing South Australia needs right now, with all of the challenges that we face, is an unstable, untested team running the state that has never had executive government and we know how the Xenophon story ends because we have seen John Darley and Ann Bressington, who are the people he worked with before in the State Parliament. Neither of those could work in his team because he is not a team player. He’s bagging his candidates.
HOST: We are going to jump over to you shortly Albo, but just quickly Chris, can I just flesh out what you just said about those polls that you did in Sturt? Do you think that the polls were right in the first instance but that something changed in the voters’ minds during the course of the campaign where you or the Liberal Party more broadly managed to convince people in Sturt: “Hang on a minute, think this through. You are going to be voting for a government, not just letting off a bit of steam come polling day?’’
PYNE: I think that by the time people put their number in a box they think about the party, their policies, the personalities who they know and who have high profile. They look at the candidates. They recognise that Liberal and Labor have policies for Government, whether they agree with them all or not. They familiarise themselves with the candidates and by the time we got to vote in Sturt I think a lot of people think well, we know what we are going to get with the Liberal Government, we know what we are going to get with Christopher Pyne, we have seen him before. The Xenophon vote is a leap into the dark. It all sounds very well to a pollster on the end of a telephone, but when you actually have to decide on the future of the your country or your state, it needs to be decided on policy and who you think is capable of putting the team together to govern in a ministry.
HOST: I think it says a bit that the tenor of that, Christopher, is that you are warning about forming executive government, warning not just about voting for your local SA Best candidate, and it is an opportunity to ask you Albo, given what is happening in South Australia where we’ve got now the SA Best party running 24 candidates. They could legitimately, feasibly, form government in their own right. In every seat where there has been polling made public lately, they have been ahead. People have tied what is happening In South Australia to Brexit, Trump and other anti-establishment votes. Is there a warning for the rest of the country in what is happening in South Australia?
ALBANESE: I think there is a warning to the major parties who have to heed the fact that many people are parking their vote, I think, is what people are doing with Nick Xenophon’s team in South Australia. I think Christopher is quite right that when you have the scrutiny that happens during an election campaign, people will realise that they can vote for Jay Weatherill’s team and the Labor Government, they can vote for public transport, particularly expansion of the light rail network in terms of infrastructure, or the Liberals who I am not sure what they stand for. Nick Xenophon though, I’m not even sure whether independent teams like that hang together.
I think if you look around the country at what has happened to Clive Palmer’s team in the Federal Parliament. Pauline Hanson’s team has fallen apart. Within six months they have lost everyone in their team except for Pauline herself has gone, has changed and that happened very quickly and I think they will have second thoughts about actually voting for people who, when a pollster rings up they say, yes, I will go for the other people, I will go for the new shiny thing over there. But governments do make a difference. State governments make a difference to health, to education, to public transport. All of those things do matter and I think that they will go back towards the major parties.
But there’s no doubt that there is a lesson there for all of us that one of the things I think that they are concerned about is the negativity in politics and I think both sides have been guilty of at different levels of government, of constantly reading from the talking points if you like – bag Labor or bag Liberal – and one of the things that Christopher and I try to do in this show, and other forums that we do is not …
PYNE: And all of the other shows that we have now.
ALBANESE: We have expanded. We are in Perth now.
HOST: You are becoming a media empire you two. You are like the Disney empire.
PYNE: We have become a chain.
HOST: A media juggernaut.
ALBANESE: On one of your sister stations, 6PR.
HOST: When you are with us you don’t talk about the other shows
HOST: You’ve been seeing other broadcasters!
ALBANESE: We are loyal to you. When we are talking to you I assure you that we can say hand on heart that when we are talking to you, that you are our favourite.
HOST: It’s very sincere Albo. Thank you.
HOST: Hey Christopher. This defence stuff – turning Australia, hopefully for South Australia’s perspective speaking wholly out of self-interest, turning us into a big player in the arms race, what are the sort of ethics surrounding this because there has been quite a lot of discussion about the morality of us going down this path? What do you think of that as a sort of small L Liberal, a humanist Liberal.
PYNE: Well we are spending $200 billion over the next 10 years on the largest military capability build-up in our nation’s history. As you know we are trying to spend as much of that here in our domestic economy in order to grow advanced manufacturing and skilled technology jobs. The next logical step of course is to turn that into exports, to seek other markets to get through the troughs of domestic demand and our first markets are obviously countries like the US, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea – the countries who are normally our friends and Allies; the European nations. So that is where our markets are most prospective.
We have a very stringent export permit regime in place so we can’t simply sell arms to anybody around the world. We wouldn’t want to. We want to, however, have our friends and allies being the most capable military forces in the world. We buy their kit and we want them to buy our kit. It’s good for jobs, it’s good for growth and we obviously wouldn’t be selling arms to anybody who would be in a position that could ever use them against us or against our friends. And of course military exports aren’t just remote weapons systems or Bushmaster protected vehicles. They are also things like remote health platforms that we could sell to almost anyone because they are trying to and help people who have been wounded and casualties in battle. So we would have real capability in that as well.
HOST: Albo what do you make of the Government’s stated ambition to catapult Australia to among the top ten arms dealers in the world?
ALBANESE: I wouldn’t be prepared to give a blank cheque. You would have to look at what sort of things in the defence industry we were talking about exporting. But the examples that Christopher just gave, for example the Bushmaster, which is an extraordinary vehicle that has saved a lot of Australian lives. There is no reason why we wouldn’t want to be also saving lives of Americans or Brits or our Allies in area of conflict where we are side by side with them. That creates jobs, in that case in regional Victoria, that are very important and the other example that Christopher used there as well is a very good one in terms of remote health platforms. We have to be concerned about jobs and there’s no doubt that one of the benefits of a defence industry is there is a spinoff of innovation as well.
HOST: Before we wrap up I just wanted to ask you finally Anthony what kind of feedback have you had in the past 72 to hours to your proposal for twin plebiscites?
ALBANESE: It’s been really positive including here in the West. I was at a function last night and people I think found it refreshing that an idea was being put forward deliberately as not a party political thing, but to try and cut through, if you like, the debate that can be quite divisive about Australia Day. I read Penbo’s piece about Mexico and it came from a similar perspective of how do we, you know, reconcile with the past but also move forward on a national day and of course it recognised, as Christopher has reminded me, the colony of NSW rather than South Australia has a different date.
HOST: We have no riff raff here mate.
ALBANESE: Good old free settlers. And doesn’t it show with the dignified way in which you gentlemen conduct yourselves?
HOST: Absolutely. Raising the standards. Absolutely.
PYNE: We’ve got no former Labor ministers in jail here. That’s for sure.
HOST: Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese, great to have you back. Happy New Year and we’ll do it all again next week.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.