Subjects: Trade, Newspoll, Adani.
HOST: Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese join us each and every week at this time for Two Tribes. Good morning gentlemen.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning gentlemen.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning from Sydney.
PYNE: Oh, you are at home.
HOST: I am thank goodness. It’s very nice to have a few days at home.
PYNE: You’ve been spreading your Marxist ideology all over Australia.
HOST: You have had your Weet-Bix this morning haven’t you?
PYNE: I have had Weet-Bix this morning. You are right.
ALBANESE: A certain Senator got in trouble last week for calling someone a Nazi.
PYNE: You wear Marxist like a badge of honour.
ALBANESE: Oh poor Christopher. You are coming up to your 25th anniversary …
PYNE: I am. It is very exciting.
ALBANESE: And maybe, you know, you are a bit past it.
HOST: Gentlemen, maybe on this morning, given what is going on around the world, the fighting words should be saved for US President Donald Trump. The decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports is going to have ramifications for Australian industry. Christopher Pyne, as a long-time ally of the United States, do we deserve better?
PYNE: Well the truth is that we are a long way from a world trade war despite all the breathless reporting by the media in the United States and elsewhere. We aren’t on the brink of a world trade war. Free trade, open markets – that’s one of the things that has made the Western world as well off as we are. We don’t want to go back to things like causes of the Great Depression in the 1920s and early 1930s.
HOST: So you are not worried at all?
PYNE: I think it will be sorted out over time. We will see exactly what these statements mean down the track. But the Minister for Trade Steven Ciobo, Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull have all spoken to their counterparts in the United States, including Malcolm Turnbull speaking to Donald Trump when he was there a couple of weeks ago about free trade. We in the Coalition of course have delivered free trade agreements with Japan, South Korea and China.
HOST: It sounds like you still expect there to be some sort of exemption for Australia.
PYNE: I didn’t say that there would be an exemption. I said let’s wait and see what it actually means.
HOST: Well Anthony Albanese, in the absence of an exemption, what should the Australian Government do? What can it do?
ALBANESE: Well I am much more worried about this than Christopher appears to be. The fact is that Australia is a good friend of the United States. There was an agreement reached between the President and our Prime Minister that Australia would be exempt. That commitment was given and it appears to have been breached. I think sometimes we all have a bit of a chuckle over President Trump’s tweets and what appears to be sort of fairly erratic policy calls, but the implications of this are dire for the global economy. It was Bob Hawke and Paul Keating who set up the more than two decades now of continuous growth that we have had here in Australia by essentially opening up the Australian economy way back in the 1980s.
HOST: Can we do anything about it now? Would you guys be doing anything about it?
ALBANESE: Well, we should be doing something about it. We should be quite strident I think towards the United States about the commitments that were given because of the consequences not just obviously for places like Whyalla in South Australia, but the consequences for the entire global economy of entering into a trade war, and sometimes statements by the President of the United States matter a lot. It’s not just simply throwaway lines. They can result in someone then responding and then you have quite dire consequences. It is extraordinary.
PYNE: You are talking about the steel industry. Of course, it is because of the current Government that we will be using Australian steel to build 21 Pacific patrol boats, 12 offshore patrol boats.
ALBANESE: He managed to work it back to that. We are talking about the whole globe here Christopher.
PYNE: You want chaos and we want as a Government to get on with good government.
ALBANESE: Oh, don’t be stupid Christopher.
PYNE: We are a long way from an international trade war.
ALBANESE: For your mob, you’ve had Michaelia Cash, the Barnaby Joyce fiasco, ongoing saga – it’s like an episode of a Mexican soap opera this Government.
PYNE: A world trade war would be as bad for the United States as it is for any other country.
HOST: Hey, I am jumping in guys. Sorry, I am jumping in. Chris Pyne, a question for you. On Monday, we saw the 28th consecutive poor Newspoll for the Turnbull Government and indeed for Malcolm Turnbull himself. Tony Abbott said in the wake of that it would be up for Malcolm Turnbull to explain if he reaches the magical 30 mark why he deserves to keep his job. Is the clock now officially ticking on Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership?
PYNE: Well David, let’s be very clear here. Tony Abbott didn’t lose the leadership of the Liberal Party because he was behind in 30 Newspolls. He lost the leadership of the Liberal Party because he lost the support of the party room in exactly the same way as in 2009 he replaced Malcolm Turnbull as Leader of the Liberal Party because he got the numbers in the party room by one vote.
HOST: So did Malcolm Turnbull make an error then in citing it as a reason?
PYNE: I think Malcolm Turnbull himself has said that he regrets making that statement because there were a lot more significant reasons why the leadership changed in 2015 than 30 Newspolls. Thirty Newspolls was a symptom, but the truth is that Malcolm Turnbull has the support of the party room in a way that Tony Abbott didn’t have, so there is absolutely no clock ticking on anyone. This is a reality of politics – it’s arithmetic. In the same way that Anthony and I have won eight and nine elections because we got more votes than our opponents in our seats, in the Liberal Party room Malcolm Turnbull has more votes than Tony Abbott. Right now if there was a leadership ballot Malcolm Turnbull would be overwhelmingly re-elected. So it was not because of the Newspolls, it was because people in the party room lost confidence in Tony Abbott two years ago in a way that they haven’t in Malcolm Turnbull.
HOST: Albo, has Labor been coming up with strategies as to how you would combat a Liberal Government led not by Malcolm Turnbull but perhaps by, say, Julie Bishop?
ALBANESE: Well what we have been doing a little bit is what I suspect you and your listeners have been doing – sitting back having some popcorn watching the show on the other side. It has been a diabolical period for the Government in the last few weeks. We’ll take on whoever the Leader of the Liberal Party and therefore the Prime Minister of the day is. I’ve had three Cabinet Ministers for Infrastructure to shadow in the last three months. This is a soap opera and I think that Australians are pretty tired of this Government that seems to be obsessed about itself rather than about the needs of the country.
HOST: Before we let you both go just one final question to you Albo is it possible to get a yes or no answer to the question – does Labor support the Adani mine?
ALBANESE: Well that of course is the wrong question, because what we have in this country …
HOST: Have you got another one you would like me to ask you?
ALBANESE: Well what we have in this country is a system whereby we have approvals through the EPBC Act. This is a private sector project. It is not a government project. Does Labor support government subsidy of the Adani project? No.
PYNE: Bill Shorten says he is going to rip up the process and just oppose it because of the Batman by-election. Do you support that?
ALBANESE: The question of the private sector – a private sector company engaged in activity, whether it be the milk bar down the road, is subject to certain approvals. The Adani project is subject to certain approvals.
PYNE: So you don’t agree with tearing up the licence process and just trying to win the Batman by-election like your Leader does?
ALBANESE: I support the proper processes as does the Leader, Bill Shorten.
PYNE: No he doesn’t. He said he wants to can it.
ALBANESE: Yes he does support the proper processes. It has …
PYNE: And that is why your colleagues are saying he has lost the plot.
HOST: All right we will try again for a clearer yes or no at some point down the track. Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese interviewing each other a little bit at the end. Maybe Chris wants to, now that he is possibly approaching the autumn of his career, he wants to get a job in radio.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.