Subjects: Manchester, Labor Party
HOST: Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese join us on the line right now and there is really one story that is dominating the news cycle of course at the moment. It emanates out of Manchester of course and we’ve spent much of the program reflecting on how our nation’s politicians as has the United Kingdom’s on those developments. Upgrades to terror levels, changes to things like bag checks at ANZ Stadium for the Liverpool – Sydney FC game today, and more.
Let’s get into all that now with Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese. Good morning to you both.
CHRIS PYNE: Good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning gents.
HOST: We’ll start with you if we can Chris; I’ve just been reading a bit in the London Sun, we’re getting more of a picture of the bomber in this atrocity. He’s a 22 year old man, Salman Abedi, his parents were refugees from Libya, came out to the UK to escape Colonel Gadaffi. He was just a run of the mill uni student, didn’t finish his degree, but then he dropped out, fell in with a bad crowd, became radicalised.
Now there’s a significant number of young men in Australia who could potentially fit into that same category, you know. Guys who, for whatever reason, end up with a chip on their shoulder. How confident can we be as a society that the sort of deradicalisation programs that we’ve got in place are working, or do we still need to do more.
PYNE: Well David nobody can ever say that there is no possibility that an attack like that at the Manchester Arena can’t happen in their society or their country. What we do in Australia, and we do it very well is we put a lot of effort into interdicting these kinds of attacks before they even get started. And our defence forces, our security forces, our police, have done so on numerous occasions over the last few years, and that’s sad that they’ve had to do so, but they have done so.
And there have been of course attacks of this kind, not obviously as serious as this dreadful incident in Manchester, but there have been these kinds of incidents in Australia. We’re going to get the coroner’s report today, in fact, on the Lindt Cafe siege and that is one of the examples of where we didn’t successfully interdict a problematic person in our society. But you don’t hear about all the times when our defence forces and our security forces do stop these kinds of attacks in their tracks before they get started, and we don’t really want to worry the public about these potential attacks. And we do it on a regular basis.
We do it by collecting a great deal of information, by having close relationships with those kinds of, as you describe them, the bad crowds. We try and find as much information about those as possible, and we do a very good job of it, but we wouldn’t want to be complacent about it. What the Manchester Arena attack tells us is that somebody with that kind of intention can bring about an attack.
The particularly awful aspect of this, of course, is that even bag checks would not have prevented this attack, because the suicide bomber blew himself up after the concert when people were leaving, at the merchandise store on the way into the Arena, when people were coming out, as opposed to being inside the concert. It’s a particularly evil attack targeting young teens. I think that has particularly touched everyone around the world.
HOST: To you, Albo, do you think that we need to have a broader conversation about the manner which our sort of, small ‘l’ liberal values can be used against us by people who have no intention of ever subscribing to them. I know that as one example, I know that you in the past have been very critical of the organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir which is still a legal organisation in Australia, but often sounds like nothing other than blatant apologists for groups like al-Qaeda and Islamic State. Do you think that we need to muscle up a bit more in terms of the levels of tolerance, uncritical tolerance that we extend?
ALBANESE: Well I certainly think we need to call out groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir. They are apologists for the Islamic State and for actions such as this, I think that bring home to people the sheer horror of the mentality. I mean it’s almost beyond comprehension how someone could plan to detonate a bomb, kill themselves but take young girls, in particular, out with them. In this case at least one eight year old girl has been murdered.
We need to be very clear about our language, be clear about those people who would seek to do us harm and I’m confident though that the authorities are very competent in this country. I’ve sat in the National Security Committee of the Australian Government as well and we do have agencies that do their best to keep us safe. Now, can you guarantee that an individual can’t do something like this? Of course no government can do that but what we can do is work together as a nation, which we do.
I mean these issues aren’t partisan. These are issues where all of us in leadership positions need to do everything we can. A government’s first responsibility, and Parliament’s first responsibility is to keep our citizens safe. And I have confidence in the Government doing that, and in the agencies that do such remarkable work. Really, the number of, you might recall, just a few years ago the attempted plot on the MCG that was foiled; there are a number of others that we never hear about, as Christopher said, that are foiled because the agencies are ever vigilant. Now one of the things that we also do, is that when there is a tragedy, as there was in Martin Place with the siege, we have proper transparent investigations and learn from these incidents, and we need to continue to do that.
HOST: We’ve spent a bit of today talking about our response and people’s responses to what took place yesterday, here in Australia. I’m interested to get an insight about you two personally, about when something like that happens yesterday there is a feeling of generally disenfranchisement or sort of helplessness amongst the general public.
It’s why we get hashtags and people angrily ringing into talkback radio and things like that because people feel like they can’t influence, they’re a victim of what goes on. You guys come on every week because we want to speak to two of the most influential politicians in this country. When you turn up at work the day after something like this taking place, do you have a desire or do you feel like you want to turn up and do something about it? Do you feel like something needs to change? Do you feel like you have to play a role influencing the dialogue, the debate, the language that gets used? Or is it your role to go about business as usual?
PYNE: Well I can go first if you like. There are three things that leap to mind to me. The first is that I immediately think how lucky we are in this country that security issues are bipartisan, that the Labor Party and the Liberal Party and the National Party are as one on the protection of our citizens and how to go about doing that. Sometimes there are nuances, but by and large we work together, because it’s the most important thing that any government can do, and no one tries to play politics with it.
The second thing I think about is to make sure our agencies, our security forces have all the powers that they need, because that’s of course where the Parliament comes into play; not only do we fund of course the agencies through the Budget, and both political parties do that, but we also have to give them the powers that they need to be able to protect our citizens.
And the third thing I think about is how to engage more with those communities where we need to be aware of the kinds of people who might carry out such an attack in Australia. I’m not one of those people who thinks we should demonise particular communities for a cheap headline. I think we should engage with those communities as much as possible, because I can tell you for a fact that is where most of our information comes from.
ALBANESE: Yes, look the first thing that I think that it does, and I’m sure this is the case for everyone regardless of what they do for a living or where they are at a particular time, it does create perspective.
We in this place have our arguments over issues. Something like this happens and at the beginning of Question Time, both the Prime Minister and Bill Shorten made outstanding contributions, and it really put some of the argy bargy that goes on into proper perspective, and that is important.
The second thing that I think of, I always, I must say, think of my responsibilities, not so much now because I’m the Shadow Minister, but as the Minister for Transport, I’ll always think about immediately, did we do everything that we could? We did full body scan. It was very controversial potentially; we had the harshest regime in the world. We have a no scan no fly policy that was supported by the Opposition in a bipartisan way when we were in Government. We did that in response to the undie bomber when that happened over Christmas of that year. We respond when there’s an issue, we respond, and we respond in a bipartisan way, that’s a good thing.
But the third thing, as much as you feel inevitably down, I don’t think anyone can feel anything but depressed by what’s happened, is that I was uplifted when I saw a photo on social media of the amazing gathering of what looked like hundreds and thousands of people in the main square of Manchester, basically saying we won’t be defeated, we won’t be scared. We’re going to celebrate life and our civilised society, and come together regardless of ethnicity, religion, class, gender, we’re together as one, as Mancunians. And I just think that was incredibly uplifting and I think at times like this it shows that terrorism doesn’t win. People don’t go into their shell, that’s what they want, and people getting out there into the streets, in a public place, just saying, it was an act of defiance and a magnificent scene.
HOST: We made the point earlier guys that 15 years after 88 Australians were among the 202 people who perished in the Bali bombings; there are now record numbers of Australians going to Bali for their holidays and for different reasons. So the fact that life goes on is the ultimate middle finger to the ISIS set.
Hey look just before we let you go, and just quickly Albo, and taking your point about perspective in the scheme of things and everything we’ve just discussed, I don’t want this to sound frivolous but there is a piece in the SMH today, other people have written about the Labor leadership focusing on your comments about the Budget and also the 457 visa ad. Is anything going on, do you have any designs on Bill Shorten’s job?
ALBANESE: Look I’m just doing my job and I think I’m doing a good job of holding the Government to account. I want to be a Minister in the next Labor Government, that’s my focus. And on the ad, I called it as I’ve saw it; I think that one of the reasons why you have Christopher and myself on your program is that we don’t talk in pollie-speak, and I think that’s a good thing. I think people are over people giving words that are managed to every single issue. And it is a pity; that’s one of the reasons why politicians speak off the script that they’re given from on high is that whenever you actually say what you think, people try and read other things into it.
HOST: So nothing’s going on?
PYNE: But if the opportunity presented itself you would take it of course.
ALBANESE: I’m just doing my job.
PYNE: You wouldn’t knock the crown back.
ALBANESE: I’m just doing my job and we’re on 53 per cent of the vote.
PYNE: I think I know the answer to that question.
HOST: Thank you guys appreciate your time this morning, thanks Chris, thanks Albo.