Subjects: Terrorism, ASIO, Margaret Court.
HOST: We wanted to kick things off with this situation with the head of ASIO and this left-field question that he got from Pauline Hanson about whether there is a link between our refugee intake and the existence of terrorism here in Australia. Probably the best example of that actually having occurred is Man Haron Monis, but having said that there are thousands and thousands of other refugees who are, as we speak, you know, getting their kids to school, going about their business. What is your take on this story Chris?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I think it is a significant beat-up. What Duncan Lewis has said, and I think it is very sensible, is that a person is not made a terrorist because they are a refugee. So saying that people who come to Australia were refugees represent some kind of risk to our community is obviously false. What he said is that what makes a person a terrorist is being part of an extremist Islamic cult that infects that person to the point where they think that being a terrorist is a good choice. Now that has happened in Australia and that is very unfortunate obviously, especially for those people who have been killed in the process. But to say that a person who is a refugee represents a threat to Australia is false and he has called it out for what it is.
HOST: Do we need to box smarter though? Say there were calls to take in 500 people from a place like Aleppo, which has been the ISIS stronghold in Syria, you would need to sit down and go well hang on a minute, there is a chance that some of these people might be massive undesirables.
PYNE: Well that’s exactly what we do. We’ve just taken in 12,000 Syrians into Australia who have been very, very tightly vetted for a long period of time and we are very confident that we have done as good a job as anybody could have possibly done to ensure that those people are going to be contributors, positive contributors, to Australian society. So we don’t just take the first person who turns up at the customs gate in Damascus and says they want to come to Australia.
HOST: What do you think of this whole discussion Albo? Is it hard to maintain a sort of compassion argument when you look at all the terrible things that are happening around the world and you do get this understandable sense from the public that we should be massively risk averse?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I agree with, on this occasion, with every single word that Christopher just said. And when you spoke about having to box smart, that is exactly why the head of ASIO should give the answer that he did, based upon fact rather than based upon emotion. And his analysis about how people are radicalised – in particular he has identified online radicalisation – is appropriate. It is important that we have a sober analysis of this. That’s what our security agencies do and they are doing in my view a fantastic job of maximising the possibility – of course you can’t ever say 100 per cent – but maximising the possibility that we are kept safe. And this is a bipartisan issue and it is quite unusual really that the ASIO Director General is making public comments, but in this case it is entirely appropriate because he is above politics and is able to just say it like it is.
HOST: Speaking of saying it like it is, Margaret Court has come under fire in recent days for her comments regarding same-sex marriage. She is clearly an opponent of the movement, doesn’t see the merit in it. It has led to two questions and I will give you both an opportunity to answer these. One is with regard to her legacy and the naming of Margaret Court Arena of course at the Australian Open after her and whether that should change because her political view is undesirable. And the other is how this whole element of this debate reflects on the capacity for Australia to have a full and frank discussion about a social issue as sensitive as this. Chris Pyne, I will let you go first.
PYNE: Well, I think Margaret Court is entitled to her opinion. I don’t think people are too concerned whether Margaret Court flies Qantas or not quite frankly. But I think she is entitled to have her view. I don’t agree with her view. I am in favour of marriage equality. I certainly don’t think that there should even be a question about the Margaret Court Arena being renamed. Of course it shouldn’t be. And most people who say things like that have really got to examine their own conscience because we live in a free democracy where people are allowed to express their opinion. And then to vilify those people flies completely in the face of everything that we stand for as a democracy. So I certainly don’t support questioning the name of the arena and I strongly support Margaret Court’s right to say what she said. I don’t have to agree with it and of course we can have a sensible debate about these matters in Australia. Quite frankly we should have a plebiscite and get on with it. That’s what the Government offered. Labor’s blocked it and that’s the reason we haven’t got marriage equality and that’s, I think, a great shame. We could have had it by February.
HOST: What about you Albo? What do you make of it?
ALBANESE: Well Margaret Court won’t be flying any time soon because both Qantas and Virgin both support marriage equality – Virgin very publicly many years ago through their leader, I guess, through Richard Branson. So I think her comments are unfortunate – having a crack at the company for stating its view. But she’s entitled to do that. The idea that the Margaret Court Arena is named for anything other than her tennis capacity, of which she was a great player. She was a lot better player than she was a political interventionist and the idea that we’ll go back and look and see whether Sir Donald Bradman’s views equate with everyone’s too is ridiculous.
HOST: Bradman always supported the continuation of cricket in South Africa and a lot of people might retrospectively say oh well, maybe he should be retrospectively chipped for having done that.
ALBANESE: Absolutely. He had a range of views that I would have some difficulty with, but so what in terms of the naming of a stadium, or indeed a road after Sir Donald Bradman because of his cricketing capacity and I think people understand that. Margaret Court is Australia’s greatest ever grand slam winner and she won the Australian Open of course multiple times. People should be able to have their views without going a bit silly about it. But it seems to me that, contrary to what Chris said, because I don’t want to agree with him all morning, is this is another reason, just an example of the sort of debate that we would have if we had a plebiscite. And the idea that politicians aren’t elected to make decisions – we are. We should get on with it. Have the vote, get it off the agenda. Then people will wonder what the fuss was about. And that is one of the things that the business community are saying and frankly I don’t understand for the life of me why Malcolm Turnbull can’t bite the bullet. Have a conscience vote of the Parliament; it doesn’t have to be a binding one.
HOST: But he’d have to break a promise to do that wouldn’t he?
ALBANESE: No he wouldn’t because he has tried to get the plebiscite through. The plebiscite won’t happen now, it won’t happen next Parliament, it won’t happen any Parliament any time soon, regardless of who is in Government. It’s not happening. The way that marriage equality will happen is through a vote of the Parliament.
HOST: Is that your preferred position Chris, deep down? Chris Pyne just to wrap things up, deep down is that your preferred position?
PYNE: Well we have a policy to have a plebiscite and I support the plebiscite because I want to give every Australian the same say that I’ve got in whether we should have marriage equality or not and we don’t currently have a Coalition bill before the house to have marriage equality. But yesterday, by the way fellows, we had the next instalment of the Albolanche…
ALBANESE: Seriously. Seriously.
PYNE: You heard it here first. The avalanche of the Albanese campaign.
ALBANESE: It’s a bit early in the morning to be drinking Christopher.
PYNE: Now that’s a bit topical in Adelaide right now.
HOST: And that’s where we leave Two Tribes this morning. (Inaudible). Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese good on you both, we’ll do it again next week, always a lot of fun.