Subjects: Medical evacuation legislation.
HOST: And it’s a big good morning to Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese
PYNE: Good morning gentlemen.
ALBANESE: Good morning.
HOST: Now we know that things are at fever pitch politically in Canberra right now fellas, so we’ll try to get through this in the most intelligible and coherent way we possibly can. We’ll kick off with you Chris. Before we get to the actual policy content of the Medivac legislation, can I just ask you a question of constitutional principle? If the Parliament passes a law that the Government opposes, hasn’t the Government therefore lost the ability to govern?
PYNE: No, because the Government has to indicate that a vote is a matter of confidence. The other times that this has happened the Government indicated that if a certain vote was carried against their wishes they would regard that as a matter of confidence, and that’s not the case here. Obviously we’re very disappointed that the crossbenchers and Labor and the Greens have combined to weaken our border protection, which is what happened yesterday. But we are the best party to keep governing. That was put on complete display yesterday, because 300 to 400 men from Nauru will now come to Australia in the next fortnight because Labor and the Greens decided that they should be allowed to come to our country.
HOST: To you, Albo. The last two weeks on this program it’s been banks, banks, banks, banks – all the texts, all of the listeners’ comments have been around NAB and AMP. Today boats, boats, boats. Is that really what Labor wants to fight an election on?
ALBANESE: Well, look this legislation was before the Parliament. It of course arose out of a Private Member’s Bill. We judged it on its merits, that if there were people who needed medical assistance who were in our care, then we are a big enough country to be able to provide that and indeed to codify what the Government itself says is already happening with the 900 people, which is more than are on either Manus or Nauru, who’ve come to Australia to get healthcare, or the family members of people who’ve come to Australia to get healthcare. That’s all that this legislation has done. It doesn’t change any of the border protection measures that are in place and I think that you can be tough on people smugglers without being weak on humanity.
PYNE: That’s what Labor used to say when Kevin Rudd was the Prime Minister and when he was in Opposition. They said they’d turn back the boats, if you remember. They said that they’d do exactly the same as the Government and there’d be bipartisanship on border protection. When Kevin Rudd got elected we saw 50,000 people arrive after they dismantled John Howard’s border protection laws. What we’ve seen yesterday is, thank goodness, the Australian public have got an insight into what will happen under a Shorten Government.
HOST: How much actually changes though with this particular piece of legislation, Christopher Pyne, because as I understand it, in the issue where there’s a medical transfer and the minister rejects it, the decision can then be reviewed by a medical panel, right?
ALBANESE: Appointed by the Minister.
HOST: Right. The Minister then can still reject it on national security grounds or if the person has a criminal record, or poses a threat to the Australian community. That seems to be pretty broad discretion for the Minister, to still prevent anyone from arriving on Australian shores.
PYNE: There’s nobody on Nauru at the moment in detention. They are all members of the community and they’re all getting medical assistance. The Labor Party is spreading a complete lie that somehow the people on Nauru are not getting any medical treatment. It’s so bizarre that they would think the public would believe that. Everyone on Nauru is getting the medical attention they need right now. What the Labor Party has done is taken the power away from the Government to protect our borders because if the Minister makes such a decision it will be justiciable, in other words the advocates, the activists from the Greens and the Labor Party will be able to tie the Government up in the courts here in Australia for years into the future.
ALBANESE: Which is happening now. That’s no change, that’s just nonsense.
PYNE: And when we were last in government and we had to save Australia from Labor’s border protection laws it cost the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in legal fees that we had to pay to the activists to take their own government to court. If you remember rightly when Labor had 50,000 people arriving and 8000 children in detention by the way, that was costing the budget billions and billions of dollars which has now all been saved because we’ve closed 19 detention centres. There are no children in detention. There’ve been no arrivals in the last few years and that means the taxpayers of Australia are not paying for failed border protection policy that Labor now wants to entirely re-open. There’s nothing humane about people dying at sea.
ALBANESE: You’ve had a good crack Christopher. Just a couple of facts: one is, the most number of people who’ve applied for protection here in Australia was in the last year, on this Government’s watch. They happened to come by plane rather than by boat, but the record number is on this Government’s watch. Secondly, there are no changes whatsoever to any border protection measures. No-one who arrives who’s not already on Manus and Nauru and has been there for more than half a decade will be able to be affected by this legislation. The Government never said “What we’re going to do is to put people on Manus and Nauru and we’ll leave them there indefinitely and they’ll be there for more than half a decade”. And that has had a massive impact on these people, and we have responsibility and if there is a pull factor, then why is it that the Government’s 900 people, more than are on either Manus or Nauru, who are here now getting medical assistance, and their families, that is happening on this Government’s watch?
PYNE: This is amazing to me because apparently Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party know more about the security situation than ASIO, ASIS, the Australian Signals Directorate, the Australian Border Force, the Australian Defence Force. The advice from security agencies to us was that if this bill passes we will have to re-open Christmas Island Detention Centre.
PYNE: And Labor’s had that advice, and despite that advice, Labor wanted to make a political point.
ALBANESE: Complete nonsense.
PYNE: And so Anthony Albanese knows more about security than the security agencies who advised us that we’ll have to re-open Christmas Island and that will be underway, I assume, relatively soon.
ALBANESE: You have been humiliated Christopher, as Leader of the House, you’ve lost control of the Parliament for the first time since the 1920s when we talk about border protection there are no changes to border protection.
PYNE: Don’t try to change the subject.
HOST: Hey fellas, hey guys, sorry, I want to bring our listeners back into to this. Albo we got a text from a lady called Philippa earlier that I actually think puts this issue for your side of politics into its broader context. She talks about the fact we have a brand new hospital here in Adelaide but we still got problems with ramping. She talks about the fact we still have big waiting lists for elective surgery. What do you say to those Australians who go, “Hang on a minute, we can’t be guaranteed the medical services we need, yet we are going to be flying people into Australia who have arrived here unlawfully to look after their medical needs?”
ALBANESE: What I say to them is that is Government has brought 900 people either directly for medical assistance or their families here to Australia right now and they’re here, so what this does is codify existing practice. When it comes to healthcare Labor can be trusted to have proper healthcare and to put Medicare at the centre of our health system unlike the Government who basically don’t believe in a public health system.
PYNE: Well that’s more nonsense from you. It’s breathtaking quite frankly that Labor and the Greens would have combined to thumb their nose at Australian security agencies and put the ADF in the position again where we’re going to have to put platforms into Northern Australia to stop the people smugglers coming.
ALBANESE: The only people encouraging people smugglers are you.
PYNE: I don’t want my ADF personnel having to get dead bodies out of the sea again.
ALBANESE: Well, why are you encouraging them with this nonsense?
PYNE: You are the ones weakening the laws.
ALBANESE: I ask you this, what change is there for anyone who gets on a boat today or after this legislation is carried and before? Because the answer is zero. No change whatsoever.
HOST: Sorry guys, I knew this was going to happen. We’re going to wrap it up. Final question to you, Christopher Pyne, as the Leader of Government Business in the House, Derryn Hinch obviously is asking for this briefing about the national security implications of the medivac bill, but if the bill passes is the option of an early election, an immediate election, on the table?
PYNE: No, definitely not.
HOST: No worries, we’ll leave it there. Good on you, Christoper Pyne and Anthony Albanese. A rollicking Two Tribes as expected. Thanks fellas, we’ll do it again next week.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.