Subjects: Asylum seekers, Tonsley line, Adelaide’s tram network, Q&A
HOST: It is a war of sorts; it’s a bit more serious than that – it’s a federal election campaign that is going on of course at the moment. So each and every Two Tribes comes with added extra importance, and certainly some added niggle. There is always some news about the place, and certainly here in South Australia at the moment; it’s like Christmas time. Anthony Albanese, good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day.
PRESENTER: And Christopher Pyne, good morning.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning gentlemen, nice to be with you again.
HOST: Thanks for joining us guys. We’ll kick off with you, if we can, Albo. There are reports this morning that there are now 21 Labor MPs who have either spoken out, or attended rallies protesting against the offshore processing –
ALBANESE: Now hang on, that’s a very broad statement there, or –
HOST: What do you mean ‘or’?
ALBANESE: Well, you are attempting to put 21 people into one category.
HOST: It is a fact that there are 21 Labor candidates running at the election who have expressed their concerns through a range of different means about Bill Shorten’s support for offshore processing. The question to you is; is this veneer of unity on that question starting to crumble?
ALBANESE: No, it’s not at all. The fact is we have a process of determining our policy. We did that at the national conference. And I’ll put this question you, David, and Christopher: are you concerned about what has happened in terms of the fellow who burnt himself and subsequently died? Everyone in the Parliament is surely concerned about these issues. They are not easy. But the fact is that we have to stop the people smuggling trade from beginning again and that’s the Party’s position. That doesn’t mean you need to be weak on humanity.
HOST: But there is a difference between having moral qualms about a complex issue and actively advocating a different policy from the one which Bill Shorten, with a degree of controversy, embraced at the last ALP National Conference and is now taking to the election. Because voters would look at this and think, ‘Hang on, they say they support Shorten now, but if Labor gets in is there a chance that there is going to be another stink and we’ll end up with a Kevin Rudd type scenario where you wind back on offshore processing’?
ALBANESE: No, and as you know we put in place in government the policy that we took to the 2007 election, and we will put in place our policy that we are taking to this election. Including doubling the refugee intake, including having genuine regional solutions, including increasing funding for the UNHCR to $450 million which will make us the fifth largest donor in the world. Including making sure there is proper oversight of what goes on in our name; whether that be in offshore and onshore detention centres. I notice in the 21, you probably include myself there; I notice today in one of the papers that was the case. I was Deputy Prime Minister when these issues were introduced and we did the deal with Papua New Guinea. Of course, that was for a short-term arrangement and we didn’t envisage indefinite detention and the Government itself acknowledges that you can’t just detain people forever. They need to provide a solution and a third country of settlement for those people.
HOST: Whilst on the issue of immigration policy, the Greens have flagged the idea to boost the refugee intake to 50,000. The Immigration Minister was asked about it on Sky News by Paul Murray, Christopher Pyne, and I would just like to get you to respond to these comments:
PETER DUTTON: For many people, they won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English, and this is a difficulty because the Greens are very close to the CFMEU as obviously the Labor Party is, and their affiliations with the Union movement are well known. These people will be taking Australian jobs.
HOST: They won’t be literate or numerate and they will take our jobs. Are those sentiments that you share, Christopher Pyne?
PYNE: The answer to do with asylum seekers around the world is not to simply keep doubling our intake of refugees.
HOST: I asked whether you agreed with Peter Dutton’s comments.
PYNE: I’m answering the question. We already have the second most generous program to take refugees in the world, but obviously there are very complex issues when you take a large number of refugees from war-torn countries; they need to have a proper settlement process which often involves English language learning and teaching in literacy and numeracy, and resettlement in cultural understanding. You can’t just bring people to Australia from refugee camps around the world and expect them to suddenly be instantaneously part of the society. You need to put them through a proper process where they can become full Australian citizens eventually and know exactly how our community and our society work. That is what he is saying.
HOST: That’s a much more diplomatically way of saying it. Do you think that the rhetoric he used was a bit brutal and do you think that he may have perhaps turned up the volume because it is election time?
PYNE: No, I don’t think that’s what he was doing. I think he was trying to say that obviously we can’t just keep doubling the refugee intake. It’s a very expensive program, very expensive. There needs to be a proper resettlement of refugees when they come to Australia. Australia does this really well and I am sure Anthony would agree that on a bipartisan basis that we do the resettlement of refugees very well. But the issues that are dogging the Labor Party at this election are not about the resettlement of refugees, they are about the fact that a large number of people in the Labor Party support onshore, rather than offshore, processing, and would restart the people smugglers’ business. That is what happened under the Rudd Government, despite the protest in 2007 that that would not happen; and we had 800 boat arrivals and fifty 50,000 unauthorised arrivals. We have closed 16, I think, of Labor’s detention centres because we actually have a successful policy. Tanya Plibersek confused us all again yesterday when she said that she and the 21 support the Labor Party’s policy and not the Liberal Party’s policy. Bill Shorten says the policies are the same.
HOST: Christopher Pyne, can we turn our attention for a moment to transport infrastructure and a couple of rival promises we have had here in South Australia? On your side there was a promise to extend the Tonsley line. In just the last 24 hours we have had Federal Labor commit $500 million to extending Adelaide’s tram network. Was theirs a policy that gazumped your earlier announcement?
PYNE: Not at all. The truth is that we have real policies. We have put half a billion dollars into the North-South corridor and almost a billion dollars into the Northern Connector. We are going to finish the Tonsley Line down to Flinders University. And of course I have delivered $90 billion of naval shipbuilding to South Australia, which is bigger than Roxby Downs in terms of the impact on our economy. This tram announcement, as Anthony knows, is a $3 billion program. Labor said they will put $500 million into it, on the never-never, it hasn’t been to Infrastructure Australia –
ALBANESE: It has. It is on the list –
PYNE: There is no business plan, and the South Australian Government has to come up with $2.5 billion.
PRESENTER: Is that a fair criticism, Albo? Is there a bit too much wishful thinking with this project, given the funding shortfall?
ALBANESE: No, he is talking absolute nonsense. The fact is it is on the Infrastructure Australia priority list. He should have a look. Page four, if you look at the list, it is there. I spoke about this on your very program, as you know, just a few weeks ago. It was in Bill Shorten’s Budget reply. The $500 million is in the forward estimates and is available right now in the Budget over the next four years.
PYNE: Where is the other $2.5 million?
ALBANESE: It is to kick-start the project. It will create jobs; it will help the steel industry in South Australia. The main infrastructure is already there: it is called the corridors. This is, in terms of cost-benefit, a no-brainer. We know that the Glenelg extension has been extremely successful, and this will kick-start the project. And what they announced last week on Tonsley, we promised. We had money for Tonsley in the 2013 Budget. They ripped it out in 2014 and in 2016 they put money back and say it is a new idea. Have a look at the 2013 Budget, it is there. There is nothing new about this announcement.
PYNE: Anthony, if I believed everything you said I’d believe you started the pyramids.
ALBANESE: The one thing that they did do that wasn’t in our Budget announcements is the Northern Connector. Everything else, all the North-South Road program, is money that we put in when construction began when we were in Government.
HOST: I am going to have to leave it there guys. I understand that both of you are on Q&A on Monday night and you’ve got the whole show to yourselves, which could be a difficult hour for Tony Jones to stay on top of that. But good luck with that.
ALBANESE: They might need to get you two blokes in to help Tony.
HOST: Not after what we have said about Q&A over the last twelve months. I think we’re banned from going on.
ALBANESE: I think after Monday night it is possible that it will become the Albo and Pyne show. Every Monday night for an hour it will be us.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.