Subjects: Murray-Darling Basin; Peter Dutton
HOST: Two Tribes time. I think it has started early this morning, Anthony Albanese perhaps firing the first salvo via Twitter across the Chris Pyne bow over Twitter just a few moments ago. Anthony Albanese, good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
HOST: And Christopher Pyne, good morning.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning gentlemen. I didn’t see what Anthony was doing. I haven’t got as much time as he has on my hands.
HOST: You’ve got a country to run.
PYNE: I’ve got things to do.
ALBANESE: Well run it, mate. Defend the Murray.
HOST: Hey, we want to kick off with the Murray. Now Chris, I reckon we would have discussed this with you on the auspicious occasion when Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister and the Nats started trying to get their hands on the steering wheel as they always do under the Coalition Agreement. They said that they wanted the agricultural portfolio back. Now, it’s true isn’t it that a lot of South Australian Liberals at the time were worried about the implications that this could have for the Murray? Are we seeing those chickens now coming home to roost?
PYNE: No and let’s be absolutely clear. The Turnbull Government is 100 per cent committed to the Murray-Darling Basin plan, delivering it in full, on budget and on time. But the law requires the states and territories to show how they are going to do that without damaging the economy and the society of the Murray-Darling communities and that is all that Barnaby Joyce has asked the states to do. So Jay Weatherill is looking for a massive distraction from all the woes besetting his government and he has lighted on this.
HOST: So the extra 450 gigalitres that’s the centrepiece of this dispute, do you regard them as sort of almost being an optional extra that is somehow separate from the agreement itself?
PYNE: No, the 450 gigalitres are part of the Murray-Darling Basin plan. The first tranche is 2750 gigalitres. The next 450 are going to be hard to deliver for a host of reasons and that is why Barnaby, last Friday, went to the ministers meetings and asked them to explain how they are going to do that under the law and Ian Hunter absolutely lost the plot and demonstrated why he shouldn’t be the Minister for Water because he clearly doesn’t understand his responsibilities. They are not to wave his hands in the air and shout profanities at people at Rigoni’s. He actually has to come up with the solutions to the problem.
HOST: To you Albo, isn’t it the case that the real villains in this piece, as far as us South Australians are concerned, are actually the Victorian Labor Government because they are the ones who are arcing up the most about this release of this extra 450 gigalitres of water? And secondly what do you think of Ian Hunter’s conduct? Has he lost the ability to be a credible advocate for our state through his antics?
ALBANESE: Let’s be clear here. There’s one issue, which is that Barnaby Joyce has been given responsibility for water. The National Party didn’t have responsibility for water. There was a separation of water from agriculture under the Abbott Government and when Malcolm Turnbull took over he handed over control of the Murray to a National Party Minister from St George in Queensland – at the top, the place where Cubby Station is – and the member for New England he is standing up for irrigators rather than the people at the end of the Murray, which is of course the people of South Australia. This was an historic agreement in 2012. It was an agreement to get away from the argy bargy you know, day after day week, week after week, month after month, that essentially South Australia would always lose from because they are at the end of the system. Now I am a former Shadow Minister for Water. I backed in when Malcolm Turnbull took a position many years ago of principle on these issues. We had an agreement. Barnaby Joyce fought that agreement in 2012 and now he is undermining it.
HOST: What about Ian Hunter? What’s your assessment of him?
ALBANESE: All of the rest is a complete distraction.
HOST: It’s one of his own making though isn’t it?
ALBANESE: When all is said and done David, I will tell you what your kids will be talking about when theyare your age. They’ll be talking about whether there is water in the Murray, not about what happened at some ministerial council meeting.
PYNE: Well if a Liberal Minister had behaved that way the media would have hounded them out of office by now.
ALBANESE: Oh rubbish.
HOST: (Inaudible) I mean Tony Abbott copped weeks of ridicule and criticism and was called a misogynist for raising one eyebrow in an interview.
PYNE: For looking at his watch. He looked at his watch and he was accused of being a misogynist.
ALBANESE: Let’s get real here. Good attempt, Chris. Why don’t you just stand up for South Australia, stand up for Adelaide, stand up for the agreement that you said you supported in 2012.
HOST: Anthony Albanese, isn’t there a chance that the 2012 agreement wasn’t as wonderful as you suggest. If the 450 gigalitres is so important to the future of the Murray, you could drive a truck through the requirement that it needs to have mutual and approved social and economic impacts before it can be delivered. Barnaby Joyce or the Victorian Labor Government or some upstream interest was always going to claim that delivering that wasn’t going to be mutual or providing an improved benefit.
ALBANESE: Well that’s not right. There was a consensus and indeed a broad consensus across the political spectrum from everyone except for Barnaby Joyce and the Nats in NSW, Victoria and Queensland about these issues. This is too important to stuff up frankly because these arrangements and discussions – it was a product of many years of debate, many years in which people like John Howard and others participated in that constructively through three prime ministerships. And we finally got the agreement and we simply can’t afford to unpick it.
PYNE: Nobody is unpicking it.
ALBANESE: Barnaby Joyce is. Wake up.
PYNE: What is the issue here? I mean the reality is the Turnbull Government …
ALBANESE: The issue here is that Barnaby Joyce …
PYNE: No, let me …
ALBANESE: Barnaby Joyce wanted to be the Water ..
HOST: We’re going to get to another topic fellows. We’re going to shift gear now. Quickly let’s turn our attention to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s comments who raised some eyebrows yesterday. For those that missed it, he had this to say:
PETER DUTTON: The advice that I have is that out of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist-related offences in this country, 22 of those people are from second and third generation Lebanese Muslim background.
HOST: Is he right to be criticised Christopher Pyne?
PYNE: Well what Peter Dutton is saying is that we need to learn from our migration program over time. We have a very successful migration program. It doesn’t mean it’s perfect in every way and one of the most critical aspects of it is the resettlement of migrants and refugees. We obviously take in a vast majority of skilled migrants and well educated younger people because we believe they’ll make the largest contribution to our economy and society. And where we take in people who are not skilled and poorly educated, then obviously we need to have a proper resettlement program, which we do have. But Peter Dutton was talking about a time when we didn’t have nearly as successful a resettlement program as we have now.
HOST: What do you think Albo? You live in Sydney where a lot of these issues have played out in the south-western suburbs. Do you think that Peter Dutton is telling it like it is, or do you think that they are inflammatory comments?
ALBANESE: Well, I think that an Immigration Minister in particular has a responsibility to promote harmony, not to promote division; to look for outcomes, not to look for arguments. And Peter Dutton is putting forward a view that I find quite extraordinary – that because the Fraser Coalition Government accepted people from Lebanon at a time when of course they had been displaced by the civil war that that was a mistake because of something that their grandchildren have done. I find that a rather extraordinary statement for an Immigration Minister to make and I think that Peter Dutton has a responsibility, a particular responsibility, to promote harmony in the community and not seek to divide.
PYNE: We are suffering today from EPC Anthony.
HOST: What’s EPC?
PYNE: Excessive political correctness.
ALBANESE: Why? Because I support the Murray, like you used to Christopher?
HOST: We’re going to have to leave it here before it turns into a battle of the acronyms. Albo and Chris Pyne, always great to catch up. Good on you guys, thank you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.