Subjects: AFL; foreign investment; shipbuilding
HOST: Now this segment has added frisson this week because Anthony Albanese is a Hawthorn supporter and Christopher Pyne is an ambassador for the mighty Adelaide Crows.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Indeed.
HOST: Quite correct.
HOST: You might need to be separated at some point during today’s interview guys.
ALBANESE: I think we actually are, given I’m in Sydney.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I don’t think Anthony knows anything about the Hawks.
ALBANESE: Oh, he keeps trying this on.
PYNE: He doesn’t know anything about it.
ALBANESE: I was there at the 1989 grant final. Ablett kicked nine, got the Norm Smith medal and they still lost. I was there in the bleachers. You were still in primary school.
PYNE: At least I don’t pretend to be interested in your rugby game.
ALBANESE: You were out following croquet my friend. Croquet. How about a bit of polo?
PYNE: I have been AFL true blue since the beginning. I was a Redlegs supporter before the AFL but you should not be pretending you are interested in our code.
ALBANESE: More like polo. People from Melbourne will tell you that people from Adelaide or Perth don’t know anything about AFL either, you know.
ALBANESE: That’s what you sound like, you know.
HOST: Now look, I blame myself for starting this stink. I will never mention football again.
ALBANESE: (Inaudible) were more recent premiers than the Crows. Just saying.
HOST: Be careful Albo. That’s not going to fly. I’ve got the got the dump button here. Fifty-five percent of our audience will change stations if you keep that up.
ALBANESE: I’m just pointing out a fact.
PYNE: Penbo, you were at the Crows Game against in Sydney.
HOST: It was a great game.
PYNE: I wasn’t unfortunately. I was at a wedding. But it would have been like the colosseum.
HOST: It was sensational.
ALBANESE: I watched it on TV and it was an awesome game.
HOST: It was absolutely fantastic.
HOST: Anyway let’s talk about politics.
PYNE: What about Will Goodings? What’s your football team? I have never heard you say anything about football.
HOST: Are you kidding?
HOST: Don’t get him started. Now I’ve got to change the subject to federal politics. We had the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the show an hour ago and in all seriousness we want to ask both of you what is your in-principle position on the prospect – because we have had so many texts, a lot of calls about it this morning – the prospect of a Chinese company buying out Australia’s largest cattle station – 2 per cent of our landmass – S Kidman and Co. We’ll start with you Chris.
PYNE: The Treasurer has already knocked back one bid for the Kidman empire from a Chinese consortium because it was deemed to be against our national interest. It is a strategically important asset to our country and the only consideration from the Federal Government will be what is in the national interest for any bid. It doesn’t really matter where the bid comes from and I think politicians that are trying to whip up a storm about Chinese investment should talk about foreign investment. Now foreign investment is good for Australia and it is good for South Australia, but it obviously it has to be the right foreign investment and that’s why we have the Foreign Investment Review Board to go sensibly and calmly through any bids. As I said, Scott Morrison has already knocked back one bid and if the bids don’t stack up then he will knock back other bids.
HOST: How comfortable are you, Chris Pyne, with the fact that that decision has now been deferred until after the election because if it had come down prior to the election you would be armed with some ammunition on either side with which to tackle the Nick Xenophon team who are clearly going to run strong on this and run strongly unabated in the absence of any decision?
PYNE: Well, I don’t think that populism should rule the day on absolutely every issue when it comes to Nick Xenophon. I mean this week be was criticising the decision about the offshore patrol vessels when on March the 8th he admitted that what we did this week was exactly what we promised to do. This week he was trying to turn it around and move the goal posts. Now, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. The truth is governments, whether they are Labor or Liberal, we can get elected and we can make decisions and Labor and Liberal both support foreign investment. But it’s got to be the right foreign investment and I am still hoping that Lindsay Fox and an Australian consortium will come forward for the Kidman empire. The reason why the matter – it hasn’t been delayed – it’s just the usual process that goes through with the Foreign Investment Review Board. But it has got to be seen in a sensible way. No-one should be playing politics or populism just because they think there is an election on the horizon.
HOST: Albo, your position on this, or your party’s position on this would be reasonably similar to what Chris Pyne just outlined. But isn’t Labor just as vulnerable to the Xenophon ticket campaigning hard on this issue in seats like Kingston and in seats like Port Adelaide if it is still floating around unresolved prior to July the 2nd.
ALBANESE: Well, I certainly agree with what Christopher said that it should be about the national interest, not a particular political party’s interests. That’s what serious political parties who hope to form government have to do. Australia can’t isolate ourselves from the global economy. We do need foreign investment but we need to make sure at all times that the national interest is put front and centre. Now I was very critical in an area of my portfolio of the sale of Darwin Port to, it happened to be, Chinese interests. But I think it would have been an equally bad decision were it sold to a company with a close association with any other foreign government. That’s a strategic national asset. It’s our only major port to the north of Australia and to sell that off, I think, and to allow that to happen, was quite frankly beyond belief for a peppercorn payment – a peppercorn payment. I think when decisions like that are made then it opens the door for opportunism and for people to then run on opposition to all foreign investment. I certainly hope also that Lindsay Fox’s consortium, I think seems to me to be a good proposition in terms of just the size of this property in terms of the percentage of Australia’s landmass. I think we need to be very cautious about giving up land of that size to any outside interest – not particularly the Chinese, but any outside interest.
HOST: Christopher Pyne, does an announcement on subs naturally follow one on offshore patrol vessels? Are we going to get an announcement about what is happening with the future submarines project before the election?
PYNE: Well Will, we’ve had great news this week for South Australia because we have mitigated the valley of death that Labor left us after six years of making no decisions about ships. The only two contracts they awarded for ship building they awarded to overseas builders. They awarded none in South Australia or Australia and for six years put the process a long way behind the eight ball. But we’ve had good news this week. We will build the offshore patrol vessels, which is a $3 billion contract. When the future frigates is ready to begin, we’ll build them at Osborne as well. Then 2020 and the offshore patrol vessels will then start at Henderson in Perth. So we have secured ship building for decades in the future. Obviously I and Marise Payne, the Defence Minister, and Malcolm Turnbull are working on the issues around making a subs decision and I am very hopeful that we will have a decision about that before the election but obviously we need to go through the proper processes. That’s what sensible government do.
HOST: Anthony Albanese, can I ask you on this matter? We are unashamedly pro South Australia when we talk about the issue on this show.
ALBANESE: I’ve picked that up from week to week.
HOST: Yes, Did you get that? Very perceptive. So is Chris Pyne of course when he is speaking.
ALBANESE: It was the wearing of the Crows scarf last week when I was in the studio that gave it away.
HOST: One of those tell-tale signs.
ALBANESE: The scarf was a bit much.
HOST: Can I ask you then, how do you interpret a decision like the one to begin the build for the offshore patrol vehicles here in South Australia and then move construction over to WA because whist it is politically pragmatic, I just wonder whether the case can be made, talking through the lens of a federal election, that it makes sense for the rest of Australia?
ALBANESE: Well look, you have to make these decisions based upon the best advice and in terms of ensuring the best outcome for all Australian taxpayers and ….
HOST: Has that been achieved here do you think?
ALBANESE: Well look, I’m not an expert on it. I do know that I visited that particular plant in WA – it’s to the south of Perth – and they do have a great deal of expertise in ship building. I do know that in terms of the luxury vessels, that are privately owned, many of them, not just around the Australian coast but around the world, are built there and that’s a good thing. So there is an area of expertise. We do need to make sure that we get the right outcomes and not be ruled just by politics here. Clearly, South Australia has an expertise in ship building. That’s a good thing. But so does the WA plant. So I am not going to be, I guess, pretending that I am an expert on it. If I was the minister I would be wanting the best possible advice and I’d make the right decision based upon that.
HOST: I promise I will never start this segment by asking either of you a question about football again, particularly if your teams are playing. Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese, always great to catch up. Thanks very much for joining as for Two Tribes.
PYNE: It’s a pleasure. Thank you very much.
ALBANESE: We’re a happy team at Hawthorn.
HOST: I don’t think you will be after next Friday. Fingers crossedsa
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.