Subjects: Marriage equality plebiscite, US Presidential Election
HOST: In any other week this is the debate that stops Australia -Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese. But I think for the first time since we’ve been doing this they might have been bested by our mates over in the US this week.
We’ll speak to them about the Trump/Clinton take two and a whole range of other matters of national and local import. Christopher Pyne, good morning.
PYNE: Good morning, Will. Like the Melbourne Cup is the race that stops the nation, this is the interview that stops the country.
HOST: Yes. I think that’s a good thing. Anthony Albanese, good morning.
ALBANESE: I think that is in our own minds.
PYNE: There is something wrong with your own reality, Anthony.
ALBANESE: I notice you’ve put that into practice over many years.
PYNE: It’s kept us all going for a long time.
ALBANESE: We think we’re hilarious.
HOST: That’s right. You can include the media in that.
ALBANESE: Well I’ve just been playing against the media in the Big Issue soccer game at Parliament House.
HOST: How did you go?
ALBANESE: We came an honourable fifth out of six – the Parliamentarian’s team. We had a draw.
HOST: Mate there’s nothing wrong with that.
ALBANESE: We had a draw versus the media team.
PYNE: He’s basically checked out, Anthony.
ALBANESE: It was at quarter to seven this morning. Where were you?
PYNE: He’s playing sport, going on holidays and reading books, writing his book.
HOST: Writing books? Well you’ve done a bit of book writing yourself over the years.
PYNE: Yes, mine was a bestseller. We should get onto the issues, what are we doing here?
HOST: Let’s get serious – Christopher Pyne, if we could start with you. Yesterday the Federal Labor Party declared its position on the plebiscite on same-sex marriage. It appears now set for certain defeat in the Parliament. What is Plan B from your side?
PYNE: Well we haven’t finished with Plan A, because the plebiscite bill hasn’t even passed through the House of Representatives yet. It will. Labor for some reason are now filibustering the debate and adding speakers, which is a logic that only they can understand. Apparently they have…
ALBANESE: What are you talking about? We’ve had one speaker so far.
PYNE: You added ten speakers overnight. You’ve now got over thirty speakers from the Labor Party when a couple of days ago you had about eight or nine. I don’t know why you’re bothering to do that, but good luck to you. So we are still progressing the plebiscite bill through the Parliament.
We went to an election with a national plebiscite as our policy. We got a majority of votes, more primary votes, more seats than Labor. The public voted for a national plebiscite and I don’t know why Bill Shorten is on the wrong side of this debate. He doesn’t trust the Australian people to have a say.
We could have marriage equality within six months in this country if Labor supported the national plebiscite. We could have the plebiscite on February 11th if it passes, we could have a bill through the House of Representatives and the Senate within a month. We could actually have marriage equality if Bill Shorten and the Labor Party weren’t actually standing in the way of marriage equality.
HOST: Unless you’re suggesting you still hold out some hope that it might get through the Upper House, but presumably you’ll start planning for what happens next before the actual final vote.
PYNE: I want Labor to change their mind.
HOST: Right, so you won’t think about what’s going to happen next until that (inaudible)?
PYNE: Well hang on the Australian public voted less than three months ago – 100 days ago – they voted for a plebiscite. They voted for the Coalition, we won the election.
Ironically, Labor is usually demanding that we keep our promises; on this occasion they are demanding that we break our promise.
HOST: That is a fair point isn’t it Albo? This was the policy that Malcolm Turnbull took to the election and Labor’s position now is effectively to say he should break a promise that he took to the people.
ALBANESE: Well if Christopher Pyne is arguing that however many millions of votes they got at the election, all voted on just this one issue than he has been up too long, frankly, this morning. That is quite farcical. The fact is 51 per cent of people did not vote for the Coalition at the election.
HOST: But it was still their policy though.
ALBANESE: Of course it was and our policy is the one we voted for and that caucus unanimously endorsed. Now Christopher spoke about timelines, the fact is when you actually have a look back at what he just said, all of this plebiscite doesn’t add to anything. You still need legislation. That’s how we change laws in this country.
We change it through the Parliament of Australia and if we have a plebiscite it won’t be binding, it won’t change anybody’s vote in the Parliament. People will still vote for or against marriage equality. I believe strongly it should be a conscience vote. We can get it done in the next fortnight frankly.
HOST: Is the weakness Albo with Labor ‘s position though that it risks looking like you don’t trust the Australian people to have a civilised conversation about something?
ALBANESE: No, it doesn’t at all. Look we don’t have plebiscites on Medicare, on education changes, on infrastructure, on whether we go to war or not – that’s not the way we do things in this country. And the only reason why the plebiscite is there is because of a deal between Malcolm Turnbull and the right wing of his own party.
He doesn’t support a plebiscite, nor does Christopher Pyne. They argued against it in their party room. That’s the truth of the matter and the only reason why the plebiscite has come up is because of the opponents of marriage equality, who are in Tony Abbott’s camp, put it up in order to block real reform.
PYNE: I’m trying to understand something, because Anthony said Labor’s policy is that they want to have a conscience vote. But actually Labor’s policy is that from 2019 onwards it will be a binding vote. So how can you have a policy that you’re in favour of a conscience vote and a binding vote at the same time?
ALBANESE: Well we will be having a conscience vote.
PYNE: But not from 2019.
ALBANESE: We will for the next two years – well we’ve got a national conference between now and then.
PYNE: You might change that policy? You’ve got no idea what your policy is.
ALBANESE: We know exactly what our policy is and that’s why we’ve been advocating it and that’s why unanimously the caucus adopted the position that we did yesterday and, why once this has happened, most Australians won’t be impacted on this at all. This is just about giving a group of people rights that currently the majority of us enjoy.
HOST: Can I just get from you guys, I want thirty seconds each, I’ll give you both an opportunity here because it’s something we spent a bit of time talking about today and I think we’re all sort of equal observers of all the shenanigans that are going on over in the United States at the moment. We received texts from people earlier in the week saying they were having early lunch breaks and that the work place was off from 11 until 12:30 the other day to watch the Trump/Clinton debate take two.
As people that are within the game of politics here in Australia, I’m fascinated to hear your thoughts on what has transpired in the last seven days in the US Presidential Campaign. Perhaps we’ll start with you Christopher.
PYNE: Well I’m very worried about what will come after. The debate is so rancorous in the United States between the Trump and Clinton camps and within the Republican Party because Donald Trump seems to be at war with everybody in his own party now. But post the election, which is now a month away, putting the pieces back together so that the United States remains a very strong force in the world for freedom and peace is what’s concerning me right now.
HOST: Anthony Albanese?
ALBANESE: Well Donald Trump is clearly just unfit for the high office that is the President of the United States and it’s good that the majority of Americans clearly agree with that position. And indeed one of the positive things, I think, that is happening is that the Republican Party, one of the two great parties of the United States, that people in leadership positions are making their position clear and distancing themselves from Donald Trump and I think that is a good thing.
So I understand where Christopher is coming from and both of us would regard things like the US alliance as being important. I take some positive things from what’s happened in the last week and I am very hopeful that there will be an outcome and that the US can come together after what has been an extraordinarily divisive campaign.
HOST: Just before we let you go, finally to you Chris and look, certainly I don’t want to crucify the guy – I think he has already suffered enough through the court of public opinion – but just to put a line under things, I wanted to ask you; this former staffer of yours who was caught up in the silliness, I guess, in Malaysia at the grand prix, he obviously quit his post over the weekend. I just wanted to ask, did he do that of his own volition or did you have to have a quiet word to him?
PYNE: No, no, he did that of his own volition. He is an outstanding young man and he has paid a very high price. The other eight who were involved in what was obviously very inappropriate behaviour in Malaysia have not paid that price and he wouldn’t have paid it if he wasn’t working for a Cabinet Minister. So I think he will have a very bright future and I hope he quickly finds work. I am sure he will.
HOST: Good stuff, Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese. Thank you very much for joining us for what is always a rollicking chat on Two Tribes.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.