Apr 13, 2018

Transcript of Television Interview – Channel Nine, The Today Show – Friday, 13 April 2018

FRIDAY, 13 APRIL, 2018 

Subjects: Syria, China, immigration, Christopher Pyne.  

BEN FORDHAM: There is no escaping the tension this morning between the US and Russia with fears we could be on the brink of full-scale military action. Joining us is Anthony Albanese from the Labor Party, Josh Frydenberg from the Liberal Party. Good morning to you both.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you.

JOSH FRYDENBERG: Good to be with you boys.

FORDHAM: Where is Christopher, Josh?

ALBANESE: He is on holidays with Karl.

FRYDENBERG: Obviously, yes.

FORDHAM: That will start a rumour.

FRYDENBERG: Pina coladas in hand I am sure.

FORDHAM: I can picture the two of them now. Josh let me start off. Donald Trump has threatened all-out war. He is talking about sending missiles Syria’s way, also directing some of his language to Russia. He’s softened his language a little bit overnight. Where are we headed here?

FRYDENBERG: Well obviously the chemical attack in Syria was unacceptable. We have seen a huge humanitarian disaster in that country. The US’s presence in the Middle East is absolutely critical and we just hope that peace can be restored, calm can be restored but obviously with as little loss of life as possible.

FORDHAM: Albo, your boss Bill Shorten once upon a time said that Donald Trump’s views are barking mad. But if America gets into action we go side-by-side, don’t we?

ALBANESE: Well, what we need here is cool heads and we need an appropriate response to the chemical weapons attack in a sober way.

FORDHAM: Do you think Donald Trump has shown a cool head?

ALBANESE: Well, I notice that he has changed overnight apparently, the rhetoric. I think it would be a good idea if foreign policy wasn’t announced on Twitter. It would be a good idea if it was done in a way that was calculated, in a way that understood what the end game was rather than just the rhetoric.

FORDHAM: Just briefly, do you agree with that Josh, that it would be better if foreign policy announcements were not made via social media?

FRYDENBERG: Well I don’t think they are. I think what Donald Trump is doing is taking the advice of his senior military people, talking to other world leaders and working out a considered response because, as Albo said, it was a completely unacceptable attack. There needs to be a proportionate response and we need to ensure that this sort of attack doesn’t happen again.

FORDHAM: It did look like he fired off a tweet first though, didn’t he, the President?

FRYDENBERG: Well he is known to be quick on the tweet. That’s for sure.

FORDHAM: Now back home the Prime Minister has admitted that there is tension between Australia and China. Now this is a comment that he made yesterday during an interview with Neil Mitchell who joined us earlier and he basically said that this has been going on for some time now. We’ve now got ministers who are being frozen out of invitations to China. That has got to be a bit of a worry Josh, that no Australian ministers are receiving any invites to go to China anymore?

FRYDENBERG: Well the Prime Minister didn’t confirm that, but what he did say there was a bit of tension in the relationship. This is a critical bilateral partnership that we have with China. We have $175 billion worth of two-way trade strongly in Australia’s favour. But since we introduced that foreign influence law it has been reported negatively in the Chinese press. But we will always stand up for Australia’s rights and values and that is what we will continue to do.

FORDHAM: It’s a bit of a worry what is going in going on in the region Albo when you have a look at the influence of China in the region. We have had a look at what has happened in Vanuatu in the last week or so, China suggesting they might want to set up a base in Vanuatu. We need to keep an eye on this don’t we?

ALBANESE: Australia is a leader in this region. We often I don’t think comprehend how significant we are. For many of those Pacific nations their most-important partner isn’t China or the United States, it’s Australia. It’s important that in a bipartisan way we continue to have that presence in the Pacific.

FORDHAM: Sam Dastyari when he caused a lot of dramas to do with donations from Chinese business people – that reaction to all of that apparently didn’t go down well in China, when Australia was collectively was outraged about the fact that Sam Dastyari was having bills paid by Chinese businesspeople so the Shanghai Sam-Sam Dastyari controversy has caused a few problems there.

ALBANESE: WelI, think the term that you have just used isn’t appropriate Ben, and did cause some problems out there. Sam Dastyari’s behaviour was clearly inappropriate. It cost him dearly. But I think some of the rhetoric around the relationship with China was overblown. Guess what? They noticed.

FORDHAM: So Aussies calling Sam Dastyari Shanghai Sam has upset Chinese leaders?

ALBANESE: Well I would have thought a lot of the rhetoric at that time and since has caused some issues and it is important that, fine for people in the media, but I think people in political leadership positions need to give appropriate statements, whether it be about China or the US or any other nation we have an important relationship with.

FORDHAM: OK. When it comes to immigration numbers the big discussion point this week where a story appeared on the front page of The Australian newspaper that the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton had gone to the Prime Minister and also the Treasurer saying let’s lower our annual migration intake. That was denied really strenuously by the Prime Minister, Josh Frydenberg. But Tony Abbott, the former Prime Minister came out and said I think … what are you laughing about?

FRYDENBERG: Well Tony Abbott, I mean, he is always going to try and cut across what the Prime Minister has been saying lately.

FORDHAM: Really?

FRYDENBERG: Yes, absolutely.

FORDHAM: I thought he was a member of the team.

ALBANESE: You haven’t been paying attention.

FRYDENBERG: He is a member of the Government.

FORDHAM: I thought they were on the same team. Isn’t the PM and Tony Abbott both on the same team? He’s laughing again.

FRYDENBERG: I think you are covering up the biggest secret in sport mate there.

ALBANESE: That’s like saying Ben that the mighty South Sydney were on the same team as the Roosters last night. It’s a similar relationship.

FORDHAM: All right. Let’s stick to the facts. Tony Abbott says that the Prime Minister was being tricky in that denial and he was also saying that he was denying something that was substantially true. So Albo, let me ask you, who do you believe? Do you believe Peter Dutton? Or do you believe Malcolm Turnbull?

ALBANESE: Well, they can’t both be right. That’s the point. Peter Dutton’s response was to say that something different from what Malcolm Turnbull said actually happened, but that Malcolm Turnbull was right. The contradiction was there in Peter Dutton’s own statement.

FORDHAM: Josh, I know they are both trying to say we are on the same page, but it is pretty clear here that something has gone on here and the PM is not too happy about it.

FRYDENBERG: No, the PM is absolutely right. There has not been a Cabinet submission on this issue. But what the Prime Minister said is that ministers discuss issues with the Prime Minister. Now when it comes to our migration intake, we had to clean up Labor’s mess because they lost control of our borders. We have a ceiling of 190,000 people a year. It is below that over the last 12 months. We will obviously consider to ensure that our immigration policy is in Australia’s national interest because immigration has been the backbone of our country. Albo and myself, you know we are two products of European families. We know how great Australia is and the fact more than half of Australian people have at least one parent or both parents born overseas I think says something about our willingness to be open to other countries.

FRYDENBERG: OK Albo, do you want to keep Josh or do you want to go back to Chris next week?

ALBANESE: He’s doing OK this bloke. I reckon this is a good rehearsal. If he agrees to turn up to the studio I reckon Pyne is gone.

FORDHAM: Everyone gets along with in Liberal Party as Josh has highlighted this morning by laughing at the former Prime Minister.

FRYDENBERG: Let me just say I think Christopher has just choked on his pina colada.

FORDHAM: Thank you both.

ALBANESE: They are a rabble without a cause.


FRIDAY, 13 APRIL, 2018