Jun 16, 2017

Transcript of television interview – The Today Show

Subjects: Gun amnesty, Midwinter Ball 

Ben Fordham: Welcome back to Today. Well, in just two weeks’ time Australia will hold its first national gun amnesty since the Port Arthur Massacre. It comes just weeks after the shooting of the Queensland police officer Brett Forte. Joining me to discuss all of this, is the Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne, who is in Adelaide and here in the studio the Shadow Infrastructure and Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese. Albo, good morning and Christopher, good morning to you too.


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Ben It’s nice to see you again.

FORDHAM: Let’s start with you Christopher, great to see you as well. Why now, we’re just all wondering? It has been a long time between gun amnesties.

PYNE: Well the government made a decision a little while ago, that now was a good time to renew the amnesty in order to ensure that a whole swathe of weapons, particularly illegal weapons if they are out there, are taken out of the market. You might remember during the last few months of the previous government there was a movement of Glock pistols through Sylvania Waters post office.

That was one example of attempts to get illegal weapons into Australia, so we are putting an amnesty in place, in order to ensure that anyone who does want to hand in those kinds of weapons and any other weapons, can do so without any kind of penalty to get them out of the system. Because obviously if they are not in the system, they can’t kill people like the very tragic death of the police officer Brett Forte recently in Queensland.

FORDHAM: Albo, they believe that there is 260,000 illegal firearms currently in Australia, that’s a lot. It is going to be fascinating to watch just how many are out there and how many people respond to this call for them to be handed in.

ALBANESE: Well we would certainly encourage people to do the right thing and to hand them in. One illegal firearm is one too many, the fact that there are so many out there is an issue of concern. It is a good thing that this amnesty is happening and it certainly has bipartisan support.

FORDHAM: Let me move on to the other issue that has got everyone talking this morning, and that is the Midwinter Ball in Canberra. This is a time when the journalists and the politicians all get together and have a bit of a laugh at their own expense and also, it turns out, at the expense of United States President, Donald Trump.

Malcolm Turnbull delivered a light-hearted speech and it is supposed to be off the record, but it has ended up being leaked. It was on Instagram, there was a part of the speech that was revealed and then Channel Nine’s Laurie Oakes, who was not present at the dinner, and therefore didn’t feel like he was bound by the confidentiality. He revealed this part of the tape yesterday afternoon on ninenews.com.au:

MALCOLM TURNBULL [clip]:  It was beautiful. It was the most beautiful putting-me-at-ease ever. The Donald and I, we are winning and winning in the polls. We are winning so much. We are winning like we have never won before. We are winning in the polls. We are! We are. Not the fake polls. Not the fake polls! They’re the ones we’re not winning in. We’re winning in the real polls. You know, the online polls. They are so easy to win. I know that. Did you know that? I kind of know that. They are so easy to win. I have this Russian guy. Believe me it’s true, it is true.

FORDHAM: So, Christopher Pyne, this has now been picked up by the American media. How do you reckon that this is going to go down with President Trump?

PYNE: Look, I don’t think it is going to worry him or anyone else at all. The truth is, that the reason Bill Shorten’s speech wasn’t leaked was because it was such a stinker. On the other hand, Malcolm Turnbull’s was very funny. The whole point of the Midwinter Ball speeches, is to be funny, and I think it is great that the Australian public got to see a side of Malcolm Turnbull that I see on a regular basis. Which is that he is really a very fun and funny guy, and I don’t think anybody is going to take this too seriously at all.

FORDHAM: Albo, I’m guessing you were there, were you having a laugh like most people in the room?

ALBANESE: I was. I think that it is unfortunate that it has leaked. Because I think it will dampen the potential for people to go along and have a laugh at themselves, at everyone and both Malcolm and Bill did that. There are ethics here and I think they have been breached by whoever taped Malcolm’s speech, and I don’t think it should have happened.

I don’t want to see the spirit of larrikinism that is part of the definition of being an Aussie, disappear, and one of the things that happens when people get together is that we have a joke at our own expense, sometimes at the expense of others. Malcolm did that, Bill did that, I hope that the Press Gallery Ball continues to exist and raise money. We raised $350,000 for charities on Wednesday night.

FORDHAM: The thing about it, it is an interesting kind of dilemma isn’t it, because Laurie Oakes takes the view that he has never believed in these kind of nights where everyone signs up to be keeping their mouths shut about things. When really he believes that you owe it to the public, to tell the public what is going on.

But you’re right, that larrikin side of Australia, it means that wouldn’t it be better Christopher if we were all able to actually, like they do in America where they have the Correspondence Dinner, the politicians can still take the mickey out of themselves, but we should all still be able to see it, shouldn’t we?

PYNE: Look I have got no problem with that, the White House Correspondents Dinner is the equivalent in Washington, everyone gets it in Washington. That is why neither President Trump nor anyone around him is going to take offence and you know, the guys in the media, the guys and gals in the media can’t really on the one hand say, that we politicians are washed out, one dimensional and not very interesting. And then when we prove that is not the case, like Malcolm’s very amusing speech, turn around and criticise him.

You know you can’t have it both ways, so I think we are going to just have to suck up the fact that it has been leaked. It is very unfortunate and Laurie Oakes can say whatever he likes but the truth is it has damaged politicians’ belief in the Midwinter Ball being somewhere they can let their hair down. Obviously that is not the case, and it is a pity but that is just the reality of politics these days.

FORDHAM: No one would ever describe you guys as one dimensional. Albo and Christopher have a great weekend.