Feb 1, 2019

Transcript of Television Interview – The Today Show – Friday, 1 February 2019

Subjects: Civilian deaths in air strike, Banking Royal Commission, tax policy, Murray-Darling Basin, retiring MPs.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Good morning to you both.


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Deb.

KNIGHT: Christopher, I will start with you. Local media reported the day after this air strike happened that civilians had been killed, but this has taken two years to be investigated. Did our pilots get it wrong here?

PYNE: Well it is very important that when allegations like this are made that a proper investigation is conducted and not social media posts relied upon for evidence. Now the social media posts suggested that anything between 30 and 50 people had been killed. After a thorough investigation conducted by the Australian Defence Force it has been determined that between six and 18 civilians were killed in a coalition air strike and that an Australian platform may have been part of that air strike, may have been responsible. It is impossible to definitively say whether it was an Australian missile that caused the deaths. But I can say that it is deeply regrettable and obviously we do everything we can to avoid civilian casualties. The ISIS fighters, there were seven who were using heavy weapons to attack the Iraqi forces in Mosul, they were using civilians not as human shields; they weren’t trying to avoid the humans being killed and themselves also not killed; they were hiding them from the coalition forces in order for them to be killed.

KNIGHT: There’s no doubting the ferocity of the battle. But what will the consequences of this deadly mistake be? Will there be compensation offered to the surviving family members?

PYNE: I am not aware that any surviving family members have sought compensation, but if they do they will seek it from the Coalition Forces Against Daesh, which is a global organisation which is responsible for compensation as part of this war that has been raging in Iraq and Syria, and assuming that they fulfil the requirements, they will be compensated. The Australian platform was operating entirely within the rules of engagement and under the law of warfare and so there will be no discipline for the pilots involved because they were doing exactly the job that they were supposed to do. It was obviously tremendously upsetting that civilians were killed. And as I say, we can’t be sure that it was Australians. But in the fullness of transparency we are prepared to say that we could have been responsible.

KNIGHT: OK. Well it is a big news day. We’ve got a lot to cover and I would now like to move on to the final report of the Banking Royal Commission which Ross alluded to earlier. Obviously it’s going to be enormous consequences for the banking sector, but what is the priority here? Is it propping up the banks to keep the economy ticking over? Or is it holding them to account because there seems to be a bit of a dichotomy here? Christopher to you.

PYNE: Well Deb the banks are a foundation of our strong economy. Our banking sector, its reliability has been one of the key factors in Australia’s economic success. So in responding to the Royal Commission we have to make sure that the consumers are protected as our number one priority.  Number one is the consumers. Bringing people to justice who have done the wrong thing should be our second priority and our third priority should be not doing any more harm to the banks than they have done to themselves and their reputation by proper considered response to the Royal Commission.

KNIGHT: And Albo, will Labor be adopting all of the recommendations if you were to win Government?

ALBANESE: Well we have said that we would do that Deb and we have said we would do that before we have seen what the recommendations are because we supported this Royal Commission. Christopher and Scott Morrison and his team voted against it on no less than 26 separate occasions. And what we know is that as a result of this Royal Commission, the activity of the banks whereby they have ignored consumers, haven’t seen their role as looking after them; they have seen consumers as serving the interests of the banks and their profits, and it has been over the top. The fact is this has been a very successful commission in exposing that abuse.

KNIGHT: The banks have been obviously criticised for their heartlessness, their greed and putting profits ahead of people. But on the topic of being heartless, it seems that Labor couldn’t give two hoots about senior Australians. What is going on with your Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen telling voters that if you don’t like the policy when it comes to the franking credits, just don’t vote for us. It seems very arrogant.

ALBANESE: Not at all. The fact is that Labor is the party of older Australians. We are the party that last time we were in office had the largest ever increase in the aged pension in Australia’s history.

KNIGHT: Well why are you coming up with policies that are going to affect senior Australians? A lot of them aren’t rich Australians here either.

PYNE: That’s right.

ALBANESE: Well the fact is that what we are doing is putting out our policies before the election and saying how we will pay for it.

KNIGHT: And if you don’t like it too bad?

ALBANESE: No, how we will pay for hospitals, how we will pay for schools, how we will pay for infrastructure, how we will pay for early childhood education. We are being  transparent about that, unlike this mob that went to an election saying there would be no cuts to health, no cuts to the ABC, no cuts to education and immediately got in and have been going downhill ever since the 2014 Budget.

KNIGHT: Christopher I also wanted to ask you about the Royal Commission into the Murray-Darling. The authority that oversaw this plan has been called unlawful and negligent. It’s an appalling environmental disaster that is occurring. Surely with findings this damning, you’ve got to scrap this plan and start again don’t you?

PYNE: Well no we don’t and it is the Royal Commission of one state government on the Murray-Darling in the Murray-Darling basin.

KNIGHT: So you are downplaying the veracity of the Royal Commission?

PYNE: No, I am just saying that we have said that we will look at the findings of the Royal Commission. We will take it into account and improve the Murray-Darling Basin Authority where it can be improved. But there is absolutely no point in throwing the baby out with the bathwater, in this case with the river water. We’ve come a long way in the last ten years in managing the Murray-Darling basin for environmental flows, for support for local communities, river communities and for the economy.

KNIGHT: But you’ve got a river here that is dying. You’ve got millions of fish dying. We’ve seen the pictures. It is absolutely heart-breaking. Albo, why can’t you guys work together, ignore the politics and just save this dying river system?

ALBANESE: Well that should be the priority but we have a state and federal government where the Environment Ministers can’t even be bothered going to Menindee and have a look at what is going on there. They are not talking to the locals. They have ignored this absolute crisis. We have seen all sorts of abuse happen with regard to water rights particularly in New South Wales and it requires not just the South Australian Royal Commission; it requires a real good look and when we are in government we will certainly be doing that.

KNIGHT: Now Christopher you are losing you colleagues at a rapid pace. We have had three Ministers so far pulling the pin and announcing they won’t be contesting the election and regardless of the reasons, the perception is that they are rats leaving a sinking ship. Your name has been mentioned as someone who is considering his political future. Can you guarantee that you will not be quitting?

PYNE:  Well Deb there are less people that have announced their retirements in this election than at any time in the last ten elections. That’s the lowest in 30 years.

KNIGHT: Can you guarantee that you won’t be quitting?

PYNE: I have already said at least a dozen times that I will be contesting the next election. It’s really a quite tired question. My future is not in any doubt, but there are less people retiring at the next election than at any time in the last 30 years. So this is a complete media beat up.

ALBANESE: Christopher wants to stay in Parliament so that he can continue to be on the Today Show every Friday morning.

KNIGHT: Well we will have him quite thankfully.

ALBANESE: He is aware of the big picture.

KNIGHT: We are pleased to have you both and it is good to have our Friday pollies’ chat up and running. Gentlemen, thanks for joining us.

PYNE: We are the great survivors.

ALBANESE: Good to be here.

PYNE: Thank you.