Mar 1, 2019

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

Subjects: George Pell, border security.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Good morning to you both.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  Good morning.


KNIGHT: Christopher, to you first: John Howard wrote a character reference for George Pell after his conviction in December and Tony Abbott, who we know is a friend of Cardinal Pell, called him after the guilty verdict was made public. There is of course loyalty at play here because they are friends. But do you think they have made a mistake here?

PYNE: Well that’s a matter for them. They are personal friends of Cardinal George Pell. I have known Cardinal George Pell for a very long time – 20 years. I think John Howard wrote a character reference after the conviction of the Cardinal for the sentencing in terms of the sentence that Cardinal Pell might now receive and that is not an abnormal thing for that to occur in these situations, but whether this was a good idea is really a matter for them to answer, not for me to answer.

KNIGHT: Because I think I suppose, thinking about the victims here and that is where the criticism is coming, that there is not much thought going to the victims themselves.

PYNE: Well I do think that the conviction of Cardinal Pell should give a sense of justice to the families of the victims and to the victims themselves. I think that is very important. We don’t want to lose sight of the fact that the conviction was recorded and the action was taken to protect the justice of the country we live in and to make sure that those people who felt that a crime had been committed had that chance to be tested in court. They were found to be right and we don’t want to start re-contesting that case. There will be an appeal. Apparently Cardinal Pell intends to appeal and that needs to be given its chance to run. But primarily here victims of an historic sexual offence have had their day in court and justice has been served.

KNIGHT: Have you contacted him?

PYNE:  No.

KNIGHT: Anthony you are a Catholic and the faith of a lot of Catholics has been tested as a result of this. What was your reaction to hearing of the conviction?

ALBANESE: I think it showed that no-one was above the law in this country and that is a good thing. I think for the victims of institutional abuse that occurred of course not just in the Catholic Church; in all of the churches; in organisations like the Boy Scouts, I am very proud that Julia Gillard had the courage to call the Royal Commission and that arising out of that many people have been able to get some sense of justice. Of course nothing can repair the damage that has been done and I think what is unfortunate about the nature of John Howard and Tony Abbott’s interventions after the verdict is that John Howard’s letter, and he is someone I have respect for, but it made no reference at all to what had occurred and it also suggested that his view of George Pell had not been changed, and that I think was very unfortunate and it does show a lack of judgement.

KNIGHT: When it comes to the Royal Commission we know that the national redress scheme has been set up in the wake of that but there are so many of the victims who are still in limbo waiting to actually get access to compensation because the church as an institution has not signed up to that. Christopher, do you think they should be made to.

PYNE: Well they are, they are signing up individually as each diocese or archdiocese or education systems or state-based institutions.

KNIGHT: But should they come as a body?

PYNE: No that is entirely a matter for them. Every organisation runs their own system. Whether they joined up as one national organisation or whether they come as individual institutions is really neither here nor there. The important thing is that there is a redress scheme that was set up by the current Government, coming out of the Royal Commission that was set up by the previous Government. So this is not an area of partisanship. We want to make sure that there is compensation for those people who have been damaged. I think that’s the most important thing, not whether it’s set up with one institution or many institutions. I don’t know how the Catholic system operates, I’m not part of it, apart  from being a Catholic myself of course, but I’m not working for it, so I can’t talk to why they have that set up.

ALBANESE: I think quite clearly this verdict, if it needed anything more for the Catholic Church and other institutions to wake up, that they needed to stop dragging their feet, stop trying to minimise compensation and actually look after the victims of this abuse, then surely it’s time, and part of the criticism, I think legitimately, of the Church is that the Melbourne compensation appears to have been – set up a number of years ago before the Government intervention, which was bipartisan as Christopher has said – appeared to minimise the compensation that would be going to victims.

KNIGHT: And to have a convicted paedophile as the architect of a scheme for victims of abuse just seems quite strange.

ALBANESE: Absolutely.

PYNE: Well Deb, he wasn’t a convicted paedophile at that time, so…

KNIGHT: No, but to still have it in place at the moment is what a lot of the victims are looking at, at the moment.

PYNE: I was very impressed this week with the committee that met in the Vatican to talk about this, with Archbishop Coleridge of Brisbane’s comments, where he actually faced up in front of the Pope and said: ‘We only have ourselves to blame’. There was no sense that the Church in Rome was trying to shift blame to anyone else and I was proud as an Australian that the one of the leading voices was Archbishop Coleridge from Brisbane saying: ‘Let’s not try and blame anybody else for this. We only have ourselves to blame’. And I think that’s a very important step.

KNIGHT: A very important point to make, Christopher, that is true. Now the election may not have been called yet, but of course the campaigning is in full flight, and Albo it looks like Labor’s been snookered to some degree on the issue of border security. This was the Tweet that Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton put out yesterday, which I think we have here (Tweet shown onscreen) and the Government really has put it into points here that they’ve delivered. You can’t argue with that, can you?

ALBANESE: The fact is that this is a Government that is continuing to play politics with this issue. I saw Peter Dutton’s comments yesterday suggesting that people couldn’t get healthcare, into hospitals, because those places were being taken by refugees. I mean that sort of grubby politics really is unacceptable in this country. All the Government’s got left is a fear campaign, because they don’t have a positive agenda for governing the country.

KNIGHT: And how can that be right, Christopher, that they would be losing out, Australians, on hospital places or public housing places? Because I thought that the treatment of any asylum seekers would be taking place on Christmas Island?

PYNE: Well the more important point, Deb, is that under Labor is cost $16 billion to fix up their failed border protection policies. They had 8,000 children in detention, 50,000 unauthorised arrivals. They opened 17 detention centres. Now we fixed all that and Labor wants to take us back to those dark days again. They’ve weakened our border protection. We’re finding it very difficult to implement, for the reality is that we can’t actually return people once they come to Australia. The asylum seeker lawyers are all sharpening their pencils because they know that they’re going to be able to completely dismantle offshore protection, and that’s unfortunately because of the weakness of the Labor Party on border protection. I don’t like having to have strong border protection, but it’s better than people smugglers being in business.

ALBANESE: None of that’s true, of course.

KNIGHT: We will hear lots of this during the course of the campaign, no doubt. Plenty to come. We’re out of time. And Christopher, it’s lovely to have you back. We’ve missed you.

PYNE: I know, I’m sorry. In the last couple of weeks I’ve been on a plane at this time, so I’m very glad to be here.

KNIGHT: Well we’re glad to have you. Aren’t we, Albo?

PYNE: Looking forward to next week well.

ALBANESE: He’s all right.

KNIGHT: He’s all right.

ALBANESE: He’s all right.

PYNE: You’ve missed me. You have missed me.

KNIGHT: We have. It’s good to have you both here with us.

PYNE: Thank you Deb.

KNIGHT: Lots to discuss, as always. Thanks again.

ALBANESE: Thank you