Subjects; Foreign interference laws, by-elections, Katy Gallagher, sugar tax
SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Attorney-General Christian Porter will attempt to rush new foreign interference laws through Parliament before the winter recess and it comes amid concerns that the July by-elections could be compromised by spies. Joining me now is Anthony Albanese and in Adelaide, Christopher Pyne. Anthony is chuckling but I’m going to go first to Christopher Pyne. Is this about China, Christopher?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well Sylvia, good morning. No the foreign interference laws are kind of the first of their kind in the world, which is really interesting and other countries are watching to see what we’re doing. There’s obviously been a heightened concern about espionage and foreign interference from all countries around the world that partake in those kinds of activities…
JEFFREYS: Specifically China though.
PYNE: And these laws are not directed at China or any specific nation. They’re directed at protecting Australia’s interest. I live in Adelaide as you know and, of course, because of our submarines and shipbuilding activities here, we’ve become a hot spot for foreign espionage. So we need to get our laws clear and consistent and that’s what Christian Porter and before him George Brandis have been doing, working with the Labor Party in a bipartisan way.
JEFFREYS: How vulnerable do you think our July elections are?
PYNE: Look these laws and the by-elections are not linked at all. The foreign interference…
JEFFREYS: Then why the rush to get them through before the recess?
PYNE: There’s no rush, we’ve been discussing these laws since last November/December when George Brandis first put them on the table. And there’s been a long committee process, which has been gone through with Labor and the crossbenchers and this is where we’ve arrived at: increasing the public interest protections for journalists for example, ensuring that civil liberties are protected but, more importantly, protecting Australia’s national interest. And that’s not a rush; it’s been an eight/nine month process.
JEFFREYS: Ok, Anthony, will Labor support these laws in their current form before the recess?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well there’s agreement on the first of the pieces of legislation and that has been a lengthy process. These laws were introduced last December. What happened was last night Christian Porter forwarded some amendments for the second bill that also went too far, needed some amendments, there’s no question about that. But he only forwarded them to Labor last night. So we’ll give them due consideration, we’ll work with the Government. These laws and national security needs to be above politics, they need to be dealt with in a bipartisan way. That’s the spirit in which we enter the negotiations. I think, frankly, Christopher is right, the by-elections are taking place and they don’t need…
JEFFREYS: Well the by-elections are taking place…
ALBANESE: Any idea that somehow there’s foreign interference in these by-elections is, I think, a headline looking for some substance.
JEFFREYS: All right. Well on the by-elections, Albo, they are looking like they’re going to be a big worry for Bill Shorten. The polling hasn’t been good up until this point. If they don’t go as planned, if they don’t work out well for the Labor Party, are you going to make a move for the leadership?
ALBANESE: I’m just working to ensure that we win those by-elections. Indeed after this morning I’ll be heading to Burnie in the electorate of Braddon in Tasmania…
PYNE: He is very active, believe me.
ALBANESE: I’ll be in Devonport tonight…
PYNE: He is very active; Bill wishes he’d stayed home.
ALBANESE: And I’ll be campaigning for Justine Keay to make sure she gets elected. Earlier this week I was with Susan Lamb in Longman. She’s a great candidate.
JEFFREYS: Making your presence felt in all of the by-elections in crucial seats.
PYNE: Bill wants Albo to get the flu.
ALBANESE: Well I’m doing my bit to make sure that we win every one of those by-elections…
JEFFREYS: Is Bill Shorten doing his bit?
ALBANESE: As is Bill Shorten, as is the entire Labor team.
PYNE: Bill is sneezing in Albo’s general direction in the hope he catches the flu.
JEFFREYS: Quickly, news about Katy Gallagher this morning making another run, or re-entering?
ALBANESE: Well it’s good news that Katy Gallagher will be making an announcement today. I certainly welcome her recontesting as a Senator for the ACT. Katy Gallagher was making an outstanding contribution. She has more to contribute and I’m sure that everyone in Labor’s leadership team will welcome that.
JEFFREYS: Ok, very quickly gentlemen, because we do have to wrap things up. We’re talking about a sugar tax on The Agenda segment later this morning. Christopher, would the Government support a sugar tax?
PYNE: Well Sylvia, where do you end if you have a sugar tax on drinks, fizzy drinks, do you then have a sugar tax on hot chips, on potato chips, lollies, chocolates, Dagwood Dogs? I mean this is where governments have to seriously consider these issues before rushing into them. I do think the public needs to know that the sugary drinks that they are drinking, even orange juice, are full of sugar and sugar in many respects is the enemy of good health. Obesity of course is one of the major causes of too much sugar intake, but whether governments should be taxing these particular products -where do you draw the line?
JEFFREYS: And Albo; Labor’s take on this?
ABANESE: Look I think certainly we are consuming too much sugar. There’s no doubt about that. Per capita we intake much more than other nations and we need to look at healthy diets but we also need to look at the impact of taxes, who it is hitting and whether it is hitting working people who are already struggling to make ends meet. So we would look very cautiously at any proposal.
JEFFREYS: Sounds like a big fat no from both of you at this stage to a sugar tax. Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us this morning. We appreciate your time and may you both enjoy a tax-free Dagwood Dog this weekend.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
PYNE: Thanks Sylvia.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.