Subjects: Foreign donations, political donation reform
STEFANOVIC: We’re joined now by Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese. Morning guys.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
STEFANOVIC: Ok, first up to you Christopher; has the Chinese firm at the centre of this scandal, Top Education, received any preferential treatment from your Government at any time?
PYNE: None whatsoever. So the streamline visa processing arrangements were decisions made by the public service. They weren’t the decisions made by a Minister or the Government. And of course, Top Education is fine to give donations to political parties; it’s the payment of people’s personal debts that is the problem. And Sam Dastyari had personal debts paid and neither he nor Bill Shorten yet get it. Bill Shorten is talking about bringing Sam Dastyari back within 24 hours of him resigning, so they still don’t understand the problem.
STEFANOVIC: So they donate $65,000 to the Party and then they get what they want – an extended visa program from you to the private sector. But they weren’t greasing any poles?
PYNE: Look, Top Education or anybody else is entitled to give donations to political parties. It’s absolutely fine.
STEFANOVIC: It looks suss though, doesn’t it? You must admit…
PYNE: No it doesn’t, because it’s not the same as having your personal debts paid. Sam Dastyari had a $40,000 legal bill paid and a $1,600 travel bill paid, which were his personal debts. S
TEFANOVIC: Hang on, so a Chinese firm pays $65,000 and then they get what they want in their lobbying? It looks suss, it looks completely suss.
PYNE: Karl, the only reason they would have been given streamlined visa processing is they, along with 20 or so other education businesses in Australia met the requirements that the public service decided were required to allow them to have streamlined visa processing. Nothing to do with the Liberal Party, or the Labor Party for that matter, or the Government of the day. So trying to link the two is completely wrong.
STEFANOVIC: Well Labor has said no to it – Albo, why did you say no?
ALBANESE: Well we stopped it.
PYNE: They didn’t have the streamline visa processing.
ALBANESE: We had it for public universities and for the public education system but we stopped it for the private sector education system because we were concerned about the potential for abuse. Just like we know that the vocational education training system has been abused.
STEFANOVIC: It has been abused hasn’t it? Continues to be abused.
PYNE: They’re two very different things.
ALBANESE: But when it comes to foreign donations, what we need to do, and we can do it next week, we can do it in a couple of hours, in both Houses, can support banning foreign donations. Malcolm Turnbull has said that he supports action on that front. We can do it very quickly; we can do it next week.
PYNE: Labor could reject foreign donations right now. Of the five and a half million dollars of foreign donations, $3.8 million went to the Labor Party.
ALBANESE: Well so could you. That says nothing. What we need is reform. What we need is reform and that’s the way to do it.
STEFANOVIC: You do need reform and we’ll get to that in a second. Christopher, just on Top Education though, how many times did you meet with them?
PYNE: I had a photograph taken with the head of Top Education and Tony Abbott at Phillip Ruddock’s 40th anniversary. I think I had one other meeting with them…
STEFANOVIC: What were they doing there?
PYNE: They were probably there to support Phillip Ruddock’s 40th anniversary.
PYNE: Well there’s nothing wrong with that. I mean the point is…
STEFANOVIC: It is when you get changes to the system.
PYNE: No that’s not right, and trying to link the two Karl, is actually quite defamatory.
STEFANOVIC: Are you going to sue me?
PYNE: The truth is people having personal debts paid is completely different to receiving a campaign – I’ve never received a donation from Top Education, never. So trying to link the two…
STEFANOVIC: Have you received any donations from any Chinese firm?
PYNE: Well no, not personally. Of course not. I’ve never had a personal debt paid by any business because it’s wrong. The fact that Sam Dastyari doesn’t realise it’s wrong and Bill Shorten doesn’t realise it’s wrong is a massive problem. And Bill Shorten’s already talking about bringing Sam back – they just don’t get it. You don’t have your personal debts paid by other businesses. S
TEFANOVIC: You were about to say then, ‘I’m going to have to check’.
PYNE: Well I’ve never had a personal debt paid. Campaign donations, I’m sure I’ve received campaign donations from Chinese businesses or any other businesses.
STEFANOVIC: How many?
PYNE: I’ve been in Parliament for 23 years Karl; I don’t know them all off the top of my head.
STEFANOVIC: Albo, what about you? You got donations from any Chinese firms? Campaign donations?
ALBANESE: No, what we do is we have donations through the Labor Party centrally. I run my own campaign. I rely upon local donations. Anything else is through the Party National Office.
PYNE: All my donations, all donations that come to the Liberal Party come to….
STEFANOVIC: No foreign donations (inaudible)? Hang on, Chris.
ALBANESE: Not that I’m aware of, no, in terms of we go through the National Office of the Party. The issue here is Karl, how do you fix this problem? You fix it by banning foreign donations. We should do that.
STEFANOVIC: You also fix it by banning companies and unions as Tony Abbott said today. So would you be willing to ban the union donations?
ALBANESE: Not at all.
STEFANOVIC: Ok, what about Christopher, would you ban business donations?
PYNE: I would ban company and union donations. I would only have donations from individuals. But you also have to do something about third party campaigning otherwise the unions will simply give all their money to Get Up and use them to campaign against the Liberal Party.
STEFANOVIC: You sound like Tony Abbott this morning.
PYNE: It’s not as simple as everyone thinks it is. And that’s why it has to be done sensibly and calmly and through a proper process. You can’t just ban donations from one group and then not expect there to be a flow on effect elsewhere. I don’t receive donations, Karl. Donations come to the Liberal Party. Now I represent the Liberal Party in Parliament but I don’t personally get a donation, put it in my bank account or do anything else with it. That’s wrong. And that’s what Labor doesn’t get.
PYNE: Well you’ve actually tried this morning to…
STEFANOVIC: Defame you.
PYNE: To set up a straw man Karl, and it needs to be broken down.
STEFANOVIC: So angry this morning. Ok well in terms of…
PYNE: Don’t defame me on national television.
STEFANOVIC: Don’t defame me by saying I’m defaming you.
PYNE: That’s not defamatory, you know that Karl.
STEFANOVIC: Ok, you’ve been in a bit of trouble this morning Albo, I know Christopher I want to get your thoughts on this too. $3000 that you’ve allegedly spent of our money going to two Grand Finals to support your Hawks.
ALBANESE: Well that’s ridiculous. As you know Karl, last year the airfare was actually to appear on the Today Show with Christopher. Christopher would have an airfare as well. Then I met with the Editor, in fact of the Herald Sun, as well as the Opinion Editor of the Herald Sun, as well as a press conference about rail in Melbourne. I didn’t charge one single dollar for transport to or from the Grand Final or in terms of accommodation on that night.
STEFANOVIC: Quickly, does he have anything to answer here for Christopher Pyne?
PYNE: Look Anthony is the Shadow Minister for Tourism.
STEFANOVIC: Exactly, say no more.
ALBANESE: Absolutely, it’s absurd.
PYNE: The idea that he shouldn’t go to the AFL Grand Final is absolutely absurd.
STEFANOVIC: This is good, we’re back together again. Thank you Christopher.
PYNE: You’ve got to be sensible about this stuff. That’s just ridiculous.
STEFANOVIC: Exactly. I agree. Thank you Christopher, thank you Albo. Good to talk with you
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.