SUBJECT/S: John Setka; press freedom; constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians; Reclink Australia
TOM STEINFORT: Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s hopes of kicking John Setka out of the Labor Party have had to be shelved with the Supreme Court judge threatening an injunction. Now, the battle Anthony had hoped to settle in just a few weeks could now be dragging on for much of this year all the way to the High Court potentially. With us here to discuss the goings on in the political world we have the Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and also our Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. Hello to you both. Albo, this will be a thorn in your side.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: No, not at all. He has already been suspended of course, his membership of the party. So he can take no active role in the Party. He is exercising his legal rights. We do have a rule of law in this country. I always knew that when you take on a powerful interest like John Setka, then he will argue his case strongly. He doesn’t want to get kicked out of the Labor Party but the fact is, his values are not consistent with our values and the fact that he pleaded guilty to two separate issues related to harassment of a woman just reinforces that.
STEINFORT: But the fact is, you haven’t got what you want?
ALBANESE: Well, we will get what we want. He will be out of the Party. He has been suspended
PETER DUTTON, MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: He has out-foxed you Albo.
ALBANESE: And he will get expelled. Peter, it is not unusual for you not to understand the rule of law. There is a rule of law in the court. Well, I’m kicking him out of the Labor Party.
DUTTON: You talk a big game.
ALBANESE: He is before the courts. I would have thought someone who is a Cabinet Minister would respect the rule of law.
STEINFORT: Last week I think you suggested he needed to send John Setka to North Korea that was the only way of solving this.
DUTTON: He should have taken it up but he didn’t. Now the dog is wagging as we expected he was. You are the tail in this relationship Albo.
ALBANESE: Not true.
DUTTON: He has played you.
STEINFORT: What was your reaction yesterday when you found out that you had to pull this move out?
ALBANESE: We haven’t pulled anything out.
STEINFORT: Well you had to shelve it.
ALBANESE: We have not shelved anything. There will be a national executive meeting. It will expel John Setka. The legal process, when something is before the courts, just like when people take Peter Dutton to the courts, you have to respect the legal processes. We will do that.
STEINFORT: You will be just really twisting the knife on this for months to come, I would have thought.
DUTTON: I just thought that it is interesting, this karma sutra model of leadership Albo has adopted. I mean you saw it on tax cuts, you see it on Setka. We call this political spin, what Albo has given you this morning. The fact is he has been out-foxed by John Setka. And the CFMEU has always wagged the tail of the Labor Party.
ALBANESE: That is not true. You know that is not the case. He has been suspended. He is out.
DUTTON: Mate, you have boxed yourself into the corner. You are making Bill Shorten look good, I’m sorry to say.
ALBANESE: People take your issues to courts all the time. All the time, every day. How many matters before the courts do you have at the moment with your Party?
DUTTON: No more than Chris Bowen or Tony Burke did.
ALBANESE: How many would you have? Hundreds?
DUTTON: There would be as every Immigration Minister does.
STEINFORT: We will move on. High profile human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has challenged Australia to, speaking of North Korea, to be better than North Korea. This is of course talking about press freedom. There have been those high profile police raids on both News Corp journalists and the ABC last month. Peter, this is becoming a really big issue in terms of the journalism industry starting to push back and saying it is not a crime. There has to be a point where you say maybe these investigations are going too far.
DUTTON: The Prime Minister has announced an inquiry. That is a bipartisan approach to it so let’s see what the inquiry brings up. But I have made the point before. Nobody is above the law and the police have a job to do under the law. That’s it.
ALBANESE: So, now you have discovered the law. You were just arguing against the legal processes like 60 seconds ago. 60 seconds ago you were arguing against the law.
STEINFORT: Speaking of law, these are laws that Labor helped support into what is now the situation we are dealing with.
ALBANESE: That is not right Tom. These are laws that go back to Word War I. With due respect to you, I wasn’t in Parliament in World War I. That was the basis of the raids on Annika Smethurst and on the ABC. Quite clearly, press freedom is a major issue. It is an essential component of our democracy. The problem here is, Marise Payne, the Foreign Minister, went overseas to this conference about press freedom but no-one here in the Government is standing up for media freedom and it is an embarrassment to our country. The raid on the ABC got coverage globally and it was very bad for Australia.
STEINFORT: Quickly, there have been some calls for the Government to just say this investigation needs to come to an end, the ones on the ABC and News Corp. Would you support that?
ALBANESE: Quite clearly the Government needs to show leadership on this issue. They have to point out what here was exposed that was inappropriate that wasn’t in the public interest. Clearly the information, for example that Annika Smethurst put out there, I believe, was in the public interest.
STEINFORT: Do you believe it was in the public interest?
DUTTON: I think it is up to the police to investigate, to do it independently and make a decision on whether or not they prosecute. That is an issue for the police. All of us stand up for press freedom, there’s no question of that in our country. To suggest there is a parallel between us and North Korea is a joke. We need to make sure the inquiry looks at it, which I think is the rational approach. We need to make sure we protect press freedoms. But where you’ve got secret document as Anthony points out, these are laws that go back decades in western democracies like ours where if you have top secret documents that have been leaked, it is an offence under the law. The police have an obligation to investigate a matter that was referred to them by the Defence Department and they will do that.
STEINFORT: We could be going back to the polls sooner than in three years. This is because of a referendum because of these moves coming from our Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt. He is really leading this push for a referendum on constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians. Peter, the Coalition is split.
DUTTON: No, it hasn’t.
STEINFORT: Well, there is the suggestion of whether they should have permanent representation in Parliament.
DUTTON: We went to the last election with a policy. We have been clear that we want to work with the Labor Party and the Parliament to look at whether or not there is a way forward to provide that recognition. We are not in favour of a third chamber or a separate voice. We have a strong democracy. We want to see more Indigenous people in the parliament. It is great Ken Wyatt is the first Indigenous Affairs Minister. I think that he has a process that is underway. Let him conduct the consultation and then we will make an announcement about the next step.
STEINFORT: This suggestion of a third chamber?
ALBANESE: There is no suggestion of a third chamber. This is spin in order to argue against the Uluru Statement From the Heart. What it simply said was that there is a need for an indigenous voice to Parliament, without any power to determine legislation. It is not a third chamber. It simply says that where issues affect First Nations people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, they should be consulted. It is as simple as that. It is about respect. We need to move this issue forward in terms of constitutional recognition, in a way that is consistent with what Indigenous Australians are saying they want. I wish Ken Wyatt well. I think Ken and Linda Burney, as the Labor spokesperson, together with people like Pat Dodson can advance this issue. I’m very hopeful that we can make change in this term of Parliament.
STEINFORT: I want to talk about what you are up to on the weekend. Albo, specifically, you are DJing at an event?
ALBANESE: I am.
STEINFORT: Look at these pictures. You have Malcolm Turnbull’s leather jacket. You are ready to go.
ALBANESE: It is a charity event for Reclink. They are a youth charity that do fantastic work with disadvantaged young people at the margins. It is about including them in mainstream society through engagement in arts and sport. Tonight I’ll be playing Polish Club because they are playing in the Reclink Cup. It is game between people involved in the music industry and people involved in journalism. You could play Tom. You have the height. You could do it.
STEINFORT: I’m good. Don’t worry about that. What nightclub are you playing at?
DUTTON: I won’t be playing at any nightclub I can assure you. My task is to keep my teenage children away from nightclubs and alcohol. Nothing as exciting as that. The boys want to go for a surf on Sunday morning so I will take them and go for a walk. Hard to maintain this body without fitness Tom, as you would appreciate.
STEINFORT: It is a temple.
DUTTON: That’s how I treat it.
STEINFORT: Very quickly, I noticed before you came on, you were worried about touching each other but you have grown close to each other.
ALBANESE: I worry about the way they are putting the chairs so close together here. And I’m on Peter’s right, which is almost impossible.
STEINFORT: You have been saving that one up for months. Great to have you in here. Good luck with the DJ gig. Thank you both.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.