SUBJECTS: NSW abortion laws; Conservative Political Action Conference; Donald Trump Jr; Raheem Kassam; Australia/US alliance; mobile phones in Parliament House.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, and Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese. Fellas, good morning to you.
PETER DUTTON: Good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning.
KNIGHT: New South Wales is the only state that still has a law dating back to 1900 that criminalises abortion. Doctors say they need clarity on this. Peter, is it time to change it?
DUTTON: Well it’s an issue for the New South Wales Parliament; but I think the contentious element is not around decriminalisation, but it’s around the late term abortions. So, where you’re talking about a baby at 22 weeks or a foetus at 22 weeks I think that’s the most contentious part. Understandably, people have their views and …
KNIGHT: Do you support the fact that the laws should be introduced, though, and changed? I know it’s a matter for New South Wales, but your view?
DUTTON: Well, I’m not in the New South Wales Parliament, but my view is very clear and that is that I think 22 weeks is too late. I worked in an area of many years ago where you’re dealing with victims of sexual abuse. So, for women that had been raped I’d very much support their choice and it’s a matter, ultimately, for the mother. But 22 weeks is too late. I mean if you Google the image of a 22 week old foetus, have a look at the image. I think it is a very difficult circumstance for women, obviously, in any of those situations, but that’s the most contentious element of the New South Wales debate. And I wouldn’t vote for it on that basis.
KNIGHT: And those late term abortions are very rare. But, Albo, this is an issue that attracts a conscience vote from both sides. Shouting down though in Parliament when you’ve got Barnaby Joyce expressing a view, I mean, he should be allowed to express his views, shouldn’t he? Why should Labor actually be shouting him down.
ALBANESE: Well, that didn’t happen. I was actually there and …
KNIGHT: You can hear people saying: ‘sit down’.
ALBANESE: Parliament from time to time will be a bit boisterous. Barnaby Joyce was commenting just before Question Time and so people were coming into the Chamber. This is a matter for the New South Wales Parliament. If I had a vote I would support the legislation. I think women do have a right to choose, and with regard to the issue that Peter raised: it has to involve more than one doctor. And this is a health issue and I think that the Health Minister in Gladys Berejiklian’s Government, Brad Hazzard, deserves credit for bringing this forward, along with independent members and members from across the Parliament including some members of the Labor Party.
KNIGHT: It’s before Parliament in New South Wales, we’ll see how it progresses. Now the Trumps have bought into Australian politics, Donald Trump Jr describing Labor’s calls for far right activist Raheem Kassan to be banned from coming to Australia for a conservative conference here next week as insanity. Whether you like Raheem Kassan’s views or not, Albo, we have the right to free speech here in Australia, don’t we?
ALBANESE: We do. But we also have a right to determine who comes here. And we have a right to say that when people are coming here to promote division and conflict; I mean this guy has said quite reprehensible things about for example the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
KNIGHT: Which he backtracked from.
ALBANESE: They were misogynistic, they were disgusting and he has said a range of homophobic, misogynistic – this guy, this is a parade of right-wing nutters, essentially, coming here along with some members of the Coalition, having this sort of right wing nut fest.
KNIGHT: Isn’t sunlight the best disinfectant, though, because in the sense calls from Labor to deny entry and ban them here, that’s just fuelling the fire and giving them the publicity they want?
ALBANESE: The Government has itself, earlier this year, banned some extreme right-wingers from coming here; including the Milo fellow.
KNIGHT: Milo Yiannopoulos …
ALBANESE: After comments that were made. So, the Government’s being inconsistent here. I would say the same thing about – whether on the extreme right or on the extreme left – what we don’t need to do in this country is to import division. What we need is more unity more cohesiveness as a nation.
KNIGHT: What’s your response to that, Peter? There are also some Liberal MPs who are going to and speaking at this CPAC conference as well.
DUTTON: Again, I mean coming back to your point. I think people have a right in our country and I hope it’s always a case that they can express their views. You can argue against it vehemently if you like. People can be conducting a civil debate, though, which is the most important element coming back to your point about Barnaby before …
KNIGHT: But is it going to be a civil debate? I mean this guy and the members who …
DUTTON: I didn’t know who this guy was before he was put into prominence by one of the Labor frontbenchers this week; who was only after attention for herself. So, you know, have a look at Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom, has had some pretty radical things to say in relation to supporting parts of ISIS. And you know crazy theories about 9/11; let him say it and then let him be shouted down if that’s the opposing view. But we live in a country where we well and truly, I think sometimes we take it for granted, but we well and truly really have these debates in a civil way. And I worry that in our country, as we’re seeing in other democracies at the moment, that views are shouted down either because they’re politically incorrect or because people don’t agree with them, it’s a very slippery path. And I think allow people in a democracy like ours to have their say, have a civil debate and then make up your own mind.
KNIGHT: Is it a good look, though, to have Liberal members attending this conference and speaking at it?
DUTTON: It’s entirely an issue for them. Again, people have a range of views on the far-left, the far-right. The Immigration Minister of the day – when I was Immigration Minister I stopped people coming in from the far-left and the far-right where, in particular they had convictions and they’d been involved in violence. But I always had an overarching consideration, I’m sure Minister Coleman does now, that people are entitled to their view – express it and debate it.
ALBANESE: The problem here is, that some extreme views are being made mainstream by members of the Government being on a platform. There is not just Mr Kassan, there’s the other fellow from the United States who invited a Holocaust denier to the State of the Union Address by the President of the United States. I mean, this is a very strange conference to be organising and the Government’s legitimising some of these hard right views by having Government members on the same platform.
KNIGHT: We’ll no doubt hear more from the conference when it’s underway in Sydney next week. Now, I wanted to touch on this one. Our addiction to mobile phones; we know it’s a huge issue across society. But it was highlighted by this picture from Parliament this week, pretty much everyone with their heads down on their devices while people were speaking, and I think with the actual image that we’ve got it was quite extraordinary, really, and if it was happening in school, in the classroom, Peter, the phones would be confiscated the kids would to be sent to the principal’s office. Why is it okay in our Parliament?
DUTTON: You’ve got to feel for Albo, I mean, this was the Parliamentary version of ‘phone-a-friend’, right. So, Albo, I don’t know who they were all calling …
ALBANESE: They were your members who were just on the screen by the way, Pete.
DUTTON: The shot of the week was all of the Front Bench of the Labor Party …
ALBANESE: You weren’t here.
DUTTON: It was a great shot, Albo.
ALBANESE: I was talking to you in London
DUTTON: Was it Mark Latham? I don’t know who you were calling maybe Jeremy Corbyn? Somebody. I hope they gave you an answer.
ALBANESE: I was talking to you in London
DUTTON: Who were you all talking to? You and some group, turn around and talk to them.
KNIGHT: Regardless, everyone was on their devices so, you know, it’s not good enough, is it?
DUTTON: We’re not banning them from Parliament. I think people are paid an adult wage, they behave like adults. Some people can multi-task as well of looking at their phone, listening to the debate, people research now. I mean, I get briefings through my mobile phone whilst you’re in Parliament. The thing goes 24/7.
KNIGHT: My kid is watching you and I’m saying to him: ‘get off your device’, and he sees that image and it’s like …
DUTTON: I just spoke to Kirilly, mine are already a school so I’ve not undermined …
KNIGHT: And what’s your distraction of choice do you like Candy Crush, or are you more of a Solitaire kind of guy?
KNIGHT: Sudoku, all right. Words with Friends? That’s always fun to do.
ALBANESE: I don’t know that one.
KNIGHT: I’ll tell you about it, it’s good. Good on you fellas, have a good Friday. Thank you so much.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.