Aug 14, 2015

Transcript of television interview – Today Show, Nine network

Subjects: Dyson Heydon; marriage equality

LISA WILKINSON: Joining us now from Adelaide, Education Minister Christopher Pyne and here in the studio, Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese. Good morning to both of you gentlemen.


CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Lisa, good morning Anthony.

WILKINSON: Christopher, if I can start with you first, this is another crisis for the Prime Minister. He hand-picked Justice Heydon. Is it time now for the Prime Minister to ask Justice Heydon to stand down?

PYNE: No, that would be a complete overreaction, and in fact Mark Dreyfus, the Shadow Attorney-General said yesterday in Parliament that they couldn’t say that Dyson Heydon was biased at all. Dyson Heydon’s one of the most eminent jurists in Australia, and when he found out that this could be portrayed as a Liberal Party event, so obviously when he accepted it, he didn’t know it was a Liberal Party event, he pulled out. This is the greatest storm in a teacup  in years. So overreacting by sacking Dyson Heydon would be exactly the opposite thing, I’m shocked that Labor wants to put their relationship with the trade union movement so front and centre of the political debate.

WILKINSON: To be fair, Justice Heydon took 24 hours between being told absolutely that it was a Liberal Party fundraiser and seeing the flyer, and finally saying that he would step down from speaking at that event. But Christopher, how is it that – how is it possible the Royal Commissioner didn’t know it was a fundraiser in the first place? The invitations clearly showed that all cheques be made out to the Liberal Party and all profits would go to Liberal Party campaigning. And how is it possible that no-one in the Liberal Party thought that having a sitting Royal Commissioner speak at a fundraiser is just inappropriate and compromises his credibility?

PYNE: Well, that certainly is a good question, the latter part, why he was invited in the first place is beyond me. But I don’t think Deyson Heydon, well from what I’ve seen of the emails, he didn’t even see the invitation. His office said to them, if this is a Liberal Party event we won’t be it doing it. And when they indicated it was, they didn’t do it. So Dyson Heydon behaved appropriately throughout the entire process, why a barrister in the Liberal Party thought it was a good idea to invite him is beyond me. But Dyson Heydon’s doing a terrific job, the real issue here is the relationship the between the CFMEU, the MUA, AWU and the Labor Party, and the fact that if Labor wins the next election the CFMEU has a seat back at the Cabinet table, getting rid of the Royal Commissioner is exactly what Labor would want in the same way they used to attack Kenneth Marks when he was the Royal Commissioner in the Penny Easton affair in Western Australia. Labor always attacks the umpire. What they really need to do is address their relationship with the trade union movement

WILKINSON: Alright, let’s bring in Anthony on this. Anthony, the PM says that the royal commissioner you is not biased. Do you agree?

ALBANESE: Well Lisa, you can’t run the government if you are running a vendetta. That’s what we’re seeing here. We have seen a Royal Commissioner compromised by himself in agreeing to do a Liberal Party fundraiser. If you look at his judgments in the past he has said, as a judge, an eminent judge indeed, that the compromising of the appearance of impartiality is grounds for disqualification. In own his own words, on the basis of his own judgments; he now is not fit to Continue as the Royal Commissioner.

PYNE: That’s just ridiculous, Anthony, and you know it.  Dyson Heydon is a former High Court very judge.

ANTHONY: His own rulings made it very clear, Christopher.

PYNE: The idea that this would overshadow his excellent work as a High Court judge, is quite frankly absolutely outside the bounds of reasonableness. The Labor Party needs to take a cold shower, and start behaving like an adult political party. We are acting on made the basis of his own judgment. That made it very, very clear that a judge must be impartial, must be separate from any appearance of bias.

PYNE: He is. He’s clearly entirely impartial.

ANTHONY: Quite clearly he’s not. A Garfield Barwick Lecture. Bit of a hint there, Christopher. I’m speaking at the Ben Chifley Memorial Lecture. Guess what? That’s connected with the Labor Party.

PYNE: Well Sir Garfield Barwick was the Chief Justice of the High Court.

ANTHONY: He was a prominent Tory, Christopher. Regarded as such by every Labor person, a Garfield Barwick lecture in Sydney organised by Liberal lawyers as a fundraiser for the Liberal Party.

PYNE: But not knowing Dyson Heydon.

ALBANESE: His position is quite untenable. Well that’s like saying, I don’t know that Ben Chifley is a Labor figure.

PYNE: Ben Chifley wasn’t the Chief Justice of the High Court.

ALBANESE: It fails the test of credibility.

WILKINSON: Let’s move on. The other big political debate of the week was of course same-sex marriage, with the government will performing a back-flip, saying that they’re now going to leave it to the people and not the politicians to decide. Christopher, this week you accused the Prime Minister of branch stacking by adding the Nationals into the decision on a free vote. You are normally one of his biggest supporters.

PYNE: And I remain his biggest supporter. The Prime Minister and I are tight as a drum. But I took the view, and I think it is the right view, that the Liberal Party should have had its own meeting to decide its position on a free vote. My first preference is that this matter should be dealt with by the Parliament, through a free vote and the Liberal Party should have had the chance to discuss that on its own. Whether we then had subsequently a joint party meeting with the National Party, well of course we would have. But the National Party had its own meeting and I think the Liberal Party should have been allowed to have its own meeting as well. So now we have decided to put it to the people, obviously that should be done through a plebiscite, because there’s absolutely no reason to change the Constitution. The Attorney-General’s made that entirely clear. There is no legal reason to change the Australian Constitution and so a referendum would cost a great deal of money, in fact only to achieve no outcome because there is no legal basis for a referendum.

WILKINSON: Anthony, if the LNP is returned after the next election, this looks like it could still be a while before gay marriage happens in this country. Labor had 7 years to put this in front of the Australian people, do you regret that you didn’t do something about it sooner?

ALBANESE: We actually did, Lisa. Let’s be very clear. We amended 86 pieces of legislation to give equality to people on the basis of sexual preference across a whole range of areas and we also had a vote on the Stephen Jones Bill on the floor of the Parliament to introduce marriage equality. The problem here isn’t that Tony Abbott is stuck in the past; it’s that he wants the rest of Australia to go back there and keep him company. And what we have seen this week, is dysfunction from the Coalition, across the board we have three different positions now being run out, all in order to avoid a vote of the Parliament being able to express their view on the basis of a conscience vote.

I have argued very strongly for a conscience vote, in my party, publicly, I will continue to do so. It’s a tragedy in my view that the Liberal Party of Robert Menzies set up on the basis of individualism has resorted to basically rorting their own party room processes, as Christopher very correctly nailed the Prime Minister on just this week.

WILKINSON: Alright, we will have to leave it there gentlemen. Thank you for your company and have a great weekend.

ALBANESE: Thank you.

PYNE: Thank you.