Subjects: Australian republican movement, China free trade agreement, request for Australian to join Syria airstrikes; gun control laws
LISA WILKINSON: I’m joined by Education Minister Christopher Pyne, and Shadow Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese in the studio. Good morning to both of you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Lisa, good morning Anthony.
ALBANESE: G’day Christopher.
WILKINSON: Well, the republic is back on the agenda and Chris yesterday you confirmed you are a republican, but believe Australia shouldn’t do it until there’s a change of monarch. That’s a pretty comprehensive rejection of poor Prince Charles, isn’t it?
PYNE: Well I’m definitely a republican and I campaigned for the republic in 1999 and happily got a yes vote in my electorate. In fact, I was the convenor of a group called ‘Conservatives for an Australian Head of State’ which we fondly called CAHOS, which was the acronym for that organisation, and most of us did get a yes vote, but my view is that we had that vote in 1999, it was comprehensively rejected and I don’t think the Australian public will consider it again until the Queen is no longer on the throne, just because they’ve done it once. I think it will be during the next head of state’s reign, which will be Prince Charles, but that’s not a reflection on Prince Charles. I also think the politicians will have to offer the public what they want, which is a people’s elected head of state. I don’t think a parliamentary model will be ever adopted by the Australian public.
WILKINSON: Ok, Anthony, in the meantime, with same sex marriage and indigenous recognition in the constitution, and now the republic, heading towards either plebiscites or referenda, that hasn’t been decided yet, aren’t we losing focus on the big issues that the government really should be working on like growth, safety, there’s so many issues and aren’t we just distracting everyone?
ALBANESE: Tony Abbott had a plan to get into government but he doesn’t have a plan to govern. This is a government that’s lost its sense of purpose. What is its narrative? What’s its objective? It’s unclear to me, it’s unclear to its own members and it’s unclear to the Australian people. We don’t have a focus on the primary issues that matter which are the economy and jobs and making sure Australia’s prepared for the changes that will occur in our region, getting those jobs and skills up so that we can take advantage of the growth in our region.
WILKINSON: Sorry, Christopher, did you want to say something?
PYNE: That is a remarkable statement coming from the Labor Party when the government is proposing the China Australia free trade agreement which will secure Australia’s economic future for decades into the future. Bob Hawke and Bob Carr are both urging the Labor Party to support it and Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party are trying to mug it because the CFMEU’s telling them to do so.
ALBANESE: That’s not right, Christopher.
PYNE: We’re the ones with the plan. We’re the ones who are trying to create jobs. They’re just trying to mug jobs in this country so they can win the next election.
ALBANESE: We simply want to make sure that any agreement is in the interests of Australian jobs and that Australians get the opportunity to apply for those jobs which are made available because of free trade. We support free trade. We started the negotiations over the free trade agreements in Japan, Korea, China, but we want to make sure when we look at the detail that Australians benefit rather than foreign workers benefit from these opportunities which will no doubt come out of the free trade agreement.
WILKINSON: They are very strong words from Bob Hawke this morning warning Labor about getting involved in this.
ALBANESE: Well, Bob Hawke’s statements are as you would expect. He’s very close to Australia-China relations. I respect his views and I respect his contribution. That’s why we’re supportive of the agreement. We want to make sure though, that when you look at the detail, Australian jobs are protected.
WILKINSON: Okay, moving on. Australia is on the verge of expanding its military commitment after a formal request to bomb Syria in the fight against ISIS. Now Anthony, any concerns that this could be just the start of a bigger involvement in the Middle East?
ALBANESE: This needs to be a bipartisan position. When it comes to our national defence issues it’s important that the Opposition get appropriate briefings. My understanding is they’re being offered at the moment. I think it’s important that we don’t play politics with this. As far as I’m concerned, anything that can be done against IS is good thing as long as it’s done in an orderly way and there’s a plan, not just to get into a situation but to get out of it. What the objective of any strategy or further intervention is needs to be made clear and needs to be explained to the Australian people, so that the whole nation goes forward as one.
WILKINSON: Alright, as you would both be aware, yesterday we saw the most dreadful example of a shooting death of a young reporter and her cameraman on live TV. Now this comes at a time that the Prime Minister is planning to relax the laws on the same rapid fire shotgun that was used by Martin Bryant in the Port Arthur massacre. Christopher, is this really the time to be watering down Australia’s gun laws?
PYNE: Well Lisa, we don’t have any plans to water down Australia’s gun laws at all. In fact, we’re copping heat from people in rural Australia for toughening the gun laws. We don’t have that gun culture in Australia, thank God, that we have in the United States, and since the Port Arthur massacre, John Howard did the very right thing, we copped a lot of difficulties from our own base over that, but we did the right thing. There hasn’t been a mass murder of the Port Arthur kind in Australia since because of those decisions and I think the United States needs to take the very same firm action. If they don’t, they’re going to keep seeing the same kind of view that you can settle differences by shooting people. Right across the border in Canada, in the same part of North America, they have the opposite culture. So it’s not something that can’t be changed. And I think the United States needs to understand they can’t go on with the current laws that they have.
WILKINSON: Alright, we will have to leave it there. Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese, always good to see you on a Friday.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you. Can I say I agree with Christopher totally.
PYNE: You usually do.
ALBANESE: Not normally, but on this, when it comes to gun control I certainly do and I think it’s one of John Howard’s great legacies.
WILKINSON: Very true, and I think all of Australia agrees with you on that.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.