Aug 1, 2014

Transcript of Today Show interview, Nine Network

Subjects: Terrorism, Israel conflict, Budget and minor political parties

STEFANOVIC: Christopher Pyne joins us now from Adelaide and also Anthony Albanese in the studio. Christopher, to you first of all, this terror threat on home soil … very disturbing.

PYNE: Well Karl, good morning and good morning to you Anthony. Obviously the terror threat from returning jihadist fighters in the Middle East is the most-significant security threat that Australia has faced in a very long time and I understand the Attorney-General, George Brandis, is considering measures that he might bring to cabinet and the Parliament in the coming weeks and months in order to address that threat. Obviously we are disgusted with terrorist fighting overseas, especially some of the images that we have been seeing. But if they return to Australia they have broken the law and they need to be arrested. But we might need to even strengthen those laws even further in this the coming months.

HOST: We are also learning this morning Australians who travel prove to Syria and Iraq will have to prove to authorities they weren’t in involved in terrorism, potentially in a court. How is that all going to work?

PYNE: That’s of the things that is a being speculated about. It’s called a reversal of the onus of proof. It’s not a decision the Government has made. But obviously we in the government, and I’m sure the Opposition in a very bipartisan way, regard the return of murderous terrorists who have been involved in the atrocities in Syria and Iraq as a serious security threat. We will do whatever is necessary – whatever is necessary – to protect Australians from some of the threats that some of those people are making or have made in the past.

STEFANOVIC:  So anyone coming back – anyone, logistically, that’s going to be difficult I would have thought.

PYNE: Well I’m sure there will be a rating of people who are higher-risk individuals rather than lower-risk individuals. I returned one from Israel yesterday morning but no-one suggested I had been involved in anything that would cause me to have to be questioned. But obviously if you are of hanging around in the country areas of Syria for several months and you return, you would want to be able to explain why you were in an area which is beset by civil war.

STEFANOVIC: A terrible situation in Israel. Albo just on that, have your comments?

ALBANESE: It certainly is. We have some real problems with the Middle East – the issues that Christopher raised of extremist fighting in northern Syria and in Iraq. In Israel and Gaza we have a real problem. I mean, I just think that the collective punishment that is being endured by the people of Gaza is completely unacceptable. What we saw this week the bombing of a school where people essentially had gone to seek refuge. That is unacceptable. It is unacceptable for Hamas to fire rockets into Israel, but the collective punishment is against all the rules of engagement and Israel must stop these actions. At the moment we are seeing a child killed every hour in Gaza.

STEFANOVIC: Benjamin Netanyahu says it will continue for a prolonged period – at least the next couple of days potentially. Chris?

PYNE: Look, it’s a shocking situation in Gaza and in the last three or so weeks Hamas have fired 2500 rockets into Israel without any provocation. Before Israel started their ground  offensive Hamas were firing hundreds and hundreds of rockets into Israel, building tunnels kilometres into Israel that would have come up in Kibbutz or near schools and they had a plan for a major attack on the state of Israel. That doesn’t mean that Israel’s response is acceptable and the deaths of civilians, particularly children, but any civilian, is one of great tragedy. So we believe there needs to be an immediate ceasefire from both sides, a ceasefire that Hamas genuinely keep. When I was in Israel there was a ceasefire that Hamas instantaneously broke. You have to understand from Israel’s point of perspective it’s a very, very difficult situation.

STEFANOVIC: Back here at home, the Federal Budget, anecdotally the worst received ever, Christopher Pyne, ever, in the history of this country. We learn this morning you have scheduled meetings with the key power brokers in the Senate. Ten weeks after you handed down the Budget you decide to meet with these people. Why would you want them on side? Hello, hello, is anybody home, hello?

PYNE: Karl, I’ve been meeting with the crossbenchers individually, collectively for months and months and months. Before they were elected I was talking to them about my higher education reforms …

STEFANOVIC: David Leyonhjelm, Jackie Lambie, you can’t haven’t met with them yet, the coalition?

PYNE: I certainly have. I absolutely have. I can’t talk about what other Cabinet higher members are doing. I’ve been meeting them all relentlessly. I’m very committed to my higher education reforms. That is my area of responsibility and I’m sticking to my area of responsibility.

STEFANOVIC: So Joe Hockey hasn’t met with some of these people and this is ten weeks after the Budget.  What happened with July? Was it dry July?

PYNE: It should always be dry July, Karl. Look, I’m getting on with my job. Other cabinet ministers need to meet with the crossbenchers, but I know that they are, I’m talking to them all very regularly as Leader of the House. I’m following Anthony Albanese’s example from when we were in the last Parliament – staying in constant communication with the crossbench.

ALBANESE: It’s just a shocker of a Budget. That’s the problem they’ve got here. This mob don’t know how to govern. We had five bills at the end of the last Senate sitting week, three of which were in my portfolio. They didn’t bother to pick up the phone to me. They haven’t bothered to negotiate. Over the Qantas Sale Act changes where eventually they adopted our position, they could than have done that last December rather than waiting months after months. I actually had a cup of coffee with David Leyonhelm earlier this year, just as the new Senator from NSW talk to him about how’s it going mate, what’s the Government saying to you? He said they haven’t said anything. They hadn’t even bothered – someone who had been elected, someone who is a conservative, hadn’t bothered to pick up the phone. They turn can talk all they like, they can’t that turn this Budget into something to that is acceptable.

STEFANOVIC: Plenty of work, to do, Christopher Pyne, you look tired; you better go and get some rest my friend. There’s a lot of work to do.

PYNE: Thanks Karl and Anthony.