13 February 2019
SUBJECTS: Medevac Bill
JOURNALIST: And it’s a big good morning to Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning, gentlemen.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
JOURNALIST: And we know things are at fever pitch politically in Canberra right now, fellas, so we’ll try to get through this in the most intelligible and coherent way we possibly can. This is for us too. We’ll kick off with you Chris. Before we get to the actual policy content of the Medevac legislation, can I just ask you a question of constitutional principle? If the Parliament passes the law that the government opposes, hasn’t the government lost the ability to govern?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No because the government has to indicate that a vote is a matter of confidence. So the other times this has happened, the government indicated that a certain vote was carried against their wishes, they would regard that as a matter of confidence, and that’s not the case here. Obviously we’re very disappointed that the crossbenchers, Labor and the Greens have combined to weaken our border protection, which is what happened yesterday. But we are the best party to keep governing, and that was put on complete display yesterday, because 300-400 men from Nauru will now come to Australia in the next fortnight because Labor and the Greens decided they should allowed to come into our country.
JOURNALIST: To you, Albo, the last two weeks on this program, it’s been banks, banks, banks, banks – all the texts, all the listeners’ comments have been all round the NAB and AMP. Today, boats, boats, boats. Is that really what Labor wants to fight an election on?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well look this legislation was before the Parliament and of course it arose out of a Private Members’ Bill. We judged it on its merits, on its merits that if there were people who needed medical assistance, who were in our care, then we are a big enough country to be able to provide that, and indeed codify what the Government itself says is already happening with the 900 people, which is more than are on either Manus or Nauru, who have come to Australia to get health care or the family members who have come to Australia to get health care. That’s all that this legislation has done. It doesn’t change any of the border protection measures that are in place, and I think that you can be tough on people smugglers, without being weak on humanity.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well that’s what Labor used to say when Kevin Rudd was the Prime Minister, and when he was in Opposition. They said they’d turn back the boats, if you remember. They said that they would do exactly as what the Government is doing, that there would be bipartisanship on border protection, and when Kevin Rudd got elected we saw 50,000 people arrive after they dismantled John Howard’s border protection laws. And what we’ve seen yesterday is, thank goodness, the Australian people have an insight into what will happen under a Shorten Government.
JOURNALIST: How much actually changes though with this particular piece of legislation, Christopher Pyne? Because as I understand it, in the issue where there’s a medical transfer and the Minister rejects it, the decision can then be reviewed by a medical panel, and they say –
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Appointed by the Minister.
JOURNALIST: Right. The Minister then can still reject it on national security grounds or if the person has a criminal record or poses a threat to the Australian community. That seems to be pretty broad discretion for the Minister to still prevent anyone from arriving on Australian shores.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: There’s nobody on Nauru at the moment in detention. They’re all members of the community and they’re all getting medical assistance. The Labor Party is spreading a complete lie that somehow the people on Nauru are not getting any medical treatment. It’s so bizarre that they would the public would believe that. Everyone on Nauru is getting medical attention that they need right now. What the Labor Party has done is taken the power away from the Government to protect our borders because if the Minister makes such a decision, it will be justiciable, in other words, the activists from the Greens and the Labor Party, will be able to tie the Government up in the courts here in Australia for years and years…..
ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s happening now, that’s just nonsense.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: ….and when we were last in Government and had to save Australia from Labor’s border protection laws, it cost the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in legal fees that we had to pay to the activists to take their own Government to court. And if you remember rightly, when Labor had 50,000 people arriving and 8000 children in detention by the way, that was costing the budget billions and billions of dollars, which has now all been saved because we’ve closed 19 detention centres. There are no children in detention, there have been no arrivals in the last few years, and that means the taxpayers of Australia are not paying for failed border protection policies that Labor wants to entirely reopen. There’s nothing humane about people dying at sea.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: You’ve had a good crack Christopher. The fact is, just a couple of facts. One is, the most number of people who’ve applied for protection here in Australia was the last year on this Government’s watch. They happened to come by plane rather than boat, but the record number is on this Government’s watch. Secondly, there are no changes whatsoever to any border protection measures. No one who arrives who isn’t already on Manus and Nauru and has been there for more than half a decade will be able to be affected by this legislation. Now the Government never said what we’re going to do is we’re going to put people on Manus and Nauru and we’ll leave them there indefinitely and they’ll be there for more than half a decade. And that has had a massive impact on these people and we have responsibility. And if there is a pull factor then why is it that the Government’s 900 people, more than are either on Manus and Nauru, who are here now getting medical assistance and their families. That is happening on this Government’s watch.
JOURNALIST: Isn’t the issue, can I just jump in here –
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Apparently Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party knows more about the security situation than ASIO, ASIS, the Australian Signals Directorate, the Australian Border Force, Australian Defence Force. The advice from security agencies to us was that if this Bill passes, we will have to reopen Christmas Island detention centre. And despite that advice, and Labor’s had that advice, despite that advice, Labor wanted to make a political point, and now the Australian public…..
ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s complete nonsense.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: So Anthony Albanese knows more about security than the security agencies who advised us that we would have to reopen Christmas Island and that will be underway relatively soon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: You’ve been humiliated, Christopher. As Leader of the House, you’ve lost control…
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Don’t try to change the subject….
ANTHONY ALBANESE: ….for the first time since the 1920s. When we talk about border protection there are no changes.
JOURNALIST: Hey fellas, hey guys, sorry, sorry, sorry. I want to bring our listeners back into this. Albo, we got a text from a lady called Phillippa earlier, that I actually think put this issue for your side of politics into its broader context. She talks about the fact that we have got a brand-new hospital here in Adelaide yet we have problems with ramping. She talks about the fact that we have got big waiting lists for elective surgery. What do you say to those Australians who go, hang on a minute, we can’t be guaranteed the medical services we need, yet we’re going to be flying people into Australia who have arrived here unlawfully to look after their medical needs?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: What I say to them is that this Government has brought 900 people either directly for medical assistance or their families here to Australia, right now, and they’re here. So what this does is codify existing practice. When it comes to health care, Labor can be trusted to have proper health care, and to put Medicare at the centre of our health system, unlike the Government who basically don’t believe in a public health system.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well that’s more nonsense from you. It’s breathtaking, quite frankly that Labor and the Greens would have combined to thumb their noses at Australian security agencies and put the ADF in the position, again, where we’re going to put platforms into Northern Australia to stop the people smugglers coming…
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The only people encouraging people smugglers are you.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: As the Minister for Defence, I don’t want my ADF personnel having to get dead bodies out of the sea again, as happened when Labor was last in Government.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Why are you encouraging them with this nonsense? I ask you this, what change is there for anyone who gets on a boat today, or after this legislation is carried or before? Because the answer is zero.
JOURNALIST: Just finally, Chris, just finally. Sorry guys, I knew this was going to happen. We’re going to wrap it up. Final question to you Christopher Pyne, as the Leader of Government Business in the House, Derryn Hinch is obviously asking for this briefing about the national security implications of the Medivac Bill. If this Bill passes, is there the option of an early election or an immediate election on the table?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No. Definitely not.
JOURNALIST: No worries, we’ll leave it there. A rollicking Two Tribes as expected.