Interview with David and Will, 5AA
7th November 2018
SUBJECTS: Mark Latham; China Belt and Road Initiative; Scomo bus
JOURNALIST: A big good morning to Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese. Good morning to you guys.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning gentlemen.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
JOURNALIST: Well I’m not too sure whether you can call it the big news, but certainly one item of news this morning is that the man who came a bee’s whisker of becoming Prime Minister 14 years ago, Mark Latham is now a member of One Nation Party, and he’s going to be running for the New South Wales Upper House at the next New South Wales election. Your thoughts, gentlemen, starting with you Chris?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well my first thought was that he would probably get elected if he’s number one on the One Nation’s Legislative Council ticket. I think it would be hard pressed not to win. Mark Latham will be back in politics as the Leader of One Nation in New South Wales, so he’s a man that’s full of surprises, and this is the latest twist and turn in a very high profile and controversial political career.
JOURNALIST: What’s your assessment of Latham, Albo? Were you a Beazley person or did you switch over to Mark Latham ahead of him becoming leader in the run up to the 2004 election?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The only time I’ve pleaded with people in a leadership ballot, as opposed to just lobbying was to plead them to not elect Mark Latham as leader of the Labor Party, which I did. He won by one vote, tragically, and I think the country dodged a bullet frankly in not electing him Prime Minister given the erratic nature of his political engagement ever since. I think this will end with tears. I think Christopher is probably right. He’s certainly a favourite to get elected as number one on the Legislative Council ticket, a very low quota, you don’t need that high a vote. But there is no question that he will fall out with Pauline Hanson just like he’s fallen out with David Leyonhjelm, just like he’s fallen out with everyone he’s ever had associations with over the last 20 years.
JOURNALIST: How do you go from being a Labor person to a One Nation person? Do you see it as an ideological thing, or rather as you alluded to, is it just his personality, he just seems to get to a point that he burns everyone and moves to new meat?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think it’s a personality thing. Mark carried a chip on his shoulder and always had. The signs were there, the incident with the taxi driver, the anger issues, the erratic policy issues, he was out there favouring a flat tax at one stage. He’s issued all sorts of different policies that are contradictory over the years. And I mean the tragedy here is that, this is a guy who people in south western Sydney, working people, who couldn’t afford it, chipped in dollars week after week to send him through university – one of their own, so he didn’t have to work his way through university like a whole lot of other people do, and he turned his back on them. And you know, this is a guy who has no self-awareness, and I think that’s why it always ends in him falling out, whether it be the falling out with political colleagues, indeed professionals. This guy has been sacked effectively from a whole lot of media jobs that he had. He used to have a column in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, he had a column in the Financial Review, he had a show on Sky News, and on all of those, they didn’t last.
JOURNALIST: Okay, Christopher Pyne, I want to switch the conversation to China. There’s a charm offensive going on at the moment. Marise Payne, the Foreign Minister, heading over to China to strengthen the relationship between our two countries. But here at home it’s been revealed that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has signed a memorandum of understanding with China to be a part of their controversial Belt and Road Initiative without consulting the Federal Government. What’s your take on that?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I think this was a really interesting story, and I think there’s a long way to go on this story. I was very surprised to see that Victoria, a state, had signed a memorandum of understanding with China, a sovereign national government. Now I know that they consulted with the Department of Foreign Affairs early in the piece, and then went ahead and negotiated their own Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure memorandum of understanding. I do think that Daniel Andrews needs to release this memorandum of understanding during the Victorian state election so that people can see what Victoria has signed up to. Now we obviously encourage economic engagement with China, but the Belt and Road Initiative is really a national project in China to engage with other sovereign countries around the world, and I’m not convinced that the Victorian Government is the right body to be signing an MOU with another national government, when it’s a state. But let’s see it. Let’s get this memorandum of understanding out there for people to have a look at. If he’s got nothing to hide, with respect to the MOU, then he should be prepared to release them.
JOURNALIST: What’s your take on it, Albo? Is it a good idea that the Labor Government in Victoria has gone this path?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh look, my understanding is that the MOU creates a consultative mechanism, nothing more than that. And the fact is that the Victorian Government did consult the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade before these negotiations began, and you’ve had quite a contradictory position from the Prime Minister saying it’s a bad idea, but the trade benefits, the Foreign Affairs Minister saying it was a good idea. So I think that it’s much to do about nothing really. What we’ve said is that we’ll examine any Belt and Road Initiative projects on a case by case basis and act in Australia’s national interests, and that’s what we should do. I was very critical of the decision to lease the Port of Darwin to an entity that is certainly Chinese controlled, and I think that wasn’t in Australia’s national interest because that is obviously a strategic piece of infrastructure for the nation.
JOURNALIST: Contradictions potentially on your side, Albo. There’s a senior Labor MP quoted in The Australian this morning saying that this must be stopped, and you’re saying it’s much to do about nothing?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: You can always find one. I could probably name them.
JOURNALIST: Okay you can. Feel free. Who is it?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well if you want to rent a quote on the position about being hostile to China on any issue in particular, there’s one in Victoria that you can go to at any time.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Who is it? Who is it? I don’t know who you mean?
JOURNALIST: Yeah, we’re South Australians.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: You do, you do. Work it out. There’s got to be some intrigue.
JOURNALIST: Hey, just quickly before we let you go. It’s just for you Chris, when’s the Scomo Express coming to South Australia?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: The old Scomobile? It’s going really well in Queensland, it’s much loved. It’s on its trip north, going very well. The good thing about Scomo is that he’s going to campaign relentlessly right through to election day because it’s too important to let Labor back into office. They’ve already lined up the curtains in the ministerial wing, the Labor Party, they’re so certain of winning, but I think Scomo is going to give them a real run for their money.
JOURNALIST: When are we going to see it on Lower North East Road, though?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well hopefully soon. I can’t wait to get on the Scomobile and head wherever the Prime Minister wants to go. I’m a hundred per cent with Scomo.
JOURNALIST: Albo will be waiting on Marrickville Road with a box of tomatoes until it turns up.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: He’ll be waiting with a machete.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: You went under the bus with Malcolm Turnbull, Christopher.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No way, I’m still standing.
JOURNALIST: I’m still standing. Chris Pyne, Anthony Albanese, Two Tribes.