1 February 2019
SUBJECTS: Civilian casualties in fight against Daesh; banking royal commission findings; Retirees; federal election
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Good morning to you both.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Deb.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Christopher, I’ll start with you. Local media reported the day after this airstrike happened that civilians have been killed, but this has taken two years to be investigated. Did our pilots get it wrong here?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well it’s very important that the, that when allegations like this are made, that a proper investigation is conducted, and not social media posts relied upon for evidence. Now, the social media post suggested that anything between 30 and 50 people have been killed. After a thorough investigation conducted by the Australian Defence Force. It’s been determined that between six and 18 civilians were killed in a coalition airstrike, and that an Australian platform may have been part of that airstrike, it may have been responsible. It’s impossible to definitively say whether it was an Australian missile that caused the deaths, but I can say that it’s deeply regrettable, and obviously we do everything we can to avoid civilian casualties. The ISIS fighters – there were seven, who were using heavy weapons to attack the Iraqi forces in Mosul. They were using civilians, not as human shields. They weren’t trying to avoid the humans being killed and themselves also not killed. They were hiding them from the Coalition forces in order for them to be killed.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: There’s no doubting the veracity of the battle, but what were the consequences of this deadly mistake be, will there be compensation offered to the surviving family members?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, I’m not aware that any family surviving members have sought compensation, but if they do, they’ll seek it from the coalition forces against Daesh, which is a global organisation, which is responsible for compensation as part of this war that’s been raging in Iraq and Syria, and assuming that they fulfil the requirements, they’ll be compensated. The Australian platforms were operating entirely within the rules of engagement, and under the law of warfare, and so there will be no discipline for the pilots involved because they were doing exactly the job that they were supposed to do. It was, obviously, tremendously upsetting that civilians were killed, and as I say, we can’t be sure it was Australians, but in the fullness of transparency, we’re prepared to say that we could have been responsible.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Okay, well it is a big news day, we have a lot to cover, and I’d like to move onto the final report of the banking royal commission, which Ross alluded to earlier. Obviously, it’s going to be enormous consequences for the banking sector, but what is the priority here? Is it propping up the banks to keep the economy ticking over, or is it holding to them account, which it seems as though there is a bit of a dichotomy here, Christopher, to you?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well Deb, the banks are a foundation of our strong economy. Our banking sector, its reliability has been one of the key factors in Australia’s economic success, so in responding to the royal commission, we have to make sure that the consumers are protected as our number one priority. Number one is the consumers. Bringing people to justice who have done the wrong thing should be our second priority, and our third priority should be not doing any more harm to the banks than they have done to themselves and their reputation by a proper considered response to the royal commission.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: And Albo, will Labor be adopting all of the recommendations, if you were to win Government?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well we’ve said that we would do that, Deb, and we said we’d do that before we’ve seen what the recommendations are, because we supported this royal commission. Christopher and Scott Morrison, and his team voted against it on no less than twenty-six separate occasions, and what we know is that as a result of this royal commission, the activity of the banks, whereby they’ve ignored consumers, having seen their role as looking after them, they’ve seen consumers as serving the interests of the banks and their profits and it’s been over the top. The fact is that this has been a very successful commission in exposing that abuse.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: The banks have been, obviously, criticised for their heartlessness, their greed and putting profits ahead of people, but on the topic of being heartless, it seems that Labor couldn’t give two hoots about senior Australians. What’s going on with your Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, telling voters that if you don’t like the policy when it comes to the franking credits, just don’t vote for us? It seems very arrogant?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Not at all. The fact is that Labor is the party of older Australians. We’re the party that last time we were in office had the largest ever increase in the aged pension in Australia’s history.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Why are you coming up with policies that are going to affect senior Australians? A lot of them aren’t rich Australians here either.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well the fact is that what we are doing is putting out our policies before the election and saying how we will pay for it.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: And if you don’t like it, too bad?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, how we’ll pay for hospitals, how we’ll pay for schools, how we’ll pay for infrastructure, how we’ll pay for early childhood education. We are being transparent about that, unlike this mob, that went to an election saying that there would be no cuts to health, no cuts to the ABC, no cuts to education, and immediately got in and have been going downhill ever since the 2014 budget.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Christopher, I also wanted to ask you about the royal commission into the Murray Darling. The authority that oversaw this plan has been called unlawful and negligent. It’s an appalling disaster, environmental disaster that’s occurring. Surely with findings this damning, we’ve got to scrap this plan and start again, don’t you?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well no we don’t, and it’s the royal commission of one state government on the Murray Darling, in the Murray Darling Basin.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: So you’re downplaying the veracity of the royal commission.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No I’m just saying that we have said that we will look at the findings of the royal commission. We will take it into account and prove the Murray Darling Basin Authority, where it can be improved. But there’s absolutely no point in throwing the baby out with the bathwater, or in this case, with the river water. We’ve come a long way in the last ten years in managing the Murray Darling Basin, for environmental flows, for support for local communities.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: But you’ve got a river here that’s dying. You’ve got millions of fish dead. We’ve seen the pictures – it’s absolutely heartbreaking. Albo, why can’t you guys work together, ignore the politics, and just you know, save this dying river system?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, that should be the priority, but we have a state and federal Government, where the Environment Ministers can’t even be bothered to going to Medindie to have a look at what is going on there. They’re not talking to locals. They’ve ignored this absolute crisis. We’ve seen all sorts of abuse happen with regard to water rights, particularly in New South Wales, and that requires not just the South Australian royal commission, it requires a real good look, and when we’re in Government we’ll certainly be doing that.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Now Christopher, you’re losing your colleagues at a rapid pace. We’ve had three Ministers so far pulling the pin and announcing they won’t be recontesting the election, and regardless of the reasons, the perception is that they are rats leaving a sinking ship. Your name’s been mentioned as someone considering his political future. Can you guarantee that you will not be quitting?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well Deb, there are less people who have announced their retirements at this election than in any time in the last ten elections.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Can you guarantee –
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: -- in thirty years. I’ve already said at least a dozen times that I am recontesting the next election. It’s really a quite tired question. My future is not in any doubt, but there are less people retiring at the next election than in any time in the last thirty years, so this is a complete media beat up.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Christopher wants to stay in Parliament so he can continue to be on the Today Show every Friday morning.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Well we will have you.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Pleased to have you both and it’s good to have our Friday pollies up and running. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Thank you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be here. Thank you.