Wednesday, 27 March 2019
SUBJECTS: One Nation Preferences, Christchurch Shootings
DAVID BEVAN: Lets welcome Simon Birmingham, Liberal Senator, Minister for Trade. He is on the phone line this morning, good morning Simon Birmingham.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM, MINISTER FOR TRADE, TOURISM AND INVESTMENT: Good morning, great to be with you.
BEVAN: In our studio, Amanda Rishworth, Labor MP for Kingston. Good morning to you.
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Good morning to you.
BEVAN: And Cory Bernard- leady- Bernardi. Leady- Cory, sorry.
ALI CLARKE: Its Wednesday.
CORY BERNARDI, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN CONSERVATIVES: You do this in purpose, David.
BIRMINGHAM: Cory Bernardi, Leader of the Australian Conservatives, David.
BEVAN: Cory Bernardi, Leader of the Australian Conservatives, good morning to you.
BERNARDI: Well, good morning to Ali, I am going to say.
BEVAN: Simon Birmingham, let’s begin with you. The lead par in The Australian today says that the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has moved to stop the flow of Coalition votes to One Nation. Attacking the party as, quote ‘abhorrent’ and urging disaffected conservatives to support the government ahead of Pauline Hanson at the May election. Do you think that One Nation is abhorrent?
BIRMINGHAM: I think many of their policies are and I think what we have seen is that really One Nation is a bit of a two ring circus. You have got, the two clowns that headed off to the U.S. and of course were seeking to extract some $20 million in funding from the National Rifle Association over there. They were seemingly annoying their parties stance when it came to banning foreign donations which our government has legislated and they were wanting to undo Australia’s strict gun laws and while those two clowns fronted up yesterday and claimed they were too drunk to really know what they were doing, you have got to wonder where the circus ringmaster is: Pauline Hanson has been pathetic and in hiding these last couple of days and she should front up and answer the fact that, was she sanctioning her party to go out and get $20 million of foreign donations from people who were going to help her allegedly to unpick Australia’s gun laws. I mean it is a truly scandalous serious of actions and it does make you wonder just what type of party an outfit this is.
BEVAN: Cory Bernardi, is One Nation abhorrent?
BERNARDI: I wouldn’t use those terms. I think Pauline Hanson gives voice to those who feel they don’t have a voice in many respects. But, I will say their policy agenda is not always consistent, it is not always reflective of what they say from one day to the next and I lament the fact that on one hand we shouldn’t be taking foreign donations, we shouldn’t be having foreign interference in our domestic politics and then the two most senior people outside of the parliamentary ranks go and do exactly what they are speaking against. Now, it is not the first time it has happened, they have done it in respect to public funding and a whole range of other areas. I just, I lament the fact that politics has been reduced to this to be honest.
BEVAN: So you don’t find them abhorrent? You just have trouble with their consistency.
BERNARDI: Well it is inconsistent.
BEVAN: You haven’t got a problem with what they are saying it’s just that it’s a bit messy.
BERNARDI: Well I disagree with what they are saying in many respects.
BEVAN: What do you disagree with?
BERNARDI: Well I have a different policy on migration for example. I mean, one week they’re saying we will have a pray for a Muslim band and we are going to ban all Muslims from coming to the country, that has never been my policy. The next week they are saying they have a non-discriminatory immigration policy and the following week they have something different. They say they have the balance the Budget and yet they vote for unaccountable spending- actually, in your portfolio, Simon, an extra $5 billion it was in education. They say they want smaller government and yet they want to build coal fired power stations. I mean, there is an inconsistency to this and I respect John Howard’s words, where he said, a decade or so ago – and I think you will find it in The Australian today, that they’re allowed to have their policy agenda but they should be scrutinised on it and examined on it and tested on it and that is where they come falling apart.
BEVAN: Amanda Rishworth.
RISHWORTH: Look, I do find One Nation’s policies and values abhorrent. I think they are sewing division within our community and they are an extremist party. But, when it comes to Scott Morrison it is one thing for him to plead for votes and plead for conservative votes to vote for the Coalition but what he won’t do is stand up and show leadership and say ‘he will put One Nation last’. What we have seen is him being very tricky and saying, ‘well, let’s see who goes on the ballot paper’, but he could easily come out today and say, ‘of the parties that are around at the moment, I will put Fraser Anning and One Nation last. If something else comes out that is more extreme I will consider that.’ It is time he stands up and shows leadership and says, ‘I will put One Nation last.’ He is playing a tricky game here and quite frankly I think it is disingenuous and it is time he shows leadership.
CLARKE: Well, Simon Birmingham, on that Amanda Rishworth has brought up, do you think the Prime Minister should today, come out and put One Nation and Fraser Anning last?
BIRMINGHAM: The Prime Minister has made it very clear: we will deal with preferences at the right time to deal with preferences and that is when nominations close for the election and you know exactly who you are dealing with and whether you are dealing with Fraser Anning, whether you are dealing with One Nation, whether you are dealing with others with more extremist views, when you are contemplating others on the other extreme of politics-
BEVAN: But Amanda Rishworth has taken that into account in what she has just put to you. She said, ‘okay, of all the people who are in front of us right now, I put Fraser Anning and One Nation last. Now, if Adolf Hitler turns up tomorrow, I will put him after them but right now, based on the smorgasbord in front of me, they go last.’ Can you say that?
BIRMINGHAM: David, we have said very clearly, there won’t be any deals with any of these parties. I mean, the Labor Party will no doubt go off, as they do every single election and stitch up a cosy deal with the Greens and exchange preferences with the Greens notwithstanding the Greens have voted against national security laws that have helped to strengthen Australia. Notwithstanding that the Greens vote against, regularly, trade and economic policies that are important to this country’s future. The Labor Party cosies up to the extreme of the left wing. We have made it very clear that there will be no deals unlike the Labor Party-
RISHWORTH: Simon, are you suggesting that the Greens and One Nation are about equal? Because, that is what is sounds like you are suggesting. You are suggesting that everyone is in the basket. There is an easy question for you here: will you put One Nation behind the Labor Party, the Greens- will you put them last as it now stands? That is a simple question that you answered last week on this program but you fail to answer now and your Prime Minister fails to answer now.
BIRMINGHAM: What I said last week is that I am confident we will put extremists at the bottom of the ticket and I remain confident that will be the case but we are not going to dictate our ticket before we know exactly who has nominated. We will deal with it when nominations close and in the meantime we are actually trying to get on with governing the country-
BEVAN: Well Simon Birmingham, The Advertiser reports this morning that Prime Minister Morrison faces, quote ‘an internal mutiny’ if he doesn’t order One Nation last. Can you respond to that?
BIRMINGHAM: David, I have made clear the fact that I expect extremist parties will be put at the bottom of our ticket. The Labor Party won’t do the same when it comes to the-
BEVAN: But is this tearing your party apart?
BIRMINGHAM: The Labor Party should put the Greens ahead of the Liberal Party, they should actually have to explain why they want to put the Greens ahead of the Liberal Party. Yet, they will just go off and do a cosy deal with the far left political parties and seemingly nobody will ever hold them to account on it- the media never actually get worked up about that. Now, we have been very clear, we will deal with this issue at the right time, the right time is when nominations for the election close in a month or so’s time and then we can order out ticket in a sensible way, dealing with those extremist parties as they deserve to be dealt with. In the meantime we are fighting on the issues. Scott Morrison could not have been clearer on his condemnation of Pauline Hanson and her party yesterday, I could not have been clearer in my attack on her and her party earlier in this interview. But, there are actually issues that matter to people’s lives rather than the preference order of political parties ticket that are really important that we are getting on with as well. Yesterday dealing with social media companies and making sure that the types of horror that were broadcast out of Christchurch are never broadcast again or are taken down as quickly as possible. Now, why aren’t we talking about those sorts of things that the government is getting on and doing to make our society a better place.
BEVAN: Did Al Jazeera cross a line? Croy Bernardi.
BERNARDI: I don’t think it reflects well on journalism per say but it’s not unknown. I mean, we could go back to the sting, ‘The Fake Sheikh’ in the U.K. for example who setup a couple of the Royal Family, he got a couple of politicians on the drugs and the hookers and things like that- it is not unknown. But, whether it is real or fake, you are going there with the intention of getting a particular outcome and these guys knew very well that this was a GRA lobbyist, their website-
BEVAN: When you say going there with a particular outcome, you mean One Nation operative-
BERNARDI: They weren’t unwitting dupes- if I can put that. James Ashby and Steve Dickson who met this guy who runs an organisation purported to be Gun Reform Australia. On their website they say they want to reform Australia’s gun laws and put more guns into people’s hands and they have used those contacts to then go to America, organise the trip, paid for it through One Nation funds and then hit up foreign donors for $20 million, it’s really not edifying.
CLARKE: Amanda Rishworth, do the ends justify the means?
RISHWORTH: Look, when we discuss a lot of these issues about politicians, about what gets reported, the rest always has got to be: what is in the public interest? I think what has been exposed through this is in the public interest. It is about knowing what One Nation stands for, what type of deal they are willing to do for a donation in response to try to weaken Australia’s gun laws. I think the Australian public has a right to know that this should have been exposed because it is absolutely in the public interest as we approach an election.
CLARKE: Okay, it is quarter to nine. That is the voice of Amanda Rishworth. You are listening to Super Wednesday with David Bevan and me, Ali Clarke. Also joining us on the panel is Simon Birmingham, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment and Cory Bernardi, Australian Conservatives Leader.
BEVAN: Cory Bernardi, what impact has the Christchurch shooting had on the ability for conservatives to debate?
BERNARDI: It is a really interesting question. I do feel that political opportunism came to the floor. This was a tragedy, an unmitigated tragedy that was used for political advantage by both the left and the right, I thought quite shamelessly. And, in many respects its prevented a sensible discussion about how you deal with some of the growing extremes on both sides of the political divide.
BEVAN: See, you have condemned Fraser Anning for the things that he said on the very day of the shooting and yet you have said things in the past about Muslims which people would say are in that spectrum, that they are leading, that they feed into a perception that Muslims are a problem. For instance, you have taken a position on the hijab and banning the burqa-
BERNARDI: Banning the burqa. David, I think you are conflating two significant issues. I have spoken about Islam and how the values underpinning the political and religious system are not consistent with our democratic western values. Now, I could quote the European Court of Human Rights that says that, I could go through how women are treated, the gender equality, how gays are treated in Islamic countries, how people are treated differently based on their skin colour and their religious beliefs. I could go through all of those things. It has never been about individuals. It has been about the overall ideology. Fraser Anning’s comments were completely inappropriate at two levels. One is: he has gone out there and sought political opportunism over the corpses of 50 people in a tragedy and shamelessly he has gone and blamed the victims. He wrote in his press release; the killers weren’t Muslim in this occasion but the victims were scarcely blameless. Now, that is not a human position to take and I tell you what I lament is the number of people who have defended him and denied that he has ever made those comments. I think that is a shameful indictment on those people who profess to have an inside into politics.
BEVAN: But the people within what you would describe as still within the mainstream but on the conservative side, do they now basically have to go in to a corner and rock back and forth with a wet towel over their head for the next five, ten years because nobody is going to listen to you anymore.
BERNARDI: I hope that is not the case but I do feel that they have been pushed back very, very strongly because there has been a lot of media who have seized upon the Anning comments and tried to blame Australian politics, for example, for what happened in Christchurch and I think that is completely so far from the truth. We have a nutcase who has allegedly killed 50 people. These sorts of things happen all over the world all of the time and it is not excusing it but it is a terrible, terrible tragedy and our hearts should go out to the victims of this.
BEVAN: Amanda Rishworth, what do you think has happened to the debate? Has it got to the point where decent people on the conservative side- and you come from within the conservative faction of the Labor Party – decent people within the conservative side are going to find it very hard to debate their issues?
RISHWORTH: I don’t think that is the case. I think what we have had when it comes to Christchurch is a timely reminder about inflammatory language, hate speech and things that are out there in our community that we need to stand up against. What we saw with Christchurch and is a timely reminder that people should be allowed in western democracies to be able to go around and practice and pray in a peaceful way without the threat of violence and I think standing up against that type of hate speech, that type of extremism, I think, what we have seen with Christchurch, it was a tragedy but I think the response to that has been an important and timely reminder that love triumphs hate and that we should be more accepting and more understanding of people with different faiths, different religions in our community.
CLARKE: Can we finish with you, Simon Birmingham? Your thoughts on David’s question.
BIRMINGHAM: Ali, I, last week when we spoke I mentioned that we had to be very important at this time that we didn’t constrain our ability to still continue to properly and rigorously debate policy issues that of course the tone and how we go about doing these things is important. And, although I disagree with Cory on a number of areas, I do absolutely acknowledge that he takes a very different tone to some of those other small minor parties on the right and that he has been very quick to condemn Fraser Anning for extremist comments in the past and likewise in relation to other actions and I think that is important that we do draw that clear distinction between the issues and the policies versus the way in which people conduct themselves. And last week I also reflected on the comments of Houssam Abiad had made at the vigil that David, Ali and myself were all at a couple of weeks ago now. The fact that Houssam was highlighting that we ought to be very careful when we look at these terrorist incidents not to go and vilify whole groups of people by prescribing the motivation of the people that those who conduct these terrorist incidents in the name of far right wing causes or in the name of Islam or otherwise are not reflective of people who hold conservative views, are not reflective of Muslims that go about living peaceful daily lives that go about contributing to society and that perhaps we do a disservice through that connection of association rather than dealing with the fact that overwhelmingly we have people who are madmen that conduct terrible incidents and that yes, of course, we have to go back and work out how they were radicalised, what drove them to it and how we stop that from occurring in the future with other people and that we ought not to hold categories of people with the brush of their actions.
CLARKE: Well, Simon Birmingham, you started by introducing Cory Berndardi and you finished with agreeing with him. Thank you, thank you for your time. Simon Birmingham there, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment. Cory Berndardi, Australian Conservatives Leader and also Amanda Rishworth, Labor MP for Kingston.