Adam Goodes; Bronwyn Bishop; Asylum seeker policy; Australian Consensus Centre

DAVID BEVAN, HOST: Welcome to the studio.

KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Good morning David, great to be here.

BEVAN: Labor Member for Adelaide and number one ticket holder with the Crows.

ELLIS: Very proudly, yes.

BEVAN: Very proudly. And Christopher Pyne, Liberal MP for Sturt, who couldn’t make it into the studio. Good morning Christopher Pyne.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Good morning David and good morning Kate, welcome back to the show.

BEVAN: You’re not a number one ticket holder but you are a keen Crows supporter.

PYNE: I’m a Crows ambassador –

BEVAN: You’re a Crows Ambassador.

PYNE: Very proud to be a Crows Ambassador.

BEVAN: Excellent, well look, let’s talk footy for just a moment, we’ll get that out of the way. Christopher Pyne, your views on Adam Goodes? Is it about race or is it about football? Should people be allowed to boo whenever they like, or should they take up the advice from Andrew Pridham, we heard him, the Sydney Swans Chairman after 7.00am, saying ‘look if you were in any doubt before – it is racist – and just stop it’?

PYNE: Well I’m baffled by the booing of Adam Goodes. Adam Goodes is an amazing inspiration, hero, example to young people, in fact all people all around Australia, for his amazing skills and abilities, and he’s also a very good person. I’m baffled that the crowd would be booing Adam Goodes. I can understand the crowd sometimes boos when they think the umpires made a bad decision, that seems to go with football, which is not necessarily the right thing to do, but you know emotions do run high –

BEVAN: Well you’re baffled, but they are doing it, they’re doing it for a reason. Why do you think they’re doing it?

PYNE: I can’t work it out. If it’s racism, then it’s utterly unacceptable, it’s totally wrong and the AFL, in fact anyone, should stamp down on it very hard. I mean I was shocked to hear that people who had dobbed in the booers were then themselves felt that they were so threatened that they left the game, because they felt threatened by the crowd. Now mob rule is ugly and the AFL and the people associated – being officials at this game or any game, need to make sure this does not happen and those who are responsible for it need to be ejected from the grounds.

BEVAN:  And just quickly Kate Ellis, your views?

ELLIS: Well my personal view is that there are absolutely racist elements on display here. But I think regardless of what you think is inspiring this behaviour, this is bullying of the highest order. And to think that we have a champion of our sport considering his future and considering no longer playing as a result of this sort of treatment, I think is tragic and something that all Australians should stand up against, and something that I certainly hope that my beloved football team, the mighty Adelaide Crows – we show the rest of the competition how it should be done on the weekend.

BEVAN: You play politics pretty hard, are you bullying Bronwyn Bishop?

ELLIS: I’m certainly not bullying Bronwyn Bishop. I wouldn’t dream of it. What I’m doing is just raising some points and pointing out some inaccuracies in the various stories that the Speaker has been putting forward.

BEVAN: And the latest of those – that you’re questioning – is that she went to a wedding, I think in Queensland, and she claimed that on her travel allowance, and she has since been questioned about that and said ‘well I had meetings’. Now you’re on the same committee that she was involved with at that time, but you weren’t invited to any meetings?

ELLIS: No that’s right David, and of course this is high farce now, this is following on from the helicopter ride from Melbourne to Geelong to attend a Liberal Party fundraiser. We now have a late Friday afternoon flight to Albury which coincidentally was where Bronwyn was attending a wedding of one of her colleagues the next day, which she stated was on committee business. Now when the other members of the committee have pointed out that there were no hearings there, and that they weren’t aware of approving any travel to go there or any meetings scheduled, we now have Bronwyn Bishop telling us that it now was a confidential meeting that she cannot possibly reveal the source or reveal who she was meeting with or why. I think Australians rightly are raising their eyebrows.

BEVAN: Are you allowed to do that? Are the rules so slack regarding entitlements that you can say ‘it was a secret meeting’ and nobody else is able to force the point and say: well who are you meeting? Or, even if it was a secret meeting and it has to be kept confidential, I mean there are confidential private sector information that is handed to committees, that are held in Canberra. There’s a separate part of the economic and finance committee in state parliament which hears all sorts of things over the years. How slack are these rules? Or can she just get away with saying ‘well no, it was secret, I’m not telling you’?

ELLIS: Well obviously there are occasions when people have confidential meetings, but on an inquiry into child care provisions I can’t see why that would be necessary. The other thing is that there are two tests here, one is what passes the rules and the other one is what passes the test of public opinion. And the Australian public have made very clear that we’ve had enough of this and that it is now time for Tony Abbott to act and show some leadership.

BEVAN: Christopher Pyne, you said this would all blow over, it hasn’t.

PYNE:  Well I was referring to the helicopter from Melbourne to Geelong, which Bronwyn has of course said was a mistake and an error of judgement and paid it back. But this is an area where, for example, say I was the chairman of the Electoral Matters Committee, which I used to be many years ago, and say I was asked to come and meet with people who claimed to have had allegations about electoral rorting and I went to that meeting in say Alice Springs. That would be perfectly justifiable for me to travel as a committee chair, or a committee member, to meet with people who claim to have information of interest to the committee but they didn’t want to necessarily share with the general public or other members of the committee. So I don’t know what meetings Bronwyn had, I don’t know what she had. So it’s very hard for me, or for Kate, or for anyone for that matter to make that assessment. I assume that Bronwyn will go to the normal course on this matter and the Finance Department – she’ll seek advice from them – and if it’s within the entitlements, then it’s within the entitlements.

ELLIS: So does she tell the Finance Department who the confidential meeting was with? If she wouldn’t tell the very committee that she’s conducting business on?

PYNE: Kate, I don’t try and manage the way Bronwyn Bishop spends the tax payer’s resources to do her job –

ELLIS: I wish somebody would Christopher –

PYNE: Same way that I don’t try and manage yours –

BEVAN: Well I’ll ask you the same question Christopher Pyne. How rigorous is the accountability here? Or can an MP just say ‘no, it was secret business’ and you’re not allowed to push the matter any further?

PYNE: Well I’ve never been in that position where I’ve had to –

BEVAN: So Bronwyn Bishop is taking you to uncharted territory, that’s what you’re saying?

PYNE: Well I’ve never been in that position where I’ve made a claim –

BEVAN: You’ve never come across anything quite like this –

PYNE: Well I’ve never made a claim for travel allowance or for airfares or anything else based on a meeting of that nature. So it’s very hard for me to say whether it’s justifiable.

BEVAN: This is very unusual, is that fair?

PYNE: I don’t know. In politics you meet with all sorts of people some of whom don’t wish to become publically known, and usually those meetings are quite pointless -

BEVAN: Ok, if we can move onto another topic. Anthony Albanese on the weekend at the Labor Convention said that he was not prepared to ask people to do anything that he couldn’t do himself. Kate Ellis, I’m assuming you support Labor’s policy of turning back the boats?

ELLIS: Well our policy is that we want all options on the table and I absolutely support that.

BEVAN: Yes, so are you prepared to, would you be prepared to turn back a boat?

ELLIS: Well, I don’t think that me trying to turn back a boat is a proposition. What I support –

BEVAN: I’m putting to you what Anthony Albanese…he set the terms of this debate –


BEVAN: No, no he did, he said this is why he couldn’t do it; he couldn’t support that, because he said ‘I personally couldn’t look people on a boat and say I’m turning you back’. Now you support the policy. Could you turn somebody back?

ELLIS: Look what I support is us doing absolutely everything in our power to have a humane and compassionate approach to asylum seekers, which also does everything it can to prevent deaths at sea. That’s what we’re trying to do and I personally think that we need to be vigilant in making sure that we’ve got the strongest possible solutions in place.

BEVAN: But Albanese took it to a very personal level, now do you think he’s wrong to do that?

ELLIS: No. My understanding from Anthony and everybody else is – I mean that we have our discussions and debates at National Conference, unlike the Liberal Party, unlike the Greens – we have them in the open, we are very transparent about it –

BEVAN: But did he set the bar too high? Did he say, ‘look you shouldn’t support this unless you’re prepared to do it’?

ELLIS: Well ultimately, after we’ve had those discussions and debates, every single member of our team supports our policy and our position. So of course whether it’s Anthony or others, I’m glad that we have robust debates, I think that’s a really important part of democracy and a strong political party –

BEVAN: Would you turn a boat back?

ELLIS: Oh David, the proposition of me being on the high seas doing that is not, I don’t think, a relevant question.

PYNE: What if you were the Minister, would you order it to be turned back?

ELLIS: Well, if I thought that –

PYNE: You might well be the Minister.

ELLIS: Well I’m very fond of Education as you know Christopher.

PYNE: But you might end up as the Minister for Immigration, would you turn the boats back?

ELLIS: If I was the Minister for Immigration I would want to have all possible options on the table and I would want to assess the situation and take the action –

BEVAN: But the question was could you exercise that option?

ELLIS: Well I think that being the Immigration Minister is an incredibly hard job, and we heard from Tony Burke, some of his personal experiences –

PYNE: You won’t answer the question.

ELLIS: No, no, Christopher, I’m happy to answer the question. I would do exactly what was required to come up with the best possible option for those asylum seekers, and for the asylum seekers more broadly who were considering risking their lives and getting on boats. We are talking hypotheticals here, so it is ridiculous to rule it in or out.

BEVAN: Well Anthony Albanese didn’t feel it was ridiculous. Christopher Pyne could you turn back the boat?

PYNE: Yes.

BEVAN: Wouldn’t hesitate?

PYNE: Wouldn’t hesitate to do so. Because turning back the boats has stopped the people smuggling trade in its tracks. And after what we’ve just heard from Kate, it is exactly the level of confusion and failure to have resolve that we saw in the Rudd-Gillard Governments which lead to 50,000 boat arrivals, deaths at sea, uncontrolled borders –  

ELLIS: No Christopher –

PYNE: What happened since that time is a government with resolve has stopped the boats at the borders and that’s why the people struggling trade has been smashed –

ELLIS: Actually –

PYNE: And Kate Ellis has been unable to answer that question –

ELLIS: Well if you let me speak Christopher I will tell you –

PYNE: You had a very good run. Kate Ellis was unable to elucidate her position which was exactly the confusion we saw in the last Government that we don’t see in this Government.

ELLIS: Christopher, what I just did was articulate that asylum seeker policy is actually incredibly complicated and fraught and it cannot be reduced to three word slogans, which your Government has tried to do.

BEVAN: On another topic, Bjorn Lomborg, he’s a very controversial character. The South Australian Government has made it quite clear that he is not welcome. Now this is the chap, I think he’s from Norway, he does believe and not have any problem with the idea that climate change is a result of human activity. Absolutely he locks it in. But he’s got very controversial responses to that, he then goes on to say that it’s not the most pressing issue, there are other things; poverty, the lack of hygiene, all sorts of issues, perhaps facing the third world which are more important than climate change. Or he said ‘you’re not going to resolve it with an economic ETS solution it’s got to be a technological solution’. He’s a really interesting guy. The State Government doesn’t want a bar of him, and you want to bring him here. How is that going to be resolved?  

PYNE: Well fortunately the State Government doesn’t have any say over it and the students and the activists and unfortunately Ian Hunter are sounding more like the red guards of Mao’s cultural revolution than they are like sensible and intelligent people. Because obviously, whether you agree with Bjorn Lomborg’s views or not, the whole point of academic exercises in universities is to test ideas. And I think it’s tragically sad that those people who are trying to stop the Australian Consensus Centre from being established at a university can’t argue the battle of ideas. Instead they have to try and drown out and shut down those they don’t agree with. I find it utterly remarkable and I would have thought the left, instead of trying to shut them down, would have wanted to have more ideas being debated because if their views are so strong and so sensible, surely they would prevail. But no, instead they want to bully Bjorn Lomborg and the Australian Consensus Centre out of Australia.

BEVAN: Now, Christopher Pyne is the Federal Education Minister so he’s got an advantage here. Kate Ellis, a question without notice, I don’t know whether you have any views about Mr Lomborg? Would you welcome him here?

PYNE: She’s the Shadow Minister for Education –

ELLIS: Look, what I think people are concerned about here is that we want ideology to be kept out of the politics around the education portfolio. And at the very same time that we have seen Christopher announce massive cuts to higher education and to our university sector, we have then seen that the Government has found a way to find several million dollars for this specific cause which is controversial and has been a lightning rod for climate change deniers. Now Christopher would have you think that it is just student activists, or Ian Hunter, who have problems here. That is not true, this is the second attempt after the University of Western Australia already stood up and said to Christopher and Tony Abbott and his Government,’ no you can keep your money, we do not want this on our campus’, and ‘we do not want this threatening our academic reputation’ –

PYNE: Actually that’s not what the Vice Chancellor said at all. The Vice Chancellor of UWA signed a contract with the Australian Government to establish the Australian Consensus Centre and then he was bullied out of it by academics and students at UWA, who didn’t want to hear other voices –

ELLIS: So the University of Western Australia said no.

PYNE: The Vice Chancellor was forced out of it and he actually said that in his statement.

BEVAN: Kate, would you happy for this to be just left to Flinders University to decide, without pressure from various interest groups? Because it does, it is such a polarising issue, you would like to think the people running Flinders would be independent and they’d be able to make a decision, without pressure from people with a religious fervor on either side.

ELLIS: Well obviously I think that students and academics at Flinders should have the opportunity to have a say in their campus’ future. I also think that that is perfectly valid. I also think that the South Australian community has a vested interest in protecting our State’s reputation. Our future is in renewable energy, we know that we lead the country in this regard, and I think that when there are proposals put forward that may threaten that or tarnish that reputation, then people should have a debate about it.

BEVAN: Does that mean that you don’t want Lomborg here?

ELLIS: My personal opinion is no I don’t think it particularly adds to Flinders University. But of course it is not my view as a politician to be determining what research should be, and should not be, supported as a matter of priority. Unfortunately the Abbott Government have said that despite their massive funding cuts to university, for some reason, this one centre is a special case and has been awarded millions of dollars.

BEVAN: Now Chris Pyne before you leave us, and Kate Ellis, you’ve got your book launch tonight. Will Mac Crabb be there, along with Annabel?

PYNE: I do. Mac Crabb has made a star appearance thanks to your radio show last week, and Annabel and Mac and Mrs Crabb will all be coming along which is very exciting. The whole Crabb family.

BEVAN: Right, because you do pose this question on the back of your book, which is A Letter to My Children, “why do seemingly intelligent men and women leave their families for more than half the year to travel to Canberra and spend night after night at electorate and campaign events? Surely there are easier ways to earn a living”. Isn’t the answer ego? And you get out of doing the dishes? I mean, really!

PYNE: Hopefully the answer is contained in the book. But the pithy answer is because the life of service is worthwhile for the sacrifices that are made, and unfortunately they’re sacrifices other people bear. It’s a good question and hopefully it’s answered in the book, and I’m sure Kate will be buying multiple copies.

ELLIS: I’m very excited about it Christopher, as you can imagine. Very excited.

PYNE: I hope you are.

BEVAN: Christopher Pyne, thank you for your time this morning and good luck with the book launch tonight.

PYNE: Thank you very much.

BEVAN: Say hello to Matt and Annabel for us.

PYNE: Don’t worry, I will.

BEVAN: And Kate Ellis thank you for coming in.

ELLIS: Thank you, David.

BEVAN: Labor MP for Adelaide and Shadow Education Minister, and Christopher Pyne, Liberal MP for Sturt and Education Minister.