JOURNALIST: An extra layer of tension to two tribes this morning, of course with the spectre of this cold war behind us, Australia and New Zealand of course, not North Korea like you may well have expected yesterday, scenes in Parliament, just extraordinary. To explain it all, Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese, good morning to you both.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning gentleman
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
JOURNALIST: We’ll start with you if we can Chris, now this attempt by the Foreign Minister to sort of suggest that relations between Canberra and Wellington have hit some sort of all time low, that was just a bit of a beat up to distract attention away from the fact that the Barnaby Joyce situation is totally embarrassing for the government wasn’t it?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Not at all, because this is a very serious matter, now obviously the relationship between the New Zealand government and the Australian government remains very strong, but what Labor has tried to do is use New Zealand Labour, which is in opposition not in government, to undermine Australia. Now take New Zealand out and insert China, or South Africa, or Indonesia, I mean can you imagine what the reaction would be in and the public and the media, if it was the Labor Party conspiring with a political party in any other country besides New Zealand to undermine Australia.
JOURNALIST: But isn’t that the point though, like it’s not Vladimir Putin, it’s the Kiwis; it’s like the seventh state of Australia.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: No, the point is the Labor leader in New Zealand, who described it as disgraceful, unnecessary and appalling that her MP would behave in this way. Now if it’s good enough for the New Zealand Labor leader to recognise the serious and inappropriateness of it, why it is that Bill Shorten thinks it’s actually a hilarious joke, and allowing his Foreign Shadow Minister, Penny Wong, to get her Chief of Staff to try and undermine the Australia government through the New Zealand Labor Party. It’s Labor’s tactic to laugh this off, the truth is New Zealand is…
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’re laughing at you.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: New Zealand is a foreign government, and the New Zealand Labour Party has been attempted to be used by Australia Labor to undermine the Australian government. It is scandalous, and the New Zealand Labour Party leader recognises it, and Labor can laugh all they’d like, if the shoe was on the other foot, if this was a Liberal opposition doing this the media would be screaming from the rooftops.
JOURNALIST: Albo, given that thee New Zealand Labor leader has criticised the conduct of the MP who did do this, do you think that it was wrong that Penny Wong’s chief of staff did get involved with this covert chat about Barnaby’s citizenship status?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh for goodness sake, yesterday Barnaby Joyce admitted that he was a kiwi, Julie Bishop did everything but declare war against the kiwis, and the government then lost a vote condemning itself over the Great Barrier Reef. They had an absolute shocker and whoever came up with the strategy, I assume that Chris was outvoted, because he’s a smart fellow in the tactics committee. Whoever came up with the idea that they would try and question our whole relationship, Julie Bishop yesterday actually said that she wasn’t sure that she could work with a Labour government if it was elected in New Zealand. So she, as the Foreign Minister, questioned the - or intervened effectively, in the New Zealand election, which is being held in one month’s time. It was an extraordinary performance by Julie Bishop.
JOURNALIST: So you’d do it again Albo, you’d do it again?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Her own side was laughing at her. Well what’s happened here.
JOURNALIST: If your chief of staff came to you and said I have this plan, we’ll get the New Zealand Labour guys to help us out.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: There was no plan.
JOURNALIST: That’s what happened isn’t it?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, no…
JOURNALIST: But would you do it again
ANTHONY ALBANESE: What happened was that Penny Wong’s staffer who used to be chief of staff to a New Zealand MP has mates in New Zealand and was talking to one of the people he knows in New Zealand and the issue of, funnily enough, citizenship of Barnaby Joyce came up, but he didn’t ask for a question to be put on the notice paper. And the New Zealand government itself, Bill English, the Minister responsible have said that’s not how this issue came up in terms of the New Zealand government [who] made the statement, that was because of inquiries by the Fairfax press, that is how this story came out. And we had yesterday Barnaby Joyce concede that he only tried to renounce his New Zealand citizenship on the weekend.
JOURNALIST: Chris Pyne, if the government is as angry as it says it is over the manner in which this has been conducted, is there any kind of formal complaint that you can issue to Wellington about it?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well I think the Foreign Minister has made it pretty clear that the government is unimpressed, but so has the New Zealand government, the New Zealand government is an unimpressed with the Labor Party in Australia and the Labour Party in New Zealand as we are. So the two governments are in lock-step about the appropriateness of this, the only people who think this is a hilarious joke is the Labor Party because they see politics as a hilarious joke, it’s all about the game, it’s never about the outcome...
ANTHONY ALBANESE: This government’s been reduced to a joke.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: And while your Australian government is getting on with things like the effects test for protecting small business, media law reform, reducing corporate and income taxes, creating 250,000 jobs in the last 12 months, the Labor Party, all they do is play political games.
JOURNALIST: Chris Pyne can I…
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The first answer to any question in Parliament from their own side of Minister’s usually begins with something like ‘will the leader of the opposition, or Bill Shorten,’ they have nothing to say about governing this country, they’ve stopped doing it, they’re incapable.
JOURNALIST: Alright, well let’s turn our attention then directly to an issue that has South Australians intrigued this morning. Tory Shepherd’s written a piece, Chris Pyne, in The Advertiser citing tender documents for the future frigates program, saying it contains no requirement to use an Adelaide workforce. Is there a danger here that Adelaide workers could be totally overlooked in this program?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: There’s absolutely no possibility of that. The ASC workers are the most skilled and experienced shipyard workers in the country. We need 5000 workers at Osborne between now and mid-2020. The idea that every one of those people who wants a job wouldn’t get one is quite frankly ridiculous; this is an absurd media beat-up. The truth is every single one of the ASC workers who wants a job on the offshore patrol vessels and the future frigates or the submarines, thanks to this government, will get one, and 4000 more will get jobs who want them at Osborne.
JOURNALIST: It’s not just a media beat-up though, Nick Xenophon is saying that this is a notice of execution for the ASC.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well that is a lie and Nick Xenophon, who used to be a supporter of shipbuilding in South Australia has now flipped and decided he’s going to become the chief critic. Now that’s his shtick, that’s how he gets himself into the media, but obviously the government is not investing $89 billion in shipbuilding in South Australia in order not to employ the current workforce at Osborne. As I said, every one of those people who wants one will get a job, but the government is not going to mandate that the ASC workforce must work on whoever wins the bid, otherwise the union and the workers, but particularly the union, would have the successful bidder over a barrel. They wouldn’t need to negotiate at all, they’d be able to write their own check, and that of course would be quite irresponsible. So the government is doing everything it can to make sure that we have a continuous naval ship build, the first in Australia’s history. And Nick Xenophon should stop being the chief critic because it buys him a cheap headline in the Advertiser and actually get behind the program.
JOURNALIST: Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese, always a fiery encounter on two tribes. We’ll do it all again next week and we look forward to the resumption of hostilities between Canberra and Wellington in question time today.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Thank you
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We might need those ships.
JOURNALIST: Two tribes for another Wednesday.