Interview on ABC 891 with David Bevan and Ali Clarke
David Bevan: Let's welcome Simon Birmingham, Liberal Senator, Minister for Trade, he's on the phone line this morning good morning Simon Birmingham.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning, great to be with you.
David Bevan: In our studio, Amanda Rishworth, Labor MP for Kingston, good morning to you.
Amanda Rishworth: Good morning.
David Bevan: And Cory Bernardi (indistinct), Leader of the... Cory, sorry.
Cory Bernardi: You're doing this on purpose David…
David Bevan: Leader of the Australian Conservatives David.
David Bevan: Cory Bernardi, Leader of the Australian Conservatives, good morning to you.
Cory Bernardi: Good morning Al, I must say.
David 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?
Simon Birmingham: Well I think many of their policies are and I think what we've seen is that really One Nation is a bit of a two ring circus. You've got the two clowns who headed off to the US and of course were seeking to extract some 20 million dollars in funding from the National Rifle Association over there. They were seemingly ignoring their party's stance when it came to banning foreign donations, which our government 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 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 dollars of foreign donations from people who were going to help her allegedly unpick Australia's gun laws? I mean it's a truly scandalous series of actions and it does make you wonder just what type of party and outfit this is.
David Bevan: Cory Bernardi is One Nation abhorrent?
Cory Bernardi: Well I don't, 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's not reflective of what they say from one day to the next and I lament the fact that you know on one hand they're saying we shouldn't be taking foreign donations, we shouldn't be having foreign interference in our domestic politics and then the two senior most senior people outside of the parliamentary ranks, go and do exactly what they're speaking against. Now it's not the first time it's happened they've done it in respect to public funding and a whole range of other areas. I just lament the fact that politics has been reduced to this to be honest.
David Bevan: So you don't find them both abhorrent, you just have trouble with their consistency.
Cory Bernardi: Well it's inconsistent...
David Bevan: You haven't got a problem with what they are saying, it's just that it's a bit messy?
Cory Bernardi: I disagree with what they're saying in many respects.
David Bevan: What to do you disagree with?
Cory Bernardi: Well I have a different policy on migration for example. I mean one week they're saying we want to have a Muslim, pray for a Muslim ban and we're going to ban all Muslims from come into the country. That's never been my policy. The next week they're saying they have a non-discriminatory immigration policy and the following week they have something different. They say they want to balance the budget and yet they vote for unaccountable spending actually in your portfolio Simon, an extra five billion dollars it was in 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'll 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's where they come falling apart.
David Bevan: Amanda Rishworth?
Amanda Rishworth: Well look I do find that One Nation's policies and values abhorrent. I think they are sowing division within our community and they are an extremist party. But when it comes to Scott Morrison, it's 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. I mean what we've 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 well the parties that are around at the moment I will put Fraser Anning and One Nation last, if something else comes out that's more extreme I'll consider that. But it's time he stands up and shows leadership and says I will put One Nation last. He's playing a tricky game here and quite frankly I think it's disingenuous and it's time he shows leadership.
Ali Clarke: Well Simon Birmingham, on that, as Amanda Rishworth has brought up, do you think the Prime Minister should today come out and put One Nation and Fraser Anning last?
Simon Birmingham: The Prime Minister has made it very clear, we'll 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're dealing with and whether you're dealing with Fraser Anning whether you're dealing with One Nation with your dealing with others with more extremist views, when you're contemplating others on the other extreme of politics in terms of...
David Bevan: But Amanda Rishworth has taken that into account in what she's just put to you. She said, okay on all of the people who are in front of us right now, i'd put Fraser Anning and One Nation last. Now if if Adolf Hitler turns up tomorrow, I'll put him after them, but right now, based on the smorgasbord in front of me, they go last. Can you say that?
Simon Birmingham: David, we've 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 that the Greens have voted against national security laws that have helped to strengthen Australia, notwithstanding the Greens vote against and regularly trade and economic policies that are important to this country's future. And Labor Party cozies up to the extreme of the left wing. We've made it very clear there will be no deals unlike the Labor party.
Amanda Rishworth: Simon, are you suggesting that the Greens and One Nation are about equal?
Simon Birmingham: No.
Amanda Rishworth: Because that's what it sounds like you are suggesting. You're suggesting that everyone's in the basket. There's 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's a simple question that you answered last week on his program but you fail to answer now, and your Prime Minister fails to answer.
Simon Birmingham: No, what I said last week was I'm confident that we will put extremists at the bottom of the ticket and I remain confident that will be the case. But we're not going to dictate our ticket before we know exactly who's nominated. We'll deal with it when nominations close, we've done this many times, we are actually trying to get on with governing the country.
David 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?
Simon Birmingham: Well David I have made clear that I expect extremist parties will be put at the bottom of our ticket and if the Labor Party won't do the same when it comes it is just to the left...
David Bevan: Is this tearing your party apart?
Simon Birmingham: The Labor party 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 you never actually get worked up about that. Now, we've been very clear, we'll 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 our ticket in a sensible way, dealing with those extremist parties as they deserve to be dealt with. In the meantime, we're fighting on the issues. Scott Morrison could not have been clearer in 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 a political party's ticket that are really important we're getting on with as well. Yesterday, dealing with social media companies and making sure that the types of horrors that were broadcast out of Christchurch are never broadcast again or are taken down as quickly as possible. Why arent we talking about those sorts of things that the government is getting on and doing to make our society a better place?
David Bevan: Did Al Jazeera cross a line? Cory Bernardi?
Cory 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 Sheik in the U.K. for example who set up a couple of the Royal family, you got a couple of politicians on the drugs and the hookers and things like that. It's it's not unknown, but whether it's real or fake you're going there with an intention of getting a particular outcome and these guys knew very well that this was a GRA lobbyist, their website stated they...
David Bevan: So when you say going there with a particular outcome, you mean One Nation operative?
Cory Bernardi: Well if they weren't unwitting dupes if I can put that. You've got James Ashby and Steve Dickson who met this guy who runs an organisation purporting 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've 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 dollars. It's really not edifying.
Ali Clarke: Amanda Rishworth, do the ends justify the means?
Amanda Rishworth: I think when we discuss a lot of these issues about politicians and about what gets reported, the test always has got to be what's in the public interest? And I think what's been exposed through this is in the public interest, it's about knowing what One Nation stands for, what type of deal they're willing to do for a donation in response to trying to weaken Australian gun laws. I think the Australian public has a right to know, that this should have been exposed because it's absolutely in the public interest as we approach an election.
Ali Clarke: It is quarter to nine that is the voice of Amanda Rishworth. You're 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.
David Bevan: Cory Bernardi, what impact has the Christchurch shooting had on the ability for conservatives to debate?
Cory Bernardi: It's a really interesting question. I do feel that political opportunism came to the fore. 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 it's prevented I think a sensible discussion about how you deal with some of the growing extremes on both sides of the political divide.
David Bevan: You've condemned Fraser Anning for things that he said on the very day of the shooting and and yet you have said things in the past about Muslims, which people would say are in that spectrum. 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.
Cory Bernardi: Yes, banning the burqa.
David Bevan: Yes.
Cory Bernardi: David I think you're conflating two significant issues. I've spoken about Islam and how the values underpinning the Islamic 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 the people are treated differently based on their skin color and their religious beliefs. I can 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's 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 on 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 that have defended him and denied that he's ever made those comments. I think that is a shameful indictment on those people who who profess to have an insight into politics.
David 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 into a corner and rock back and forth with a wet towel over the head for the next 5 or 10 years because nobody's going to listen to you anymore?
Cory Bernardi: Yeah look I hope that's not the case but I do feel that they've been pushed back very very strongly because it's been a lot of the media have seized upon the Anning comments and tried to blame Australian politics for example for what happened in Christchurch. And I think that is 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 the time, it's not excusing it it's just a terrible terrible tragedy and our hearts should go out to the victims of this.
David 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.
Amanda Rishworth: Look I don't think that's the case. I think what we've 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. I think what we saw with Christchurch 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've 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.
Ali Clarke: Can we finish with you Simon Birmingham? Your thoughts on David's question?
Simon Birmingham: Look Ali I think 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 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 it's important that we do draw that clear distinction between the issues and the policies versus the way in which people conduct themselves. I think I also last week reflected on the comments Houssam Abiad has made at the vigil that David and Ali and myself were all at a couple of weeks ago now. And 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 who go about living peaceful daily lives and contributing to society. And that we perhaps do a disservice through that connection of association there, rather than dealing with the fact that overwhelmingly, we have people who are madmen, who 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. But we ought not tar whole categories of people with the brush of their actions.
Ali Clarke: Well Simon Birmingham you started by introducing Cory Bernardi, you finish with agreeing with him. So thank you, thank you for your time.
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