TRANSCRIPT: The Today Show, Friday 21 August 2015





SUBJECT: Syria; Liberal leaks; Canning by-election; China FTA; Kathy Jackson

KARL STEFANOVIC, PRESENTER: It's been a long week for the Prime Minister and it could get longer. The head of the inquest into union corruption Dyson Heydon possibly deciding his future today, but more than likely next week. Either way it's a mess. Education Minister Christopher Pyne and the Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek join us now. Good morning to you guys. Nice to see you all bright and early this morning.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE, EDUCATION MINISTER: Good morning, Karl. Good morning, Tanya.

STEFANOVIC: Chris, with what we learned this morning out of The Australian, the US wants more involvement from our RAAF in Syria. When do we start? When does that happen?

PYNE: Obviously I can't confirm that story on the front page of The Australian today but it's clear that the ISIL threat in Syria and Iraq is a very serious one. We've already in Australia twice interdicted attempts to have terrorist acts here in Australia since last September. There are people trying to go and join ISIL in Syria and Iraq very regularly and Tanya of course will be kept well informed by the Government about movements and we will respond of course to any requests by the US or our allies. Already airborne refuelling aircraft are refuelling coalition fighter jets that are bombing in Syria, and we would do everything on a very strong legal basis if we were to take that further action.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, when does it start though? Because The Australian's got that answer, when does it actually start?

PYNE: I don’t believe any decision has been made by the Government and obviously we would be briefing the Opposition and I understand a briefing has been organised for early next week about any developments that might occur there-

STEFANOVIC: We can possibly say then that's going to happen if there's a briefing organised for next week. Tanya, you said in the past you'd be more inclined to drop aid into Syria-

PLIBERSEK: Well, actually no, that's what the Government said I said.

STEFANOVIC: What did you say?

PLIBERSEK: This is an extremely serious situation. It is a terrible organisation doing terrible things in Iraq and Syria. We've been very supportive of action in Iraq. We don't have any details so far of the story that Greg Sheridan has on the front page of The Australian today. There was a briefing scheduled for this week that was cancelled so we don't know what is being asked of us at the moment. Once we know what's being asked of us then we can make a decision about our response to that.

STEFANOVIC: Should we be should dropping aid rather than bombs?

PLIBERSEK: We should be doing more for the 11.5 million people who are displaced from their homes in Syria, the victims of Daesh. These are the people that are being chased, raped, murdered, sold into slavery, chased from their homes, of course we should be doing more.

STEFANOVIC: You're not saying we shouldn't be dropping bombs.

PLIBERSEK: It's not either or. We do need to have a strong military response to this organisation that doesn't exempt us from also helping the victims of the organisation.

STEFANOVIC: Let’s go domestically. Chris, three leaks in a week, the PM's clearly lost Malcolm Turnbull's confidence.

PYNE: They're pretty minor stories. I mean, the media are really beating them up, quite frankly. The leaks that occurred in the Gillard/Rudd Government was a deluge in comparison to these minor stories-

STEFANOVIC: So you concede it’s Malcolm Turnbull then?

PYNE: Certainly not. I wouldn’t have the faintest clue where these stories

STEFANOVIC: Well, you just rolled along with it. I just said then three leaks in a week, the PM’s clearly lost Malcolm Turnbull's confidence.

PYNE: I wasn't rising to your bait. I’ve seen you in action before.

STEFANOVIC: Well, who is it then? It's got to be Malcolm.

PYNE: Who would know? They’re very minor stories.

STEFANOVIC: Well, you should know!

PYNE: They’re minor stories and they're certainly not earth shattering at all. I mean, the agenda of cabinet, seriously, under the Gillard/Rudd Government there was a deluge of leaks-

PLIBERSEK: Well, the fact that there is no agenda is pretty significant.

PYNE: I think what's happened this week- the most spectacular own goal I've seen in two years is that Labor's put their Trade Union Royal Commission and their links to the CFMEU and the AWU right back in the middle of the spotlight.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, we’ll get onto that in just a second. The ACTU is going to devote upwards of $30 million to take down Tony Abbott. If he doesn't win Canning, is he finished?

PYNE: The ACTU is using its members’ money, that’s true, $30 million with a staff of 25 full time staff to dislodge the Abbott Government. Why wouldn't they? The problem-

STEFANOVIC: If he doesn't win Canning, is he finished?

PYNE: Well, Canning’s on September the 19th, I'm very confident we will win Canning. It's a great tragedy of course that we have the by-election there following the death of Don Randall. But I wouldn't be putting too much store by the result in Canning but I do believe we will win it.

STEFANOVIC: Have you got a problem with the free trade agreement with China? It’s causing a bit of ruckus in parliament yesterday. Is it giving Australian jobs to the Chinese, do you believe?

PLIBERSEK: No, we're very supportive of a China-Australia free trade agreement. It just has to be-

STEFANOVIC: So where is the union getting off then?

PLIBERSEK: It just has to be a good quality agreement that makes sure that particularly on these large project - that projects can't bring in a wholly foreign workforce, that jobs are offered to Australians first. We've been negotiating the Australia-China free trade agreement for several years, we just didn't take the first agreement that was offered because we want good quality jobs for Australian workers.

STEFANOVIC: So you disagree with union ads saying they are taking Australian jobs?

PLIBERSEK: No, I think we need to be very careful. These are the issues that we're concerned about in the China free trade agreement. Large projects- will the jobs have to be offered to Australians first?  That's very important. And then if trades are being brought in, will they have skills that are commensurate with the sort of skills that you'd need if you were doing that work in Australia.

STEFANOVIC: Bob Carr says there will be more jobs and higher wages. Has he got it a wrong?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think there is a potential for this agreement to grow a number of our sectors, including the agricultural sector. We just need to make sure that it’s-

STEFANOVIC: So are you talking to the unions about this, because they have a different opinion?

PLIBERSEK: You're not listening to what I'm saying.

STEFANOVIC: No, I am listening to what you’re saying.

PLIBERSEK: It’s a good thing to have an agreement, it has to be a good quality agreement that has more jobs for Australians.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, so you will say to the unions- to pick up the phone and say listen, those ads, they are misdirecting the Australian people.

PLIBERSEK: The concerns about large projects having fully imported workforces, that's a legitimate concern. We need to have a look at the enabling legislation when it’s introduced to Parliament to make sure this is an agreement that’s good for Aussie jobs.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, let’s move on. In terms of the Commission into the unions, do you think Justice Heydon will survive today, Chris? Do you think he'll stay on?

PYNE: I certainly hope he does because I think Justice Heydon is doing important and good work and he’s exposing, through the Royal Commission the very tawdry criminal activities of some unions and some union leaders which I would have thought nobody supported. Labor is desperately trying to close down this Royal Commission because of their links to the union movement and unfortunately I think they're highlighting why they're not yet fit for Government-

PLIBERSEK: Well, Karl-

PYNE: If they were to be re-elected, nothing would have changed since they were last in government.

PLIBERSEK: I'd be interested to know, as Chris has raised criminal behaviour, whether he still thinks Kathy Jackson is a lion of the union movement and a hero and a revolutionary as he said in the past.

PYNE: I would like to know whether Tanya Plibersek supports the CFMEU's racist campaign against the China free trade agreement, because she certainly didn’t back away from it in your answers to the previous questions, Karl.

STEFANOVIC: On Kathy Jackson that's the sort of behaviour this guy is trying to weed out. That’s what we want to happen, isn’t it?

PLIBERSEK: She wasn't actually convicted this week in the Royal Commission. This was her union taking action against her. No-one supports criminal behaviour.

STEFANOVIC: She rorted her union for $1.4 million.

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely and Christopher Pyne said that she was a hero of the labour movement.

PYNE: Whatever Kathy Jackson’s done that’s been wrong, and obviously-

PLIBERSEK: You’re her greatest defender, Chris.

PYNE: She’s been found guilty of crimes. The reality is she also exposed Michael Williamson and Craig Thomson who were also ripping off the HSU-

PLIBERSEK: And should be-

PYNE: The story of the HSU has been a sorry one, and all three of them have ended up in suits.

STEFANOVIC: Tanya, let me ask you this, do you think Justice Heydon has shown any legal bias in his role in the Commission. Any legal bias?

PLIBERSEK: Well, Dyson Heydon himself has said that there's the issue of bias and then there’s the issue of apprehended bias-


PLIBERSEK: Or the impression someone might be biased.

STEFANOVIC: Has he been found guilty in your opinion of apprehended bias?

PLIBERSEK: I think signing up to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser certainly gives the impression that you might support a political party.

STEFANOVIC: And that's enough for him to go?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think-

PYNE: When Mary Gaudron, Michael Kirby and Michael McHugh all addressed Labor lawyers when they were judges of the High Court-

PLIBERSEK: That’s not a branch of the Labor Party, Chris.

PYNE: Or the court of criminal appeal in NSW.

PLIBERSEK: It’s not a branch of the Labor Party.

PYNE: I don’t remember Labor calling on any of them to resign.

PLIBERSEK: The Liberal lawyers were a branch of the Liberal Party.

STEFANOVIC: We’re finishing the week with how we started, in a complete and utter stoush. Good to have you with us.

PLIBERSEK: Great to see you.

STEFANOVIC: Hopefully we can talk about some light affair next week but I fear that that won’t be the case.

PYNE: Thanks, Karl. Thanks, Tanya.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks, Karl. See you, Chris.

STEFANOVIC: Thanks, Chris. Thanks, Tanya.