Topics:  Albanese rejects NATO invitation; Senator Payman;

07:45AM ACST
2 July 2024


Pete Stefanovic: Well, in breaking news this morning, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has rejected an invitation from NATO to meet with world leaders at a historic summit in Washington this morning. The Sydney Morning Herald reporting it’s about ongoing sensitivities regarding international travel. Let’s go to Canberra now. Joining us is the Shadow Foreign Minister, Simon Birmingham. Simon, good to see you. Just what’s your initial reaction to this update.


Simon Birmingham: G’day, Pete. Pete, unless Anthony Albanese has a very, very good reason not to be attending the NATO summit, then this is, frankly, a dereliction of duty by the Prime Minister. The number one responsibility of a government is the national security of the nation. And the bringing together of the NATO nations, together with the four Asia Pacific nations, is a grouping of the very first nations who we would call upon if we were in trouble. It has been in Australia’s strategic interests over recent years to draw closer to the NATO nations. We have no other comparable ability to discuss security issues with such a large group of democratic nations. And indeed, the Prime Minister himself has described this as essentially the meeting globally of world’s democracies. And for our Prime Minister not to be there is really failing in terms of meeting up to the national security responsibilities of the Prime Minister.


Pete Stefanovic: Is he damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t? Is it that kind of thing for the Prime Minister, though? Because if he did go, you know, he’d be accused of being Airbus Albo and he’d be away during a cost of living crisis. Would that come to haunt him from likely attacks from the Coalition?


Simon Birmingham: Pete, Prime Ministers indeed get criticised. That’s just part of the job, you know, suck it up in that sense because, you know, people will always criticise prime ministers, political office holders, all of us in different ways. But you’ve got to put the national interest first. And now if we see Anthony Albanese running around doing electorate visits and essentially campaigning during the NATO Leaders’ Summit, that will be a demonstration of just how he has got his priorities the wrong way around and he’s putting his political interests ahead of the nation’s interests.


Pete Stefanovic: So just I’ve just read a little deeper on this report. Simon, so apparently Richard Marles is going and we’ve got to clarify all of this and get some confirmation. But because Anthony Albanese couldn’t get a meeting with Joe Biden, he couldn’t get one. So, Richard Marles is going in his place. Does that suffice?


Simon Birmingham: Well, this isn’t just about the US President. Yes, it’s being hosted in Washington, but it’s the 75th anniversary of NATO. It is bringing together effectively all of the NATO leaders just in the last couple of days. Keir Starmer, the Labour leader in the UK, has confirmed that he and his national security team will travel to this meeting if he is elected UK prime minister this week, as is widely expected. So, Anthony Albanese is forgoing the first opportunity to sit down with the likely new prime minister of the United Kingdom if polls are correct, as well as all of our other different allies and partners. So, it is really critical here that Australia is represented at the highest levels to have the highest impact. If Anthony Albanese isn’t interested in doing this part of the job, well then, I’m sure Richard Marles or Bill Shorten are very happy to step up. But our Prime Minister should be putting the national security interests first, not the Labor Party’s campaign interests. They might be in disarray, losing senators and uncertain as to how to handle their internal proceedings but that’s still no reason for him to skip the responsibilities of office.


Pete Stefanovic: Well, let’s close on that note. Yeah. Another report this morning suggesting that Fatima Payman is on the brink of leaving the Labor Party. The Prime Minister doesn’t want to go any harder, apparently. Your thoughts on where that is today?


Simon Birmingham: Well, it’s a mess entirely of the Prime Minister’s own making because of weak leadership, indecision. He has flip-flopped throughout the last week and a half now over this issue around whether there is a temporary suspension, a suspension and expulsion. Now, in a situation where there are allegations of intimidation happening within the Labor Party. It’s a great big mess, and it all comes home to the fact that really Anthony Albanese, since October 7th last year, has kept shifting Australia’s policy in relation to the Middle East, being pushed around by different interests, rather than holding clearly and consistently to long-standing bipartisan positions like Peter Dutton has.


Pete Stefanovic: Okay, Simon Birmingham, appreciate your time this morning as always.


Simon Birmingham: Thanks, Pete.