Subjects: Westconnex; Leichhardt campus of Sydney Secondary College; penalty rates; Liberal Party chaos.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks for joining us. I am joined today by Darcy Byrne, who was formerly the Mayor of Leichhardt, and parents and friends and indeed students who attend Sydney Secondary College Leichhardt Campus. This is a packed school. It is overflowing and for years the P&C have campaigned to have the tram sheds here incorporated into the school. The school has just one small oval. It has classrooms that are packed and it services the local Inner West community for Year 7 to Year 10.
Parents, students and the community were quite shocked when on Friday the Sydney Motorway Corporation dropped a leaflet into letterboxes in Leichhardt and Lilyfield informing them that the tram sheds just behind us, that in any normal-sized school would actually be on the school grounds, was considered as a possible site for construction of the Westconnex project. Stage 3 of the project will require dive sites, which are essentially major construction sites where earth will be removed to build the tunnels that will make up Stage 3 of the Westconnex project. This will be major construction and the idea that you would do it adjacent to a local high school is beyond belief.
What’s worse is that when you actually read the correspondence from the Sydney Motorways Corporation, they speak about “the latest route’’ for the tunnel. This is a project whereby they started building the tunnel without knowing where it was going and where it would come up. It’s an extraordinary proposition that you would consider causing such disruption to the education of students at the school as well as disruption to the local community by considering this to become a major construction site. Premier Berejiklian needs to rule this out. The new Education Minister, Rob Stokes, needs to rule this out. Because what it is motivated by is simply greed. It is motivated by Sydney Motorway Corporation thinking that because this is state-owned land that should be given back to the school, they won’t have to purchase land for the construction site when other sites are available. This will be rejected by the local community. It shows contempt for the students and the people of the Inner West and that’s why there will be a great deal of anger at the failure when it comes to community consultation to even consider such a barking mad proposal of having a construction site right basically on a school ground. Darcy.
DARCY BYRNE, FORMER LEICHHARDT MAYOR: Thank you Anthony and thank you to the parents and students are here today. Gladys Berejiklian needs to put herself in the shoes of these parents who will be concerned and fearful that their child’s education is going to be sacrificed to make way for her motorway. What the minutes of the recent meeting between the Sydney Motorway Corporation and Inner West Council reveal is that the Department of Education has secretly given the green light to the handing over of this land for Westconnex. Rob Stokes must intervene and show that he is on the side of public school students and that he’s not going to roll over to allow Westconnex to roll through this school site.
Parents in the Inner West know that our schools are already bursting at the seams, nowhere more so than here at Leichhardt campus. The idea that we will have trucks rolling all day, every day past classroom windows, with kids exposed to dust and unsafe traffic conditions for years to come is absurd. There is no one in our local community who will think that this is acceptable.
The fact that the Government is considering handing over this land and destroying the amenity of this school to save a liquor store is quite extraordinary. There is an alternative site available. The Government is simply cutting costs by sacrificing the education of the students at Leichhardt Campus. That’s not good enough and we are not going to stand for it.
ALBANESE: Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: Do the minutes specifically talk about the liquor store and compensation? What do the minutes say?
ALBANESE: The letter that has gone out to residents speaks about two potential sites. This is one. The other site is currently occupied by Dan Murphy’s. That has been the subject of community consultation for a long period of time.
I’ve sat down with Sydney Motorway Corporation on a regular basis. Not once have they mentioned this to me and they only sent out a letter to me yesterday afternoon after the letterbox drop to the local residents in Leichhardt and Lilyfield and after I rang yesterday morning. Immediately I heard about this I rang Paul Fletcher, the Minister who on a federal basis has responsibility for this project.
Stuart Ayres has gone missing on this project. He doesn’t have responsibility for much, but you would think he could get it right. But he refuses to engage on these issues. The minutes, I will let Darcy talk about in terms of the council.
BYRNE: Last Friday the Inner West Council transparently released the minutes of their recent meeting with Sydney Motorway Corporation and what they reveal is that firstly Sydney Motorway Corporation is specifically targeting this school site as a cost-saving measure. They don’t want to pay compensation to acquire the liquor store and so they want to sacrifice the school. It also demonstrates in this document that the Education Department has secretly given the green light to the acquisition of this land, publicly owned land, for Westconnex and Rob Stokes as the new Education Minister needs to demonstrate some of the commitment that his predecessor showed to the welfare of public education students, intervene and show that he is going to stand up for the school community rather than rolling over for Westconnex.
REPORTER: You said the leaflet said that both proposals were under consideration. Has a decision been taken, does it appear?
ALBANESE: A decision hasn’t been taken. What they said is that there are two sites – the site that everyone knew about and this site here. But what they have done is entered into negotiations secretly with the Department of Education with no consultations with local parents, students or the school community. This is a vibrant school community here and the fact that these negotiations have taken place, that they have the approval of the Department of Education, is frankly beyond belief. They are saying afterwards that the tram sheds of course will be available then for the school. I’ve got an idea for them – let’s hand the tram sheds over to the school now. That’s a campaign that has been in operation for a long time.
REPORTER: Labor’s got a bill that they are going to put through tomorrow (inaudible) about penalty rates. Do you think it will get support from the cross bench?
ALBANESE: Well, I am certainly hopeful that anyone of good will who looks at this legislation and looks at the unfairness in the decision that was made by the Fair Work Commission last week, will say on a day like today, or will think about, is Sunday a different day? It is to other days in the week and that’s why the compensation is there. Local members, not just on the cross bench, but I think Coalition members as well, will think about their constituents who will contact them and inform them that they rely upon these penalty rates to pay school fees, to pay their mortgages, to put food on the table of their families.
Students who are relying upon penalty rates in order to further their education, they rely upon penalty rates to get by on a day-to-day basis and that is why this decision is wrong. They’ll also think about the impact on the economy of taking out of the economy those dollars that are spent. If you are working on Sunday for penalty rates, you are not making savings; you are spending that money creating jobs, creating economic activity through the economy and that is why this decision is wrong. That’s why Labor has said that we will legislate if need be in order to make sure that we protect the living standards of some of the poorest working people in our community.
REPORTER: Wouldn’t your plan to overturn this decision undermine the independent umpire?
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that no one envisaged that the umpire in this case could make a decision unlike any decision that has been made by industrial relations umpires for more than 100 years. What we haven’t had before, ever, is decisions which cut real wages of working poor. That’s what this does. It cuts real wages. It takes away the living standards of people who need these wages in order to survive. That principle is absolutely fundamental and that’s why, if the context of the decision that has been made is wrong in terms of the rules, then Labor will be changing those rules to ensure that people can’t be worse off. The last time this happened was under the WorkChoices legislation when people lost real wages as a result of that legislation. Guess what? It was rejected by the Australian people. It was rejected by Labor. We were elected to government and we fixed that problem. We are prepared to fix this problem now, from Opposition and show the leadership that frankly the Government should be showing on this issue.
REPORTER: If you didn’t want penalty rates cut why didn’t you put that in the legislation establishing the commission?
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that none envisaged that for the first time in over 100 years we would have a circumstance where the Commission would actually cut real wages of people who rely on those wages for their living standards.
REPORTER: Do you regret voting to establish he commission now?
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that in terms of the rules that have been applied, have been applied in a way that wasn’t envisaged when this legislation was carried. No-one in the Parliament, or in the media, or in the union movement, or in the employers said when that legislation was carried: Oh good this will lead to a reduction in real wages. What we are seeing in this country at the moment is that real wages are flat-lining. You had the lowest wage increases that we have seen in a generation. Now, on top of that, to cut the real wages of some people who rely upon these wages to get by, some 700,000 people will have the income that they rely upon cut as a result of this decision. It’s a bad decision. We are prepared to fix it.
REPORTER: There are enterprise agreements though, that were struck by the SDA. And Sunday workers under those are paid less than this decision. Did that help lead to this decision?
ALBANESE: Not at all. For a long time enterprise bargaining has allowed for flexibility in particular workplaces and or across a particular industry. So those negotiations take place whereby you have a reduction in penalty rates but an increase in wages across the board to allow a more flexible workforce in the benefit of employers and employees together, recognising that there is a common interest. What we have here is something very different. We don’t have any compensation. We just have a real cut in the wages of these people.
REPORTER: What does it say about the Government if Mathias Cormann, who supported Abbott in the 2015 leadership spill, is now speaking out against him?
ALBANESE: Well the Government is a shambles. This is a Government that is divided, that is dysfunctional and, in Tony Abbott’s case, is delusional. What we have is a Government that doesn’t have a sense of purpose, that at a time where Labor is concerned about the real wages of people who rely upon penalty rates for their living standards and real issues. Here today we are talking about the education of young people. The Government is just talking about itself and each other. It’s talking about personalities. It’s divided. It’s game over really for this Government when it comes to having a sense of purpose or a future agenda.
REPORTER: So is Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership terminal?
ALBANESE: Well I think whether it is terminated by the Australian people or be terminated by his own party we will see. But it is very clear that even people in his own party think that Malcolm Turnbull is not providing leadership for the country and that is the vacuum that Tony Abbott is trying to step into, a vacuum created by a government without a sense of purpose, without a narrative and without a reason for being.
REPORTER: And just back to this issue in terms of disruption to kids’ education, what is that disruption do you believe?
ALBANESE: Well what we are talking about isn’t a small hole here. What we are talking about is a site where trucks will be entering and excavation equipment to dig tunnels both ways in both directions and to have literally hundreds of thousands of tonnes of materials to be taken out in order to make the space for the tunnel – that sort of disruption. The tunnel will also require major boring equipment. These aren’t little pieces of machinery. This will devastate the entire area. The idea that literally, on the area of land that borders the oval and is just metres from school classrooms, that you could conduct this sort of major construction activity is quite frankly obscene. And if anyone comes to this site where we are standing here today and says that there is any possibility that this would be found to be acceptable, I find it quite frankly beyond belief.
Now Westconnex seems to be dominated by people who aren’t from Sydney, in terms of their major executives. I don’t think they have any idea of what they are dealing with with this site. Certainly the person who I spoke to yesterday at the Motorway Corporation seemed to have no idea of exactly just how close this site is. Indeed, common sense tells you that it should be incorporated into the school, which is what the school has campaigned on for some time.
So some smarty in the Education Department has decided they can get the Motorway Corporation for this toll road to clean up the land and that’s the way that they save on the clean-up of the Tram Shed site. Someone in the Motorway Corporation who thinks they are smart too has decided that they can use this site rather than purchase a private site near here. This is an absurd proposal. It’s one that shows contempt for the students, staff and the local community here in Leichhardt. It’s one that should be rejected and it should be rejected today.
REPORTER: And just finally, how long would it go on for? You say it would be handed back in the end.
ALBANESE: It’s unclear because as the letter to residents shows, this is just the latest tunnel route. Here we have a project that has been under construction for years where, in writing, the corporation is saying they don’t even know what the final route of the tunnel will be. That is just extraordinary and it is an indictment frankly of infrastructure development under this State Government and this Federal Government, where every single dollar of federal funds has already been funded – the $1.5 billion in grant funds – for a project that they don’t even know where’ it’s going. Thank you.
Subjects: Centrelink debt debacle, Sussan Ley
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Goodmorning and thanks for coming to Marrickville but I wish you didn’t have to be here. Malcolm Turnbull is the Grinch who stole Christmas from some of the most vulnerable Australians in our community. This Centrelink debt debacle has had an enormous impact on thousands of Australians. When you have a system established whereby on the Government’s own figures 20 per cent of people who’ve been sent debt letters, often accompanied by threats of debt collection agencies being involved have been sent them on a false basis, then there is something very wrong indeed.
Whenever this Government is suffering politically, which is very often indeed, they attack the most vulnerable in our community. Now no one would argue that if someone has got a debt from Centrelink , had payments to which they weren’t entitled, then it should be repaid. That’s a given. But that’s not what has occurred here. What’s occurred here is that the Government has taken people out of the equation.
They took people out of the equation when they had computer generated letters sending threats and debt repayment asks to people in the community that should not have received those letters.
But they also took people out of the equation, not just from Centrelink offices, but for those people who received those letters. People have spent hour upon hour on the phone, trying to talk to a human being, trying to find out why they received these letters.
Today I have just two of the many constituents who have contacted my office, to put a human face to what is a human problem.
Here we have Tony Barbar, who in 2010 was diagnosed with cancer. Tony went on sick leave from his employment while he was receiving chemotherapy. Fortunately, in good news Mr Barbar and his family, he came through that process. In January of 2011 he commenced work again. During that time, he has been an honest man – someone who’s paid his taxes, someone who’s worked hard, in spite of going through that difficult period in his then very young life. He is still pretty young I’ve got to say.
In the lead-up to Christmas he received a debt letter from Centrelink informing him that he now owed over $4500. And what’s more, they said that it was his responsibility to go back to 2010 and provide evidence of his payments and what his former employer had paid him, and the circumstances that occurred in that most difficult period of his life in 2010.
The only time that Mr Barbar has ever received Centrelink payments in his life is during that period after he was recovering from chemotherapy. He deserves better from our national Government than to be treated with such disrespect.
Of course, we know that the sort of pressure that this is placing on vulnerable people, many of whom have been through circumstances such as illness, can add to that illness. This is an extraordinarily callous Government, who when, I saw Mr Porter being dismissive of these circumstances, of individual vulnerable Australians, it made me sick to the stomach. Mr Tudge can’t be bothered being back from leave, the Minister responsible for this debacle.
We also have with us today Curtis Dickson, another constituent of mine, from Leichhardt. Curtis was receiving Austudy while he was at university from 2007-2012. In the lead-up to Christmas, Curtis received notice that Centrelink believed he had been incorrectly reporting his earnings during that period, and now he needed to repay $750. This is one of the many mistakes that have been made because of the way that the computer-generated algorithm has worked out – averaging people’s income over a period of time and hitting people with these debt letters.
Despite knowing that Centrelink made a mistake, because he’s been threatened with action from a debt collection agency, he’s been forced on to a repayment plan for a debt that he knows that he doesn’t actually owe.
These are just two of the many human faces around this debacle. It is no wonder that Paul Shetler, the person who was brought in to oversee the Government’s information technology interaction across departments, has described this debacle as cataclysmic. It is no wonder that Paul Shetler has said that if this was a private business, that admitted that 20 per cent of its letters at least were on a false basis, then they would be put out of business.
Now, it is about time that Malcolm Turnbull got on top of this issue. It is about time that the Government showed some compassion and some leadership. That is why Linda Burney, Labor’s spokesperson, has called overnight for the Auditor-General to investigate this debacle – what the relationship is between the sacking of so many public servants, that computers are generating letters, that computers are answering phones and that people can’t actually talk to a human being about the circumstances which are there.
So, I say to the Government it needs to acknowledge that it’s got this wrong. It needs to allay the concerns of so many vulnerable Australians who have received letters with threats from debt-collection agencies to be put on them over circumstances which are not of their own making. People like Mr Dickson and Mr Barbar here, who have done the right thing by themselves, but also by the community, by not trying to rip off the system, just trying to be hard working, trying to make a contribution, and who have received these letters.
Now, I notice that as well Mr Porter said that there were only a few people. Now, my office alone has received more than 20 people at this difficult time of the year, they have approached my office for assistance on these issues. Any Member of Parliament would have received numerous complaints about these circumstances as well. It’s not just one or two. You are talking 20 per cent.
And the Government has a responsibility to provide an appropriate response. Labor will continue to pursue these issues. We are concerned. Anyone who was not entitled to receive payments is ripping off the system. Of course, they should have to pay money back. But the fact that people in vulnerable circumstances, such as Mr Barbar, who is being chased down for a period of his life in 2010, which was extremely difficult for him, as someone recovering from cancer, having to undergo chemotherapy treatment, the fact he has been in work since January 2011, and worked each and every day and paid his taxes, says a lot about his character. It is a pity that ministers in the Turnbull Government don’t have the same character as Mr Barbar. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: How should Centrelink recoup its money?
ALBANESE: Of course, Centrelink have had in place circumstances for a long period of time to recoup money that it believed was paid inappropriately. And I have been, in my electorate office here in Marrickville for 20 years. We’ve dealt with circumstances whereby people have made approaches, some of them correct, some of them incorrect, when Centrelink have approached people about over-payments. There is nothing new in that.
What’s new about this is the computer-generated letters that don’t seem to have taken any real human element into account. And what has also changed is that people, when you go into – there is a Centrelink office three doors from my electorate office here in Marrickville, when people go in to see someone from Centrelink, after they have tried to get through on the phone, sometimes for many hours, literally hours on the phone. So out of frustration, if you are someone, you have been on the phone from 10 o’clock in the morning, you have received this letter, you have been on the phone until 2 o’clock in the afternoon, out of frustration you go into the Centrelink office and you know what you get told? You get told, “We can’t see you. Ring up.” That is what you get told.
So, people can’t find out what the real circumstances are. And this is a Government that likes to talk about people in politics being engaged in scare campaigns. Well, let me tell you – they are scaring the life out of vulnerable Australians who have received these letters, who have received debts that they don’t actually owe. And threatening them with debt collectors being put upon them, and when they go and try to find out what the circumstances are I mean, I’m sure that in Mr Barbar’s case, for example, in 2010, when he was suffering from cancer, when he was going through chemotherapy, when he was going through that recovery phase, he used all of his sick leave up, of his employer, who was there then. They actually are saying to Mr Barbar he has to prove those circumstances. He has to provide the employer’s information from 2010, which his employer no longer has because employers probably weren’t considering that these circumstances would arise some seven years later.
So there is a human element to this and it is pretty simple. We’re saying to the Government put some humanity back into the equation here, acknowledge that this has been done in an incompetent and callous way and fix this debacle.
REPORTER: You’ve called for the Auditor-General to be involved. If that does happen it will take some months so what needs to be done in the interim to try and fix this system then? Practically, what needs to be done?
ALBANESE: Well the Government needs to get on top of this. It could start by actually having some real people employed in Centrelink instead of continuing to reduce the workforce who are actually interacting with people. The Government needs to establish a process so that all those who say that they’ve received these letters on a false basis have someone to go to and can fix their claim, can get it done quickly and easily and efficiently and accurately because I am certain that there are many people that when it goes through the process will be told, no you don’t have a debt we’re sorry. They probably won’t say sorry, but they should say sorry that we caused this aggravation to you. But in the meantime, particularly the timing of this over Christmas and the New Year period, I mean these letters were going out, they were hitting homes in the lead up to Christmas and how the Government didn’t foresee, and then the Minister just went on leave, how the Government didn’t foresee this problem is beyond me.
REPORTER: How troubled are you by Centrelink referring people to Lifeline that are stressed about these debt letters?
ALBANESE: Well I think that says it all. The problem here is that Centrelink, of course, because of the slash and burn approach that this Government has to the public sector, don’t have the staff to deal with some of the circumstances. I’m very sympathetic with the Centrelink staff who are in offices today with vulnerable people coming in and having to tell them to go away and make a phone call. That they are unable to provide them with any assistance on the spot and so I think it says a lot about the debacle that this is.
“Cataclysmic failure” as it’s been described by the Government’s own IT adviser, handpicked by Malcolm Turnbull to do that job. And the response is to send people to Lifeline. Lifeline do a fantastic job and I can tell you that people have been ringing electorate offices around the country who feel very vulnerable and who, if you’re someone, even someone with a second language where English isn’t your first language, or you’re elderly, or you’re just not used to dealing with bureaucracy, it’s up to individuals to say whether they’re going to make public the letters that they’ve received.
But I must say, as a politician who is used to receiving a lot of correspondence; these letters are pretty brutal. They don’t provide a great deal of detail; they just immediately threaten people with debt collections. Now if you’re a hard working Australian who has never done anything wrong in your whole life and you’ve never received anything like that before, you are wondering what is going on.
REPORTER: The Information Commissioner was quoted today saying he is going to hold an inquiry about this debacle, as you call it. Have you had confirmation of that inquiry and do you think an inquiry is necessary?
ALBANESE: Well certainly there does need to be inquiries. Not just of the Information Commissioner about privacy issues, which is what he would deal with. There would be issues with regard to the Auditor-General about, the Auditor-General enquiry will look at the value for taxpayers. How much is this costing? Sending out all the letters, going through this process. My real concern isn’t just the cost to the taxpayer, it’s the cost to real human beings and that’s the problem with the Government here. It’s as if people don’t exist. They’ve written people out of the equation and every Australian deserves respect, whether they are a billionaire or whether they are someone who, due to circumstances beyond their control, is on welfare. Mr Barbar didn’t choose to get cancer and have to have chemotherapy and use all his sick leave out at the job in which he was in. He didn’t choose that. Those circumstances happened to him and he is worthy of respect, as are all Australians.
REPORTER: The Government has managed to recoup some money. Do you (inaudible) has had any success?
ALBANESE: Money that has been recouped, of course that has always occurred. There has always been a process of recouping money that are over-payments from people and of course if people have received money they are not entitled to then it should be paid back. The problem here is the whole onus of proof, the assumption here is that people have done the wrong thing.
The Government itself says that one in five – people have received letters who have never been on to Centrelink. People have received all sorts of letters in circumstances around this debacle. They’ve got it wrong because there has been no proper oversight of this. There’s a need to go back and make sure that this sort of debacle never happens again. But the Government stands condemned by the impact that they are having as a result of these changes. Maybe one more.
REPORTER: Details have emerged today of Federal health Minister Sussan Ley’s (inaudible). What questions do you want Minister Ley to answer and do you think she should resign?
ALBANESE: Sussan Ley will answer those questions and there are Government processes in place for auditing of entitlements. I’m not aware of all the circumstances. So that is a matter for her and the Government – the need to respond to those issues.
REPORTER: Do you think it shows that the minister is out of touch. She said that …
ALBANESE: I’m not going to respond to circumstances to which I don’t know what they all are. It’s obviously up to Minister Ley and the Prime Minister to respond to those issues. Thank you very much.
Subjects: Albanese: Telling it Straight, Dolly Parton.
AMANDA: We know Anthony Albanese as the former Deputy Prime Minister, currently a shadow minister for the Australian Labor Party. Something we don’t know is that for the first 15 years of Anthony’s life he believed his father was dead. It turns out that wasn’t the case. And in Anthony’s new biography he talks about his remarkable search for his father and the relationship he has had with that man. Welcome to the show Anthony.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Great to be here.
JONESY: Wow. So how did you actually find out that your Dad was still alive?
ALBANESE: Well, my mother told me in what was a very traumatic thing for her to do. She was a young Catholic woman in Sydney, grew up in in Camperdown, and she went overseas, met my father, had a relationship, became pregnant to him, told him. He told her unfortunately that he was betrothed to someone from his town in Italy.
So she came back to Australia. And at that time, of course, there was enormous pressure on a young woman having a child out of wedlock. So she had this story around it that she’d got married, she wore a wedding ring, she adopted his name and I was supposed to be adopted out. She was going to say that she’d heard about her husband’s untimely death in a car accident and she’s lost the baby with the trauma. Now, she made a decision in hospital that she wasn’t going to give me up and that she would raise me as a single Mum.
And so I grew up just thinking that was a matter of fact. She told me when she thought I was old enough. But out of respect for her, I didn’t tell. There were very few people who knew and I didn’t search for him while she was alive.
JONESY: And so you found your Dad?
AMANDA: That wasn’t easy though was it?
ALBANESE: That was diabolically difficult because we didn’t have anything. There was nothing around the house about my father. So when Mum died, I had a photo – he was a steward on the Fair Sky, the cruise ship that Mum travelled to Europe on, which is where they met.
AMANDA: Did he know you had been born?
ALBANESE: Look, in the book, this is sort of outlined. I think quite clearly he did. But for understandable reasons – he had a family in Italy – we just didn’t really get on to that.
JONESY: People get so sensitive. When you bring up that you’ve got an illegitimate child, it’s like, you know, what?
ALBANESE: But it’s real. It’s hard to describe. It struck me immediately afterwards that there I was in a room in a small town in Italy in a room with three of the four closest blood relatives I had on the planet with the exception of my son, and we were meeting for the first time. And interestingly as well, the photo that I had that we had sent him, he had kept a copy of the exact same photo. So there was no – it was quite a wonderful moment.
JONESY: And is your Dad still alive?
ALBANESE: No, which is why it was incredibly lucky in terms of the timing that when I did search, that I did get to meet him. It’s very possible I could have found his details, found out who he was and he had gone.
JONESY: What was harder – finding your long lost father or approving Dolly Parton’s tour bus? Because that thing was a behemoth.
ALBANESE: It was around about the same time.
JONESY: So that was at the same time. So your role in that, Dolly Parton came to Australia with her tour bus …
ALBANESE: This might be a secret.
ALBANESE: But, but there are two buses that are identical. They are big buses.
AMANDA: For those big dresses.
ALBANESE: Yes that’s right. So they were on their way over here and she was going to cancel the tour potentially and I found out about this and the bureaucrats sometimes are just hopeless. They were like: “Oh no Minister, you can’t, there is no way this can be approved’’. I just said: “Well, I am approving it, give us the paperwork’’ and we did it and saved the tour.
JONESY: And then Dolly was always grateful. This is what she said at the time.
DOLLY PARTON: I wanted to also especially thank Anthony Albanese – is that how you say his name – the minister of transportation. He was so good to make sure that we got my buses here. I hear there was quite a lot of press about that. So I don’t know if he is there today. If he is, if he’ll come up here I will smear lip gloss all over him.
JONESY: Two big buses. Who would have thought it. Dolly Parton. Albanese: Telling it Straight, by Karen Middleton, is now out in all good book stores. Albo thank you.
ALBANESE: Thank you very much. Thanks for having us on. It’s been great.
HAWKE: Well let me say at the outset that I believe that this is a book, which is a must read for anyone who is interested in Australian politics. Karen, let me say that I think you’ve done an absolutely amazingly thorough and painstaking job and it leaves the reader, it certainly left me, with a feeling that there could hardly be anything else we could possibly learn about (inaudible). You’ve done a tremendous job.
And of course it’s not – I recommend the book not only for that reason, the subject, but also of course in telling the story of Albo you have some very interesting insights into the operations of a fascinating machine, the Australian Labor Party, and Australian federal politics more generally.
I guess at the outset the easiest, best way of getting the contextual perspective of the subject is to look at some of the tributes and character assessments of Albo that Karen has collected. She’s done that not only from his colleagues within the Parliament, but also very interestingly across the broader political spectrum.
I won’t exhaust you by going through all of them, there are so many, but I think you get some of an idea of the man from the nature of the tributes that are paid to him by his colleagues and also (inaudible) from people across the spectrum.
The first one I’ll refer to is an old friend of mine who was then in 1996 Albo’s campaign manager, Tim Gartrell. Tim was one of the many younger up and coming people who were in the party that Albo, himself still a young man, had mentored and Gartrell was extremely grateful for this.
He says, Tim was quoted by Karen, he said, this is Tim Gartrell who went on to become Federal Sectretary of the Labor Party:
He was a very important mentor in our generation of activists coming through NSW Labor, Tim says. He motivated people through his own personal courage and tenacity in a nasty tough internal party environment – the old days of hard, factional warfare in NSW Labor. But he also built a deep relationship with its younger activists, encouraging us and being generous with his time (inaudible). It was genuine but also very canny leadership. As a result we would have walked over broken glass for the bloke.
So that gives you an idea of how at a very early stage of his own career, this man was thinking of others, trying to help mentor those younger people coming on.
There’s a remarkable tribute also from Penny Wong and I would like to refer to that. This is at page 284 of the book and a remarkable, warm and compelling tribute to (inaudible). This is what Penny Wong has to say:
In Albo I’ll say this to you; I think he is the finest and toughest politician of his generation. He’s someone who knows how the Parliament works, and he knows how to make Parliament work for the people he represents. Grayndler, needs Albo, the Parliament needs Albo and I say to you the Labor Party and the Australian people need Albo.
She went on to say that this claim, obviously this respect, came from his commitment to the concepts of equality. She said:
It’s as simple as that. Equality on the basis of class, equality on the basis of race, equality on the basis of gender, equality on the basis of sexuality. He’s been consistent about that.
There is a heartfelt expression of commitment. Not the picture of the hard, fighting man; a man of absolute commitment and integrity, commitment to the ideals which are part of his standards. And I also would like to briefly refer to something that Kim Beazley said. As you know Albo went into Parliament in 1996 and we copped a bit of a thrashing and Kim was the Leader and I’ll just read to you very briefly from what Kim had to say at that time, including about Albo:
Anthony’s provocative politics were also well employed in the post defeat environment across the Labor caucus. At their first meeting after the massive loss, Labor MPs and Senators were contemplating what would clearly be a yawning, disillusioning speech out of Government.
This new Leader Kim Beazley had a job to try and pull it all together. Kim told them that they needed to regroup and be robust to be responsible as Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition. But when the meeting finished he called over the new young leftie from NSW as Anthony tells it, the big man fixed on him and said, ‘not you, I want you to give them hell.’
Anthony was designated one of the chief bombchuckers. His reputation was that he was a brawler, Kim says. But you know the thing about him was, and I always thought this, he was an incredibly intelligent brawler. He was not going to conduct himself as a moron, but conduct himself strategically and he always did.
I think that’s a great tribute from Kim and summed up the strengths and particular characteristics of this man very well. Now those are tributes to Albo, coming from people within his own Party. But what’s very significant is the respect for Albo that can be found right across the political spectrum.
And remember, he was one of the tough head kickers, he gave them more hell than just about anyone. That’s true of all – there was a recognition of the integrity of this bloke and I just refer first to Bob Katter. I don’t know whether you’re here Bob? Where’s the bloody hat?
This is a very significant tribute I think both from Bob and I’ll just read it, it’s at page 397 of the book. He said this, Bob Katter was full of praise and he quotes him:
Albanese has what used to be called in Australia the common touch. He’s comfortable with ordinary people and that is a very rare commodity in Canberra. These people will love the downtrodden, or grovel to the rich. Albo treats them all the same. I have immense respect for Albanese. You could only describe his performance as brilliant.
That of course was given in the context of the extraordinarily difficult time of the Gillard Government and you were living on knife edge and you had to be engaged in the negotiations with everyone and Bob Katter got to know you well in that situation and I want to thank you for your assessment.
I think it’s absolutely accurate and there’s just a note that comes after that attributed to Tony Windsor, who also was (inaudible) which Anthony was handling so well and Tony Windsor said, quote, ‘He was the absolute glue in the machinery, which held everything together’, and you can’t get a much better attribute than that and it was accurate.
And just finally, in terms of these references, Joe Hockey, that’s not a bad spectrum – Katter, Hockey, and here’s what Joe had to say. He’s at page 276 of the book, you’ll find it too.
And he’s extremely warm in his assessment also of – this is Joe – he referred to the tutoring that Anthony received from Tom Uren and he said that Tom encouraged Anthony’s best qualities, quote, ‘to be a man of principle, to be honest, your handshake is your word and every moment I’ve ever dealt with Anthony Albanese his word is binding.’
I want to suggest my friends that it’s no accident; it’s also a very interesting (inaudible) reference here to the interesting relationship between Christopher Pyne. I don’t know the bloke but I can’t imagine that Christopher is the easiest bloke to fall in love with. But Christopher Pyne is quoted as saying, ‘he’s the only friend I’ve got in the Labor Party’. That says something about (inaudible) I’m sure.
But seriously my friends, when you look at those tributes you can’t avoid the conclusion, which is the right conclusion, that this is a truly remarkable man. You might ask yourself, how did it all start? And there is absolutely no doubt about the answer, it’s crystal clear; the centrality of the importance of this remarkable woman, Maryanne, Anthony Albanese’s mother.
I won’t go through all the quotations here where Anthony pays the most heartfelt love and appreciation and indebted to his mother. Everything he has done, everything he has been able to achieve is because of her. Now my friends, in going back and asking how Albo started you’ve really got to say that you’re getting two books in this.
It’s a fascinating mixture of the two stories. One of course, and I’ll go finally to talk more about the actual achievements of Albo before he got in to parliament but this remarkable story, it’s sort of like a romantic novelette woven in to the main story and that is the story of the Albanese family.
This remarkable woman, his mum, and the missing father, finally discovered. In terms of the question asked about how it all began, it began with this remarkable woman who had this child in 1963 and I won’t go through the story of the absent father because it’s already been told on television and for those of you who haven’t seen that, I won’t spoil it for you.
But he grew up without a father, just his mum. Mum adored him, committed herself absolutely to ensuring she did everything to make his future a happy and a productive one. Three faiths; Catholic church, South Sydney, and the Australian Labor Party. Not in terms of the order of importance Albo would put them in.
But he saw and witnessed, and his mother experienced, the awfulness of inequality of opportunity and the difficulties of living from week to week and wondering where the money was coming from. And in this situation she instilled into this young boy, this Australian lad, faith in the Australian Labor Party as the only political instrument which was capable of creating a more equitable and a more peaceful society.
This is something he got from his mother in the earliest days and has never left him. It explains why he was always ready to express gratitude he owed to his mother. Albo, I can understand it because I know how important parents are in shaping your attitudes, your convictions, and creating the environment for you to give you the greatest incentive to make the best of what you’ve got.
I think it’s marvellous the way in which you’ve consistently paid tribute to that remarkable woman.
As I say, I won’t go into the story about the way in which you thought you had to find your father if you could and the story – the marvellous collected serendipitous circumstances which then led to the discovery. It’s a marvellous story and as I say, another reason to want to read the book.
Now, just to wind up on the side of the political achievements, before I do that, I want to mention again, as Karen does, the tremendous contribution to the development of this man of Tom Uren. Those around Anthony know [inaudible] thought that he needed a father figure and Tom Uren was allocated that job.
He worked in his office. I think again, correct me of course, [inaudible] the great man. We had our arguments, as I think many people did, but no one was ever doubt his integrity and commitment to the fundamental principles laid down by Tom’s advice.
Now, very quickly I would just like to mention the achievements of this remarkable young man, as he was when he went in, in the Parliament. He went in as I said in 1996, and we were in Opposition then and [inaudible] government in 2007. Kevin and then that awfully difficult period after 2010 in that minority government. I just go to a couple of statistics which will give you some idea of the enormous contribution he made in the period of Julia’s leadership.
I think this is something that is not sufficiently understood and recognised, but history will be kind to Julia Gillard and a very large amount of that is due to the tenacity and the commitment and the hard work of Albo in working in an extraordinarily difficult Parliament situation.
But the fact is that due to that leadership that he gave to the House, in that period of the Gillard Government, 595 pieces of legislation went through the House. A remarkable achievement and a very large agenda, many of them in important areas of education and the like. Albo has much to be congratulated for that achievement.
Let me just before I conclude refer you to the achievements of his own ministry particularly in infrastructure and I’ll turn to page 418 of the book and they are really quite remarkable statistics of which Anthony you should be extremely proud. At page 418 in the book Karen writes Albo saying ‘we invested’ – and this is a remarkable figure – ‘we invested more in urban public transport between 2007 and 2013 than all previous governments combined from federation to 2007. Not a bad achievement.
He also refers to the streamlining of transport regulators and reducing the number of regulators from 23 to 3. This is very interesting. He was the only transport minister invited to attend roundtable talks in Singapore on the future of global aviation in 2012.
His aviation White Paper earned him the title of Aviation Minister of the Year in 2010 from the peak global industry group and two years later he received the equivalent international award in infrastructure. Truly remarkable achievements.
Then you also proudly – listen to this fact. It says ‘it’s a point of pride for Anthony that when he became minister Australia was ranked 20th in the industrialised world for infrastructure investment but when he left office it was first.’
Now, you consider those statistics. Truly remarkable.
… doing a job competently, he was taking Australia into positions of world leadership in these important areas.
So I hope, my friends, without having gone through too much of the book, I’ve given you a taste of it, a taste of this remarkable man. I’m inordinately proud of my political party, the Australian Labor Party. It has endured now from the end of the 19th century as the only continuous party through the whole of that period.
We’ve had our bad periods, where we haven’t been at our best, but we have never lost our commitment to basic Labor principles. Amongst these is fundamentally the concept of equality of opportunity. The abolition of discrimination based on religion, colour, race, creed or gender.
The reason that we have survived and will live to come again to government in the not too distant future, the reason is that those basic principles have been unchanged and that we have continued to throw up men and women of character, integrity and commitment, who have been prepared to be pragmatic where necessary to achieve outcomes, but never to abandon basic principles.
Here, for the subject of this book, we have an outstanding example of just that.
I close by saying thank you, Albo, for being what you’ve been, and for continuing to do that. Thank you for the contribution you have made through your party, to the Parliament, to this country, to the region and the world. This country is a better place because of your activities within our party and within our governments.
And I thank you Karen for having brought together such an interesting, complex and unique story. I recommend this book highly to you and have much pleasure in launching it.
ALBANESE: I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of country and by paying my respects to their elders both past and present.
To Bob Hawke, thank you, thank you. Your extraordinarily generous comments that you’ve made here this morning are not the reason why I, and Karen when we discussed it, were pretty clear about who should launch the book. It is that you are without doubt the father of modern Labor.
You are, more than anyone else, the person who taught us that what you need is not just good governments, as all Labor Governments have been, for a period of time that make reforms.
You need governments that get elected, get re-elected, get re-elected and get re-elected to entrench those reforms as a permanent feature of the Australian landscape.
And on issues of the environment, Medicare, education and the opening up of opportunity, national economic reform, which we have seen lead to continuous economic growth as a result of the reforms of your Government, there is no doubt that you are a giant of our movement.
And you have done Karen and myself and extraordinary honour in agreeing to launch this book today and I thank you very much for it.
To Karen, the author, it’s true that she stalked me for some time to do this project, as did a couple of others. Something that Karen might not know, but that I’ll now say in front of our closest friends, was that Karen’s attendance at my mum’s funeral meant that I think she would get it, and she did.
And that comes through in the book, that this is someone who put in extraordinary hours. We didn’t always get on, it must be said. Karen kept insisting that ‘it’s not a hagiography you know’, to which I would respond, ‘why not?”.
Throughout the forty formal interviews, but hundreds of discussions over such a long period of time, longer perhaps than the publishers envisaged it must be said, for those wondering about the timing of this, we were meant to be here some time ago.
Karen wanted to get it right. She checked quotes with people, she got back to people, she went through an exhaustive process of making sure of accuracy.
I certainly did not have a right of veto and there are things in the book that would prefer weren’t there. Fortunately most of the people who wanted to bag me wanted to do it anonymously – the nature of politics.
Karen did I think a remarkable job and found out details about my family my grandparents, my great grandparents going back, that I certainly didn’t know. And indeed the issue in the book that’s got most of the focus up to this point, some of the detail there of how I found my father, some of that detail I didn’t know, I read about for the first time.
To Carmel and Nathan, this book is also about them, very much. To Carmel, my life partner for more than half of my life, and Nathan who has brought extraordinary joy to our life and has completed our family, I thank you for always, for always, being so supportive of me and our wonderful but small family.
I must say I also want to thank my parliamentary colleagues who are here. Members and senators from across the spectrum and friends who have travelled, I acknowledge Rob Henderson who has come from Wollongong and has made such a difference. I acknowledge Rob and his partner who are here.
I thought about what to say at the launch of your own biography, it is a bit strange. It is a bit like being asked to speak at your own funeral. I am saved by the fact of course that this is just volume one. And given life expectancy, I think that next 50 years can produce a few more things to do.
I must say, it was incredibly difficult. The whole experience forced me to relive a whole range of things. A very emotional experience.
I must say, as you read the book, a number of times – and people who know me well like Jenny Macklin and Penny and Mark and others won’t be surprised – by the number of times where tears are mentioned. I am a very emotional person and I felt very vulnerable and exposed by this process.
The most difficult interview I have ever done, or will ever do, was with Leigh Sales on 7.30. You saw the ten minute version. The forty minute version, I am pleased to say that I was not the person who stopped the interview because of tears, it was Leigh.
Though I knew, sometimes you need someone else to tell you something, and Mark Riley – I asked him if I could read this out – at 8:01 on that night of last week I got a text from Riles’, and he said: ‘Such a compelling, moving intensely human story Albo, so glad you finally told it, must be like a great weight lifting. Good on you.’
And it hit me at that moment that it was that. There will people who have known me for a very long time and who knew as a fact that my father was dead. That was a fact that I thought had happened and I think getting it out there in terms of my origins, in such a detailed way is like a weight lifting.
I don’t have to, it’s impossible, to tell my story in a short line. Hence I developed methods over the years – ‘where was your father from?’, ‘Oh I was raised by just mum’ – and people would sort of get the message not to ask the next question. And that I think is very difficult.
So in part this is a book about identity. It speaks to – I know the emails and response that I have had and I know Karen has had – from so many people who were raised by single parents. Poor Ann Sherry is now searching for other people who have similar circumstances. Rob Henderson will be busy for some time trying to reunite people.
It speaks to, I think, your sense of who you are is that you do have to know where you come from. I think when Carmel and I had Nathan, when you have your own child, it does change the way that you think about the world. It changes your concept of genes and genetics.
I always felt Italian, I have that la dolce vita gene, I like staying up late and I don’t like getting out of bed in the morning. I enjoy a good time. But I was raised with the values of my mum, as Bob said – Catholic, Souths, Labor. Not necessarily in that order.
Obviously I have been true to Labor and Souths, despite the temptation of having to wait 43 years between comps. And I certainly regard myself as having maintained the values of Catholicism with which I was brought up, in terms of social justice and maintaining those principles.
My mum was one of those working class people who had many sayings. One of her sayings was, ‘always remember where you come from’. That is something I’ve tried to do. That’s something I am doing at the moment when I examine a bill before this Parliament that would cut payments to some of the poorest people. You know, we need to be better than to talk about economics as though it doesn’t have an impact on people.
One of the reasons why I am faithful to Labor is that the Whitlam Government, the Hawke Government, The Keating Government, the Rudd Government and the Gillard Government all made a difference to people. And Labor must always remember our responsibility to stand up.
And if that gets an occasional flick from an economic commentator well so be it, so be it. But I will continue to argue the case there.
I don’t have many regrets about the Rudd and Gillard Governments, I do have one, the impact that we had on sole parents. A budget decision that it wasn’t possible to have an argument over and a decision that was wrong.
People have asked me why, and I’ll conclude with this, why now?
When I was told of the circumstance, when mum sat down and told me when I was 14 or 15 the story of my life was not quite accurate that was an incredibly difficult thing for her to do. But it says a lot about society, what it was like, that in 1963 it simply wasn’t acceptable for a Catholic woman to have a child out of wedlock.
So the pressure that was on someone, to go to the extent of changing her name, adopting my father’s name, wearing a wedding ring and engagement ring, telling everyone that she had come back from overseas married.
Then of course I was supposed to be adopted out because that’s what happened. It was better to have a child adopted out than to have them live as an illegitimate – I mean what a word – illegitimate, not real, not legitimate. Seriously.
Defining someone from birth is wrong. And my mum chose to defy that pressure and to keep me; a very brave decision that she made. Many other people of course were in similar circumstances and that brings me to the nature of family which is what a lot of this book is about as well.
Every time in the marriage equality debate I hear someone say you need a mother and a father and 2.2 kids, to me it doesn’t just denigrate families who happen to have two fathers or two mothers; it denigrates sole parents and it denigrates the whole complexity of relationships and families, that aren’t done in a book, they are done with real people.
And that’s why we should respect all families equally and we shouldn’t be having a vote whereby others get to judge families, whatever their makeup. And we should respect them and I’m very pleased that Karen has dedicated her book to my mum Maryanne but to all sole parents. I think that is a very good thing.
I did want it done in a book rather than something that just slips out in a footnote or an interview. I wanted the story told properly and that’s why it is in a book. I couldn’t let many people know while mother was alive out of respect to her. Very few people, my closest friends knew my circumstances, but others didn’t.
And once my father had passed away in January of 2014, I think that is was then possible to tell the story which I hope assists people including kids growing up in sole parent households who are disadvantaged, that you can be whoever you want to be.
The important thing about families is to have a parent or parents, regardless of who they are, who love their child and I had unconditional love from my mother. And that gave me the confidence to be Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.
I said, and I think the book begins, by me saying that it is indeed a great country that the son of a sole parent, who grew up in Council housing with their mum as an invalid pensioner, can be elected Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.
That’s our egalitarian spirit, the nation of the fair go. That is so important for Australia.
I hope you enjoy the book. Those who expect leaks from Cabinet or private discussions, you won’t find anything there because as much as Karen tried to talk about various things, I believe if you have a private conversation it stays that way. So there aren’t leaks of that element.
I do think in an act of brilliance – Meredith, I don’t know who made the decision to not have an index – but it means that they’ve all got to buy it and they’ve all got to read it to see where you are in the story.
I thank Karen for the writing of the book, I thank Penguin and Random House for publishing the book, I thank Bob for your very generous comments.
And I thank all my friends, my parliamentary colleagues and particularly my family, Carmel and Nathan for being here with us today. Thank you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thank you for joining me. I am at Sydenham in my electorate of Grayndler, an area that is greatly affected by aircraft noise. Indeed, this area was once occupied by residences which had to be demolished as a result of aircraft noise. It’s a timely reminder that the services that are provided relating to airports are critical, not just for those who travel on planes, but for the communities around those airports. And the proposal of the Federal Government to privatise Airservices Australia would have disastrous consequences for people who live around airports as well as for the aviation sector. The Government has commissioned a review into that privatisation through KPMG, authored by Warwick Smith, a former Federal Coalition minister. That report must be released immediately. I have been denied access to that report through my FOI application. Taxpayers paid $600,000 for that report and taxpayers are entitled to see what is in that report. The privatisation of services – of Airservices Australia – would have severe consequences. If providing aviation safety, air-traffic control, looking after flight paths, looking after fire-fighting services around airports around Australia is not a core government function, then I don’t know what is. The Government must immediately release the report and rule out the privatisation of Airservices Australia. While they are at they could rule out the closure of fire-fighting services in regional communities like Gladstone, Coffs Harbour and Broome, that has also been recommended to the Government. These communities rely upon the employment and the activity that occurs at those airports and if there is an incident it is not good enough to simply rely upon the normal fire-fighting services that are located in those communities to travel to the airport to respond to any incident. The first three minutes, should there by an aviation incident, are absolutely critical in determining what the consequences of such an incident would be. So the Government needs to rule out those cuts. They have announced 900 jobs to go out of the 4500 who work for Airservices Australia. That has consequences for their families. But it also has consequences for the setting up of Airservices Australia for privatisation. Historically, what governments have done is have mass redundancies such as this prior to privatisation in order to increase the value of the asset sale and it appears that that is precisely what is happening here, which is why the Government must rule out the privatisation of air safety services today.
REPORTER: Australia’s aviation reputation around the world is fairly high and may even be one of the best in the world, Is there any fear that privatisation of air services may actually lead to us losing that tag?
ALBANESE: Well, certainly I think there would be great concern throughout the aviation sector from the privatisation of Airservices Australia. Australia is quite rightly proud of our reputation as the world’s safest aviation jurisdiction. And all that is put at threat if you move to a for-profit system. Common sense tells you that aviation safety is a core government function and a core responsibility of the Government. If you move it to a for-profit system, you will inevitably have cost-cutting in order to maximise profits for the private corporation. And what is the need for this? Air Services already retain funds as a result of the services that they provide. It is a good, functioning organisation and there is no need for this privatisation.
REPORTER: You mentioned the rural and the smaller airports. What sort of impact would you imagine job losses in those areas have on those local communities and what would that mean to those families?
ALBANESE: Well, they have a devastating impact and this is after Airservices Australia, over recent years, have spent $1 billion upgrading the fire-fighting services to have state-of-the-art equipment, to have proper training. We have skilled workers who have particular knowledge about firefighting around our airports should an incident occur. This is just mean-spirited cost-cutting. The idea that you would shut aviation fire-fighting services in the smaller regional airports – like Gladstone, like Broome, like Coffs Harbour – would have devastating consequences and that is why those communities deserve this cost-cutting measure to be ruled out today and it’s up to the National Party Minister Darren Chester to rule it out in the interests of those communities. It’s not good enough to skate through an election and then announce 900 job losses and then be still considering the closure of fire-fighting services as part of the setting it all up for the privatisation of aviation safety in this country.
REPORTER: In NSW in particular there has been a lot of controversy around privatisation of late. We saw the controversy with the Baird Government and the Ausgrid sell-off and the Chinese interest. Is there any concern that the Liberal Party is perhaps chasing a privatisation agenda a little bit too strong?
ALBANESE: Well they don’t have plan for the nation. I note that in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, a senior Liberal MP is quoted as saying that Malcolm Turnbull had a plan to get rid of Tony Abbott but doesn’t have a plan to govern. And that’s quite right. So this is a Government in search of a purpose for its existence. This is an Opposition in exile sitting on the government benches looking for a reason for being and that is why they are falling back on ideology. The idea that you would privatise aviation safety in this country is quite extraordinary. They have spent $600,000 on a report on that privatisation proposal to government and now they are hiding that report. They need to release it today and they need to rule out the privatisation of these aviation safety services provided by Airservices Australia. People want to know – the travelling public and those people who live around airports – that the flight paths, that the air-traffic control services, that the fire-fighting services are being run in the interests of safety and good governance, not run in the interests of profit.
REPORTER: One of the other big issue of the day really is gay marriage and the plebiscite. The Greens have indicated that they would seek to block the legislation that would see that plebiscite through. Does Labor have any final position on whether they would be looking to block that plebiscite?
ALBANESE: Well the Greens Party of course are all over the shop. It’s just a year ago that they were proposing, along with other senators, to have a plebiscite. That was their position. Our position has always been consistent. Labor’s position is there is no need for a plebiscite. You can save money. The Government says it is looking for savings. I’ve got an idea for it; save hundreds of millions of dollars by getting the Parliament to do its job – to do its job and to vote in a conscience vote on the floor of both chambers. Marriage equality will be passed. The world will go on. Some people will get rights they don’t currently have, but no-one’s existing rights will be impacted. Marriage equality should not be a controversial issue. It should be debated in the Parliament. When we go back to Parliament next week we’ll be voting on defence, the economy education, health – the whole gamut of issues will be determined by the Parliament. Why is it that some people want me and other MPs to not fulfil our obligations but to give everyone a voting on other people’s relationships? It seems to me that that was always just a delaying tactic by Malcom Turnbull. Malcolm Turnbull knows full well the consequences for young people coming to terms with their sexuality. Malcolm Turnbull knows full well the consequences that will occur as a result of the vilification that is already occurring in the emails that I have received. The denigration of people for who they are is something that we can do without and the Parliament should do its job.
REPORTER: Russell Broadbent has indicated that he would like to see the Government delay any action on marriage equality should Labor join the likes of Nick Xenophon and perhaps the Greens in blocking a plebiscite. Are you at all concerned that that tactic may actually play out and we may not see action on marriage equality for another three years?
ALBANESE: That’s very possible. Malcolm Turnbull isn’t just in conflict with the conservative forces within his own party. He is in conflict with himself. This is a person who said that he supported marriage equality, has campaigned on it, has said there should be a conscience vote in the Parliament and that is how it should be determined but is walking away from it. Others will judge Malcolm Turnbull, but we should get this done and we should get it done quickly and it should be done in the Parliament. Thank you.
I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of country and pay my respect to their elders past and present.
I’m proud as the newly elected federal member for Grayndler to have the Sydney College of the Arts in my electorate and I’m proud to stand with these students.
Sydney is a great global city and global cities value culture.
They value the enrichment that the arts give.
It’s appropriate that this demonstration of students and supporters of SCA take place outside the Archibald awards that are taking place inside the Art Gallery of NSW, because this magnificent institution has produced Archibald winners.
This magnificent institution makes a difference to Sydney. A global city such as Sydney needs enrichment, it needs the arts, it needs diversity. What it doesn’t need is the commercial imperative overriding the cultural need of this city.
And that is precisely what we are seeing here. The idea that Sydney College of the Arts is the same as an urban design faculty, the same as other institutions at UNSW and serves the same purpose, misses the whole point. The whole point.
SCA is also a focal point of the inner west community. The Callan Park master plan, which the State Government has refused to proceed with, sees the Sydney College of the Arts as being the catalyst for other arts and cultural activity at the Callan Park site.
Not only have the students of SCA not been given any certainty about their future, or what will happen to them from 2017, but the local community, the businesses of Darling St and Balmain Road that rely upon the students and the teachers for their living.
The residents of the inner west who are looking for Callan Park site to build the diversity and build the cultural activity around there, are concerned also about whether this is just an opportunity for a sell off of that land, or inappropriate use of that land.
The students I have met with have told me about the specific value of the site, such as the print area that is available there, that has been used for many, many years.
Art is something that you can’t always just put a dollar figure on. Just like human interrelationships and human activity can’t always be measured by the dollar. Human relationships are about much more than that, and that’s why the struggle of the students is about more than just them.
I pay tribute to them, because what they’re fighting for is the very nature of the way that we regard society; of the way we regard education, and; of the way that it’s more than something that just benefits the individual. It benefits all of us.
But what we’ve seen here from the university hierarchy, and I’ve written to Mr Spence on this issue, is again an institution such as Sydney Uni, that I’m a proud graduate of, being reduced to activity that is more and more commercial. That more and more, sees education as a transaction between an individual and an institution rather than something that benefits the whole of society.
So I say to the students here; congratulations. You look fantastic. And the local community stands with you in this struggle. This issue must be revisited and it must be revisited in the interests of students, in the interests of the community, but most importantly in the interests of this great global city and our reputation as a centre of arts and culture.
Well done. I stand with you and I will continue to stand with you on this issue
Subjects: Local business, AFP raids, NBN
GEOFF RICHARDSON: Thank you Anthony for coming today to do the honours. Twenty-seven years ago when we thought of the idea of getting involved in the organic industry and starting to grow and supplying customers, it wasn’t about a business as such, it was about getting involved in something we passionately believed in. And 27 years later here we are selling organic fruit and veggies – minus the pesticides. What you see is what you get. No invisible layer that comes back to bite you later and, on a personal note, that’s what we like about you. What you see is what you get – Albo is always Albo. And that’s why we’re so pleased to have you here today doing the honours.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much Geoff for giving us the honour of doing the official opening here of the new premises of Doorstep Organics. This is a fantastic local business, here in the industrial heartland of Marrickville, employing 40 people as a result of the growth in this sector. The business here is growing; they tell me by 40 per cent a year. That’s extraordinary growth. They’re using new technology, through the Internet, with people ordering online, getting their fresh organic fruit and vegetables, meat and other products to their door delivered on the very same day – a fantastic innovative business. It’s a great example of small business, and it’s a great example of a family run business, with now the second generation coming along as a part of this local business. It’s good for jobs; it’s good for our local economy. It’s also good for the health of the people who are ordering through Doorstep Organics because of the quality of the product.
There’s a lot of concern out there in the community, I believe, about the Big Two controlling retail and, particularly, controlling supermarkets. I think there is a big movement towards independent and buying directly off people such as Doorstep Organics and their growth is an example of that. So I was very pleased to accept the invitation to do the official opening here today and to get a look at this important small business – a dynamic family based company, but one which also has a family feel about it. Talking to the workers here this morning, very clearly they regard it not as a chore coming to work. They regard it as a joy coming to work because of the nature of that work, and the fact that they can relate to this small business and feel that they’re a part of what’s a community here in terms of the workforce. Thank you very much to you and to Carolyn and to everyone here for the invite. And it’s now declared officially open.
REPORTER: Mr Albanese, I might just ask some questions – just on the AFP raids, does the Labor Party think there was any political interference in the raids?
ALBANESE: Well, what you’ve got to look at is whether a proper explanation has been given and to this point it hasn’t. We know that there have been leaks from the National Security Committee. We know there have been leaks from Cabinet, including the night before the Budget; Laurie Oakes on Channel 9 carried a serious leak of the Budget papers that was then backed in by Minister after Minister all throughout Budget day. Now that’s a breach of the Cabinet – that’s a very serious breach. Where was the proper investigation of those breaches, let alone the quite extraordinary breaches of leaks from the National Security Committee? I’ve had the honour and privilege of serving as a member of the National Security Committee. I know how seriously the NSC takes security issues. Whilst I was on that committee there were no leaks whatsoever. So it is of some concern – the Government of course in terms of the NBN and what it would appear that these documents that caused the raid by the AFP – an extraordinary raid on a staff member’s house that I’m advised took all night. That’s a pretty serious issue for that individual and his family. It would have been quite distressing for him and it appears to be quite an extraordinary occurrence during an election campaign.
Of course I was the Communications Minister before Malcolm Turnbull in charge of the National Broadband Network and what I know is that Malcolm Turnbull replaced the Board of the NBN; he replaced the Senior Executives at the National Broadband Network with handpicked people. So the idea that Malcolm Turnbull has nothing to do with this – he needs to explain what discussions he had with the National Broadband Network as well as what advice he received from the AFP. It clearly is in the public interest, for it to be known the fact that the NBN rollout has been delayed significantly from what Malcolm Turnbull as the Minister has said was happening. It also is the case that Malcolm Turnbull as the Shadow Minister for Communications received a range of leaks from the NBN board while he was the Shadow Minister. That didn’t result in raids on people’s homes, raids on Members of Parliament’s offices as a result. Even though if you go back and examine before 2013 the lead up to that Federal Election, the amount of information that Malcolm Turnbull was out there with which came from within the NBN. So these are quite extraordinary circumstances. It’s an intervention into an election campaign, which not surprisingly has been seen as a political act.
REPORTER: And so I guess with that timing, why do you think they’ve occurred now? Are you making a direct link there?
ALBANESE: Well, it’s up for the AFP and Malcolm Turnbull to explain the timing of this. At any time it would be quite extraordinary for a Member of Parliament to have their office searched and to have warrants issued into a staff member’s home – quite extraordinary for that to occur. The fact that it’s occurred during an election campaign where frankly the Government doesn’t have a narrative, isn’t putting forward a sense of purpose or a reason for it to be re-elected to office, where Malcolm Turnbull has struggled. I was in Perth earlier this week where Malcolm Turnbull flew across the country to have a 15-minute press conversation with a few journalists and didn’t meet anyone else before he flew out. Quite clearly this is a campaign that’s off the rails. This is a distraction in terms of the campaign and that’s why it requires a full explanation of why this extraordinary raid has happened overnight.
Subjects: Grayndler electorate, Liberal-Greens preference deal, Greens strategy, asylum seeker policy, Malcolm Turnbull
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks for joining me. This morning many of the journalists here have been at Richard Di Natale’s first press conference of the election campaign as the Greens political party leader. We’ve seen him today visit the electorate of Grayndler and of course everyone’s always welcome to come to the inner west of Sydney to see the vibrant and dynamic community that we have here and that I’m committed to keeping.
But it says a lot about Richard Di Natale and the Greens political party during this campaign that they’re targeting the electorate of Grayndler rather than targeting a Coalition seat. This is consistent with a political party that has prioritised getting Adam Bandt someone to talk to during Question Time over defeating the Malcolm Turnbull led Coalition Government.
You can’t say that you’re opposed to the cuts to the NBN, the cuts to education, the cuts to health, you’re opposed to Peter Dutton as the Immigration Minister, you’re opposed to the right-wing conservative agenda that has continued under Malcolm Turnbull after he has replaced Tony Abbott, but then issue split tickets in marginal seats which the Coalition seeks to hold or to win in return for getting Liberal preferences against progressive Labor members in electorates like Grayndler, Sydney and Richmond on the NSW North Coast.
This morning Richard Di Natale questioned my voting record and said that he would be consistent in putting a progressive view and that they’d vote every time. Well, the Greens political party are those that are responsible for there not being a price on carbon right now.
Had the Greens voted for the price on carbon in 2009 in the Senate it would have been entrenched, we would have had a different debate about climate change in this country. But they chose not to. He used the example about renewable energy.
Well, under Labor the number of solar panels on our roofs went from just a few thousand to over one million. The Renewable Energy Target of 20 per cent by 2020 that was started and the policy written by myself as Labor’s environment and climate change spokesperson was in place until the Coalition sought to tear it down. The renewable energy sector wanted Labor to vote for the position that we did.
Labor has been consistent and courageous about our position on renewable energy and action on climate change. That’s why we have a target that’s consistent with that of the Climate Change Authority. That’s why when it comes to renewable energy we’re seeking a fifty per cent target in the coming decade and a half.
It’s Labor in government that can change the country. That’s why during this election whilst the Greens political party will be spending all their time trying to defeat me, I will be out there trying to defeat the Coalition Government.
REPORTER: Where do you think their priorities should be lying if it’s not in your seat, not in this type of marginal seat?
ALBANESE: Well, if they say that they’re committed to opposing the Coalition Government’s conservative agenda, then they might like to try campaigning against Coalition members. To actually try campaigning to make a difference to the balance in the House of Representatives by supporting Labor members where they can’t be elected, fair enough to go hard, to try to win seats.
But don’t do a deal with the Coalition which increases the chances of a return of the Coalition Government by issuing split tickets. Now Richard Di Natale said just this morning that at the end of the day, the Greens would have to make a choice over whether they put Labor or Liberal first after the Greens, but he also said that nowhere would he put Liberals above the Labor Party.
Well, if he’s serious about that, and he has to make a choice, he should do it. That means in every seat putting Labor above the Coalition. Richard Di Natale can end the debate about preferences by simply saying he will put Labor, progressive candidates, above Coalition candidates in every seat in the country.
If he’s fair dinkum about stopping the Coalition Government he would do that.
REPORTER: Albo, Sophie Ismail the Labor Candidate for the seat of Melbourne has spoken out against turnback policies and a whole other range of issues that Labor supports on asylum seekers including mandatory detention. Would you sort of condemn her for speaking out against the Party’s policy on the first day of the campaign?
ALBANESE: This is such an old fashioned question. I got asked just ten days ago about other people’s candidates – other people’s comments who were Members of Parliament, not candidates and I’ll say there what I say now which is that I’m not about condemning people for putting forward their views. They’re entitled to do so. The Labor Party has positions on these things. I argue my position within the Labor Party. The difference is that when the Labor Party makes a decision there’s potentially a decision of government rather than of just a couple of people.
It must be difficult for Adam Bandt. He sits there with his imaginary friend in the House of Representatives. It would be nice if he had someone real to talk to. But why target specifically progressive Labor candidates if you’re serious about a progressive Australia?
I’m standing on this election campaign as someone who’s progressive, as someone who’s effective and gets things done but also someone who is ours. That is, I’m a part of this local community. I was born here, I went to primary school here, I’ve represented here. I’ve lived here my whole life. I’m engaged with the local community. I’m prepared to stand up for my values and I’ve done that pretty consistently.
REPORTER: Peter Dutton has just given a press conference on Operation Sovereign Borders. Given it’s a caretaker period, do you think Labor should be briefed on the operation?
ALBANESE: Of course. Caretaker conventions kick in from the day the election was called and this morning at 9am it’s my understanding that the Parliament was dissolved. If there are any matters which relate to national security or indeed any policy issue, then the government has an obligation to brief the respective Shadow Minister, and that’s something I would expect in my portfolio, and I think it is something that’s required and made very clear. This is a government that has shown contempt for normal processes.
Indeed, why we’re in an election today is beyond the comprehension of most Australians. I don’t think there are many people out there in voter land saying “I’m glad there’s an eight week campaign”. I think what they need to do though, is understand that that is a direct result of the fact that Malcolm Turnbull has run out of ideas, has run out of steam, and has run out of an agenda, after just six months in the job.
He had a plan to get rid of Tony Abbott. He doesn’t have a plan to govern and for someone who coveted the Prime Ministership for so long to have so little idea of what to do once he has gained that Prime Ministership is quite extraordinary. That’s one of the reasons why Australians are so disappointed with Malcolm Turnbull.
Subject: Liberal-Greens preference deal; Grayndler
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks for joining us. I’m here today to call out the secret preference deal that has been negotiated between the Liberals and the Greens political parties.
That deal will see Liberals give preferences to the Greens ahead of Labor in Grayndler, Sydney, Melbourne, Batman, and Wills. And we’ll see open tickets or no preferences given from the Greens towards the Liberals in the seat of Richmond in NSW, and in the Victorian seats of Corangamite, Bruce, Chisholm, McEwen, Deakin and La Trobe.
The issue of the seat of Fremantle is one which has broken down in negotiations because both the Liberals and the Greens think that they are the best chance of taking the seat from Labor.
This is the ultimate example of cynical politics and putting tactics before principle. And the reason why we know about these discussions that have taken place in Melbourne is because of the anger that is there from some at senior levels of the Liberal Party that they would preference Greens candidates, particularly in seats where the Liberal Party has no chance of winning them at the next election.
But also anger from many Greens Party members including parliamentarians who object to their Party providing assistance to get the Turnbull Government re-elected and for all of what that means.
What that means for future action on climate change. What that means for a plebiscite rather than real action on marriage equality. What that means for workplace relations including another attempt to get through their WorkChoices on Water legislation, to attack penalty rates of Australians.
What it means for public transport and the fact that Malcolm Turnbull hasn’t really changed any of the policies that the Abbott Government have put forward.
A progressive party exchanging preferences with a conservative party, with Malcolm Turnbull as the spokesperson but all of Tony Abbott’s policies is quite extraordinary.
And the deal for Liberals too, unlike what they’ve said in the past, where Tony Abbott advocated putting the Greens last after Labor, is quite extraordinary as well. So I think people will react very cynically to this.
That’s why both the Greens spokespeople and the Liberal Party spokespeople while not being prepared to deny this, of course, because people will see it on polling day, are also not out there proudly proclaiming this preference negotiation. And of course, it’s intimately connected with the changes that are being made to the Senate.
Because historically what’s occurred in terms of Australian elections is that the Greens have relied upon Labor preferences to get Senators elected and Labor has received the support of the Greens in terms of marginal seats.
By making the changes that they have in the Senate, by essentially introducing optional preferential voting, the Greens believe that preferences in the Senate aren’t as important so they’re focussed on doing a deal with the Liberals in House of Representatives seats.
Of course, this will make no difference in terms of whether Liberals can control the House of Representatives or not. What it will make a difference to though, is to give the Liberals a greater chance, through the Greens actions, in having split ticket votes rather than giving preferences to progressive candidates. And that’s why I think Australians will rightly see this as cynical.
The Greens political party, who put themselves up as being above old politics, as somehow being concerned with principle, what we see here is a secret manipulation of the political system and Richard Di Natale needs to come out there and justify what has happened and justify the discussions he’s had with members of the Liberal Party and how they’ve come to these conclusions.
REPORTER: So Labor expects to get some votes out of this, do they?
ALBANESE: I think that what will occur, in my electorate for example, when people who are weighing up whether they’re going to vote for the Greens political party or the Labor Party will have a look at what the Liberal Party is doing and think to themselves, think twice. Think about what the implications are for that.
Should the Greens be rewarded for this kind of cynical politics? And I think they’ll think twice. They’ll also examine the stance that the candidate against me has. And Liberal Party members will be somewhat shocked at the idea that someone who has spent a considerable part of his political activism as a member of a revolutionary Marxist party suddenly attracts preferences from the Liberal Party.
A simple search of the Twitter account or other accounts of the candidate against me will show what his views are. His views are expressed very colourfully about Malcolm Turnbull, about the Liberals, about the nature of capitalism and the production process, about the role of unions. It’s out there for all to see. How the Liberals can defend giving preferences to him will be up to them as well.
Subject: Hon Tom Uren AC
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Today I’ve been asked by Tom Uren’s family to pay tribute to my comrade and friend who passed away this Australia Day. Tom Uren was a giant who left this nation that he served and loved better off for his presence.
After 93 years he leaves us as a great Australian. Tom Uren is a link to Australia’s past and how we’ve become the nation that we are today.
Born into the Depression in Balmain in 1921, he moved to Manly where he became an active sportsperson, being a surf lifesaver, a representative football player and a professional boxer.
In 1941, like many of his fellow Australians, he signed up to the Australian Army. He was captured by the Japanese in 1942 on Timor and served there, in Singapore, and on the infamous Burma-Siam Railway and at the end of the War he was taken to Japan, where he served in the slave labour force in the lead-up to the end of the Second World War.
From there, he witnessed on the horizon the dropping of the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. He then returned to Australia where he became a manager at Woolworths at Lithgow. He went into Federal Parliament after having been inspired to join the Australian Labor Party in 1958. He served as the Federal Member for Reid for some 32 years and served as a Minister in both the Whitlam and the Hawke Governments.
His legacy, is of someone who was passionate about the natural and built environment, passionate about civil liberties, passionate about peace and social justice, passionate about the rights of working people and the underprivileged. This is a legacy of which he was rightly proud.
Tom Uren continued up until the end as an advocate of social justice, and was very proud of the decision by Julia Gillard and the Labor Government to grant justice to the former Japanese Prisoners of War, just in the last few years.
Tom Uren was a man of principle. He didn’t just talk the talk. He walked the walk. He cared about his community and he cared about his nation. Tom Uren didn’t go through the Second World War and come out as many could understandably have come out, with bitterness.
He spoke in his first speech about the philosophy learnt on the Burma-Siam railway as part of Weary Dunlop’s force there. It was a philosophy that said the Australians were better off because the fit looked after the sick, the young looked after the old and the rich looked after the poor. Under Weary Dunlop’s leadership, the officers in the Australian force shared, according to need, with those of their fellow prisoners who needed that assistance.
It is remarkable that Tom Uren came through that experience as an advocate for reconciliation – as an opponent, not of the Japanese, but as an opponent of militarism and he lived that way his entire life.
When it came to injustice such as the Queensland anti-march laws, he didn’t just march, but went to jail for refusing to pay the fine. Wherever injustice was, he stood up. He became an of outspoken advocate for the rights of the East Timorese, in part because he believed that Australians owed the East Timorese a debt due to what they did for our forces during the Second World War.
He was someone who could reach across the political divide. He was a builder of alliances. When I nominated him for the Companion of the Order of Australia that he was granted just a couple of years ago, his support letters came from Julia Gillard, the then Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, the then Leader of the Opposition and Bob Brown, the then Leader of the Australian Greens. All three of them strongly supported this highest of Australian honours being granted to Tom Uren.
Tom Uren was passed away peacefully and I was able to spend time with him just two days ago. He leaves a legacy that is enormous for our movement. He was a lover of people and of the community and the community gave him that affection back.
I mourn him today. I pay tribute to him and I thank him on a personal level for his mentoring of me. He was the closest that I had to a father figure over the last 30 years when, as a very young man, I went to work for him and it was an honour and privilege to be his comrade and his friend.
REPORTER: Can you tell us a little about that time you spent with him a couple of days ago?
ALBANESE: Well, Tom had suffered considerably in recent times. As a Prisoner of War in World War II, he went through what his fellow prisoners went through, malaria, cholera, the diseases, the suffering that they went through that’s outlined so vividly in Richard Flanagan’s book that won the Booker Prize last year.
I must say I asked Tom about that. He didn’t have to read any of the books or any of the histories because he was there. But eventually in terms of his illness, he spent recent months in Lulworth House, part of St Luke’s Hospital. At one stage we had Tom Uren, Gough Whitlam and Neville Wran all being looked after and cared liked to for so well and he would have liked to have passed on his thanks to the nursing staff and those wonderful compassionate people who do such a remarkable job for looking after people towards the end of their life.
REPORTER: Did you ever tell him he was like a father figure to you?
ALBANESE: Many times. I loved him. He told me on Saturday that he loved me.
REPORTER: How tough was that for you?
ALBANESE: Look, it’s been a tough period. I was there a couple of weeks ago, we had one-on-one time. Tom was ready to go. He said to me that death is a part of life, it’s the end period.
He had led such a remarkable life, to have that contact that he had with many tens of thousands of Australians, to walk down a street with Tom Uren and to see the love that people had for him and the respect that people had for him was quite remarkable and I think just shows the person that he was.
In the noise of politics where so much of it is petty in modern politics, Tom Uren always soared above the pack, with his vision, with his principle, with his ideals and with his determination to achieve progressive change for this country and indeed for the world.
I had him as a guest for President Obama’s address to the Parliament just a few years ago and moments like that were a great honour to spend with someone like Tom Uren who had, of course, that connection going back to the Great Depression and that experience and that humility that he had.
REPORTER: What do you think modern Labor needs to take from his experience and his role in shaping, I guess, the Party as it is today?
ALBANESE: Tom Uren was an inspiration to many. He was a man of principle but he was also a man who got things done. He was pragmatic when he needed to be. He was about outcomes. He was about building alliances as well.
Tom Uren worked very hard on the Sydney Harbour National Park issue. We had a joke just a couple of weeks ago about the issue that appears to be happening in Tony Abbott’s own electorate.
Tom Uren had a good relationship with Tony and he certainly said that he wanted to have a word with him at one stage about making sure that nothing infringed on the principle of Sydney Harbour National Park that he fought so hard for.
The important thing about Tom is his legacy in terms of the register of the National Estate, the built environment heritage but also the national environment heritage that he was such a part of building.
He was prepared to reach out across the aisle, whether it be to John Howard or to Tony Abbott or whether it be to people in the Greens political party, whilst remaining an absolute true believer in the Labor Party.
He insisted on door-knocking in the last Federal campaign in 2013 for me. And ringing people for me when the leadership ballot was on between myself and Bill, which he saw as a great improvement in the Labor Party and he certainly encouraged me to say the least, to run.
REPORTER: He is one of the last of perhaps the old guard of the Labor Party, many of whom have passed away recently?
ALBANESE: That’s right. It’s been a very sad 12 months for the Labor Party to see giants like Neville Wran, Gough Whitlam and Tom Uren pass. But all of them remained very positive about the future, right up until the end and Tom was a very passionate servant, as he put it, of the people.
And he saw the Labor Party as the vehicle to achieve that change through the Parliament but he also saw and played an important role in the Labor Party’s principles of action, which is part of the Socialist Objective that isn’t looked at as often by as many that look at the first few lines.
That principle of action speaks about community action, action by trade unions and action by broader society. Tom Uren was someone who was a regular marcher. He was someone who was active in civil society and understood that politics didn’t just happen in the Parliament, it happened on the meeting rooms, on the streets, around the family dinner table and around the local RSL or sporting organisation as well.
REPORTER: With all due respect, there don’t seem to be those sorts of giants and staunch believers in the Labor Party at the moment who wear their hearts on sleeve and prepared to take massive political risks if necessary to carry on their own true beliefs. Would you accept that?
ALBANESE: No, I accept that Tom Uren was a giant of the movement and you don’t have to, and he certainly wouldn’t want, anyone to be denigrated in order to praise him. What Tom Uren was, was an optimist and positive.
He never succumbed; he never, ever succumbed to negative politics. That is pretty remarkable given the tough life that he had. I think that is one of the reasons that why he is such an inspirational figure to myself, to my generation and to generations to come who will be able to have a read of Straight Left, his autobiography and to read about his circumstances.
He spoke many times of the success of the Labor movement. Even in his first speech he spoke about the success of the Labor movement in having gains which improved living standards.
Of course, improvements occurred as a result of his contribution after he was a Member of Parliament and others who have come after them as well. He was a great believer in local government and he I think is seen by many as the father of local government in the federal sphere.
It is because of him that there are direct Financial Assistance Grants to local government. He saw politics as being from the ground up and right until the end he remained faithful to his beliefs and he retained a faith in people to be able to advance progressive change.
He used to dismiss some of the romantic notions that are there, that there was a golden era in the past but not the future. He spoke about environmentalism and how far that had moved from the time when he was made Labor’s first environment spokesperson.
When he was in Parliament, there wasn’t even an Environment Minister. Now the environment is a core issue that is critical to all political parties in this nation.