Subjects: Terror, Pauline Hanson.
LISA WILKINSON: Our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull following the terrible events in London yesterday. For their take on what this means for Australia, Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne and Shadow Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese are with us this morning. Good morning, gentlemen.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning, Lisa.
WILKINSON: Christopher I’ll start with you. Shocking events in London. Question is, how do we stop it happening here?
PYNE: Well of course Lisa, the events in London yesterday have shocked everybody. Just a terrible, terrible tragedy for the innocent lives involved. You raise a very good question. I mean, how does London stop someone using a vehicle as a weapon to kill pedestrians on the footpath? I mean, it’s a terrifying prospect. We’ve been very lucky in Australia. And one of the reasons we’ve been successful so far and everyone should be touching wood is because we gather as much information as possible behind the scenes on anyone who might be a threat. And we act before those threats occur. Now, we’ve been successful so far. And the Government is very mindful of what we have to do. We’ve put more resources into ASIO, AFP, ASIS, and the Australian Signals Directorate. All our agencies are working together, the States, the Territories, the Commonwealth, are all working together. That’s about as much as we can do and keep trusting that people will keep saying when they are suspicious of behaviour or they think one of the people they know is going off the rails, or they hear things, making sure they let people know so we’re not surprised.
WILKINSON: Christopher, former ASIO chief David Irvine said back in 2014 that there were 400 people at that stage on the terror watch list here in Australia. How many is it now?
PYNE: Look, Lisa I don’t have that piece of information so I can’t tell you that. It could still be 400. It could be more. It could be less. I know the Government has taken significant steps and almost every time, with totally bipartisan support. We changed the laws around terror and counter-terrorism eight times in the last three or four years with Labor’s support – working with Labor to make sure our agencies have the powers that they need to defend Australia. Whenever we think we need to change them again, we will do so.
WILKINSON: To you now Anthony, the Prime Minister said yesterday that this will not change the way we live our lives, but isn’t it inevitable that we’re going to have to change in some way, be more aware, more vigilant and more patient?
ALBANESE: We certainly are vigilant, Lisa. This is an issue that the Australian Government and Opposition are absolutely united on. One of the things that Christopher spoke about is the legislation. We’ve got quite an effective process of examining in detail any draft legislation and a cooperative arrangement to make sure we do whatever we can. All Australians will have a look at what happened in London, and this tragedy and think about the family and friends of those directly affected.But it also relates very much to most of us. Many of us have been to that very spot outside Westminster. Certainly as a parliamentarian I’ve visited there many times.
WILKINSON: Well, both the Government and the Opposition seem to be united in this. But Pauline Hanson had a very strong response to the events in London yesterday. Let’s have a look.
SENATOR PAULINE HANSON: People are feeling sorry for these people over for there. I’ve seen the hashtags #prayforLondon. Why are we at this stage? You know, are we going to send out – where’s the next city, where’s the next place around the world. Let’s pray for London. Well look, I have my own hashtag. And you won’t need to be praying for this place or that place. It’s #pray4muslimban. That is how you solve the problem.
WILKINSON: Christopher, your response?
PYNE: Well, that’s not going to solve any problems Lisa, because many of the people who are on watch list, if you like, in Australia who have we interdicted in what they might have been able to do or are about to do, are Australian citizens. And we’re not about to deport Australian citizens whose are Muslims because of any kind of xenophobic campaign. Can I just say another thing that is quite important, the agencies tell us that when there are attacks on Muslims as a group, treating them as pejorative term, it stops the information flowing to the Government and to the agencies. We get less cooperation than when we reach out to Muslims in the community and treat them as equal citizens with the rest of us. When that happens they are cooperative and supportive and often the information that comes to the Government comes from within the Muslim community of Australia who are trying to protect themselves because they are as Australian as anyone else.
WILKINSON: Okay, very quickly Anthony.
ALBANESE: I think it was extraordinary that Pauline Hanson chose to politicise an issue like this at the time that she did. The fact is that we know now that this terrorist was born in Kent in the United Kingdom.
WILKINSON: And didn’t have any terror links.
ALBANESE: Didn’t have any terror links. Those comments to play politics at a time like that, I just think said a lot about the nature of her character.
WILKINSON: All right gentlemen, we’ll have to leave it there. Thanks very much. Have a great weekend.
ALBANESE: Same to you
HOST: It’s a Wednesday morning, it’s after 8:30, it’s Two Tribes. Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese on the line; good morning to you both.
PYNE: Good morning Will.
HOST: Now guys, thanks for joining us as always. Now the Question Time yesterday was dominated by discussion about the changes to the Racial Discrimination Act where the Government is proposing to get of the passage about offending, insulting or humiliating people and replace it with the word harass. But I’ll start with you if I can Chris; what would you say to Asian Australians or Muslim people or Indigenous Aussies in the seat of Sturt today who are going, is this going to make it easier for people to be really rude about me?
PYNE: I would say to them that what we are doing is restoring credibility to 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which has become used by activists to really shut down opinion rather than its purpose when it was formed by the Labor Party, which was to stop people being persecuted because of their race. Now when a law is being used to prosecute cartoonists or students with an opinion about the case of the Queensland student saying that a room, that the university was using segregation to oppose segregation, to hardly intimidating or harassing anyone, then I think the law is being over used and what we’re trying to do is make it stronger, make it fairer and make it serve its purpose, which is to stop people being intimidated or harassed because of their race. So in fact I would say to my Asian and Jewish and other constituents in my electorate, this will make Section 18C do what it was supposed to do in the first place. I would also say to them, you know the law was never designed to stop people having hurt feelings and if people want to hurt my feelings that’s obviously disappointing, but it shouldn’t be illegal.
HOST: To you Albo. If Labor supports the status quo on this issue, doesn’t logic tell you that that means Labor was quite comfortable seeing these Queensland university students being dragged through the courts and seeing the now deceased cartoonist Bill Leak having the spectre of prosecution hanging over his head for so long as well.
ALBANESE: Well there was no spectre. 18D makes it very clear that journalists basically, you’ve got a bit of a free for all in the basis of freedom of the press. And everyone knows that that’s the case.
HOST: But that’s not the way it played out. Sorry Albo, that’s not the way it played out with Bill.
ALBANESE: Yes it is. I’m afraid that in terms of, it was very clear that Bill Leak would never have been found guilty of anything.
HOST: But he still had to go through the process.
ALBANESE: Well lots of times people will make allegations and processes being fixed up is one thing, and I certainly agree that processes could be streamlined so that straight away if there’s a frivolous or vexatious claim it could be dealt with immediately. That I agree with.
But the issue here is the Government can’t explain what it wants people to be able to say that they currently aren’t allowed to say under the current law. And that’s what the Government can’t point to. Why this change? This is all about the internals in the Liberal Party. I’ve got to tell you not once in my electorate or anywhere I’ve been in Australia has someone come up to me and said that I think the big priority for the Government is to change 18C. Of all the challenges that we have. And Barnaby Joyce, of all people, has called it out by saying exactly the same thing that I just said.
HOST: But Governments can walk and chew gum at the same time though. I mean you don’t (inaudible) ask a lot of questions about it if it doesn’t matter.
ALBANESE: This Government isn’t walking and it isn’t chewing gum and it isn’t governing. This is a Government in search for a sense of purpose.
HOST: So back to you Chris Pyne. Why has the Government’s position shifted around on this so much? In a way it feels to me like the death of Bill Leak and Malcolm Turnbull’s great respect for him and friendship indeed with him made the PM go you know what, stuff this, I’m actually going to do something about it now.
PYNE: No that’s not what happened and I can tell you as a member of the Cabinet that this was discussed by the Cabinet before Bill Leak passed away. It’s obviously very sad about Bill Leak’s death but that wasn’t the reason why it’s been done. Since it was last considered a couple of years ago quite a lot has changed and the 18C as it stands now has lost a lot more of its credibility. Even Gillian Triggs the head of the Human Rights Commission who has not been described as a great supporter of this Government has said that 18C needs to be reformed. Very significant jurists around the country have said 18C is not fit for purpose. And, of course, as Anthony said we are actually proposing a whole raft of other changes to the procedures and operations of the Human Rights Commission, which will also make a very significant difference because as a Liberal I want to see the Human Rights Commission have credibility and have the support of the entire country. And I don’t think that’s the case at the moment because the perception is that it operates on the basis of political correctness rather than its purpose which is to protect people from discrimination so I think this will strengthen the Human Rights Commission and the law.
HOST: Under the changes Christopher Pyne, what now constitutes harassment? Does it need to be persistent?
PYNE: No it doesn’t have to be persistent but persistence would help to constitute harassment for example for low level harassment. But you can be sexually harassed with one incident in the workplace for example. So an incident can be so egregious that there only needs to be one of them for it to be harassment.
HOST: But if I was to use a racial epithet that was entirely insensitive but it was a flippant throwaway line, can I now be prosecuted under 18C?
PYNE: Well you would have to ask the lawyers at the Human Rights Commission whether what you said was inappropriate and therefore for it to be prosecuted under the new law. I can’t give you that advice right now because it would depend on a whole raft of different circumstances at the time. But harassment and intimidation suggest a more, certainly persistence, but also intention to harm the person to whom the intimidation and harassment is being directed, whereas the current words which (inaudible) insult or offend have been so twisted now that even the High Court has had to explain what they mean. Now when you get to that point, when people are taking actions against Bill Leak because of a cartoon that they didn’t like, which they said hurt their feelings that is not the purpose of the Racial Discrimination Act.
HOST: Your point earlier Albo, where you were saying the Leak case shouldn’t have panned out the way that it did and having some procedural qualms about the matter in which the Queensland University students’ case unfolded. If Labor thinks that there’s a procedural sort of issue with it, are you actually advocating procedural change? Because it looks to me like your position is well no, we’ve got other things we should be worrying about, let’s just ignore this and talk about something else.
ALBANESE: I’ve got to tell you David that the idea that this is the number one priority for the Government when they’ve got an economy that’s tanking and they’ve got underemployment, when they’ve got – they can’t work out, we’ve got a Gonski bus out the front of Parliament House today, they can’t work out the education funding for schools and this is a priority for the Government. And guess what, they’re not going to get it through the Senate, it would appear. They then will be back to the beginning and they’ll be able to say to the hard right of the Liberal Party, well we tried. I mean obviously in the Bill Leak case I made my position very clear, including to Bill Leak who I had a discussion with about it.
HOST: That was after our interview, I remember.
ALBANESE: Yes it was absurd the idea that he would be prosecuted for that. Absurd.
PYNE: But he was.
HOST: He was.
ALBANESE: He wasn’t. He wasn’t. That’s just not true.
HOST: Only because it was dropped though.
ALBANESE: No, that’s not right. There was a complaint. Like I’m sure there are complaints to whatever the communications appropriate tribunal is about you two blokes from time to time and you respond to the complaint.
HOST: I think we’ve got a clear sheet so far, but we’ll take it one day at a time.
ALBANESE: Surely there has to be at least a complaint.
HOST: Maybe about this segment.
ALBANESE: I’m sure there is. Probably about all four of us. But there wasn’t a prosecution of Bill Leak.
HOST: We could go on all day about that.
PYNE: Anthony is (inaudible) truth politics.
ALBANESE: It should have been thrown out immediately in terms of…
HOST: It should have been. But it wasn’t.
PYNE: I can’t let Anthony get away with saying the economy is tanking when in fact it’s growing; the fastest economy in the G7 nations.
ALBANESE: It’s all going well mate. Underemployment…
HOST: All right we’re going to leave it guys. Chris Pyne, Anthony Albanese, thank you so much for joining us.
BEN FORDHAM: Lets go to Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese. Christopher, good afternoon.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good afternoon Ben.
FORDHAM: Albo, good afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day.
FORDHAM: Now we’ve got some wild weather in Sydney this afternoon so we are going to keep this nice and brief this afternoon. I know you understand Albo. You know what happens.
ALBANESE: I sure do. It’s been pretty miserable there for a while.
FORDHAM: Trees down and flooding and all sorts of other stuff as well. I will update everyone on that in just a moment.
ALBANESE: Thanks goodness for the SES.
FORDHAM: That’s right. Now let me go to a few things. I’ll do 18C first and then we’ll get to the Omnibus stuff. The Federal Government has got an uphill battle to get its changes to free speech laws through Parliament. George Brandis, the Attorney General, has been blasting the Senate crossbenchers for opposing changes to 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. It was always going to be difficult for Malcolm Turnbull to win over many parts of his party on this one because the Coalition has been split on it. But he’s got the party across the line. Albo, getting the Parliament across the line is a whole other challenge.
ALBANESE: It sure is and look, it’s pretty simple. No-one in the Government can say what they want people to be able to say that they aren’t allowed to say now.
FORDHAM: I can answer that for you. Can I have a go at answering that?
ALBANESE: Yes. Have a crack.
FORDHAM: So we want children who are at the university in Queensland to be able to say on Facebook our university is fighting segregation with segregation …
ALBANESE: But they won that mate. They won that.
FORDHAM: No, but they had their lives turned upside down.
ALBANESE: That’s about process though. That’s not about … and we are prepared to talk about process and things that are, you know, just vexatious should be thrown out …
FORDHAM: We want cartoonists to be able to draw things …
ALBANESE: Yes, and they can.
FORDHAM: … that are going to upset us from time to time.
ALBANESE: And they can and they should and they can.
PYNE: Well Section 18C was never designed to make hurt feelings illegal and that’s what it’s become because it has been twisted and it’s no longer got any credibility and as a consequence we are returning credibility to it …
ALBANESE: But who has been found guilty of any of that?
PYNE: … by making it what it was really about – intimidating and harassing people.
FORDHAM: So who stuffed up the process then Albo? Was it Gillian Triggs, was it?
ALBANESE: Well the Human Rights Commission clearly I think have conceded for example that they made some mistakes there. And take the Bill Leak example – that cartoon or any other cartoon that he did, and he did cartoons that offended just about everyone at various times – that’s what cartoonists do – that’s why 18D is in the law which provides for the media essentially to be able to say what they want in terms of the role that they play.
PYNE: Anthony, why should these students in QUT have been put through the misery of the Federal Court process and the Human Rights Commission process that went on for a very long, not just months, but stretching on to a year or more, that cost them tremendous amounts of money when you admit they should never have been prosecuted in the first place?
ALBANESE: There are lots and lots of vexatious claims made thorough various forms of the legal system. You and I both know that. What you don’t do therefore, what you haven’t done is put forward an argument about the changes to 18C.
PYNE: When the law is broken, the Government’s responsibility, in fact the Parliament’s responsibility, is to fix it and 18C is not doing the job that it was intended to do when your people introduced it when you were in government.
FORDHAM: It has made it easier, surely Albo you will concede this, it has made it easier for people to lodge vexatious claims against one another.
ALBANESE: No. If there is an issue there then it should be fixed and I’ve got no problem …
FORDHAM: Part of the issue is the law.
ALBANESE: No, it’s not. It’s not, and there is nothing; you still didn’t say in terms of what people were able …
FORDHAM: If all you had to establish was that you were offended by it then it makes it easier to lodge a vexatious claim.
ALBANESE: That’s not right. It’s not sort, of, I was offended, full stop. The…
PYNE: That’s what has happened over and over again.
ALBANESE: But it hasn’t happened. No-one has been. Tell me one person who was found guilty of breaching the Racial Discrimination Act inappropriately.
FORDHAM: Yeah. You can do a lot of damage to someone in the space of two years when they are being dragged through that process. We can’t ignore that.
ALBANESE: And lots of people, as you know, are sued for defamation or sued for lots of things and dragged through processes.
FORDHAM: Yeah well.
ALBANESE: You know that happens and we should try and fix, in terms of processes, to make sure that everything is done that we can to minimise it. But that happens from time to time in terms of the legal system and you can have vexatious claims across a whole range of areas. It happens towards the media from time to time with people making vexatious claims whereby they say they’re going to sue and they send letters and letters go back and they bounce around. But the fact is here, what I don’t understand, and if someone just tells me: I want people to be able to say this, that at the moment is a breach of the law…
PYNE: Yeah. I want people to be able to say why the University of Queensland is fighting segregation with segregation.
ALBANESE: And they could.
PYNE: And not be dragged through two years – two years of Federal Court and Human Rights Commission processes costing them tens of thousands of dollars and costing them their reputation as well. That’s what I want people to be able to (inaudible).
ALBANESE: And they could and that’s about the process, not about changing 18C. But they can. Show me one thing for which people have been found guilty.
FORDHAM: Well the difference between the two arguments here is one says look, it’s the law itself; the other says it’s the process behind the whole thing. But look I think the defence is flimsy here Albo because everyone knows that those kids had their lives turned upside down and that 18C was at the centre of the whole thing.
PYNE: Correct. And even the Racial Discrimination Commissioner now…
ALBANESE: That’s not right. That’s not right. Everyone actually knows if you go and look at the case that there were issues in terms of what happened. I don’t want to re-litigate the whole thing, but there are issues re computers that were available to everyone that were available there. They chose to use the computers that were specifically for indigenous students and then they got into an argument over statements that they made on Facebook.
FORDHAM: Yes, they walked into a room that did not have a sign making it clear that it was for indigenous students. It was an unsigned indigenous-only computer room and, quite frankly, in 2016 or 2017 I don’t like the idea of dividing people up based on race.
PYNE: The point is they weren’t even told that it was an indigenous-only room.
FORDHAM: Oh no.
ALBANESE: I’m not saying that they were guilty of anything, and guess what? The Human Rights Commission agreed they weren’t guilty.
PYNE: Then why did they have their lives ruined?
FORDHAM: Hang on a moment, let’s move on from that and let me finish with this one before I get to some other thunder and lightning. Hang on a moment, hang on a moment. Christopher, are these changes actually going to get through?
PYNE: Well you know we’ve been told many times over the last couple of years that things have got no chance of passing the Senate then we find that they do. So with negotiation, which is what George Brandis will be doing with the crossbenchers, and the work of other senators, I’m hopeful that the Senate will realise that this law needs to be improved, strengthened, made fairer, made more credible. I’m certain that a lot of the process change that we’re putting up – it’s not just a change to 18C – I think they’ve got a fair chance of passage. I think once we’ve had more of the debate, I think the Xenophon team and others will see the sense of this change.
FORDHAM: All right, even smooth-talking George Brandis might even be able to bend Albo’s ear, but I don’t think so.
PYNE: He could talk him around.
ALBANESE: What he can talk to is the, we’re not just talking to one or two, thousands of people who will say that they’ve been subject to racial vilification that has caused them – them – a great deal of hurt. There is violence also from time to time.
PYNE: But that’s all going to be illegal under the new Section 18C. We’re not going to make it legal to be violent against people on the basis of their race.
ALBANESE: I’m not suggesting you are.
FORDHAM: And look thankfully we live in a country where, if that kind of thing goes on in public, and we see it time and time again on trains and buses and everywhere else, if some nut case starts abusing the hell out of someone based on the colour of their skin, Australians tend to step in and do something about it.
ALBANESE: That’s fantastic when it does, but a lot of the time they won’t because there’s no one else around. And anyone, anyone, who has a non-Anglo name in this country …
FORDHAM: Like Albanese?
ALBANESE: Absolutely. I got called a wog when I was a kid, absolutely.
FORDHAM: Mr Albanese, Mr Pyne, we’ll talk to you soon.
ALBANESE: Thank you. Good to talk to you.
Subjects: WA election, Perth Freight Link, housing affordability and superannuation, craft beer industry, penalty rates.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: Anthony Albanese, live from the nation’s capital. Thanks very much for your company.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
VAN ONSELEN: You were the Infrastructure Minister for six years; you never looked into the Snowy Hydro 2.0 scheme. Why were you asleep at the wheel Anthony Albanese for all those years?
ALBANESE: Well that’s not the case. The fact is that Infrastructure Australia hasn’t even been consulted on this. What we’re having here is a feasibility study. We welcome the fact that there’s a feasibility study but it’s some time off. In terms of the issues that have been confronted, they have largely been created as well by the fact that the Government’s energy policy has been all over the shop. They said that they wanted to get rid of the price on carbon. Since then of course energy prices have doubled, have gone through the roof. They said they wanted a national energy market, but we’ve had chaos with circumstances whereby in South Australia the Pelican Point plant was ready to go and the national energy regulator told them not to turn it on, which is one of the contributing factors of the blackout that occurred in South Australia.
So the Government is playing catch up. The Government has put forward this plan. We recognise that there’s nothing wrong with that, but it is some time off and it, of course, doesn’t add to supply. What it does, of course, is essentially create a big battery that will ensure that there can be more efficient use of the energy that is produced.
VAN ONSELEN: That said though, I mean just very quickly on the polls, they’ve done well, better, it’s all relative, in today’s Newspoll post the Snowy Hydro Scheme announcement just before Newspoll went in the field. They’re back to 52-48. I mean, how can a Government be only four points behind you guys with a Prime Minister increasing his preferred PM lead and net satisfaction lead over Bill Shorten at a time when they’ve got the penalty rates problems, the internal fights, the same-sex marriage stoush? Problems with an energy debate against South Australia. You name it; they’ve got it as far a problem goes. And in the wake of what happened over in WA, Anthony Albanese, and despite all of that they’ve had a pick up.
ALBANESE: What the Government doesn’t have of course is a sense of purpose, is a narrative, is a reason for being. It’s like Malcolm Turnbull is in the Lodge to stop Tony Abbott being there. And apart from that it’s difficult to see what the Government’s plan is on the economy, on social policy, on environmental policy. It is all over the shop. Indeed in West Australia they did have a shocker of a result and we know that penalty rates had an impact there. We know also their failure to have plans, their Perth Freight Link was a dud project and now they’re threatening the West Australian Government with withholding $1.2 billion of Federal funds because they don’t like the outcome.
VAN ONSELEN: Do you think they will actually follow through on that though? I mean they did the same thing in Victoria and then buckled. Do you think they will buckle in the west?
ALBANESE: They absolutely need to recognise and respect the outcome of the WA election. West Australians voted for Mark McGowan’s transport plan, the centrepiece of which is METRONET; is an expansion of the rail network. And of course that expands into a whole lot of areas that are impacted…will be an issue in the next Federal election, will be very contestable for us, including in seats like Hasluck and Pearce. If they continue to prevaricate and take this position of intransigence and frankly arrogance then they’ll pay a price for it. What they should do is cooperate with the State Government like they should be cooperating on energy policy, on health policy and education policy and getting some things done. This is a Government that has excuses; it essentially is a Government that behaves like an Opposition in exile on the Government benches. Well if they’re not prepared to govern, we on our side are.
VAN ONSELEN: What about Paul Keating’s intervention in the Sydney Morning Herald today, talking about you know how scandalous the idea is that the Government could perhaps be looking at, we’re led to believe, that you can draw off your super to be able to pay for a home. It was his policy back in 1993 at the election and super was less then than it is now.
ALBANESE: That’s not right. Paul Keating has been very consistent when it comes to superannuation policy and indeed Malcolm Turnbull when he was asked about the idea of using superannuation for the housing market dismissed it as an idea some years ago. We need to value the contribution that superannuation makes to retirement incomes. This is a policy that would undermine that, would undermine the job of investment managers whereby you’d have two tiers and they couldn’t be certain of how much was in a fund at any particular time. What we need is less change when it comes to superannuation, not more. And we certainly need it to not be undermined. All that it would contribute, of course, as well is to an increase in housing prices and therefore would be counterproductive.
VAN ONSELSEN: What’s this business about you writing an opinion article defending craft beer and wanting it to be taken seriously?
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that there are now around about 400 craft brewers around Australia. There’s 11 in my electorate. What they are doing is small business creating local jobs and potentially, or as well, there’s tourism benefits. There’s a couple of walking tours around my electorate. But it is a growth not just in our capital cities – in areas like Orange and Newcastle in regional NSW, in Ballarat, in Victoria. This is a major growth industry. It’s now captured 10 per cent of the national beer market but potentially as well it’s an export. There’s incredible figures about the growth that will happen in consumption of premium beer in China for example. And the Australian product is quality, does have potential growth for our national export market. So this is a growth whereby the policy-making is behind.
VAN ONSELSEN: In what sense?
ALBANESE: At the moment for example there’s two issues. One is red tape and the amount of time they have to spend filling in forms. But the second, which is pretty clear, is that if you sell beer in a 50 litre cask, then it attracts a lower rate of tax than if it is in a smaller cask in terms of made available to the pubs through kegs. And what that means is that the smaller craft brewers who might want to produce a premium product in smaller kegs aren’t able to do so and the big players get an advantage out of that.
So what the craft brewing industry is asking for is a bit more of a level playing field; is support also from local and state government in terms of planning regulations. A lot of these companies are establishing in former industrial areas and are coming up against bureaucrats who don’t want them to open at particular times. But these are all creating local jobs and it’s a great example of the changes in our economy whereby more and more small niche businesses providing a product or a service are the future of employment growth in our local communities. And in addition to that of course, local communities very much enjoy going to some of these establishments rather than the big beer barn of the past. It’s a good thing. Governments and policy makers should catch up with this development and my piece today is pointing that out.
VAN ONSELSEN: Just quickly is one last question if I can Mr Albanese. What about this story splashed on the front page of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph talking about I guess the inconsistency there of dodgy union wage deals and the Prime Minister – I’m going to talk to Senator Cash shortly – the Prime Minister coming out and putting forward legislation to deal with this.
ALBANESE: Well what that story misses of course and what the penalty rates dispute in the Parliament is about, and Bill Shorten’s Private Members Bill that he moved this morning is about addressing, is the fact that for many years under enterprise bargaining you have had a trade-off available so that you could say you will reduce your penalty rates but for an overall increase in other conditions, be it your general wage rates throughout the week, the number of shifts that you hold, the other leave entitlements for example.
VAN ONSELSEN: But this story is suggesting that’s not happening. That seems to be the essence of their proposed legislation isn’t it, to try to ensure that when that doesn’t happen it gets dealt with?
ALBANESE: Well I think the story hasn’t looked at the full details and the Shop Distributive Association – the union concerned with these particular agreements that have been raised – has put out a pretty comprehensive rebuttal of that where they have gone through what the trade-off is. But the problem with the Fair Work Commission decision is that it is just a cut in wages, it’s a cut in wages with no benefit so people who were earning x amount of dollars now earn x amount of dollars minus 25 per cent with no trade-off in conditions at all and that’s quite extraordinary. That’s why people didn’t see this decision coming from the Fair Work Commission because as long as we have had arbitration and conciliation in this country and various tribunals to make decisions, what they haven’t done is just cut real wages. What they have done is consider agreements in the workplace. That’s always been available and that’s why the Government’s argument in the first place about the inflexibility of workplaces doesn’t reflect the reality of enterprise bargaining which can be to the benefit of employees and employers.
VAN ONSELSEN: Anthony Albanese, always appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us on Newsday today.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Subjects: Marriage equality; energy policy; Perth Freight Link; child care.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Welcome to the program.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good evening.
KARVELAS: You heard Josh Frydenberg there commenting on Peter Dutton’s comments effectively backing Peter Dutton. What do you make of Peter Dutton’s comments? He has criticised CEOs, Alan Joyce. Doesn’t he have point that if they are spending this heard-earned money of shareholders that ultimately they should keep their opinions to themselves?
ALBANESE: Well, it says two things about Peter Dutton. One, it tells us that he is out there campaigning for the internal votes of the hard right of the Liberal Party and is prepared to make quite outrageous comments. I mean, sticking to their knitting? What message was he trying to send there? And secondly it tells us why he should never lead a major political party because he is so out of touch. What the CEOs have done is simply state the obvious, which is the failure to have marriage equality is a massive distraction from the governing of this nation; that once it is done and a group of people who currently don’t have rights get them, everyone else is not affected at all, their relationships, then we can get on with the business of discussing other issues. But the plebiscite of course was thought up by Tony Abbott as a way of distracting, or crab-walking his way to some social change and it was a way of blocking a vote in the Parliament. Now we should get on with it. This is impacting on the economy. That is what the CEOs have said and the singling out of Qantas, I’ve got news for Peter Dutton – there are a few people who work for Qantas who are directly affected by marriage equality who are no doubt saying to the leadership of that company: we want the same rights that straight employees have who work next to us. And there’s no doubt that for corporate Australia it’s a big issue. There’s also no doubt at all that Qantas and other companies would benefit from the fact that if there was marriage equality, people would be flying to weddings around Australia and people would be contributing to the economy. This would be good for the economy in terms of a stimulus.
KARVELAS: My colleague Peter van Onselen asked Greg Hunt this morning whether he thought that stick-to-their-knitting line was homophobic. Greg Hunt said it was not homophobic. Do you think it is?
ALBANESE: I think it borders … certainly on one interpretation it could be that it is. It’s not up to me to know whether Peter Dutton has misspoken or whether he has deliberately said a comment that certainly can be interpreted in that way. I think Peter Dutton of all people – I mean these are the people who talk about free speech and we’ve got to have free speech out there. I mean CEOs make a comment that is relevant. It’s relevant and people in their party room are talking about it. People in society are talking about it. It is reasonable that CEOs have a view and I disagree with those CEOs no doubt on a range of issues, but I have never ever said, nor have I seen a senior person in the Labor Party say, they have no right to have a view on an issue that impacts people in their companies and people who deal with their companies.
KARVELAS: On another issue, which certainly covers the areas that you cover, the Government has committed to a feasibility study on the Snowy Hydro Scheme. It’s the kind of nation building project Labor should traditionally support. So why have Labor spent the week talking it down?
ALBANESE: Well let’s be real here Patricia. What they have announced is a feasibility study for an idea, a concept that has been apparently worked on by the company for a period of time, by Paul Broad, the CEO and no doubt his predecessors going back. They didn’t have the courtesy to consult the shareholders who own 87 per cent of that company – the NSW or the Victorian state governments. They still haven’t consulted and have indicated they won’t consult Infrastructure Australia, that is supposed to advise on these infrastructure issues. And Labor has been quite right I think to point out the inadequacies of the process while saying that we are prepared to be constructive about all of these issues. But you know no construction was announced, no funding. Indeed there couldn’t be any funding announced because they don’t have a clue as to how much this will cost. There has been no environmental ….
KARVELAS: They say it’s $2 billion and they think that the feasibility study will show them that (inaudible).
ALBANESE: That’s a very neat figure Patricia –somewhere between $1 bilion and $3 billion; oh, we’ll make it $2 billion. It’s very clear that there has been no, not even a desktop financial analysis of this and indeed we had the remarkable thing of the Commonwealth, that owns 13 per cent of Snowy Hydro, and bear in mind that the Liberals were considering selling it not all that long ago, which would have made all of this impossible, they are saying that they’ll pay, or they are prepared to pay, the whole amount of $2 billion of whatever else it is.
But this is a problem with this Government that they keep getting themselves into, whether it is Perth Freight Link or the Westconnex project in Sydney. They continually just say yep, we’ll do that, and then work out the costings and the plans and consult the appropriate bodies like Infrastructure Australia after the event. Good infrastructure planning is to do it in advance and then to announce the funding.
KARVELAS: OK, let’s go to the Perth Freight Link. Turnbull will need to decide whether to make good on that pre-election threat of withholding the Perth Freight Link money. He hasn’t declared yet which way he will go. Is this something that you are going to apply pressure on?
ALBANESE: Absolutely. Look, the people of Western Australia spoke very loudly and clearly and unambiguously and what they said was they didn’t want Perth Freight Link. Perth Freight Link stops 3km short of the port, something that the Prime Minister didn’t seem to be aware of when we raised it in Parliament the last time that we sat. And indeed the Fremantle Port is reaching capacity. It will reach full capacity around about 2022. So we need to have the planning for the Outer Harbour. We also need, there’s a number of very important road projects in terms of congestion that are needed in Perth. But importantly, the centrepiece of Mark McGowan’s infrastructure plan is METRONET and what we need to do in that growing city is to expand the public transport network and Malcolm Turnbull of course had delighted in taking selfies on trams and trains. Here’s his chance. He can actually fund one. At the moment, all he has done is go to openings of projects that were funded by the former Labor Government. This is a chance for him to not play politics, not say we are going to punish the people of Western Australia for voting Labor like Victorians have been punished; who are receiving 7.7 per cent of the national infrastructure budget when one in four Australians live in the state of Victoria.
KARVELAS: Anthony Albanese, Parliament is back this week. That is why you are there. All the focus is on a couple of issues – the energy debate no doubt, lots about that, and also this Omnibus Bill, still sitting there in the Senate not getting much love. Now if you look at the reports out today parents who need child care relief are about to hit that funding wall where basically they are paying more out of pocket for child care. Isn’t Labor being a road block to a piece of reform that families have been waiting for now for years and years?
ALBANESE: Well Labor of course when we were in government, we substantially increased the child care rebate. We took action on child care. Of course this is an ongoing issue and the job of reform is never done.
KARVELAS: But it’s eroded since.
ALBANESE: And we are certainly prepared to be constructive about the child care issue. What we won’t do is do this intimidation which happens which is that if you support any reform in one area, you have to vote to punish some of the poorest people in society on the other hand. That’s absurd. This Government continues to act like an Opposition in exile on the Government benches. Even Josh Frydenberg before – he spoke about South Australia having responsibility. They are in their fourth year of government and they are continuing to not accept that they have any responsibility for the failure in terms of the National Energy Market. They continue to say they have no responsibility for the fact that the deficit has increased by eight times and debt has blown out under them. They continue to say they have no responsibility for the fact that their infrastructure investment has fallen off the cliff, as the Reserve Bank have pointed out. They won’t act like a Government in a mature and responsible way. It’s about time they did that. They have two weeks sitting before the Budget and they need frankly – in the interests of the nation I hope they get their act together.
KARVELAS: Thank you so much for you time tonight Anthony.
ALBANESE: Great to be with you.
Subjects: Pension, housing affordability, superannuation, renewables
KARL STEFANOVIC: Welcome back to the show. Usually, we are the ones putting the hard questions to our pollies but today it’s your turn at home. You’ve been sending in your questions to Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese. Morning, lads.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Hi.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning, Karl.
STEFANOVIC: Nice to see you all bright and early. First up, pensions. Belinda Bendon writes “why do ordinary Australians have to wait until they are 65 to receive a pension yet politicians get an exorbitant pension as soon as they leave government?” and Irene Tsiros asks, “why do all politicians believe they deserve to be paid when they leave politics?”. Christopher, you’re first up.
PYNE: Well, of course the laws have been changed to do with politicians and their superannuation such that politicians now need to wait until they’re 55 like every other Australian to be able to access their super. There’s still a small number of parliamentarians from 20 odd years ago who can access their superannuation as soon as they leave Parliament and that was really designed to compensate them for not having very high salaries in those days. That’s also been addressed in the last five to ten years and so therefore the laws around super are now the same for MPs as they are for other Australians.
STEFANOVIC: It’s still a lot, though, isn’t it?
PYNE: Well, it’s the same super that every other public servant gets, effectively.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Anthony?
ALBANESE: The average time that a parliamentarian spends in their job is under six years. Most MPs never ever got any super. In terms of the system, it was aligned to senior public servants in terms of defined benefits schemes. That’s been changed now.
STEFANOVIC: You two are lining up together on this. It’s nice to see.
PYNE: It’s just the truth.
ALBANESE: Just chucking a few facts out there, Karl.
PYNE: Goodness gracious. We’re not in the post-fact world that the rest of the media is in, Karl.
STEFANOVIC: Daniel Esgate writes: “When will government stop foreigners (…) buying up homes, pushing the Australian dream of owning a home way out of reach of the Aussie battler?” and Douglas Green wants to know “Why are Australians being priced out of the property market?”. Chris, why is this happening?
PYNE: Well of course, we have introduced significant reforms to foreign ownership of real estate in the last three years. We have reduced the threshold that the Foreign Investment Review Board has to look at investments from overseas. We have started making people divest themselves of existing property that they shouldn’t have been able to purchase in previous years, we’ve got a land register that is now up and running so that we know who is buying what and I would make the point though, Karl, that we are a vast country of about 770 million hectares. It’s not as though foreign ownership of real estate is pushing up house prices but there is a perception among some Australians that that is the case. So we took action to do something about that.
STEFANOVIC: What do you reckon about the NAB putting up interest rates today?
PYNE: I haven’t seen that yet, sorry Karl.
STEFANOVIC: Yep, they’ve gone up.
ALBANESE: I think there’s no excuse for them to be putting up interest rates when the Reserve Bank hasn’t. They’re using the US increase as an excuse and I think it’s just another example of the banks being out of touch.
PYNE: But there’s three other major banks. There are lots of other lenders in terms of the housing market. If consumers of the NAB don’t like what the NAB is doing it’s not nearly as hard to move banks as people think it is. I’ve done it a couple of times and it’s not that difficult.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, another good one by Pete Rebew is: “Why are politicians allowed to continually tinker with superannuation…how can you plan for retirement when they change the rules?”. Albo, he’s got a point hasn’t he?
ALBANESE: He does. We do need certainty with regard to superannuation. It’s important not just for individuals but for the whole economy. We rely upon those super funds that have grown into a big nest egg that are available for investment in Australian infrastructure. We should get that certainty there.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Christopher?
PYNE: Well, I agree with Anthony about that. The truth is that the reforms to super that the government did last year need to be the last reforms for some time because there needs to be certainty to people’s approach to their retirement, and I think the less people change the super reforms, the better, unless of course they’re for the benefit of the consumer.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, a couple more to race through. Melissa Burns George wants to know: “Why don’t you pay off your debts? You keep building things and taking money away from people and yet you still have the national debt”. Christopher, why can’t you balance the books?
PYNE: Well, during the Global Financial Crisis, Labor did manage to massively increase the national debt.
ALBANESE: The question was about you, Christopher. It was about your eight times increase.
PYNE: The debt massively increased because of Labor during the Global Financial Crisis.
STEFANOVIC: How long have you been in government now? Just to remind us?
PYNE: I’d love to be able to answer the question. Do you want me to or not?
STEFANOVIC: You don’t know how long you’ve been in government?
PYNE: There was no national debt Karl when the Howard Government lost. None. Six years later, we are in deficit and debt because of Labor and we are trying to pay that back appropriately. Of course, Labor keeps blocking every saving in the Senate as much as they possibly can, but we are paying back the debt and the deficit over time, but we’re not going to shock the economy. If people didn’t want to have all that debt and deficit, they shouldn’t have gotten rid of the Howard Government when there was none.
ALBANESE: We got through the Global Financial Crisis because of Labor’s Economic Stimulus Program and we were one of the few economies in the whole world that didn’t go into depression.
STEFANOVIC: This is a really good one, too. Jo-Anne Euston is asking “How can Australia, one of the most resource rich countries in the world be faced with an energy crisis?”. Chris, how is South Australia going?
PYNE: Well, unfortunately because of bad decisions to get rid of baseload power, to close down things like the Playford Power Station, the Northern Power Station, to mothball Pelican Point gas fired power station. Now, renewable energy is a good thing. Who couldn’t be for it? But, the truth is that a 50% renewable energy target meant that South Australia is overly reliant on unreliable energy like wind power when it doesn’t blow and we are trying to do things like the big announcement yesterday of the Snowy Hydro Scheme. 2000 more megawatts into the system. The Federal Government is trying to fix that problem.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Front page of The Advertiser this morning, people are blaming Jay Weatherill for the crisis, the energy crisis in South Australia. Are they right?
ALBANESE: No, they’re absolutely wrong. The fact is that New South Wales relies upon coal for our power more than any other state. We’ve had blackouts. We’ve had shutdowns. In South Australia, the national energy market isn’t working. Pelican Point was available and not used because the national regulator chose not to turn it on. That’s why the blackout happened.
STEFANOVIC: On the subject of power, Renee Effield is asking the hard hitting question of the week on the blackout at the Adele concert in Adelaide, “did Christopher Pyne unplug Adele?”. Are you responsible?
PYNE: I was at the Adele concert, it was absolutely fantastic. I’ll tell you what happened, it’s so amazing. There was a revolving stage underneath where Adele was standing and it literally revolved slowly and it pulled the plug out on the power on the stage so it wasn’t me.
ALBANESE: You missed an opportunity to blame the Federal Labor Party.
STEFANOVIC: What’s your favourite Adele song and just give us a little bar.
PYNE: I thought at the concert actually the best song she sang was Hello. It was the opening song and it was electric. But it was a great concert. 70,0000 people.
STEFANOVIC: Sing it.
PYNE: No. I haven’t had anything to drink.
ALBANESE: Think of the viewers!
STEFANOVIC: Have a great week. Lovely to see you both.
Subjects: WA state election; Perth Freight Link; One Nation; infrastructure.
SABRA LANE: For Federal Labor’s take on the result, I am joined now on the phone from Sydney by Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese. Mr Albanese, good morning and welcome.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning Sabra.
LANE: What implications do you think there are federally for the Labor and Liberal parties?
ALBANESE: Well I think there are significant implications federally. This was a campaign where federal issues entered into the consciousness of West Australians. The issue of penalty rates was very much front and centre. Labor campaigned on it. The Liberals and indeed One Nation made it clear that they supported the Fair Work Commission cuts to penalty rates that make …
LANE: Can I just stop you there? Not one candidate, MP or volunteer I have spoken to since I have been here this week have mentioned penalty rates.
ALBANESE: I tell you what, they were mentioning it, not to you Sabra, because you didn’t have a vote. Labor people were mentioning it on the doors, in the shopping centres and in the community. And it is something of concern. There were also federal issues – I mean I am amazed that Mathias Cormann still hasn’t got the message. This was a vote about a dud project – Perth Freight Link – thought up by Tony Abbott and Mathias Cormann in their 2014 Budget – one that that didn’t have a business case, didn’t have an environmental impact statement, doesn’t actually take freight to the port. People saw that for what it was and they wanted Mark McGowan’s plan for METRONET and they voted that way and when Malcolm Turnbull threatened West Australians by saying unless you vote for the Liberal Party we will rip $1.2 billon away from Western Australia, they reacted badly to that. They need to get that message very clear. And the rail link to Forestville – Western Australians know that that was the $500 million they ripped out of the Budget that had been put there by the former Labor Federal Government in 2013.
LANE: How do you interpret the One Nation result?
ALBANESE: Well the mob have worked her out. She is good at identifying problems and grievances but she doesn’t provide solutions and the deal with the Liberal Party showed her to be just another political party looking to put people into Parliament rather than someone who acts as a matter of principle and I think it hurt both of them. Mark McGowan and WA Labor stood up as the real alternative, as the party that had a plan for Western Australia’s future and I think this is a rejection and a very bad result for One Nation. And again, the Liberal Party have to decide if they are going to be a partner of One Nation or if they are going to stand alone as a party of mainstream Australia.
LANE: Barnaby Joyce this morning has said it was a mistake.
ALBANESE: Well it certainly was a mistake but it is one that they are not prepared to commit to not repeating. In the Queensland election, unless they commit to not give preferences to One Nation above mainstream political parties, they will be committing exactly the same mistake.
LANE: On the states’ GST share, federally Labor has voiced some sympathy to improving WA’s share. But you’ve all been very careful to avoid saying what exactly you will do. Will Labor formalise a policy before the next federal election?
ALBANESE: Well we will have policies across the whole range of issues but I think people in Western Australia know that when we were in office we delivered for the West. We didn’t play this game of ransom that Malcolm Turnbull played prior to this WA election. We built the Gateway WA project, we widened the Great Eastern Freeway, we funded the Swan Valley Bypass, we did the Port Esperance Road, we did Perth City Link project as well. So we co-operated with whoever was in government in Western Australia. I had a good relationship with people in the state Barnett Government and was prepared to act in a mature way. This Federal Government have reduced Victoria to 7.7 per cent of infrastructure funding as a result of their petulance at people having the temerity to vote Labor. People in Western Australia have overwhelmingly voted Labor and Malcolm Turnbull needs to stop these games, sit down with Mark McGowan and his ministers, including Rita Saffioti, who I would expect would be the Infrastructure Minister, and deliver for Western Australia its fair share.
LANE: Mr Albanese thanks for joining AM this morning.
Subjects: WA State election; Kate Ellis; women in politics; childcare.
LISA WILKINSON: Now it’s D-Day in Western Australia tomorrow as residents head to the polls for the state election and Premier Colin Barnett is facing a huge challenge to retain his grip on power with predictions that minor parties including Pauline Hanson’s One Nation could decide the result.
For more we have Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne and Shadow Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese. Both here in the studio for a change which is nice. Albo always turns up; Christopher it is very good to see you and I will start with you.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: It’s great to be here.
WILKINSON: Now the Prime Minister made only one trip to WA in the six months leading up to the election – have you given up already?
PYNE: Absolutely not. I was in WA this week, in fact, repurposing a mining factory into a defence industry factory, which means our policies are actually working in defence industries. I was there on Wednesday and I can tell you that the feeling was very positive for Colin Barnett and the Barnett Government. He deserves to be re-elected and I fully expect that he will be re-elected on Saturday.
WILKINSON: But why wouldn’t the PM go over there?
PYNE: He was there; he was there during the campaign.
WILKINSON: Once in the last six months.
PYNE: No once during the election campaign. I don’t know where he went before the election campaign. He’s been to Perth at least once in the last six months, I sure of it. But, he went once and I’ve been once and I want the Barnett Government to be re-elected, they’re a good government.
WILKINSON: Aright, Anthony, Labor is polling well in WA but voters have become disillusioned. Why do you think so many people are looking to the minor parties for the answers at the moment?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well we’ll wait and see the verdict of the voters tomorrow. But what we know is that the Barnett Government is out of touch, it’s out of ideas and it’s out of time, and tomorrow it should be out of office. The voters in Western Australia tomorrow shouldn’t re-elect the Barnett Government by mistake because of this deal it’s done with One Nation.
I think people are very angry on both sides. The One Nation people said they were outsider and now they’re in bed with the Barnett Government, and Liberals who have a small ‘l’ liberal view of the world are frustrated as well about this deal that has put One Nation before the National Party.
WILKINSON: Alright, meanwhile Labor frontbencher Kate Ellis has announced that she’s quitting Federal politics at the next election to spend more time with her young son as he starts school. It comes as a new report out today claims that stay at home mums are a big drain on the economy and should be out working.
Christopher, it’s a tough decision for any mum to stay at home or to go to work. Some women, of course, don’t have any choice at all. But we see a distinct lack of women in senior politics. Should we be doing more to help women?
PYNE: Well happily I have been in Parliament 24 years on Monday and I can tell you there are a lot more women in Parliament today, and in the senior roles than there were when I was first elected 24 years ago, which is a great thing. Of course we want to encourage more women into Parliament and I always encourage women in pre-selections within the Liberal Party. Of course it is a democracy, so they either win or don’t win, but we want more women. They do change politics, they do make it less adversarial, they do tend to be more practical in many respects. As Margaret Thatcher said if you want someone to say something ask a man, if you want someone to do something ask a woman. And I think that was a pretty clever line many years ago. So yes of course we do. I wish Kate well. She has been a great colleague. She’s Labor of course, but it’s hard not to like Kate and I wish her well in the future.
WILKINSON: But part of the problem Anthony is affordable childcare and every time it is put forward in Parliament it gets stopped, it never gets through.
ALBANESE: Well we do need to do more to assist women into the workforce. Not just for themselves but for the country. The nation benefits from taking advantage of our greatest resource which is our people.
And with regard to Kate Ellis, I think she has made a fantastic contribution. She is sick of the travel. We spend a lot of time away from our family. Her young son Sam starts school next year and I’m sure she leaves with absolutely the best wishes of everyone on all sides of politics. She is just a lovely person and she will make a contribution to the workforce I’m sure in some other way.
PYNE: Lisa, we do have an affordable childcare reform in front of the Senate right now which Labor is refusing to pass, which would actually make it cheaper and make it more accessible to people, but Labor won’t…
ALBANESE: Well that’s not right, of course.
WILKINSON: Will can you blokes just get it together and get some affordable childcare?
WILKINSON: Because as we can see there’s a real problem when it comes to the economy with not having it in place.
ALBANESE: Absolutely, which is why we massively increased the childcare rebate when we were in Government.
PYNE: But you are not supporting what we are doing right now.
ALBANESE: We are not supporting your cuts.
PYNE: $1.6 billion.
ALBANESE: We are not supporting your cuts.
PYNE: So you are supporting the childcare changes?
ALBANESE: What we are not doing is supporting your cuts, and what this Government keeps doing is linking up unconnected things so that they end up with this gridlock. That’s why they are not governing.
WILKINSON: Can you two take this out the back? We will come back to you in half an hour…
PYNE: We are going to do the weather.
WILKINSON: …and find out if you have sorted out childcare.
PYNE: He’s better at the weather than he is at childcare reform.
WILKINSON: You are both good at the weather.
ALBANESE: This Government is not good at much.
WILKINSON: OK, over to you Karl
Subjects: Kate Ellis, Perth Freight Link, WA election, WA infrastructure
PETER VAN ONSELEN: Anthony Albanese, thanks very much for your company.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you Peter.
VAN ONSELEN: I see the news that Kate Ellis is planning to retire at the next election, understandable with all that travel. She’s got a young family. My question for you, I know this is a leader’s decision, but you know you are allowed to have your two cent’s worth on this. Who do you think will replace her?
ALBANESE Oh, that will be a decision for Bill and I’m not going to pre-empt that. I think now is a day not for talking about who replaces her, but for paying tribute to Kate. She is a very dear friend of mine. She is a valued colleague. She is someone who has made an outstanding contribution I think to the national Parliament and young Sam is about to start school and it is understandable that she has made the decision that she has. She’s flagged well in advance of the next election that she won’t be a candidate, but she’ll continue to serve the people of Adelaide very well as she has done for more than a decade now.
VAN ONSELEN: Should she step down from the front bench immediately though? You’ve already got Doug Cameron sitting in a front bench role even though he doesn’t intend to be there after the next election. That would make it two on the front bench that won’t actually be able to be ministers. That seems a bit silly.
ALBANESE That’s not quite right of course. The Senate doesn’t leave at the time of the election so it is very possible that Doug could be a minister at the beginning for the next term. We’ve got a very large front bench and I think in terms of filling any vacancy, Kate in my view is playing a terrific role and I wouldn’t be disappointed if she continued to do that up until the election. You need to always have potential vacancies down the track to keep people striving if you like, on their game, to fill those vacancies in the future.
VAN ONSELEN: But just on that Mr Albanese. Let me jump in. What is the point of that? I take you point about Doug Cameron. At least he could be a minister. Having said that though, I think that would be unusual you’d have to admit to make somebody a minister for a small window when you know their term is coming to an end when the Senate recalibrates. But in the case of Kate Ellis – nothing against her; I thought she was a perfectly able shadow minister as well as a minister before that – but if you are not going to stay on, what’s the point? You might as well get some experience in Opposition to somebody who is then going to have to take up a more onerous job in government.
ALBANESE: Well we’ve got, I don’t know what our front bench is up to, but we’ve got more than 45 now. We’ve got more people on our front bench than will be able to be on the front bench according to the Federal legislation that is provided. So we have more shadows now than there are ministers and that is permissible under the Act. So in terms of a vacancy, I don’t have a problem with Kate continuing to play a role and she plays an important role as well in the Shadow Cabinet at bringing that experience that she has as someone who has been a minister in government. So I think that though will be a matter for a discussion between Kate and Bill down the track.
VAN ONSELEN: As the person in my relationship that does all of the drops offs and pickups and meals for my children, allow me, indulge me on this one Anthony Albanese. Your wife, she stepped down as I understand it from the ministry, Carmel Tebbutt, when your son was young, she came back of course, became Deputy Premier. Why is it always the women doing this? This is the day after International Women’s Day.
ALBANESE: It’s a fair point Peter. It is a fair point. In my wife’s case, she was in a very similar situation to Kate. She stood down from the front bench when he was beginning school – his first year of school. A whole lot of people use family reasons for stepping down and we find in some cases they get very well paid jobs announced a couple of weeks later, in the case of the former NSW Premier. But in Kate’s case, just like in my wife, Carmel Tebbutt’s case, it’s real, they make those decisions. Of course you can‘t do the drop-off if you are a Federal MP. It’s as simple as that.
So I know that Kate’s other half, who would be known to some of your listeners, David Penberthy, he’s a figure in the media, I know that he plays an important role in young Sam’s life. But the truth is that if you are in Canberra that limits what you can do.
VAN ONSELEN: Yes. Look, completely understandable. Frankly I don’t know how politicians beyond at best coming out of NSW and Victoria and even then I mean the capital cities, do it with the amount of travel to Canberra. That is the human side of all this.
ALBANESE: And it’s not just Canberra of course. It’s the travel to other places as well. People often ask how we managed as senior ministers in the Federal and NSW Governments respectively to do the job and look after our young son. It is beyond me how we did it, looking back at it now, but we did manage.
VAN ONSELEN: All right, let’s get on to your portfolio. In the context if we can, Mr Albanese, of the WA election; I spoke to the Premier over there on this program a couple of days ago, Colin Barnett. I asked him about the whole Perth Freight Link and the Roe 8 extension. He made the point that the development towards this, albeit three kilometres short of the port, had been very much a bipartisan thing in all the previous extensions ahead of Roe 8, so this was just a political hit. And he particularly made the point, which I want to get your response to, that this was a priority choice by Infrastructure Australia to support Roe 8. Your reaction to that; you obviously champion the value of Infrastructure Australia?
ALBANESE: The Premier is delusional in putting that forward and I note that Paul Fletcher on this very program conceded that it stopped three kilometres from the port. That’s a good start because neither the Prime Minister nor the Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester seemed to even know that when we raised it in Parliament. But he went on to say it would require further work down the track; so a concession that this is a road to nowhere. You can’t build half a bridge, this makes no sense.
VAN ONSELEN: Hang on, let me take issue with that and get your reaction if I can. I mean the argument that he gave more broadly than that was that this Roe 8 will give you something like 12 kilometres of designated additional road space where otherwise these big trucks would continue to be ferrying freight to and from the port. It at least gets them off more congested road ways during that period and yes there is three kilometres to go where you join onto existing highways but it’s still better than what was there previously. And how do you account for Infrastructure Australia’s support if it’s so bad?
ALBANESE: Well Infrastructure Australia has been gutted by this Government. They’ve ignored its recommendations. When it was announced the Federal funding for this in the 2014 Budget it would appear that Tony Abbott got it out of a Wheaties packet. I was, of course, the Minister for the previous six years. Not once did the Coalition Government of Premier Barnett raise it with me as a viable project. Indeed it had been taken off the books. Roe 8 was deemed to be unsuitable because of the environmental damage it would cause and because it just didn’t stack up and because it’s a road part way to a port that’s at full capacity. It will be at absolute full capacity come the year 2022.
The issue here is planning for the Outer Harbour; for the port to the south of the current port and when you are channelling $1.5 billion into a road that doesn’t achieve its objectives, that doesn’t go to the port and that takes investment away from where it should be going, which is to the development of that Outer Harbour and at the same time you’ve taken money, which the Federal Government did, from money that was allocated for public transport in Perth, which is the big issue that’s needed to deal with urban congestion for a road that doesn’t stack up. It’s just a dud project. And Malcolm Turnbull is saying that he will hold the voters of Western Australia to ransom. That if Labor is elected in a couple of days’ time, what he will do is hold back that money and not make it available for WA infrastructure.
VAN ONSELEN: I don’t buy that. I think that’s just them playing politics. I think they’ll weaken at the knees on that, just like they did in relation to Victoria and Daniel Andrews in the aftermath of that election. But just back on Infrastructure Australia, is your point Anthony Albanese that this prioritisation of Roe 8 by Infrastructure Australia was by what – a newly stacked Infrastructure Australia, or a gutted, what do you mean by that? Isn’t it the same body that you left the Government that made that recommendation?
ALBANESE: It’s certainly not. It’s an entirely new board that’s been politicised. It’s a project that, in terms of Infrastructure Australia, they’ve cut their funding so they’re not able to do the detailed analysis that was there and it was announced before any submission had ever been made to Infrastructure Australia or to any other body for that matter and they’re still making it up as they go along. As Paul Fletcher said, on your very program, just two days ago, it will require, if this goes ahead further work because it doesn’t actually achieve its objectives. So this is a dud project. The fact is, it wasn’t submitted to Infrastructure Australia, and the process is pretty simple. You do your evidence and do your study first and get your business case then you make a decision and provide the funding.
This has happened the other way around. So they’re trying to retrofit a business case to make sense of a project that’s already been funded in 2014, three years ago. It’s no wonder that not much has happened because there was no business case, no environmental impact statement and one of the things they had to do is to change the WA legislation retrospectively so that this project stacked up by overriding the environmental considerations that had for a long period of time said that this project should not proceed.
VAN ONSELEN: Let me ask you about something to do with the GST. Now Colin Barnett has banged on about the need to do something about this ever since he became Premier particularly as receipts from GST per dollar slowly but truly dwindled for Western Australia. Mark McGowan has said the same thing. He’s argued that he will be forthright in trying to get a better share of the GST for WA. Do you support him in that move or do you look at this and think that this typical parochial West Australianism.
ALBANESE: No, I would expect that Mark McGowan, I know Mark very well, and he’ll be a strong advocate for the people of the West. He’ll be a strong advocate for infrastructure for Western Australia and for Western Australia to get its fair share. When we were in Government we had a specific Western Australian Infrastructure fund. We funded projects like Gateway WA, the widening of the Great Eastern Highway, the Swan Valley Bypass, the road to Port Esperance, the road down to Bunbury, the Great Northern Highway.
We provided funding for the Perth CityLink project to unite the CBD with Northbridge. At the moment the Federal Government basically have done not much at all. What they’ve done is name some projects that were already funded like the Swan Valley Bypass, call it Northlink and pretend it’s a new project. Well it’s not a new project, it’s a project that we funded with a new name and Colin Barnett seems to have just copped that. Mark McGowan will stand up for Western Australia and Western Australians deserve better than a Government that is out of touch, out of time and out of ideas. That’s what Colin Barnett’s Government is.
VAN ONSELEN: Anthony Albanese, always appreciate you joining us on the program. Thanks once again.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Subjects: Pauline Hanson; housing affordability; Budget.
HOST: Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese join us for Two Tribes on this Wednesday morning, International Women’s Day. Anthony Albanese, good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
HOST: And Christopher Pyne, good morning.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Will.
HOST: We’ll kick off with you if we can Chris. Now you’d remember very well this time 20 years ago Prime Minister John Howard was under a fair degree of pressure to come up with some kind of strategy to deal with Pauline Hanson. There was discussion around whether he should attack her – get on the front foot, and start denouncing her policies – or whether he should just try to avoid giving a running commentary on everything that she said. What is the strategy now with the resurgent One Nation Leader?
PYNE: Well the strategy that John Howard adopted which was ultimately successful and which we have adopted as well was to explain that while Pauline Hanson can highlight problems, she can’t actually highlight solutions – she doesn’t have the solutions to those issues. So she is really a grievance box as opposed to a person with executive power who can make a difference and I think we are starting to see with some of her comments in the last couple of days that she has views that I don’t think are necessarily mainstream like on vaccination, for example, where she is prepared to open the door to some of the wilder conspiracy theories on vaccination which Anthony and I have been dealing with for, in my case 24 years and in his case 21 years with people who make wild claims about vaccination and quite frankly put children and those who are in contact with children at risk.
HOST: What’s your assessment, Albo, of the manner in which she is being handled at the moment? It was quite a successful a successful strategy in the end by the Howard Government in 2001. Ron Boswell the Nationals senator who had done a great job documenting some of the rattier positions that One Nation was taking. He ended up beating her in what effectively came down to a head to head battle for a Senate spot. Do you think that she is, is she a harder person to tackle this time around?
ALBANESE: Well I think her views are pretty much the same. We’ve seen that – her views, that she has a right to have, but she’s just wrong and it is important that people in mainstream politics are prepared to point that out. John Howard of course also said and did put her last on ballot papers – her party. That isn’t happening in Western Australia. She is in fact receiving the Liberal Party’s preferences before the National Party. So I think that is a mistake frankly by the Liberal Party to do that. I think in terms of her views, people need to just point out, soberly, where they are wrong. Christopher has just done that with regard to vaccinations but with regard to her views that would divide the community, she is just wrong as well. She was wrong when she said Asians were swamping Australia 20 years ago. She is wrong now when she says Muslims are swamping Australia. I think most Australians when they take a step back, judge people according to the nature of their character, not their background and it’s important that we as a society, if we are going to stay harmonious, continue to do that.
HOST: We’ll turn our attention Christopher Pyne to the upcoming Budget. The Treasurer has put on the agenda housing affordability and a package of reforms to deal with that that will be announced in the lead-up to the Budget. The contentious issue appears to be changes to Capital Gains Tax. Where do you stand on reform to that particular element of this housing affordability situation?
PYNE: Well Will, we’re not in favour of putting up taxes and Labor …
HOST: But are you in favour to changes to Capital Gains Tax as it currently operates.
PYNE: Now that’s not our policy. Labor wants to put up the taxes …
HOST: No, no, no. Is that your position? What’s your position on Capital Gains Tax?
PYNE: Our position is not to change Capital Gains Tax on housing. Labor wants to …
HOST: And that won’t change in the Budget?
PYNE: We’ll you’ll see everything in the Budget and as you know it’s a very old-fashioned rule that you don’t rule things in and you don’t rule things out in budgets. But our policy is not to increase the Capital Gains Tax or negative gearing changes. That’s Labor’s policy. We believe that there are a whole raft of things you can do about housing affordability and the most important is to create more supply of land and housing for people who want to buy houses. The problem is that the state Labor governments have restricted supply and as a consequence, it’s just basic economics – if you have less supply and more demand you push up the prices.
HOST: Anthony Albanese, is the sum of Labor’s position when it comes to aiding housing affordability going to remain axing negative gearing or is there more to come?
ALBANESE: Well, that’s not the sum of our policy at all, David. That’s one element …
HOST: You can blame me for that one, Albo.
PYNE: They are like Bib and Bob though, Anthony.
ALBANESE: David would probably have been wrong as well I think it is fair to say.
HOST: But in Will’s defence, that has been your big headline-grabbing policy though, hasn’t it Albo?
ALBANESE: Absolutely it has. But that’s not it. We also agree with issues of housing supply and one of the objectives indeed of our negative gearing/Capital Gains Tax changes is to boost supply because you would still be able to negatively gear properties – new properties bought, which were new, not existing properties. So what you would see is the investment market turn towards new properties rather than old properties. And what’s happening at the moment is that, you know, I feel sorry for young people turning up to auctions and they’ve got to compete against investors and John Alexander to his credit has pointed that out. Indeed the Government, this time last year, before we came out with our policy, the Government was saying there were excesses in negative gearing. There are. They need to be dealt with and that’s just one element. We also need to deal with social housing as well. We need to deal with homelessness. We need to deal with it comprehensively across the board. And just statements about supply are one thing; you need to have a strategy to actually do that.
HOST: Chris more broadly on the framing of the Budget I notice that in an interview with The Australian a few days ago Scott Morrison talked about some of the really super-ambitious and politically draining attempts that you guys made in your first Budget when Joe Hockey was still Treasurer and Mr Abbott was PM to make those huge savings and he seemed to be suggesting that you guys don’t have the stomach for a huge fight again with the Senate particularly when logic would tell you that making huge savings is not going to get past the House anyway. Is that a bit of a change in direction for the Government?
PYNE: Well you’ve got to be politically sensible and in the 2014 Budget the then Prime Minister and Treasurer proposed a whole range of changes which we hadn’t taken to the election and the Senate blocked and they became what was called zombie legislation. In other words, it never likely to be passed and still sat on the books. Now Mathias Cormann and Scott Morrison have methodically gone about dealing with those issues and either removed them from consideration or managed to get them passed in a modified form. They are getting on with sensible government. That’s what you have to do, The Australian public gave us a Senate that we don’t control, which is the normal situation, and we have to work with the crossbenchers or the Greens or the Labor Party to pass legislation.
HOST: Do you think that sort of lingering sense that you guys are a bit too hard or a bit too tough in terms of the provision of services; is that one of the things that helps explain this 10-point gap that has come about and is this new strategy that seems to be taking shape ahead of this Budget something that you will use to turn that decline around?
PYNE: Well you know polls come and go and there’s not an election for two and half years so you know I am not focused on the polls. I am focused on creating jobs and investment in the defence industry and re-skilling the workforce and doing the infrastructure we need down at Osborne to be able to build submarines and ships. Polls will take care of themselves eventually but we are going about the normal process of government for a Budget and that’s what Scott Morrison is doing as the Treasurer – it’s steady as she goes. I think we are going to see the outcomes from that kind of approach. We’ve had a record increase in jobs. The last quarter in terms of the national accounts showed a bouncing back in terms of growth much above what was expected by the markets and for the first time in living memory defence industry showed up as one of the drivers of the economy. So we are doing the job that we are supposed to be doing and we have to balance the Budget – something Labor obviously never achieved and in fact hasn’t achieved since 1989. We are the party that balances the Budget, that doesn’t increase taxes to do so and lives within our means.
HOST: Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese, thanks you both for joining us for Two Tribes.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.