Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Interview Transcripts"
Jun 21, 2015

Transcript of television interview – The Bolt Report

ANDREW BOLT, PRESENTER: Bill Shorten won’t come on this show, which shows a certain weakness. But one man who has, and does still, is frontbencher Anthony Albanese, who ran against Shorten in the last ballot for the Labor leadership, representing the Left. Albanese won nearly 60% of the votes of Labor members, who got half the say, but still lost narrowly because Shorten got 60% of the votes of the MPs, after one faction boss ratted on Albanese. And Anthony Albanese is my guest. Thanks for your time.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE: Good to be with you, Andrew.

BOLT: Now, look, to stop any speculation in the media pack, you agreed to come on a month ago, and you didn’t come rushing on because Shorten just had the worst week of his career and is suddenly in strife.

ALBANESE: Well, we have, today, the opening of the first new rail line in Victoria for 80 years, the Regional Rail Link. I’m very proud that that’s one of the nation-building projects we did in government. 54,000 new passenger services as a result of that. It will contribute $300 million to the Victorian economy every year. A fantastic project for the people of Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong, as well as Melbourne.

BOLT: Good. That’s the advertisement over. Bill Shorten is under fire for the deals that he did as a union boss, allegedly trading workers’ conditions for donations from employers, including cash to sign up workers as AWU members. Do you support donations from bosses to unions?

ALBANESE: Well, the detail of this will come out, of course, in the Royal Commission, and Bill will appear on July 8. He’s made it clear he has nothing to hide and the evidence of that is he’s asked to bring forward his appearance.

BOLT:: But, in principle, a boss donating to a union in gratitude for a deal.

ALBANESE: Well, the-

BOLT: That stinks, doesn’t it? You wouldn’t like that?

ALBANESE: It’s a matter of whether it’s for training, what it’s for. And that detail will come out. If it’s training for people on the job for the project, that’s a good thing.

BOLT: What if it’s for union memberships?

ALBANESE: Well, we’ll wait and see what the detail is –

BOLT: Well, that is the detail.

ALBANESE:  -for the Royal Commission. The fact is that Bill Shorten’s proud of his efforts as a trade unionist and, in terms of these arrangements, from what I can see, it’s about enterprise bargaining where employers negotiate with employees. I believe there’s a common interest. Workers have an interest in companies succeeding and companies have an interest in making sure that the workforce is well remunerated, properly trained –

BOLT: I agree with you. That’s absolutely right –

ALBANESE: -That’s the enterprise bargaining system –

BOLT: But talking in principle, Anthony, wouldn’t you think, why would an employer donate to a union? That is wrong.

ALBANESE: Well, it’s a matter of what it’s for, Andrew.

BOLT: No, but no, a donation to a union.

ALBANESE: Well, those details will come out in the Royal Commission.

BOLT: OK, well, we’ll leave that to one side. Do unions, like the AWU, have too much say in Labor?

ALBANESE: Well, I think that we need to empower the Labor Party membership. I make no secret of that. The way that you do that is by giving the members direct say –

BOLT: Not the unions?

ALBANESE: That will reduce the say of the factions that’s often exercised through unions. My view has been very clear about that for a long period of time, Andrew.

BOLT: And you think the AWU has had too much say

ALBANESE: I think we need to empower the membership. Not any… I’m not any… any specific union. And unions play a critical role in the Labor Party and will continue to have a critical role.

BOLT: Yeah, but do you remember that photograph of Bill Ludwig, you know, national president of the AWU, holding up Julia Gillard’s hand like a trophy and Paul Howes, the secretary, saying, “We got you back”? That’s not what you want, is it?

ALBANESE: Well, what we want is for people to feel that they’re empowered, that their membership counts for something, both in terms of selecting candidates but, most importantly, in terms of the policy direction of the party. And we don’t want any group, any faction, or any union to have control of the Labor Party. We need to make sure that that power is diluted to the rank and file.

BOLT: But Bill Shorten’s power has come from exactly the model you’re criticising

ALBANESE: Oh, but Bill Shorten also has support within the Labor Party from the membership –

BOLT: He didn’t. You did. No, no, no, very generous of you. You had 60%. He had 40%.

ALBANESE: He has considerable support and continues to do so. And the way that that worked, I think, showed – put us on the front foot from the very beginning. You have a look at 2013, a devastating loss and we regrouped, we had a mature campaign between myself and Bill. I certainly accepted the result.

BOLT: Oh, but, gee, you’re generous. Mature? Anthony, he salted an audience with, you know, ask him a question that you didn’t know about that Bill had put in there. I mean, that was not a nice little process

ALBANESE: Well, I think people who watched that saw two people with ideas who wanted to lead the Labor Party, competing on the basis of ideas. And they responded in a very positive way. Our party grew out of that process. We need to grow further. We need more members because –

BOLT: And less unions

ALBANESE: Well, we need more membership say.

BOLT: OK. The Killing Season, the ABC show, that Kevin Rudd was taken down first by union bosses, who weren’t even in Parliament, you know, the Dastyaris and Paul Howes, by faction bosses with union backing like the AWU, and by MPs who had been in Parliament for two minutes, or two years. Power in the hands of that kind of people, that’s not healthy for your party

ALBANESE: Well, my views are very much on the record, including on The Killing Season show, that I think it was a grave error, what happened on the 23rd of June, 2010 –

BOLT: I’m talking about the power structure, though.

ALBANESE: Well, it reflected – that error was only possible because of the power structure. That’s why we need reform of the party. We need to take that further at the national conference in July. It’s an opportunity for us to further dilute the power of the factions and empower the membership.

BOLT: Does that inevitably mean, though, that Labor moves to the left? Because a lot of that power, like with Bill Shorten’s AWU faction, with the shoppies and all that, a right-wing kind of influence on the party, as they… their influence gets cut, the membership – which tends to be of the left – grows, the influence of them, which helps people of the left, like yourself. Does that mean the party shifts to the left?

ALBANESE: No, it doesn’t. Most members of your local ALP branch, if you go in and chat to them, they’re not interested in left or right. They’re actually interested in a better Australia. That’s why they join the Labor Party. They don’t want anything for themselves. They want something for the nation. That’s why they want to contribute. I think people who join other political parties are the same. People who join the Liberal Party – most of them don’t join to get a seat in Parliament.

BOLT: No, but it’s true. What I’m saying is true of both parties. The membership tends to be more radical than the MPs, in turn more radical than the voters, so it drags a party one way or the other, doesn’t it

ALBANESE: Look, I don’t think that’s the case. My experience of the Labor Party membership is that they’re interested in a contest of ideas. They’re not interested in personalities. And if you also give the Labor Party membership more say, it will grow. We saw that last year, with tens of thousands of people joining the Labor Party.

BOLT: This week, Bill Shorten said no to the Government taking pensions… taking the pension off millionaires. The Greens then backed it. Isn’t it a mistake for Labor to seem even less financially responsible than the Greens?

ALBANESE: Well, the Greens, of course, are just opportunistic and they’ve been prepared on this occasion, as they were in getting rid of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme –

BOLT: They got you in the eye.

ALBANESE: – Getting together with the Liberals and voting in that way.

BOLT: Where were you on that debate? Because Bill Shorten apparently sided with the minority in saying we’ll be against that, when people are saying, “Listen, you can’t. Labor has to look economically responsible”. Where were you in that debate?

ALBANESE: Well, I think it’s a legitimate statement to say that Tony Abbott said that there’d be no changes to pensions and that is what he’s being held to account on.

BOLT: So no comment. OK. Should Labor drop its policy against turning back the boats?

ALBANESE: Well, in terms of… That’ll be a debate at the ALP national conference –

BOLT: What’s your position? You’re a senior guy. What’s your position?

ALBANESE: My position is that we’ve got our policy right at the moment –

BOLT: Don’t change it?

ALBANESE: We’ll debate it at the national conference. But one of the things we do have to do, Andrew –

BOLT: You don’t want to be… Come on, you’ve got a hardhead.

ALBANESE: One of the things that I would acknowledge, Andrew, and we need to do, is have a look at what we did in government. What we did right and what we did wrong, where we made errors.

BOLT: You were wrong on the boats?

ALBANESE: One place we made an error is we underestimated the pull factors, as well as the push factors. We need to say that very clearly. I’m one of the people who accepts my responsibility for that. And we, as a party, need to acknowledge that.

BOLT: Are you still interested in the leadership

ALBANESE: No. We’ve moved on. We’ve got a leader. Bill will lead us to the next election and I’m not going to be in politics forever. I want to serve as a minister in Bill Shorten’s government after the next election

BOLT: 60% of the membership say Albo for…for leader. You’re saying you’re not… Forget it?

ALBANESE: Well, we had that process and the party chose Bill as the leader. I’ve respected that, Andrew, and I’ve worked very hard –

BOLT: Mate, he’s looking dead. You know he’s looking dead.

ALBANESE: No, that’s not right.

BOLT: He’s looking dead.

ALBANESE: Well –

BOLT: The Government’s even talking about an early election even, it’s looking so bad

ALBANESE: The last Newspoll had us at 52-48.

BOLT: And they had Bill Shorten at 28%

ALBANESE: And one of the things that we have to learn from the last period in government was don’t destabilise the leader. Get on board the team and work in a united way. I did that. I was loyal to Kevin Rudd and I was loyal to Julia Gillard. I am loyal to Bill Shorten. That will remain the same.

BOLT: Tell you what, mate, there’s only a couple of people that came out of The Killing Season with their integrity looking even better. One was you. Thank you for your time. Coming up: The panel, after this.

 

Jun 19, 2015

Transcript of television interview – Today Show, Nine Network

Subjects: Bill Shorten; Royal Commission; Government’s plan to reintroduce WorkChoices

SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Trouble is the word; it has been a week Bill Shorten would rather forget. Headlines after damaging headline about his time as boss of the AWU. The accusation of course, he traded workers’ rights and conditions in favour of payments made directly to the union. Now the Opposition leader has been forced to bring forward his appearance at the Royal Commission into union corruption after this scathing attack yesterday from the Government. Have a look.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE [Parliament footage] These are matters that are within the knowledge of the Leader of the Opposition. And he needs to answer those questions. He can’t wait till August. The Member for Port Adelaide answered those questions on Wednesday. Why can’t the Leader of the Opposition answer them today?

JEFFREYS: It was a fiery week in Parliament. Education Minister Christopher Pyne joins us now along with Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese. Good morning to you both.

ALBANESE: G’day. Good morning Christopher.

PYNE: Good morning to you Sylvia. Good morning Anthony.

JEFFREYS: Aw, it’s lovely to see you getting along this morning.

PYNE: We always do.

ALBANESE: We’re in separate cities. It’s easier.

JEFFREYS: I know. We’ve given you a safe distance this morning. Bill Shorten, Anthony, I want to start here, will now front the Royal Commission on the 8th of July. Even that seems a very long time away given he is already on the ropes.

ALBANESE: He asked to speak to the Royal Commission as soon as possible. He wants to clear up these issues. He has nothing to hide which is why he initiated writing to the Royal Commission asking for the appearance to be as soon as possible.

JEFFREYS: But he only did that after Christopher Pyne’s attack yesterday. He was supposed to appear in August, maybe even September. Pressure clearly is mounting.

ALBANESE: No. The Royal Commission had said they wanted to speak with Bill and Bill had always made it very clear that he would give full cooperation to the Royal Commission. He’s got nothing to hide here. He’s proud of his background in the trade union movement and he will be very happy to go along on July 8 and to answer any questions that they have.

JEFFREYS: So new details this morning about another deal, this time with a Melbourne cleaning company which stripped workers of penalty rates saving the company tens of millions of dollars somewhere in the order of $70 million. How do you expect union members to feel about these deals and these accusations?

ALBANESE: Well, of course what happens in industrial relations through enterprise bargaining is that trade unions and employers get together to negotiate in the common interest of both. There’s a common interest between people who work for a company and the interests of that company being successful. That is part of the industrial relations system. So unlike Tony Abbott who still believes in WorkChoices and thinks that there is no common interest between employers and employees, the way the system works in practice is for the common good of all and for the economy. It’s that very enterprise bargaining system that Tony Abbott wants to change back to WorkChoices so that workers in fact don’t have an ability to negotiate through their trade union.

JEFFREYS: Well Christopher, over to you. You and your Government obviously have jumped all over this, this week. Bill Shorten does have some support though. Business leader Tony Shepherd says the deal over Melbourne’s East Link road project delivered top pay rates for workers. So is it safe to say perhaps Bill Shorten was an astute negotiator in that case?

PYNE: Well Sylvia, Bill Shorten’s done a complete U-turn on the Royal Commission. For months and months and months he said he wouldn’t have a running commentary on the Royal Commission and then yesterday he demanded to be able to appear as soon as possible to stem the flow of blood that is appearing because of the cyclone, the hailstorm of stories about his time as secretary of the AWU in Victoria. Whether it’s Cleanevent, whether it’s the East Link that you’re talking about, whether it’s the Winslow Constructors, Douglas Site Services. There’s one business after another that Bill Shorten was involved with as the AWU secretary where the claim is that workers’ rights were sold down the river in exchange for payments for the AWU, some of which were disguised as safety training, and as I said in Parliament yesterday, if they were legitimate payments, why were they concealed under the guise of safety training? Now these are very serious concerns. Penalty rates were traded away of Cleanevent workers saving businesses millions of dollars, but actually selling the workers down the river and Bill Shorten needs to explain. He’s come a long way from the Beaconsfield mine disaster. We’re now dealing with the AWU receiving sweetheart deals with businesses and workers missing out because of it.

JEFFREYS: Bill Shorten will answer all of those questions we expect on the 8th of July. Anthony, some of your colleagues have described it within the Labor Party as death by a thousand cuts. Do you expect him to escape this unscathed?

ALBANESE: Look, Bill Shorten will certainly lead us to the next election. Bill Shorten’s doing a great job of holding the Government to account and engaging on the issues that are of concern to people. The issue of defending our pensions. The issue of making sure that we advance education and health without the vicious cuts that the Federal Government want to impose.

JEFFREYS: Well, I want to point out on the front page of the SMH this morning that both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard were overthrown in the week following the Midwinter Ball. By those calculations, could Bill Shorten’s time be up by Wednesday?

ALBANESE: No, that certainly won’t happen. Bill Shorten has the confidence of the Labor Party as the Leader. He was chosen to lead us to the next election. He certainly will and I hope that we’re successful at that election and that I get to serve in a Shorten Labor Government.

PYNE: Sylvia, Anthony is being very generous; because we know in fact he got more votes than Bill Shorten for the Labor Party leadership. He was the people’s choice. Bill won because of the factional leaders in the Labor Party caucus. The same trade union leaders that were part of Bill Shorten’s brigade that got him into leadership – he wasn’t trusted by Julia Gillard, he wasn’t trusted by Kevin Rudd or Mark Arbib and therefore the Australian people shouldn’t trust him.

JEFFREYS: Alright, we’ve got to leave it there. You have both been generous in saving Anthony the airing of footage of him playing footy in the pollies State of Origin this week but I’m sure we’ll see if we can find a way to put it out there.

PYNE: I think he wanted to show off his legs Sylvia.

JEFFREYS: Great pins in those footy shorts. Anthony and Christopher, thank you for your time this morning, we really appreciate it. Thank you.

ALBANESE: Great to be with you.

PYNE: Pleasure.

 

Jun 15, 2015

Transcript of doorstop – Parliament House, Canberra

 Subjects; Regional Rail Link opening; public transport; payments to people smugglers; Ipsos poll; need for conscience vote on marriage equality

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yesterday I had the great privilege of attending the official opening of the Regional Rail Link in Victoria. This project is the largest ever federal investment in public transport. 15,000 jobs created, more than 90km of new track built, two new stations at Tarneit and Wyndham Vale, stations renovated along the route, grade separations –  a fantastic project that will make an enormous difference to the people of western Melbourne, Geelong, Bendigo, and Ballarat. In terms of this project, it’s significant that Tony Abbott was in Melbourne when he said that the Federal Government does not invest in urban public transport. It seems he was unaware when he said that prior to the last election, that the largest project ever of federal Commonwealth investment was already underway creating jobs, creating economic activity, and improving productivity for Melbourne. He has put that promise into practice and has removed all funding of public transport projects around Australia including the $3 billion cut from the Melbourne Metro project. At the moment Victoria is receiving 8% of Commonwealth infrastructure investment but have 25% of Australia’s population. That is simply untenable. The federal government must stop punishing Victorians for having the temerity to vote Labor at the last state election. There are projects in Victoria including level crossings, including the Melbourne Metro project, including additional funding that could be made available for the Western Ring Road, that are ready to go right now.

REPORTER: Why do you think Labor has extended its lead over the Government in terms of the Fairfax-Ipsos poll?

ALBANESE: This is a Government that its own Cabinet ministers describe as a shambles. It’s a shambles over national security issues. It’s a shambles over economic policy. It’s a shambles over social policy. When you have a government that is so out of touch with the needs of everyday Australians that you can have a Prime Minister that can say the only Commonwealth engagement in transport and infrastructure should be for roadways, not also for rail lines let alone the freight rail projects that are ready to go in Victoria as well. It really shows how out of touch Tony Abbott and his ministers are. Every time they open their mouth, whether to say that poor people don’t drive cars, or that there are no issues of housing affordability in Sydney, they just remind the Australian people of just how out of touch they are.

REPORTER: There are reports about the potential payment of these boat turn backs in Australian waters. Should that make some on Labor’s right rethink them pushing for Labor too to adopt boat turn back as part of its strategy?

ALBANESE: These reports are quite extraordinary. Peter Dutton said a simple no after being questioned about whether payments have been made to people smugglers. Tony Abbott has had the opportunity for days now to confirm Peter Dutton’s response was correct and he’s refused to do so. Indeed, he’s implied that that isn’t the case. We’ll be raising that issue obviously in Parliament today. I think the Australian public would be shocked to think that their money is being used to pay people smugglers. It would be an extraordinary indictment of the lack of morality of this government. This is about the Government and whether the Government has paid people smugglers. That is the question that we need answered. This is a Government that has talked big, but we need to see exactly what it has done. Australians have been very concerned about the lack of transparency that has been involved in the Government’s approach to these matters. Well, enough is enough. They need to make it very clear today whether taxpayers’ money, ordinary mums and dads, have paid indirectly through the tax system to pay people smugglers.

REPORTER: They’re being asked about that, but just for Labor because you’ve got your National Conference coming up –

ALBANESE: That’s a matter for National Conference.

REPORTER: For this issue –

ALBANESE: We have this great system within the Labor Party which is you go along to the National Conference and you have your say there. I’m sure there will be a range of issues dealt with at National Conference.

REPORTER: What would you say to some of your colleagues who are in talks with Coalition MPs about working together to oppose a gay marriage bill?

ALBANESE: I actually think that it’s reasonable that people be engaged across the Parliament on the issue of marriage equality. I think that there is a majority of the House of Representatives and the Senate to support this change. What I know is that there is an enormous majority out there in the Australian public. The Prime Minister should this week indicate through a process in his party room that there will be a conscience vote across the Parliament on this issue. That is the appropriate way for this reform to get done and when it’s done I think people will look back and wonder why it wasn’t done earlier because giving some people rights who currently don’t enjoy them, doesn’t take away the existing rights for anyone. This is just about improving rights for some, not taking rights from anyone else. I disagree very strongly with the opponents of marriage equality be they in my party or another political party but I respect their right to hold that view and what concerns me though and what I’d say to them is, why is it you’re objecting in terms of the Coalition members, you’re objecting to being able to say what that view is and give your colleagues the same right to say what their view is to support marriage equality on the floor of the parliament. Thanks very much.

 

Jun 10, 2015

Transcript of television interview – To the point, Sky News

Subjects: Housing prices, The Killing Season, the Global Financial Crisis

KRISTINA KENEALLY: Anthony Albanese, thank you for joining us. Joe Hockey said this morning that Labor wants to smash housing prices and he wants to increase supply. Doesn’t he have a point that supply is a key part of housing affordability?

ALBANESE: Well Joe Hockey only takes his feet out of his mouth to change his socks. The more he speaks the more trouble he gets into. It is absurd to argue that Labor wants to decrease the cost of housing. What we do want though, is to deal with the issue of housing affordability. Supply is a part of that. Everyone knows that that is the case but everyone also knows, except for Joe Hockey, that there is an issue with housing affordability in Sydney. I don’t want the only way that someone who is young can get into housing in Sydney to be if they inherit a house off their parents.

KENEALLY: But wouldn’t you concede that parts of Sydney are affordable? I mean, Craig Laundy today said you can find an affordable house in Sydney if you are just prepared to move to certain parts of the city.

ALBANESE: Well that, of course, has issues associated with it as well in terms of getting access to employment.  Increasingly what State of Australian Cities reports have identified is that we have drive-in, drive-out suburbs where people can afford to live but where the jobs aren’t located. So then it creates a social disconnect. Successful cities are inclusive cities. They are ones that aren’t created with suburbs of haves and have nots and we are in danger in Sydney of having your income being determined or easily identified by your post code. That’s not a good thing. It’s something that requires a government response that is more sympathetic than the responses we’ve seen from Joe Hockey or indeed last week when Tony Abbott was asked about housing affordability he said that the price of his home on the Lower North Shore of Sydney has been increasing in value and that is a good thing.

VAN ONSELEN: I’ve got to jump in, Anthony Albanese, and ask you this because the gaffes, if you want to call them that, and that’s perhaps arguable, or whether they are insensitive or not, that’s the rats and mice stuff here.  This is your portfolio area housing and what you are saying makes sense. You are talking about the need for wholesale reform and a wider look at this. The Government is doing that. It’s looking at a tax White Paper. We are yet to hear about the federation reform that might be included in that White Paper and that sort of relationship between the states and the commonwealth and what needs to happen with land release, with incentives for stamp duty reduction and so forth or for that matter urban density. There are the sorts of things that we can have that discussion about later in the year. That’s where the focus should be, not supposed gaffes surely?

ALBANESE: Well the first step to finding a solution is identifying a problem. The government has shown this week it doesn’t even know what the problem is. It’s trying to pretend it doesn’t exist.

VAN ONSELEN: I think they are just buying time ahead of the release of the White Paper. It’s not so much that they don’t know what the problem is, they don’t they know, as none of us do, what the solution is and they are perhaps poorly wording that fact as they try to stall for time before giving it something more meaty.

ALBANESE: Well, that hasn’t been their response of course. Their response has been to dismiss this as an issue, to speak about the value of the homes that they own in the Prime Minister’s case or, in Joe Hockey’s case, tell people who are nurses, teachers, people who currently can’t possibly get into a house in terms of home purchase in my electorate at the moment, if you are on an average wage. It simply is not possible to purchase a home for above $1 million which seems to be the starting point in my electorate at the moment for any home. If you are in that sort of occupation, then it is simply not possible for you to afford a home in that electorate close to where you work and that creates some real issues around our cities and around urban policy. This is the same government that has abolished the Major Cities Unit, abolished the Urban Policy Forum, wont’ fund any urban public transport, says that …

VAN ONSELEN: All right, all right, Mr Albanese, we’ve talked enough, we’ve talked portfolio. We’ve got to get down to the real interesting stuff now, come on:  Kevin  Rudd verses Julia Gillard. Last night it was all congratulations to us on solving the woes of the Global Financial Crisis. That’s a little bit of a false dawn isn’t it? Episodes two and three – that’s where things are going to really get interesting.

KENEALLY:  Let’s just go to the economic issues there on The Killing Season because Kevin Rudd said last night that …

VAN ONSELEN: I didn’t realise I was interviewing two Labor people.

KENEALLY: Kevin Rudd said last night that if the government succeeded in avoiding the Global Financial Crisis that they would get no accolades for success but if they had failed they would never be forgiven. That seems a fair enough point doesn’t it Anthony?

VAN ONSELEN: That’s a point that you can’t disprove.

ALBANESE: If I can just butt in with you two there for a second, I think the important thing last night wasn’t what Kevin Rudd said. It was what Hank Paulson, the then head of the US Treasury; Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; Ken Henry, the secretary of the Australian Treasury said – and they all identified Australia’s response to the Global Financial Crisis as the best in the world. If it wasn’t for that response there would have been hundreds of thousands of more people unemployed.

VAN ONSELEN: The most important part of that response was the bank guarantee, in particular the wholesale lending guarantee. Now that was only possible, you’ve got to concede – good decision to do it, hats off to the government of the time for doing it – but it was only possible because the Australian Government’s balance sheet had no debt and that was the case because of debt being paid off during the Howard years. You’d have to at least concede that.

ALBANESE: Well, in terms of the Howard years had the benefit – yes I concede – of the minerals boom, they had more than $350 billion of additional revenue on top of what was budgeted or forecast in the previous years. So they had all that windfall gain and that meant that the Budget was in a strong position. But Labor had the courage to act and at the time you might recall Joe Hockey himself, once again to go back to him, said it was inevitable that the Australian economy would go into recession. They opposed the major stimulus program. Tony Abbott, you might recall, slept through the Global Financial Crisis because he slept through the vote.

VAN ONSELEN: They only opposed the second one, Anthony Albanese. They agreed with the first one and that was the one that was timely. The second one just baked in spending going forward and it only took  effect after we were already through the GFC.

ALBANESE: That is not right. The second one was about making sure that we had infrastructure investment, making sure that we had that pipeline which created that economic confidence into the future. You couldn’t just act at the end of 2008 and then do nothing. We had programs including in my area there were 5500 community infrastructure projects – small projects funded through local government, of which, by the way, there’s not a single issue been raised, that were very effective in creating that local employment close to where people lived all around the country.

KENEALLY: Anthony. I’ve got to ask about the political impact of The Killing Season. I suspect last night there were uncomfortable Labor figures around the country but also possibly Malcolm Turnbull felt a little uncomfortable watching the program. What do you reckon the impact on people’s voting intentions this series might have?

ALBANESE: I don’t think it will have an impact. It’s history. I thought last night’s program was well put together. All governments have their pluses and their negatives. I’m sure both of them will come out on this program but, importantly, I think the first responsibility of dealing with the Global Financial Crisis that we were confronted with, I believe, and I’ve said this consistently, history will regard the Labor Government’s performance there very well indeed. We are the only industrialised country that didn’t go into recession. That wasn’t by accident. That was because the government responded and …

VAN ONSELEN: And because of there being no debt on the government’s balance sheet. Come on, you’ve got to concede it’s that as well?

ALBANESE: Well, no. The fact is that if we had have responded in a similar way to the way which the Coalition would have liked us to when they opposed the economic stimulus program, we would have gone into recession. There would have been hundreds of thousands more people unemployed and that would have had a spiralling downward effect as it did in our competitors overseas.

KENEALLY: Anthony Albanese, thank you so much for joining us. We are going to leave it there

ALBANESE: Great to be with you.

 

Jun 7, 2015

Transcript of television interview – Australian Agenda, SKY News

Subjects: Small business; Citizenship; Negative Gearing; Opinion Polls; Infrastructure Investment; Shipping; Aviation; The Killing season.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Anthony Albanese is our main guest and he’s here now. Appreciate your time. Thank you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRANSPORT: Good to be with you.

VAN ONSELEN: Before we get to some of the portfolio issues, you are a former Leader of the House. You know a stunt when you see one. Was it a stunt during the week when your side of politics decided to bring on the vote around the small business changes that the government wants?

ALBANESE: Well, you’ve got to look at what the context was, Peter. The government seems to have a position that they don’t want the Opposition to agree with them and on the small business changes, we’ve made it very clear that we supported them and why wouldn’t we? Some of those changes are precisely what we had in place in terms of the write‑offs and the government had abolished that in its first Budget and in its mini statement when it came to office. So it was simply a return to the instant asset write‑off changes that we had put in place. So of course we were supportive of them. The government insisted that we weren’t. So we called their bluff and, of course, they voted against their own position.

VAN ONSELEN: But it was stunts all round. I mean, we can agree on that, can’t we? They were pulling a stunt by claiming repeatedly in the days and weeks before that that Labor wasn’t on board with this and that it was frustrating the Labor Party, but equally to call on the vote it might have been a good stunt, but it was a stunt nonetheless.

ALBANESE: Well, I thought it was a very effective way of making our position clear and the government was caught out and voted against its own position. A smart government that was a bit nimble would have, of course, voted for it. The changes would have gone through and we could have moved on to other issues.

VAN ONSELEN: But Labor wouldn’t have done that. I mean, if they’re ‑ quite a different view on this issue, of course, but if they decided to vote with the Labor Party on the carbon tax or whatever else it might have been in the previous Parliament, your side of politics would have wanted your members of Parliament to have their say about where they see this going through the debate before the ultimate vote. It would have been the same reaction surely.

ALBANESE: Well, what you shouldn’t do is what they did. They, the day before, had the Small Business Minister saying, “This needs to be done as a matter of urgency.”  We provided them with an opportunity to do just that. I guess it’s a case of careful of getting what you wish for. We gave them what they wished for and they said, “No.”

ANNABEL HEPWORTH: In terms of Bill Shorten’s policy and the Budget reply speech, one of the things he promised is that if Labor were in office they would deliver a 5 per cent tax cut to small business. How do you think that would be funded? It’s been described, I think, by Mathias Cormann, as magic pudding economics. You are obviously supportive of small business. You know, you’ve gotten with the government’s program on this, but how would you fund that?

ALBANESE: Well, what we certainly said was that we would look at doing that over time and, of course, one of the things about a small business tax cut and the instant asset write‑off is a view that by doing that you stimulate the economy, you increase the size of the economy and therefore you improve the revenue intake to government. So we put that out there as our ambition that we would like to see a smaller rate of taxation for small business and currently exists even after the change that will go through and that’s a reasonable thing to do. One of the things that you can do as an opposition in a Budget Reply is put forward ideas and in Bill Shorten’s Budget Reply he had not just that, but, of course, the changes in terms of science, technology, engineering and maths for students as a way of signalling a priority for us in terms of education and, of course, changes to strengthen Infrastructure Australia as well.

HEPWORTH: But just on this issue of tax, wasn’t it the case that Labor, well, promised corporate tax cuts when it was in office and it welshed on that, they never happened?

ALBANESE: No, actually, one of the things that happened was that the now government opposed some of the reductions in tax that we tried to get through when we were in government.

HEPWORTH: But it was also the case you promised a headline corporate tax cut and then in one of your Budgets you squibbed on that.

ALBANESE: Well, in terms of our proposed changes to small business we attempted to do some measures when we were in government. They were opposed by the then Opposition. They, of course, opposed everything when they were in government. We, of course, would like to see smaller taxation. Everyone likes to see that, and, indeed, it’s interesting that the current tax intake as a percentage of the economy is higher than at any time when Labor was in government.

VAN ONSELEN: See, one of the things, though, one of the virtues, I suppose, of the government’s 1.5 per cent cut for small businesses in terms of the company tax rate is that it’s a narrow enough difference that they can hopefully, at some time when the economy is a bit stronger in the future, remove the two‑tiered system and therefore the complexity. If you go down the path of a 5 per cent cut for small businesses, even if it is achievable and can be funded, you are imbedding that complexity, aren’t you, between small business and the rest of the corporate world?

ALBANESE: Well, that’s an argument, but the argument is also that small business don’t have the same access to reduce their taxation payments as large businesses do and one of the measures that we’ve put in place as well, of course, or would like to, is changes to multi-national taxation. We’ve put forward changes between that and superannuation that would make a difference of $20 billion to the government’s position ‑ fiscal position – over a period of 10 years. So we think it’s looking at the tax system as a whole, but at the same time we’re making very clear that we see the stimulus for small businesses being a priority.

HEPWORTH: In terms of this issue of profit shifting, and that’s been, you know, a big issue politically, one of the warnings that a lot of people issue, business and others, is this government, and Australia as a nation, should not act unilaterally.  There is an OECD and a G20 push on base erosion and profit shifting.  How does Labor differentiate itself in a policy sense from this government as a nation if there is peril in being seen to act outside of a global program.

ALBANESE: Well, of course, we should play a leadership role as well in terms of globally and we support those measures, but it also is the case that there is some work that we can do as a nation. We have a national responsibility to protect our national tax take because ‑ not because it’s the end in itself, but because of what we do with it in terms of providing education, health, social services funding, building infrastructure. So it is important that we don’t simply dismiss and use as an excuse the fact that there is global action in that area. Global action tends to be pretty slow. This has been talked about for a long time and if, in the meantime, we can take some action, I think that’s a good thing.

VAN ONSELEN: We’ve got a lot I want to get through before we get to the Infrastructure Prime Minister debate. One of these issues is the citizenship discussion. Now, this obviously has been dominating the Parliament from the stand point of the government. They have asked a lot of Dorothy Dixers in this space.  Other than the small business discussion, it really is something that they are trying to focus in on.  During the week we saw that the Labor Party have said that they’ve got in-principle support for the revoking of citizenship for dual nationals, but obviously you want to see the legislation. Now, you’re one of the most senior, if not the most senior member of the Left within the Labor Party. You must have some civil liberties concerns surely about any plan to strip dual nationals of their citizenship.

ALBANESE: Well, of course, we must always be vigilant about what the detail of these changes are. They shouldn’t be done lightly which is why it’s extraordinary that these changes were proposed without even a cabinet submission. It’s important that there be integrity in the process. What’s clear is that last week cabinet ministers revolted, pretty publically as it turns out, against a process whereby they walked into a cabinet meeting, got ambushed, Malcolm Turnbull described the process as a shambles of the cabinet where you had a serious proposition without any proper scrutiny of it.

VAN ONSELEN: But doesn’t that make it even more extraordinary then that Labor have already, before seeing the legislation, offered in-principle support? That sounds like a political reaction rather than necessarily a policy one, a concern that if there is a difference between the Opposition and the government on national security, it’s going to politically hurt the Labor Party.

ALBANESE: Well, what’s the principle here, Peter? The principle is what is our response to terrorism? Is there a real threat? Yes, there is. Do we support action to alleviate that threat and to protect our national interests and our citizenry? Yes, we do. Do people who are dual citizens, who are fighting for Daesh or ISIS internationally or potentially engaging in terrorist actions here, therefore relinquish their commitment that they’ve made to Australia? So this is a fundamental issue.

Of course, people who go and fight against Australia in a war and who are dual citizens have had their citizenship revoked previously. That’s something that’s been on the statute books since the 1940s. So it is the same principle essentially here and that’s what Labor said. You know, you have this ridiculous position, I think, whereby it’s almost as if some members of the government try to say, “We’re more loyal to Australia than others.”  Now, I don’t think that Bill Shorten or Tony Abbott, either of them, are more loyal to Australia than the other. I don’t think any member of Parliament,  even political parties that I disagree with on some of these issues, have been pretty hard line about opposing any action, The Greens political party.  I don’t say they do that because they’re not loyal to Australia, that’s a pretty immature debate, and we should be able to have a mature debate. That’s what happened effectively in the cabinet where the Prime Minister was rolled. You now have extraordinary circumstances whereby the Prime Minister is saying to his backbenchers: “Please roll my Cabinet on my behalf with this letter that was given”.

VAN ONSELEN: He’s certainly getting their support. He’s got an overwhelming majority it seems like on the backbench. You mentioned ‑ well, we’ve talked about the fact the Labor Party are giving in-principle support but wants to see the legislation. For you –

ALBANESE: A not unreasonable position, Peter.

VAN ONSELEN: Well, what are the elements that you will be looking for that might cause you some concern, if any, within the legislation?

ALBANESE: Well, I want to see it and I’m not going to go into hypotheticals for legislation that hasn’t been seen yet, a process that as far as I know still hasn’t had a cabinet document.

VAN ONSELEN: But one thing we do know though, because I interviewed Peter Dutton about this during the week as well as last week, I believe, he has confirmed that minors will be caught in the net of having their dual citizen ‑ of having their citizenship stripped if they have dual nationality. I mean, does that concern you at all?

ALBANESE: Well, I will wait and see the legislation, but I do think that Peter Dutton needs to grow up a bit, frankly. He’s in a serious position. He needs to stop looking for disagreement and actually bring the nation with him. It’s part of my concern about how this debate is happening is that the government seems to be looking for an area of disagreement with Labor. When it comes to national security …

VAN ONSELEN: But shouldn’t they find one on the minors issue?

ALBANESE: Well, when it comes to national security, what should occur is proper briefings of the Opposition about issues, including prior to legislation coming into the Parliament, and an attempt to get as much support for a common position as possible. That’s in our national interest. The threat is real and opposition to the threat is obviously across the Parliament, so we need to work as far as possible in a common way, but that doesn’t abrogate our responsibility to say, “We’ll examine the detail of legislation and we’ll examine it as well to see if there aren’t any unintended consequences.”

VAN ONSELEN: But in broad terms, Mr Albanese ‑ in broad terms you can offer review on the whole minors discussion. The minister has said that he would have discretion in that respect and he would exercise it judiciously, but that’s an issue in itself perhaps is what role the minister has versus the judiciary, but certainly as far as minors go, I mean, do you have any concerns in that space?

ALBANESE: Well, that’s one of the elements.  What I will do is examine the legislation as we will do, as a political party, as a Shadow Cabinet, and then come to a position. But we’re not going to respond to every thought bubble raised by Peter Dutton. We want to see the legislation. Now, this went to cabinet. As we know, we’ve all read the full details of the cabinet weeks ago. Why hasn’t the legislation been presented to Parliament? That’s what I find extraordinary.

HEPWORTH: Are there any points, any sticking points, any key measures, that you would baulk at that at this point you’re drawing a line in the sand?

ALBANESE: Well, I’m not going to respond to hypotheticals, Annabel, and you wouldn’t expect me to. You can’t ‑ that’s not good policy. Good policy is to be on the basis of facts rather than theoreticals or hypotheticals and we will respond in an appropriate way, in one that recognises the threat is real, recognises we do need to respond to it, but recognises as well that you don’t protect freedom by giving it away.  So it’s important that you do examine those issues and also that you don’t have unintended consequences as can occur sometimes in legislation. So we need to examine it, but why is it that the legislation still hasn’t been presented? I find that remarkable.

HEPWORTH: Has Labor done any of its own work on what it would propose?

ALBANESE: Well, we don’t have, with due respect, in terms of access that you do as a member of the National Security Committee. I have been a member of that committee, obviously. I’ve been a member of the Cabinet and I do find it remarkable that you would have something like this about citizenship presented as an underline item with no ‑ nothing in writing, with no coordinated comments from the different departments and with no opportunity for proper scrutiny.

VAN ONSELEN: Annabel Hepworth and I are speaking to Labor’s Anthony Albanese. Now, The Greens have put out a policy. They’ve even costed it through the Parliamentary Budget Office. It’s negative gearing, scrapping negative gearing. They say that they would grandfather it, as I understand it, which means that it won’t affect anyone that currently owns properties they negative gear, but it would save the Budget billions of dollars going forward because no‑one would be able to do it hence forthwith. What’s your view on this? Labor have talked about wanting to look at the issue of negative gearing.

ALBANESE: Yes, Peter, but that’s just one element, the tax side. You’ve also got to very much look at the supply side and you would have to look at whether any changes would have an impact in terms of supply, in terms of investment in housing. When it’s been looked at in the past, that’s been the concern, that it would have a negative. You also need to look at ‑ I mean, it would be good if the Greens political party in my area just once voted for increased density in housing because that’s part of the solution as well, including affordable housing components as part of that I think is part of the solution.

VAN ONSELEN: But if those sort of things were added into the mix and perhaps not as blunt an instrument as just abolishing negative gearing, but perhaps limiting negative gearing, I think I’ve heard some Labor people talk more about that, if these sort of moving parts were in the mix, are you open minded to changes in that space?

ALBANESE: Look, I think certainly we wouldn’t be about any retrospectivity in that area. That would be an issue that I think would be bad policy because people have made investments and many of them aren’t ‑ The Greens, from the statements that I saw this morning, would think that all these people are big investors. A lot of the investment in housing, of course, is mums and dads and they’ve invested in an investment property as part of their retirement and certainly so. It’s not just about the big end of town making investments, but I think housing affordability is a challenge. We asked about it in Parliament this week. I was very disappointed that Tony Abbott responded about the price of his own home as if that was the issue and, of course, rising home prices can be good for people who own their own homes, but I think Australians are better than that. What they’re worried about is whether their kids or their grandkids can afford a home. At the moment, with the direction that Sydney house prices are going, but other areas as well, I don’t want to see an Australia where the only way that a young person can get into home ownership is if they inherit a home. That would be very bad for social policy and for class divisions in Australian society.

VAN ONSELEN: Now, I know that Annabel is going to want to get on to infrastructure questions in a moment in some detail. Just before that, I’ve got to ask you about the polls. We had a Newspoll come out this week and for the first time in over 12 months on their net satisfaction ratings Bill Shorten has fallen behind Tony Abbot. That’s no mean feat because his net satisfaction rating isn’t exactly stellar and, of course, Bill Shorten has fallen further behind on the preferred PM rating down to 37 per cent; only 37 per cent of voters having him as the preferred Prime Minister. I think Tony Abbott is at 41. This is something that Labor has to be careful about, doesn’t it? You know, you have done very well for a first time, helped along by some broken promises by the government, but a deeply unpopular Opposition Leader is a significant barrier to a quick return to government.

ALBANESE: Well, Peter if the election had been held yesterday, Bill Shorten would be the Prime Minister.

VAN ONSELEN: But if the election had been called yesterday with a four-week campaign, he’d be starting closer to the mark than Mark Latham started against John Howard and, of course, John Howard overtook Mark Latham and expanded his lead in the ’04 election as you well know.

ALBANESE: But we would be starting ahead and the fact is that the Budget narrative is so different this year from the government than it was last year – in part because Bill Shorten was very effective at highlighting the unfairness of last year’s Budget. We have seen a retreat on some measures such as on the pension changes that they proposed, but Australians will know that they go straight back to them at the first opportunity and the cuts that are in the Budget over education and health, for example, those $80 billion, are still built into the Budget. So we will be certainly campaigning on those issues because we think at the heart of the fundamental difference in between the government and the opposition is the question of fairness. That’s still a fundamental difference. We will be campaigning on that and pointing out the changes.

VAN ONSELEN: OK. I have to jump in though. You must never have thought in February with how low the net satisfaction rating of Tony Abbott got to that we would be sitting here just months later and your leader, Bill Shorten, is actually less popular than Tony Abbott.

ALBANESE: Well, I think ‑ I don’t think that is right and Bill Shorten has been very effective at holding the government to account.

HEPWORTH: Just moving on to infrastructure which Bill Shorten chose as one of the key themes to address in his Budget Reply Speech, one of the promises that Labor made in this area has been that if it were in power it would again overhaul Infrastructure Australia and it would move to an RBA style board model where there would be bipartisan agreement on who would be a director of the board. Is this an admission that the way you set up Infrastructure Australia in the first place was the wrong model?

ALBANESE: Not at all, Annabel. This is an admission that the work of good policy is never done and that you always need to make improvements and remember, Annabel, that when we established Infrastructure Australia it was opposed by the then Opposition.  They actually voted against the legislation. They didn’t support it. They then ‑ it has been so effective, that they had to commit at the last election to maintain it and, indeed, they promised to re‑appoint Sir Rod Eddington as the chair. They promised that they would examine all projects of above $100 million funding would receive a proper cost benefit analysis and they would publish that. They’ve breached all of those commitments.

We want to make sure that in terms of infrastructure investment that it’s guided by the boost to productivity, not by politics, and that was the whole model of Infrastructure Australia and unfortunately under this government it’s fallen down.

HEPWORTH: Isn’t there an issue of certainty here though? At the moment you’ve got a situation where Labor is promising yet another change to Infrastructure Australia after the Coalition already changed it. You’ve got a situation where in Victoria the government’s torn up the East West Link contract. In Queensland, investors thought they were going to get an asset privatisation, but they haven’t. Aren’t you worried about these concerns? And we’re hearing them from a few quarters now about sovereign risk for infrastructure investors and that stops them wanting to tip money into things here.

ALBANESE: Well, the objective of our changes is to produce certainty.  It’s so that when a project is recommended by Infrastructure Australia for funding, investors and the community can be certain it will receive funding before someone comes along and says, “No, I’ve got this marginal seat and we need this project funded as a priority rather than something that will produce a greater return.”  Now, let’s look at Victoria. The East West Link we know now has a benefit cost ratio of 0.45. What that means is that for every dollar that’s invested, there will be a 45 cent return to the government. Now, that’s pretty silly, to the national economy. That’s a pretty bad investment and where did that money come from the Commonwealth? It came from taking money away from the Melbourne Metro, away from the Western Ring Road or M80 and away from the Managed Motorways Project.

So they put $3 billion, but they took well over $3.5 billion out and Managed Motorways, for one example, had a cost benefit analysis of 5.2 or $5.20 return for every dollar. Now, we need to make sure that that doesn’t happen in the future, that the priority projects get funding and that’s what our reform to Infrastructure Australia is aimed at doing.

HEPWORTH: Again, it begs the question why you didn’t do this in the first instance. You had six years in power to do this.

ALBANESE: Well, we actually did, Annabel as you would well recall, because you pay attention to this, a lot of journos don’t in terms of infrastructure. There were 15 projects recommended by Infrastructure Australia for funding as priority projects. We funded every single one of them. Projects like the Majura Parkway that’s just about ready to open in Canberra, projects like the Regional Rail Link in Victoria that will open in a couple of weeks’ time where we put the largest ever investment in public transport funding.

VAN ONSELEN: Why does government need to have these independent bodies? It does seem to be creeping more and more into our democratic polity, however, at the end of the day it is yourself and your colleagues who are elected by the people. Why abrogate your responsibility on making calls about where the money goes to independent bodies which frankly are unelected?

ALBANESE: Because you need to break the nexus that’s there between the political cycle which is short‑term, three or four years, and the infrastructure investment cycle which by definition is much longer. So at the moment you have, of course, the government with its Magical Infrastructure Re-announcement tour around the country pretending projects that were funded by the former government are theirs. That’s an example whereby the minister who gets to announce a project very rarely gets to cut the ribbon and open the project.

VAN ONSELEN: But it sounds like we could get rid of politicians all together, we just have these various independent bodies that make decisions.

ALBANESE: Of course, in the end the government needs to be the body that makes the decision and is accountable for it, but by having that independent body Infrastructure Australia making those recommendations, then you’ll get much better outcomes for the national economy and ones that will invest in public transport and not just roads. We had a report from Infrastructure Australia just two weeks ago that found that by 2031 the costs of urban congestion to the national economy will be $53 billion. Now, to deal with that, we need to invest in public transport as well as roads. We have a Prime Minister who says that we don’t need any investment in public transport because there aren’t enough people who want to go from a particular destination to another one at a particular time to justify that.

VAN ONSELSEN: He wrote that in Battlelines, didn’t he?

ALBANESE: He wrote that in Battlelines – an ideological position that says – All we need in Australia is the private motor vehicle and they need roads, not public transport. It is an absurd position.

HEPWORTH: But how would Labor fund all of this public transport infrastructure? I mean, it strikes me either you tear up roadway contracts that the Coalition entered into and you spook investors all over again or you have to do things that Labor finds incredibly difficult, like privatisation or tolling. What would you do?  You have to grow the pie, don’t you? The funding pie has to be bigger if we are to have roads and public transport or are you going to pull back on roads.

ALBANESE: Well, we’ve, of course, in government doubled the roads Budget, but at the same time we increased the funding for rail in terms of freight rail by more than 10 times and we invested more in public transport than all previous governments combined from Federation right through to 2007. Now, why did we do that? We did that because investment in infrastructure is just that. It’s an investment. It’s not just a cost to government. It produces a return.

VAN ONSELEN: Do you think people see it that way enough?  Do you think it is seen that way enough? It’s a really interesting one because both sides of politics want to argue that spending on infrastructure is important. We see the reference to the so‑called infrastructure Prime Minister. You refer to the amount of money Labor tipped in during its six years in power, yet at the same time as this need to invest in infrastructure for productivity gains and all the rest of it, we have this debate about debt where governments are constantly telling us that we need to get debt under control. Does infrastructure need to be carved out of that debate? Is debt a good thing, let me ask, in the context of good quality infrastructure?

ALBANESE: Well, all debt isn’t the same and debt for infrastructure is different from debt for just recurrent spending and that’s the context here. When the Howard Government was in office, it had more than $350 billion of windfall gain in terms of revenue. $320 billion of that went on tax cuts and handouts essentially. It didn’t invest in infrastructure. What we’re seeing at the moment, if you look at the national economy as a whole, we’re seeing mining and the resource sector move to the production phase away from the investment phase. So we’ve seen a big drop‑off. A 17.3 per cent decline in public sector investment and infrastructure in the December quarter, 2014, compared with the previous year, and a more than 12 per cent decline in private sector investment.  Now, what that means is that we need for government to step up into that space to keep construction activity going, to keep the economy going, and what we’re seeing is the opposite. This year and next, if you compare the previous government’s papers, Budget papers from 2014, what we have is a $2 billion cut in infrastructure and investment, compared with what they themselves said they would do.

HEPWORTH: Can I just move this on to another key area of infrastructure debate at the moment and that’s the issue of coastal shipping and the extent to which we should allow foreign flagged vessels to work the coastal route from Australian port to Australian port? The Coalition, a key plank of its policy is to unwind your policies. They want to scrap what some people view as quite protectionist measures on coastal shipping. How are you approaching this strategically at the moment? Are you going to meet with crossbenchers? Are you going to agitate to try and have this blocked?

ALBANESE: Well, I sat down with Warren Truss just this week as the minister and I offered if there are some changes that are needed, that are constructive, that are in the national interest, I’m always prepared to discuss policy as we have on a range of issues, including on Qantas and on the Infrastructure Australia changes.

VAN ONSELEN: What was his reaction?

ALBANESE: Well, there wasn’t that much. Sometimes from Warren you’ve got to prod a bit to get a response, but the offer is there. But what we’re not prepared to do is to give up the national interest. Now, if I want to take goods from Sydney to Melbourne down the Hume Highway, I can’t import a Filipino truck with Filipino safety standards, employ a Filipino at Filipino wages and conditions and take those goods from Sydney to Melbourne down the Hume Highway. Why can’t I do that? Because the Australian company, Toll or Linfox or their owner‑driver, can’t compete possibly with Filipino wages and conditions and standards and also it’s not in the national interest to have a truck with those sort of safety standards on the roads. Now, there should be no difference between the Hume Highway and the Blue Highway, but what the government is proposing is that on the Blue Highway, on the sea, Australian sea, you could have a foreign flagged vessel paying foreign wages with foreign standards in terms of safety and conditions, national security issues, going from Sydney to Melbourne and that’s OK. Now, that, to me, will lead to, very clearly ‑ and the Australian shipping industry is saying that will lead, to the disappearance of the Australian flag. Now, nation states, particularly in an island continent like Australia, has an economic interest, an environmental interest and a national security interest in maintaining the Australian flag presence around our coast.

HEPWORTH: (Inaudible) no business user wants your example Filipino truck drivers driving their goods from point to point, but they actually are saying they do want foreign vessels shipping from coast to coast.

ALBANESE: For the same reasons that if you had a visibility of what goes on on these ships, and we saw an interesting program on Four Corners last week, you would have exactly the same reaction. Now, it is, to me, absurd to argue that people engaged in domestic work here in Australia, which is what a voyage between Sydney to Melbourne is, should be allowed to have completely foreign standards, including foreign wages paid. No difference between an Australian construction company trying to compete against a foreign construction company paying those foreign wage levels and with the same occupational health and safety standards.

HEPWORTH: We’ve seen this debate play out in the aviation sphere as well. There are some … who would like to see foreign flagged aeroplanes be able to take passengers from northern Australia, which is obviously not the case currently. Is there a legitimate debate again to be had? Isn’t it the case that a lot of travellers would prefer to have this available to them?

ALBANESE: Well, what they mightn’t prefer, Annabel, is over a period of time the undermining of Australian safety standards. We have the safest aviation system in the world. We have very much an open market.  So if you want to meet the CEO of Rex, for example, you have to fly to Singapore because they’re Singapore-based. So there’s no limit on foreign ownership of Australian aviation, but Australian aviation is subject to Australian safety standards, to paying Australian wages and conditions. We have a very successful domestic aviation market. What’s the problem we’re trying to solve here? Travel for Australians is five times more affordable than it was 20 years ago.

HEPWORTH: That’s been a bruising war between carriers that have paid for doing that.

ALBANESE: Absolutely because we have a competitive market. But what the proponents of this change, Andrew Robb and others in the cabinet, Mathias Cormann, want is essentially unilateral economic disarmament. It’s the same argument that is being proposed on shipping, one whereby no country in the world allows foreign carriers ‑ no industrialised country allows foreign carriers to fly its domestic routes for very good reasons, and what they’re proposing here is that we just give up access, get nothing in return. Very similar on shipping. No country in the world has an open a system as us and if you read the pages of some of our newspapers, you would think somehow that we had a protectionist model. We do not. In the United States, if you want to take goods from Los Angeles to San Francisco in the land of the free market, not only does the ship and all of its crew have to be US‑based, it has to actually be built in the United States as well. That’s the market we’re dealing with and Australia’s national economic interest is not served by unilateral economic disarmament.

VAN ONSELEN: We’re going to be talking economics shortly with Saul Eslake, but before I let you go, it would be remiss of me not to ask you about The Killing Season which is starting up, I think, this coming week on ABC. You gave interviews for that.

ALBANESE: I did.

VAN ONSELSEN: Bill Shorten chose not to. I suppose if you had been involved in the removal of two Prime Ministers, perhaps you wouldn’t have given interviews either.

ALBANESE: Look, people will make their own decisions. I took a view that I would rather have my view put forward in first person than the background and things that go on to journalists. It is, of course, a bit of history. We’ve certainly learnt from that history as a political party and certainly we’re more united now than in my entire time, it must be said, since I’ve been in government with the ‑ in Parliament with the possible exception of the original period where Kim Beazley took over the leadership after the 1996 loss, but I’m sure it will make interesting historical viewing.

VAN ONSELEN: Do you think it might threaten that unity over the next three weeks with some of what various people that were at war, but as you say, are now united as they start to sort of trawl through the entrails of what happened?

ALBANESE: Not at all. I think what will happen is that the members of the Abbott cabinet will have a look at it and go, “Ah, that’s what’s happening now to us.”

VAN ONSELEN: So it might make them more united.

ALBANESE: Well, who knows? We will see what their response is, but at the moment, it is chaotic and dysfunctional and it’s happened very, very quickly and we had, of course, 39 people voted for an empty chair against Tony Abbott earlier this year. As difficult as it got from us, we never got to that point.

 

Jun 3, 2015

Transcript of television interview – To the point program, SKY News

Subjects; The Killing Season program, Newspoll, marriage equality; infrastructure

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Well, let’s ask Anthony Albanese about it. He was the Leader in the House. He became the Deputy Prime Minister under Kevin Rudd in his comeback. We appreciate your company. Did you ever feel bullied in those months that you worked as his deputy?

ALBANESE: No certainly not, Peter. I think both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard remain friends of mine. I don’t think that can be said for everyone in my great party, but I have good relationships with both of them.

KRISTINA KENEALLY: That’s interesting. Did you actually put your hand up to be interviewed or agree to be interviewed for the program that’s coming up on the ABC?

ALBANESE: I don’t think it was so much a matter of putting your hand up. I think it was very clear the show was going ahead. Either I could wonder what people were saying or go and be interviewed and be able to respond directly. I did that with Sarah Ferguson. I had a couple of sessions that were pretty lengthy it must be said, but we’ll wait and see what the program holds over the next three weeks. It’s largely of course a matter of history and I think people are more concerned about the future than what has happened in the past. But nonetheless, as a matter of historical record I think it has one advantage which is that people in their own words will be able to say their views whatever they may be, rather than you know unnamed sources being quoted in articles or what have you.

VAN ONSELEN: Well, let me ask you this then, Mr Albanese. You agreed to co-operate. Would you have co-operated if you were the Labor Leader because Bill Shorten, who was right in the thick of it during that period – I don’t think anyone would deny that least of all him – he decided not to be interviewed?

ALBANESE: Well I think it’s legitimate to decide not to be interviewed for any particular program. That’s a decision for the individual to make.

VAN ONSELEN: But would you have done it if you were leader or would you have made a different call because of being leader as opposed to the positon you are in now?

ALBANESE: Well, I made the call for myself. I’m not going to comment on what other people might have done or might not do depending upon circumstances. I’m very proud of the Labor Government. There’s no doubt that we had some issues and the events around June 2010 and people who engaged in backgrounding against others in the Cabinet. The fact is that did happen. We did have leadership issues and that in the end undermined our ability to get re-elected. What it didn’t do though, I don’t think, was undermine our ability to be an effective government. I think that in issues like the response to the Global Financial Crisis in particular, but other issues as well: the apology, the reforms getting rid of Work Choices, the reforms that I was able to do in creating Infrastructure Australia. In all of these issues, I think history will look back very kindly indeed on the policy record of both the Rudd and Gillard governments.

KENEALLY: Well, Anthony you were in fact the Leader on the House in the last Labor Government and today we saw the parliamentary tactics from the Opposition to bring in the vote on the small business package, really calling the government on its bluff. The government seemed to be a little bit surprised by that. Should they have been expecting that kind of tactic from Labor?

ALBANESE: Well, they were the ones who said this should be bought on, we don’t know where Labor stands, even though we had made out positon very clear. So we called them out on it.

VAN ONSELSEN: But they wanted to all speak on it Anthony Albanese. They wanted to be able to talk about the importance of small business and the correlation to the Liberal Party. You were going to deny them that.

ALBANESE: Governments are about outcomes and once again his government showed it wasn’t actually about the outcome, it was about all politics and that is the problem with this government is that it is politics not policy that drives it, which is why we have such internal dissent. One of the things about the Labor Party is that we have learned from the Rudd and Gillard years. It appears that the current government with the Cabinet in-fighting that occurred, the leaking of cabinet decisions, the fighting over issues, once again are showing that they are obsessed by their internals rather than being obsessed, as they should be, about the needs of the nation.

VAN ONSELEN: We’ll get to some of the policy issues in your portfolio in a moment. But just quickly, I’ve got to ask you about yesterday’s Newspoll. Some people, myself included, like to call Bill Shorten Mr Forty Percent because that is how many members of the membership of the Labor Party voted for him. Sixty percent voted for you. He’s gone below that though yesterday. He is down to 37 percent as preferred prime minister. Is this an issue for him and therefore for the Labor Party as the election creeps closer because, if he’s more unpopular than Tony Abbott, boy, that says something?

ALBANESE: Well I think Peter all of the polls including yesterday showed that if an election as held this Saturday, Bill Shorten would be elected as the Labor Prime Minister and I’d be very pleased to serve as a member of his Cabinet.

VAN ONSELEN: But you and I know this far out from an election polls really are a one-horse race on the party vote. But the leader vote is always a two-horse race. Closer to the election it levels up. We saw that with Mark Latham streets ahead leading up to the ‘04 election and mowed down by John Howard. The personal numbers really come into it and Bill Shorten’s personal numbers – even less in the community want him as preferred Prime Minister than Labor members wanted him.

ALBANESE: Well if you have a look at what Bill Shorten has been able to do, he has managed to hold the Government to account on its cuts to education and health, on the cuts he tried to get through in last year’s Budget to the pension in real terms where the government has had to back off completely.

VAN ONSELEN: What has gone wrong? Because he has gone south since then. He did have a good start, a good reply to last year’s Budget but since then his polling has really tanked at a time when Tony Abbott went from nowhere to – he’s still unpopular of course – but he is on the way up.

ALBANESE: Well he is campaigning on his agenda. The alternative, which is a fairness agenda – I notice that the Abbott Government have issued a dictum whereby every one of its ministers has to use the fair word in every second sentence. But people aren’t conned by that. They are showing that when you look at the polls that have Labor ahead in every single poll that I have seen. There was one that was 50-50 to be fair, but every other poll has shown Labor ahead and that’s been consistent for a long period of time. I have been around a while and I know that during the last period of office we were behind for a long period of time prior to the 2013 election. Every couple of weeks or every month we’d think to ourselves it was going to improve, but the truth is that it didn’t. We were always behind, and we were still behind on polling day.

KENEALLY: There’s still the triumph of hope over experience there.

ALBANESE: You have to have that in order to keep going,

KENEALLY: Indeed you do. I know that more than anyone. One place you and Bill Shorten are on a unity ticket though is the issue of a conscience vote on the issue of same sex marriage. That is going to come up at the debate in the conference later this year. No matter what happens in the Parliament that vote will likely happen at the conference. I’ve got to ask you, you and I represented some of the same area in Sydney as does Tanya Plibersek. What kind of a play was that from Tanya Plibersek? Was she playing to the politics of her own electorate? Is this really likely to happen in the Labor Party – we are going to try and bind people in a matter of conscience?

ALBANESE: Well look, I can speak for myself. It has always been my view – I held that position at the last national conference, I still hold the position – that where people of a view due to their religious beliefs say I can’t vote for a particular position, even though I am in a minority within the Labor Party, then it’s not up to me to tell someone that their conscience is wrong. That we’re a broad-based party> From time to time there will be legitimate disagreements, it is important there be respect for that even though I disagree with them.

And what the marriage equality debate is about, is respect for diversity and tolerance. In terms of how that debate is conducted it must be tolerant and I’ve had that view, I’ve had it consistently. It’s one where many people who I am quite close to politically don’t agree with me. But we’ve had this debate for a long time in the Labor Party as well. In 2002 we produced a position paper to end this debate for all time if you like was what we were trying to do, which outlined that where people have these views, they should be allowed to have a conscience vote on a case-by-case basis and that’s why we’ve had conscience votes on issues including the granting of no-fault divorce, including on issues of liquor trading hours. All of those issues.

VAN ONSELEN: Let me jump in Anthony Albanese. I want to do something radical here and ask you a portfolio policy question.

ALBANESE:  Oh, good on you Peter. You can ask two.

VAN ONSELEN: The issue of infrastructure. Both sides of politics talk up the importance of infrastructure Tony Abbott wants to be known as the infrastructure Prime Minister. Jamie Briggs has taken that tag line and used it on Twitter on regular occasions. But infrastructure costs a lot of money at the same time as both sides of politics say that we’ve got to get debt down. Now I know that infrastructure is valuable – productivity and all the rest of it. But how do you marry those two things together. Seriously, because they are in some respects at cross purposes with the rhetoric.

ALBANESE: Well, what you need to do is to break the nexus between the political cycle, which is short term, and the infrastructure investment cycle, which is long term. Once you do that, you acknowledge that an investment in an infrastructure project adds to productivity, adds to economic growth and pays for itself if it is the right project. That is why we established Infrastructure Australia. The new government talked about Infrastructure Australia but what they have done is cut its funding in half, ignore its recommendations, abolish the Major cities Unit that looked at urban policy and not funded a single project that was recommended by Infrastructure Australia on the basis of cost-benefit analysis, instead of that they cut projects that were recommended by Infrastructure Australia like the Melbourne Metro and the Western Ring Road and put the money into the East-West Link that has a cost-benefit of 0.45. You put in a dollar and you get back 45 cents.

KENEALLY: Well there’s no doubt, minister, excuse me shadow minister ….

VAN ONSELEN: Oh you wish. You wish.

ALBANESE: Thanks Kristina.

KENEALLY: I will confess great affection for Anthony Albanese. Thank-you for joining us. I know that you could talk all day about infrastructure but you get to go to Question Time now.

 

 

 

Jun 2, 2015

Transcript of television interview – Richo + Jones, SKY News

Subjects: Open skies aviation policy, shipping, marriage equality, Royal Commission, World Cup, FIFA scandal

JONES: I’m joined by Anthony Albanese who is the former Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister but now he is the Shadow Transport Minister. These are the sorts of issues that don’t get the kind of coverage that they ought to. There is what I believe a ridiculous proposal being contemplated by Andrew Robb and indeed I understand Joe Hockey is in on this – all these sort of economic rationalists gone mad – about the fact that it’s called an Open Skies policy. Don’t worry about the jargon, but basically this they say will initially apply to areas north of the Tropic of Capricorn so we are talking about ports initially in North Queensland – Darwin, Cairns, Townsville and so on. When an international carrier would come in, say, bringing a whole stack of tourists – it might be Singapore Airlines bringing a whole stack of tourists to Townsville – and it dumps 180 passengers in Townsville and the proposal is, well then it can pick up 180 Australian passengers in Townsville. Now the cost of that transport has already been met by the international passenger so Singapore Airlines will say come on we’ll take you to wherever – Alice Springs, Darwin – for $30. Now if that were to persist, goodbye Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar, Tiger – all of those outfits in northern Australia and it is the thin edge of the wedge because eventually they would say why not take them to Melbourne? Why not take them to Adelaide?  Now the proposition is this: do you imagine America would allow Qantas to take 250 Australian passengers to Los Angeles – they are going to Hollywood, so they are not going to New York. They drop the 250 passengers in LA and then Qantas says right, we’ve got 250 empty seats here. We will ferry the Americans to New York for $50. I mean, it’s a ludicrous position. Anthony Albanese has been in and out of this issue on many occasions. Anthony Albanese, good evening and thank-you for your time.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you Alan.

JONES: What do you make of this?

ALBANESE: Well, this is a bizarre proposition. This is unilateral economic disarmament. No industrialised country on the planet allows foreign carriers to do its domestic work. The idea that Qantas would be allowed to fly from London to Berlin or from Los Angeles to San Francisco is quite frankly absurd. Every nation in the world recognises that aviation and shipping as the two international transport modes are so important that there is some protection around the national carriers. And the way that international aviation works is there’s bi-lateral agreements so that between Australia and Singapore, Australia and the United states – whatever country – on that basis it’s reciprocal. So we say to Singapore, you are allowed to fly here but therefore Qantas and Virgin Australia and Jet Star are allowed to fly to Singapore. What we are talking about here is not even a suggestion by Andrew Robb that it would be reciprocal, that we would get anything out of this deal, but we just say come on down, take Australian jobs, take Australian routes in terms of away from the Virgins and the Qantas and Tiger and airlines importantly like Air North – these small airlines …

JONES: Right.

ALBANESE … that operate in northern Australia would be simply shoved aside while we had essentially dumping. It’s a form of, as you say, the foreign airlines would have already made its profit on the international route. They would be able to undercut the Australian carrier. But guess what? Once the Australian carrier disappeared we’d find prices increasing and no Australian presence on those routes.

JONES: That’s the key point that’s going forward. So OK, in they come and it makes Qantas and Virgin and Jet Star and Air North and those outfits so unviable flying into just say Townville or Mackay, that they vacate because Singapore Airlines are actually transporting and moving people around. Singapore Airlines then cherry pick and they say: OK, well hang on, we’ve been here six months and we can’t make a quid here. We’re out of here.  So the people of Mackay and Townsville and whatever don’t have a carrier at all.

ALBANESE: Of course. And we’re not just talking about the major destinations such as Darwin and Cairns. We are talking about airlines that provide services to places like Cloncurry, Nhulunbuy, Port Headland, Kununurra – some of the routes in the north that they don’t make a lot of money out of but because they operate around Australia or across the north then there is a form of cross subsidisation and they are able to sustain flying into all of those destinations. Australia is very well served. We have the most open domestic aviation system in the world. An airline like Rex, that flies in regional Australia, is owned and operated and run from Singapore. As a former transport minister, if I wanted to talk to the head of Rex I had to go to Singapore. That’s fine. But they operated within Australia. Now other countries don’t allow that but it’s another step altogether to just say a free-for-all, let alone, you are talking about wage differentials. Australians are paid …

JONES: Yes. Yes. Hang on before you come to wages and safety because there is no wage if there is no job. What is this going to do to Australian jobs?

ALBANESE: This is an offshoring of Australian jobs. They have a similar plan when it comes to shipping that would see the Australian flag disappear off the back of ships that operate around our coasts without any regard to the security, environmental or economic consequences. This is just ideology before common sense. It came out of the Harper Review.

JONES: Yes.

ALBANESE: That recommended – the technical term is cabotage – that cabotage just disappear from aviation and shipping. But this is a fantasy. This is a fantasy world where this free market operates. But of course that isn’t the case and particularly when it comes to aviation. We have in Australia the best record of any country in the world when it comes to safety. Now that increases costs and let me tell you Alan, that I reckon your listeners tonight and during the mornings would be very happy to pay an extra few dollars …

JONES: Definitely.

ALBANESE: … to know that our aviation system is safer than many of the aviation systems in our region that are black-banned from flying into Europe or other parts of the world.

JONES: Yes. Those are all coming together aren’t they. You mention wages, you mention jobs. You mention safety. We’ve got no control over that level of safety. And to come back to the first point, it’s fantasy land, isn’t it, to imagine that Qantas could land in Los Angeles, dump off our 250 Australian passengers who are going to Hollywood and then pick up 250 American passengers at $50 each to go to New York. That’s fantasy land. That’s what this plan is about.

ALABNESE Well, that’s why I call it unilateral economic disarmament. It’s saying to overseas carriers, come on down, take our jobs. Qantas and Virgin Australia have been through a difficult period. The aviation industry is a difficult one throughout the world.

JONES: Yes the margins are very narrow aren‘t they?

ALBANESE: Absolutely. In a good year 50 or 60 airlines go belly up. Qantas and Virgin both have budget carriers in terms of Jet Star and Tiger. They’re both very well-run airlines. They’ve come to good agreements with their workforce. They are moving forward. They are investing and when you invest in aviation, it’s not for a year or two years – it’s for a decade or more – and Qantas I know is considering its next lot of investment in terms of the Dream Liner aircraft. They need certainty going forward,. not a positon which will mean that there’s a free-for-all, and we know that once these routes are opened up you can imagine it. We’re flying, we’re a foreign airline, we are flying between Darwin and Townsville or Darwin and Cairns where the only airlines doing it because the Australian airlines have been withdrawn, but we will withdraw too unless you allow us to fly to Adelaide or Sydney

JONES: That’s it.

ALBANESE: You’ve got to  go through the hub.

JONES: Thin edge of the wedge.

ALBANESE: That’s why this is being resisted so strongly and frankly if you proposed this at an international aviation conference from people who are engaged in the sector, they would think it was a joke, they would not believe that any government could seriously be so prepared to give away it’s national interests; that they were prepared to even consider this. But my understanding is it’s very much still a live proposition. There is some opposition to it within the government and you know, it needs to be put, not just in the short-term, it needs to be said this will not happen so that the ….

JONES: Absolutely.

ALBANESE: So that the airlines have the certainty to invest in Australian jobs.

JONES: Absolutely. One hundred percent correct. I know it sounds exaggerated to say this, but this is war on the Australian aviation industry, is it not?

ALBANESE: Well, absolutely and in terms of what the motivation is, it’s a bit beyond me. I’ve said that the shipping plan is Work Choices on Water and this is sort of Work Choices in the Sky. I don’t know whether it is about saying that any price is a good price, but the cost is enormous. It may well be that you can get a cheaper price for a foreign airlines paying people peanuts, not having the same safety standards as we have in Australia. But I tell you what, the cost to the national interest would be enormous and it should be rejected. It should be rejected by the Prime Minister through a public statement.

JONES: Yes. Well said. I agree with you entirely. Let‘s come to this issue of same-sex marriage which has the potential to divide the Labor Party. I don’t know whether you were party to Bill Shorten presenting this bill to the Parliament. There is going to be trouble at the ALP National Conference in July if Tanya Plibersek seeks a binding agreement. She apparently intends to move a motion to that effect, which would bind Federal MPs to approve any bill which supports same sex marriage. You made a speech last week in which you virtually said you were opposed to that, it ought to be a conscience vote. How difficult a matter is this to resolve and has Shorten been very precipitate in the move that he has made here.

ALBANESE: Well, I think there are two issues there. The first issue is was Bill Shorten correct in bringing forward a Private Members Bill? I believe he was. We’ve been 18 months into the term. We don’t want this issue dealt with during an election year. It should be dealt with this year. I believe a majority will support the Bill if there is a free vote in the Parliament and nothing was happening. Given the result in the Irish referendum, it was appropriate to give a nudge if you like to members of the Coalition who support a change to say: let’s get on with it. I think once this change happens, and it will happen, people will wonder what the fuss was about.

JONES: I know you’ve got to be loyal and there are certain things you can’t say but to just out of nowhere say that well I am going to present a bill on Monday when in fact even the critics and people who are supporting marriage equality and people of the Labor Party are saying to do it the way you have done it presents it as a partisan issue, whereas the politics need to be taken out of it and you should be firstly consulting with all parties to get everybody on side. Now the Greens have criticised this move by Bill Shorten which is rather a sort of pre-emptory move and it seemed to me to seek to anticipate what could be a problem at the ALP conference in July. I mean, is Tanya Plibersek going to go ahead with that motion and will that motion get up on the floor of the ALP conference?

ALBANESE: Well that will be a matter for Tanya and she can speak for herself. But I’ve always been of the view and I have argued, and I have put out my position very publicly to remind people of what it was, which is to support a conscience vote. I am a strong supporter of this reform marriage equality but I believe that what is important is how we get there as well. How should we get there? We should get there with a not a partisan view. We should get there with a parliamentary view. I think that will happen and there will be people in the Coalition come on board and, indeed, the minor parties as well, and that reform should go through. And today again we have seen people change their minds and come out and declare their support for marriage equality. That’s happened because there has been a respectful debate. Now I disagree clearly with those people who are opposed to marriage equality, but I respect their right to have that position and for people of faith who have an adherence to any particular organised religion that they believe means that they are unable to support it, I believe that that should be respected and the way to do that is by having a conscience vote. In the Labor Party, I’ve been a member of the national executive as you know Alan for a very long time, I have been a delegate to every ALP National Conference since 1986 and I have consistently respected when people have said my conscience means I cannot vote this way even though I accept that that is a majority view in the Labor Party. When people have said that I have respected it …and I have consistently respected when people have said ‘my conscience means I cannot vote this way even though I accept that that is a majority view in the Labor Party’. When people have said that I have respected it and we have had conscience votes on a range of issues, including on the location of Parliament House. No-fault divorce was a conscience vote in the Labor Party, issues like opening hours and trading hours of liquor laws, marijuana law reform in South Australia, there’s been a range of issues that have been subject to a conscience vote.

What I want to see happen is a mature debate in the Parliament. In my view even though I haven’t been in the majority view on an issue like voluntary euthanasia, I think that was one of the best debates that has happened in the Parliament. I am sure there would be a good debate if there’s a conscience vote from everyone in the Parliament, if there’s a position whereby you have people from across the political spectrum supporting reform; some undoubtedly will oppose reform from across the political spectrum as well. I believe that a majority of the House of Representatives and the Senate members support reform.

JONES: Yes, I think that’s the point that Tony Abbott has made, has he not, that this is an issue which must be owned by the Parliament and I think you made that point yourself.

ALBANESE: Yes, and I think Bill Shorten, if you look at his speech in introducing this Private Members Bill he said very clearly that the issue here was the outcome, not who the mover was. So there’s an indication there of being able to work broadly.

JONES: I think a couple of things, though, need to be given reassurances, don’t they? While marriage equality is designed to celebrate a union and as I’ve said, love is an elusive thing. I believe where people find love for one another, that should be celebrated. It shouldn’t be something that they feel ashamed of. But nonetheless there ought to be provisions in any legislation whereby the church or a minister of the church has the right to refuse to celebrate that union in a church.

ALBANESE: Absolutely. That’s a necessary component to it. Because there is a difference between a church in a Catholic wedding, is my religious background, I’ve been to many churches and Catholic weddings – that’s a religious ceremony. And therefore I think that churches that have particular views should be able to say well, I’m unable to perform that ceremony. That to me is very much a common sense solution. We need to make sure when you have social change where some people might be threatened by the fact that this is a change to the existing system, that we make sure that people are comfortable and they’re made comfortable by this in my view. Which is that giving some people an additional right doesn’t take away existing rights of anybody? And that’s what we’re talking about here. To me the institution of marriage will be strengthened if more people have access to it. No one will miss out on anything. No one will have to change any of their behaviour. No one will have to perform a ceremony they’re uncomfortable with or indeed go to a ceremony that they’re uncomfortable with. But to me it’s very much about respect for people as individuals and a celebration of love and the very special relationship that can happen between two people. You know my much better half very well, Alan. And Carmel and I have been able to be married, to celebrate our family, why shouldn’t other people have that as well? To me, I think when this change happens and people see that it won’t actually impact on them; I believe that there will be very much broad acceptance of this change in society, because society does change.

JONES: Yes, taking the heat out of it. I mean, particularly, as I said last week, in this day and age it is often a hateful world rather than a loving world. There’s a lot of spite, there’s a lot of enmity, there’s a lot of animosity. There’s a lot of alienation and people feel part of an impersonal environment. If then love comes along for an individual, then they should feel free to celebrate that love, and know that society supports them in that celebration.

ALBANESE: That’s right and it’s very important if you look at issues of youth suicide, of discrimination and indeed what can be outright straight violence against young people who are coming to terms with their sexuality, it is sending a signal to society that they accept who people are and the relationships are complex. And I don’t believe in judging people’s relationships. I think that most Australians are very generous towards each other. And that’s why this change will happen.

JONES: You’ve done very well. There are people watching this and saying I don’t know this bloke. He sounds good he’s just a bloke from the suburbs of Sydney I have to say but I want to ask a question which has always amused me. The Labor Party said that they’ll go democratic. And the way in which we’ll elect a leader is that we’ll let all the members of the Labor Party have a say. So they did that and way back in October when all this happened. You got 30,426 votes. Bill Shorten got 18,000. He’s the leader and you’re not. Great democratic party, this.

ALBANESE: Well we had a process, Alan and the process was the membership got a vote. It counted for 50%. And Caucus members got a vote. And they counted for 50%. Now I accepted the process and the outcome. I’ve got on with my job of doing it to the best of my capacity, playing a role for my local community.

JONES: Would you like to be the Leader of the Party?

ALBANESE: Well, obviously Alan I put myself forward so the sort of question that says, obviously in doing that I thought I had something to offer. But I think what is important is that Bill Shorten win the next election. And I look forward to being a Minister in his government.

JONES: On that Anthony, Bill Shorten – Dennis Shanahan wrote at the weekend. He said there are grumblings within the organisation about his organisation, about his parliamentary tactics, some of his responses to the media, staffers telling MPs what to do in a forthright manner, gagging MPs, a lack of policy certainty, concerns he’s losing political ground. Now, he is moving into fairly difficult water is he not and yet by the Rudd changes to the leadership he is protected unless 60% of the caucus decide they want Albo.

ALBANESE: Pretty clearly, Alan, a majority of the Caucus decided they wanted Bill. I respect my colleagues. I’m not like some of the people in the Liberal Party who’ve been running around undermining Tony Abbott. 39 of them voted for an empty chair rather than him as Prime Minister. It wasn’t that long ago, Alan, and we’ve seen a lot of turmoil as you know with the Cabinet leaks that have occurred just in the last week.

JONES: Just one final thing on this issue of citizenship. At the Royal Commission last week there were allegations levelled against the AWU in Victoria that they did a deal with a cleaning company. The outfit’s called Clean Event, the employees were to be paid penalty rates. The union did a deal with Clean Event waiving the penalty rates so workers would have got $50.70 an hour got $18 an hour so a deal was done. The union members didn’t know this. In return the Clean Event employer, the allegation before the Royal Commission is, gave the AWU the names of all its employees. It paid all their dues even though they might have been paid and of course that gave the AWU, as you would know, bigger numbers, more clout, at the ALP Conference, more clout in preselection and suddenly their Secretary becomes a member of the Upper House in Victoria. And I note calls today by some that he should resign in light of what was said. Isn’t it rather treacherous stuff that the leadership of the union movement would do a deal with employers and sell out its own members?

ALBANESE: I don’t know the individual circumstances, Alan. I haven’t followed that detail but can I say this very clearly. That it is the job of trade unions and particularly those people who have the honour of being elected to representative positions in trade unions to represent their members interests, not their own. Just like being a Labor Party MP is an incredible privilege, and I take that privilege every seriously. When I was growing up Alan, being a Member of Federal Parliament let alone a frontbencher is something that I wouldn’t have been able to anticipate and people who are in those positions should fulfil their responsibilities to the members. When you’re talking about trade union members, they need their unions to represent them properly and employers it must be said, must also act according to the law and with ethics regardless of what position people are in.

JONES: Just finally, it was on your watch that – you weren’t the Prime Minister during the Rudd/Gillard watch and I’m not criticising them for this, that taxpayer’s money, $45.6 million was given to Soccer Australia, Football Federation of Australia to seek to bring the World Cup to Australia in 2018/2022. Why do you think the Parliament has never ever sought accountability for that money? $500,000 was given to Trinidad and Tobago allegedly to repair a stadium which they then found out was brand new and finished up allegedly, and this bloke warned us, pocketed half a million. Now, no one in Parliament in Canberra seems to want to ask where is this money gone, who did it go to, was everything fair and above board, and do we have any accountability for $45.6 million of taxpayers money? Shouldn’t we have?

ALBANESE: There should always be accountability for taxpayers’ money. One of the things I have observed is the whole FIFA scandal. The beautiful game is being trashed by a very ugly hierarchy. I watch Sepp Blatter triumphant in this election and I just scratched my head and when Qatar won the World Cup, you know in June, it would normally be held with temperatures of 46 degrees Celsius. You also scratch your head and say, what is going on? And in terms of what is going on with the workforce with Qatar as well, there are real issues around that level, it is a disgrace.

JONES: People are dying! Nonetheless, what is a disgrace is that the Football Federation of Australia employed two consultants and they were on a deal of about $11.5 million as advisers to the Australian Federation and they got the jobs because they were mates with Blatter. They had the inside running allegedly with Blatter. Now surely, forget about the rest of the world…

ALBANESE: …they didn’t do a very good job, did they?

JONES: No, absolutely. So forget the rest of the world. We have to surely find out where this $45.6 million of taxpayers money went.

ALBANESE: There are obviously mechanisms whereby that could occur. Including of course the Australian National Audit Office. I don’t know whether they’ve looked at this or not. It’s not in my portfolio but there are bodies which are charged with that very thing – making sure that there is a proper examination of government expenditure.

JONES: It’s good to talk to you. Thank you for your time tonight. Much appreciated. I know you would have missed Richo but we’ll do it another day. There he is, the former Deputy Prime Minister, current Shadow Minister for Transport. Very impressive I thought, didn’t you? Anthony Albanese.

 

Jun 2, 2015

Transcript of radio interview – SKY News PM Agenda

Subjects: Foreign airlines in Australia; northern Australia aviation proposal; proposed citizenship penalties for foreign fighters; Workchoices on Water; maritime security; marriage equality

DAVID SPEERS: Should foreign airlines be allowed to fly domestic routes in Australia? Cabinet is expected to consider this so-called open skies policy possibly as early as this week. It would allow foreign carriers to operate between towns and cities in northern Australia, only though above the Tropic of Capricorn so Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Broome, Port Headland et cetera.

Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb is said to be the strongest proponent of this move as part of a push to open up northern Australia to more tourism and business opportunities. Not surprisingly, Qantas and Virgin are vehemently opposed to opening up their routes to other players and more competition. They warn this added competition on certainly the more viable routes would force them to cut back on the less viable routes.

Others in Cabinet, most notably the Transport Minister and Nationals Leader Warren Truss are strongly opposed as well. So whether this is actually going to happen or not, we’ll see coming out of the Cabinet meeting. Labor is also strongly opposed. I spoke a little earlier to the Shadow Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese. Anthony Albanese, thank you for your time.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you, David.

SPEERS: You’ve called this plan unilateral economic disarmament. Why?

ALBANESE: It is just that, David. The way that international aviation works is that no nation state gives up the right to conduct domestic aviation in its country to a foreign carrier. Qantas can’t operate from Rome to Berlin or Los Angeles to San Francisco.

SPEERS: Even though it does fly to both?

ALBANESE: It does certainly fly to both. But it can’t operate in the domestic aviation network and that’s the same with every other country in the world. What we’re talking about here is without getting anything back, Australia would give up essentially our sovereignty in terms of over our skies, to a foreign carrier to compete with domestic carriers which would undermine the whole of the network, not just Qantas and Virgin, but importantly smaller airlines like Air North, that service Australia’s north.

SPEERS: Sure, but is the difference with LA and San Francisco, Rome, London, that the north of Australia is underserviced when it comes to aviation at the moment? That there is more potential for tourism, for mining workers, everyone else who wants to go there to have more services available?

ALBANESE: Well, this is nonsense. The fact is that those ports are served very well and what we’ve seen is increased access in terms of aviation. The fact that we have two strong major airlines here in Australia; Qantas and Virgin, each with a subsidiary in terms of Jetstar and Tiger respectively. But also with relationships like Qantas have a relationship with Air North, for example, which means that not just the major ports like Darwin and Cairns, but places like Mount Isa and Cloncurry and Bundaberg and those areas are serviced as well.

SPEERS: And cross subsidised.

ALBANESE: Absolutely. The fact is that some of those routes are more profitable than others. The other thing is that due to the nature of our tropical north is that they’re seasonal. So during the busy tourist season Darwin and Broome and Cairns are a lot busier than they are during the cyclone and wet season. Common sense tells you that what would happen if you open it up would be cherry picking, and that would undermine the services that those communities rely on year round as well as undermining Australian jobs.

SPEERS: It would mean cheaper tickets available on those more viable routes, wouldn’t it?

ALBANESE: It might, in the short term – until such time as the Australian airlines were driven out, because it’s hard to compete with foreign wages being paid in Australia, and therefore you would see a retreat of our national carriers, and that space potentially then being filled by foreign carriers who over a period of time once the competition went, would increase their prices.

SPEERS: Speaking of foreign wages, you’re also very concerned about the government’s plans on shipping, which would mean that vessel owners no longer have to have collective agreements with their crews and in particular that only ships that spend more than 183 days a year in Australia would have to pay Australian wages. What’s going to be the impact of that, do you fear?

ALBANESE: This is just ideology before common sense. If a truck carries goods from Sydney to Melbourne, they have to comply with Australian standards in terms of safety. They’ve got to pay Australian wages and conditions. Similarly if a train carries those goods, so do the people who are involved in the rail sector. But if they’re on the blue highway going from Sydney to Melbourne undertaking the domestic freight task doing work in Australia, for Australia, they’re going to be paid foreign wages with the threat that undermines not just Australian jobs but those companies of course that have based themselves here in Australia, that have the Australian flag on the back of Australian ships, will simply disappear. Because they won’t be able to compete with the third world flagged carriers, like Liberia and these places that don’t have the same standards that we have.

SPEERS: But do you accept Minister Warren Truss’ argument that freight costs aren’t sustainable as they are when they are in, in his words, a downward spiral in shipping for the last few years?

ALBANESE: We are in a downward spiral, which is why we introduced positive reforms that weren’t about protection. If you’re in the United States and you want to take goods from San Francisco to LA on a ship, you have to have a US flagged ship; it has to be built in the United States as well.

These people live in a fairy land where there’s this free market out there. Nation states protect their national interests in shipping and aviation for reasons not just of economic interest but also the environment. It is not Australian flagged ships that have hit the Great Barrier Reef in recent times.

And there’s also the issue of national security. For a government that speaks a lot about protecting our borders, to open up essentially a system whereby Australian flagged ships with Australians working on board will be replaced by foreign flagged ships paying foreign wages with people who haven’t been through the same scrutiny that occurs in Australia, is quite extraordinary.

SPEERS: What are you suggesting there with national security? What risk could that pose?

ALBANESE: It’s very simple, David. We have a system of ASIC cards and MSIC cards, Aviation Security Identity Cards and Maritime Security Identity Cards, Australians who work in the industry go through a whole process.

If there’s a free-for-all around our coast without that proper scrutiny there are potential issues there that aren’t there in terms of Australian ships. Just the same as in terms of safety and the environmental standards that are there, the Australian ships have not presented a problem some of the foreign ships have.

SPEERS: Are you suggesting here that terrorists would be on these ships?

ALBANESE: No, I’m not suggesting that at all. I’m suggesting that there is not the same scrutiny that occurs on Australian ships. I’m also suggesting, very much so, which is why we had the Navy represented on the shipping reform groups that underwent two years of proper consultation.

There is a real link between the skills base that you need in the merchant fleet and the Navy. There’s a real transition and many people who work in one or serve in one cross over. Just the same as if we lose that skills base as an island continent, they’re the people who run our harbours, who run our ports. That stands to lose our economic capacity and our national interest.

SPEERS: Just before we leave this area, how do you make domestic shipping between Sydney and Melbourne for example more viable, more sustainable?

ALBANESE: Well what you do is to make sure that there’s a proper mix. At the moment if an Australian ship isn’t available, foreign ships have an important role around our coast. But the big increases in charges have been because of what’s happened at our ports. It’s not the difference between labour here.

A big container ship will be run by about 15 people, to run an entire ship from the captain right through to the people who are cleaning the ship. Now, that’s not a huge amount in terms of the wages bill compared to other cost structures that are there, in particular port charges. In recent times, the reason why there’s been an increase in shipping costs.

SPEERS: Let me just ask you, a couple of other issues; the citizenship debate. Do you have a problem with stripping citizenship from dual nationals, at least, who have been involved in terrorism?

ALBANESE: We’ll wait and see the legislation. I certainly have no sympathy for people who’ve been involved in something like IS or Daesh as it’s called. I have no sympathy for them whatsoever and the Australian Government should implement the full force of the law.

SPEERS: Including stripping their citizenship?

ALBANESE: We will wait to see legislation. Prima facie, I don’t have a problem with really strong action – as strong as possible. But it’s a matter of what’s practical and making sure that we fulfil the obligations that we have internationally as well including to not make people stateless. I think that’s a problem.

SPEERS: The Government’s given an assurance that won’t happen.

ALBANESE: Well, there’s a bit of a debate going on in the Government, David, which is why I can’t be expected to give a final view about legislation that frankly, you or I haven’t seen.

SPEERS: Now, same-sex marriage. Bill Shorten’s Private Members’ Bill introduced today, I think it’s the fifth or sixth time we’ve had legislation on this before the Parliament. You’ve seen these debates come and go before. What is it going to take do you believe from here for an actual Bill to succeed?

ALBANESE: Well I think it’s pretty close to succeeding. I’m pretty confident that there’s a majority now in the House of Representatives and the Senate. There just needs to be a free vote. Bill Shorten, in introducing the legislation today, made it clear when he said we care about the outcome, not who owns it.

What’s important here is the outcome. It is important that marriage equality occur. I suspect that then people will wonder what the fuss was about. It won’t be an ongoing debate and the Parliament should determine that. It should be done in my view as soon as possible. There’s a Bill before the House. Had Bill Shorten not presented that Bill, I think we would have still be talking and talking. What that will do is get things moving.

SPEERS: Will it, though? As you point out, the free vote is crucial in the Liberal Party. Is this going to actually bring about a free vote in the Liberal Party?

ALBANESE: Well, I think it will facilitate one. There’ll be a debate in the Liberal Party about what form of Bill takes place, whether it’s Bill Shorten’s Bill, or another one, we’ll wait and see. But the important thing is that this change occur because Australia is now, falling way behind the rest of the world.

We have a proud record in terms of the rights of women in terms of our democratic system. We were ahead of the rest of the world. South Australia and here, we have a proud record on social reform. On this one, I’m afraid we’re way, way back in the field. The rest of the world’s moved on. It’s time Australia got this done and then we can move on as well.

SPEERS: Anthony Albanese, thanks for talking to us.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you.

Jun 2, 2015

Transcript of doorstop – Parliament House, Canberra

Subjects: Shipping, open skies aviation policy, marriage equality, Newspoll

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks for joining us. I am here today with Dean Summers, who is the International Transport Federation National Coordinator.  And I’m here in response to the revelations that were shown on the Four Corners program last night. These revelations show the need for us to have a proper examination of what is going on with foreign flagged vessels around our coasts.

In the past there has been of course the famous Ships of Shame report, which was conducted and led to Peter Morris taking action when it comes to revitalising Australian shipping. The last government, of which I was the Minister, also took action to revitalise Australian shipping, but the current government seems determined to stop the Australian flag’s existence on ships around our coast and in international waters.

They say that it doesn’t matter whether there’s an Australian-flagged vessel or a foreign-flagged vessel around our coast – that there’s no difference in terms of Australia’s economic, environmental and national security interests.

I say that is not the case. I say there are real issues regarding foreign-flagged ships and there’s a need, indeed, as a sovereign nation, there’s a responsibility upon us to investigate the circumstances around that.

Now we know as a result of these incidents on the ship the Sage Sagittarius, a coal freighter operating between Australia and Japan – interestingly not flagged with either the Australian flag or the Japanese flag but flagged with the Panama flag – that these incidents last night are of real concern.

Now, I don’t prejudge what happened on that vessel. This issue is the subject of an ongoing Coronial Inquiry and that is the appropriate place for these particular incidents to be investigated. But what I do know is that it is time for a close look at the operation of foreign flagged vessels in Australian waters.

The questions that are out there include what checks, if any, are made into the backgrounds of the crew of these vessels. If you are someone working in the Australian maritime sector, either on sea or on land, you have to have a Maritime Security Identity Card.

You have to have a whole range of checks done on your character. What checks, what scrutiny is there of people who are working on foreign vessels who operate in our ports and around our coasts? It is reasonable that that be examined. Have there been any other incidents such as what is alleged to have happened with the Sage Sagittarius in Australian waters? And do Australian authorities have adequate powers to investigate such events?

Now the government has said that it will be introducing a range of reforms. They flagged that at a lunch hosted by the foreign shipping industry just a couple of weeks ago. I of course, like other Australians, haven’t had an opportunity to scrutinise that legislation.

But what we do know is that in the Budget Paper Number 2 they have stated that one of the objectives of coastal shipping is to bring standards on Australian-based ships in line with international standards.

Now that is of real concern as a written objective because we know when it comes to international labour standards on ships, particularly those flagged with flags of convenience, is that there are real issues around the wages and conditions, around occupational health and safety, around security issues relating to these ships.

And that is why, before there’s a consideration of any legislation that says we don’t need an Australian shipping industry – that’s essentially the government’s positon – or if there is one, we want a ship that operates between Sydney and Melbourne to be able to pay Third World wages, to have Third World standards and to have Third World occupational health and safety conditions, there should be a proper examination.

Now this comes down to a pretty simple principle that will be debated out before the Parliament. The principle is this: If I want to have, instead of taking a Sydney-based truck from Sydney to Melbourne; if I want to move freight and compete with a Filipino-based truck, with Filipino standards rather than Australian standards in terms of safety on that truck; employ a Filipino truck driver; pay them Filipino wages; have Filipino occupational health and safety conditions in order to take my goods from Sydney to Melbourne, people would say that is absurd.

That is not the Australian way. You need to have Australian wages and conditions when you are performing an Australian domestic freight task. What the government wants though is no different – whether it’s the Hume Highway from Sydney to Melbourne should also apply to the blue highway from Sydney to Melbourne.

But they want a Filipino ship, flagged with a country of a flag of convenience, done with Filipino wages, Filipino occupational health and safety conditions to be able to that route and take those goods from Sydney to Melbourne. Now that is in my view, just an absurd proposition.

And similarly, in terms of the cabotage arrangements that are also to be considered I understand at a meeting tonight of the government, which would free up the northern part of Australia for foreign airlines to compete on domestic routes with Australian airlines, again paying those foreign workers foreign wages and conditions and undercutting the Australian system and therefore undermining the very effective Australian aviation system that we have.

This is a government that is putting ideology before common sense. I might ask Dean Summers to make some comments as well.

DEAN SUMMERS, INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORT FEDERATION NATIONAL CO-ORDINATOR:  Thank you. The International Transport Workers Federation is calling on a Senate inquiry to expose the high cost of cheap shipping.

We have seen through the Sage Sagittarius coronial inquest the extremes that can be inflicted on vulnerable international seafarers trading Australian cargoes to international markets.

The Sage Sagittarius is a terrible example, an extreme example of what crews have to put up with in taking our cargoes to international markets.

On the Sage Sagittarius, a fully owned Japanese ship, every bit of that ship is Japanese except its register.

Japanese owners NYK choose to use Panama as the country to register that vessel because Panama prostitutes its flag, ready for cheap gains so that they don’t have to have any regulatory obligation back to the real owners NYK.

The manning goes out to the cheapest alternative. In this case it was the Filipino manning company NYK Philippines, set up by NYK under another dodgy deal so that they can separate themselves from the parent company.

So a Filipino crew trading Australia cargoes on Japanese-owned vessel to Japanese profits on the back of a Panamanian flag of convenience. What does this mean to the crew? Well, to three crew it was a death sentence.

The first crewman, the chief cook, head of the catering department, was killed, was killed, because all of the evidence says he was about contact me as head of the ITF in Australia and complain about the rough conditions the captain was treating the mess man with.

Two weeks later after the chief cook disappeared over the side without any trace – two weeks after – in an Australian port coming through the headlands of Newcastle the chief engineer was apparently coshed on the back of the head and falling 12m to his death on the engine room plates because he had information and he had told other people that he was frightened for his life, he was frightened for his family’s lives and this is the sort of situation and environment that the FOC engenders.

Two weeks after that the vessel sails to its destination port in Japan where the head superintendent, a man in charge of a fleet of vessels was mysteriously given the job of seeing the rollers, a squeaky roller on deck at three o’clock in the morning.

And he was left inside those rollers for up to three hours crushed to death – a grisly, horrible, gruesome death that according to the ABC interviews on Four Corners last night his parents were frightened to talk about for fear of repercussions. Such is the flag of convenience. Such is the high cost of cheap shipping.  And if Australia is prepared to open up our coasts to cheap shipping then we should understand what that really means. It’s not cutting red tape, it’s not clearing a level playing field for efficient shipping in and out of Australian ports. It means opening our coast, our ports, and our cargoes up to the worst, cheapest, nastiest shipping.

Cheap and nasty shipping isn’t cheap but it sure is nasty and we have seen that on the Sage Sagittarius. But it’s not an isolated case. Certainly triple murder, triple deaths, unexplained deaths, are isolated thank God. But they are becoming more and more common. More and more seafarers are going missing over the side of ships coming to Australia or leaving Australia with Australian cargoes unexplained and we don’t have the capacity, the ability or even the political appetite to investigate these grisly happenings.

If we are going to open up our coast, if this federal government wants to lay bare our coast we have to understand the true costs to our environment. We have to understand the true costs to our national security because, as Anthony has just said, every Australian maritime worker has to go through an extreme high level of background – the highest level of background and security checks – for any Australian worker – through ASIO, through the Fed Police, through the state police, through Immigration and Customs. Every one of our workers must be background security checked to the highest level.

But is that that same on flag of convenience? Certainly not, certainly not. Theirs is the lowest. Theirs is a mere cursory check, an electronic check on a maritime crew visa which lets whole fleets and whole crews of ships come through under cursory almost immediate bounce back giving of a maritime crew visa. These are the dynamics and we have to understand what that means. In an environment of heightened security alert we are prepared to open our borders up for a few cheap political shots from this federal government.

It’s not on, it’s going to be a high cost and I don’t want to be the one standing by and saying we’ve done nothing to support an Australian industry over a cheap and nasty replacement.

ALBANESE: Happy to take questions.

REPORTER: Firstly, isn’t linking these three deaths to these economic reforms just cheap political opportunism?

ALBANESE: What we have here is a proposal in writing – Budget Paper No 2. Go and have a look at it, it is there. I was stunned on Budget night that it was there in black and white in the most political of Budget papers that has been seen in this country – a clear statement saying that Australian-based ships should better align their labour standards with international standards. Now it is appropriate under those circumstances to draw out exactly what those international standards are. I make that point completely. We need to go into this issue with eyes wide open. If the government’s position is that there is no preference at all for Australian shipping, ahead of foreign-flagged vessels, then it’s appropriate that the Senate examine exactly what is occurring in terms of foreign-flagged vessels, what the circumstances are, that would seem to me to be a reasonable response.

Anyone who has a look at the Four Corners program last night I think would be shocked. I await the Coronial Inquiry. I’ve made it very clear I don’t pre-empt that inquiry. It is appropriate it be allowed to run its course. But it’s also appropriate at a time when the government is saying Australian shipping should basically be run aground, which is what this policy would do – in favour of foreign ships, what we are seeing here is an Australian shipping industry that worked through a reform process with the Australian shipping industry, with the unions involved, with Treasury, with Finance, with the National Farmers Federation, with Rio Tinto, with all of these bodies, on a reform process to have a comprehensive system of reform to revitalise Australian shipping. The government seems to not think that that it’s important as well and is going on an ideological crusade, not just on shipping, but also on aviation.

REPORTER: Can I just ask quickly on same sex marriage, do you welcome that people like Josh Frydenberg and Sarah Henderson have come out in support of it?

ALBANESE: I do absolutely. Look, this is a reform whose time has come. Josh Frydenberg and Sarah Henderson have thought through these issues. I was on Q and A with Josh last night.  We talked off camera as well about how he had changed his mind. Politicians should be open to ideas and what has occurred is that over a period of time, in part because of the respectful way that this reform is being pursued, more and more Members of Parliament are declaring their support for marriage equality.

I welcome anyone of any political persuasion who is declaring their support. I’d be happy to talk to anyone and try and convince anyone who hasn’t yet declared their support for this reform. But that’s why in the Parliament last week I said I know of others who as their private position, say they will support it if there’s a vote in the Parliament. That’s why, last week I declared that it was my view and my judgement that there was a majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The time for marriage equality has come. Let’s get it done.

REPORTER: Just on today’s Newspoll, it seems to suggest that the Government’s Budget is resonating. The Coalition’s primary vote is up and Tony Abbott is now preferred Prime Minister over Bill Shorten. Is there some cause for concern in Labor’s messaging?

ALBANESE: Look, in terms of the polls I am yet to see a poll that has anything other than a Labor victory at the next election. Let’s be clear here. Polls do come and go but they have been pretty consistent and consistently what the polls show is that if there’s an election this Saturday then Labor would be elected and Bill Shorten would be elected Prime Minister.

Now there is of course not an election this Saturday. This is a three-year term of which we are halfway into it. But what’s very clear, what’s very clear is that this is a government that half way through its term is a shambles. The ongoing brawling within their Cabinet, with unprecedented leaks, shows that they are a dysfunctional, disunited government and it is no wonder that, I think 39 was the figure of members of the Liberal Party who voted for an empty chair rather than Tony Abbott.

REPORTER: Just on the leaks out of Cabinet if we can quickly?  The Prime Minister apparently described his rebuke, his admonishment of Cabinet last night as a come to Jesus moment. Your thoughts on this?

ALBANESE: I will leave it to Tony Abbott to do his own rather strange analogies. From time to time you know Tony Abbott, you sit there and you scratch your head and you wonder how this guy ever got to The Lodge with his three-word slogans. When he’s off the leash, anything can happen. And it’s not surprising that the minders of the Prime Minister get very concerned, which is why press conferences are held in Queanbeyan, rather than here where members of the Press Gallery can turn up and question him.

Which is why the Prime Minister takes his own taxpayer-funded photographer around to take his photo, so that they are in the right position. And from time to time be it that or yesterday in Question Time where in  a question about housing affordability he said that was about his house and the price of his own home on the Lower North Shore of Sydney.

I mean for goodness sake, how out of touch is a Prime Minister who when asked about housing affordability, when Australians are worried about whether their kids and their grandkids will ever be able to afford a home, answers: I’m glad that prices are going up because I own my own home on the Lower North Shore of Sydney? This is a Prime Minister who is out of touch, who has lost control of his own Cabinet, and it’s no wonder that a majority of his colleagues who weren’t bound by Cabinet solidarity voted for an empty chair rather than him. Thanks very much.

 

Jun 1, 2015

Transcript of radio interview – Alan Jones, 2GB

Subjects: Foreign airlines in Australia; northern Australia aviation proposal  

ALAN JONES: A major battle is looming between the Federal Government and Australian airlines. In what I regard as an almost unbelievable plan which surely the Federal Government won’t implement, based on ideological theory, not commercial practice, there’s talk that foreign airlines will be allowed to fly domestic routes in northern Australia.

That is, foreign airlines would be able to compete against Australian airlines like Virgin and Qantas to carry passengers and freight between airports in northern Australia. Now above the Tropic of Capricorn initially, which would include Cairns, Townsville, Broome and Port Headland but of course once this open door policy takes root it’ll finish up anywhere. It’s like the free trade agreement. No way in the world this would be allowed in America.

Can you imagine a Qantas plan landing in Los Angeles, deplaning, god I hate that word, but it means dumping passengers, dumping 250 passengers, in Los Angeles, that was as far as they were going, say there was 250 empty seats. But the Qantas plane is en route to New York so it picks up 250 American passengers who want to travel LA to New York. It would never be contemplated.

Well the Virgin boss John Borghetti warned that they would have to reconsider flying routes in Australia if this plan was put in place. I mean the areas we’re talking about there’s a lot of leisure travel. Cairns, Townsville, Darwin, Broome, Port Headland, they’re holiday destinations as well as commercial destinations, but as John Borghetti the Virgin boss said, and he’s very able, the price-conscious leisure market is very soft. So it’s variable is what he’s saying. It’s not guaranteed.

He said opening the door to foreign airlines would put pressure on existing players, that’s Qantas and Virgin, who have invested tens of millions of dollars in flying to these destinations. And they’re Australian.

This is the petrol argument, isn’t it. Allow Coles and Woolworths to take charge of petrol supplies and when they get total control, then there will be a whole range of areas that they won’t service for commercial reasons.

That’s what John Borghetti is saying when he expressed a doubt that foreign airlines would retain services on some of these routes in northern Australia but they will have already forced Virgin and Qantas out of the market. Many of these routes are loss making.

The former Qantas boss Geoff Dixon, who knows more about this than most people in Canberra, said the proposal was quote ‘a step too far even for northern Australia’. And a form of dumping that would seriously undermine local airlines. Now dumping basically means that you’re allowing product into Australia below the cost of production.

So what would happen here of course is they’d dump a few passengers at Townsville and say well, if you’re going to Cairns, thirty bucks will do. Well of course everyone will climb on for thirty bucks, and Virgin and Qantas will be left whistling.

Well somehow or other the Trade Minister Andrew Robb and the Treasurer Joe Hockey are quoted as saying ‘this will help boost economic development’. Cabinet is apparently going to consider the plan – forget it. Put it in the bin.

The Australian and International Pilots Association said the proposal threatens the local aviation industry and jobs. Virgin for example began services about a month ago, between Darwin and Alice Springs. Now given that we’re talking about international aircraft being given access to these markets, as John Borghetti said, do you think 777s or 747s or A380s are going to be flying to Broome and Townsville or these secondary ports?

He said, if all of a sudden the plane fill changes, you’d have to reconsider those positions, because you can’t sustain them. So these outfits will finish up having no services. How dumb’s that? One further concern has been raised by the Virgin Independent Pilots Association about whether the government would be able to make overseas airlines adhere to the same strict safety and licensing requirements as local airlines.

So if you open up domestic routes to overseas carriers, are they going to be able to ensure the safety of the Australian travelling public? Then of course the wages and working conditions of local pilots and cabin crew could be undermined by overseas carriers, sourcing a cheaper labour force and thousands of Australian jobs – I can’t believe we’re talking about this. There’s so much going on in Canberra I can’t believe the Government would waste their time even talking about this nonsense let alone planning to do something about it.

The Shadow Federal Transport Minister and the former Deputy Prime Minister and former Infrastructure Minister in the Labor Government Anthony Albanese, has called all this unilateral economic disarmament. Well in my opinion, he’s not far off the mark. Anthony Albanese, good morning.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you Alan.

JONES: Thank you for your time. I mean it’s axiomatic isn’t it that this will undermine local wages, threaten Australian airlines, potentially jeopardise safety, I mean, what are we on about?

ALBANESE: Well, this is a mad proposal. What happens throughout the world is that aviation is regulated by agreements between nations, ie, Australia says we’ll allow Singapore Airlines or Etihad or some other airline to fly to Australia and we will get reciprocal rights in return. This however, is unilateral economic disarmament.

There isn’t a single country in the world that allows foreign airlines to fly on its domestic routes. It is against the national interest, it’s against our economic interest.

In terms of Virgin and Qantas, they’ve made investment decisions. When you buy a plane, it’s not for a month or a year. It’s for a decade or more. They’ve made those investments. They’ve invested in the terminals. They’ve invested in their gates and their lounges and all the things that make up aviation.

And the government is saying ‘we’ll just change the rules on you’. They’ll allow foreign airlines and it would only be budget airlines, and they would only fly routes that were profitable in the short term. You would then have the potential of no one flying to some of the smaller routes like Cloncurry and Rockhampton. These are not places where you make a lot of money but our Australian airlines do fly there.

We have the best, most open domestic aviation system in the world that allows for foreign investment to come in. If you want to see the head of Rex Airlines you’ve got to fly to Singapore, because they’re owned and operated from Singapore. We have a very open system. But what we don’t do is say, we’ll have a free-for-all. Who’s going to fly to Darwin in the wet season? In the dry season you can make money. But in the wet season you don’t.

JONES: So they’ll get no services, I mean, I can’t believe we’re talking about this. Can you imagine America, as I said before, allowing Qantas or Virgin to top up their planes in Los Angeles on the way to New York?

ALBANESE: They’d be laughing at us, Alan. It is the logic that this Government has put towards shipping where they want to open up the coast, no preference at all for Australian ships. I mean, around the world when it comes to transport, nation states understand that it’s an important part of their national security, protecting their environment, protecting their national economic interests.

So in the US, if you want to operate in terms of domestic aviation, they don’t allow foreign investment in their domestic carriers. They’re all very much cross subsidised and protected. When it comes to a ship in America –

JONES: Well you’ve got some control over it Anthony, haven’t you, I mean when you say protected everyone’s says, oh, there he goes again. But you’re protecting it because we’re dealing with people’s safety here. And we can control those aspects of it. We’ve got no control over that in relation to international carriers.

ALBANESE: Oh, absolutely. And issues like training; there is a real national security issue when it comes to our transport sector, as well as a national economic interest. Everyone knows, what’s the problem they’re trying to solve here?

JONES: That’s a good question.

ALBANESE: Aviation is five times more affordable than it was 20 years ago. Five times more affordable. My son goes to the local high school. His friends have all been on planes and it has transformed the way that Australia functions.

JONES: It’s the thin edge of the wedge, isn’t it here? They say, oh, no, no, no, it’s only north of the Tropic of Capricorn. It’s only Cairns, Townsville, Darwin, Broome, Port Headland – hello! In the longer term this open door policy would then be applying to routes elsewhere in Australia and goodbye Qantas and goodbye Virgin!

ALBANESE: Of course. Step one would be to bring them in. Step two is for them to say, well we’re flying between Cairns and Darwin but in order to keep that route and to make it profitable we really need to also go down to Adelaide. And then the next step would be unless it goes through Sydney, it doesn’t work. That is precisely what would happen here.

JONES: And then they’d cherry pick. They’d cherry pick the routes. So then they’d say oh, well it’s not profitable, we’ll close it. So Qantas and Virgin are gone, so here are these people with no airline service.

ALBANESE: Absolutely and there’d be absolutely nothing to your Tamworths and to your Bundabergs, and to the Cloncurrys, to these smaller routes. Aviation is so vital for an island continent such as ours with such vast distances and relatively small populations. And Qantas and Virgin have both done a fantastic job of servicing the need in Australia. Smaller airlines as well, like Air North, would simply go out of business.

JONES: And you’ve made a very valid point there, because after the war they used to joke about John McEwen because they’d say, oh, I can feel an election coming on, he would be promising an airstrip at Moree or Quirindi or Cloncurry or whatever because aviation was the civilising factor then, the roads were bad, and it was the way of getting the pregnant mother from the outback Australia to the capital cities. Now, that’s still the truth today and if we have those closed down, these people are second class citizens.

ALBANESE: It is absolutely. When I was the Minister one of the great pleasures, and a privilege I had was going to places like Karumba, in the Gulf country, opening up a renovated strip that improves safety and improved access for those communities.

If you have a health crisis there’s no hospital in many of these communities. You need an airstrip. You need aviation. That’s why we have and the present Government’s continued a remote aviation service program.

Now if you don’t have a commercial basis for aviation in the north of Australia, then those smaller operators that fly between the islands like Bathurst and Melville, those indigenous communities in the Tiwis rely upon aviation. They’re the link between those smaller operators and the major players.

JONES: Exactly. And this is where ideological theory is miles removed from reality, isn’t it? I see the TWU has said ‘it’s declaring war on the Australian aviation industry’. Now it might sound exaggerated, but it’s not far from the truth.

ALBANESE: Well, it’s absurd. And that’s why I’ve said it’s unilateral economic disarmament because no other country in the world does it. And they’re trying to do it with shipping, now they’ve extended the logic to aviation. And it makes no sense. Just have a look at what our partners do. Our competitors, they certainly don’t do this.

JONES: But you’ve seen all of this, I mean when you were the Minister, I mean the argument is, oh, and people swallow this argument, sounds good doesn’t it, it’ll open up northern Australia to more tourism opportunities. How on earth can you open up northern Australia to more tourism opportunities? How on earth can you open up northern Australia to more tourism opportunities beyond what Qantas and Virgin are already doing?

ALBANESE: Well that’s exactly right. If you want to bring in international aviation, Darwin’s an international airport. Cairns is an international airport. They fly to Asian destinations in our region. That’s a great thing. We have that access now and in terms of budget airlines like Jetstar.  Virgin have taken over Tiger.

We now have quite a good structure for a country of our size. Two major airlines offering full service with each of them having a Jetstar and a Tiger respectively to offer those budget services –

JONES: – correct. Put it within the pocket of everybody to be able to fly.

ALBANESE: Absolutely. As well as airlines like Air North.

JONES: But this is virtually allowing a foreign airline to operate as a de facto domestic airline. It wouldn’t happen anywhere else in the world.

ALBANESE: Absolutely. People will, if you said this at an international aviation conference they would laugh at you. They would say, what are you talking about? You would actually have to explain that this was a proposition. Because it’s completely against every single way that aviation operates in every country in the world.

JONES: Yeah, as if these foreign airlines are going to fly to destinations with low populations. Suddenly thousands of people will be wanting to fly to these destinations according to the proposal here, it’s absolute rubbish. I mean I see one aviation executive, Anthony saying it won’t kill the local industry overnight, but sure as hell it will kill it over time.

ALBANESE: Of course it will. And someone needs to tell Andrew Robb and Joe Hockey and all these people to go to Broome or some of these places in the off season. No one goes there.

JONES: We’ve got to go to the news, Anthony, good to talk to you. I’ll be talking to those people and I’m sure you will as well. Thank you for your time.

ALBANESE: Good to talk to you Alan.

JONES: There we are, talking to Anthony Albanese. I mean, it’s just ridiculous isn’t it? But it’s a very, very big issue. I don’t know where these ideas come from other than ideological theory.

 

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Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

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