Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Interview Transcripts"
Feb 28, 2014

Transcript of television interview – Today Show

Subject: Qantas

HOST: Joining us now in the studio is the Minister for Education Christopher Pyne and from Melbourne Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese. Good morning to both of you.

PYNE: Good morning.

ALBANESE: Good morning.

HOST: Not surprisingly, we will start with Qantas. Now, Qantas chief Alan Joyce says there are two solutions to the airlines woes: a debt guarantee, and the PM has already ruled that out; or lifting of the foreign ownership restrictions. But with the coming Senate, Clive Palmer last night on Lateline has said that that’s not going to happen. We know that he will more than likely hold the balance of power, what happens now?

PYNE: Well this is where Labor has to step up Lisa. There are two things the government can do to help the government to help Qantas. They can pass a bill to lift the foreign ownership limits from 49 per cent, which would give the opportunity for people to invest in Qantas from overseas but secondly, they could pass the carbon tax repeal bills in the senate, which are sitting there, waiting to be passed. That cost Qantas $106 million last financial year. Every year it is going to be a burden on Qantas until it is passed. So Labor could help Qantas today by supporting the government on two measures.

HOST: Anthony?

ALBANESE: Well, it is about time this government acted like it rather than acting like an opposition. The fact is this: If you lift the restrictions that are there on Qantas, that ensure that it remains an Australian company, then you essentially remove the significance of having a national airline. There is a reason why countries around the world intervene to defend their national airlines and it is about time that this government, having put out there in briefings, on front pages of papers for three months that they were going to deliver a debt guarantee, or some other form of support for Qantas,  at the last minute, they pulled the rug from under Qantas, adding to the insecurity that is there from the workforce, 5,000 of whom found out yesterday that they would lose their job.

HOST: Part of the problem is Alan Joyce says he is absolutely hamstrung because it is not a level playing field with airlines like Virgin, what do you say to that, Anthony?

ALBANESE: That’s right. That’s why the government is in a position to do what hinted they would do, what they briefed journalists they would do, what they were saying they would do, until it came to the time for action yesterday. And what we have seen now is pulling the rug out from under them. The Qantas Sale Act ensures that a majority of Qantas activity occurs here in Australia. What that means is jobs here in Australia. Why is it that this government won’t defend Australian jobs?

HOST: Why the backflip, Christopher?

PYNE: There hasn’t been a backflip, Lisa, the government never announced or hinted there would be a debt guarantee. The problem is Labor are spending other people’s money. They did it in government, running up $123 billion of deficits and had us skyrocketing to $667 billion of debt. They are still being economically irresponsible. Alan Joyce has said it is not a level playing field. Virgin is competing against Qantas and very hard. They are voracious in their campaign but they have got foreign investment. They’ve got Air New Zealand, Etihad and Singapore Airlines, all state owned enterprises and competing hard. Qantas needs to be freed from the shackles of not being able to have that level of foreign investment but also they need to have their tax burden reduced. Labor could do both of those things tomorrow and we wouldn’t need Clive Palmer. If they don’t, then Labor is quite content to see Qantas go under rather than do the things that can be done now to save Qantas.

HOST: Anthony, there’s a lot of speculation this morning that [interrupted]… go on?

ALBANESE: Christopher has just belled the cat. Christopher has said quite rightly that Singapore, Etihad and Air New Zealand put the capital injection into Virgin, which they did last November. They are all government-owned airlines. The governments of UAE, Singapore and New Zealand are prepared to support Virgin but the government of Australia is not prepared to support Qantas. Let’s be clear, Qantas aren’t after a handout. What Qantas have asked for is a debt facility which they would pay for at no cost to the Australian taxpayer. If they use that facility, they would pay a commercial rate of interest. This isn’t about any impact on the government bottom line. And that is why it was briefed out. Joe Hockey put it out there specifically.

PYNE: You’ve had a very good run there Anthony. Time for somebody else to have a turn.

HOST: Anthony, there is a lot of speculation Qantas is on a collision course with the unions over this. We know Qantas can play hardball, we have seen them ground planes before. How much industrial action are you expecting?

ALBANESE: What we know is the job insecurity and the insecurity of the current situation is being added to by the government. Essentially, they’ve teased Qantas and teased the Qantas workforce and teased the Australian public. They have certainly have had discussions with the opposition saying: “Would you be prepared to support us and be constructive?” We’ve indicated that we would. And then they’ve changed their mind. So it is not surprising that that insecurity is there and that tension is there. What I’d say is that Qantas management and the workforce have a common interest in a strong company and I would urge all sides to be cooperative.

HOST: The last word? Christopher?

PYNE: The last word? I had hardly any words. Basically, Anthony’s position is the same as the Greens. He wants to reprivatize Qantas, but he won’t do the things we know we could do today – reduce the tax burden and allow them to compete with Virgin on a level playing field. He wants to privatize Qantas just like the Greens do, and he’s got all sort of verbage about industrial this and government that. On Monday they could pass two bills that would help fix Qantas and let them compete and he won’t, because he is an old socialist and he thinks privatisation is better than competition. The problem for his argument is that his government were the ones that privatised Qantas under Paul Keating.

HOST: We will have to leave it there.

Feb 27, 2014

Transcript of television interview – ABC 24

Subject: Qantas   

COMPERE: Our reporter Kerrin Binnie is trying to narrow down Labor’s preferred options with Anthony Albanese.

ALBANESE: This is a devastating announcement for 5000 workers and their families and the communities in of which they live, including many of the workers will be residents of my electorate in the inner west of Sydney. It is a devastating announcement for them – the worst day in terms of employment announcements since the collapse of Ansett.

REPORTER: You’re a former Transport Minister. Were there any indications while you were in Government that Qantas was in this kind of trouble?

ALBANESE: Well, we have a very competitive aviation industry. It’s a difficult industry but we provided letter of comfort for Qantas just before the last federal election in August.

That satisfied the markets and they were only downgraded in December.

There have been two significant events that have led to today.

I think one is the downgrade on December 6 and the second is the fact that Virgin were able to access the capital from the three foreign Government-backed airlines – Singapore, Etihad and Air New Zealand.

That occurred in November.

What concerns me is that since December 6, very clearly, the Government has indicated that it was interested in acting.

They’ve raised speculation, they’ve flown kites, they’ve added their insecurity of the Qantas workforce and the tens of thousands of Australians who depend indirectly on a successful Qantas, those in the and tourism industry, the freight and logistics sector, and yet they haven’t acted.

And today the response of Mr Truss is that he’ll wait and see a few days to see how the market reacts.

Well, what I’m concerned about is those workers who’ve lost their jobs and their families and I think that should be the priority of the Government and it’s about time that they acted.

REPORTER: What sort of like Government action would you like to see? Would it be changes to the Qantas sales act on foreign ownership or other changes?

ALBANESE: There’s a range of measures open to the Government. Qantas have made it priority very clear that the immediate priority isn’t the Qantas Sale Act. I mean, foreign share ownership today is at 39%. It can go up to 49% so if it was the critical issue you’d expect it would be butting up against that 49% figure. We believe that Qantas is an iconic Australian brand. It plays an important role in our national security. There’s a reason why governments want national airlines around the world whether they be major countries or smaller countries like Royal Brunei Airlines exists of course. There’s a reason because for nation states they have agreements between each other to allow for international aviation to occur. In order to do that Qantas as well as Virgin’s international arm have to be majority Australian owned and for island continent such as Australia, with no land borders, for us aviation is more important than it is for just about any country in the world with the possible exception of our New Zealand neighbours.

REPORTER: So it’s a no to changing the foreign ownership rule, what about some of the other measures like allowing Qantas to move more of its provisions maintenance off shore and other currently provisions in the Act that are currently restricted?

ALBANESE: We believe it’s an Australian airline and it should remain here in Australia and a majority of its activities should be based here in Australia.

We don’t apologise for that. We recognise that that is important in terms of being in the national interest. It’s important that we have those skills here. There’s a real association between the civil aviation sector and even our defence force. At the moment we’re going through a process we initiated of greater co-operation for example in terms of controlling air space between the RAAF and civil operations. So the sort of skills transfer is vital in Australia’s national interest as an island continent.

REPORTER: Would you like the Government to put together some sort assistance package for those 5000 people that are going to lose their jobs over got to the next few years?

ALBANESE: They’ve got to be responding when people lose their jobs but what I’d like them to do even more than that is to respond before people lose their jobs. That’s really what I’d like to see.

This is a government that is sitting around in Ministerial offices today pontificating about what the market response will be rather than providing a response.

They’ve known the issues and since December they’ve briefed out to journalists, there’ve been articles written every day about this issue, but a failure to act and now they say they’ll wait a few more days to see how the market will respond.

Well they know what the issues are. Qantas have proposed a range of ways in which you could provide some form of government assistance – government assistance that wouldn’t lead to taxpayers handing over money. Qantas aren’t asking for that and the Opposition isn’t supporting that.  But measures which would be – whether it’s an equity injection in the company that would produce a return or whether it be the debt guarantee where Qantas would pay a fee for accessing that debt guarantee.

These are measures which the government has been speculating about. It’s added to insecurity.

They had a plan to get into Government. It’s about time plan that they showed they had a plan to govern.

REPORTER: Anthony Albanese, thanks for your time.

ALBANESE: Good to talk to you.

 

Feb 26, 2014

Doorstop interview, Parliament House

Subject: Qantas

ALBANESE: Good morning. This is a government that had a plan to get into government but doesn’t have a plan to govern. Because of that they are struggling to find their narrative.

One of the potential narratives that the government is trying to create is that they are tough on spending. Hence you see them on a range of issues that relate to employment thrashing around looking for an answer. But they’re looking for it in abstract from what the impact of their deliberations is.

Nowhere is that clearer than when it comes to the issue of Qantas. Qantas had their downgrade in October. Since October you’ve seen this government floating ideas, having thought bubbles, but not acting.

That is having real consequences for the workforce employed directly by Qantas but also for the workforce that is dependent upon the national Australian airline remaining strong.

When it comes to Qantas, we have said for months that it is time for the government to act. What we’ve seen is different noises coming from the government in abstract from the impact it is having in terms of the job security of Australians.

We have now the issue of the floating of whether they’ll pursue getting rid of the conditions that are there in the Qantas Sale Act. Those conditions are there for a reason.

They’re there for pragmatic reasons – like the fact that international aviation occurs due to agreements between nation states –  air services agreements that allow airlines to fly from country to country.

That’s why Qantas and Virgin and Delta and United fly between Australia and the United States. That’s why Singapore Airlines doesn’t fly between Australia and the United States.

I noticed only yesterday that Warren Truss for the first time acknowledged the fact that this is the way aviation works – and the fact that if you removed the foreign restrictions in regard to Qantas you would have to split up Qantas and have its international arm remain majority Australian-owned in order to comply with the Air Navigation Act and those international agreements that are in place.

It is time for the government to say what its position is on Qantas. Qantas as an Australian airline is important, not just in terms of a brand, although that is important because every time people see the flying kangaroo that’s an ad for Australian tourism and Australian jobs. The other provisions that are there are important as well: provisions that include the need for the company to be based here in Australia; that maintenance has to be done here.

Australian-based activity means Australian based jobs. The fact that it has to engage with rural and regional Australia – it’s there in the Act as well.

All of this means support for Australian jobs. It’s about time that Tony Abbott and Warren Truss said actually said what is their plan is for Qantas, instead of sitting back and watching threats be made to the job security of those people that work at Qantas and those people who depend on this national airline.

REPORTER: Can you envisage any circumstances under which Labor would support amending the Act to remove those provisions on jobs and foreign ownership?

ALBANESE: Labor supports Qantas remaining an Australian-based airline.

The whole debate about support for Qantas as an Australian-based airline would be removed if you got rid of the provisions that are there in terms of foreign ownership restrictions.

If Qantas is opened up in terms of removing those restrictions, what you will see is what occurred in Air Canada’s case. What you would see, as common sense tells you, because the share price total value of Qantas is less than the value of the assets of Qantas, it represents a real potential target for someone to come in, break up the company in terms of its divisions, with a consequential loss of service particularly for regional Australia, but also a loss in terms of having an Australian national airline.

There is a reason why countries, whether they be large countries or small countries like Brunei, have a national airline. That is because it is in the national interests. It’s in the national economic interests. It’s in the interests of national security.

It’s not just an academic exercise and if Qantas was opened up the likelihood is, given that eight out of the world’s top ten airlines are essentially government-backed, the likely owners of Qantas and controllers of Qantas would be another airline which is backed either wholly or in part, through the sort of subsidies that occur around the world, by another government.

Now at that point in time Qantas effectively ceases to exist as an Australian-based airline.

REPORTER: We haven’t heard yet from Qantas exactly what it wants. It hasn’t been willing to talk publicly, even though we all know that this idea of a stand-by debt facility is out there on the agenda. Do you think it’s time for Qantas managers to be upfront with the Australian taxpayers about what they want in terms of assistance from Canberra and open the books in a sense so that people can see how it would work?

ALBANESE: Well the problem here is the government. The government haven’t said what their position is. It’s pretty clear that there are some options that Qantas would see as favourable. It’s clear because of the speculation that’s there.

REPORTER: Excuse me. How can it be clear because of the speculation?

ALBANESE: You write about it every day and people still read the newspapers.

REPORTER: So is there no obligation for the company to be upfront about what it wants?

ALBANESE: Well that’s up to them. The difficulty they’ve got is they are in negotiations with a government that said last year they would make a decision last year.

And this year they have, at each and every point in time, extended out the timeline as they’ve struggled for this narrative.

What Qantas have said is that they’re looking for some support in terms of a level playing field – in terms of the position that they find themselves, in terms of access to capital as a result of the downgrade.

Now there’s a couple of options there. One option is of course an equity injection and essentially the government buying a portion go the airline. Another option is some form of debt facility. Qantas have made it clear that they would pay for that facility in terms of not looking for a government hand-out.

There’s a difference in the impact on the government in terms of its liabilities and where it sits on the government balance sheet.

But what the government has to do is to come out with its position.

All they do is in terms of their narrative. One, the narrative about being tough on spending; secondly the narrative that goes on and on as I saw the Prime minister did again today about carbon pricing as if that impacts competition. It doesn’t. It applies to all airlines across the board.

REPORTER: But are you letting the management off scot free? Is there no requirement on them to put detail on what exactly they want?

ALBANESE: They’ve had discussions with me and the government. What I want is for the government to state what its position is. My job is to hold the government to account and the government at the moment through this speculation, through a transport minister who only for the first time yesterday has acknowledged the issue with regard to Qantas and its Australian presence being important for international aviation –  something that I have been saying for months when this issue has been raised.

For the first time yesterday, Warren Truss obviously got a brief and someone reminded him of what those provisions are.

What we want is for the government to end this uncertainty. I know that Qantas wants the government to end the uncertainty as well because it is having an impact – no doubt.

My concern isn’t Alan Joyce or anyone in the management of Qantas.

My concern is the workers at Qantas and those workers in other industries in the sector who depend upon Qantas’s strong ongoing position.

That’s my concern and it appears that for the government it’s just a plaything for them, just like the sort of trashing of the workers at SPC Ardmona that we saw from the Prime Minister, who alleged that they had conditions that they simply don’t have.

REPORTER: Qantas itself says and the government itself says that the current position is unsustainable –  state-backed airlines with Virgin etc. Do you believe that if the debt facility were extended ad infinitum that would be enough to keep Qantas sustainable over the long term but without having to lift the sale act?

ALBANESE: I’ve made it very clear that if you remove the foreign restrictions on Qantas, I think you essentially remove the reason for why Qantas is an important Australian airline. You eliminate the whole debate once you do that.

I think Qantas management has to get the decisions right in terms of the future. We’re not talking about government running the airline. The management has to run the airline.

International aviation is a difficult business. Domestic aviation is difficult as well. But I’ll tell you what: here in Australia we have the most dependable domestic aviation industry in the world.

The Aviation White Paper I brought down as minister was recognised as the most comprehensive plan for aviation in the world and it was recognised by me being given the Aviation Minister of the Year award  as a result of that by the sector because the industry recognises that what Australia was doing was very advanced as a result of essentially the reforms that began with the Hawke and Keating governments and were continued under the Rudd and Gillard governments.

REPORTER: What do you think of the idea expressed yesterday in the Coalition party room that if the debt guarantee is offered to Qantas it should be offered to Virgin as well.

ALBANESE: Well, there are different circumstances with the company. Virgin of course have had access to significant capital injections from airlines that are. in the case of Air New Zealand, Singapore and Etihad, government-backed airlines.

QUESTION: Just a quick question on some of the decisions that Alan Joyce may outline tomorrow such as up to 5000 job losses and selling terminals and so forth in a bid to get the airline back in the black. What do you make of that?

ALBANESE: I’ll wait and see what the announcements are before I speculate on them. I think the critical factor is Australian jobs here.

Qantas need to ensure that they maximise Australian employment, that they provide security for their workforce and the government needs to stop contributing to insecurity by this prevarication and treating this as a plaything.

This is a government that was elected on September 7. It’s about time they governed.

 

ENDS

 

Feb 16, 2014

Transcript of interview – SKY News Australia Agenda

Subjects: Griffith by-election, car industry, unemployment, National Heavy Vehicle regulator, industrial relations, Paul Howes, Hawke-Keating era, Infrastructure Australia, Qantas, second Sydney Airport, infrastructure policy, Royal Commission, Labor reform.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Welcome back.  You’re watching Australian Agenda where we are joined now by former Deputy Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese.  Welcome to the program.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be here.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: I don’t mean to insinuate that you are out of politics because you’re not.  Which leads me to my first question, I guess.  This time last week we were talking about the Griffith by-election and Labor had retained the seat, just.  That said, the most interesting take out of the night for me was when I was watching the reaction as the new member, Terri Butler, was thanking the various people for their support and there was a cheer for Bill Shorten.  There was a louder cheer for Kevin Rudd, and then there was a far, far louder cheer when she also chose to thank you.  That goes to the party membership I guess and the support you had in the leadership showdown.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, Terri Butler too is someone that I’ve known for a long time.  I thought that she was a great candidate and she’ll be a great local member.  I was actually up there launching – I launched her pre-selection campaign last year and –

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But Bill Shorten was up there a lot as well.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: – campaigning with her.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: I mean the crowd reaction, you can’t have not noticed?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think on that night what I noticed is that everyone got a cheer and it was a very good outcome for the Labor Party.

PAUL KELLY: If we just shift to the debate of the week, the big debates on the car industry.  As far as Labor is concerned, does it recognise that this $30 billion subsidy equivalent given to the industries from governments since 1997 essentially has been an unsuccessful policy?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, what we recognise is that we have a government that promised to create one million jobs over five years and what we’ve seen is 63,000 job losses in just five months.

What I found extraordinary wasn’t that there was a debate about industry assistance, you expect that.

What I found extraordinary was that Holden were almost goaded into leaving Australia both by Joe Hockey on the floor of the Parliament and by Warren Truss in his extraordinary letter to Holden.

PAUL KELLY: But Holden said the business model didn’t work any more.  Isn’t that correct?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, they said different things at different times.  Given they are leaving you’d expect them to be justifying their corporate decision.

But what I know is that the impact of that has led, of course, into the job losses that will occur at Toyota.

It’s not just about the direct jobs; it’s also about the component sector.

So we’re talking about tens of thousands of jobs.

Now, I don’t argue certainly that industry won’t restructure, and of course we are living in a globalised economy.

But it is a matter of looking at a case by case basis.  It is a matter of government working with industry and unions.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But what’s the bottom line here though, Mr Albanese?  I mean would the car industry, in your opinion, have been saved if Labor had won office?  Because the letters from the bosses of the car industry, the two that have left, suggests otherwise, but some MPs suggest it would still be open.  What’s the reality?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, what you can say is that the on the record correspondence as well as the private briefings that I had, for example, as Transport Minister with executives in Holden and Toyota, would suggest that they weren’t planning to leave at the time that we were in government last year.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: So they are gilding the lilly now when they, in a sense, suggest otherwise?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I’m not casting aspersions on them.  I’m saying that you expect companies to put out an argument for the time.  Given they’ve made the decision that they’re leaving, it’s not surprising that they’re putting out an argument for that.

ADAM CREIGHTON: Is that rather absurd to blame the current government for the present rise in unemployment, given most economists would say that the employment rate is the slowest of all the indicators to catch up with present settings and so the changes that the previous government made in 2009/2010 they are finally bearing fruit in the labour market?

You know, For instance, we saw the unemployment rate fall to 4% in early 2008, the lowest it’s been for a long time and that was, some would say, largely because of the dreaded Work Choices.  And then of course there were subsequent changes made, the Fair Work Act, and now we’re now seeing the consequences of that.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, what we’ve seen is that employment growth and economic growth have been most successful in my view when you have a cooperative relationship.  I noticed the discussion that took place before about the Hawke and Keating eras.  They were successful, you did have reform.  I’m a supporter of microeconomic reform.

Just this week National Heavy Vehicle regulator came into being, something that’s been covered by The Australian, not many other places. Thirty billion dollars of benefit to the national economy over 20 years – negotiated out through industry, through the state governments making sure that we reduce that regulation and get that productivity benefits.

So I’m a supporter of change, but you need change to be negotiated through in a cooperative manner.  That’s a lesson of the Hawke- Keating era – microeconomic reform, productive benefits done in partnership with the unions and with industry.

PAUL KELLY: Well, let’s take that up.  I mean Toyota has been very critical of the workplace relations system in public.  They were negotiating to change their enterprise agreement before the final decision.

Does Labor recognise that there is a problem of sorts with the IR system that needs to be addressed?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, Labor certainly recognises that we need a cooperative IR system.

And when it comes to the automotive sector, we’ve had circumstances whereby unions have agreed on a whole range of measures at each of the manufacturers over a period of time, including, effectively, wage freezes, something that hasn’t applied in my business, politicians, or your business in terms of the media.

So unions have shown a preparedness to support jobs and to be cooperative.

PAUL KELLY: But they were resisting this in the case of Toyota.  I mean this became a real issue.  Toyota wanted to vary its enterprise agreement in order to improve conditions and the unions resisted that.  So what’s the judgment do you make of union behaviour in that case?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, those negotiations were continuing to take place.  What I know is that in terms of the automotive sector I think the unions had shown a preparedness (to co-operate) and a number of very specific examples, including a wage freeze agreed to by the unions, and that is a pretty extraordinary circumstance, and that had been agreed to in a number of cases.

PAUL KELLY: Well, can I just come back to the core question.  The impression one’s got from Labor leader Bill Shorten this week is this is all the problem of the Abbott Government.

There’s no need to review again or take a fresh look at the IR system.  Is that Labor’s position?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, what Bill Shorten’s done is hold the government to account.

PAUL KELLY: I know.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: And that is the job of an opposition particularly in this stage in the cycle.

PAUL KELLY: But in policy terms?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, in policy terms Paul, what we have is there is a mob who are there now who were in opposition just a little while ago who said that they wouldn’t tinker one jot with the IR system.  That was the platform in which –

PAUL KELLY: Sure.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Every time: “Dead, cremated, buried’’. All the slogans came out.

PETER VAN ONSELEN:  But in fairness they said that they weren’t going to bring back Work Choices.  But they did take a policy to the last election which incorporated quite a bit of change to the Fair Work Act, just not legislative change.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, they wanted to make sure that industrial relations was not an issue.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Sure.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: They wanted to make sure after the disaster that was Work Choices that they argued the case that there wouldn’t be significant change in the system.

Now the Fair Work Act was passed through the Parliament.

It has, within it, a lot of flexibility in terms of a preparedness, a framework for negotiation and, indeed, if you look at the decisions of the Fair Work Commission, a range of the decisions I don’t think can be said to have been pro-union.

They have been, I think, fair and balanced in the outcomes.

PAUL KELLY: Well, what about Paul Howes?  I mean he’s basically belled the cat here.  He’s basically said: “We’ve got big problems with the IR system.”  He’s right, isn’t he?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, what Paul Howes has spoken about very specifically is some sectors that in some areas of the economy we’ve had some significant wage increases due to the old demand and supply operating.

PAUL KELLY: But we’ve just lost the car industry.  We’ve just lost the car industry.  Surely we’ve got to go back to the drawing board?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Paul Howes has certainly not said, certainly not said – and I’m a friend of Paul Howes – and he has certainly not said: “We’ve lost the car industry because of actions of the trade union movement.”

PAUL KELLY: No, no, that’s not the issue.  That’s not the issue.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, that was the suggestion, Paul.  And, with respect, he has certainly not said that.

PAUL KELLY: But of course.  But I mean the question is though, given that Toyota was very concerned about the IR system, whether we need to review the IR system?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I support a fair and balanced IR system.  That’s what I support.

ADAM CREIGHTON: Just on the IR system just more generally.  Is it still reasonable that the union movement has such a privileged position in the industrial relations framework given that the share of the workforce that it actually represents has fall from about 40% to 13%?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, if you look at the way the system works then you don’t get represented by trade unions in the Fair Work Commission in terms of a dispute unless you are a member of the union, unless you make that decision.

In terms of automotive sector, of course, it’s a highly unionised workforce and that’s not surprising given the nature of the work.

What’s happened, of course, is that Australia is an economy in transition; the big growth has been in the services sector.

The services sector tends not to bring 400 people together on the floor of an institution.  The big growth has been in individual companies, self-employed people, the growth in terms of the way that services are delivered through contract.

It means that it’s not surprising that the unionised workforce fall.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: In light of all of that, do you think that modern Labor is living up to the legacy of the Hawke-Keating era?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, I think certainly.  I’m a great fan of the era.  I believe that modern Labor has to constantly reform and has to constantly put forward both in terms of internally but also externally.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: It’s doing it internally, but is it doing enough externally?  That’s really where I’m getting at here; about this idea of where Labor is going in relation to where it was taken by the Hawke-Keating period.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well Peter, I do recall as someone who’s just a little bit older than you – but maybe Paul can back me up here – that at the time of the Hawke- Keating loss in ’96, at this stage in ’96 you didn’t have the same conservative commentators like Peter Reith saying and Co saying: “Oh, the golden era, the Hawke-Keating government.”

They were saying it was terrible.  They were saying there was no reform.  And that’s what we’re getting now.

Have a look at the reforms that we did in government.  I used that example.  I also use the example of the creation of Infrastructure Australia on my watch which, at the moment, the current government is trying to undermine its independence.

You’ve had not just me saying that but Infrastructure Australia itself, through its coordinator Michael Deegan, and importantly institutions like the Business Council of Australia, the Urban Development Institute, all saying this legislation is flawed.

It’s about bringing back pork-barrelling rather than proper cost-benefit analysis to projects.  Very important analysis being undertaken and the government found wanting, wanting to go back to the old National Party system of just funding roads on the basis of political decision-making.

ADAM CREIGHTON: Many of the reforms under the Hawke-Keating government involved the government doing less rather than more.  I’m just wondering what the previous Labor government – the Rudd-Gillard government – did that entailed government doing less rather than more.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I just gave you one example of national transport regulators.  That replaced eight separate institutions, laws with one for maritime –

ADAM CREIGHTON: That’s just a centralisation, isn’t it? That’s not freedom.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Not at all.  Not at all.  Indeed the heavy vehicle regulator is based in Brisbane.  The rail regulator is based in Adelaide.  The maritime regulator, somewhat perhaps ironically, is based in Canberra.

But in terms of the system, it certainly isn’t about centralisation.  It’s about uniformity.

Because with a single national economy – more and more we need to break down these structures.  Infrastructure Australia was about that as well.  We had measures such as uniform public private partnership guidelines.  We had consistency in …

ADAM CREIGHTON: It just sounds like regulation though, in fairness.  This is just all regulation.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  No, no.  It’s about removing regulation.  If you’re a company and you wanted to start up in Australia in infrastructure, when I became the minister and you wanted to operate in Queensland, you had to get a whole series of approvals.

Then if you wanted to do a project in Sydney, you had to go through it all again.

We’ve gotten rid of all that.  That’s about getting rid of regulation and getting rid of red tape with the benefit of $30 billion to the economy over 20 years.

PAUL KELLY: I wonder if we can go to Qantas.  Given that Labor opposes amendments to the Qantas Sale Act.  What does Labor think is the best way of helping Qantas at the moment and, in particular, in general terms, what’s your response to the idea of some form of debt guarantee?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, we of course aren’t the government so we await the government’s decision before we comment on it.

What we have said though is that we will be constructive.  We have said that there are particular circumstances in terms of what Qantas finds itself in.

That means that there is, in my view, a case for some form of government support.

That’s not government paying cash to Qantas.  No-one’s suggesting that at all.  But some …

ADAM CREIGHTON: Are you talking about a debt guarantee, that sort of thing?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, that’s one of the options that’s on table, that a debt guarantee would be there, but that Qantas would pay for that as well, a market-based rate to the government.  So it wouldn’t cost the taxpayer anything.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Unless Qantas collapses.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  But it would be – well the question is, and, this is where it comes from: Would a government sit on its hands when Qantas – if Qantas collapsed?

My argument is that that would lead to pretty soon, whoever was in office, an intervention.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But surely the best way to avoid Qantas collapsing is to remove the foreign ownership restrictions?   But if you are not going to do that and if Labor’s going to oppose that, then the debt guarantee becomes the only option, and without the removal of the foreign ownership restrictions the potential for Qantas collapsing remains.  Where it probably goes away …

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, the whole reason why you don’t want it to collapse is that you have a view, as I do, that a national airline is important.

It’s something that goes to national security interests, goes to the interests of the nation.  It’s something beyond any other business.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But it has to be Australian-owned?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, that’s right.  In terms of if you’re going to have a company that will act in the national interests they, by definition, have to be a part of the nation.

Qantas are an iconic brand for Australia, they’re an important company, and would a government sit back and allow it to collapse?  I think not, whoever was in office.

PAUL KELLY: I think the answer’s “No”.  The government’s indicated clearly that it intends to act and support Qantas in some way or another.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: And they should get on with it, Paul.

PAUL KELLY: You’d like to see a decision when?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Last year.

PAUL KELLY: Last year?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: When this issue was raised.This is a problem with the government, they had a plan to get into government but they don’t have a plan to govern.

These circumstances have been exactly the same since the downgrade first happened which was in, from memory, October maybe November.

So this has been around for some months.

The government is prevaricating on this issue.  There is no reason why if it’s going to make a decision it should stall making that decision.  It should do it.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: All right, hold that thought, we are going to take a break.  When we come back there’s a lot more to discuss both in Anthony Albanese’s portfolio area but also broadly after the first sitting week for 2014.

Back in a moment.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: We were talking about Qantas before the break. Is Labor going to give us a firm position as an alternative to what the government comes up with? I know you want to wait until they make their full announcement but will we have and alternative government – an alternative policy on this?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’ve indicated pretty clearly one; that we’re opposed to removing the majority Australian ownership of Qantas.

Secondly we’ve indicated pretty clearly that we don’t believe that the government would just sit idly by and watch Qantas disappear and there’s a whole range of reasons for that that are technical as well as political.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Is it right that you’re not for moving though, not for turning on the Qantas Sale act changes to allow foreign ownership?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Sure. That is 51 per cent and there’s a range of reasons. Airlines are able to travel between nations because of agreements between governments through air services agreements. That’s why Singapore can’t fly through Australia to the United States for example. The sort of idea that it just sort of doesn’t matter if you have an Australian-based airline or not is pretty naive.

PAUL KELLY: How does Qantas turn a profit? We got a structure here in terms of the international aviation industry and the domestic aviation industry which is pretty difficult for Qantas. So it’s one thing to talk about a debt guarantee. How does it turn a profit?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The fact is Paul that they have turned a profit consistently.

At the moment, of course, the high Australian dollar, like a range of companies, affects Qantas. It particularly affects Qantas because the punter in Marrickville can decide to have a holiday in Bali or the US for that matter in Hawaii.

Look at the figures in Hawaii because of the US dollar and what’s occurred, rather than Cairns. So it has a particular impact on the tourism sector and as shadow tourism minister I’m very conscious of that.

The fact is though over period of time Qantas has been a very successful company.

It’s one of the most successful Australian brands that there is.

When people see the red kangaroo on the back of a plane that’s an ad for Australia, not just an ad for Qantas which is why there is that national interest question.

I have no doubt that Qantas will continue to be successful into the future.

Have a look at their cash reserves. They are substantial. There are certainly more cash reserves than there are in terms of their cap-ex at the moment.

So they are an extremely successful company. I’m convinced that they can continue to be in the future. But if the government needs to take a small action, they should.

ADAM CREIGHTON: Isn’t this Australian ownership thing a mirage really because as it stands, less than five percent of the stock is actually owned by individual Australians. The vast majority of Qantas is owned by the investment funds who really couldn’t care less about Australia’s so-called national interest and so I don’t see how it’s any different if the investment funds are foreign investment funds based in San Francisco or if they’re based in Melbourne. I mean at the end of the day these are largely pension funds and they’re just trying to get the highest return for their members. They don’t care about the national interest. And even if there was a war – you know World War III or something, you know the Australian Government could always seize the planes …

ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s a very radical suggestion from an Australian journalist.

ADAM CREIGHTON: It is radical. But this idea that somehow the shares need to be owned by people who are ultimately based in Australia …

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s not just the shares Adam. Have a look at the Act.

The Act says a majority of its activity has to be Australian-based. Its board has to be based here …

ADAM CREIGHTON: But the CEO is Irish. Surely that contradicts the spirit of the ….

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The CEO is not Irish, The CEO lives in Sydney. Let’s get real here. Because he has an accent? He’s not the only Australian that has an accent.

He is an Australian and he’s loyal to this country. So in terms of the company and its actions I know as transport minister when there were issues in Thailand when we needed to get people out of Bangkok, when we needed to get people out of the Middle East, Qantas – a phone call away to help.

I must say also that John Borghetti (CEO, Virgin Australia) – always happy as well to do whatever he could as well to assist.

That’s an important thing. It’s not just a matter of creating an airline. If there was a war as you put it we have a great history – Qantas has a history as an Australian brand.

Australians want it to remain in Australian hands and they are right.

PAUL KELLY: If we could just switch to the airport, if we could just switch to Badgerys Creek, is the Labor Party prepared to support a decision by the Abbott Government to go ahead with a second Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We‘re absolutely prepared to support a go-ahead for a second airport. Indeed, we’ve said that the second airport should be built second airport sooner rather than later.
You need bipartisanship. I was very heartened by John Robertson’s comments yesterday. You need bipartisanship for this to occur. I did what I could as transport minister to consult with the Opposition over these issues.

Because it, by definition, goes for more than one term, if you just play politics with it then it won’t happen. And because four out of every ten flights go through Sydney this is an issue of national productivity.

The failure to have increased capacity in Sydney will be a handbrake on growth and national productivity and that is why we need to act in the national interest – not just the government but the Opposition as well.

PAUL KELLY: There are divisions in the Labor party about Badgerys Creek. How severe are those divisions?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’ll there’s not a consensus position in either political party. This will require leadership on behalf of the government and the Opposition.

PAUL KELLY: But you’re committed to Badgerys Creek?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, I didn’t say that.

PAUL KELLY: I know you didn’t. That’s why I’m asking.

ANTHIONY ALBANESE: I didn’t say that. It’s up to the government to make a decision based upon the advice that they receive.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: It sounds like Labor wants to have its cake and eat it too. You want to say you are for a second airport but then when they pick Badgerys Creek, you want to run a marginal seat campaign around it.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well that’s not right at all. I’ll be playing a constructive role very clearly. I commissioned studies that clearly indicated that the only two sites that were available were Badgerys Creek and Wilton.

The second part of that study hasn’t been received by me. It’s been received by the government. So I haven’t received it.

But I will be constructive and I’ve made very clear – and I made it clear when I was the minister – that I thought construction should commence in this term – in this term – and that is what I support the government doing and you won’t see from me politics being played on this issue because it is a national economic interest issue.

ADAM CREIGHTON: I don’t understand why there’s this piece of conventional wisdom that a second airport in Sydney will be an unpopular thing even in the seats where it would be based because I mean surely it’s going to create many, many  jobs and so forth. I think even polling shows it’s popular. And yet, there’s that fact and on both sides of politics there’s a huge reluctance to actually put it there. Can you explain why that is the case?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think you are right. Saying no to a second airport, like Barry O’Farrell is doing, is saying not to jobs, no to growth and no to Sydney’s position as a global city into the future.

People get that and what occurred was that the former Labor Government selected the site, it was supported by Western Sydney councils, there was a great campaign in favour of it to accelerate it.

The Howard Government came to office. For all of the rhetoric about their actions, they ripped $1 billion that had been allocated to Badgerys Creek in their first budget in 1997 and it never recovered.

After that you had politics being played with it because of the Lindsay by-election effectively.

It is difficult when it comes to infrastructure. It’s one of those issues that is about the long term. Because it goes beyond the political cycle, the infrastructure investment cycle can be prey to politics.

We need to move beyond that. I think the general public certainly understand the need for that project.

With regard to the Moorebank Intermodal, at Moorebank, that was opposed by the Coalition in the lead-up to the election in 2010. Now there’s consensus for it. Why? Because it will create thousands of jobs in south-west Sydney.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: All right we’ve only got about five minutes left on the program. We have to talk about the Royal Commission into trade unions. It’s been announced, the terms of reference are clear, so is the royal commissioner. Why is Labor opposing this as opposed to just saying let the sun shine in and then by all means attack some of the politicization of it by the government but have and support the idea of the Royal Commission just to clear the air.

Feb 16, 2014

Transcript of interview – SKY News Australian Agenda

Subjects: Griffith by-election, car industry, unemployment, National Heavy Vehicle regulator, industrial relations, Paul Howes, Hawke-Keating era, Infrastructure Australia, Qantas, second Sydney Airport, infrastructure policy, Royal Commission, Labor reform.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Welcome back.  You’re watching Australian Agenda where we are joined now by former Deputy Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese.  Welcome to the program.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be here.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: I don’t mean to insinuate that you are out of politics because you’re not.  Which leads me to my first question, I guess.  This time last week we were talking about the Griffith by-election and Labor had retained the seat, just.  That said, the most interesting take out of the night for me was when I was watching the reaction as the new member, Terri Butler, was thanking the various people for their support and there was a cheer for Bill Shorten.  There was a louder cheer for Kevin Rudd, and then there was a far, far louder cheer when she also chose to thank you.  That goes to the party membership I guess and the support you had in the leadership showdown.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, Terri Butler too is someone that I’ve known for a long time.  I thought that she was a great candidate and she’ll be a great local member.  I was actually up there launching – I launched her pre-selection campaign last year and –

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But Bill Shorten was up there a lot as well.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: – campaigning with her.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: I mean the crowd reaction, you can’t have not noticed?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think on that night what I noticed is that everyone got a cheer and it was a very good outcome for the Labor Party.

PAUL KELLY: If we just shift to the debate of the week, the big debates on the car industry.  As far as Labor is concerned, does it recognise that this $30 billion subsidy equivalent given to the industries from governments since 1997 essentially has been an unsuccessful policy?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, what we recognise is that we have a government that promised to create one million jobs over five years and what we’ve seen is 63,000 job losses in just five months.

What I found extraordinary wasn’t that there was a debate about industry assistance, you expect that.

What I found extraordinary was that Holden were almost goaded into leaving Australia both by Joe Hockey on the floor of the Parliament and by Warren Truss in his extraordinary letter to Holden.

PAUL KELLY: But Holden said the business model didn’t work any more.  Isn’t that correct?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, they said different things at different times.  Given they are leaving you’d expect them to be justifying their corporate decision.

But what I know is that the impact of that has led, of course, into the job losses that will occur at Toyota.

It’s not just about the direct jobs; it’s also about the component sector.

So we’re talking about tens of thousands of jobs.

Now, I don’t argue certainly that industry won’t restructure, and of course we are living in a globalised economy.

But it is a matter of looking at a case by case basis.  It is a matter of government working with industry and unions.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But what’s the bottom line here though, Mr Albanese?  I mean would the car industry, in your opinion, have been saved if Labor had won office?  Because the letters from the bosses of the car industry, the two that have left, suggests otherwise, but some MPs suggest it would still be open.  What’s the reality?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, what you can say is that the on the record correspondence as well as the private briefings that I had, for example, as Transport Minister with executives in Holden and Toyota, would suggest that they weren’t planning to leave at the time that we were in government last year.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: So they are gilding the lilly now when they, in a sense, suggest otherwise?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I’m not casting aspersions on them.  I’m saying that you expect companies to put out an argument for the time.  Given they’ve made the decision that they’re leaving, it’s not surprising that they’re putting out an argument for that.

ADAM CREIGHTON: Is that rather absurd to blame the current government for the present rise in unemployment, given most economists would say that the employment rate is the slowest of all the indicators to catch up with present settings and so the changes that the previous government made in 2009/2010 they are finally bearing fruit in the labour market?

You know, For instance, we saw the unemployment rate fall to 4% in early 2008, the lowest it’s been for a long time and that was, some would say, largely because of the dreaded Work Choices.  And then of course there were subsequent changes made, the Fair Work Act, and now we’re now seeing the consequences of that.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, what we’ve seen is that employment growth and economic growth have been most successful in my view when you have a cooperative relationship.  I noticed the discussion that took place before about the Hawke and Keating eras.  They were successful, you did have reform.  I’m a supporter of microeconomic reform.

Just this week National Heavy Vehicle regulator came into being, something that’s been covered by The Australian, not many other places. Thirty billion dollars of benefit to the national economy over 20 years – negotiated out through industry, through the state governments making sure that we reduce that regulation and get that productivity benefits.

So I’m a supporter of change, but you need change to be negotiated through in a cooperative manner.  That’s a lesson of the Hawke- Keating era – microeconomic reform, productive benefits done in partnership with the unions and with industry.

PAUL KELLY: Well, let’s take that up.  I mean Toyota has been very critical of the workplace relations system in public.  They were negotiating to change their enterprise agreement before the final decision.

Does Labor recognise that there is a problem of sorts with the IR system that needs to be addressed?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, Labor certainly recognises that we need a cooperative IR system.

And when it comes to the automotive sector, we’ve had circumstances whereby unions have agreed on a whole range of measures at each of the manufacturers over a period of time, including, effectively, wage freezes, something that hasn’t applied in my business, politicians, or your business in terms of the media.

So unions have shown a preparedness to support jobs and to be cooperative.

PAUL KELLY: But they were resisting this in the case of Toyota.  I mean this became a real issue.  Toyota wanted to vary its enterprise agreement in order to improve conditions and the unions resisted that.  So what’s the judgment do you make of union behaviour in that case?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, those negotiations were continuing to take place.  What I know is that in terms of the automotive sector I think the unions had shown a preparedness (to co-operate) and a number of very specific examples, including a wage freeze agreed to by the unions, and that is a pretty extraordinary circumstance, and that had been agreed to in a number of cases.

PAUL KELLY: Well, can I just come back to the core question.  The impression one’s got from Labor leader Bill Shorten this week is this is all the problem of the Abbott Government.

There’s no need to review again or take a fresh look at the IR system.  Is that Labor’s position?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, what Bill Shorten’s done is hold the government to account.

PAUL KELLY: I know.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: And that is the job of an opposition particularly in this stage in the cycle.

PAUL KELLY: But in policy terms?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, in policy terms Paul, what we have is there is a mob who are there now who were in opposition just a little while ago who said that they wouldn’t tinker one jot with the IR system.  That was the platform in which –

PAUL KELLY: Sure.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Every time: “Dead, cremated, buried’’. All the slogans came out.

PETER VAN ONSELEN:  But in fairness they said that they weren’t going to bring back Work Choices.  But they did take a policy to the last election which incorporated quite a bit of change to the Fair Work Act, just not legislative change.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, they wanted to make sure that industrial relations was not an issue.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Sure.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: They wanted to make sure after the disaster that was Work Choices that they argued the case that there wouldn’t be significant change in the system.

Now the Fair Work Act was passed through the Parliament.

It has, within it, a lot of flexibility in terms of a preparedness, a framework for negotiation and, indeed, if you look at the decisions of the Fair Work Commission, a range of the decisions I don’t think can be said to have been pro-union.

They have been, I think, fair and balanced in the outcomes.

PAUL KELLY: Well, what about Paul Howes?  I mean he’s basically belled the cat here.  He’s basically said: “We’ve got big problems with the IR system.”  He’s right, isn’t he?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, what Paul Howes has spoken about very specifically is some sectors that in some areas of the economy we’ve had some significant wage increases due to the old demand and supply operating.

PAUL KELLY: But we’ve just lost the car industry.  We’ve just lost the car industry.  Surely we’ve got to go back to the drawing board?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Paul Howes has certainly not said, certainly not said – and I’m a friend of Paul Howes – and he has certainly not said: “We’ve lost the car industry because of actions of the trade union movement.”

PAUL KELLY: No, no, that’s not the issue.  That’s not the issue.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, that was the suggestion, Paul.  And, with respect, he has certainly not said that.

PAUL KELLY: But of course.  But I mean the question is though, given that Toyota was very concerned about the IR system, whether we need to review the IR system?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I support a fair and balanced IR system.  That’s what I support.

ADAM CREIGHTON: Just on the IR system just more generally.  Is it still reasonable that the union movement has such a privileged position in the industrial relations framework given that the share of the workforce that it actually represents has fall from about 40% to 13%?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, if you look at the way the system works then you don’t get represented by trade unions in the Fair Work Commission in terms of a dispute unless you are a member of the union, unless you make that decision.

In terms of automotive sector, of course, it’s a highly unionised workforce and that’s not surprising given the nature of the work.

What’s happened, of course, is that Australia is an economy in transition; the big growth has been in the services sector.

The services sector tends not to bring 400 people together on the floor of an institution.  The big growth has been in individual companies, self-employed people, the growth in terms of the way that services are delivered through contract.

It means that it’s not surprising that the unionised workforce fall.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: In light of all of that, do you think that modern Labor is living up to the legacy of the Hawke-Keating era?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, I think certainly.  I’m a great fan of the era.  I believe that modern Labor has to constantly reform and has to constantly put forward both in terms of internally but also externally.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: It’s doing it internally, but is it doing enough externally?  That’s really where I’m getting at here; about this idea of where Labor is going in relation to where it was taken by the Hawke-Keating period.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well Peter, I do recall as someone who’s just a little bit older than you – but maybe Paul can back me up here – that at the time of the Hawke- Keating loss in ’96, at this stage in ’96 you didn’t have the same conservative commentators like Peter Reith saying and Co saying: “Oh, the golden era, the Hawke-Keating government.”

They were saying it was terrible.  They were saying there was no reform.  And that’s what we’re getting now.

Have a look at the reforms that we did in government.  I used that example.  I also use the example of the creation of Infrastructure Australia on my watch which, at the moment, the current government is trying to undermine its independence.

You’ve had not just me saying that but Infrastructure Australia itself, through its coordinator Michael Deegan, and importantly institutions like the Business Council of Australia, the Urban Development Institute, all saying this legislation is flawed.

It’s about bringing back pork-barrelling rather than proper cost-benefit analysis to projects.  Very important analysis being undertaken and the government found wanting, wanting to go back to the old National Party system of just funding roads on the basis of political decision-making.

ADAM CREIGHTON: Many of the reforms under the Hawke-Keating government involved the government doing less rather than more.  I’m just wondering what the previous Labor government – the Rudd-Gillard government – did that entailed government doing less rather than more.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I just gave you one example of national transport regulators.  That replaced eight separate institutions, laws with one for maritime –

ADAM CREIGHTON: That’s just a centralisation, isn’t it? That’s not freedom.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Not at all.  Not at all.  Indeed the heavy vehicle regulator is based in Brisbane.  The rail regulator is based in Adelaide.  The maritime regulator, somewhat perhaps ironically, is based in Canberra.

But in terms of the system, it certainly isn’t about centralisation.  It’s about uniformity.

Because with a single national economy – more and more we need to break down these structures.  Infrastructure Australia was about that as well.  We had measures such as uniform public private partnership guidelines.  We had consistency in …

ADAM CREIGHTON: It just sounds like regulation though, in fairness.  This is just all regulation.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  No, no.  It’s about removing regulation.  If you’re a company and you wanted to start up in Australia in infrastructure, when I became the minister and you wanted to operate in Queensland, you had to get a whole series of approvals.

Then if you wanted to do a project in Sydney, you had to go through it all again.

We’ve gotten rid of all that.  That’s about getting rid of regulation and getting rid of red tape with the benefit of $30 billion to the economy over 20 years.

PAUL KELLY: I wonder if we can go to Qantas.  Given that Labor opposes amendments to the Qantas Sale Act.  What does Labor think is the best way of helping Qantas at the moment and, in particular, in general terms, what’s your response to the idea of some form of debt guarantee?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, we of course aren’t the government so we await the government’s decision before we comment on it.

What we have said though is that we will be constructive.  We have said that there are particular circumstances in terms of what Qantas finds itself in.

That means that there is, in my view, a case for some form of government support.

That’s not government paying cash to Qantas.  No-one’s suggesting that at all.  But some …

ADAM CREIGHTON: Are you talking about a debt guarantee, that sort of thing?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, that’s one of the options that’s on table, that a debt guarantee would be there, but that Qantas would pay for that as well, a market-based rate to the government.  So it wouldn’t cost the taxpayer anything.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Unless Qantas collapses.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  But it would be – well the question is, and, this is where it comes from: Would a government sit on its hands when Qantas – if Qantas collapsed?

My argument is that that would lead to pretty soon, whoever was in office, an intervention.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But surely the best way to avoid Qantas collapsing is to remove the foreign ownership restrictions?   But if you are not going to do that and if Labor’s going to oppose that, then the debt guarantee becomes the only option, and without the removal of the foreign ownership restrictions the potential for Qantas collapsing remains.  Where it probably goes away …

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, the whole reason why you don’t want it to collapse is that you have a view, as I do, that a national airline is important.

It’s something that goes to national security interests, goes to the interests of the nation.  It’s something beyond any other business.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But it has to be Australian-owned?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, that’s right.  In terms of if you’re going to have a company that will act in the national interests they, by definition, have to be a part of the nation.

Qantas are an iconic brand for Australia, they’re an important company, and would a government sit back and allow it to collapse?  I think not, whoever was in office.

PAUL KELLY: I think the answer’s “No”.  The government’s indicated clearly that it intends to act and support Qantas in some way or another.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: And they should get on with it, Paul.

PAUL KELLY: You’d like to see a decision when?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Last year.

PAUL KELLY: Last year?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: When this issue was raised.

This is a problem with the government, they had a plan to get into government but they don’t have a plan to govern.

These circumstances have been exactly the same since the downgrade first happened which was in, from memory, October maybe November.

So this has been around for some months.

The government is prevaricating on this issue.  There is no reason why if it’s going to make a decision it should stall making that decision.  It should do it.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: All right, hold that thought, we are going to take a break.  When we come back there’s a lot more to discuss both in Anthony Albanese’s portfolio area but also broadly after the first sitting week for 2014.

Back in a moment. 

PETER VAN ONSELEN: We were talking about Qantas before the break. Is Labor going to give us a firm position as an alternative to what the government comes up with? I know you want to wait until they make their full announcement but will we have and alternative government – an alternative policy on this?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’ve indicated pretty clearly one; that we’re opposed to removing the majority Australian ownership of Qantas.

Secondly we’ve indicated pretty clearly that we don’t believe that the government would just sit idly by and watch Qantas disappear and there’s a whole range of reasons for that that are technical as well as political.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Is it right that you’re not for moving though, not for turning on the Qantas Sale act changes to allow foreign ownership?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Sure. That is 51 per cent and there’s a range of reasons. Airlines are able to travel between nations because of agreements between governments through air services agreements. That’s why Singapore can’t fly through Australia to the United States for example. The sort of idea that it just sort of doesn’t matter if you have an Australian-based airline or not is pretty naive.

PAUL KELLY: How does Qantas turn a profit? We got a structure here in terms of the international aviation industry and the domestic aviation industry which is pretty difficult for Qantas. So it’s one thing to talk about a debt guarantee. How does it turn a profit?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The fact is Paul that they have turned a profit consistently.

At the moment, of course, the high Australian dollar, like a range of companies, affects Qantas. It particularly affects Qantas because the punter in Marrickville can decide to have a holiday in Bali or the US for that matter in Hawaii.

Look at the figures in Hawaii because of the US dollar and what’s occurred, rather than Cairns. So it has a particular impact on the tourism sector and as shadow tourism minister I’m very conscious of that.

The fact is though over period of time Qantas has been a very successful company.

It’s one of the most successful Australian brands that there is.

When people see the red kangaroo on the back of a plane that’s an ad for Australia, not just an ad for Qantas which is why there is that national interest question.

I have no doubt that Qantas will continue to be successful into the future.

Have a look at their cash reserves. They are substantial. There are certainly more cash reserves than there are in terms of their cap-ex at the moment.

So they are an extremely successful company. I’m convinced that they can continue to be in the future. But if the government needs to take a small action, they should.

ADAM CREIGHTON: Isn’t this Australian ownership thing a mirage really because as it stands, less than five percent of the stock is actually owned by individual Australians. The vast majority of Qantas is owned by the investment funds who really couldn’t care less about Australia’s so-called national interest and so I don’t see how it’s any different if the investment funds are foreign investment funds based in San Francisco or if they’re based in Melbourne. I mean at the end of the day these are largely pension funds and they’re just trying to get the highest return for their members. They don’t care about the national interest. And even if there was a war – you know World War III or something, you know the Australian Government could always seize the planes …

ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s a very radical suggestion from an Australian journalist.

ADAM CREIGHTON: It is radical. But this idea that somehow the shares need to be owned by people who are ultimately based in Australia …

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s not just the shares Adam. Have a look at the Act.

The Act says a majority of its activity has to be Australian-based. Its board has to be based here …

ADAM CREIGHTON: But the CEO is Irish. Surely that contradicts the spirit of the ….

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The CEO is not Irish, The CEO lives in Sydney. Let’s get real here. Because he has an accent? He’s not the only Australian that has an accent.

He is an Australian and he’s loyal to this country. So in terms of the company and its actions I know as transport minister when there were issues in Thailand when we needed to get people out of Bangkok, when we needed to get people out of the Middle East, Qantas – a phone call away to help.

I must say also that John Borghetti (CEO, Virgin Australia) – always happy as well to do whatever he could as well to assist.

That’s an important thing. It’s not just a matter of creating an airline. If there was a war as you put it we have a great history – Qantas has a history as an Australian brand.

Australians want it to remain in Australian hands and they are right.

PAUL KELLY: If we could just switch to the airport, if we could just switch to Badgerys Creek, is the Labor Party prepared to support a decision by the Abbott Government to go ahead with a second Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We‘re absolutely prepared to support a go-ahead for a second airport. Indeed, we’ve said that the second airport should be built second airport sooner rather than later.
You need bipartisanship. I was very heartened by John Robertson’s comments yesterday. You need bipartisanship for this to occur. I did what I could as transport minister to consult with the Opposition over these issues.

Because it, by definition, goes for more than one term, if you just play politics with it then it won’t happen. And because four out of every ten flights go through Sydney this is an issue of national productivity.

The failure to have increased capacity in Sydney will be a handbrake on growth and national productivity and that is why we need to act in the national interest – not just the government but the Opposition as well.

PAUL KELLY: There are divisions in the Labor party about Badgerys Creek. How severe are those divisions?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’ll there’s not a consensus position in either political party. This will require leadership on behalf of the government and the Opposition.

PAUL KELLY: But you’re committed to Badgerys Creek?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, I didn’t say that.

PAUL KELLY: I know you didn’t. That’s why I’m asking.

ANTHIONY ALBANESE: I didn’t say that. It’s up to the government to make a decision based upon the advice that they receive.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: It sounds like Labor wants to have its cake and eat it too. You want to say you are for a second airport but then when they pick Badgerys Creek, you want to run a marginal seat campaign around it.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well that’s not right at all. I’ll be playing a constructive role very clearly. I commissioned studies that clearly indicated that the only two sites that were available were Badgerys Creek and Wilton.

The second part of that study hasn’t been received by me. It’s been received by the government. So I haven’t received it.

But I will be constructive and I’ve made very clear – and I made it clear when I was the minister – that I thought construction should commence in this term – in this term – and that is what I support the government doing and you won’t see from me politics being played on this issue because it is a national economic interest issue.

ADAM CREIGHTON: I don’t understand why there’s this piece of conventional wisdom that a second airport in Sydney will be an unpopular thing even in the seats where it would be based because I mean surely it’s going to create many, many  jobs and so forth. I think even polling shows it’s popular. And yet, there’s that fact and on both sides of politics there’s a huge reluctance to actually put it there. Can you explain why that is the case?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think you are right. Saying no to a second airport, like Barry O’Farrell is doing, is saying not to jobs, no to growth and no to Sydney’s position as a global city into the future.

People get that and what occurred was that the former Labor Government selected the site, it was supported by Western Sydney councils, there was a great campaign in favour of it to accelerate it.

The Howard Government came to office. For all of the rhetoric about their actions, they ripped $1 billion that had been allocated to Badgerys Creek in their first budget in 1997 and it never recovered.

After that you had politics being played with it because of the Lindsay by-election effectively.

It is difficult when it comes to infrastructure. It’s one of those issues that is about the long term. Because it goes beyond the political cycle, the infrastructure investment cycle can be prey to politics.

We need to move beyond that. I think the general public certainly understand the need for that project.

With regard to the Moorebank Intermodal, at Moorebank, that was opposed by the Coalition in the lead-up to the election in 2010. Now there’s consensus for it. Why? Because it will create thousands of jobs in south-west Sydney.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: All right we’ve only got about five minutes left on the program. We have to talk about the Royal Commission into trade unions. It’s been announced, the terms of reference are clear, so is the royal commissioner. Why is Labor opposing this as opposed to just saying let the sun shine in and then by all means attack some of the politicization of it by the government but have and support the idea of the Royal Commission just to clear the air.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, what Labor’s said is if you have the level of resources that the Royal Commission will cost, you are better off giving those funds and those resources to the existing cop on the beat – to the Australian Federal Police. We’ve said a task force …

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But they don’t have the same powers as a Royal Commission. Even the Australian Crime Commission which has some of the powers doesn’t have the same powers in relation to summonsing of witnesses and so on as a Royal Commission does.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, they have pretty extensive powers and they have the powers to charge and make an arrest. Where a crime is committed, that is precisely  what should occur.

I mean I had someone arrive in my office with a complaint about activity.  You know what we did, myself and Bill Shorten? They said: can you give this to Bill Shorten? He did exactly the right thing – forwarded it on to the cops. That’s the appropriate method.

PAUL KELLY: What do you think the Labor Party would do if your friend Kevin Rudd was still the leader?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I don’t know and I don’t intend answering hypotheticals.

PAUL KELLY: Well I’ll tell you. I think it’s an important point because Kevin Rudd was recently Prime Minister and when he was the Labor Prime Minister the second time in 2013 he made it absolutely clear that he wanted to reposition the party to get closer to business because he felt ties with business had been severed and he wanted to put distance between the party and the unions. Now, that was Kevin Rudd’s approach when he was Prime Minister just several months ago. What’s happened to that?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, look my approach Paul, as you would be aware, is to talk with business and to be part of a Labor Party that must engage in the broadest possible sense.

We can’t just be about any particular sectional interest. We have ties with the trade union movement. They’re important. They’re important historically, they are also important in terms of giving us that direct link with working people and I don’t resile from that. That linkage is a part of who we are.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: So you would never countenance that changing. You would never countenance a restructure that would see a severing of the links between the trade union movement and the Labor Party in a formal sense.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m a reformer. I would never countenance no link between Labor and the unions. No I wouldn’t, because we are the Labor Party.

But what I would say is that in terms of giving influence, the key to reform is giving the membership more say. We did it in the leadership ballot.

We should be doing it with directly electing delegates to the ALP national conference so that people are accountable for the policies that go forward.

We should have direct election of senators and upper house members so that you break down the power blocks that are there.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: You were left half pregnant with this idea of giving the members a say because you gave the members a say but all you did was highlight that 60 per cent of them wanted you but they didn’t get you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, well the caucus had a say as well and I think that was a legitimate process.

I, for example, would oppose giving union members direct say, because effectively it would be union secretaries, a direct say in the leadership ballot.

We had a process whereby more than 30,000 people participated in that process. I think it’s one of the reason why we’ve been pretty successful up to this point. It’s that we had momentum. We didn’t just sit around and say: We’ve lost the election, what do we do now. Immediately we were talking about the future.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: All right. We are out of time. Thanks Anthony Albanese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 13, 2014

Transcript of radio interview – ABC Radio National with Fran Kelly

Subject/s: Qantas, Second Sydney Airport 

FRAN KELLY: Well as we were mentioning earlier there with Paul, Qantas has been in Canberra bringing with it its pitch for Government support. Qantas CEO met Coalition MPs last night and he also met Labor’s Transport Spokesman Anthony Albanese yesterday. Anthony Albanese, welcome back to breakfast.

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

KELLY: You met Alan Joyce yesterday, what does Alan Joyce want and need from the Australian Government?

ALBANESE: I won’t discuss the detail of private meetings that have been held but Qantas is saying very publicly that they want assistance from the government and they’ve been saying that not for days or weeks but months and the government is sitting back doing just like they sat back and did nothing about SPC Ardmona, Toyota and Holden. It seems that this is a government that had a plan to get into government, but not a plan to actually govern once they got there.

KELLY: In your view the government is too slow about this but what should the government be doing? Alan Joyce clearly is asking the government for some kind of debt guarantee, is that what the government should give it?

ALBANESE: Well there are a range of options before the government. One is a form of debt guarantee which would attract a payment from Qantas for that facility being made available. Another option is a straight-out equity injection into Qantas which would then produce a return to the government. What we’ve said is that we would consider any proposal from the government constructively, but they need to act. We’re talking about 32,000 jobs. We’re talking about an iconic Australian company that plays a critical role not just in our national economy but internationally as well, as a very recognisable Australian brand. When people the red kangaroo they know that is a flying advertisement, literally, for Australian tourism and for Australia.

KELLY: So just to be clear, you’re basically saying the government should make great efforts to help Qantas, here so if Qantas comes to the government asking for this debt guarantee facility, that has risk to it, but you’re saying the government should say yes?

ALBANESE: No, we’re saying the government should make a decision and we would consider it constructively.

KELLY: Do you think that’s a good idea? You must have considered this, you’ve been Transport Minister yourself not that long ago. You must have considered this.

ALBANESE: We don’t have the advice of Treasury and Finance. It’s up to the government to govern. We’re prepared to be constructive about this. We believe that there’s a legitimate case for some action to support Qantas and we have been saying now for months – make a decision, just as Qantas have. The situation hasn’t changed at all in past months. We sat last year. Eventually they decided to bring the parliament back and sit. Alan Joyce and Qantas were here then. These issues were there then. I dealt with the issue when we were in government in a satisfactory way. We provided what could be regarded as a letter of comfort to Qantas. That gave them satisfaction, and the agencies some satisfaction at that time. Since then we’ve had a downgrading of Qantas in terms of those agencies and that is having an impact on the business. The government can’t just sit back with all of these issues where we’re seeing these tens of thousands of job losses and no action from the government.

KELLY: Alan Joyce in his pitch for to government MPs last night for support was pointing out and reminding them that he confronted the unions in 2011 and shut down flights for 3 days at that time. He’s pledging to ‘accelerate changes to the airline’ and there’s already 1000 job cuts slated so there should be more ahead. Are you supportive of those noises coming from the Qantas CEO and do you think that’s just the way it’s got to be?

ALBANESE: I’m supportive of the fact that Qantas and its workers have a common interest. I’d prefer to see that common interest stressed. I don’t resile from my criticism of the grounding of Qantas. In my view that was a mistake by Qantas management and I have not changed my opinion of that.

KELLY: We’ll move on from Qantas in a moment but it’s also clear that last night Alan Joyce told Coalition MPs that talking about the Qantas Sale Act, which is a 49% cap on foreign investment; he said ‘the act limits our financial options, it adds costs to our business. Over the long term repealing it is essential to removing distortions in our aviation system’. Labor and Greens oppose amending the Act. So you’re happy to keep Qantas battling away on what Alan Joyce says is an uneven playing field?

ALBANESE: Labor supports the national interest. Once you remove the Qantas Sale Act, what you would do is open up Qantas to the sort of corporate raider that saw activity occur in Air Canada where you saw a breaking up of the company between the more profitable and the less profitable routes and you saw the breaking up of the business. The concern there would be that Australia relies upon Qantas as a major carrier for regional access, so it plays a critical role in our national interest. Once of the reasons I think Qantas has a particular case is the nature of it as An Australian airline. If you take away the guarantee that existed when Qantas was sold – that it remained majority Australian owned, that it would be based here, and most of its activity would be Australian – then it’s no longer an Australian airline. I think you have to be very cautious about heading down that route and it’s something that Labor regards as not negotiable. We’re talking about an Australian airline. The  Qantas Sale Act guarantees that it will remain an Australian airline and I note that Alan Joyce is speaking about the longer term. He isn’t arguing that changing the Act is of immediate concern to Qantas. What he wants is action from the government about specific challenges that are there at the moment.

KELLY: It’s ten to eight on Radio National Breakfast. Our guest this morning is Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese. Just a quick one also on aviation. A cabinet decision is expected next month now to build Sydney’s second airport At Badgery’s Creek. You’ve long been a supporter of a second airport. As Transport Minister you never opted publicly for a preferred site. Will you welcome an announcement that Badgery’s Creek will be the site for a second Sydney airport?

ALBANESE: I’ll wait for the government to make a decision rather than make comments based on newspaper articles that aren’t necessarily accurate. There was a story last week that it was going to happen this week and a story today justifying the fact that wasn’t accurate. Tony Abbott made it clear last week that a decision wasn’t imminent. Sydney does need a second airport, and it needs it sooner rather than later. If we say no to a second Sydney airport, we’re saying no to jobs, not to economic growth and no to Sydney’s position as a global city of the future. Importantly, because 4 out of every 10 flights around Australia go through Sydney, the lack of capacity from not having a second airport is a constraint on our economy.

KELLY: Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for joining us on breakfast.

ALBANESE: Thank you.

Feb 3, 2014

Transcript of interview -ABC News 24

Subject/s: Drought assistance, industry assistance, political donations, unions, Tony Abbott’s poor start to government 

JOURNALIST: Labor front bencher Anthony Albanese joins us from Sydney. Mr Albanese, your Government actually negotiated and agreed on the new assistance scheme which starts in July. Is it designed to be adequate for what we are seeing right now?

ALBANESE: We did and it was designed and supported by the farming sector and I think, broadly, across the community when it was introduced.

There are agreements that have been signed, the new scheme does commence on July 1.

It will be interesting to see what Barnaby Joyce has to say down the track.

I hope he argues harder his case than clearly was argued for those farmers who will be affected by the SPC Ardmona decision which is, in my view, a very short-sighted one because it could devastate the communities around the Goulburn Valley.

JOURNALIST: Let’s look at that broader question of industry assistance elsewhere. Your leader is going to (the) SPC Ardmona plant in Shepparton today. Is Labor saying it is comfortable about giving extra money to a profitable multinational company? 

ALBANESE:  Well, it’s a matter of having a close look at what the circumstances are.

If you just walk away from the SPC Ardmona decision and see that potentially it could lead to the closure of that industry, we need to look at value-adding in terms of food.

We need to look at the potential that we have to be the food bowl of Asia.

We need to be realistic about the subsidies that occur in other countries with regard to agricultural production and we need to look at what the impact is of decisions on people, on communities, as well as on the economy.

If you take away that support for SPC Ardmona and if it leads to the shutting of that plant and the sacking effectively of all those workers and the multiplier effect, you could end up with a worse impact on Government revenue than if some support was given. 

JOURNALIST: So you’re thinking it should be (inaudible) … more of an investment.

ALBANESE: Certainly in terms of these support mechanisms, it can be an investment in growth and jobs in the future and in future industries as well.

I mean why is it that this is a Government that thinks it is OK to give a significant subsidy to the Cadbury chocolate factory to undertake tours that were undertaken for many years before Cadbury withdrew it there, and not OK to give consideration to the SPC Ardmona support that was requested?

This was a co-investment as well. This wasn’t about just a Government hand-out. This would have seen significant investment by the company in addition to any Government support.

JOURNALIST: The Government is signalling a change in approach more broadly on industry policy and we will watch what Mr Shorten has to say about that later in the day. We also have out today the electoral funding figures for political parties and they do confirm millions given by the union movement to Labor. Is that a liability in view of the last Craig Thomson story running last week and the construction union revelations?

ALBANESE:  I think the most interesting disclosure that is out today is the ongoing donations from big tobacco to the Abbott Government in the lead-up to the last election.

That is an issue that has a big impact in of terms of health. There is no, of course, news in the fact that the Labor Party has affiliated unions.

JOURNALIST: No, and yet Government will be going out of its way to try to create that association or remind everyone of it. 

ALBANESE: They will try and do all that. This is a Government that has appointed the head of the BCA to – they have contracted out, if you like, the cuts that will be proposed for its commission of cuts that it has established.

This is a Government that is prepared to make significant grants on the one hand, but abandon SPC Ardmona workers and indeed almost hector Holden to leave the country with those jobs that will be left.

These are all a distraction – the anti-union position of the Government is nothing new.

JOURNALIST: Is there a suspicion on Labor’s part that this could play into the Griffith by-election and its chances of success?

ALBANESE: It is an attempt to distract Australians from the failure of what is the worst beginning of any new Government in Australia’s history.

Governments normally come in (and) they have a honeymoon. What’s has happened with this Government is they have come in, they have botched just about everything that they have touched.

In some areas, like education, it is not clear what they stand for – or health.

All we know is there are cuts coming, there are inconsistent decisions being made.

They have no plan for future job-creation. They have no plan for growth. They just have a plan for cuts.

What they are trying to do is to go back to the old faithful of union bashing that has been so favoured by conservative Governments over a period of time. 

JOURNALIST: All right Anthony Albanese. Thank you very much for joining us today. 

ALBANESE: Good to talk to you.

 

Jan 8, 2014

Doorstop interview – Parliament House, Canberra

Subjects: Infrastructure Australia, Coalition’s infrastructure funding priorities, toll roads, Qantas, government secrecy on asylum seekers 

ALBANESE: Thanks for joining me. Infrastructure Australia have released this document – Urban Transport Strategy – that provides a blue print for a way forward to ease urban congestion in our cities.

It confirms the need for an integrated approach to transport infrastructure investment. Transport infrastructure is vital to make sure that people can get to and from where they want to go, but also to move freight in and around our cities and between our cities and communities.

What this report emphasises is that you can’t have support for just one mode.

It emphasises the need for an integrated approach between the passenger transport and freight transport, between public transport and our road network.

And it’s important that the Abbott Government get this message – that the idea that they will only invest in roads and will have no investment in urban public transport – indeed the thought that they will take billions of dollars that have been allocated for urban public transport and take that away from State governments in the first Abbott-Hockey Budget – is one that will ensure that families continue to spend more time in their cars travelling to and from work than they do at home with their kids.

It’s an obvious approach; it’s an approach which emphasises the need to ensure our cities are more productive, more sustainable and more livable.

And it’s one that emphasises the need for proper analysis of projects on a case-by-case basis, a proper economic analysis of the cost-benefit of particular projects and that it is that analysis by Infrastructure Australia which should guide investment in our national transport network.

So this is important document.

It’s time for the Abbott Government to recognise that they have made a strategic mistake in saying that that public transport is off limits, that that distorts the market. It not only ensures that public transport suffers but, as this paper indicates, it also ensures that the road network is not as efficient as it would be otherwise because it is more congested.

So it’s time for the Abbott Government to work co-operatively to acknowledge that there is a need for investment in vital projects such as the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane, the Melbourne Metro project – for which funds have been allocated in the budget, as well as for urban public transport in Western Australia – a fact that the Barnett Government have made very clear will be put back without this investment by the Abbott Government that had already been allocated in the budget.

REPORTER: Would Labor put the money instead into urban rail or is there (inaudible) … some magic source of cash given the current state of the deficit?

ALBANESE: Certainly it’s a matter of what of what your priorities are.

Our priority was always infrastructure investment. What we did in Government was to increase the public transport Budget.

We allocated more funds since 2007 to 2013 than had been allocated by every government combined from Federation right through to 2007.

But we also doubled the roads Budget.

Infrastructure for Labor and nation building investment was a priority. Why? Because it produces a return. If you increase productivity and you increase economic growth, then you get a return to the budget.

We also of course rebuilt one-third of the interstate rail freight network. That was absolutely vital. And if you look at some of the big projects that are going ahead, whether it be the Moorebank intermodal project in Sydney or the preliminary stages of intermodal for Melbourne in Melbourne’s west, then what you see is, if you like, they are physical depictions of why you need that integrated approach between rail and road, with those inter-modal facilities.

The Moorebank Intermodal project, which is proceeding and has been established by the establishment of a government business enterprise and then will run by the sector, what that will do is do more to ease traffic congestion in Sydney perhaps than any other project and that is now recognised by the incoming government and by the NSW Government.

But when it was first put forward that was opposed as well, indeed the Liberal Party ran ads against that project at the 2010 election campaign with the member for Hughes campaigning very strongly against that project.

So there is evidence that the Coalition can change its mind. What they need to do is change their mind. What they are doing at the moment though, is talking about road projects, talking about infrastructure but they have to be the right ones.

For example, in South Australia, the Torrens to Torrens project in Adelaide on the South Road is ready to go.

They’re saying they won’t fund that, they will fund Darlington interchange project, which is not ready to go, which will lead to a two-year delay in infrastructure investment in South Australia.

So it’s a matter of the right projects. The only project indeed that’s been advanced by the Abbott Government that had not already had funding allocated by the former Labor Government is the East-West road project in Melbourne and for that we simply said we want to see the business case.

You can’t say that you are going to have proper analysis and yet
introduce legislation into the Parliament, which they have, which would rule out or enable the Minister to rule out whole sections of funding for transport, including public transport, and then allocate funds without there being business case presented to the Government for a particular project.

REPORTER: Given the budget deficit do we need to look at more toll roads to build the infrastructure that is needed?

ALBANESE: Well it’s a matter of looking at the specific examples. If you have a new road such as the F3 to M2 in Sydney, which was the agreement finalised between the former Labor Government – myself and Duncan Gay as the NSW Roads Minister – we had an agreement between the Commonwealth and the state and Transurban as the operators of most of the existing road network around Sydney, the M7, the M2 whereby there will be concessions made
on those tolls – an increase in timing in which they will allocated – which will assist in funding that road project.

Now we supported that and we also supported the fact there should be some differential toll whereby freight users pay more than the average passenger car, which doesn’t occur at the moment on the M7.

So it’s a matter of making sure that you have the analysis that is there.

What people I don’t think want to do, though, is to pay new tolls on old roads.

And that is what we have is said. Roads that have already been paid for by taxpayers should not be paid for again and that was our position with regard reintroducing a toll on the M4.

REPORTER: inaudible. (Question related to suggestions of change to restrictions of the foreign ownership of Qantas) 

ALBANESE: We are very firm because we understand exactly what a break-up of Qantas would mean.

If you reduce the restrictions that are there and eliminate completely the Qantas Sale Act, it’s there for a very good reason. It’s there to protect the Australian national interest. And that’s why Qantas have said that that is not their first priority. Qantas itself is saying that what they need are other measures of which we’ve made a number of suggestions and the Government, for reasons that I can’t comprehend frankly, has failed to make a decision on Qantas that they said they would make last year.

If you simply open up Qantas to a free-for-all terms of the market, what you will see, particularly given what the price of Qantas is at the moment, where you have a share value that is less the cash reserves of the company, what you will see, therefore, is an obvious move which would be to come in to split up the company.

If you split up the company, as occurred in places like Canada when Air Canada was moved in on from some of the equity companies, what you saw was a breaking-up and, if you have a look then, you had the Government had to step in ensure to ensure the people in regional communities could have some access to aviation.

Qantas plays an important role in our national economy and is not just another company.

If it is split up, then the consequences for Qantas Link, for people in
regional communities are severe indeed. And that is what you would see. That is what the risk is if you remove all of the restrictions that are there.

Furthermore, if you have a look around the world, nation states recognise the need to have airlines that are their national airlines that operate as such.

Whether it be Singapore or any of the countries in the UAE, whether it be the United States, which has ownership restrictions in terms of the national carrier. Whether it be the fact that Air New Zealand – the government had to intervene there to make sure that the airline could continue to play that national interest role.

When Australians have been in difficulty overseas Qantas has, without exception, played a role and that is just one of the reasons why, particularly as an island continent, we have an interest in ensuring that Qantas remain a strong Australian airline.

REPORTER: Seven News understand that one of the boats was drained of fuel by the Australian Navy. Do you think that was a responsible course of action?

ALBANESE: Well I can’t comment on events of which the facts aren’t known. That’s the problem. The problem is that where you have a government that is failing to act in a transparent manner and acting in Australia’s name but not telling Australians what is going on, then you will have speculation.

I mean in a democracy you need transparency. This is not North Korea. This is the Australian democracy and the Australian people have a right to know what is going on in their name.

REPORTER: Inaudible. (Question related to Immigration Minister Scott Morrison not holding his weekly press conference this Friday to report on the handling of asylum seeker vessels.)

ALBANESE: We’ll there should not be a weekly conference. There should be information given to the Australian people as it occurs and frankly the Australian people do have a right to know. Otherwise what you will have is a range of speculation, you have reports in the Jakarta Post and on social media and you don’t know if they are fact or not.

That is just one of the reasons why that isn’t appropriate. It is appropriate in a democracy that you have accountability and you have transparency. That is not occurring at the moment.

REPORTER: Inflatable boats to turn asylum seekers around?

ALBANESE: Well again the facts are not known. What is important is that the government has a responsibility to outline what the facts are. To be transparent to be open and to be like a democratic government should be. This is not North Korea. This is not a Stalinist regime. The government needs to get its act together and tell the Australian people what is going on because it’s being done after all in the Australian people’s name.

REPORTER: Just back on Qantas, in 2009 the Labor government supported the recommendations of an aviation White Paper …

ALBANESE: I commissioned that White Paper.

REPORTER: … that recommended foreign airlines be allowed to own more than 35 per cent of Qantas. Would you regard that as a compromise?

ALBANESE: Well that is a matter for the government to come up with a proposal. At the time it was not possible to get that change through the Parliament. But that isn’t a priority for Qantas in terms of discussions that have been held.

I think the key elements of the Qantas Sale act are 51 percent Australian ownership, a board based here in Australia and making sure that Qantas can continue to be a successful Australian airline.

In terms of the government’s response, I responded when requested, and the government released some of this information. I didn’t do it in the public glare, you might have noticed. I did it properly in terms of defending the Australian national interest prior to the election.

What we have seen from the incoming government is just a failure to act, a failure to defend the national economic interest. Qantas is not just another company; it is one that plays a vital role, not just in terms of an iconic brand, but plays a vital role in the Australian national economic interest and the government should act accordingly.

REPORTER: Well Qantas wants some kind of help from Canberra though it won’t say publicly exactly what that is. But the ideas include an investment by Canberra or a debt guarantee to help the company cut borrowing costs. Now do you support either of those options?

ALBANESE: I think I’ve put my views pretty clearly on the table in the past and I’ve had discussions with Qantas. I’ve suggested that measures such as ensuring that any commitment from the government should be one that isn’t simply a one way. It should be a two-way exchange.

A small investment by the government in the airline would ensure that the government got something out of it because at the moment I think that Qantas shares, given the price they are, probably are pretty good value frankly in terms of a small investment.

So that is something that is worthy of consideration.

But I don’t have access to the advice of Treasury and Finance and the Department of Infrastructure. What is important is that the government act. We have said that we would consider constructively any proposal from the government as a result of discussions taking place with Qantas that ensures that Qantas remains a strong, Australian-based airline.

REPORTER: Do you think that Qantas should say publicly what it wants, or do you think its fine for commercial reasons that it is all behind closed doors. 

ALBANESE: I do not have a problem with discussions taking place in private. But then it’s a matter of when there’s a concrete proposal from the government – it’s not up to Qantas to determine the government’s position, it’s up to the government  to determine its position. The government needs to do that.

Qantas has very clearly said we would like some assistance. They have put forward a range of proposals. They certainly have consulted with both the government and with the Opposition at the leadership level and at the ministerial and shadow ministerial level. It’s important that the government make a decision and then the opposition can determine its response.

What we have here, and I wonder how long the good burghers in the press gallery will continue to show the great patience which has been shown with the new government.  You know I am the opposition spokesman out here doing a press conference. Where is the government?

On any issue of the day, where have they been since September 7?

This is a mob that had a plan to get into government. They do not have a plan for governing and whatever issue that you look at, what you see is characterised by is a lack of transparency, a lack of openness, a lack of a plan, a lack of accountability.

It’s about time that Tony Abbott recognized, now he’s back from the ski fields of France, recognized that he’s just been elected the Australian Prime Minister and he’s got a responsibility to actually be accountable to the people that elected him as Prime Minister. And that’s the Australian people. Thank you.

 

Jan 6, 2014

Transcript of doorstop interview – Sydney

Subjects: Tony Abbott’s refusal to invest in urban public transport, Cory Bernardi, Australia Post, electricity prices, Coalition’ broken promise on whaling

(First 30 seconds inaudible. Initial comments relate to confirmation that the Abbott Government is not prepared to invest in urban public transport.) 

ALBANESE: Labor’s position is very clear.

We believe that you must invest in roads, but you also must invest in urban public transport and intermodal facilities such as the Moorebank intermodal here in Sydney.

What’s more, that approach is backed up by Infrastructure Australia.

In their submission to the Productivity Commission report on infrastructure financing, Infrastructure Australia say this: 

Any consideration Australia’s infrastructure needs for the 21st century must acknowledge the relationships and inter-dependencies between different modal options. Urban transport infrastructure provides the clearest example of this view. An integrated perspective is required that encompasses the roads, railways and interchanges that support passenger and freight transport in our city.”

That’s why we must look at infrastructure as a whole, not just roads and rail, but also look at the integration between passenger and rail freight.

For example, the northern Sydney freight line that is being built here in Sydney to separate out passenger and rail freight will make an enormous difference, not just to improving productivity and efficiency of movement of freight, but also of course to the passenger rail system.

Just as the southern Sydney freight line here in Sydney, a billion-dollar project opened just a year ago, has made a huge difference to the passenger rail system and its efficiencies, as well improving the flow of freight from the port at Botany.

That’s why we need an integrated approach.

That was Labor’s approach and a part of the consistent role we brought to our agenda in government.

The problem for the new Government is that because they didn’t have a plan to govern, just a plan to get into Government, the void that they’re creating in policy is being filled by voices such as Cory Bernardi’s, who today is out there promoting an extreme agenda.

It’s an agenda that says that he’s pro-family but only the sort of  family that he regards as being legitimate – not sole parents, not families that involve same-sex couples, not families that look different from what he sees as his ideal family type.

He also seeks to impose his views on women’s right to choose over controlling their own bodies.

He also seeks to proclaim a freedom of religion except any religious view other than his own is not seen as legitimate.

And he wants that view to be involved directly in politics.

He also speaks about freedom of the individual, except if you’re an individual in a workplace who is powerless against the relative strength of an employer.

By bringing back the elements of WorkChoices that he advocates, he would take away the power of individuals to bargain collectively with their work colleagues in the workplace.

So this is a very narrow agenda being filled by Cory Bernardi.

And this is someone who has been a close confidant of the now Prime Minister Tony Abbott, was indeed the parliamentary Secretary and one of the key advisers to Tony Abbott up until late last year.

So it’s up to members of the Government from Tony Abbott down to disassociate themselves from these comments of Cory Bernardi. If they don’t do that, then one could take the view that Cory Bernardi has been put out there to push this divisive agenda.

What Australians need is political leadership, but political leadership that unites the nation, not one which divides it.

We’re a tolerant community, we’re a diverse community, and political leaders need to recognise that diversity, not succumb to this very narrow political agenda that Cory Bernardi is out there promoting once again today.

REPORTER: Inaudible. Question related to today’s report in the Australian Financial Review that the ACCC is calling for further sale of public assets like Australia Post and Medibank Private.

ALBANESE: In terms of those comments that are reported in the paper, some of them aren’t direct quotes so we’ll wait and see what the ACCC have to say.

But with regard to Australia Post, certainly as Communications Minister, I saw the good work that Australia Post was doing.

The post office in a regional or small country town provides a much more important role than being the place where letters are posted.

The post office can be the banking centre, can be the centre where families pay their bills, can be a key component of those communities.

Now without cross-subsidisation and without Australia Post, playing the role that it does, which would be diminished if it were broken up and put into private hands, what we’d see is a real loss in those regional services in particular.

So in terms of the argument, it’s up to the Government to come out and say what is their agenda for Australia Post, what is their agenda for Medibank Private?

We know that before the election they said one thing, but afterwards we’re finding different messages.

We know that Medicare itself is under attack from this Government, that we have a Health Minister who, prior to the election, said that he supported Medicare staying as it was and now he’s saying it can’t be kept as it is and that we have to introduce essentially a new going-to-the-doctor tax, every time Australians visit their local GP.

So in terms of the agenda, it’s up to Government to respond but certainly I would think that those regional members, members of the National Party and members regional seats, need to state exactly what their view is on this Australia Post privatisation that has been suggested in one paper today but has been suggested before in the media in recent times.

REPORTER: INAUDIBLE – relating to electricity prices and privatisation

ALBANESE: It’s up to the appropriate spokesperson to speak about that.

What is clear though is that in recent times energy prices have been higher than they needed to be because of the considerable investment that went into energy infrastructure.

Some would regard that as over-investment that has then been passed on to the people in local communities through higher bills.

Labor pointed that out in Government, that over-investment that has been occurring.

We do have a national energy market and it’s important that those issues such as over-investment continue to be addressed.

That was what Federal Labor was attempting to get the states to do when we were in Government.

REPORTER: You mentioned before the before the  Government saying one thing before it was elected and doing another thing once it’s in Government. We’ve learnt that the Government is going to send a plane to look at whalers in the Southern Ocean but before the election it promised to send a ship. Is that another example of reneging on promises?

ALBANESE: Well it’s an extraordinary example.

I mean Greg Hunt was out there prior to the election, not once but on multiple occasions, commiting an incoming Abbott Government to send a vessel to the Southern Ocean, to monitor the activities of the Japanese whalers and also those environmental groups including the Sea Shepherd.

Now, we said at the time, that that wasn’t practical, that we were taking the appropriate action, which is the commitment that we gave to take Japan to the International Court of Justice in terms of ruling out, seeking that a ruling, that would indicate that scientific whaling is actually not for science but is a breach of the conventions that are there outlawing commercial whaling.

We did what we said we would do.

The incoming Government and Greg Hunt made a lot of wind before the election.

This is a guy in who is charge of the environment, wrote a thesis about the need to price carbon, and now decries any action, regarding pricing of carbon, made a lot of statements about whaling and then did the exact opposite, once they’ve come into government.

So I think really people are inclined to take a view that before the election the Opposition had a lot to say about a lot of issues, most of which was defining themselves by what they were against, which that is they were against anything that we were doing.

Now since the election, I think it’s very clear that they don’t have an agenda, just opposing what we were doing, and in some of that they’ve been consistent.

On others they’ve been inconsistent because they’ve broken their own very clear commitments that they gave prior to the election.

REPORTER: If they committed to sending a boat do you think they should follow through?

ALBANESE: I think people they are entitled to say: Why did they say one thing before the election, and another after the election?

Labor’s been very clear about our position, which is why we took the action that we did.

The Opposition at the time, said they would send a boat, now afterwards, it’s too hard.

They made very clear commitments about that being the case, and putting an aerial surveillance flight over will not achieve anything in terms of the outcomes.

But more importantly I think it’s very clear that they were prepared to say anything and do anything just to secure votes before the election and after the election they simply don’t have a plan.

 

Jan 6, 2014

Transcript of interview with ABC News 24

Subjects: Cory Bernardi, Tony Abbott’s lack of an agenda, Australia Post, electricity prices, Australian Labor Party, regional infrastructure, Australia’s ashes victory

INTERVIEWER: Our top story – Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has defended his controversial comments on abortion. In his new book accuses some women of using abortion as an abhorrent form of birth control.

He also labels those who support abortion as pro-death.

Senator Bernardi is calling for a reduction in the number of abortions performed in Australia. He says it’s important politicians speak out on controversial issues.

BERNARDI: I’m a faithful son of the Liberal Party. I will continue to do that. But as a backbencher, I’m free to engage in a battle of ideas free of the doctrines of Cabinet responsibility. So I will continue to do it, just like, just like, every other backbencher is free to do it.

INTERVIEWER:  Joining us now is opposition frontbencher Anthony Albanese. Lovely of you to join us. Happy New Year to you.

ALBANESE: And to you.

INTERVIEWER: Let’s start with Cory Bernardi. Is it fair and reasonable when you are in government to come out with strong views like this?

ALBANESE: There’s nothing fair and nothing reasonable about these extremist comments from Cory Bernardi.

He says that he’s pro-freedom but he’s against women’s right to control their own bodies.

He says he’s pro-religion but he’s against any religion that isn’t the same as his.

He says he’s pro individual rights, but, in his advocacy of WorkChoices, he would take us back to the Howard era that saw division in the workplace and saw workers discriminated against and rights being taken away.

He says he’s pro-family, but he’s against any family that doesn’t resemble his depiction of what a family is.

This is an offensive contribution to the policy debate.

He’s a confidante of Tony Abbott and it’s up to senior government members from Tony Abbott down to dissociate themselves if in fact they disagree with Cory Bernardi’s agenda.

INTERVIEWER: Now you’re not surprised by any of these views?

ALBANESE: No, they’re consistent with some of the views that Cory Bernardi has put from time to time.

What this book has done, though, is put them all in one place, and it’s very clear that this is a coherent, if reactionary, agenda, from a government that really doesn’t have an agenda for governing.

They had an agenda to get into government, but since Tony Abbott became Prime Minister we haven’t seen what their vision is being outlined.

INTERVIEWER: I’m just interested in what you think a book like this could serve. Cory Bernardi defends his right as a backbencher, as he says without the responsibility of being on the frontbench, to write a book like this which he called not a political book. I’m interested in what (purpose) you think it could serve?

ALBANESE: The role that this will serve of course is to divide our community.

Here in Australia in 2013, we’re a diverse community.

We’re made up of different families (that) look different around Australia. People have different religions, have different races, they have different ways of life and we celebrate our diversity in a multicultural community such as Australia.

What this book does is really narrow down that definition, seek to divide and seek to point the finger and say that some families aren’t as good as others, some religions aren’t as good as others, some lifestyles aren’t as good as others and in terms of its attitude towards women, 50% of society essentially discriminated against if the policies that were put forward in Cory Bernardi’s book were actually put into place.

INTERVIEWER: Anthony Albanese, he doesn’t see them as reactionary. He sees them as well supported. You have been around the trappings of Canberra, Parliament House for many, many years. Are they well supported, these views?

ALBANESE: Some of these views are more and more commonplace in the modern Liberal Party. That’s the problem. There aren’t too many Liberals, small l Liberals, left in the Liberal Party. More and more they are either conservatives or reactionaries like Cory Bernardi.

The fact that he was a Parliamentary Secretary to the now Prime Minister and a close confidante of the Prime Minister and only got into trouble last year when he raised comments likening homosexuality to bestiality mean that really it’s now up to Tony Abbott to completely dissociate himself from Mr Bernardi.

Mr Bernardi was the lead, number one candidate on the Senate ticket for the Liberal Party in South Australia. These comments I think can only do one thing, which is to divide the community.

INTERVIEWER: He sees this as an endorsement of his policies because, as he said to me earlier, he was re-elected.

ALBANESE: Well, he certainly was re-elected. He was re-elected because the Liberal Party and Tony Abbott backed him in to be number one on the ticket in South Australia.

I think it is now up to Mr Abbott and other senior members to disassociate themselves from these comments.

Mr Bernardi was pretty quick to come out of the box condemning Malcolm Turnbull just in recent weeks for stating his views regarding marriage equality in Australia.

What we need is more tolerance in Australian political discourse, not the sort of divisive reactionary comments that we see from Mr Bernardi.

INTERVIEWER: He was sent to back bench of the then – in opposition. When you say confidante of Mr Abbott, you still think he has the Prime Minister’s ear?

ALBANESE: Well, Mr Abbott has to come out and make clear what his response is to this extraordinary reactionary agenda from a senior member of his party, the number one candidate on the South Australian Senate ticket, someone who’s produced this book and who has been, in spite of the fact he has a record of years of these sort of comments, now putting them in one place, really coming out early the new year, trying to make more division in Australian society.

It’s not the way to go and it’s not the role that Australian parliamentarians should be playing.

INTERVIEWER: Just finally before we move on to another matter, will you read the book?

ALBANESE: I’ve already had a look at the comments that have been made. ABC24 have broken the comments and the excerpts that are there are extraordinary.

INTERVIEWER: Let us move on to a story today in the Financial Review – the ACCC calling for a big asset sell-off – really urging the Abbott Government to get rid Medibank Private and Australia Post.

It is interesting to see how again we see Cory Bernardi and now we have another big influential group trying to influence government policy.

ALBANESE: What we see is that Tony Abbott has come into government without an agenda for governing and that’s creating the space for, whether it be Cory Bernardi or other advisers, in this case the ACCC, to make this sort of commentary.

And once again, Tony Abbott needs to make clear what his position is.

If Australia Post was privatised, does anyone believe that people in regional Australia would receive the same service that they currently receive from Australia Post?

I mean, the post office in some of our smaller regional towns is a real focal point. It’s not just the place where letters are posted, it’s the bank, it’s where bills are paid, it’s where services centre in some of these local communities.

And I think that these comments are filling the vacuum because Tony Abbott isn’t putting the agenda out.

INTERVIEWER:  Could Australia Post not get sold off with some of those provisions just like the utilities were where there are provisions for regional areas, for lower income people?

ALBANESE: What we would clearly see in those circumstances is a loss of cross-subsidisation. So you sell off the profitable bits and the taxpayer, forevermore, has to subsidise the more unprofitable ventures that tend to be in those regional Australia communities.

So I think Australia Post is a very efficient organisation. It’s well run.

I know that as someone who filled the position of Communications Minister for a short period of time last year – that they’re looking at ways of expanding their operations and I think in terms of Australia Post, there is no case to privatise what is an absolutely essential asset.

INTERVIEWER: What about in terms of privatising state-owned energy companies? Rod Sims says we would’ve been paying less for electricity if they’d been in private hands?

ALBANESE: Look, there is certainly a case where you have a competitive market and in the energy sector you have a national energy market and do you have competition in place.

There is a case for releasing that capital essentially on a case-by-case basis but that’s a matter for State Governments to have a look at.

I’m not ideological in terms of I don’t think things should always be public or always be private.

But I think that you can’t be ideological the other way either and not acknowledge the fact that the public sector and public enterprises can play an absolutely critical role and I think public enterprises, whether it be Australia Post or the ABC, or SBS, play a very important role.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think he is right when he says those costs would’ve been lower?

ALBANESE: Look, I think what we’ve seen – well, I don’t think that’s the argument, actually.

INTERVEIWER: In Victoria they weren’t – they have been quite substantially lower.

ALBANESE: What we’ve seen in New South Wales is a massive over-capitalisation of the energy sector. And that’s because of IPART’s recommendations about what percentage of reliability should be there.

And you’ve had, I think, a considerable over-investment in our energy infrastructure that was unnecessary, that’s led to a considerable increase in cost being passed on.

INTERVIEWER: Medibank Private though is a bit of an anomaly in terms of the one out of the box with the rest of the funds privatised? 

ALBANESE: Sure. But there again, what you need to look when you analyse the potential privatisation is also opportunity cost.

What is the forgone revenue that currently the government receives from Medibank Private? What would the consequences of that be over a period of time?

I am not an expert in that area but you need to look at a longer-term perspective of these assets, not just what the impact is on a balance sheet over a 12-month period. And I think that once you do that , then quite often it does make sense to have what are profit-making enterprises remain in public hands so that you get that return to the taxpayer that can then be used for social purposes over a period of time.

INTERVIEWER: You mention the government’s had a lack of focus in how it’s going to approach the future. How are you feeling at start of 2014? Has the Labor Party put that mess of 2013 behind this?

ALBANESE: Look, I’m feeling pretty optimistic. I’m feeling optimistic that we have got our act together.

We went through a difficult period, there’s no doubt about that, but I think in the way that the party conducted itself in the leadership campaign of which I was a part meant that we acted in a mature way.

We had real serious policy debate out there that was about how we unite the nation, how the nation moves forward on economic policy and social policy, environmental policy.

That’s another thing of Cory Bernardi’s book as well.

He’s got a statement in there talking about how essentially a green agenda – any consideration of sustainability issues – takes away from human beings. It’s sort of human beings or the environment, as if we don’t live in a way which depends upon our natural and our built environment and as if those factors shouldn’t be taken into account.

This is really a very negative agenda.

And I think it stands in stark contrast to Labor’s agenda that’s about a strong economy, that’s about prioritising jobs, but also about fairness in the workplace, in society, plus sustainability in everything that we do.

INTERVIEWER:  Is there concern within the Labor Opposition now or Labor Party that a lot of your achievements in government are going to be dismantled into the future?

ALBANESE: Well, certainly we’re seeing that attempted. I mean  if the new characteristic has a defining characteristic, it’s that they’re against what we were for. They’re not defined by their own agenda. So they’re trying to remove everything positive that we did.

The National Broadband Network is essential infrastructure.

The changes that we made in terms of taking action on climate  change.

We do need an emissions trading scheme, is our view. You can’t just get rid of a carbon price and pretend that it will fix itself, pretend that these issues aren’t there.

The winding back of some of the fairness, the cuts that we’re seeing, whether it be to Aboriginal legal aid, whether it be to community infrastructure, no funding whatsoever for public transport.

I’ve been very disappointed at the cuts that will be made to infrastructure.

Tony Abbott says he wants the infrastructure Prime Minister.

Well you can’t be that if you’re not funding a cent for public transport, you’re cutting the National Broadband Network and you’re actually not increasing the roads budget.

INTERVIEWER: What would your headline be for the cricket team?

ALBANESE: Oh sensational! I had the privilege of going out there yesterday, wore my pink shirt, and didn’t expect it to be over on Day 3.

INTERVIEWER: Lucky you didn’t have tickets to today.

ALBANESE: It was a fantastic effort. 

INTERVIEWER:  Good on you. Thank you very much for joining us. We do appreciate your time. 

ALBANESE: Great to be with you.

 

Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

Email: [email protected]

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