ANTHONY ALBANESE – TRANSCRIPT – DOORSTOP INTERVIEW – PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA – MONDAY, 15 JUNE 2020
ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
MONDAY, 15 JUNE 2020
SUBJECT: Victorian Labor.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN PARTY: Good morning. The Australian Labor Party is made up of men and women who work hard to make a difference for their fellow Australians. People join the Labor Party because they want greater equality. Because they want people to have a fair go. Because they want better education and health services. The struggle for power is so that power can be used, the power of government to make a positive difference to people’s lives. What we saw last night on 60 Minutes was someone seeking power as the end in itself. A corruption of the political process. It has no place in the Australian Labor Party. And I had a discussion with the Premier, Daniel Andrews, last night. A couple of discussions, and again this morning, where I agreed with his position that he intended to seek and to remove the commission of former Minister Adem Somyurek this morning, and that he would write to the National Secretary of the Labor Party to seek Adem Somyurek’s expulsion from the Party with my support.
I think I have been pretty clear on incidents whether it be John Setka, whether it be the intervention to restructure the New South Wales branch, that I want a political system that all Australians can be proud of. And where I see something that doesn’t fit in with that view, I will take action. The National Executive committee will be meeting at 12:30pm today, convened by the National Secretary and the National President, we will be meeting to take immediate action against Adem Somyurek. And from that point in time, he will not be a member of the Australian Labor Party. We will take immediate action to suspend his membership, and to therefore put in place the processes, which you should be familiar with for anyone who followed the debate that occurred in the first weeks of my leadership of the Australian Labor Party.
The comments that we saw last night were that of someone who was prepared to denigrate not just people who he saw as his opponents, but also people who were working with him. There were sexist comments, there were homophobic, they were completely inappropriate. In particular, I have to say that the comments about the Minister responsible for taking action against violence against women in Victoria, Gabrielle Williams, was just breathtaking in the ignorance and in their inappropriateness. I have been very consistent. I will be continuing to be consistent. The Labor Party will be a better party with the removal of this individual.
One at a time. And those who yell the loudest won’t get the first question.
JOURNALIST: As the Federal Leader will it be your recommendation that, apart from Mr Somyurek being expelled, there would be an investigation into how these practices came about? And that there be an intervention in the Victorian branch, so the branch is not committed to investigate itself, and also what is the fate of these allegations that there were 4,000 memberships in this branch stacking exercise? What is the fate of those memberships, where they are deployed in balance for the National President, national leadership, for positions in relation to the ALP national conference? What is fate of those 4,000 memberships?
ALBANESE: We will be examining all those issues and taking appropriate action to ensure that there are fair and proper processes across the board. As you are aware, I am not a member of the Victorian branch. I think I have said hello to Adem Somyurek, he has never made a contribution that I can remember, and I frankly had to be reminded that he was on the National Executive. So, I am not familiar with him and with some of these practices. But we will take whatever action is necessary to make sure that we have fair and clean operations of politics. I will just go around.
JOURNALIST: What concerns have you got that some of these discussions about branch stacking occurred in a Federal Labor MP’s office, and have you spoken to Anthony Byrne?
ALBANESE: No, I haven’t.
JOURNALIST: Do you have concerns that these discussions were taped inside Anthony Byrne’s office?
ALBANESE: I am not aware of all of the details.
JOURNALIST: You watched the show.
ALBANESE: I am not aware of all of the detail. So, in terms of the issues resolving potential conduct, I understand Daniel Andrews has referred all of the issues to the appropriate authorities, including the police. I would have thought that was appropriate. We will go around in order in an orderly way.
JOURNALIST: Given what we have seen in the New South Wales Labor Party in the not-so-distant past, the Victorian Labor Party, now, do you think as Leader of the national Labor Party that it is time for an examination of all these practices around preselection in the Labor Party? Would you do that?
ALBANESE: We had it in New South Wales. Have a look at the reform structure that has been put in place in New South Wales. We have transformed it. There is an entirely new leadership team. There is advertising taking place to put on top, if you like, an apolitical one separate from the power structures in the Federal Labor branch. I am very satisfied that Bob Nanva is leading a team in New South Wales that has swept out, essentially, the old methods. We put Michael Lavarch in charge of the review in New South Wales and we did it swiftly, and we did it efficiently, and we did it in a way that is making a difference. And that is a good thing that is occurring.
JOURNALIST: Do you have concerns about that the recording in Anthony Byrne’s office could be illegal?
ALBANESE: That is a matter for proper examination and Daniel Andrews has sent that across. But let’s be very clear here, it was the statements of this individual, I think, speak for themselves about whether they are appropriate or not. That is the issue here. If people want to run a defence of this individual that I have seen somehow that we have all been, people from time to time get intrusion. I had one recently. But in terms of the processes, I am not aware of the circumstances of the taping and all of the detail of that, which you know. You know that full well, Andrew, that I did ABC 24 this morning, I have been gone to CEDA. I have not been aware the program was happening last night, frankly, until just before it went to air. So, I am not familiar with all of the details. We will examine it in the fullness time. You can’t say that there hasn’t been swift action. There has been. Swift and determined. Swift and determined action. Hang on, there has been others ahead of you. Lanai?
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, you are doing this on a day where early voting has begun in Eden-Monaro. Do you worry that if Labor loses that election, your own leadership is under threat?
JOURNALIST: The Victorian Premier said that you and he have been talking about particular reforms for the Victorian branch of the Party. Can you outline the changes that need to be made, and further to that, these sort of behaviours by backroom deals are nothing new, does the Party have a culture problem and are you finally willing to take it on?
ALBANESE: Have a look at what I’ve done. So, as much as people talk about inappropriate behaviour, some would argue that The Australian’s economic correspondent speaking at a Liberal Party fundraiser in Eden-Monaro is inappropriate in terms of the political process. So, in terms of processes, I stand on my record. I think that’s what happens with elections by the way. That is an intervention in the political process that’s entirely inappropriate. So, in terms of processes here, I stand on my record, not since I have been Leader, people who are familiar with the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labor Party, and my actions, over 30 years, will know where I stand on these issues. I have fought strongly for rank-and-file preselection and the rights of rank-and-file members. And one of the problems that we see here with the scourge of branch stacking and manipulation that we saw last night is that it takes away the power and influence of people who join the Labor Party overwhelmingly not to get anything for themselves, but to do something for their country. I have in my electorate office my mum’s life membership of the Australian Labor Party. She joined the Labor Party when she was a girl. Went along with her grandparents to the Camperdown branch of the Labor Party, that my grandfather was a president of, and I became a president of decades later. She never held a single position in the Labor Party at any time in her life. Wasn’t a delegate to anywhere. Just went along, handed out how-to-votes, bought the odd raffle ticket and contributed. That’s who makes up the Australian Labor Party, overwhelmingly. And any distortion of that, any abuse of that should be opposed. I’ve opposed it my entire life. I’ll continue to oppose it. I’ll continue now to use my position as Leader of the Australian Labor Party to make sure that that happens. And if you look at my record, and there are some, including in the Chamber here who said, ‘Oh, John Setka is challenging the move that you did.’ You bet he did. Because we were taking on a powerful interest. I did that. I was successful. I’ll continue to do it wherever it is necessary.
JOURNALIST: Will you speak to Mr Byrnes to find out how it came that his office was used to film the dirty dealings going on? Because you have a Federal MP complicit in the take down of a factional powerbroker or a Federal MP who didn’t know his office was being bugged, potentially, and that goes to issues of privileges that Federal parliamentarians are entitled to.
ALBANESE: I think, very clearly here, I’m of the view that the comments that are there that we heard last night weren’t just the visual footage as well. I did watch the program. There were a range of other calls taped, somehow. I don’t know all of the circumstances of it. That will all come out, no doubt, over a period of time. That really isn’t the story here.
JOURNALIST: You haven’t answered the question.
ALBANESE: Well, I don’t know the answer. The story here is about an individual who was engaged in practices that are entirely inappropriate. At 12:30, the National Executive committee will be meeting, which is the officers and the inner executive. And will be acting upon correspondence from Daniel Andrews, the Premier of Victoria. One that I support, taking action to remove Mr Somyurek from the party.
JOURNALIST: You’re the Federal Leader of the Party. You’ve given a stirring defence of the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party for some time. Is it your belief today that these behaviours are limited to Adem Somyurek and those around him? Is that your belief? And if so, why should Australians trust that this isn’t more endemic in your Party?
ALBANESE: We saw 18 months ago, the issue of self-described young Nazis, really, stacking out the Young Nationals in New South Wales. Let’s not pretend here that political parties from time to time haven’t seen these issues. We saw in the Greens political party in New South Wales a massive stack by the group called Left Renewal, which were involved in attacking the leadership of Bob Brown and Christine Milne and that part of the Greens. So, from time to time, you see these issues raise their heads. What’s important is that action be taken to stamp it out. I don’t think anyone can argue that in the matter of hours since, I’ve got to tell you, I’ve never given a second thought to Adem Somyurek and I’m not even sure where some of the branches are in Victoria. Action has been taken. It shows the strong leadership of Daniel Andrews, and it shows my support for his strong leadership.
JOURNALIST: Just on Anthony Byrne, you mentioned that his committee work involves national security sensitivities. So, are you confident that hasn’t been compromised by a bugging operation happening in his office?
ALBANESE: Anthony Byrne does an outstanding job as the National Chair of the Security Committee. He does an outstanding job. And you know, I’ve made that clear. I think he’s done an important job at a difficult time with making sure that there’s greatest level of bipartisanship possible on that committee. David? I’m giving everyone one go.
JOURNALIST: You talked about examining all the issues. Who should do the examinations? Who should do the inquiry? Do you want a Party elder? Do you want somebody from outside Victoria to do that investigation? Who should it be?
ALBANESE: We’ll have that discussion at 12:30pm. I lead a Party and I make decisions based upon consultation and based upon bringing the Party with me. And I’m confident, absolutely confident, that the Party is with me on this. And that the Party is with Daniel Andrews on this. Thank you very much.