ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
2GB BEN FORDHAM LIVE
TUESDAY, 16 JUNE 2020
SUBJECT: Victorian Labor.
BEN FORDHAM, HOST: Anthony Albanese, good morning to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN PARTY: Good morning, Ben. Good to talk to you.
FORDHAM: Good to talk to you. We have had massive dramas with New South Wales Labor and China involving illegal donations and bags of cash. The Queensland Deputy Premier, Jackie Trad, had to resign over corruption allegations. And now this mess in Victoria. How rotten is the ALP brand?
ALBANESE: Well, when it comes to Victoria, this fellow, Adem Somyurek, I’m sure you probably hadn’t heard of, and most people in the Labor Party wouldn’t have, has been exposed by this 60 Minutes report. The important thing is when you see wrong-doing, take swift action. And Daniel Andrews who is the Premier did that and sacked him from the Cabinet. And he was removed, essentially, then he resigned from the Labor Party yesterday morning, when it was made clear that the National Executive Committee would be taking that action at lunchtime yesterday. So, where we see wrongdoing, we stamp it out.
FORDHAM: Well but hang on a minute. If it wasn’t for 60 Minutes, this would still be going on because this was an open secret. You had MPs involved, you had staffers involved, this bloke was running around threatening pre-selections, getting people to sign up using dodgy signatures. So, when you say, ‘When we see these things, we stamp it out’, if it wasn’t for 60 Minutes, the bloke would still be in his job.
ALBANESE: Well, this bloke is not an acquaintance of mine. As soon as it became apparent what was going on, and obviously some of this, the nature of this activity is that it happens in the shadows. It doesn’t happen up front. And as soon as it became very clear, then action was taken yesterday. Today the National Executive will be meeting and considering ways in which we can have oversight of what is going on in Victoria. There is discussion about getting senior elders in to make sure we clean up the show, just like New South Wales last year. Michael Lavarch was appointed by myself and Jodi McKay. There’s been a complete restructuring of the New South Wales branch. There is a completely different structure put in place that will ensure that what occurred can never happen again. There’s new personnel in place. And that action was taken. And the New South Wales branches are much better for it.
FORDHAM: It must worry you though that we’ve had restructures, we’ve had reviews, and every time you say, ‘No, well, this is never going to happen again’, it happens again.
ALBANESE: Well, we’ve taken action, Ben. And that does stand in stark contrast. You’d remember, Ben, in New South Wales, the National Party had young Nazis joining not too long ago, and they took action there and shut down the Young Nationals for a while and weeded these people out. From time to time in political parties, it’s happened across the board. It undermines faith in our political system. Most people overwhelmingly join all political parties for the right reasons. And that’s not a partisan comment. They join because the different perspective whether they be Labor or Liberal or National or Greens, because they want to make Australia a better place. The fact that some people join political parties in order to seek power for its own sake, when that happens, it creates problems. With Mr Somyurek, anyone who saw that show will see someone who was concerned with power as the end in itself, rather than to improve education or improve health or improve living standards. And what what worries me is that rank-and-file members overwhelmingly join the Labor Party for the right reasons. They don’t ask anything from it, they just want to help with, it can be a single issue, but by and large it’s much broader issues as well. And I think it’s an insult for them when they see that sort of behaviour going on.
FORDHAM: When were you first made aware of branch stalking allegations against Adem Somyurek?
ALBANESE: On Sunday night.
FORDHAM: You’ve never heard of it before?
ALBANESE: On Sunday night. I barely know this bloke. I couldn’t tell you where he lived, what electorate he was in. He is not someone who’s played any role in terms of the national organisation of the Party. He is on the National Executive.
FORDHAM: Let me bring in the angle of the Federal Labor MP. Let me ask you about the Federal Labor MP, Anthony Byrne. Because it appears like a lot of this footage was filmed in the Office of Anthony Byrne who is a Federal Labor MP. So, was he part of the wrongdoing or was he part of the exposé?
ALBANESE: Look, those matters are going to be investigated by the police and by the anti-corruption authority.
FORDHAM: But they also should be investigated by you.
ALBANESE: Well, they are being investigated by authorities and they should be allowed to do that.
FORDHAM: You’re the head of the Party and he’s a Federal Labor MP. And these activities were filmed in his office. Surely, you picked up the phone and said, ‘What’s doing? Were you part of the investigation? Or were you part of the wrongdoing?’
ALBANESE: Well, quite clearly, there has been activity going on, the sting that went on, the tapes. It wasn’t just in an office, there are tapes in terms of phone calls.
FORDHAM: But I’m asking you about the activities inside that office.
ALBANESE: There are a range of tapes were played.
FORDHAM: I’m asking you, Albo, about the activities inside the Office of Anthony Byrne. You know that’s what I’m focusing on. So, let’s address them.
ALBANESE: You are. And you also know that because they’re under police investigation, I’ll allow those investigations to run their course.
FORDHAM: Are you confident that Anthony Byrne has done nothing wrong?
ALBANESE: Well, Anthony Byrne, I know him. I think he plays a very important role as the Deputy Chair of the National Security Committee. And I regard him as someone of integrity and as someone who plays a really positive and constructive role in the Parliament, in keeping all Australians safe. He works in a very bipartisan way, as you would be aware, Ben.
FORDHAM: Have you spoken to him about these matters?
ALBANESE: No, I haven’t.
FORDHAM: How common is branch stalking in Australian politics?
ALBANESE: Well, you see it in the Liberal Party. Malcolm Turnbull outlines how he got into Parliament, in his book, in Wentworth. From time to time it has occurred. That’s the truth. It’s occurred in the Liberal Party, the National Party, the Labor Party, it occurred in the New South Wales Greens.
FORDHAM: Why were there hidden cameras in the office of one of your MPs, last question?
ALBANESE: I’m not aware. I don’t know the answer to that. And those issues will be investigated by the police and by the anti-corruption authority. And that is appropriate.
FORDHAM: We appreciate your time. We’ll catch up soon.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Ben.