Oct 15, 2020







SUBJECTS: Federal Budget; Budget reply; ICAC; Gladys Berejiklian; Labor’s National Rail Manufacturing Strategy; rail; need for a National Integrity Commission; NRL; South Sydney Rabbitohs; childcare; infrastructure in the Hunter.


RICHARD KING, HOST: This is an appropriate way to introduce our next guest, on account of the fact that his much-beloved South Sydney Rabbitohs are playing on Saturday night. All the action on 2HD from seven, the clash between the Panthers and the Rabbitohs. He’s is a huge fan, and that’s Federal Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, who joins me now. Good morning, Mr. Albanese.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: That’s my nicest ever introduction. Thank you very much.


KING: Even though you did knock the Knights out a couple of weekends ago, but I have sent you the scratchy. I lost a couple of $5 scratchies on that one, unfortunately.


ALBANESE: You have. You’re an honourable man. But the Knights had a great season. I think they’ve got a great future ahead, young players coming through and they’ll benefit from the experience having not played semi-final football for a little while. And I’ve got to say, when it was 14-0 to the Knights after 12 minutes, I was a little bit worried. I was sitting with Mario Fenech who was very calm. Greg Inglis too, they were very calm about the prospects, but I wasn’t necessarily. But we will see how we go this weekend. Great win against Parra, as well. They’ve hit form at the right time.


KING: They certainly have. Good luck on Saturday night. Now, you are back in our neck of the woods. We’ve had quite a few Federal pollies visiting us recently. And you’re here to drum up the National Rail Plan?


ALBANESE: That’s right. One of our announcements, we had two biggies in the Budget Reply. The first was childcare, moving the barrier that is there for women’s workforce participation, that disincentive, by lifting the cap and increasing the subsidy. And the second was a group of announcements around a Future Made in Australia. About how we can be more resilient, how we can ensure that we maximise economic benefit for Australians and jobs, anytime that there’s public money spent. And one of those is the National Rail Manufacturing Plan. And you’d recall a little while ago, the New South Wales Premier saying that we couldn’t make trains here. We know that’s not right. And we know that we can make them right there in Newcastle. And that’s where the Tangara came from. And indeed, just yesterday a fantastic announcement by the Queensland Premier about rail manufacturing, that they’d all be produced, all the carriages in the future, in Maryborough, which is in regional Queensland, a great regional manufacturing city just like Newcastle. And there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be making trains right there in Newcastle.


KING: Well, there was a little bit said earlier in the year from Andrew Constance here in New South Wales, and also the Premier, that having sent everything offshore, they might look at building things here lately, which would be good. But in fairness too, you also called, in your reply to the Federal Budget, about more defence contracts being spent here in Australia. And, in fairness, we’ve had Hollie Hughes the Patron Senator for the Hunter was here yesterday announcing a multi-million-dollar contract being awarded to local company, Armor Composite Engineering, for armour which could end up being sold over in the United States as well. And again, today, Hollie will be here, another multi-million-dollar contract going to another local firm, BlueZone, who are making Navy unmanned service vehicles. So, there’s a couple in two days.


ALBANESE: And that’s a good thing. We need to have, though, rules regarding Australian content. But at the moment, we don’t. It’s all vague. It varies in terms of the benefits which are there. And, of course, Newcastle has fantastic shipyards, it has such a great history. And we should be doing far more in terms of defence there. You’ve got a Williamtown, the Air Force Base, I notice there is talk about some additional saves that have been made on other projects and what they could be used for in Newcastle for upgrades. One of the things that’s needed there, I know that Meryl Swanson has been very strong about for a long period of time, is an upgrade of the runway there that would also benefit the city and the region.


KING: Actually, Nationals Deputy Leader along with the Nationals Senator, Perin Davey, were here in Singleton yesterday. And one of the things they commented on was the fact that particular project that missed out in the Federal Budget was still on the table and looked at. And well, I think Meryl described it as the greatest single act of treachery, perpetuated by this Government, the fact that she thought it was across the line. Apparently, it’s still up for discussion.


ALBANESE: Well, of course, they’d say that. But they just had a Budget that had $100 billion of new spending, a trillion dollars of debt racked up that’ll peak at $1.7 trillion in 2030, but not $1 for this project. I’m not surprised that Meryl Swanson has got her back up, because she has every right to, given the hints that were given. They have been in Government now for seven years. They’re now in their eighth year. They can’t continue to say that things are on the table.


KING: Well, something that is definitely on the table and was a commitment, $560 million for the Singleton Bypass, which is why David Littleproud and Perin Davey were here. But they also said that they were going to actively target Joel Fitzgibbon, who is our most senior Federal local politician, Member for Hunter, who only really just scraped in at that last Federal election, the Nationals reckon that Hunter is a perfect fit for them.


ALBANESE: Well, I will back Fitzy every single time. He’s a strong local representative. It is Joel Fitzgibbon who put the Singleton Bypass on the agenda. We committed to it in the last election as well as the Muswellbrook Bypass. I, of course, was the Shadow Transport and Infrastructure Minister. And Joel Fitzgibbon doesn’t just talk, you can actually drive on something. You can’t drive on a promise, you can drive on the Hunter Expressway today. And the reason why you can drive on the Hunter Expressway is because of Joel Fitzgibbon and other strong advocates there in the Hunter in the Labor Party. The Howard Government talked about it for 12 years and didn’t dig a hole. We built it. It was $1.5 billion of Commonwealth money, there was $200 million of state money, but it was primarily Federal money. And that is a fantastic road. It has, of course, it was quite a complex engineering feat to protect Indigenous heritage, to protect the natural environment as well. That’s why it’s elevated for a considerable period of it. But it was a great project that made such a big difference. And I’ve got to say, local government, as well, lobbied very, very strongly. And we didn’t just talk about it. We put it in the first Budget I had as the Infrastructure and Transport Minister.


KING: Right. Well, something that everybody is talking about is the current ICAC inquiry. The revelations by New South Wales Premier on Monday before the ICAC is something that everybody’s talking about. Again today, Daryl Maguire will be front and centre of the inquiry again. On Q&A the other night, you refused to go along with Jodi McKay and the New South Wales Labor Party who are calling for the Premier’s resignation. But if you were here in New South Wales, you wouldn’t be doing that?


ALBANESE: Look, what I have done is say there are two issues. And I did say that you needed to see the evidence that rolled out this week at the ICAC hearing. And I’ve got to say, it is red hot evidence. I mean, this bloke was using an office in Parliament House to make money for himself. It’s quite extraordinary. And it’s not like it’s just one or two things. It’s happened over years on multiple occasions, including getting fees for introducing people to senior members of the Government. It’s red hot. What I did say the other night, and I maintain my position absolutely, that Gladys Berejiklian and the form of her personal life, I think, that’s her business. What is of public news, I guess, is any information that she had, and some of those phone calls are a big problem, because they were discussing those issues. But as far as her personal life is concerned, I wish her well. I wish people happiness. I think that people are entitled to have personal lives, including the Premier.


KING: There has been a great deal of reluctance to have a federal counterpart to the New South Wales ICAC. Why do you think that is?


ALBANESE: Because they’re worried that ICAC shines a light on things like here. I find this evidence quite remarkable. If someone said it as a rumour, I would have said, ‘No, you’re exaggerating. That can’t be possible.’ But it is true. This corrupt conduct is what it is.


KING: But do you obviously think there should be a Federal ICAC or an equivalent?


ALBANESE: There needs to be a National Integrity Commission. The Government promised it in 2018. We haven’t even seen the legislation. It’s as visible as a Scott Morrison surplus Budget. And we’ve had Sports Rorts, we’ve had the National Party, in particular, seem addicted to establishing funds and then making political decisions and partisan decisions about how that money is used, treating taxpayers’ money as if it was their own. And we need to shine a light on those issues. And that’s why we need a National Integrity Commission, to restore confidence of the public in the political process. I think overwhelmingly, politicians try to do the right thing across the board. But what we see exposed is the wrong decisions being made, is politicians, including the Prime Minister, ducking questions about Sports Rorts, that clearly his office were involved with. We need a body that can put people in the dock and ask questions and find out answers in a public way. And that’s why we need a National Integrity Commission. That’s why it has so much public support. But the Government keeps resisting it.


KING: All right. Thank you very much for having a chat this morning. Enjoy your stay in our neck of the woods today, Mr Albanese.


ALBANESE: It’s a beautiful day in Sydney, which will mean that I am sure it is an even better day in the Hunter.


KING: Definitely. And good luck to the Rabbitohs on Saturday night.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, mate. Very generous.


KING: And good luck with that scratchy, which is definitely on the way.