ANTHONY ALBANESE – TRANSCRIPT – RADIO INTERVIEW – 3AW MORNINGS WITH NEIL MITCHELL – WEDNESDAY, 17 JUNE 2020
ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
3AW MORNINGS WITH NEIL MITCHELL
WEDNESDAY, 17 JUNE 2020
SUBJECTS: Victorian Labor.
NEIL MITCHELL, HOST: On the line is the Federal Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese. Good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, Neil.
MITCHELL: Bob Hawke famously said, ‘If you can’t govern yourselves, you can’t govern the country’. Why should we trust Victorian Labor to be in Government?
ALBANESE: Well, you referred to the last major intervention in Victoria which was 50 years ago. The intervention by Gough Whitlam at the request of John Cain saw the emergence of a Victorian Party that was stronger. A Victorian Party that produced Hawke, Evans, Duffy, Button and Howe.
MITCHELL: Hang on. Labor has been in power for all but four of the past 20 years.
ALBANESE: And it is a good Government.
MITCHELL: Well, how can we trust them on Bob Hawke saying that if you can’t govern yourself, you can’t govern the country?
ALBANESE: Because what you can look at is what people are concerned about which is if Daniel Andrews is delivering good education outcomes? Is he delivering good health outcomes? Is infrastructure being built in Victoria? The answer to that is that Victoria is Australia’s fastest-growing state with the highest economic growth and the best record. And I say that as a proud Sydney-sider. Daniel Andrews has acted with strength, with leadership. I mean, this revelation on Sunday night, Daniel Andrews was taking action the very next morning in removing Mr Somyurek. He was out of the Party by lunchtime. Three ministers have resigned. We have got Federal executive intervention.
MITCHELL: Three have resigned? He says he sacked one of them.
ALBANESE: And Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin in charge of a review moving forward. This has been strong leadership from Daniel Andrews. And I think it is consistent with the strong policy leadership, most importantly, that his premiership is defined by.
MITCHELL: You agree that it is a political hit? Somebody went after Adem Somyurek? Set him up? A political hit? A factional hit?
ALBANESE: I think Adem Somyurek went after himself by his own actions.
MITCHELL: So, you don’t believe he was set up? I mean there were secret cameras, secret tapes. Somebody has gone after him for a reason, haven’t they?
ALBANESE: Well, there were tapes and recordings, I don’t know who was on the other end of those recordings. They are there for all to see. It was quite an extraordinary program.
MITCHELL: Yes, it was. I agree. This is a factional hit on Adem Somyurek, is it not?
ALBANESE: He had, clearly, political enemies. And I am not surprised he did.
MITCHELL: Within the Party?
ALBANESE: He did, indeed. And I am not surprised that he did, given the way that he spoke about not just people who he saw as his opponents, but people who were helping him. He denigrated with homophobic comments, young people, who he saw as his allies. I found his language and his tone quite extraordinary, quite contemptuous of other Party members. And the Party is stronger without him in it.
MITCHELL: But you and I wouldn’t want our private conversations public either. I’m sure you’ve denigrated colleagues. I have never known a politician not to, privately.
ALBANESE: I tell you what, I have never uttered or even heard the sort of language that was used there against Gabrielle Williams, for example, was beyond the pale. I’m amazed that someone in public life from whatever political party could talk about a woman in that way.
MITCHELL: Whether it’s a factional hit or not, and it certainly looks to be, do you agree that Daniel Andrews benefits out of it? Because basically, the National Executive will decide for the next three years who are members of Parliament. They’ll do that on the advice of you and Daniel Andrews. And they’re not going to go against it. So, effectively, Daniel Andrews, with you, decides who’s in the Parliament, Federal and State from Victoria for the next three years. I mean, it’s a big leap in power for him, is it not?
ALBANESE: But Neil, that ignores political reality, which is that people will, including myself, always seek to have consensual relationships with people to talk through issues, to make sure that we get the best representatives.
MITCHELL: Have I got the mechanism right that Daniel Andrews and you will effectively decide, now, who are the members of Parliament for Victoria from the Labor Party?
ALBANESE: The National Executive will determine. And the National Executive contains people, of course, from Victoria. There’ll be a restructuring. The timetable here is that Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin will go away and examine the issues, put forward reform proposals between now and the end of January next year. But you couldn’t have, quite clearly with the evidence that was there on Sunday night, rank-and-file ballots had been distorted. And therefore, what you couldn’t have is the sort of threats that were made on Sunday night whereby one person thought that they should determine everyone who would go into Parliament. What we will do is consult in terms of the whole of the National Executive.
MITCHELL: They are not going to go against the Premier and you, you know that. I mean, you and the Premier are effectively deciding who represents Victoria.
ALBANESE: No, that’s not right. Because in effect, what Daniel Andrews has an interest in, and I have an interest in, as do other members of National Executive, is maximising the absolute support for decisions which are made so that the entire Party and movement moves forward in a collective way. The Party’s been given a huge shock.
MITCHELL: This is not a shock. This has been going on forever. Are you seriously telling me you’ve never heard of branch stacking in the Labor Party?
ALBANESE: I’ve heard of branch stacking in all political parties.
MITCHELL: Of course, including your own.
ALBANESE: In all political parties. Including the Labor Party. The level of engagement was beyond the pale. I’m from New South Wales where politics from time to time gets pretty robust.
MITCHELL: How is Graham Richardson?
ALBANESE: But you don’t see that sort of dominance. In part that is because of the structure. Because you have this public office selection panel, which encourages, I think, or gives an incentive to put people into the Party in safe Liberal seats, because they get an influence in a vote everywhere.
MITCHELL: One of your Federal backbenchers, Anthony Byrne, his office was used for the taping and the filming. Have you asked him whether he’s got copies of those tapes?
ALBANESE: No, I haven’t.
MITCHELL: Why not?
ALBANESE: I haven’t, because it’s very clear that I wasn’t aware of Mr Byrne’s office involvement until much later on.
MITCHELL: Well, Sunday night.
ALBANESE: No. I wasn’t.
MITCHELL: When did you become aware?
ALBANESE: I didn’t recognise the office. I’ve never been into that office.
MITCHELL: So, when did you become aware of it?
ALBANESE: When the media started talking about it.
MITCHELL: On Monday?
ALBANESE: Sometime on Monday.
MITCHELL: Okay. Well, have you spoken to him since?
ALBANESE: No, I haven’t.
MITCHELL: Why not?
ALBANESE: Because IBAC is a bit like ICAC in New South Wales that I’m familiar with. If there was a previous investigation or not, you can’t talk about it. You cannot give answers to those questions.
MITCHELL: Well, hang on. That is only if you are being called as a witness. Has he been called as a witness?
ALBANESE: Well, I don’t know. That is the point. I don’t know.
MITCHELL: Well, he is a member of your backbench. He is right in the middle of this and you haven’t even spoken to him?
ALBANESE: That’s correct because Daniel Andrews on Monday morning at 9am, before I knew any of Mr Byrne’s office being a party to the filming, had already called in IBAC and the Victorian police.
MITCHELL: But the IBAC restriction is only if you have been called as a witness. Now, as far as we know, they haven’t called any witnesses because they’re still investigating. So, you are quite free to talk to Anthony Byrne.
ALBANESE: Well, you don’t know that.
MITCHELL: What do you mean I don’t know that?
ALBANESE: I don’t know that. They have said they’ve declined to comment on when they knew of the recordings. And can I say this, Neil?
MITCHELL: Who has? IBAC?
MITCHELL: Okay, what if I get IBAC to say they haven’t called any witnesses yet? Will you then talk to Anthony Byrne?
ALBANESE: Well, then I can be in a position to talk to him.
MITCHELL: All right. We will get onto that.
ALBANESE: Can I say this too, Neil; you work for the company that showed these recordings.
ALBANESE: 3AW, Channel Nine. Channel Nine has said, your company has said, that these recordings were legal.
ALBANESE: I don’t know how they got them.
MITCHELL: Don’t blame me.
ALBANESE: Well, you can ask the next up the line whether the nature of these recordings, and I assume they were legal, to be out there.
MITCHELL: Well, there are different issues there. Whether it’s legal to play them, whether it’s legal to tape them, whether it’s legal to tape them in the first place without somebody’s knowledge, whether it’s legal to play them. And I agree there’s differing advice on that. Will you ask the police to investigate the bugging? The Federal Police?
ALBANESE: The State Police are investigating now.
MITCHELL: But it is a Federal matter, the Surveillances Act, isn’t it?
ALBANESE: I’m not a lawyer, Neil. And if there are any federal offences, the Australian Federal Police investigate it. That is what they do.
MITCHELL: One of your backbenchers in a very sensitive position on the intelligence committee has potentially had his office bugged both with video and tapes on the phones. Would you call in the Federal Police, to ask the Federal Police, to have a look at that?
ALBANESE: Well, the Federal Police make their own decisions, Neil.
MITCHELL: But you’re quite entitled to say, ‘Could you look at this?’
ALBANESE: As are you. As is anybody. They don’t work at the behest of any individual.
MITCHELL: Do you know where these tapes are?
ALBANESE: I have no idea.
MITCHELL: Will you ask Anthony Byrne and release them all?
ALBANESE: Well, you’re in a better position to know than me.
MITCHELL: No, I don’t know. I only know what I read.
ALBANESE: But it is your organisation that showed the tapes, Neil.
MITCHELL: I’m part of the same network. But I’ve got no idea what’s going on.
ALBANESE: Well, you might want to ask, Neil.
MITCHELL: All right. I will. Well, what about you? Will you ask, I’m not the elected Leader of the Labor Party, will you ask Anthony Byrne to release these tapes?
ALBANESE: The question, this is now a matter of a police investigation and an IBAC inquiry that is underway. And one of the things that we have in this country is the separation of powers between political power and judicial power and the acts of the police and the security agencies.
MITCHELL: I am not asking you to direct them, I am asking you to request them. That is an important difference. Request, not direct.
ALBANESE: They have been requested, Neil. Both the police and IBAC are investigating it. One of things that we saw last night on the TV was authorities knocking on the doors of people. I saw that on the news last night.
MITCHELL: Yes, I saw that too. If I can establish that Anthony Byrne has not yet been called as a witness, you have agreed that you’ll talk to him. Is that right?
ALBANESE: Well, I talk to him about the issues of which I’m concerned. Which is with these issues, it seems to me that the important matters that we needed to deal with, we’ve dealt with, which is to intervene into the Victorian branch to make sure that we’re empowering rank-and-file members by removing any distortions which are there, by taking action in terms of establishing Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin, two people who are beyond reproach, to look at the structure of the Victorian branch. We have removed any incentive for the stacking to continue.
MITCHELL: As I understand it, the Channel Nine and The Age do not have full copies of the tapes. Potentially, Mr Anthony Byrne’s office does. I’m asking you, if I can establish that IBAC has not called him as a witness and you are therefore able to talk to him about these things, will you?
ALBANESE: Well, I should imagine, I would be amazed if all authorities aren’t speaking to all the people involved.
MITCHELL: Okay. Who is Matt Hilakari?
ALBANESE: I don’t know.
MITCHELL: I don’t know.
ALBANESE: He’s the Secretary of the TUC, I think.
MITCHELL: No, Matt. Matt Hilakari.
ALBANESE: I think he is the Secretary of Labor Council.
MITCHELL: No, it’s another one. It is another Hilakari. It’s reported today that he works for State Labor as a sort of adviser, and also for two of your MPs, Julian Hill and Peta Murphy?
ALBANESE: I don’t know.
MITCHELL: Okay. It’s reported that he is, in fact, a factional organiser on the payroll of the taxpayer through two of your members and through some state members. Will you investigate that?
ALBANESE: Will I investigate whether he’s a staff member or not?
MITCHELL: Whether he is being paid public money to work as a factional organiser?
ALBANESE: Look, I’m not aware, you have raised a question about an individual in Victoria.
MITCHELL: Well, he is on the Federal payroll.
ALBANESE: There are, I think, 93 people in the Caucus. I certainly know who Andrew Giles is. He’s a friend of mine and a Shadow Minister, a part of the team.
MITCHELL: Andrew Giles?
MITCHELL: What’s he got to do with it?
ALBANESE: Didn’t you raise Andrew Giles?
MITCHELL: No. Julian Hill and Peta Murphy.
ALBANESE: Julian Hill and Peta Murphy are both very good local members.
MITCHELL: Will you at least ask them whether they employ this man, Matt Hilakari, and what he does for them or if he is in fact employed as a factional organiser?
ALBANESE: I’m happy to ask them who the members of their staff are, but I’m sure it’s available on the booklet that comes out and is available.
MITCHELL: That’s part of the problem. It is not on that staff list.
ALBANESE: Well, it has to be on the staff list if they’re employed. We sign off on, Neil, we sign off on a 60 or 70-page document every month about who is employed. And they are public, by the way. They are publicly available.
MITCHELL: This is fully reported in the Herald Sun newspaper today that this is the allegation. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but the allegation that he is employed on some state payrolls and some Federal payrolls and in fact what he does is work as a factional organiser.
ALBANESE: Well, I just told you. I don’t know, in terms of the employment relationship, of who people are.
MITCHELL: That would obviously concern you if it is right, wouldn’t it?
ALBANESE: Neil, all issues of propriety concern me. All issues.
MITCHELL: Okay. So, will you have a look at it or not?
ALBANESE: I’ll have a look at any of these matters that are raised.
MITCHELL: You agree that a lot of legitimate members of the Labor Party are being disenfranchised with what is happening here? I mean there are 16,000 members, how many a dodgy, do you think?
ALBANESE: We don’t know. And that’s why we’ve got Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin in charge. But what I do agree is that overwhelmingly people join the Labor Party for all the right reasons. And I do agree as well, that the sort of activities that see industrial-style branch stacking, what that does is dilute the influence of genuine members. And that’s why it’s in the interest of genuine members to stamp it out.
MITCHELL: Well, thank you for your time. Luke Hilakari is the head of the Trades Hill Council here. I don’t know whether Matt has any relation to him at all. I’ve never heard him until today. But it’s something about page five of the Herald Sun.
ALBANESE: No worries. Thanks, Neil.
MITCHELL: Thank you.