Oct 13, 2020








SUBJECTS: Gladys Berejiklian and ICAC revelations; Federal Budget; Budget reply; Labor’s Working Family Child Care Boost; childcare; manufacturing; economic reforms; energy; green steel hydrogen-fuelled steelmaking.


MELINDA JAMES, HOST: I’m joined now by the Federal Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese. Anthony Albanese, thank you so much for joining us today.




JAMES: Look, we’ll get on to why you’re here in just a moment and what your plans are for the day. But, of course, the big topic of conversation and clearly something a lot of people want to talk about are the revelations that came out of yesterday’s ICAC hearing in relation to the Premier, Gladys Berejiklian’s close and personal relationship with former Member Daryl Maguire. Lots of people are saying that the personal should be kept personal. But others are also saying that this was a private relationship that did see her potentially compromised. Your state Labor colleagues have called for her to resign. What’s your position?


ALBANESE: My position is that there are two separate issues. One is the personal relationship that she had with Mr Maguire, which I think, quite frankly, is her business. I think that people are entitled to have relationships. And she says herself that she stuffed up. And I think it would have been a really difficult day for her yesterday. I’m very sympathetic with her on a personal level because she’s a private person, quite clearly. I certainly didn’t know anything about the relationship with Maguire. I don’t know him, but I know her. And I think on a personal level, I feel for her. But there’s a separate issue, of course, which is the fact that there appears to have been discussions about him having interests, getting financial benefits. And that is of concern that those discussions and that knowledge was there. There’ll be further evidence, of course. I don’t think this fellow, who is a disgraced fellow, he resigned in disgrace, he quite clearly engaging in conduct that was corrupted. He was found to be corrupt. But there’s further evidence to be given over the coming days,


JAMES: I noticed that you’ve been careful to not call for her resignation as your state counterparts have done, the Opposition Leader and the Member for Keira, Ryan Park, as well. You don’t believe at this stage that she should stand down?


ALBANESE: Well, I think that’s a matter for state colleagues. And I am the Federal Leader. One of the things that I’m worried about is federal implications here. We now have a circumstance whereby both the Federal Liberal Party and the state Liberal Government are implicated in land issues related around Badgerys Creek. We know that land was sold or bought at Badgerys Creek for $30 million plus GST that was worth $3 million dollars. It was then leased back to the same people for $1 million. And we know that those people gave donations to the Liberal Party pretty consistently, but certainly prior to the 2019 election. My concern here is also from a federal level on a policy level, I want to see a National Integrity Commission. We need to clean up politics. We need to restore faith in the system. And there’s been a range of things that have happened on a federal level, not just the Badgerys Creek land deal, but the sports rorts saga, the grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, people walked into a meeting and walked out with over $400 million that they didn’t ask for. There’s been issues around land just outside of Canberra with regard to meetings that were held and people in meetings who shouldn’t have been there who had interest in those lands.


JAMES: I take your point about the need for Federal integrity commission, some kind of federal body that would operate in a similar way to ICAC, potentially. And clearly, a lot of people on our text line agree with you that a federal ICAC or something of that nature needs to be established, but it hasn’t. It hasn’t ruled out that behaviour happening on the state level having an ICAC. So, it’s clearly not enough.


ALBANESE: But it’s exposed it. That is the point. Things come out. We have had two premiers and Nick Greiner and Barry O’Farrell resign their position as a result of evidence before ICAC. And not giving correct evidence, which is pretty serious, very serious. That is essentially an offence that brings with it the need to resign. We had multiple ministers go, members of the Liberal Party, we had members of the Labor Party go. That’s a good thing that corruption is exposed. And I really think the number of pots of money that were established in the Budget last Tuesday, we had circumstances where the one thing that seemed to have got cut in last Tuesday’s Budget was Australian National Audit Office, who have been doing their job exposing where the Government has done the wrong thing, exposing where there hasn’t been good use of taxpayers’ funds. And as a thank you present from the Government, they’ve had their funding cut.


JAMES: Let’s talk about the Budget. You have done a solo performance on Q&A last night. And one of the things that has been running in our news bulletins was that you seem to give this indication that if Labor was to make it into Government at the next election, that you would consider repealing maybe this last tranche of tax cuts for high-income earners that would begin in 2024. Is that what you were saying? That you would repeal that? You, of course, passed this package in its entirety. But is that something that Labor would do?


ALBANESE: Well, we, of course, tried to remove that section from the package. We said at the time last year, that it was a triumph of hope over experience to say you knew what the economy would look like in 2024/25 and that you knew that would be a good decision. We’ll make a decision closer to the time. But certainly, if you were listening to Josh Frydenberg on Sunday on Insiders, he said that the reason why stage three tax cuts weren’t brought forward, the overwhelming amount of which it’s $130 billion, $80 billion for high-end taxpayers, the reason why it wasn’t brought forward was they wanted to get bang for their buck. Now, it seems to me that the Treasurer has conceded that you don’t get bang for your buck at the high-end, because it tends to be saved rather than spent. And we actually do have to have a path as well, a pathway back to paying back this trillion-dollar debt that the Government has created. They doubled the debt before this pandemic, it’s an important issue for people to realise. And then they’ve doubled it again. So, a trillion dollars, it can’t just be forgotten or whisked away. And they are issues that will have to be considered.


JAMES: Let’s move on to why you here in the Illawarra. I have the Federal Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, on the program with me this morning. He’s in Wollongong and I understand visiting BlueScope. What’s on the agenda for today?


ALBANESE: Well, I am visiting BlueScope to talk about jobs and talk about manufacturing, to talk about the importance of keeping our economy going. I’ll be visiting there with Stephen Jones and Sharon Bird and Fiona Phillips, the local members here in the Illawarra. We’ll be talking with workers about the Budget, about the impact that is there. I know that many older workers are concerned that there’s nothing in the Budget for over-35-year-olds. Many people are also concerned there’s nothing in the Budget about childcare, and anything in there to boost women’s workforce participation. And nothing there in terms of a trillion dollars of debt, but nothing really to show for it in terms of reform. So, I’m looking forward today to being in the Illawarra once again.


JAMES: Will you be meeting with BlueScope executives? We know, and we’ve talked extensively on this station about the potential of green steel hydrogen-fuelled steelmaking, that would, of course, lead to far fewer emissions to what is now a hugely intensive emissions-wise industries, steelmaking in this country. And BlueScope being quite unequivocal about the fact that some sort of government assistance is certainly what’s been necessary in parts of northern Europe to get green steel happening. What do you think about the future of green steel hydrogen-fuelled steelmaking and the need for government assistance to get it off the ground?


ALBANESE: Look, I think it’s very exciting. And there are, of course, projects underway in Europe. We have the potential for hydrogen, essentially, to not only be a major contributor here to our domestic economy, including the potential for it to play a role with companies like BlueScope, but also in the end for it to be a major export industry as well. So, we need to be looking towards where the future is going. We shouldn’t be last on when it comes to adopting new technology and new innovation. And that’s one of the things I’ll be talking about today.


JAMES: All right, thank you very much for joining us this morning.


ALBANESE: Thanks for having me on the program.