Subjects: Medical evacuation legislation.
CHRIS SMITH: Well, Albo, what can I say. In your guts you know this medical transfer regime is nuts.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Not at all, Chris. This is merely codifying something that the Government itself says is happening now.
SMITH: Why touch it then? If we’re sending people who really need it to Australia already, why make a big deal of it and why create a symbol that says we’re going to get even kinder?
ALBANESE: Well, what it does is fulfil the obligations that we have, essentially, to continue to be tough on people smugglers without being weak on humanity. There’s some 900 people here now, Chris, who are either here for medical assistance or are the families who are here for medical assistance. And what we did yesterday was make sure that this bill does nothing, absolutely nothing, to weaken our border security. But make sure that if there are people who are in genuine medical need, then they will receive that assistance. It of course codifies as well, the fact that the Minister will still have power over this process, including appointing the medical panel, including making sure that if there are any issues with regard to national security or character then those people won’t be eligible. And what’s more it excludes …
SMITH: Hang on, go back on that. It excludes what?
ALBANESE: It excludes anyone who has an adverse national security issue. And might I say …
SMITH: But they can have a criminal record …
ALBANESE: That’s not right. That’s not right, Chris. Go and look at the legislation. That’s not right.
SMITH: So tell me what you changed yesterday afternoon. You were able to determine that those with a criminal conviction, as long as they had a health need, a medical need, could be transferred to Australia.
ALBANESE: That’s not right. You’re just wrong. Anyone with a criminal conviction of 12 months or more will be ineligible. Anyone convicted of any serious crime won’t be eligible. We ensured that was the case. And what’s more the Minister is the person – Peter Dutton – is the person who gets to determine that – in terms of character and also in terms of national security after getting appropriate advice.
SMITH: Okay. Can I just replay for you something and I want to check on this – what sort of criminal record someone can have – because there are several articles written today by those who would normally favour your party, that actually tell us the kind of people who will be able to come in under this, which is where I got that from. Let me go back on that in just a second, but firstly – former Labor powerbroker, your mate Graham Richardson. He says, you know, it’s a serious embarrassment because he reckons it’s a silly idea and the boats could keep coming.
Audio of Graham Richardson plays
GRAHAM RICHARDSON: And that’s why yesterday was just silly. They didn’t need to do it and it’s not going to advance their cause at all. It doesn’t mean you win an extra ten seats. You achieved nothing yesterday, really, except you embarrass the Government. And that’s all very nice but you don’t want to embarrass yourselves in the process, and I think that’s the danger here.
ALBANESE: Well Richo is a mate of mine, as you know, even for a St George supporter I don’t mind him.
SMITH: He says dangerous.
ALBANESE: But on this case he’s simply wrong and a lot of people haven’t had the opportunity, who have made comment, including some of the comment in the media today, to actually examine what has been passed. So for example, anyone who is now not on Manus and Nauru – and these people have been there for more than half a decade – it is the Government’s responsibility …
SMITH: Because they’re not refugees. That’s why, they haven’t been classified as refugees, they don’t cut it.
ALBANESE: That is not right, Chris, and you do know that.
SMITH: How many refugees are on Nauru?
ALBANESE: You must know that there are people on Nauru and Manus who have been classified as refugees. Some of those have been settled in the United States. Some of those are awaiting settlement in the United States. But you must know that overwhelmingly, the people on Manus and Nauru have indeed been classified as refugees. The reason why they haven’t been settled somewhere is because the Government has been incapable of organising third countries of settlement. They’ve rejected the New Zealand offer that was made by the New Zealand Conservative Government and re-offered by the New Zealand Labor Government to settle 150 people each year in New Zealand.
SMITH: OK. Those that have come here illegally are the ones who won’t be allowed into our country. They cannot be classified as refugees if that is the case. You know that.
ALBANESE: No, that’s not right either, Chris.
SMITH: They’ve come here through a leaky boat, they’ve come here illegally.
ALBANESE: That’s not right either, Chris. Those people who have sought asylum here by boat will not be allowed to settle in Australia. That has not changed. Not one thing in last night’s legislation that was carried changes that. The other thing that is not changed, is the fact that anyone who gets on a boat today, not one thing has been changed for them.
SMITH: I understand you are going to say that to us.
ALBANESE: Because it’s a fact, Chris.
SMITH: But the symbol is, if you’re prepared …
ALBANESE: Facts matter.
SMITH: OK. If you’re prepared to be this generous in a sensitive period like leading up to a Federal Election. They will construe this as quite simply: ‘We better have a go here, because if they are that serious and that generous right now imagine how generous and what they will change and the pathways they will give us, you know, leaky boats, asylum seekers – when they get into power and have absolute power’. You seem to be a lot kinder than any of the border protection policies we’ve had since now.
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that every one of the border protection policies is still in place. Not one of them was changed by the legislation last night and the only people sending signals to people smugglers and encouraging boats to come, have been Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton and some of the rhetoric around this. None of the issues of offshore settlement, of no settlement in Australia, of boat turn backs, none of those issues were changed at all by last night’s decision by the Parliament.
SMITH: But it’s the symbol of it all. And this is what Richo mentioned this morning, it is the symbol of it all.
ALBANESE: It’s people talking up rhetorically, encouraging boats to come, being prepared to play politics with it. You know, I’ll ask you this question, Chris. In what year have most people sought protection, a protection visa under sought asylum basically, here in Australia, what’s the largest number?
SMITH: I don’t know the year.
ALBANESE: This year. The last year there were more people sought protection from the Government, the current Government, than any year in Australia’s history. But they all came by plane. But all of those are here, have sought protection and put in applications. The largest number ever and that is on this Government’s watch.
SMITH: All right. What is understood in immigration circles, let’s get back to this criminal record business. One of the hardest things for an immigration officer to determine is where and when someone comes – when they come do they have a criminal record in the place that they come from. Some people of course don’t even have their papers, they don’t admit what country they’re from. And of course, as The Telegraph reports today, it has seen four examples of individuals currently held on Manus Island and Nauru who, if signed-off by two doctors, the Government believes could be transferred to Australia. And the first case is a man with a history of violence, charged on Manus Island with the assault of a treating psychiatrist, who is suspected of being charged with murder in Iran. The second …
ALBANESE: Except they can’t, Chris.
SMITH: The second involves a man arrested in association with rape of a minor on Manus Island, but who is in custody pending appearance in court. These are people who could be transferred.
ALBANESE: They can’t. The Minister has to approve it. There’s a process whereby …
SMITH: So if the doctors say that he needs medical treatment, that the Minister of the time will stand in the way, do you really think that?
ALBANESE: Absolutely. Because that’s what the legislation provides for. So let’s not build up straw men here. And of the 900 people who are here either directly getting medical assistance or the families of people who are, under this Government, on their watch, not one of them, not one, has been subject to an adverse national security assessment.
SMITH: Well I hope in the 72 hours you’ve given the Minister to make a decision – and if he’s got 600 applications in his hot little hands, as the Greens admit may happen in the early stages of this legislation – I hope he’s got plenty of time to get through the backgrounds of those 600 people.
ALBANESE: Christopher, they’ve all been assessed.
SMITH: My mother only calls me Christopher.
ALBANESE: These people have been assessed. These are not people who are new arrivals. These are people who have been in our care, essentially, for more than – offshore, but we still have responsibilities there, the Government acknowledges that – for more than five years.
SMITH: Are you suggesting the Government doesn’t have a humanitarian bone in their body?
ALBANESE: I’m suggesting that this is a Government that’s desperate, that’s running a smear and fear campaign.
SMITH: But in terms of humanitarianism, are they heartless?
ALBANESE: I’m suggesting that this is a Government that is prepared to play politics with national security. And today I spoke outside the Parliament in front of those workers on Australian ships replaced by BHP. When BHP is removing the two ships that operated around our coast with the Australian flag, with Australian seafarers, they’ve lost their jobs on the high seas. They now will be replaced by foreign flagged ships with foreign seafarers. I just wish this Government, when it talked about what happens on the oceans around our coast, had a bit of concern for making sure that Australians were working around our coasts on ships with Australian flags rather than foreign-flagged seafarers.
SMITH: OK. The Minister can only reject transfers on medical grounds – or if it can be proven they’ve served at least 12 months behind bars. How hard is it in 72 hours to determine whether someone has made an application to come to Australia, has actually served behind bars for 12 months in Iran for instance? It would be impossible.
ALBANESE: It’s not 72 hours, Chris. They’ve been there …
SMITH: The Minister will have 72 hours to decide.
ALBANESE: The Minister has been there and gets advice. I’ll give you the big tip, Chris. I hope to be a minister at some stage. I won’t be – whoever the Immigration Minister is won’t be going to Iran to out themselves. They have a department. The department has assessed – each of these people have been through a process, they’ve been there for more than five years to get information out of them.
SMITH: Can I ask this question of you, will we get leaky boats coming through the northern waters before the election, do you think?
ALBANESE: Well there’s been no change in any of the policies that the Government says …
SMITH: So this is not a symbol that will restart boats and the people smuggling trade and we’ll have no boats? Are you saying that there will be no boats before the election?
ALBANESE: There have been boats in the last year, Chris, as you know. One of the boats offloaded people in the Daintree and they were running around Northern Queensland. So the fact is that there is no change to the policy. The Government says it has a framework that protects our borders. Nothing has changed in that and therefore our borders should be protected and we will keep that regime in government.
SMITH: We’ll see whether you keep the regime or whether you go one step further. We’ll see whether that happens, if and when you win the election. Thank you so much for your time this afternoon.
ALBANESE: Great to be with you, look forward to regular appearances.
Subjects: Medical evacuation legislation.
DAVID SPEERS: Thanks very much for your time this afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good afternoon David.
SPEERS: What made Labor decide this new law was necessary?
ALBANESE: We decided it on its merits. We put politics aside and we looked at the fact that people have been on Manus and Nauru for more than half a decade; that many of them, there’s substantial evidence, need medical assistance.
SPEERS: You don’t think they are getting that?
ALBANESE: That needs to be codified. Part of the reason why, the evidence that they need medical assistance, was just given by Peter Dutton no less – the fact that 400 people are here getting medical assistance. If you add in their families, there are 900 people here. Nine hundred is more than there are on either Manus or Nauru. But at the moment …
SPEERS: But if it is happening, if it is already happening as he says, why do we need to change?
ALBANESE: Well it needs to be codified properly. You can’t run, be it migration or health care, on an ad hoc basis. What this does is codify it. It does it in a way as well which makes sure that we are protecting our borders. I mean, you can protect your borders without giving up your national soul. What Peter Dutton wants to do is to deliberately mislead the Australian people. I notice that both he and the Prime Minister wouldn’t give a straight answer to the very simple question that you asked Minister Dutton and the Prime Minister was asked this morning, which is this: Will this impact on any new arrivals, this legislation? Because the answer is no, but they won’t say that because they don’t actually want to give a message to the people smugglers.
SPEERS: What would happen if a new arrival, someone came here by a boat, were transferred to Nauru and were really crook or their mental illness was so grave that they can’t be treated there, what would happen to them?
ALBANESE: Well they will have to be treated there. They certainly can’t be transferred to Australia under this legislation. It has no impact on them whatsoever.
SPEERS: But Labor’s position here is what, even if they are so crook, they would still have to be treated there?
ALBANESE: Well let’s go back a step David. This has no impact whatsoever on the current border protection regime that is in place. There are not people who have recently been put on Manus and Nauru. There is no reason whatsoever why there will be a single new person put on Manus and Nauru. If, as the Government says …
SPEERS: You can’t guarantee that no-one will ever come on a boat again.
ALBANESE: If, as the Government that says – it is the Government that says it has solved this issue with the regime that has been put into place.
SPEERS: If a boat comes now and they go to Nauru and they are really crook, are you saying there is adequate medical care there?
ALBANESE: What I am saying is one, if you go back, that won’t occur because the Government says it’s got this in place – there are no changes whatsoever to the border protection regime – that’s the first point.
SPEERS: OK, but if someone does go there?
ALBANESE: I’m not into hypotheticals.
SPEERS: You really don’t think there will ever be a boat?
ALBANESE: The fact is that the Government has put in place a system and one which Labor supports – the measures that have been put in place. Now, none of the clauses in this legislation impact on that whatsoever. All this simply does is codify the fact that for those people who are currently on Manus and Nauru, who need medical assistance, that they will be able to get it and that in itself …
SPEERS: But it just sounds like a two-tiered system now. If someone goes there now they have to be treated.
ALBANESE: It is explicitly a two-tiered system.
SPEERS: So the medical care must be adequate enough for them?
ALBANESE: It is explicitly a two-tiered system David and we make no apologies for that because when we were working out the precise details of this legislation, we very consciously ensured that there are no signals sent to people smugglers or those who are thinking of coming by boat,. The only people who are sending signals, encouraging people smugglers it would appear, are Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison as the Prime Minister.
SPEERS: This two-tiered system, it just seems a bit strange that perhaps you’d have two people with the exact same condition; one is going to be treated there, one is not.
ALBANESE: But David there’s different systems in place now. If you want to look at where different systems are in place, have a look at the fact that the greatest number of applications for protection visas in Australia’s history is under the current Government and it indeed is just last year, the record number. Now the fact is that those people all arrived by plane, rather than by boat.
SPEERS: That is a fair point, but I think we’re getting away from this concern under your new – what is now the law of the land once it receives Royal Assent – you’d have different refugees on Nauru receiving different treatment.
ALBANESE: We make no apologies David for the fact that we have ensured that there are no signals to people smugglers that would encourage …
SPEERS: You must, therefore, think that the medical care is adequate on Nauru …
ALBANESE: There are no pull factors in this legislation, none.
SPEERS: But it is the medical care adequate on Nauru for that new arrival?
ALBANESE: You’re missing the point, David. If you go back a couple of steps …
SPEERS: This goes to the very point – whether there is enough medical care.
ALBANESE: No, what it goes to, is you putting up hypotheticals on the basis of something that isn’t happening at the moment. I put this to you – how many people have arrived by boat, have been sent to Manus and Nauru this year? None.
SPEERS: None, because this government stopped the boats.
ALBANESE: And what’s changed in that regime by this legislation? Absolutely nothing, absolutely nothing. Now you know that’s the case because you’re an intelligent, objective journalist. It is only Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison who refuse to acknowledge that fact. And what they’re doing here is trying, indeed, perhaps to even encourage, they are trying to mislead the Australian people because all they’ve got left …
SPEERS: You think they’re trying to encourage boats to come.
ALBANESE: All they’ve got left is is a fear and a smear campaign. This is a government that showed yesterday they’ve lost control of the Parliament, they’ve lost control of the agenda. All they’re interested in is fighting each other and scaring the Australian people.
SPEERS: They’re reopening Christmas Island. Would Labor keep it open?
ALBANESE: What for, why are they doing that?
SPEERS: You would shut it down?
ALBANESE: Once again what they’re doing is just trying to create action based upon a myth. There are no changes to the border protection regime from the legislation that was carried. And we wanted to make sure that the very simple principle that I’ve spoken about with you before – you can be tough on people smugglers without being weak on humanity, that’s my firm belief. That is what we ensured occurred with the legislation that was carried, not just in the House of Representatives, but in the Senate today. And it’s interesting isn’t it that Derryn Hinch, someone who I think is someone of integrity, got a security briefing and then voted for the legislation.
SPEERS: That principle about being tough on borders while maintaining humanity, sounds very sound. So too does the principle that the elected minister of the day should have the final say on who comes to Australia. Do you agree?
ALBANESE: Look, the elected minister of the day has enormous say here.
SPEERS: Not complete say.
ALBANESE: Well, the minister of the day never has complete say over anything, David, that’s the truth. I’ve been a minister for six years. I know that departments, bureaucrats, advice – that’s all publicly available, as you know. What we have in a democracy is accountability of ministers, we don’t have a free for all where a minister is the dictator. What we have under this system is that, one, you have to have two doctors. That’s the first step. It then goes to the Departmental Secretary. The Minister can, upon advice either of character grounds or of national security grounds that can be referred to – he can say no at that point – or it can be referred to the panel the medical panel. What’s important is that he appoints the panel and the panel includes the highest public medical officers in the land, as well as other doctors. So is Peter Dutton saying when he sits here that ‘I don’t have a say in this’; that he’s going to appoint doctors without any regard to whether they will take seriously whether there is a serious medical need here. The fact is that if you look at his actions in approving 900 – if you count the families of those who are here now – it exposes what a nonsense this fear campaign is for a Government that’s run out of any positive agenda. So all it’s got is negativity.
SPEERS: You heard the Government’s attack in Question Time. That under this system, that you’ve just explained with the panel doctors and so on. If someone who has charges against them or is facing trial but has not yet been convicted they could still be brought in.
ALBANESE: The idea, David, that someone facing charges of rape won’t have those charges heard and that there’ll be a transfer here and that will not trigger a warning in terms of national security, from the security agencies, is a complete nonsense.
SPEERS: Well, this is the problem, though, when you codify – getting back to where we started – the Minister’s discretion. This could be taken to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The legislation, the law now says the Minister can only override if they’ve been convicted.
ALBANESE: David the current circumstance is that a whole range of matters get taken of the Minister to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. You know that’s the case. The Minister knows that’s the case. That’s why he never has unlimited power. That’s why we have a whole lot of issues that appear either before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or before other parts of the judiciary. The Minister is accountable for his actions. There’s nothing different about that. What the Government is trying to do desperately and it’s quite remarkable, that what effectively you have here when you take away all of the rhetoric, is a government that is trying to scare people on the basis of false information and in contradiction, indeed, of its own actions in bringing people here to get medical assistance which it itself acknowledges it has done, as I say again, for around about 900 people if you take the families into account.
SPEERS: Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for joining us this evening.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having us on, David.
Transcript of Radio Interview – Radio National Breakfast with Fran Kelly – Monday, 11 February, 2019
Subjects: Minority government, Medical transfer legislation, leak of national security advice.
FRAN KELLY: The Morrison Government is facing the very real danger of losing two major votes in coming days as Parliament resumes this week, not just on asylum seekers, but also on a Labor push to extend the parliamentary sitting weeks to deal with the Banking Royal Commission. Labor frontbench Anthony Albanese was the Leader of the House when we last had a minority government in this country. That was the Gillard Government. And so he is experienced in navigating a difficult Parliament. Anthony Albanese, welcome back to Breakfast.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks for having me on Fran.
KELLY: We could have a vote on the Medivac Bill as early as tomorrow. If the Government goes down in that Bill, would that amount to a vote of no-confidence in Scott Morrison and the Coalition?
ALBANESE: Well we can debate these issues, but I suspect not, because the Government would point to the provisions which are there for specific procedures that are required for a vote of no-confidence. There has to be notice given of when that debate will take place. What is very clear though is that the Morrison Government has lost the confidence of the Australian people. And if they had any dignity frankly, Fran, they would go to an election given that we now have a part-time Parliament which is going to sit just ten days.
KELLY: OK. Well the Government points out that the minority Gillard Government, and you were in charge of marshalling the votes then, lost 62 votes on the floor of the Parliament, so what …
ALBANESE: Well that is just not true. It’s just not true Fran.
KELLY: Well what did you lose?
ALBANESE: We didn’t lose any votes on legislation on the floor of the Australian Parliament.
KELLY: So what are these 62 instances that the Government talks of?
ALBANESE: That is Christopher Pyne’s fantasy. The fact is that we have 595 to nil. That was the scoreboard. And the fact is as well, as you would well recall, the now Government used to say, Christopher Pyne and others, that if we lost a vote that would be the end of the Government. If we had have lost votes on legislation I think you would have known about it.
KELLY: Let’s go to the Medical Transfer Bill. That will be the first order of business ,or very early up tomorrow, we expect. Labor voted for it late last year in the Senate. Will Labor vote for it this week in the Reps? Will Labor hold fast on this?
ALBANESE: Well Fran what we’ve got to do here is take a bit of a step back from the Government’s rather hysterical rhetoric and think about what this Bill is about and why Kerryn Phelps has brought it forward. This is about whether people who we have responsibility for, who we’re obligated to look after; if they are sick and in need of medical care, whether they should get access to that. Now our view very clearly is yes. I think the Australian people understand that and their answer to that is yes as well. And what the Government has done on this legislation frankly, is not tell the truth, because the legislation, yes, says that two doctors may make a recommendation. But that is subject to ministerial approval. The Minister can then refer it to a panel which includes people who the Minister himself, Mr Dutton, has appointed to that panel and they will make a final determination except for, of course, the Minister also has discretion on national security grounds.
KELLY: OK, but just there, as you say, that panel, the ultimate panel, can make the ultimate decision and your colleague, Shadow Immigration Minister Shayne Neumann now says, and is quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald today, saying the Minister should have the final discretion over medical transfers and as you have just explained, that is not how the current bill is structured. So Shayne Neumann is saying Labor has always had two clear objectives – making sure sick people can get medical care and making sure the Minister has final discretion over medical transfers. That sounds like Labor is about to compromise.
ALBANESE: Well we have said that and we are prepared to compromise across the Parliament. This should not be a partisan issue. But this is a government that doesn’t look for outcomes, it looks for arguments and that is one of the reasons why it is in the state that it is. It doesn’t look for solutions. It has responsibility. It knows full well that almost 1000 people have already been transferred to Australia under the provisions in which they need medical assistance. So what this Bill is attempting to do is to codify …
KELLY: Are you saying that you don’t think it has codified it correctly yet? Do you agree with Shayne Neumann that the final discretion over medical transfers must rest with the Minister? Do you think there is still some amending of this bill that should happen before Labor will support it?
ALBANESE: Well there is an argument that the ministerial discretion is there because it is the Minister who appoints the panel that will make the determination and the Minister still has, under this legislation that is proposed, discretion over national security grounds. So if we need to tweak the legislation, then by all means we should be able to do that in order to get an outcome. But I think that what Dr Phelps, in discussions that I had with her last year, was very clear about was that she was about outcomes. So if we need to tweak the legislation by all means let’s have those discussions. But what is essential is that the status quo, whereby you have ministers who are saying that people will be transferred en masse, that is because there are medical issues – surely that is an acknowledgement by the Government that the current situation is simply untenable.
You can be tough on people smugglers, Fran, without being weak on humanity and hysteria from the Government saying that this would dismantle the entire system of border protection should be called out for the nonsense that it is. The fact is this Government is running scared. It is looking for scare campaigns rather than governing in the national interest and rather than governing with a view to having the respect for human dignity that all Australian Governments should have. I believe the Australian people want to see a Government that looks after people as well as secures the borders.
KELLY: Australians have voted again and again though to get the point across they want secure borders and the Government does tender this advice, now declassified, from the Department of Home Affairs that says 1000 people on Manus and Nauru “could have access to a transfer within weeks’’. It is that that the Government is using to say to Labor that if you do this, you will open up the floodgates again.
ALBANESE: Fran this is a government that spends day after day wanting to send signals to people smugglers that somehow you might be back in business. It is quite extraordinary, their behaviour, and the leaking of classified information never occurred under previous governments. This is a government that is all about politics, not about substance, and it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of the Government to be able to have a border security policy but also to ensure that people who it has a responsibility for, who are ill and sick, and bear in mind these people have been in detention, without hope, for more than five years. It’s not surprising that that is producing very negative health outcomes for many of those people.
KELLY: Look there is no doubt that public pressure has been brought to the Government on this and I think the Wentworth by-election was a clear example of that. But just to go to possible compromises, you have obviously looked closely at this. Under the so-called Phelps Bill, the Immigration Minister can overturn a medical decision if there is an adverse security assessment, in other words if someone is judged to be a national security risk. But national security covers threats like terrorism and espionage. It doesn’t cover crimes like rape and murder, which is what the Minister, Peter Dutton, is putting forward. Is that a potential compromise, to expand that definition of what is a national security threat under this Bill?
ALBANESE: Well there will be discussion quite clearly today. It is unfortunate that the Government has been so intransigent about it and has chosen to engage in rhetorical argument, rather than take action. But what we have seen since this Bill was introduced of course Fran, is children removed from Manus and Nauru, a circumstance which the Government, at the time of the introduction of the Bill said wasn’t possible. So the Government itself has moved. What we actually need here is an outcome. There is agreement about the broad range of border security issues. There is agreement from the main parties about offshore processing. There is agreement about securing our borders. What this is about is a humanitarian response to people who are in need and whether there should be a codification really of something that is happening already, which is people have been transferred – almost 1000 to Australia are here right now.
KELLY: Let me ask you this – would you vote for the so-called Phelps Bill as it stands?
ALBANESE: Look, I will be having those discussions in our processes that will take place today Fran. But I will be bringing my values, which are that you can be tough on border security without being weak on humanity.
KELLY: OK. Let me interrupt you there because we are almost out of time because an unnamed MP from the right of the Labor party is quoted in The Australian today as saying: “The children in our party who believe the fairy tales have to be stopped. National security is just too important to be allowed to be run by children’’. Presumably some are worried about the spectre of the so-called 2001 Tampa election.
ALBANESE: Well quite clearly ..
KELLY: Just briefly.
ALBANESE: … this is a government that has been about playing politics. When they play politics …
KELLY: This is one of your colleagues who said this.
ALBANESE: Well when the Government plays politics they should be called out for it. This Government is undermining our national security with some of their rhetoric and it is undermining our national security by leaking classified documents in a strategic way designed to put spin on it and designed to scare people.
KELLY: Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for joining us.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having me on Fran.
MONDAY, 11 FEBRUARY, 2019
Subjects: Banking Royal Commission, border security, music.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Good morning to you both fellows, good morning.
ANTHONY ALABNESE: Good morning.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Deb.
KNIGHT: Now Commissioner Kenneth Hayne, Christopher, pulled absolutely no punches when he singled out these NAB bosses for criticism. Are you thinking it is welcome news that they have gone?
PYNE: I think most people will welcome the NAB taking that action and look, I have no particular inside knowledge of what might happen at other banks, but I doubt that will be the last of the departures from some of the big banks. Obviously, the evidence at the Royal Commission was damning and the NAB has been one of the first to move. It was particularly damning about the NAB actually, so that is probably why. But I think most people will welcome it and I think a lot of people are welcoming the Government’s response to the Royal Commission – the fact that we are putting consumers front and centre but also the fact that we are not trying to smash credit in Australia, which would cause a recession.
KNIGHT: Why won’t you bring on more sitting days to actually enforce the recommendations?
PYNE: Well you don’t want to rush a response to a Royal Commission. You don’t want to rush the legislation. It’s very complicated legislation and I think it is very important that the Parliament takes the appropriate amount of time to get legislation right. We’ve seen rushed legislation in past governments in the financial system which has had to be changed and there is legislation in the Senate right now that the Labor Party could vote for to reform the superannuation industry. But they simply won’t, because all they want to do is play politics rather than actually fix problems for consumers. And right now they could pass legislation next week to help reform superannuation.
ALBANESE: You’ve got to admire Christopher’s capacity to say black is white. I mean, they resisted the Royal Commission on 26 separate occasions. What we have seen now is they are still defending the banks and the top end of town by not having the Parliament respond to the recommendation of the Royal Commission. Christopher is the Leader of the House. It’s a good position. I used to hold it. You get to decide when Parliament sits. We are sitting for two weeks. We should keep sitting until we deal with these recommendations.
KNIGHT: And Christopher, you are not going to escape this criticism from Labor that you did reject this call for the Royal Commission 26 times. Why can’t you as a government simply just admit it; say: “OK, we got it wrong here, we made a mistake”. Voters are screaming out for honesty from their politicians. Why can’t you guys just do that?
PYNE: Well we have already done it Deb. Malcolm Turnbull, when he was Prime Minister said …
KNIGHT: Well we haven’t heard Scott Morrison saying that publicly, outside the Parliament.
PYNE: Yes he has.
ALBANESE: He was the Treasurer who resisted it.
PYNE: Yes he has.
ALBANESE: He was the Treasurer who tried to stop the Royal Commission and now we have the part-time Parliament sitting for 10 days.
PYNE: The question was to me Albo. The facts are …
ALBANESE: Well you went on for 10 minutes before defending the banks. The fact is your record on this is appalling, Christopher.
PYNE: The question was to me. The question was to me.
KNIGHT: So you admit you got it wrong?
ALBANESE: Did you get it wrong?
PYNE: They question was to me Deb. Both Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison have both said they regretted not bringing on the Royal Commission earlier. They both said that, so it is not true that we haven’t admitted that we’d rather have done it earlier.
ALBANESE: They haven’t said sorry. Ken Henry said sorry last night. You should say sorry.
PYNE: He has obviously been told by the Shorten office to toughen up on the Today Show because he is not letting me answer the questions.
ALBANESE: Just say sorry Christopher.
PYNE: But the truth is we have said that we regretted it and we are responding to it and getting on with it. We are doing it sensibly, whereas Labor wants to smash mortgage brokers. I think that is the big story. Labor actually wants to put 16,000 mortgage brokers out of business which helps the banks by reducing competition.
ALBANESE: You are talking about the Royal Commission recommendations Christopher.
PYNE: That’s right.
KNIGHT: What’s your response though to the mortgage brokers issue, because a lot of them are saying we have thrown them under the bus here.
ALBANESE: The Royal Commission has come up with recommendations. We support all of the recommendations in principle. We will look at the detail and we will consult, including with mortgage brokers. But the fact the Royal Commission was established to make recommendations to government. It is extraordinary that the Government has walked away from the recommendations from day one.
PYNE: No we haven’t. Rubbish. That’s not true.
ALBANESE: You just criticised the Royal Commission’s recommendations then.
PYNE: We are responding sensibly to the recommendations. You want to give the banks a free kick.
ALBANESE: You just criticised them.
PYNE: A free kick by getting rid of all the competition.
KNIGHT: Listen to you lot. You are fired up this morning.
ALBANESE: It is Commissioner Hayne that he is criticising there, the Royal Commissioner.
KNIGHT: You guys must be fired up because Parliament is about to resume.
PYNE: He gets very excited when Parliament is resuming.
ALBANESE: Well it is such an infrequent thing Deb. That’s the thing. You’ve got to get excited.
PYNE: He can’t wait to see me. He can’t wait to see me on Monday.
ALBANESE: Ten days in eight months we are sitting. If this was any other workplace in the country you would get fired for it.
PYNE: I’ve missed you. I’ve missed you Albo. I can’t wait to see you.
ALBANESE: I wish I could say the same.
PYNE: You do. You know it.
KNIGHT: We will have issues being looked at when Parliament resumes next week, not least the humiliating defeat that the Government is facing on the issue of allowing medical transfers of refugees from Manus and Nauru. Albo, is Labor still going to support this bill being put forward by Kerryn Phelps?
ALBANESE: We are supporting the legislation. We will see what happens in Parliament next week.
KNIGHT: Will you be reviewing the idea of having an independent medical board?
ALBANESE: What we want to ensure is that legislation is carried so that people who need health care can get it. We have responsibility.
KNIGHT: So you will back this bill from Kerryn Phelps?
ALBANESE: We have responsibility. We will look at anything that is put forward.
KNIGHT: It sounds like you are backing away.
ALBANESE: No, we are not backing away at all. We have said in principle our position is that people on Manus and Nauru who need medical assistance should get it and we should listen to the medical experts. And as well though, we have supported and made it clear from day one that we also support, at the end of the day, ministerial discretion. It is very important that there be political responsibility for the outcomes.
KNIGHT: And Christopher, will you be investigating this leak of the very much confidential information that we saw your Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton really talking openly about what was leaked? Are you going to be opening up every single rock to try and find out who leaked the information?
PYNE: You mean the story in The Australian saying that the Kerryn Phelps bill would dismantle our border protection policies? Is that the one you are talking about?
ALBANESE: Yes, they one that is supposed to be secret and confidential, that one.
PYNE: Well I don’t know where that story came from but I can assure you that Labor and Kerryn Phelps’ Bill would dismantle our border protection policies and would give people like potentially the Greens Leader Richard Di Natale the say over whether people left Nauru. Of course there is no-one in detention in Manus Island. That detention centres closed some time ago. So that’s a red herring.
KNIGHT: Well there is no suggestion he would be the doctor, that the Greens Leader would be the doctor going in there.
PYNE: He could be. He could easily be.
KNIGHT: There’s no element of scaremongering going on here?
PYNE: What is important is we don’t give the green light to people smugglers to start their evil trade again. Labor wants to play politics with this because all they want to do is disrupt the Parliament and disrupt the country. But we have stopped the boats …
ALBANESE: You are putting national security advice on page one of the newspapers – national security advice. It’s a criminal act to leak national security advice.
PYNE: … like the Howard Government stopped the boats. The Howard Government stopped the boats. This Government has stopped the boats. If Labor is re-elected the boats will start again because people smugglers will be given the welcome mat by Labor just like they were under Rudd and Gillard.
ALBANESE: That’s all they have got is a scare campaign. They have given up governing.
KNIGHT: I can’t get a word in with you two.
ALBANESE: They have given up governing.
PYNE: Get him under control.
ALBANESE: Call an election.
KNIGHT: Let’s just end with a bit of a musical interlude shall we? Now we saw Clive Palmer copping all sorts of grief for ripping off Twisted Sister with his annoying ads. We thought we would ask you this morning. You are the DJ here Albo. If you could adopt a song for the other party, what would it be?
ALBANESE: Well I thought about having Help! by the Beatles but I am going to go with Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who.
KNIGHT: All right, a bit of theme there. And for you Christopher, what would you pick for Labor?
PYNE: Well given the election is about the $200 billion tax take by Labor, we have picked the have picked Taxman by the Beatles.
KNIGHT: All right, a musical theme and we thought just as a general thing for politicians we could perhaps adopt Would I Lie to You? by the Eurythmics.
PYNE: Well Albo and I wouldn’t.
ALBANESE: No no. We are the good guys.
PYNE: We are.
KNIGHT: You are fired up. We love it. Parliament will be back next week and is good to have you both with us this morning.
Subjects: Roof Climb, Banking Royal Commission.
HOST: Chris Pyne and Anthony Albanese, good morning to you both.
PYNE: Good morning gentleman.
ALBANESE: Good morning and can I say as the Tourism Shadow Minister I think RoofClimb’s sensational.
HOST: Good on you Albo. We love it.
ALBANESE: I’m backing it in. I’m backing in Adelaide from Perth.
PYNE: I don’t want to do it, but I think it’s great.
HOST: You and Albo can do it together, Chris.
PYNE: Have you done it Albo?
ALBANESE: I’ve done it. It is terrific.
PYNE: Well when we do it together you can come without a brace. But I’ll look after you, I promise.
ALBANESE: As long as your hands are handcuffed.
HOST: Chris, we’ll start with you. How does the Government kill off the very strong perception that you guys were dragged kicking and screaming to this Royal Commission?
PYNE: Well it’s old news to start with. I mean, what the public are interested in is not political commentary from inside the bubble here in Canberra, it’s what we’re actually doing and what we’re doing is responding to every one of these 76 recommendations and toughening up our treatment of the banks, directors, superannuation, protecting consumers, giving more powers to regulators and courts and there is legislation in the Senate right now to protect consumers in superannuation that Labor won’t support because they’re conflicted by their union-controlled industry super funds. Now we’re getting on with it. Now whether we took a long time to come to a Royal Commission or not, it doesn’t really matter. We set up the Royal Commission. We’re responding to the recommendations and we’ve had five years of toughening up the financial services sector. When Bill Shorten was the Minister for Financial Services, which he was by the way, he did nothing about any of these things that happened.
HOST: Albo, there’s a point of difference between you guys and the Government and I think it’s on the 75th recommendation in the report as it pertains to how to brokers are paid fees – mortgage brokers are paid fees. Previously by the banks, it will be in future by the people like David and I and everyone listening and you guys who want to get a loan; you pay the broker direct. We’ve been contacted by so many brokers this morning saying that if that happens, there’s 20,000 of them, they’re all going to be out of work. Is it still your intention to adopt that recommendation wholeheartedly, or has some of the concern and blow back from brokers given you pause?
ALBANESE: Well what we’ve said is that we’ll adopt in principle the recommendations. Obviously we’ll look at the detail. We want to make sure there are good outcomes from a Royal Commission after all, that we put forward 26 times and the Government voted against 26 times. I do sometimes think that Christopher occasionally takes your breath away with his capacity to argue black is white. I mean they opposed all of this. The Parliament isn’t sitting so they won’t actually be able to do anything before Parliament gets up because we’ve only been sitting for 10 days. We want to actually get recommendations put into legislative form and put it through the Parliament prior to the election and that’s why we’ve said Parliament should sit more.
PYNE: Well Labor should vote for the legislation that’s in the Senate this week coming up and we’d be able to reform superannuation next week. But you’re not going to do it.
ALBANESE: I’ll give the very big tip Christopher – that legislation passed the House of Representatives some eight months ago and you haven’t even brought it on for debate in the Senate in those eight months.
PYNE: Because Labor won’t support it. They’ve announced they won’t support it.
ALBANESE: You’ve got to actually have a debate and a vote. What we’ve said is…
PYNE: So you’re saying you will support it?
ALBANESE: What we’ve said is we will improve the legislation because at the moment it’s weak. That’s the way it works in a democracy. What you have is legislation, you have debate in the Senate, the House of review, you have amendments put – they’re carried or not, but determined by the Senate, and then it goes back to the House of Reps.
HOST: Setting that aside, I think the number one question that our listeners want answered, and we’ve seen the banks’ share values soaring yesterday, they’re almost giggling into their Stella Artois down in Martin Place going, “Well that wasn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be”. How is the Government, and a Government of any hue, going to make sure that this crap doesn’t happen again?
PYNE: Well I heard Graeme Samuel this morning on another network which I won’t name, who made a very good point. Graeme Samuel used to be the head of the ACCC and we’ve appointed him to do a review of the powers of APRA, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, to make sure that it has the powers it needs, and the capability it needs primarily to actually enforce the law. He said the market had completely over-reacted to what they thought the Royal Commission was going to recommend and so there’d been a flight out of the banks on the stock market and therefore yesterday’s reaction was a counter-swing back to one of relief that sure, the recommendations are tough and the Government is adopting them and getting on with the job, we’re taking action on all 76, but we’re not going to force a credit squeeze. We’re not going to ruin the economy. This is the problem with Labor. Labor doesn’t know how to run an economy. If Labor gets in there will be a credit squeeze.
HOST: But Chris, that’s the market analysis and it’s the political analysis, but the real time where the rubber hits the road analysis that I think people want are – is the NAB going to get away with making $100 million out of fee-for-no-service and are they going to continue with this culture of bonuses driven not by the standard of service they provide but purely by how many mortgages they can sell? How are you going to make sure that the regulator isn’t such a soft touch, and how are you going to make that happen right now, not years from now?
PYNE: Kenneth Hayne has recommended criminal charges against certain individuals so that will go through the proper processes and we will adopt the actions that need to be done to make sure that justice is not only seen to be done but actually achieved. We are toughening up the powers of the regulators. We think that some of the regulators have been underwhelming and ASIC was singled out by the Royal Commission. We’ll toughen up their capabilities to make sure that this can never happen again. We didn’t bring about, of course, this bank scandal, but we are the ones who are fixing it. That’s what the public want to see. We’re getting on with it. We’re going to give people the chance to seek compensation going back ten years, which was the period of the Royal Commission, under the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, which we established by the way. So we certainly haven’t been sitting on our hands. We’ve been responding to the criticisms of the banks but we also have to remember that the banks are an important foundation of our economic security in this country. They’re four of the ten largest banks in the world – of the most profitable banks in the world, four of them are our Big Four, and we need to make sure that we don’t cause a crisis in banking, which Labor would do if there was a credit squeeze.
ALBANESE: That is absolute nonsense. Christopher speaks about not delaying. The fact is that they delayed the Royal Commission. It should have been called years ago. We went to the 2016 election with a policy of having a Royal Commission into the banks. Christopher says that the Big Four are amongst the ten most profitable banks in the world, he’s right. But some of that is at the expense of ordinary consumers being ripped off by behaviour that’s unethical, immoral, and in some cases, according to Commissioner Hayne, illegal. Now if he is serious at all let’s end the delay, let’s have Parliament sit. We’re sitting for the next two weeks, we can just keep going until this legislation gets done, arising out of the Royal Commission (inaudible). Christopher’s the Leader of the House, he can schedule it.
HOST: It’s a debate that’s going to continue right through to election day. Chris Pyne, Anthony Albanese, thanks for joining us.
Subjects: Television, Banking Royal Commission, Labor, tax reform, craft beer.
RICHARD PERNO: Anthony Albanese, Member for Grayndler, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Tourism. It’s not over yet is it, Anthony? And I don’t know, do you think you’ve got a walk in the park? Or isn’t it a fait accompli yet?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well elections aren’t over until the polling booths close at 6 PM on election night and we’ll be working hard each and every day, each and every hour, between now and when the election is, which is likely to be either May 11 or May 18.
PERNO: OK, maybe if you’d been a part of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here it might have tipped it further in your favour.
ALBANESE: I don’t think anyone wants to see that.
PERNO: Would you go in if you were asked?
ALBANESE: Absolutely not. I think the idea of – I’m not a fan of most reality TV shows.
PERNO: Yes you are. You’re a part of reality TV every time you go into Parliament House, Anthony.
ALBANESE: I think that the idea that you’ll be paid money to eat insects and things is not on my radar, I’ve got to say.
ALBANESE: But good luck to people who do it. It’s a bit of fun I guess for them and they seem to enjoy it – most of them anyway.
PERNO: Jacqui Lambie I think was tipped out.
ALBANESE: I don’t watch it and that is news to me.
PERNO: Very good, very good.
ALBANESE: Jacqui Lambie’s actually a pretty good person.
PERNO: Yeah I think so. Can we get to something serious, Anthony Albanese? What do you want out of this Banking Royal Commission? They’re locked down now in Melbourne.
ALBANESE: Well what we want is recommendations that will change the behaviour of our financial institutions and our banks so that they continue to play an important role in lending for businesses, for home lending and for other activity in the economy, but they do so in a way which has integrity and they do so in a way which puts consumers first, not their profits first. And I think the abuses that we’ve seen with this Royal Commission that have come out, it’s one of the reasons why Labor argued for years for a Royal Commission to take place. It’s extraordinary that Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg and the rest of the Liberals and Nationals voted against it on 26 separate occasions. But what’s clear is that it has been successful in exposing information that we wouldn’t have known about had the Royal Commission not been held.
PERNO: Scott Morrison says that our economy faces, and I quote Anthony, “significant consequences if the Banking Royal Commission triggers a credit crunch”. He goes on to say: “Well hang on a minute I’m going to look through these recommendations”. There are a lot of hurdles to jump over aren’t there before anything can actually happen? And a lot of the banking top echelon, and as you know Anthony Albanese, fish go rotten from the head, a lot of the heads of these institutions have seen the light, grabbed their gold watch and their pay out and gone. So they’re not going to – nothing’s going to happen to them.
ALBANESE: Well we’ll wait and see what the recommendations are. But certainly if there have been any breaches of the law found then there’s a requirement, and indeed an obligation, for the law to be applied, not just for working class people but for people at the top end of town as well. And that’s why we look forward to seeing what the recommendations are – to reading the report. We’ve said in principle we will support all of the recommendations unless there is some extraordinary reason not to do so. So that’s our starting point. And I think that the Government needs to get it through its head how out of touch that they are when it comes to the attitude towards the behaviour of the banks and many of the financial services.
PERNO: And, as you know Anthony, some of the horror stories that were given as evidence were just amazing – dead people being charged fees, you know fees being taken, and as you mentioned Anthony it was all about power and money over people, over customers. Why did it get to this stage where we had to have a Royal Commission? What happened to ethics and morality or does that go out when you and I were kids?
ALBANESE: Well it is a concern. I worked for the Commonwealth Bank, I’ve got to say, when I when I left school.
PERNO: What did you do?
ALBANESE: I had to talk to customers and try to convince them that there was this new fandangled thing called key cards that people use to get money out of holes in the wall. And I just went through – that largely is what I did over a period of many months – and just worked basically in the back section of the bank. I never made it to be a teller, but it was a good experience.
PERNO: I can imagine you as a teller. Can you imagine? “Hurry up lady (inaudible). Come on what do you want?”
ALBANESE: I’m always polite, Richard.
PERNO: “Come on, hurry up. We’ve got queue here. Come on, hurry up”. You didn’t coerce anybody did you to join up, did you?
ALBANESE: Not at all. It was existing customers coming through, but we were encouraging them to move on from the old passbook, of course, that you and I would remember; that if you said that to some of the young listeners they wouldn’t. They don’t know what we’re talking about.
PERNO: Not a thing, not a thing. And the old days when you’d all get dolled up in your Sunday best to go down and talk to the manager to try and borrow. You know, your mum and dad would take you down there with a tie up around your neck and your long socks and you’re long – you remember all those days don’t you?
ALBANESE: I never had long socks. I was never a shorts and long socks kind of guy.
PERNO: Weren’t you? I can see Anthony Albanese with long grey shorts, long socks, a little beret and a cute little smile.
ALBANESE: No, no, no.
PERNO: I just want to touch on a couple of things because we will be talking, Anthony Albanese, about the upcoming election. Your team appears to have got it all together? Would you agree with that?
ALBANESE: Look our team what we’re doing – the first thing is we’re a team, not a series of individuals fighting each other, which is what our opponents are. And we’ve been putting out consistent policy across the board – almost a policy a day for the last couple of years – and that’s a good thing. Tomorrow I’m travelling to Perth. I’ll have some more announcements while I’m in Perth and right around the country and right across portfolios I think we have a comprehensive plan to drive the economy through investment in infrastructure and investment in training and skills. We have a plan for education for early childhood education right through to tertiary education at TAFE and universities. We have a plan for health that has Medicare as its centrepiece. Today we announced another location of an MRI. We have a plan for science. We have a plan right across the board whether it be housing and the environment, with a plan to tackle the issue of climate change. I think I think we’re ready for government.
PERNO: You know one of the hurdles I think, and you know Anthony Albanese, you’re aware that we’re concerned about these franking dividends, that you want to dip into the pensioners pocket and not let them have.
ALBANESE: Well that’s not right of course, you’d be fully aware of that, all we’re saying there is pretty simply that you shouldn’t be able to get a tax refund if you haven’t paid any tax and that it is simply unsustainable for the level, which will rise to about $8 billion over the next few years if this issue isn’t addressed – far more than we pay for example for public schools throughout the entire country. That is simply unsustainable.
PERNO: But you are going to have a battle on your hands with that. You’ve got to agree with that?
ALBANESE: Well we’ve been very…
PERNO: Have you explained it? Have you explained what this is all about?
ALBANESE: Well we have been honest and transparent about it. We are not going to an election without saying how we are going to pay for our commitments. When this began the cost to the Budget was in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Now it is in the many billions of dollars each and every year and simply you can’t have a tax system whereby there’s a whole section able to get a tax refund when they haven’t paid any tax.
PERNO: Hmm. Yes.
ALBANESE: Now common sense tells you that that is the case and that is why, when it was introduced by the Keating Government, you could not get the tax refunds if you hadn’t paid any tax. This is a reform that is necessary and it is necessary if we are going to have the Budget in a good position in future years.
PERNO: OK. Well I think that is going to be a battle that you are going have to really have get through and make sure you explain what it is all about Anthony Albanese. A shirtless Bob Hawke, beer in hand, featured in a new giant mural on a Sydney Pub, the Carlisle Castle in Newtown, and you were there.
ALBANESE: I was. I had the privilege of opening the mural.
PERNO: Did you open a can?
ALBANESE: Oh, we did that too.
PERNO: What does the beer taste like? I’m not a beer drinker. What does it taste like?
ALBANESE: Well Hawke’s Lager is a very good drop and importantly a portion of the profits, certainly anything that would be attributable to Bob Hawke and the endorsement, goes to Landcare. So at the same time you can have a beer and help the environment.
PERNO: Yes. Ok, that’s a long bow. Have a beer and help the environment?
ALBANESE: It’s just a fact.
PERNO: So long as you recycle the can I suppose.
ALBANESE: That as well. It’s a Scottie Marsh mural and he is a local in the Inner West in my electorate.
PERNO: Ah, there goes the rub. He is in your electorate. There we go.
ALBANESE: Of course he is.
PERNO: There’s we go.
ALBANESE: It’s a fun electorate. We have 16 craft brewers now in the electorate and I, with Joel Fitzgibbon …
PERNO: Sixteen craft brewers in the electorate of Grayndler where Anthony Albanese holds a party every Saturday night?
ALBANESE: Employing people in small business. It’s a great thing.
PERNO: So it tastes all right? I am not, as I say, a beer drinker.
ALBANESE: It’s a good drop.
PERNO: It’s a good drop. All right. Thank-you. Enjoy the rest of you day and we will talk in a week or two. Thank you Anthony.
ALBANESE: Thanks mate. Great to be on the program again.
Subjects: Civilian deaths in air strike, Banking Royal Commission, tax policy, Murray-Darling Basin, retiring MPs.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Good morning to you both.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Deb.
KNIGHT: Christopher, I will start with you. Local media reported the day after this air strike happened that civilians had been killed, but this has taken two years to be investigated. Did our pilots get it wrong here?
PYNE: Well it is very important that when allegations like this are made that a proper investigation is conducted and not social media posts relied upon for evidence. Now the social media posts suggested that anything between 30 and 50 people had been killed. After a thorough investigation conducted by the Australian Defence Force it has been determined that between six and 18 civilians were killed in a coalition air strike and that an Australian platform may have been part of that air strike, may have been responsible. It is impossible to definitively say whether it was an Australian missile that caused the deaths. But I can say that it is deeply regrettable and obviously we do everything we can to avoid civilian casualties. The ISIS fighters, there were seven who were using heavy weapons to attack the Iraqi forces in Mosul, they were using civilians not as human shields; they weren’t trying to avoid the humans being killed and themselves also not killed; they were hiding them from the coalition forces in order for them to be killed.
KNIGHT: There’s no doubting the ferocity of the battle. But what will the consequences of this deadly mistake be? Will there be compensation offered to the surviving family members?
PYNE: I am not aware that any surviving family members have sought compensation, but if they do they will seek it from the Coalition Forces Against Daesh, which is a global organisation which is responsible for compensation as part of this war that has been raging in Iraq and Syria, and assuming that they fulfil the requirements, they will be compensated. The Australian platform was operating entirely within the rules of engagement and under the law of warfare and so there will be no discipline for the pilots involved because they were doing exactly the job that they were supposed to do. It was obviously tremendously upsetting that civilians were killed. And as I say, we can’t be sure that it was Australians. But in the fullness of transparency we are prepared to say that we could have been responsible.
KNIGHT: OK. Well it is a big news day. We’ve got a lot to cover and I would now like to move on to the final report of the Banking Royal Commission which Ross alluded to earlier. Obviously it’s going to be enormous consequences for the banking sector, but what is the priority here? Is it propping up the banks to keep the economy ticking over? Or is it holding them to account because there seems to be a bit of a dichotomy here? Christopher to you.
PYNE: Well Deb the banks are a foundation of our strong economy. Our banking sector, its reliability has been one of the key factors in Australia’s economic success. So in responding to the Royal Commission we have to make sure that the consumers are protected as our number one priority. Number one is the consumers. Bringing people to justice who have done the wrong thing should be our second priority and our third priority should be not doing any more harm to the banks than they have done to themselves and their reputation by proper considered response to the Royal Commission.
KNIGHT: And Albo, will Labor be adopting all of the recommendations if you were to win Government?
ALBANESE: Well we have said that we would do that Deb and we have said we would do that before we have seen what the recommendations are because we supported this Royal Commission. Christopher and Scott Morrison and his team voted against it on no less than 26 separate occasions. And what we know is that as a result of this Royal Commission, the activity of the banks whereby they have ignored consumers, haven’t seen their role as looking after them; they have seen consumers as serving the interests of the banks and their profits, and it has been over the top. The fact is this has been a very successful commission in exposing that abuse.
KNIGHT: The banks have been obviously criticised for their heartlessness, their greed and putting profits ahead of people. But on the topic of being heartless, it seems that Labor couldn’t give two hoots about senior Australians. What is going on with your Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen telling voters that if you don’t like the policy when it comes to the franking credits, just don’t vote for us. It seems very arrogant.
ALBANESE: Not at all. The fact is that Labor is the party of older Australians. We are the party that last time we were in office had the largest ever increase in the aged pension in Australia’s history.
KNIGHT: Well why are you coming up with policies that are going to affect senior Australians? A lot of them aren’t rich Australians here either.
PYNE: That’s right.
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that what we are doing is putting out our policies before the election and saying how we will pay for it.
KNIGHT: And if you don’t like it too bad?
ALBANESE: No, how we will pay for hospitals, how we will pay for schools, how we will pay for infrastructure, how we will pay for early childhood education. We are being transparent about that, unlike this mob that went to an election saying there would be no cuts to health, no cuts to the ABC, no cuts to education and immediately got in and have been going downhill ever since the 2014 Budget.
KNIGHT: Christopher I also wanted to ask you about the Royal Commission into the Murray-Darling. The authority that oversaw this plan has been called unlawful and negligent. It’s an appalling environmental disaster that is occurring. Surely with findings this damning, you’ve got to scrap this plan and start again don’t you?
PYNE: Well no we don’t and it is the Royal Commission of one state government on the Murray-Darling in the Murray-Darling basin.
KNIGHT: So you are downplaying the veracity of the Royal Commission?
PYNE: No, I am just saying that we have said that we will look at the findings of the Royal Commission. We will take it into account and improve the Murray-Darling Basin Authority where it can be improved. But there is absolutely no point in throwing the baby out with the bathwater, in this case with the river water. We’ve come a long way in the last ten years in managing the Murray-Darling basin for environmental flows, for support for local communities, river communities and for the economy.
KNIGHT: But you’ve got a river here that is dying. You’ve got millions of fish dying. We’ve seen the pictures. It is absolutely heart-breaking. Albo, why can’t you guys work together, ignore the politics and just save this dying river system?
ALBANESE: Well that should be the priority but we have a state and federal government where the Environment Ministers can’t even be bothered going to Menindee and have a look at what is going on there. They are not talking to the locals. They have ignored this absolute crisis. We have seen all sorts of abuse happen with regard to water rights particularly in New South Wales and it requires not just the South Australian Royal Commission; it requires a real good look and when we are in government we will certainly be doing that.
KNIGHT: Now Christopher you are losing you colleagues at a rapid pace. We have had three Ministers so far pulling the pin and announcing they won’t be contesting the election and regardless of the reasons, the perception is that they are rats leaving a sinking ship. Your name has been mentioned as someone who is considering his political future. Can you guarantee that you will not be quitting?
PYNE: Well Deb there are less people that have announced their retirements in this election than at any time in the last ten elections. That’s the lowest in 30 years.
KNIGHT: Can you guarantee that you won’t be quitting?
PYNE: I have already said at least a dozen times that I will be contesting the next election. It’s really a quite tired question. My future is not in any doubt, but there are less people retiring at the next election than at any time in the last 30 years. So this is a complete media beat up.
ALBANESE: Christopher wants to stay in Parliament so that he can continue to be on the Today Show every Friday morning.
KNIGHT: Well we will have him quite thankfully.
ALBANESE: He is aware of the big picture.
KNIGHT: We are pleased to have you both and it is good to have our Friday pollies’ chat up and running. Gentlemen, thanks for joining us.
PYNE: We are the great survivors.
ALBANESE: Good to be here.
PYNE: Thank you.
Subjects: Federal election, Unions NSW court decision, pill testing.
CHRIS SMITH: Anthony Albanese, welcome to the program.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day Chris.
SMITH: Remember that day? ‘In your guts you know he’s nuts’?
ALBANESE: I do indeed. It’s a quote from the US Presidential Election campaign between Goldwater and – gee I’m trying to think of the other guy – and what happened was that there was a very right-wing candidate who was appealing at the time of course, there were big racial problems in the US and he was appealing to some of the lower elements in terms of pressing some buttons and his slogan was: ‘In your heart you know he’s right’. So the response that the Democrats came up with was: ‘In your guts you know he’s nuts’.
SMITH: A classic. One of your classics. Now just for my listeners in 2019 we’ve got a raft of fresh faces on the show this year – we like to freshen things up – you’re one of them.
ALBANESE: I’m glad you classify me as a fresh face, Chris.
SMITH: Yeah. Well you’re a fellow South Sydney supporter so you’re halfway there.
ALBANESE: South Sydney tragics mate. We are and it’s going to be a great year this year.
SMITH: Let’s hope. Fingers crossed. It could be a great year for Labor. All the polls are saying you are a lay down misere to win the Federal election. Is it unlosable?
ALBANESE: It’s never taken for granted. We were ahead in 1998, in 2001, in 2004 and when Parliament went back after those elections I was still sitting on the Opposition benches. We have put out more policy I think than any Opposition in living memory. We’ve been out there campaigning hard on our positive alternative vision, as well as holding the Government to account. But I’ve got to say at the moment one of our greatest assets is the Government because they have stopped governing. They just talk about themselves and anytime they’re asked about one of their policies what they say is: ‘Well what Labor will do…’. They’re simply not functioning as a Government at the moment.
SMITH: Well I’m surprised that seven members of the Coalition aren’t fronting at the next election. But when we did a count this morning it came to seven for the Coalition, but you’re also losing eight. That’s sort of gone into ether a lot. You’re losing eight, why’s that?
ALBANESE: Well I don’t know who the eight are. But certainly Jenny Macklin is retiring and Wayne Swan is retiring as well. Wayne was elected in 1990 and Jenny Macklin was elected with me in 1996. I’ll miss her dearly. But they’ve both been Deputy Leaders of the Party. Wayne of course was Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer for a long time and it’s not surprising that he is a moving on and it’s not surprising that Jenny is also. They’ve made an outstanding contribution.
SMITH: Is Bill Shorten up to the job of Prime Minister?
ALBANESE: Absolutely he is and he’s shown I think as Leader of the Opposition, a tenacity, a preparedness to lead on policy issues. He’s shown a capacity to unite the show. We’re a very strong team and I think that the comparisons are being made with the Hawke Ministry in 1983. You have people who’ve served in senior positions in government. I’ve been a Deputy Prime Minister and a Government Leader of the House of Reps for six years. I’ve dealt with infrastructure and transport and over the last five years I’ve shadowed no less than 13 different Ministers. I mean it’s a revolving door and what I get from the aviation sector, the maritime sector, people involved in logistics is they want someone in charge who actually knows what they’re doing and hasn’t got a pile of paper on their desk because they’re incapable of making a decision and that’s where –
SMITH: It’s a big call though to equate Bill with Bob Hawke.
ALBANESE: I equated our team, which is I think a very strong team, and Bill Shorten has some similarities with Bob Hawke. They’re both former trade union leaders and they’re both I think highly regarded within the entire labour movement.
SMITH: Now you had a big victory today. The Unions NSW had a big win in the High Court with the overturning of laws imposing caps on pre-election advertising spending by unions and other third party campaigners. Can I ask this question though and I’ll ask it through an email I received only just before I came on air from Orma at Carlingford: ‘I’m so glad you brought up the donations scandal. I’ve always wondered why the unions are allowed to donate unlimited funds to the Labor Party while companies and others are limited to what they can donate’. Fair question.
ALBANESE: Well I’ll tell you what – there’s a few businesses out there donate a hell a lot more money to the Liberal Party than certainly Labor gets. Every election campaign that I can remember the Coalition have outspent Labor – every election state and federal – and I expect this one will be no different.
SMITH: Okay, one quick one before we let you go. I know this is a predominately state issue but I’m interested, you’ve got kids – the debate around recreational drug use and pill testing. It’s not going away. This call for pill testing, it seems to be gathering a little bit of pace. Gladys Berejiklian is standing firm as I know Bill Shorten is. What’s your stance on pill testing?
ALBANESE: Well look it is a state issue. The NSW Labor Party under Michael Daley have said that they will convene a summit of experts. And I think that is an appropriate thing to do, to listen to the health experts, to actually do what they recommend.
SMITH: So you’re giving pill testing a chance?
ALBANESE: I’m saying let’s have a discussion. NSW Labor have made a decision to have a discussion after the election, they’re saying that upfront. We know that one kid dying is one too many and we know that in recent weeks essentially there’s been a rate of around about one a week it would appear that there is a tragedy. That is a tragedy for that young person, for their family and we know that just saying no isn’t working.
SMITH: Okay what about this loony suggestion from Dr Alex Wodak today that MDMA should be regulated and sold at pharmacies?
ALBANESE: Well I just think that’s not a serious suggestion at all and what we need to do though is to sit down and I’m not preempting that any decision that a summit might make. I of course won’t be a participant – it’s a state issue. But I do think that a preparedness to discuss these issues in a mature way and come up with outcomes that are in the interest of saving lives is the right way to go.
SMITH: I look forward to having a chat with you from time to time. Thank you so much for yours this afternoon.
ALBANESE: Thanks Chris, I appreciate the opportunity.
SMITH: No problem.
Subjects: Election, Newspoll, employment, education, infrastructure.
HOST: Good morning to you.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Will. Thank you for having us again.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning team.
HOST: Good morning guys. Happy new year. We hope you had a decent break.
PYNE: I did, I had a couple of weeks at Robe, which would be well known to our listeners, and then a couple of weeks on the road in fact in the Middle East and Asia.
HOST: Sensational. Christopher we are going to have a look ahead to the year in 2019 and between now and last time we spoke there has been a slew of resignations in the Liberal party and some have raised the spectre about what your plans are for 2019. Are you 100 per cent running in the election?
PYNE: Yes. It’s absolutely my intention to seek re-election. It will be my 10th election. I will be asking the people of Sturt to re-elect me because I think that I can best represent not only Sturt but also South Australia as a senior Cabinet Minister. I have got a record of delivery. Pyne Delivers was my slogan at the last election and not just the submarines and the Hunter Class frigates but road and local community infrastructure like Campbelltown Memorial Oval and I want to keep doing that job. But I think there has been very limited speculation, so probably a lot of people are exaggerating.
HOST: You don’t think some people want you gone Chris?
PYNE: Mostly on my own team I assume actually. Everybody likes a bit of movement.
ALBANESE: That is the smartest thing he said, and most accurate.
HOST: We did have a couple of calls from Cory Bernardi, but we will shift that to one side. We’ll shift over to you Albo. How do you see the year panning out? Because that Newspoll a couple of days ago suggested that despite this sort of overwhelming negativity about the way the Coalition is going that the Morrison Government still definitely has a pulse?
ALBANESE: I think we are entitled to be favourites. That’s the truth when consistently polls have shown that that is the case and when you are suggesting that it was a good poll when Labor was still ahead 53-47. I think the problem for the Government, and this is I guess the big question between now and May 11 and 18, is have they stopped governing? It just seems to me that they are in constant critical mode of Labor, rather than actually getting on with governing the country. We are still potentially almost four months out from an election and I think the Government needs to be able to put forward a position which is something other than: “Well, Labor will do X’’ and run scare campaigns. Otherwise I think they are in danger of really having a very bad result.
HOST: Is that part of what the thinking was Chris with the jobs announcement that Scott Morrison made yesterday; to show that you are focused on bread-and-butter issues, not yourselves.
PYNE: We are definitely focused on jobs and the economy and the Government is actually running pretty well in terms of the economy and jobs. We had a promise to create a million jobs in five years. We did it ahead of schedule and now we’ve got a promise to create 1.25 million over the next five years and I think we can do that. The economy is in good shape. We will deliver a surplus Budget, something Labor hasn’t delivered since 1989. This year’s Budget will deliver a surplus. When Labor lost in 2013 they were divided, but also the country economically was very badly off. So was the Budget, mired in debt and deficit. That’s not the case now. We have tested people’s patience in the last 12 months. There’s no doubt about that. But we have the runs on the board economically and on the jobs front, and we don’t have a $200 billion tax hit that Labor wants to deliver to the economy if they get elected. Now that will slow the economy right down. We will not do that. We are not a high-taxing party. We will deliver a surplus Budget without the high taxes.
ALBANESE: This is a government that doesn’t have an agenda though, and it is totally focused on fighting each other. It is quite extraordinary, the events here in New South Wales where Warren Mundine has been imposed on the Liberal Party in Gilmore just show what a rabble they are and people will know that they won’t know what they get if they vote for Scott Morrison because they know that he was the fourth choice to lead the Liberal Party. They know that in the National Party, Barnaby Joyce, bizarrely, is planning a comeback as Leader of the National Party and they know that this is a government that has lost its way. It really does need a period in opposition to get its act together.
PYNE: Well here is a classic example. I am focusing on jobs the economy, the Budget and tax. Anthony – Happy New Year to you Anthony – Anthony is focusing on the game. He is focusing again on the play of the game and I think this is why …
ALBANESE: You haven’t got a plan for jobs.
PYNE: We had a big speech yesterday where we outlined another plan for 1.25 million jobs.
ALBANESE: A speech isn’t a plan. You are not investing in infrastructure. You are not investing in education and training.
PYNE: Well we are.
ALBANESE: These are the two things you can do to grow the economy.
PYNE: We’ve got record spending on infrastructure.
HOST: Chris Pyne, was the jobs target announced yesterday particularly bold given it is just a repeat of what was delivered in the previous five years?
PYNE: No because we delivered one million new jobs in the last five years, which is a record, and now we are announcing we are going to deliver another record – 1.25 million new jobs – in the next five. So what we are saying is you can trust the Coalition to focus on the economy, the Budget, lowering taxes, reducing the burden on families and small businesses. But if you vote Labor you are going to get $200 billion of new taxes, capital gains tax increases, negative gearing tax increases, retirees’ incomes will be hit in the new retirees’ tax because Bill Shorten can only think through taking other people’s money.
HOST: On that point you are hearing the sharpening of the message from the Coalition now regarding the economics of the upcoming Federal election. It has happened to coincide with a bump in the polls for Scott Morrison and for the Government. Are you concerned that this is going to be a weak spot for you over the next four months and as the message sharpens you might not have it all your own way like you have had over much of the last 18 months?
ALBANESE: Not at all. We have a strong economic message. We have a plan for jobs and the economy. I have been going right around the country talking about infrastructure and the need to invest and our education spokespeople have been out there talking about education and training and skills. What we are talking about as well is do people feel better off today than they were a few years ago? The fact is that real wages are in decline. The casualisation of the workforce is out of control so that people with young people like my like my boy, just did his HSC last year, as did Christopher’s, they are worried, that generation, that they will never get into full-time employment because we are seeing it disappearing and many of the jobs that have been created ….
HOST: But can you fix that though? That’s just the nature of the modern economy isn’t it?
ALBANESE: You certainly can fix it, You cannot in terms of some people will choose to work causally and will choose to work part-time, but what you need to do is to make sure that there are quality jobs; make sure that the industrial relations system doesn’t see people working side by side being paid different wages with different conditions because everything is in favour under the current system of employers.
HOST: We are going to have to leave it there. Christopher Pyne, Anthony Albanese, welcome back. We will do it all again next week. Thanks for joining us.
PYNE: Thanks for having us.
Subjects: Unemployment; Townsville Ring Road; local jobs plan; TAFE; Bruce Highway underspend; Mackay Ring Road; Rockhampton Ring Road; NAIF donations; Aurizon; Adani.
CATHY O’TOOLE: It’s great to have our Shadow Minister Anthony Albanese here. Anthony is Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Tourism. In Townsville our unemployment rate is now higher than both the state and national average. Since Labor left government our unemployment has almost doubled. This is not acceptable. We know that it’s really important for our local people to have jobs and infrastructure is one way that we can get those local jobs for our workers. Youth unemployment is also completely unacceptable. I would now like to hand over to Anthony to speak more about infrastructure spending.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Cathy. It’s great to be back here in Townsville. Behind us is Stage Four of the Townsville Ring Road, a project which we announced when I was the Minister back in 2012 and which I attended the opening of, following the funding and completion of Stage III of the Townsville Ring Road. It is Labor that builds infrastructure, but the other thing that we understand, is that we need to maximise local benefit from that build. And that’s why today Bill Shorten has announced in Maryborough our local jobs plan. What this will mean is that for any project with Government funding of above $10 million there’s got to be a local plan and someone designated to deal with local small and medium businesses, to make sure that local employment is being boosted. What we don’t want to see is contracts given for major projects and then the contractors – sometimes a multi-national company – will want to bring in their own suppliers and use their own supply chain that they’ve used in other areas. What that does is remove local small and medium enterprises from bidding for work, whether it be the supply of the bitumen and the raw materials that go into building a road or railway line, or a port. Or whether it be the other factors that come into building a major project.
At the same time, we have already announced our project to build local apprentices. We’ll fund, of course, 100,000 TAFE free places. We will contribute $100 million for the upgrades of capital investment in TAFE. And we will require that any project which has Commonwealth funding has to have at least 10 per cent of local apprentices. That’s all about making sure that after a project is completed the benefit in the local community and for local jobs and local employment flows through; that we’re skilling Australia. How often have we heard: ‘We need to get in overseas people to do these jobs, because local labour is not available’. We will address that. We will make sure there is proper labour market testing, so that if local labour is available it’s used and given preference, as should occur. Secondly, we’ll make sure that the training occurs as well.
The other thing I want to say today is that the latest Senate Estimates figures show that there is a $700 million underspend on Bruce Highway investment over the next three Budgets according to the difference between what the Government on Budget Night have said they would invest and what the actual figures now show they intend to invest over the next three years. To put that in some perspective, that $700 million could have funded – Townsville, of course, Ring Road Stage Five looks like it’ll be a total cost of around about $180 million. It could have funded the second stage of the Mackay Ring Road. It could have funded almost the entire Rockhampton Ring Road as well. What we need is a government that actually does what it says it would do when it puts projects in the Budget and makes announcements – that it has the funding there to make sure that it happens. This $700 million underspend means less jobs are being created, means the highway isn’t as safe as it should be. And it’s really set back the plans for upgrade of the most important road in Queensland which is, of course, the Bruce Highway. Labor will work with the Queensland State Government to make sure that we further progress major projects; that we don’t announce one thing but then actually have much less money spent, with much less jobs created. I think together, our plans to fund infrastructure, to have a local jobs plan, to make sure that there are local apprentices trained, together what this is about is making sure that when we build infrastructure we really build the community here in Townsville.
REPORTER: Why do you think that they have done this, is it a way of smuggling a budget surplus in the back door for their forecast?
ALBANESE: Well quite clearly that has occurred. It’s not just the Bruce Highway. We have literally billions of dollars of underspend. Each and every Budget, whether it be road projects, rail projects, even projects like black spots road funding have been underfunded and that’s where the Government will – no doubt in April it’s foreshadowed announcing a surplus; but that’s on the back of cuts that have been made and these are cuts not from another government, these are cuts from what they themselves said they would spend on Budget night. And that’s why it’s so dishonest of the Government to talk about its infrastructure plan. They haven’t been able to get on with the business of, for example, advancing Stage Five of this Ring Road project. They are happy to come and open projects, and I was here with Matt Canavan for the opening of Stage Four with Cathy O’Toole. But that was a project that was fully funded by the former Labor Government last time I was the Minister. What they haven’t done here in Townsville, or right around the country indeed, but particularly in the north; is deliver. And whether it’s this, or whether it’s the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) that has been a complete flop that we now know that they have actually spent more on the board members and meetings and bureaucracy than they’ve actually delivered on the ground here in this region, through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, which I’ve designated should be called the No Actual Infrastructure Fund because that’s what it means for Townsville and for the north.
REPORTER: Speaking of Stage Five of the Ring Road, the local State Government members here have called for the feds to put their money where their mouth is. The same clearly goes for Labor heading into an election. Would you fund Stage Five of the Ring Road?
ALBANESE: What we’ll be doing is making commitments in the lead-up to the Election. But very clearly it took a Labor Government to fund the port access road, to fund Ring Road Stage Three, Ring Road Stage Four, to actually invest in infrastructure and not just say on Budget Night, but to actually deliver it, to deliver this road that is behind us at this media conference today. And Cathy O’Toole is a very strong advocate, she’s making strong representations. We’ll have further things to say, but quite clearly this is a project that needs completion, the next stage is Stage Five.
REPORTER: Your concerns about the bureaucracy levels within the NAIF, would they not be exacerbated by Labor’s plan to partition part of that fund off, to create a separate tourist fund, thus doubling up on that bureaucracy?
ALBANESE: Not at all. What they’ve done, is this fund has been operating for four years and hasn’t actually been able to deliver anything for this region. What this region needs is hard infrastructure funding, but it also needs funding for tourism infrastructure. We make no apologies for the fact that we announced, years ago now, the $1 billion that we would use from this fund for tourism infrastructure here in the north. We know that the tourism sector is absolutely vital to future jobs creation and to sustainability of this region and that’s why we would we would do this. Of course, what has occurred with this bureaucratic nightmare that is the NAIF, is lots of meetings usually held not, of course, in the north. Often held pretty close to me in Sydney. Sending people flying in from all around the country to a meeting in Sydney to discuss what is good for the north. This has been a debacle. We now know about donations from NAIF Board Members to the Liberal and National Parties from the very beginning. This fund has been problematic, we said that when it was first established, we were critical because we couldn’t see that it would deliver actual grant funding which is what’s needed for a range of projects here in the north.
REPORTER: What concerns you about these donations revealed today that the board members are making to the LNP? Because if your criticism is that NAIF aren’t doing anything, then clearly their donations aren’t helping them get certain projects ahead. What’s the conflict there?
ALBANESE: The conflict is people who have been appointed to government positions around about the same time have made donations to the LNP and the Minister says he doesn’t know about that. I’m not going to comment on any of the individual circumstances, but what’s very clear is that the NAIF has been a failure. That the appointments to the NAIF board have been problematic and what I hear when I visit this region – and I’m regularly here with Cathy O’Toole the local Member for Herbert, I have been here at least three or four times every year – and what she tells me and what other people on the ground tell me, tourism operators, people who are interested in growing jobs in the region, is their frustration with the whole NAIF structure. And the whole way that this Government hasn’t actually been able to deliver on jobs because it makes announcements and then nothing happens. This $5 billion announcement was made a very long time ago, one would have thought that would have been out the door by now and would have resulted in real projects, employing real people, making a real difference here on the ground here in Townsville. The fact is that it hasn’t.
REPORTER: A large number of North Queensland Aurizon rail workers are currently on strike between Mt. Isa and Hughenden today, it will be for a 24-hour period. Are you concerned that Aurizon have said they won’t come back to the negotiating table on the enterprise agreement until mid-February and that they want the union to agree not to strike before they come back to the table?
ALBANESE: The company needs to negotiate in good faith. They need to recognise that there’s a common interest here between employers and employees. Industrial relations work best if people are around the table negotiating in good faith and getting a good outcome and the company should be doing that.
REPORTER: Just a question on Adani. It’s emerged today that the State Government has referred an environmental management plan for the black-throated finch to an independent environmental board. There has been concern that board is stacked full of Greens sympathisers. What do you make of that?
ALBANESE: That’s a matter for the State Government. I have no idea who is on that board. If the State Government have made that decision that’s a matter for them.
REPORTER: Just quickly on the issue of black-throated finches again …
ALBANESE: I am not an expert on black-throated finches it must be said. I don’t know if there are any around Marrickville, but I haven’t seen any.
REPORTER: Well the reason that I bring it up is because one of the other habitats, apart from the Galilee Basin, is the area in which we stand right now, the Townsville Ring Road. There are concerns that Ring Road environmental approvals were pushed through a lot faster, in relation to that finch, than they have been for Adani. Is this a case of double standards?
ALBANESE: We have appropriate environmental law and both federal and state. It’s important that law be implemented without fear or favour. I can’t comment on any particular fauna that are impacted because I’m not an expert on it. And that’s why you have people examine these issues who actually are experts on – I don’t know if you’d know a black-throated finch if it was sitting on my shoulder at the moment. I don’t know if anyone here would, that’s why we should leave it to the experts.
REPORTER: I think that mention of the Ring Road brings us back full-circle with Claire’s original question. A lot of talk about concrete funding being required, a lot of talk about getting things done, but in that Labor plan, is Stage Five of the Ring Road in there?
ALBANESE: We will have announcements between now and the Election. But, very clearly, we funded Stages Three and Four and we think it’s important that the Ring Road be completed. We will obviously have discussions with the Queensland Government. They are doing some of the preparatory work in terms of planning, but the thing about this project is that it is ready to start later this year or in 2020. So this is a project that does require support. I would hope that we will be in a position to be the Government because then we would act consistently with our approach towards infrastructure and nation building, consistent with our approach backing in the Ring Road here. Thanks.