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.
A Shorten Labor Government will unlock productivity and jobs growth in Central Queensland by investing $800 million to build the Rockhampton Ring Road in partnership with the State Labor Government.
This is a transformative project which will support around 780 direct jobs during its delivery, ease congestion on the Bruce Highway, and make Rockhampton as even better place to live, work and raise a family.
The Ring Road will run from the Yeppen Roundabout, along the western side of the airport to a third bridge crossing before reconnecting with the existing highway at Parkhurst – see attached map.
It will take thousands of trucks a day out of the CBD and off suburban streets, both speeding up the movement of freight along the east coast as well as improving safety for local residents.
Importantly, investments such as this are a critical component of a serious decentralisation policy because they provide regional centres with the infrastructure and services they need to grow and prosper.
This commitment follows yesterday’s announcement that a Shorten Labor Government will boost local jobs by ensuring more government contracts and major projects such as the Ring Road are delivered by local businesses employing local workers.
It was the former Federal Labor Government that first began investigating the planning for the Rockhampton Ring Road when we commissioned the Fitzroy River Floodplain and Road Planning Study in June 2009.
The study, completed in 2011, backed the project.
But after nearly two full terms as the LNP MP for Capricornia Michelle Landry has been unable to advance the Ring Road.
A Shorten Labor Government will deliver the project, not just talk about it.
When it comes to the Bruce Highway, the LNP’s record is one of cuts and broken promises.
Indeed, according to figures released by its own Infrastructure Department, the Morrison LNP Government will slash Federal investment in the highway over the next three years by $700 million if it wins the coming election.
Federal Labor’s commitment to the Rockhampton Ring Road builds on our strong track record of delivering for Central Queensland the last time we were in office. This including the major Yeppen Floodplain project which upgraded the Bruce Highway to prevent Rockhampton being cut off from the south, even during a one in 100-year flooding event.
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.
HOST: Anthony Albanese, well known to this program. Albo, Happy New Year.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Happy New Year to you.
HOST: Now your proposal, a lot of money to be spent doing this. The State Government unlikely – given their comments leading up to the last election with Labor’s plans to take a tram, for instance, to Norwood up the parade – unlikely to greet this favourably at all.
ALBANESE: I think the State Government needs to have a rethink as they have on other areas. (Inaudible) before the election, but now are attempting to claim, essentially, Jay Weatherill’s legacy when it comes to renewables in South Australia. And public transport is another area. If we’re going to deal with urban congestion, if we’re going to move people around our capital cities, then public transport is the key. There has been good work done and that has continued, particularly on the North-South Road Corridor. And we of course expanded the heavy rail network from Noarlunga to Seaford. But light rail really does make sense for Adelaide. It’s a very efficient way of moving people around. Adelaide has enormous advantages with its wide streets. It’s a well-planned city; the best really in Australia. With the possible exception of Canberra, that’s fully planned. But we should take advantage of that, it’s a very cost-effective option as well.
HOST: You talk about wide streets and they on the whole are. But they’re not through (inaudible) Unley Road, they’re not through Prospect, along Prospect Road – really narrow through there. Won’t that just push cars onto already congested roads, like Goodwood Road, like Churchill Road or Main North Road – people trying to avoid the tram line through what is essentially a really narrow shopping strip of Unley and Prospect?
ALBANESE: Well of course tram lines – one of the advantages is that they can coexist with traffic and that occurs, of course, in many places, particularly the world’s largest tram network in Melbourne. That’s not very well known, but Melbourne really appreciates the fact that, unlike a lot of other cities, they didn’t replace existing light rail. Here in Adelaide though you have the prospect of a progressive rollout, so it can be done in an orderly way. The planning was done. The fact is that the current Federal Government allocated almost $200 million in its last Budget; not announced but allocated. So the money is there to at least commence the rollout of these projects. The planning work has been done. And I think that would be a very positive thing in terms of improving the liveability of what is already a great city to live in there in Adelaide.
HOST: Is taking a tram though to Mitcham where, as a caller just before the news – in fact it was Michael Pratt a former federal MP here in Adelaide – says that you’d be building a tram line literally right next to an existing train line which runs right alongside the top end of Belair Road there, as Unley Road turns into Belair Road. And also taking the tram onto the existing train line at Outer Harbour that’s just a waste of money isn’t it? We’ve got a perfectly functioning well-organised train line running to Outer Harbour 25 kilometres out of the city. Why would you want to wreck that infrastructure and rebuild there?
ALBANESE: Well there is a debate that you can have. Of course the function of light rail is different from heavy rail. It’s very much an efficient on-off service. When I was in Adelaide for the ALP National Conference just before Christmas, I caught the light rail outside the convention centre back to my hotel every day. It’s a very efficient way of moving people around and there should be a debate in Adelaide about its roll out; about what the priorities should be, which extension should be done first. But that should be done in the spirit of an acknowledgement that it’s a positive thing to expand public transport.
The concern is that essentially the Marshall Government, it would appear, just opposed a whole range of good initiatives because they were from the other side of politics. And I think what people want to see, particularly when it comes to infrastructure and transport issues, is projects that aren’t the whim of one side of politics. They just want things to be done. A similar thing happened in terms of the North-South Road. It would be further advanced had not the incoming Federal Government said: ‘No we don’t want to do Torrens to Torrens first, we want to look at Darlington’, even though the fact is that the pre-construction work had been done on Torrens to Torrens. So that project was delayed unnecessarily due to politics.
All I’m saying here, is that the planning has been done. Let’s have a sensible approach, and the fact that there is some federal money on the table from the current Government, it seems to me that it would be absurd for the South Australian Government to say: ‘No, we’re not interested’. Of course this follows the rather bizarre decision of the South Australian Government to cut funding to the Overland Rail from Melbourne through the regional areas. And of course the Victorian Government had to step in, essentially, to prop up that particular rail line that is so important for those regional communities and for tourism.
HOST: What’s your timeline on this? So if you win in May, how long will the money be there for? I mean you can’t come in and build it; you can put the money on the table, can’t you?
ALBANESE: Exactly. I mean I will sit down constructively, as I did the last time (inaudible). In order to get things built and get things done right around the country. These issues shouldn’t be partisan and I would say to the Marshall Government, that they need to be constructive about this. So they need to acknowledge that the extension of light rail in Adelaide is a lot easier than places like Sydney, where they are trying to reintroduce light rail. You do have the key network there. But the extension does make sense and I think it has public support.
HOST: All right. We’ll soon find out, we’ll open the lines on that. Anthony Albanese, thanks so much for your time this morning.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Subjects: Geebung Park and Ride, High Speed Rail, Andrew Broad, Government dysfunction, environment, Angus Taylor, gender balance, Craig Kelly.
ANIKA WELLS: Welcome to the electorate of Lilley. I am so pleased to have Anthony Albanese here with me today to announce another part of Labor’s National Park and Ride Fund. I love Labor’s National Park and Ride Fund and I will tell you why. I have door-knocked or phone called more than 15,000 people now in the electorate of Lilley since I was pre-selected earlier this year, and when you ask people generally what they want to see from politics or what would actually help them on a day-to-day basis, what they say is they want more time. Everybody is feeling more and more busy. Everybody feels they have less and less time to do both the essential things that they need to get done and also to spend some time with their loved ones. And so what this fund actually does is give some time back. Because the last thing you want is having to trawl side streets two times a day every work day to get a park to be doing the right thing – to be taking public transport to find your way in and out of work. So what our Park and Ride Fund does is give money to extend our Park and Ride services and in Lilley this is the second one we are doing now. Our first one was $7 million for the Northgate Park and Ride, which is a magnificent announcement that has gone down very, very well here.
And today we are announcing Geebung, which is where we are, and we are announcing that we are giving $4 million to expand Park and Ride here. At the moment there are between 30 and 35 parks here at the Geebung Park and Ride. The State Labor Government announced in November that they would expand the services here to include 70 more parks and today Federal Labor is coming to the party with another $4 million so we can expand those parks even more and we can double our capacity again. So I am really pleased to be here. I am really pleased that Albo understands what people want here in Lilley and what is actually going to make our lives easier on a day-to-day basis and I think it draws a very sharp contrast between us, who are looking into those things, who are concerned about these things and are trying to make tangible differences for the people of our community, and the other side who are focused on themselves, who are fighting amongst themselves and really have nothing to say for us or our community’s future. So with that I will hand you over to Albo.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It is terrific to be here once again with Anika Wells for what is a very exciting announcement. It’s good to be back at a railway station here in Brisbane, here in Geebung, for this announcement which would see a doubling of the increase that the State Government have already said they would commit to earlier this year. The provision of an additional 70 parking space from our Park and Ride Fund is just the latest announcement. It follows announcements at Northgate, at Narangba and at Mango Hill here in Brisbane because what we want is to support public transport.
Now there are two ways you can do it. Firstly you’ve got to invest in the infrastructure and Federal Labor will put back the funds that were ripped out by the Abbott Government and that cut maintained through Malcolm Turnbull and through Scott Morrison to Brisbane’s Cross River Rail Project. This was identified way back in 2012 as the number one infrastructure project for our nation and yet the Federal Government has failed to provide a single dollar for that project. What Federal Labor will do is partner with the Queensland Labor Government to deliver the Cross River Rail Project. But we will also increase the accessibility to these railways stations, particularly on the Northside of Brisbane. This comes from the feedback to our candidates like Anika Wells campaigning here to replace Wayne Swan as the member for Lilley and other candidates up and down this rail corridor.
Public transport is the key to dealing with urban congestion. Federal Labor has a plan for public transport. It is a plan that is about infrastructure, but it is also about increasing Park and Ride facilities, which is why we created the $300 million fund which, when matched with state and territory governments, will produce well over half a billion dollars of additional infrastructure to improve the accessibility for commuters who want to use public transport. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: On another subject …
ALBANESE: Have we got any on this? Or do you all believe that it is a great project?
REPORTER: I’m not sure we do.
ALBANESE: Away you go.
REPORTER: On another subject, there has been a submission put to the Federal Government from a Los Angeles-based company about another Hyperloop proposal. Do you support that?
ALBANESE: Well the Hyperloop is hypothetical of course at this stage. What I support is proven technology. We have proven technology available for High Speed Rail here in Australia, particularly down the east coast, from Brisbane through Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. What that will do is reduce the commute time to under three hours between Sydney and Brisbane. Now I flew up from Sydney to Brisbane this morning. It took me more than three hours door-to-door even though I live virtually under the runway at Kingsford Smith Airport. The fact is High Speed Rail is competitive. My view is that we need to advance that project, which is why I have a Private Member’s Bill to advance that priority
REPORTER: A Hyperloop would cut that down by a third. You are looking at an hour or so to get to Sydney, nine minutes to the Gold Coast. (inaudible).
ALBANESE: Well we want to see it operating anywhere in the world and at the moment it is a hypothetical technology. Certainly new technologies can be very exciting. But they need to be proven. Early in January I will be travelling to the United States, to San Francisco and Seattle, looking at some of the new technologies in transport that are available that have been developed on the West Coast of the United States. So I look forward to receiving briefings while I am there in the United States during January, but we need to be cognisant of the fact that technologies are available right now that would reduce times for travel not just between Sydney and Brisbane, but importantly from Brisbane to the Gold Coast and to regional areas like Lismore and really open up that regional economic development along that corridor which would take pressure off our capital cities.
REPORTER: Why do the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister need to say what they knew about the Andrew Broad scandal and when they knew about it?
ALBANESE: Well the problem here of course is that every day there appears to be contradictory stories from the day before about what the Prime Minister’s office knew, what the Deputy Prime Minister’s office knew. Today we have revelations that the Prime Minister’s office was aware of the Andrew Broad issues a fortnight before apparently, they say, they bothered to tell the Prime Minister. Now this goes to dysfunction in the Government.
Now Andrew Broad’s personal issues I have no comment on, but what I do have comment on is the fact that this Government is dysfunctional. This Government is too concerned about itself, about its internal issues, to be concerned about the needs of the Australian people. Here I am today with Anika Wells announcing a really practical project that will make a difference to people’s lives in the electorate of Lilley. That is what we are doing. The Government has stopped governing some time ago and they are behaving more like an Opposition in exile on the Government benches. It seems they would be more comfortable with being in Opposition, and I think frankly that the sooner they call the election the better because the Australian people want a say in who their Prime Minister is because at the moment of course Scott Morrison is an unelected Prime Minister and it appears from today even his own office don’t tell him what is going in the Government.
REPORTER: On that scandal, what do you think that matter is of public interest and what do you think has happened?
ALBANESE: I make no comment about what happened because I don’t know. What I do think should occur through is that the Government should just put it all out here about who knew what and when they were informed of it. And I think frankly the Australian public could have done without ever knowing what the term “Sugar Babies’’ meant and I think they would much prefer to go back to watching the cricket and being engaged in their summer holidays. But what they continue to get is issues – and you have raised it with me today so I would suggest that you are interested in it – so we need to, I think, just be clear and clear this issue up once and for all.
REPORTER: Do you believe that the Prime Minister’s staff would have known about it without alerting the Prime Minister?
ALBANESE: Well it’s a long stretch to say that that is the case. Certainly my office wouldn’t have behaved that way when I was a minister because something that is clearly of interest – even when I was the Government Leader of the House of Representatives, I would have thought that I would have been informed of these issues, given that they had been referred to the Australian Federal Police. But that is a matter for Mr Morrison to explain the internal workings of his office. But really I think it comes down to the fact that this Government is so divided and dysfunctional they are incapable of just carrying out normal activity on a day-to-day basis.
REPORTER: Mr Albanese, the seats of Brisbane and Ryan were recently added to a Labor watch list for next year’s election. How confident are you of a strong election campaign here in South East Queensland next year?
ALBANESE: What we are doing is campaigning for every vote in every seat in the country. And Queensland is always important when it comes to Federal elections. I am a regular visitor here in Queensland, whether it be South East Queensland or up and down the Queensland coast or indeed into Western Queensland. Obviously Brisbane historically was held by Arch Bevis as a very good Member for a long period of time and Ryan of course was won famously by Labor in a by-election.
What is very clear as I travel around this great city of Brisbane and South East Queensland is that people are very frustrated. They are frustrated because they have a Government that is more concerned about their internal issues – about bickering and fighting and who is arguing with who than they are about concerns of people here in Brisbane. This is a city under pressure with the growth. That is why they want practical answers. They want funding for the Cross River Rail project. They want funding for commuter carparks. They want funding for their kids’ schools to be done properly. They want their youngsters to be able to have access to early childhood education at ages three and four. They want proper health care with Medicare at the centre of the health system. They want all of those things. They want a Government that is concerned about improving their day-to-day lives and at the moment they haven’t got that and that is why Labor is campaigning in every seat right around the state of Queensland but indeed right around the country.
REPORTER: There is a split though between the South East and central and northern Queensland over things like Adani and other mining projects. Is that going to be difficult for Labor to balance?
ALBANESE: Well Labor is only talking about the issues that people are concerned about, whether it be infrastructure, education, health or the environment. And we continue to put our case. We have just had a very successful ALP National conference whereby what we were concerned about was what a future Labor Government, if we are successful in receiving the confidence of the Australian people at an election, would be able to put forward. We have put forward a comprehensive policy plan for government and that contrasts I think very markedly with a Government with all the bureaucracy and assistance they have, with the overwhelming advantage of staff and advice that they have, who don’t seem to have a plan for anything. When you ask a Government minister a question, the response usually begins with: “Well what Labor are going to do …’’. I find it quite remarkable that two terms into office they simply have run out of puff. After two terms, three prime ministers, three deputy prime ministers, nine infrastructure spokespeople, they don’t know what they are doing and I think the Australian people are increasingly coming to realise that.
REPORTER: But back to the question, how do you balance Adani and the Galilee Basin and the needs of those communities with the environmental concerns of the South East?
ALBANESE: What we do is put out comprehensive policy plans and we do that. We have a plan to deal with climate change. We have a plan that is not about picking winners and losers. It is a comprehensive plan to deliver the sort of changes that we need to reduce our emissions, to actually meet our Paris targets. This Government has gone out there and said that they are on track to meet their targets. We know from their own reports that they dumped out on the eve of Christmas that that simply isn’t true; that they are going to miss it by a very long way. It’s just another example of a Government that simply isn’t up to the job.
And when it comes to Angus Taylor, I mean, he was a failure as the cities spokesperson when I shadowed him. People would go along to conferences and they would hear him speak about value capture and all this voodoo economics – a project could be built for free – and after a while they came to realise that there was no substance there. Now that was a problem when he was in charge of cities. But it is a disaster when he is in charge of energy. This Government has no energy policy and they are nearing the end of their second term. It is quite remarkable.
WELLS: Lilley shares a border with the seat of Brisbane and we have doorknocked all along that border now and I can tell you when it comes to talking with people on the doors and at mobile offices, they are interested in the environment. But what they want to know is which major party has that as a priority and which party has a plan to save the environment, to do more for the environment, to do more for our energy policy and to make things more efficient. And they are so far very pleased with the emphasis that Labor has placed on that to date, whereas by comparison the Prime Minister and the local LNP have nothing to say on that subject.
And the other point I wanted to pick up about the seats of Brisbane and Ryan from earlier on is Ryan is yet another example of where the LNP have knocked off a sitting woman MP to put in another bloke, whereas here on the Northside for Labor we are running four women across four our seats. I am here in Lilley, Corinne Mulholland is in Petrie, Ali France is in Dickson and Susuan Lamb is the current sitting MP for Longman. We are running four women in a diamond of four seats, whereas just next door in Ryan yet another woman, Jane Prentice, is being knocked off for the LNP to put in another bloke.
ALBANESE: And they saved Craig Kelly it might be noted and did nothing, did not lift a finger, to save Jane Prentice. And when you look at the contribution that Jane Prentice has made, my view is she should be sitting on the frontbench of the Coalition. She is someone who does know something about cities and urban policy. Craig Kelly only knows about going on Sky late at night, during the day. Whenever you turn it on, there he is spouting his rubbish on behalf of Tony Abbott and the people who have wrecked the Liberal Party from within. And he was rewarded for that wrecking and rewarded for saying he would be sitting on the crossbenches by being rescued.
I was asked before about the South China Sea. Can I say that when it comes to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, the International Treaty on the Law of the Sea applies. It allows for freedom of navigation and that is important. But it is also important that we recognise that the United States has an important role to play in our region but also that Australia stands prepared to work with our regional partners and that we encourage a cooperative relationship between the big two superpowers in the United States and China. That is in Australia’s interests. It’s in the globe’s interests as well. Thank you very much.
Subjects: ALP National Conference, trade unions, nuclear disarmament, infrastructure.
DAVID SPEERS: Anthony Albanese thanks very much for your time this afternoon. Let’s just pick up on the Labor conference. A lot of concern amongst employer groups about where the party has landed on industrial relations. Will there be industry-wide bargaining under a Labor Government?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well one of the things that Bill Shorten has said is that he will get together, in the first week he is talking about, with employers, with unions and actually work on a consensus model rather than the antagonistic model that has been pursued by the Coalition Government. The truth is that the current bargaining system isn’t working. That’s why we are seeing record profits but real wages actually in decline. The Reserve Bank and every economist in the country has identified low wage growth as being a real problem for our national economy.
SPEERS: Sure, but you’ve got to spell out before the election what you are going to do with industry-wide bargaining.
ALBANESE: And we will be spelling out all of our policies before the election. But what we are saying is that the current system quite clearly isn’t working. That is what the Reserve Bank is saying.
SPEERS: But is more union power the answer here? Giving them greater access to work sites, industry-wide bargaining, getting rid of the ABCC, these sorts of things?
ALBANESE: Well it is very clear that the decline in union membership is a part of the explanation for the decline in real wages. If you have circumstances whereby unions aren’t able to bargain and represent workers, what we know is that the power relationship between an individual worker and an individual employer is not an even one. That’s why trade unions exist.
SPEERS: You are quite open about the fact you want unions to be bigger and more powerful in Australia?
ALBANESE: I think unions play an absolutely critical role in civil society and I think a strengthening and growth of unionism would be good for our national economy.
SPEERS: Let’s deal with a couple of the other things that were decided late yesterday. You were involved moving a motion on the Nuclear Ban Treaty. Would a Labor Government sign this UN Nuclear Ban Treaty?
ALBANESE: Well what we have said is that we would sign and ratify after considering a range of factors including the effective examination to make sure that the structures were in place, to make sure that it was happening, to make sure that it was consistent with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
SPEERS: So you would want the nuclear states themselves to agree to this as well? None of them have.
ALBANESE: Well what we want to see is a pathway and one way in which you encourage people to join a collective organisation is to join yourself and part of the problem that we have seen with the Nuclear Ban Treaty is that Australia, like in so many areas, has withdrawn from the process, didn’t participate. We are on the sideline.
SPEERS: But would we sign up if the US doesn’t?
ALBANESE: Well the truth is that the US was very reluctant to sign up to past global agreements, such as banning land mines. Does anyone today say that that was a bad thing? That was a very ambitious proposal when it was put forward.
SPEERS: So we would sign this without the US?
ALBANESE: That’s a matter for a future government decision. But like all of the Labor Party platform, what we do is set out our principles and then Labor governments make decisions based upon advice.
SPEERS: That’s the same with Palestine too.
ALBANESE: It’s the same with all of our platform. That’s the way it works. The platform sets out the principles to guide Labor in government and I think yesterday’s adoption of support for what began with ICAN, began with people 10 years ago in Melbourne forming the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons, they won the Nobel Peace Prize 10 years after they were formed in 2017, and this year I think it is a significant step forward and it is not surprising that over 80 per cent of Australians say they support eliminating nuclear weapons. I can’t understand anyone who would say, I’ve got to say, “I think nuclear weapons are a great thing’’. I think everyone wants to see …
SPEERS: Sure, but you’d put a lot more pressure on the Americans if you say we are going to sign it with or without you.
ALBANESE: Well, we have declared Australia’s position in terms of where Labor wants to see the world going.
SPEERS: With respect, you have said you will work with allies and take advice.
ALBANESE: Of course and we always do. But that doesn’t mean that we have a subservient relationship. I mean, I think our US alliance is absolutely critical and the resolution recognised that yesterday. But at the same time what we don’t do is give any other nation a right of veto. We have had very clearly differences with the United States as we do for example as a party when it comes to the embassy in Jerusalem issue and that is not a bad thing.
SPEERS: A final one in your portfolio area. It seems as we head into the election neither side is going to dramatically cut the migration intake right? So dealing with congestion in Sydney and Melbourne comes down to more infrastructure?.
SPEERS: What would Labor do to ease these congestion pressures?
ALBANESE: It comes down to not just better infrastructure but how you do it as well – the quality of it. What that means, in effect, is the quality of planning. The problem that we have had in our cities is that we have had housing growth without considering how people will get to work, what the social and community infrastructure is – education and health – and around that how we create a 30-minute city. We have seen also a failure to invest in public transport.
SPEERS: Will you do a lot more on public transport?
ALBANESE: Absolutely. We committed more to urban public transport between 2007 and 2013 than had been committed in the previous 107 years. We changed the way that the Federal Government deals with public transport. The Howard Government – zero. Not a dollar. Not a public transport anywhere in the country.
SPEERS: Are you going to give it priority over roads?
ALBANESE: The truth is if you are going to deal with urban congestion, you need to do both, but the priority has to be public transport. You can’t solve it with just roads, with just private motor vehicles. What you need to do if you are talking about moving large numbers of people, then you need public transport to do it.
SPEERS: Anthony Albanese. Thanks you very much for joining us and throughout the year – a very Merry Christmas.
ALBANESE: Merry Christmas to you David. Thanks you for having me on the program throughout the year. I will see you in 2019.
WEDNESDAY, 19 DECEMBER, 2018
Subjects: Federal ICAC; religious freedom.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: I’m joined by Anthony Albanese and Christopher Pyne who is in Adelaide with us this morning. Gentlemen, good morning to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning, Deb. Nice to be with you.
KNIGHT: Why the change of heart, Christopher?
PYNE: Well there hasn’t been a change of heart. The reality is that we haven’t adopted Labor’s Salem witch trials model for an Independent Commission Against Corruption. And that’s what I and Scott Morrison were being asked about when we both said that we weren’t going to go down that track. We’ve been working for months on a Commonwealth Integrity Commissioner. I was part of the Cabinet when Malcolm Turnbull was Prime Minister where we initiated that work, and we announced yesterday the result of that, which is bringing together, really, what exists now within the Commonwealth but very disparate, in groups like ACLEI (Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity) and IPEA (Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority): creating an integrity commission which fills in the gaps and makes sure that we can ensure that our law enforcement agencies and our public service, including our politicians and their staff, are all behaving with integrity.
KNIGHT: Well, why not then ensure that if the politicians and the bureaucrats, because that division as part of this investigative unit, there won’t be public hearings, there won’t be public rulings. Why not, surely, sunlight is the best disinfectant here?
PYNE: Well, not necessarily. I mean we’ve seen what ICAC in New South Wales has become in many respects, which is a star chamber.
KNIGHT: It’s been very effective at rooting out corruption.
PYNE: Well, in some cases it has. In other cases its ruined people’s reputations who’ve turned out to have not been guilty of anything whatsoever. And yet ICAC has such extensive powers and public hearings that their reputations are ruined just by being investigated by ICAC. So there is a better way of doing it. There are other models in Australia besides ICAC, by the way. There’s one here in South Australia, which operates effectively, which doesn’t have public hearings. And we propose to do the work that needs to be done to fill in any gaps that exist now without trashing and traducing people’s public reputations through public hearings where they are ruined from the first moment they are accused of wrongdoing.
KNIGHT: Albo, this is something Labor and the Greens have long campaigned for. There must be an election wind if you’re seeing parties stealing each other’s ideas, hey?
ALBANESE: What we’re seeing, once again, is Labor leading from Opposition. We’ve been arguing for a National Integrity Commission for some time in the Parliament, and Christopher himself just weeks ago described this as a distraction. Scott Morrison did the same thing. We’ve continued to put our case. Who knows, maybe they’ll adopt our policy on housing affordability next week the way that it’s going.
KNIGHT: Will you be supporting then this body the way it is in this form?
ALBANESE: We’ll have a close look at the model that’s been put forward. We want to make sure that we get the balance right, between ensuring that it’s a strong body that can achieve its objectives without any consequences which aren’t intended. So we’ll look at the detail of what the Government puts forward. But the fact is, we do need a National Integrity Commission because we do need to shore up that public support. I don’t believe there’s a great deal of corruption in Australia …
PYNE: I’m not aware of a lot of corruption either, quite frankly.
ALBANESE: But what you’d need to have is a body that gives the public the confidence it can have in its elected officials and importantly in its bureaucracy and in its public service more widely.
KNIGHT: No argument from the public there. We need to root it out and ensure it doesn’t occur if it is there in the first place. Now in another announcement from the Prime Minister, the Coalition plans to make it illegal to discriminate based on a person’s religious beliefs. Christopher, are there any cases that you are aware of, of people who have been discriminated against based on their religious beliefs?
PYNE: This is not an issue that I’ve been closely following, I have to say. But we asked Philip Ruddock to conduct a review of whether the laws in Australia protected people’s religious freedoms. He has made 20 recommendations, 15 of them seem very obvious to us to repair old legislation, if you like, that is out of date. We would also like to remove any exemption for religious schools or for institutions on the basis of people’s sexuality. But it’s quite complicated, because we also want to make sure religious institutions can maintain their religiosity and so we’ve asked the Australian Law Reform Commission how to draft that. I think we could have resolved it in the last few weeks in Parliament but unfortunately Bill Shorten wanted to weaponise the issue for the election. I think that’s a great pity. We have a conscience vote on our side of the House over issues to do with sexuality. And I would like, and most of my colleagues would like, to remove the issues to do with the school students and teachers being discriminated against. An exemption, by the way, that was introduced by Labor when they were last in office, but that wasn’t able to be done and Labor doesn’t have a conscience vote on it, which I think is very unfair on their members.
ALBANESE: It’s an absolute nonsense what Christopher has just said. We had marriage equality delayed because they didn’t have a conscience vote on marriage equality. They bound everyone on that issue. When it comes to freedom of religion, of course we need freedom of religion. I think, frankly, we have it in this country. What we’ve seen is the Government dealing with their internal differences by establishing these inquiries because the Abbott forces and the Turnbull forces continue to be at war.
PYNE: Try and be nice, Anthony. It’s Christmas time.
ALBANESE: I am. I’ve even got my Christmas tie on.
PYNE: I know, I’ve heard.
ALBANESE: Which might resemble the South Sydney tie, but it’s a Christmas tie, I’ve made an effort.
KNIGHT: Well, we wish you all a Merry Christmas and thank you very much for your contribution over the course of the year.