Jun 21, 2007

Doorstop: Liberal Dirt Unit; Ross Vasta; BCA Textor IR; Liberal Extremists

Transcript of doorstop interview – Parliament House, Canberra

Thursday, 21 June 2007


Subject: Liberal Party Dirt Unit; Ross Vasta; BCA Textor IR Campaign; Liberal Extremists

ALBANESE: The IR poll exposed today that is being done for the big business campaign tells us nothing that we don’t already know. We don’t need a poll to tell us that Australians don’t want their penalty rates taken away. They don’t want their wages and conditions slashed, they don’t want John Howard’s unfair workchoices legislation. We don’t need a poll to tell us that.

Today, as Parliament has its last day, there are real questions to be answered by the Government. Firstly Ross Vasta should come into the Parliament and explain the basis upon which he’s paid back $24,000 to the Commonwealth. Ross Vasta must explain exactly where the $24,000 that he’s paid back to the Commonwealth has come from.

Secondly, Philip Ruddock the Attorney General has to actually explain what the six to eight people are doing in his Commonwealth Parliamentary Office in Sydney. Are they operating a dirt unit? Yesterday he was very careful in his answers before the Parliament. He conceded that there were people there doing media monitoring that were providing reports to him. The question is, are they also providing it to other Ministers and indeed to Liberal candidates? We need to know the extent to which taxpayers’ funds are being used for partisan party political purposes. When it comes to telling the truth, of course, Philip Ruddock the man responsible for the Kids Overboard affair has real form. According to reports, this dirt unit was set up in 2000, prior to the 2001 and the 2004 election campaigns.

It seems that whether it’s using Ministers’ offices to establish units to campaign for partisan political purposes, or whether it’s using tens of millions of dollars on Government advertising, or hosting Liberal Party fundraisers at Kirribilli and The Lodge, this Government doesn’t draw a distinction between the public interest and what’s appropriate and the private interests of the Liberal Party.

REPORTER: Monitoring media isn’t exactly dirty, is it?

ALBANESE: Monitoring the Opposition in a secret unit with staff who don’t appear on any list of formal employees that have been allocated to the Government and, in the case of the dirt unit here in Parliament, attaching them to the Government Whip, for the sole purpose of removing any accountability before the Senate Estimates Committee, does indeed amount to dirty political campaigning.

REPORTER: People are hardly going to be surprised that people are throwing mud in politics are they Anthony?

ALBANESE: I think people will be very concerned that the highest law officer of the Commonwealth is engaging in this sort of activity. I think they will be concerned because, in general, Mr Ruddock has form. They’ll also be concerned about the involvement of Mr Textor in the industrial relations campaign being potentially run by big business. Mr Textor of course has a great deal of form not just here but in the New Zealand election and also in the Northern Territory election, which is the first time we saw push-polling. There’ll be a great deal of concern that this campaign is also using the access which has been given, given the people who are involved, of Government paid market research, being fed into what becomes a party political campaign.

REPORTER: Has Kevin Rudd done the right thing, by trying to expel Joe Macdonald from the Labor Party?

ALBANESE: I’m a member of the National Executive Committee, so I’ll be in the meeting this morning so it would be inappropriate for me to talk or comment this morning. We’ll be having a meeting and certainly I’d be pretty confident that we’ll be listening to Kevin Rudd and taking appropriate action.

REPORTER: Are you worried these incidences are going to be damaging to the Party?

ALBANESE: I think when you have people who are directly linked with the Liberal Party, when you have an extremist such as Alex Hawke being preselected given the behaviour of the Young Liberals in NSW and indeed nationally, I think that’s what will be of greater concern to the Australian public.