Aug 22, 2011

Interview – 774 ABC Melbourne Jon Faine Program

Jon Fain: Anthony Albanese is Leader of the House in the Gillard Government, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and a senior member of the inner sanctum that installed Julia Gillard. Exactly a year ago she won an election, well of sorts she won an election, she won a hung parliament election and became Prime Minister in her own right after Kevin Rudd.

Anthony Albanese good morning to you.

Anthony Albanese: Good morning.

Jon Fain: The Convoy of No Confidence suggests that even if some of their claims are wide of the mark there’s a confidence in – a crisis in communicating from the Gillard Government their particular message, your particular message to large parts of the electorate, Minister.

Anthony Albanese: Look the fact is that we were elected last year, we are in a situation of being a minority government. That’s unusual for Australia but of course it’s not unusual for other countries around the world, in fact it is more the norm than to have a single political party have a majority in parliaments across the globe. The fact is that this government has been able to function and function well. We’ve had 175 pieces of legislation passed by the parliament. There’s no doubt that we haven’t even had a single amendment carried without the support of the government, we’ve got a big agenda out there. This current sitting we’re looking at the pricing of carbon, the minerals resource rent tax and the national health reforms to name just three big reforms and we’re confident we’ll have a majority on the floor of both houses to put them through as well.

Jon Fain: And that’s why you’re travelling so well in the opinion polls too isn’t it, minister? I mean the basic fact is that most Australians think that this is a government that’s struggling to deal with the challenges that you’ve just tried to list, and there’s a substantial and growing body of opinion who think that you’re an illegitimate government.

Anthony Albanese: Well we are dealing with them. There’s no doubt that Tony Abbott, who doesn’t have a plan for anything except to wreck the joint, and that’s why he’s associating himself with this demonstration of sorts today. You have Mick Pattel, the convenor of this group, Mick Pattel is someone who’s on the record talking about one-world governments and them having an international army to pacify the masses. You have some pretty way-out there ideas being put up by some of the people associated with us…

Jon Fain: And yet your government and your government leaders…

Anthony Albanese: …and Tony Abbott’s sitting in the truck with them.

Jon Fain: I’m delighted you’re available today, but Wayne Swan, nowhere to be seen, Julia Gillard declining all requests for interviews. She said she’d wear out shoe leather to try and sell the carbon tax but she – well the shoes must either be worn out or they’ve got very thin soles.

Anthony Albanese: Oh look it’s a big call if you’re suggesting that – I saw Wayne Swan on the TV last night and the night before, so it’s a very big call if you’re suggesting somehow that the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister aren’t active, they’re certainly out there as is the whole of the government.

We’re going through a tough time, there’s no doubt about that…

Jon Fain: You’re losing the communications battle, Minister.

Anthony Albanese: Well we’re engaging in it, we’re engaging in it in a way that’s constructive. It’s a lot harder to put forward a constructive message than it is to just be totally negative…

Jon Fain: Why?

Anthony Albanese: …but we’re getting it out there…

Jon Fain: Why is it so much harder, why can’t you communicate as effectively as Tony Abbott?

Anthony Albanese: Well we certainly are out there talking and engaging. What we have is a whole lot of people in terms of promoting this idea that somehow the government isn’t getting its legislation through or that somehow pricing carbon is some radical initiative…

Jon Fain: How can Katter be saying that the road freight industry is on its knees and truck drivers who don’t realise that their diesel – they think they’re protesting over the effect that carbon taxes will have on diesel, and in fact it’s exempt.

Anthony Albanese: It won’t have an impact at all…

Jon Fain: You’ve not even communicated these basic facts.

Anthony Albanese: …it won’t have an impact at all…

Jon Fain: But they don’t understand that.

Anthony Albanese: …I’m on your radio station now communicating that fact. The fact is that some of these people don’t listen to your radio station, they listen to others…

Jon Fain: Well you have to engage wherever you need to.

Anthony Albanese: …and we certainly are engaged. And for example on the trucking industry, you know, we have a very good record, and indeed the mainstream organisations – and this is important – groups like the Australian Trucking Association led by a former National Party MP have been out there dis-associating themselves from this convoy today as has the Livestock and Transport Association, all of the mainstream organisations.

What you have here is a fringe element which is why it’s nowhere near as big as it purported to be at the beginning, the whole of Canberra was going to be shut down. None of that has happened this morning, none of that has happened, it’s business as usual and yet Tony Abbott is prepared to associate himself directly with what are very extreme views to say the least.

Jon Fain: He’s running rings around you, Minister. I heard a truck driver this morning on our overnights program at 5.05 this morning as I was driving into work, saying that the country’s a basket case and the Gillard Government has to go.

Anthony Albanese: Well the fact is the economy is going very well…

Jon Fain: Well it’s a boom economy but people…

Anthony Albanese: The economy is going better than – there’s no other country you’d rather be than Australia. We have positioned ourselves well, we saw Australia through the last global financial crisis, we have a situation whereby in terms of investment in future developments is all on line now, a pipeline of over $400 billion.

Jon Fain: But my point, Minister is that there are people – there are people who think the country is a basket case. They don’t understand what’s going on internationally and even if they did they probably don’t care.

Anthony Albanese: And your interview today is an example whereby you’re asking me about that rather than the substance.

But we’ll continue to put our case out there very strongly. The fact is that people are feeling some pressure in terms of living standards, but just Friday for example the national transport reforms will be of major benefit to the economy, a major benefit to truck drivers.

We’re going to get rid of the red tape that currently if you’re a truckie who drives down the east coast you have different systems in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. We agreed on Friday at COAG the Prime Minister with each of the state premiers and territory leaders to have a single national regulator for heavy vehicles.

These transport reforms will deliver $30 billion over 20 years. Now all I can do is keep saying that, pointing towards reforms such as that. You didn’t read it on the front page of the newspapers, that’s something that’s beyond our control, but what we can do is continue to point to practical reforms that we’re making in order to assist the industry.

Jon Fain: All right. Just finally before I move on, and we’ve got truck drivers, we’ve got talkback callers, we’ve got a convoy, Minister. 1300 222 774.

Bluescope Steel today are shutting down at Western Port and Port Kembla, about a thousand jobs are expected to go.

Paul Howes was on AM this morning, your mate from the Australian Workers’ Union, saying that the Government’s been too slow to react and to protect Australian jobs.

Anthony Albanese: Well I actually heard Paul Howes this morning and that is not what he said. What he spoke about was the impact particularly of the high Australian dollar, that it is having on Australian manufacturing industry…

Jon Fain: And he said the Government’s been too slow to react.

Anthony Albanese: He spoke about the fact that we live in a globalised economy, he spoke about the decisions that are made by the resource industry and was very critical of that. He certainly did not say that this was a result of government policy, because he knows – he knows that that is not the case…

Jon Fain: No but the Government’s been too slow to respond to the challenges that are confronting Australian workers, retaining jobs in the face of our high dollar and the Chinese currency situation.

Anthony Albanese: He spoke about the Yuan and how that decision by China is also having an impact and how Australia needs to have more pressure to make a difference there. But he certainly did not say it was the Australian Government’s responsibility. Certainly he would like to see, as you would expect anyone who represents the manufacturing sector, he would like to see more support for the industry. The Government is working with industry and with the unions to do just that.

Jon Fain: Minister just finally are you going to hold on despite all the doubts now over Craig Thomson’s future are you going to hold onto him in the face of now strong reservations about whether he’s lied to parliament, whether he’s lied to his union, whether he’s lied even to the Labor Party about what went on with his credit card?

Anthony Albanese: Oh look there’s only charges against one Member of Parliament at the moment outstanding, and it’s not Craig Thomson, and those charges were of course laid in May. No one heard anything about them until July…

Jon Fain: These are the charges against a Liberal Senator from South Australia.

Anthony Albanese: That’s right. So I think…

Jon Fain: Shoplifting.

Anthony Albanese: No well it’s more than that, Jon as you full well know, the charges go beyond just shoplifting as you know.

Jon Fain: Oh well it’s getting – getting very grubby there I might say, maybe both parties should free themselves up of their…

Anthony Albanese: You raised the issue, Jon, and that’s the point, you raised the issue, the fact is that what we need is some consistency…

Jon Fain: Yep.

Anthony Albanese: No one in the Government – no one in the Government raised these issues at all about the Liberal senator because we felt that it was important that processes take their course. It’s important that there be consistency on this and that Tony Abbott not get away with being able to argue one thing when it’s a Labor person, who of which by the way, there are no changes being laid at all…

Jon Fain: Not yet.

Anthony Albanese: …and a different position – and a different position where the facts are that there are – charges have been laid.

Jon Fain: Thank you for your time this morning. Anthony Albanese, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport in the Gillard Government.