ISSUES: Parliament; Abbott’s Chief of Staff; Record job numbers; the Labor Party; Pacific Highway Duplication; Qantas jobs
DAVID SPEERS: Thanks for your time. I want to get to your portfolio responsibilities in a moment, but firstly on the parliamentary conduct that we’ve seen again today, is this any worse than we have seen over recent years?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, we’re just seeing the relentless negativity of the Opposition, and today we not only had the Opposition frontbenchers and backbenchers but the Opposition Leader’s Chief of Staff joining in, interjecting on the Prime Minister, and then interjecting when I raised a point of order about her behaviour.
She has in the past been warned by the former Speaker [Harry Jenkins] about this behaviour. It really is a born to rule mentality we’re seeing from those opposite, who can’t deal with the fact that they remain in opposition.
DAVID SPEERS: Perhaps it’s frustration at getting no answer from the Prime Minister, in particular in relation to new video of that Australia Day protest. She [indistinct] questions now with no answer.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well that’s not right. They asked 54 questions attempting to muckrake this week and on the day that we’ve seen more Australians in jobs than ever before, unemployment rate down to 5.1 per cent, more than 35,000 jobs created in the last month.
What we see from the Opposition is no interest at all in the fundamental issues of the economy, in jobs and those issues that are of concern to Australians.
DAVID SPEERS: Well the Opposition has also been keen to exploit some of the tension that’s been on display within Labor this week. Isn’t it a fair point that if Labor can’t govern itself, how can it govern the country?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The fact is we are governing and governing effectively. During this fortnight we’ve had another 15 pieces of legislation – going up to now 269 to nil on the scoreboard – and we had important legislation: making private health insurance fairer, ensuring average workers in my electorate aren’t subsidising my private health insurance; legislation today in terms of the construction industry, making sure that we’ve got a tough cop on the beat but a fair system as well – and that legislation passed the Parliament today.
So we’re continuing to govern, and we’re governing effectively. The jobs figures today are very positive in and of themselves, let alone when compared with the rest of the world in Europe and North America.
DAVID SPEERS: Nonetheless, there have been questions left unanswered this week about the events leading up to Kevin Rudd’s removal as Prime Minister. Now, one of those questions is internal party polling showing that Julia Gillard was more popular than Kevin Rudd. Anthony Albanese, were you shown this polling?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No I wasn’t. I get access to the party polling. I used to be on the National Executive Committee of the Party. I’m still a member of the ALP National Executive. I never discuss internal polling, regardless of the circumstances. But I certainly wasn’t shown anything like that.
DAVID SPEERS: And do you have any message for those within Labor who are clearly agitating for a move on the leadership?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I’m getting on with my job, and we’re being pretty effective, I’ve got to say David, in terms of getting legislation through the Parliament, dealing with the real issues.
I mean I had to get a question, not from the Opposition, but from Rob Oakeshott, the Member for Lyne, about Pacific Highway funding. We need to do more in terms of ensuring full duplication by 2016, which is a shared objective of the National Government and the NSW Government. I’m acknowledging that, saying we need to move forward in 50/50 funding partnership.
I’m very disappointed that today the National Party Ministers in NSW that used to talk about these issues a lot when they were in opposition, are now saying that they shouldn’t be contributing 50 per cent of the funding for the Pacific Highway, which they acknowledged when they were in opposition was actually a “state road”.
DAVID SPEERS: And just finally and quickly, the Qantas announcement today. As Minister for Transport, how concerned are you about the pressures Qantas is clearly under from international competition, the high dollar, the high fuel price? They’ve had to cut a couple of international routes today. How worried are you?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look that is of course of concern. But we have a profitable aviation sector here in Australia. Unlike most places in the world, our aviation sector is competitive, it’s profitable, it’s successful, and one of the disappointing aspects about today was Tony Abbott again being an opportunist and cheering job losses. What we want to do is work with industry to make sure that the economy continues to grow, including aviation.