Jan 27, 2013

Partial transcript of doorstop – Footscray, Melbourne

Issues:  Cory Bernardi; Tony Abbott’s relentless negativity and mini-campaign launch; Nova Peris
JOURNALIST:  So Minister, what do you reckon about Tony Abbott’s mini policy launch today?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:   It isn’t a policy launch. Tony Abbott is just reinforcing that he’s turned the Coalition of yesterday into the ‘No-alition’ of today.  Tony Abbott just has one policy.  It’s ‘NO’. No, no, no to everything.  That’s what he’s done since he became the Leader of the Opposition. He has transformed the Opposition into a political party that is just negative, that is concerned with trying to disrupt the Parliament, that’s concerned with only negative messages.

And today, we’ll see how long it lasts. We’ve seen various attempts to remake Tony Abbott’s image in recent times.  Normally they’ve lasted a day or two and he’s gone straight back into the negative.  Well, the challenge for Tony Abbott is, what is the first question that he asks in Question Time when Parliament resumes in a couple of weeks.  Will he continue to not worry about Question Time and suspend Standing Orders?  Will he continue to not come up with policies?

I noticed that in his document that’s going out today, he has said he will establish a committee which will enable cuts to occur after the election. Tony Abbott needs to come clean with the people of Australia and prior to the election, outline exactly what cuts he will implement.  Cuts to education? Cuts to health? Cuts to infrastructure?

The last time the Coalition won government in 1996, the first thing they did was slash $2 billion off the roads budget and fail to fund infrastructure such as the Regional Rail Link that we see coming into being behind us.  We’ve committed more into public transport since 2007, than all governments combined since Federation right through to 2007. The previous Coalition didn’t put a cent into public transport.   Tony Abbott can start by answering the question is that still his position, which he’s on the record as saying?

JOURNALIST: Has he beaten you though in kicking off the election, particularly in the western suburbs of Sydney?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What Tony Abbott has done, is just reinforce, by having a so-called policy launch without policies, that he’s just a negative man.  That is who he is and that’s in is DNA.

The question today that he’s failing to answer, just like Cory Bernardi who was happy to make comments about Nova Peris last Friday.  He’s failed to answer questions about Cory Bernardi and his responsibility. Cory Bernardi, we now know, due to  revelations in today’s newspapers, is an active member and participant in this extreme, far-right wing, American lobby group, funded by big tobacco in the United States, and engaged in the campaign against gun law reform that President Obama is pursuing through the US political system.

Cory Bernardi is the Chair of the Senate Committee that looks after the declaration of Senators’ interests. So, if Senator Bernardi, who is the number one candidate on the Liberal Party ticket in South Australia is fair dinkum, he has to report his failure to declare his interest in this far right-wing organisation to himself as the Committee Chair.  What an obvious conflict of interest.

What Tony Abbott can do is start off the New Year with actually a decision about his own organisation and drop Cory Bernardi as Chair of this Committee, appointed by Tony Abbott, because Cory Bernardi’s position is quite frankly completely untenable. And it is totally contrary to the views of Australians who supported John Howard’s gun laws back in, after the Port Arthur massacre when the Parliament united, both Coalition and Labor, to support John Howard’s gun laws.

As long as Cory Bernardi stays as chair of this committee, that will be drawn into question.

JOURNALIST: Touching on John Howard, and during his speech this morning Abbott made reference to his frontbench’s ties to the Howard era, saying at that stage that the economy was in a much better state than it is now.  Do you not agree with that?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:   You can’t wish away the Global Financial Crisis.  And each time he gives an address, Tony Abbott shows his lack of policy depth and his lack of attention to detail.  I mean the idea that you can just wish away…

I know that Tony Abbott voted against the Economic Stimulus Plan, he voted against funding of major public infrastructure works, such as the Regional Rail Link that was funded as part of the major third tranche of the Economic Stimulus Plan. He slept through the votes but opposed it and speaks about projects such as this being a ‘waste’.

Now Tony Abbott can’t just wish that away.  He tries to pretend that that’s the case.  The fact is that the Australian economy is performing better than any advanced economy in the world.  Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, when they’re overseas, acknowledge that and indeed say that. But when they’re back here, they try to pretend that that isn’t the case and talk Australia down.

Tony Abbott’s challenge this year is to actually come up with a positive policy, anything will do. And to come up with an idea in terms of talking Australia up, and presenting a positive vision for the future instead of this carping negativity that he continues on, notwithstanding his briefing out that he was going to be more positive.

JOURNALIST: Has the Prime Minister botched the Nova Peris appointment?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:   Nova Peris is, I think, a very good candidate for the Senate. Nova Peris is putting herself forward as a candidate.  There has never been an Indigenous woman elected to the Australian Parliament.  And that is something that the Prime Minister has been very supportive of…

JOURNALIST: It hasn’t made people in the Northern Territory very happy, though, has it?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: And the National Executive will be making a decision this week about who our candidate for the Northern Territory Senate is.

JOURNALIST: And who will it be?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  I think it is pretty clear that, as a member of the National Executive, that Nova Peris will be endorsed. People have been very impressed with her record of engagement, particularly with Indigenous youth. I think she has a lot to offer the people of the Northern Territory and indeed the nation.

JOURNALIST: What are you going to do with Trish Crossin?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  Trish Crossin is a Senator and she will remain a Senator until the election.