SUBJECTS: Cabinet reshuffle; Tony Abbott’s frontbench
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think the point has got to be made that you have two people who’ve made the decision to depart the Federal Parliament in an orderly way. The Coalition have at least nine members who’ve announced that they’re going, and one of those, Joanna Gash, the Member for Gilmore, has already got a new, full-time job as the Mayor of Shoalhaven when she was elected in September of last year.
That raises issues, about an office of profit under the Crown, and about her eligibility to sit in the House of Representatives. So let’s get real here – nine exiting from the Coalition; these two orderly departures after long and successful careers. I think it speaks for itself.
QUESTION: Do you think there’ll be more resignations within the Labor Party?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I certainly think that none are anticipated. People do change. These aren’t jobs for life. Robert McClelland has also made the decision to retire – again at the next election – but nine from the Coalition.
I was elected in 1996. I’m one of the most senior members of the House of Representatives. There is turnover. Not everyone wants to be Philip Ruddock and be there for decade upon decade upon decade, perhaps long after he should have been considering his future.
I do note this, that Tony Abbott made an extraordinary revelation this week. Tony Abbott has said he will keep the frontbench that he has now, not just to the election, but beyond the election. If he’s successful, they will be his ministry.
Well, the Josh Frydenbergs and the Paul Fletchers, let alone people such as Christian Porter coming in from Western Australia, choked on their Weeties when they heard that, because the idea that Tony Abbott has the most talented team on his frontbench now, let alone his front bench after the election, is extraordinary.
It shows he’s hampered by a lack of talent. It shows he’s not prepared to make any tough decisions on his internals. He just thinks he can get through to the election by saying no to everything, and that includes saying no to all his backbench who have legitimate aspirations to serve in higher office, be it in Opposition or in Government.
I think what you’ll see over coming weeks in Canberra is the frustration being taken out by the Jamie Briggses, by the Josh Frydenbergs, by the Paul Fletchers, by the Kelly O’Dwyers – all those frustrated backbenchers – when they look at people who’ve been in the same job since Tony Abbott took over the leadership when he knocked off Malcolm Turnbull way back in 2009.
QUESTION: How do you explain the timing of the Prime Minister’s announcement? Why not make the reshuffle announcement the day before [indistinct]?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Because you have the Senate leadership to be determined by the Labor Caucus on Monday. It is a reasonable thing for there to be a short period of time given that it’s the Caucus’ decision. So it’s just common sense that it’s happening a couple of days beforehand.
If there had been a long delay, journalists would have said: Why is it that you can’t tell us who the Senate Leader is in the Government? So this is just common sense and I think people if they actually take a step back, take a deep breath and have a look at the processes, they’ll see that this is a very business-like decision.
It’s an orderly transition to a new team with a bit of renewal, with outstanding people being promoted, people like Mark Dreyfus and Mike Kelly, onto the frontbench team. I think that stands in stark contrast to Tony Abbott, who’s too frightened of Bronwyn Bishop to tell her that maybe it’s time to move on.
QUESTION: Have any other Ministers even canvassed the idea of leaving…
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No.
BILL SHORTEN: No.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Me and Bill could be there for a long, long time.
BILL SHORTEN: Don’t scare everyone.
QUESTION: Considering your first week this campaign has had, how are you feeling now, five days in? Are you happy with the way this first week has gone?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s not a campaign of course. That’s like suggesting that anywhere where there’s a fixed term, like in New South Wales the next election is the last Saturday in 2015. I think we know when the next election will be here in Victoria as well. I’m not as familiar with it, but there’s some state MPs here.
You know the idea that on that basis the campaign for the New South Wales election after 2015 will begin on the last Sunday in March 2015, that’ll commence the campaign for 2019. It’s all a bit silly. The fact is there were only a couple of dates possible in September. And we’d said the election would be in September.
You have a situation whereby journalists every time we talked to them asked us when the election date was going to be set. So, we told them when the election is. And now they say: why did you tell us when the election is going to be?
People need to be a little bit sensible about this. We’re getting on with the business of government. That’s what I’m doing here today. That’s what I did last week, when I announced funding for the Western Interstate Freight Terminal here in Victoria. That’s what I did in Perth on Friday, where I turned the first sod to begin construction on the WA Gateway project, biggest project in WA’s history.
That’s what I did last week, when I inspected the Regional Rail Link, the biggest ever federal contribution to a public transport project. That’s what I’ll be doing on Tuesday when we start construction on the Majura Parkway, the biggest ever infrastructure project for the ACT.
We’re getting on with the business of government. We’re doing it effectively and we’ll continue to do it right up until the election’s called in August, and then we’ll get on with the campaign.