Subjects: Logies; Pauline Hanson; tax cuts; child care; nuclear weapons.
KRISTINA KENEALLY: Let’s bring in Anthony Albanese, the man who is to blame for our failed Logies bid. Thanks for joining us.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: I think we were on track Mr Albanese, until you endorsed us. Then people decided not to vote for us.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think the only reason why you got any votes at all was because of my endorsement.
KENEALLY: Actually, we’re not entirely sure we did get any votes.
VAN ONSELEN: You have been on the losing side of almost every leadership ballot in Labor Party history Mr Albanese. You were a poison challis.
KENEALLY: That’s not true. That’s not true. Kevin Rudd. Kevin Rudd. Almost. Almost.
VAN ONSELEN: Yep, I said almost.
KENEALLY: Why don’t you ask the man a question?
ALBANESE: That’s right. I might point out that, yes, I didn’t vote for Mark Latham, and I think that your experience, both of you, has proven my judgement there to be very much correct.
VAN ONSELEN: All right we are going to have to move on Mr Albanese, I appreciate the comment. Let’s have a discussion. Well actually I want to show you footage that I was railing against a moment ago. I want to get your reaction to it. At the same time as acknowledging, you probably saw it as well, Barnaby Joyce’s reaction, which really was to shoot back at it. This is Pauline Hanson speaking, there is a time delay we should tell our viewers where Mr Albanese is, so he will hopefully hear this but may not be able to see it all, but you probably have before. This is Pauline Hanson talking about Muslims and them being a disease essentially. Have a look.
PAULINE HANSON: Let me put it in this analogy – we have a disease, we vaccinate ourselves against it. Islam is a disease. We need to vaccinate ourselves against that.
VAN ONSELEN: I know what your opinion would be on that, but I just want to hear it I guess, Mr Albanese.
ALBANESE: Well, I think that Pauline Hanson should say less and that way people might not be able to draw the obvious conclusions about her character. I think that for any elected representatives to talk about any section of humanity, whether it be broken down by race, religion, anything else, characteristics, gender, is just incredibly offensive. I think that Pauline Hanson has, the more people look at her, as we saw during the Western Australian election, and think about what she is actually saying, the more I think that Australians, who are fundamentally decent people, will reject those sorts of views.
KENEALLY: Well said Mr Albanese. We have both given a salute to Barnaby Joyce on this show for his esponse as well. So it’s good to see our nation’s leaders …
ALBANESE: And good on him. His comments were spot on and I think that, there are things that divide us in this Parliament, but it is absolutely critical to recognise we are very privileged; we are privileged to represent electorates in the Australian Parliament. Pauline Hanson represents everyone in Queensland. She has a responsibility, as do we all, to promote harmony, to promote tolerance, to promote respect. And she in those comments undermines all of those things.
KENEALLY: Can we move on to some of the legislative issues likely to come, or possibly to come, before you this week? Company tax cuts – it looks possible the Government might try to split that up and push through the company tax cut for businesses earning $10m or less. What’s Labor’s problem with that? Would they be open to supporting that tax cut?
ALBANESE: Well we will wait and see what the Government actually does. What is clear is that the Government is a shambles. Last week Scott Morrison was asked on at least a dozen occasions whether the company tax cuts, the $50b tax cut for big business, would stay in the Budget and he couldn’t give an answer. Over the weekend they appeared to have changed their mind and now it will be in the Budget. What we know is that for those people out there on low incomes, who are facing a wage cut as a result of the penalty cuts decision, I think they will draw a big contrast between a Government that is prepared to abandon them but fight for the interests of big business to get a $50b tax cut.
VAN ONSELEN: What about the child care legislation that did pass, without Labor’s support, last week? I know that you do not like the idea that to fund this initiative they are freezing Family Tax Benefits for two years, but it is true that Labor, to fund a whole host of initiatives in Government, when you were Leader of the House, did use freezing of indexation to fund their way through to it. Why is it not good enough for the Government if it was good enough for the former Labor Government?
ALBANESE: Well there are a couple of issues that we had with the package and the linking. One problem we have with this Government is that it seems to link absolutely everything to cuts for those at the lower end. There is nothing this Government can put forward on its merits. Surely we can have debate about child care and child care reform without saying we are going to punish these people over there, and unless you vote for the punishment you won’t get the child care reform. So that’s one issue. The second issue of course is that some of the most vulnerable people will miss out on the guarantee of 15 hours of child care. We regard child care as not just being about kids sitting in a corner playing with blocks, we regard it as very important in terms of early childhood education. All the research shows that it is vital for the opportunity that a young person will have later in their life. Those early years, that investment is absolutely critical. And it is particularly critical for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who mightn’t have the advantage of a parent with a tertiary education, or two parents with a tertiary education, with the money to be able to put into their education in later years, hire tutors or what have you. So we regard that as being critical as well. And that’s why people in the early childhood sector were calling upon Labor indeed to vote against the legislation last week and they did that on the day. So we think this is a Government that really, on any issue, can’t actually be straight with the Australian people in terms of advancing an agenda, whether it is on child care, whether it be on tax cuts, whether it be on welfare reform or indeed anything else.
VAN ONSELEN: Well the other issue that falls into the anything-else Anthony Albanese is doing something about electricity prices. The PM today has announced that he is going to have a review into this through the ACCC. That should solve the whole thing shouldn’t it?
ALBANESE: The last bastion of desperation – say you are going to bring in the ACCC. Really? The Government knows what is required ……
VAN ONSELEN: You guys brought in Grocery Watch though. That is similarly ridiculous.
ALBANESE: No, no. We didn’t pretend that that would solve all the issues in terms of the market. What that was about – price watch has worked effectively in various places just to shine a light on prices. That’s what that does and allow for transparency. What we know is required for the national energy market is what every energy operator; all of the experts; all of the economists; everyone else says should happen, which is an emissions intensity scheme. That’s what we need, a market signal. The Government knows that is the case. They floated it and then backed away from it in December last year. It has to be back on the table. They should get on with it, swallow their pride and do what all the experts assay should happen.
KENEALLY: Anthony I just noticed that with all these legislative big issues going on in the Parliament this week you have put in a notice of motion up about nuclear weapons. What’s going on there? What’s the point you are trying to make there?
ALBANESE: Well the United Nations has a conference that begins today for the banning of nuclear weapons and we had some more than 120 countries voted for that at the United Nations last year. It’s a negotiation to bring in a legally enforceable ban, just like other weapons of mass destruction have been banned – biological weapons, chemical weapons, land mines. In all of those processes Australia played a historical role, an important role ….
KENEALLY: So I presume we are doing so again?
ALBANESE: Well, we are not participating in this conference at all. It’s extraordinary. Not only did we vote against the proposition at the UN last year, but for Australia to not participate. Now as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Australia actually has a responsibility, a legal responsibility, to do what we can to promote disarmament and it is beyond my comprehension how the Australian Government can justify not even participating. We are the only country in our region that won’t be seated at these talks and we should be playing a constructive role. We all have an interest.
VAN ONSELEN: Have you sought a reason from the Government as to why not?
ALBANESE: We have sought reasons. We’ve asked questions on the notice paper that haven’t been answered. I’ve got a motion that I’ve given notice of in the House of Representatives. Senator Lisa Singh has a notice in the Senate that hopefully will be voted on today and we just can’t get a reason. It should not be an area of disagreement in terms of doing what we can to eliminate nuclear weapons on a day where, on page one of the newspapers today, there is talk of North Korea having access to weapons that could potentially reach Australia. Surely we should be playing a constructive role as we have in the past and indeed, whether it be Labor or the Coalition in Government, we have played constructive roles in issues like eliminating land mines, biological weapons and chemical weapons. We should be doing the same was regard to nuclear weapons.
KENEALLY: Anthony Albanese, always appreciate you joining us on To the Point, thank for you company today.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.