SUBJECTS: John Setka; Tax cuts; Bob Hawke.
DEB KNIGHT: Anthony Albanese joins me now along with the Government’s Peter Dutton. Both in the studio for us this morning. Good morning to you both.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning.
PETER DUTTON, MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Good morning.
KNIGHT: Now Albo, you are caught up in an ugly brawl here. You want to expel John Setka from the ALP on comments the ACTU boss now says he didn’t make, but Setka and the CFMEU are refusing to budge. What are you going to do here? Are you going to actually cut all ties with this union?
ALBANESE: What we will do is take a resolution to the national executive on July the 5th to expel Mr Setka from the Labor Party. He has made a series of comments over a long period of time that have brought the Labor Party and the labour movement into disrepute.
KNIGHT: But he’s defiant.
ALBANESE: And now we have …
KNIGHT: … saying he is staying on?
ALBANESE: Well he’s an elected secretary of the union. But what he needs to do is to listen to Sally McManus’ comments as the Secretary of the ACTU who has pointed out that the movement is bigger than any individual and that his ongoing presence as Victorian secretary of the CFMEU is not in the interests of the union movement as a whole.
KNIGHT: Labor has taken nearly $14 million in donations from the CFMEU from since the year 2000. Will you continue accepting donations from this union if John Setka remains the secretary?
ALBANESE: Look the construction union plays an important role in workplaces in ensuring that people receive proper wages and conditions.
KNIGHT: So that’s a yes?
ALBANESE: We are of course a Labor Party and we make no apologies for the fact that we’re connected to the trade union movement, but we also have an independent position and the fact that I have called out John Setka’s ongoing behaviour and called for – said that I’m going to take a resolution to expel him from the Labor Party indicates that.
KNIGHT: Peter, you’ve called Albo weak over this.
DUTTON: I think it’s sad for Albo. I mean he wanted a good start to his leadership and they’re now questioning whether he’ll be there next week or next month. And Bill Shorten would’ve stood up to the union movement because he was very much affiliated with the union movement as Albo is, but it seems that Mr Shorten had more power and I think Mr Shorten should come to Albo’s rescue now. But the fact is that it’s a rolled gold relationship that they’ve got – $14 million. You’ve got not just Mr Setka but other people have been convicted of rape, of sexual assault; people that are involved in all sorts of activities, connections to outlaw motorcycle gangs and yet the Labor Party still takes this money and that relationship is now for all to see and it’s pretty ugly because the union movement in this instance, particularly the strength of the CFMEU, is actually trumping Albo as the Leader of the Labor Party.
KNIGHT: And you’re not wasting any time trying to get through your union busting bill back before Parliament, will that be one of the first orders of business when Parliament resumes and do you have the numbers to get it through?
DUTTON: Well I hope we can get the numbers to support essentially.
KNIGHT: You’re confident?
DUTTON: Well you never know in the Senate. We could we could get it through with Labor’s support. But the fact is nobody is above the law and these union thugs in Mr Setka’s case and others believe that they are above the law; not only the criminal law, but also obviously the laws that operate within the Labor Party.
ALBANESE: One of the things that you’ll never hear from Peter Dutton or the Coalition is criticism of bosses who underpay their workers
ALBANESE: People who bring in foreign workers and underpay them …
DUTTON: They should be charged …
ALBANESE: … people who are engaged in work sites where there are fatalities on a regular basis, sometimes because of cost cutting by bosses on those work sites. They continually attack the trade union movement and its very existence. They don’t believe that unions have a right to exist. Well, unless we had the trade union movement we wouldn’t enjoy the working conditions that we enjoy today. We wouldn’t have occupational health and safety, we wouldn’t have shorter working hours.
KNIGHT: But the reality …
ALBANESE: … wouldn’t have superannuation. The fact is the trade union movement have a legitimate role in our society. The Government doesn’t believe that they do. It’s that simple.
KNIGHT: And that trade union movement, many of them within it are now attacking you personally. We’re hearing from calls from union officials for you to resign. This is undermining your leadership isn’t it?
ALBANESE: I’m a big boy, Deb.
KNIGHT: We know that.
ALBANESE: One of the things that I will do, I will be prepared to do is take on people within the movement, within the movement where they step out of line.
KNIGHT: Is it undermining your leadership?
ALBANESE: I’ve done that with Mr Setka.
DUTTON: There are 80 others who are facing charges or – I mean this is a union that is an outlier. Now everybody believes in workers’ rights, protections, prosecuting bosses where they do the wrong thing.
ALBANESE: But you don’t, Peter, you don’t.
DUTTON: Absolutely we do.
ALBANESE: Be honest. You haven’t given one Dixer in Parliament in the entire time you’ve been there where you have criticised employers. You stand up day after day and criticise workers and criticise workers representatives …
DUTTON: That’s because I’m the Home Affairs Ministers. I understand what happens with these outlaw motorcycle gang members. They have their fangs into the CFMEU. Let’s be honest about it. This is an outlier.
ALBANESE: That’s all rhetoric, that’s all rhetoric.
DUTTON: I promise you that you’re entering right very edgy at best.
KNIGHT: We’ll watch closely what John Setka does as his next move but he has said and tweeted yesterday he has no intention of resigning.
ALBANESE: Well I’ll tell you this. He won’t be resigning from the Labor Party. He’ll be expelled. It will happen on July 5th.
KNIGHT: All right. Now promised tax cuts still very much in doubt. We are hearing from Mathias Cormann now, the Finance Minister, saying that there will be no deals with the crossbench. Does this mean that the election promise that you brought is now dead in the water?
DUTTON: No it means the Labor Party need to support us in the Senate to get through what is a mandate. It was very clear. I mean people at the election rejected Labor’s high-taxing policies and they supported our policies of tax cuts which will help workers and families.
KNIGHT: So Labor …
DUTTON: We’re not going to split the bill and it’s in Albo’s court.
KNIGHT: And will you back it or will we – is this what we’re going to expect, will you be the opposer and the blocker?
ALBANESE: Let’s be clear what the Government’s commitment was. It was for tax cuts to come in on July 1. They have broken their own commitment by not bringing Parliament back before July 1. So their commitment is already gone. They’ve abandoned themselves …
KNIGHT: Will you back the tax cuts in full?
ALBANESE: … and then they’re talking about tax cuts in terms of stage 3 where they haven’t given us the information about what the impact is in terms of the Budget for various income groups. We’re still waiting for that information from the Government. We’ll make a sober assessment based upon the facts. But what we won’t do also is disregard the impact on the economy because it is a triumph of hope over economic reality. For Peter Dutton or Mathias Cormann or anyone else to say they know what the economy will look like in 2025.
KNIGHT: Okay now you’re both in Sydney today because of course it is the state memorial service for Bob Hawke who has had a huge impact on political life and on you as politicians too. You’ll be raising a glass to Hawkey today?
ALBANESE: Well I’ll be speaking at the service and that will be a tremendous honour. Bob Hawke is in my view Australia’s greatest prime minister ever. He taught Labor that you need to bring people with us on change. He transformed the economy, he transformed social policy through the creation of Medicare. There is no question that he is Australia’s greatest ever environmental protector because the Daintree, Kakadu, the Tasmanian wilderness and indeed Antarctica all exist thanks to Bob Hawke’s Government.
KNIGHT: … and he’s been embraced by both sides of politics.
DUTTON: Of course he has Deb. I mean this is a big day for the Labor Party but it’s a big day for the country as well. And it’s to recognise not only his contribution but that of Blanche and the family, otherwise and all of us from both sides all sides of politics will pay respect to Mr Hawke and his memory, his legacy today. And I think that’s the two appropriate thing to do.
ALBANESE: I think it is good today that Peter, I assume is going to the service.
ALBANESE: I know that former Liberal prime ministers are going as well one of the things that Bob Hawke did was unite the country. Today he will unite the country in paying tribute to him.
KNIGHT: And we will see that full service broadcast here on the Nine Network from 11:15 this morning when it happens. Gentlemen we thank you both for joining us.
ALBANESE: Thank you.
KNIGHT: In the flesh, in person. Thank you so much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.