Feb 15, 2020

TRANSCRIPT – DOORSTOP INTERVIEW – PERTH – SATURDAY, 15 FEBRUARY 2020

 

THE HON ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP INTERVIEW
SHOALWATER
SATURDAY, 15 FEBRUARY 2020

SUBJECTS: Sports rorts saga; importance of women in sports; Coalition of chaos; Sydney Harbour Trust; ACCC investigation into Facebook and Google; Coronavirus; Dominic Raab; meeting of politicians.

 

MADELEINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE: Good morning everybody. And welcome to Shoalwater. I am really pleased that so many of the media and friends of the media have been able to make it today. And this is my home where I was raised, so I am really pleased that Anthony Albanese, our Labor Leader, is here today. And can I implore you, if you are in the media, if you have a few moments after this event today, to have a drive around the Shoalwater coastal road, which is one of the best kept secrets in this country. I would also like to thank, of course, the Hillman Cricket Club, the Hillman Hornets, the women’s and then men’s teams, and the girls’ team and the boys’ team that you can see playing behind us, welcoming us into their club rooms this morning. Hillman is a great little club. As we have seen reports today, over a third of the people playing cricket in this country are women. And there are three teams here at Hillman. What we know is that Hillman don’t have adequate change rooms for their women and girl players. And that is a crying shame because it is a developing sport, a group of people that we want to keep having in sport. And all the while, what we have seen in this whole sports rorts saga from the Liberal National Government is that clubs like Hillman Cricket Club never stood a chance. The funding grant for sports infrastructure for female facilities was never opened to the public. Clubs like Hillman and other clubs right across the seat of Brand were never invited to apply for this funding. They never stood a chance. And it just goes to show that the Liberals and the Nationals under Scott Morrison do not care one wit for the people in the seat of Brand. It is a crying shame. The people of Australia should be gravely disappointed in the rorts that this Government has presided over just to save themselves. I would like now to hand over to our Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese. I thank him so much for coming today to my home of Shoalwater.

 

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Madeleine. And it is great to be back in the west for my second visit of 2020. I, of course, have committed to be a regular visitor here in the west because you have got to actually come here to see what the issues are. And we see in practical terms what the issues are right here. I was shown around by young Talia and Nicole and by Simone, here at the Hillman Cricket Club. They have three girls and women’s teams. But they’ve got to walk through past the urinal in order to use the bathroom and facilities themselves. They can’t possibly use the showers because they are open to all. And the facilities here are crowded and, frankly, just not acceptable in terms of encouraging young girls and women to be able to participate in sport. It is not fair. There was a program announced in the Budget of $150 million for women’s and girls’ changerooms. That was the basis upon the announcement by the Sports Minister, Bridget McKenzie. But what we have found is that of that $150 million, $120 million went into swimming pools in marginal seats. It didn’t go anywhere near women’s changerooms and what the funding was announced for in the budget. These weren’t election commitments. These were in the budget and then the funding allocated by the Government without a tender process, without guidelines, without applications being called for. And what that meant is that local community-based organisations, clubs like Hillman, survive because of literally hundreds of hours of volunteers’ time. Mums and dads. People who might not have any relative playing at all, contributing to their local community. And that is the true tragedy of the sports rorts saga. Sports rorts has seen the Prime Minister in it up to his neck. And in the evidence from the Auditor General before the Senate Committee just this week, we heard that there were dozens of emails between the Prime Minister’s office and Bridget McKenzie’s office, basically giving if you get an email from the PMO through to a minister, that amounts to an instruction. So, you had Sport Australia, an independent body set up to allocate and rank projects. And you had that being discarded. You also have had this absurd position of the Prime Minister who on no less than 16 occasions said that all the grants were eligible. Truth is 43 per cent of them weren’t. And that evidence has been given very clearly before the committee. Now this Government has treated the taxpayers’ piggy bank like one giant pork barrel for the Government’s own political interests. Whereby if you’re in a marginal seat, or a seat targeted by the Coalition, there is some chance you’ll get funding for the facilities. But if you’re not, you’ve got no chance. And the girls and women at this club deserve better. Because essentially, they’ve missed out because of the way that this rorts scheme has been structured. It’s not good enough. Taxpayers’ money is not the play thing of the Liberal and National Party.

 

JOURNALIST: There’s obviously clear link between the PM’s office and McKenzie’s office in regard to this. What’s the endgame for Labor? Obviously, you are going for Morrison. What’s the endgame for Labor? What do you want done?

 

ALBANESE: Well, the Prime Minister has to come clean about this. He’s got to table the Gaetjens report. He’s got his former chief of staff doing a report that allegedly is more independent than the Auditor General of the Commonwealth of Australia. Taxpayers are entitled to see that report to see exactly what Mr Gaetjens had to say. The Prime Minister also has to go into Parliament when it resumes and apologise for misleading Parliament. Because some of the 16 times that he said all these projects were eligible. quite clearly, that’s not the case. And what we also saw in the evidence, and this has perhaps been lost a little bit, isn’t just the Prime Minister’s Office on dozens of occasions, having the direct contact with the minister’s office, there were party political organisation, the LNP in Queensland, providing to the Government where allocations should be made. And that’s been found by the Auditor General as well. So, people who aren’t elected by anybody are determining where taxpayers’ funds should go in marginal electorates like Longman. Providing these lists that were announced. Then you have in seats like Longman, in seats like Pearce here, considerable amounts of money being allocated with politics being first, second and third priority. And politics has been the priority, not the interest of these young girls and women at this club.

 

JOURNALIST: Are you saying that Labor has never pork barrelled a marginal seat in this life? That wouldn’t be true.

 

ALBANESE: Well, but the fact is this, I’ve been Local Government and Regional Development Minister. We had under the Regional Local Community Infrastructure program, an allocation based upon the Commonwealth Grants formula, whereby every local government area in the country, everyone, 550 of them, got an allocation. And where the four largest grants in the strategic component, three of those went to seats held by the Liberal or National Party. And the other one of the largest grant went to Bob Katter’s electorate. You have to have a national interest focus. Clearly what you have here, whereby the $150 million, by the way 40 per cent of an entire program went to just two electorates. Pearce here in WA. And Corangamite in Victoria.

 

JOURNALIST: The head of the PM’s Department said that there were significant shortcomings in Bridget McKenzie’s decision-making process. So, do you think that’s the first sign of concession by the Government that they got it wrong?

 

ALBANESE: Well, I think quite frankly, Phil Gaetjens as the head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet needs to not just be independent of the political interests of the Government, he needs to be seen to be as well. Which is why Mr Gaetjens should himself, if the Prime Minister won’t make his report public. The fact is that this is a massive scandal, of which Bridget McKenzie has paid a heavy price. But there are people from the Prime Minister’s own office sitting in Bridget McKenzie’s office. There are emails, dozens of them going from the Prime Minister’s office to Bridget McKenzie’s office. This just stinks. Everyone knows it does. And it needs to be cleaned up. And it can never ever happen again.

 

JOURNALIST: But Mr Gaetjens says though that Bridget McKenzie never saw the colour-coded spreadsheet. So, does that excuse the behaviour?

 

ALBANESE: Well, someone saw it. How were decisions made? They were made on the basis of the colour-coded spreadsheets. That’s important as well, there wasn’t one. There were multiple versions of the colour-coded spreadsheets. Clearly, according to given the direct involvement of the organisational wing of the Liberal and National Parties, one assumes, according to how polling was going, determined where the money was allocated.

 

JOURNALIST: So, if you become Prime Minister, what are you going to do to change the rules?

 

ALBANESE: Well, you need rigorous processes. And you need for issues like women’s change rooms and other measures, infrastructure, to encourage young girls and women to play sport. We should be encouraging. I mean here in the West this afternoon, Derby Day, Freo versus the Eagles. AFL Women. It is fantastic that is occurring. We have some amazing role models for young women to look up to. People like Ellyse Perry is an incredible role model. Her representative of Australia both in soccer, as well as cricket. An articulate young woman who is a great ambassador for sport in this country. And it’s a good thing. It’s a good thing for young girls to have those role models. But when they decide they want to play cricket, they deserve better than having to walk past a urinal in order to use the bathroom.

 

JOURNALIST: What are you saying? That you will review processes?

 

ALBANESE: Let’s be very clear. There are clear guidelines from the Department of Finance about the way that decisions should be made. So that for example, if a political decision by the minister is different from the decision which is recommended by the department a minister should go to the Minister for Finance and indicate that they are changing the recommendations. They should give reasons why in writing. There are clear guidelines. What’s occurred here is that the way that the sports rorts have been structured, have been deliberately designed to circumvent that process. It’s been set up as a rort. And that’s why, for example, in terms of stage two, for women and girls change rooms, it was put in the Budget in May, or the Budget was early this time in March, and then the announcements being made without any guidelines. Common-sense tells you that what should have occurred was that there’s a process whereby people are allowed to apply and say a club like this to say we got three teams, we have these facilities, we need funding. But, they didn’t get a level playing field. People expect on the sporting field for there to be a level playing field. They should get it when it comes to Government grants as well.

 

JOURNALIST: How concerned are you that private conversations with Dominic Raab were leaked and that the subsequent complaint from the British High Commission was also leaked?

 

ALBANESE: Sorry?

 

JOURNALIST: Nick Raab? Another topic, the Australia and UK relations.

 

ALBANESE: I have no idea. Sorry. I’m not aware of that issue.

 

JOURNALIST: The Government has asked the ACCC to investigate advertising by social media giants. Do you think that the Government’s doing enough to crack down on people like Facebook and Google collecting personal data?

 

ALBANESE: Well, this is a major issue. And people who are on social media will know that you get, sometimes things pop up, which related to things that you’ve done a search on. If you’re searching through cricket at Hillman, you might get a cricket advertisement for equipment or something else to pop up. That’s obviously using the data that you have. I gave a major speech, my third vision speech, in Sydney in December last year. It was very much about giants like Google and Facebook and the need to have proper regulation. This is the new economy. Regulation has not kept up with it. And the Government needs to do more.

 

JOURNALIST: Do you think that David Littleproud would make a better Deputy Prime Minister than Michael McCormack?

 

ALBANESE: I think the chaos that is there in this so-called Coalition, which is really becoming more and more a term which is ironic, the idea that these people who just dislike each other. And what’s very clear is that the internal chaos which is there in the Coalition isn’t about any individual. It’s about the fact that the Government doesn’t have a clear direction. And the real problem is that because there’s no direction, no plan for the economy, no plan for wages, no plan for climate change and energy, that’s why they are just focusing on themselves. And it is the Australian people who are suffering because of this chaos. I frankly think it’s a matter for others who leads their political parties. But the real problem isn’t who’s at the top. It’s the fact that the Government has stopped functioning. They can’t even administer the basics well. We have Robodebt, for example, whereby, quite clearly, the cost of that could be enormous. And you have a minister who can’t say when money will be paid back to people and how much it’s worth.

 

JOURNALIST: Sydney Harbour Trust would like to grant 49-year leases. What do you think of that? Is that concerning?

 

ALBANESE: Well, I’m very concerned about any de facto privatisation of land around Sydney Harbour, including on Cockatoo Island. There’s nothing wrong with events being staged on Cockatoo Island. And that occurs. But if you alienate, public land and public space on something that is a precious national asset, the harbour belongs to everyone. And it’s a good thing that we have some access that’s available to all rather than privately appropriated for wealthy interests. And the fact is that there is a great deal of concern about a review that was established with terms of reference which are misleading, terms of reference of which there was no consultation with the public about. And Sussan Ley needs to do better as the Environment Minister. It was the Howard Government that created the Trust. Trust implies a very important thing. Trust implies looking after the land around Sydney Harbour. That’s important for Sydney, but I’d say it’s not just a national asset. It’s an international asset as well

 

JOURNALIST: Are you worried that there may be members of your Party who are working against you or conspiring against you, in your position against coal?

 

ALBANESE: No.

 

JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to any members of the so-called Otis group about their concerns?

 

ALBANESE: There is no group. People had dinner. Guess what? I had dinner this week. I can give you a list of the restaurants that I went to.

 

JOURNALIST: So, nothing to worry about here?

 

ALBANESE: Nope.

 

JOURNALIST: Just on the coronavirus, do you understand the concerns of some of the wharfies that are dealing with some of the ships coming from Mainland China that are coming in within that 14-day quarantine period?

 

ALBANESE: I do understand that. We have raised this issue with the Government, given the concerns that are being raised by the union, we will go back. I have spoken this morning with Chris Bowen, our Health Shadow. We have been informed by the Chief Medical Officer. We’ve raised these issues. And we’ve received assurances that issue, the Government and the health authorities are cognisant of. But we will continue to raise it. We need to be vigilant to make sure that the health of Australians is the number one priority. And we haven’t sought to politicise these issues. And we’ll continue. I had a one-on-one face-to-face briefing with the CMO this week and will continue to liaise.

 

JOURNALIST: What can Michael McCormack do, in your view, to reduce the leadership speculations around him?

 

ALBANESE: Start to govern. Maybe act like a minister. Stop these sorts of sports rorts saga. Apologise when they get some things wrong. You know, one of the problems for this Government is trust. And it’ll be pretty good, here is a challenge for them, they keep talking about the Ensuring Integrity Bill, which they’ve introduced twice into the Parliament after it was defeated in the Senate, but they can’t get the legislation for a National Integrity Commission. There is a public trust issue with the Government when you look at the sports rorts sagas. And the Government should introduce the National Integrity Commission legislation in the next sitting fortnight that’s coming up. This is a Government that this week in the House of Reps, we’ve just had two weeks sitting. I don’t think there was any legislation of any significance at all. The only votes that were held in the House of Representatives was the Government stopping debate and shutting people down from having their say. The Parliament used to function. We used to have debates under John Howard and under Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull. We’ve now got a Prime Minister who won’t defend his Government on the floor of the House of Representatives. Who runs, scurries out. Who shuts people down and moves that people be no longer heard is the standard instruction. This Government’s got to start acting like a Government, rather than an Opposition in exile sitting on the Government benches.

 

JOURNALIST: The Sydney Harbour Trust also says that there are several heritage sites around the Harbour that we will have to close in coming years due to a lack of funding. Should we be looking at ways to prevent this?

 

ALBANESE: How about the funding for heritage sites be provided? There is a start. The whole argument that Sydney Harbour’s heritage sites are somehow connected with profit-making is the problem here. It is the problem. It is all of our heritage. And Sydney Harbour is an important national asset for the country. The idea that you just let it all run down and say, ‘We haven’t got any funds that we have to privatise things and sell things off and build ovals, or build facilities at North Head, build aged care facilities overlooking the harbour’, alienating public land’, is completely unacceptable.

 

JOURNALIST: Coming back to WA for a second, (inaudible). Have you looked at those and can you just tell me a little bit about what you think was done wrong in those particular interest?

 

ALBANESE: Well, the problem here is, political parties will make the election commitment. That occurs. What we have here, though, is that a fund is established in the budget and money allocated without any capacity for people to make bids for the projects. A project like this, Government still has a role for major sporting events and facilities. And they have a role from time to time, in swimming pools or other larger things as well. But I tell you what, they also have a role in helping out the local club like this one. The local club which has no staff, which is selling here today, a volunteer in the kitchen, making hamburgers, to make 20 cents or 50 cents surplus that then go into being able to buy shirts and buy facilities for kids to play sport. Sport is absolutely critical in terms of social development. It’s not just about the health. It’s also about the social interaction that comes with team sports. The sense of cricket, where you can wait forever and last for a couple of balls. Learning about disappointment. Learning about success. Learning about teamwork. It’s absolutely critical for young people’s development. And that is why it is legitimate for the Government to fund sporting infrastructure. But it needs to be done with a level playing field. What we’ve seen here is just a massive rort of extraordinary proportions. And where they’ve used the taxpayers’ piggy bank as their own private pork barrel.

 

JOURNALIST: I was asking that the UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, who was here last week, and he had private confidential discussions about Huawei and the 5g network and the UK’s position on that. Now those conversations were leaked, the private conversations were leaked. He’s now made a complaint to the heads of two departments here. Does any of that concern you? What do you make of all of that?

 

ALBANESE: Private conversations should remain private. That’s the nature of diplomacy and the nature of the way that we have international engagements. From time to time that can be frustrating for members of the media. But it should, of course, remain private. Otherwise, the goodwill that is there and the faith gets broken down. Thanks.

 

JOURNALIST: Madeleine King, can I ask you a question? You went to that dinner?

 

KING: I went to a dinner. I go to many dinners. Like Anthony said, most parliamentarians go to dinners most nights of the week. It’s just what we do in Canberra. We speak to many different colleagues with many different things to speak about.

 

JOURNALIST: What was discussed?

 

KING: It was just a dinner.

 

ALBANESE: Steak or fish?

 

KING: I actually think I had the fish. I went with a group of colleagues. We actually went to dinner after a long parliamentary recess. So, quite frankly the most I talked about was what I did over the summer. And some of my colleagues also had the bushfires to deal with. So, we talked about that.

 

JOURNALIST: Did you discuss your position on coal?

 

KING: We just had a dinner. That’s it.

 

ALBANESE: I have had dinner there too.

 

KING: Indeed.

 

JOURNALIST: Coal policy wasn’t on the agenda then?

 

KING: There was no agenda, it was a dinner. It was just a dinner. We discussed all things.

 

ALBANESE: Thanks very much.

 

ENDS