Subjects: Corflutes; Greens Political Party, Batman by-election, Adani, jobs, infrastructure, Barnaby Joyce, ministerial code, George Christensen, Labor leadership, Christopher Pyne.
HOST: As one of those things that drives people completely berserk at election time, (phone in) if you would like to call in any corflute-related atrocities. I’m sure our next guest has never been guilty of that kind of misdemeanour. Anthony Albanese, good morning to you and welcome to 5AA Breakfast.
ALBANESE: Guilty as charged.
HOST: Oh yeah? Serial offender?
ALBANESE: It’s a free-for-all in my electorate. There’s no waiting for the writs. If you stand still long enough you might get a corflute put on your back. It’s good for mobility in the electorate.
HOST: It is hand-to-hand combat in your seat isn’t it, because it’s sort of the people’s republic.
ALBANESE: You used to live there for a while.
HOST: You were my local member for a while.
ALBANESE: You have never been better represented David.
HOST: I don’t know about that. I preferred you to John Murphy when I moved to Drummoyne. This is interesting though; the rise of the Greens as an inner city force and we are going to see this in Victoria with the Batman by-election. Do you fight them or you accommodate them?
ALBANESE: I think you have to argue the case against them and for electing politicians who can actually be around a Cabinet table making decisions rather than waiting for them to be made and then protesting.
HOST: But what about the culture of the ALP? I reckon the Adani thing at the moment, where you guys have decided that you are going to oppose it; that to me looks like Labor turning its back on the old, blue-collar blokes digging holes – you know, the party of the AWU, the CFMEU. You look like you have thrown in your lot with the latte set with that decision I think.
ALBANESE: Well, that’s not the decision that we have made. We have certainly been very questioning about the project, about its financial viability, whether it will go ahead. We’ve been quite rightly questioning about the impact on water and some of the environmental consequences of the project.
But Labor has to stand up for Labor values and one of the things about Labor values is about jobs and making sure the economy can function. I was at Jay Weatherill’s launch yesterday. The centrepiece of his pitch for voters here in South Australia is all about jobs. And that’s a Labor agenda. You need that strong economy so that you can you can fund schools and hospitals and do the social justice things that you want to do.
HOST: I was thinking about your role in the context of Jay Weatherill’s announcement yesterday. Obviously you are the shadow spokesman, so it is not directly your remit at the moment, but as the Opposition spokesperson for infrastructure, the State Government commits $2 billion to building something in South Australia, that;affects our GST receipts, does it not?
ALBANESE: It does but depending upon what is happening in every other state in terms of the formula. So, one would expect that other states would be spending money on infrastructure as well. The problem here in South Australia is that the Commonwealth funding falls off a cliff. It falls to $95 million in the out years – in 2020 – and that represents 2 per cent of the national infrastructure budget in that year. So it’s real problem.
The Commonwealth hasn’t stepped up beyond the projects that were already committed to funding like Torrens to Torrens on South Road and other projects. They haven’t stepped up with funding for the expansion of Light Rail here in Adelaide, the new sections of the South Road that are required in between that Torrens to Torrens section and up to the Superway and the Commonwealth really needs to lift its game. That’s one of the questions that we asked of Barnaby Joyce last week in the Parliament when we were questioning his portfolio.
HOST: Just with Barnaby Joyce, Albo, obviously it has been a shambles for the Government and today’s Newspoll shows them unsurprisingly taking a hit. But look, setting aside the politics of it all and the manner in which the PM has handled it and this weird Mexican standoff that we have got now, what was it actually like physically in the chamber last week where you are sitting like 10 feet away from this bloke and seeing those photos where he was as red as a beetroot and, you know, perspiration on his brow? Politics really is a bloodsport from at times isn’t it?
ALBANESE: Well it is a brutal business and Barnaby was going through an incredibly hard time last week and has for some period. He of course has got to take responsibility for what are his own decisions and his decisions have had an impact on others as well, including his family. But last week was pretty tough. We asked questions about the portfolio and …
HOST: But that seemed to be designed to make him crack. Like, the tactic seemed to be and Phil Coorey when he was on this show last week and said days like that you just reflect on politics as a filthy business at times. It looked like you guys wanted Barnaby to just lose the plot at the dispatch box and just collapse.
ALBANESE: No, that wasn’t the objective. The reason why we were asking questions about his portfolio was that quite clearly, as exhibited by his answers, he doesn’t know anything about it.
HOST: He’s had a bit of other stuff on the go I guess.
ALBANESE: No matter what question we ask he just goes back to Inland Rail. Even when we asked questions about Tasmanian infrastructure he went back to Inland Rail. When we asked about Northern Australia and the fact that the Northern Australia Roads program hasn’t been spent, he spoke about the Nullarbor Plain.
HOST: He had shocker. Can I ask you and I know that you guys keep saying that this is a distraction from the main game or a side issue, but as a matter of principle, why don’t Labor just say yea or nay on the sex ban? It makes sense having a ban on ministers doing the business with their staff, doesn’t it?
ALBANESE: What makes sense is that no employer should sleep with their employees. That is what makes sense.
HOST: But that is what Malcolm Turnbull is proposing.
ALBANESE: That’s across the board. I think the point that we have made is that that is a distraction from the fundamental issue here – Barnaby Joyce’s abuse of taxpayer funds over a whole range of issues, over the staffing issues, over the fact he is living rent-free at the same time as he is telling people the solution to housing affordability is to move to Armidale. Yes well …
HOST: It worked for him.
ALBANESE: It’s good if it’s free. The conflicts of interest that are there with Mr Maguire who owns the property that he is living in getting the benefit of government functions being held at establishments that he owns; the fact that Barnaby Joyce clearly just hasn’t been on top of his old portfolio of Agriculture and Water. And here in South Australia this isn’t an academic thing. Here in South Australia his mismanagement has meant that as an end state of the Murray-Darling Basin it has suffered because of what has gone on with the rip-offs that have occurred in New South Wales and Queensland in the Upper Basin and that has caused consequences for South Australians and the access to water to the point whereby the Government tried to change the rules to rip South Australia off.
HOST: Speaking of Nationals behaving badly, what did you make of George Christensen’s Facebook Post over the weekend that showed him brandishing a gun and the text that he originally had written underneath it: “You’ve got to ask yourselves, do I feel lucky Greenie punks”?
ALBANESE: I had met Jo Cox, the British MP who was murdered in Britain. People making jokes about guns and politics isn’t funny, I don’t think. Last week 17 students and teachers died in the United States and we have all got a responsibility. I am sure the George Christensen would say that, you know, it was only meant as a joke; it wasn’t meant as a serious threat. But people who saw that might be, you know, not as together as George is, which isn’t a huge bar.
HOST: Sarah Hanson Young posted some interesting hate mail that she received in light of what he said – a bloke saying he was going to shoot her, just sent her a message on Twitter saying I am coming after you. So you create that environment and that is the kind of behaviour you expect.
ALBANESE: You can imagine them sitting around going, you know: what is a distraction from all the Barnaby stuff? George, you know, thinking I’ve got an idea. It could have been worse, he could have done a nudie run down Mackay or something.
HOST: Hey Albo, before I let you go we love having you and Christopher Pyne on every Wednesday for Two Tribes. It’s always a rollicking segment. Can I just ask you, you clearly ran in the past for the Labor leadership. To use a line from Paul Keating, do you still have the leadership baton in your knapsack?
ALBANESE: I am quite happy with the job that I have got.
HOST: For now, or …?
ALBANESE: No, I am happy with the job I have got. And what I think in politics you’ve got to do, and this is what Barnaby has got to deal with things as they are, you’ve got to do the job that you have at any time to the best of your capacity. And I love this job. Last night here in Adelaide the Queen’s Baton Relay, that’s an important tourism event, the Commonwealth Games. I was here with the Lord Mayor and the Governor at that event. The infrastructure I love doing too and working with South Australians I have met and I had a chat again yesterday with Stephen Mullighan. He’s doing a great job here as Infrastructure Minister. And getting to see the product, like the North South Road upgrades. I look forward to coming back here and looking at the Light Rail upgrades.
HOST: It’s good having you here in Adelaide and we will chat to you again on Wednesday with your partner in hilarity, Christopher Pyne.
ALBANESE: It won’t be as good when Christopher is here as well.
HOST: He’s probably going to text us saying when he is going to get a seven- minutes free run without Albo interrupting?
ALBANESE: He interrupts all the time.
HOST: I think you both do a bit of that.
ALBANESE: Although I think last week he was quite happy for me to talk and take up much of the time. He didn’t have much to say.
HOST: I don’t think he loved coming on to stick up for Barnaby. Anthony Albanese, great to have you here in Adelaide mate. Thanks for coming in.
ALBANESE: Great to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.