Feb 27, 2008

Transcript of debate on Steve Price’s 2UE show

Subjects: cricket, the sitting of Parliament on Fridays,the cardboard cut-out stunt, the lack of women represented in the 2020 summit,the ICAC inquiries into the NSW state Government

STEVE PRICE: Every week around this time we are joined by our political panel and now that parliament has resumed for the year, political year is up and running, we will be joined fortnightly by two of parliament’s heavyweights. Although one is a little less heavy now than he used to be. In the studio, opposition spokesman on health, the man responsible for their parliamentary tactics, Joe Hockey, good morning.

JOE HOCKEY: Morning.

STEVE PRICE: Off the grog, new diet. How much weight have you lost?

JOE HOCKEY: A bit.

STEVE PRICE: Well how much?

JOE HOCKEY: A little bit.

STEVE PRICE: Ten, eleven, twelve?

JOE HOCKEY: A little bit.

STEVE PRICE: On the line, the transport minister, also the minister for regional development and local government and the leader of government business in the house, Anthony Albanese. Good morning to you and welcome.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good day, Steve, good to be with you.

STEVE PRICE: Joe’s grumpy because he’s on a diet.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh he’s always grumpy.

JOE HOCKEY: I’m not always grumpy.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: He’s been grumpy since November 24.

JOE HOCKEY: Well with a little justification.

STEVE PRICE: He’s been more than grumpy since November 24, let me tell you.

JOE HOCKEY: I want to get down to Albo’s playing weight.

STEVE PRICE: Now you blokes are pretty good at trading insults. Anthony what about Matthew Hayden calling Harbhajan Singh an obnoxious little weed? That wasn’t bad.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well you know I think that from time to time the action on the field has been a little more exuberant than appropriate I think this year.

STEVE PRICE: What about the action in the house? Let’s go back to last Friday. The new day, the fifth day, of parliament sitting. The Friday which has been introduced by the Labor government. Joe Hockey, should there be a fifth day? Should there be a question time and should the PM be there? Is that what your stunt with the cardboard cut out was all about?

JOE HOCKEY: Yeah, well the prime minister said that you’re not working a full week if you don’t turn up five days at parliament and he’s not there on the fifth day. So it’s like playing a test. You’re still out there on the pitch but one of the captains decides not to turn up.

STEVE PRICE: How does the government defend that, Anthony?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh look, let’s be clear about it. Private member’s business used to happen on Monday. The whole of parliament was there but they were only two or three people in the chamber and the previous prime minister, John Howard, never sat through one minute of private member’s business in twelve years.

What we’ve done is shift that to Friday so that there’s more time for government business and there have never been votes during private member’s business. It’s the one area of parliament that isn’t adversarial. It’s the one area where backbenchers have an opportunity to raise ideas.

We want to lift the profile of that and provide opportunities for members whether they be from the opposition or from government and the opposition chose to trash the day. I’ll say this about.

JOE HOCKEY: [indistinct]

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I’ll say this about John Howard. John Howard, whatever people think of him, would not have allowed the opposition, a party which he lead, to behave like that last Friday. To swear at the speaker, to refuse the directions of the speaker, to bring cardboard cut outs. This isn’t actually – this isn’t student politics, this is real.

STEVE PRICE: Yeah I think the cardboard cut out thing was over the top. But I mean, you must say, your relationship with the previous speaker in the last parliament when you were in opposition, wasn’t great.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh of course it wasn’t. But every time …

STEVE PRICE: Did you ever swear at him?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, certainly not. I treated him with respect and every time I got a directive from him – and there were 176 Labor party members ejected for an hour, without a vote, just on the speaker’s direction during the last term of parliament and every one of them accepted the result, accepted the speaker’s authority.

Because, unless you do that, the system just falls apart. I mean given the cricket analogy, if someone gets bowled middle stump and just says ‘no, I’m not going, make me’. Guess what, the games falls apart and cricket, like parliament, is founded upon rules but it’s also founded upon conventions and one of the conventions is that private member’s business is sacrosanct and that was torn up last Friday.

JOE HOCKEY: Hang on, mate. Hang on, mate.

STEVE PRICE: Was the cardboard cut out a mistake?

JOE HOCKEY: Hang on, hang on. If someone is bowled middle stump and it’s called a no ball, well it’s not out. In this situation the government abandoned their own speaker because their own speaker had no power. No power whatsoever to direct someone to leave the chamber. The only way you can do that is if you are backed up [over speaking].

ANTHONY ALBANESE: [over speaking] 94A. No that’s not right.

JOE HOCKEY: Backed up by a vote on it.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, that’s not right, Joe.

JOE HOCKEY: No, no, he named people.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: You know that’s not true. You know that the standing orders provide for the speaker to ask people to go for an hour.

JOE HOCKEY: For one hour.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: And they refused to do so.

JOE HOCKEY: Anyway, without getting into the technicalities which I’m happy to do …

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well it’s pretty [over speaking].

STEVE PRICE: Is he right or wrong?

JOE HOCKEY: Well there are 94A provisions and in fact people did leave.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: And they were used.

JOE HOCKEY: Yeah and people did leave, like Jo Gash. But then when someone is named …

ANTHONY ALBANESE: And Tony Abbott to their credit.

JOE HOCKEY: Yeah, that’s right. And when someone is named, actually named, which is a process of suspending them for twenty-four hours, there has to be a vote.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: For refusing to leave for an hour.

JOE HOCKEY: Yeah that’s right and …

ANTHONY ALBANESE: And they’d been given out. They’d been given out, Joe.

JOE HOCKEY: Well whatever the case, the bottom line is this …

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh whatever the case.

JOE HOCKEY: If Kevin Rudd wants parliament to sit five days a week, he should be there five days a week.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What during private member business?

JOE HOCKEY: It’s not a part time parliament.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I ask Joe to answer this. How long did John Howard sit in the parliament during private member’s business during his twelve years a prime minister?

JOE HOCKEY: Well I can tell you, as twelve years as prime minister, he would always be there just before question time on Mondays and hear numerous members get up and make ninety second statements about …

ANTHONY ALBANESE: He’d get there at one [over speaking].

JOE HOCKEY: And I might just make one point, his ministers would turn up on Mondays.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: [over speaking].

JOE HOCKEY: He’d turn up on a Monday. His ministers turned up on Monday.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yeah I was there on Monday. We had ministers there on Friday.

JOE HOCKEY: Oh how many?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We had more people – we had less people absent from parliament on Friday than the coalition.

JOE HOCKEY: Oh come on, Albo.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s a record. [over speaking].

STEVE PRICE: It’s not a great look, is it, for the Australian public, the few that might tune in and look at the television pictures of parliament, and see both sides empty. I mean what’s that say about the political process? I mean we even had Alexander Downer decide that going to lunch was a better idea than turning up to question time. Going and playing golf with Mark Vaile.

JOE HOCKEY: Yeah.

STEVE PRICE: Now he’s running a radio career for himself. I mean what does it say to the people of Australia, who go out and elect you people, that you don’t have to turn up? Anthony, we contacted your office in regard to how you know how many people on either side are there during question time. We were amazed when your office came back and said ‘well there’s no roll taken, so we don’t know’.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well that’s not right.

STEVE PRICE: Well that’s what we were told.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well that’s not right. I don’t know who you spoke to in my office but that’s not right. There is a roll taken and there is a – the sergeants have a list, they tick off people as they come in. At any particular time it is correct to say that there is no record of who is there at 2.30/2pm. There is a record though if people are there or not during the day and there’s a record, certainly, of last Friday.

STEVE PRICE: Is it acceptable Alexander Downer goes to lunch instead?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well of course it’s not and it’s not acceptable that they go and play golf either. That’s the great irony.

At the same time that the opposition is talking about everyone has to attend for every second of parliament when they know full well that the truth is that at any particular time if you tune into parliament in terms of the TV broadcasts, you’ll see that on most occasions there’s between six and eight people in the chamber at any time [over speaking].

STEVE PRICE: Let’s turn our attention to the 20/20 summit. Ten heads of discussion groups. Just one woman. You’d be aware, Anthony, of this criticism. You still have, don’t you, a positive discrimination policy when it comes to preselection?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We have a – yes, it’s a thirty-five per cent target.

STEVE PRICE: So why wouldn’t you apply that to the ten committee positions in what has been described as the most important gathering of the smartest Australians ever?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well let’s be clear about this, there are twenty co-chairs of whom seven will be women out of the twenty. One of the ten non-parliamentarians is a woman, Cate Blanchett.

JOE HOCKEY: Very much a woman.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Six are parliamentary chairs.

STEVE PRICE: She’s pregnant. She might not even get there.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh she’ll be there. She’s very keen …

JOE HOCKEY: She’s a constituent of mine.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: … to be there. She doesn’t vote for you, I don’t think, Joe.

JOE HOCKEY: No, I didn’t count on that one. I’m glad I didn’t count on that one.

STEVE PRICE: He knew that quickly, didn’t he? It might have something to do with her handing out how to vote cards on election day I think.

JOE HOCKEY: For the Labor party.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Always a bit of a tip, Joe.

JOE HOCKEY: No, well I’ve also had over the years Nicole Kidman in my electorate as well. So I wasn’t counting on that.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yeah, don’t count on her either.

JOE HOCKEY: In fact I think her dad, who is a lovely guy, Anthony Kidman, was running the Labor party booth at Longueville.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yeah.

STEVE PRICE: So Anthony, Eva Cox said it made her feel sick in the stomach. I think that’s an over reaction. But should someone in the PM’s office not have looked at this list and said ‘hang on a minute, we’re a little under represented by women, migrants and young people’?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Eva Cox is full of hyperbole. Look I think in terms of – these are just the chairs. There are – I think probably what’s happened is people have looked at it, seen there’s seven out of twenty and said ‘well that’s okay’.

In terms of the participation in the summit, of course, there’ll be a thousand people and one of the things we’re making sure that happens is the week beforehand there’s an entire youth summit which is being funded by government that will bring a hundred people to Canberra that will feed into the full 2020 summit.

Also there’s an engagement with schools as well to try and get people in whether it be a special discussion or whether it be in general studies or the appropriate civil society discussions that go on [over speaking].

STEVE PRICE: But I made the point about this. If it’s so important, why would you limit it to a weekend and why would you force people to pay to come?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well you’ve got to – I think if we had funded a thousand people to come to Canberra, your listeners would have been perhaps suggesting that why are we paying for it. So it’s a matter of balance.

STEVE PRICE: What’s the opposition’s view of this, Mr Hockey?

JOE HOCKEY: Well officially we’re watching it and I just think the whole thing is a joke, to be honest. My personal view is that Kevin Rudd went to the election, what four months ago, saying that he is going to deliver new leadership and fresh ideas.

So far we’ve got committees on greenhouse gas emissions, committees on infrastructure, committees on industrial relations – two of them, two committees on trade, another committee on textile, clothing and footwear. We’ve got a petrol committee or a petrol advisor. We’ve got a groceries advisor.

And now he’s got to bring a thousand people to Canberra to tell him how to take the country forward. I mean hang on wasn’t he elected to lead the country, not to run it by committee?

STEVE PRICE: Anthony, is it any more than a stunt?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh look, Joe’s criticisms are totally invalid and they’re all over the shop.

JOE HOCKEY: Well they’re genuine.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Brendan Nelson can’t decide whether he’s for it or against it. They want to say they’re for it but [over speaking].

JOE HOCKEY: Well, the more we discover about it, the more it becomes a joke.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: … by then attacking it. The fact is that we have within – we’ve been in government for eighty-seven days. [over speaking].

JOE HOCKEY: I know and you’ve appointed about forty committees.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: You’ve had a go. We’ve ratified the Kyoto Protocol. We’ve already taken action in terms of legislation before the parliament to fix up workplace relations. We’ve got legislation to establish Infrastructure Australia. We’ve had legislation to reform our tax laws. We put through …

JOE HOCKEY: Not to reform your tax laws, to deliver our tax cuts.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’ve introduced more than forty-six pieces of legislation in the first fortnight and we, though, acknowledge that parliamentarians aren’t the fountain of all wisdom and what is wrong with getting together Australia’s best and brightest to come up with plans for ten years, twenty years time?

JOE HOCKEY: A thousand people. A thousand people.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Now I see no problem with that whatsoever. It’s a thousand people in ten different areas right across the spectrum. Education …

STEVE PRICE: So it’s ten groups of a hundred?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Ten groups of a hundred.

JOE HOCKEY: And a hundred people are going to sit around and determine Australia’s future. I mean, fair dinkum.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, a hundred people will engage in constructive dialogue, coming up with new ideas for the future. Now I mean one of the reasons why we sit on – we’ve changed sides on the house is because the previous government didn’t have any ideas for the future.

JOE HOCKEY: Hang on, you’re going to a thousand people to get ideas for the future.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We don’t think there’s anything wrong with engaging with the Australian public and part of the new politics that Kevin Rudd personifies is engaging with people and increasing participation in the political process.

STEVE PRICE: So what happens if the big idea that comes out of this is going to cost a hell of a lot of money?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well then it will be assessed by government. This isn’t a decision making process …

STEVE PRICE: That will make Lindsay Tanner happy. He’s going around the country trying to save money.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m sure he’ll be there with his pen and paper over the weekend. But there’s nothing wrong with trying to harness people’s ideas and Brendan Nelson – I saw grabs of him on the different news last night. One was saying this is a good idea and he supported it. The other one was saying it was a waste of time.

JOE HOCKEY: Yeah well I [over speaking].

STEVE PRICE: Do you know, Joe, about whether you support it or not?

JOE HOCKEY: Well I reckon they’ll have to have greenhouse gas emissions offsets for the amount of gas that’s going to come out. I mean it comes down to the bottom line. What are you going to achieve and wasn’t Kevin Rudd elected to lead? Not to run a nation by committee or to actually deliver outcomes.

I mean to do something about the basic things that matter to people like grocery prices, petrol prices, hospital waiting lists and a range of other things. I mean this is …

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yes and we’re moving on all of those issues. What amazes me is that Joe will have a different perspective next week no doubt, but Joe’s position of this is a waste of time when we’ve got people. Like we haven’t been [indistinct]. We’ve got people like Tim Fischer for example putting forward ideas about rural Australia.

JOE HOCKEY: Well ring him up. Ring him up.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We acknowledge that …

JOE HOCKEY: Don’t invite 999 of his mates.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: … that Tim Fischer has something to offer the country.

STEVE PRICE: But I think it’s interesting that he’s going to be in charge of what’s good for rural Australia when I think the National party vote halved when he was the leader.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well that’s right.

STEVE PRICE: So I’m not sure that rural Australia have a great deal of time for Tim Fischer to be honest.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think that Tim is someone of quality and we need to not just discard people once they leave political office. People such as David Morgan, John Hartigan and others who are chairing the different sessions have a lot to offer.

I know that yesterday I announced that Rod Eddington would be the chair of Infrastructure Australia and address a meeting that would have been 450 business people in Sydney. Many of those business people were very interested in engaging at the summit, wanted to know how to participate and, indeed, will be participating in that forum.

STEVE PRICE: Another issue, you’re both New South Wales politicians. Anthony, how can the people of New South Wales have any confidence in their state government when you sit back and listen to this evidence coming out of ICAC in relation to Wollongong? I mean it’s just staggering.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well when I think that it comes to the ICAC investigations, they need to take place. Of course, ICAC needs to take place removed from political interference, whether that be federal or state, and they’ll be making proper investigations and recommendations and that’s appropriate.

STEVE PRICE: Do you know that bloke, Joe Scimone?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh look I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with him in my life. I certainly would have been in the same room with him at an ALP conference but there would have been eight hundred other people there at the time.

STEVE PRICE: What about the issue of political donations, Joe? If someone makes a donation to the re-election of Joe Hockey, do you feel then beholden to that person? Do they get better access?

JOE HOCKEY: No, not at all.

STEVE PRICE: Do they expect a favour?

JOE HOCKEY: Not at all.

STEVE PRICE: Well why do they give you the money?

JOE HOCKEY: I think because they look at the huge amounts of money that the unions give the Labor party and they say to themselves hang on, we’ve got to some democratic balance here without having the union movement control the whole country.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It took you twenty three minutes to attack the unions.

JOE HOCKEY: Well but I tell you what, what’s come out of this and has come out of the last – you know the whole debacle in New South Wales is the huge amounts of money that developers are giving the Labor party and the expectations that those developers have that Frank Sartor and others are going to be prepared to listen to them on their development applications.

STEVE PRICE: Anthony, do political donations need to be more transparent? Do we need to have an instant register of who is giving the money and where it’s going?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, of course we need greater transparency and that’s what we’ve moved to do. The previous government increased the amount of donations that need to be disclosed up from $1,500 more than four times, six times the amount — I think $10,000 if I recollect correctly. They …

JOE HOCKEY: But it didn’t stop developers giving …

ANTHONY ALBANESE: They moved away from transparency. Well the Liberal party did this. We opposed it. We opposed it.

JOE HOCKEY: That’s because you get all your money from the union movement.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’re introducing special legislation, we’ve done already I think, into the parliament to decrease that. We think there needs to be …

JOE HOCKEY: And we think you should cap political donations. Cap them totally.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: You don’t. Well why did you increase them when you’re in government?

JOE HOCKEY: Well if you want to go down this path, cap them.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: You increased them when you were in government …

JOE HOCKEY: No, let’s cap them. Let’s not go down this path. Let’s cap them.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well that’s actually not your policy at the federal level. So you better go check, Joe.

JOE HOCKEY: Well, I think it would be good to cap them.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: … policy at the federal level, as you know, was to decrease disclosure, decrease transparency and that was a bad thing. It was opposed by Labor in opposition and we’re fixing it in government.

STEVE PRICE: And I think the voters out there would like both sides to clean up the whole situation to be honest. Now Anthony, you know my pet hate is political posters stuck up during election campaigns on poles, don’t you?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I do. Where is one, Steve? Get on with it.

STEVE PRICE: At the corner of O’Neil Street and Justin Street, Lilyfield. According to Tony there is an Anthony Albanese poster still up.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look that may well be the case.

STEVE PRICE: Get to Sydney.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: If it is – well I’m actually pulled over parked very close to Lilyfield, very close to it now actually.

STEVE PRICE: Well you could have it down before eleven o’clock.

JOE HOCKEY: Can I have it, Albo?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I can autograph it for you, Joe. You can sell it at one of your fundraisers.

STEVE PRICE: Can we be sure that none of yours are up, Mr Hockey?

JOE HOCKEY: Absolutely. I see Mike Bailey’s are up.

STEVE PRICE: Well they’re all gone, are they?

JOE HOCKEY: Mike Bailey’s are up. Burns Bay Road, still up.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: If it’s O’Neil Street that would be at – yeah there’s a little booth there that’s in a – I know exactly where it will be and it will be down today.

STEVE PRICE: A quick call from Joan in Canberra. Good morning to you, Joan.

CALLER JOAN: Oh good morning, guys. Quickly, tell me what’s the difference between a minister going out for lunch or to play golf as opposed to ministers being in the house asleep. I’ve seen this and I’ve had people say to me ‘I was in Canberra. I went to see my minister at work and there he was asleep’.

STEVE PRICE: Well Anthony I haven’t seen, I must say, a frontbencher on either side asleep during question time because you’re pretty aware the cameras are on you, aren’t you?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well more importantly, if you’re a minister, you’re preparing to get a question. Most of the opposition frontbench haven’t got questions yet, so they might fall asleep.

JOE HOCKEY: Oh come on, Albo.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Certainly government ministers – you need to more fair in allocating the questions, Joe.

JOE HOCKEY: Well we’re doing a good job so far. We just can’t get past Wayne Swan.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: To be fair, how’s this for bipartisan. To be fair, a government minister has never been asleep, I don’t believe, on the front bench on either side.

JOE HOCKEY: Good on you. That’s true.

STEVE PRICE: Even Alexander Downer?

JOE HOCKEY: No.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, Downer didn’t shut up when he was minister. He’s going through therapy at the moment. But he never shut up when he was a minister. Never got thrown out, mind you, but never kept quiet for one minute.

JOE HOCKEY: No, he spent a lot of time gassing on.

STEVE PRICE: I do have some advice to him, given his debut this week as a radio talkback shock jock in Adelaide. I wouldn’t give up his day job, if I was him.

JOE HOCKEY: But it would be a massive pay increase, Steve, going into radio.

STEVE PRICE: Oh is that right?

JOE HOCKEY: Multiples of what he’s earning already. I know how much you guys earn.

STEVE PRICE: Is that right, is it?

JOE HOCKEY: That’s right. It leaves us all behind. So I think obviously Downer is looking for a massive pay increase.

STEVE PRICE: John in Toongabbie, good morning.

CALLER JOHN: Good morning, Steve. Good morning, Anthony. Good morning, Joe. Yeah look I own land and I belong to a group of small landowners and, that dreaded word will pop up, Marsden Park lands. For years we fought against having our land conserved. Because …

STEVE PRICE: What’s the question, John?

CALLER JOHN: Well the question is, I have a problem with large developers donating money to political parties because I believe we’ve got a first hand case in hand where our land was conserved …

STEVE PRICE: Well I think, John, everyone, and Anthony included and Joe included, has identified that this political donation issue is a problem. We’d better leave it because we’re coming up to our news at ten.

But, Anthony, I understand next time we are together, in two weeks time, you’ll be able to make it into the studio hopefully. You’ll have a face to face with Joe. That will be pleasant for you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh gee, well I see enough of him in Canberra, but I’m sure that will be a pleasant experience. We actually get on.

JOE HOCKEY: Yeah.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: In spite of being so …

STEVE PRICE: I appreciate your time. You go and get that poster down.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to talk to you, Steve.

 

STEVE PRICE: Anthony Albanese, minister for transport, regional development and local government. Joe Hockey, shadow spokesman on health and government business in the house. Thank you for coming in as well.

JOE HOCKEY: Great.

STEVE PRICE: Joe Hockey, Anthony Albanese, will be back with us in a fortnight’s time.