Subjects: Abbott’s plebiscite stunt; Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd; carbon pricing; high speed rail
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Okay, what we’ve seen flagged in this morning’s papers is Tony Abbott’s latest stunt. We know it’s a stunt because of his own words.
On 3AW this morning he was asked this: “No, but presuming it doesn’t – that is the plebiscite be successful – your policy is still to repeal that tax?”
Tony Abbott: “Oh, yes, absolutely.”
So here we have a situation whereby Tony Abbott, the most negative Opposition leader in history; all opposition and no leader, wants to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, potentially – because he hasn’t got a costing on what the plebiscite would cost and we know that referendums cost in the order of around 300 to 400 million dollars – wants to have all this expenditure but still won’t be bound by the outcome.
Tony Abbott has never gotten over his election loss last August and what we’ve seen is the longest dummy spit in Australian political history.
The problem isn’t that he is internalising this. The problem is that he wants the whole of Australia to watch this dummy spit and for his negativity to dominate the way we do politics in this country.
The fact is we live in a parliamentary democracy. Tony Abbott calls himself a conservative but at each and every opportunity wants to trash the institution of Parliament in order to suit his own political advantage.
We’ve seen, of course, 12 Question Times suspended so far this year out of 28. We’ve seen relentless negativity from Tony Abbott and yet at the same time the Parliament’s been able to function – 135 pieces of legislation carried, none defeated and not a single amendment carried to any piece of legislation without the Government’s support.
Tony Abbott is exposing himself yet again by the fact that he wants this plebiscite.
He couldn’t even get his act together last Thursday to put it on notice before the Parliament so it could get a second reading tonight, as are a number of other bills including on a couple of pieces of legislation on live export.
Indeed, he flagged introducing it into the Parliament at 10am this morning. Well, it’s after 10am. He hasn’t done that because Parliament wasn’t even sitting.
It shows how little attention Tony Abbott has to detail and to parliamentary processes. In the Senate and in the House of Representatives we’ve instituted rigorous processes to ensure that legislation can be brought before the Parliament and given proper consideration. Those processes shouldn’t be truncated due to Tony Abbott’s dummy spit that we’re seeing continually.
QUESTION: Do you have the numbers… So is that a no? Is that a no to a plebiscite?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: This is just a stunt.
The fact is that we have a parliamentary democracy. What do you have a plebiscite on? Do you have a plebiscite when he was in government on the introduction of WorkChoices, on sending Australians to war in Iraq? At the moment there are a number of issues that members of Parliament feel passionate about, live exports for example. Do we have a plebiscite on that?
We have a parliamentary democracy and it might be inconvenient for Tony Abbott the fact that a majority of representatives refused to choose him as the Prime Minister and we can see why being played out today. He never actually has a positive idea to go forward. It’s all about negativity and blocking. How you could put this [a plebiscite] forward and then say that you’d reject the outcome if it didn’t go your way, just shows that it’s a stunt.
QUESTION: Do you have the numbers to hold this off?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, we’ll be proceeding in the usual fashion. The fact is this can’t be introduced in the House of Representatives until next week. I’m sure we’ll see the usual suspensions of standing orders attempts and the usual disruptive behaviour by Tony Abbott because that’s all he’s got.
QUESTION: Minister, any chance of answering Michelle’s question? Do you have the numbers?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I haven’t spoken to the independents. What I have is the process. The process of the Parliament is that people introduce a bill. It can be listed for debate in the House of Representatives on Monday in two weeks’ time.
QUESTION: Shouldn’t someone be speaking Nick Xenophon for a start because he’s voted…
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, people are doing that. My job’s to look after the House of Representatives. Certainly Nick Xenophon has been spoken to by the senators but it’s not appropriate for me to put words into people’s mouths, be it Nick Xenophon or anyone else. They can all speak for themselves.
QUESTION: If you’re so confident that the carbon tax is the right action why won’t you let the people vote on it?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s a matter of proper processes. We will have a vote on any legislation. We’ll have a vote in the Parliament. This is a parliament whereby both the House of Representatives and the Senate the Government doesn’t have the majority in its own right, so we have to get the support.
We have a multiparty committee on climate change. Tony Abbott could have joined that committee. He said this morning on radio this wasn’t about climate change. Well, of course it’s about climate change and the fact is Tony Abbott just wants to engage in this negativity.
This is just his latest stunt, his latest act of disruption.
QUESTION: What do you make of weekend attacks on Kevin Rudd by people saying he should be sacked for being divisive? Aren’t people who are his enemies trying to make it appear he is being more destructive than he actually is because they’re trying to get rid of him?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, what I do know is that Kevin Rudd is doing an outstanding job as Foreign Minister and I think it’s a great privilege, not just for the Government but for the nation, that we have a former Prime Minister who is so well-known to international leaders representing our country as the Foreign Minister. So he’s determined to do that job. I think he’s doing a good job as Foreign Minister and he’ll continue do so.
QUESTION: My question was, do you think that there are people trying – in the caucus, trying to count him out of politics?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I can comment on my own views, and what I’m doing. As for other things, look these days, I mean to be frank, when you have unattributed comments in the papers, I take them with a grain of salt. I don’t necessarily regard those comments made are valid.
From my own experience, I’ve seen in recent times that what I’ll do is talk about what I’m about, and if people make comments that are attributed then therefore I think they can have some weight to them.
I do know that Peter Beattie, for example, made some comments. What I’d say about that is I think that it’s somewhat ironical for a former leader to be talking about the right of a former leader to make comments. But I’ll allow Peter Beattie to address that contradiction.
QUESTION: What do you think are behind Peter Beattie’s comments?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I have no idea. That’s up to Peter Beattie to comment. It’s not up to me to run a running commentary on what’s said in the newspapers. That’s your job and I’ll leave it to you. You all do it very well.
QUESTION: I think the broader question, going back to – the broader question of what Tony Abbott’s is questioning your Government’s mandate to do what you’re doing and perceived the way you are with the carbon price, do you believe that you have a mandate to do what you’re doing?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We absolutely have a mandate to act on climate change. Not just a mandate, but a responsibility to act on climate change.
This is an issue that goes beyond partisan politics. This is an issue that goes to the lifestyles not just of us, but of future generations to come.
There is a cost of carbon. It’s an externality of production. At the moment someone will pay the price, it’ll be my kid who’ll pay the price and my future grandkids will pay the price.
What we’re saying is that a market-based mechanism is the best way to act on climate change. We believe that is of critical importance to the nation.
QUESTION: What do you base that mandate on, given the famous statement by the Prime Minister that no Government that she would lead, would bring in a carbon tax?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We made it very clear that we would act on climate change. Indeed, both political parties when we were first elected in 2007 of course had plans for an Emissions Trading Scheme.
Tony Abbott is in fact the only living Liberal leader that does not support pricing carbon, and of course Tony Abbott has a plan for a tax as well. Tony Abbott’s plan would see some $30 billion estimated cost, in order to achieve the target that he’s set; that’s the same minimum target as the Government’s. The difference is ordinary taxpayers – you and me and everyone here – will pay their taxes in order for that money to be used to subsidise the big polluters.
What we say is that the pricing and charging should occur to the big polluters, and that support then be given to ordinary Australians in the form of household assistance, and to industry in the form of industry assistance.
So either way, you have both major political parties talking about using taxation as a way of dealing with carbon, the difference is, who’s taxed?
We say you should tax the big polluters, Tony Abbott says you should tax ordinary Australians.
QUESTION: Minister, most of us who were following the election campaign, and Julia Gillard didn’t say, we’re going to act on carbon change – on carbon prices, she said she would have [indistinct] and she said she wouldn’t have a carbon tax.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Julia Gillard made it very clear that we would act on climate change. What the Government is doing is working through the Multi-Party Committee on Climate Change – again a committee in which Tony Abbott was invited to participate; the Coalition were invited to sit down. If they say this isn’t about climate change in action, they should sit down and participate in the process, rather than being so negative.
But Tony Abbott can’t break away, can’t bring himself to break away from his relentless negativity.
QUESTION: Minister, just on a portfolio issue, how far away are we with the high speed rail study, and has the carbon price mechanism fed into those discussions?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The Government will be receiving the first part of the study in July. There are two parts. The first part will identify the route, will identify some preliminary costings. The second part of the study will go in greater detail into the geotechnical issues, and some of the challenges that are there due to the geography and topography of this great nation.
QUESTION: This is a good one though, if – on his stunt, if both Houses of Parliament agree to it and pass it, will you hold the plebiscite?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’ve made it very clear that this is a stunt…
QUESTION: But if they both pass it?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I don’t talk about hypotheticals. We’ve made it absolutely clear that this is a stunt. The fact is that if we’re going to move to a different form of participation on live exports or on our engagement in international conflicts or on a whole range of issues, it’s always easier to say, oh well, yes, we could go out there and have votes that are expensive, but which Tony Abbott himself says, he won’t be bound by.
I think the fact that it is a stunt, is exemplified by Tony Abbott’s own words.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.