Subjects: Election; Budget leak; taxpayer-funded advertising; Government copying Labor policies; Banking Royal Commission; reappointments
JAYES: Welcome to News Day. Joining me now is the Shadow Infrastructure Minister, Anthony Albanese. We had to take you away from the House. Those divisions are over. I will talk to you about the legislation and High Speed Rail in a moment, but a July 2 double dissolution election – does this suit Labor?
ALBANESE: Well, it is up to the Government to determine when the election is on and Malcolm Turnbull has said repeatedly before today that if the ABCC legislation was not successful, then that’s exactly what we’d be doing. So we are certainly planning for that. We are up for an election. This is a government that has no agenda and we have seen that today with the lack of legislation that was before the Parliament. This is a Seinfeld Parliament. It’s a show about nothing.
JAYES: Well, it’s quite a clever line there Anthony Albanese, but we have seen today a Budget ad campaign – Paul Murray broke this story on Sky News last night – and there is a strong emphasis on growing the economy and three measures in particular. One is superannuation – looking at concessions, multinational tax evasion, which would come in the form I think of changes with thin capitalisation and also tobacco excise. There’s a lot of bi-partisanship here. You would back those measures in if they were handed down in the Budget, wouldn’t you?
ALBANESE: Well, this Budget leak by Sky News last night and further detail added today is the biggest leak of a Budget since I have been in this place for 20 years.
JAYES: It’s not the Budget. It’s just an advertising campaign.
ALBANESE: It’s the detail that’s in the Budget that has been leaked and what’s been leaked on top of that is that they are going to have spin in between the Budget and when the election is announced, presumably the following week, on May the 11th.
JAYES: Well, if I can just give you some more details on the ad, and our viewers as well, the first line says new and important changes are happening in Australia to Australia’s tax and super system. These will make the system fairer and continue to drive economic growth. We need superannuation to be flexible enough to work for everyone, particularly low-income earners and it does go on to say as well that growing the economy is quite prominent in this scripting. Even besides the leaking, and you say it is perhaps strategic, does it matter? Because this is well in line with what Labor has spruiked anyway and we could for the first time in a long time have some bipartisanship on some Budget measures.
ALBANESE: Because the Government doesn’t have an agenda of its own, so they have adopted, it would appear, a number of Labor’s measures that they have been saying were disastrous. This is the Government that abandoned the low-income superannuation assistance and brought back in the rorts at the high end. And now they are saying they going to reverse the very changes that they put in place and do an advertising campaign to say it is good. It’s extraordinary. And similarly it would appear that the tobacco tax changes that they are going to adopt those, again, changes that they were very critical of. And the multinational tax changes that they said would be disastrous and issues like the thin capitalisation rules; they said that changes to that would have a damaging impact on the economy and showed that Labor and those who advocated it weren’t on top of business. Well they are adopting all of that. It’s incredible that Malcolm Turnbull had a plan to get rid of Tony Abbott but he didn’t have a plan for government and that is being writ large each and every day and the disunity that is there with this this leak to Sky News – not just of the Budget detail …
JAYES: I don’t think you could say it’s disunity on display. You don’t know where the leak has come from though.
ALBANESE: Well, what we know is that the Budget, which is due next month, has been leaked in terms of the details. The $16 billion – there’s a great deal of detail there – and the fact that there is an advertising campaign, which is on top of the existing advertising campaigns where, for example in my area of infrastructure, they’ve actually cut the infrastructure Budget by $18 million that was meant to be being spent on roads and railways …
JAYES: Both sides of politics run advertising campaigns on government policy.
ALBANESE: I tell you what, we never ever cut infrastructure investment to fund ads to pretend we were building things and that is what they are doing.
JAYES: Look, I take your point. Labor certainly hasn’t run a small target strategy. You have your policies out there. We are yet to see what you will do in terms of Budget repair and might I say that voters don’t seem to be rewarding you for this strategy? Yes, Labor has improved in the polls, but Bill Shorten’s personal standing has not improved.
ALBANESE: Well, this campaign will be about a Labor Party led by Bill Shorten that has a plan for the nation and a government that’s all at sea, that has no sense of purpose.
JAYES: Personality politics does play into it though.
ALBANESE: Of course it does. But you need something a bit more than a nice smile. Malcolm Turnbull has a nice smile. But there is nothing beneath it. This is a government that just has no agenda, no sense of purpose, no reason for being. It should be put out of its misery.
JAYES: These polls might suggest though, Anthony Albanese, that Labor is in a good position, but not with Bill Shorten as the captain. Do you concede that?
ALBANESE: No, I don’t. I think that people are having a look at Labor, having a look at our policies, the fact that we have a comprehensive plan across the board, the fact that we as a team have strong people in each of our portfolios. I won’t try and trick you up and ask you who the Infrastructure Minister is because you wouldn’t know.
JAYES: Well we just had him on. We just had him on before, actually. Darren Chester.
ALBANESE: Well, he’s not in charge. He’s not in charge. Paul Fletcher last week was meeting with general aviation people. He has been out there making announcements.
JAYES: He the Minister for Special Projects.
ALBANESE: Well, what is Darren Chester in charge of?
JAYES: I do want to ask you about the banking Royal Commission. We know Labor’s very strong position on this but my understanding is that the Government is poised to announce greater strength for ASIC with particular focus on financial advice, life insurance, responsible lending; there will be more funding – about $100 – million – moving to a user pays funding model and also greater penalties and proactive surveillance in all that – so, bringing forward some of those crucial Murray Review recommendations. Would you support that move from the Government regardless of whether you get a Royal Commission or not?
ALBANESE: Well they were due to discuss this in their cabinet last night, but what we know, because everyone knows everything that happens in their Cabinet, they deferred discussion of it. But there is $120 million has been cut from ASIC. This is typical of this Government., They cut $120 million ….
JAYES: That was the Abbott Government. This is the Turnbull Government and what I have just outlined to you …
ALBANESE: Well, Malcolm Turnbull sat in the Cabinet. They cut $120 million. Now they are going to put some of that back and expect people to say thank you. I mean, this is extraordinary.
JAYES: Yes, but it’s more than just money here …
ALBANESE: We will look at the detail of course, but what we need is a Royal Commission and it shows how out of touch this mob are, the fact that they don’t think that Australians watching this show and sitting at home aren’t concerned about the circumstances that have been repeatedly occurring through banking and financial institutions. I mean, I used to work at the Commonwealth Bank. I have a great interest in the banking sector and the financial sector and quite clearly, when you have so many people missing out –such arrogance from this sector – so that people have lost their life savings, people getting bad financial advice, it’s about time that we had a Royal Commission that can get to the bottom of it, that can make recommendations that strengthen the system.
JAYES: We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the banks are huge employers in Australia.
ALBANESE: Of course they are. That’s why they are important.
JAYES: They are the strength of our economy – a huge back bone – and I think that sometimes does get lost in this debate. Let’s move on, I want to ask you one final question about this. Greg Medcraft, he’s the head of ASIC. Would you have any problem with the Government reappointing him when his term expires on May 12?
ALBANESE: The Government shouldn’t be reappointing anyone to anything. They are in caretaker mode now. We all know the election is on July 2. They should not be making any significant appointments. I have no problem with people being carried over to July 3. But essentially time’s up for this government and what they shouldn’t be doing is pretending that that’s not the case by making appointments or reappointments for that matter. But I tell you what Labor won’t do, which is what this government has done and I think has really hurt them, we won’t be having the attitude of not appointing anyone who was appointed by the Government. That is what they have done. That is why Infrastructure Australia for example didn’t have a CEO for an entire year, which is why this Government’s infrastructure agenda has gone to zip.
JAYES: Anthony Albanese, I did want to talk about High Speed Rail. We will have to leave it to another time, perhaps next week, but thank you for your time.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.