SUBJECT: Angus Taylor.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: This Prime Minister will do anything to avoid scrutiny. And today, the shutting down of the debate in the Parliament about his embattled Minister for Emissions Reduction just highlighted the lack of respect this Prime Minister has. The Prime Minister might not want scrutiny from the Parliament, or from the Crossbench, or from the media where he refuses to answer questions. But he can’t avoid scrutiny by the NSW Police Force with their Strike Force that they have launched, Operation Garrad, into the behaviour of the Minister for Emissions Reductions. We need to remind people just exactly how this has occurred. A document was produced, allegedly purporting to suggest that the Lord Mayor’s office in the City of Sydney, Clover Moore, and her fellow councillors, had spent $15 million on travel in one year. That was produced in order to make a point, a childish point, about climate change by the Minister for Emissions Reduction who has been responsible for emissions going up, not down. The fact is that when it was discovered that document that went to the Daily Telegraph was fake, what occurred was that the Minister doubled down, and he said that he got it off the City of Sydney website. He said that to Parliament. A misleading of the Parliament is something that’s a serious offence. A deliberate mislead, which when Angus Taylor tabled his letter yesterday in the Parliament, again repeated that it was downloaded from the City of Sydney website. We know from the scrutiny that has occurred from outside of the metadata from that website that this document did not come from the website. We don’t know where it came from. But we know that it was given to the Daily Telegraph by the Minister’s office. And now we have an investigation, a Strike Force, by the New South Wales Police Force into this fraudulent document. And the Minister under section 7.1 of the Ministerial Code of Conduct is subject to the Prime Minister’s decision as to whether he should step aside or not. Now Arthur Sinodinos stepped aside, no doubt with the encouragement of the then-Coalition Prime Minister, over something where there wasn’t a police investigation. There was an inquiry by the ICAC into his conduct. He stepped aside voluntarily. This Minister cannot survive this day. The Prime Minister needs to stand him aside today. This, whereby a Minister has continued to just have this ‘born to rule’ mentality on display for all, thinking that he can get away with anything he likes because he’s above the common people and indeed the Parliament, well the fact is, he is accountable. We will continue to pursue these actions. The Prime Minister, if his Ministerial standards mean anything at all, should have stood aside this Minister well before now. They had thought they stonewalled the last couple of weeks of Parliament, this Strike Force being established means that is simply untenable.
JOURNALIST: Can you confirm that this investigation was started as a result of a Labor referral? And secondly, when was Labor advised that this Strike Force had been formed?
ALBANESE: We read it online. It was online prior to Question Time, from The Guardian and the Daily Telegraph. And how it is that this arrogant and out of touch Government didn’t bother to provide a brief to the Prime Minister, would appear before two o’clock, just says it all. This Minister has sat there with a big smirk on his face the whole way through, treating the Parliament with contempt. Treating the norms of the way that procedures occur with contempt. Just like this Prime Minister in shutting down any debate in the Parliament showed today that he had contempt for parliamentary procedures. When John Howard was the Prime Minister, Kim Beazley was regularly, when issues were serious, allowed to seek leave and leave was granted to move resolutions in the Parliament. I was Manager of Opposition Business and Leader of the House. When we negotiated two aside or three aside, timing for speakers were all negotiated. That was the procedures that occurred. This mob has contempt for the Parliament and contempt for scrutiny. They think that they’re the Government by right, and Angus Taylor is a personification of the ‘born to rule mentality that characterises the modern Liberal Party.
JOURNALIST: What do you think this means for the state of politics at the moment when incidents like this happen, and no one appears to be resigning?
ALBANESE: Well, it, I think, is one of the reasons why. And people out there would have a think about this and think there’s a document, it’s been produced, and it is in order to have a go at someone who’s a mayor, an independent Mayor of the City of Sydney, Clover Moore. And in order to get a sort of page 13 story saying Clover Moore takes trips more than she should. If they had have worked out $15 million, $14 million on domestic travel, it didn’t even add up. It’s just absurd, even the allegation. If they had of thought about it for one second. But, ‘Oh no, it was provided by Mr Taylor’s office to The Daily Telegraph’. It’s not their fault. They were provided with this document. At the same time, as the letter, of course, was actually provided to Clover Moore. You can imagine them, these ex ‘born to rule’ mob sitting in the Ministerial office having a chuckle, ‘Oh, isn’t this grand? You know, we’ll get that Clover Moore. We will get those independents who believe in climate change that it’s real. We will show them’. Well, it has blown up. The arrogance of this Government will be its undoing. And today we have seen that arrogance writ large for all to see.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, Angus Taylor again assured the house today that neither he nor anyone in his office altered that document. Why should that not be enough?
ALBANESE: Maybe it was in the plants in the garden, or the goldfish in the ponds here, or maybe it was just conjured up somewhere. He has said it came from the City of Sydney website. That has been proven to be not the case. Now you have this police Strike Force. He can’t continue to do what he has done, which is to express contempt for the Parliament. He apologised to Clover Moore. He put out statements late on a Friday afternoon in order to avoid scrutiny. He then made an apology, again, late at the end of a period where there wasn’t any media scrutiny, put his hand up and said, ‘Oh, sorry’, as if it would just go away. But the truth is that he misled Parliament. And you can’t mislead Parliament. The Westminster system is very clear. You mislead Parliament, deliberately, you are gone. And he has said that it was downloaded from the website. There’s no evidence that this documentation ever appeared on the website. Indeed, the metadata indicates that that simply is not the case.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about religious freedom?
ALBANESE: No. I am sticking to this at this moment. I do general press conferences. But if we can just stick to this, that would be good.
ALBANESE: Well, Angus Taylor should not be a representative of anybody at this point in time. He should be a backbencher. He’s under investigation for very serious allegations. You can’t go around producing documents, defaming someone, giving them to the media, which aren’t factual documents, and be a Minister of the Crown. This is the most open and shut circumstance I’ve seen. And the fact that yesterday when we moved the suspension of standing orders, not a single Minister was prepared to stand up and to defend Minister Taylor; I’m not surprised that they weren’t. And today, again, they weren’t prepared to do that. And indeed, they weren’t even allowed. They weren’t even good enough to allow to have a debate to shut down the Leader of the Opposition when we had made a very clear case. Every question in Question Time was about this. There is a police Strike Force into a Cabinet Minister and into a fraudulent document. And this Government doesn’t think that’s worthy of even discussion. They’re showing contempt for the Parliament. And in terms of a lack of scrutiny, now they can’t avoid the scrutiny. The Prime Minister must ask the Minister to stand aside today.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Albanese, the Prime Minister does make the point that sometimes or quite often these referrals to the police go absolutely nowhere. Will you do as he asked today and apologise to Mr Taylor if that is the case here?
ALBANESE: It is a Strike Force. It has been established by the New South Wales Police. Have a look at what the Prime Minister was saying today in Question Time. I certainly have no influence over whether the New South Wales Police establishes a Strike Force or not. They don’t do it because they wake up in the morning and say, ‘how about we have a Strike Force into a Federal Cabinet Minister?’ They do it because there’s a clear case to be made. Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.