Feb 19, 2013

Transcript of Doorstop: Commonwealth & Parliamentary Offices, Sydney – 19 February 2013

Issues: Christine Milne’s Press Club Address; Greens Political Party; functioning of Parliament; Labor leadership; Bob Brown

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Today Christine Milne has given an address to the National Press Club, and in that she’s announced that the Greens Political Party have torn up an agreement that they never had.  The reasons she has given for walking away from the agreement with the Labor Government are ones that are outside of the agreement.

This has, from day one, been a Labor Government driven by a Labor agenda, and that will continue into the future.

The Greens Political Party need to be transparent about what discussions they have had with the Liberal Party organisation about exchanges of preferences in Melbourne, and in other Lower House seats, as well as for the Senate.

The Greens Political Party is good at the talk, but when it comes to the substance they constantly fail.  The Greens Political Party’s decision today is largely driven by their internals.  We know that Christine Milne, since Bob Brown left the leadership of the Greens, has been under siege from the extreme elements of the Greens Political Party, led by Lee Rhiannon from NSW.  These are people who don’t believe in engagement in mainstream political issues.  These are people who are on the fringe of the political system, who seek to use the Greens Political Party label to try to give credibility for an agenda, which if exposed and analysed is found wanting and has been found wanting in NSW at each and every turn.

That’s why you have candidates selected in seats such as mine who have described Bob Brown, Christine Milne and the Greens Political Party leadership in Canberra as “big L Liberals on bicycles”.  That is the attitude that a number of their members and candidates have.

The Greens Political Party also has been shown that they try to have a parasitic relationship with Labor, attempting to gain credit for Labor initiatives when they find it convenient.

And I note that Christine Milne today has used High Speed Rail as an example.  The fact is that the High Speed Rail study being undertaken at the moment by the Federal Government was committed to prior to the last Federal Election by myself as Transport Minister at the Infrastructure Partnerships Australia national conference in Melbourne.  And yet time and again, the Greens Political Party attempt to take credit for what are Labor Government initiatives.

As far as the Parliament’s function is concerned, I see nothing which will change as a result of today.  The Labor Government will continue to pursue our legislative agenda before the Parliament.  We know that we’ve been successful in passing some 466 pieces of legislation through the House of Representatives.  We do have ongoing support from the Greens Political Party on Supply and Confidence.  But we have always had to negotiate pieces of legislation apart from those that were there in the agreement.

I’m happy to take any questions that people might have here today about the functioning of the Parliament and how today’s announcement by Christine Milne might have an impact.

QUESTION: This is really strong language Mr Albanese.  Are you concerned that attacks from the coalition about a Labor-Greens alliance have had an effect in the electorate, and that people could think that you are in cahoots with the Greens?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’ve always had strong opposition to the agenda of the Greens Political Party.  Indeed Tony Abbott, I notice, stole a slogan that I’ve been using since 1996, “real solutions”.  Because I think what politics is about is providing practical outcomes that improve the lives of this and future generations.  That’s why Labor in government has been committed to action on Climate Change.

Indeed, were it not for the Greens Political Party we would have had an Emissions Trading Scheme in place on the first of July 2010.  It was the intransigence of the Greens Political Party that blocked that legislation when two Liberals crossed the floor in the Senate.  All it would have taken is for the Greens to walk across the floor and we would have had a price on carbon with legislation in 2009.

QUESTION: The Greens say they’ll still deliver in confidence and supply, so do you think this is just all for show?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: This is clearly about them positioning themselves for the election.

There’s one thing about the Greens Political Party, they say they’re about ‘new politics’ but they’re really about old politics.  They’re about replacing Labor representatives with representatives of the Greens Political Party.  If you’re serious about the progressive cause in Australian politics then you’re engaged with the Labor Party, which seeks to broaden the support for progressive causes in this country.  The Greens Political Party don’t seek to do that.

They seek to gain support off Labor that’s already committed to Labor and cause that vote to go over to the Greens Political Party.  That’s why they concentrate their efforts on a small number of electorates, and there’s no doubt that they are nervous about their chances of holding on to the electorate of Melbourne at the next federal election.

We saw two weeks ago in Parliament Adam Bandt move a suspension of Standing Orders on the Thursday the first week of sitting.  Just as the Coalition finally stopped disrupting Parliament and moving suspension of Standing Orders, the Greens Political Party moved into that space.  And they did it in an opportunistic way in order to gain attention for themselves even though it had no chance of success.

So I would expect between now and the Federal Election on September 14 the Greens Political Party will engage in opportunistic publicity stunts in order to try to gain support, once again not off Tony Abbott and the Conservatives, but off Labor.

QUESTION: Have you walked away from your agreement with the Greens and into the arms of miners as Christine Milne says?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well that’s nonsense of course.  There’s nothing in Christine Milne’s speech that pointed towards any breach of commitments that had been given between Labor and the Greens Political Party relating to the formation of government.

QUESTION: Minister most Australians view the Greens as an amusing irrelevance, why goad them today and threaten supply?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I haven’t done that.  We’re the Government, and we continue to have a majority on the floor of the House of Representatives for all of our legislation.  What we do is we negotiate out each piece of legislation with the cross benches and we’ve been successful up to this point, securing support for 466 pieces of legislation.  I expect that that will continue.

QUESTION: That’s a large amount of legislation.  You mentioned the ETS before and the trouble you had with the Greens at the time.  Kevin Rudd said that was one of his biggest mistakes, and you were one of his big supporters at the time.  You shed a few tears.  Will there be any tears of joy if he decides to make a comeback?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, we resolved those issues in February and I said everything I intend to say about it at that time.

QUESTION: Do you think he’s still the Party’s best hope, as you thought back then?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, if you have a look at the comments that I made, I made them, I said then I would have one press conference, it was in this building, and I would put everything on the record about my views.  I did it then and I said that Caucus would resolve the issue, and Caucus did resolve the issue on that Monday.  I stated then that there would be only one opportunity for Caucus members to have a view.  And Kevin Rudd’s made it very clear that he regards the issue as being resolved as well.

QUESTION: Do you think he’s destabilising the Government by having as many media spots as he is?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well Kevin Rudd is out there campaigning for the Labor cause.  I thought his interview on SKY Agenda on Sunday was a constructive interview.  He outlined the Government’s economic agenda.  He took responsibility for mistakes that were made whilst he was Prime Minister and he declared that the leadership issue had been resolved.

QUESTION: Are all Labor MPs united behind the Prime Minister?


QUESTION: And just clarifying do you think Christine Milne has a point when she says you’re falling into the arms of miners by watering down the original hard push against the mining tax?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think Christine Milne has an opportunistic political agenda to push in the run-up to the election.  I think that the Greens Political Party, not for the first time, is pushing its views.  You’ll see lots of rhetoric from the Greens Political Party.

Compare the rhetoric that they made in opposition to the Emissions Trading Scheme with what they actually agreed to with regard to the Carbon Price, leading to an Emissions Trading System, during this term of government.

I think it is unfortunate that the Greens stood in the way of progress on Climate Change back in 2009 and I think the Greens are very much a political party that act out of politics first and political principles second.  I think we’ve seen that today and we’ll see it again in the lead up to the election.

QUESTION: Minister you mentioned Bob Brown before.  Since he has left do you see the Greens heading the same way as the Democrats?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well certainly one of the things about Bob Brown was that he was someone who wanted the Greens Political Party, whatever political disagreements I would have with him and I had some, I had many disagreements with him, he wanted them to engage in mainstream political processes.  I think that’s one of the issues that the Greens Political Party are having – and this isn’t the first time I have said it.  I have said this on a number of occasions since Bob Brown left the leadership, including on the day he resigned from the leadership.

A lot of people who went along to polling booths and voted for the Greens Political Party thought that they were voting for Bob Brown.  And that was attractive to them because of what he represented and his standing in the community.  Once Bob Brown stepped down, that I think has gone away as an attraction to vote for the Greens Political Party.  There will be a much greater focus on what the policies are and what people stand for who are the actual candidates for the Greens Political Party in specific seats.

Now we saw that when there was a focus on what the Greens Political Party had done in office, in councils like Leichhardt Council and others where they’d had the mayor – in Leichhardt Council they had an absolute majority in effect on the council – we saw that rejected when they came for election.  I think people will focus on the views of people who are candidates for the Greens Political Party at the next election in seats such as mine, where you have a candidate who is far from the mainstream of political opinion.  I think that they will hold the Greens Political Party to account.

So I think it’s a difficult period.  Bob Brown was a charismatic leader of the Greens Political Party.  They don’t have anyone in their ranks at the moment, federally or state or local, who compares with his standing.  And there’s no doubt that that will drive down their vote at the next election.