Subjects: Cancellation of Parliament, Queensland State election.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning. It’s great to be back in Queensland here in Brisbane at the Botanical Gardens and I was looking forward to being in Canberra next week for the sitting of the House of Representatives which was scheduled. The current Federal Government has 73 members of the House of Representatives plus the Speaker, plus they have a guarantee of votes for confidence and supply. And yet they have cancelled democracy next week because they are running away from Parliament, they are running away from the Liberal Party caucus meeting, they are running away from the joint party room, they are running away from a banking Royal Commission.
From that position Malcolm Turnbull is showing just how incompetent his Government is. If he is not up to governing, he should just call an election. It is as simple as that. And here in Queensland we of course have the LNP under Tim Nicholls saying vote for a minority government which I will share with One Nation. It is very clear that that is Tim Nicholls’ agenda. That has been his agenda from the very start – leading a Government with One Nation support as part of it. Now if the Liberal National Party are so chaotic when they are not in partnership with anyone except each other, how hopeless would Tim Nicholls be in trying to govern Queensland?
I was Leader of the Government in the House of Representatives the in the 43rd Parliament. We had at one stage 70 votes for the Labor Party on the floor of the House or Representatives. We carried 595 pieces of legislation through the House. We conducted big reforms, reforms like the NDIS, the Gonski education funding, health reform. We continued to drive nation-building infrastructure. We did all that with 70 votes in the House of Representatives without resorting to this bizarre cancelling of the Parliament which Christopher Pyne announced yesterday and which Malcolm Turnbull has endorsed.
If the Liberal-National Party are so unprepared to actually govern the nation, they should just give up and call a general election and stop this farce. Their excuse which says we are waiting for the Senate to deal with marriage equality is them putting their hand up and saying we’ve got no Government legislation of any worth worth discussing; we have given up completely and it is no wonder that the Australian public are giving up on them. They shouldn’t make the same mistake here in Queensland this Saturday because you have in Tim Nicholls a former treasurer in Campbell Newman’s Government who sacked public servants, who cut hospitals, who cut education funding, who refused to proceed with projects like the Cross River Rail Project, to benefit not just the people of Brisbane, but the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast, even though there was Federal money in the Budget for that project. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: Mr Albanese, do you think that Labor MPs should turn up next week anyway?
ALBANESE: Well look, the thing about next week is that everyone has already made their bookings. They have their accommodation. They have booked their flights. We have meetings next week. It’s not just about members of Parliament. I have meetings next week with local councils. Councils like Stirling Council in Western Australia are travelling from Western Australia all the way to Canberra to meet with me. I have meetings with the trucking industry. I have meetings with the finance sector. I have meetings with a range of local government organisations. I have meetings with airports.
These all get scheduled well in advance because the sitting timetable is adopted the year before. This timetable was adopted in 2016. So the Shadow Cabinet is certainly meeting in Canberra on Monday as we do. Whether the caucus meets or not is a matter for deliberation between the Leader and the crossbenches at the moment. But certainly at the moment it is not a matter of people booking flights to go to Canberra, it’s a matter of whether they are cancelled or not.
But certainly it is extraordinary that the Prime Minister thinks that he has the option, because things are a bit difficult for him, a bit too hard, of just cancelling it. I am sure all those people who woke up this morning and thought it’s going to be a difficult day at work today, I don’t think I have the option though of just not turning up. Working Australians don’t have that option. The House of Representatives shouldn’t have that option anyway and the Government should reconsider this. That is what should happen is that the Government should realise that it made a mistake, an extraordinary mistake I have got to say.
Of all the times that I had discussions with Julie Gillard as the Prime Minister about what the forward program was for the Parliament, not once from Julia Gillard as the Prime Minister or Wayne Swan as the Deputy Prime Minister was there a discussion that said next week is going to be a little bit difficult in the 43rd parliament, maybe we will just call it off. I mean, that thought did not enter into our heads and it shouldn’t have entered into the heads of Malcolm Turnbull, Christopher Pyne and the people who made this quite frankly farcical decision that undermines democracy and it treating the Australian public like mugs.
REPORTER: Wouldn’t it be a waste of taxpayers’ money to go anyway if you are not going to be sitting in Parliament?
ALBANESE: The waste of taxpayers’ money that has occurred recently is the $122 million that we had on a survey to tell us what we already knew – that Australians supported marriage equality. So we certainly won‘t take lectures from the Government about waste when it comes to Government resources.
The shadow cabinet will certainly be meeting on Monday in any case. I assume the Cabinet is meeting. Or maybe they have called off the Cabinet as well because they can’t get on with each other. That’s a question for the Government – will the Cabinet be meeting in Canberra next week, because the Cabinet and the Ministry, that makes up more than 40 members of the Parliament. The Senate, of course, is sitting anyway so senators will be there. Staff members will be there. Because the Senate is sitting a whole lot of Shadow Ministers who have issues that are relevant for the Senate will need to keep their eye on that in any case.
And of course the non-government organisations, the charities that have events booked next week, the groups that are coming to Canberra to have meetings, they don’t get refunds on that. That has all been organised already.
That is why the Government should be reconsidering. And the question shouldn’t be whether Labor MPs will go to Canberra next week. The real question is why aren’t Coalition MPs going to Canberra next week as they were scheduled? They should do it. They should be there and Parliament should sit. There’s plenty of time for them to say they have listened to the Australian people, the Australian people think that this move is not on and to reconsider the decision, put Parliament back on. Otherwise what they are saying is they don’t have an agenda for Government. If that is the case, then Malcolm Turnbull should not cancel next week, this is the real option for them, they should cancel the week after as well and just go to an election.
TUESDAY, 21 NOVEMBER, 2017
MEDIA CONTACT: MATTHEW FRANKLIN 0411 659 868
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.