Aug 29, 2018

Transcript of Doorstop Interview – Darwin – Wednesday, 29 August, 2018

Subjects: Ports Australia conference, Labor’s City Partnerships policy, population, Liberal leadership spill, Tony Abbott.
LUKE GOSLING: G’day everyone, thanks for coming down here to the Darwin Convention Centre. It’s been great to have Anthony in town once again. Albo’s a great friend of Darwin and just gave a cracking speech to the Ports Australia conference, talking about those big infrastructure issues for our country and more specifically I know he has a passion for infrastructure for Darwin, the northern capital of Australia. Obviously to our north not only have we got billions of people, we’ve got the fastest growing economies in the world and Darwin is perfectly placed with the right attention from the Federal Government to reach the potential that our city has and that the Northern Territory has. So it’s great to have Albo in town. Last time I think Albo was here we were in a crocodile cage, he was doing his bit in another part of his portfolio in tourism and we certainly really appreciate Albo’s frequent visits to the north and for sharing some time with us today. Thanks mate.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Great, thanks very much Luke and it’s been good to be able to address the Ports Australia conference today. We know that Australia has the fifth largest freight task in the world and that almost all of our exports and imports go through our ports. They are important pieces of infrastructure and we need a national approach which makes sure that we preserve corridors, both rail and road to our ports, that we make sure maximise the economic value of our ports. And here of course in Darwin, the city which is closest to, as Luke said, the growing populations and the dynamism that is the Asia Pacific-Indian Ocean region, we have enormous opportunity and Darwin as a city can benefit substantially, which is why we will do a City Partnership with Darwin. We know that it’s now 498 days since the Government announced its City Deal for Darwin but not a single dollar has flowed as a result of that announcement.

What we’ve seen is ministers come and go, but no action. What we need is real action to give support to a relationship between the local government here in Darwin and Palmerston, between the Territory Government and with our national Government. At the same time as we’ve seen nothing happen with the City Deal what we know is that the recent Budget on infrastructure would be devastating for the Northern Territory. This year there’s some $222 million allocated for infrastructure grants to the Northern Territory. That falls over the Forward Estimates down to some $61 million by 2021-22. What that means is less jobs in the short term, but importantly it means that that delay in infrastructure where the Government simply isn’t putting the dollars into either Darwin or into regional Northern Territory will have real consequences for economic growth in the long-term.

JOURNALIST: There’s been a lot of discussion about population recently and Alan Tudge, the new Minister, has said the other day that we need to get more people to move to the regions. What’s Labor’s plan to get people to move to places like Darwin?

ALBANESE: Well we certainly support regional economic development and one of the ways that you do that is by making sure that there are jobs and growth in the regions. The INPEX proposal of course was driven by the Northern Territory Labor Government and what we did when we were in office as well was to provide support through infrastructure investment. That’s the way in which you expand job opportunities. If the opportunities are here in the Territory people will come. I met with Eva Lawler, the new Transport Minister, just yesterday to talk about ways in which we can co-operate as an incoming Labor Government if we’re elected, either in a month or in a few months’ time, to make sure that we’re in a position of preparedness for that. And certainly Labor understands that we need to take pressure off Sydney and Melbourne. We’ve been saying that for some time – that there are some parts of Australia that are suffering from urban congestion while other parts of Australia are crying out for increases in the population and we would work with the Territory Government to make sure that that happened.

JOURNALIST: How much money would a Labor Government commit to a City Deal for Darwin?

ALBANESE: Well what we would do – we’re going to wait and see what it is that comes out of this process, if anything, from the current Federal Government when it comes to its City Deal. What we’ve said is that we’ll honour anything that is put on the table, but we’ll sit down and we’ll enhance it. We don’t want to just throw money at anything with a blank cheque. What we’ll do though is sit down and talk with the councils and with the Territory Government about what is missing from any City Deal that’s done and work with them and work in an independent way as well – we’ll have guidelines. There are no guidelines at the moment for the City Deal. What we’ve got at the moment is a headline of a City Deal coming and then nothing to back it up and Luke Gosling has done an amazing job of raising in the national Parliament on a weekly basis the fact that the City Deal hasn’t led to anything.

JOURNALIST: The Territory Government’s asked for $100 million. They’ve put on the table. Would you honour that?

ALBANESE: Look we will honour any deal that’s done. But we’ll also sit down at appropriate times and make announcements on the basis of when we see what’s actually in the City Deal that the Government has said they’re proposing. It’s the case that we can’t get ahead of that because we’re not the Government. So we’ll wait and see what’s on the table there. But we’ll work with as well – one of the things that I know the Territory is looking at is a revitalisation of the CBD, that’s important. We know that a vibrant CBD is important for a city and they’re looking at all sorts of things, including the way that the roads are configured, the greening up of the city, they’ve of course begun construction on moving some of the car parking underground. They’re all good measures but we’ll sit down and talk with them and develop a true partnership between the three levels of government. I think that is good policy and that’s something that people want to see.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the Indigenous envoy role for Tony Abbott?

ALBANESE: Well this would appear to be a make work program for Tony Abbott to keep him out of trouble, to send him away from party room meetings. We have a ministry, we have a cabinet, then we have an outer ministry, then we have parliamentary secretaries who’ve been renamed assistant ministers. It would appear that Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce have been appointed to these roles to give them travel rights, so that they’re travelling away from Canberra and their own party members. Now I understand why members of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government Cabinet would want these people away from them, but I think that Indigenous affairs is a serious issue. There are real issues out there and one of the things that I think people will be concerned about is Tony Abbott’s comments about people who live in communities taking lifestyle choices that shouldn’t be given appropriate funding.

And his attitude towards that was patronising towards those communities and I think they will react with some concern that this uncertain role for Tony Abbott has been created at a cost to the taxpayer. I’d rather that the money that will be spent as a result of creating this sort of fourth tier now – not quite a parliamentary secretary – for someone who was a former Prime Minister adds nothing. I think it’s very unfortunate.

JOURNALIST: If this is a job to keep aspiring leaders away from the main game does that mean you’ll be taking it on if Labor wins the election?

ALBANESE: Well I don’t think that’s a question that is deserving of an answer.

JOURNALIST: Do you still have aspirations for the leadership of the Labor Party?

ALBANESE: The fact is if you’ve been paying any attention at all in the last fortnight you’ll see two sides of politics. One side that’s a rabble; that’s engaged in chaos and in-fighting and another side that’s united; that has people that are doing their job. This Ports Australia conference was titled, my speech, ‘A view from the other side’. That assumed that there would be a Government minister here to present the Government view.

There is no government minister here. There’s no government presentation here. This is a conference that takes place every two years about Australia’s ports and the Government is so in chaos that they can’t send anyone to address the conference. What I have done, and will continue to do, is do the best of my capacity and the job that I’ve been given. And that job of Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities, Regional Development and Shadow Minister for Tourism. There’s only one thing I want in terms of a title and that’s to get rid of that nasty ‘shadow’ word at the beginning of my title. That’s something that I do constructively each and every day and I think the internal functioning of the Labor Party contrasts substantially with the chaos that is in the Coalition Government.

JOURNALIST: You said in your speech though that the events of the past week have done damage to all politicians, both sides. How much damage do you think it’s done to your side of politics? Not just the events of the past week, but the events of the past eight years.

ALBANESE: I’ve said a number of times that the events of 2010 were regrettable. I said at the time that we would do damage to two Labor Prime Ministers on that night. I stand by that statement. I think that statement has been proven to be correct. The judgement that I put on that night has proven to be correct. The fact is though, that the past week, what a whole lot of people have looked on at is they’re angry with the Government. But I think it would be a triumph of hope over reality for any politician to think that the standing of the political profession has been uplifted in the last week.

The fact is that we’ve all been marked down because what Australians have seen is a Government that’s given up on governing. That’s why I think there’s a need for a Federal Election to be called because Scott Morrison does not have a mandate as Prime Minister. You now have the frankly quite strange circumstances of former Prime Ministers and former Deputy Prime Ministers being declared ‘envoys’ in order to keep them busy. You had the Parliament shut down last week for the first time in history, as far as I’m aware since Federation, just shut down. That was the Government putting its hand up and saying this governing business is too hard for us. Well it is too hard for them; that’s why they should call an election.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask on the envoys again, what does it say about the Federal Government’s approach to indigenous affairs if they see it as something to keep Tony Abbott out of the office?

ALBANESE: I think it’s very unfortunate that the Federal Government thinks that this is something that is just a way to distract Tony Abbott and I wonder what Nigel Scullion, the Minister, thinks of this. What’s the relationship between the two? Does Tony Abbott have any authority as an envoy? We don’t have envoys in this country. We can’t just make up titles. Government has structure – there’s a Prime Minister, there’s a Cabinet. There’s an Expenditure Review Committee process. There’s an outer ministry. There are assistant Ministers now. This is a very strange decision by the Government but every action of this Government is driven by its internal processes, its internal chaos. It’s not driven by the needs of the Australian people. It’s not driven by the national interest and that’s why the Government should go to an election because they quite clearly are incapable of governing in the national interest.

Now it’s all just about how do we keep a lid on these internal divisions, the anger that we’ve seen. You had Four Corners on Monday night, the next working day, literally from when we had a change of Prime Minister and a change of Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, on the record putting it all out there that division. And people like Concetta Fierravanti-Wells putting on the record her view that the needs of the Australian people aren’t what should drive the Government; they’re the needs of the so-called base. And when they’re talking about the base, what they’re really talking about is the hard right members of the NSW branch of the Liberal Party who have a view of Australia, and indeed the world, on social policy, on economic policy and on climate policy that is so far removed from modern Australia that it just puts them totally out of touch. And that’s the view that could lead people to have an insurrection against a Prime Minister who was preferred Prime Minister in every poll in which he led the Liberal Party with a guy in Peter Dutton who can’t reach double figures as preferred Prime Minister. These people are completely out of touch.

JOURNALIST: In this climate though, where the general public is so fed up with Prime Ministers being rolled by eternal warring parties, does it hurt your side of politics that the man who is in charge – Bill Shorten – was instrumental in the removal of Kevin Rudd and then of Julia Gillard?

ALBANESE: I think people are focused on what happened in the last fortnight. In the last fortnight, what they’ve seen is that the Liberal Party has engaged in the tearing down of a Prime Minister and of a Government. What the Labor Party did in 2013 is change our rules, when I was the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party very proudly, to give all our members a say, to establish a process and, more importantly, a culture. The culture of the Labor Party has been that we’ve worked each and every day as a team. I’m very proud to be part of that team and we’ve been working in the national interest. Bill Shorten deserves credit as the Leader for that as does, though, all of the Labor team whether it be Luke Gosling here in Darwin, working for the interests of the people of Darwin, working for his electorate. That’s what we’re focussed on. That’s what we’ll continue to focus on. Thanks very much.