Feb 6, 2011

Transcript of Doorstop interview – Glasshouse Cafe, Marrickville

Subject: Local Marrickville residents volunteer to help flood victims; Abbott’s failure to detail his Budget cuts; Abbott uses floods to solicit for political donations

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m here today with Hellen McGlade, of Marrickville, and a range of volunteers. 50 volunteers organised by Hellen will be door knocking people in their streets, collecting clothing, crockery, and other essential items for the benefit of the victims of the floods in Queensland. This is a great example of what’s happening from the bottom up in local communities. Australians doing their bit to help their fellow Australians at a time of need.

At the same time Tony Abbott, again, failed to do what was appropriate on this morning’s Insiders program. Three times he was asked ‘was it more important to donate to the floods or to donate to the Liberal Party?’ following his email requesting that people fund the Liberal Party to campaign against the floods levy.

Three times Tony Abbot refused to say that it was more important to prioritise the victims of the floods, rather than provide money for his campaign against the floods levy for the Liberal Party.

If Tony Abbott was a real leader, what he would have done was simply say ‘We got it wrong. It was a mistake,’ apologise, and move on. Instead, days later he has refused to do that.

At the same time he, again today, refused to outline any of the cost cutting he would make rather than support the flood levy. It is ten days since he gave a commitment that he would outline the cuts that he would make to the Budget.

We have now had meetings of the Shadow Cabinet, but after ten days we haven’t heard any detail from Tony Abbott.

Tony Abbott has exposed himself on this issue, as an opportunist, incapable of the sort of leadership that Australia requires at a time of crisis, such as we’ve seen with these natural disasters in Queensland and in other states.

JOURNALIST: What do you think people would be thinking about Tony Abbott’s refusal to apologise?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I think anyone who saw the program this morning would have the same reaction that I had, which was, surely he would get it right the next time round. But the fact is he also refused to say, whether or not he had seen the PS.

He conceded that he had seen the letter before it went up on a website, well the PS, under his signature, is a part of that letter. He refused to answer those questions directly, but it was just extraordinary, that, faced with a simple question, repeatedly asked, should people give money to the flood victims, or give money to the Liberal Party? he refused to answer that question, and indeed said that, and I quote, “I’m just not going to get into this game that you are playing.” And then he said also: “I don’t want people to have to make those sorts of choices. I want people to give generously to the causes that they believe in.”

Well its extraordinary, at a time where Australians have been very generous, whether it be individuals or companies, where Australians are deciding to do their bit to assist, particularly with the Queensland flood victims, such as people in this community here in Marrickville.

I think that contrasts very starkly with the selfishness and the opportunism of Tony Abbott.

JOURNALIST: He [Tony Abbott] reckons he does have a plan. Part of that would be the low interest $100,000 loans to Queensland small businesses to help them get back on their feet. Do you think it is a good idea?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well of course, again, there he is behind.

The fact is that small business loans are available already of $250,000 – 150 per cent more than Tony Abbott has called for. He simply isn’t across the detail, and when your sole political position is to oppose, oppose and oppose again, then you don’t have to worry about the detail.

Tony Abbott, I think, has been extraordinarily sloppy in his approach to these issues, and his call for $100,000 loans when $250,000 loans are already available, is an example of this which has existed since this crisis began.

The fact is, he is simply not across the detail and is clutching at straws, and at the same time he is refusing to put forward a single cut or saving that he would make.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that this is putting pressure on his leadership at this point in time?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well there is no doubt that we have read today that there are ructions in the Liberal Party, about the way that Tony Abbott has responded to this flood crisis. I think that Australians would be saying to themselves, “Well we expect a certain amount of opposition from an Opposition leader, but there are some times, such as with this natural disaster, where leaders from across the political spectrum should rise above the fray.”

Tony Abbott can’t even rise above the fray, to the extent of saying that it is more important to give money to the flood appeals, than it is to give money to the Liberal Party to fight the flood levy, which would go towards fixing infrastructure in Queensland.

JOURNALIST: Is the Government prepared to consider the plan, once it is released, and have a good look at it, and see if there is anything in there that might be of value?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Tony Abbott doesn’t have a plan. He’s had weeks to develop something other than saying what he is against. It would appear today that Tony Abbott’s only plan is to raise money for the Liberal Party, so that he can fight the flood levy, which will go towards fixing Queensland infrastructure. That would appear to be Tony Abbott’s only plan.

Today, he had the opportunity, in an extensive interview on Insiders, to outline any alternatives that he had. He failed to do so. Indeed he just backed in, his quite disgraceful appeal to raise money for the Liberal Party, using the floods, as the hook, in order to raise money for the Liberal Party.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible… ALP review?]

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I haven’t seen the review yet. I am a member of the ALP’s National Executive. When I see the report, I will read it, and I will give consideration to it at that time, but at the moment all you have is speculation.

JOURNALIST: It also criticizes the dumping of the ETS and ALP party polling. Any reaction to those two things.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I will wait and have a look at the actual review, rather than the reports of the review. I think that is appropriate, and I will respond then.

This has been a serious review. I have given a submission to the review conducted by Mr Bracks, Senator Faulkner and Mr Carr. It will be considered by the National Executive in a couple of week’s time.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

ANTHONY ALBANESE: In a couple of week’s time, the report will be provided to the Executive. I think it is appropriate that as a member of the Executive, I consider the report when I have received it. I haven’t received it yet, but it will be discussed at the National Executive in a couple of week’s time. Thank you.