Oct 28, 2010

Transcript of Doorstop Interview – Private Members Business

Subject: Private Members Business; BER; Christopher Pyne; gay marriage; airport security

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Today we had the first votes on private members’ business under the new parliamentary procedures. This is a parliament that is functioning well. This is a parliament that is passing the Government’s legislation but also allowing issues of concern to private members to be brought up.

Today we had the carriage of the private member’s bill from Andrew Wilkie to shield journalists. This is a good, progressive piece of legislation that is in the interests of openness and democracy, and in the interests of protecting journalists’ professional integrity. The Government welcomes this legislation and that is why we supported it.

There was also a second private member’s bill advocated for this morning or we thought it would be advocated for. That is the private member’s bill moved by Christopher Pyne to have an inquiry into the BER program.

Now we’ve heard a lot of squawking from Christopher Pyne but when it came to the substance Christopher Pyne couldn’t drag himself into the chamber to actually call for a vote on this legislation.

This shows that their BER campaign has no substance – it’s all about stunts. The fact that with a lot of notice, a lot of build-up, they simply couldn’t have two people even bother to call for a division on this bill is quite extraordinary.

Christopher Pyne is the Shadow Education Minister and the Manager of Opposition Business and he couldn’t be bothered going into the Parliament to support his own private member’s bill, the first private member’s bill moved by the Coalition.

It shows how much it is a stunt rather than an issue of substance.

Mr Pyne also then says that he inadvertently missed the vote. Of course Christopher Pyne was the person who wanted to change standing orders so it’s more difficult to recommit a vote. But because the Government maintains our position that if someone inadvertently misses a vote they should be allowed to recommit, we certainly would provide avenues for Mr Pyne to recommit his bill and explain to the House why it is that he couldn’t be bothered to be there the first time and certainly I hope that after Question Time Mr Pyne takes up the Government’s invitation given that we had chaos within the Coalition this morning.

First I was asked by Mr Pyne if we’d agree to a re-committal. I said we, of course, would consider it consistent with our views that we’ve expressed. Then later on Mr Pyne indicated that they weren’t interested in recommitting the vote any more.

So what exactly was this private member’s bill about if they actually don’t even want a vote on the bill before the Parliament?

It’s up to Mr Pyne to explain to the Parliament that this afternoon.

We also had a number of private members’ motions considered by the Parliament. As I’ve said before, there’ll be votes that we win, there’ll be votes that we lose. It’s an indication of the Parliament’s views and there were three motions dealt with this morning.

It’s interesting that on the motion of asylum-seekers there was a lot of division on the Coalition side and people should have a look at the footage of the Parliament when the Speaker, Harry Jenkins, was trying to get out of the Opposition whether they actually wanted a division on their own motion – first they said yes, then they said no, then they said yes, then they said no.

It was just chaos and silence for a period of about 90 seconds while they had a little leadership group meeting between, you know, the Leader of the Opposition and all the people who want to be the Leader of the Opposition; between the Shadow Treasurer and the person who wants to knock off Julie Bishop so that they can be the Shadow Treasurer and between all the candidates for all the positions that make up the modern Liberal Party here in the 43rd Parliament.

But it’s interesting that in order to stop their own members crossing the floor they chose two pairs this morning. Russell Broadbent and Judi Moylan just happen to be paired.

During the divisions, one of the Coalition Members said to me, you know it was a pair for one of your people and, well, it was you who clearly planned it. So unless they’re suggesting that about 10 months ago Tanya Plibersek said, well, there might be a vote late in November and we should make sure that Judi Moylan get paired so I’ll just give birth in nine months time and need a pair, I mean, it is just absurd.

So here we have an Opposition this morning that is in chaos. They clearly are spending more time backstabbing and backgrounding to you good folk than they are on worrying about their own job and being good parliamentarians. We saw that on display for all to see today.

But I look forward to Mr Pyne who yesterday was backgrounding, completely without basis; sent a letter to the Speaker alleging that I had said to him – didn’t send it to me – that I had said that the Government would determine whether there were votes on private members’ business or not.

You all know that I couldn’t do that if I wanted to. There’s very clear rules and procedures been put in place. Mr Pyne knows that, everyone else knows that. We’d had discussion with Mr Wilkie about when his bill would be scheduled. There is nothing to fear in the Government’s view for more openness and more votes on the floor of the Parliament.

QUESTION: Was the private member’s bill this morning, was it a deliberate stuff – was it a stuff-up or the Opposition is claiming it was deliberate and they now want to put it through the Senate?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: They can’t seriously be claiming that.

QUESTION: That’s what Mr Pyne is saying.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Christopher Pyne should go back to his mentor’s comments about what his mum told him – Peter Costello – parents teaching their kids not to tell lies. He knows that’s not true. Anyone who looks at the footage of Christopher Pyne rushing into the Parliament asking people what happened, what happened, the fact that he asked for it to be recommitted, knows that’s absurd.

QUESTION: What happens with the youth allowance now? This has got budgetary implications, of course.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, it doesn’t.

QUESTION: Doesn’t it?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s a motion. There are motions in the Senate every day. Every day there are motions. They’ll come and go. People will have their views. Some things we’ll agree on, some things we won’t.

QUESTION: Are you saying that the Government will ignore a motion of the Parliament?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The fact is that motions are carried by the Senate all the time. Now motions will be carried by the House of Reps from time to time.

QUESTION: What do you make of Andrew Wilkie’s comments, I think Adam Bandt’s comments is another example of Labor’s political lobotomy, though? Do you agree with those?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I didn’t hear the comments.

QUESTION: Mr Albanese, on that theme, in a couple of week the gay marriage motion is going to be discussed. It’s about getting the temperature in your electorate – your electorate’s temperature is pretty strong on that issue. What will you be saying?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m not a private member. I’m a member of the Government. I’m a member of the executive.

My views on issues of sexuality are very clear. I refer you to my first speech in 1996, I must say, raising these issues well before some other people were raising them.

I introduced the first private member’s bill into the House of Representatives ever to talk about sexuality – the Same Sex Superannuation Bill in 1998.

I of course understood that private members’ business couldn’t impact on revenue so it excluded public servants. That is now a reality. I’m very proud that I’ve been a part of pushing for 84 pieces of legislation to be carried.

I talk to my constituents all the time. I don’t need a resolution of Parliament to talk to my constituents. I engage with them, people know my views. I’ve made my views very clear, will continue to make my views very clear – consistent with what I said in my first speech.

QUESTION: Now that you are…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I refer you to my speech at the last ALP National Conference at the last conference. I will continue to be someone who puts forward their views and achieves change by being a part of the Government.

Change occurs when you’re sitting round the Cabinet table and when you have real influence.

QUESTION: Given that you’re bound by Cabinet solidarity then, obviously that means you wouldn’t be free to vote on presumably legislation but…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, there’s no legislation before the Parliament.

QUESTION: Exactly. So do you think that you’d be able to vote for this motion?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: There’s no legislation before the Parliament. I haven’t examined the motion, to be honest. You know, I am a Cabinet Minister, I have a busy schedule. So I haven’t seen the wording of the resolution.

I’ll view things along with the Labor Party when they’re raised but if Patricia’s characterisation is right, and I’m sure that it would be in terms of taking the temperature of the electorate, I talk to my electorate every day.

Last Sunday I was at a stall at the Marrickville Festival. I talked to hundreds if not four figures of people during that day. I’ll continue to do that and I’ll continue to engage with my electorate.

QUESTION: Could I quickly ask you though, the British Airways boss saying that he thinks that airports are being too over-the-top with their security, basically pandering to what the Americans want. What do you think of that? Are some airports being too over-the-top in the way we deal with security, particularly terrorism issues?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I have a very clear position which is that the first priority has to be safety and security. If you don’t get that right all the rest doesn’t matter.

There are real threats to our security. The Government takes them seriously and we’ve put in place, through our aviation security package, measures that I think get the balance right between maximising our security but also making sure our airports and our airlines function effectively.

I believe that there’s a great deal of support from the travelling public for security measures that make them safe.