Transcript of doorstop interview with Federal Labor candidate for Bennelong Jason Li – Eastwood, Sydney
Subjects: Jason Li; Tony Abbott’s ‘fraudband’ policy and small business; Election 2013; Labor’s super-fast NBN; The Budget; Joe Hockey avoids costings scrutiny; marriage equality; Malcolm Turnbull; Labor pre-selections; second Sydney airport
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m very pleased to be joined here today by Jason Li, the Labor candidate for Bennelong. It is fantastic that we have been able to attract a candidate of Jason’s calibre to join Kevin Rudd’s team as part of a Federal Labor Government. It’s a big challenge to win a seat like Bennelong. But I have no doubt that the quality of Jason’s candidature, his ability to connect with people, which I’ve seen since way back last century when Jason was one of the leaders of the Australian Republican Movement, and also very engaged with the Ethnic Communities’ Council as a youth representative.
Since that time Jason has gone over the globe literally – most recently in China. Jason understands that in a globalised world, Australia must compete economically. And that’s why it’s appropriate to have this press conference about the National Broadband Network here in Bennelong with Jason.
The National Broadband Network is about overcoming the tyranny of distance that has put us at a disadvantage for so long. The National Broadband Network allows us to overcome the vast distances across this sparsely populated continent but also to engage with the world so that whether you’re in Eastwood here in Sydney or in Tasmania, you can compete in Singapore, in Beijing, in New York or in London.
So that you can connect up with each other and with the world – and there’s nowhere that’s more important than with small business. Small business needs to be connected up with its customers and with markets, and to do that it needs high–speed broadband. Under Labor’s plan, high–speed broadband will go to every home and to every small business. Yet under the Coalition’s ‘fraud-band’ plan, what they will do is hit customers with a charge of up to $5,000. That means Australia’s 1.9 million small businesses will be slugged a total of $9.5 billion just to connect and compete.
The problem is that the Coalition doesn’t understand that this is as essential a service as being connected up to the water supply or to being connected up with energy.
That’s why this week I think they showed yet again that they just don’t get it. Just yesterday, Senator Abetz, who would be the leader in the Senate if Tony Abbott is successful at the election, said that putting fibre to the home through the National Broadband Network is like putting a Rolls Royce in every driveway. They just don’t get it. It (the NBN) is in fact putting fibre in every home and in every small business whether you have a Rolls Royce in the driveway or not. It is for every single Australian to benefit from high–speed broadband through the National Broadband Network.
What we know is those small businesses who are connected up are more profitable, employ more people and are more engaged in growth. The National Broadband Network is essential for that. It’s not an optional extra; it is an essential part of engagement in the 21st century just like 100 years ago copper was an essential part of growth in what was the copper economy. But that’s 100 years old. We’ve moved on and we need to compete, and the businesses here in Eastwood are an example of that.
Can I say also that overnight I note the comments of the new Seven West Chief Executive Tim Worner about the National Broadband Network being essential in developing new technologies, Hybrid broadband television for example. What the National Broadband Network does is bring opportunities that are only limited by our imagination.
It’s as silly opposing it as those people who said that computers weren’t needed in every home – and that was said just a couple of decades ago. We need to embrace the future, we need to embrace the jobs that are there and we need to support the Council of Small Business of Australia’s comments when they say that there would be a multi–billion dollar impost on small business if it (the NBN) isn’t delivered.
I might ask Jason if he wants to say a couple of things.
JASON YAT–SEN LI: Thank very much, Deputy Prime Minister. I’m extremely honoured to be part of the Labor team and the candidate here in Bennelong. We’re all about supporting small businesses and economic growth in this electorate so the work that Labor is doing around the NBN is so critically important. I don’t understand why anybody would want to invest in out-dated technology, that doesn’t make any sense to me. Let’s put the best future–proof technology in to support small businesses and make sure they’re connected to the global economy and they’re connected to whatever future technologies, future developments may happen.
So I’m excited to be part of the Labor team and we’re really looking forward to working our butts off in this electorate.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Hear, hear. That’s a technical term that Jason just used. Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Deputy Prime Minister. John Alexander holds Bennelong for the Liberals on a margin of 4.52 per cent. Is it winnable for the – for Labor with the Rudd/Yat–sen Li combo or would [indistinct] 2007 an aberration?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: You bet it’s winnable. We’re about securing a majority Labor Government. If people didn’t think we were serious, have a look at the quality of our candidate and campaign here in Bennelong. We are absolutely determined to win electorates such as Bennelong because this is a part of what we need to do in order to secure a majority Labor Government. It’s tough. We need to win seats in order to secure that majority. Therefore we’re not just going out and trying to defend existing seats such as mine. We’re out there to actively win seats here in NSW with Bennelong, with Macquarie, with Gilmore and other seats, and in Queensland where I was yesterday, there is enormous opportunity for us to win seats at the election.
This next election will be about who has a plan for the future; who is prepared to embrace the future; who is best positioned to be positive; who will run a strong economy; who will bring opportunity through plans such as the Better Schools Plan.
Or an Opposition that just say ‘no’ to everything; that are negative and have been negative since 2010. They have been engaged in the longest dummy spit in Australian political history.
So John Alexander has a high profile. But people will ask themselves who is actually best to deliver for small businesses here in Bennelong and the local community – every local school will benefit from our Better Schools Plan, which is opposed by the Federal Opposition – who’s best to ensure there’s continued jobs growth; who’s best to embrace the future. And when they ask themselves that, I’m very confident that the answer they’ll come up with is Jason Li as part of Kevin Rudd’s team.
QUESTION: In regards to the election there’s speculation that it won’t be held until later this year. What’s your response to that?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The election will be held on a Saturday. It will be held in accordance with the Constitution. There’s no rush. In accordance with the Constitution, the Government’s governing. We’re putting measures in places. You’ve seen that during the first four weeks of the new Government. We have a lot to do and we intend to continue getting on with doing that, and then the election will be held in accordance with the Constitution.
No one in the Government has had a ‘rush to the polls’ mentality.
It’s a bit amusing I’ve got to say given the media, when we named the date of September 14, spent some months saying ‘why did you tell us the date?’ But ever since we said that the Government will consider, at the appropriate time, the date of the election, the media has said, ‘why won’t you give us the date for the election’.
Just be patient, it’ll be held in accordance with the Constitution on a Saturday, and it’ll be before or after Souths win their 21st Premiership, which I say even though this isn’t Souths territory.
QUESTION: Mr Rudd is telling world leaders that he’s going to be attending the G20 summit in Russia…
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, because there’s a media report doesn’t mean it’s true.
QUESTION: Is Mr Rudd under pressure from the Party to call an [indistinct] election?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No.
QUESTION: This is the last weekend that you could call an election for August. Do you have an announcement for it?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No. Be patient.
QUESTION: Is that hinting then that it will be held later in the year?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: You can try, and that’s not a bad effort, but the truth is it’ll be held on a Saturday. The Government hasn’t sat down and talked about dates. We haven’t even got to that point. What we’re doing is putting in place the changes that we believe are necessary. We’ve been governing. We’re out here today talking about the National Broadband Network.
I noticed that we have had various speculations about the NBN as well. The NBN is a vital project, and guess what? Each and every week and each and every day, there’s more homes connecting up with the NBN.
This week I’ve had turn–ons of the National Broadband Network here in NSW and in Melbourne. It’s absolutely vital.
We are not concentrating on what the date of the election will be. We’ll have that discussion at some time, myself and the Prime Minister, and of course the Prime Minister gets to determine the date. But Parliament isn’t due to go back until August 20. It is scheduled to go back. We’ll wait and see.
QUESTION: In regards to another matter, the Expenditure Review Committee met yesterday. When will you be announcing spending cuts?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We announce economic decisions when they’re made and when it’s appropriate to make those announcements. Look it is no secret that we’ve had meetings to deal with firstly the carbon price issue and to find those savings.
What I find fascinating is yesterday’s statement by Mr Hockey, who’s walked away from any budget responsibility whatsoever, having had a multi–billion dollar failing during the last election when, you might recall, there were proceedings against the company that plucked figures from the back of an envelope without doing proper costings. It’s no wonder that Mr Hockey fears proper scrutiny. But for him to say that he will not submit any costings to Treasury – that he will not engage in the process which occurs around FIFO days into an election campaign – is quite extraordinary.
I mean, these were procedures set up by Mr Costello. They were set up so that an opposition, or a government for that matter, couldn’t just pluck figures out of the air and make promises without saying where the money was coming from. Now we know Mr Hockey starts with a $70 billion black–hole, and that is before the recent comments he has made, either rejecting savings that the Government has made or increasing expenditure, which seems to go up day by day.
What the Government has got is a responsible position, whereby for any new expenditure we have to find offsets. That’s the responsible thing to do.
One of the things that the next election will be about is a Government that has a serious plan, that’s prepared to subject itself to scrutiny and an Opposition that just make things up as they go along.
QUESTION: Where are you looking at finding those savings?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’ll make announcements when they’re made. I don’t engage and never have, on the record or off the record, in speculation about budget matters.
QUESTION: On another topic, in NSW there seems to be a strong push for same–sex marriage legislation to be put through Parliament later this year [indistinct]?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, as an individual Labor of course has a conscience vote on this issue. I’m pleased that in NSW Barry O’Farrell has supported a conscience vote for NSW members of the Liberal Party. Here we have a cross-party group coming together in the NSW upper house, people from both sides of politics and the cross–benchers, to try to advance a reform. My view is pretty simple: it’s a good thing when you can have more agreement and more consensus rather than conflict over these issues. And it’s a good thing that conscience votes are granted on these issues. Tony Abbott needs to grant a conscience vote to his members, or whoever the Liberal Party leader is after the next election – or before the next election for that matter, given Malcolm Turnbull’s statements.
If he hasn’t reminded you today that he’s more popular than Tony Abbott, if you pay attention I’m sure he will. Just ask him, he’ll tell you.
So these are issues that will be dealt with, and they should be dealt with as a matter of conscience. I’m on the record, and voted accordingly last time, as a supporter of same–sex marriage. But I respect the right of every individual to come to those decisions themselves.
QUESTION: [Indistinct] intense pre–selection lobbying for Greg Combet’s former seat of Charlton?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, it’ll be over soon. There’s a ballot, there’s a democratic ballot. The Labor Party, importantly, has democratic processes. We have them in Charlton today, rank and file members of the Labor Party will be choosing their candidate. That’s a great thing.
Here in Bennelong, Jason was pre–selected unopposed for the seat of Bennelong. That’s a credit to him. What that does mean is that when you have proper processes, good quality candidates come through. I’m confident that there will be a very good candidate, chosen from a very good field, in Charlestown.
QUESTION: Premier Barry O’Farrell came out yesterday saying the Federal Government is treating those like mugs regarding a second Sydney airport promised in the next term. He said basically you had six years to do it – what’s – are you treating people like mugs?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, you know, poor old Barry. He doesn’t seem to understand that airports these days are leased privately. He doesn’t understand that.
His option for a second Sydney airport is one not even in NSW, let alone in Sydney. It’s in Canberra. I’m flying down to Canberra tomorrow night because it’s fogged out in the morning for most days around this time of the year, and it is not even in NSW, let alone in Sydney.
So I understand Barry’s a bit uncomfortable talking about reality when it comes to a second airport, and I note that none of his senior ministers support his position. Not one. Not Mike Baird. None of them support this position. Nor does the business community, nor does anyone else. So I understand that.
What I’ve said, simply, is that Sydney does need a second airport, it needs one sooner rather than later. That’s why prior to the last election, I established a taskforce, a joint study chaired by the secretary of my Department, and the secretary of the NSW Department of Planning. It also included the secretary of the NSW Department of Transport. What that study did was come up with a proposal that we took, to further look at Wilton as a site for a second Sydney airport. You do need to go through those processes. That’s what we’re doing. That’s an appropriate thing.
If you say no to a second Sydney airport, you’re saying no to jobs, you’re saying no to economic growth, and you’re saying no to Sydney’s position as a global city.
But there’s another thing Barry O’Farrell has said, and it’s very important that people in the electorate of Bennelong know this. He has said get rid of the curfew at Sydney Airport. He is the only political leader, state or federal, who is opposed to the curfew between 11pm and 6am at Sydney Airport. And if you had a combination of Barry O’Farrell pushing that, along with the influence that Max Moore–Wilton seems to hold over Liberal party policy – and I note his comments over recent times – then what you would have if the curfew goes and if you have no second Sydney airport is an increased concentration of noise. It’s about time the Liberal Party made their position clear to the people here in Bennelong.