Subjects; Tasmanian infrastructure; tourism funding; citizenship; Sam Dastyari; rise of far-right; One Nation.
ROSS HART, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR BASS: Well welcome everybody here to sunny Launceston. I’ve welcomed Anthony Albanese here today to talk about infrastructure. We have a particular issue here in Launceston in the sense that we’ve finally got private investment flowing into this city which is a fantastic development. We have tourism developments occurring around this area and of course we’ve got the massive investment, government investment in the university project, the university transformation project which Labor committed to in the 2016 election.
The issue that we’ve identified however is the fact that there’s a delay in the rollout of public investment, public infrastructure here matching the private infrastructure. We strongly believe that government needs to lead and provide for this public infrastructure to enable the private sector to invest, particularly in tourism, particularly in the education area, with the UTAS investment. We’ve got the Charles Street Bridge here, adjacent to this site here which is going to be an infrastructure bottleneck. We’ve got the Tamar River sewage, which is a perennial issue. Labor made a commitment at the last election around funding UTAS but also funding important infrastructure with sewerage here. Now Anthony, welcome here to Launceston.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be here, Ross and it is good to be back in Launceston once again on this fantastic sunny day. It’s a sunny day, but it’s a day whereby Darren Chester is coming to Launceston again without any funding commitments from the government. And indeed, in its first three years the Federal Coalition Government has underspent its own infrastructure budget here in Tasmania by some $92 million over that period. Over the next four years, if you look at the Budget, infrastructure investment in Tasmania will fall from $175 million down to $62 million in 2020-21. That represents funding falling off a cliff. That’s less jobs, less economic infrastructure, and less growth here in Northern Tasmania. And it’s important that the Commonwealth Government do its bit.
There’s not a single major infrastructure project underway in Tasmania that was not funded by the former Federal Labor Government way back in 2013 or earlier. That’s not good enough. The sort of cuts that we’ve seen are one thing. The fact that they’re underspending their own underwhelming Budget by $92 million over their first three Budgets is an indictment of their approach.
It’s one thing for Darren Chester and other Coalition Government ministers to come here to inspect works that were funded by the former Federal Labor Government as Mr Chester will do today. It’s another thing to actually come here and put some real money on the table. That hasn’t happened and it’s one of the reasons why Tasmanians have rejected the Coalition and they rejected them at the last federal election, and they need to do much better for Tasmania.
REPORTER: So are you saying that the Labor Government funded the $500 million infrastructure upgrades on the Midland Highway?
ALBANESE: We funded absolutely, $500 million we put into the Midland Highway. That’s been cut by the current government by $100 million in their first Budget and that means less works can be rolled out on that project. Remember that Tony Abbott said the whole project could be duplicated for $400 million? He did that on the back of a coaster during a meeting when he came to Tasmania without any proper analysis. It’s quite clear that that wasn’t the case.
The $500 million that was in the Budget was for priority projects and the first thing they did was cut it. They cut money for the rail revitalisation scheme. They cut money from tourism infrastructure projects that had been funded. And they haven’t put any dollars back. At the last election they did match Labor’s commitment for UTAS here in Northern Tasmania but they did that reluctantly, dragged kicking and screaming because of the commitments that Federal Labor had already made.
REPORTER: So what specific federal, what specific major infrastructure projects would Federal Labor commit to?
ALBANESE: Well, one of the things that we know in this city that’s required is increasing work around the riverfront here related to sewage. We funded some works when we were in government. We committed to more further works at the last election. That’s an example. We put money in there for further studies on the Launceston Bypass that was cut by the government. We put additional money and said we’d put it back, the cuts that were there for the Midland Highway. Tasmania needs good infrastructure.
One of the things in particular that it needs is infrastructure related to tourism. You can see this beautiful setting here this morning. I flew in with people who were coming to this part of Tasmania to play golf, some of them said they were here for the weekend. I reminded them that it was Thursday and they said that’s exactly right. That’s a Tassie holiday weekend of four days. That’s dollars. That’s jobs being created. And there are proposals here from great Tasmanians like Mr Chromy and others putting their money in, their dollars, private sector infrastructure investment to boost tourism. What we need is the government to do its bit.
We at the last election of course committed to a substantial grant for Cradle Mountain. Cradle Mountain in the centre of Tasmania is a key drawcard. The walks around Tasmania that exist right around are increasingly an international destination. People will come and not just do one, they’ll come and do more than one at a time and then they’ll come back to do others. It is ridiculous that the Three Capes walk goes to two capes. We funded that project. It needs to be concluded in the south. But there are projects right around Tasmania that need that support. They’re the sort of commitments that we’ve been sitting down with the tourism sector about on an ongoing basis. I’m back in Tasmania next week talking to the tourism sector. I’m a regular visitor here because this state is so important for the national economy.
REPORTER: Some questions on citizenship, is Labor serious about being bipartisan on this?
ALBANESE: Labor is absolutely serious about this. This of course isn’t a product of Labor’s creation but Bill Shorten sat down with the Prime Minister yesterday and participated in a constructive manner. What’s very clear is that regardless of what people’s political opinions are, Australians who I have met, and I’ve been in three states in the last 24 hours, they want this cleared up. They want certainty.
That’s one of the reasons why Labor is saying don’t put it off and have special parliamentary sittings. Let’s get it done, there’s plenty of time between now and December 1 for members and senators to submit their paperwork in a process through the parliament and then let’s see where those cards fall.
REPORTER: What about sending Justine Keay to the High Court, would you nominate her to be referred to the High Court?
ALBANESE: We don’t believe there’s an issue with Justine Keay. Justine Keay has been very transparent about her circumstances.
REPORTER: She hasn’t released the documents.
ALBANESE: She’s been very transparent about –
REPORTER: That’s not transparent. She hasn’t released –
ALBANESE: She has been totally transparent about the dates and what occurred with her circumstances. The fact that she submitted all of that documentation well prior to the election because Labor has those processes in place. So let’s get the process done through the parliament for every member and senator so that we don’t have the ridiculous circumstances which are occurring now, which is you know, name an MP and throw out suggestions that someone’s from outer Mongolia or wherever and ask them to provide proof. The appropriate circumstances and what Labor will support is a process through the parliament as a matter of urgency.
It’s now November 9. There’s plenty of time between November 9 and December 1 for people to have their documentation in order and then it can be dealt with in the following normal sitting of parliament that’s happening next week. Why the government thinks it’s in its interests to create a climate of crisis by having special recalls of parliament, by putting these issues off, frankly is beyond me. That goes to Malcolm Turnbull’s judgement, and that’s the problem with this bloke who happens to be the Prime Minister, is his judgement is just so bad when it comes to dealing with these political issues and showing leadership.
REPORTER: So is it a case of double standards in relation to Justine Keay?
REPORTER 2: So he should resign then, in your opinion?
ALBANESE: One at a time. Of course Justine Keay has just been elected and is doing a fantastic job as the Member for Braddon. I expect she’ll be there for a long time yet.
REPORTER: Is it a case of double standards though in relation to Justine Keay?
ALBANESE: No, it’s not at all. Double standards where? With whom? In relation to who?
REPORTER: In relation to referring others to the High Court.
ALBANESE: Who, in particular? You’ve suggested there’s a double standard. There’s no double standard here. People who’ve referred themselves to the High Court who have had a doubt over them – in Malcolm Roberts’ case, that was pretty open and shut frankly – he sent an email vaguely to somewhere that no one ever received and that was the extent of his work. The two Greens senators hadn’t made any effort at all. Barnaby Joyce hadn’t made an effort at all and so the circumstances are very different in Justine Keay’s case.
REPORTER: Are Labor’s processes all they’re cracked up to be? Justine Keay was preselected on June 28, 2015 by Labor. She didn’t get her letter away ’til May 13, and then didn’t get it back until after June 9 when nominations closed. Now, you and Ms Plibersek the other day have relied on Labor’s processes as a reason for no doubt not doubting Justine but your processes aren’t as good as you think, are they?
ALBANESE: Our processes are transparent. They’re there. You just said there wasn’t transparency with Justine Keay but then you outlined precisely dates on which things occurred. That shows that the transparency is there and it shows that people have made the effort prior to nominations and in terms of the case that’s been dealt with in the past, that’s the precedent that was there.
Now, with regard to the recent High Court decision, they haven’t made a decision based upon circumstances such as Justine Keay. There is no parallel between any of the seven people who were before the High Court and Justine Keay. So they haven’t made a determination or a precedent based on that. What they’ve done, the only High Court decision that’s been made in similar circumstances to Justine Keay is one that says that she’s operated absolutely in accordance with the processes by submitting her documentation well prior to the election being called.
REPORTER: What do you made of the situation with Jacqui Lambie’s citizenship?
ALBANESE: Look, I’m not aware of those details but that’s why, and I’m not one who has gone around and pointed the finger at any member of parliament, but that’s why we have the processes need to be established and they need to be done as a matter of urgency, settled, so that the Senate can adopt a resolution when it sits next week about Senators having a process and Members can have a process by December 1 and then the parliament can act in the week afterward.
Let’s do this in an orderly, methodical, mature way. At the moment, what we have is a series of ‘what about person A, what about person B’. You know, I showed my birth certificate very early on when people raised questions about my circumstances. Indeed, there was a whole book written about my circumstances, available in all good bookstores including here in Launceston.
So you know, the sort of Josh Frydenberg circumstances I just think is absurd, that his circumstances have been questioned. But let’s get it in order in a mature way, get it done and why Malcolm Turnbull as the Prime Minister doesn’t see that that’s not just in the government’s interests, that’s in the parliament’s interests because that’s what the Australian public want and expect.
REPORTER: In relation to your processes, Susan Lamb as well didn’t write to the British Home Office until May either. Less than a month –
ALBANESE: The election was in July, mate.
REPORTER: – less than a month before –
ALBANESE: The election was in July and you just said, and you just said –
REPORTER: – the nominations closed, less than a month
ALBANESE: With due respect –
REPORTER: – when it has to be done so your processes aren’t much good either.
ALBANESE: You’re condemned by your own question.
REPORTER: No I’m not.
ALBANESE: You are. You say she wrote a month before nominations closed.
REPORTER: It wasn’t long enough obviously and it wasn’t long enough for Justine Keay.
ALBANESE: Why wasn’t it?
REPORTER: Because –
ALBANESE: We believe it is long enough.
REPORTER: But it didn’t come back in time.
ALBANESE: And the processes you have just outlined make it very clear that both Susan Lamb and Justine Keay submitted their paperwork well prior to nominations being called.
REPORTER: The Prime Minister says Labor is playing political games in relation to citizenship. What do you have to say about that?
ALBANESE: Well, I’m here answering questions in a transparent way and putting forward a proposition not for Labor, not for Liberal, not for Jacqui Lambie, not for the Greens, but for every member and senator to put forward their paperwork, they submit it, it’s concluded by December 1, that’s a common sense position, surely. And that’s what Labor’s position is.
I don’t understand for the life of me why the Prime Minister would establish a process that allows this to drag on longer than it has to. Is there any suggestion that something that can be done on December 1 needs until December 1 to be done? Is there any suggestion that that is the case? I don’t think there is.
He hasn’t put forward an argument for it other than he came up with this random date. He needs to be sensible about this and we need a resolution which is adopted unanimously by the House of Representatives and the Senate. We can have that if Malcolm Turnbull just shows a bit of common sense.
REPORTER: There’s a push for a new Private Members Bill on same-sex marriage from conservative Liberals. Is Labor prepared to look at that?
ALBANESE: There is a Bill put forward by a Liberal member, Dean Smith, that’s the result of a Senate inquiry and a unanimous report of Senators who examined the detail of Mr Smith’s Bill. Here, once again it’s not us being partisan, I’m talking about a Liberal Senator’s Bill from WA that should provide the foundation for legislation. What we’re seeing here is that the reason why we’re having this $122 million voluntary postal vote was all about delay.
So you had Cory Bernadi on the record multiple times quoted in The Australian ‘Cut & Paste’ section today saying this is all about a vote and we should listen to the people and if the majority of people want this to happen then it will happen. So we’ve had this voluntary postal survey. We’ve got the result that everyone knew that we will get, I think is the prediction. Polls these days are pretty accurate, so the polls suggest that there will be a strong majority for a yes vote. I expect that to be the case as well.
Guess what? The no people expect that as well. They’ve exposed the fact that they’re all about politics, people like Cory Bernadi and there will be every reason for delay that they can think of. This should be done and dusted. It needs to happen in the last fortnight. That’s the commitment from Prime Minister Turnbull. We didn’t like this survey. We didn’t vote for this survey but Australians have participated. Eighty percent. Eight in every ten have voted. That’s an extraordinary high turnout. Australians have had their say. We should get the legislation done and not keep coming up with excuses.
I noticed Cory Bernadi today saying because of the citizenship issue then we should delay the marriage equality legislation. Well, he said he’d support the outcome of the poll as have just about everyone else. To be fair to Eric Abetz, he’s shown his contempt for democracy throughout this process and has said that he’ll just maintain his position. But those people who have said they will be bound by it, we should get it done. It should take a day and guess what, this time next year we’ll be standing here and I’ll make a prediction; anytime next year from January on I will not get a question about marriage equality. Because people will wonder what the fuss was about. Won’t impact anyone’s existing marriage. Will just mean there’s a bit more tourism in Tasmania as people come down and hold really good parties and really good celebrations of their lifelong commitment to their partner in front of their family and friends. Let’s get it done and stop the nonsense.
REPORTER: What do you think of the men who confronted Sam Dastyari yesterday?
ALBANESE: Well, I think they’re condemned by their own actions. I worry about politics in Australia. I worry that people think that it’s acceptable to engage in such racist vilification – and tape it, and be proud of it. So it’s the two actions. It’s the fact that they actually think that this is acceptable in 2017. I think that Sam Dastyari was incredibly patient and showed a great deal of maturity. But that hurts. That hurts. Names hurt. And you know, people who engage in that sort of activity of far-right politics, there’s no place for it in Australia.
I had a guy called James Saleam who spent some time in jail in later years for violent crime including with guns. He was the leader of National Action. He’s still active in Sydney. He stood against me when I was at Sydney University. He was engaged in that sort of racism and violence and intimidation. It was an attempt to intimidate Senator Dastyari. I think he and Tim Watts deserve absolute credit for the way that they handled a difficult situation.
REPORTER: Do you think that type of activity is due to the rise of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation?
ALBANESE: I think that there is in general, there’s a whole range of factors that are leading to people thinking that it’s okay to scream and shout and that that’s the way we should conduct political discourse. I don’t think it’s just of the right. I think that there are some extreme elements across the political spectrum who think that it’s okay if you just yell enough then people will be intimidated.
I want to bring respect back to politics and I think that is really important and this should be a wakeup call. Anyone who looks at that footage should have a think about the way that they conduct themselves in political life. It’s fine to have different views and they can be put strongly but they should be put courteously and there’s no place for that sort of activity whatsoever.
REPORTER: The men were wearing clothing that advertised they worked for Toll. The company says they’re investigating. Should these workers, should they lose their jobs?
ALBANESE: That’s a matter for Toll, but if they worked for me I know what I’d do.
REPORTER: Just on Justine’s situation, Mr Albanese again, she’s relying on taking reasonable steps as her defence. Hasn’t the High Court more or less knocked that on the head in its decision?
ALBANESE: No, it hasn’t at all. It hasn’t at all.
REPORTER: It was a black-letter decision though, wasn’t it?
ALBANESE: No, it wasn’t. It was a decision about specific cases that were before it. The cases that were before it, the person who argued that they’d made some steps was Malcolm Roberts. Malcolm Roberts, who’d sent an email out into the twilight zone that hadn’t landed anywhere let alone got a response before the election. That is the circumstances in which the High Court ruled about the specific cases that were before it. The High Court will rule about specific cases when they’re before them.
Let’s get the evidence before the parliament, before the House of Representatives and the Senate and then the parliament can make a determination. But this sort of ongoing speculation with respect, on a wharf in Launceston, isn’t how laws are done in this country.
What we’ll have is the documentation produced. We think it should be produced on December 1. You’ve got a whole range of dates it appears. Every galah in the pet shop has a view of these issues, they’re in the paper every day. All the facts are out there. Let’s get them tabled in Parliament and just act with a bit of common sense.