Issues: Australia Day; National Press Club speech
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Happy Australia Day everybody. It’s been great to be at Ashfield Council and also at Leichhardt Council for what is a great day in terms of people making a decision to make Australia their home permanently by taking out Australian citizenship.
Today’s a day to reflect on where we’ve come from as a nation but also where we’re going. It’s a great day of celebration.
Here at Leichhardt behind me you see a great Aussie barbecue going to celebrate people taking out their Australian citizenship.
Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: When did you last see The American President?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the show. I might have in the background. I didn’t see it in the theatres. I’m a bigger fan of West Wing.
QUESTION: How do you think it happened?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well the fact is this I obviously didn’t know that there was a paraphrasing of words from the movie in my written speech to the Press Club. I’m not going to go into all of the details because it’s my view that as a minister and as a member of parliament I accept full responsibility.
QUESTION: Have you asked your speech writer what happened?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look we’ll discuss those things, but the truth is that it’s my name on the door. It’s not a huge deal. We need to put this in perspective. I mean Tony Abbott was out there last week making a joke about the disaster that occurred to the Italian cruise liner where we had a loss of life. That was a far more serious gaffe than what was, in a very long speech, a line that clearly paraphrased a line from a movie.
QUESTION: So you obviously didn’t write it.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No I didn’t write that section, but I take responsibility for it. I’m not going to blame anyone else for this.
The truth is that when you read the lines, as I did, it fits Tony Abbott so perfectly. And I’ve noticed that Tony Abbott and the Coalition are trying to make a big deal about this but they haven’t challenged the sentiments which are there. Tony Abbott is someone who does promote fear rather than hope, who does not appeal to our better angels. He’s also someone who attempts to blame the victim.
And to paraphrase Jack Nicholson: the Coalition can’t handle the truth about Tony Abbott.
QUESTION: How do you think it reflects on [Indistinct]
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think if you think people seriously think it’s a big deal then you’re wrong. The fact is that people from time to time take phrases that have been used before. What should happen when that occurs is that it should be attributed, and had I known that that was paraphrasing I would have said, “as Michael Douglas says in The American President about Bob Brunson,” and used the direct quote rather than the paraphrasing it.
This is a stuff-up. I’ve put my hand up, conceded that. It’s as simple as that.
QUESTION: Do you think this could be the start of a Hollywood or an acting career, is this you sort of edging, putting your toes in the water?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look we’re here at Leichhardt Town Hall and Leichhardt Town Hall of course was the scene of Rats in the Ranks. Anyone who’s seen that particular movie – I have and I would recognise lines from it because I watched it again the other night – would know that I was very reluctant to appear in that movie. I think I’ll stick to politics.
QUESTION: Geoffrey Rush, Australian of the Year, has praised your efforts.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Has he? That’s a great privilege indeed.
Geoffrey Rush is a great Australian and I think he’s a great choice as Australian of the Year. And you know what’s much more significant than a line from a movie paraphrased in a half an hour address yesterday? Geoffrey Rush’s speech accepting Australian of the Year. I think it was a great speech. He’s a great Australian and a great choice as Australian of the Year.
QUESTION: Will you be watching the movie tonight?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, I’m not sure it’s on TV tonight. But certainly I’ve seen the clip which clearly shows there’s a relationship in terms of the paraphrasing. I’m not trying to blame anyone else for this. I’m putting my hand up and saying guess what, this was a mistake. Guess what? I’ve made mistakes before and I’ll probably make mistakes in the future.
In the scheme of things I think my speech yesterday stands. The fact, is in terms of sentiment, we have no challenge by the Coalition of those words. And if the words didn’t fit Tony Abbott so well maybe some alarms would not have gone off that it had been paraphrased from somewhere else.
The fact is there were a whole lot of people at the National Press Club yesterday – journalists, people from the community, people from the public sector in Canberra – and there was only one person who I know of who was aware that the line was from a movie, and I give Lyndall Curtis credit for knowing that. No one else picked it up at the time. I didn’t pick it up either.
QUESTION: Regardless, it must be embarrassing for you at some level.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Of course. Would I rather it not have occurred? Yes. But in the scheme of things, to paraphrase again: I’m a serious person concerned about producing serious solutions to serious problems. Is this a serious problem? No it’s not.
Australia has big challenges ahead, big challenges in infrastructure and transport. I outlined them in yesterday’s speech. I outlined them in a serious way, and I expressed my concern that Tony Abbott would spend 2012 not engaging in issues of substance. He has shown already in January that’s what he is going to do, continue to promote fear, tell people what to be afraid of and not be serious about finding solutions.
I think Tony Abbott walking away from any arrangements on offshore processing, even though he says he supports it, shows that is his position.
QUESTION: [Inaudible question]
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh look, you know, I’ve given hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of speeches. I gave more than 200 in the Parliament last year. There was one line in one speech that should have been credited. It wasn’t. It’s a stuff-up, and I’ve put my hand up and said that’s the case.
But in terms of speeches, as you would have just seen, I gave two speeches with no notes. People who watch me in the Parliament know that that’s usually the case.
This was a written speech that was prepared with significant input from obviously myself, but I take responsibility. At the end of the day, if there’s something you’re responsible for you put your hand up and say yep. Or in my case, I think I paraphrased Homer Simpson last night, “Doh”.
But let’s also get real about this. There are a whole lot of things said all the time. I’ve heard Christopher Pyne, who’s been out there criticising me, paraphrasing Shakespeare earlier this week. He didn’t say “as William Shakespeare said”. You know, these things do happen.
QUESTION: Does it take away a little bit from your credibility and the credibility of the Labor Party? Are you worried about that?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No it doesn’t at all, and I’ve been at functions with hundreds of people this morning already. Not one word of criticism. A couple of people said “oh that was funny”, good for a laugh. Australians have a good sense of humour and they don’t take themselves too seriously. Some people in the media might take this too seriously. I don’t.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh I’m not a huge fan of Michael Douglas I’ve got to say. I much rather Martin Sheen. But you know he delivered those lines, as the Prime Minister indicated, well.
I think I paraphrased the lines reasonably well yesterday as well.
QUESTION: Do you think you delivered it better than him?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No. I wouldn’t try to compete with a professional actor. I think we’ll leave that to them. As I’ve said, the only thing that was missing yesterday was the words “as Michael Douglas said” or something like that. That was all. The sentiment was spot on.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.