Apr 1, 2008

Transcript of Doorstop

Subject: Dr Nelson’s Liberal Leadership tour

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m Anthony Albanese, Government Leader of the House of Representatives.

QUESTION: So you’re here today to speak about Dr Nelson? What’s your opinion of his listening tour?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I’m here today to talk about Dr Nelson’s Liberal leadership tour, and also the issue of Peter McGauran’s resignation from the Parliament.

Firstly, on Dr Nelson’s Liberal leadership tour, Dr Nelson was elected Leader of the Liberal Party in a contested ballot by just two votes. It’s quite clear that this tour is more about listening to his caucus members, and shoring up his leadership, than it is about listening to genuine community concerns.

Yesterday, Dr Nelson was on the Gold Coast with two of his caucus members. Today, he’s travelling to Dickson, the electorate of Peter Dutton, again to talk to his caucus member. And it will be interesting to see whether Dr Nelson does anything other than visit Liberal-held electorates, with caucus members whose votes he needs to hang on to, in order to sure up his precarious leadership.

If Brendan Nelson actually was fair dinkum about listening to what Australians have to say, he would listen to what they said on November 24, he would rule out once and for all a return to AWAs, he would take the challenge of climate change seriously, he would apologise to Australians for the 16 year high in inflation, which is the legacy that the Government of which he was a senior part, has left. He’d apologise for the increases in interest rates, and he’d recognise that the incoming Government has a difficult task ahead, in terms of repairing some of the damage that has been done.

QUESTION: So what’s wrong with Dr Nelson doing these meetings? I mean Rudd did the Town Hall meetings in Labor electorates, why are you so worried about where he’s meeting?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, Kevin Rudd visited electorates of both persuasions, we’ve had, for example, two community Cabinet meetings. The first was in the electorate of Canning, in Perth, a Liberal-held electorate. The second was in the electorate of Longman, in Queensland, a Labor-held electorate. There’ll be future meetings in rural Australia, in urban Australia, in different states and territories, including one later this year that we’ve committed to in a remote indigenous community.

Dr Nelson’s tour is all about the internal mechanisms of the Liberal Party, and in Queensland today, we know that the Liberals and Nationals aren’t even quite sure whether they’ll continue to exist or not.

Dr Nelson put his leadership on the line, over the amalgamation of the National Party and the Liberal Party, and now he’s not quite sure where he stands. This tour is all about the internals of the Liberal Party, and that’s Dr Nelson and the Coalition’s problem, they are totally inward-focused, they’re all concerned about themselves, rather than concerned about Australians. And an example of that is the fact that today we learn that Peter McGauran, the National Party Member for Gippsland, is likely to resign from Parliament in the coming two weeks. Now we know …

QUESTION: Talk about your sources.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, he’s been talking about a job, which has been proposed in the thoroughbred industry, interestingly, the same industry of which he presided over as Minister, and if you look at Peter McGauran’s speech that he gave to the Parliament to a Legislation Bill about transport in my portfolio, Dr Nelson was clearly saying goodbye – I’m sorry, Peter McGauran was clearly saying goodbye to the Parliament. Peter McGauran, during that speech, thanked his family, he thanked his electorate, and it was a valedictory, if ever I’ve heard one.

Now, if Peter McGauran resigns in the next couple of weeks, and there’s a by-election, we know it will cost taxpayers some $600,000. Now we know also, that Peter Costello, Mark Vaille, and others, including Phillip Ruddock and Alexander Downer, are all considering whether they will stay in the Parliament. One could argue they’re in semi-retirement already, by taking other jobs, or not bothering to turn up to question time, or indeed playing golf, while Parliament’s on.

Now Dr Nelson had said previously that all these by-elections should be held at once. Dr Nelson owes the Australian taxpayer the courtesy of ensuring that members of the Coalition who are going to resign, resign at once, so that taxpayers’ funds can be saved on these by-elections. The difference in funding will be hundreds of thousands of dollars, if we have staggered by-elections over the coming year.

It’s quite clear that these members of the Coalition aren’t interested anymore in sitting in Parliament, let alone representing their constituents. If that’s the case, if that’s the case then the decision should be made for them to resign at once, and to resign together. And Dr Nelson should show leadership when he’s on his Liberal leadership tour, in ensuring these by-elections can be held on the one day.