Issues: Alan Jones’ comments; Tony Abbott; Sydney University Liberal Club function; Newspoll; Newman Government cuts; Plain packaging; Superannuation; Infrastructure NSW report; Nauru; James Ashby; Twitter trolls; Wheat deregulation
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks everyone for coming along today. Just a few months ago, my electorate office was the scene of a quite extraordinary demonstration in which people engaged in hateful statements, hateful banners, and aggressive behaviour which required the presence of substantial numbers of Australian Federal Police.
Alan Jones’ comments are just the latest event in hateful engagement in the political process. I think this event marks a real step away from the way that politics used to be conducted in this country.
Since the last election, Tony Abbott has been engaged in the longest dummy spit in Australian political history. He’s called for a people’s revolt. He’s engaged in personal attacks and vilification against the Prime Minister. This has sent a signal to those people on the conservative side of politics that there is nothing too low, nothing out of bounds, nothing that goes too far in personal attacks.
However, just as I think many of us had thought it couldn’t go any lower, Alan Jones managed to find a real trench. Alan Jones’ comments are nasty, vicious and have no place in Australian public life. Alan Jones’ non-apology rubs salt into the wound. Today, there’s an article in which he puts at the top that he regrets making the statements and then goes on to again vilify and attack personally the Prime Minister.
On the Sydney Uni Liberal Club function, of course, the organiser was the president of the Sydney Uni Liberal Club. They’ve had a cultural problem for a long time with the right wing at Sydney University. I saw it first hand when I was a student there in the early 80s. We know Tony Abbott’s form when he was a student at Sydney University.
And we know now that Alex Dore, who was the Liberal candidate for Grayndler at the last election, pretended that he hadn’t heard the comments and that perhaps they weren’t made. We’ve now heard that in a room full of people, not a single person objected to the comments, in spite of the fact that there were federal and state Liberal Party MPs present, including a member of Tony Abbott’s front bench.
Not one word of complaint, not one person walked out, not one person raised objections. And as far as I know, Sussan Ley is yet to make a statement.
Tony Abbott, of course, has yet to condemn the comments himself. He just put out a two line statement essentially saying that it wasn’t acceptable. But they’ve engaged in this campaign, day after day after day, and it is time that this extraordinary event be used to say enough is enough. The campaign of personal attacks against the Prime Minister must stop, attacks against people’s families must stop. Those associated with this gathering must stop this behaviour.
I mean, the statements that were made in a speech are one thing, but the auctioning of a jacket made of chaff bag in a conscious premeditated decision, signed by Alan Jones, bought by Alan Jones at the auction – it just defies common decency that that could occur.
This was a comment about taking the Prime Minister of our nation out to sea and dumping her in a chaff bag and yet many months later, that’s seen as somehow acceptable. This extraordinary engagement is very different from the way that politics used to be conducted in this country.
Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Will you boycott Alan Jones’ show?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yes.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yes.
QUESTION: And does that go for every Labor frontbencher?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I speak for myself. I just think that Alan Jones should not be given any oxygen by people. You don’t do an interview with Alan Jones because what occurs is that he has friendly people on his show. He makes comments and Tony Abbott sits there and says ‘yes Alan, you’re right’. That’s the extent of the interview.
People will make their own decisions on this but I certainly am of the view that this is just a yard too far. I’m someone who engages in interviews across the spectrum. I’ve been on Andrew Bolt’s show and I think I’m the only Minister to do it. I think you’ve got to engage but there comes a point whereby it’s just gone beyond what is reasonable.
QUESTION: Nicola Roxon says she would go on the Alan Jones show as part of, you know, the wider public debate and the need to put policy ideas et cetera forward. Would you wish that all other members didn’t [indistinct]…
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, that’s a decision for her. I’m answering for myself in terms of my engagement with Mr Jones. I’ve had associations with Alan Jones going back to the South Sydney Football Club and during that period had a reasonable amount of contact with him but really, I mean, this is losing the plot.
To actually think that yesterday’s so-called apology was a reasonable way to conduct himself is extraordinary. It’s not just about the statement, but the chaff bag, and the statement after where he not only made the comment about the Prime Minister’s late father, but he went on after laughter from the charming young men and women of the Sydney Uni Liberal Club.
These are people who aspire to be tomorrow’s leaders.
Alex Dore was the endorsed Liberal candidate in this seat (Grayndler). He was given the imprimatur of the Liberal Party. These people want to see themselves as Australia’s future leaders.
Well, we’ve just seen – the whole of Australia has seen – an insight into what is the modern Liberal Party. They not only laughed when that occurred, not only did no one object, but Alan Jones went on to say the problem with some people in the Liberal Party is they don’t go hard enough. They’re not prepared to say these extraordinary things about the Prime Minister.
Just recently, we had the extraordinary event outside Parliament House in Canberra where he made allegations against the police saying that they had stopped people getting to that demonstration which was not true, which was shown to be not true.
If a politician made these sorts of mistakes then they wouldn’t be sitting in the House of Representatives.
QUESTION: Have you spoken to the Prime Minister yet?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I was with the Prime Minister on Saturday. It was her birthday and she saw the Swans have a win. I spoke to her then. I haven’t spoken to her since these events broke.
QUESTION: Do you agree with calls for Jones to be sacked?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: People have got to make a judgement about what’s acceptable. I think Jones’ behaviour is just completely unacceptable and 2GB have got to make the decision of whether they want to associate themselves with this sort of behaviour.
They’re not called shock jocks for nothing, you know, they’re designed to shock. But this, I think, is just so far, so far out of the bounds of what is reasonable and decent. I mean, why would someone want to listen to someone who had those sort of values on public display?
QUESTION: Why don’t you think Tony Abbott’s response has been enough?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It was pathetic. He waited til 3 o’clock in the afternoon to put out a little two line statement. I don’t see the word condemn in there, I don’t see any strong words opposing what has occurred and it compares with where Tony Abbott is on other issues.
This is a culture that’s been nurtured by people like Alan Jones. This is a culture of the modern Liberal Party. We see it in Parliament all the time and we have these debates in Parliament about parliamentary standards. This is what we are dealing with in terms of the culture of the Liberal Party that says anything goes, that engages in personal abuse day in day out, which is particularly strong in its abuse against women. There is a pattern of behaviour here that continues to occur.
QUESTION: Alan Jones said yesterday he didn’t want to say sorry through the media, he’d prefer to say sorry to her personally and the Prime Minister’s office have said that she doesn’t [indistinct] return or take a call. Should he publically say sorry?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, would you take a call from this bloke? I wouldn’t take his call either.
Alan Jones, clearly had an opportunity to stand up and give a short statement, apologise, say it was wrong, retract, say it was wrong for him to sign a chaff bag to be auctioned off, say it was wrong to say what he did about the Prime Minister’s father, say it was wrong to say what he did about the Prime Minister, say it was wrong for the Liberal Party to be engaging in smears and attacks on the Prime Minister. He had an opportunity to do all that and then get off.
Instead, we had some words of explanation, we had criticism of the journalist for reporting it, we had criticism of the event saying it was off the record and the implication of that is it would have been okay if he wasn’t caught and it wasn’t recorded. Then, he went on to repeat slur after slur against the Prime Minster and the Government.
It was the worst attempted clean up I’ve ever seen.
QUESTION: In other matters, you – Labor has been trying to rebuild a little bit of support federally and at a state level based on Campbell Newman’s cuts in Queensland. The latest Newspoll shows that might not be working. Do you have a comment on that?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Our focus in Queensland isn’t on the polls, it’s on the damage that’s been done by Campbell Newman’s cuts to health, to education. Our focus is on the fact that prior to the election, people did not think that he was going to do what he has done in Queensland and we’ll continue to engage in that.
There are real federal implications. At a time where Federal Labor is putting a record amount of investment into health and education, Campbell Newman’s Government is stripping money out.
We have an absolute responsibility to argue the case on those issues and we’ll continue to do so.
QUESTION: Are you surprised people probably aren’t as worried as you think they should be about Queensland’s cuts?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, I’m not surprised by the media’s focus on a poll of a few people at a particular point in time. What I’m focused on is the national interest. The national interest means we need more money not less in education and health – that we need to prioritise those issues for the future.
QUESTION: The plain packaging legislation has come into effect now. Do you think retailers will have enough time to get all those packages off the shelves in time for the 1 December deadline?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m sure that it will be resolved. People have known this has been coming for a very long time and I notice that some retailers have already put in place the changes well in advance of the timeline that will make it mandatory.
QUESTION: On superannuation, Nick Sherry says that we should start maybe looking at some of the generous benefits that the public service and government ministers get to make [indistinct]. Do you think you should be cutting yours for example?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We have changed our superannuation. We did it substantially a few years ago.
QUESTION: Have you had any briefings from Infrastructure New South Wales on its long awaited report into [indistinct]?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’ve had ongoing discussions with Infrastructure New South Wales. They’ve been very cooperative but of course this is a report that’s theirs. They will quite rightly give it to the State Government first, not to us.
But I certainly think that Mr Greiner has been engaged with Infrastructure Australia in particular, and Infrastructure Australia will continue to cooperate with Infrastructure New South Wales. They actually shared a building for a while, the same premises, but the New South Wales Government didn’t seem to like that so they moved into their own facilities.
When Infrastructure New South Wales bring down their report, I’ll be asking Infrastructure Australia to have a look at it and give us advice.
QUESTION: Is it likely to [indistinct] more federal funding?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’d ask Infrastructure Australia to have a look at the report. You can’t ask me a question about funding for a report that I haven’t seen, that hasn’t been handed even to the New South Wales Government. We don’t do funding that way. We wait for assessments from Infrastructure Australia.
QUESTION: Chris Bowen said that by the end of September there would be 500 asylum seekers on Nauru. We’ve only got 150 at the moment and more than 1000 that have arrived in the last fortnight alone. Is the policy that you’ve implemented working?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Now, let’s be very clear. What Chris Bowen said and the Government said was that Nauru wasn’t ready to be just opened in a day or two, that it would require time to become established and had Tony Abbott and the Tories not delayed the legislation then we wouldn’t be dealing with this issue now.
QUESTION: James Ashby is considering calling a suit of defamation against Nicola Roxon for comments she’s made regarding him dropping his sexual harassment. Do you think that those comments were appropriate?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Which comments?
QUESTION: That it was a vexatious case and that it was appropriate for him to drop all proceedings since the Commonwealth has settled?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think Nicola Roxon’s comments are entirely appropriate.
Can I make this point? This spontaneous legal action took place on the Friday afternoon and Tony Abbott was out there with a statement 9am Saturday morning about the Ashby claims that were splashed that morning in the Daily Telegraph.
Yesterday we got two lines at 3 o’clock in the afternoon about the Sydney Uni Liberal Club incident with Alan Jones.
QUESTION: Well, the Commonwealth settling the case would imply that Ashby has a case.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It doesn’t imply that at all. And if you look at Nicola Roxon’s statement, that makes it very clear the Commonwealth has a responsibility in terms of taxpayer’s money.
The Commonwealth has responsibilities and indeed the Commonwealth has made it very clear and the Attorney-General has made it very clear that she doesn’t resile from any of the statements that have been made on this issue, nor do I.
QUESTION: Just in regards to Alan Jones, there were reports that Chris Bowen’s wife made some Twitter comments about Alan Jones. Is there an onus on certainly front bencher families et cetera to also be…
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Let’s keep families out of this. Just an idea. Just a thought. How about we keep people’s families out of this and particularly women?
If you look up Twitter and look at my account, I’ve had people suggesting that my wife was the person who allegedly made whatever comments they were. That’s the sort of stuff that’s going on, on Twitter, every day.
I was criticised by some people on the progressive side of politics for congratulating the Daily Telegraph on their campaign about some of the hate stuff that goes on on Twitter. I stand by it. My congratulations to the Daily Telegraph and any other section of the media that wants to point out that this sort of campaign that goes on is not on.
QUESTION: Yes [indistinct].
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Okay, with regard to the Wheat Board issue and when the Parliamentary debate will come on – the Government is dealing with this in the normal way. Our priorities when Parliament resumes is the dental reform legislation, the clean energy legislation, and also the wheat marketing board legislation.
We would expect there’d be a vote on this between now and the end of the year and it really will be really interesting to see whether it is the case that Barnaby Joyce is writing the Coalition’s economic policy because that’s the only explanation if the Coalition having said that they supported wheat deregulation, having being lobbied so strongly particularly by wheat farmers, in Western Australia who really want this legislation to be carried.
So, Julie Bishop and other people in the west will have to decide whether they’re actually prepared to do what they said they would do and back this reform.
Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.