Subjects: WA preference deal, impact of One Nation policies on tourism, Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Over the weekend we’ve learnt about the One Nation deal with the Liberal Party in Western Australia which goes so far that they’re prepared to actually put One Nation ahead of National Party candidates at the upcoming state election in March.
That shows a desperation from Colin Barnett and his Government – a desperation banked upon the fact that they have run out of ideas and they’re out of time. So in a desperate move they are prepared to even abandon their own partners in government in the National Party.
What we’ve seen here in Canberra stands in stark contrast to what happened when John Howard was the Prime Minister some 20 years ago. What we’ve seen from the Coalition is sending people out to defend the deal between the Liberals and One Nation.
We saw it yesterday with Senator Sinodinos laying the groundwork for a national deal between the Liberal Party and One Nation. And what we saw then was him say that somehow One Nation’s views are different from what they were some 20 years ago. But Pauline Hanson herself has declared very proudly that her views are exactly the same, and indeed much of the language in her first speech in the Senate mirrored the sort of xenophobia that we saw in her first speech in the House of Representatives after she was elected in 1996.
But bizarrely today the Government chose to send out its Trade and Tourism Minister to defend One Nation and to say that they had sensible economic policies. Of all portfolios to pick, to pick the Minister for Trade and the Minister for Tourism to get out there and defend One Nation, to bring them into the mainstream if you like, is quite extraordinary and shows how out of touch they are.
One Nation’s policies represent a threat to our trade policy and also to tourism. We know this because no less than the Defence Minister Marise Payne said this:
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party has been identified as a threat to our trading relations, as having a negative impact on tourism.
And back when Pauline Hanson and One Nation rose to prominence on the previous occasion, the Coalition Government had to engage in a full court press in our region – engaging out there sending a message to counter the undermining of our economic interests that was a direct result of people hearing the message in our region that Australia indeed wasn’t a welcoming country, that Australia didn’t support cultural diversity, that Australia supported in Pauline Hanson’s vision of One Nation.
Of course, that’s a very narrow one nation. That’s one nation of anglo-celtic, Christian people who are of course are in heterosexual relationships and have nuclear families. Because what we have seen in recent times is One Nation candidates get out there and abuse people on the basis of their cultural diversity, that makes this country so strong. And in Western Australia of course, just two weeks ago I made comments about their candidate in a key seat over there who seems to think that it’s OK to denigrate every single parent and indeed the child of every single parent, in a way that frankly defies belief, in terms of it was so irrational and so bigoted in the way that it was put forward.
And what we had from Pauline Hanson was not a distancing of herself from those comments but indeed an endorsement of those comments. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: Anthony Albanese, the Liberals today are saying that the real extremists in the Parliament are the Greens. Labor preferences the Greens. What’s your response to that?
ALBANESE: They were happy to sit down and have preference negotiations with the Greens as everyone knows, between Michael Kroger and Richard di Natale, before the last election. I have differences with the Greens political party. Some of you might have noticed my comments on them over a period of time. But there’s a big difference between the Greens political party, the views of people like Bob Brown, and others who I disagree with, and the views of Pauline Hanson – a major difference.
John Howard recognised that. Why is it that this current Government can’t recognise that? And to somehow equate the Greens political party with the views of One Nation is, quite frankly, absurd. People in mainstream politics recognised that in the 1990s.
We live in the fastest growing region of the world. We have enormous opportunity to grow tourism as a major export. Tourism is now a larger export than coal for the Australian economy. It employs one million Australians, particularly in regional Australia.
If we send out the sort of message that somehow if you look different or sound different to Pauline Hanson then somehow you’re not welcome here, then that’s a bad message indeed for the national economy. And indeed even Tony Abbott, I note, has been out there on radio saying that it is reprehensible for the Liberal Party to put One Nation ahead of the National Party. We had a consensus in this country and, that’s between the mainstream political parties, that is one of the things that led to One Nation’s demise; the agreement across the board that they would be put last.
Now Malcolm Turnbull with his disastrous decision to have a double dissolution election has revived life into One Nation. And now, just months afterwards, we’re having a circumstance whereby you have the Liberal Party in Western Australia preferencing One Nation and senior members of the Turnbull Government out there supporting One Nation, in spite of the views that have been put forward about the shooting down of the Malaysian plane where Australians were killed. You’ve had a view that Vladimir Putin somehow is a role model to be emulated. You have views about single parents. You have views about religion. You have views, today, about the United Nations.
You have a whole range of views that are frankly off the scale in terms of rational thought. The idea that you have a Trade and Tourism Minister speaking about the benefit of One Nation’s reform when it comes to economic policy frankly defies common sense, and is certainly not in the interests of the Liberal Party either, and that is certainly something John Howard recognised.
REPORTER: What’s it say about the Liberal Party and Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership that a party that advocates a Muslim ban is described as “sophisticated” by a senior minister.
ALBANESE: It is quite extraordinary that any Minister would describe One Nation’s views as sophisticated – the sort of conspiracy views that we’ve seen advanced on climate change, the views on economic policy, which are just absolute complete protectionism and the views on diversity in our community and multiculturalism, the views on so many issues.
The preparedness – there’s a discussion quite rightly about identity politics here in Australia – what we’ve had with One Nation, with the comments about single parents and their offspring is a characterisation about people on the basis of the circumstance in which they were born; in the case of the children of those single parents, or for people who are raising kids in difficult circumstances as single parents, making a contribution to their family, but to the national economy as well, to have them denigrated in the way that they were.
To have senior Ministers on the television and on radio describing these views as sophisticated is quite frankly shocking and they should take a good look at themselves and stop this 24-hour parameter that defines the Turnbull Government. Just take a step back and look at the national interest.
Australia’s national economic interest is not served by xenophobia. We are in a region whereby we have to engage with the economies of our region and with the people in our region and we have to engage on the basis of respect.
REPORTER: Just on the national interest, do you think there’s any credence to the idea that the oppositional nature of politics now, where the Opposition will just say no for opposing sakes has led to the rise of minor parties like One Nation?
ALBANESE: That’s certainly not a view that we’ve held in Opposition over the last four years. You had indeed Bill Shorten just introduced a Bill to the Parliament about the reform of the electoral system. It is today one year since we announced our policy on negative gearing and the capital gains tax, about housing affordability.
In my area of infrastructure, we’ve put forward constructive plans on issues like Badgerys Creek Airport. You couldn’t build a second airport in Sydney without a level of bipartisanship. We have done that. It’s more than occurred under the Coalition when they were the Opposition. For many great reforms, you need Government and Opposition. We put forward, indeed, made their plans more positive, on the Omnibus Bill last year. So Labor has been prepared to be constructive, but we’ve also been prepared to hold the Government to account.
Were it not for Labor’s strong opposition, we would have had that unfair 2014 Budget passed.
REPORTER: Are you aware of any international feedback, particularly from Indonesia and Malaysia about the potential fallout from Pauline Hanson on tourism?
ALBANESE: What I’m certainly aware of is the tourism sector being very conscious of this issue. They were conscious of it last time, and they’ve raised it with me already. So that those in the tourism sector, whether it be aviation, whether it be in the housing and accommodation section, whether it be service provision – you’re talking about one million Australians being employed. You’re talking about a conscious decision by governments of both persuasions to encourage tourism particularly from our region. We know it had a big impact last time.
I’ve just had someone from the tourism sector in my office, just prior to this press conference being held. And there is widespread concern about this and even more concern if somehow the Government are sending a message that some of the off the wall views; the abolition of the UN, the climate change conspiracy theories, all of these views are put forward somehow as not being just a few people in the Senate, but as a mainstream view that, I think, is of real concern. And that’s why the Government has a responsibility to think about what it says. Not to worry about where the next preference deal is or what happens in a particular state seat.
There is a national interest here and the Coalition need to come to terms with that. And the Prime Minister, for goodness sake, for a bloke that surely must understand the damage that some of these comments can cause to have his senior ministers out there describing One Nation’s views as sophisticated is, I find it, quite extraordinary. It’s about time Malcolm Turnbull called this out and showed some leadership on these issues. He could start by picking up the phone to the WA Premier. Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.