Subjects: NSW Election; asset sales; electricity privatisation; Mike Baird; Tony Abbott; metadata retention; press freedom; GST; WA infrastructure
ALBANESE: On Saturday voters in New South Wales will have an important decision to make. It’s a decision of whether they want the electricity assets that they own that currently contribute $1.7 billion to have teachers, police, and nurses funded to provide those essential services for the people of NSW into the future, or whether they flog off these assets to a buyer Mike Baird can’t identify. Mike Baird on today’s Fran Kelly program just this morning couldn’t answer two fundamental questions. The first is who would be the buyer. Will it be a transfer from one government ownership – that is the people of NSW – to another government, a non-Australian government in terms of owning these essential assets?
The other question he couldn’t answer is what is his plan B? In the first debate with Luke Foley, these questions were raised. Now, just two days before people go to the polls Mike Baird still has no plan B. He still can’t say how he’ll fund any of his programs if these assets aren’t sold, if he can’t get it through the Upper House. And we know those of us who have been in Canberra for the last couple of weeks get access to regional TV. And you can’t turn on regional TV without having the National Party having its ads saying essentially that flogging off poles and wires is a bad idea. That’s what their campaign is. How absurd a strategy is it that you flog off the assets that produce a return, you only hang on the loss-making assets, thereby having a detrimental impact on the NSW budget over a period of time. The National party have belled the cat. They think privatisation is a bad idea.
So people in New South Wales also have a decision to make that’s relevant for this building here. Because here in the Parliament a majority of Tony Abbott’s own caucus colleagues wanted to get rid of him as Prime Minister. They voted that way. They still think that way in ever growing numbers. Well, the people of New South Wales can do what the Coalition caucus, the Liberal Party caucus, didn’t have the ticker to do, do what’s necessary for the country, and get rid of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister.
If Mike Baird loses office on Saturday, Tony Abbott will be gone by Monday. So if you want Tony Abbott to be gone by Monday, if you want Bill Shorten to be Prime Minister at the next election, you’ll vote Labor on Saturday. If you want Malcolm Turnbull to be the Prime Minister next week, you’ll vote Labor this Saturday. If you want Julie Bishop to be the Prime Minister next week you’ll vote for Labor and Luke Foley this Saturday. Because it’s very clear that if Mike Baird goes, Tony Abbott will go as well.
REPORTER: Back to your comments on the NSW election, your former Cabinet colleague would say that you’re scare mongering – Martin Ferguson. What do you say to him?
ALBANESE: What I say to him is his views have been pretty consistent over the years. If you read the Telegraph yesterday Jackie Kelly and Martin Ferguson, who are both opposing the political parties that gave them those political opportunities in life: Jackie Kelly is a traitor, but Martin Ferguson is a hero? I think that people will make their own judgements about these people. Martin Ferguson now represents private interests in the resources sector. So he’s in favour of more private interests for the resources sector. That shouldn’t be a surprise.
REPORTER: What are your concerns about the metadata laws as they stand now?
ALBANESE: I’ve raised my concerns internally. I don’t talk about our internal processes. What I do know is that as a result of Jason Clare and Mark Dreyfus and the work they did on the committee securing the dozens of amendments it’s much better legislation as a result of the intervention of the Labor Party in this process.
REPORTER: Do you think that warrants for journalists’ metadata should be contestable in court?
ALBANESE: Well I’ll raise … it’s not my portfolio area. I’ll raise these issues internally. I think it’s very important that this legislation be the best that it can. The Labor Party through that committee process fought strongly for that. Bill Shorten of course wrote to the Prime Minister to secure the changes in the legislation to provide some protection for journalists.
REPORTER: The last bunch of anti-terrorism laws that passed Parliament, you came out swinging for press freedom after they had passed. Is that what you’re going to do this time?
ALBANESE: Well that’s just not a characterisation so I reject that characterisation and I note that since then people like, who do you work for?
ALBANESE: You’re a bit independent I think but people in the media like Lachlan Murdoch came out. Bill Shorten wrote to the Prime Minister echoing the concerns that I’ve raised. The fact is that when you have legislation you should make sure that it’s as good as it can be. Those issues were raised beforehand, not after. Beforehand. Go back and have a look at the comments that people in the Labor Party make. Don’t just run off the social media feeds. Those issues were canvassed beforehand and I think journalistic freedom is very important. I’ve been consistent on that. I spoke about Peter Greste in this Parliament earlier, before his release. I think these issues are important. It’s important they’re canvassed and it’s important they’re dealt with appropriately.
REPORTER: Some of the nation’s top investigative reporters have said the metadata retention laws are a threat to investigative journalism in this country and risk the health of our democracy. Are they overblowing the case?
ALBANESE: People are entitled to put forward their views in a democracy. That’s the whole point. And I’m sure they’ll continue to do so.
REPORTER: Do you think WA is being dudded in the carve-up of GST?
ALBANESE: I think that this is a debate that will continue to go on. We had a system that benefitted WA for a long time. What we did in government was provide additional infrastructure investment in WA in recognition of the fact of their contribution. So projects, if you go there, like Gateway WA – some 3000 people I think at the moment there would be – working on that vital project for WA even though the government of course pretends it’s a new project. It began in 2012.
REPORTER: But what’s your view on the GST?
ALBANESE: My view is that I’m not the Shadow Treasurer. I’m the Infrastructure spokesperson and that’s what I’m talking about. So in terms of infrastructure, that’s how we dealt with those issues in government. If you go and look at the Perth City Link project, that’s a critical project for WA and for Perth. It’s a successful project. It’s now up and running along with all the other projects that we’ve contributed to in the west. Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.