SUBJECT: Angus Taylor.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Yesterday the New South Wales Police launched Strike Force Garrad into these very serious allegations against Minister Angus Taylor. The three potential breaches of the law, two of them contain a penalty of up to 10 years, the other, a penalty of up to two years. These are very serious allegations. This a problem of the minister’s own making. This bumbling minister who has been involved in three scandals. This is scandal number three. We are six months into the term. This occurred because he thought he’d be really smart and have a go at a Lord Mayor in Sydney and undermine her support for climate change action. He gave a document to The Daily Telegraph from his office. The letter signed on his letterhead with his signature alleging $15 million of travel by Clover Moore and her councillors. $14 million in domestic travel. There are only 10 councillors. Think about it. $1.4 million in domestic travel, they would have done nothing but spent their entire life on a plane, going from one place to another, more than a plane ride a day, multiple just flying around, not going to council meetings. It was absurd. But of course, nothing’s too absurd for this minister.
This isn’t a tragedy. This is a farce. And that’s why this minister should go. He said that document was downloaded from the City of Sydney website. We know from the metadata, that is not the case. City of Sydney have put that forward. But, he’s yet to explain where the document came from. It either was doctored by his office, or himself, or somebody, and given to his office and then given to the Telegraph. It came from somewhere. He must know. He is a minister. Ministers have to answer questions truthfully. And quite clearly the Parliament has been misled. And that is a very serious breach as well. You can’t deliberately mislead Parliament and stay as a minister. And while this investigation is on, the ministerial standards are very clear, 7.1 says it’s up to the Prime Minister to stand someone aside if there is a serious investigation taking place. Well, you can’t get more serious than a Strike Force by the New South Wales Police. And when Scott Morrison yesterday said that he would contact the New South Wales Police, I’ve got to say in Question Time, I thought what he would do was saying was that he would just check that it was indeed accurate, that no one had doctored the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian websites and the other websites we were referring to, saying this investigation was taking place But what occurred was that Scott Morrison then went into Parliament and said he’d had a discussion with the Police Commissioner of New South Wales about the details of an investigation into one of his ministers. His job is to act in the national interest, not in his personal interest. Not to ring up the head of the police force that’s conducting an investigation into one of his ministers and have a private conversation with him about the details of that investigation. This goes to Prime Minister Morrison’s judgment. Whenever he is put under question, he’s stubborn, he’s arrogant, and he acts in a way that dismisses the media, dismisses anyone who raises any question about what he sees as his right to rule the country in his own interests. Well, I’ve got news for him. He is accountable. And so are his ministers.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it was inappropriate that the Prime Minister called the Commissioner?
ALBANESE: Well, people will make their own judgments.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it was inappropriate?
ALBANESE: Well, I’ll tell you what Australians will be thinking today, as they read their papers, or they look online, or listen to radio, or watching TV. They will think to themselves, ‘if one of my mates was under investigation, can I pick up the phone to the head of the police and ask for the details of that investigation on the day that it’s launched?’ I think not. The fact that the Prime Minister, when he made the statement to Parliament, suggested that there was nothing to see here, that it was just about Labor allegations, and that he had a discussion about the details of the investigation. The Prime Minister needs to actually answer today in a way that is actually straightforward; exactly what took place in that phone conversation. He needs to answer whether there were no takers there, which would have been appropriate, I would have thought, from the head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet or Attorney General, or other law enforcement agencies, exactly what the circumstances of this discussion were. This goes to the Prime Minister’s judgment, not just the flawed judgment of this failed minister, Angus Taylor.
JOURNALIST: There’s a lot of technicalities, and arguments, and everything else, but at the end of the day, Angus Taylor’s justification is just not believable.
ALBANESE: It’s absolutely not believable. The metadata shows that this didn’t come from the City of Sydney website. And he won’t say where it came from. This is a very clear circumstance.
JOURNALIST: Is it your view that this is a ham-fisted, political hatchet job?
ALBANESE: Well, this Government doesn’t like criticism. And it takes a level of arrogance for a bunch of people who think they have a right to rule, who have been on a victory lap since May. You can imagine people sitting around in office saying, ‘I know, we got this letter from Clover Moore about climate change. How can we have a crack at her?’ And this is a Mayor. This bloke is a Federal Cabinet Minister. And here we have him giving, at the same time the letter was going to Clover Moore; it was going to a newspaper in order to get a splash against the Lord Mayor of Sydney. It’s up to him. I’m sure that he regrets that he took on the Lord Mayor of Sydney rather than the Mayor of Marrickville or someone. Fair Dinkum, this bloke is the Minister for Energy who doesn’t have an energy policy. He is the Minister for Emissions Reduction when emotions are rising. And he’s spending all his time having a crack in a way that we know just doesn’t stack up to the facts of the Lord Mayor of Sydney.
JOURNALIST: Isn’t the Government’s point here is that this referral has come from Mark Dreyfus and he’s been the only one to refer this? Mark Dreyfus has referred more than 100 people to the police, none of which have been convicted.
ALBANESE: The point is here the police have set up a Strike Force. Strike Force Garrad. I didn’t ring the Police Commissioner. Mark Dreyfus didn’t ring the Police Commissioner to ask the nature of those investigations. The Prime Minister did.
ALBANESE: There’s an investigation. The Police Commissioner and the New South Wales Police have established a Strike Force. That is prima facie, a case that they believe there’s a case to answer. They haven’t dismissed the letter. This is a serious thing. You can’t actually produce a document against an elected official in order to influence their public duty. That’s why it’s punishable by 10 years jail. This is very, very serious. And this minister is in all sorts of diabolical trouble. And at the very least, he should just step aside, frankly, for deliberately misleading Parliament. He should go, let alone, even if there wasn’t the police investigation. And he needs to, he still hasn’t said to any of you, let alone to the public, what happened with this document. And indeed, you all know that if you asked for an interview with him, his office will say, ‘Are you going to ask about this?’ And if you don’t give a commitment, he won’t talk to you. This is a minister of the Crown. This is a minister of the crown whose office is vetting interviews and who’s unable to do his job. You know it. The public know it. And the Prime Minister should know it as well. Thank you very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.