Subjects: Labor Party; regional Australia, national security; infrastructure; ICAN Nobel Peace Prize; Bill Byrne, Adani protests; Nick Xenophon.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY: This morning 120 Labor Party members joined Bill Shorten and some of our most senior members of the Shadow Cabinet including Anthony Albanese to talk about rural and regional Australia, to talk about Labor’s policy development and to talk about how we can best empower the regions and provide them with the best opportunity to make the best of the economic and social opportunities in the regions. We make no secret of the fact that the Labor Party is determined to make every rural and regional seat across the country contestable at the next election. We are here to win, but not for winning’s sake. We are here to help those local communities. We believe they are being sold short, taken for granted by the LNP. We believe they would be better served by a Labor Government and the progressive policies we bring to the table. We’ll be fighting all the way up to election day and of course we have our sights in particular on Capricornia where we believe Michelle Landry has been completely missing in action.
REPORTER: Are you shocked that the Government wants the ability to detain ten-year-old children or terrorism suspects for up to a fortnight without charge?
FITZGIBBON: Well, as Bill Shorten said this morning, we do our very best always to take a bi-partisan approach to national security issues. We believe national security issues demand a bipartisan approach and we look very carefully at every proposition put forward by the Government. We will look at the details.
REPORTER: What safeguards would need to be put in place?
FITZGIBBON: We will look at the details when the Government puts some detail on to their proposition.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Can I just make some comments about infrastructure because it is great to be back here in Rockhampton in an electorate I have visited so many times as both a minister and as a shadow minister. As a minister we turned around the neglect that had happened for too long on the Bruce Highway. Over 12 years the Howard Government invested $1.3 billion in the Bruce. In half that time, just six years, we put $6.7 billion into the Bruce Highway and of course we have seen the benefits of that with the Yeppen Floodplain Upgrade – with the Yeppen Bridge and roundabout in particular as well as of course the Peak Downs Highway and other important infrastructure projects that have made a difference; with community infrastructure projects such as the Town Hall at Yeppoon, such as the fixing up of the memorial pool on the south side here in Rockhampton. What we have seen from the current Government, whether under Tony Abbott or Malcolm Turnbull, is neglect and taking this region for granted. There are no major infrastructure projects under way in this area or indeed throughout the Bruce Highway that weren’t funded by the former Federal Labor Government. What we have seen is neglect and taking that for granted and as projects have opened, that were already under way and under construction, what we are seeing is that investment isn’t stepping up to fill that gap – that investment that creates jobs in the short-term but also produces safer roads and better productivity and a stronger economy in the medium and long term.
REPORTER: I’ve just got a question from Melbourne. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. How important is that recognition for an organisation that has its roots in Melbourne?
ALBANESE: Look that is a great honour and all Australians indeed should be honoured by the Nobel Peace Prize. ICAN are a grassroots organisation. Australia has a proud history of being a part of international engagement. We were major parties to measures such as abolishing land mines and chemical weapons when we were in government under leadership of people like Gareth Evans or Kevin Rudd. Right through as foreign ministers we have a very proud history. This award overnight is a great tribute. I am particularly pleased as the patron of the Tom Uren Foundation, named in his honour, which raises money for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. We can see with the threat from North Korea that is going on at the moment exactly how dangerous nuclear weapons can be in creating instability and quite rightly creating a great deal of international concern. Australia has a role to play but also ICAN’s award is recognising that civil society – the ordinary men and women who engage in politics who want a better and a safer world for themselves and their children have been given this great honour overnight.
REPORTER: So given that threat from North Korea how realistic is a nuclear-free world?
ALBANESE: Well we always have to deal with things as they are rather than as we would like them to be. The threat from North Korea is real. We need to respond to it. But Australia of course has been a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Historically we have played an important role and Australia is, I think, in a bipartisan way playing a constructive role in recognising the threat that’s there from North Korea, calling upon particularly North Korea’s allies in China to ensure that this threat is removed
REPORTER: Do you have any concerns about Julie Bishop’s travel expenses?
ALBANESE: That is a matter for Julie Bishop.
FITZGIBBON: Can I just very quickly add to (inaudible) tribute this morning to Bill Bryne, my friend Bill Byrne. As a former Defence Minister I am very conscious of his service within the Australian Defence Force. As an Agriculture Minister and more recently as Shadow Minister I worked very closely with Bill on those issues around the agricultural sector. He made an outstanding contribution to his country as a leader of our military forces. He made an outstanding contribution here as the local state member and he certainly made a great contribution as Minister for Agriculture and a number of other portfolios. We will miss him very dearly. I am sure the community will miss both him and his very, very hard and effective work and I wish him and his family all the very best for the future.
REPORTER: Do you have any opinions on who should replace him?
FITZGIBBON: Oh no. I will leave that for the Queensland party to determine but I do know that we have wealth of very, very effective local members here in Central Queensland, many of them attending the forum this morning, and I’ve no doubt that the Labor Party will put forward an outstanding candidate.
REPORTER: What do you think about the Stop Adani protests that are happening around the country today?
FITZGIBBON: Well we always support the right of people to have their say on any issue and on any project.
REPORTER: Anthony do you have any concerns about Nick Xenophon going back to state politics?
ALBANESE: Well I think this is a decision that those people in South Australia who have voted for Nick Xenophon to serve a six-year term just one year ago will be surprised by – the fact that he is leaving that position so early. What we need in Australia is stability and with the Weatherill Government you have that – a Government committed to jobs and growth in South Australia, a Government committed to making sure that South Australia leads the country in environmental sustainability. Jay Weatherill is doing an outstanding job and really what Nick Xenophon is doing is pointing out once again the fracturing the non-Labor forces in South Australia. You’ve got Cory Bernardi out there with his Australian Conservatives, you have Nick Xenophon standing against a local Liberal Party Member in Hartley and we see once again a vote of no-confidence in Steven Marshall as the alternative premier. This is a guy who himself was advocating a vote for the Labor Party just 24 hours before the last election and I think that said it all when it comes to the incompetence of Steven Marshall and no doubt that’s part of Nick Xenophon’s motivation for moving, or attempting to move to, the South Australian Parliament. Thank you very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.