Issues: Tony Abbott’s extreme language; Greg Hunt; Lindsay Tanner’s infrastructure comments; Sydney’s infrastructure; Pacific Highway; Queensland Election; Labor’s successful Economic Stimulus Plan
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yesterday we saw the House of Representatives pass our 300th piece of legislation. This is a Government that’s been getting on with the job. What we also saw yesterday was again the relentless negativity of the Opposition on display for all to see with Tony Abbott’s fiftieth failed attempt to suspend Standing Orders.
During that suspension Tony Abbott said that the Prime Minister and myself had targets on our forehead. We’ve seen from Tony Abbott a range of language and change to the political discourse that does him no credit, does the National Parliament no credit and does political debate in this country no credit.
The sorts of statements that we’ve seen from Tony Abbott have consequences. We saw Tony Abbott earlier on call for a “people’s revolt”. We’ve seen Tony Abbott attend demonstrations outside Parliament House containing the sort of banners and slogans that any child at this primary school knows is entirely inappropriate.
But yesterday Tony Abbott went to a new level when he said that the Prime Minister and myself have “targets on our foreheads”. This was intemperate language that shows that he is unfit for high public office.
Tony Abbott sought advice clearly about that and sometime later indicated to the Parliament that he regretted making the statement. And yet Greg Hunt, who doesn’t do anything unless he’s under instructions, has come out this morning and not only defended what Tony Abbott had to say, he has actually criticised myself and called for actions against me for pointing out how inappropriate Tony Abbott’s comments were.
I mean Greg Hunt has lost the plot. He thinks that the Prime Minister who wasn’t even in the Chamber at the time and myself, who was ready to respond to the attempted suspension of Standing Orders, are somehow responsible for the intemperate language that came directly from Tony Abbott’s mouth.
The Opposition have to have a good look at themselves over this parliamentary break and decide whether they are going to play a legitimate role in trying to hold the Government to account and putting forward their alternative plan for the nation. Or whether they’re going to continue to engage in this personal vindictive and provocative campaign that I think sends a very bad message to the country.
QUESTION: Do you think that your comments though connecting Tony Abbott’s comments to the situation of US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords were offensive as Greg Hunt says they were or were they inappropriate?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well that’s an amazing statement from Greg Hunt. The fact is that this sort of language in terms of targets on foreheads – what does that mean if it’s not a reference to guns? What does that mean?
Now Tony Abbott distanced himself from his own comments. Yet Greg Hunt straight afterwards comes out to back it in and somehow tries to blame one of the two people that Tony Abbott was talking about for the words that came out of Tony Abbott’s own mouth.
QUESTION: But do you think that your choice of words was appropriate in the circumstances relating it to the shooting of a US congresswoman?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Have a look at what I said on the floor of the Parliament and I stand by the words where I spoke about the consequences of language and talk of violence against people in politics. There are consequences of it. We saw it in the United States; we have seen it in other places around the world. What we haven’t seen is that sort of activity here in Australia with some unfortunate exceptions.
I mean I had a demonstration held outside my electorate office in which the Australian Federal Police and a number of security personnel were concerned for the safety of myself and others and were there in considerable presence on Marrickville Road, Marrickville.
The fact is we saw some extreme language used and I referred a number of letters and emails to the Australian Federal Police for their information due to the nature of that.
Now Tony Abbott knows that that is the case. Tony Abbott has seen what has been said at the rallies that he’s attended. Tony Abbott used language that was intemperate on the floor of the Parliament and yet Greg Hunt has not only backed in that language but is attempting to somehow say I’ve done something wrong.
QUESTION: Minister, we’ve seen comments today by Lindsay Tanner who’s obviously witnessed the functioning of your Government from the inside, who says the politicians both on your side and the other side of politics are not interested in making tough decisions that are in the economic interests of all Australians but in funding infrastructure projects that have political capital. What do you say about that?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I note that Lindsay Tanner was talking at a conference organised by Infrastructure Australia. And I’d ask where was Infrastructure Australia’s advice not followed?
The fact is, in terms of Infrastructure Australia, we have taken their advice of all the projects that they listed on the original priority list. All of them except for one have received Government funding. All of them except for one.
Infrastructure Australia is also doing important work in terms of private financing of infrastructure projects.
I’d say to Lindsay Tanner that he should – now that he’s engaged in the private sector – follow the work that Infrastructure Australia is been doing.
QUESTION: As Transport Minister, how do you feel about the monorail being pulled down within three years?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s a matter for the State Government.
QUESTION: But you’re Transport Minister.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s a matter for the State Government and I’ll examine their proposals properly, not make them on the run.
This morning I’ve been at two BER projects. It wasn’t a big issue at St Michael’s Stanmore this morning and it hasn’t been raised with me by the Year 2 kids here at St Brigid’s, Marrickville.
QUESTION: State Government infrastructure, Mike Baird says that if there’s another financial downturn and more stimulus funding from the Federal Government, he wants to see a list of priority projects put forward including the North West Rail and the Pacific Highway. What’s your response to that? Is that something you’ll consider?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I did see Mike Baird’s comments this morning – or heard them on radio. I thought they were interesting comments. What we don’t want to see is another Global Financial Crisis, I make that point.
The Government through projects such as the one that I’m opening here today, has protected jobs and ensured that the Australia economy continues to grow.
What the NSW Government has to recognise is that they’re no longer the Opposition and the NSW Government has to come up with their own plans and their own ways of funding those plans. They can’t simply say, ‘our infrastructure plan is to ask the Federal Government for more money’. That is quite an extraordinary proposition to take.
NSW is currently receiving over $12 billion of funding for infrastructure. An important component of that is the Pacific Highway – some $4.1 billion from the Commonwealth Government. That compares with $1.3 billion from the former Howard Government.
QUESTION: Of the three new pieces of legislation that have been passed, some maybe called unpopular. Do you believe any of those decisions may have an effect on why the ALP is facing such an uphill battle in Queensland this weekend?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No. The Queensland election – as Anna Bligh this morning indicated quite rightly – is being fought on Queensland issues. It’s a tough election for Premier Bligh. She has been part of a Labor Government that has served for 20 out of the last 22 years. So it is a tough battle for Premier Bligh tomorrow. I certainly wish her well. I think she has been a part of a very good government indeed.
QUESTION: Minister, why are we still opening the projects long after the financial crisis has ended and does…
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Happy to answer that by saying that every single cent that has been spent on the education of our young people is one cent that is good value. Every single dollar.
Look at the projects here. This is a school that could never have funded a project such as this. To get $2.6 million is a lot of sausages to sell on a Saturday or on a Sunday after church. The fact is that these projects have been welcomed. They kept people in employment during the Global Financial Crisis. They dealt with the issues of confidence that was so important.
The Australian economy is doing better than any advanced economy in the world. One of the reasons why that’s occurred is because of the Government’s Economic Stimulus Plan. It’s a good plan. It supported jobs right throughout the country. Every single project I’ve been to has been a good one.
QUESTION: The Foreign Minister Bob Carr has made some comments on immigration saying that we need to maintain a sustainable population on the…
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I haven’t seen them.
QUESTION: Has money on this project, which obviously comes with political capital for yourself, come at the expense of spending on other infrastructure projects which might not be as politically, you know, beneficial for you?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, the education infrastructure program was about getting projects right around the country – city and regional; private and public. Getting that stimulus in terms of keeping people in employment on projects such as this, were vital for dealing with the Global Financial Crisis.
Over three quarters of a million jobs created by this Government at a time when literally millions of jobs were being shed throughout the rest of the world.
They’ve also left a lasting legacy. The kids who will be able to use the new library and the new facilities at this school will benefit. And guess what? Future generations will benefit as well.
Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.