SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison admits responsibility for half a billion dollar reef cash splash; quotas in Parliament; the ATM Government neglecting Western Australia
ANTHONY ALBANESE, ACTING SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER: Today there are reports that Scott Morrison has taken responsibility for the extraordinary decision of the Government to grant $444 million to in a one-off payment to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
This privatisation of responsibility for Australia’s most precious and vulnerable environmental asset is outrageous. What we have as a result of this is not just bad policy for the environment, this is bad economic policy as well because Prime Minister Morrison has conceded that the only reason why this one off payment of almost half a billion dollars was made was to fiddle the budget figures in terms of returning to surplus sooner than would otherwise occur.
As a direct result of this, you will have Government departments and agencies actually having to apply to a private foundation in order to receive funds to deal with the environmental protection of the Great Barrier Reef. This privatisation of an essential function of government whereby the reverse of normal is occurring that is public government departments and agencies applying to a private foundation to receive what is in effect public funds, is something that requires more than Scott Morrison to do a drop to a paper on the Monday of a public holiday.
The fact is that what governments have done after numerous Audit Office reports is to put in place proper expenditure provisions for government financing. What this payment does is mean that in the order of $11 million will be paid in interest by Australian taxpayers each and every year because of the increased level of government debt.
What we know also is that because this payment was made one off on the 28th of June, in order to get it out before the financial year last year ended, this payment can be seen as just a fiddle rather than representing any rational expenditure of government funds.
Governments ask for milestone payments to be made for any infrastructure project as a result of avoiding that one off payments to make sure that the expenditure is being done for the purpose in which it was granted. What we have with this almost half a billion dollars is that the money can be spent on administration of a private foundation rather than spend on actually fixing up the Great Barrier Reef.
There was no due diligence made prior to this almost half a billion dollars being forwarded. This represents bad economic policy, it’s bad for the environment and it shows that Scott Morrison has no judgement. The fact that he is prepared to take responsibility for this shows that he just doesn’t get how important not just environmental protection is of the Great Barrier Reef but he also doesn’t get how important good economic policy is and good fiscal policy because this one-off payment in order to fiddle the budget figures is not justifiable.
JOURNALIST: So what do you think of the rise of Scott Morrison. Is he a more dangerous threat than Turnbull?
ALBANESE: Well these revelations show that Scott Morrison is pretty loose with public money. The fact that he was prepared as Treasurer to suggest this payment in order to manipulate the budget figures shows indeed that he is not a sound economic manager. It is not surprising that we’ve seen the government debt double on the Coalition Government’s watch for the most time of which he was the Treasurer in the ATM Government, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government. And in this one off almost half a billion dollars we see the ultimate expression of the economic irresponsibility of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government, they are truly an ATM in which this private foundation has come along and got half a billion dollars of cash almost out the door in one payment. This is extraordinary.
JOURNALIST: What do you think of the idea of having so-called ‘Rainbow quotas’ in Parliament?
ALBANESE: Well I don’t know that anyone has that idea.
JOURNALIST: So you’re opposed to Rainbow quotas, explaining that Bill Shorten thinks that should be on there should be quotas on all things marginal in Parliament that rather than be elected on merit?
ALBANESE: What we need to do is to make sure that we have a Parliament that is truly representative of the people that we seek to represent and Labor is getting on with the job of doing just that. We have almost 50 per cent representation of women. That’s a good thing. We’re stronger for that. We’re more representative for that and democracy is strengthened.
The crisis that is there in the Coalition with regard to women’s representation won’t be solved by trying to raise distractions or issues which simply aren’t there. The crisis in terms of representation is the fact you’ve had Jane Prentice knocked off by a bloke. You’ve had two women say because of the intimidation they have experienced as Federal Coalition members they’re not even going to re-contest in terms of preselections. This is a crisis which the Liberal Party seems incapable of dealing with.
JOURNALIST: Is this a dangerous extension though of what is being called identity politics?
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that what Labor has in place is only a target for men and for women to be in the Parliament. That’s a target which has been achieved has been achieved it must be said without setting aside any particular seat that had to be filled by a woman candidate. The fact is we achieved it because of cultural change within the Labor Party. One that recognises good women and good men putting themselves forward for the parliament.
And if you have a look at the Coalition I mean the Coalition have blokes on their backbench who struggle to read the question let alone ever be capable of answering a question. If that is merit based then they should have a good look at themselves and the fact is that a strong woman like Julia Banks has chosen to withdraw as a candidate from the Parliament. The fact is Jane Prentice who would have made a very good minister in my view for cities or urban policy, Jane is someone who has played a role in the Parliament. She was senior on the Brisbane City Council. She is a very capable member of Parliament has just been rubbed out in a preselection by an ambitious young bloke because the culture of the LNP at the moment is one that doesn’t value 50 per cent of the population.
JOURNALIST: The government is clearing off the barnacles in Western Australia, fixing GST revenue. What do you make of this of this trip?
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that this is a Government that has difficulty relating to people right around the country. One of those issues has been Western Australia whereby I’ve been to Western Australia eight times this year and one of the things that Western Australians have been concerned about for a number of years is the fact that there isn’t a single new major infrastructure project underway in a way that wasn’t commenced and funded by the former Labor government.
What they’ve done is rely upon the former Federal Labor government’s funding of projects like Gateway WA, like the Swan Valley bypass that they renamed North-Link, but it’s the same project. Like what they did with the Forestfield Airport Rail Link whereby what they did was to take $500 million out of the budget in 2014 as part of their cuts to rail infrastructure that wasn’t commenced and then put $480 million back a couple of years later and called it a new project. West Australians are onto the fact that this government has taken them for granted and the fact that Julie Bishop has been ostracised from the government, the most senior West Australian in the government and someone who was doing I think a job that was respected throughout the Parliament, says it all about why the government is in trouble in Western Australia.
But they’re in trouble right around the country and I think West Australians will also wonder why this advance payment of half a billion dollars was given to a private foundation on the Great Barrier Reef, I mean where does that stop? Are we going to have private foundations funded to look after Ningaloo Reef and to look after our other precious environmental assets?
Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.