SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s credibility and integrity; Angus Taylor; Medevac; Ensuring Integrity Bill
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY:Thank you for joining me here in Epping this afternoon. Last week, Scott Morrison left the Parliament with his credibility and his integrity in tatters. The week began with him continuing to defend Angus Taylor’s presence as a cabinet minister in spite of the fact, it is very clear that he misled the parliament. He produced documents from his office, were given to the Daily Telegraph which he now concedes weren’t accurate. What’s more he continued to insist this week, that, last week, that those documents were downloaded from the City of Sydney website when he tabled documentation in the parliament last Monday. But the week got worse for the Prime Minister, because in making the decision to not just defend the indefensible with this minister and his mislead of the Parliament he then went on to when the police investigation was announced, Strike Force Garrad, to directly ring the police commissioner, not just ring once but ring we know from the police commissioner at least 4 times because the police commissioner has said he had three missed calls.
When you’re the Prime Minister of the country and one of your cabinet ministers is under police investigation, you don’t ring mobile to mobile. There were methods in which he could have found out that it was indeed a police investigation underway. The police issued a media release saying just that. That’s how Labor knew that it was underway and in that release they made clear that they wouldn’t release further information. But he continued to do that and in defending his misleading minister, he himself misled the Parliament and then in order to avoid anything of coming in and being seen on footage acknowledging that mislead, he continued to mislead on different issues. At least three or four misleads of the Parliament over just a few days from this Prime Minister and he had to correct the record on a number of occasions.
At the same time then of course that anti-union legislation was being voted down in the Senate. This country has real challenges; we have an economy where growth is slowing. We have wages that aren’t increasing and was said to be last week, low wage growth was to be the New Normal. We have consumer demand that is falling we have because of the retail spending figures being so low. We have a GST receipts that our way down on where they were last year. We have productivity in decline. We have climate change being a challenge that we need to deal with, and tomorrow will be 10 years since the carbon pollution reduction scheme was voted down by the Liberals and the Greens and since then we’ve had 10 years of conflict over energy policy and climate policy, even though the science is very clear and even though we can see that the predictions that were there about more extreme weather events and more intense events are coming to pass. So this week is an opportunity for the government to actually get its priorities right. Not getting rid of medevac legislation that hasn’t done what the government said it would do when they made their hysterical claims about medevac undermining our borders, which they made a year ago, when the legislation was passed in the parliament. This government needs to come up with an economic plan, but what we have at the moment is just an Ad man without a plan.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: The government’s negotiating, what’s described as a national security matter with Senator Lambie in order to repeal the Medevac clause. Is national security something (inaudible)?
ALBANESE: Well national security should be something that is above politics. That’s certainly the way that I approach at these issues. And the truth is that the government when these laws were passed said that it would be the end to secure borders, made all sorts of claims that simply haven’t been true. The legislation has been in operation. Yes, some people have been brought to Australia to get healthcare, but the real question is: Why is it that there are still people in offshore detention? They should have been settled by now in third countries, and the government seems determined to just not provide a real solution to this issue.
JOURNALIST: If the government repealed medevac, and opened the way for the settlement of refugees in New Zealand, would Labor support any laws to block their subsequent entry into Australia?
ALBANESE: There a laws now that mean that anyone who’s in New Zealand who wants to, who the government wants to block, the minister wants to block from coming to Australia, can do so. They are in place right now.
JOURNALIST: And what, you can’t do anything about that? Or have you been lobbying on that issue?
ALBANESE: Well they’re place right now. They’re existing laws. What we’ve said consistently over a long period of time, is that the government should accept the offer that’s been made by New Zealand it would provide a practical outcome. It would be good, not just for the people concerned, but also be good for the budget, because it’s costing an enormous amount of money for, from Australian taxpayers in order to make a political point for the government at the expense of these refugees.
JOURNALIST: Just back to the Angus Taylor issue, is Labor anxious to know one way or another, what becomes of the police investigation into Angus Taylor before the Parliament’s summer break starts at the end of the week?
ALBANESE: It’s up to police the timing of their investigation. Unlike the Prime Minister, I won’t be interfering in that investigate. But this minister has misled the Parliament. He said on a number of occasions that the document was downloaded from the City of Sydney website. It’s very clear from the meta-data that’s been provided that that is not the case and that’s why the minister is tipped out responses late on Friday afternoon, anything to avoid scrutiny. Minister Taylor has had 3 months to solve this issue, to come into parliament and just say where the documentation came from. He should do that. He should have done that on day one, but now it’s the case that the Prime Minister’s hanging on to this minister, who’s in his third scandal since the Parliament resumed. It is just extraordinary that the government has used up so much political capital and what that shows, is that Scott Morrison is stubborn. It’s there for all to see, that stubbornness the lack of judgement him just getting angry at the temerity of the Opposition to ask questions about a minister who misleads parliament. That’s an important part of the Westminster system and the government last week as well, won’t even allow a debate on it. Now even on the 11th of November 1975, Gough Whitlam had a debate on the floor of the Parliament, where he had a majority, on the floor of the House of Representatives about a no-confidence motion. He took that debate. This government will not even defend itself and thinks that democracy is an inconvenience and that everyone should just sit there quietly like the quiet Australians that Scott Morrison says he’s interested in representing; he wants the whole parliament to be quiet, and just listen to him. He thinks he’s the only one who has a right to have a view. Well, I’ve got news for him the Labor Party will hold Scott Morrison to account on this then other issues.
JOURNALIST: So just back to the police investigation, as Mark Dreyfus instigated the police enquiry into Angus Taylor, will he again write to the commissioner wanting, asking for clarification on whether the case will be resolved by the end of the parliamentary sitting week?
ALBANESE: No, it’s up to the police having an enquiry, a strike force; it’s up to them to determine the timing of all those issues. They should be allowed to have their investigation. But let’s be clear here, that there are issues around this minister that are outside of the police investigation. The misleading of the Parliament on an ongoing basis, let alone the other issues that we have over his interest in Jamland, over the interest of Watergate, these issues are all unresolved, and it could have been sold by the minister, actually just answering a question in a straight way, but they think that they’re not accountable, just like the Prime Minister thinks that when he has a question at one of the very infrequent media conferences he gives he speaks about the bubble, or he speaks about it’s just gossip in order to avoid answering questions. It’s not good enough, democracy relies upon accountability.
JOURNALIST: Now if Labor takes energy security seriously, just back on the issue of Angus Taylor, why deny the Country’s most senior representation possible at the International Energy Agency Summit in Paris, with the denial of a pair?
ALBANESE: We should have the most senior representation possible. We should have someone who has credibility. We shouldn’t have someone who’s presided over and energy security policy where we don’t have fuel security in this country in accordance with the international energy agency guidelines. Nothing like it and the government’s objectives is to achieve it halfway through the next decade, perhaps under this minister. We don’t have an energy policy. This bloke is a laughing stock in international forums, so we’re suggesting that we can be represented by a guy, forget about the fact there’s of police investigation, he also is an energy minister without an energy policy. He’s the minister for emissions reduction where emissions are going up. He’s a laughing stock in terms of credibility of dealing with other nations around the world.
JOURNALIST: Who are you suggesting represent the country?
ALBANESE: Well, the foreign minister has represented Australia in the past, Julie Bishop before she was cast aside by Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton and others, represented Australia at the climate change conferences that were held, so there’s no reason why a new minister as well. This minister should be gone. He shouldn’t be representing Australia in international forums. He should be sitting on the back bench.
JOURNALIST: So you’re saying that the Foreign Minister should represent the country, and not the Energy Minister on energy issues?
ALBANESE: Well, hello! Climate change is an international issue. Energy policy is an international issue. You could pick anyone at random from the back bench, and they would do better representing Australia on energy and emissions trading issues, than, all of those issues, than the current minister.