Subjects: Obama visit, uranium, Dolly Parton
SARAH MACDONALD: Well, Dolly Parton’s in town, she was on last night, and Anthony Albanese, the Transport Minister for Julia Gillard’s Federal Government was there, because he helped Dolly get her special bus into the country. He’s now flown down to Canberra of course, where Barack Obama is due to touch down this afternoon in high security, in the national capital. And Anthony Albanese joins me now on 702 ABC Sydney. Good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning, Sarah.
SARAH MACDONALD: Now I’ll get to Dolly in just a moment, because you’re probably still singing her songs in your head, but let’s just talk about some of the issues that are happening this afternoon, of course Barack Obama in town, and this is leading up to an announcement in Darwin about – an announcement about US troops to be rotating through Darwin, and really, the most significant increase in military ties between our two countries since the ’80s, what’s the Labor Party left’s response to this?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think I’ll leave the announcement to President Obama and Prime Minister Gillard, that’s appropriate, rather than try and pre-empt it, but there is very broad support across the party, and I think across the Australian community, for the alliance with the United States. The United States is a good friend of Australia, and it certainly is not an issue of contention within the Labor Party.
SARAH MACDONALD: So there’s no concerns on the left about an increased military presence?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I won’t pre-empt any announcement, but…
SARAH MACDONALD: Oh, come on, we have heard that, Stephen Smith’s admitted it, he hasn’t said the numbers yet, he just won’t give us the numbers.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well he is the Defence Minister, I’m the Infrastructure Minister, and it’s a very long road to making it into an infrastructure issue…
SARAH MACDONALD: But you’re a prominent member of the left…
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, the party, right across the spectrum, is very supportive of the alliance with the United States.
SARAH MACDONALD: Okay. Well what about uranium mining, because we know that the left is opposed to selling uranium to India, and indeed there will be an expansion of uranium mining across Australia to possibly provide the uranium to India, we’re in for an interesting conference, what’s your response to Julia Gillard’s editorial yesterday, and plan to take this to the conference, and indeed, win?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’ll wait and see what happens at the conference, I’ve made my position clear historically on the nuclear fuel cycle. I’ll be participating in the debate at the conference, and as a vibrant political party it is important that we have these debates.
SARAH MACDONALD: But you can’t win though, can you, on the left, you’re still determined to have a good debate, as you would call it, or skirmish, as some would say?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, we’ll wait and see what happens at the conference, I certainly wouldn’t pre-empt it, we’re a democratic party, people will put their views, and people are passionate about their views. That’s as it should be in a vibrant political party like the Australian Labor Party.
SARAH MACDONALD: What about the – is the left at all comforted by the exemption granted by the nuclear suppliers’ group to India, given the US India Civil Nuclear Agreement, does it help?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh look, I’ll be making – as a member of the Cabinet, I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of the debate publicly, I’ll be doing that as is my right and intention, at the conference, I’ll be fully participating in the range of debates at the conference, I’ve done so for a long period of time, I intend to again, and I’ll be taking a position that’s consistent with the views that I’ve put over many years, over the nuclear fuel cycle.
SARAH MACDONALD: Alright, you don’t want to talk about that, you want to talk about Dolly Parton, don’t you?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh well, you know, Dolly’s much more much less controversial I think, that’s for sure.
SARAH MACDONALD: [Laughs] Possibly. Now she wanted to – said she wanted to…
ANTHONY ALBANESE: And much more entertaining as well.
SARAH MACDONALD: Oh, you think? Well, you know, you’d have to be a die-hard Labor man to possibly feel that the Labor Party conference could be more fun, I will admit, than Dolly Parton. She said she wanted to smother you with lip gloss, because you helped to get her big, extravagant bus through Customs, to make sure she could travel in comfort and style, because she doesn’t adore flying around Australia, did you get a bit of a kiss?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I did get a bit of a cuddle last night, we had an interesting time, it was great to meet her, she’s very down to earth. She thanked me for getting her two buses in, she doesn’t like flying, Dolly, so she travels in style and comfort in these buses that are too long, too wide, and too heavy for Australian regulations, so they needed an exemption…
SARAH MACDONALD: So did you get to go in the bus?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I didn’t get to go in the bus, it’s a big, black bus, it’s her dressing rooms, and she was getting ready for the gig. Last night I think – she’s a consummate performer, very professional.
SARAH MACDONALD: Was it really fun? What was the highlight for you?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think just the way that she engaged with the audience. She’s a star performer, she has that charismatic quality that you’ve either got, or you haven’t got, and someone of her stature and experience, clearly does have it. She talked a lot more than a lot of other performers I’ve seen do with the audience, and they hung on every word.
SARAH MACDONALD: She talked about being a hillbilly, yes?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yes, she did, she’s one of 12 kids. She spoke about how there wasn’t much to do in Smoky Mountain, Tennessee, so she’s got a lot of siblings, and she talked about growing up poor, but having the love of her family, her mum and dad, and how that was important, they were rich in that way. So she’s a very down to earth, endearing performer, who hasn’t forgotten where she came from.
SARAH MACDONALD: And an astute businesswoman as well though, isn’t she, she’s smart as a tack?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: There’s no doubt about that, we’re talking about her today here, and you know, she manages to get publicity up, and she’s a very astute businesswoman, but she also puts a lot of money – I met the guy who handles her charity, that is essentially about providing books to under-privileged people in the United States…
SARAH MACDONALD: To school children…
ANTHONY ALBANESE: …and that’s a great thing.
SARAH MACDONALD: Yes. Are you as excited about that as meeting Barack Obama, as you were about Dolly Parton? [Laughs].
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I don’t think I’ll get a cuddle from the President, no – but I’ve met him before in London, he certainly is the best public speaker I’ve ever seen, so I’m very much looking forward to hearing him speak at a dinner tonight, and then we’ve got a Cabinet meeting with him tomorrow, a sort of smaller discussion…
SARAH MACDONALD: Alright.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: …and then he’ll address the Parliament. It’s a good day that’ll reinforce the friendship between our two countries.
SARAH MACDONALD: Alright, thanks so much for your time.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks, Sarah.