Transcript of interview – ABC Local Radio, Victoria
25 July 2007
Subject: National Water Plan; Differences between Political Parties
ALBANESE: Good afternoon Kathy.
JOURNALIST: Would Kevin Rudd still be urging Steve Bracks to sign up to the deal?
ALBANESE: We’ve consistently supported a national approach when it’s come to water. In fact, we released a discussion paper in December of last year calling for a streamlining and greater leadership from the Commonwealth when it came to the Murray Darling Basin. We don’t think it makes sense to have a number of jurisdictions having control over the Basin. It’s quite clear that the way that the system has worked in the past has lead to some difficulties. That’s why we have had in principle support for the concept of a national water plan and that remains the case.
JOURNALIST: Will Federal Labor then vote in favour of this new legislation to set up a body to manage the Basin?
ALBANESE: We haven’t seen the legislation. We hear a lot of talk from the Commonwealth about legislation.
JOURNALIST: You’re saying you support a centralised control of Water that basically what it’s about.
ALBANESE: Well how do you know when you haven’t seen it? We haven’t seen it that’s the point. Of great concern is the fact that there have been a number of drafts of this bill floating around. Federal Labor hasn’t seen any copies of those drafts. Indeed, I think this predicament can be traced back to the fact that the Prime Minister made the 10 billion dollar announcement on the 25th of January but at that time there was no funding details, no timelines, no governance arrangements in place. It has changed, every time.
JOURNALIST: At that time I’ve got a quote here from Kevin Rudd, towards the end of January, were he said I believe we need to develop a positive national response to what is a national water emergency and that means dealing cooperatively between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories.
ALBANESE: That’s our position, absolutely that’s our position.
JOURNALIST: So will you be urging Steve Bracks to sign up to the deal?
ALBANESE: We have continued to urge both the Commonwealth and Victoria to negotiate in good faith. We want to see a negotiated outcome here in the interests of the nation, for people to put aside party politics. I think there has been too much politics when it comes to dealing with the Murray Darling Basin over a long period of time.
JOURNALIST: Are you accusing the Victorian Labor Premier of politicking on this?
ALBANESE: We’re saying that there has been too much politics from all levels of Government, from all sides of the political debate, over a period of decades when it comes to the Murray Darling Basin. What we need here is to actually have an outcome in the national interest.
We call upon the Commonwealth to continue to negotiate with Victoria. The negotiations were achieving, we were advised by both Malcolm Turnbull and the Victorian Government through the media, that the parties were coming closer together and that there had been significant moves, towards that national agreement. Then, of course, the Victorian Government heard nothing from the Commonwealth, for a period of weeks and then just got this letter from the Prime Minister. What we need when it comes to water is proper discussion.
It is unfortunate that prior to the Prime Minster’s announcement in January, there was no consultation with Farmers, no consultation with State Governments, no consultation even with the Cabinet of the Howard Government or the Murray Darling Basin Commission. So it’s not surprising that it’s taken some time to get the detail right.
JOURNALIST: It would be unreasonable to suggest that there has not been significant consultation with local communities, with the State Premiers since the announcement in January. We have Malcolm Turnbull, I think has made a couple of visits, I think to the North East of Victoria.
ALBANESE: That’s correct there has been. It’s time to see the legislation that the Howard Government says it will be introducing in two weeks time. It is not reasonable to suggest that people should just say ‘yes I’ll just sign up’ without seeing that legislation. The Prime Minister needs to do this.
We keep being told that there are emergencies. Parliament was going to be sitting this week because of legislation that needed to be rushed through to do with indigenous people and young people in particular and the child abuse that was there. Of course Parliament hasn’t been resumed and the legislation hasn’t been seen yet. It’s time that the Howard Government actually came clean and released the legislation for all to see, so that people can make a judgement.
Our position as the Opposition is very clear, we support a national approach. We will continue to do that, we urge all parties, both the Commonwealth and the States to move forward in a spirit of cooperation, in the national interest. If that doesn’t occur what we know is that the Prime Minister is saying, that what will go forward in this legislation, is second best legislation, because of the constitutional impediments that are there.
JOURNALIST: Anthony Albanese with us the Shadow Federal Spokesman for Water. If this does end up in the Court I don’t know how expedient matters might be there. But chances are we could go to a federal election before this matter is determined. Under a Federal Labor Government would you be urging Steve Bracks to sign up to the deal or would you be meeting the demands that the Victorian Government has put on the table?
ALBANESE: A Federal Labor Government supports a national approach to the Murray Darling Basin; we have done that prior to the Prime Minister’s announcement in January. It’s taken an election year for the Prime Minister to discover water as an issue. Before this year there was no Water Department, there was no Water Minister, and there was no water policy. What we will continue to support is a much more national approach so that we ensure that it’s water that flows in the Murray Darling Basin, not red tape.
JOURNALIST: How would you get a deal up with the Victorian Labor Government?
ALBANESE: It’s not up to me on your program with due respect to negotiate with the Victorian Government from Opposition.
JOURNALIST: Let me put it this way Anthony Albanese.
ALBANESE: We’d far prefer to see a constructive approach from the Commonwealth. They should sit back down and stop sending ultimatums in letters to the Victorian Government. Sit down with the Victorian Government on the basis of where the negotiations reached two weeks ago and see if it can be progressed in the national interest.
JOURNALIST: Do you support the demands that the Bracks Government has, to see this deal go through, a deal that you generally support?
ALBANESE: I haven’t been privy to the negotiations between the Federal Government and the Bracks Government.
JOURNALIST: Is that a bit remiss of the State Labor Government to not communicate their demands to their federal counterparts?
ALBANESE: No, of course not, of course not. I haven’t been in the room when that’s occurred. What we support as an issue of principle is a national approach, and we’d urge the Commonwealth to sit down with the Victorian Government and proceed on the basis that they were close to agreement, according to Malcolm Turnbull. The Prime Minister said progress was occurring two weeks ago. What’s happened in the last fortnight to change the Commonwealth approach from one of seeking cooperation, to one which is now resulting in its own words of very much a second best result, even if the legislation is carried, which they’re proposing to introduce or they’ve said they’ll introduce in a fortnights time to the Parliament.
JOURNALIST: Anthony Albanese Shadow Federal Spokesman for Water. The political discourse today, a number of opinion pieces in the paper seem to be suggesting that Labor are too closely aligning to the Howard Governments policy. Supporting Aboriginal welfare policy, a similar Timber policy in Tasmania and now supporting the national water deal. Is Kevin Rudd, a Labor Government offering anything different to what we already have?
ALBANESE: Absolutely, for a start when it comes to water issues we support a much more national approach not just in the Murray Darling Basin, but for the 18 million Australians who live in our towns and cites, through having a National Urban Water Plan. Kevin Rudd has made a number of announcements along those lines including support for the superpipe not just to Bendigo but to Ballarat as well in regional Victoria, as well as a number of significant programs for individual households to achieve our target of 30% recycling of all waste water by 2015. That’s just on water, on other issues.
JOURNALIST: On the Haneef issue, very similar line to the Federal Government?
ALBANESE: On particular issues such as Workchoices, there is a stark difference between Labor which wants to see a return to fairness in the workplace. JOURNALIST: The point being though, are there enough differences Anthony Albanese?
ALBANESE: I think there are substantial differences and that is what is showing through in the polls. I think on the key issues about our long term future – water climate change, skills and education – Labor has a substantially different program from what is very much a tired Government that is all about playing short term politics.
JOURNALIST: All right, thank you for joining us.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.