Feb 3, 2014

Transcript of interview -ABC News 24

Subject/s: Drought assistance, industry assistance, political donations, unions, Tony Abbott’s poor start to government 

JOURNALIST: Labor front bencher Anthony Albanese joins us from Sydney. Mr Albanese, your Government actually negotiated and agreed on the new assistance scheme which starts in July. Is it designed to be adequate for what we are seeing right now?

ALBANESE: We did and it was designed and supported by the farming sector and I think, broadly, across the community when it was introduced.

There are agreements that have been signed, the new scheme does commence on July 1.

It will be interesting to see what Barnaby Joyce has to say down the track.

I hope he argues harder his case than clearly was argued for those farmers who will be affected by the SPC Ardmona decision which is, in my view, a very short-sighted one because it could devastate the communities around the Goulburn Valley.

JOURNALIST: Let’s look at that broader question of industry assistance elsewhere. Your leader is going to (the) SPC Ardmona plant in Shepparton today. Is Labor saying it is comfortable about giving extra money to a profitable multinational company? 

ALBANESE:  Well, it’s a matter of having a close look at what the circumstances are.

If you just walk away from the SPC Ardmona decision and see that potentially it could lead to the closure of that industry, we need to look at value-adding in terms of food.

We need to look at the potential that we have to be the food bowl of Asia.

We need to be realistic about the subsidies that occur in other countries with regard to agricultural production and we need to look at what the impact is of decisions on people, on communities, as well as on the economy.

If you take away that support for SPC Ardmona and if it leads to the shutting of that plant and the sacking effectively of all those workers and the multiplier effect, you could end up with a worse impact on Government revenue than if some support was given. 

JOURNALIST: So you’re thinking it should be (inaudible) … more of an investment.

ALBANESE: Certainly in terms of these support mechanisms, it can be an investment in growth and jobs in the future and in future industries as well.

I mean why is it that this is a Government that thinks it is OK to give a significant subsidy to the Cadbury chocolate factory to undertake tours that were undertaken for many years before Cadbury withdrew it there, and not OK to give consideration to the SPC Ardmona support that was requested?

This was a co-investment as well. This wasn’t about just a Government hand-out. This would have seen significant investment by the company in addition to any Government support.

JOURNALIST: The Government is signalling a change in approach more broadly on industry policy and we will watch what Mr Shorten has to say about that later in the day. We also have out today the electoral funding figures for political parties and they do confirm millions given by the union movement to Labor. Is that a liability in view of the last Craig Thomson story running last week and the construction union revelations?

ALBANESE:  I think the most interesting disclosure that is out today is the ongoing donations from big tobacco to the Abbott Government in the lead-up to the last election.

That is an issue that has a big impact in of terms of health. There is no, of course, news in the fact that the Labor Party has affiliated unions.

JOURNALIST: No, and yet Government will be going out of its way to try to create that association or remind everyone of it. 

ALBANESE: They will try and do all that. This is a Government that has appointed the head of the BCA to – they have contracted out, if you like, the cuts that will be proposed for its commission of cuts that it has established.

This is a Government that is prepared to make significant grants on the one hand, but abandon SPC Ardmona workers and indeed almost hector Holden to leave the country with those jobs that will be left.

These are all a distraction – the anti-union position of the Government is nothing new.

JOURNALIST: Is there a suspicion on Labor’s part that this could play into the Griffith by-election and its chances of success?

ALBANESE: It is an attempt to distract Australians from the failure of what is the worst beginning of any new Government in Australia’s history.

Governments normally come in (and) they have a honeymoon. What’s has happened with this Government is they have come in, they have botched just about everything that they have touched.

In some areas, like education, it is not clear what they stand for – or health.

All we know is there are cuts coming, there are inconsistent decisions being made.

They have no plan for future job-creation. They have no plan for growth. They just have a plan for cuts.

What they are trying to do is to go back to the old faithful of union bashing that has been so favoured by conservative Governments over a period of time. 

JOURNALIST: All right Anthony Albanese. Thank you very much for joining us today. 

ALBANESE: Good to talk to you.