Sep 14, 2011

Transcript of interview on ABC 24

Subjects: Clean Energy bills debate


MELISSA CLARKE: So, we have a large package of bills, you try to get it through in a vote by the end of October. There’s 38 people who want to speak. How does it actually work?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The bills were introduced yesterday morning. A package of 18 bills, and then a separate bill about the Steel Transformation Plan, because that’s not part of the multi-party committee on climate change. So you’ll have a cognate debate on the legislation. It commenced this morning. Last night we agreed to set up a joint parliamentary committee. It will report on October 7. On October 11 – after a month of debate – there’ll be a second reading vote in the House, and then on 12 October there’ll be the final vote on the package of legislation and, of course, the government’s very confident that we have a majority to secure that passage.

MELISSA CLARKE: Well, if the inquiry that’s – if the committee that’s looking into the bills doesn’t report back to the seventh, and most of the debate is over then, what’s the point in having that inquiry in place anyway? Aren’t you putting the cart before the horse?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What the committee will enable to happen is for people in the community who have issues to examine it and to be able to make their submissions. We’ll have scrutiny in terms of the debate not being concluded by then; the debate will continue on that week and throughout the day of October 11. So we’re allowing full and proper scrutiny. One month’s notice of when this will be voted upon stands in stark contrast to the way the former government dealt with WorkChoices or, indeed, issues like sending us to war in Iraq.

MELISSA CLARKE: Well – but there’s only four days between that coming back and then the vote. I mean, you’re not really going to change the legislation in those four days are you, so…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The Opposition moved an amendment last night to shift the reporting date from October 4 to October 7. We agreed with that. We’ve tried to accommodate people where they’ve put forward suggestions. That was their choice which we agreed to in the spirit of trying to show that we want to facilitate debate and cooperation.

MELISSA CLARKE: Now, if we have this debate by the – and the vote, which we’re aiming for that 12 October date, have you taken into account the chance the Opposition might try and filibuster. Is that factored into the timetable.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What we’re having is Opposition speakers dropping off the list, not going on. Now…

MELISSA CLARKE: We’ll come to that [laughs].

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Malcolm Turnbull has now dropped off the speaking list and a number of other members from the Opposition refused to attend for the Opposition Leader’s speech this morning.

MELISSA CLARKE: Well, we’ll come back to that issue of that speakers list. But the fact that the Opposition has made it clear they’ll do anything and everything to try and stop this legislation – they certainly have tried to filibuster before – is that something that you have a plan for?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The resolution of the parliament means the vote will be held on October 11 at 5pm, and then a final vote on October 12. That was adopted by the parliament last night. We have said to the Opposition – they have this rather odd position of saying, we want more time to debate but we don’t want the parliament to sit for longer – we’re willing to have the parliament sit for extra hours in order to accommodate every speaker who wants to speak.

MELISSA CLARKE: If you don’t extend the hours, and the Opposition doesn’t want that – but they still insist on being able to speak, will you cut down debate so that that vote still happens on time.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The debate will happen and the vote will happen at that time. That’s already been determined by the House. It’s very clear when the vote will be, so it avoids the Opposition playing their games about denying pairs and the sort of nonsense that we’ve seen over the last few weeks where people were denied going to Margaret Olley’s funeral. We had a number of front benchers saying they would deny the Member for Dobell the right to be at the birth of his child. They’ve backed away from that. This takes away any excuse for any of that nonsense from the Opposition.

MELISSA CLARKE: Now, when it comes to who speaks and in what order, the whips from both the parties get together and arrange a speakers list. Malcolm Turnbull was on that list. We’ve now been told by his office that that was a mistake and he was never meant to be on there. How do these mistakes happen? Do you – can you give us an insight of someone who’s used to wrangling some numbers?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The whips are responsible and what would normally happen is that members would go into the whip’s office and write their name, or a member of staff would write their name down on the speaking list. Who knows how Malcolm Turnbull’s name got put on that list, but now Malcolm Turnbull’s office have made it clear that he won’t speak.

MELISSA CLARKE: Would you like to have heard him speak?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think Malcolm Turnbull has views on climate change. He knows it’s real. He knows that we need to act. We had the rather the bizarre suggestion in the debate last night from the former Shadow Minister for Emissions Trading, Andrew Robb, who said he never supported emissions trading; he was the former shadow under Malcolm Turnbull when everyone on the other side of politics, including John Howard who went to the election in 2007 saying they supported having a price on carbon. It really shows how far to the right and how extreme Tony Abbott has taken the Liberal Party.

MELISSA CLARKE: Now, could I ask you about the tone of debate in the House, as someone who is the Leader of the Government in the House. Yesterday’s question time saw a lot of – what appeared to be bickering between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott across the despatch boxes and not necessarily when they were standing at the despatch box having the call. Do you have a role – do you and Christopher Pyne, as the Opposition Manager of Business, have a responsibility to improve the overall level of the tone of debate in the House?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think we’ve all got a responsibility. But what we’ve had from the Opposition is a very conscious strategy to wreck. When the Prime Minister stands up to respond to a question, the Manager of Opposition Business and others go and actually tell back benchers to be rowdy.

MELISSA CLARKE: But behaviour hasn’t been on great on the government’s side either.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: If you look at the way that the government has responded it’s in a responsible way and stands in stark contrast with the behaviour of the Opposition. Yesterday it reached a new length whereby we not only have Opposition backbenchers and frontbenchers misbehaving, they’re now inciting the galleries to misbehave. We know that a number of the people who disrupted it yesterday afternoon had lunch with Opposition members prior to question time. The ABC website shows a photo of someone with the escorted pass sign on their suit. That shows that they were signed in by a member of parliament. I assure you, they weren’t signed in by the Labor Party.

MELISSA CLARKE: That doesn’t mean the Opposition knows they were going to interrupt question time though.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: You’ve had a number of Opposition front benchers, including the Member for Indi, flying up from her electorate in Victoria up to attend a rally of a similar nature in terms of disruptive behaviour outside my electorate office in Sydney in Marrickville. Not only have they supported that conduct they’ve incited it, and Tony Abbott himself has called for a people’s revolt. What we need on climate change is rational discussion, not the sort of abuse that we’ve seen.

MELISSA CLARKE: Just to come back to Malcolm Turnbull, I’ve been told that just in the last few moments, Malcolm Turnbull has [indistinct] that he will speak on the carbon – in the carbon tax debate, but he will do so at a time of his choosing. But the government will also have some say in the timing of when speakers speak, won’t they? Will you make provision and make room for Malcolm Turnbull to speak somewhere later down the track?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We will certainly allow and facilitate everyone speaking, including Malcolm Turnbull. Malcolm’s obviously – there’s a few issues in the Coalition at the moment. A number of them are very unhappy with the irrational position that’s been put by the Opposition over these issues.

MELISSA CLARKE: And just finally, if I can ask you on another topic, where the government has said there will be an inquiry of some sort into the media. Have you got any more details about what those terms of references might be?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think I’ll leave that to the Communications Minister, my colleague, Stephen Conroy, to announce that.

MELISSA CLARKE: All right. Thanks very much for joining us.