Oct 20, 2011

Transcript of Interview on ABC News 24

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: A new report has found that Australians living in the major cities are increasingly leaving their car in the garage and opting for public transport instead.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: They’re also using less electricity and producing much less household waste. For more the Federal Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, joins us on the phone. Mr Albanese, good morning. You must be heartened by this shift, according to the study, to public transport and away from cars.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I am, indeed. There’s many positive things in today’s report. This is the second State of Australia Cities report. The first one was downloaded by some 575,000 Australians, in full. I found that remarkable and it certainly exceeded expectations. What that shows is that we are the most urbanised country on the planet. Cities do generate 80 per cent of our wealth and citizens themselves are showing a great deal of interest in the way that our cities function and one of the things they’re doing is taking action themselves.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Why are people increasingly deciding to leave the car in the garage and hop on a tram, train or bus?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: There’s some interesting things in the report. One of the things that it shows is that people are tending to live closer to where they work. That’s a really positive development, so people are catching public transport. People are also more likely to walk to work and we’re more likely to buy a new bicycle than buy a new car. So all of that is positive in terms of the carbon footprint that people leave, in terms of transport issues but also positive in terms of lifestyles. I think people feel more relaxed to sit on a train than to sit in traffic driving to work.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: The study also shows there’s been a fall in net overseas migration to Australia of more than 25 per cent. Is that a worry to you at a time when many industries are crying out that they need people with skills and they need obviously people from overseas, care of skilled migration?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think it reflects changes that have occurred in migration patterns. We’re seeing, in part, a change in the number of Australians who are travelling overseas or living overseas. We see that changing. We’ve also seen the sort of industries which are driving the Australian economy change. Mining has increased. For the first time it’s taken over manufacturing as our second largest industry after the finance sector.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Now, if I can keep you on matters transport, if we move from on the road to the skies, you would have seen those comments reported in the papers this morning from Alan Joyce, the Qantas boss, where he’s now going to the point of threatening to sack Qantas staff if that concerted industrial action continues. Those, Anthony Albanese, are the sort of comments not exactly designed to tamp down passions in this dispute, are they?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think both sides in this dispute need to take a bit of a deep breath and remember that we do have common interests here. There’s a common interest of the workforce in having a successful company to work for and I think that both sides in the dispute need to apply a bit of commonsense, need to be flexible and need to get this agreement done.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Well, they’re not exactly taking a deep breath. Surely it’s time, Minister, to consider the Federal Government here stepping in and banging heads together and trying to get some resolution to this dispute. We have an online travel company, Webjet, this morning pleading, almost pleading with the Government to do that, worrying about the loss of business leading up to the very busy Christmas period.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I assure you that – and you’d be surprised if this wasn’t the case – that I’ve had more discussions with the company and with the unions in the last weeks than I had in the previous year. The Government is certainly encouraging and discussing with both sides. There are provisions in the Fair Work Australia Act for the government to intervene if this dispute gets to the point whereby it’s a threat to the national economic interest.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: And just before you go, Minister, it looks as though the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Allan Asher, will today resign after that controversy where he colluded with a Greens senator. Is this the right decision?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think the Ombudsman has a position whereby he or she is supposed to look at probity and I think that his actions failed that test, that he himself is supposed to preside over.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for your time this morning.