Nov 24, 2011

Transcript of interview – Radio National Breakfast

Subjects:   MRRT, bills passed, Abbott

FRAN KELLY:  Anthony Albanese is Labor’s Leader of the House, it’s been his job this year to muster the numbers, not always easy, and navigate the Government’s legislation through the chamber.

Anthony Albanese, welcome to Breakfast.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you again, Fran.

FRAN KELLY:  First to the mining tax, why was it so important to hold that vote just before three o’clock in the morning, on Wednesday morning, why not wait until the details of the funding deal with the Greens could be announced?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh, let’s get real here, Fran, We’re talking about $20 million that’s…

FRAN KELLY:  Yes, but you made sure the Greens kept that secret, they didn’t want to.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …of savings, that we were making, and we’re making a whole range of savings in MYEFO.  The big deal is not that, the big deal is getting through a tax that will ensure that the big mines will pay more for the resources that they can only dig up once, that are owned by every Australian, and the fact that we’ll be using that money to increase super, cut company tax, and build infrastructure in regional Australia.

FRAN KELLY:  Well that’s the point though, isn’t it, that is the big deal in the Government’s term, but it clouded it by insisting the Greens keep this secret, which meant the Opposition can come and say, well MPs were forced to vote on this without knowing the details, it’s secret deals with the Greens.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, it didn’t, Fran, you’re talking about that, but the punters out there, when they get their better super, the companies, when they get their company tax cut, when we have regional infrastructure, getting roads and ports and railway lines in regional Australia, that’s what they’re interested in.

FRAN KELLY:  Let’s go to the year that was, as far as the Government’s concerned, the experiment of minority Government has worked in the sense that 250 bills have passed through the House, you’ve had to give up a lot along the way though, I mean is there one major bill you can name that you’ve been able to get through the Parliament without making concessions for the cross benches, or in your view, doesn’t that matter?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Structural separation of Telstra, there’s one, Fran, there’s one that was talked about for decades.  This Parliament has got it done, this Parliament is building, is ensuring the National Broadband Network is being rolled out, all the NBN bills have gone through, this is…

FRAN KELLY:  I certainly think there were some dealings with Nick Xenophon at least, on that.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: You’ve been around a while, the fact is there’s only been one term whereby the Coalition had the numbers in both Houses, for everything else they had to negotiate their way through with the Democrats, that was the case with the previous Labor Government as well, that’s the way the politics work.  What’s occurred in this Parliament is that some of the negotiations have taken place in the House of Reps first and then in the Senate, but it has always been the case, with the exception of what I’ll call the Work Choices term of the Howard Government, the final term that killed it off when they had absolute power, and it went to their head, and they imposed Work Choices on the Australian people.  With that exception, for the entire time I’ve been engaged in politics, the Government has not had a majority in both Houses, and has had to negotiate its issues through the Senate.  There’s nothing wrong with dealing with the Parliament that the Australian public have voted for, and it is extraordinary, Fran, that we have had 252 bills passed by this Parliament, none defeated, no amendments passed without the support of the Government, this is a Parliament that’s functioning well, this is a Parliament that has dealt with the mining tax, pricing carbon, structural separation of Telstra, national health reform, national education reform, right across the board, Fran…

FRAN KELLY:  Do you think…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …this is a Government that is getting things done.

FRAN KELLY:  …from your experience, do you think we’ve got better legislation in this country because of the input of the cross benches, or worse legislation?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Fran, this is a nonsense argument, is my point to you…

FRAN KELLY:  But it’s a question, I’m wondering what you think?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’ve always had input of the cross benches, with the exception of one term, it’s a matter of where those cross benches have been…

FRAN KELLY:  Okay…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …that’s the way that the Australian body of politics works, I know it’s unusual, but it’s happened in the Reps this time, and of course every Government, every political party, would like to win every seat in both Houses but that’s not the case.  We have to deal with what we’ve got, and what we’ve shown is a maturity and a capacity to negotiate through issues, to ensure that the legislation has got through.

Meanwhile, the Coalition’s strategy, or the Noalition, has been to say no to everything, and to abuse the cross benches.

FRAN KELLY:  You haven’t got it all your own way, the Government lost 25 votes on the floor, now back in the ’60s, Robert Menzies went to the poll after losing four votes…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What, Fran?  Name one that counted, name one.

FRAN KELLY:  Well, you lost 25 votes on the floor…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Name one that counted, Fran.

FRAN KELLY:  Are you saying we passed legislation that doesn’t count?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Name one that counted.  None of them were on legislation, Fran, get real, they were votes on things like the member be no longer heard.

FRAN KELLY:  I was going to make the point that…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s the point, not one…

FRAN KELLY:  …these are senior voices…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …not one that you can point to, or that anyone else can point to that counted, that’s the truth…

FRAN KELLY:  …minister, I was going – the broader point I was going to make was that there has been some commentary from business leaders in particular, that they think the country and the economy is not going as strongly – it would be stronger if we had a clearer Government, that the minority Government is working against the interests of the economy, do you have a view on that?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I have a view which is that I hope that Labor wins every single seat in the House of Representatives at the next election.

FRAN KELLY:  Okay.  Can I ask you, Anthony Albanese…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s my view, but what you deal with is you respect the outcome that the Australian people give you, and you work with it, that’s what we’ve done, Fran, and the business community, who I deal with all the time, as Infrastructure and Transport Minister, what they know is that in my sector we’ve got reforms happening, like national transport regulators, $30 billion benefit over 20 years, that is an enormous reform that will make such a big difference to productivity in this nation. We haven’t been able to get it before we’ve got it through now.

FRAN KELLY:  You’ve also got a mining tax through, you’re the Infrastructure Minister, as you just reminded us, the Government’s threatening to withhold infrastructure payments linked to the mining tax from New South Wales in retaliation for New South Wales increasing its mining royalties by more than $900 million, the states are furious about this, isn’t the fact that – isn’t it the truth that the states can actually do what they like with their royalties?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, the fact is that Barry O’Farrell is a Coalition leader who hasn’t quite come to terms with the fact that he’s now the Premier, not the Opposition Leader, so he’s engaged…

FRAN KELLY:  Well hang on, any State Premier will jack up about a Commonwealth threat to doctor $900 million.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, do you see Colin Barnett, or other premiers out there…

FRAN KELLY:  Yes?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …day after day, bagging the Federal Labor Government?  No, you don’t.  Barry O’Farrell…

FRAN KELLY:  Colin Barnett was out yesterday bagging the Federal Government on that very issue.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Barry O’Farrell is out there every day and what’s interesting is the silence from the Noalition, led by Tony Abbott. When it came to New South Wales and WA’s decision to increase mining taxes, that was fine, but when the Federal Government says in an arrangement agreed to by the big mining companies that miners should pay more, big miners, on their super profits, you hear nothing from the Noalition, and last night they voted against it.

FRAN KELLY:  Alright, Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for joining us.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to talk to you, Fran.

FRAN KELLY:  Anthony Albanese is the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, and Leader of the House.