Sep 10, 2012

Transcript of Interview – Sky AM Agenda with Kieran Gilbert

Issues: Condolences to the Prime Minister; NSW local government elections; Greens Political Party; Marriage equality bill; Code of conduct; Nauru; Qantas/Emirates partnership      

KIERAN GILBERT:  Parliament sits this week, though the Prime Minister won’t be here for the first few days.

She’s in Adelaide with her mother and her sister, mourning the death of her father, John Gillard, at the weekend. Obviously, a very difficult time for the Prime Minister.

And with me on this morning’s program to discuss this and the other issues, the Leader of the House, Anthony Albanese. Mr Albanese, thanks for your time.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you again.

KIERAN GILBERT: A tough time for Prime Minister Gillard. Wayne Swan will be standing in for much of the week, I guess.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It is a tough time and the Prime Minister should come back in her own time. I think people would have heard her speak about her father and she was very proud of him. He was proud of her. It’s particularly difficult to get the news when in Vladivostok and it would have been a long, lonely and difficult journey home for the Prime Minister.

KIERAN GILBERT: And would you expect her to be away for the whole week or what’s your understanding?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think it’s her call.


ANTHONY ALBANESE: This is a time where I think the whole nation would be sympathetic.


ANTHONY ALBANESE: It will depend of a range of circumstances including the funeral arrangements.


ANTHONY ALBANESE: It is my view that the Prime Minister has one priority at the moment, that’s her family, and that’s legitimate.

KIERAN GILBERT: Absolutely. Let’s move on to some politics, and there’s a fair bit at the weekend. In Leichhardt, in Marrickville, these local council elections across New South Wales, but in these seats near your backyard, 11 per cent swings against the Greens Political Party: 7 per cent, I think, in Marrickville, 11 per cent in Leichhardt. These have been your nemesis, really, in those seats. You would welcome those results, obviously.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, it’s a very bad result for the Greens Political Party political party throughout the inner west. This is the stronghold of the Lee Rhiannon forces in the Greens Political Party. I think that people have had a look at the Greens Political Party in control of things. In Leichhardt, they were dominant; it was essentially a one-party state in Leichhardt. They did nothing in terms of environmental outcomes, nothing in terms of community facilities, and they were rejected.

One of the problems they’ve got is a whole lot of people elected to local council who are really frustrated foreign affairs ministers and tried to engage in things that really aren’t the business of local government.

KIERAN GILBERT:  Does this show though that the Greens Political Party brand is on the nose, Labor needs to distance itself federally as well, to do more to distance itself?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: In my area, in the Inner West, when people have looked closely at what the Greens Political Party stand for, they’ve come up short. That explains the very large swings. In Ashfield where the Greens Political Party have the mayor at the moment, I think it is possible they will be completely wiped out and won’t have anyone at all on the council.

KIERAN GILBERT: But what about federally though, do you think that Labor needs to sharpen its differences with the Greens Political Party on a national level as well?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think we show what our differences are with the Greens Political Party. I certainly, as the local member, indicate that all the time, that we’re about real solutions, not just about posturing. I think that comes through in the Parliament all the time.

There are areas where we have agreement and that’s a good thing. There are areas where we agree with the Coalition, that’s a good thing. But there are major differences about the way that we deal with issues, particularly about the economy and the need to have a sustainable economic policy that supports jobs.

That is the primary difference between Labor and the Greens Political Party.

KIERAN GILBERT: There might have been some bright spots for you in your area, but further west, not so good. Labor heartland’s areas, like Liverpool, Liverpool Council, unthinkable in years gone by for Labor people that this – that you would see a Liberal mayor in Liverpool. They were massive swings against Labor.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: There have been conservative representatives in the western suburbs before. I think you’ve got to look at the state election results and compare them with the local election results.

Labor has had difficulties in New South Wales, that’s the truth of the matter. We copped a major defeat at the state election just over a year ago, and clearly some of that washed through. We need to fight very hard throughout New South Wales on issues.

We had mixed results across a range of areas. In Lake Macquarie, we’ve won the mayoralty back – a major council for the first time in a long while.

KIERAN GILBERT:  So, you think that there are – while the results are largely negative for Labor in those heartland seats, that there’s a glimmer of hope for you – for the brand? Because there was the sense that Labor’s brand was damaged so badly right across the board that it was going to flow in not only to these elections but, obviously, the elections next year too.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: If you look at the results compared with the state election, then you had improvements across a whole range of areas where the conservatives got outstanding results at the last state election.

You also saw come through some of the conflict within the Coalition. Places like Fairfield where the Liberal Party are such a mess that they couldn’t even stand candidates. Details are coming out about them breaching their own State Government developer donations laws – Barry O’Farrell turning up at meetings and then having to send cheques back for fundraisers.

KIERAN GILBERT: But Labor’s brand is largely still on the nose in those areas isn’t it?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Labor’s brand copped a lot towards the end of the State Government period, there’s no gilding the lily about that. That’s a fact, and the people had their say in March 2011. It’s going to take time for us to rebuild and that rebuilding process involves a number of really good new talented people going on to local councils.

In Canada Bay, Angelo Tsirekas, who got a pretty bad result as our state candidate in Drummoyne, came back, won the mayoral vote on primaries on Saturday.

So an outstanding result for him.

KIERAN GILBERT: What about in Shoalhaven, Joanna Gash, she’s a – obviously, a federal member of Parliament; she looks like she’s going to win that with a big victory by popular choice; does the Government have any issues with a local – with a federal member running for a mayoral seat as well?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s not a matter of the Government having an issue, it’s a question of whether the Constitution has an issue.

When I was a party official and certainly people like Nick Minchin agreed with this position, that there’s a problem of being a local councillor at the same time as you’re a federal Member of Parliament. We actually ensured that a number of local council representatives resigned from their positions in order to run for federal office.

KIERAN GILBERT: And will you be pursuing this legally?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m not personally; but if there’s an issue there, I’d be surprised if someone doesn’t take the ball up. The fact is that you’ve had a range of case law as well; we had Phil Cleary as the former Member for Wills where the High Court overturned his election.

Kieran, it’s a full-time job. The idea that you can represent a council area somewhere outside of Canberra and still be doing your duties as a federal MP in this Parliament is pretty extraordinary.

KIERAN GILBERT:  Well, let’s look at some of the legislation this weekend? [Indistinct] code of conduct bill to be moved by Rob Oakeshott. Christopher Pyne says the Coalition will vote against it until the Senate Interests Committee reports on a similar re… code in the Upper House. That’s a reasonable proposition, isn’t it?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, hang on a tick here. Christopher Pyne and the Coalition signed up to this as part of the agreement on parliamentary reform. They agreed to a code of conduct on parliamentary reform just like they agreed to a range of measures to improve the standing of the Parliament.

Since then, Malcolm Turnbull has belled the cat that they’ve been engaged in destructive negativity. It’ll be interesting to see whether in Question Time this week Malcolm Turnbull gets a question.

It will also be interesting to see whether they ask questions about anything other than their two pet issues. Of course, these aren’t questions; they’re just slogans with a question mark at the end. They may as well have a robocall pressing a button at the microphone every time they get the call for a question.

KIERAN GILBERT: And on to a bit of housekeeping as well, the votes – the marriage equality bill is going to be debated today; when can we expect a vote on that bill?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  I think a lot of the speakers will be gone through today. We want to give everyone the opportunity to speak so there certainly won’t be a vote today. Sometime between now and the end of the year, there’ll be a vote.

KIERAN GILBERT: And finally on the legislative instrument authorising Nauru, the offshore processing centre; when will that be introduced? Scott Morrison says it should have been done weeks ago and that this is simply the Government sitting on its hands when you should be…

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  That’s nonsense and he knows it’s nonsense. The Nauru facility wasn’t immediately readily available to be used. He knows that. Everyone knows that. People who saw the facility know that. So that instrument will be brought in pretty soon.

KIERAN GILBERT: I should ask you before you go, though: Qantas and Emirates. You are the Transport Minister. What are your thoughts on that deal? Obviously it’s got to go through some regulatory hurdles.

But in principle, do you support it?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think potentially this is a very good deal for the travelling public. These are two great airlines.

Qantas clearly, in the way that aviation’s organised globally, needs to have partnerships. Emirates is a strong partner. It gives it one-stop access into a whole range of European destinations for Australian travellers. It means the Qantas route can continue on to London.

Emirates is also a company that has an interest in Australia. It’s not just flying in and flying out. They have investments here through the Wolgan Valley Resort and their sponsorship of the Melbourne Cup. They have a commitment to Australia and have created Australian jobs here.

Qantas, of course, if it’s more secure, can mean more Australian jobs into the future.

So for the travelling public I’d be very hopeful that the ACCC looks favourably upon it.

KIERAN GILBERT: Anthony Albanese, thanks for your time today.