Jul 30, 2008

Transcript of Interview with 2UE

Transcript of Interview with 2UE

Anthony Albanese MP

Transcript of Interview with 2UE

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Subjects: Interview with Anthony Albanese and Tony Abbott

STEVE PRICE: It is Wednesday morning and our political panel is back in harness. No shadow health spokesman Joe Hockey this morning. He’s tied up, but in our Canberra studio, Tony Abbott, the Shadow Spokesman for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Tony Abbott, good morning to you.

TONY ABBOTT: G’day Steve.

STEVE PRICE: And on the line from the north west of Australia, up in Broome I think, Transport and Infrastructure Minister, Anthony Albanese. Good morning to you, Minister.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning, Steve.

STEVE PRICE: Nice and warm up there?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s a bit warmer than it was in Sydney yesterday.

STEVE PRICE: Yes it’s freezing cold here. I’d rather be in Broome. So would Tony Abbott I suspect. Mr Abbott to you first this morning, when is your party going to boot – move on Brendan Nelson and put him out of his misery?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, look, I think Brendan is doing a good job under difficult circumstances, Steve. No one says that leading the Opposition after a defeat is easy. As Bob Menzies said, defeat tends to disunite and we’re going through the sort of problems that every new opposition goes through. But I think Brendan is the right man for the job. He has a touch of healing. He consults, he’s collegial. He’s got a terrific political temperament and I for one like him and admire him greatly.

STEVE PRICE: But he doesn’t seem to have much support. I mean three weeks ago he said no trading emissions scheme without the rest of the world. Two days later he repeated that idea. Then in between we had Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop contradicting him. And then, embarrassingly, he’s got to come out yesterday and say you’re back where you started in 2012 with the 2012 start date.

TONY ABBOTT: Well look inevitably…

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] It’s confusion isn’t it?

TONY ABBOTT: Oh yeah, look, I mean. The – the – people can talk all they like about the Opposition’s policy on climate – on climate change. In the end the Opposition’s policy is really neither here nor there. What counts is what the Government actually does…

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] But you guys [indistinct] make up your mind and work together might be a point that we would all like to…

TONY ABBOTT: Well we have made up our mind that what we want to see is the Government’s policy because the Government’s policy will be the most dramatic change – the most dramatic institutional change to our economy in a couple of decades…

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] But we’ve got the Government policy. We know where they’re headed and…

TONY ABBOTT: [Interrupts] But – but we don’t know what the carbon price is going to be and that, surely, is the most important thing.

STEVE PRICE: Minister, do you now understand the Coalition position?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh look this isn’t confusion, this is chaos. There’s no point…

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] You’re not in opposition now Anthony. Tell us your position?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: There is no point trying to get around – your head around what the Coalition’s policy is today because we know that it’ll change tomorrow. Brendan Nelson has been humiliated by this own party on the most significant issue confronting the Australian political system. And it’s – it’s quite an extraordinary position to watch. I watched in 12 – for 12 years while the Coalition did nothing about climate change…

TONY ABBOTT: [Interrupts] That’s nonsense.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …and then in the wake of an election, defeat coming up, they decided to adopt a policy and then Brendan Nelson’s tried to walk away from that policy. And it appears they’re back to where they began prior to the election. But it really is a matter of confusion. It’ll be interesting to see – I note Joe Hockey’s absence today. They’re probably trying to sure up the party room. It’ll be interesting to see, given that there are so many sceptics who simply don’t believe in climate change, on the Opposition back bench.

STEVE PRICE: Tony are you a climate change sceptic?

TONY ABBOTT: Look I think climate change is a reality. Climate changes all the time and I think it’s reasonable to conclude…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: [Laughs]

TONY ABBOTT: …reasonable to conclude that man’s activity is having an impact so…

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] So you’re comfortable and relaxed now that your party’s gone back to the position you had during the election campaign that you believe that by 2012 we need to introduce a carbon trading scheme? You’re personally relaxed with that position?

TONY ABBOTT: I’m perfectly very – I am perfectly happy with that position. But the important thing as I went…

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] So when Brendan Nelson was saying that he wanted to change that position unless you could drag the other polluters with you, you didn’t agree with him?

TONY ABBOTT: Well he made the perfectly reasonable point that, in the end, what Australia does won’t really make a difference unless…

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] So you did agree with him?

TONY ABBOTT: …unless other countries are involved as well.

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] So you did agree with him?

TONY ABBOTT: …but it’s a perfectly reasonable point to make and I would expect…

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] Yeah but I need to get that clear. Did you agree with him or disagree with him when he backed away at the beginning of this month?

TONY ABBOTT: Well I think – I think you are putting a construction on what he did which is not entirely accurate.

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] No, I’m reading his quotes.

TONY ABBOTT: No, no, he made the perfectly reasonable point that a climate change policy adopted unilaterally by Australia is – is very virtuous and very good.

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] Well I can read the quote, he said on July 7, we must ensure we have the rest of the world on board before we act.

TONY ABBOTT: And – and…

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] So did you agree with that comment from him or not?

TONY ABBOTT: Wouldn’t it be a good thing if the rest of the world were on board because Australia could reduce its emissions to zero tomorrow and it wouldn’t make a difference.

STEVE PRICE: But it’s a simple premise, did you agree with that quote when he said it or not?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, look, the thing is that he made a perfectly reasonable point and I support him in that.

STEVE PRICE: So you supported him then and didn’t support what Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop were saying…

TONY ABBOTT: [Interrupts] No, well, they – they…

STEVE PRICE: …and then they’ve changed – everyone’s changed your mind yesterday as well as his?

TONY ABBOTT: They were making the perfectly reasonable point that we had a policy at the last election and, until such time as that policy is formally changed, it stands. But the important point, Steve, is this. We are the Opposition, okay? What – we have an opinion but we cannot make a difference, as such.

STEVE PRICE: Yes.

TONY ABBOTT: What makes a difference is what the Government does.

STEVE PRICE: Correct and you are the Opposition but we have an election before all of this is due to kick in and so we, realistically, need to know both sides…

TONY ABBOT: [Interrupts] Yes.

STEVE PRICE: …and where both sides stand.

TONY ABBOTT: And – and you absolutely will because – because what the Government…

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] Well we do or we will?

TONY ABBOTT: Well you know where we stand now but, you see, lots of things are going to happen between now and 2010. In particular, the Government will have put various policies in place. I mean I presume they will actually do something between 2010 rather than just talking about doing something. I mean there will be some substance, not just spin, from the Government between now and then. And obviously that will make a difference to where we stand…

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] Minister do you think this position that the Coalition now has would stay firm if they had a different leader?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh look it’s quite clear that a different leader would lead to a different policy. And that’s one of the things that we’re seeing here is that the leadership fight between Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull, and also others sitting back whether it be Joe Hockey or Tony Abbott and Peter Costello, both out there writing a book, putting their – putting their claims perhaps for the Liberal leadership – are fighting it through the prism of the climate change debate. Now Tony says, somehow, that the Opposition’s chaos doesn’t matter. Well it does because the Government doesn’t have a majority in the Senate and it’s simply unclear what they’re going to do…

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] Well that was my next question to you. I mean this affects you because you’re obviously not going to get this through the Senate if what they announced yesterday is their policy?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well it depends on what day it’s put to the Senate because it is unclear what their position is still. I’m sure it will change between now and the next week. And the important point is this, that I’ve certainly followed the emissions trading debate very closely and what the business community want and those people who have – have carriage of industries that’ll be impacted by a carbon pollution reduction scheme, and we know it will have a significant impact on the Australian economy, the shift to a carbon constrained economy. They want certainty and that’s why Labor has put out there the green paper process, consulting with industry and consulting with the community and why we’ll have our white paper at the end of the year, putting forward…

TONY ABBOTT: [Interrupts] And when will you have legislation?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …this definitive Government positions. Well we’ve said – we’ve said that that will follow the white paper so you can expect…

TONY ABBOTT: [Interrupts] So there’ll be no legislation this year?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well Tony I’m not here to answer your questions.

TONY ABBOTT: Oh come on, why not?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Because you used to be a journalist, now you’re a politician. The fact is that we have put forward our…

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] Feel free to go at it you two. I’ll just sit here and…

TONY ABBOTT: [Interrupts] No, no, no. But seriously, Anthony, I mean if – if climate change…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: [Interrupts] We have put forward our processes and what business wants. What business wants is some certainty. That’s why…

TONY ABBOTT: [Interrupts] And how quickly will they get that?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …we’ve put forward – we’ve put forward our process of 2010 having an emissions trading scheme. It makes enormous sense to move as soon as possible. There is no case for delay. And the Opposition, in putting forward their position, simply expose the fact that they’re confused and in disarray.

TONY ABBOTT: Well Minister I saw a poll…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: [Interrupts] But they don’t disagree with each other…

STEVE PRICE: …I saw a poll yesterday – a Galaxy poll that says 80 per cent of Australian want a carbon emission trading scheme in by 2010. I simply don’t believe that.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I think that – that Australians have been…

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] Do you?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …a fair – I certainly know – I don’t know…

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] 80 per cent?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: … about the exact figure. But what I do know is that Australians overwhelmingly want action on climate change…

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] Tony Abbott do you believe that poll?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …That’s one of the reasons why they changed government last year.

TONY ABBOTT: Well look I think people do want action and I think they want action as soon as possible. What the Government is doing…

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] So you’re saying people are actually supporting the Government policy?

TONY ABBOTT: What – no, no because they don’t know what the Government policy is. I mean we’ve had a green paper. We’ll have a white paper. I mean this is a very long and drawn out process. Can Anthony guarantee that we are going to have legislation in the first half of next year? Can he guarantee that we are going to have a scheme in place by 2010…

STEVE PRICE: [Interrupts] Well, he said you’ll get legislation after the white paper.

TONY ABBOTT: Well – well, but I mean if this really is the most important moral and political issue of our time, why is it all taking so long?

STEVE PRICE: Okay, let’s take a quick call from Gordon.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: [Interrupts] Taking so long?

STEVE PRICE: Morning to you Gordon? Gordon’s got a question for you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: [Interrupts] You had 12 years to do something and did nothing.

STEVE PRICE: Hang on Minister. Gordon, morning?

CALLER GORDON: Good morning Steve. I just pose a comment and equally a question to both ministers to both parties.

STEVE PRICE: One minister, one opposition front bench.

CALLER GORDON: I beg your pardon. I’m in private enterprise and if I was to take a policy to my company without any costings associated with it to show the implications to my company or to our customers, I’d be laughed out of the boardroom. Look, all the rhetoric and conversation about white papers, green papers, blue papers mean nothing unless the Australian public are given a clear indication of what it’s going to cost us now, what it’s going to cost us in five year’s time, what it’s going to cost us.

STEVE PRICE: Minister?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well that’s why you’ll have treasury modelling prior to the white paper. That is the process that’s being – being undertaken of consulting with industry. I’ve sat down in Canberra this week with major industry players in the infrastructure area. We’re having consultations there with the business community. The treasury modelling will be out there for all to see. What we’ve done in putting a green paper out there is – is to facilitate public debate. And that’s what we’re doing right now on this program and that’s what Australians are doing more and more.

STEVE PRICE: Okay I want to take a quick break and I’m going to come back and ask you both about the changes announced yesterday to mandatory detention.

STEVE PRICE: We have Tony Abbott and Anthony Albanese with us. Minister, the changes announced yesterday to mandatory detention, isn’t that just sending a signal to people smugglers that the gates are open again?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, not at all. These changes don’t get rid of mandatory detention, nor do they weaken Australia’s border protection in any way. What they do do is honour our election commitment to have a strong but a humane immigration system. I mean we’ve got to remember that under the previous regime, we did have serious injustices including Australian citizens being locked in detention for many years.

STEVE PRICE: So you don’t believe that the people smugglers are going to become more active because of these changes?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Not at all. All unauthorised boat arrivals will be processed at Christmas Island…

STEVE PRICE: But if they can make an argument to you that they’re genuine refugees, you will then allow those people to live in the community.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well let’s be clear. We had a lot of rhetoric from the previous government and at great cost to the Australian taxpayer, policies such as a Pacific solution, whereby people were sent to Nauru and allegedly would never, ever set on Australian – foot on Australian soil. Well that didn’t eventuate.

STEVE PRICE: Tony Abbott, what do you think of those changes?

TONY ABBOTT: Well it’s interesting that Anthony can’t say anything without attacking the former government. And I think it’s about time they got over that opposition mindset. Look, no one particularly like mandatory detention. It was something that we had because if you want to deter the people smugglers, you do need to have serious consequences for breaking the immigration rules. I think we do need to have at least the potential for mandatory detention and I hope that this change by the government doesn’t result in an increase in unauthorised arrivals.

STEVE PRICE: Do you think it will?

TONY ABBOTT: Well let’s wait and see. Let’s wait and see.

STEVE PRICE: It’s too soft, do you think?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, again, thanks to the Howard Government, the unauthorised arrival…

STEVE PRICE: Why do we keep referring to the previous government again? TONY ABBOTT: Well I’m just saying that thanks to the Howard Government the unauthorised arrivals ceased. And I’m happy to put in a good word for the previous government. We had 11 and a half very good years.

STEVE PRICE: I thought we were supposed to stop talking about that. You just asked us to…

TONY ABBOTT: Well I’m just making the point Steve, that Anthony can’t open his mouth without an unwarranted and nasty attack on the former government. Now I’m doing my best to be fair to the new government and when they actually do something, as opposed to just talking about doing something, I’ll give credit where it’s due, if it’s worth it.

STEVE PRICE: Tony Abbott, you’re a former Health Minister – tobacco is a legal product. New South Wales today is going to say to tobacconists, you can’t display any of your product. I mean, I went to a cigar shop in Wynyard Station a few Friday’s back to buy a colleague of yours a cigar. How can you run a business where you can’t show what you’re selling?

TONY ABBOTT: Well that’s a fair point Steve. I mean, I’ve never been a smoker, and I don’t much like smoking; but on the other hand I don’t like the nanny State either. And, it’s interesting that people seem horrified about tobacco advertising. They think that just looking at a cigarette will cause people to smoke. Whereas you can see the most horrific violence and all sorts of perversions on television and the internet, and no one seems to get…

STEVE PRICE: And every movie has smoking in it.

TONY ABBOTT: So, so look, you know…

STEVE PRICE: Every movie has smoking in it.

TONY ABBOTT: There seem to be appalling double standards at work here. And, I, I wonder, I wonder what’s motivating people.

STEVE PRICE: Minister, do you smoke?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No I don’t, and never have.

STEVE PRICE: Today, those laws in regard to smoking in cars, is that enforceable? I mean, they’re going to get police to check whether there are any people under 16 in a car with someone smoking.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, that, that certainly would be difficult to, to enforce I would have thought. But, commonsense would tell you that people shouldn’t do that with young kids in the car anyway. I would hope that, I hope that most people would be responsible about that.

STEVE PRICE: We have Tony Abbott and Anthony Albanese with us. Minister, the changes announced yesterday to mandatory detention, isn’t that just sending a signal to people smugglers that the gates are open again?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, not at all. These changes don’t get rid of mandatory detention, nor do they weaken Australia’s border protection in any way. What they do do is honour our election commitment to have a strong but a humane immigration system. I mean we’ve got to remember that under the previous regime, we did have serious injustices including Australian citizens being locked in detention for many years.

STEVE PRICE: So you don’t believe that the people smugglers are going to become more active because of these changes?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Not at all. All unauthorised boat arrivals will be processed at Christmas Island…

STEVE PRICE: But if they can make an argument to you that they’re genuine refugees, you will then allow those people to live in the community.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well let’s be clear. We had a lot of rhetoric from the previous government and at great cost to the Australian taxpayer, policies such as a Pacific solution, whereby people were sent to Nauru and allegedly would never, ever set on Australian – foot on Australian soil. Well that didn’t eventuate.

STEVE PRICE: Tony Abbott, what do you think of those changes?

TONY ABBOTT: Well it’s interesting that Anthony can’t say anything without attacking the former government. And I think it’s about time they got over that opposition mindset. Look, no one particularly like mandatory detention. It was something that we had because if you want to deter the people smugglers, you do need to have serious consequences for breaking the immigration rules. I think we do need to have at least the potential for mandatory detention and I hope that this change by the government doesn’t result in an increase in unauthorised arrivals.

STEVE PRICE: Do you think it will?

TONY ABBOTT: Well let’s wait and see. Let’s wait and see.

STEVE PRICE: It’s too soft, do you think?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, again, thanks to the Howard Government, the unauthorised arrival…

STEVE PRICE: Why do we keep referring to the previous government again?

TONY ABBOTT: Well I’m just saying that thanks to the Howard Government the unauthorised arrivals ceased. And I’m happy to put in a good word for the previous government. We had 11 and a half very good years.

STEVE PRICE: I thought we were supposed to stop talking about that. You just asked us to…

TONY ABBOTT: Well I’m just making the point Steve, that Anthony can’t open his mouth without an unwarranted and nasty attack on the former government. Now I’m doing my best to be fair to the new government and when they actually do something, as opposed to just talking about doing something, I’ll give credit where it’s due, if it’s worth it.