May 22, 2012

Transcript of interview with Alexandra Kirk – ABC Radio, AM Program

Issues:  Craig Thomson; Tony Abbott’s efforts to turn the Federal Parliament into a Kangaroo court

ALEXANDRA KIRK:  Mr Albanese, good morning.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  Good morning, Alex.

ALEXANDRA KIRK:  Yesterday on this program your colleague Joel Fitzgibbon said that Mr Thomson had the opportunity to give a plausible alternative explanation to some of the allegations.

Do you think what he said was plausible?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well he gave a very comprehensive explanation to the Parliament yesterday.  It’s not up to me to judge.

What’s important is that you have now the Fair Work Australia report; you’ve got Mr Thomson’s response in the Parliament.

It’s important that that be tested in the courts, not on the floor of the House of Representatives in a partisan way.

ALEXANDRA KIRK:  Well Mr Thomson spoke for almost an hour, making a lot of counter allegations – being set up by union enemies and taking aim at Fair Work Australia.  Why did you close down any debate on his address?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh let’s get serious, Alex.  You watch Parliament.  There’s been 57 suspensions of standings orders by the Opposition.  What the Opposition tried to do yesterday was to take note of a document which is the procedures that you’d have if you had a ministerial statement presented.

Anyone who saw the Parliament yesterday would know that Mr Thomson, whilst he spoke off notes, certainly didn’t present a document to the Parliament and that is the procedure of the House of Representatives.

ALEXANDRA KIRK:  The Independent MP Rob Oakeshott says that he hasn’t yet reached a final judgement but he thinks Mr Thomson’s account is unlikely and that Parliament must find a way to test it soon.  Is there a way?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  Now let’s be clear about Mr Oakeshott’s position.  What he’s talking about is a debate about process, not a debate about the substance of the allegations against Mr Thomson.  He’s made that very clear and that’s an important distinction.

So he, for example – I know I’ve had discussions with him about issues such as code of conduct for MPs.

ALEXANDRA KIRK:  You need Mr Oakeshott’s vote so you’re going to have to accommodate him.  Can you find a way to allow MPs to debate the issues, one of which Mr Oakeshott has raised is to respond for example to the Fair Work report?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, what we certainly shouldn’t do is present the Parliament as a kangaroo court.  It’s not up to the Parliament to test allegations that could go to criminal and civil matters on the basis of partisan numbers in the Parliament.

That’s a very dangerous road to go on.  That breaks down the separation of powers that’s the basis of our judicial system and our system of democracy.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: So how are you going to accommodate Mr Oakeshott’s request for testing the allegations?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, we’ll see how this process goes but one of the things that we’re committed to is to making sure that we also debate the big issues out there.

We’ve got a budget before the Parliament, Alex.  That was before the Parliament yesterday.  They weren’t interested in debating it, the Opposition, and little wonder given that for the first time in 40 years we have inflation, unemployment and official interest rates all under 5 per cent.

This is a Government that is delivering on the economy.  We want to debate those issues of substance.  Leave the other stuff to the courts and the appropriate authorities to deal with.

ALEXANDRA KIRK:  But you’ve raised other stuff.  For example, soon after Mr Thomson’s statement, you raised a series of allegations against a Liberal backbencher, Craig Kelly, signalling that the gloves are well and truly off.

Do you really think that will make the Coalition back off Mr Thomson, considering that there are no signs of that from what Mr Abbott has said this morning?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  Well what there certainly should be, Alex, is a consistency in the way that the Parliament deals with things.  If there are issues where people have failed to make declarations before the pecuniary interest register, they should be dealt with the same way, regardless of the allegiance.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: But you accused the Opposition of getting into the matter…

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  Just the same as Bill Heffernan has – there’s been allegations made against him.  It’s enough apparently for Christopher Pyne that the Liberal Party has found there’s nothing in them.

Now I think Bill Heffernan is entitled to the presumption of innocence, like anyone else.

ALEXANDRA KIRK:  But you accused the Opposition of getting into the gutter, then you go there yourself.  So how does that serve politics and the standing of politicians?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  I don’t think any of this process serves politics particularly well, Alex.  And I’ve argued very consistently that what we should be dealing with – and I’m arguing it again here – what we should be dealing with is the real issues of concern and the real differences between us on the economy – our plan for economic growth but with fairness, their plan for filling a $70 billion black hole; our plan for dealing with the carbon price and dealing with climate change, their scepticism.

Let’s debate those issues rather than get into these personality conflicts which at the end of the day Alex, all that people out there will say, they’ll mark down all politicians as a result of this.  I think it’s an honourable profession.  I want to see politics lifted up.

Tony Abbott has been on the longest dummy spit in Australian political history just driving it down ever since he lost the election in 2010.

ALEXANDRA KIRK:  Mr Albanese we’ll have to leave it there.  Thank you.