Nov 26, 2012

Transcript of interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky AM Agenda

Issues: Liberal’s smear campaign; Polls

KIERAN GILBERT: First though, to the Leader of the House, Anthony Albanese joining me this morning. Mr Albanese, thanks for your time.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Morning Kieran.

KIERAN GILBERT: Mr Abbott says what’s right and proper for company officials who do the wrong thing should be the same standard for union officials.  He’s going to introduce a private member’s bill toughening standards for union leaders who misuse their members’ funds.  Makes sense doesn’t it?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Let’s be very clear, Kieran, there was a debate about these very issues in the past months, and we tripled the penalties that are available under the legislation.  Mr Abbott voted against that legislation tripling the penalties, and today out of desperation to try and find something, he pretends that he can introduce a bill that he hasn’t given notice for. 

We’ve been dealing with private member’s business, as you know, more than any Parliament since Federation.  A hundred and twenty-four separate pieces of private member’s business have been dealt with and voted on by this Parliament, and yet Tony Abbott hasn’t bothered to make that one of his 124 priorities up till today.

KIERAN GILBERT: If you support the notion then, why don’t you just back it, be done with it, make it a bipartisan issue, because there is a lot of stench around the unions.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We dealt with the issue, Mr Abbott voted against the tripling of penalties just a while ago.  But he probably didn’t notice that, because Mr Abbott doesn’t pay any attention to the policy debate.  He doesn’t pay any attention to what goes on in the Parliament with legislation.  He’s just been conducting a fear campaign on carbon price that’s fallen flat, that’s literally hit a wall. Since then, we’ve just had smear and buckets of mud flowing across the chamber. It’s about time Mr Abbott actually decided whether he has anything left in the kit bag other than smear and fear.

KIERAN GILBERT: There have been other claims made.  Not just by the Coalition, by former union officials, by various media reporting about the Prime Minister, various questions that she needs to answer.  Do you think that she will, as some suggestions today in the papers are reporting, that she will launch a pre-emptive strike, make another unequivocal statement before Parliament?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The Prime Minister has been making statements, answering questions about this for almost two decades now. 

She held one of the longest press conferences ever held in this Parliament and took every single question from the press gallery who were all there.  She didn’t cut it off.

KIERAN GILBERT: More claims have been made since then. Will she make another statement today?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s a matter for the Prime Minister.  But the fact is that Tony Abbott just held a doorstop outside Parliament House and was asked three times what questions the Prime Minister had to answer. He couldn’t actually give anything.  And that’s because not only have they gone into the bucket of mud, thrown it all, the bucket is now empty, Kieran.  The bucket is empty, just like their policy bucket.

KIERAN GILBERT: Some ministers yesterday said that the story was over because of Bruce Wilson’s intervention.  Is he really a credible person in terms of his intervention. There was talk about Ralph Blewitt last week.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: You’re the one, Kieran, that just raised the issue of additional claims by ex-union officials.  You’re the one that raised that and that goes down to the reality of the credibility here of this whole story.  This story has been dealt with. 

KIERAN GILBERT: They’re not the only union officials being quoted though, Mr Albanese.  Also, Ian Cambridge, his diary’s been forensically reported on by Hedley Thomas at The Australian newspaper.  It’s not just Bruce Wilson.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Old news.  Old news and dealt with by the Prime Minister at her press conference, and during question time there’s been questions raised and answered.

The question for Mr Abbott is this:  This is the final week of the Parliament.  The problem that the Opposition have got is that they were so confident. You’ll remember Tony Abbott inviting yourself and other members of the press gallery to have Christmas drinks at the Lodge.  He was so confident he’d be in the Lodge this Christmas and that Parliament wouldn’t still be running. They put all their eggs in one basket that the Government would fall over.  It hasn’t.

We’re still here, we’re getting things done.  This week we’ll be introducing legislation on Gonski, legislation on the NDIS, we’re getting the business of Government done.  And what the Opposition have got is just smear and fear.

KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, Labor’s primary vote…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Tony Abbott has an opportunity to ask a policy issue this week, we’ll see whether he does or not.

KIERAN GILBERT: Labor’s primary vote at 36 per cent, that’s steady since mid-September.  Are you concerned that’s the high watermark?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, not at all.  If you look at past governments eight months out from an election, there’s a lot of governments that would have liked to have been on 49 per cent eight months out from an election, Kieran, and you’d recall that in the time you’ve been around here. 

The fact is that Mr Abbott has got nothing more to say about Australia’s future.  He not only isn’t engaged in the debates of tomorrow, he’s not even engaged in the debates of today about NDIS and Gonski.  All he’s got is a bucket of mud that’s now empty, and then he’s got nothing else to say about Australia’s future.  This should be the week – the last week of the sitting week before an election year.  This should be when he’s framing his position, his alternative vision for Australia’s future.

What’s his alternative vision?  Buckets of mud.

KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, Mr Albanese, thanks for your time, appreciate it.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you.