SUBJECTS: Drugs in sport; ACC investigation; MRRT; Flexible working hours; Mark McGowan; Second Sydney Airport
KIERAN GILBERT: Welcome to AM Agenda, thanks for your company, apologies for the late start. With me this morning is the Leader of the House Anthony Albanese. And Mr Albanese thanks for your time.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you Kieran.
KIERAN GILBERT: I want to start off with the criticism from Christopher Pyne this morning. He says the Government’s basically botched the drugs in sport investigation and asks why did the Government release the scant details that we got last week, if not to distract from your political problems?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s an extraordinary proposition that Christopher Pyne has put forward. The timing of these matters and the timing of the delivery of their report to the respective codes in question was a matter for the Australian Crime Commission. This is a very serious issue, and Christopher Pyne should not play politics with it, nor should anyone else.
KIERAN GILBERT: He’s saying it’s given those who are participating in this illegal activity to flee the country, that’s what he says.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m not interested in a debate with Christopher Pyne about these matters, what I’m interested in is the proper processes being undertaken by the authorities, and I would’ve thought that this is a matter which shouldn’t be the subject of partisan disagreement or debate.
KIERAN GILBERT: So the timing of it, as suggested by the Opposition, was something from the authorities, the ACC, not the Government?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s a matter for the authorities.
KIERAN GILBERT: Okay. Let’s look at the mining tax then. It’s generated nothing like the Government had anticipated, a billion dollars. Where are you going to find the shortfall?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: What’s happened of course is that commodity prices fell last year, and that’s led to a lower receipt of revenues than that which was anticipated.
KIERAN GILBERT: But the Government’s already spent it.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s not right, Kieran. The Government has made commitments. They are good commitments including raising superannuation from 9 per cent to 12 per cent. Now the Opposition are saying now that they’re not going to proceed with that, I notice that’s been confirmed again by Joe Hockey and others over the weekend.
Is it the case? I was in Western Australia just 10 days ago beginning construction on the WA Gateway project. Is the Opposition saying that that is a project that shouldn’t go ahead?
KIERAN GILBERT: (Inaudible)
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Very important. The tax cuts for low income earners and support through the superannuation changes, the changes in terms of small business offsets is a very important stimulus for small business. Is the Opposition saying that they’re going to take them away?
KIERAN GILBERT: Well where does the money come from? That’s the question.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well in terms of revenues, the revenues are down on what was anticipated because of the fall in commodity prices.
KIERAN GILBERT: All right. We’ll see – it just leaves another gap in the budget then that you’ve already shelved the return to surplus, it just means the deficit’s going to be a bit bigger.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The statement that was made in terms of MYEFO firstly and then the statement that was made at the end of last year by the Treasurer, of course took all these factors into account.
KIERAN GILBERT: Okay. Let’s move on, I want to ask you about the IR proposals that the Prime Minister is suggesting this week. The Chamber of Commerce says it’s more red tape, they’re not happy with the noises from the Gillard Government.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I reckon we might have got it right, because we’ve got whinging from the right and whinging from the left. And on these matters it’s simply trying to say we need more flexible workplaces, we need an opportunity whereby employees can put forward these requests.
We know that the demands on people’s time and people’s family circumstances are very complex today, and workplaces need to be adaptive to those changes if they’re going to retain the workforce over a longer period of time. So sometimes a little bit of flexibility ensures that a valued employee can stay with the same employer for longer and make a greater contribution.
KIERAN GILBERT: But – so this is not just more onerous red tape on people that employ those people in the first place?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Not at all. And indeed the criticism of some of the Greens Political Party is that we’re not mandating it so that you can automatically demand and employers have to agree.
This is about creating a framework of cooperation whereby employees and employers can both benefit from a bit of flexibility in the workplace and recognising that people’s life circumstances change. So from time to time it might be due to an illness in the family or circumstances changing, those requests can be made and can be considered.
KIERAN GILBERT: I want to ask you about a few other issues. The WA Opposition leader, Labor leader Mark McGowan says he opposes the carbon tax. This is obviously in the context of an election campaign, but who needs friends – who needs enemies when you’ve got friends like that?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I notice that he also said he supported an emissions trading scheme, and of course what we have is a fixed price on carbon evolving into an emissions trading scheme.
KIERAN GILBERT: He’s had a crack at you though over carbon tax.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s a scheme that the Government has put in place. Fixed price period, moving to a floating price and that is something that I think should be supported, particularly for those sectors who want that certainty. The idea that we’d move away from that is not Federal Labor’s position.
KIERAN GILBERT: Is he distancing himself from the Prime Minister on this?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I had a couple of days in Perth just the week before last. I was there with the Gateway Project [indistinct]…
KIERAN GILBERT: [Indistinct] So he welcomes you but not Prime Minister Gillard? You – are you popular in WA?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m pretty popular everywhere when we’re building the nation, Kieran. And we’ve got big projects being rolled out. The Great Eastern Highway is what I went to inspect. The Perth City Link project I inspected, and course we began construction on.
The Gateway project is the biggest ever road project in Western Australia’s history, a billion dollar project, two-thirds of it funded by the federal Government.
KIERAN GILBERT: Okay. Finally – on the city airport – A poll in today’s Daily Telegraph says more than 75 per cent of people want it built.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: And so do I, Kieran.
KIERAN GILBERT: But they don’t support your proposal of Wilton. Newcastle, the Central Coast, Badgerys Creek – they are more popular. Wilton only attracted four per cent support. What do you make of the polling?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: People who use Sydney airport know that we need a second airport sooner rather than later. They know the congestion getting to and from the airport is getting worse, they know that when they land as I did last week and sat on the tarmac for 20 minutes for a gate to be made available because of congestion around the tarmac. They know it’s constrained by its size and its location.
KIERAN GILBERT: Are you open to these other ideas of Newcastle, Central Coast? Because obviously Wilton, your preferred option isn’t that popular.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Newcastle and the Central Coast will need additional aviation capacity for the people who live in Newcastle and the Central Coast. That’s what the report showed, and I notice also Richmond, that’s part of the study that we’re looking at the moment.
What we’ll see in coming decades is a massive expansion of aviation activity. So Newcastle and the Central Coast do need additional capacity, that’s identified there. But Sydney also needs a second airport.
KIERAN GILBERT: Mr Albanese, appreciate your time, thanks.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to talk to you, Kieran.