Subjects: Asylum seekers; Bruce Highway; Automotive industry; Climate change policy; State of Origin
KIERAN GILBERT: Minister Albanese thanks for joining us.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day Kieran, good to be with you.
KIERAN GILBERT: Thank you. I want to start with the very sad news of this latest tragedy at sea, your response to that?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It is another human tragedy. We know that there have been four bodies recovered, and there may well be further people missing.
I want to pay tribute to those brave Australians who, in difficult circumstances, assisted last night. And this is a tragic reminder that we need to continue to adjust policy, to work on a genuine regional solution with our neighbours, that there is a huge human cost to the risk of people getting on boats and we’ve seen that unfortunately overnight.
KIERAN GILBERT: When you talk about the need to adjust policy, we are expecting something from Mr Rudd over the next couple of days. He has got to come up with something doesn’t he to show you have a plan to slow the boat arrivals.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: What we do know is that three word slogans are just that, they’re slogans. You need genuine policy adjustments.
We know the slogans won’t work, and we know that if it was that simple, it would have happened. So we need more thought to be put into the policy changes than Mr Abbott is offering.
But this is a reminder again of why it is imperative that we do all we can to stop people risking their lives.
The people smugglers’ business is a dreadful trade in human misery and we need though at times like this also to recognise, of course, the terrible tragedy for the individuals who have lost their lives and for their families who would be grieving today.
KIERAN GILBERT: You paid tribute to the personnel and the border command, the naval personal on Warramunga and HMAS Albany. One of the key arguments against turning back boats has been the difficulty and the risks involved for our naval personnel.
It can’t be much more risky though than the operation we saw yesterday where they were forced to enter the water risking their own lives in dangerous sea and weather conditions?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: But this was a boat that capsized. What we’re talking about is – and we know that it will happen, this policy isn’t static – once people know that boats are going to be turned back, guess what? They will be sabotaging boats. We know that is what the response will be.
We know because that is what the naval personnel tell us it will be. And it is the Navy themselves who frankly are in a lot better position than you and I from the comfort of Canberra and Sydney studios to judge the risk.
And that is why the turn back the boats slogan – not only is unacceptable to our friends and neighbours in Indonesia – it also is unacceptable to those naval personnel who have made their views very clear. Common sense tells you that that’s the case.
KIERAN GILBERT: Do you accept on this issue, unlike the carbon tax for example where Mr Rudd wasn’t Prime Minister when that introduced, he was Prime Minister when this Government dismantled the Howard Government approach.
Does he have to take ownership of where this policy and where this problematic and vexed issue is at the moment?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The fact is that this isn’t a full time siren after 80 minutes of the State of Origin tonight. This is a policy area that needs constant adjustment because you have adjustment from the people smugglers and they change their model.
So when it comes to these difficult immigration issues, it’s not a matter of putting something in concrete and it stays that way forever. The Prime Minister has acknowledged very clearly that there is a need for an adjustment to the policy, and that is precisely what the Government is working on.
KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, let’s move on to the issue of infrastructure. Tony Abbott’s in Mackay this morning. He’s going to announce the full funding of the upgrade of the Bruce Highway over the next ten years; nearly $7 billion the commonwealth contribution under this promise.
It appears it’s a much greater contribution than what the Labor Government’s offered to it?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: This is smoke and mirrors, and I note that Tony Abbott is making his press conference at the very place where Federal Labor has put funding into the highway; 100 per cent at that particular section of the highway funded by the Federal Government, ignored by the Coalition.
When the Coalition was last in office and Warren Truss was the transport minister, they contributed $1.3 billion over 12 long years. We’re putting $5.7 billion in over a similar period of time since we came into office in 2007.
So four times the funding under Labor, people know that that’s the case. And when you look at the detail, it’s fine to say we’ve got a ten-year plan and all the money is in year nine and year ten, and when we get a fourth term Abbott Government we might get around to doing something.
If you look at the funding in the forward estimates they have $2.1 billion in their first four years. We committed earlier this year to more than that; $2.25 billion over four years. We’ve been getting on with the job of actually building the Bruce.
KIERAN GILBERT: Will you up your commitment now in response to this though? Because the total amount that they’re promising, from your own figures this morning, is greater than what you’ve already got on the table.
So will you reconsider and step up the commonwealth contribution?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I tell you what, all they’ve done is take the money that we’ve currently got in the budget – not our promises in terms of the election campaign, which have not been made – the money that we have currently in the budget, they have taken that and said ‘oh we’ll call that our own’.
Well that’s in the budget, fully budgeted for. And if you look at the projects that they’ve listed they add up to nothing like the amount of money that they’re talking about. They add up to far less than that because all they’ve done is take the projects that we announced in April.
They’ve had six years to work on a policy, six years, and in the weeks or months leading to an election they’ve come up with a figure having done nothing, committed nothing, and when they were last in government, spent almost nothing on the Bruce Highway.
KIERAN GILBERT: Alright. I want to talk about the automotive industry now. They’re worried about this announcement yesterday by Chris Bowen and Kevin Rudd that you’re going to save $1.8 billion by tightening the rules around fringe benefits, tax concessions for salaried sacrificed vehicles.
It’s already an embattled industry, Mr Albanese, and they want urgent talks to discuss this measure that you’ve announced. It doesn’t sound like the new Rudd Government, as much as you’ve promised greater business consultation, that there was much consultation on this one?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: This is a tax measure that will impact on those people who are claiming a tax deduction based on 20 per cent use of their vehicle provided by an employer, but aren’t using it for 20 per cent. That’s all it is, that’s the only change that’s there.
KIERAN GILBERT: But it’s $1.8 billion, it’s a lot that the auto industry has got to cop.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: There’s a lot of people clearly fiddling the system, and let me tell you as I sit here in the Sydney CBD, that those people who are salary sacrificing, who use their car less than 20 per cent but claim the 20 per cent offset – so less than one kilometre in every five they actually use for work – the chances are it’s not a Holden Commodore, it’s a BMW.
So in terms of the impact on the domestic industry, the advice that we had in terms of where impact of this will be, who the people are who are claiming this deduction that they’re not entitled to, that they’re not entitled to. If they use the vehicle for one kilometre in every five, all they have to do is keep log books, or keep the app for 12 weeks in every year and they still get it.
The Henry Tax Review had a look at this, and I say this to the Opposition, if they are slightly serious about it, have a chat to Campbell Newman, Barry O’Farrell and Denis Napthine and all their state government people and tell them to actually put Australian flags in their state government fleets. That single measure would make a huge difference.
And don’t rip $500 million out of car assistance, which is what Sophie Mirabella and Tony Abbott want to do if they’re elected to government later this year.
KIERAN GILBERT: Finally I want to ask you about the emissions trading scheme. Promises made yesterday, but Mr Abbott says Kevin Rudd’s not the terminator he’s the fabricator, there are doubts as to whether or not the Government would be able to get it through the parliament anyway even if you do win the election.
That the Greens remain opposed, and the Coalition would remain opposed beyond the election, so there’s no guarantee you would be able to legislate the change anyway?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Of course we’d get it through. Tony Abbott, we know he wants to slug families $1200 to $1300 for his plans so he can give incentives and breaks for big polluters, that’s his plan. But for him to stand in the way of a $380 improvement in living standards for the average family would be an extraordinary position.
And as for the Greens – this mob, we would have had a price on carbon earlier if they got on their feet, walked across the chamber and voted for the emissions trading scheme, which they voted against twice in 2009.
What we’re talking about here is a move to an emissions trading scheme, that’s always been Labor’s policy, earlier. What that means as well is there’s a cap on carbon pollution one year earlier than there would have been otherwise.
Now if the Greens want to have that argument I’m quite happy to because we’ve already as a nation suffered setbacks in terms of dealing with climate change because of the Greens’ intransigence.
Labor has a sensible policy. We’re not climate sceptics like Tony Abbott who exposed himself the other day. And we’re also not market sceptics like the Greens in their opposition to an ETS.
KIERAN GILBERT: Mr Albanese, I appreciate your time today, thanks very much. On a serious note dominating the thoughts of many on the eastern seaboard, the Origin, you confident of a Blues win?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m never confident of a Blues win versus Queensland, but I think the teams’ done well. It’s largely the same team’s been able to be kept together this time. I think Paul Gallen is a big loss.
Who knows? Maybe Greg Inglis will remember where he was from and don a blue jumper tonight. That would really make a big difference!
KIERAN GILBERT: It certainly would. Mr Albanese I appreciate your time, thanks very much.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: See you Kieran. Enjoy the game tonight.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.