Mar 25, 2012

Transcript of interview with Paul Bongiorno, Patricia Karvelas, Steve Lewis – Network Ten (Meet The Press)

Issues: Queensland Election; Tony Abbott’s extremist language; Mining Tax & infrastructure funding; Bruce Highway; Infrastructure Australia & private financing; Second Sydney airport

PAUL BONGIORNO: Welcome back to the program, Anthony Albanese.  Good morning Minister.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning Paul.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Not a great day for Labor.  With such a trashing of the Labor brand there have to be implications, don’t there, beyond the borders of Queensland?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, I very much congratulate Campbell Newman on what is an emphatic victory.  It was a gutsy call to run for Premier of the great state of Queensland from outside the Parliament.  He made it.  He certainly got a resounding result yesterday, and I congratulate him for that.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Queensland has 30 federal seats.  The last time there was anything approaching a wipe-out like this, in 1974, in the state house Labor came back with 11, but in the federal house they came back with only 2.  This looks like it could well be on the cards for federal Labor this time too, doesn’t it?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, this was a Queensland election about Queensland issues, and of course everyone knew what the result was going to be some time ago.  People didn’t know the extent of it, of course.  But really what we’ve seen is an election campaign about the margin of the result rather than the outcome.  And Campbell Newman’s had a resounding result.  We know that it was fought on state issues.

Queensland Labor has governed for 20 out of the last 22 years, so eventually in our political cycles it catches up with you, as it did in NSW after 16 consecutive years of government last year.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well this is how Tony Abbott saw the Queensland result early this morning.

[Excerpt start]

TONY ABBOTT: It is a disaster for the Labor Party, because it does indicate that governments which are all about spin, which don’t deliver for the Australian people – they lose elections and they don’t just lose them narrowly; they lose them in a landslide.

[Excerpt end]

PAUL BONGIORNO: Minister, there’s no doubt the ‘it’s time’ factor was a pretty big factor here, but to explain the extent of the defeat, surely you have to look elsewhere; and Tony Abbott suggests it’s because Anna Bligh and Labor lost the trust of the people in Queensland.  The lesson federally is that Julia Gillard has lost the trust of the electorate over the carbon tax, if you believe the opinion polls.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well there you have Tony Abbott out spinning again and spinning hard, as he always does.  Tony Abbott is someone who has substituted slogans for policy.  He has these three-word slogans; that is all he has.

Meanwhile, I am part of a government that has been getting on with the job, Paul.  Three-hundred pieces of legislation carried through the House of Representatives.  In the last fortnight, important legislation on private health insurance, on safe rates for truck drivers, on the minerals resource rent tax.

We have been doing our job.  Tony Abbott hasn’t really been interested in his.  He’s not even interested in Question Time these days.  He’s just interested in those three-word slogans.  So I think he should listen to his own advice.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Surely one of the lessons out of Queensland is that voters do not like politicians attacking each other personally.  We saw at the end of the week, in the federal Parliament, Tony Abbott apologise for a metaphor he used about targeting – the Prime Minister having a target on her head – but you kept it going on the Friday.  Shouldn’t you have backed off once Tony Abbott apologised?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Certainly what happened, Paul, was that Tony Abbott went into the Parliament and said that myself and the Prime Minister had targets on our foreheads.  He was consulted about that and about half an hour later he withdrew and apologised.  The next morning he sent out Greg Hunt to somehow blame Labor for raising this issue.  It was Greg Hunt, who never does anything that’s not under instructions – this is the most centralised operation of any opposition in Australia’s history – that went out there and said that it was our responsibility for the words that came out of Tony Abbott’s mouth.

PAUL BONGIORNO:  The Federal Government prides itself on record infrastructure funding for the states, but all bets are off if they try to undermine the mining tax.  They will be docked accordingly, Canberra prepared to pull the purse strings and stare down any revolt.

[Excerpts start]

COLIN BARNETT:  If we choose to raise the price in the future we will do so regardless of any opinion of Wayne Swan, Julia Gillard or Penny Wong.

MIKE BAIRD:  We will not be dictated to by Canberra. We will not be bullied by the Federal Treasurer, and we will stand up, because it’s just not right.

[Excerpts end]

PATRICIA KARVELAS:  Mr Albanese, on Friday Campbell Newman declared: “If something’s being dug out of the soil in Queensland, I want the proceeds of that tax to come back to Queensland for things like the Bruce Highway.”  Will you meet that demand, given the mandate Queenslanders have now given Campbell Newman?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  Well firstly on the Bruce Highway, we’ve already committed some $2.7 billion.  That’s more than double what the Howard Government, the Liberal Party and National Parties, delivered over double the amount of time.

So twice as much in half the time.

We’ve committed record infrastructure spending for Queensland.  Part of that, interestingly, is the Legacy Way, a partnership between the National Government and the Brisbane City Council Government negotiated by myself and Campbell Newman.  I’m pretty confident that I’ll have a good relationship with Campbell Newman.  As the Lord Mayor, we certainly did and he appreciated the fact that we took local government very seriously.

He’s someone who I’ve got a good relationship with, and I very much congratulate him on his election and look forward to sitting down and having a chat.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Will every cent of that mining tax go back to Queensland as he’s demanded, that’s raised out of Queensland?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’ve made it very clear what we will be doing with the mining tax, which is to provide support in terms of company tax reductions for small business, support for superannuation, and the Regional Infrastructure Fund.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But you can’t commit to the Queensland question, which is the one I’m asking.  Will the money go back to Queensland?  That’s what Campbell Newman wants.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’ve made clear already, Patricia, the number of commitments that we’ve made to projects like the Peak Downs Highway, projects on the Bruce Highway, the Blacksoils Interchange, all commitments we’ve made to Queensland.  Seven separate projects already in our budget as a result of the mining tax and the Regional Infrastructure Fund.

So we’re not just talking the talk.  We’re delivering that investment, and I look forward to having those discussions with the incoming Premier.

STEVE LEWIS: Minister Albanese, your former Labor colleague Lindsay Tanner, a former Finance Minister, the other day suggested that infrastructure spend was based more on political rather than economic factors. Has he got a point?  Is he right?  And as a result of this new political situation, will more money in infrastructure be going to Queensland?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Interestingly, Lindsay Tanner made those comments at an Infrastructure Australia conference.  At the last budget, we beefed up funding for Infrastructure Australia.  We’ve given it a greater role.

I’ll receive a report in the next month on infrastructure financing options.  The reality is that we need to get managed funds, superannuation funds, private sector investment, into the productive side of the economy, into infrastructure.  We had a number of measures in the last budget to encourage that investment.  We’ll receive this report in the coming month and we’ll respond.

STEVE LEWIS: Talk about political bunfights; you’ve got a major problem at present with Barry O’Farrell, the NSW Premier, on a second airport for the Sydney Basin. He has essentially declared, as a result of this latest study, that he doesn’t want to see a second airport.  Is there any chance at all that this critical piece of infrastructure can be planned and built any time in the next five to ten years?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well the planning must occur, and it must occur sooner rather than later.  Sydney’s at a tipping point, and to say that it’s just too hard is to reject the jobs and the economic growth that are needed through a second airport.

Just to give one figure.  In 1965 it took 65 minutes to fly from Sydney to Melbourne.  It’s now 90 minutes, in spite of the fact that planes are obviously much faster due to new technology.

This is a real handbrake on our productivity and I simply can’t believe that, going back to the last question about proper infrastructure planning and funding, that the NSW Government will just say this is all too hard when after all they’re the co-authors of the report.

STEVE LEWIS: Sure.  You can’t override the State Government, can you, on this critical piece of infrastructure?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, to get a second airport up and running I have always said that bipartisanship is important, and it needs cooperation to do the planning, to make sure that the land transport issues associated with a second airport are able to be delivered.  That is why we had this joint study, and it requires a mature and considered response.

We know this is hard.  Infrastructure planning is always hard for the difficult issues, but that’s not to say that we can avoid them.

And what we’ve got on the table here is bipartisanship across the different levels of government, and across the political spectrum.  Barry O’Farrell’s Federal colleagues certainly recognise that, and they’ve been quite constructive.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Mr Albanese, you’ve almost got wall to wall conservative governments across the nation.  Peter Beattie, the former Queensland Premier, says this morning it’s going to be very difficult to conduct COAG now, because the Prime Minister will have very few friends in the room.  Do you concede it will be very difficult to deliver your program considering that?

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  Not at all.  If Premiers and Chief Ministers put the interests of their state and territories first and not playing politics, then we can get good outcomes.

Just remember that when John Howard was Prime Minister we had wall to wall state and territory Labor governments.  So there’s nothing unusual about this.  In part, it’s been the case historically that often the people try to balance up state and federal political representation.  So we certainly enter into all of these relationships in a constructive fashion, and as I’ve said, I’ve worked with Campbell Newman in a constructive way in the past.

I believe he has a big mandate to implement his agenda for Queensland over at least the next three years.  But given the outcome, it’s pretty tough to see a turnaround in just one term.  So he’s got a big mandate.  He’s got a responsibility to deliver outcomes, and his campaign I noticed, is very much focused on that, delivering outcomes.

We certainly at the Federal level will be pleased to be able to sit down with him and work constructively as we are with all state and territory leaders, regardless of where they come from.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Just very briefly before we go, Tony Abbott today is promising to look very seriously at funding nannies or in-home care.  This would be very popular with a lot of working women, wouldn’t it?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well he’s good at aspirations.  He’s not much good at actually delivering promises.  And this is another aspiration.  He’s promising us an inquiry by the Productivity Commission.

What we’ve done is increase the child care tax rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent – a real policy that’s in place delivering more money to working parents today.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you very much for being with us, Anthony Albanese.