Feb 4, 2013

Transcript of interview with Sabra Lane – ABC AM

SUBJECTS:  Cabinet reshuffle; Setting of the election date; Parliament; Newspoll; Steve Bracks; Morris Iemma; Mal Brough
SABRA LANE:  I put these reports to the Infrastructure Minister and Leader of the House Anthony Albanese a short time ago.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well what I know is that the Prime Minister wanted to ensure that the resignations occurred at a time close to when there was a caucus determination of the Senate leadership.

Whilst ministerial positions are of course the prerogative of the parliamentary leader, the Senate leadership has to be determined by a full caucus meeting and therefore it makes sense to have just a small gap as we have here in two days between the announcement of the resignation of Senator Evans and the filling of his position.

SABRA LANE:  Hasn’t the Prime Minister, though, made it more difficult for the new ministers that she’s given these weighty portfolios, some of them. They’ve only got three days to get their heads around these portfolios before Parliament starts rather than an entire summer break.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well what we don’t see from the Opposition is ministers put under any pressure at all during Question Time about the detail of their portfolio.

SABRA LANE: But that doesn’t answer my question.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It absolutely answers your question because it is the case that this is an opposition that’s just determined to engage in negative tactics to try and disrupt the Parliament. And I’m sure, tomorrow, when the Parliament resumes we’ll see maybe one or two questions to the Prime Minister and then the usual suspension of standing orders. That’s the pattern.

That’s changed the way that ministers have had to deal with their portfolio. I’ve just about given up taking my portfolio briefing into Question Time given that I haven’t been asked a question for more than two years.

SABRA LANE: The latest Newspoll out this morning shows an easy Coalition victory if an election had been held on the weekend. The Coalition has 48 per cent of the primary vote. Mr Abbott has now increased his personal prime ministerial ranking to 39 points, up six points and now just two points behind Ms Gillard.

Voters don’t appear to like this Government or Ms Gillard’s leadership style.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Of course the election wasn’t held on the weekend. We now know Sabra that the election will be held on September the 14th. That’s the poll that counts. Up until that time, we’ll get on with the business of government. We won’t be distracted by the bounces up and down that will occur in polls every week or fortnight. We’ll leave that to the commentators.

TONY EASTLEY: Anthony Albanese, the Leader of the House, speaking there.

SABRA LANE: I also asked Mr Albanese if the Caucus troops, particularly the backbench, will need calming down today.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I think what will occur is an orderly process today in terms of selecting a new Senate leadership. What we have is outstanding people being promoted, such as Mark Dreyfus and Mike Kelly. There’s been no suggestion that either of them won’t do a very good job indeed and that they aren’t well qualified.

And I think that stands in contrast to what will be occurring as Parliament resumes in the Coalition party room whereby there’ll be a whole lot of ambitious backbench MPs wondering and somewhat bemused by Tony Abbott’s pledge to keep his frontbench in their current positions.

I mean does anyone seriously believe that the Coalition who had the same people in the same positions since 2009 have their best frontbench team there now, let alone into the future, if Tony Abbott’s successful at the next election?

SABRA LANE:  Two former premiers are now being talked about as making federal comebacks. Morris Iemma will apparently put up his hand for Rob McClelland’s seat of Barton if his wife okays the move and now Steve Bracks is being put forward as a possible for Gellibrand. Is that really the message you want to send to voters, that your fresh new faces are recycled Labor has-beens?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’ll wait and see what occurs in those pre-selections. But I think both Mr Iemma and Mr Bracks are people who are entitled to put themselves forward if they choose to do so.

The fact is that on the one hand you have an Opposition that’s putting forward someone such as Mal Brough as a new candidate with a very big cloud over him and questions to answer. I mean this is a guy who’s standing for Parliament who can’t front a press conference because he’ll get questions about his involvement in the Ashby conspiracy.