Transcript of media conference – Electorate Office, 334a Marrickville Rd, Marrickville
ANTHONY ALBANESE MP – MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS
E & OE – PROOF ONLY
Subject: Liberal Party dirt sheet in Lindsay; questions for the Prime Minister
Thursday, 22 November 2007
ALBANESE: [ holding up the front page of today’s Daily Telegraph ] This is the photograph that shows exactly how desperate John Howard’s re-election campaign has become in its last days. This is a Government and a political party that will do anything and say anything to stay in office.
John Howard must give a full and frank explanation of the circumstances regarding the distribution of this dirt-sheet in the electorate of Lindsay during this week.
The Prime Minister said this morning on radio that he found about this yesterday morning, but we know that absolutely nothing was done until the Daily Telegraph contacted the Liberal Party yesterday afternoon. It was then that they went into damage control mode, and stated that they had expelled two members of the Liberal Party. But the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister won’t answer the real questions.
They won’t say who has been expelled? They won’t say what the involvement of the local Liberal Party Member, Jackie Kelly, was and how it came to be that these people met at her house prior to going out to distribute this dishonest material?
They haven’t said what the involvement of the Liberal candidate for Lindsay is? They haven’t said what the involvement of the Liberal Party Campaign Director in Lindsay was?
They haven’t stated clearly where this leaflet was printed? Labor is asking whether any tax-payers funds were used in producing this leaflet?
They haven’t stated clearly when this strategy came about and who was involved in it?
We know that Jeff Egan, the Liberal Party State Executive member, former senior adviser to Helen Coonan the Minister for Communications has indeed said that he wasn’t distributing unauthorised material and, when asked by the Daily Telegraph whether it was authorised, he responded in the affirmative with “yes”.
We know that Graham Jaeschke has described this material as offensive and untrue. Yet, Jackie Kelly on Radio National’s AM program and also on Radio 2UE this morning attempted to dismiss this offensive and dishonest material as being a prank though up over a few beers.
Anyone who looks at the leaflet will know that this has been a calculated decision.
This was a strategy carried out with military precision, and we need to know who it was who was directing the foot soldiers to distribute this material.
This is not a joke. This is extremely serious. It is a breach not only of Electoral Law, but also a breach of criminal law to distribute material that clearly is false. And that is what this material is.
Jackie Kelly doesn’t seem to get it, but the Prime Minister should. And he should understand that with the extreme right wing elements, who’ve taken over the NSW Branch of the Liberal Party, once he moves on and retires, regardless of the result on Saturday, it’s clear that this will get even worse.
These are forces who are prepared to do anything and say anything to seek political advantage and we know that they have conducted these sorts of smear campaigns not just against the Labor Party but even from time-to-time within the Liberal Party. This is of real concern just two days before the election.
If the Liberals win Government again and Mr Howard retires, this sort of activity will get even worse.
REPORTER: On what do you base that last allegation? Surely expelling members of the party is exactly what should have been done?
ALBANESE: Well, we don’t know who’s been expelled. It’s quite clear that what the Liberal Party attempted to do was to say that two people who are un-named had been expelled without stating the fact that these were serious players.
Jeff Egan – former Deputy Lord Mayor of the Blue Mountains, member of the State Executive of the Liberal Party, senior adviser to Senator Helen Coonan – hardly just a rank and file member.
Gary Clark – the husband of Jackie Kelly who is one of the Prime Minister’s favoured MP’s, the person plucked out to become a Minister in the Howard Government, indeed the prime position of Sports Minister during the Sydney Olympics. She is one of John Howard’s favourite MPs, and yet here she is this morning dismissing this issue as just a joke and a prank. I don’t think the AEC will treat this as a joke or a prank, and nor will the police.
REPORTER: Do you think they should be prosecuted for this?
ALBANESE: Quite clearly, if there have been breaches of the Electoral Act or other law, then appropriate action should be taken.
REPORTER: How dangerous is that they have played the racism card like this?
ALBANESE: It is extremely dangerous in the lead up to an election day. It is important for all political parties and all political candidates to put forward their positions in a positive and constructive manner. But what you clearly have is a Liberal Party that is out of ideas, hasn’t put forward any positive vision for the future, has been reduced to a scare campaign week-after-week of this election campaign, day-after-day scare campaigns trying to scare people not to vote for the Labor Party. People will have their say on Saturday. I think that they will make up their mind based upon which political party and which political leader has put forward positive plans for the future. The only person who’s been doing that over the last 6 weeks, indeed over this entire year, is Kevin Rudd.
REPORTER: What about the Islamic community? How do you think they’re going to respond to this?
ALBANESE: I’ll leave them to speak for themselves. I think the matters raised in this leaflet, which were dismissed by Jackie Kelly as just a joke, speaks for itself.
REPORTER: Has a complaint been officially made to the Electoral Commission?
ALBANESE: Yes, Tim Gartrell, the National Secretary, wrote to the Australian Electoral Commission yesterday.
REPORTER: What was the source of the tip to the ALP? It must have been good to get a team of ALP members out there?
ALBANESE: You’ll have to ask the Daily Telegraph where the photos came from. Quite clearly though, there’d be a range of people who regard this activity as offensive. We know, that as the right wing takeover of the NSW Branch of the Liberal Party has proceeded there has been a great deal of concern about the tactics employed.
And we know of course that these right wing elements of the Liberal Party have engaged in push-polling in the past. We know that occurred in the Canberra federal by-election many years ago. We know that in the Northern Territory there was race based push-polling by the Liberal and Conservative forces up there in a number of elections.
What we’ve seen with this is the next stage in the importation of right wing US style gutter politics. We’ve gone from push-polling to push-leafleting. I think that’s very much against the way that we, as Australians, conduct election campaigns.
REPORTER: It suggests there’s a lack of loyalty in the Liberal Party doesn’t it that they would reveal something like this that could lose a very important seat for them?
ALBANESE: It’s up to others to talk about how much loyalty there is within the Liberal Party. I’ll leave the Liberal Party to their own internal deliberations.
REPORTER: That seems to have almost handed the seat of Lindsay over, wouldn’t you say?
ALBANESE: This is a Government that has been extraordinarily desperate. I read this morning in one of the newspapers an extraordinary direct mail letter from Bronwyn Bishop to her electorate warning of the sky falling in if Labor is elected on Saturday.
Australians know that the Labor Party has presented a constructive alternative for all of this year. We have held the Government to account and we have put forward positive, constructive policies for the future of the nation. We have been economically responsible in policies we have advanced to make sure that we fix matters such as improving productivity and actually take the warnings of the Reserve Bank seriously. On the issues of the skills crisis and the infrastructure deficit we have put forward positive plans.
We warned at the beginning of this campaign that the Liberal Party would engage in the mother of all scare campaigns. We know that the Liberal Party has dirt units around the country, and indeed operating out of Parliament House in Canberra, which have been busy trying to dig up dirt on Labor candidates or anyone associated with Labor campaigns.
This pamphlet is the most extraordinary example of a dirty, dishonest campaign that we’ve seen over the last 6 weeks.
The Prime Minister simply has to explain today at the National Press Club the outstanding questions that remain around this scandal.