Subjects: Federal Labor’s investments in Tasmania; Ministry and Cabinet; Tony Abbott’s relentless negative and GST rip-off; Leadership; Election date; DisabilityCare Australia; Better Schools Plan; Midland Highway
ANTHONY ALBANESE: This Federal Labor Government has been totally committed to delivering jobs and growth here in Tasmania. That’s why we’ve worked together with local members to ensure positive delivery.
Positive delivery through people like Dick Adams and Sid Sidebottom with the work they did on the forestry plan. Working with Geoff Lyons on infrastructure in the north-east. Working with Julie Collins and Jane Austin as the candidates in Hobart and in the south.
We have delivered for Tasmania and are very proud of our record. There’s no single project that more represents Federal Labor’s commitment to Tasmania and its future than the fact that we chose Tasmania as the place for the rollout of the National Broadband Network. The National Broadband Network opens up a whole range of possibilities. I have also been working closely with my Federal Parliamentary colleagues on the Tasmanian Jobs and Growth Plan.
Today we have an announcement about Sense-T. This is an exciting project for Tasmania. This is world’s best practice only made possible because of the NBN. It will lead directly to the creation of some 175 jobs for what is the second stage of this project: $10 million to make sure that this world’s best practice technology can be used. Put simply, what it does is enable real-time monitoring of the agriculture and aquaculture process. So that we can identify exactly when is the best time to harvest, for example, oysters or other seafood, so that it maximises its value to producers.
What this will also do is have a multiplying impact to the Tasmanian economy. Because it further entrenches Tasmania’s reputation as a fresh food produce state in Australia as a fresh food produce nation. The work the Parliamentary Secretary Sid Sidebottom has done on these projects is very important given his responsibilities for agriculture. This is an exciting project for Tasmania. We remain absolutely committed to secure the economic future for Tasmania.
Can I make one further comment which is about Julie Collins’ promotion to the Cabinet? Over recent days the Prime Minister and his leadership team have been sitting down and discussing the Cabinet and the make-up of the Outer Ministry and other positions. It’s a difficult task because there are so many talented people in the Labor caucus who could be put forward. As a result of the state funeral that the Prime Minister is attending this morning at Yirrkala in the Northern Territory, it’s not appropriate on a day of a state funeral for other political announcements to be made.
So the full announcement of the Ministry has been finalised but it will be announced tomorrow morning by the Prime Minister. But one thing that has been determined is and announced, is Julie Collins’ elevation to the Cabinet. We believed that it was very important that Tasmania have a seat at the Cabinet table. Julie Collins gets there not just because she’s a Tasmanian, she gets there absolutely on merit due to the outstanding work that she has done since she entered the Ministry. The elevation of Catherine King and Jacinta Collins, no relation, to the Cabinet – although it does make doing the list with two J Collins very difficult – means that there will be more women in the Rudd Cabinet than there has ever been in an Australian Government Cabinet ever before. There will be more women ministers in the Rudd Ministry than have ever been appointed before.
I think that’s a good thing. Modern Australia needs to be reflected by the Government of Australia. I think it is important that people have come through the ranks on merit but more women also means that it’s more reflective of Australian society.
QUESTION: Is there – the new blood in the Cabinet, does that make it harder to [indistinct]
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Not at all. What we have is a mix. We have a mix of experience but also renewal going forward. A sign the Labor Government has renewed itself, that in terms of the quality of people in the Cabinet and the Ministry. The difficult task has been that there are so many quality representatives going forward.
People will be able to compare the Rudd team with the Abbott team. When you look at the Abbott team, what you have is a bunch of people who’ve been there since 2010 without any changes. There is no-one in the Coalition caucus who believes that they have their best team on the front bench. That people such as Bronwyn Bishop and others are there on merit or that they represent the future of the modern Liberal Party.
What we have is Labor putting our team forward and person to person, we’d be quite happy to have debates across the board – minister vs. shadow minister. I’ve been trying to have a debate against Warren Truss anywhere in the Parliament, at the National Press Club, anywhere at all in terms of my alternative as the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure but also now as the Deputy Prime Minister. And he has refused to do so. Our team are person for person far in advance of the team that Tony Abbott has put forward.
Because what occurred was that when Tony Abbott took over the leadership when Malcolm Turnbull was defeated, he put in place a team and it’s stayed there ever since throughout the term because Tony Abbott hasn’t had a plan for the future. He’s just had a plan for today. He’s had a plan that has said: today we’ll go into the Parliament and the Government will fall. The Government won’t serve full-term. We well recall Tony Abbott’s arrogance of inviting members of the National Press Gallery to the Lodge for Christmas drinks in 2011. That is what he said in 2010, he invited them to drinks in December 2011, because he did not believe that the Government would be able to last the entire term.
Well, the Government has served full-term, it’s been a good Government, we had renewal. What they have in place is the same team, and indeed they have more shadow ministers and a larger shadow ministry than is allowable under the federal legislation. There are some faces there that know they can’t be seen. There are more shadow ministers than there are ministers.
I don’t know what a whole lot of them do. I’ve had about half a dozen of them shadow me at any one time, including at the moment, there’s about half a dozen shadows across the portfolio responsibilities I have. But I’m yet to see a single coherent, costed policy in my area.
QUESTION: You told the conference that you will win the election. Are you getting carried away based on just a couple of okay polls?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Not at all. The point that I make is this: That Labor is not in the business of just trying to get a better result than we would have otherwise. We’re not about transforming whether we have 30 or 35 or 46. We’re in the business of having a majority Labor Government. That is what we will seek to do at the next election, that’s why not just the maintenance of all the seats that we hold with quality candidates. Dick, Sid, Geoff and Julie represent quality people in terms of the Federal Parliament. We want to add Jane to that list, because we’re about winning more than 75 seats. We’re about a majority Labor Government
QUESTION: Does the boost in the polls justify what you did earlier this week [indistinct] Julia Gillard?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We made a decision as a Caucus. A line has been drawn under that. Julia Gillard has my utmost respect. Julia Gillard is deserving of that, as a former prime minister. I believe that history will regard Julia Gillard well indeed, and history will look back at some of the personal attacks that were made on Julia Gillard and wonder what was going on.
QUESTION: When’s the election going to be? I mean [Indistinct]
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I came to Tasmania to give you the election announcement. I’m pleased you’ve come.
We’ll make proper considered decisions about those issues with due respect. This is a Government that will be a Cabinet Government. This is a Government where Kevin Rudd will consult based upon the facts. There won’t be decisions, that or any others, that will be made on the run. So the media are just going to have to be a little bit patient.
I know there’s a whole lot of stories being written about alleged policy changes, and I’m sure you can find someone who can say that they’d like policy x or policy y. Guess what? That is just speculation, and the media will do that from time to time. And the modern media spend a lot of time talking to other members of the media about what’s happening. We are not going to be rushed into decisions.
As the Prime Minister said on Friday, just chill. Give you the big hint, the election will be on a Saturday, and it’ll be at a time that is determined after proper consideration by the leadership and discussion by the Cabinet, and after full consideration of all the implications.
QUESTION: How [indistinct] is the rollout of the NDIS here in Tasmania tonight [indistinct].
ANTHONY ALBANESE: DisabilityCare Australia is great Labor reforms. It will be up there with the rollout of Medicare. It is iconic reform. It will make such a difference. I believe that society should be judged not by how it looks after the wealthiest people at the top of the tree. We should be judged by how we look after the most vulnerable. That’s why I joined the Labor Party. It’s a proud day tomorrow with the rollout here in Tasmania and right around the country. And I think it’s very significant indeed that the Prime Minister will be in Newcastle tomorrow for that. Sid Sidebottom, as a Member of the Executive, is doing the rollout here in Tasmania.
QUESTION: How big of an indictment is it on Labor that you’ve lost so much talent this week, people that Australians elected to run the country and now they’ve taken their bat and ball and gone home?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, we had a number of valedictories over the last fortnight for people who are leaving Parliament. There were more members of the Coalition than members of the Labor Party were leaving the Parliament. That seemed to escape the attention of the media, but that is a fact of what occurred, and we also had, of course, a couple of crossbenchers who’ve made that announcement as well. The idea that these are jobs for life is not the case. We’re of course subject to election every three years, but also, from time to time people make decisions based upon where they’ve been, their personal circumstances, you know, in some cases health and other issues come into it.
So people have made those decisions, and in Prime Minister Gillard’s case, she made the statement on Wednesday, when she announced the ballot, as did Kevin Rudd when he announced that he’d be contesting the leadership, that both of them, the non-successful candidate would leave the Parliament. I think it is the case that allows the party to draw a line under it and to move forward without the spectre of former Prime Minister Gillard and Prime Minister Rudd being both in the Parliament into the future. So I think that was a very positive gesture from both of them, and the acknowledgement that that was a necessary step in terms of moving on.
QUESTION: Today is the original deadline to sign up to Gonski. Are you disappointed that the Premier here hasn’t signed Tasmania up?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well Gonski is Gonski. It’s now the Better Schools Program. So the Better Schools Program, in terms of the states and territories who are yet to sign up, I’ve had discussions here on a personal level with the Premier. We continue to urge state and territory governments to sign up to the Better Schools Plan – to the plan that’s about better funding for students, better future for kids, better training of teachers. This is about Australia’s future, and every state and territory government has an absolute incentive to look after the future and to end what’s been a debate. Since I was at school there’s been debate about public funding and private funding and the mix.
This ends it. This is about putting funding for schools, and support for kids on a sustainable level into the future – and ensuring that those old, tired debates are put behind us.
One of the things that will characterise Kevin Rudd’s Government is that he is a unifying figure. We’re about governing for all Australians. That we’re about moving on from the politics of division. We have had a Parliament that has been very difficult because an Opposition leader has been engaged in a relentlessly negative attack trying to bring down the Government and the Parliament in a ruthless fashion.
Well I think Australians want to move on from that. They want to know what positive plans are for the future. The Better Schools Plan is a great example of that. We’ll be out there arguing and putting the case that state and territory governments should act in the interests of their kids at school now, but importantly, into the future, including future generations, and sign up to this plan.
QUESTION: Can you offer her the same – some reassurance that the extra money for schools won’t impact on our [indistinct]?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m not going to negotiate in front of the media. Minister Rudd has said that he will sit down with Premier Giddings. I’ve already had discussions with Premier Giddings over a period of time, both a face to face meeting some weeks ago, but also on the phone. I’ve had discussions with her. I’ll keep those discussions confidential.
What we intend to do is to do all we can to give the message that this is positive reform that’s worthy of support.
QUESTION: [Indistinct] Kevin Rudd save any Labor seats here in [indistinct]?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: What we’re about is winning seats right around the country. Not because that’s the end in itself, but because what Labor governments can do. And Tasmania has an absolute interest in the re-election of Kevin Rudd. Not just because of the positive agenda of the rollout of the National Broadband Network, the Jobs in Growth Plan, the support for issues right around the country. Whether it be on the West Coast, the railway proposal that Sid fought so strongly for. Whether it be the forestry restructuring package that Dick fought so strongly for. Whether it be the issue of the Launceston Bypass that I announced with Geoff in recent times. Whether it be the Brooker Highway upgrade that I’ve stood with Jane Austin and given support for. Or whether it be the Midlands Highway and other projects that benefit the whole of Tasmania.
I mean we have had a very good record. It is very important that that not be stopped in the case of the NBN. But it’s also the case that Tony Abbott’s only plan for Tasmania will be to rip off money in terms of the GST. That’s what Tony Abbott has made very clear when he’s been outside of Tasmania. It’s a bit more ambiguous when he’s here, but when he’s outside of Tasmania he says don’t worry about it to his friends in the East Coast states and in Western Australia – don’t worry about it, I’ll look after you.
Well there’s a consequence because it’s a pie that gets carved up. We think that the current situation shouldn’t be the case that Tony Abbott comes into office and simply rips money off Tasmania. We’ve made our position clear.
QUESTION: We know which jobs Minister Collins has taken on, what about you? What portfolios will you have going forward?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’ll be announced tomorrow.
QUESTION: You must know that.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I do know. I know all of them.
QUESTION: How much workload will you have to take on giving the, you know, the loss of talent. Ten or fifteen, or…?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good try. We will have an outstanding Cabinet and Ministry announced tomorrow. We’ll have quality people, as I said, more women than have ever been in an Australian Government Cabinet. More women ministers than have ever been sworn in will be sworn in tomorrow afternoon. The Prime Minister will be making an announcement tomorrow.
There are some protocols here. A great indigenous Australian is being honoured today, we will respect him by respecting the appropriate protocols.
QUESTION: Back to the poll, did you sigh a breath of relief when you read about it?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look I, you know, I said this when polls weren’t so good, so I’ll say the same now consistently. You know polls do come and go, and they go up and down and that will happen as well. I’m not going to get carried away by a poll.
What I know is that we were having difficulties cutting through. And you didn’t have to do a poll to do that. People were aware of that. The caucus has made a decision. This has been a remarkably smooth transition in which the Labor Party has conducted ourselves with dignity and respect, particularly the former prime minister and the former deputy prime minister.
I’ve had good discussions with a range of my colleagues. People are absolutely determined, absolutely determined, to focus on the future and to focus on ensuring that we can win the next election. Because we can win the next election, that’s a matter of the judgement of the Australian people though.
What’s occurred over the last three years is that the Coalition and Tony Abbott have not accepted the judgement of the Australian people. The Australian people voted for a Parliament that we respected and that we worked with. That is the Parliament that the Australian people gave us.
Tony Abbott seems to have this view that he has a right to the keys to the Lodge, and that any other result is unacceptable. In the Parliament he seems to have thought that he could get away with not having fully costed, fully detailed policies. They don’t have an education policy except for opposing more funding for schools. They don’t have a health policy except for opposing the funding models that have been put forward. On infrastructure they don’t have a policy either.
Some of you would have been at the Bellerive Oval just a couple of weeks ago where I made comments there about the Midlands Highway promise.
The $400 million that he said would fully duplicate the Midlands Highway. He shouldn’t be able to get away with that. You have a job to hold him to account just as you have a job to hold us to account. The difference is he’s been getting away with it frankly. He’s been getting away with it – three word slogans.
Those days are over. We will put forward comprehensive plans for the nation’s future. He has to do something more than just say no and just put forward negative politics. The politics of division are the politics of the past. What we’re about is not the politics of the future but we’re about is the policies for our future. This isn’t about Julie Gillard or Tony Abbott or Kevin Rudd or Anthony Albanese. At the end of the day this is about the nation’s future, that’s what the Labor Government is determined to do.
Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.