SUBJECTS: North-Western Sydney; urban policy; oil supply; US missiles; corruption.
MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Welcome to Greenway and welcome to Riverstone and a very special welcome to someone who is no stranger to north western Sydney, Labor Leader Anthony Albanese. The noise of the heavy vehicles here reminds us that (inaudible) it’s a place of industrial areas. It’s a place that has older and sometimes more challenging areas. But also it’s a place where there is incredible new housing taking place, and we’re here in front of the Riverstone Cenotaph, we actually have a countdown to the 100th anniversary coming. So Anthony is here. Not only have we spoken to small businesses and community groups here, but also to impart and to get a sense of some of those challenges that we’re facing, here in this growth area of North-West Sydney. We have, for example, the challenges commuter parking. Here at Riverstone Station you can see the car park is full, it would have been around six o’clock this morning. Down at the next station at Schofields, as Anthony knows very well, you will have hundreds and hundreds of cars, not only to access parking spots in the morning for their daily commute. Anthony is also well aware that here in Riverstone this was actually the site of the first Sydney Metro rollout at the National Broadband Network, which was a huge draw for a number of businesses to move to and invest in this area. And mostly what we are very much concerned about is not only those hard infrastructure aspects of growth, but also soft infrastructure – those elements that go into making the quality of life for local residents are so much better. And those elements that go to ensuring that Western Sydney and North West Sydney continue to be places where people want to work and raise a family and (inaudible). So thanks very much Anthony for coming out.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much Michelle. It’s great to be back here again here in North-Western Sydney. This is my second visit as Labor Leader and I intend to continue to prioritise outer urban areas around our capital cities because they are the ones that are struggling with infrastructure, be it roads or public transport infrastructure; struggling also to ensure that the quality of life can be maintained for people who either have lived here for some time or a new residents in terms of access to services, access to facilities that give people a hand up as well. So after meeting with small businesses and the Chamber of Commerce, I will also be meeting with the Neighbourhood Centre here that provides services for people across the board and was the subject of some vicious cuts in the last term of the Coalition Government. Of course, tomorrow I will be in Box Hill in outer urban Melbourne, and I intend to prioritise communities, the Federal Government to lift up the standard of living here because, as Michelle says, Schofields station we committed a commuter car park before the election before the last. It would have been up and running right now if we had been successful, or if the Commonwealth or the State Government had of come to the party. Here of course is a commuter car park that is already full. It’s an example of the strain that comes with growing communities. But it’s one that I am determined to address, and as someone who is a former Infrastructure Minister who had responsibility to cities, I’m very conscious with the need for good urban policy. I met with the National Growth Areas Alliance just in the last fortnight to once again reiterate Labor’s commitments to deal with issues facing outer urban communities. I’m very pleased that Michelle’s invited me once again here today, to her electorate, to be able to discuss with small businesses about the needs of this local community that is so well represented by Michelle Rowland, who is such a passionate advocate for her local community. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: The Government’s looking at accessing the emergency fuel supply of the US to bolster domestic resources. Will this help shore up Australia’s fuel supply?
ALBANESE: Well I tell you what would shore up but Australia’s fuel security – a plan to actually have fuel security here in Australia. At the moment we don’t see that. That’s one of the reasons why, with Bill Shorten, we announced support for Strategic Fleet in conjunction with the shipping industry. It had the support of Australian shippers. It had the support of people in the fuel industry. It had the support of the Australian community. I think that what we really need from this Government is a secure policy on fuel and energy across the board, whether it be fuel security, or whether it’s an energy policy. We saw again on the weekend Angus Taylor announce what amounts to the 15th energy policy of the Government, which is to have a frolic about nuclear power, to have an inquiry where one would assume this parliamentary committee would be traveling around looking at once again nuclear power when that’s been examined many times before, and has been shown to be expensive, let alone on the issues of water security and the issues of safety and security of that energy source. Angus Taylor really has been a complete failure in his time as Energy Minister. He joins a long list of failed energy ministers under this third-term Coalition Government that doesn’t really have plans that serve the national interest. It just has political games in Canberra.
JOURNALIST: If they do go ahead and get access to the US, could Australia still be left exposed?
ALBANESE: Australia needs a strategy that ensures that Australia’s fuel security is met here. So a strategy here, not a strategy that says if we run out the US will send us some in support. And they don’t have that at the moment. As I said, they dismissed the plan that we put up which included the Strategic Fleet prior to the election. Certainly we met – myself Richard Marles and Penny Wong – met with Mark Esper this morning, the US Defence Secretary. We had very constructive discussions with the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, yesterday evening and these issues weren’t raised as part of those discussions, but of course we will always have constructive engagement with our US allies.
JOURNALIST: The Defence Minister has ruled put allowing US missiles on Australian soil. Should he have been clearer in ruling that out yesterday?
ALBANESE: The Defence Minister, Linda Reynolds, I assume you are talking about, has said that there hasn’t been a request and certainly I can confirm in the discussions that we had with the Defence Secretary Mark Esper, he confirmed that that was the case.
JOURNALIST: And what did you mean when you said that you hadn’t seen cases of direct corruption in Parliament?
ALBANESE: Well I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that. Quote me correctly. What I said was that I hadn’t seen evidence of corruption in Parliament and what I meant by that is pretty simple. And it was in response to Andrew Wilkie, who said what can be seen as a slur on every parliamentarian. He said there are corrupt Members of Parliament without naming them. You can’t get away with that frankly. If there is evidence of a parliamentarian that Mr Wilkie is aware of who has been involved in corruption, he should name that parliamentarian, rather than make grand statements such as the one that he made. We support a National Integrity Commission. We support a National Integrity Commission that would be able to conduct its own inquiries and to give the public confidence that there was such a body that could look at any corruption which was there. But in my time in Parliament I am not aware of any suggestion that MP X has received money from Company XY and I simply made that statement.
So I am concerned that some on the crossbenches who proposed an inquiry which was much weaker than the inquiry which the Government proposed, which has Royal Commission powers, that has the power to investigate, has the power to get search warrants, has the power to seize documents, be they physical or electronic, can engage in this. And the MP is concerned, saying that Labor somehow was soft on those issues because we didn’t support their proposal that basically a committee with over-representation of independent members would conduct that inquiry rather than an investigative body. I was critical of the fact that Mr Wilkie hadn’t put forward a proposition to Labor before he moved that resolution on the floor of the Parliament. It is as simple as that.
I think that there obviously have been a range of issues, and I mentioned them in the same interview yesterday, that I think that issues such as Angus Taylor’s property interests and the relationship between that and meetings that were held at the Department of Environment is something that a National Integrity Commission could look at. The route of the Inland Rail, I mentioned, is something that the National Integrity Commission could look at. The issue of the buying of water rights is something that a National Integrity Commission could look at. But the fact is that in terms of my statements, has been taken quite out of context and have been misquoting rather than saying what I said. So I say to Mr Wilkie and I say to some of the other crossbench MPs that have engaged in this type of behaviour from time to time: Don’t bring down every parliamentarian by making such a broad, sweeping statement as “politicians unnamed have engaged in this behaviour’’. If you have a specific allegation, make it and then I think we will be better off, better served. I think that politics is an honourable profession. And I think overwhelmingly, people go into it, including Mr Wilkie, for all the right reasons.
JOURNALIST: There is an ICAC investigation going on into the NSW Labor Party. How concerning is that to you considering you are the Leader of the Australian Labor Party?
ALBANESE: Well that is a matter for the ICAC, which is independent body, undertakes investigations. It is certainly not appropriate to comment on ongoing investigations that are taking place. They should be allowed to do their work and come up with whatever findings they find.
JOURNALIST: Would Labor ever support US missiles being placed in Australia?
ALBANESE: Well there is no proposal. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: What about the suggestion? If there was a suggestion?
ALBANESE: There is no suggestion and there is no proposal. There have been some media reports which we’ve asked directly Mr Esper the Defence Secretary who we met with just this morning. There is no proposal and the Government Minister, Linda Reynolds has confirmed that and why that didn’t happen yesterday is a matter for her.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.