Subjects; Turnbull Minority Government, Barnaby Joyce, High Court Ruling, New England By-election
BEN FORDHAM: Okay, we’ll leave Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull there and go straight back to our 2GB studios where I’m joined by Labor’s Anthony Albanese who’s busy texting away on his phone but he’s going to have a talk to us right now. Albo, good afternoon, thanks for swinging into the studio.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m just tweeting out that I’m talking to you!
FORDHAM: Is that right?
ALBANESE: If there are some people out there who aren’t listening to 2GB at this particular point in time, your ratings might be about to go up.
FORDHAM: Why have you got such a spring in your step this afternoon?
ALBANESE: Well, this is a debacle for the government. We know that the government has lost its capacity to actually govern for the nation. Today they’ve lost their majority. Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce have been humiliated, frankly. I mean, Malcolm Turnbull was full of chutzpah there, but this is a guy who stood up in the Parliament as the Prime Minister, attempted to pre-empt the High Court decision, say ‘nothing to see here’, that Barnaby Joyce could continue to serve not just as a minister but as the Deputy Prime Minister and as the Acting Prime Minister. Very unwise decision, as well as Minister Nash continuing to serve as well. Matt Canavan at least did the right thing and stepped down as a minister.
FORDHAM: Let me just play you what Barnaby Joyce said about an hour ago.
BARNABY JOYCE: You don’t try and second guess the High Court. They make their own deliberations and I respect their verdict. They’ve made their decision and we are so lucky to live in a nation that has the checks and balances that our nation has and now I’ll do something I’ll be preparing for. This morning I was going around Armidale, Uralla, Walcha, Bendimeer, basically saying g’day to people because, you know, in my gut I thought, this is the way it’s going to go.
FORDHAM: ‘In my gut I felt this is the way it was going to go’.
ALBANESE: Well, that is an astonishing statement from Barnaby Joyce. What he’s saying is that he’s been sitting in the Parliament, in the House of Representatives and more importantly, sitting around the Cabinet table thinking that in his gut he wasn’t eligible to sit there. What the High Court have determined here is that he wasn’t properly elected in 2016 and they’ve ruled that election invalid. And for him to say that in his gut he thought this was the way that it would go is quite frankly beyond belief.
FORDHAM: Have you got some sympathy for him?
ALBANESE: Look, I don’t mind Barnaby one-to-one.
FORDHAM: But I mean through this whole thing, and I said from the start that when these people started falling over and when it was revealed that it wasn’t just people who’d been citizens of another country but stuff involving their parents, people who’ve been citizens by default and everything else, I said straight away they need to have a fresh look at the Constitution, don’t they? I think Malcolm Turnbull’s just said something similar during that news conference.
ALBANESE: Malcolm Turnbull, I did notice say that. But I tell you what; it would be a very big call to think that the Australian people would vote for a constitutional change that would allow people to be citizens of another country apart from Australia and continue to serve in the national Parliament. The Australian people don’t change the Constitution very readily. There’s not a great deal of sympathy for politicians out there; you might have noticed from time to time on your program, Ben.
FORDHAM: When you’ve got so many people though who are citizens of Australia who’ve got parents born overseas, they themselves were born overseas, you know, you’ve got links to Europe yourself…
ALBANESE: And that is true, we’re a multicultural nation.
FORDHAM: I mean, we should do something about it shouldn’t we, about the Constitution? If we’re going to fix part of the Constitution up, this is the bit we fix up.
ALBANESE: If we were writing the Constitution today I would certainly suggest that would be an appropriate reform. Indeed, it’s in the Labor Party policies; it’s been there for a while to do something about that section, but it’s very hard to change the Constitution. And the thing that’s interesting, of all the people that were up today, there were no members of the Labor Party and no members of the Liberal Party. What that suggests is that the two major parties, the two big parties, do proper scrutiny beforehand.
FORDHAM: I’ll get to the Labor Party in just a moment, but I’ve got some breaking news for you. Tony Windsor will not run in the by-election, in New England, does that surprise you?
ALBANESE: That is big news. I haven’t spoken to Tony, obviously, since the announcement.
FORDHAM: This is just in now, the former independent member for New England, Tony Windsor, has shocked everyone in New England by saying he will in fact not run against Barnaby Joyce and anyone else who puts their hand up in that by-election coming up on December 2. He says he’s not going to put his wife through another election campaign. I did remark earlier that he did get towelled up by Barnaby just last year in the federal election. So maybe he’s thinking, well I’m not a chance of getting up?
ALBANESE: Well he pulled out of Parliament voluntarily, of course, in 2013.
FORDHAM: But he had another crack at the last federal election and he got smashed.
ALBANESE: That’s right, and that’s – well, that’s not quite accurate Ben.
FORDHAM: He was smashed.
ALBANESE: The truth is, Barnaby Joyce had a double-digit swing against him at the last election, that’s the truth of the matter.
FORDHAM: Barnaby romped it in, in New England. It was daylight second.
ALBANESE: He had a double digit swing against him. And we’ll wait and see how he goes on December 2.
FORDHAM: Let me go to the Labor Party, because there are five Labor MPs with questionable citizenship status including Brendan O’Connor, Justine Keay, Susan Lamb, Maria Vamvakinou and Tony Zappia. Labor’s refused to release any of their details, haven’t they?
ALBANESE: We have a rigorous process Ben, I’ll tell you the big idea, get it right before people nominate, not afterwards. That’s what we do.
FORDHAM: So they got it right.
ALBANESE: That’s what we do, absolutely.
FORDHAM: They got it right, their citizenship’s all good.
ALBANESE: Absolutely, the Labor Party gets it right.
FORDHAM: Why haven’t those five shown their documents?
ALBANESE: The Labor Party gets it right.
FORDHAM: Why haven’t those five shown their documents?
ALBANESE: Well people have been proven to be members of parliament, they’ve all been elected properly, the Labor Party has a rigorous process.
FORDHAM: We’re talking about the citizenship five!
ALBANESE: That’s not right. That’s not right.
FORDHAM: When they were elected everyone thought that they were elected properly and now we discover that they’re not. There are question marks over those Labor MPs.
ALBANESE: And they had a problem which is why they were referred, there are no question marks over Labor MPs. Labor has a rigorous process, it’s in place, it’s prior to nomination. I was talking to one guy recently who was complaining about the 60 pages of documentation that he had to submit in order to run for a seat where he struggled to get into double figures in a very safe conservative seat. That’s what we do.
FORDHAM: Nothing to see here on the Labor front, eh?
ALBANESE: We have our processes right, and the fact is that Labor and Liberal, the two big parties, didn’t have anyone before the High Court. It was the National Party, the Greens, One Nation and Nick Xenophon that were before the court today.
FORDHAM: Is Labor going to put a candidate in New England?
ALBANESE: Labor will have a candidate in New England.
FORDHAM: Do we know who that’s going to be?
ALBANESE: Well, no, it hasn’t been announced yet, and I’m not announcing it exclusively on your program Ben, but good try!
FORDHAM: Anthony Albanese, thank you so much for coming in.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you, Ben.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.