Subjects: Marriage equality, early election, fracking.
NEIL MITCHELL: On the line is the Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure and Cities, Anthony Albanese. Good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning Neil.
MITCHELL: So what will happen? Are you going to oppose the plebiscite or not?
ALBANESE: Well, we haven’t made a final determination because we haven’t seen the legislation. But our position has been clear for a long time.
MITCHELL: Well, it’s not clear now.
ALBANESE: Well, it is clear that we think the Parliament should decide.
ALBANESE: That is very clear. That has been our position for a long time. And guess what Neil, it’s no different from our position on transport issues, or infrastructure, or the environment, or the economy. The Parliament – we’ve been elected; today we get sworn in. We have been elected to make decisions and I disagree with the conclusion of your first caller just there, but I do agree that there are more important issues.
ALBANESE: And the idea that we have a plebiscite on this – it won’t change anything. There will still be a vote and it will still be a conscience vote.
MITCHELL: But there’s a problem here. The Government was elected making it very clear that they would have a plebiscite. Haven’t they got a right to have that plebiscite? Haven’t they got a mandate?
ALBANESE: And what percentage of the primary vote did they get, Neil? The majority of Australians didn’t vote for them.
MITCHELL: Who is forming government, Mr Albanese?
ALBANESE: Well they are. They have fallen across the line. But we are entitled – we don’t elect a one-party state in Australia. What we have is a Parliament and our positon was very clear as well before the election …
MITCHELL: Yeah, that’s true.
ALBANESE: … that there should be a vote of the Parliament and we have an obligation to our voters to examine it in that context. But my big concern with this is a divisive debate.
MITCHELL: No. We can handle that.
ALBANESE: Oh Neil, I’ll show you some of the emails that I’ve got already.
MITCHELL: Yes. But do you want some emails on immigration or on Muslim migration or on fracking?
ALBANESE: And guess what, we’re not having a plebiscite on Muslim migration either. Thank goodness, thank goodness.
MITCHELL: So you are saying you haven’t decided, right?
ALBANESE: We haven‘t decided what way we will vote on the plebiscite but we are committed to – our preference is and what we will pursue is a vote in the Parliament with a conscience vote.
MITCHELL: So that sounds like you have decided.
ALBANESE: Well we have decided that that’s our first thing. But that doesn’t mean necessarily that we will vote against the plebiscite. I personally, I personally think that we should vote against the plebiscite because that is what the community is telling me that they want.
The community don’t understand that parliamentarians will make decisions about a whole range of measures over the next little while – however long this Parliament lasts – which probably won’t be three years – but I and everyone else is going to sit in judgement of other people’s relationships. That’s what I think really is problematic here, Why is it that that is the one thing? Personal relationships are complex. But to me it is pretty simple that if two people love each other and they want to declare it publically in front of their family and friends, isn’t that great?
MITCHELL: I agree. I’ve got no problem, I agree with you entirely, but what I’m talking about is getting it done. Do you accept that if a plebiscite is knocked back that this whole issue will be delayed for quite a while? It’s not going to be resolved quickly. And that gay marriage isn’t coming quickly.
ALBANESE: No I don’t.
MITCHELL: So you reckon you can convince the Government no plebiscite and support gay marriage? Do you reckon you can convince them to do that?
ALBANESE: I don’t think I can, but I think the Australian public can. And the Australian public want to get this done. This is a distraction for the Government and Malcolm Turnbull himself said, just before he became the Leader, when he was opposing a plebiscite – bear in mind how this happened, Neil. The only reason why a plebiscite got up is because Tony Abbott stacked the party room, instead of having a Liberal party room, with the Nats and got it up.
MITCHELL: The point is though- yeah ok, well heaven forbid we have hypocrisy amongst politicians, who would have thought? I mean, Julia Gillard opposed it too for heaven’s sake. Look, seriously, why not just get it resolved? Get a plebiscite over and done with.
ALBANESE: Exactly – why not get it resolved and have a vote? We could do it on Thursday.
MITCHELL: They’ve been elected. They would then be dudding the people who voted for them because they went into the election very clearly saying a plebiscite. Now you’re asking them to dud their voters and at the same time saying you’ll support yours.
ALBANESE: Well a plebiscite I don’t believe, at this stage, looks like it has the numbers in the Parliament and for very good reasons.
MITCHELL: Do you think a plebiscite would get up or not?
ALBANESE: I think it would.
MITCHELL: So what’s your problem?
ALBANESE: I think it would but the problem is that on the way through the damage it would cause. The problem is the cost; the problem is the morality of giving everyone a vote on this issue but not giving them a vote on all the range of issues that do actually impact on someone. The thing about this issue is that my relationship won’t be impacted by it, yours won’t, and most people’s won’t. It’s just giving some people who currently don’t enjoy rights the same rights that we have.
MITCHELL: Ok, (inaudible) you mentioned the Government won’t last three years, why? What’s going to happen?
ALBANESE: Well I think it’s very unstable. I’ve sat there as Leader of the House in a Parliament where we started off with 70 votes, I know how difficult it is. This Government had difficulty holding the show together last time and they had 90 on the floor of the House of Representatives.
MITCHELL: So how long do you give them?
ALBANESE: Wait and see but I can’t see it going full term because the other thing that will happen – I think Malcolm Turnbull will have a look at what’s happened in the past, to leaders in the recent past, on both sides of politics and will choose to go to the people rather than have a vote of his party room that is surely brewing already.
MITCHELL: Parliament hasn’t even resumed after the election, and we’re already talking about the next one. Hey, a quick question, do you support the ban on fracking?
ALBANESE: It’s a matter for the Victorian Government.
MITCHELL: Do you have a policy on it?
ALBANESE: The Victorian Government does, I’m sure, but I as a New South Wales Member of the House of Representatives am not about to tell the Victorians what to do. One of the things I do certainly support is making sure that we protect our agricultural land.
MITCHELL: Do you think there should be a national ban on fracking? It’s an issue in most states.
ALBANESE: No that’s not our position. But in terms of protection of lands these are things that I am aware of. It’s not my portfolio obviously, but areas like the Liverpool Plains in New South Wales that I am conscious of. I think the idea that you would take pristine agricultural land and use it for short term gain is very short sighted. We need to make sure that we treat our land as the precious resource that it is and make sure that all of our actions are sustainable.
MITCHELL: Thanks so much for your time – you off to church today?
ALBANESE: No, I missed it – it was at 7:30.
MITCHELL: But you’re fired up?
ALBANESE: I blame you Neil; I had to talk to you.
MITCHELL: I think church could have been a bit more important, thank you Anthony Albanese, Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.