Subjects: Mal Brough, Tony Abbott, election
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Today is the last parliamentary sitting day here in Canberra in what has been a turbulent political year. And pointedly, the last day will present the new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, with what the Opposition has painted as a significant test of his leadership. At issue is whether he should he stand by his Special Minister of State, Mal Brough, or cut him loose, as the Opposition has demanded. Mr Brough is accused of misleading the Parliament with contradictory explanations of his role in bringing down the former speaker, Peter Slipper. Well, to discuss this, as well as the year that was and the big year to come, I’m joined now by Labor frontbencher, Anthony Albanese. Anthony Albanese, welcome to the program.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning Michael.
BRISSENDEN: So Mal Brough has apologised to the House for creating confusion. Why should he go?
ALBANESE: Well, this was a non-apology. He should go because he’s misled the House. He tried to verbal 60 Minutes and to suggest that somehow they’d cut the question in a way in which it led to some confusion over his answer. They did not. It was a very clear question. Did he procure Peter Slipper’s diaries through Mr Ashby? His answer was …
BRISSENDEN: He wouldn’t be the first, he wouldn’t be the first politician who’s tried to verbal a media organisation in the Parliament.
ALBANESE: I’ll tell you what, he’s the first politician I know of to ask someone to get copies of a Member of Parliament’s diary through one of their own staff. You know why? Because it’s a crime, it’s a crime. That’s why, that’s why there’s been a search warrant issued about this issue because it’s a very serious issue and it goes to, it goes to Malcolm Turnbull’s judgement.
BRISSENDEN: Okay, Mal Brough hasn’t been charged though. This is still under investigation. Are you saying that anyone under investigation or the subject of a search warrant, as he is, should be sacked?
ALBANESE: What I’m saying is Mal Brough has misled the Parliament – not just once, but repeatedly. Mal Brough has clearly, is just not up to the position of being this Special Minister of State. This is someone who Malcolm Turnbull consciously appointed to be in charge of parliamentarians’ offices and it is beyond comprehension that Malcolm Turnbull should show, I think the worst judgement I’ve seen of any politician since Malcolm Turnbull the last time, trusted Godwin Grech, which of course, led to his demise as leader of the Liberal Party.
BRISSENDEN: Okay, but Mal Brough hasn’t been charged. The Prime Minister says quite rightly there’s nothing, nothing substantively new that’s come out of this in the last couple of days.
ALBANESE: Malcolm Turnbull called for the Prime Minister and the Treasurer of Australia to step down as a result of relying upon a fake email from Godwin Grech. That’s Malcolm Turnbull’s form. That’s what he said back then. Today, it’s interesting that there hasn’t been, in the last fortnight, a single minister who’s prepared to stand up and defend Mal Brough. I’ve seen governments in the past gag oppositions. This is a government that is gagging itself because it’s not prepared – and shutting down debate – because it’s not prepared to utter a word in defence of Mal Brough, and it’s not surprising given that he’s there, on tape, conceding his involvement in these issues and he stands up and says essentially black is white. It fails common sense.
BRISSENDEN: What about finding some middle ground? Why not allowing him simply to stand aside rather than be sacked? I mean wouldn’t sacking him essentially pre-empt any AFP (Australian Federal Police) investigation?
ALBANESE: Well, Tony Abbott showed bad judgement but he wasn’t that bad that he appointed Mal Brough. He stopped Mal Brough being a minister. For Mal Brough to be appointed as the Special Minister of State shows a lack of judgement from Malcolm Turnbull.
BRISSENDEN: But simply standing him aside, not good enough? Is that what you’re saying?
ALBANESE: Well, I don’t think it is good enough. I don’t think it is good enough because he has misled the Parliament. Not once, not twice, every day for the last fortnight.
BRISSENDEN: Where does this stop then? What about Wyatt Roy? Because James Ashby says it was Wyatt Roy who asked him to get the diaries. Should he stand aside too?
ALBANESE: Well, what we don’t have, from Wyatt Roy, is Wyatt Roy on camera saying “Yes, I did it”.
BRISSENDEN: Right. That’s essentially the difference?
ALBANESE: Oh, these issues, these cards will fall and we’ll see what happens as the investigation goes on but in Mal Brough’s case, we have him on national television saying not just that he did it – “yes, I did” – as clear as an answer as you can possibly imagine, but then going on to provide the reason why he did it. So there’s no ambiguity here at all.
BRISSENDEN: Hard to see you stopping at Mal Brough, though.
ALBANESE: Well, we’ll be pursuing these issues today.
BRISSENDEN: It’s not exactly the same as… I mean, you’re talking about a matter of judgement here, but how big is it? It’s not exactly the same as Bronwyn Bishop, is it? It’s not going to have the same sort of public pull that that issue had?
ALBANESE: I’m not sure that when the police investigation is filled here – finished here – that it won’t make the Bronwyn Bishop issue pale into insignificance.
BRISSENDEN: All right, next year …
ALBANESE: Have a look at the AFP search warrants where they outline what they are looking for and what the potential breaches of the law are.
BRISSENDEN: But it is still under investigation, this is the point. I mean wasn’t Julia Gillard under investigation by Victoria Police and the subject of a search warrant at one point in 2013?
ALBANESE: I didn’t notice, Michael, that the then-opposition went quiet on an issue which went back to alleged events of decades ago. These aren’t events of decades ago. There are events that are very pertinent to Mal Brough seeking to replace Peter Slipper as the Member for Fisher, which he did in this very Parliament.
BRISSENDEN: Okay, let’s talk about the political year that was and the political year that’s to come.
ALBANESE: And might I add that what we’ve seen from this Government is a number of royal commissions into things that happened, allegedly, a very long time ago, at great taxpayer expense.
BRISSENDEN: Okay, just quickly. It’s been a big political year, obviously. We’ve had a change of leadership but things have certainly picked up for the Government. The economy is growing, exports are booming, consumer spending is up. People feel pretty good about the place at the moment, don’t they?
ALBANESE: Well, I think there’s a great sense of relief that Tony Abbott’s gone. Tony Abbott inspired negativity, I think. He was a politician who failed the transition from opposition leader to the high office of prime minister and I think he suffered for that. This has been a government without a purpose. Today I note there’s no real legislation before the Parliament, it doesn’t seem to have a purpose yet. What it’s got is a vibe and the vibe is more positive. There’s no question about that and there’s no question that there’s a great sense of relief.
ALBANESE: But what we don’t have is a change of substance and we’ve seen that with Malcolm Turnbull going to Paris with Tony Abbott’s climate targets that he regarded in very colourful terms you might recall, just a few years ago.
BRISSENDEN: All right, just quickly, the vibe does make it more difficult for you though. If we get to the middle of the year, assuming the election is around September, you’ll all go to the polls hoping Bill Shorten can campaign well enough to get you across the line but it doesn’t look that promising at this stage, does it?
ALBANESE: Well, we’ll wait and see. What happened last time with Malcolm Turnbull was that, you know, people responded very positively in the beginning. They didn’t when they had a good look. And Malcolm Turnbull leads a political party that is at war with itself. You have an extraordinary level of sniping, you have a minister in trouble that reminds everyone about Malcolm Turnbull’s judgement issues of the past and a government is refusing to actually defend him on the floor of the Parliament. So what we have is the flaws in the Government are still there. It’s the same old government, it’s got a different sales person with a better smile but people want differences of substance and we’re not seeing that.
BRISSENDEN: Okay, Anthony Albanese, we’ll leave it there. Thanks very much for joining us.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
BRISSENDEN: That’s Labor’s Anthony Albanese there.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.