Subjects: High Court decision; Michaelia Cash.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Anthony Albanese joins us at nine minutes past four – the ALP frontbencher, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Cities, Regional Development and Tourism. Good afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Gday Raf.
EPSTEIN: It’s not really going to change the Government’s fortunes is it? Barnaby Joyce will win and we’ll sort of all be back to normal next year.
ALBANESE: Well the Government has shown that it doesn’t have a capacity to govern over recent months even with 76 members of the House of Representatives. So it’s now 74 plus the Speaker, who makes determinations based upon precedent rather than based upon his personal view of any particular issue. The circumstances here though are how unwise it was for Malcolm Turnbull to leave Barnaby Joyce in particular, but also Senator Nash, as ministers during this period. And the fact that Barnaby Joyce said that in his guts he thought he would probably be knocked over is an extraordinary, an extraordinary concession.
EPSTEIN: Can I interrupt you Anthony Albanese? Why would that make difference? If they hadn’t been in Cabinet for what, two months, that wouldn’t make a difference to today would it? What would the difference be?
ALBANESE: Well the difference is any decision of which they have been a part is drawn into question when they knew that there was at least a cloud over them. They were before the High Court of Australia and Barnaby Joyce today is saying that in his guts he thought this was a likely outcome is – I just find it beyond belief that he’s so frank about that. He’s been sitting in the Parliament, sitting in the Cabinet room and of course has been not just a Member of Parliament who has been shown to have been improperly elected; he’s been a Cabinet Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and indeed Acting Prime Minister when he wasn’t even eligible to be a Member of Parliament.
EPSTEIN: Well look, I think he says that because he’s an inveterate pessimist and clearly the Solicitor General is an inveterate optimist. But can I ask you a specific question Anthony Albanese? You are part of the Shadow Cabinet. Will Labor challenge ministerial decisions in court?
ALBANESE: Well the thing here is Raf that any of your listeners are entitled to go to court to challenge decisions and that is why it is unwise to have …
EPSTEIN: That’s not an answer.
ALBANESE: Well I’m not – I myself, if you’re asking me. What we haven’t done is pre-empt the High Court decision. Unlike Malcolm Turnbull who said that, you know, it was all going to be fine, we have said that we’d respect the Court’s decision and we certainly did that. We haven’t pre-empted it, but now that this decision has been made I think the issue – Members of Parliament and members of the Labor Party aren’t directly affected by decisions, but a whole lot of other people are, much more so and we will wait and see what happens as a result of the High Court ruling.
EPSTEIN: Another specific question, will you try to get votes through in the Lower House? For example, a Royal Commission into the banks, will you try to get laws passed while there’s one less Government vote?
ALBANESE: Well we always try to get votes through, and indeed the Banking Royal Commission failed to get through the House of Representatives as a result of Barnaby Joyce’s vote. So his vote was very significant indeed.
EPSTEIN: So you will try the banking Royal Commission again before December 2?
ALBANESE: We’ll wait and see what happens. But what we will do is continue to hold the Government to account each and every day, and we will continue to pursue a Labor agenda from Opposition. I mean, we’ve put forward positive policies. We haven’t just provided a critique – making sure that the Government is held to account. We’ve been putting forward our own agenda. We’ll continue to do that and we’ll do that in whatever capacity we can, whether that’s on the floor of the Parliament, or on ABC Radio in Melbourne.
EPSTEIN: Why can’t you accept Minister Michaelia Cash’s assurance that she was never told anyone in her office leaked news about police raids to the media? She’s said it again and again and again, she was not told until the story broke in the media.Why don’t you accept that?
ALBANESE: It just doesn’t stack up. I had an interview with Christopher Pyne on Adelaide radio at 9am on the morning. What happened was that …
EPSTEIN: Wednesday morning?
ALBANESE: Wednesday morning. On five occasions, at least, Senator Cash said that there was nothing to see here, that her office didn’t know; she found out about the raids when she saw them on the TV. And what I said, very clearly, was that it was my understanding that Minister Cash’s staff had notified people in the press gallery, the media, and the fact is that TV cameras turned up before the police were even there.
EPSTEIN: She says she was not told until the story broke in the evening in the media. Why don’t you accept that?
ALBANESE: Because if that happens at 9 o’clock in a debate with Christopher Pyne with a transcript that is released, it is beyond belief that her staff don’t say: “well actually, what Anthony Albanese said on radio is true’’, while they watch her five times mislead Parliament and while they, the staff member concerned, sits in a meeting prior to Question Time with Prime Minister Turnbull and Minister Cash; sits there while they talk through Question Time tactics – one would assume was why the meeting was held – and he doesn’t say anything, and he waits until the dinner break and then he says something. And if you look at Malcolm Turnbull’s responses in Parliament were very careful. He said Minister Cash has assured me she did not alert the media. The allegation wasn’t about her, it was about…
EPSTEIN: You’re saying the Prime Minister; you’re accusing the Prime Minister and Employment Minister of lying.
ALBANESE: I’m accusing the Prime Minister of using his words very carefully and Minister Cash of misleading the Senate on five separate occasions.
EPSTEIN: Thanks for your time.
ALBANESE: Thank you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.