SUBJECTS: John Setka; Income tax cuts; AFP raids; Freedom of the press.
FRAN KELLY: Anthony Albanese is the new Opposition Leader of course. Anthony Albanese welcome back to breakfast.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning Fran.
KELLY: Did you pick the phone up and ask John Setka or anyone else at that meeting what was said before you declared that you don’t want John Setka in the party you lead.
ALBANESE: I did speak to people who were at that meeting. I don’t know John Setka, I don’t have his number. I’ve never had a conversation with him. But I did speak to others – that I did speak to others in the trade union movement and you only have to look at the comments of someone like Sally McManus who I think has done an amazing job as the secretary of the ACTU and she has said that Mr Setka’s words and actions which are not compatible with our values and have impacted on our movement. There is no doubt that over a considerable period of time some of the statements that Mr Setka has made are incompatible in my view with not just the views of the Labor Party but the views of mainstream Australia. And when it comes to Mr Cain’s comments I actually saw that interview and in it he suggested that yes he was sitting right next to-
KELLY: Five feet away he says, five feet away from John Setka.
ALBANESE: That’s right. Unfortunately for Mr Cain he said in that interview that Mr Setka didn’t mention Rosie Batty. Well that’s not what Mr Setka says himself. Mr Setka says that his comments about Rosie Batty have been misinterpreted which is a very different thing from Mr Cain’s recollection of the meeting that wasn’t mentioned at all.
KELLY: Okay just to clarify though, did you say you did speak to some who were in that meeting and did they confirm those comments?
ALBANESE: Yes, yes.
KELLY: What did they say that John Setka said?
ALBANESE: Well I think the comments are very clear; that Mr Setka whether he argues are misinterpreted or not, that Mr Setka did mention Rosie Batty and did mention he’s in the context of his own legal case which it would not be appropriate for me to go into now. I’m not quite sure why Mr Setka went into to those issues at that meeting. But he did it’s before the court and I don’t intend to go into detail of matters that are before the court.
KELLY: Nevertheless, I mean just to be clear here when you said you don’t want John Setka in the party you lead, was that all about the allegations reportedly of Rosie Batty? Or was it because of past behaviour too because without going into it, he’s pleading guilty to charges of harassing a woman by text and phone – that goes to court next month.
ALBANESE: I made it very clear that it was not about the matter that is currently before the court-
KELLY: Even though he’s pleaded guilty to that?
ALBANESE: Well you’ve just pointed out that fact Fran and some of those details that are out there in the newspaper day by day. But, there is a whole history of comments that Mr Setka has made, not just the ones at that meeting but ones that I’ve been critical of in the past and ones that have brought a very strong response from Mr Setka towards myself in the past.
KELLY: You’ve limited your actions to try and kick John Setka out of the ALP. Kristina Keneally says quote, ‘he should consider his pushes his position within the union movement himself.’ If he was convicted of charges next month, do you want him out of the union movement as well?
ALBANESE: Well that’s a matter for the union movement Fran. That’s like asking me, do I want you to continue to be the ABC Breakfast presenter?
KELLY: I’ll leave that to a private conversation.
ALBANESE: Exactly. That’s a matter for the ABC and it’s a matter for you. I’m not a member of the CFMMEU. That’s a matter for them to deal with. Can I say this, that when there have been issues in the past in the union movement they’ve been dealt with within particular unions. There were elements in the Victorian branch of the AMWU a while ago that were dealt with decisively and clearly and in the interests of the overall Labor movement.
KELLY: But as long given your comments and as long as John Setka remains as head of the Victorian branch of the CFMMEU the Labor Party’s received about a million dollars from that branch since 2012. Aren’t you open to the charge from Government Ministers and others that Labor’s in bed with union thugs and criminals. I mean the government is already signalling it’s going to move to reintroduce that ensuring integrity bill which makes it easier to deregister unions.
ALBANESE: Well this Government is obsessed with its anti-union position, be very clear. It’s got nothing to do with John Setka, it’s got nothing to do with all individuals in the union movement or any particular union. They don’t like unions. They have a view that workers shouldn’t have bargaining rights in the workplace. I think unions play a critical role in our society and the idea that you could have a construction industry without construction unions making sure that people are paid appropriate wages and conditions, making sure that foreign workers aren’t brought in and exploited, making sure that people are kept safe in the workplace is in my view totally inappropriate and just shows that they’re all about ideology-
KELLY: Yes when you see behaviour of someone like John Setka and you’ve called that behaviour out, don’t you think the public then we’ll go well yeah maybe we do need some laws to make it easier to kick some people out of unions?
ALBANESE: Well I’m dealing with the John Setka issue decisively in terms of the Labor Party. I don’t think anyone can argue that I’m prevaricating over that issue. But, my concern is-
KELLY: We’re just losing you on the line there a bit, I’m not sure if you’ve moved?
ALBANESE: Sorry, no.
KELLY: Yeah that’s better.
ALBANESE: That Australians have conflict fatigue. They’re sick of a government that is consistently just attacking trade unions. Unions do perform a critical role in looking after the interests of their workers and I’ve said before that in my view unions and businesses do have common interest.
KELLY: You’re listening to Breakfast, it’s a quarter to eight. Our guest is Anthony Albanese, Opposition Leader. I think you’ve just finished your listening tour of the country-
ALBANESE: No, it’s still going Fran.
KELLY: Still going, okay. You’re listening to people about why they think Labor got it so wrong and what did you learn that you didn’t know before you embarked on this tour?
ALBANESE: Look what it’s enabling is for people to have direct contact both people who’ve voted Labor or campaigned for Labor who were disappointed by the May 18 results. So they’ve been able to put forward why they think that the feedback that they had on the polling booths, on the doors, as they were going around campaigning. But also people who didn’t support us to directly tell us why and there are a range of issues. One of the issues- to go back to our previous conversation- is that people don’t want so much conflict and they felt that a range of policies that we had particularly on issues like franking dividends were divisive and people have conflict fatigue and they want the national interest to be served. They want politicians to concentrate on what unites us rather than what divides us.
KELLY: And you yourself have said that there was a problem with how Labor positioned itself and you and Jim Chalmers are talking more about connecting with aspirational voters. If you are genuine about that about supporting people who are working hard and have aspirations will you start by supporting the government – stage two of the government’s tax cuts and stage three of the government’s tax cuts?
ALBANESE: Well of course they’re off in the never never at this stage.
KELLY: But they’re coming into the Parliament in three weeks’ time.
ALBANESE: But they come into effect, Fran beyond the next election. In stage three’s case in 2024-25 and one of things that I’ve said is that the government needs to give us the information, they haven’t done that yet about what the economic impact is on particular income groups of their proposals. They also have to say what potential cuts would be necessary, particularly for stage three. If you are reducing revenue you also have to examine the impact that would be there on expenditure and the government needs to make it very clear about what the impact would be particularly of stage two but also stage three.
KELLY: Does that mean you’re leaving the door open to stage three if the government provides you that information?
ALBANESE: We’ve said we’ll consider the options which are there. We’ll consider it in a meaningful way based upon the facts and we want to get those facts. We’ll have an internal debate about it through appropriate processes that I will establish, just like I consulted everyone in the leadership group and others in the movement before I made my announcement about Mr Setka. I will be a consultative leader and not make decisions on the run we don’t have a rush here. Unfortunately for the Government they said these cuts – stage one would come in on July one and of course they’ve already broken that commitment.
KELLY: Okay. Just a quick answer on this one; the media raids by the Federal Police, Labor’s called for some form of Parliamentary Inquiry into the way the national security laws impact on the freedom of the press. It’s reported today that some of the government are arguing against an Inquiry for fear it will become politicised. They want change, they want it resolved by an executive decision of government. What’s your view?
ALBANESE: There needs to be greater input than just the executive.
KELLY: So there needs to be some kind of media Inquiry?
ALBANESE: Well absolutely. People in society have a right to have an input into the role of media in our society because it’s an essential component of our democracy.
KELLY: Anthony Albanese is good to talk to you thanks very much for joining us.
ALBANESE: Thanks, Fran.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.