Transcript of radio interview – Radio National Breakfast with Fran Kelly
Tuesday, 9 October 2007
E & OE – PROOF ONLY
Subject: Election timing, Government advertising
FRAN KELLY: Yes, it is the great guessing game around the place at the moment: when will the election be called? Anthony Albanese is the Manager of Opposition Business. He joins us now.
Anthony, good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning, Fran.
FRAN KELLY: Election timing: it is the Prime Minister’s gift to call it whenever he wants. He can do what he likes if Parliament is scheduled to come back, it can come back.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, of course, we do have something called three-year terms in Australia, Fran, and the three years is up today. An election should have been held today or earlier than October 9. What we have is a government that’s in drift, a government that is now out of time as well as being out of touch, and it is quite clear that the Prime Minister has an obligation to call an election.
FRAN KELLY: Yes, he an obligation within a timeframe. Our constitution allows … yes, we have three-year terms, but he actually doesn’t have to call it until February. Labor is just imposing this kind of faux timetable and schedule on him, isn’t it?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, well, he has to call it by January 17, is the last date that it could be held. It is the case that Parliament has now sat for longer than any term except for Billy McMahon’s in the lead-up to 1972 and it is the case that there simply isn’t any government business to be done. In the last sittings, what we have seen is the Main Committee, the secondary chamber of the parliament, stop sitting because this is a government that is out of legislation and it is out of ideas.
FRAN KELLY: Kevin Rudd, over the weekend, was criticising the Prime Minister for even contemplating bringing Parliament back because of the cost. Do you know what it does cost to recall Parliament—the parliamentarians and their staff—for another sitting week?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, I don’t have the precise figures but what I do know is that you have not just the members but, of course, you have their staff and associated administrative staff. It certainly would go into a very high figure indeed.
FRAN KELLY: Is Michelle right? Would it be millions?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh, there is no doubt that that is the case. And I wrote to Tony Abbott, the Manager of Government Business yesterday asking him on behalf of the Labor Party caucus and staff, and I think the general public, I must say, for some certainty. Australia is a big country. I travelled yesterday, just within New South Wales to Narrandera, Leeton and Griffith and I know that it takes time to get around and it takes time for people to travel to Canberra. Those plans have to be put in place in terms of travel commitments, and this uncertainty, simply because the government feels that it is now so arrogant that it can behave like this, is quite unacceptable.
FRAN KELLY: All this distraction really of when will the election be called is kind of a useless distraction in terms of what it adds to our democracy. Would it all be better off if we had fixed parliamentary terms? Does Labor support that?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Of course. We should have fixed parliamentary terms and they should be four-year terms that would give some certainty and produce better governance, in my view. Then this uncertainty … we have really been in an election campaign all year and the Prime Minister, I think, sees some advantage in holding off. I think what is happening is that more and more people are becoming locked in to voting against him and the delay is just causing annoyance. Every time Australians see one of those ads in every ad break, they know that it is costing them a million dollars a day of their taxpayer funds for this delay.
FRAN KELLY: Alright, Anthony Albanese, thanks very much for joining us.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s good to talk to you, Fran.
FRAN KELLY: Labor’s Anthony Albanese. He is the Manager of Opposition Business in the House.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.