Subjects; Bennelong by-election, Turnbull Government, marriage equality, citizenship.
RAF EPSTEIN: Albo, good afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day Raf.
EPSTEIN: You’ve got a star now potentially in your party room to outshine you.
ALBANESE: Well, Kristina is an outstanding candidate. She’s a good friend of mine. She is someone who I think showed a great deal of courage as the Premier of New South Wales in the lead-up to an election where everybody knew that Labor wasn’t going to win. But she kept campaigning right though to election day and I think she earned a great deal of respect for that. She’s someone who has a great breadth of policy interests. She also happens to be a South Sydney rugby league supporter which is always a plus.
EPSTEIN: The seat is in the north.
ALBANESE: Yes, but it’s always a plus. There are South Sydney supporters everywhere.
EPSTEIN: Can I ask you whether or not it is a mistake? Peter Beattie, former Queensland Premier ran, it was the Kevin Rudd federal election. That didn’t work at all. It’s dangerous isn’t it, running a former Premier in this way?
ALBANESE: Well, we are having a crack. That’s the thing here. We could say Bennelong is too hard, but the truth is that people are pretty tired of the Turnbull Government and Kristina will be someone who will be able to articulate a Labor policy at the election. She’s an experienced politician. She has now had, over more recent years, experience in the media.
EPSTEIN: Forgive me Albo, but isn’t that the problem? They are going to be going through every time she ever criticised Bill Shorten on Sky and running those ads in a social media campaign.
ALBANESE: Well they will always do that sort of thing. You will have some negativity from the Government. But I think what people are looking for from the Government is for them to actually start acting like it rather than as an Opposition in exile. That’s the problem.
EPSTEIN: But if she has criticised the current Opposition Leader that is completely valid, isn’t it? And she has done it, sort of uphill and down dale. That is problematic no?
ALBANESE: Well people will no doubt drag out things that people have said from time to time, but the truth is of course that Kristina Keneally is a Labor loyalist. She is someone who is putting herself forward. There’s not much in this for Kristina frankly. She could have sat back and said: “I am interested in running for Federal Parliament at some stage. Is there is a safe seat somewhere?’’ She’s from the dominant faction of course in the New South Wales Labor Party. She hasn’t done that. She is running for a seat in the context of a by-election where we were determined to ensure that Labor ran a strong campaign and there’s no doubt that she has got extraordinary campaigning capacity.
EPSTEIN: What about her call for a Royal Commission into children held in custody on places like Manus and Nauru? That’s a bit problematic isn’t it, for Bill Shorten to back a candidate like that?
ALBANESE: There will be a whole range of issues that will be raised no doubt. But the big issue is that she wants to be part of the Labor team under the Leader, Bill Shorten, for this by-election. The Government can’t continue to act as though they are an Opposition in exile. I mean, someone has got to lead in this country and Labor is determined to do so.
EPSTEIN: Anthony Albanese, the bill that Alice Workman was speaking to us about – there is a bill proposed by a Government Senator – Dean Smith. It’s the minimalist position if I could call it that. If we receive a Yes result on the survey tomorrow, it basically allows churches to say “no we won’t marry two men or two women’’ and not change too much else except of course the Marriage Act. Will that stop a debate on the floor of Parliament around much tougher, more conservative changes to the Marriage Act?
ALBANESE: No. nothing will stop a debate on the floor of the Parliament and that is a good thing. These issues should be raised on the floor of the Parliament. But the thing is about the Dean Smith bill is that it is not something that has been dreamt up just by him. It has been though a Senate process. It has been through a process whereby, unanimously, a Senate Committee, quite remarkably, put forward these proposals. So it has been through a consultation process, unlike those people who are really just opposed to marriage equality and will come up with any excuse to put it off. I think the Australian public will treat very harshly the idea that having been through this $122 million opinion survey to find out what we already knew, that a majority of Australians support marriage equality and want to just get it done, they are sick of talking about it. They want people to enjoy the same rights that they do.
EPSTEIN: But let’s say it’s a 60/40 split, Anthony Albanese, we‘ve got to take into account the 40 per cent don’t we?
ALBANESE: We’ve done that, by listening to their capacity to have this survey. We’ve done that and listened to a minority, to the tune of $122 million worth. We need to get on with this. The truth is that it won’t impact – everyone who is opposed to gay marriage won’t be forced into it. If there is a Yes vote tomorrow, I’ll give you the big tip Raf, there won’t be more gay people or lesbians in Australia.
EPSTEIN: You’ve got two Labor MPs who didn’t receive the documents from the British before they were elected. Do you really think they are going to be able to stay in the Parliament without having their cases heard by the High Court?
ALBANESE: Absolutely, in terms of – whether they’re heard by the High Court or not …
EPSTEIN: They’re going to have to go to the High Court to get the – I mean you say that it’s just a rubber stamp, but they’re going to have to go to the High Court aren’t they, those two Labor MPs?
ALBANESE: That will be a matter for the process that’s been established and I am not going to pre-empt it. People will table their documents on the 1st of December. But let me say this – John Alexander found out that he had an issue last Friday night at some time. He resigned on Saturday and he is going to be able to renounce his citizenship within the case of a few days. That is a good thing, that that is able to occur. If the High Court were to rule against someone who has put in their papers, paid their money, done all the processes and it’s been sat on for whatever reason, bureaucracy, and not processed over a period of weeks, what they’d be doing is giving another country the power to determine who sits in the Australian Parliament.
EPSTEIN: They could just be saying, sort your stuff out before you run for Parliament? That’s what they could also be saying …
ALBANESE: It was sorted out, that’s the point.
EPSTEIN: It’s not sorted out if you haven’t got the paperwork.
ALBANESE: The paperwork was. They had done their bit. What the High Court has looked at is …
EPSTEIN: That’s like me complaining to the Tax Office that I had gotten my tax return in late and I’d got a penalty.
ALBANESE: No, that’s not right. You have a date in which to put in your tax return. If the Tax Office – this is the equivalent Raf – you getting your tax return in on time; the Tax Office taking a couple of months, because of whatever reason, someone was off sick, Sally at the Tax Office who had your form, went off for a couple of months, came back …
ALBANESE: Sally or Bill, there you go.
EPSTEIN: Anthony Albanese, I don’t want to dive into analogy or metaphor, but if you’re not an Aussie, if you’re no longer entitled to British Citizenship when you nominate, that’s a pretty hard and fast date. It doesn’t matter whether or not you try. What matters is whether or not you had a right to a British passport on the day you nominated. Your two Labor members weren’t.
ALBANESE: With respect, Justice Raf, the High Court have said, what they have said is that they will look at whether you have made the effort to do so, whether you’ve done that. It’s quite clear that our people make reasonable efforts because we have a process in place. The people who have been bowled out made no effort, either in John Alexander’s case – because he didn’t know, wasn’t aware, or because simply well – that’s up to them to explain why some of them made no effort. It’s up to the party officials to explain why they didn’t have any process in place at all to deal with these issues, because the Labor Party does.
EPSTEIN: Thanks so much for your time
ALBANESE: Thanks Raf
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.