Subjects: Pacific Highway; citizenship; marriage equality.
MICHAEL SPOONER: Well Anthony Albanese holds the Shadow portfolios for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. He has been on the Mid North Coast over the last couple of days and took a chance to look over Pacific Highway upgrades. Mr Albanese joins me this morning. Anthony Albanese, good morning to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
SPOONER: Thank you for your time. So you’ve been on the Mid North Coast. What have you observed and what have you gone to look at specifically?
ALBANESE: Well what I looked at was when we were in Government we put in place the funding for all of the work that is taking place between Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour. Some of that work has been completed. Work like the Kempsey Bypass, Frederickton to Eungai. But there is other work taking place. I’ve been concerned about the cut that was in this year’s Budget. Last year there was $1.37 billion allocated for the Pacific Highway. That drops to $710 million in the current financial year so I’m concerned about the $600 million drop-off.
SPOONER: Is that simply a cut in funds because just about all of the highway is fixed up now?
ALBANESE: No, well it’s certainly not fixed up of course. Once you go north of Coffs there’s still work that’s substantial to be done between Arrawarra and Ballina. Some of that upgrade was done already, like the Glenugie area. Some of the most dangerous areas were the ones that we completed first.
SPOONER: Ok, well what about the Coalition is committed to the work surrounding the Coffs Bypass. What commitment would you, would Labor, make relating to the Coffs Bypass?
ALBANESE: Well they haven’t committed anything in fact. There’s not a single dollar in the forward estimates.
SPOONER: They are doing all the geo-technical stuff at the moment.
ALBANESE: Yes, well that’s State Government work to do some of the geo-tech, which is a precondition for the planning work. There’s not a dollar allocated over the next four years and that is of some concern, particularly because Luke Hartsuyker has been promising that since 2002. He had a long time in government prior to our election and then has been in government for a long time since of course, into their second term.
SPOONER: Did you go and have a look at Macksville Bridge?
ALBANESE: No, I didn’t.
SPOONER: Because that’s well under way and you would probably see a project rushing ahead there.
ALBANESE: Yes that is under way. All of that work was allocated when we were in government. It was all under 50-50 funding – a share with the State Government. Of course, the State Government funding has dropped off as well unfortunately because the Federal Government, for the new funding, has allowed the state to drop its funding to 20 per cent.
SPOONER: Mr Albanese, I have to ask you of course while I’ve got you this morning, there is a fiasco over dual citizenship. I have heard you describing yourself as half-Italian, half-Irish. Are you, or have you ever been, a dual citizen?
ALBANESE: No I certainly haven’t. My background is fully documented in Karen Middleton’s biography.
SPOONER: Did you have to divest yourself of Italian citizenship to become a Federal politician?
ALBANESE: No I didn’t. My only legal parent on my birth certificate is my mother. I was due to be adopted out and I was told indeed that my father was deceased and my mother, as a young Catholic woman in 1963, as was pretty common at the time, was due to have me adopted out. She chose to keep me. She made that courageous decision. But my birth certificate has a blank next to father.
SPOONER: I need to also ask you while I’ve got you, of course same-sex marriage is a big issue at the moment. It’s almost derailing everything else the Government is trying to do. However, why does Labor oppose a plebiscite when polls show that people, the public, want an opportunity to vote on this issue?
ALBANESE: Well we don’t have plebiscites on education policy or health or anything else and we didn’t have a plebiscite when John Howard’s Government changed the existing Marriage Act or any other changes that have been made to the Act. We are of the view that people are entitled to love essentially whoever they want in adult relationships and that the institution of marriage indeed will be strengthened by more people being able to participate, but that that’s not something that others should pass judgement on and we are worried about a divisive debate. But the postal ballot is happening. We are certainly participating and I am campaigning very strongly for a yes vote in that voluntary postal ballot. But I can think of better things to spend $122 million on.
SPOONER: Mr Albanese, we have to leave it there. The news is upon us. Thanks you for your time this morning.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.