Subjects: Michaelia Cash; AWU; Tasmanian infrastructure.
LEON COMPTON: Anthony Albanese, is the Federal Government at the moment deliberately using the federal police to investigate you, its political rival?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, the tip-off to the media is the issue here. What occurred was that the AWU found out that the police were about to raid their offices not from the Australian Federal Police but from the people who were there from TV channels. We’ve had a raid that was broadcast live.
Now if you think about it, the so-called reason for this raid is over whether the minutes of a meeting of the AWU approved some donations more than a decade ago. Now, if you have the TV cameras there that say the AFP’s coming and we’re here to film them, that surely ruins the purpose of the raids.
COMPTON: OK, back to the issue. The Government created the Registered Organisations Commission. The Government referred the matter for investigation to them. This new body ordered that raid from the federal police. Is the government using the Registered Organisations Commission as a device for investigating its rival?
ALBANESE: Quite clearly the Registered Organisations Commission is being used for political purposes. We said it would be, which is why we opposed its creation and to use the power of the state, the power of government, against political rivals – what we’ve seen from this government is former Prime Ministers Rudd and Gillard, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called before inquiries which have been called for political purposes. We had $80 million spent on a trade union Royal Commission. That didn’t find anything against Bill Shorten so now we’ve got these raids of the AWU offices.
COMPTON: Do you believe that Michaelia Cash didn’t know that those raids were coming?
ALBANESE: Absolutely not. Very clearly, her staff were ringing around. What we’re being asked to believe here – I raised the issue. It was myself who raised it in an interview on Adelaide radio yesterday morning at nine o’clock with Christopher Pyne. Christopher Pyne denied that it had happened. Michaelia Cash denied it five times, attacked me, demanded that I apologise for the suggestion that this happened.
We know that there was a meeting yesterday between the Prime Minister, Michaelia Cash and the very adviser who has now resigned over these issues and we’re led to believe that this adviser sat there, said nothing when five times Michaelia Cash misled the Senate, when this ran as a media issue all day and that he knew but he didn’t say to his boss, to the actual Minister who was appearing before Senate estimates, oh, by the way, I did ring a few journos and give them a heads up that this raid was going to occur.
COMPTON: What’s important about that potentially is that he says it was the media that tipped him off in the first place. Do you believe that story? Could it be the federal police that tipped off the office?
ALBANESE: I’m not critical at all of the Australian Federal Police.
COMPTON: Why not? We otherwise have to believe that a journalist who had some sort of relationship with this minder’s office called him and then he proceeded to burn that journalist who was going to be ready and potentially have an exclusive by sending five other media there. I can tell you that you’d be hardly likely to do that.
ALBANESE: Yeah. It’s not real serious, is it?
COMPTON: You would be hardly likely to do that as a journalist if it meant that five other people would be covering the story that you might have had exclusively.
ALBANESE: Of course, and that’s why this is an absurd excuse that doesn’t stack up.
COMPTON: So why not ask questions as to whether the federal police in fact tipped her office off?
ALBANESE: Or whether the Registered Organisations Commission, which would have known about these raids, someone there tipped off the office? Bear in mind, these raids occurred because of a request by Michaelia Cash, because of a reference from her, and so this occurs as a result of an article appearing on the weekend about this AWU donation, and bear in mind how absurd the whole premise of this is. The idea that it should come as a shock to anyone that the AWU donated to Bill Shorten’s election campaign when he first ran for Parliament or that the AWU, which is there on the record – Bill Shorten was on the board of GetUp, they supported the creation of GetUp in order to secure the objectives of the union, as business organisations, as a range of organisations, do from time to time.
COMPTON: Anthony Albanese, that might seem obvious to you, but for members of the AWU who pay their hard-won dues into the union each and every fortnight with their pay, I mean it does raise questions about what the union thinks is appropriate to spend members’ money on.
ALBANESE: There wouldn’t be a member of the AWU, that has supported the Labor Party since people sat under a tree in Barcaldine in 1891, who would be surprised that the AWU supports the Labor Party.
COMPTON: Indeed, but there are questions around the nature of declaration, of making sure that when money is donated to political candidates it is done so with real transparency because, well we’ve seen issues with for example the HSU and Craig Thompson and his like that show what happens when unions have used money or have the ability to filter money through organisations without it being properly accounted for.
ALBANESE: Sure, but that has nothing to do with this issue. This issue is pretty clear that the AWU did donate money. The AWU have been very transparent. They have said they will make all the documents available. All they had to do was ask. And what’s more, most of these documents apparently were provided already to the Trade Union Royal Commission.
Unions, because of the law, are very transparent about what they publish. The AWU has a very proud history of engagement in the civic life of the country including their support for Labor governments and when the national secretary of the AWU was running for Parliament in 2007 I would have been surprised if there wasn’t some level of financial support for his election.
COMPTON: It’s not the reason we asked you on this morning. Anthony Albanese is our guest this morning, the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport in Australia. So to those issues, how much do you allege the Federal Government have short-changed Tasmania on infrastructure spending over the past three years?
ALBANESE: Well the first thing is that they haven’t promised much but they haven’t even delivered what they promised. There is not a single road or rail infrastructure project that is underway that wasn’t funded by the former Federal Labor Government, so what they have promised over the last three years from their first Budget in 2014 was $415 million. The actual Budget outcome is $323 million.
So a $92 million shortfall on investment and that includes a $67 million cut in that was promised for major roads, a $28 million cut in rail, a $3.5 million cut when it comes to the Black Spots program and that means less jobs in the short term, but it also means less safe roads, it means less productivity there in Tasmania and given that the government, that’s on top of the $100 million they cut from the Midland Highway funding from $500 million down to $400 million.
That doesn’t include the cuts that were there or the Rail Revitalisation Program that we were undertaking when we were in government.
COMPTON: How do you explain Anthony Albanese the non-delivery of this money?
ALBANESE: This is a part of a non-delivery right around the country of some $3.9 billion. This is a Government that is frankly just incompetent when it comes to delivering on its commitments. I note that when it comes to the road projects – the grade separation near the airport that was promised by both sides of politics in the lead up to the 2016 election, that just this week they’ve called for public consultation and comments. More than a year has passed and they still haven’t dug a hole. This is a Government that simply isn’t up to the task. They’re too busy worrying about what political manoeuvres they can do to try to destroy the Labor Party and that’s what we’ve seen playing out with the Michaelia Cash fiasco over the last 24 hours and seem to not have their eye on the ball of their day-to-day job.
COMPTON: Specifically, what are your priorities for Tasmanian infrastructure, if elected?
ALBANESE: Our priorities are rail freight, for one. We think that there are major improvements that can be made there. Secondly, in terms of the upgrades in terms of road projects. We’d also have a look at the projects that were mentioned by you in your introduction that have been given a lot of weight by Infrastructure Australia such as the STEM project, which has been put on Infrastructure Australia’s priority list. Tourism infrastructure …
COMPTON: Like what, for example?
ALBANESE: Like the upgrade at Cradle Mountain. The upgrade to the tourism infrastructure, to the visitor’s centre, that which was proposed by the Tasmanian tourism sector in the leadup to the last election. Since then I’ve been back in Tasmania and have sat down with them.
One of the good things that the Tasmanian tourism sector has done is to coordinate the promises that they’re looking for. One other thing of course, the Three Capes Track. Now we funded that when we were in government, the first sections, but at the moment, it’s a Three Capes Track that only goes to two capes. Surely we should build on the quite extraordinary success of that project and make sure that it’s able to be completed.
COMPTON: Anthony Albanese, appreciate you talking with us this morning.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.