Subjects: Michaelia Cash; High Court; Labor policies.
FRAN KELLY: Anthony Albanese is the shadow minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Tourism. Anthony Albanese, welcome to Breakfast.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you Fran.
KELLY: You were asking pointed questions about who tipped off the media pretty much before anyone else was. Early on the morning after you said that the Minister’s office had been ringing the media to tip them off. Who tipped you off?
ALBANESE: Well I was aware that Minister Cash’s staff had been ringing around the media.
KELLY: How were you aware of that?
ALBANESE: That’s up to me to know. The fact is that I made that assertion not once, but twice in a debate that I have regularly with Christopher Pyne, on morning Adelaide radio. I did that at nine o’clock. It is beyond belief that Christopher Pyne, as Manager of Opposition Business wouldn’t have immediately alerted the Prime Minister’s office and Minister Cash’s office about that. He’s a professional. And the fact is that it’s unusual, for the first time ever, Christopher Pyne’s office didn’t circulate the transcript. I did of course. We know now that before lunch Senator Cash misled the Senate time and time again, and what’s interesting, are the words that Prime Minister Turnbull used in Question Time. He said that allegations had been made that Minister Cash had alerted the media. That was a straw person put up. That was never the suggestion. The suggestion was explicit and clear and it was the case that Minister Cash misled the Senate on five separate occasions. Her position is untenable. She had a meeting in the Prime Minister’s office with the Prime Minister, with the adviser who was thrown under the bus.
KELLY: Okay let me interrupt you there because she did have that meeting. She said the adviser was not asked questions or answered questions in that meeting and both Michaelia Cash, the Minister, and the Prime Minister have said repeatedly that they had no knowledge of these tip-offs. They didn’t know, they didn’t sanction the actions of this staffer. Why don’t you believe them?
ALBANESE: Because it just doesn’t stack up Fran.
KELLY: So you think they’re lying?
ALBANESE: Absolutely, it just doesn’t stack up that Minister Cash’s staffer sits there and watches her mislead the Senate on five separate occasions, that the allegation that’s been made very clearly by myself on Wednesday morning at 9am, that somehow she was not made aware of it, or misled about what that allegation is, even though Minister Cash says that she saw a transcript. Now, it was never distributed by Minister Pyne. It was distributed by my office and it is beyond belief that this guy sits in a meeting with the Prime Minister prior to Question Time, and Minister Cash, and doesn’t say, well by the way I should just let you know that our office did alert the media. And the reason why we knew something was up here was that the AWU offices were alerted about the raids, not by the police but by the TV cameras outside that arrived before the police.
KELLY: And that’s an issue, and we still need to find out who tipped off the Minister’s office. We know now the staffer said that he tipped off the media. Who tipped off the Minister’s office? Senator Nick Xenophon said on this program said that we need a Senate inquiry into that. The Minister herself has written to the Registered Organisations Commission suggesting it refers the matter to the AFP to investigate. Would you be satisfied with an AFP inquiry, do you want something more than that?
ALBANESE: Well there’s got be inquiries both of the Parliament, and also by the AFP. This undermined of course – forget about the legitimacy of the raids as requested by the Registered Organisations Commission – if you’re having a raid that’s about stopping, allegedly, the destruction of documents which was, allegedly imminent with this whole political exercise, when you had TV cameras alerting the union that this was about to occur then that undermines the whole supposed purpose of this exercise.
KELLY: Well it may have done away with the element of surprise as you say; it might not have been the smartest. Was it legal?
ALBANESE: Well this Government just seems as though they’ve stopped governing and they’re all about politics. They think that they’ll retain office through smart political manoeuvres. This is Malcolm Turnbull’s born-to-rule mentality that he has, writ large.
KELLY: Those lines are easy to say but is there anything that’s necessarily a political exercise about this organisation, this Registered Organisations Commission, which is set up to make sure there’s proper spending of union funds, and proper governance of union spending. Is there anything inherently political of that? A lot of people who pay their union dues might think that’s a good thing.
ALBANESE: Well of all the unions, of all the donations, of all the connections with the Labor Party, the one issue that they’re looking at, and having police raids with 25 AFP officers at a time when the AFP is giving evidence before the Senate that they’re unable to deal with having proper investigations into issues like the massive importation of cocaine, those resources being used, is quite extraordinary, Fran. And the fact is that the AWU providing support to Bill Shorten would not surprise anyone, The AWU have supported the Labor Party since a bunch of workers sat under a tree in Barcaldine in 1891.
KELLY: Sure, supporting a union leader to become a politician is not unusual, but its making sure that the money is signed off properly and the union’s money is spent well.
ALBANESE: We had a Royal Commission Fran, $80 million of taxpayer’s money was used, all sorts of documents, including from the AWU and a host of other unions were brought before that commission. We had Bill Shorten answer more than 900 questions before the commission. This is a government that has brought former Prime Ministers Rudd and Gillard before inquiries. This is a government that is abusing the use of state power to confront its political enemies because it’s incapable of engaging in proper public debate about the future of the country.
KELLY: You’re listening to RN Breakfast. Our guest is Labor front bencher Anthony Albanese. Anthony Albanese, we’ll know later today whether the Government loses its parliamentary majority when the High Court makes its decision on the Citizenship 7. You were leader of the government during the Gillard years in the hung parliament; you know how difficult that is. Is Labor going to make this difficult for the Coalition? Is it going to take every opportunity to expose the Government’s arithmetic vulnerability, or are you going allow proper policy debate as you just called for?.
ALBANESE: Well we’re engaging in that. The problem here is that this Government is incapable of showing leadership with 76 votes in the House of Representatives.
KELLY: You know what I’m asking, are you going to give them a hard time? Are you going to try and push Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership over a cliff, so to speak, to exploit this vulnerability?.
ALBANESE: We will continue to pursue our agenda in the Parliament as we were elected to do. That’s what we’ve been doing, both holding the Government to account, but also doing more than that Fran. Unlike what the Liberal Party did, they wasted their years in opposition, we’ve been developing alternative plans for government, we’ve been having major policy announcements across the whole range of areas, including in my areas of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Tourism. We’ll continue to do that and someone’s got to show some leadership Fran, the Government certainly isn’t.
KELLY: Labor’s not going to give a pair for Barnaby Joyce, why not?
ALBANESE: How can you pair someone who’s not elected Fran? What the court will rule this afternoon is whether last year, in 2016, Barnaby Joyce was eligible to be a candidate for the Parliament. You can’t pair something that is non-existent.
KELLY: And if the High Court rules that he is ineligible, does that mean the decisions that Barnaby Joyce, or Matt Canavan, if he’s to go, or Fiona Nash, if they’re to go, the legislative decisions they’ve been instrumental in since that time, are invalid?
ALBANESE: Well that will be a matter for the courts to determine but one of the things that we have said very clearly is that just as Senator Canavan stepped aside, Barnaby Joyce should have stepped aside, and we’ve had circumstances whereby, for example, the trigger, when it comes to domestic use of gas, has not been used because Barnaby Joyce, as the Minister – a decision like that would have been drawn into question. So because of that, we haven’t had the lower prices that would result from the trigger being used.
KELLY: Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for joining us on Breakfast.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you Fran.