Transcript of Radio Interview – Radio National Breakfast with Fran Kelly – Monday, 03 September, 2018
Subjects: Morrison Government’s leaked infrastructure plan, City Deals, immigration, Peter Dutton.
FRAN KELLY: Anthony Albanese welcome back to breakfast.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you Fran.
KELLY: So the Turnbull Government reportedly has allocated $7.6 billion in infrastructure funding which comes under the portfolio you are the Shadow Minister for. Would you welcome this big spend?
ALBANESE: Well this is a major embarrassment for what is a rabble of a government for announcements to be made this way. What it shows is the politicisation of the infrastructure portfolio under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government and here we have a range of projects, most of which we have been calling for to be announced, projects like the Mackay Ring Road Stage II, the South Road upgrades in Adelaide, the Western Sydney Rail Line, Rockhampton Ring Road – have all been announced previously by Federal Labor as commitments, as have the Geelong and Darwin City Deals.
But in those communities they have been waiting for some action from the Government. The Government had made the decision, the money had been allocated and yet it was just sitting there waiting for an election campaign before these projects were actually announced.
KELLY: Are you trying to say that Labor in government has never used infrastructure to get political bang for your buck?
ALBANESE: Well what we did was we established Infrastructure Australia to make sure there were proper recommendations. Projects like Western Sydney Rail – the delay in the actual announcement of funding means that this project, which should be under construction now – that north-south corridor is very important that it be completed by the time of the opening of the airport at Badgerys Creek. What we say is those jobs could be created now. The economic activity could be occurring now. Instead we have had a decline in infrastructure investment under this Government and these projects squirrelled away if you like to be announced later on.
KELLY: So what you are saying is you are not opposed to the kind of projects it looks like the Government is interested in funding – a $150 million rail line that goes through Sarah Henderson’s Geelong seat of Corangamite or the $1.5 billion for planning and pre-construction of High Speed Rail along the east coast linking Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Newcastle? You support these projects?
ALBANESE: We certainly do support High Speed Rail and indeed what occurred when the first Prime Minister Tony Abbott was elected was they took money away from the creation of the High Speed Rail Authority and the money that was allocated for the preservation of the corridor. Now some five years later, they are putting money back into that project and it is a lost opportunity. It is an acknowledgement by the Government that essentially Labor has been leading from Opposition when it comes to infrastructure policy.
KELLY: OK. So you aren’t opposed to the projects, you are just opposed to the timing?
ALBANESE: That’s right. We think that projects need to be rolled out in a pipeline so there is some consistency there and for some of the announcements that are coming such as the City Deals for Geelong and Darwin. I was in Darwin just last week. They have been waiting for this announcement, which was actually made originally some three years ago, and the final announcement that funding would be coming was made now more than 500 days ago and yet it still hasn’t been announced.
ALBANESE: At least they know now the $100 million has been allocated. They just didn’t bother to tell the people of Darwin that that had occurred.
KELLY: On another issue, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is under pressure for stopping the deportation of at least two European au pairs who were coming in on tourist visas. Peter Dutton in response says he has been asked to intervene 9000 times since taking on the role as Immigration Minister in 2014 and he has named you as one of the Labor MPs that approached him to intervene on immigration cases, to use his Ministerial powers to intervene 26 times last year alone. Why were you seeking Peter Dutton’s intervention?
ALBANESE: Well local Members of Parliament of course make representations across a whole range of issues – not just migration, but health, social security issues. That’s one of the things we do. When constituents come to us and ask for assistance we forward that on to the Government of the day. Now that is the job of local Members. There is nothing inappropriate about that.
KELLY: But is there anything inappropriate then in what Peter Dutton has done? Scott Morrison, the PM, former Immigration Minister says he has taken a look and he says that they were all taken completely consistently with how the powers should be exercised.
ALBANESE: Well it’s not consistent with Peter Dutton’s own rhetoric. Peter Dutton, this is a guy who has had children in detention in Nauru for example who have been asking and have medical advice saying that they need assistance. He has shown a complete lack of compassion for those people. A lack of compassion has characterised his time as the Immigration Minister. It’s interesting the Scott Morrison has taken immigration away from Peter Dutton and perhaps he knew that these issues were coming.
KELLY: Are you saying that you think that Peter Dutton has acted inappropriately with his au pair decisions?
ALBANESE: I think Peter Dutton has acted completely inconsistently. I am not aware of all the details, but on the surface it would appear there is complete inconsistency in the way that Peter Dutton has acted, just like there remains a cloud over Peter Dutton’s right to sit in the national Parliament, let alone to be a minister.
KELLY: Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for joining us
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
MONDAY, 3 SEPTEMBER, 2018