Subjects: Essendon aircraft tragedy; Israel; child sexual abuse; four-year terms.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: High profile elders of the ALP are calling for Australia to recognise the state of Palestine and they have been criticised for the timing of their remarks. This week Benjamin Netanyahu will be the first serving Israeli Prime Minister for visit Australia. The other thing that has been kicked around today is four-year terms for Federal Parliament. It’s being pushed again, this time by a Liberal MP. But what would it means for senators? Is that eight years in office? I suppose there’s the question how do we feel about that. Anthony Albanese is the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development. Welcome back to RN Drive.
ALBANESE: G’day Patricia. Can I first say as the Shadow Transport Minister, just express my condolences to the family and friends of those people – the pilot but also the American citizens who have been killed in this tragic accident that happened and Essendon Airport today. We do have a very safe aviation sector. No doubt there will be a full investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau but I think our thoughts are with the family and friends of people who have passed away in this devastating tragedy today.
KARVELAS: Yes that’s right. ABC News is reporting that it is understood that the crash was engine failure now, so as you say there will be a full investigation. I have been contacted by quite a few people today actually Anthony Albanese saying that local residents were always concerned about where this airport is. It’s obviously close to many houses, DFO – the big shopping centre that people do go to for bargains in Melbourne. That’s really very close to this airport. Do you think that needs to be under investigation as well?
ALBANESE: The truth is that there are airports including Essendon, Maribyrnong, Bankstown, Kingsford Smith – I live right next to the airport in Sydney – there are airports very close to residences. That’s one of the reasons why we need to make sure we have the best possible safety and security practices. I think we do that. This is an issue that is above politics. But of course our aviation sector sees far fewer incidents than occur on the roads most tragically. By and large the aviation sector is very safe. But obviously there will be an investigation of the cause of this incident. But it is understandable that it would cause some concerns for those residents wherever they are. Adelaide Airport is very close to residences as well – airports right around Australia, and some of the busiest airports. Indeed the busiest airport in Australia is Jandakot in Western Australia – an airport that I am sure very few of your listeners with the exception of those people who live around it in Perth would have heard of.
KARVELAS: Thank you so much. Let’s move to some of the political issues of the day. Some senior Labor figures have called for Australia to recognise the state of Palestine. Is the week that Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the right time to do this?
ALBANESE: Well I am sure that what has motivated the calls, according to themselves, of people like Bob Hawke, who has been of course a very strong supporter of Israel historically, is the quite extraordinary legislation that was carried in the Knesset just in the last fortnight attempting or purporting to legalise settlements on private Palestinian land in the West Bank and that has led to an international response and I think the comments of people like Bob Hawke, joining people like Gareth Evans and Bob Carr and indeed former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, that’s the context here rather than the visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
KARVELAS: Labor MP Michael Danby says that Bob Carr, Kevin Rudd and Bob Hawke have been provoking the Israeli PM and that they are trying to – this is quote – sabotage the relationship. Is that what they are doing given you say they are making these broader comments? But of course the timing does seem, well it’s noteworthy that it is at the same time and clearly the visit is part of the reason they are making the comments.
ALBANESE: By and large it’s the intransigence when it comes to the issue of settlements and sometimes friends need to speak directly to each other and I think all of those people have been strong friends of Israel historically. They have been strong supporters of a two-state solution, which is essential. A two-state solution means that both Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side with security. That two-state solution won’t be viable if settlements are continued to be allowed, and indeed encouraged, by Israel in a way that undermines the potential solution. I think that is the real concern here – is that in terms of the platform of the Labor Party that is very clear of support for a two-state solution, that that is being undermined by the ongoing settlements that are making it harder and harder for that solution to come about.
KARVELAS: But Mr Danby said on Sky News, this quote: Why don’t they beat up on China when the Chinese President comes to Australia, citing events in Tibet. Do you take on that point, that the same kind of scrutiny isn’t applied for other leaders from other places where clearly there are also other controversial things happening?
ALBANESE: Well I think each of the individuals mentioned have been very critical of human rights abuses wherever they occur and we should be prepared to speak out on issues, be they the issue of Tibet and the treatment of minorities in China or whether they be the issue of the Israel-Palestinian conflict that of course has had an enormous impact not just in the Middle East but in terms of global stability. This is an issue that has been around now since 1948 in particular.
KARVELAS: So you don’t accept the premise that Labor MPs are not, and ex-prime ministers in this case, are not as critical of the Chinese regime or leadership when they visit Australia?
ALBANESE: I think that people like Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd, as two former prime ministers, are worthy of respect and are entitled to speak out on issues, be they China, the Middle East, North Korea – whichever issue they choose to speak out about. I think they do so not out of any malice but out of their commitment to international peace and the advancement of humanity. I think they are both people who are driven by that and certainly Gareth Evans has an extraordinary history as foreign minister – being perhaps the key person in the globe to play a role in the resumption of normal relations with Cambodia and his role internationally is recognised not just from the time he was the former minsiter, but since then as well.
KARVELAS: Anthony Albanese, the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse will hold limited public hearings into Australia’s child protection measures in the immigration detention centres on Manus and Nauru. If there are negative findings will the ALP reconsider its bipartisan support for offshore detention?
ALBANESE: Well, we won’t pre-empt those hearings. But certainly I would have thought any adverse findings of any commission such as that would be taken seriously by the Government of the day as well as the Opposition of the day. And we need to at all times take into account the proper care that children deserve. It’s by accidents of history where people are born and children should be cared for and Australia has a particular responsibility and I would have thought that the Government, let alone the Opposition – it’s the Government who after all are in a position to respond to any findings that are found – and I’m sure that they would do that.
KARVELAS: Do you think that the current ministers and also previous Labor immigration ministers should be called before the Royal Commission?
ALBANESE: It’s not a matter for politicians to make a view on the conduct of a Royal Commission. That’s the basis of a Royal Commission, is that it is separate from political interference and now is not a good time to start on Radio National.
KARVELAS: All right. Well let’s not start then. I will ask you about this fixed term issue. I know that Labor has a policy which is in favour of four-year fixed terms. Is that right? Do you think it should be phased in immediately. Will you support this Private Member’s Bill?
ALBANESE: Well, I wouldn’t just support it. We voted for it. We actually took it to a referendum decades ago. This has been in our platform for decades. We support four-year terms.
KARVELAS: But is it a priority because I have heard different answers from different Labor MPs today?
ALBANESE: Well it’s not as important as education or health or jobs, but it’s one of those things that I think just should be done. It’s good governance. Three years terms, which in reality mean that we have one year of a new government when it is elected getting used to governing, and in the current Government’s case they’ve had four years to try and look like they are governing, then very soon you have speculation about when an election is held. Take for example earlier this year everyone knew that there was going to be a double dissolution from the beginning of the year, from the beginning of 2016. So we have a lot of wasted time. That undermines confidence in the community, in the economy and I think that four-year terms would be certainly in the national interest, which is why Labor has it in the platform.
KARVELAS: How about eight-year terms for senators – that‘s a very long time to deal with the same senator?
ALBANESE: Well that’s just a by-product. People should be very careful who they vote for. We used to have 12-year terms for Members of the Legislative Council in the state I am from in New South Wales. That’s now eight years that are there. So there’s not anything shocking about that. That’s the system that we have and of course most countries in the world have either four or five-year terms – in some cases seven-year terms. So we are out of step. The national Parliament is also out of step with the majority of state and territory parliaments as well.
KARVELAS: Anthony Albanese thanks for coming on.
ALBANESE: Great to talk to you Patricia.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.