Jul 28, 2017

Transcript of radio interview – RN Breakfast, ABC Radio National

Subjects; Citizenship; NSW Labor conference; family trusts; inequality; recognition of Palestinian state.

FRAN KELLY: Anthony Albanese is the Federal Labor member for the inner western Sydney seat of Grayndler. He’s the Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure and he will be at the NSW Labor conference this weekend. Anthony Albanese, welcome back to Breakfast.


KELLY: First things first, every politician’s being asked this practically at the moment, Albanese, your father was Italian, have you checked your citizenship rights?

ALBANESE: My status is out there for all to see in a book by Karen Middleton available in all good bookstores with a new edition, so I’ll get that little ad in there for Karen. My background was made very public.

One of the reasons why was to avoid questions like this. I had a single mum. I was born in Darlinghurst. I certainly have never been a citizen of another country and so my status is very clear.

KELLY: Do you need to check, though, because Matt Canavan thought he’d never been a citizen of another country and section 44 of the Constitution says and I quote, anyone who is a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power is banned from sitting.

ALBANESE: Fran, you should read the book. It’s very clear.

KELLY: I actually did read the book, I just can’t remember this element of it.

ALBANESE: I had a single parent. There’s a dash next to father when it comes to my birth certificate.

KELLY: Okay.

ALBANESE: I had a sole parent. Single mum, fourth, fifth generation Australian. That was my legal status. I was supposed to be adopted out and so my birth certificate has a dash, literally.

KELLY: Alright, that’s clear for you. Do you support calls for some kind of audit of all MPs and senators to clear all this up?

ALBANESE: What I support is certainly clarity being achieved. The Labor Party has in our platform actually, reform of section 44 as a position that we took at the last national conference. I think uncertainty over people’s employment provisions.

But you know, we’re careful. People have to present their birth certificates or have to produce if they were born in another country evidence at the time that they nominate. So we’re very confident that no Labor members or senators have issues.

KELLY: Let’s talk about the NSW Labor conference on the weekend. One of the stars of the show will be federal Labor leader Bill Shorten on Sunday announcing Labor’s policy to change the way trusts are taxed. It’s all part of Labor’s plan to introduce quote a one tax system for all Australians. Don’t we already have that?

ALBANESE: What we have is a system whereby if you’re a nurse on $50,000 a year you can be paying more tax than someone who earns a million dollars a year due to various tax minimisation schemes which are out there.

Labor’s already announced of course a plan to reform negative gearing and to reform capital gains tax when it comes to investment properties.

We’ve announced a plan to reduce the level in which people can claim deductions by paying accountants to minimise their tax. We want to look at the system to make sure that it’s fair, that you don’t have circumstances whereby ordinary PAYE taxpayers who can’t avoid or minimise their tax are paying more than people who earn many times more their salary.

KELLY: It’s complex, of course, everything about the tax system is complex, how many pages is it? But farmers and small businesses are worried. We heard there from Tony Mahar, farmers are big users of trusts as a way to manage fluctuating incomes, they say, and succession planning and they say there could be unintended consequences. They also point out that Labor hasn’t really spoken to them about this.

ALBANESE: Fair dinkum, Fran, if you’re the NFF you should be worried about the Four Corners program on Monday night with regard to water. What we’re talking about here is one year out from the last election, Labor having policy discussions and debates.

It is quite frankly, it says something about the state of politics in Australia today, with Labor leading from opposition, with a government that doesn’t have a plan for anything, that they’re concerned about what Labor is debating we would do.

We’ll see Bill Shorten’s speech on Sunday but what Labor will do is consistent with appropriate, sensible, mature economic policy. Australians know that inequality is rising. We’ve had this week the absurdity of Scott Morrison pretending that none of that’s happening out there. Nothing to see here.

KELLY: Well, he quotes the indicator that shows that it hasn’t happened. He did it again yesterday.

ALBANESE: He quotes nonsense, Fran. People know out there that the top end of town are getting more and more increases in terms of their wages. They know that wages are not even keeping pace with inflation.

You hear the Reserve Bank Governor speak about real wages threatening economic growth. You have penalty rates being cut with the support of the government.

You have people like the cleaners who clean the offices of parliamentarians getting screwed over for their wages and conditions, and then you have Scott Morrison pretending that there’s nothing to see here.

It just shows how out of touch he is. He should go and talk to some real workers.

KELLY: Well, what he has done is he’s looked obviously at who pays the tax in this country and yesterday he gave a speech. He’s called Labor’s plans an envy tax. He’s called it ‘blatant ideology’.

He’s pointed out the top 10 per cent of income earners in this country pay almost 50 per cent of the personal income tax bill which he says is a pretty fair share already.

ALBANESE: Fran, the wealthiest two Australians own as much as the bottom 20 per cent. The fact is that we do have increasing inequality in this country. That’s recognised by all the serious economists out there.

We know that rising inequality is actually bad macroeconomic policy because people who are on lower and middle incomes tend to spend their money creating jobs, creating economic activity whereas people at the top end, I don’t know what they do with some of their money, but tend to certainty save a much higher proportion of it. So good, more equal economic policy is actually good macroeconomic policy for the entire economy.

KELLY: You’re listening to RN Breakfast. It’s seventeen minutes to eight. Our guest is Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese. At the NSW state Labor conference on the weekend where you’ll be, middle east policy threatens to cause a bit of a split.

A motion will propose that the next Labor government recognise Palestine, which is not federal Labor Party policy. Former NSW premier and former foreign minister Bob Carr is leading the charge on this. Is it going to be a damaging or dangerous split in your ranks?

ALBANESE: No, not at all.

KELLY: What do you think of the policy as it will be proposed to recognise Palestine?

ALBANESE: Labor supports a two-state solution. One of those states is Israel. The other state is Palestine. That’s Labor’s position. And Labor’s position at the last national conference said that there needed to be progress in terms of a two-state solution.

What we’re seeing Fran, and what concerns me, I’m a strong supporter of Israel existing within secure borders, but I’m also a strong supporter it being in Israel’s interests as well as the interests of the Palestinians in having a Palestinian state.

Living side by side, that has to happen with negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, but common sense tells you that two-state solution needs to be advanced and that settlements are causing a major issue when it comes to the potential for a two-state solution.

My concern is that as Israeli settlements grow, a two-state solution won’t be possible and then you end up with one state but with a set of laws which should be anathema to Israelis as well as to Palestinians.

KELLY: Can I just ask you a quick question, this is very much a Sydney issue at the moment but the Westconnex, a 33 kilometre tollway, one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the country, is going to cost upwards of $16 billion, they say. Possibly twice that by the end of it. If Labor is elected next year federally you would be the federal transport minister. Would that road be built?

ALBANESE: It’s a state road, Fran.

KELLY: There’s federal money in it.

ALBANESE: It’s all been forwarded, Fran. Notwithstanding the fact that the Greens have pretended that it’s not, it’s a state road, there is no federal money outstanding for that road. At the time of the last election there was $300 million that was forwarded immediately after that election.

There’s not a dollar, nor is the state government asking the federal government for a dollar. It will be studied as an example of appalling planning. It’s been changed about 13 times. I think there’s been contempt in many cases for proper community consultation when it comes to that project.

KELLY: 33 kilometres, $16 billion minimum. That’s a lot of money per kilometre.

ALBANESE: I think you might find that it increases in costs even further.

KELLY: Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for joining us.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you.

KELLY: Anthony Albanese is the Federal Labor Member for the seat of Grayndler in Sydney and Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure and he’ll be at Labor’s NSW Conference this weekend.