Subjects; Road safety, citizenship, negative gearing, Donald Trump
HAMISH MACDONALD: Labor’s infrastructure spokesperson, Anthony Albanese, is calling for urgent action to address the problem. He is in the studio with me this morning. Good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning Hamish.
MACDONALD: And Happy New Year. Welcome back. First day back at work for you is it?
ALBANESE: No, I’ve been working the whole way through unfortunately but I go on leave in two days’ time.
MACDONALD: Great. Well I hope you’re doing something nice. Let’s start with this very sad news about the death toll. You want the Transport Infrastructure Council to meet urgently on the issue of road safety. Why? Why is that step necessary to take?
ALBANESE: Because what we need is a national response. We’ve got a national road safety strategy. This is the decade of road safety from 2011-2020. Clearly we’re not going to meet the targets that have been set if the current trends continue. We had a declining road toll in this country from 1970 right through to the last few years. Suddenly we’ve seen that reverse. What we need is the Transport and Infrastructure Ministerial Council, all the state and territory jurisdictions to get together to talk about best practice, to hear from the experts, the police, the motoring organisations such as the NRMA, the RACV, about what we can do as a community as well to reduce the toll in the coming year. We need to reverse the trend and get back on that downward (inaudible).
MACDONALD: But there were times when you were the relevant Minister that the figures went up as well…
ALBANESE: That’s not right.
MACDONALD: 2012, was there not a spike?
ALBANESE: That’s not right. The fact is that the toll continued to go down all the way through.
MACDONALD: What happened in 2012 then?
ALBANESE: The national toll went down in 2012. The fact is that this isn’t a political issue and that’s why we should have all the jurisdictions, Labor should be represented there…
MACDONALD: Can I just clarify – you’re talking about the annual road toll, or the Christmas road toll?
ALBANESE: The annual road toll went down year on year, every year, from the 1970s, essentially, right through until recent times. The real concern is that the increase we’ve seen year on year, in some jurisdictions in particular; New South Wales has gone up in the last year. It’s a matter of all of us, as a community, deciding what we can do. One of the things…
MACDONALD: I’m just wondering though, what convening this national council would do given that all the states and territories have policies in place, there’s lots of money committed to this. Why would that kind of meeting help and improve this situation?
ALBANESE: Well it would help in two ways. One is that the national government has responsibility for regulation, so use of new technology for example, mandating all of those issues, which is the responsibility of the national government. One of the things we need to address is national uniformity of rules. We need to move towards, in my view, national licenses. We’ve done that in the heavy vehicle area. We did that while I was the Minister. We need to do that across the board so we don’t have licence shopping. Also, in itself, the fact that the national leaders in transport are coming together to discuss this, will, in itself, send a message to the community that this is a priority because one of the things that we have to do is to change behaviour.
This isn’t the responsibility of just government, or any political party, or just law enforcement, it’s the responsibility of all of us and at the end of the day you can’t legislate for common sense. One of things we need to do, for example, is look at the way that the use of new devices, iPhones, etc., the impact that that’s having and get that message through, particularly to young people who are disproportionately appearing in the figures and there’s no doubt that use of new technology while driving is one of the factors.
MACDONALD: The former director at Monash University’s Accident and Research Centre, Rod McClure, told us last week that he has concerns about the focus on individual actions in regard to road safety.
I just want you to listen to what he had to say:
MCCLURE: I do think the review needs to not look for the plug in and play quick fix solution, which tends to focus on individual behaviour and individual behaviour, as you know, in obesity and a whole lot of other areas, in health, is something that is very difficult to change in isolation from the context in which that behaviour exists.
So if it’s not about individual action, how do you resolve an issue like this?
ALBANESE: Well I think, in part, it is about individual action. That’s the truth. Someone behind the wheel of a car has to understand that that can be a wonderful thing getting you from A to B, but it can also be a danger to yourself, to other people in the vehicle and other people who are sharing the road. But one of the things that governments are responsible for, for example, is delivery of infrastructure. There’s no doubt that dual carriageway on major highways has made a major difference.
There’s the issue of heavy vehicles, which the Federal Government also has responsibility for. Parliament abolished, a couple of years ago, the Heavy Vehicle Remuneration Tribunal. One of the things that it was looking at was safe rates and the pressure that’s placed on heavy vehicles drivers. It would appear that since its abolition there’s been a real spike in accidents involving heavy vehicles, particularly in New South Wales. And it wasn’t replaced with anything. So what are we going to replace it with? Hopefully in a way that is by consensus, so that you don’t have regulation changing when the Government changes as well. That’s why I think a roundtable discussion, with people with the power to make decisions around that table, is a way forward.
MACDONALD: You would have heard in the news this morning quite a bit about the previously undisclosed Treasury advice to the Government about negative gearing policies. Your Party has copped a fair bit of flak for its position on this matter. I suppose you’ll be crowing about what we’ve learned today but it doesn’t mean that we’re any closer to having any of those policy changes in place.
ALBANESE: Well no wonder the Government fought for two years to stop the ABC from having this advice because what it shows is that, from the Prime Minister through to the Treasurer, through to the assistant Treasurer and other senior Ministers, they’ve all been lying about what the advice was. This is advice from Treasury that says that it might have a minor impact on prices. But also, importantly, it indicates that there will be a change, if you like, so more owner-occupiers, less domestic investors, which is precisely what the policy was aimed at achieving.
MACDONALD: So you would go as far as to say lying?
MACDONALD: Who? Who was lying?
ALBANESE: The Prime Minister, the Treasurer, Peter Dutton, others who have gone out there and said very clearly that this was going to destroy the economy, destroy house prices. They know that that’s not the case and the sort of exaggeration that we’ve seen from them gives them no credit. The fact that they had this advice and hid it. Kelly O’Dwyer, I notice, the assistant Treasurer, who they sent out, they threw her under the bus. The Treasurer hasn’t been out there defending this and this morning she was doubling down and attempting to say that somehow this advice was not the full story but wouldn’t say whether there was any other Treasury advice that contradicted this.
MACDONALD: How then do you explain the fact that there is such reluctance to deal with negative gearing as an issue?
ALBANESE: It’s a product unfortunately of the nature of politics at the moment, which is that if Labor came up with the policy, the Government’s immediate response was to say no. This is a Government that is acting like an Opposition in exile. They said no to everything, they were in that negative mindset while they were in Opposition. Part of their problem with the lack of narrative or sense of purpose from the Abbott and then the Turnbull Governments, is that they’re not able to move forward in a positive way and they reacted immediately to our policy announcement. They, themselves, were considering policy measures about negative gearing and about capital gains, the discount, when we came out with our policy. It was a brave policy to come out with from Opposition, but it’s the right policy. We never said it would fix everything in itself, and it’s a modest measure, but it’s one that should be implemented.
MACDONALD: The dual citizenship question is back in the news again today, very early in the New Year. Some advice regarding Susan Lamb, one of Labor’s MPs, and her citizenship status. She’s a British citizen; she’s a joint British citizen, isn’t she?
ALBANESE: No, Susan Lamb did what was required…
MACDONALD: Hold on, let’s just answer that question. Is she, or is she not a dual British citizen?
ALBANESE: I don’t know. Susan Lamb did what was necessary, which was…
MACDONALD: Hold on, you must know. It’s all over the newspapers. You must have spoken to her. You must know what the advice is.
ALBANESE: Her advice is that she has done what is necessary, which is to take all reasonable steps. She applied for the renunciation and she got told she wasn’t a British citizen. That there wasn’t any evidence…
MACDONALD: Her renunciation was rejected because there was not enough evidence provided.
ALBANESE: Because there was no evidence that she was a British citizen. That’s what happened.
MACDONALD: Hold on. It was the absence of a marriage certificate of her parents, right, which she could have tried to obtain but didn’t.
ALBANESE: Well I’m not sure the circumstances of why that couldn’t be obtained.
MACDONALD: It’s not what couldn’t be, it’s that it wasn’t. She didn’t apply for it in Queensland, where they were married.
ALBANESE: What she did was, she applied for a renunciation of what she thought might be her British citizenship and she was told that there was no evidence that she was a British citizen, by the British Government. That is, and she has legal advice…
MACDONALD: She was told there wasn’t enough evidence for them to confirm her renunciation, that she hadn’t provided enough documentation. That’s what she was told.
ALBANESE: That’s not right and I’m sorry but a media report doesn’t confirm that that’s the case.
MACDONALD: But she wrote to them, ticking a box, in 2016, this is the British Home Office, ticking a box saying I am a British citizen…
ALBANESE: And wanting to renunciate and she received advice back from the British Government that she couldn’t. That they couldn’t process her renunciation and her fee returned, because there was no evidence that she was a British citizen.
MACDONALD: Sure. But the evidence that she was required to submit was a marriage certificate for her parents, which she hadn’t even applied to get from the state of Queensland.
ALBANESE: Well it’s not quite that simple and in terms of…
MACDONALD: Well tell us what more there is to it then.
ALBANESE: I’m not Susan Lamb.
MACDONALD: Come on, you’re here. You’re the man in the studio.
ALBANESE: Well I’m not Susan Lamb and I’m telling you that she has legal advice, very clear legal advice, that she has fulfilled the requirements, which are reasonable steps.
MACDONALD: You’re mounting the defence for her.
ALBANESE: I am indeed.
MACDONALD: What did she do to get the marriage certificate of her parents in Queensland?
ALBANESE: That’s not the test. The test is, has she taken reasonable steps to renunciate….
MACDONALD: All reasonable steps…
ALBANESE: Her British citizenship.
MACDONALD: All reasonable steps.
ALBANESE: Now you’re trying to, with due respect Justice Macdonald, what you’re trying to do now is to reinterpret the High Court’s rulings. The High Court have said that you have to take reasonable steps. Now someone, before they nominate, fills out a form, pays a fee and sends it off to the UK. That is reasonable steps. That’s the legal advice that Susan Lamb has.
MACDONALD: Are we saying that there’s a difference between reasonable steps and all reasonable steps?
ALBANESE: I don’t know, that’s a matter for lawyers.
MACDONALD: I can hear your phone is going; clearly you’re getting some messages.
ALBANESE: No. That’s Siri, trying to interpret our conversation.
MACDONALD: I want to put to you some of the tweets from Donald Trump, one of the tweets from Donald Trump, the leader of the United States, our closest ally. He’s responded to this book that’s come out and he’s said, ‘actually throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being like, really smart. I went from very successful businessman, to top TV star, to President of the United States on my first try. I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius and a very stable genius at that.’ What do you think when you hear that from the leader of our closest ally?
ALBANESE: Well they’re interesting, his comments, and I would be more comfortable I think, as would many American citizens, if there were less tweets from the President and perhaps if they had less things in capital letters and with exclamation marks.
MACDONALD: Does it sound stable to you?
ALBANESE: I think that we would all be better off, and the President would be better off, if he got some advice to maybe not communicate as much through tweets with grand statements. I think that the high office of President of the United States requires very much considered responses. He is elected, I have respect for the office of the President of the United States, they are friends of ours and they remain friends. I think that the debate that’s going on at the moment is most unfortunate.
MACDONALD: We’ll have to leave it there. Anthony Albanese, thank you very much.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
MONDAY, 8 JANUARY 2018
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.