Subjects; Ann Sudmalis quitting, Wentworth preselection, Royal Commission into aged care, Peter Dutton eligibility
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Anthony Albanese is the Shadow Minister for Transport, Infrastructure, Cities and Tourism and joins us on RN Drive again. Welcome.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good evening Patricia. Thanks for having me on.
KARVELAS: If we can deal with this sort of breaking news – Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis has announced she won’t be contesting the next election. Are you surprised by the news?
ALBANESE: Well this is devastating for the Coalition. We know that they have so few women sitting on the Government benches. They have removed one of them, or in Queensland of course, has lost preselection. There was a question mark over whether Ann Sudmalis would lose preselection to a man. And now, having gone through that process, she has decided to withdraw from nominating. She’s given the people who run the Liberal Party in her local area on the South Coast a spray on the way out and said that she can’t work with them and has spoken as well about bullying. So this is yet again a sign that there’s a real structural problem within the Liberal Party that Scott Morrison needs to deal with.
KARVELAS: Well he has said he’ll deal with it. He’s said that he will establish a process and has asked his party to do that.
ALBANESE: Well he asked his party to preselect a woman in Wentworth last week. They didn’t run first, second or third. His preferred candidate ran fifth, showing that the divisions within the Liberal Party run far beyond just the Parliamentary Party.
KARVELAS: What do you make of the argument though that what happened there was a case of merit? That ultimately David Sharma was the most meritorious candidate and therefore prevailed?
ALBANESE: Well I haven’t met any of the candidates I’ve got to say, except for Richard Shields who ran second in the ballot. But Scott Morrison I assume has met them, is the newly elected Prime Minister, made his views very clear and that seemed to be rejected. He was supporting someone who’s been a public office bearer from the local area. No doubt they did that with the fact that Kerryn Phelps will be a very strong independent candidate – having that in mind – and they were rebuffed. That’s not to say of course – I don’t support the idea that every woman is better than every man, obviously I’m in Parliament myself, but the fact is there’s a structural problem when the Liberal Party has been going backwards when it comes to representation of women in their ranks, whilst the Labor Party’s been moving forward substantially, not just federally, but in every state and territory branch across the country.
KARVELAS: On this question of aged care and this Royal Commission, the problems in aged care didn’t just emerge in the last five years, they date back decades. Does Labor take any collective responsibility for the state of the system?
ALBANESE: Look it’s true to say that with the ageing of the population the pressures will be more acute. But Labor has raised the issue of cuts that are there in the Budget, including the 2016 Budget which bears Scott Morrison’s own name, in Budget Paper No. 2 – it’s all there on page 101. And I quote from the Budget Paper, “The Government will achieve efficiencies of $1.2 billion over four years through changes to the scoring matrix of the aged care funding instrument that determines the level of funding paid to aged care providers”. It’s there very clearly that that cut is there and when Labor raised the issues of the national crisis that there is in aged care, the Minister just a couple of months ago stood up in Parliament and said that was, “verging on the abuse of older Australians”. So just last week the Minister was opposing a Royal Commission and it’ll be interesting to see what comes out of the Four Corners program tonight. I’m certainly of the view that the Parliament as a whole needs to work together on this issue because it’s an issue that is difficult to overcome. The ageing of the population needs a whole of government approach.
KARVELAS: You also think it should be above politics?
ALBANESE: Well yes, but your starting point as to be an honest appraisal of the existing circumstance and you can argue for a bipartisan approach and I hope that arising out of the Royal Commission that has now been agreed to by the Government – yet again, Labor leading from Opposition – that arising out of that there can be recommendations that will be undertaken by both sides of politics. But you do have to start with saying that, at a time when the population is ageing, the fact that those cuts occurred is not a good thing.
KARVELAS: So you’ve argued that a $1.2 billion decrease in planned spending in aged care has contributed to problems in the sector, so will you commit to restoring that funding if you win Government?
ALBANESE: Well of course we’ll make our funding announcements at appropriate times. I’m not the spokesperson and with due respect to Radio National on a Monday night it probably isn’t the place to be announced by the non-spokesperson. But we have been campaigning very strongly through Julie Collins, the Shadow Minister, and Bill Shorten raising these issues as the Leader.
And we think that there does need to be a serious Royal Commission, it needs to be comprehensive now that it’s been announced, we need to make sure that people have the time to make submissions. It will be a traumatic process no doubt. Those of us and just about everyone in our society will have had their own personal experiences with people needing increased care as they’ve got older.
It is important that the Royal Commission not just be a place where we find out what the issues and the problems are, because no doubt that’s part of the process and that’s important, but what is important is that recommendations about the way forward, that can provide the basis for a bipartisan response, are made.
KARVELAS: Just quickly, Kerryn Phelps has announced she is running as an Independent in Wentworth, which you’ve mentioned. She says she won’t do preference deals, will Labor preference her?
ALBANESE: We’ll make that decision…
KARVELAS: But do you think that would be, you know, a smart decision to make?
ALBANESE: The New South Wales branch will make that decision…
KARVELAS: You’re in the New South Wales branch. You’re a senior MP.
ALBANESE: I am not an official of the New South Wales branch, I moved on from that a long time ago and I was very glad to do so. So I will leave that decision for them. We’ll wait and see, obviously, when nominations close but what people do need to do of course is to issue how-to-votes and they need to issue how-to-votes numbering all squares in order to maximise the formality of votes.
So at the Federal level, preferences will be allocated and what’s clear is that the voters of Wentworth will have an opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the person they elected as their local member and a majority of them supported not just Malcolm Turnbull being the Member for Wentworth, but being the Prime Minister of Australia. He was removed and no one including Scott Morrison can say why.
KARVELAS: Julie Bishop says on the current evidence she wouldn’t vote with Labor to refer Peter Dutton to the High Court over this section 44 issue. So what does that mean? It’s kind of dead, isn’t it? You haven’t got the numbers.
ALBANESE: We’ll wait and see what happens. But I think people when they examine the facts including the important advice from people like Anne Twomey, the constitutional experts; when they look at the Solicitor-General’s advice that says that the only way you can provide certainty is with a referral to the High Court. Then when people examine those facts plus Peter Dutton’s own actions whereby it would appear that he has sat in Cabinet, while most of the discussions have taken place on child care, but has removed himself from the room because of a conflict of interest, that to me would indicate two things: one, that when you declare a conflict of interest then it is game, set and match. Secondly, you can’t remove yourself just once, you have to remove yourself every time or not at all. Either there’s a conflict or there’s not.
Quite clearly the way for this to be cleared up is by a referral to the High Court. That should happen because it is very serious that Peter Dutton as the Home Affairs Minister is making decisions each and every day that could be drawn into question if his status as a Member of Parliament and therefore a Minister is under a cloud.
KARVELAS: Anthony Albanese, thanks for your time.
ALBANESE: Thanks Patricia.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.