Subjects; AFP Raids, NBN
HOST: It’s been a big last week in Federal politics and to pick over it Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese join us for Two Tribes. Good morning to you both.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning Will.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
HOST: It’s been a big 24 hours as well with the big story obviously being the AFP raids on the offices of the Australian Works Union in Melbourne yesterday. We’re going to open the batting with you today, for something different, Albo. Is Labor really suggesting that the AFP is acting at the behest or even on instructions from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull?
ALBANESE: Well what’s occurred here is that the Government have established the Registered Organisations Commission on the basis of legislation from Senator Cash, who is the Minister responsible. What’s incredible about these raids is that the AWU found out something was going on because the media were there before the police. We know that Senator Cash’s office was ringing around media organisations yesterday afternoon, telling them that this was going to occur.
Now that is an extraordinary intervention in the process. Common sense tells you that if a raid is occurring by the police the whole justification of it is apparently, allegedly, to stop documents going missing. The fact that cameras were outside before the police were there means that there are questions to be answered about why it was that the Minister’s office were doing this ring around.
I just find it incredible that from a Government that appointed an actual law breaker to run the ABCC with the knowledge that laws have been broken, by the Minister, before that became public. Now we have with the Registered Orgs being used for clearly political purposes.
And what’s the claim here? That’s all about the AWU donating to the Labor Party. Well hold the front page, in 1891 the AWU was one of the unions that formed the Labor Party and they’ve been supporting Labor Party candidates ever since.
HOST: Well it’s probably a bit more about whether the money was being donated with the knowledge of members not just to the Labor Party, but to GetUp. But to your point about the Minister tipping off media organisations, we’ll jump over now to you if we can, Chris. Do you accept that that is true? That the Minister Michaelia Cash, that her office was wording up the journos that the raids were going to happen and, if so, do you think that is appropriate?
PYNE: Look I don’t accept that it’s true and Anthony has just done a sterling job at trying to muddy the waters here because the spokesperson for Employment, Brendan O’Connor, has completely overstepped the mark in accusing the AFP of being a politicised organisation. We know that’s not true. Your listeners know that’s not true. Brendan O’Connor went far too far yesterday and he should be stood down from his role as the Shadow Employment Minister.
And what Labor is now doing is a classic tactic of doubling down and trying to pretend the issue is something other than the Brendan O’Connor and now Bill Shorten completely overstepping the mark. The Australian Federal Police is utterly independent of government as is the Registered Organisations Commission.
They’ve been set up for a job, which is to make sure that the union movement, an (inaudible) organisation, don’t spend their members’ money, without their members’ knowledge. We did this because of the Health Services Union and the Craig Thompson case, which you would remember a few years ago when members’ money was being spent willy-nilly by union leaders on things that they shouldn’t have been spent on. Now, for Labor to try and attack the Australian Federal Police…
ALBANESE: No one is attacking the Australian Federal Police. That’s a nonsense.
PYNE: Brendan O’Connor did that yesterday…
ALBANESE: That’s a nonsense.
PYNE: And he should be stood down from his role as the Employment spokesman as punishment for his clearly overstepping of the mark.
ALBANESE: I notice Christopher that you’re not even prepared to put the case of why these raids occurred. The AFP do their job as instructed. That’s what happened there.
PYNE: No, the AFP was not instructed to raid the Australian Workers Union offices by the Government and that claim is a disgrace…
ALBANESE: No, by the Registered Orgs Commission…
PYNE: (Inaudible) Completely independent of Government.
ALBANESE: Well why was Michaelia Cash…
PYNE: I don’t know that is true. First I’ve heard of it is you putting it on the radio.
ALBANESE: Well walk up to the Gallery mate and ask anyone in Channel 7 or Channel 9 or the people who directly got calls from Michaelia Cash’s media office.
HOST: Hey Albo, Albo …
PYNE: The reason why the AWU was being raided was because the AFP was not confident, nor was the Registered Organisations Commission, that the union wasn’t going to destroy documents that might incriminate Bill Shorten as Leader of the Opposition. (Inaudbile) that were made to his campaign and other campaigns, and to GetUp, potentially without the union members’ knowledge, and not going through the proper processes; that’s why the AWU was raided and …
HOST: Hey guys sorry, I’ve got to jump in, I’ve just got one more question on this and it’s just for you Albo. We saw Julia Gillard limping towards an election defeat, and limping towards losing her job rather than Kevin Rudd, with the lead in her saddle bags of an alleged slush fund involving the AWU. Do you think, Anthony Albanese, this could become a similarly damaging issue for Bill Shorten’s leadership?
ALBANESE: No I certainly don’t. I think this will damage the Government. I think that your listeners would be no more shocked that the AWU would donate money to Bill Shorten’s campaign, given he was the National Secretary and the former Victorian State Secretary and given they’re an affiliated union to the Australian Labor Party, then that whatever the body is in Sturt, of the Liberal Party, would raise money for Christopher Pyne. It is just farcical.
HOST: Chris, you can answer that, given the nature of Albo’s response. Do you want to say anything in reply?
PYNE: Well of course the money that’s raised for my campaign goes through all the proper processes. The people who raise it know that it’s been raised, it’s probably accounted to the Electoral Commission. When we spend the money we have meetings, we decide how it’s going to be spent, we prepare a budget, we pass motions. There are minutes at those meetings, and we’ve been doing that for a quarter of a century.
The problem here, with the donations to Bill Shorten’s campaign and to GetUp, is the allegation that there were no proper processes followed. Now if you remember, when the AWU was asked to produce the minutes where they had meetings that decided that expenditure should be made, they said that they wouldn’t produce the minutes, but they were happy and satisfied with the process. Now if those minutes occurred, if those minutes exist, why weren’t they produced? And that is what the AFP was looking for yesterday at the direction of the Registered Organisations Commission.
Because the suggestion here is that the proper processes were not followed, because the rules of the AWU require any expenditure over a certain amount of money, I think it’s $5,000, needs to be approved by the executive of the AWU, and the suggestion here is that did not happen.
HOST: Alright gentlemen, let’s change tack for a moment if I could turn our attention to the Four Corners report at the state of the NBN that aired earlier this week. It seems to be broad agreement on all sides that the NBN is, for want of a better term, stuffed, at the moment. And I appreciate the construction of this question will lead to an orgy of interruptions, so I will give you both 60 seconds to answer it.
Starting with you Chris Pyne, being our representative from the Government, whose fault is the current state of the NBN, and how are you going to fix it? You’ve got 60 seconds, and Albo you’ve got exactly the same question.
PYNE: Alright, so we passed six million premises, and there are three million customers of the NBN, of course there are going to be people within that three million who would like their service to be better.
But we’ve actually saved the train wreck that was the NBN, Labor had earmarked 51,000 houses in six years; we’ve now passed six million in the last four years. So we’re passing about 51,000 every 10 days, that’s what they’ve managed in the six years that they were in government.
The NBN was a joke when we got into government, and we have fixed it. But of course there are going to be people that are unhappy; there will also be people who are very happy with the NBN. We could always do better and we will. But when you have three million customers, does anybody seriously think that three million are going to be sitting there perfectly happy every single part of the day? Of course they’re not, and that’s why we have processes to try and fix it. But it’s totally delivered faster, cheaper and sooner than it would have been under Labor.
HOST: Alright, Anthony Albanese.
ALBANESE: Malcolm Turnbull is responsible for changing the system so that we have fraudband being rolled out rather than broadband.
You have copper being rolled out rather than fibre.
That means people are getting a second rate service that isn’t fit for the 21st Century. It’s a handbrake on jobs growth and the economy and it means that we have a digital divide, so that because of just – no fault of anyone, you could be across the road from someone who has first class fibre to the home, high speed broadband, and because you’re on the wrong side of the street with Mr Turnbull’s flawed system you get a second rate service.
Broadband is as important in the 21st Century for education, for health, for a range of services being delivered, as electricity and running water.
HOST: Chris Pyne, Anthony Albanese, good on you both for joining us. We’ll do it again next week.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.