Apr 4, 2008

Transcript of Sydney Press Conference – McGuaran’s resignation

Subject: Peter McGauran’s Decision to retire from Federal Politics. Minister Albanese demands that Brendan Nelson show leadershiop and announce when former Howard Govt. Ministers, Peter Costello, Mark Vaile, Alexander Downer, Philip Ruddock and Kevin Andrews will leave Parliament.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:Peter McGauran today has announced his resignation from parliament.

It’s pretty clear that not just Peter McGauran, but that Alexander Downer, that Mark Vaile, Peter Costello, and others have lost interest in representing their constituents in the House of Representatives, and in their own electorates.

The Leader of the Opposition, Brendan Nelson, stated that all the by-elections should be held at once. This is more than just a theoretical view. This is a view that would save taxpayers many hundreds of thousands of dollars if these by-elections were to occur at the same time.

Way back in February Brendan Nelson said that he’d spoken to Peter Costello and Alexander Downer about their futures and that an announcement would be made soon.

It’s up to Brendan Nelson to show leadership and ensure that these by-elections are held on the same day in order to ensure that the electorates from which these former Ministers come from, once again get some representation from someone who’s interested in participating in the activities of the Federal Parliament, and in their local constituencies.

It’s now many weeks since Brendan Nelson said that he would sort this out. He needs to show leadership, otherwise it will look as though he’s just playing political games in stringing out these by-elections so as to ensure some political perception of advantage is secured.

QUESTION: You said others have lost their leadership interests in their electorate. Who else are you referring to?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, it’s pretty clear that when people such as Alexander Downer stay at lunch rather than attend Question Time; when people including Mark Vaile go and play golf rather than attend the parliament; it’s pretty clear they’ve lost interest in their representing their electorates, and in participating in the House of Representatives.

It’s also quite clear that these people are using their time as members of the House of Representatives to pursue their post-parliamentary prospects.

Now, people are entitled to ensure that they have post-parliamentary careers, but they should do it on their own time, rather than at the time in which they’re being funded to be members of the House of Representatives, by the Australian taxpayer.

And that’s why we need very clear answers today, from the Opposition Leader, of whether there will be any more by-elections held this year or not.

QUESTION: But, who else has Labor identified? You said, Mark Vaile, Alexander Downer, and Peter Costello. Who else is Labor thinking of?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well it’s quite clear Philip Ruddock is another who’s, who there’s a question mark over whether they will remain in the parliament.

But there are others as well.

Kevin Andrews, following his dumping from the front bench of the Liberal Party is understood to be considering his future.

All these members are privileged to be elected as members of the House of Representatives. They have an obligation to tell their constituents whether they will serve the full term or not, and if they aren’t going to serve the full term, then it is imperative that the by-elections be held on the one day.

The only reason why that would not occur, is as Tony Abbott has suggested, that the resignations are being delayed to secure a perceived political advantage. Tony Abbott has said that that is why that is occurring.

Brendan Nelson needs to explain the contradictory comments that he’s made on this issue.

QUESTION: Mr Costello, Mr Vaile, and Mr Downer have electorates in three separate States. How would the taxpayer save money if there was one by-election at the same time?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well it’s quite clear that the Australian Electoral Commission, when they, they place ads for the conduct of those by-elections, the procurement of staff to hold those by-elections; of course polling booth staff aren’t, aren’t there 365 days a year. They have to be recruited for each election. And there are savings that can be made by having the by-elections held on one day.

The Electoral Commission clearly would be able to save money. These by-elections are going to cost $600,000 each. Let’s make sure there’s a minimal cost to the taxpayer.

And Brendan Nelson is being asked to do nothing more and nothing less than what he said he would do way back in February.

QUESTION: Who will Labor run as candidates in those three electorates?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, we’ll be making our decisions on that. We know that Gippsland, there will be a by-election there. It’s unclear about whether there will be by-elections in the other seats. That’s why we need some certainty.

I think that those voters who voted for these members on November 24 are entitled to feel disgruntled that these members are treating them with contempt by not fulfilling their duties as members of the House of Representatives and as local members.

And if they don’t want to do that, they should step aside, allow a by-election to take place, and allow a representative to sit in the House of Representatives who actually wants to do the job.

QUESTION: Who has Labor been speaking to about them possibly running in these electorates?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well we, we’ll have our internal processes. They’ll take place. And we’ll make those decisions when the time comes.