SUBJECT: Angus Taylor; Westpac; Prince Andrew.
MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: We’re joined now by the Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, from Parliament House. Mr Albanese, good morning to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, Michael.
ROWLAND: The Prime Minister insists he won’t be standing aside Angus Taylor because, as he argues, the allegations of the police investigation is simply based on the allegations from the Labor Party. What do you say to that?
ALBANESE: Well, they’re based upon the judgement of the New South Wales Police that this requires not just an investigation, but a Strike Force. Strike Force Garrad being established into what are three serious potential breaches punishable, two of them for up to 10 years’ jail. The facts are that a document was given to the Daily Telegraph purporting to show that Clover Moore and her team had spent $15 million on travel. That was not a real document. It was a fraudulent document. It was given by Angus Taylor’s office to the Telegraph in order to undermine Clover Moore’s position on climate change. The Minister then went into the Parliament and said he had downloaded that false document from the City of Sydney’s website. The metadata released by City of Sydney shows that is not right, that this document didn’t come from that website. So we have a prima facie case that the minister has misled Parliament and he did it again this week when he repeated by tabling a document saying that the document was downloaded from the website. But secondly, as well, it was an attempt to influence, clearly, the public conduct of a public officer in Clover Moore and her actions that she was asking for on climate change. The Minister has very serious allegations against him. He’s refused to actually say, ‘we don’t know where the document came from’. And in those circumstances, Section 7.1 of the Ministerial Standards clearly indicates where there’s an investigation, it’s up to the Prime Minister to ask for a Minister to step aside. That is what has happened in the past. Arthur Sinodinos, Mal Brough, going back John Howard’s Ministers, going back to Labor Ministers, that is the normal process. Because how can he possibly conduct his duties as a Minister while this investigation is going on and whilst there’s this cloud over him? For the Prime Minister to ring the Police Commissioner, not in the national interest, in his personal interest, to defend his Government which has an interest clearly in not having a Minister step aside, I found quite breathtaking when the Prime Minister came into the Parliament yesterday and instead of announcing that the Minister would step aside, he did the opposite.
ROWLAND: Do you think the Prime Minister was wrong to make that direct call to the Police Commissioner? Anthony Albanese, we might be having some audio issues. I was asking whether you felt the Prime Minister was wrong to make that direct call to the New South Wales Police Commissioner? We apologise for that, we have been having audio gremlins all morning. We will try to re-establish that link with the Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese. Angus Taylor under sustained pressure as you expect him to be when Parliament resumes and continued pressure from the Labor Party for Westpac executives to be hauled before Parliament to explain just who is behind those money laundering scandals. Anthony Albanese, apologies for that. We have been having some Sydney storm induced technical issues. Let’s press on.
ALBANESE: I understand.
ROWLAND: Did you think it was wrong for the Prime Minister to make a direct phone call to the New South Wales Police Commissioner?
ALBANESE: Well, it’s pretty unusual. What I took when the Prime Minister in Question Time said he would contact the Police Commissioner was that he wanted confirmation that there was an investigation. He didn’t believe it when we said that there was and I referred to the documents that were in at that time up online on the Guardian website and the Daily Telegraph. But what he reported to the Parliament was something much more concerning because he indicated he had a discussion with the Police Commissioner about the nature of the investigation which he has a direct interest in. His job is to act in the national interest when he talks to authorities, not in his own personal interest. And I found it pretty unprecedented, frankly, that he would suggest that there had been a discussion about details of an investigation that was only launched hours beforehand.
ROWLAND: Angus Taylor has told Parliament neither he nor anybody on his staff made any alterations to any document. If he didn’t do it, as he argues, if his staff didn’t do it as he argues, who else would make changes to the document?
ALBANESE: Well, exactly. I mean, the koalas in the trees came down and did it. I don’t know. The Bogong moths. Where did this document come from? It came from his office, on his ministerial letterhead. With his signature. He knows where this document came from and he won’t say. What he has said is wrong which is it came from the City of Sydney website and that is a statement he has repeated. It is clearly not the case from the metadata that’s there. That alone is enough. If you deliberately mislead Parliament, you cannot remain a minister under the Westminster system.
ROWLAND: Now, let’s move on to Westpac. I know Labor is trying to get executives hauled before a Parliamentary Committee to talk further about just who is to blame for this money laundering scandal. We know the chief executive has quit. Would Labor like to see more board members along with the chairman going much quicker as a result of this scandal?
ALBANESE: Well, they’re accountable of course. Board members are accountable to their shareholders. But there’s also a greater accountability here, I think, to the Australian public. What we have here is 23 million breaches of the law and breaches that have allowed and, indeed, facilitated child exploitation. These are very serious allegations. The CEO has gone, that’s a good thing. The board needs to as well and consider what its responsibilities are. I find it quite extraordinary that this had gone on for such a long period of time. And it is appropriate that we find out exactly how this happened, not to the point of just an academic exercise, but to the point of making sure that it can never happen again. One would have thought that the scrutiny that the banks were under when Labor was calling for a Royal Commission on 26 occasions and Scott Morrison was defending the banks, that they would have got their act together. Quite clearly they haven’t.
ROWLAND: The Federal Government says Westpac will be excluded from the first home loan scheme based on its reputational risk. Is that a move the Opposition would support?
ROWLAND: Ok. Now, before you go, it’s not all hard work there. You got the chance, Anthony Albanese, to attend the 20th anniversary dinner by the Australian Republican Movement down the hill at the Old Parliament House last night, the 20th anniversary of that referendum. Do you think as a staunch Republican that the tawdry Prince Andrew affair has built support amongst Australians to sever ties with the monarchy?
ALBANESE: Well, I think certainly it has undermined the royal family and his train-wreck interview brought no credit to him. This, of course, isn’t a personal issue, though. I have a great deal of respect for the Queen. I have met her. She has done quite amazing job over many, many decades. This is about a simple proposition which is that Australia should have an Australian as our head of state.
ROWLAND: Ok. Anthony Albanese, we’ll leave it there. Apologies for the audio issues earlier. Thanks for your time.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Michael.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.