Subjects; Nick Xenophon; gun control, security reforms.
MATT WORDSWORTH: And for a look at the week in politics I was joined by Labor frontbencher, Anthony Albanese in the studio earlier. Anthony Albanese, welcome back to Lateline.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, SHADOW TRANSPORT MINISTER: Good to be with you, Matt.
MATT WORDSWORTH: Firstly what do you make of Nick Xenophon quitting the Senate?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, this is quite an extraordinary decision. We’ll wait and see how it plays out. Nick Xenophon, of course, had spent 10 years in the South Australian Parliament. He then spent 10 years in the Senate and he’s going back or trying to.
MATT WORDSWORTH: Decade on, decade off?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, we’ll wait and see what the voters think. I think there will be some backlash given that he went before the people of South Australia and asked to be elected to the Senate just a year ago. Of course, with him at the top of the ticket, there were other people elected as well, that probably wouldn’t have happened.
MATT WORDSWORTH: What does it mean for those Senators, you know, Skye Kakoschke-Moore, Stirling Griff. Are they basically toast now?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I think most Australians, with respect to those individuals, wouldn’t have heard of them.
MATT WORDSWORTH: Yeah, because you think they got in on the coat tails of Nick Xenophon?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: There is no question that that is the case and I think they’d acknowledge that as well. Now they’re going to find themselves negotiating over legislation in the Senate. Of course, the crossbenchers have a lot of influence in the current Parliament. Nick Xenophon, walking away from that, in order to run for a South Australian Lower House seat will, I think, be regarded quite cynically by many people in South Australia. It’s very clear that he won’t be in a position to be a government or an alternative government in himself.
MATT WORDSWORTH: Well, he’s ruled out cabinet positions or anything like that.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: What essentially he’s saying is, “Vote for me so I can give South Australia some more instability. Vote for me and I want to be in a balance of power position.” That’s a very risky thing to do. The truth is that it’s the major parties who seek to form government. Nick Xenophon isn’t saying he wants to form government. The Lower House is the house where government is formed.
MATT WORDSWORTH: Do you think he can win that seat he’s going for, Hartley, by the way? It’s Labor, now Liberal, marginal.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, in the past actually, third party candidates have had more chance of winning seats when they’ve run for safe seats because that ensures that they run second. So, it’s a counter-intuitive when you look at where the risk. For example, my seat of Grayndler is, has been potentially seen to be at risk from time to time because the Liberal vote is so low in my seat. So, we’ll wait and see how that plays out. I think South Australians will be very wary, though, of voting for an unknown.
MATT WORDSWORTH: He’s not exactly an unknown.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, it’s unknown as to how he would act if he were elected to the South Australian Parliament and what would happen to the rest of his team. We have seen minor parties, not the least of which is in the recent period, elect the people who’ve gone off the rails, who’ve become independents, who have gone off on a tangent, and contrary to who the leader is of the particular party and so we’ll wait and see.
MATT WORDSWORTH: Okay, can I just move on to gun control. It’s another big issue of this week due to the attack in Las Vegas. Malcolm Turnbull has thrown the pressure on Labor here because he wants a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for gun trafficking. This is what he said this morning.
MALCOLM TURNBULL, PRIME MINISTER: Now, Bill Shorten has opposed that now on two occasions and he continues to do so and he’s wrong and he should recognise that Australians expect their leaders to do everything they can to keep them safe. And that means we must send the strongest and clearest signal to people who smuggle or traffic in guns – break the law, they do that, they will go to jail. That’s the message we need to send. We want Labor to rethink their position.
MATT WORDSWORTH: Anthony Albanese, will Labor rethink their support and support five-year mandatory minimums for gun trafficking?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: You know what Australians expect of leaders is a bit of integrity. Malcolm Turnbull is a lawyer. He knows very well the argument about mandatory sentencing which is a pretty simple argument, which is that politicians should decide through the law what the maximum sentences are. They shouldn’t determine or try to determine through legislation what the precise sentences will be. There’s a separation …
MATT WORDSWORTH: He’s saying a minimum should be five.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: There’s a separation, there is a separation, a very clear separation, between the judiciary, the legal system and the political system in this country and that’s why Labor has a problem with the issue of mandatory sentencing as a principle. What Labor has said very clearly is that there should be up to life sentences for people who traffic in guns. We’ve also said, as a constructive suggestion, that the gun amnesty, which has been somewhat successful, in the current climate, after Las Vegas, surely it should be extended out. We know there’s about 600,000 illegal firearms still around Australia.
MATT WORDSWORTH: Malcolm Turnbull said it was more like 260,000-odd, according to his intelligence estimates. You’re saying 600?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, between 260,000 and 600,000, what we do know is that there are far too many and what we should be doing is putting in place the maximum effort that we can to get those guns out of the system and an extension would be a logical thing to do. I find it extraordinary that Malcolm Turnbull is trying to play politics with this issue. This should be a bipartisan issue. He should be mature about it and, frankly, it shows the desperation of his political predicament, the fact that he’s prepared to go down that road.
MATT WORDSWORTH: And just quickly, I want to talk about the national facial recognition database that has now been agreed to by the states, handing over those driver’s licence photos to assemble this database. What about the burqa ban? There are calls now for a ban on the burqa because it would render ineffective any of the surveillance of the CCTV if you can’t capture a face and compare it to a database.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, we’ve had that argument and one of the things that we’ve come down on the side of, in a bipartisan way, is that we won’t interfere with, religious freedom is important, and in terms of the issue that’s been put forward, it’s good that there was agreement across the board. I support, and tried to start the process as the Federal Transport Minister, national driver’s licences that would have made, of course, that process far simpler, and I understand that has been on the agenda at transport ministerial council meetings that have been held in the past couple of years.
MATT WORDSWORTH: All right, Anthony Albanese, thanks for your time.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.