Subjects: AFP raids; Michaelia Cash; Unions; big business.
ANDREW BOLT: Joining me is Labor’s Shadow Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Cities, Anthony Albanese. Anthony, thank you so much for your time.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you Andrew.
BOLT: Is Brendan O’Connor correct; Malcolm Turnbull just called in the cops?
ALBANESE: No well what occurred here, Andrew, is that Malcolm Turnbull supported the creation of the Registered Organisations Commission. Indeed, that was one of the bills people watching this program might be surprised that we had an election over – a double dissolution.
Most people wouldn’t have heard of the organisation, but it was set up by Malcolm Turnbull’s Government after the Double Dissolution election, when it was carried through the Senate. They handpicked their appointments to the ROC and it called in the Australian Federal Police so it’s a Government creation that has called in the Federal Police for what were absolutely extraordinary raids.
And I think there’s a whole range of questions that have been raised here. One; why is it that the AWU found out that these raids were happening, not when the police contacted them, but when the television cameras turned up outside AWU offices and we know now…
BOLT: That’s indeed a very good question; I want to get back to that. I will pursue exactly that, but I just want to go back first to Brendan O’Connor because I asked you; was he wrong in saying that Turnbull himself rang the police and do you think he should now apologise for making the police seem corrupt, like just political pawns?
ALBANESE: Well Brendan O’Connor made a statement in the Parliament today of his support for the AFP. The AFP do the tasks that are given to them and I think Brendan O’Connor was talking metaphorically, as in the Government, rather than Malcolm Turnbull personally when he was talking about those issues…
BOLT: I think he was talking through his hat.
ALBANESE: But what’s very clear is that if you were the AFP I don’t think you would have said, what are we going to do today? Spontaneously you would have not said we’re going to use dozens of people to look through offices looking for the minutes of a meeting that occurred some ten years ago because of the extraordinary proposition that the Australian Workers Union supports the Australian Labor Party and that it provides funds from time to time for candidates.
And guess what? The National Secretary of the AWU, when he was running for Parliament, received some funding from the AWU that has supported the Labor Party since 1891, since they sat under a tree in Barcaldine.
So it’s quite bizarre that this is seen as an earth shattering issue and GetUp, which are funded also by the AWU, that wouldn’t come as a great surprise either, I wouldn’t have thought to anyone, to you, or it certainly didn’t come as a great surprise to me. The Government seems intent on having these raids. It’s not the AFP’s fault, they do the jobs that they are given as is appropriate. But we have had, of course, the raids on Stephen Conroy and his staffs’ house and offices, including here in Parliament House over the National Broadband Network. There’s precedent for this…
BOLT: That’s over receiving leaks. That was the allegation he received leaks and it was unauthorised.
ALBANESE: And how did that go? At a great expense, at a time when the AFP are saying …
BOLT: He’ll be here later; I’ll ask him exactly that.
ALBANESE: They don’t have the resources to engage in a major cocaine bust that should have occurred. Before Senate Estimates they said they didn’t have the resources to track that down. This is just wrong priorities and it says everything about a Government that is very desperate and Malcolm Turnbull’s judgement – once again on display for all to see.
BOLT: All right, but you today claimed that Michaelia Cash’s staff were ringing around media organisations, you said, telling them these raids were going to occur. Now she denied that I think at least five times today in Senate Estimates, so it is essentially on oath. What proof do you have?
ALBANESE: Well journalists have told an online publisher tonight – that is recently, in the past hour – published reports of two journalists who have confirmed that that is how they knew about it. Journalists have told people that that is how they found out about it. I mean, the cameras didn’t happen to be walking past the AWU offices in Melbourne and Sydney yesterday. They were told. They were there before the police arrived. It was reported live on Sky News yesterday these occurrences.
If we are serious about dealing with wrongdoing – and as you know Andrew when unions have done the wrong thing, I have copped come criticism, it must be said from time to time, for speaking my mind and condemning it and I don’t shy away from that. That is an appropriate thing to do. But to have nationally televised raids for something that goes to an issue of a witch hunt against the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten? We had $80 million for the Royal Commission.
I mean, the precedent here, Andrew, is that we have had Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister, Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition – all dragged before inquiries. Where were the inquiries over Wheat for Weapons? Over the Iraq War? Over a whole range of things that occurred that we were unhappy with as the Labor Party when the Howard Government was in office for 12 long years. What we had a Royal Commission into was institutional sexual abuse of children and that has been something that has been cathartic for the country.
BOLT: Speaking of that, picking you up on this Anthony, you could be back in Government in a year’s time. Given what has happened, do you think that Labor might start giving the Liberals back some of their own and start calling Royal Commissions or inquiries into alleged abuses by the Liberals in office.
ALBANESE: Well I will tell you what, an inquiry into whether the Labor Party has connections with the trade union movement makes as much sense as an inquiry into whether the Liberal Party has connections with the top end of town; whether any donation to the Liberal Party or to the Menzies Foundation or to any of the think tanks – the Institute of Public Affairs – has been appropriately approved through boards of companies; raids on those companies to see whether the minutes are appropriate. I mean this is an abuse of the power of the State, of Government by the Liberal Party, and it says it all. To me from time to time I do wonder whether those opposite just think they have a right to be in Government and that we somehow should just disappear. Well they are I think envious of our history and they are afraid of our determination. We are not about to disappear and these sort of inquiries …
BOLT: Well, speaking of inquiries, you guys at the last election were making threats about Malcolm Turnbull’s role with the collapse of the HIH Insurance Company and all that. I wonder whether that will resurface. But going back to the issue, can you though guarantee …
ALBANESE: Well there are certainly outstanding questions there.
BOLT: Is that a threat?
ALBANESE: No. No, it’s just a fact that people would be aware – there’s a whole range of outstanding issues there. But my view, for what it’s worth, is that Government should not be used to settle scores. Government should be used for the national interest each and every day. This Government is not doing that and frankly it’s being distracted from its day job by this obsession with trying to undermine the Labor Party through – if we can just do some manoeuvre, or just do some trick. How about they do something about housing affordability? How about they do something about making sure the NBN actually functions properly, do their day job instead all of this manipulation.
BOLT: But can you guarantee though, going to this issue, can you guarantee that the AWU in fact does have proof, that Bill Shorten got the permission of his union executive, to not only give $100,000 to GetUp but $25,000 to his own campaign, in what was actually a very safe seat and didn’t need the money?
ALBANESE: As you know Andrew, I’m not an official of the AWU, never have been an official of any union. So I don’t know the precise details of what the circumstances are, but I can say this as a lay person like anyone watching this show and yourself; if you’re shocked by the fact that the AWU donated $25,000 to assist their National Secretary’s election to the national Parliament then I would be very surprised. To me that comes as no surprise at all.
BOLT: Ok, well Labor’s response to these repeated investigations into allegedly corrupt behaviour by unions would be easier, wouldn’t they, if Labor distanced itself from unions that did repeatedly break the law? Now two former Labor Prime Ministers, Bob Hawke, Kevin Rudd, have now said Labor should cut its ties to the CFMEU. Do you agree with them?
ALBANESE: No I don’t. I don’t support a blanket position against the CFMEU. Where the CFMEU has done the wrong thing and made statements that I believe are inappropriate, I’ve said so. I’ve said so on the record. I’ve said so on the front pages of national newspapers and …
BOLT: But this is a repeat offender in breaking the law. The other day they got attacked by a judge who said that they seemed to think that they could usurp Parliament and that they could set the law in this country. I don’t know why you guys keep taking their money.
ALBANESE: Well I certainly don’t support anyone thinking that they can usurp Parliament. I’ll say this though about the CFMEU; construction sites, which I as the Infrastructure Minister of course have had a role in creating in Government, have occupational health and safety issues that do require the presence of trade unions. If that wasn’t the case then we would see the underpaying that we’ve seen, the exploitation of workers and most significantly, workers who didn’t get to go home to their families at the end of a day.
BOLT: That’s often said but let’s just point out that these guys get paid very, very well. They get paid extremely well; over the odds. But listen, before we go because I’m running out of money… not money; well money too.
ALBANESE: Well I think we have a problem in this country with wages being too low. That’s what the Reserve Bank Governor says, and that is what Scott Morrison has woken up to.
BOLT: (Inaudible) I’ve got it too, but just quickly because we have run out of time, but I want to ask you this; you’re Labor’s Shadow Minister for Cities as you point out. Last week Lucy Turnbull, Chief Commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission, unveiled a plan to turn Sydney into three cities all connected and this is what she said:
It’s only taken us 230 years to catch up with a vision that our indigenous ancestors always had for this city.
Are you aware, Anthony, about any vision by Aborigines, 230 years ago, to split the city of Sydney into three zones connected by rail and road?
ALBANESE: Well I think it was a very different culture and a very different economy that the First Australians had, so I think that’s a rather unusual reference. I think the problem here with the Federal and State Coalition Government is that they talk the talk. They’re not doing things like making sure that there’s a North-South rail line through Badgerys Creek to open up those high-value jobs for people in St Marys and the Macarthur region. What we actually need is less discussion papers, more investment.
BOLT: Anthony Albanese thank you so much for your time.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.