Sep 26, 2018

Transcript of Television Interview – David Speers PM Agenda, SKY News – Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Subjects: ABC; Radio Birdman; quotas; Doug Cameron; Morrison Government’s infrastructure underspend.

DAVID SPEERS: Anthony Albanese, thanks very much for joining us this afternoon.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you, David.

SPEERS: So do you think the ABC chairman Justin Milne should now step down?

ALBANESE: Well it’s pretty hard to see that his position remains tenable given the content of this email, in which he’s indicating his view, essentially on behalf of the Government, that the journalist Emma Alberici should be sacked in order to appease the Government. I think the real story here is the ongoing intimidation of the ABC by the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government that has been ongoing from day one. It’s quite extraordinary that the public broadcaster, which needs to be independent of government, it has been intimidated in this way. There’s a word for …

SPEERS: Just to be clear on this because I mean – is the problem here, and I think you touch on it, the Chairman can clearly talk to the Managing Director when there’s a big, you know – blow up that’s creating damage to the organisation and so on. But you know maybe they can talk about staffing matters, but it’s when he goes to the fact this isn’t about journalistic integrity and so on, it’s to keep the Government happy. It’s to not upset their political masters. That’s the problem isn’t it?

ALBANESE It’s the politicisation of the ABC that’s the problem here. And there’s a word for governments telling journalists that they shouldn’t do their job and it’s called totalitarian regimes. I mean this is – tinpot shows intervene in the media and shut down voices of opinion. And here we have a Government that from time to time speaks about freedom of speech, but really don’t act like it, don’t want alternative voices to their own. The ABC annoys all politicians from time to time. I’ve been annoyed with them that they haven’t shown a particular documentary about Radio Birdman and I’ve given speeches about it, but it’s their decision. It’s not a political decision. And I think here we have a circumstance whereby explicitly the Government has obviously complained about Emma Alberici and that’s been the source of whether ABC management should appease that or not. Quite clearly it’s inappropriate, the intervention by the Chairman. And quite clearly we have a circumstance whereby the ABC, which is regarded,and I say this with respect to Sky News and all the other commercial broadcasters around, the ABC is regarded as Australia’s most trusted news source by people regardless of what their politics would be and it’s very important that independence of the ABC be protected.

SPEERS: Well, look and whether you trust them or not. Maybe viewers of this channel may not trust the ABC as much as others. You want them to be independent of government; I think everyone would agree on that. Look, just a quick one on this one before we move on. The Greens are talking about an urgent Senate hearing to get Justin Milne, the ABC Chairman, to come and answer some questions because he’s, you know, he’s keeping fairly quiet so far today. Would Labor support that to make him actually answer some questions?

ALBANESE: That would be a matter for Michelle Rowland, the Communications Spokesperson, for Labor to respond to. The Greens Party try to make themselves part of most stories. I think here though, don’t these e-mails speak for themselves?

SPEERS: Yeah, as long as they’re confirmed. They’re only reported at the moment. But as mentioned, they’ve not been denied. Look, a few other things. The idea of having not just a gender quota, in terms of getting more women into Parliament, but quotas to get more gay or Indigenous members into Parliament for Labor. The backstory to this – when you and Bill Shorten were slugging it out for the Labor leadership all those years ago, back in 2013. Bill Shorten’s manifesto of his policy says, “We should consider quotas for sections of our community that are underrepresented in our Parliaments, including Indigenous Australians and the LGBTI community’’. Obviously not much has happened on that since. Do you think it’s a good idea?

ALBANESE: No, I don’t. I didn’t then and I don’t now.

SPEERS: All right and are you surprised this hasn’t been followed up?

ALBANESE: Look, that’s not a matter for me. I think the fact is that when someone who might be gay or lesbian is a Member of Parliament, as of course there are on all sides of the Parliament now and in in all Houses of the Parliament as well, they’re not defined by just their sexuality. They’re defined by their range of views that they have, by what they bring to the position.

SPEERS: Isn’t that the same with women though? With respect, I mean, are women defined by their gender?

ALBANESE: No, they’re not. But politics is changed by having a more representative Parliament and women are 50 per cent or a little bit over of the population. What we haven’t done for example is in – say the Member for Bennelong has to be a woman, we will have a woman candidate for that particular seat. What we’ve put in place …

SPEERS: I get that, but it sounds like you’re saying because there are more women in the population then gender quotas are a good idea. But because what; there’s not so many Indigenous Australians or LGBTI Australians, that quotas aren’t necessary there?

ALBANESE: No. It’s a matter of – I think that you can bring identity politics to a point whereby it’s not constructive or practical. What about quotas for people with disabilities? What about young people? What about a whole range of different categories?

SPEERS: Well exactly, once you start down the path of quotas for women, do you open the door to all these arguments?

ALBANESE: No, you don’t. Quotas for women across the board in terms of 50 per cent of the Parliament are far more achievable. And the fact is that we’ve managed to do that and the difference of quotas has been that – one of the things I’ve said with regard to increasing the number of women in Parliament. Some people say, well women have to put themselves forward. Change happens from the bottom up, but it also happens from the top down. And the truth is that the power brokers in the Labor Party and the Liberal Party and the Greens Party for that matter and the Nats, have tended to be, and it’s changing, but have tended to be men. And one of the things that …

SPEERS: Are there any women who are power brokers right now, would you say, in the Labor Party?

ALBANESE: Absolutely. Kaila Murnain for example, is the convener of the National Right of the Labor Party; she’s the General Secretary of the NSW Branch. The Leader of the Organisational Left in New South Wales is Rose Jackson. So both of the heads of the factions, if you like, in New South Wales in the Labor Party, are women.

SPEERS: That’s good.

ALBANESE: That’s a good thing. The fact is that there are factions in both parties. One of the things that we’ve done is rank and file preselections, where there is a woman candidate and a male candidate, the vote for the woman candidate is worth 1.2 and one of the things that’s done is encourage power brokers to ensure that there are women candidates putting themselves forward. And that cultural change has gone through the party, the same as in terms of Indigenous representation – we’ve had Linda Burney, Pat Dodson, Malarndirri McCarthy all elected to the Parliament from the Labor Party in recent times. And of course Ken represents the Liberal Party from WA and is a Minister.

SPEERS: All right, I’ve got to move on. We’re going to lose time here, I apologise. A couple of other things, Doug Cameron, would he – you know he wants to leave at the election, he’s been there in the Senate for, well, quite a while now. Some suggestion, maybe he should be installed as the candidate for Lindsay, currently held by Emma Husar in Western Sydney. What do you reckon?

ALBANESE: Well what’s important is what Doug Cameron thinks and Doug Cameron will be stepping down from the Senate at the next election, in his own time. And I’ve seen nothing from him or no comment from him. I know Doug very well, he’s a very good friend of mine. There’s no one I’m closer to in the federal caucus and I think there’s more chance of you being the candidate for Lindsay, for either party, than there is Doug Cameron being the candidate at the next election.

SPEERS: Well, we can rule that out then. That’s good to hear.

ALBANESE: I think that’s a fair assumption.

SPEERS: I think it is. Is there a problem though of finding a candidate for Lindsay, is that what’s going on here?

ALBANESE: No, not at all. I think there’s a range of people there who would be very good candidates. There are people I’m aware of. We have some very good locals, both through local government there in Penrith council through the branches. It’s a very active area for the Labor Party and we’ll have a good candidate.

SPEERS: All right, let me ask you finally on the Budget figures we saw yesterday. This was the final budget result for last financial year, better than expected. Clearly there’s more money coming in the door and less being spent as well, it would seem. What do you put this down to?

ALBANESE: Well one of the problems here David is that the infrastructure underspend continues. That is, the difference between what the Government says on Budget Night they’re going to invest and what actually happens. And in this case there’s a billion dollars difference, a billion dollar underspend which adds up to …

SPEERS: Just for one year?

ALBANESE: In just one year. Over four years the underspend is $4.9 billion. Now that’s massive. A massive difference between what they said they would do and what they’ve actually done. And for some programs like the Beef Roads Program there’s a 93 per cent underspend, but there’s underspends all the way through – in smaller programs like the Black Spots Program, but also major programs of rail and road and the Northern …

SPEERS: And is it deliberate? Or is it just that some projects, you know, take a little longer to get off the ground?

ALBANESE: Well, what’s impossible to justify is how every program every year for four years can see this underspend. And these aren’t Labor figures – these are on the Government’s own figures. What they say on Budget Night last year $7.9 billion; the actual spend- $6.9 billion. So this is a massive underspend, some 58 per cent on the Heavy Vehicle Safety Program, which is essentially for truck rest stops and for programs that are designed – essentially to not just keep heavy vehicles and their drivers safe, to keep those of us who share the roads with heavy vehicles safe as well. It is hard to see how that can possibly happen. A 46 per cent underspend on the Western Sydney Infrastructure Program. They said they’d spend $1.6 billion and they’ve only spent half of that. What that shows is that the Government really hasn’t got its act together. And this comes on top of the fact that we now know, through the leak a couple of weeks ago, that they have put $7.6 billion aside for various infrastructure projects. They just haven’t announced them and they’re holding them off, even though it’s all been in the papers.