Subjects: Michaelia Cash; Sir John Carrick; bipartisanship; Newspoll; by-elections.
DAVID SPEERS: Labor’s Anthony Albanese joins me. Thanks for your time this afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you, David.
SPEERS: Just on that point the Prime Minister is raising there in Question Time. Did Bill Shorten properly authorise this $100,000 donation to GetUp? What do you reckon?
ALBANESE: Well, the issue that we’ve been dealing with today is the issue of Michaelia Cash being subpoenaed to appear before a court case. And Michaelia Cash – a Minister, who gave a number of quite contradictory answers before the Senate Estimates about what her office knew about the raid and whether there were tipoffs to the media about the raid, so that by the time the police came there were TV cameras everywhere, it was red hot.
SPEERS: Being subpoenaed doesn’t mean she is guilty of anything though?
ALBANESE: It means that there are questions which the court will determine. Certainly the issue with Michaelia Cash is that originally she told the Senate that her office had nothing to do with this …
SPEERS: She said she didn’t know …
ALBANESE: And then had to come in – well under the Westminster system of accountability, if a ministerial staffer does something, the Minister doesn’t get away with saying, “oh it’s just my staff.” It’s not the way the system works and she has avoided in extraordinary terms; she’s here in the building and hasn’t appeared before Senate Estimates this time.
SPEERS: Well, she has fronted a press conference.
ALBANESE: She hasn’t fronted Senate Estimates, where she, her giving incorrect answers, has real consequences, or it used to …
SPEERS: Can I take you back to that …
ALBANESE: Before Malcolm Turnbull seemed to throw out the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
SPEERS: But let me get back to that question. Are you satisfied Bill Shorten properly authorised that donation to GetUp?
ALBANESE: I think there is absolutely nothing unusual about a union, the AWU, giving money to an organisation to campaign on issues. That is not surprising to me at all. And in the past, of course, they’ve raised issues about the AWU giving funds for Bill Shorten’s campaign. That also is not surprising at all.
SPEERS: So you have no problem with those sort of donations being made, to his campaign, to GetUp?
ABANESE: Well, it is of no surprise at all that the AWU and other organisations seek to advance their interests through not just directly, through union campaigns or through business campaigns, but through secondary organisations …
SPEERS: They’ve got to properly authorise it …
ALBANESE: Who they have things in common with. So the rules of the AWU, I’m not an expert in, but I’m not surprised at all. And what we’ve seen here is there’s certainly no evidence from anyone that it wasn’t authorised properly. What we’ve seen is a raid on a union office. The fact that it was political is highlighted by the fact that the cameras were there before the police.
SPEERS: Let’s move on. I wanted to talk to you today, actually about a speech you gave in relation to Sir John Carrick who’s just recently died. A great pillar of the Liberal Party, a former Senator. But of course someone who spent three years, I think it was as a prisoner of war, at the hands of the Japanese during the War. We had really eloquent speeches last week on this from the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader. You spoke today because you knew him. You met him and I was struck at the cross party, the bipartisan tone of your comments, just remind us what you had to do with him.
ALBANESE: Well, Sir John Carrick was a great Australian. And part of his early life unfortunately was spent as a prisoner of war of the Japanese. He was captured on West Timor with Tom Uren who was a mentor of mine.
SPEERS: He was a father figure?
ALBANESE: He was indeed. And one of the great privileges of my life was when I worked for Tom Uren, going with him to the opening of the Hellfire Pass Memorial on the River Kwai. The famous, or infamous, Burma-Siam Railway. And at that time there were enough of the former prisoners of war were still alive. So Sir Weary Dunlop, the legendary leader of those prisoners, the Chief Officer at the time was there and Sir John Carrick was there and I actually spent about four hours with Sir John going down the River Kwai in one of those long boats.
SPEERS: Did he try and convince you, that impressionable age, that you’re on the wrong path? It may be the Liberal Party was a better fit for a young man such as yourself?
ALBANESE: Not at all. He respected my views as I respected his. He was a real old school gentleman and I liked him a lot. And I think people like that are deserving of respect and he went into public life motivated by the same things that Tom Uren was motivated by. Different paths, but the same national interest. And he had a particular passion about early childhood education and I think it says a lot about him. I was a, you know, 20-something, in my early 20’s. Here I was with someone who’d been the Government Leader in the Senate, a legend of the Liberal Party, who spent a long period of time talking to me about his views.
SPEERS: I mean it raises the question, has that sense of bipartisanship, working together to help someone you know who is on the other side, has that been lost?
ALBANESE: I think to some extent it has. It probably happens more than people would think who watch Question Time. But I think Sir John Carrick – I spoke to Jane his daughter last week, to express my condolences to her personally and she was aware as well, that we had some correspondence between each other. He dropped me a note congratulating me when I was first elected to parliament and would give me the odd bit of advice and do it in a way that was, you know he was who he was and I am who I am.
I was born Labor and will die Labor, but he was prepared to, I guess reach out and understand that we can all learn off each other.
SPEERS: Just on the collegiality today. I mean, who would you name as your mates on the other side?
ALBANESE: I have friends on the other side. Indeed, Scott Morrison sat through my speech today in the Parliament and I regarded that as him showing respect for me and for the fact I was talking about Sir John Carrick. I give him credit for that. I obviously have an association, we do a bit of a two person sing song with …
SPEERS: You and Christopher Pyne.
ALBANESE: Christopher Pyne, every week on …
SPEERS: Despite the fireworks on the TV you get on, you get on pretty well.
ALBANESE: Yeah we do. And I used to get on with Joe Hockey very well. His dad, I went to his dad’s funeral, Richard, when he passed away. I think I was the only Labor MP there, but he was, he was a good man.
SPEERS: What about Barnaby Joyce?
ALBANESE: Well, Barnaby Joyce, not as much it must be said.
SPEERS: How do you feel about him today?
ALBANESE: I think he’s entitled now, to be left alone. The truth is he’s brought a whole lot of it on himself. No one made him agree to do a media interview for a $150,000 fee. But you know I hope he’s okay. I wish, in terms of his health, I wish him well and I certainly congratulated him on the birth of his child the first time I saw him.
SPEERS: Now this week, Anthony Albanese, we’ve also seen a Newspoll showing Labor is still ahead, in fact gaining a bit of ground on the Government. But when it comes to who’s the preferred Labor leader you’re beating Bill Shorten, how does that make you feel?
ALBANESE: Well, I feel good about the one issue that matters, which is whether Labor is in a position to form government. And what that poll showed, was that if the election was at the time that the poll was taken, which I assume was over the weekend, then Labor would be in a position to form government. And I’d be sitting here without that nasty little word shadow before my name, and that would be a good thing.
SPEERS: Would Labor be doing better with you as leader though?
ALBANESE: The fact is, Labor is doing very well. Labor’s on 52-48. We’ve won now, I think it’s 32, it might be 33 polls in a row. I think 30 was the magic number whereby Malcolm Turnbull used to roll Tony Abbott. And so we’re a united team. I think everyone in our team is doing their best to contribute to that teamwork and part of that …
SPEERS: What happens if things go bad in the Super Saturday by-elections and you lose a seat?
ALBANESE: Well, we’re not contemplating losing seats. What we’re contemplating is not only winning those by-elections but picking up more seats when it comes to the general election.
SPEERS: But if you do lose one will you be looking to make a move?
ALBANESE: I’m not contemplating at all losing any seats in the by-elections. We’ve got outstanding candidates and this is a chance for us to put our agenda of support for education and health and infrastructure and taking real action on climate change.
SPEERS: As far as you’re aware at the moment you should win, you should hold all these seats?
ALBANESE: Well I’ve been in Perth and in Fremantle this week. On Friday I was in Braddon and I’ll be in Longman early next week …
SPEERS: And what’s your judgement?
ALBANESE: And then back in Braddon.
SPEERS: Labor is going to hold the seats?
ALBANESE: Well I certainly think that we should be in a position to hold the seats. Of course you can never pre-empt what voters will determine. We live in a democracy, that means that we don’t get to decide here. The voters get to decide. What we can do, though, is to put forward our vision for the nation, the alternative vision. And I think what voters will see on the other side of the House is a government that’s really divided, that is split over a whole range of issues – hat has people being challenged for preselection, they are a pretty chaotic mob.
SPEERS: Anthony Albanese, we have to go. But thank you very much for joining us this afternoon.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.