Subjects: Dyson Heydon; marriage equality
KIERAN GILBERT: With me now from Sydney, the senior Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese. Mr Albanese thanks for your time.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you Kieran.
GILBERT: Is this a storm in a teacup as Christopher Pyne argued this morning on Channel Nine? He says it’s a storm in a teacup. Now, once Dyson Heydon realised it was a Liberal function, he pulled out.
ALBANESE: Well what else was it Kieran? It was a lecture for Garfield Barwick – a hero of conservatives here in Australia. It was organised by the Liberal Party of New South Wales and their lawyers’ branch. Cheques went to the Liberal Party. People had to make a declaration that they were making a donation to the Liberal Party and the invitation made it very clear that it was to raise funds for Liberal state candidates. This is a position whereby the Royal Commissioner’s own statements in his previous life as a justice of the High Court about the appearance of bias being enough to disqualify someone from holding a position presiding over a legal process. He should apply what he said should happen and step aside from this position.
GILBERT: So do you think he is biased? Is he? Because yesterday Tony Burke said in his intervention in the Parliament that he is biased and conflicted and the Shadow Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, says, well, Labor is not saying that he is biased but that he should step down. Which is it?
ALBANESE: This is red hot. This is farcical. His position is untenable. What was he thinking and what was the Liberal Party of New South Wales thinking in inviting someone during a Royal Commission – not before, not after, during a Royal Commission – to preside over this process whereby you attend a Liberal Party fundraiser? I mean the problem here is, Kieran, that you can’t run the country if you are running a vendetta and that’s what we’ve seen from this government – a government that was elected to office in 2013 and just wanted to go through vendettas using public funds. Let’s be very clear here: this is an $80 million Royal Commission that has been blown out of the water by an $80 fundraiser.
GILBERT: And do you think now that every finding is discredited, or is there still some substantial outcomes from this given we’ve seen some arrests made in Canberra at least and, you know, serious accusations that have been answered by Bill Shorten and others? In your view, has the whole thing been discredited now?
ALBANESE: His position is untenable Kieran. Where there are breaches of the law they should be dealt with by the police and by relevant authorities. But this Royal Commission has now been discredited. We know that it has been a political exercise and the fact that it has been a political exercise has just been, I guess, underlined, with an exclamation mark by the Royal Commissioner in the middle of a Royal Commission attending a Liberal Party fundraiser.
GILBERT: Now this morning you tweeted that you were joining me to discuss the Government’s meltdown. The government has a very different take – at least the Prime Minister does – on the debate around the same-sex marriage issue. But clearly at least they’ve got a way forward now in terms of taking it to the people. Is that something that you would be worried about in a political sense that that might be an easier thing to sell?
ALBANESE: Kieran, they had a shocker of a week and it was exemplified yesterday when you had the Prime Minister speaking about the need for a referendum, slapped down by his Attorney General in the Senate, backed up by Christopher Pyne, his Leader of the Government in the House of Representatives. There is no need whatsoever for a referendum. The High Court has already made it very clear that this is a decision for the Parliament to make and Tony Abbott himself just two months ago indicated that that was the case. What we saw this week was a Prime Minister who was prepared to manipulate his own coalition party processes; prepared to subvert the independence of the Liberal Party as a stand-alone party; and, in the words of Christopher Pyne, stack out the party room in order to secure the position which he is entitled to hold but he’s not entitled to impose on his own Coalition party, but more importantly, he is not entitled to impose on the whole country. The problem here isn’t that Tony Abbott is stuck in the past; it’s that he wants the rest of Australia to go back there and keep him company.
GILBERT: Mr Albanese thanks for your time. Appreciate it.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you, Kieran.