Subjects: NBN, Sam Dastyari, Scott Morrison, Kristina Keneally, Bennelong, China, citizenship.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: Good morning Anthony. How are you?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day, I’m very well.
MAIDEN: Now you opened that press conference just a short time ago saying: “Any other questions other than Sam Dastyari?’’ and these pesky journalists didn’t have any other than Sam Dastyari. What do you think the Labor Party needs to do to clear this issue off the agenda and do you need to actually follow Linda Burney’s advice as she suggested on Sky News and get Sam Dastyari to consider his future, AKA quit politics?
ALBANESE: Well Sam it is unfortunate that from time to time journalists do concentrate on issues which won’t be remembered by history. The National Broadband Network that we are here talking about and the impact on health facilities is a critical issue and today here in Caboolture we have heard about the very real impact that Malcolm Turnbull’s failure to have an appropriate NBN is having, including at another facility which is part of the same health delivery service down the road with 13 doctors whereby because it rained the copper network broke down essentially and they had no access to the Internet for a number of hours just last week. So these issues are important.
But I understand people asking questions about Sam Dastyari. They did that and those questions were answered and Sam Dastyari of course resigned from his position after the request was made by Bill Shorten. So he certainly has paid a price for his misdemeanours.
MAIDEN: OK, well let’s unpack this a bit. The story today is that he basically called Tanya Plibersek or her office and warned her off from meeting some Hong Kong dissidents. Has Tanya Plibersek really thrown Sam Dastyari under a bus this morning because she has said essentially that she doesn’t comment on private discussions. That seems to be code for yes they occurred. If they did occur should he now go?
ALBANESE: Well, I don’t think that is right at all Sam. What Tanya Plibersek has said quite rightly is that she doesn’t talk about private discussions with anyone and that is normal practice. What she has also said is that the meeting with some fellow – I don’t even know who it was, I’m not sure whether you do either – took place. So there was no impact of anything that allegedly might have occurred between two people that we don’t know whether it happened or not.
What we do know has happened is that in Western Australia Liberal Party donors have been invited to attend a meeting and to pay money for attending a meeting along with Western Australian Liberal and National Party members – state and federal – including of course federally the WA Liberal Party including people like Julia Bishop the Foreign Minister, Mathias Cormann, the Finance Minister, have been asked to pay money to hear, not from them, but from the Chinese Government about issues including the One Belt, One Road initiative. I find that extraordinary Sam and that is a fact. Unlike a whole lot of this debate, which has been conjecture, that is a fact that hasn’t been contested and I wonder how that could possibly have occurred.
MAIDEN: OK, but why is Linda Burney and Catherine King coming out today and saying that he should consider his position?
ALBANESE: Well I don’t know that that is exactly what they have said Sam. But the fact is that the other Sam – the Senator Sam, as opposed to journalist Sam – has considered his position and resigned as the Senate Deputy Whip and he has paid a price for the lack of judgement that was there.
MAIDEN: So do you think it would set an unusual precedent then, given that Sam Dastyari is not accused of breaking any law, he hasn’t been convicted of any crime, if he was drummed out of not just the front bench, but politics, and according to Scott Morrison the Labor Party. I mean Scott Morrison said today that he should be kicked out of not just Parliament, but the actual Labor Party.
ALBANESE: Well what is Scott Morrison doing? He is the Treasurer of Australia. His party is inviting people to briefings by the Chinese Government and being asked to pay a free for it. Scott Morrison needs to get his own house in order. I know that this is an Opposition in exile, sitting on the Government benches harking for the days of Opposition. They talk about Labor. They can’t answer a question in Question Time without talking about the Labor Party. I mean poor, old Scott. I’ve never seen a bloke who held a position like Treasurer of Australia who was so miserable. I mean, he is so angry every question in Question Time and he is angry at his own lack of performance I think, which is why the dogs are barking about his position as the Treasurer. This is a bloke who was once talked about, by himself maybe, but talked about, at least in the mirror, as a potential Liberal Leader. No-one is saying that today and I understand his frustration that Scott feels. But he should get his own act together rather than worrying about the Opposition.
MAIDEN: Fair enough. Kristina Keneally, campaigning in Bennelong today, has also suggested that the Prime Minister’s comments in relation to this issue are verging on China-phobia and compared them to Pauline Hanson. Can you walk and chew gum at the same time? Can you not criticise China for trying to influence Australian affairs without being accused of racism?
ALBANESE: Of course it’s appropriate that we defend the national interest and of course you can be critical of China or any other country. What you can’t do though, I think, and there is a fine line and it needs to be handled appropriately, is to pretend for example that anyone who has ever had any contact with the Chinese Government is somehow a bad thing. Every business in China has contact with the Chinese Government, that is the nature of their system of Government that they have and every Australian businessman who has dealt in China has had contact with the Chinese Government. That is the nature of the Chinese regime. So we need to be a little bit sensible about this. I will be campaigning with Kristina Keneally in Bennelong tomorrow and I look forward to seeing her. Clearly she is having a big impact. She is a very good candidate and we will wait and see what happens on Saturday.
MAIDEN: Speaking of being sensible, some have argued that you have been a bit of a voice of reason in the Josh Frydenberg debate, saying that we shouldn’t go after people that are essentially stateless as a result of fleeing Nazi Germany. Is Labor still split on this because Mark Dreyfus seems to be raising the Frydenberg issue over the weekend? Is that something that you think Mark Dreyfus should now just drop?
ALBANESE: I have a view about a bit of common sense being required on this and on other issues as well. There’s too much hyperbole in politics. Josh Frydenberg has shown a document that says that his mother, I think it is, came to Australia as a stateless person. I’m very sympathetic with Josh’s position. Of course it is reasonable to say that everyone should put forward their documentation. That has happened. Labor tried to get anyone with any doubt at all sent to the High Court last week. Malcolm Turnbull and the Government weren’t interested in that. They were interested in having this drag out and I don’t know why they took that position. That is for them to answer really. But with regard to Josh Frydenberg and his family circumstances, families are complex and that’s the truth of the matter.
MAIDEN: They are. They are. They are complex.
ALBANESE: And we should have a bit of common sense here.
MAIDEN: Well in relation to this, I mean Jason Falinksi is being hauiled over the coals today because his parents filled out some form in the National Archives saying they got married in 1942. His lawyers say that his Dad, I think, was actually born out of wedlock and now we have this piece of paper where they have told the National Archives that they actually got married in 1942. Now I am told that they couldn’t have met in 1942. It’s not hard to do the maths here. They are trying to, as you completely understand a family in the 1940s, just have a little bit of light air-brushing of that when they came to Australia.
MAIDEN: Now this is all of the can of worms that we are opening up now, all of these personal histories that for some of these families would be extremely painful. I mean do you include that in your area of common sense? You don’t think Falinksi should be referred to the High Court?
ALBANESE: I think there should be a little bit of common sense should apply across the board here and that’s my view. You know there is no-one in the Labor Party who didn’t go through a process, who didn’t provide documentation, who didn’t do their best endeavours as is required and with regard to other people, I’m not going to get into and I haven’t Sam, you might note, since the beginning of this debate, I haven’t got into pointing fingers at people and their backgrounds. How do I know frankly what the background of someone, of what happened in the 1940s? I just don’t know and I think it would be a really good idea if people stopped commenting on things that they don’t know. How about we just leave it to what we do know and based upon the facts?
MAIDEN: All right and on that note we will leave it there and we wish you a Merry Christmas.
ALBANESE: Good on you Sam.
MAIDEN: You are obviously in a very loving, and Christmas mood, including towards Jason Falinksi. Thanks for your time today.
ALBANESE: I’m always in a good mood Sam. You know me. Someone’s got to keep the joint happy.
MAIDEN: Fantastic. Thank you for that Albo.