Subjects: Submarines, South Australian seats; need for cities policy; whistleblower legislation; Dawn Fraser comments on Nick Kyrgios
PETER VAN ONSELEN: Let’s bring in Anthony Albanese, he’s up in Brisbane today, he’s the Shadow Infrastructure Spokesperson. Mr Albanese, thanks very much for being there. What’s your reaction to the Prime Minister’s comments about sub building? He absolutely guarantees that there will be more jobs for South Australians on this front.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, we know that prior to the last election he absolutely guaranteed that the subs would be built in South Australia. Since then, he’s walked away from that commitment. We know that when he was in trouble against the empty chair that received 39 votes for Leader of the Liberal Party earlier this year, he gave private undertakings to various Liberals in South Australia and when they went public on that, he disowned them. So this is a Prime Minister whose word, when it comes to jobs, will be treated with scepticism because they will look at his actions. And what this government has done is encourage the car industry to leave South Australia, to walk away from the commitments that they’ve made on submarines in South Australia, cut infrastructure spending in South Australia along with the rest of the country by $2 billion this year and next in their last Budget compared with what they said they would do just last year, so I think people would be very sceptical. What they want to see from this Prime Minister is action, not just words.
VAN ONSELEN: Alright, what about the issue though of these seats that could be in peril for the Liberal Party in South Australia, one of which is the Manager of Government Business, Christopher Pyne. They’ll have the clout, won’t they, to ensure the Prime Minister honours the very commitment that he’s given today, that there will be more jobs for shipbuilding in SA?
ALBANESE: Christopher Pyne is part of the problem, not the solution. Christopher Pyne is the person who’s alienated Australians with his policy for $100,000 degrees. The problems for this government isn’t the particular personalities. It’s the impact of their program. Their impact with their cuts to education, their cuts to health, cuts to public transport, cuts to pensions – that is what they have a problem with. They don’t have an economic agenda for the nation going forward in terms of identifying future jobs and where they’ll come from.
VAN ONSELEN: Mr Albanese, let me just jump in. Isn’t the problem with the body politic though? We’ve got an increasingly Team Red versus Team Blue approach to the partisan debate rather than meeting halfway. For example, your side won’t engage on the pensions reforms that ultimately the Greens were prepared to. Yet, the Liberal Party won’t engage on super reform where your side is prepared to. If only both sides were prepared to meet in the middle, we might see sensible mainstream reform.
ALBANESE: Well, the submarines are an issue, Peter, whereby there was agreement prior to the last election – so was education. Remember Christopher Pyne and Tony Abbott saying there would be no difference – not one dollar of difference – whether Labor or Liberal was elected with regard to education. If you look at my area of responsibility, there has been substantial agreement, and indeed an agreement reached on fuel indexation changes –
VAN ONSELEN: Only after a long period of Labor being in the road on that.
ALBANESE: The fact is the government said that it wouldn’t do this. They in the end broke that commitment. That’s a matter for them. In a whole range of other areas I certainly agree that you need to put the nation first rather than partisan political issues. Just today we’ve had the Australian Sustainable and Built Environment Council, basically the peak of the business community, like the Property Council and others engaged in these areas calling for a Minister for Cities. Now this is an area that should be above partisan politics. The national government does have a role to play in urban policy in public transport, in our cities, in dealing with urban congestion; in improving the productivity, sustainability and liveability of our cities, but we have a federal government that stubbornly says because the Prime Minister’s got some hang up about rail, that they’ll only invest in roads. Now, that’s an example of a policy distortion whereby the business community, the Labor movement, and people who live in our cities are against the views of the Federal Government. It’s an issue that should be above politics.
VAN ONSELEN: I want to ask you about an issue outside your portfolio. I hope you don’t mind, but I take the view that if you have 60% support for the leadership amongst the Party membership you’ve got a right to speak pretty widely. Now, this is an issue around the new Border Act, Mr Albanese. The idea that had bipartisan support through the Parliament but there are concerns it muzzles whistleblowers in the shape of doctors and nurses. I think that members are red hot on this and they’re not happy that your side of politics supported this through the Parliament. What’s your view?
ALBANESE: Well, look the whistleblowers legislation that the former Government, which I was proud to be a part of carried in 2013, we believe covers off these issues. If you’re asking me should doctors, nurses, teachers, anyone else involved who sees improper conduct be able to speak out? The answer to that is clearly yes. We need to have greater transparency in these detention centres. That’s why we introduced the whistleblowers legislation and that is my strong view. It’s a view I’ve been consistent on with regard to detention centres. Quite clearly, the secrecy that has surrounded the government’s policies and implementation has been unacceptable. There needs to be transparency because the Australian public have a right to know what is being done in their name.
VAN ONSELEN: Just finally before you go and I know we’re overtime, I’ve got to get your reaction to Dawn Fraser’s comments about Nick Kyrgios. If you haven’t heard them, she basically said that the way that he’s carried on, if he doesn’t like it he should just go back to where his parents or grandparents came from. Nick Kyrgios has labelled her comments racist. What’s your reaction to those remarks?
ALBANESE: Well, I think they’re unfortunate remarks from Dawn Fraser. I think that that sort of comment is the sort of thing that you might have heard in a school yard many decades ago and simply aren’t appropriate. It is legitimate, I think, for people to draw into question the conduct of our sportsmen and women in whatever field they’re in. They’re seen to be representing Australia and I think that some of the conduct of our tennis professionals has certainly left a lot to be desired.
VAN ONSELEN: All right. Well said. Thanks for your time Mr Albanese, always appreciate it, thank you.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.