DAVID SPEERS: Anthony Albanese is the Shadow Transport and Infrastructure Minister. Thanks for joining us this afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you David.
SPEERS: So what do you think about the census? Are you one of those worried about it?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, I’ll be filling in the census tonight and I hope that all Australians do because when it comes to infrastructure, the census provides important information about the population, about where people are living, about future growth and that data can be used to plan essentially where funds should go to make sure that infrastructure meets the needs of today and the future. But there is no doubt that there is a great deal of concern out there. I can’t recall this being an issue in the past frankly.
SPEERS: But have you had constituents ringing your office?
SPEERS: A lot?
ALBANESE: Yes absolutely – ringing, sending emails.
SPEERS: What are they worried about?
ALBANESE: They are worried about privacy. They are worried about the information being kept. People weren’t aware I don’t think about, I mean, years ago, they don’t remember that they put their name and address down last time. So that’s being seen to be a new issue. The government has just gone missing on this. The ministers responsible have gone missing, I saw assistant Minister McCormack out there trying his best the other day, but frankly struggling to answer questions about why the changes, why keep the names and addresses for longer than they have in the past.
SPEERS: But do you see the case for that? I mean, having been in government, been a minister, seen how important data is to different departments – you mentioned infrastructure there as well – is there a good case to keep it for four years?
ALBANESE: I haven’t seen any case put by anyone to keep the information in terms of names, addresses etc.
SPEERS: Not the names and addresses. They say they will separate those off and just have a code there.
ALBANESE: Yes, but the code is then attached to the name and that is the concern that is there and I don’t think it has been explained to people at all. I certainly wasn’t conscious. As the Infrastructure Shadow Minister obviously, it’s not my responsibility so I didn’t follow the detail. But I was somewhat surprised that the government just hasn’t got on top of this. You could see it coming. It’s not like the complaints have just started over the last day or two. They have been coming for many weeks and there has been no response from the government.
SPEERS: It’s one of those things you don’t want to be politicised at all. It’s not a political issue.
ALBANESE: Well it certainly shouldn’t be a political issue.
SPEERS: Would it really help matters to have more of the Government’s face all over this thing convincing us that it is all OK?
ALBANESE: Well absolutely. They don’t have to be partisan about it. They should be out there having a responsibility to explain issues just like ministers and shadow ministers go out there in my portfolio and explain the importance of road safety and the importance of transport regulations and those issues certainly aren’t partisan. Today I’ve had various briefings here in Canberra. I’m here for briefings from the department about issues that certainly aren’t partisan.
SPEERS: Well let’s turn to that. What are you pursuing in your portfolio now over the next few years?
ALBANESE Well the big concern is the complete breakdown of the relationship between Infrastructure Australia and proper planning and government action. We saw during the election campaign, quite extraordinarily, 73 out of 77 road projects adding up to a total of $858 million were in Coalition electorates. I mean this is the pork barrel of all pork barrels. This is a pig farm when it comes to election announcements. There is mud everywhere all over these announcements.
SPEERS: Both sides of politics have issues about this in their past when it comes to pork barrelling. But this case you are talking about here – 96 per cent of the road projects announced by the Coalition in the election campaign were in Coalition electorates?
ALBANESE This is Olympic gold record standard. This is unbelievable. And what’s extraordinary isn’t just that. It’s what wasn’t announced. Nothing for Perth Metronet; nothing for Adelink, the light rail project in Adelaide; nothing for the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane; nothing for Western Sydney Rail through Badgerys Creek; nothing new for the Melbourne Metro project in Melbourne; nothing in terms of light rail advancement in Hobart; no new major infrastructure projects announced during the longest election campaign in living memory; just small, little pork barrelling projects – as I said – 73 out of 77. The other four, by the way, were in marginal electorates, particularly Lingiari in the Northern Territory.
SPEERS: We have this body Infrastructure Australia and I know you have called for that to be beefed up, to give that greater say over every spending decision. Should it be responsible even for these minor ones?
ALBANESE: Well, you wouldn’t bother. No, it shouldn’t. One of them is to fix up a road where there is a billy cart race literally once a year. This is just farcical and the Government has just got it wrong. They talked a lot about cities. The only announcements that they did during the election campaign for cities – so-called City Deals – was they matched the money that Labor had committed much earlier on for the University of Tasmania, around Launceston, and the Townsville Stadium and called it a City Deal. There was nothing new in it. After prevaricating and delaying the announcement of those important projects, they just matched Labor’s commitment, put a new title and pretended it was something new. I think when Malcolm Turnbull became the Prime Minister there was great deal of hope from people in the urban policy space. People thought, this is a guy who likes public transport. What they know now is that he likes taking selfies on public transport, he just won’t fund it.
SPEERS: Let me ask you a couple of other issues. What do you think Labor should do on the gay marriage plebiscite? Should you support the legislation to have the plebiscite?
ALBANESE: I think we should support having a vote of the Parliament. I think that is absolutely critical.
SPEERS: But the government has won the election. They have a mandate to have this plebiscite.
ALBANESE: We’ll we have a mandate for our position and our position is a vote of the Parliament.
ALBANESE: We’ll have that debate within the party room.
SPEERS: But what’s your view on it?
ALBANESE: Well my view is that I am very concerned about the implications of a divisive debate for young people coming to terms with their sexuality in communities that mightn’t be as supportive as the one that I represent around Newtown, around Dulwich Hill. It’s a very diverse community.
SPEERS: So better to wait a few more years and legislate than risk all of that with a plebiscite?
ALBANESE: No. Better to get it done. Better for the Parliament to do its job – have a conscience vote. That is what should happen. The Liberal Party …
SPEERS: But the Liberal Party aren’t going to do that.
ALBANESE: No. Well the Liberal Party say David, and you will recall, prime ministers, deputy prime ministers, ministers all saying we in the Liberal Party, we give everyone a conscience vote. Every vote is a conscience vote. That’s what they say and that’s what they should put in place.
SPEERS: But on this they have taken this policy to the election, they have won the election, they are the Government and they are going to put up this legislation for a plebiscite but we don’t know what Labor will do.
ALBANESE: Why aren’t they having a plebiscite on education, on health, on transport, on infrastructure, on everything? Why is this special? Why is it that you and I – I think you are married as well David – you and I who are married, get a vote on someone else’s relationship that is between those two people. I’m sorry, but in my view a relationship is defined by those people who are in it and if two loving people want to join the family of people who are married, without taking away any of the rights that you and I currently enjoy, why is it that that should be the subject of a divisive national debate at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.
SPEERS: Just finally on another matter, tomorrow here in Canberra Andrew Denton is speaking at the Press Club on euthanasia.
ALBANESE: I’ll be attending that.
SPEERS: You are going along to that. This is primarily a state issue except for a brief period where the Northern Territory had laws in place that were then overturned by the Federal Parliament. What’s your view on this? Should it still be against the law in Australia for someone to assist someone in euthanasia?
ALBANESE: I am a supporter of voluntary euthanasia. I argued that case when Kevin Andrews’ Bill was before the before Parliament. I think it is a very complex issue and I think it certainly should be subject to a conscience vote. That’s my view about all of these issues, consistently, that they should all be decided by conscience votes. But I personally think that the reality of someone suffering and choosing basically a more humane way to depart this world should be respected. We actually know from talking to medical experts that it occurs all the time in terms of people make decisions, people get morphine to help them through that difficult time for themselves and also for their family and I just think to say that someone who is at the point whereby their life is going to end regardless of what else happens, but it can end really painfully and in a really difficult way, or in a way that respects their wishes, their personal wishes, then I have liberal attitude towards that issue.
SPEERS: There are obviously the areas where you draw the line and all those details which no doubt that will be discussed.
ALBANESE: You know, I don’t profess to say I am right on this because I think it is a matter of judgment and I think you certainly have to be very careful about the provisions around it to make sure there is no abuse.
SPEERS Andrew Denton’s speech tomorrow should be a really interesting one.
ALBANESE: I’m really looking forward to hearing it.
SPEERS I’ll come along as well and we are going to show it to you on Sky News live tomorrow as well.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.