Subjects; High Court Ruling; Barnaby Joyce; New England By-election
DAVID SPEERS: Anthony Albanese, are you with us now?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I am indeed, David.
SPEERS: You are? Terrific, I just wanted to get a bit of reaction from you to this High Court decision and what we’ve just heard from Barnaby Joyce as well.
ALBANESE: Well what we’ve seen is that the Government has lost its capacity to govern over recent months. Today they’ve also lost their majority on the floor of the House of Representatives. They’ve lost the Leader of the National Party; they’ve lost the Deputy Leader of the National Party.
Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce have both been humiliated, frankly, given that Malcolm Turnbull stood in the Parliament and tried to pre-empt the High Court decision by saying “nothing to see here, it’ll all be okay, they will find”. Well, the High Court has found that Barnaby Joyce was not eligible to be in the Parliament. And that’s why it’s been so unwise that he’s continued to sit as the Deputy Prime Minister.
SPEERS: Well what about that remark he made Anthony Albanese, Barnaby Joyce saying that in his gut, he felt this would be the outcome.
ALBANESE: Well breathtaking frankly, breathtaking. What he’s saying with that statement is that he sat illegitimately in the Parliament thinking to himself, I shouldn’t be here. That is an extraordinary proposition that he’s not only continued to sit in the Parliament, he’s continued to sit as a Minister, as the Deputy Prime Minister, and as, importantly, as acting Prime Minister of the nation. I mean today, we know now, he’s not even a Member of Parliament and he announced the by-election date. He’s learned nothing from this humiliation, we could have expected a bit of humility today.
SPEERS: Richo did he get that wrong, do you think, Barnaby Joyce, in indicating that he kind of thought that maybe and in fact he probably did think that this was going to happen?
GRAHAM RICHARDSON: Horribly wrong is the only answer to that. That was a huge mistake. I couldn’t believe the words when I heard it, and you were pretty sharp, David, you picked it straight away. There’s no doubt he has now condemned himself. He also showed, by the way, why he’s the best retail politician in the country. Being able to nominate every pathway, every footpath, road and bridge that is being pork barrelled in his electorate wasn’t a bad effort.
ALBANESE: Pity he hasn’t actually built them. Most of them were funded years ago, then sat there. Nothing’s happened to them.
RICHARDSON: Okay mate, all I’m saying, Anthony, is that he was able to nominate a list, and he did a pretty good job of it. But I think the fact that he stayed in Parliament with his own views on this is appalling.
And remember this too, everyone, about Malcolm Turnbull. If you thought it was bad enough there have been 30 Newspolls in a row that were lost, I think the words, “and they will so find” are now going to outrank that….
JAYES: And they will so hold…
RICHARDSON: As the worst and most stupid thing he said.
JAYES: Richo, sorry, Albo, if I could quickly butt in. It’s Laura Jayes here. Can you confirm that Labor won’t be granting Barnaby Joyce a pair? It’s been said to me that you can’t grant a pair to someone who shouldn’t be there in the first place. So is that where you thinking is at?
ALBANESE: How can you pair him? He wasn’t elected properly in 2016. How can you pair him? He should never have been there. He wasn’t properly elected and therefore it is impossible for him to be paired. It’s not like a decision’s got to be made – he’s not there. There is no Member for New England; that’s what the High Court have found.
JAYES: Anthony Albanese…
SPEERS: Will Labor run in New England?
SPEERS: I was just asking, do you reckon Labor will run in New England or leave it to the field of independents?
ALBANESE: Labor will have a candidate in New England, my understanding is. We’ve waited appropriately for the High Court to make their decision. What was extraordinary about Barnaby Joyce’s media conference was him announcing the by-election date, like he was still a person of authority…
SPEERS: It is a matter for the Speaker, you are right.
ALBANESE: He’s learnt nothing from this humiliation. It’s not up to him to issue the writs.
SPEERS: What about Labor’s tactics when Parliament does come back and Barnaby Joyce isn’t there; will Labor seek a no confidence motion?
ALBANESE: Well Labor will do what we’ve been doing since 2013…
SPEERS: No but this is a specific question here Anthony Albanese. Will Labor test the confidence of the Government on the floor of parliament?
ALBANESE: Well what we won’t be doing is pre-empting the response through Sky News today, David. And you’d be somewhat surprised if I said at 10:15am on the first sitting day this is what we’re going to do.
SPEERS: I can only try. I can only try. Not ruling it out.
ALBANESE: We’ll be doing what we’ve always done, which is to hold the Government to account whilst also pursuing a Labor agenda from Opposition. I mean, someone has got to lead in this country and it is very clear that this Government is incapable of doing it.
SPEERS: Richo, Richo, what would you be doing?
RICHARDSON: I wouldn’t move a no confidence motion straight away. I’d give a few days today first, while I belt the hell out of them over this and over Michaelia Cash who still has massive questions to answer because I don’t cop a word of her explanation. I’d be belting them for a couple of days and then I would think about it. I certainly wouldn’t be doing it on the first day, no. Anthony (inaudible) knows more about it than I do.
ALBANESE: Watch this space.
SPEERS: I won’t put this to you Anthony Albanese, but Laura perhaps to you. By any measure this has got to be the worst week in the life of the Turnbull Government and that may be saying something. As Richo points out the troubles around Michaelia Cash have just been awful and now this. It’s embarrassing for Malcolm Turnbull. It’s potentially career-ending for Barnaby Joyce. We’ll see how that by-election goes and there’s now a real question mark about how they hold it together when parliament is back.
JAYES: Absolutely. And it was Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s birthday this week as well so add that into the mix, it’s probably the worst birthday week he’s ever had as well. Look, it’s a bad look. I don’t think the Michaelia Cash saga has finished either. I think it was a very bad day for her yesterday and she managed to get through it. Look, I’m not saying she’s on the verge of being sacked or anything like that but Labor are very good at pursuing people when they think there is a whiff of non-truth there and as Richo just said, he doesn’t believe a word that she says and there’s a lot in the Labor Party that don’t either.
SPEERS: I’ll let you go, Anthony Albanese.
ALBANESE: Laura, can I correct that. There’s not a lot. Every single member of the Labor Party thinks that this is just beyond belief and anyone, anyone who actually believes that after the accusation was made by myself at 9 o’clock on Wednesday, they went through the whole day without checking with the staff frankly, you know, I’ve got a Harbour Bridge I can sell you.
SPEERS: Let me ask you this though, in terms of the rest of the Parliament, given this High Court decision now on dual citizenship and where the line should fall, there are still questions around whether everyone, there are some who haven’t produced their papers for example to prove they’ve renounced citizenship before the nomination date. Should there be an audit, Anthony Albanese?
ALBANESE: We have an audit. It’s called the Labor Party preselection process. We make sure that everything is in order. And what’s interesting about today’s decision of course is that the two big parties, Labor and Liberal, had precisely zero people before the High Court. It was the National Party, The Greens, One Nation, and Nick Xenophon that had an issue today. I know the Labor Party’s processes are very rigorous. Best to check this out before people nominate rather than after the event.
JAYES: Albo, can I just pick you up on one more question, because I’m not saying that this is going to be pursued by the government but it has been suggested to me that one of the wargaming issues was perhaps to move the parliamentary calendar towards the end of the year so if there was a by-election on the second as Barnaby Joyce does suggest, the two sitting weeks would be after. Albo, can that be done? Would Labor agree to that?
ALBANESE: That would be red hot. It would be a signal that this government’s time has come. Any sort of manipulation like that – I’ll give them a bit of advice – just go straight to the GG and put an end to this farce.
SPEERS: Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for coming in this afternoon, I do appreciate it.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.