Subjects: Iraq, the Budget, Liberal Party leadership, children in detention, Max Moore-Wilton
KIERAN GILBERT: Now from our Sydney studio is the Shadow Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese. Mr Albanese thanks for your time.
ALBANESE: Morning Kieran.
GILBERT: First of all I want to ask you about the Prime Minister, he’s in New Zealand today, heading there later in the day. What’s Labor’s position when it comes to the prospect joining up with the Kiwis for an enhanced training mission in Iraq?
ALBANESE: Well that will be a matter for consideration when there’s proper discussions between Labor’s leader Bill Shorten and Tony Abbott. Of course the action up to this point in terms of Iraq has been bipartisan. This is something that’s spoken about between the respective leaders and defence ministers. It’s absolutely vital that that bipartisanship be continued.
GILBERT: On to some other matters and the Prime Minister is getting on with the job – visiting the cyclone affected areas yesterday and heading off to New Zealand as I say later in the day. You would obviously be of the view the vast bulk of the electorate are fatigued with naval gazing, internal political naval gazing, and they just simply want the focus on them as the Prime Minister argues.
ALBANESE: They certainly are Kieran. But they are also concerned that the focus on them from this government has been on attacks on them and on their living standards. Attacks on health, education pensions and the ABC and SBS – all things that the government said they would leave alone. A Budget that has an attack on fairness at its core. The problem with the Budget and the general approach to government from Tony Abbott and his team is that it hasn’t been about securing Australia’s future. It’s all been about winding back the gains of the past. Australians know that and that’s why they’ve reacted against this government. And what I saw in Canberra this week Kieran was Liberal Party huddles, people talking on their mobile phones in the courtyards, talking to each other – the campaign in earnest for who will replace Tony Abbott because it’s pretty clear that his leadership is over. It’s only a question of when and who replaces him.
GILBERT: A Labor MP told Mark Kenny with the Sydney Morning Herald that he’s got post-traumatic stress disorder – having flashbacks, can’t sleep because it’s all flooding back to him. It wasn’t so long ago that Labor was undertaking the same sort of scenario.
ALBANESE: Well certainly I believe, I’ve said very clearly, that the actions that were taken in June, 2010, were a mistake and damaged both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. What’s going on here though is that Tony Abbott and his team haven’t looked like the government from day one. They had a plan to get into government but they don’t have a plan to govern and it is obvious to Australians every day that that is the case. When you ask them about their position they go back into retreat – to three-word slogans, to attacking Labor. The sort of actions this week where you had Gillian Triggs, the chair of the Human Rights Commission, hand down a report – that’s a report that’s critical of both the former Labor Government and the current government over an issue of substance. It’s titled the Forgotten Children because that’s what it is about – children in detention. And once again Tony Abbott has shown nastiness – attacking the player rather than the issue, attacking an independent statutory authority.
GILBERT: But on the substance the government has succeeded on that policy in terms of reducing the number of children in detention by any measure. Surely the Government deserves some credit for, through Scott Morrison initially, stopping the boats and, by doing that, reducing the number of children in detention from up near 2000 to under 200.
ALBANESE: What the report says Kieran is very critical of the fact that children were kept in detention for longer than was appropriate. Why? Because the government made a decision to not process applications deliberately to put pressure on the Senate, essentially using these children in detention as a bargaining chip with crossbench senators. That is inappropriate, just as the report is also critical of the former Labor Government. It’s critical of both sides of politics and what we’ve seen is this attack on an independent statutory officer, clearly a job offer being suggested – an inducement for her to resign because she can’t be sacked from her position and then the government unable to put a clear position about those events. Now they are the sorts of things that led to a premier in my state of New South Wales losing their job for offering an inducement. This is a very serious issue but it also highlights I think the government’s problem of just being relentlessly negative, acting like they were in Opposition. They just haven’t been able to transition into government.
GILBERT: Yesterday you, on another matter, just to wrap up, you put out a news release via your press secretary. I haven’t seen a news release like it – the shortest I think in Australian political history. We’ve got it. We’ll put it on the screen. You’ve heard about the departure of the chairman of the Sydney Airport Corporation Max Moore-Wilton and you are obviously very fond of Mr Moore-Wilton, Anthony Albanese, given that response.
ALBANESE: Well sometimes Kieran one word can say more than 1000. My late mum used to always say: “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.’’ Well, I said one word.
GILBERT: You didn’t risk that.
ALBANESE: I think it got the message across.
GILBERT: I think so. Appreciate your time. Thank you.
ALBANESE: Thanks Kieran.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.