SUBJECTS: John Setka; Tax cuts; Medevac leglisation.
HOST: Labor leader Anthony Albanese is standing by his vow to expel CFMMEU boss John Setka from the party despite a push from Mr Setka to take court action. Sky News Northern Australia correspondent Matt Cunningham sat down with the Opposition Leader earlier today.
MATT CUNNINGHAM: You said last week you want to see him expelled from the Labor Party in fact you asked for his I think immediate suspension. Has he been suspended yet?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: He has been suspended. He was suspended on the day that I made that announcement last Tuesday. It will go to the National Executive on the 5th of July. That’s our normal scheduled meeting and at that meeting I will move a resolution of expulsion. I think that John Setka over a long period of time has brought the party into disrepute. There are of course charges that he has pleaded guilty to and those matters are still before the courts but they’ll be resolved before the 5th of July. And there’s just a range of public commentary going back for a few years now that aren’t consistent with Labor views and aren’t consistent with the message that we want to put out there of representing all Australians.
CUNNINGHAM: Well can you give us an example of what some of those comments will be?
ALBANESE: Well some of the comments I mean he used his kids to send a very frank message to the ABCC. He gave a speech at a rally in Melbourne where he spoke about knowing where people live and people won’t be able to go to their local sporting clubs and their local activities. It essentially was an attempt at intimidation that can only be viewed in that way. Now the Rosie Batty issue, he concedes that he said he mentioned Rosie Batty. He concedes that it was in the context of his court case and he concedes that he has spoken about him not getting a fair go in that, in that court case. In what way is it possible that he raised Rosie Batty without criticising her work. It’s very clear that that was the context. He said he was misinterpreted but I certainly can’t place any other interpretation on it.
CUNNINGHAM: You are pointing to a broader pattern behaviour over a long period of time and if that is a key factor in you seeking to remove John Setka from the ALP then surely there is going to be others that will need to go as well won’t there?
ALBANESE: Well I think John Setka stands out frankly for a long period of time of making the front page of newspapers for all the wrong reasons. I can’t recall a positive headline. And that is unfortunate because overwhelmingly the people who work for the CFMMEU the organisers, the officials, let alone the members concerned about ensuring proper pay and conditions for their members, ensuring workplace health and safety. It’s a dangerous industry, you need unions to stop cost cutting and short circuiting of appropriate occupational health and safety measures. And so I’m not I’m certainly not anti the union. What I say is that unfortunately and that’s what Sally McManus is saying as well and a succession of trade union leaders essentially agreeing with me that John Setka is damaging the standing of the trade union movement. He’s also damaging the standing of the Labor Party. Now I can’t do – have an impact on his position in the CFMMEU but I can have an impact on his position in the Labor Party and I can send a very clear message that the behaviour over a long period of time isn’t acceptable, isn’t consistent with our values that we hold.
CUNNINGHAM: He’s come out now, some comments in The New Daily now this morning where he’s saying that he’s going to fight you in the courts over this and he’s made the accusation that the reason that you’re trying to get rid of him is because the CFMMEU that he said in that same speech where he talked about Rosie Batty that he was talking about the CFMMEU withholding money from Labor Party campaigns. What’s your response to those?
ALBANESE: It’s the first I’ve heard of heard of those comments but Mr Setka is entitled to defend his position, he’s entitled to that. But the Labor Party as an organisation, is entitled to determine who joins us, what our membership is, like any other organisation. And it’s very, very clear that the National Executive has complete power to determine membership issues that’s being dealt with in the courts before. So I’d say that anyone who wishes to waste money on legal cases particularly using other people’s money, that is the members of the unions money, to fight legal cases which have no prospect of being successful. We of course have received legal advice at the time before I made my announcement. That’s why we did the suspension and then a process for the expulsion. That’s well-documented what we need to do, we are doing that. And on July the 5th I’m very confident that the National Executive will support the motion to expel John Setka.
CUNNINGHAM: Just quickly on a couple of other issues. The Government’s proposed tax cuts. Where are you at, are you looking at supporting all three stages of these tax cuts?
ALBANESE: No well what we’ve said is that we will support Stage 1. Stage 2 and 3 we want additional information. At the moment the Government’s saying “just vote for it don’t worry about what it costs. Don’t worry about who it impacts. Just vote for it.” The truth is that they can’t possibly have a mandate for not just the term after the next election, but the one after that, which is when Stage 3 comes in in 2024/2025. So we’ll examine the detail. We are concerned about in particular the gap that’s there between hope and economic reality that you’ll know what the economy looks like in 2025.
We had an election on May 18. In June the Reserve Bank cut interest rates and said that we need further economic stimulus. We only had a Budget in the first week of April and already if the Government listens to the Reserve Bank’s advice, they’re going to have to bring forward some infrastructure investment, bring forward some spending,and that’s what we’re calling for, saying they should listen to the Reserve Bank. Now, the idea that in 2025 we should make the decision today, is I think problematic and one that we’re considering.
CUNNINGHAM: But I mean governments always work over a five year forward estimates and it’s almost within the five year forward estimates. There’s a chance you could be Prime Minister come…
ALBANESE: Forward estimates are four, four years. And, this is two elections away. The next election will be at the latest in March of 2022 and the election after that will be sometime probably in 2024 or early 2025. So it is a long way away and these are major changes that they’re proposing and we do want to see what the impact is. The first stage, the Government’s broken its commitment for it to start on July 1. We agree with that tax cut, it’s aimed at lower middle income earners so we’ll spend the money creating economic activity, creating jobs, it’ll be good for the economy. But the third tranche as well, if you’re decreasing your revenue, you might need to decrease your expenditure as well. If you’ve got less money coming in, you can’t have the same amount going out. Now it may well be there’s an argument that tax cuts might stimulate the economy and therefore produce revenue from other areas, but we want to see the modelling on that. We want to see the detail and it’s up to the Government to provide that for us. So I don’t think it’s an unreasonable request…
CUNNINGHAM: They do have a mandate though don’t they? I mean, they’ve just …
ALBANESE: Well they have a mandate for this term, and we’ll vote for the tax cuts that come in this term. They haven’t get elected in perpetuity. And those people who voted Labor, called upon us, voted for something different as well. I mean we have a democracy and it’s a representative democracy and we got a fair few votes in this country as well, and those people are entitled to have their views represented because what they don’t want is what we saw from this Government’s first budget in 2014, that have continued to flow through, the massive cuts to education, to health, to housing, and to infrastructure, cuts that are having an impact ongoing here in the Territory.
CUNNINGHAM: Just finally the Medevac Bill, does Labor support rolling that back in some fashion?
ALBANESE: Well what’s the reason for it? We’ve said that – have a wind back, you’d get some good footage on Sky, of saying literally the sky was going to fall if this legislation was carried. Remember that? There would be hundreds of people brought to the mainland, offshore processing would collapse, the boats would start. None of it’s happened. None of it’s happened. Why did we support that legislation? Because humanity says that if someone is sick and they need urgent medical assistance then they should receive it. Someone who’s in our care – our responsibility. So that’s why we supported the legislation. The Government can’t point to any issues with regard to changes that need to be made.
CUNNINGHAM: Well they pointed to the arrival of six boats from Sri Lanka for example as …
ALBANESE: Six boats after a major terrorist incident in Sri Lanka. So, there was a major terrorist incident there, and guess what the boats, none of the people were settled, they were returned as is the Government’s policy. So that didn’t have an impact in terms of, you know, the announcements that’s been made, and they talk about worries about people coming – well there are still questions to ask about the two people who were settled from the United States. I think they’re from Rwanda who have very much checkered histories about – they appear to be the only two people indeed that have been settled from the United States as part of the agreement. The Government seems pretty reluctant to talk about those details.
CUNNINGHAM: Anthony Albanese, thanks for your time.
ALBANESE: Thanks Matt.