Subjects: Infrastructure; Liberal Party, Christopher Pyne; Labor Party.
PETER VAN ONSELEN: My guest now is the Infrastructure Shadow Minister within the Labor ranks. I’m talking about Anthony Albanese. Thanks very much for your company.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning Peter.
VAN ONSELEN: What did you make to the Prime Minister crowing about the tunnel today with the Snowy Hydro scheme and all of their successes on infrastructure?
ALBANESE: Well there’s nothing to see here as far as the Prime Minister is concerned.
VAN ONSELEN: I bet he would love to get in that tunnel as quickly as possible. And they could seal it for him.
ALBANESE: I think there’s people queuing up to seal him in a tunnel to never be seen again. Look, I do feel maybe even a hint of sympathy for Malcolm Turnbull. The real problem though is that because he and Tony Abbott are caught in this cage fight where they are sort of wrestling each other in this downward spiral, they are taking the Government with them and it is pretty clear that the Government isn’t able to actually govern in the national interest because it’s completely distracted by its own internal division.
VAN ONSELEN: Hang on a second Anthony Albanese. I’ve got to draw a comparison here because you guys had your fair share of troubles in government between Rudd and Gillard but you argued repeatedly at the time that despite all of that fomenting behind the scenes, you were continuing to be able to govern effectively. It goes both ways, doesn’t it?
ALBANESE: Well we got things done.
VAN ONSELEN: So did they – Gonski 2.0.
ALBANESE: Look at the Clean Energy Package. The Clean Energy Package that was put up after the Finkel report has 50 recommendations. The Government say they have agreed with 49 of them. The one though that matters, the Clean Energy Target, has been put off into the never-never. You have circumstances whereby on marriage equality, I mean, for goodness sake, the Government tried to implement its policy of a plebiscite. It was rejected by the Parliament. It will be rejected next year if it is put. It will be
rejected next term if it’s put. It will be rejected next decade. It isn’t going to happen.
VAN ONSELEN: But Anthony Albanese on that though from your perspective I know that you are an advocate for marriage equality so I am just talking about the politics here, not the policy. I know you would like to see it enacted sooner rather than later. But it’s got to be manna from heaven doesn’t it, if that is going to be a continuing issue – a crown of thorns around the scalp of the Coalition?
ALBANESE: Which is why, if anyone has half a political instinct between them, the Coalition will get this done and get it off the agenda and everyone will wonder what the fuss was about because existing marriages and relationships won’t be impacted by this at all. What you will see is jobs created in the tourism sector by the fact that people who happen to be of the same gender can marry each other and there’ll be an economic bonus from this with no downside and that’s why the Parliament should vote. It’s absurd that a majority of the Parliament supports this reform. The Government has in my view very clearly tried to honour its commitment which of course just a fix anyway to placate its own internal divisions. No-one seriously can suggest that we need a plebiscite on marriage equality, but not on the Gonski reforms on education, not one on the NDIS, not one on action on climate change, not one on the Budget. But the one issue we are going to take to the Australian people is marriage equality. I’m a supporter of marriage equality but I don’t think it is more important than the future of the economy or the future of the planet.
VAN ONSELEN: Now you are a former Leader of the House as is Christopher Pyne now. You two do various segments together in the media. Do you think that he should be sacked as conservatives are saying for what transpired at that Black Hand function and subsequently leaked?
ALBANESE: Well I think that Christopher Pyne has a greater knowledge over the functioning to the Parliament than many of the people who are no doubt out there backgrounding against him and attempting to undermine him.
VAN ONSELEN: So is that a defence of him?
ALBANESE: Some of those struggle to find the chamber Peter. That’s the truth of the matter. You have ministers who don’t have a clue about the way that the Parliament functions and the idea that this bitterness and the attacks that are there against Christopher Pyne and against each other, really, I just wish they’d stop and actually govern for the nation.
VAN ONSELEN: Let me pull you in on this one though Anthony Albanese. I mean, come on, you know you can cross the aisle for an opinion on this. Do you think that Christopher Pyne deserves to be demoted for what has happened or do you think he deserves to stay on?
ALBANESE: No I don’t. No I don’t and I say that objectively. You know, it probably is, you know in the politics 1A rule book never miss a chance to kick an opponent. But the truth is the Australian public are sick of it. They are sick of bickering between the parties and they are sick of bickering within the parties and what we are seeing here is a bunch of people who are disgruntled, who take every opportunity to background against each other. I mean people like Eric Abetz and Tony Abbott for that matter. I mean Tony Abbott is out there with this alternative manifesto which doesn’t resemble at all what he did when he was the Prime Minister. He was the Prime Minister of this nation who put in place the existing renewable energy target for example, and now he is out there saying it is all doom and gloom and it should all go and really having a manifesto that is from the 1950s. It would take this country back. It’s angry. It’s nasty and it’s about time that he got over himself frankly and that the group of disgruntled people around him got over themselves as well because they are doing a great deal of damage and I’m concerned that we do need to have a responsible debate over issues like the Clean Energy Target and to get a responsible position on climate change. Labor has been constructive on this.
VAN ONSELEN: Let me jump in Anthony Albanese before we run out of time. I want to steer you to another topic. It was the way that the Government tried to close out the last sitting period last week. They got Gonski through, sure. But they were also targeting Bill Shorten over the CFMEU, saying that he wasn’t strong enough to attack that Setka character from the union movement and you know kick him out of the party. Do you think he should be kicked out of the Labor Party?
ALBANESE: Well that is a matter for the organisational wing. But I will say this about Bill Shorten. Bill Shorten does have strength of character. He is able to bring the fact that he has a record in the trade union movement to bear in terms of the issues that are really of concern for Australians and this big announcement of course in the last 24 hours is about penalty rates. That’s the IR issue that Australians are interested in – the fact that so many low paid Australians are going to get a real wage cut from this weekend and that’s something that we’ll continue to campaign on. Bill Shorten has said that he will restore that and I think that is a policy that will receive a great deal of support rather than arguing about what some obscure individual did. Quite clearly his comments are unacceptable. They were opposed by various people within the Labor Party from Bill Shorten down and of course that is entirely appropriate.
VAN ONSELEN: All right Anthony Albanese. We are out of time now. We appreciate you joining us on Newsday though. Thanks for your company
ALBANESE: Good to be with you Peter.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.