Aug 23, 2018

Transcript of Television Interview – The Today Show – Thursday, 23 August, 2018

Subjects: Liberal Party leadership crisis.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Albo, for you to be watching on here, a little bit of deja vu and the similarities are obvious?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, unfortunately what we are seeing is a Government that is killing itself. I warned on the 23rd June, 2010, and indeed said on that night, that we will kill two Labor Prime Ministers if we do this. And unfortunately I think that was proven to be historically correct. What we are seeing here is a very small group of people, essentially around Tony Abbott. I called Peter Dutton Tony Abbott’s glove puppet on the Today Show last Friday and I think that is right. There is a small, disgruntled group of people who, when combined with social media and some of the shock jocks, are running this campaign for a bloke who, frankly, I have never seen hit 5% as preferred leader. He rates about two or three. Christopher Pyne rates ahead of him as preferred leader. There is a possibility that he may well be the unelected Prime Minister of Australia without a mandate. The Australian public should be very angry about the behaviour of Peter Dutton and the people around him today.

GEORGIE GARDNER: The Australian public is very angry. The Australian public is very disillusioned. You are a passionate politician. This is a sorry day for politics all around isn’t it, no matter what the outcome?

ALBANESE: It is absolutely. Look, we saw on Monday, Georgie, a poll that had 32% of Australians voting for neither the Coalition nor the Labor Party. I think the next poll might be higher, that figure. They are sick of politicians being concerned about ourselves and not the public interest. Peter Dutton, for him to launch not just one campaign, he had that on Tuesday, he had a ballot; since then we have seen, essentially, the Peter Dutton forces say very clearly they don’t care about the Government. They just want to have Peter Dutton’s name on the wall as a Prime Minister for however short a period of time.

What should happen is an election. This is a Government that is out of ideas, that is out of steam. You had Malcolm Turnbull put his hand up on Monday and say: “We can’t have an energy policy because I can’t get it through the House of Representatives’’. If Peter Dutton is successful in this extraordinary campaign that he is undertaking of just blowing the joint up completely, this is a campaign of destruction; if he is successful he will inherit just rubble. I mean, the Government is a rabble and he will inherit rubble on the ground. That will be all that is left of the Government and whoever is in charge should go to Yarralumla and give the Australian people an opportunity to put this mob out of their misery.

GARDNER: Anthony Albanese, you talk about the Peter Dutton forces. Just elaborate on who precisely the Peter Dutton right forces are.

ALBANESE: Well, this is the hard right wing of the Liberal Party. These are the people who believe that climate change isn’t happening, in spite of all of the evidence that is out there. These are the people who believe in the public funding of coal-fired power stations. These are the people who believe in the past. They hanker for an Australia that, frankly, we have moved on from as a modern nation. And they are people who are very frustrated about any progress in society, and they want to turn at the clock back. And they are angry at Malcolm Turnbull. They are angry at Labor. They are angry at anyone who disagrees with them. You have had circumstances now here in Parliament whereby you have had many women MPs – they don’t have that many on the Liberal side – complaining about being intimidated to sign petitions. You have had quite an extraordinary series of events that have just rolled on. And meantime they are not governing. We are supposed to have a Ministerial Statement today that I was supposed to be responding at 9.30 about the MH370. That is an issue which of course directly affected Australian families in that tragedy. It is not going ahead at any particular time because the Government has simply stopped functioning in this building.

STEFANOVIC: Albo, you know what it is like though as an analysis as well, to be inside that party when it self-destructs. You know that there are decisions that need to be made if you believe that the leader that you have cannot lead your party to the next election to victory and something needs to be done; the wound needs to be cauterised, and you were involved in that. The problem for you is the people who you are attacking this morning, in terms of the right of the Coalition, may be the very people that make it harder for you to win at the next election.

ALBANESE: Well the truth is that in Australian politics it is won more from the centre, than either the extreme right or the extreme left. That is the history of politics in Australia, that people have to be prepared to reach out and appeal beyond just the core base. What the Liberal Party are forgetting here is that it is not just Liberal Party members who go to branch meetings who get to vote at federal elections. There are other people. And what they expect is a bit of common sense in their politics, is less ideology, is a government that is prepared to stand up for them.

We had a chat, Karl, just a couple of months ago – it seems like a long time ago – the speech I gave in the Whitlam Oration was pretty prescient given the events this week. What I was saying there is that people want more solutions, less argument. They want people to be prepared to reach out, to both unions and employers. They want a more consensus approach in their politics. They are sick of people just yelling at each other. What we have seen – I mean, Peter Dutton, I get on with him OK, but the bloke can’t crack a smile. You know he is so angry at the world. What we actually need is to lift people up. That is what political leaders need to do and I don’t think Peter Dutton, if he is successful, will be capable of that. And Malcolm Turnbull, unfortunately, is in a circumstance whereby all of the things that he believed in he has given up in order to, one; gain power from Tony Abbott but, two; keep power at the moment and we saw that with a complete capitulation. Even though last week on energy it was overwhelmingly carried by his party room, that wasn’t enough because again you saw that small group of angry people effectively have veto over policy.

GARDNER: Let’s get back to this proposed second spill and knowing spills as you do, intimately, from within Labor ranks, give us a bit of insight as far as you know as to what will be going on as we speak? We understand that Mathias Cormann, who of course carries a lot of influence in this situation, is meeting now with the Prime Minister. Give us a bit of an understanding as to what would be the next step, if you could.

ALBANESE: Well, what will be going on is a strategic assessment of whether, on the one hand, a Leader, when someone asks for a ballot, people give them one. That is the history. When on the night of 23rd of June, 2010, Kevin Rudd and senior people in the Government debated whether we should bring on the ballot for leadership the next morning, or whether the rules would apply of signatures on a petition. Kevin Rudd announced, I think quite the rightly at that time, to bring on the ballot the next morning, knowing, I think at that time, that it was likely he would not be successful, but it was in the interests of the Government continuing, the Labor Government continuing, that he do that. So he put the collective interest before his own, if you like, and Julia Gillard of course emerged as Prime Minister the next day.

The circumstances here are very different because what they will be weighing up is that they have had a ballot just two days ago. I mean if they give them another ballot today, if Peter Dutton can’t get the 43 signatures, and at this stage it would appear, I reckon, if he had them, then he would be waving them in front of a camera now. If they give him another ballot today, do they have another one in two days’ time? I mean, there is a limit. So I think Malcolm Turnbull is within his rights to say no, you had your ballot. There is another party room in a couple of weeks. There is no doubt this instability is permanent now. What we might be seeing, essentially, is a split emerging which can’t be repaired and effectively, a split in the Liberal Party between the conservative forces and the moderate forces, because this sort of behaviour is very difficult to put back together. That is the problem that they have. There is the added issue, of course, is Peter Dutton eligible to be in the Parliament?

Now, Peter Dutton’s so-called legal advice isn’t explicit about that at all. We have released advice from Brett Walker, SC. He is one of Australia’s leading legal minds, saying there is a very real issue here. Professor Anne Twomey has said the same thing. The circumstances whereby, I don’t believe it is possible that Peter Dutton could be sworn in with that cloud over his head, and the circumstances whereby the Government has sought advice from the Solicitor-General, certainly when that is received that should be released. There is, at the very least, a cloud over Peter Dutton and it is a cloud that probably can of only be settled by the High Court of Australia making a determination.

STEFANOVIC: Albo, you’ve also got a great ability to cut through and also to talk in a fairly neutral way in terms of some issues. If you were to be the Prime Minister right now, given you know him, also given what is happening around him, what is his move? How does he survive even today?

ALBANESE: Well he just has to hold his nerve today. There is no doubt that Christopher Pyne will be giving him that advice this morning. I think the issue of the cloud over Peter Dutton’s eligibility to be a Member of Parliament – and what we know is that the High Court has been really strict on these issues. People who thought and they had legal advice saying they were OK, went to by-elections or, in senators’ cases, were simply replaced by the next person on the ticket. And the High Court has ruled: don’t worry about if it was an accident or because you thought it was OK or you didn’t have time to fix up your eligibility. It is a black-and-white interpretation is what this High Court has had. And there are real circumstances here. We had of course the South Australian Senator from Family First, Bob Day, rubbed out on the issue of Section 44 of the Constitution. That led to his resignation from the Parliament. So we will wait and see where that ends up. But I think that means almost that Malcolm Turnbull has an obligation to not just walk away.

There is the other thing that may well happen here as well, which is there is a possibility of the emergence of a Scott Morrison or a Julie Bishop. Certainly both of them, Julie Bishop in particular, is obviously much more popular in all of the polls than Peter Dutton. There will be people who are either in the Turnbull camp or maybe they voted for Dutton because they think it is time for a change of some sort, or there are people who just want an end to all of this who will be considering whether there is the possibility of the emergence of another candidate which is of course more likely if the Prime Minister of this morning is still the Prime Minister of this evening.

STEFANOVIC: Well tomorrow morning on the Today Show you might be joined by Prime Minister Christopher Pyne for your weekly segment and we look forward look to that.

GARDNER: Well there is a thought.

ALBANESE: Well I think that at least would be a more interesting ride for the nation.

STEFANOVIC: Thanks Albo.