Subjects; Tasmanian infrastructure, Sam Dastyari, Citizenship
BRYAN CARLTON: Anthony Albanese welcome to Tasmania Talks, how are you going?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks mate, beautiful day here.
CARLTON: It’s a cracker isn’t it mate? You’d want to come down here more often Albo it’s …
ALBANESE: I’m claiming credit mate.
CARLTON: It’s a lovely joint. It’s a fantastic joint.
ALBANESE: It’s always nice when I come down. I’m back tomorrow, next week, sorry. I’m in the south next week so put that in your diary, it will be a nice day next Tuesday.
CARLTON: Alright, will do. You’re probably right actually, just having a look at the forecast. Tell me, what brings you to the fair city of Launceston today?
ALBANESE: Well I’ve been here with Ross Hart talking infrastructure for this part of the world. It’s one thing – It’s good that Darren Chester comes down and inspects projects that were funded when I was the Minister, back from over 2013 …
CARLTON: Albo, who’s Shadowing who here?
ALBANESE: He’s got to fund something new mate! There is not a single project underway in Tasmania, that wasn’t funded by the former Labor Government, and that’s a big problem.
CARLTON: I think Andrew Nikolic would probably take issue with that, but anyway.
ALBANESE: There was not a single new project funded by Andrew Nikolic in Bass. It was all the Midland Highway work, they actually cancelled some of the funding that was in the budget to do further work on the Launceston Bypass. All the other work, including some of the tourism infrastructure projects, got cancelled.
Indeed, even the lower amount that they said they would spend, of some $415 million over three years, they underspent, the budget figures show, by $92 million. So the first thing they did when they came in was cut $100 million from the Midland Highway, they cut over $100 million from the Rail Revitalisation Program for freight rail. And they haven’t even spent what the lesser amount is that they said they would.
Over the next four years, it gets even worse. It falls from $175 million this year, to $62 million in the last year of the forward estimates that show up in the Budget, that is 2020-21.
I think a lot of work can be done here; clearly in Launceston there is further work that is needed in terms of sewerage works …
CARLTON: Let me just stop there if you can, because prior to the last election the Labor Party pledge was for $75 million to sort of kick start the Launceston sewerage and stormwater issue. Is that $75 million still on the table?
ALBANESE: Well we want them to do it. We don’t want to wait until after the election, so one of the things …
CARLTON: But the election is likely to be in January or February next year at the rate we’re going, come on. Is it still there?
ALBANESE: I don’t think that’s right. What you’ll see is, we’ll make the specific election commitments prior to the election; we will certainly do that. But what you will see is further investment …
CARLTON: So that $75 million that was on the table is not necessarily now?
ALBANESE: We make commitments from election to election. If we’re elected they are implemented. But you can be sure that Ross Hart will ensure that we’re going forwards not backwards …
CARLTON: So you know the spin I can put on that Albo, on the headline, Labor Hedges on $75 million water sewerage commitment for Launceston.
ALBANESE: You can do that, but that will be okay because then, when it’s all announced and confirmed and it’s a figure, might even be a higher figure, then you’ll have to give it another run.
CARLTON: I will, and I’ll look like an idiot yes, I’m happy to wear that.
ALBANESE: Remind everyone about our commitments.
CARLTON: Totally happy to wear that. See Albo all I care about is outcomes here, you guys can deal – bugger around with the process. All I want is the outcome.
CARLTON: Tell me, there’s lots of talk for, in and around Launceston at the moment, about a second river crossing, a second Tamar crossing. Is that something that you’ve been discussing in any way?
ALBANESE: We have actually; we were just on the site, with Ross Hart. The idea of having a crossing over to the north that would provide support for some of the infrastructure that is going on there.
You have the new hotel and the silos there that are being built, and that is precisely one of the things that Ross was briefing me on this morning. He is a strong advocate, you always feel like his hand is in your pocket and that’s a good thing. That’s what good local Members do.
CARLTON: Okay, look, I can’t let you go without discussing a couple of things quickly, the Sam Dastyari issue. Clearly he’s been rounded up on by a a bunch of thugs that probably neither you or I, Albo, would probably like to sit down and have beer with, by any stretch of the imagination.
But is, have we got too far into the identity politics here? When you see a politician in public who has taken stands on behalf of a range of what you might call minority communities or minority issues, and doesn’t seem to be representing everyone. Is this an inevitable outcome of identity politics, this kind of nastiness on the street?
ALBANESE: No, I don’t think there is anything inevitable about this. I think people can have differences of opinion, but treat people with respect. I’ve always tried to treat people with respect, whether they be Coalition Members, Greens Members, it doesn’t matter, there’s no place for abuse.
We’re in a democratic country where everyone gets their say, and the sort of intimidation and stand over tactics that we saw in that pub, from a bunch of people who weren’t there to have a beer, they were there to film it. And why they thought that putting that on film would bring them some kudos, says a lot about the mentality that they had. I think whether it’s the extreme right, the extreme left; there is no place for that sort of behaviour.
CARLTON: Okay, the citizenship issue again, we need stop down here, you are in Tassie Territory. Right now Justine Keay is at the centre of this. By her own admission, she has been elected as a dual national. She has got to go doesn’t she?
ALBANESE: No, if you look at her circumstances, they are very different from the circumstances that were dealt with by the High Court already. There is only one person who claimed to have made a declaration of getting rid of their renunciation of their citizenship of another country, and that was Malcolm Roberts. Who sent an email to an address unknown, that was never received by anybody …
CARLTON: I’m familiar with that, but the guy’s got two functioning brain cells Albo. I credit Justine Keay with a little more smarts than that. Quite a lot actually.
But seriously, she’s admitted, Albo, by the letter of the High Court decision, and I know it’s a black letter call, I understand all that. But by the very definition handed down by the High Court a couple of Fridays ago, she is disqualified.
She should not have been there because she was, on Election Day she was a dual citizen. Close of nomination she was a dual citizen. She should have been clean, a single Australian Citizen on both of those occasions, she wasn’t, she’s got to go surely?
ALBANESE: No, what you have to do is read the High Court ruling based upon what was before them, and the cases that were before them were either people who made no effort at all …
CARLTON: But it didn’t rely on them at all, the decision had nothing to do with effort – That was the point of the High Court decision, was to take the effort out of it. It’s whether you were or not, and she’s a dual national.
ALBANESE: That’s not right, and the High Court precedence in Cleary and other cases is about …
CARLTON: Completely redundant by the decision a couple of weeks ago Albo, with respect.
ALBANESE: That is not right. It’s redundant, with respect, based upon what cases were before it, and of the seven people that were before it. Six of them had made zero effort; the only person who said that they had made an effort was Malcolm Roberts.
So in terms of the circumstances, the truth is that courts make decisions based upon what is before it, and what we need to do here is a have a process whereby everyone tables their paperwork in the Parliament, the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Whether it be Jacquie Lambie, Justine Keay, myself, everyone else, Ross Hart. Everyone tables their documentation, and then the Parliament can determine a way forward on these issues. But it needs to be dealt with as a matter of urgency, It is undermining faith in our Parliament and in our democracy.
That’s why I don’t understand why Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t want to deal with this as a matter of urgency, rather than have – A special sitting of Parliament will just add to the sense of crisis which is there.
CARLTON: Has Bill Shorten handled this appropriately?
ALBANESE: I think Bill Shorten has, these are circumstances not of his making of course, and we’ve said we’re prepared to be constructive about these issues, and we’ll continue to be …
CARLTON: Oh come on you can’t’ say he’s being constructive when he’s playing an obfuscation game, for the – at least three Labor Members that have been, that are publicly ousted on the front page of the bloody Australian today, he’s been playing a rear guard for them. How can that be helped?
ALBANESE: No, he’s trying to get this resolved sooner rather than later. I think he is providing Malcolm Turnbull with some pretty good advice let’s get this tabled on December 1 not December 18, I mean why would you recall Parliament?
CARLTON: But then why wouldn’t you agree to – Mr Albanese, why wouldn’t you agree to an audit?
ALBANESE: Because we are not the government, we haven’t …
CARLTON: No, but you know that if Bill Shorten went into that meeting yesterday and said, hey we’ve got to do the full audit here to clear the decks, we have to do this, it’s the only thing we are prepared to accept. He would have pushed Malcolm Turnbull into a corner who would have had to agree.
ALBANESE: I don’t think that is right and because, at the end of the day, the only body that can make final determinations is of course the High Court of Australia. An audit with all the process around of, who would conduct it over what period, asking for information that they have, what’s the legal status of the audit; it would still end up at the High Court
CARLTON: Ok, even under your plan we are going to end up under the High Court because there is no legal compulsion for any Member to come forward with the documentation that they are being requested. There’s just no compulsion to do so, at all.
ALBANESE: If the Parliament passes a resolution unanimously, then it is a breach of the Parliamentary Privilege Processes if they don’t come forward. And then obviously the Parliament would take action. I would be amazed if that action wasn’t a reference to the High Court
CARLTON: Ok, I just think that this is going to end up looking in a very real sense, actually worse for your leader than it may for Malcolm Turnbull, only on the basis that Turnbull has not been as vigorous – he has, but not as vigorously out defending the Members whose citizenship is under question. I think that’s a misstep by Shorten and it will eventually come back and bite him.
ALBANESE: I think Malcolm Turnbull is the fellow who stood up in Parliament and said, and the High Court will so find …
CARLTON: Oh yeah, I know, but you guys are still thinking about this. Albo, Albo you guys are still thinking about this in partisan terms, it is an us versus them thing. Let me tell you, the population is seeing this as an us versus them thing too, it’s us versus all of you guys.
ALBANESE: I agree with you absolutely, which is why you need certainty. Which is why you need the processes to be done, if anything needs to be referred to the High Court it will be, and that should happen.
When Parliament has a fortnight sitting, the first week they can table their documents, the second week can deal with the reaction to that.
CARLTON: Is there likely to be, in that first Parliamentary week, some attempt to claim government from the Coalition?
CARLTON: Will you be manoeuvring to try and win government on the floor of the House?
ALBANESE: That’s not possible.
CARLTON: Well, on the numbers at the moment, but the numbers we might be dealing with then could be significantly different
ALBANESE: No, because I for one won’t have dealt with anyone and the only …
CARLTON: But hang on a second, Parry is gone, that didn’t go to the High Court, he just quit.
ALBANESE: The Government is formed in the House.
CARLTON: Yes, I understand that, but you are a very brave man suggesting that every Member of the Lower House will be there in two weeks’ time.
ALBANESE: I think they will be, I think you will see that John Alexander will stay there. And other people will stay there until such time a court orders them otherwise, and that’s appropriate. I mean, they have been elected, John Alexander is in unfortunate circumstances I think, people are entitled to think that someone who was Davis Cup Captain for Australia is an Australian Citizen, and is loyal to the country.
CARLTON: Jacqui Lambie told me a little bit earlier, in fact a couple of weeks ago, that neither Malcolm Turnbull nor Bill Shorten would be leading respective parties by Christmas. Should there be an issue, are you going to whack your hand up? Because you did win the popular vote didn’t you Albo? You won the mob.
ALBANESE: I’m very happy with the job that I have, and a team only has one captain, but it needs all the players to play as part of the team, and that’s what I do, each and every day. That’s what I did in Melbourne yesterday, I’m doing it in Launceston today and what’s what I will be doing in Hobart next week.
CARLTON: Alright, good to talk to you, appreciate it. Thank you.
ALBANESE: Thank you, good to talk to you mate.
CARLTON: Anthony Albanese, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities, Regional Development and Tourism, in Tassie today.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.