Mar 19, 2007

Transcript, Radio National – Senator Santoro, Labor’s Positive Policy Agenda

Transcript of Radio National Interview with Fran Kelly

Monday, 19 March 2007


Subject: Senator Santoro and Labor’s Positive Policy Agenda

ALBANESE: Good morning Fran

KELLY: Where will Labor take this share matter now that the Minister Santo Santoro has resigned? You’ve got the scalp it’s over isn’t it?

ALBANESE: Well there’s no doubt that there are some more questions to be asked since the Prime Ministers press conference last Friday, where he basically said that he’d been sacked for not disclosing the 72 at least share tradings that had taken place. It’s quite clear that that’s only half the story, that there are also clear conflicts of interest in the nature of those shares. You have potential conflict over companies which deal with seniors accommodation or retirement villages, another company that deals with intensive care equipment, another company that deals with patient security systems, which gets payments back through Medicare. So there’s a range of questions there, which I think remain outstanding.

KELLY: But who are they questions for I mean the Prime Minister is clearly angry about what Senator Santoro had done. In a sense what has this got to do with him, he can’t know every portfolio his MPs and Senators have can he?

ALBANESE: Well, the Prime Minister is angry that yet again his Government has been engaged in conduct which has brought discredit on it. We just think this is symptomatic of a Government that is arrogant. Before I noticed the question was raised, is it arrogance or incompetence? I think it quite clearly is an element of both.

KELLY: But that’s on the part of one person, you can’t blame that, you can’t tar the whole government?

ALBANESE: I think across the board the big concern that we have and certainly this week we’ll be also very vigorously pursuing Labors positive agenda, is that this is a Government that is really distracted by this. That isn’t doing what’s necessary, over issues such as Education. Today Kevin Rudd is out there announcing the next part of his Education Revolution. In the next fortnight we have the anniversaries, one year in terms of the Governments Workplace Relations Legislation. We have the four year anniversary coming up of the Iraq war that was only going to last months, not years. We have a failure to address Climate Change and Water. The challenges of this century, because the Government seems to have really lost its way. And I think out there there’s a feeling that this is a tired Government. That the Government has changed, that this is a Prime Minister who wouldn’t have presided over this level of chaos within his own ranks. We have the situation of who could be promoted after Senator Santoro’s demise. The problem is that most Queenslanders are under suspicion at the moment of one thing or another, or simply unpromotable. So you have Christopher Pyne who was a Shadow Minister way back, way back in the early nineties before the Government was elected, finally making it back on the front bench because there weren’t any other options for this Prime Minister.

KELLY: But I mean all the indications are that while Labor is perhaps pursuing its as you say its positive policy agenda, it’s also going to pursue this mater for all its worth, wherever it can. Will Labor put its money where its mouth is and support a notion perhaps like the Democrats brought up some years ago of a commissioner for parliamentary ethics, to oversee shareholdings and matters like this?

ALBANESE: Well, we’ll certainly be giving full consideration to the issue of ministerial standards and we’ll be releasing further statements on that closer to the election, so that the Australian people know exactly what they can expect from a Rudd Labor Government in this regard. But this isn’t even a matter of really the fact that the Prime Ministers Ministerial Code of Conduct isn’t worth the paper it‘s written on, this fails the common sense test.

KELLY: Absolutely.

ALBANESE: The common sense test and it is symbolic of a Government that is out of touch and out of time. This is a Government that is now so arrogant that it’s tripping over itself and I think that’s recognised. Labor’s job is to keep putting forward our positive policy agenda and we’ll be pursuing that very vigorously as well, in the Parliament, in the next fortnight.

KELLY: And what about if Labor did win Government, would you bring in any moves to say, suggest that any Minister must put all their shares into blind trusts?

ALBANESE: Well those details are for further announcement. We in the past have gone to elections with very strict and very comprehensive, policies in terms of what we would do to improve not just ministerial standards, but parliamentary standards.

KELLY: Are we at the point now where ministers shouldn’t own shares in this country? We keep running into these kinds of problems.

ALBANESE: Well I think the Australian public would expect that Ministers and other Members of Parliament would ensure, as a minimum, that there are no conflicts of interest in the job that they’re given to do. Being a Member of Parliament is a great privilege and with that comes responsibilities. And I think there is an expectation that is absolutely legitimate, that these sort of occurrences with Senator Santoro where we have the truth dragged out five months ago it being hidden, and going to the Prime Minister, and saying there’s this problem. Him being told to get his affairs in order, but it would appear no checks being made. And if the media can essentially do a search and find out this information very quickly, it’s extraordinary that the Howard Government with all the facilities at its disposal, couldn’t have determined that there was a major problem here. I mean it appears that some of these purchases actually occurred after he was made a Minister.

KELLY: I’m sure we’ll find out some more from Senator Santoro over the next few days. Anthony Albanese thank you very much for joining us.

ALBANESE: Good to talk to you.

KELLY: Anthony Albanese is the Manager of Opposition Business in the House of Reps.