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Meet The Press -

View in ParlView


20 September, 2009



'MEET THE PRESS' PRESENTER PAUL BONGIORNO: Good morning and welcome to 'Meet the Press'.
Parliament's last sitting week for a month saw two big announcements, a fond farewell and a tick
for Australia's economic stimulus strategy. The Government announced ambitious plans to break up
Telstra, separating the network of cables and lines from the retail business in the name of
competition for cheaper and better services.

COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER STEPHEN CONROY: (Tuesday) We are delivering historic reforms in Australia's
long-term national interest.

SENATE OPPOSITION LEADER NICK MINCHIN: (Tuesday) They prefer Telstra to approach this on a
voluntary and co-operative basis but then, in contradicting that, hold's a huge gun at Telstra's

PAUL BONGIORNO: The OECD gave the Government a stimulus a job creating seal of approval.

TREASURER WAYNE SWAN: (Thursday) Australia's strong performance amongst OECD countries - advanced
economies - is because the Government, working with the Australia people, put in place a timely and
powerful economic stimulus.

OPPOSITION LEADER MALCOLM TURNBULL (Wednesday) Will the Government cut back its wasteful stimulus
spending to reduce upward pressure on interest rates?

PAUL BONGIORNO: Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese is here to answer that question, and
later, Ambassador-Designate Brendan Nelson joins us. He was given the job as our envoy to the
European Union and NATO the day after he warned against legislating for an Emissions Trading Scheme
this year.

And it will require bipartisan leadership. The interest of everyday Australians who want action on
climate change but are ignorant of the cost to be imposed on them by we who do know what those
costs are must surely be placed ahead of political advantage by both sides of politics.

PAUL BONGIORNO: But first, what the nation's press are reporting this Sunday September 20. Kevin
Rudd is en-route to the United Nationals General Assembly in New York and the G20 conference in
Pittsburgh. Tougher new financial regulations and climate change top the agenda. The 'Sunday Mail'
reports the Prime Minister's had another expletive-laden brain explosion, "Rudd drops F-bomb over
printing costs." An angry Kevin Rudd rejected faction leaders' complaints over his slashing of MPs
printing allowances. Even hardened operatives were shocked at his language, the paper says. The
'Sunday Telegraph' leads with "Bosses salary bonanza". The chief executives of some of Australia's
biggest companies have received large increases in their basic salaries despite the global
financial crisis. The 'Sun Herald' has "Dictator takes shot at cup." The paper says accused killer
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov is preparing runners for the Melbourne Cup - and racing club
bosses say they're powerless to stop him. And it's welcome back to the program, Anthony Albanese.
Good morning, Minister.


PAUL BONGIORNO: Let's go to that story about the chief executives giving themselves pay rises in
the order of around 10%. We know that at the G20 later in the week, Kevin Rudd will be talking
about executives' salaries with other leaders, but aren't our bosses in Australia snubbing their
noses at the Government?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, it's not so much at the Government, I think it's at the people. I think
there's substantial frustration out there from people who are doing it tough in what are difficult
economic times but the Government is acting. We're acting, I believe, through the G20 process but
we're also acting here domestically. Indeed, there is legislation before the Senate as we speak
which would give shareholders greater power to have influence over these issues.

PAUL BONGIORNO: What about a cap on salaries?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We don't live in a command economy. Nor does Australia and the current Government
wish us to be one. But I think it is a matter of making sure there is proper accountability there.
As I said, we have this legislation before the Senate. We also have an inquiry being conducted by
the Productivity Commission and Allan Fels looking at these questions. It's not easy to fix them
overnight but it's important, I think, that we do take what action we can whilst not seeking to
impose Government structures where Governments determine salaries.

PAUL BONGIORNO: You are the Infrastructure Minister. You and the Prime Minister have announced
hundreds of millions of dollars on infrastructure spending as part of the stimulus package. Will
you give a guarantee that everything that you have announced in that stimulus for infrastructure
will be delivered?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Certainly. That's our commitment. We think it is vital that we turn around the
infrastructure deficit that we inherited. Of course, we know that in terms of infrastructure
spending, the previous Government dropped the ball and indeed infrastructure spending fell by 20%
as a proportion of national income.

PAUL BONGIORNO: I ask it in that way because Lindsay Tanner is reported - the Finance Minister - of
sending letters to all ministers asking them to look for savings. Now, much of what you have
announced won't happen for a couple of years. Will you be putting your hand up for some of those
things down the track?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What the Government is looking at doing is the underlying structure of the
budget. We are looking at how we, in the longer term, return the budget to surplus. The spending
commitments we have given on road, on rail, on ports, on broadband, on building the education
revolution, on community infrastructure - all of these are important, they are being effective as
the OECD found just this week and it's important that we continue this infrastructure spending
because, of course, it's an investment that will lead to higher growth in the future.

PAUL BONGIORNO: So even as the economy improves, those announcements - those things - won't be

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, those important infrastructure projects will lead to greater productivity
in the future. For example, our investment in rail - we put $1.2 billion into the Australian Rail
Track Corporation. That means our goods will be able to get to port quicker which will lead to
greater income and greater growth. Time for a break. When we come back with the panel, governments
resist it and oppositions demand it - reform of Question Time. And remember Dr Brendan Nelson's
diagnosis of Malcolm Turnbull? Well, the ABC's Fran Kelly does.

ABC RADIO NATIONAL BREAKFAST'S FRAN KELLY: (Radio Interview) Can a person with a narcissistic
personality disorder ever be Prime Minister?

DR BRENDAN NELSON: (Radio Interview) Of course, and we have had a few over the years.

PAUL BONGIORNO: You are on 'Meet the Press' with Infrastructure Minister and Leader of the House
Anthony Albanese. Welcome to the panel, Fran Kelly from ABC Radio National Breakfast. Good morning,

FRAN KELLY: Good morning, Paul.

PAUL BONGIORNO: And from the 'Sunday Telegraph' and all the other News Limited papers, Glenn Milne.
Good morning, Glenn.

GLENN MILNE: Good morning.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Julia Gillard, when she was Manager of Opposition Business, wrote in a submission
on the need for change. Now, I've gone ahead here. We do have stuff from Question Time we want to
have a look at first.

POLITICIAN: Mr Speaker, I move that the member be no longer heard.

POLITICIAN: We saw today in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' that they don't let women ask questions. It
seems now we are not allowed to answer them either.

SPEAKER: Order! Order!

JULIA GILLARD: The mean spirited attacks on small school principals, children and rural in


PAUL BONGIORNO: That's what I wanted you to see! And Julia Gillard recommended five reforms for
Question Time. The first was, "The Standing Orders be amended to limit questions asked in Question
Time to one minute and limit answers to question during Question Time to four minutes.

FRAN KELLY: Anthony Albanese, Julia Gillard made that submission a year before Labor won
Government. You have been in Government almost two years now and nothing has changed. Why not?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What we have seen in Question Time this week is that when you have an Opposition
that isn't sure of what they stand for on WorkChoices, on climate change, on infrastructure and the
economic stimulus, then they end up having an argument about nothing. Certainly, this week we have
seen, I think, a pretty poor performance from the Opposition.

FRAN KELLY: What they are arguing about is the processes of Question Time. They say the Labor
Government is abusing them. The Prime Minister came in on a promise of reform of the parliament,
accountability, transparency. There is nothing accountable and transparent about long Dorothy
Dixes, is there?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, they are arguing about processes because they have no arguments of
substance because they can't determine their own position. It's about time Malcolm Turnbull took
control of the Opposition and determined some positions and they actually went into the Parliament
and advanced them. The fact is under the former Government, there were almost 300 questions in the
last year in 2007. Answers, sorry, that went over four minutes.

GLENN MILNE: But the Prime Minister is giving 13-minute answers.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The fact is we have been dealing this year with the greatest economic crisis in
75 years. What the Prime Minister has done is give answers of substance because the Government has
had a big agenda - a big agenda - and been explaining that to the Australian people. Might I say,
that's something that the Australian people, I think, in terms of their response to our economic
stimulus plan, have been supportive of.

GLENN MILNE: So are 4-minute questions still your policy?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The fact is that we have 300 - almost 300 - answers from the former government...

GLENN MILNE: But are 4-minute questions still your policy?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It has not been our policy. It has not been our policy.

FRAN KELLY: It was a submission from the Opposition Manager of Business.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It was a submission... I was the Manager of Opposition Business when we went to the
election and certainly what we did was put forward a range of Parliamentary reforms, including
giving a whole extra day for backbenchers and particularly to give the Opposition an opportunity to
raise issues. The Opposition chose to trash the Friday sittings and indeed with their responses in
Question Time where they have moved gagging of ministers answering questions, where they have moved
over 1,000 points of order, including more than 200 from Christopher Pyne and more than 200 from
Joe Hockey. I think, really, they have engaged in a strategy of disruption because they don't have
anything to say because they can't even agree.

GLENN MILNE: Just a quick yes or no. Did you use your numbers in the Procedures Committee to stop
4-minute answers?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No. I'm not on the Procedure's committee.

GLENN MILNE: The Government.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I'm not on the Procedures Committee. I don't know.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, Minister, Labor factions came in for a big spray from your backbench member,
Julia Irwin. Here's what she had to say.

AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY'S JULIA IRWIN: (Monday) Factions exist and thrive as the sources of power
for individuals. While they can simplify dispute resolution, they can be a destructive force at ALP
branch level.

FRAN KELLY: Anthony Albanese, you are a member of a new subcommittee of the National Executive
which will oversee all preselections. What does that mean? Can't you trust the rank and file
anymore? Is Labor in danger of not being a grassroots organisation anymore?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, not at all. It is a normal process in preselections that we have involvement
particularly from the Parliamentary leader. What we have is a subcommittee of the National
Executive Committee that isn't new. I have been a Member for a number of years.

FRAN KELLY: These are new powers now for this committee?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: They are the powers we exercised last time around as well which are about the
timing of preselections, making sure we have the best candidates possible in electorates right
around the country that we need to win.

GLENN MILNE: Of course, Julia Irwin is not the only one giving the factions a spray. We have news
this morning that the Prime Minister delivered an expletive-laden spray at faction leaders in his
office two weeks ago. Is that appropriate behaviour for a Prime Minister, do you think?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I wasn't at the meeting.

GLENN MILNE: Would you like me to tell you what he said?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I'm sure you weren't there either, Glenn, with due respect.

GLENN MILNE: I can tell you what he said.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I can assure you I think the Australian people will get some comfort from the
fact that the Prime Minister...


ANTHONY ALBANESE: Isn't dictated to by any group, faction, interest group within the party. He puts
his position and certainly I think he responded in terms of the issue of entitlements in a way that
is appropriate.

GLENN MILNE: Yeah, sure, and It's appropriate to use the F-word, is it, behind closed doors?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I don't know if that occurred or not. I wasn't at the meeting.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Minister, Kevin Rudd seems to be making a habit of appointing senior Liberals to
very prestigious positions. Is this because the Labor talent pool is shallow?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Not at all. What we have is a former Government, of course, that had people in
it, such as Dr Nelson. I think a former Defence Minister, former Education Minister, a person of
substance. I think that Dr Nelson was a very good appointment, as was Kim Beazley. If you think
about those two appointments, both of them will serve of the nation well. We are a Government that
has risen beyond, if you like, partisan views. The former government chose not to regard anyone
from the Labor Party as being worthy of appointment for 12 years. I think that's a mistake.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Are you aware of rumblings in your ranks? Certainly some Labor MPs have rumbled to
me and apparently Peter Costello is next in line. Won't that upset the rank and file? People see
people like Peter Costello as very tough opponents.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Peter Costello is still sitting on the Parliament musing on his future. In the
appointments this week, I think that no-one can argue with Kim Beazley and Brendan Nelson. What is
important is that we get the best possible representation and the experience that both of these
gentleman bring to their respective appointments will put them in good stead.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you very much for being with us today, Anthony Albanese. Coming up, Dr
Brendan Nelson. One of his loves is his Suzuki Hayabusa. It inspired Moya in the 'Sydney Morning
Herald'. "Goodbye and good luck, Malcolm."

PAUL BONGIORNO: Brendan Nelson's farewell speech unveiled the story behind his ear ring. His first
girlfriend wanted him to wear it. But it caused trouble with a delegation of Liberal branch members
in Bradfield.

DR BRENDAN NELSON: (Wednesday) They all sat on the opposite side of the table. The appointed
spokesperson leaned forward and said, "Dr Nelson, we'll get straight to the point. You have an ear
ring". I said "Yes". She said, "We believe you are a homosexual." (LAUGHTER)

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, he denied it but declined an offer to prove it. Welcome back to the program,
Dr Nelson.

DR BRENDAN NELSON: Good morning, Paul.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, first of all, congratulations on your appointment. As we saw from Minister
Albanese, the Government is very proud of the fact you have taken it. But does it send a confusing
message, especially to the Liberal faithful, that you have been quite an effective opponent of the
Labor Party all your political life and yet you are taking a pretty big job from a Labor

DR BRENDAN NELSON: The way I see it, anyone who listened to my valedictory speech would appreciate
my motives have always been to serve the better interests of other people and our country over 20
years now, the medical profession firstly and then the Australian taxpayer and the Liberal Party
have invested an enormous amount in me and whilst I would not be looking for some sort of
ambassadorial appointment, in this particular case it is the European Union, it is NATO and it is
also the World Health Organisation and I think I have an opportunity to work for Australia in
Australia's best interests. I'd also say, by the way, if I were to have ever become the Prime
Minister of Australia, I too would have taken the approach of choosing and finding, if I could,
very good people who have something to offer for Australia.

FRAN KELLY: Brendan Nelson, you have urged your Coalition party room last week not to be
intellectual lemmings on Emissions Trading Scheme and to always put principle before politics.
Isn't that exactly what Malcolm Turnbull is doing? He believes in an Emissions Trading Scheme and
he's urging the coalition party room to come with him and vote for it?

DR BRENDAN NELSON: What I have done is I have urged all of Australia to make sure that we
understand precisely what we are doing. It's important with climate change that we recognise that
we have a responsibility to act, that we make a proportionate response as Australians to addressing
climate change, whilst protecting low income families in Australia and making sure that we continue
to export resources and energy to the rest of the world. The comments that I have made both to my
party room and in the Federal Parliament, which I have been arguing for a year, are ones by which I
stand. It's important for our party, the Liberal Party, to draw on our history, our principles and
our values...

FRAN KELLY: But isn't that Malcolm Turnbull is doing?

DR BRENDAN NELSON: Malcolm Turnbull is doing what he believes is right, in the interests of...

GLENN MILNE: But isn't that what you are saying? The politicians should do what they believe in?

DR BRENDAN NELSON: I have not ever suggested that he or our leadership team is doing anything other
than that.

GLENN MILNE: OK, well, of course you have got the by-election in Bradfield as a result of your
departure. Will you be campaigning there and on the question of the ETS that Fran just asked you,
will you be putting your view as you consistently have?

DR BRENDAN NELSON: Glenn, I did inform the Prime Minister naturally and understandably, that I will
be supporting my pre-selected Liberal successor in Bradfield, hopefully to be successfully elected,
and in that capacity, obviously I will be supporting the candidate and the party in prosecuting the
party's position in relation to not only climate change but other issues.

GLENN MILNE: So you will be arguing against Malcolm Turnbull's position on the ETS in the Bradfield

DR BRENDAN NELSON: Well, what I would expect is that the candidate will be arguing, with my
support, the Liberal Party position on climate change.

GLENN MILNE: Which is anti the ETS?

DR BRENDAN NELSON: Can I point out to you that the absurdity of this is in my community in
Bradfield, we are having the worst act of environmental vandalism imposed on us at the moment by
the New South Wales Labor Government at the same time that nationally we are trying to grapple with
the impact...

GLENN MILNE: Can I get back to the ETS. Will you be arguing against the ETS during the Bradfield
by-election with the candidate?

DR BRENDAN NELSON: The argument that will be put by the candidate who is seeking to be elected will
be the position of the Liberal Party.

FRAN KELLY: So when do you, as Ambassador-Designate, stop arguing what you believe in on an
Emissions Trading Scheme? Because that is what you will have to do when you are arguing for the
Government's position.

DR BRENDAN NELSON: What I will be doing as Australia's Ambassador to the European Union and the
other responsibilities that I have is prosecuting Australia's best interests and the position of
the Australian Government in relation to it. In the context of the Bradfield election campaign, the
Bradfield Liberal Party candidate will be arguing with the full support of Malcolm Turnbull and the
Liberal Party, the Liberal Party position. And that Liberal Party position, by the way, as Malcolm
Turnbull has repeatedly put, is that ideally we should be legislating this once we know what the
other major emitters are doing post Copenhagen. He has also indicated, I think sensibly, that he is
very willing to discuss those issues with the Government in the lead up to the next vote.

GLENN MILNE: So you'll be campaigning in Bradfield. Tell us, what is an acceptable swing against
the Liberal Party in Bradfield?

DR BRENDAN NELSON: Glenn, I appreciate you ask that sort of question, but frankly, it's ridiculous.
What is happening here is that we will have a very good candidate chosen next Saturday by the
Liberal Party from a very strong field. We then go into the by-election. The Labor Party has chosen
not to run a candidate.

GLENN MILNE: On that basis you should get a swing to you, shouldn't you?

DR BRENDAN NELSON: I don't think anybody should underestimate the importance of the decision that
the Bradfield electors will make. Nobody should be talking about swings or otherwise. Last year
when I was the party leader I went through three by-elections. We had a 6% swing to us in
Gippsland. We had a very complex...

GLENN MILNE: Well, if you can do that, can Malcolm Turnbull do that in Bradfield?

DR BRENDAN NELSON: Well, every single... Look, Glenn, you know this. Every single general election is
different from the one before. Every single by-election under the circumstances in which it is
taken is different. But I'm very confident that if the Liberal Party members choose the right
candidate next Saturday and look at the background of the individual, their individual
capabilities, strengths, and so on, I'm confident we will have a solid result for the Liberal Party
in Bradfield. I can assure you will we will be working very hard for it.

FRAN KELLY: Will Bradfield be a test of Malcolm Turnbull's leadership?

DR BRENDAN NELSON: Oh, look, that's nonsense.

GLENN MILNE: But it's not, Dr Nelson. Surely it's not. I mean, Malcolm Turnbull's embattled, he's
besieged in his own party.

DR BRENDAN NELSON: Look, you guys were saying that in Gippsland last year. "This was going
to be Nelson's big test" and so on and so forth.

GLENN MILNE: You got a 6% swing.

FRAN KELLY: And you hailed it as an endorsement.

DR BRENDAN NELSON: In Mayo, we had a completely different set of circumstances. The Labor Party
didn't run a candidate. We had 11 candidates in the field. We had a high-profile disaffected
Liberal and we held the seat with a reduced margin with a very good candidate, Jamie Briggs. Every
circumstance is different. I don't think anybody should be reading into it a reflection or
otherwise on Malcolm Turnbull, but having said that, I'm confident with the right candidate that
sends the right messages to the electorate and a good campaign, I'm confident we will hold the

GLENN MILNE: I want you to reflect on Malcolm Turnbull, if you wouldn't mind. You described him as
having a narcissistic personality. Just as a medical doctor, can you just define that for us for
the record before you go to Brussels?

DR BRENDAN NELSON: (LAUGHS) No, I'm not. I said to Fran earlier in the week, Malcolm Turnbull has
had an extraordinarily successful life with some very tragic things that have happened to him in
his early life. He is blessed with an intellect that most of us would envy and he has all the
characteristics of a person who will be an extraordinarily good leader. Our history is replete with
very successful, strong people who have got that kind of ability, who have been very successful and
I'm confident if you guys give him a fair go, he will be successful.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Dr Nelson, have you timed your departure to make sure that the by-election
coincides with the Senate debate over the ETS?

DR BRENDAN NELSON: Well, at this stage, the decision to go, by the way, is based on the fact that
from my point of view, Bradfield needs a new member, energetic, focused on the future. Let's hoping
it will be a Liberal who can then contribute very positively to the future of the Liberal Party.
The timing has nothing to do with whether there is going to be a vote on any particular issue in
the Federal Parliament.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Do you have a preferred candidate?

DR BRENDAN NELSON: There are a short list of candidates that I think have got the characteristics
we should be looking for in Bradfield but it's entirely a matter for the Liberal Party members. The
party members don't often get a real say, but they get a real say in a preselection and in those
circumstances, in particular, I don't think anybody should be interfering.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, just briefly, the Liberal Party came in for some criticism over not enough
women representing it. Do you think a preference should be given to one of the women candidates?

DR BRENDAN NELSON: In the Liberal Party, unlike the Labor Party, we focus on ability and we focus
on merit. If that person happens to be a woman or a man, that's a matter of accident of
circumstance. It's ability.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you for being with us today, Brendan Nelson and all the best with your new


PAUL BONGIORNO: And thanks to our panel, Fran Kelly and Glenn Milne. A transcript of this program
will be on the web. Until next week, goodbye.