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Transcript of interview with Alison Carabine: ABC Radio National: 10 October 2012: Peter Slipper's resignation; Parliament; Tony Abbott's attacks on the Prime Minister



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FEDERAL INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRANSPORT MINISTER LEADER OF THE HOUSE

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH ALISON CARABINE ABC RADIO NATIONAL 10 OCTOBER 2012

E & O E - PROOF ONLY

Issues: Peter Slipper’s resignation; Parliament; Tony Abbott’s attacks on the Prime Minister

ALISON CARABINE: Anthony Albanese, good morning.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: G'day Ali.

ALISON CARABINE: Now, Anthony Albanese, you spent all day yesterday defending Peter Slipper's position as Speaker. Were you disappointed that he resigned?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No. He took responsibility for his actions and yesterday you might have been at my press conference prior to Parliament meeting where I unreservedly condemned the messages that were in those texts from Mr Slipper. What I did not support though was a stunt from the Opposition that attempted to move a resolution to remove the Speaker in what would have been an unprecedented action and I stand by that.

ALISON CARABINE: Why this sensitivity about the role of Parliament? The Parliament elects the Speaker and then expects the chair to uphold parliamentary standards. If the Speaker fails to do that then surely the Parliament has a right to remove the Speaker, regardless of any parallel court proceedings.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Let's be clear. There are court proceedings underway. There were documents submitted to the court, not cross-examined by the court or what have you, on Friday. More than 200 pages of text messages became public and those messages - the majority of them - actually went back to prior to

Peter Slipper being the Speaker of the Parliament to when he was a member of the Liberal National Party and they were private text messages between himself and Mr Ashby.

Some of them were sexist in their nature. He has apologised for that unreservedly and he also took responsibility for them and resigned last night. What we don't see from Tony Abbott and the Opposition are any apologies for the sexist behaviour and engagement that's occurred both inside and outside the Parliament, and that has characterised political discourse since the last election.

ALISON CARABINE: You spoke with Peter Slipper yesterday afternoon. What was your advice to Peter Slipper yesterday.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I had some discussions with Peter yesterday but I don't go into private discussions that I have with him or anyone else, for that matter. I was obviously concerned with him as a human being. Anyone who looks at the footage of the Speaker's address to the Parliament last night would see that this is a human being who is under an enormous amount of pressure. My concern is just as a compassionate fellow human being.

ALISON CARABINE: Peter Slipper did take matters into his own hand. Wasn't Christopher Pyne right when he said last night that Peter Slipper showed the judgment that the Prime Minister and the rest of the Government was lacking on this matter?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Let’s get real here. Peter Slipper was preselected by the LNP on nine separate occasions. What we don't do and what the Opposition, including Mr Pyne have done from time to time is have two positions. Mr Pyne has one position which says we can't pre-empt anything so he can't discuss the drinks that he had with Mr Ashby in Mr Slipper's office, the liaison between Mr Brough and other LNP figures before these matters were splashed so dramatically by Steve Lewis in the Daily Telegraph some months ago, and at other times wants to come into the Parliament and pre-empt this or other matters.

This is a matter that's before the court. We stated our position very clearly yesterday, which is our condemnation of any sexist comments or text messages. That was appropriate.

What isn't appropriate is to use the Parliament for stunts each and every day.

ALISON CARABINE: But not everyone sees it that way. One of the independents, Andrew Wilkie, says, quote: the whole sorry saga reflects poorly on the Government, the damage this episode has done is entirely of its own making. How much responsibility are you taking for what some are saying has become a political disaster for the Government?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Andrew Wilkie, of course, has a view of things that this is about him, the nature of the Parliament and pokies legislation. You would have heard him espouse that on a number of occasions. This is a tight parliament. The fact is that the Government tried to, at the beginning and Tony Abbott signed up to, as did Christopher Pyne, the Prime Minister and me, a pairing of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker so that we would take away the partisanship of the speakership.

ALISON CARABINE: You were instrumental in luring Peter Slipper from the Coalition in November last year and installing him as Speaker. There has long been a question mark over Peter Slipper's behaviour. Why didn't you see something like this coming?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Ali, he was preselected on nine separate occasions by the Coalition - nine separate occasions.

ALISON CARABINE: But he is - he was lured from the Coalition by Labor to shore up your numbers in the lower house.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: He was preselected nine times by the Coalition, never preselected by Labor. Most commentators in the gallery who observe Question time would agree he was a very effective chair of the Parliament and that was recognised across the board by both sides of politics and also by those people who observe the running of Question Time.

He's someone who has a great interest in parliamentary procedure. He is an experienced parliamentarian who was up to the job of being Speaker and presiding over the house.

ALISON CARABINE: So you're not embarrassed by how this affair has played out?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No. In terms of was I aware of text messages when he was a member of the LNP with some other member of the public, as Mr Ashby was there, I was no more aware of that than I am of who you texted 18 months ago.

ALISON CARABINE: And just finally, Anthony Albanese, Peter Slipper will now sit as an independent. Are you confident that you will have his vote?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: All of the cross-benchers need to be informed about when votes are coming up. The Government's been very effective at getting our legislation through, more than 410 pieces of legislation at last count. Not a single defeat.

ENDS