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Transcript of doorstop interview: NSW Parliament House, Sydney: 14 march 2006: climate change; whaling; opinion polls.

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Tuesday, 14 March 2006


Subject: Climate Change, Whaling, Opinion Polls

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Last week Labor Leader Kim Beazley launched the Climate Change Blueprint. It is a visionary statement and I believe it was the most significant speech on the environment given by a major political party leader since federation.

Labor believes climate change is the most critical issue facing the global community and it doesn’t just impact on climate change itself.

In June of this year the International Whaling Commission will be meeting in the Caribbean. It follows last years meeting in Korea at the end of which the Environment Minister said the following,

“Australia and pro conservations outcomes have today won a massive victory for whale conservation. This is a fantastic outcome because it reinforces Australian’s determination to ensure that all commercial and so called scientific whaling is consigned to the dust-bin of history.”

Well unfortunately for the Environment Minister, whaling hasn’t been consigned to the dust-bin of history. This summer saw more whales slaughtered in Australian waters than the previous year and at the Caribbean meeting the Environment Minister is warning that pro-whaling nations may have a majority.

One of the reasons this is occurring is because Pacific Islands States such as Tuvalu, Nauru and others are voting with the pro-whaling Japanese block. In part that is occurring because Australia’s credibility on tackling international environmental issues such as whaling is severely undermined by our failure to take international action when it comes to climate change by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol and being a part of that global effort.

It is about time Australia was consistent when it came to international environmental agreements, that we not only continue to campaign against the slaughter of whales but we back that up. For islands such as Tuvalu, literally under threat of their very existence by climate change, it’s not surprising that they treat with contempt Australia’s failure to take action on climate change and therefore are voting with Japan and other pro-whaling nations.

Australia must address this and the situation whereby Nauru, which actually uses the Australian dollar as its currency, is voting with Japan. This is an outrage.

JOURNALIST: What do you think of the efficacy of whales being used as a bargaining chip?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think that whales are an issue which require a principled response. All Australians I think are opposed to whaling but what we need to do is to take the next step. Now the Australian government is using diplomatic means but it is failing. Japan is succeeding in stacking out the International Whaling Commission. Australia needs to continue to take further diplomatic means but we also need to take legal action by taking Japan and other whaling nations to the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea and we also need to do more to enforce Australian law in Australian waters.

JOURNALIST: What is you reaction on the leadership issue in your party? What lesson in particular should Labor and Kim Beazley take from the polls today?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: There is a very clear lesson from the polls today which is that it isn’t just climate change that was causing hot air last week. There was a lot of hot air from within the Labor party and the lesson is that disunity is death. When we are out there talking about ourselves rather than the concerns of the Australian people, the concerns relating to the governments extreme industrial relations agenda, the failure to address climate change, then the Australian people will react badly to that.

JOURNALIST: … Labor’s chances at the next election [inaudible]

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I believe that Labor will win the next election. What we have been doing is setting out our plan. Last week’s climate change blueprint was blueprint number six. We now have policies out there on a range of issues. The next blueprint will be on industrial relations. What we need to do is focus on the needs of the Australian people when it comes to these issues. What we need is clean air in order to get up our message.

JOURNALIST: Will Kim Beazley take responsibility for the current state of Labor in terms of the opinion polls?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Kim Beazley as leader of the Labor Party is getting out there and doing his job. I spent three days with Kim last week in Cairns, Townsville, Brisbane and Sydney selling Labor’s Climate Change Blueprint. It was impossible for us to get out our message about clean air for the globe because we weren’t getting clean air from within the Labor Party.

JOURNALIST: Is Simon Crean to the Labor Party what the Japanese are to the whales?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I won’t dignify that comment.

JOURNALIST: … behaviour [inaudible]

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think that the clear message is that all Labor MPs and particularly frontbench MPs have a responsibility to do their job. Their job is to advocate Labor Policy in their portfolio. That is what I have been doing on the issue of climate change, on the issue of stopping whaling and on other environmental issues. I would encourage my frontbench colleagues to get out there and do their job in putting Labor’s agenda on their issues.

JOURNALIST: With only 18% of Australian’s saying that they prefer Kim Beazley for PM, has he become unelectable?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Kim Beazley is extremely popular with the Australian people. Everywhere that I go, and I was with Kim last week for three days, the issues that were being raised with Kim were issues of industrial relations, issues of climate change and the impact it will have on the tourism industry and jobs for Australians. They are the issues that Australians are concerned about.

Now it is not surprising that when you have an entire week of Labor Party frontbenchers speaking out and attacking others in the Labor Party, that what you get is the sort of polls that we saw this morning. That should be of no surprise to anyone but it is a wake up call for the Labor Party MPs to actually recognise that we are in a privileged position.

I had a function last night for my ten years in parliament and what I saw there were rank and file trade unionists and ALP members, not people who are on the pay roll, people who just get out there and work day in, day out for the election of Labor Governments. Everyone of my colleagues has got to recognise that they are in a privileged position for representing the Labor Party in the Federal Parliament and they should take that responsibility seriously and they should do their job which is to go out there and sell Labor’s message to the Australian public.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]… comfortable of winning the next election, it looks like a rabble has broken out?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well in terms of the polls, today’s poll it is true is very disappointing. But previously the Labor Party has been ahead in the polls for all of this year. You have issues such as industrial relations which increasingly is causing concern out there in the electorate. You have a government that has run out of puff. You have an issue at the moment of disunity in the Labor Party but what will occur over the rest of this year is disunity within the Liberal Party increasingly over the leadership. Whether John Howard will stay or go. Whether Peter Costello has the ticker to challenge John Howard for the job that he clearly covets. The conflict between the Liberal Party and National Party, that will continue.

JOURNALIST: What about Kim Beazley actually take some responsibility for the events of last week? He didn’t intervene on preselections. Simon Crean asked him to show leadership on that front. Shouldn’t it be a wake up call for Kim


ANTHONY ALBANESE: Kim Beazley is the Leader of the Labor Party and the Labor Party consists of more than our MPs. The Labor Party consists of rank and file members and rank and file members expect to have a say in who their local MP will be. What Kim Beazley said to Simon Crean was trust the rank and file. They will take into account your experience and your contribution. Kim Beazley was right. Simon Crean was elected overwhelmingly, re-endorsed as the candidate for Hotham. When my preselection comes around next year after the re-distribution I certainly expect to be subject to the rank and file of the Labor Party in Grayndler. That is the process that all of us have.

JOURNALIST: Do you need to be a clean out, particularly in NSW, of some of the back benchers?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I certainly don’t. I think that the Parliamentary Party, including the contribution from NSW, is first rate. You have a number of new additions who were elected last time round, people such as Justine Elliott in

Richmond, Julie Owens in Parramatta who are already making a mark in the federal caucus and in the federal Parliament.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Certainly not.

JOURNALIST: Do you agree with Simon Crean when he says that the party needs more say on the make up of the front bench and that it shouldn’t be left to the factions?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well certainly I think that I’m prepared to look at any way in which we can improve our frontbench team. Certainly I think that at the

moment though, it is important that there is proportional representation, that there is a balance of representation.

From time to time when someone has stood out and needed to be appointed to the frontbench, I point you towards Lindsay Tanner’s appointment to the front bench last year when he came back on and unfortunately on that occasion it was criticised, that process at that time. Kim Beazley showed leadership in appointing Lindsay there. Lindsay is playing a very important role, not just as finance spokesperson but in also co-ordinating Labor’s policy development and I think he

is an example of someone rising there. Peter Garrett has recently been appointed a parliamentary secretary. Peter is not a member of any faction and I think Peter is also making an outstanding contribution.

Thank you.