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New South Wales: ALP Secretary explains why Assistant Secretary Anthony Albanese had his office moved

REBECCA GORMAN: And as Mr Campbell said, this morning's action by the Left was a success with Mr Albanese tonight sitting happily in his old office. But the question remains. Why did they move him while he was away on holidays? David Pembroke put that to the Secretary of the New South Wales ALP, John Della Bosca.

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: Well, what we've got is a relatively confined space in the Labor council building in Sussex Street, and despite our reputation we actually are a small group of people, and what we were trying to do was use some space more efficiently in terms of some objectives that have been laid down for us by successive conferences ....

DAVID PEMBROKE: But why during his holidays?

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: Well, that's what I'm a little bit confused about myself. I mean, people tell that there was a sort of personal affront, that these changes took place while Anthony Albanese was on holidays. In fact, the final decisions about the rearrangement of the office were made on the morning that the rearrangements took place and that included a major clean up of the office ....

DAVID PEMBROKE: But it was easier to do it while he wasn't there?

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: No. I mean, when someone's away for five or six weeks. I wouldn't say it's easier. I don't think that's a fair sort of ....

DAVID PEMBROKE: Well, he's not there to put up an argument.

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: Well no, that's not even it either. I mean, I think what you've got to remember is that this is a decision about a better use of the space that's available. An argument is something that I've obviously put over the next couple of weeks. I didn't think there was any argument to have. I mean, what we're talking about here - while we've got industrial relations, Mabo, a whole lot of very important things on the political agenda - what we're talking about here, is about 2.2 square metres of office space. We're talking ....

DAVID PEMBROKE: But it's about status, isn't it, and the other assistant secretaries who have similar offices to one that he's been moved from?

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: .... assistant secretary, who plays a direct role in terms of the party organisation, which is quite different from the role of the junior assistant secretary, so that's something that ....

DAVID PEMBROKE: So it had absolutely nothing to do with the Left-Right factions of the New South Wales ALP?

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: Absolutely nothing to do with that.

DAVID PEMBROKE: As they were shifting his boxes and carrying his desk out, were there a bit of a laugh, did people think it was quite amusing that they were doing it?

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: No, not at all.

DAVID PEMBROKE: They didn't think that they'd at last got rid of the Left, and moved the Left out and maybe brought it down a few pegs?

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: No, not at all, David, not at all. If one were to do that ... we're rearranging offices. A couple of officials were moved out of fair, what could be fairly described as much larger offices than the one they've ended up with. I mean, Anthony was moved out of a fairly large office, the third largest office in the building, and that office was converted, to - the third largest office in our part of the building - that office was converted into a reading-room, library and meeting room, and he has still got the third largest office in our building.

DAVID PEMBROKE: But can you understand the frustration of the people from the Left who say that in such a delicate political atmosphere that really their factional representative does need a room that is enclosed and a room where he can speak confidentially with people on the phone and to not be out amongst the other people where all his conversations can be heard?

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: Very simply, there are four or five other people in the office who have offices about a tenth the size of Anthony's who have far more serious work to do, in terms of the party organisation and campaign organisation, and they don't have the capacity to speak privately to anybody. In fact, that second biggest office we were talking about before is used in campaign times and in other times - is used by a procession of people trying to organise meetings when they need to discuss things in some sort of privacy or confidentiality. I just think that very simply, David, this is a matter where I cannot understand - you said frustration - I can understand the attitude of people when we're talking about serious problems like industrial relations, Mabo, a whole range of things that are really very important to us and suddenly we find that people are talking about 2 metres square of office space.

DAVID PEMBROKE: But there's a lot of status and a lot of ego mixed up in politics isn't there?

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: I'm not talking about status or ego. I don't care about my own. I have to do a fair bit of ego sublimation myself and a whole range of people have to do ego sublimation in order to get a job done. Now, a job needs to be done and if people don't want to be part of doing that job, that's their business, but they can't expect the Labor Party to pay them a salary to do so.

DAVID PEMBROKE: So, at this point in time you're saying, and you're maintaining, contrary to what the people from the Left have said, that this has got nothing to do with the often poisonous atmosphere of the machinations between the Left and the Right in New South Wales politics?

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: One, there's no poisonous atmosphere in anything I've got to do with. I think I have a track record that absolutely speaks for itself in terms of being reasonable about any issue and I've demonstrated this morning that I'm absolutely prepared to be reasonable about anything, but what I'm not prepared to do is talk in terms of people's ego being more important than the collective needs of the party organisation.

DAVID PEMBROKE: Mr Albanese claims that his documents were also gone through while he was away. Do you know anything of that?


DAVID PEMBROKE: Didn't happen?

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: Didn't happen.

DAVID PEMBROKE: Then why did he say it happened?

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: I don't know, you'll have to ask him again.

DAVID PEMBROKE: All right. On to those more serious matters that you mentioned before. Michael Easson said last night that the Budget is an act of bastardry. Do you agree?

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: That's for Michael Easson to talk to you about, David.

DAVID PEMBROKE: What's your assessment of the Budget then?

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: Well, my assessment of the Budget? We originally started this conversation about the configuration of the party office in the New South Wales branch and we're now going to the Budget. Let me just say that, in terms of the Budget, the only body that I would be prepared to take a comment from is the New South Wales Administrative Committee which is the central executive of the New South Wales branch which I am appointed to be or appointed by congress determination to be the spokesman for, and when that Administrative Committee has made a determination about that, I'll be prepared to make a statement officially. Until then I'm not prepared to make a statement.

REBECCA GORMAN: Secretary of the New South Wales ALP, John Della Bosca with David Pembroke.