E&OE - PROOF ONLY
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: It’s terrific to be here in Auckland with Penny Wong, Labor’s Shadow Foreign Affairs spokesperson and Senate leader. For this morning we have had a really constructive engagement with Jacinda Adern who was very generous with her time. We talked with the New Zealand Prime Minister about the common issues that we face. Australia is of course very good friends with our near neighbours.
Indeed I believe we are family. That family sometimes goes through some tensions when the All Blacks are playing the Wallabies. But for every other time except for those 80 minutes we are indeed very good friends. And today we will be participating in the Australian / New Zealand leadership forum. It’s an important body which brings together business and civic leaders to talk about issues of common concern and how we can increase and build on the relationship between our two nations and importantly our two peoples.
PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY IN THE SENATE: Just a couple of things. It’s great to be here with Albo in Auckland. And I also want to thank your Prime Minister Jacinda Adern for her generosity with her time. As Albo said, Australia and New Zealand we’re more than friends. We are family. We look forward to participating in the forum and also we look forward to meeting Foreign Minister Peters later today.
JOURNALIST: The New Zealand Labour Party investigation made the front page The Age in Australia. How big of a story has that been overseas?
ALBANESE: I think that Australians are concerned about our domestic issues largely. So it hasn’t been a major issue in Australia. What has been a focus this week is the parliament has been sitting and the issues that we confront. The big issue in Australia of course is the state of the Australian economy. The challenges that the Australian economy faces and the need for the government to actually have a plan to deal with economic growth, to deal with jobs, to make sure that we deal with the quite extraordinary challenges that Australia is facing.
JOURNALIST: But has it in any way prompted the Labor Party in Australia to reconsider or look at how they treat allegations of sexual assault as well?
ALBANESE: Look we’ll deal with our own issues and I’m sure that in New Zealand they will deal with those issues themselves.
JOURNALIST: Did the Prime Minister raise the issue of deportation in this morning’s meeting which she has labelled as corrosive (inaudible)?
ALBANESE: We’re not going to go through all of the issues that were discussed.
JOURNALIST: Well there are pretty major issues and tension between Australian and New Zealand.
ALBANESE: We are not going to go through all of the issues in what was a private meeting that we had. We appreciated the fact that the Prime Minister gave up a considerable amount of her time. I’ve met Jacinda before. The last time I was in New Zealand I was in Wellington and addressed the caucus of the Labour Party prior to her rise into the leadership and her election as Prime Minister. We will continue to have constructive engagement on a range of issues.
JOURNALIST: Did she offer you any advice?
ALBANESE: Well we had a constructive discussion.
JOURNALIST: Did she offer you any advice?
ALBANESE: Well it would not be appropriate and I’m not going to go into what was a private discussion. We appreciated the fact that the Prime Minister of New Zealand was prepared to spend so much time. I don’t go into private discussions that I have with Prime Minister Morrison so I’m certainly not about to go into private discussions that we have with Prime Minister Adern.
JOURNALIST: Do you have any evidence that Gladys Liu has connections to the Chinese Communist Party?
ALBANESE: Well these are issues that have been raised of course by the media. They have been raised in the ABC report that led AM on Monday morning. They’ve been raised in a series of reports by the Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph and other newspapers in Australia, that have indicated that there are questions to answer about this. And I think the big issue is why is it that yesterday in the parliament, Prime Minister Morrison tabled the statement, that according to newspaper reports was drafted in his office, by Gladys Liu.
I think that it would be appropriate that Gladys Liu give a statement to the Parliament. That of course would clarify her position on these issues. And when you have allegations, suggestions of conflicts of interests in the past, the Coalition has demanded that members come in and make statements to the parliament. That’s what happened when Labor was in government. Indeed a range of people have made statements to the parliament when there have been issues raised against them and I think it would be appropriate for Gladys Liu next week to give a clear statement to the Parliament. That of course there are consequences behind misleading the Parliament. And I think that parliamentarians have an obligation to be accountable through the parliament to the people who elect them.
JOURNALIST: Why is your pursuit of Gladys Liu not racist? The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has suggested that Labor’s only pursuing the matter because Gladys Liu is Chinese.
ALBANESE: Well that’s… it’s rather appalling, the fact that the Prime Minister has fallen back to that. I mean, no one seriously believes that the ABC, which is the body that raised this, the public broadcaster, that the journalists from News Ltd and other publications, Nine, that have raised issues regarding Gladys Liu, that that’s the motivation. What the motivation is here is to ensure that there is accountability for people’s actions. It has nothing to do with race and the only person who has raised race in these issues are of course, of course, Prime Minister Morrison. Prime Minister Morrison – the same guy who labelled Sam Dastyari as “Shanghai Sam” repeatedly in the parliament. So go back and have a look at the Government’s treatment of Sam Dastyari, and Sam Dastyari – it cost him his career. He accepted responsibility because he had acted inappropriately.
JOURNALIST: Which case is more egregious?
ALBANESE: I don’t think it’s a matter of levels. That’s for other people to judge. What’s important here is that people be accountable. The fact is that Sam Dastyari paid a heavy price and that was appropriate. It was very clear that he had acted inappropriately.
But on issues like the South China Sea, which was of course a critical issue, breaking that bipartisanship by Sam Dastyari, and Gladys Liu would appear to have had very similar positions at media events that they hosted respectively.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the Prime Minister’s accusations that Labor’s questions on Gladys Liu are a smear with very grubby undertones?
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that this Prime Minister was engaged personally in the attacks on Sam Dastyari and Labor has got to be able to raise questions in the parliament. Had we not raised questions in the parliament there would have indeed been questions raised about why that hadn’t occurred, given that it was on the front page of every newspaper in the country. It was the lead story on ABC’s major current affairs program. Asking questions, which are legitimate questions, that we have not been provided with answers for, is the role of parliament in order to ensure there is appropriate accountability. One more.
JOURNALIST: Should candidates or MPs face vetting from security agencies similar to public servants or ministerial staff?
ALBANESE: Oh look, what’s important is that candidates be vetted by, certainly in terms of the Labor Party, we have a vetting process for our candidates. The concern here is …
JOURNALIST: But your candidate in that seat …
ALBANESE: If you wait you’ll get to hear an answer. The fact is that the questions that have been raised here about Gladys Liu and whether warnings were given has come from within the Liberal Party. This isn’t information that’s come from Labor. It’s come from within the Liberal Party and been reported on by the media. That’s what’s happened here. So if Scott Morrison wants to talk about motivations. He should look towards members of the Victorian division of the Liberal Party because that is where all of this information has come from. It’s been given to the media because of concerns that some members of the Liberal Party have about these issues.
JOURNALIST: Do you acknowledge that Labor’s candidate in the same seat had links to Chinese Communist groups?
ALBANESE: Labor’s candidate from the seat is Taiwanese. Go back and have a look at foreign policy and I think you’ll realise how silly that question is. Thanks very much.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.