Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Interview Transcripts"
Nov 29, 2013

Doorstop Interview


Subjects: Qantas; ADM 

REPORTER:  Qantas has asked Commonwealth guarantee on its debts, is that something you’d consider supporting?

ALBANESE:   What we’ve said about the Qantas issue and we’ve said this in Government, is that it is an important Australian airline. A national carrier plays an important role beyond just another company. A national carrier is important for security reasons and the economy, but also when issues have arisen when Australians needed assistance in places like the Middle East, Qantas has been able to assist, and that’s important too.

So there’s a reason why national governments make sure that they have airlines that are owned by the country they’re from, whether they be government owned or private sector owned. The international aviation system also relies upon air services agreements. They’re done from government to government. And there would be real implications were Qantas to become a foreign owned airline.

So Labor’s position is clear. Qantas is an iconic Australian airline. Qantas must remain in majority Australian hands and we do not support changes to the Qantas Sale Act which would diminish that Australian ownership requirement.

With regard to support for other measures that might be needed, we’d be prepared to consider any proposal that the government has in a constructive way. I’ve said in the past that the government should consider measures such taking a small equity position in the airline in order to signal to markets that this isn’t a company that is just like any other in Australia.

That is how some other governments have responded to these issues and if the government was to approach the opposition we would be constructive. But it’s really up to the Government to come up with a proposition and then approach the Labor Party.

REPORTER:  Qantas wants urgent action on this, do you think a guarantee could be given urgently?

ALBANESE:   Well there’s no reason why the government can’t take action on this. They should give it full consideration.  We were asked prior to the election to provide some assurances or a statement before the credit agencies and certainly the government at the time and myself as a minister made it clear what our position was. The government needs to come up with a position – they’re the government – and we’ll consider it on its merits.

REPORTER:  Do you agree with Qantas that urgent action is needed? 

Certainly it’s the case that Qantas are saying that they would action to occur sooner rather than later, but if the decision is going to be made in a months’ time or two months’ time there’s no reason why it can’t be made in a week’s time.

REPORTER:  In regards to infrastructure investment do you think the government should fund the infrastructure that was promised as part of the ADM bid?

ALBANESE: I’m not familiar with all of that, it’s not my portfolio area and I believe the appropriate spokesperson will respond to the details.

REPORTER:  It was regarding rail infrastructure –   

ALBANESE:   They’ll respond to the details of that. I’m not in a position to, having been travelling today and at this conference. What I know is in terms of the responsibility for this area, it is Joel Fitzgibbon and I’d be surprised if he hasn’t responded today.


Oct 4, 2013

Transcript of doorstop, Hobart

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Can I thank Joan and the other life members here very much, and those who have signed the support letter for my candidacy for the Labor Party leadership.

It is very humbling to be in the position whereby you have people who have made a contribution to the Labor Party and to the labour movement – not for a day, not for a week or a month or a year, or even a decade, but for decades – to be putting themselves in a position of publicly supporting my candidacy.

I had to think very carefully before I put myself forward. I’m not someone who went into Parliament to become the Labor Leader. I went into Parliament to be part of the Labor team.

I now believe that I am in a position to be the best candidate to offer vision, unity and strength that we need to take us forward, to take on Tony Abbott, and to return to Government at the very next election.

I think that politics is going to enter an exciting phase. What would normally happen just three weeks after an election defeat would be the Labor Party would be commiserating with ourselves on the loss. We wouldn’t be talking about the future agenda of Labor.

What has happened with this democratic process is that the Labor Party is now more energetic, more united, stronger going forward than anyone could possibly have envisaged before this process began.

Forty-four thousand ALP members are getting a vote. They are getting a vote in the privacy of their homes, it’s up to them to determine whether they declare who they are voting for or not.

So they are making their own decisions, they are putting that forward, they are engaged.

I’ll speak to more 150 people tonight here in Hobart. Last night I spoke to more than 150 in Wollongong, and in the past couple of weeks I have spoken to over 3,000 ALP members who have attended forums that have been put on to promote my candidacy and for me to advocate for support for the Labor leadership. That is quite extraordinary.

What also is happening is that along with the life members being excited about the first time being given a say in this, there are new people joining. Thousands of them; not hundreds, but thousands. More than 2,000 new members have joined the Australian Labor Party as a result of Labor saying to them ‘we respect you, we want your opinion, we want you to have a real say in the future direction of the Labor Party – not just to stuff letterboxes or hand out how to votes on polling day, as important as that role is’.

So this is an exciting time for Labor. I support further democratisation. We need to give the membership a direct say in who delegates are to ALP national conference for example. We need to take this renewal forward in a positive way.

I’m someone who first advocated direct election in a position before the ALP centenary conference in 1991. This has been very much a long term commitment that I have had to Labor Party reform, and if I’m the leader I’ll certainly be pursuing it vigorously because I’ve seen firsthand the new energy that is there in the Labor Party.

I must say in terms of policy vision, I would say one thing; there’s a lot of talk from time to time about polls and whether people should take notice of them. My vision is a Labor Party that doesn’t respond to polls, and is one that shapes them. It’s one that gets out there and argues our case and shapes public opinion. Not one that is passive and just responds to polls, and therefore finds ourselves in a position of continually trying to play catch up politics.

I want a Labor Opposition that argues in favour of Labor’s positive legacy – on the Murray Darling Basin, on taking action on climate change, on the Better Schools plan, on Disability Care Australia, on our economic performance that has left the Australian economy in such a strong state. On all of those issues I will defend our legacy.

But I also want a Labor Opposition that develops the new big ideas. What is the next National Broadband Network?

We need to be arguing our case on those. Here in Tasmania as well we are already seeing with the Coalition Government 85,000 homes potentially missing out on the National Broadband Network.

Prior to the election you had Tasmanian senators all saying ‘oh don’t worry, we’ll continue the full roll out of the NBN’. I stood here in this very spot prior to the election and warned of the consequences of the election of the Coalition. And what we are seeing is Malcolm Turnbull walking away from those commitments.

What we’re seeing also is projects such as the Midland Highway and other infrastructure projects – the rail revitalisation plan – being threatened. What we’re seeing is the support for the Tasmanian freight plan being undermined as well, and hence exporters are missing out due to a failure of the incoming government to commit to that. All they are committing to is a Productivity Commission review. Well there have already been a couple; we know they are against it, so we know what that means as well.

So this is a very serious position. What I want is to be in a position as Labor Leader to be a strong advocate, to unite our Party, and to be able to move forward on those issues here in Tasmania, but right around the country.

QUESTION: Do you think that you will win?

ALBANESE: Well that’s a matter for the membership. The great thing about giving 44,000 people a vote in the privacy of their homes is that no one knows. No one knows.

People will vote and that will be an exercise in democracy in a major political party like we have never seen before. So it’s a very positive exercise in terms of the membership.

I’m heading out and talking to as many people as I can. I’ve been very humbled by the support that I have received up to this point; the people who have turned up to forums, the people who have indicated their support.

None better than the support I am getting today from these fantastic life members. My mum was a life member of the Labor Party and she was a rank and file member. She never held a single position in her life – wasn’t even vice president, didn’t go as a delegate to anywhere – she just went along, handed out how to votes, participated in her local community.

Life members should be honoured in the Labor Party. I’m certainly honoured by the support I am getting today.

QUESTION: Tanya Plibersek has said that she is willing to stand as Bill Shorten’s deputy. What does that mean for you in terms of votes, and does it mean you are (inaudible)?

ALBANESE: That’s actually not what she said, so you might want to –

QUESTION: Have you had a chat with her though?

ALBANESE: You read the article, it was in your paper I think. So you can quote her accurately and then I’ll comment on it.

What we’re doing is having a ballot for the leadership of the Australian Labor Party. The matter of the deputy leadership – I’m the current Deputy Leader of the Labor Party. I’m the Deputy Leader of the Party. That position will be determined by the caucus. It isn’t the subject of this process.

QUESTION: But will it cost you votes?

ALBANESE: Will what cost me votes?

QUESTION: The fact that the left can vote for Bill and still have a very prominent –

ALBANESE: Well I think people in the Labor Party are sophisticated enough to see through political strategies. I think they are very sophisticated about that.

They understand that – and I say this as the Deputy Leader – as important as that job is, the job that is much more important than the Deputy Leader is who the Leader of the Labor Party is.

And in terms of that process I am putting myself forward. It’s up to whoever wants to put themselves forward as Deputy Leader to do so. I’m the current Deputy Leader, but if anyone wants to put themselves forward, they are certainly entitled to do so.

Tanya Plibersek is someone who is a quality person, she is a friend of mine and she is supporting my candidacy for the leadership of the Labor Party and she has made that position very clear.

It’s also my view that Bill Shorten is a very good candidate for the Leader of the Labor Party. As much as it is frustrating for some people in the media that there is not an arm wrestle going on, what we are seeing here is the Labor Party at our best.

One of the lessons that hopefully everyone has learnt from recent years is that the public as well as the membership are tired of conflict between personalities within the Labor Party.

What you can have is a democratic process between two candidates – myself and Bill – undertaken with respect and the outcome respected.

I think Bill would make a very good Leader of the Labor Party. If he is successful I will be loyal to him.

QUESTION: Are you promising anything different for Tasmania than Bill Shorten, and will you commit to a Tasmanian in Cabinet if elected?

ALBANESE: I absolutely will commit to a Tasmanian in the Shadow Cabinet. We lost the election.

Can I say this, when I became Deputy Prime Minister there was a Tasmanian put in the Cabinet. She is here today, Julie Collins, and she is an outstanding representative of Tasmania and got there on merit. Not because she is Tasmanian, not because she is a woman – they’re bonuses – she got there on merit.

And I couldn’t envisage any Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet that I led that wouldn’t have Julie Collins in a prominent position, as well as consideration of other very good Tasmanian representatives of whom there are very many, not just Julie.

QUESTION: Is the process really that refreshing when you have got the left bombarding their friends telling them to vote for you and the right doing the same for Bill Shorten? It’s all pretty predictable, isn’t it?

ALBANESE: Well you might think that that’s the case. You weren’t at the barbecue held at Jack Camp’s house on Tuesday night – Jack Camp, a former president of the Queensland branch of the Labor Party, one of the leading lights of the old guard.

Arch Bevis launched my campaign in Queensland. People like Craig Emerson – last time I looked not a member of the left, out there campaigning very hard for my candidacy.

And at the rank and file level I assure you there are people from across the spectrum who are just making up their own mind about these issues.

I’ve been in the Labor Party a long time. I came as a youth delegate, I was the Young Labor delegate to the 1986 national conference here in this great city of Hobart. I’ve been a delegate to every single ALP national conference since, and as I’ve spoken to people around the country, the fact that there are so many people who I’ve met who I’ve campaigned with, who I have worked with as Local Government Minister or I’ve worked with in Opposition as Shadow Environment Minister, or Shadow Aged Care, or Shadow Housing Minister or Indigenous Affairs, or arts; across the spectrum I’ve met many people in the Labor Party. I’ve attended over a long period of time various state and territory ALP conferences and there is a whole range of people who are supporting my candidacy in this ballot.

I was in Wollongong last night, the Australian Workers’ union Port Kembla branch are very strongly supporting my candidacy for the Labor leadership.

So in terms of putting people into a box, we’re not seeing that.

I think it is really important that people are able to vote however they see it. I certainly haven’t asked anyone to be bound in terms of any caucus processes or anything else in Canberra, or in the rank and file ballot.

I’m putting myself forward, not as a factional candidate; I’m putting myself forward as a candidate for the Australian Labor Party. That’s the way I have conducted myself I must say in the caucus over a considerable period of time.

You can’t be Leader of the House in a minority parliament particularly if you are looking after just your friends. What you have to do is look after everyone in the Labor Party, everyone on the cross benches, and some on the other side as well. And I did that pretty successfully during the last parliament.

QUESTION: You are very passionate about the NBN. Do you have any thoughts on the board that Malcolm Turnbull has put in?

ALBANESE: Well Malcolm Turnbull has walked away from commitments that he said. Before the election a day didn’t go past where he didn’t say ‘what we need is someone who knows about construction’. Well he has got rid of a board and a number of the board members have made comments about why would you put yourself forward if you were someone like Brad Orgill, a significant person with private sector experience to partake a government board without even meeting that board as day one he just got rid of them.

There is only one new appointment to this three person board, and that’s Ziggy Switkowski. Ziggy does not have construction experience with Telstra or with Optus, so Mr Turnbull has failed his own test.

The problem for Mr Turnbull is that he has gone on about the cost of the NBN. The cost to government of our NBN plan is $30.5 billion. The cost of his is $29.6 billion to government. It might have been $29.5. There is a three per cent differential in government equity.

The problem is, what is already clear is that the fibre to the fridge option, which is what he wants to do – fibre to this big box at the end of streets and then the old copper wire coming out. The problem is, the cost of that will be even more because of the cost of maintenance, the cost of how you deal with purchasing and deal with the copper.

The issue of handing back essentially the monopoly back to a privately owned company in Telstra, because Telstra own the copper that is there, the cost of the proposal will end up being more than doing it properly; doing it once, doing it right and doing it with fibre.

So I think this is a big issue for Mr Turnbull. It would be nice if he could have gone a week sticking to the rhetoric that he has prior to the election.

QUESTION: Given what you have said about factions today, are you saying that it is possible that Tanya Plibersek could be deputy under you?

ALBANESE: I’m saying that’s a matter for the caucus. And one of the things that I haven’t done in this process – I announced I was running for the leadership to the caucus. I treated the caucus with respect. I intend to continue to treat the caucus with respect, rather than come up with names in order to try and secure a political advantage.

QUESTION: So you are saying that Bill Shorten is not treating caucus with respect?

ALBANESE: I’m saying that I intend, this is a decision for the caucus, it is not a matter of a leader appointing a deputy.

What I did when I stood as deputy leader in a ballot against Simon Crean, was put myself forward. I was not part of a ticket.

I received in that ballot the support of Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Julie Collins, Stephen Conroy, Penny Wong, Craig Emerson, Greg Combet, Tanya Plibersek, Jenny Macklin; all of those people supported me.

Now you might have noticed that at that time not everyone in that group was all on the same page over a range of issues. I think the fact that I was able to bring that support to the position indicates I think my ability and capacity to work with people in a straightforward way over a long period of time.

It’s a matter for the caucus, not a matter for me to say ‘yes I want a woman’ or ‘yes I want this person or that person’. It will be up to the caucus to determine and that is the appropriate way that the caucus has determined will operate.

QUESTION: You said you’re expecting 150 people at your address this afternoon, what are the Tasmanian specific issues that you will be talking about?

ALBANESE: I’ll be talking about the needs of Tasmania; firstly in terms of our record. Our record and the need to defend it against the attacks that will come; the attacks that will come against infrastructure spending, the attacks that will come on the issue of exports and freight that has been such a big issue here in Tasmania.

On the National Broadband Network, on support for the full role out of the Better Schools plan.

We did a lot of work – take the freight plan – that was worked out with the council, worked out with industry, worked out over a considerable period of time after full and proper consultation. That should not be subject to political whims.

The funding for that was not – politics wasn’t involved. It was about what was best for Tasmania.

There are a few new members now of the parliament in Tasmania. They are going to have to determine whether they will represent the interests of Tasmania, or whether they will represent the interests of people in Sydney and Melbourne who dominate the Liberal Party.

We have a proud record here in Tasmania.

We will also be talking about democracy in the Labor Party, how we extend it, how we engage the membership. How we use this momentum, which we have built in jst three weeks, to take us forward for the next three years.

QUESTION: On the issue of the NBN, how would you say the Coalition has betrayed Tasmania since the comments that were made in the lead up to the election?

ALBANESE: They said very clearly, the Coalition said that the roll out to homes, businesses, schools and hospitals would continue. It has now been stopped.

They are now saying that only where construction has commenced will the roll out continue. And that means 85,000 homes missing out.

Now they were promised prior to the election, and you have very clear statements from Tasmanian senators. I put out just about a release a day about these issues during the federal election campaign.

Mr Turnbull led people to believe that the NBN was safe here in Tasmania. Just like they said in WA – I’ll be interested to see what happens with this GST review – they said one thing in WA, a different thing here in Tasmania.

Well now that they are the Government, that’s a lot more complex than coming up with three word slogans. They have actually got to be held to account, and we should hold them to account.

QUESTION: The ICT lobby says it is a bit rich of you to criticise Malcolm Turnbull when the roll out itself nearly ground to a halt under your watch.

ALBANESE: Which ICT lobby?


ALBANESE: There’s the odd person here or there who might argue this. The fact is–

QUESTION: That it ground to a halt?

ALBANESE: The fact is that we had an issue with asbestos that had to be dealt with, which will occur under the Coalition’s plan as well. Because whenever you have construction in Australia, the world’s greatest user of asbestos, those issues need to be dealt with in infrastructure development.

They were dealt with and dealt with appropriately.

So in terms of the National Broadband Network, the fact is that overwhelmingly the ICT industry supports best practice, which is fibre to the home rather than fibre to the node.

When fibre to the node has been tried, fibre to the fridge, what happens is they get half way through and go this doesn’t really work, we’ll have to come back and retrofit it. Why didn’t we do it right the first time.

That’s what the conservative government did in New Zealand. That is what the conservative Government in Australia should do sooner rather than later.

QUESTION: You were saying it shouldn’t be assumed that the deputy to you if you were to be leader would have to be from the right. Is that what you were saying?

ALBANESE: It’s a matter for the caucus. I can’t be clearer than that.

QUESTION: Sure, but –

ALBANESE: I can’t be clearer than that. You mightn’t like the answer, but that’s the answer.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

ALBANESE: No it’s not, it’s a matter for the caucus. You mightn’t understand it because you’re not in the Labor Party and you’re not in the caucus. If you’re in the caucus, I have one vote, Julie Collins has one vote and so does everyone else. And it’s up to them to determine who they think is the best candidate.

I’m treating my caucus colleagues with respect. It is up to them to determine who the deputy leader is. Just like it’s up to them to determine whether they support Penny Wong as the existing Senate Leader – she will be up for re-election as well. As will Jacinta Collins.

It will be interesting to see whether those advocates of women in positions support Penny Wong and Jacinta Collins as well if they stand.

QUESTION: You are saying the deputy could draw support from across the factions?

ALBANESE: I’m saying that the deputy leader’s position is a matter for the caucus. I can say it a number of times, if you keep asking me, you will get the same answer.

It always amazes me journalists who ask the same question and expect a different answer. One of the things I’m running on this election is what you see is what you get. You don’t get different answers from me to different audiences.

That’s the answer, that’s the truth.

QUESTION: You’ve spent some time explaining that your support as deputy was drawn from a number of areas, across factions.

ALBANESE: Well that’s a fact. Glad you noticed.

QUESTION: The extension of the voting process, will that mean we will get a winner later?


QUESTION: Why not?

ALBANESE: Because you won’t. The ballot will shut on Friday at 5 o’clock. This is done independently of me. So it just means a bit of extra time for the ballot papers to come in. When they start counting is a matter for the returning office, but it was always intended that it wouldn’t be concluded until Sunday afternoon.

My understanding is, I’ve been advised that is still the case.

QUESTION: Just on the NBN, at least one member of the board has described the roll out as dysfunctional in some regards. Do you concede that it may have been better to roll it out in the cities first, rather than the regions?

ALBANESE: That’s a decision that was made, but one of the decisions that was made as well was that you would roll out in a number of different types of regions, that’s why Scottsdale was picked, and in different areas around Australia; some urban areas, some more remote areas, some smaller towns.

So it was a conscious decision based upon the long term vision of the roll out to 93 per cent of the nation that that get done. That’s a decision that was made – I wasn’t the Minister that made that decision.

There was also an agreement in terms of the algorithms of where it got rolled out, that it got rolled out particularly to regional communities, because regional communities had less access to broadband than people in the CBDs of capital cities.

So that’s the decision that was made. The important point is that everyone was going to benefit. That was the objective. And it does make some sense – I wasn’t party to those decisions – but it does make some sense in the way that it was rolled out.

What also makes sense, and the same people who would argue that I’m sure that logic would lead you to say Tasmania shouldn’t have been put first, that you should have started in Sydney and Melbourne’s CBD. I make no apologies for the fact that Tasmania – I was a part of that, we very consciously made that decision – because one of the things about the NBN was that it removes the tyranny of distance of Australians from each other, and from the world.

And Tasmania as an island state suffers some disadvantages because of that. The NBN being rolled out in Tasmania was a very good decision. It’s one that Labor prioritised, and I’m proud that Labor made that decision.

QUESTION: But should it have been rolled out in the cities first? You didn’t answer the question.

ALBANESE: I did answer the question. You might not have liked it. You might not have liked it.

QUESTION: You said it was a decision that was made.

ALBANESE: I went through what the decision was, and why it was done.

QUESTION: Was it the right decision, yes or no?

ALBANESE: I know some people from News Limited think that they control everything, but you don’t control the answers as well.

Sep 30, 2013

Transcript of Q&A

TONY JONES: Good evening. Welcome to Q&A, live from the ABC studios in East Perth. I’m Tony Jones and answering your questions tonight the two men who want to lead the Labor Party: Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese. Please welcome our guests.

Well, under the Party reforms introduced by Kevin Rudd, rank-and-file party members, as well as Labor MPs, now vote on who should lead the parliamentary party. Tonight, for the first time, the two contenders will face a representative audience of Liberal, Green and undecided voters, as well as Labor stalwarts, the same audience they’d face if they led their party to a national election. So which man has the arguments to swing the national electorate? As usual in Q&A debates, the panellists will keep their answers to strict time limits and have one minute at the end to sum up their case. Our first question tonight comes from Simon Perry.

SIMON PERRY: Since Keating, the Party has lacked vision. Will either of you be able to run a party that is not focus group driven but develops policies that truly benefit the nation, regardless of what the media say? Will we again see the light on the hill?

TONY JONES: Anthony Albanese?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, the first part of my campaign is about vision. I don’t accept that Labor hasn’t been a party of vision. I think we have continued to do that and deal with the immediate circumstances of the global financial crisis, for example, when we last come into office, while looking forward into the future. I think Labor always has to be the party that deals with the immediate concerns but does deal with the long-term. The long-term transformations that are required, whether that be in terms of dealing with climate change and a carbon-constrained future, whether it is about dealing with the ageing of the population or whether it is about dealing with other social challenges which are there in terms of moving towards a more equal society removing discrimination. I think we always have to get the economy right first and I think in terms of being forward-looking, part of what we have to do is to create the jobs and skills for the future. So that means us being an innovative, creative, smart economy…

TONY JONES: That’s a minute.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …and not trying to compete with our region on the basis of our wages.

TONY JONES: A very quick follow-up, because part of the question you didn’t answer and that is: would you be prepared to get rid of focus group polling all together and go on gut and instinct and belief?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, I think I have always been, in terms of politics, someone who has been pretty clear about what I have stood for. I was arguing for action on climate change well before I think it was such a key focus of the economic debate. I argued for example…

TONY JONES: Sorry, is that a yes, you would get rid of focus group polling?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yes, absolutely.

TONY JONES: Get rid of focus group polling?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, you are always going to – it is disingenuous to say that politicians aren’t going to be interested in what polling says. Of course they are. The key though is that you shouldn’t be…


ANTHONY ALBANESE: …shaped by it. By taking leadership, you can actually shape what opinion is and that’s the key.

TONY JONES: All right, Bill Shorten, the original question?

BILL SHORTEN: I think for Labor to be successful in the future, we need to be relevant to the future of Australians’ lives. I think politics can be a process which brings out the best in the nation and provides the best for people, so long as the Labor Party, the party I love, the party Anthony loves, is one which talks about the future. We know where the future is going in part. We know we are living longer. We know that Asian societies will keep rising. We know that women need to be treated equally. Labor is best, to that light on the hill that you referred, which is a quote from Ben Chifley saying “Labor’s light on the hill” – there are issues which are important in our future. If Labor talks about the lives that people are living, doesn’t do everything for people, but we can help be part and work alongside Australians as they try and have long lives full of quality and meaning. There is plenty of rooms for big ideas in a big Australia where we have a generous view of our fellow Australians and our place in the world.

TONY JONES: We’ve both heard – or we’ve heard both of you, I should say, championing education reforms and DisabilityCare reforms. Do either of you have a vision on how you are going to pay for these big ideas? Start with you.

BILL SHORTEN: Well, when I was pushing the Disability Insurance Scheme in the first term between 2008 and 2010, I actually had people in the Labor Party say to me, “Bill, don’t get people’s hopes up about disability reform.” They said it’s too expensive. It’s too hard. You can’t be in the business of raising hopes. I just want to make it clear the sort of leader I’d be. It is the job of leaders to raise hope. It’s not to feed them unrealistic expectations. I get that. But the idea that we would reduce our vision for the future, be it education, be it disability, so I supported us putting a levy in terms of how we found disability. See, I – I don’t think Australians necessarily want to pay more tax but if they know the benefit they are getting – in other words this idea that disability, which could affect any of us, that we require then some support from Australians to help any of us, you can win progressive arguments in Australian politics if you articulate the goal and you explain the benefits. I don’t think Australians mind paying for things so long as they see a result at the other end.

TONY JONES: Okay. All right. I’m going to throw to Anthony Albanese on that. You have got 30 seconds but really the question is about how you pay for these big reforms? We know that education reform and disability reform, the really big ramp-up of spending on those giant reforms happens in six years’ time, which will be towards the end of the next government.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yes, but the hypothecation of the tax support for disabilities has widespread Australian support. The other thing is it shouldn’t be seen as a zero sum game. What it is is when you invest in education and skills, you are investing in future productivity that produces a return to government. So what are the consequences if you don’t invest in education and future skills is that it has a contractionary effect on the economy. So it’s not a matter of saying this is – it should be seen as an investment, not just a cost to government and investing in our people is one way that we can do it and investing in infrastructure in physical capital is the other.

TONY JONES: Okay. Our next comes from Adam Baker.

ADAM BAKER: If you were elected…

TONY JONES: I’ll get you to stand up, Adam, if you wouldn’t mind.

ADAM BAKER: If you were elected Leader of the Opposition, will you oppose the scrapping of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax by the Coalition Government and if you are re-elected to government next term, would you like into modifying the tax in light of the lower-than-projected tax revenue generated in the first year of the tax?

TONY JONES: Start with you. One minute.

BILL SHORTEN: Yes, we would oppose scrapping of the Mineral Rent Resources Tax. I think it is appropriate that we have a – all policies get decided by Caucus ultimately but as one of the candidates for leader people should know my personal beliefs. With that caveat or – I do believe we should keep it. I think that the idea that all Australians get some fair return from the natural resources of this country is a good idea and we will fight the government on that matter because I think Australians need to re-invest, have re-investment from large multinational mining companies in the Australian infrastructure. It is us, the taxpayers, us the community who educate your work force, who build your roads, who build your hospitals. I don’t accept this argument put out by some at one end of the political spectrum who way that somehow there is a sovereign risk, merely because we want our fair share of natural resources being re-invested in Australia.

TONY JONES: Would you allow it to be modified to raise more money?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, let’s see how the tax works to begin with. I believe that it will raise more money than some of the conservative critics of the tax say. I mean Tony Abbott and the Coalition want a bet each way. On one hand they say it is not raising any money, on the other hand they want to scrap it. If it’s not going to raise any money, why do you need to scrap it?

TONY JONES: But you’re not against raising it if you feel it’s not raising enough money?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, let’s just see how the tax works to begin with. I believe that the projections say it will raise significant support for Australia’s expenditure needs.

TONY JONES: Anthony Albanese, you have a minute.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, it’s a profit-based tax, so at a time where commodity prices are lower, which they have been in the last couple of years, therefore there is a reduction in the tax that would be collected. But it’s also – so I certainly would, as well as Bill, agree with keeping the tax and let’s just wait and see over a period of time how it flows through. But can I make this point as well: that tax is providing money for the regional infrastructure fund. Here in Western Australia that’s going to fund the North West Coastal Highway upgrade and the upgrades to the – to the Great Northern Highway. The incoming government is saying they won’t go ahead with those regional infrastructure projects on those important regional roads and more than $2 billion was cut 48 hours before the election was held on September 7 when they put out their documentation. Now, I think when people actually realise that it will have a real impact in terms of infrastructure investment, not just here in Western Australia…

TONY JONES: That’s a minute.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …but particularly here and Queensland.

TONY JONES: Okay. Let’s go to our next question. It’s from Alex Banzic.

ALEX BANZIC: Hi. I have been a Labor member for over ten years. At a 29% primary vote in the last election, there is no doubt that we failed here. Federal Labor I think fails to get WA, both in policy and in message. It doesn’t get the WA yearning for growth, aspiration and perhaps even personal advancement. How can we change this and get our message and get our policy to better reflect that West Australian aspiration?

TONY JONES: Bill Shorten?

BILL SHORTEN: The Labor Party needs to make clear that we stand up for Australians who are disadvantaged, but we also stand up for all Australians. We need to make it really fundamentally clear we welcome people being successful. We need to make it very straightforward that we support – that we are not class warriors of old, that we don’t have an us versus them mentality. On the other hand, I think there is plenty of issues in WA which only a Labor government can help fix. I look at the cut backs of the Barnett Government on education, going after integration aids and some of the support staff. There is no case for that. No State can dumb its way to greatness. I look at the challenges for fly-in fly-out families. We have got a great work force in Western Australia, very productive, but the pressure that having one of two family members away at mines or working offshore on rigs is a huge pressure. So I think there is more support that can be done for families in Western Australia, where you have got a lot of, effectively, FIFO widows raising families on their own. Also I believe that the Western Australia mining boom has been unevenly spread. There are some people who have done very well…

TONY JONES: That’s a minute.

BILL SHORTEN: …but there is a lot of people who aren’t. So I believe Labor’s story is a story which is inclusive but also only we can stand up for people who are missing out on some of the benefits which are going to some and not all.

TONY JONES: Anthony Albanese?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Labor has to always stand up for people who need assistance. That’s part of our commitment to social justice. It’s a foundation of who we are. But we also are the party of aspiration. We are the party that wants to create opportunity, not so people can stay where they are; so that they can advance. What do working families want? They want their kids to have a better education than they had, to have access to housing, to have better living standards than they had, to make sure health care is there if they get sick. That’s what working family wants. Labor understands that. This is my sixth visit to Western Australia this year. I am a regular visitor here. I think we have a real opportunity to make the case over specific issues here in the West. For example, our preparedness to fund urban public transport, the rail line to the airport, the light rail project in the northern suburbs of Perth. Tony Abbott has said that’s someone else’s problem and Colin Barnett is saying “Well we can’t do any of that without Federal Government support”. That creates a real issue because we know that whilst…

TONY JONES: That’s a minute.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …whilst there has been a great boom in terms of resources, that also is placing particular pressure on people who live here in Perth who are dealing with increased costs, particularly housing but also transport and other costs as a result of that boom being uneven.

TONY JONES: Very briefly, that question was about WA philosophy really. The philosophy of the government here is to borrow to build, to actually spend – it’s very different, in fact, to the Federal Coalition’s philosophy, according to Colin Barnett anyway. Is that also your philosophy in Labor?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, we certainly accept that there is a case in terms of if you borrow for capital investment, it is different from the $5.5 billion on the paid parental leave scheme that will go every year and not leave a legacy. So the difference between investment and just spending is something that we draw a distinction on but I think we have got a pretty good record here in the West in terms of investing in infrastructure. Obviously there is more that needs to be done but I think it is a real area of differentiation between us and Tony Abbott.

TONY JONES: And Bill Shorten, same question to you. It really is about what sort of philosophy you might take into government. If you ever became the Prime Minister, would you be a borrow to build sort of Prime Minister? Would you worry about borrowing large sums of money to build infrastructure?

BILL SHORTEN: I think there is more we can do to unlock our superannuation funds to be used to invest in infrastructure. People mightn’t be aware but we actually, courtesy of successive Labor Governments, have the third largest privately managed superannuation funds market in the world. Now, you wouldn’t put all of your superannuation savings in infrastructure but the nature of superannuation money is that it is long-term. You don’t need it at call. So I think there are opportunities for Labor to explore having a pricing mechanism which would support the private investment of superannuation money backed up by government guarantee. So I think some of the solutions going forward should build on our strengths and…

TONY JONES: That’s 30 seconds.

BILL SHORTEN: …we need to build infrastructure.

TONY JONES: All right. Let’s go to our next question. It’s from Sarah Tonkin.


SARAH TONKIN: Hi. My question is how do you expect the rank and file members of the Labor Party to make an informed decision on who to vote for as the next party leader when all you do is compliment the other and provide very few differences in policy or opinion?

TONY JONES: Anthony Albanese, we will start with you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, what you are seeing with this campaign is a reflection of the fact that Bill and I have a lot more in common as Labor Party members of similar age, of similar generation and experience than people outside the Labor Party and I don’t make any apologies for that. I think, if anything, there has been too much emphasis on differences within Labor and what the feedback that I get, and I’m sure Bill gets as well, is that people want to see a mature political debate and that is what is occurring. It is occurring in a range of forums, some of them public but a lot of them private as well, forums around the country, and just three weeks after a significant election defeat, we’re here tonight talking about the future of Labor. We are talking about a future agenda. We’re talking about positioning ourselves for 2016. That hasn’t occurred in the past after an electoral defeat. A political party tends to go into a corner and just have a bit of self-reflection for a while. I think this is incredibly positive. It is mobilising the party. It is strengthening the party and it is…

TONY JONES: That’s a minute.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …unifying as well.

TONY JONES: Where are your differences of opinion though? Are there any on anything that you know of?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yes. Yes. We’ve had some differences over things like today, over quotas for people from gay and lesbian or Indigenous background. That’s something that I haven’t supported. There is a range of differences in terms of emphasis on policies rather than stark sort I’m for it. I’m against. We have different approaches and I think that would reflect itself in terms of our respective leadership, whoever is successful. But by and large, the truth is that we will be able to work together. I think that’s a good thing.

TONY JONES: Okay. Bill Shorten?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, Sarah, there is a couple of points you said and then I might go to Tony’s point as well. First of all, this is the best thing that the Labor Party has done in a long time. I’m sorry if there is not enough red meat and blood on the floor for some people but, on the other hand, look at the Labor Party. We are having a debate about ideas, what we think. The Liberals, they would just die of – they’d have a massive heart attack if they invited you into their deliberations. This is being done all out there and it’s not being turned into a circus. So I think that’s a good thing. It shows that Labor is capable of learning. The second thing is, of course, you’ve always got to be mindful that it is not the job of the Labor Party to turn ourselves into a circular firing squad, is it? It would be great if, you know, perhaps everyone saw a whole lot of…

TONY JONES: You mean not now, because it has been in the past?

BILL SHORTEN: No, I agree. That’s exactly right. So I know that there is some in the media who are frustrated there is not more, you know, slings and arrows and everyone having a dig. This is the way the Labor Party should be. We’ve got two candidates. We’re putting up our respective cases. It does show that we are capable of learning. I think we are changing politics in Australia because it shows that it can be transparent. We have invited the televisions in to watch us have our debates. That is a new development and hopefully it can build some sense of momentum. The other thing, though, going to Tony’s point about what are the differences, I’d say it’s a difference in strengths. I’d say that Anthony is a good parliamentary tactician. He did a very good job in the last Parliament. I’d say my particular strength is turning minorities into majorities. When I raised disability in the first parliament people said, “You’re crazy. No one will ever do it.” But it’s a way of convincing people. I think a lot of politics takes place outside of Canberra. My speciality when I was a union rep was organising the unorganised. How do you convince people who have no say or no power that you can, in fact, have a say? My strength, I think, is helping communicate to the over a million Australians who have changed their vote away from Labor. But we’re a team and whatever happens we will all be working on the same team, Sarah, to try and win your vote and everyone else’s.

TONY JONES: Do you want to briefly respond, 30 seconds, on that strength that he claims that perhaps he’s suggesting you don’t have?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: He wasn’t as blunt as that, Tony.


TONY JONES: I’m interpreting.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, I think if you look at my record, the creation of Infrastructure Australia, the creation of safe rates for truck driver, shipping policy reform, areas where I was able to bring unions, business and the community together to promote reform, reform, in terms of Infrastructure Australia. When we introduced the legislation, it was the second piece of legislation introduced by the Rudd Government. I was opposed by the Coalition. Now they say they want to make it stronger. So I think I won that debate and I have a history of winning debates, not just inside the Parliament but outside the Parliament as well.

TONY JONES: That’s 30 seconds. Okay. You are watching the national Labor leadership debate. Our next question comes from Martin Moody.

MARTIN MOODY: Welcome to WA, Bill and Anthony. Now that the Labor Party has formalised its rule regarding its leadership, that to change the leaders would require a no-confidence motion of 75% of the caucus, the resignation of the leader or the loss of an election, do you, Bill and Anthony, concede that this could be a potential problem for the ALP considering that the Prime Minister, as an incumbent Labor leader, would hold a lot of power? In fact, arguably more power than the President of the USA.

TONY JONES: Let’s start with Anthony Albanese.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, what people don’t want is what happened in June 2010 where people woke up in the morning and reads their newspapers and found out that there had been a change. So there was a reaction to that and a rule change to ensure that there needed to be a proper process. I actually think that the number doesn’t matter all that much. What matters is that…

TONY JONES: Oh, so I just want jump in there. I mean does that mean the 75% rule is not hard and fast? Because it was the last time you came on Q&A?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No. No. No, it was – it was carried but it doesn’t matter all that much. What matters is that there’s a process, that in order to change the leader there has to be this process, more Q and A, more forums over a period of weeks so people can’t change it instantaneously. There has to be a debate and it’s a debate that involves not a few people. It’s a debate that involves the 44,000 people who joined, who have a vote in this ballot and the 2,000 people who have joined the Labor Party in the last two weeks as a result of this process. So that, I think, is a real handbrake on the real problem that was there, I think, in terms of 2010 which is the case wasn’t made for a change of leader and there was…

TONY JONES: That’s a minute.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …a reaction against it.

TONY JONES: Bill Shorten?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, there were two changes. There was 2010 and 2013. I think in both cases that involved hard decisions. I, therefore, think that having the party membership involved is a game-changer. I think the idea that we are going to – that we’re having even this debate is a game-changer. Australians want more of their politics than, I think, they have traditionally expected or perhaps they have always wanted more but they haven’t seen it until now. The challenge will be if the Coalition are strong enough to say they will invite their membership to have a say in their future leadership. In terms of the specific question you asked, Martin, I think once you have lost the confidence of a majority of your colleagues, putting a 75% requirement that you’ve got to lose 75% of your colleagues’ confidence is probably a bit over the top and, as Anthony said, the number doesn’t matter. The point about it is you’ve got to have a mechanism whereby people are involved in the process of making decisions and just one group making the decision is not the way of the future for the Labor Party.

TONY JONES: I’m just going to press you on this because if your suggestion is taken up, for example, that it was only 50% of the caucus that needed to be dissatisfied to cause a spill that led to a leadership vote of the sort you are having now, that suggests that if you don’t have more than 50% of the caucus, you don’t have the confidence of the caucus and yet you are about to have a leadership vote where that could well be the case?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, we’re electing a new leader. There’s a vacancy. I think the circumstances are different if someone is moving against you. There is a vacancy. Kevin Rudd’s…

TONY JONES: But I’m talking about the principle of the 50%. If more than 50% support you, then you are secure as a leader. If fewer than 50%, you may not be secure. And yet, at the end of this vote, it could be you have a leader who doesn’t have the support of more than 50%.

BILL SHORTEN: Yes. No, that’s a good point, Tony. What I would say is you need to have your party membership with you. The difference between the past and the future is that we have got 44,000 members of the Labor Party. Hopefully we will have a lot more in the next three years because people will realise that Labor is fair dinkum on talking about the future and the big ideas for the future. That’s, I think, the handbrake upon, you know, capricious conduct or the sort of sudden changes which caused such anxiety.


ANTHONY ALBANESE: And what you couldn’t have, Tony, it is an important point, is in 2010 or 2013, the leadership changed pretty close to an election. You couldn’t change the leaders and, in June of 2010 or June of 2013, then go out and have this process. Meanwhile …


ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s just not practical.

TONY JONES: But Anthony Albanese, we thought it might be possible.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s just not practical.

TONY JONES: We found something that you two might disagree on, and that is the 75% rule, which you said on Q&A was hard and fast when you voted for it.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, it is there.

BILL SHORTEN: It’s the rule.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s the rule.

TONY JONES: It’s the rule.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s the rule.

TONY JONES: Should it then be cemented in as the rule?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think that – I think you are missing the point and …

TONY JONES: No, we’re just getting confused.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: With due respect, no. No.

BILL SHORTEN: I agree with Anthony.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: With due respect, Tony, you are missing the point, which is that…

TONY JONES: Well, we just, sorry – we – we …

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It is not a matter of the threshold.


ANTHONY ALBANESE: It is a matter of the process is the key.

BILL SHORTEN: Control of the membership.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The fact that you’re going to involve 44,000 people…

BILL SHORTEN: That’s right.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …is the critical point because you can’t change…

TONY JONES: So why did you vote on 75% then?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, it’s as good a number as any, Tony. It is 60 in Opposition, by the way.

TONY JONES: As we can see, the ALP Spring has room for movement. Let’s hear from Brad Griffin.

BRAD GRIFFEN: G’day. My question is for Bill Shorten. My vote in the leadership ballot will most likely be for Albo because, while I understand the decisions that you made in supporting Gillard and then swapping to Rudd, many Australians see this as a black mark against your name, so should you win the ballot, how do you intend to win the respect of those who see you that way and counter the inevitable attacks from the Coalition and the media on that issue?

BILL SHORTEN: Thanks Brad. First of all, from some in the media and the Coalition, they’ll attack me because I’m Labor. What I would say, though, about the issue of leadership change is this: it was an incredibly hard decision and all Caucus members have had to make these decisions. In 2010 I think the mistake, one mistake that was made, is that Prime Minister Gillard and some of her senior supporters didn’t explain why it had happened. Now, you can argue that it shouldn’t have happened but for those who did do it, they should have explained that. In terms of…

TONY JONES: Well, they explained in some senses. They came out and all attacked, subsequently, Kevin Rudd and trashed his reputation in the sense of the circular firing squad you were talking about before.

BILL SHORTEN: And you will know that I wouldn’t participate in that because I thought that was – the public disparagement of people in Labor by other people in Labor is just stupid and it doesn’t matter if Liberals do it to Liberals or Labor does it to Labor or Greens do it to Greens, it is a bad look because it doesn’t breed any confidence in people. But to your point, Brad, these are hard issues. What has motivated me and this is how I would explain it and I have and I will, that when you are a Labor parliamentary representative, you have got personal commitments and affections. You have got a commitment to the Labor Party more generally, what’s in the bests interest of that and to the nation. I cannot believe and I still don’t believe that it’s in the best interests of the nation back in June of 2013, when those very hard decisions were made, to see Tony Abbott get unfettered control of the Senate and the House of Representatives. So that’s a hard call and if I was leader, what you want in your leaders are people who will make hard calls. Leadership changes have occurred in politics on both sides. I mean, I think that John Button…


BILL SHORTEN: …managed to have a good career in politics, even though he supported replacing Bill Hayden with Bob Hawke. I think that Paul Keating was a very good Prime Minister.

TONY JONES: Okay. You’re over a minute.

BILL SHORTEN: But there is changes.

TONY JONES: We’ll go to our next question, because it’s to Anthony Albanese on the same subject. It’s from Yaron Fisher.

YARON FISHER: Mr Albanese, Mr Shorten has just spoken about how both the decisions he made in 2010 and 2013 were very hard but he still made those decisions. So do you fear that if you get the top job, you could be awaiting the same fate? I mean, can a leopard really change its spots?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, I certainly don’t. I think that whoever is successful through this process, whether it is Bill or myself, will have more legitimacy than any political leader of a major political party in Australia’s history. This transparent process that everyone is watching, I mean, you know, the Conservatives won’t do it. The Greens won’t even let media into their party conferences. We are here debating who the next leader of the Labor Party should be with whoever the ABC has chosen to come in here tonight. That’s a great thing. It is a great thing. And what it will do, and we are seeing it already, we had – we attended a barbecue this morning here in Hyde Park in Perth. 500 people showed up. I was told by some of the West Australian Labor people they hadn’t seen more than 100 people gather at any event for some time here in Western Australia. Incredibly positive. People are engaged. They are mobilised and I’m absolutely confident that whoever is elected through this process will lead us into the 2016 election and I believe we can be successful and actually win that election.

TONY JONES: Bill Shorten, just a quick one for you. I mean, 30 seconds on this. ‘Can a leopard change its spots?’ was the question that was asked there and really that is directed to you.

BILL SHORTEN: Yeah, I worked that out. What I would say to your question is this: in the caucus now there are not people who define themselves as Rudd people or Gillard people. That was perhaps a feature of some people in previous caucuses or previous parliaments. What I see now is people in the Labor Parliamentary Party who are interested in winning in 2016. The sort of corrosive fault lines which built up in the Opposition years under Howard, which bled into the Government of both Prime Minister Rudd and Prime Minister Gillard, have evaporated. A lot of that tension has moved in on, in part because Australian voters, people who vote for Labor, expect us to do better and, in part, this process of asking people their views forces you to play to your best strengths, not to play to the worst issues of, I don’t know, jealousy or rivalry or some of the stuff which can happen in organisations.

TONY JONES: Okay. Our next question is from Fay Davidson.

FAY DAVIDSON: Hi. The given the apparent success of the ALP’s experiment with the democratic process for the selection of the Parliamentary Party leadership through the leadership primaries, would either candidate pursue an extension of this process to candidate pre-selection or policy matters – policy primaries?

TONY JONES: Anthony Albanese?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Absolutely. I wrote a paper calling for direct election of leaders, direct election of delegates to ALP national conference rank and file pre-selections in 1991. So it’s been a long time coming, this process, and a lot of people have argued the case for this for decades. What people want nowadays from political parties isn’t attending a cold hall on the second Tuesday to hear from their local councillor, as valuable as that might be from time to time. What they want is to be able to participate directly and, just as social media has meant that people expect more direct engagement, so people expect more direct democracy and this vote is showing that that is the case. There are people who no-one knows how the rank-and-file are going to vote in this. It is unpredictable. That’s a great thing and we need to use our resource, our rank-and-file membership to work on policy development, I think directly electing…

TONY JONES: That’s minute.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …national conference delegates would be one step but there are others as well.

TONY JONES: Bill Shorten?

BILL SHORTEN: I have supported in the Victorian ALP, where I belong, where I’m a member of, use of primaries to pick candidates. I think the more people that get involved in this election, the better candidates. It is not a uniform rule but my view is that a person who can convince more people within the Labor Party to vote for them is probably going to do better at convincing more people in the community to vote for them. So I think that it is impossible to put the genie back in the lamp. I think that the pressure will be on other parties to expand the way they do business and, for us, I also think it should be easier to join the Labor Party. For people who are watching this show who are interested in politics and interested in the Labor side of it, you should join. It is crazy we have got branch rules where you can only join for an hour the third Wednesday of every month. You know, no one sells a product or really gets great engagement from people. So I think it is not just pre-selections of our candidates but I also think that we need to make sure that more people feel that they can join the Labor Party. That’s one of the reasons I’m happy for this show tonight, because it’s – it just tells people you too can be involved in politics and it is not beyond your ability to get involved if you want to. We want you to get involved.

TONY JONES: Our next question is a video. It’s from Joy Toma in Coogee, New South Wales.

JOY TOMA: If the Messiah era is over, can both candidates please, please, guarantee that they will not give Kevin Rudd a position within their Shadow Cabinet? Now, your answer is going to directly affect my vote because it will indicate to me how sincere you are about a genuine line in the sand. Thank you.

TONY JONES: Anthony Albanese, we will start with you there.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Kevin Rudd doesn’t want a position in the Shadow Cabinet. He has made it very clear he is going to stay as the Member for Griffith. He is entitled to respect, just as Julia Gillard is entitled to respect. The sort of argument that I have seen put out there, including by some of the colleagues, saying Kevin Rudd should resign from Parliament, cause a by-election, which we would lose in the current circumstances, is, in my view, disrespectful and not appropriate. Kevin will continue to serve as the Member for Griffith for as long as he wants but he is – and he is entitled to think, I believe, former Prime Ministers are entitled – I am not a believer in by-elections but I believe former Prime Ministers are entitled to make decisions if they so choose. But it has got to be their decision. He is entitled to respect. He will get that from me, as will Julia Gillard, as will other former leaders as well, such as Kim Beazley here in the West and Simon Crean.

TONY JONES: That’s a minute. Bill Shorten?

BILL SHORTEN: Yes, I agree with what Anthony said. I know that – well I don’t know but I understand Kevin is not seeking to be on the front bench, so to Joy’s question, you know, don’t worry about it because it is not – your scenario is not an issue. But beyond that, Joy, we would be making a mistake, Anthony or I, if we said “No, we don’t want Kevin back”. People would go, my goodness me, they haven’t learned a thing. In Joy’s question, she said, you know, you have got to rule a line under your past. Yeah, you know, you are right. You have got to rule a line under your lessons. The lesson would be if one of us got up and said person X or Y shouldn’t have the opportunity to be on the front bench. You’d just have to slap yourself on the head and say “When will these guys get the message?” We’ve got the message. So whilst I don’t think he wants to nominate, I certainly wouldn’t be in the business of ruling him out. What I’d also just say to you is this: I supported a change that would see the parliamentary party pick who the ministers are. It is not up to the leader to say A or B are in and X and Y are out. You know, like we need to move away. When I say the year of Messiahs is over, we need to take the pressure of saying that one individual, whilst he should be a strong leader, should be responsible for all decisions. You get the best out of a team by involving the team, so we would let the caucus or the parliamentary members pick who should be on the front bench.

TONY JONES: All right. Our next question is from Hannah Weickhardt.

HANNAH WEICKHARDT: Evening to both of you, gentlemen. My question is more directed to Bill Shorten. It is regarding the recent quotas that you spoke of regarding Indigenous Australians and also possibly gays and lesbians for Parliament on the basis of under-representation. My question is, in all sincerity, Mr Shorten, I know you are an advocate for minorities, would you also consider quotas for things like professional athletes, asylum seekers, long-term unemployed and religious leaders? Do you think there could be a slippery slope that could tend towards a majority parliament of minorities?

TONY JONES: Bill Shorten?

BILL SHORTEN: In terms of – I don’t actually think – I heard Anthony say earlier that there is some differences. I am not sure there is a great deal of difference here and I will just clarify what I mean by that. I don’t believe one population group in Australia has a monopoly on all the brains and skills. Look, I was amazed when I saw the Liberals find one woman to serve in a Cabinet of 20. So I don’t liken professional athletes or ministers of religion to some of the bigger issues around the fact that Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders have, in my opinion, not been sufficiently represented in parliamentary life. I’m not saying – what I’d actually said is that we should consider the question of quotas. I am not saying we should have quotas. There is the community commonsense test and, you know, you are right. Your question says it wouldn’t be sensible to go down the path you said. So the community commonsense test always applies in all our actions. But we are Labor. Labor should actually – we’re in Opposition as well. If we are not willing to debate ideas about how we improve representation now, when will we be? What I think is that there is many ways to improve people’s representation. I look at Emily’s List, which is an organisation designed to encourage the representation of women in Parliament. I look at leadership programs to mentor…

TONY JONES: That’s a minute.

BILL SHORTEN: …and encourage Indigenous Australians. So there is a lot we can do to improve diversity and I am very happy that we are having a discussion about how do we make our parliament more diverse to gain the strength of all Australians because merit does not just belong to, you know, white men in their 50s and 60s.

TONY JONES: A very brief answer because it’s (indistinct). Did you actually mean it when you talked about bringing in quotas for certain groups?

BILL SHORTEN: What I have said…

TONY JONES: Did you mean it or was that just a rhetorical flourish?

BILL SHORTEN: No. What I’ve said is we should consider ideas about how do we improve diversity? Anyone who could look at the current status quo and say that is sufficient, well, I can’t agree with that. Now, of course we have got to apply commonsense and I appreciate your question because that helps me make that point very strongly, but anyone who is satisfied with the status quo in terms of the current parliaments and anyone who says that we have got enough of diversity in our parliaments and our decision making in Australia…

TONY JONES: Okay. All right.

BILL SHORTEN: …I don’t agree with you. Don’t vote for me if you think the status quo is okay.

TONY JONES: All right. Anthony Albanese.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The Parliament should represent the community more fully. One of my state members is Linda Burney, the first Indigenous woman elected in New South Wales. She is a fantastic local member and now is the deputy Labor leader in New South Wales. I don’t support, though, moving to quotas for Indigenous people or for people based who – based upon sexual preference. Sexuality is just one aspect of people. It doesn’t define who people are and in terms of I don’t know how practical it would be to go down that step. So I think, in terms of diversity, by all means, and that should be a factor which is considered but I think we have also got to consider in our internal processes that the punters out there get a vote as well and you want to make sure that every candidate being put forward by Labor, who has the honour of carrying the Labor flag, is someone who we can say is the best person. I think we can do that while satisfying…

TONY JONES: That’s a minute.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …increased representation, based upon the community to make it more representative.

TONY JONES: All right. Let’s go to our next question. It’s from Stevie Modern.

STEVIE MODERN: Gentlemen, right wing unionist Joe De Bruyn made it a condition of his support for Julia Gillard as leader that she not push the issue of equal marriage and, in fact, oppose it. He has been quoted in The Australian as saying that Mr Albanese is rabid on this issue and that he thinks he will support Mr Shorten, because he seems less likely to push the issue. Will both gentlemen give their unequivocal support tonight for doing their utmost to bring about marriage equality, representing the majority of secular democratic opinion in Australia and their party, or will their position be subject to union leaders like Joe De Bruyn?

TONY JONES: Let’s start with Anthony Albanese. As part of your answer, could you address the question of whether Joe De Bruyn, union leader, had that significant impact on Julia Gillard as claimed?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Two points. The first one, I don’t accept the premise of the question. I think that Julia Gillard came to her own position. I had discussions with her on it. I have had strong views on these issues for some time but it is up to her to indicate how she came to that position. But I don’t accept that Julia Gillard was someone who traded off support in that way because I know that’s not the case because Julia – and I trust her totally because I’ve had the discussion with her. Secondly, in terms of Joe De Bruyn’s views, now look, you know, I think people can make their own judgment about who is obsessed about people’s sexuality: myself or Joe De Bruyn? I happen to think – I happen to think that whoever people love is a matter for them, that you can give people rights without taking away existing rights from anyone, that when this is done, people will wonder what the fuss was about because – because it won’t diminish anyone’s existing rights.


BILL SHORTEN: And I agree with that.

TONY JONES: Bill Shorten.

BILL SHORTEN: You know, I…

TONY JONES: Are you less rabid on this subject?

BILL SHORTEN: I don’t think I’m rabid but I don’t think Anthony is rabid on it either. I actually don’t think homosexuality is evil or antisocial. I think, you know, frankly, who you choose to love is your business and it’s not mine and I think – I voted for same-sex marriage in the parliament. Labor has a conscience vote. The Liberals don’t. The next step in this journey is for the Liberal Party to let their members of parliament exercise their conscience rather than binding people’s conscience to one person’s view. So, in terms of Joe De Bruyn, he has no greater sway on me than he has on Julia or Anthony Albanese. What I do know is that on this issue, the jury is – the jury is back for me. Like, where is the problem? I don’t know why it is the – I think Anthony is right that eventually, over time, people will just work out what’s the fuss. Now, no doubt I will get lots of emails tomorrow from people of faith who say you don’t respect our position. I do respect people’s faith. I do respect that people have strongly held views. But what I also respect is that, frankly, the best protection in a secular society for organised religion is to depoliticise…


BILL SHORTEN: …people’s love for each other and just let them be.

TONY JONES: Anthony Albanese, just a quick response.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yeah. Just to make one further point, I think if you are a supporter of the institution of marriage, it is beyond me why you wouldn’t want more people to be participating in it, rather than less.

TONY JONES: Okay. Let’s move to our next question. Thank you. It’s from Michael Lee.

MICHAEL LEE: What plans do each of you have to steer the Labor Party back to the core values on which it was founded? It is evident that, by taking the right-hand fork in the road on the asylum seeker issue, you have alienated many supporters. What steps will you be taking to remedy this issue, so that a true believer can truly believe once again?

TONY JONES: Anthony Albanese?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I don’t accept that we have abandoned our values. I think in terms of the Labor Party must always be a compassionate party and must have concerns for genuine refugees and I believe that I had that and Bill has that. So any party, regardless of who the leader is, would do that. At the same time we did have to deal with a practical issue, an issue that was leading to people risking their lives at sea. We had to deal with that. We couldn’t just wish it away. That’s what being in government means and the fact that many people and, indeed, we have seen another tragedy in the last week where people have lost their lives. So what I want is a policy framework – I’d like to see a move back to a national consensus on this issue. I think a lot of the debate has been really unfortunate and unseemly. We had a national consensus about getting rid of the white Australia policy. We had a national consensus in dealing with the Vietnamese refugees in the late 70s and early 80s.

TONY JONES: That’s a minute.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Unfortunately a lot of that has broken down but I want to see – I’m opposed to the people smugglers’ business but I want people, as well, to be treated compassionately in accordance with our law and international law.

TONY JONES: Bill Shorten?

BILL SHORTEN: We can Labor needs to very clearly re-state, as I believe we have but I I’m not sure everyone has heard us, so we have got to to re-state it very clearly, that we support immigration in this country. Other than Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, we all came here by boat or by plane and we need to be a party who says “We are not pulling up the ladder after we are here”. We need to say that we do recognise that Australia does best as we have a big view of ourselves. It was the Labor Party up to the Second World War who welcomed refugees from southern and eastern Europe. That was to our advantage and some of you in this room will have parents or grandparents who came here because of that Labor plan. Labor needs to, I think, re-state our conviction that we believe in immigration and within that, we believe in family reunion delivering us immigrants, skilled migration delivering us immigrants and refugees. We need to make it very clear so that we don’t get pinged on the left, that we are actually a party who believes in bringing refugees to Australia. There is a lot of refugees who not only might be our next Albert Einstein but just might be a good taxpayer or a good neighbour. This country should bring more refugees to Australia.

TONY JONES: That’s a minute.

BILL SHORTEN: But we shouldn’t – and that’s why I agree with what Anthony said then and I think the government did some good work in the last few weeks before the election – we can’t stand by and allow people smugglers to put people at risk at sea and people drown.

TONY JONES: I am going to do a quick follow-up here and if you could answer briefly that would be good, but would a Bill Shorten future government like to see a huge expansion of immigration, just based on what you just said?

BILL SHORTEN: I do believe that immigration levels can go up. I think this country, we are a very lucky peoples in Australia. We get to occupy a whole continent. Now, I get that lots of Australia is, you know, old and lots of Australia is environmentally fragile but, as a nation, we don’t go backwards by immigration. So no doubt tomorrow I will get all the hate mails from people who will say, you know, “You don’t understand”. I do understand. Immigration has been a plus for us and we should be certainly, as a party, being seen to be pro-immigration and pro increasing it.


BILL SHORTEN: Making sure people go to wherever it is sustainable for infrastructure and support but we are an immigrant country and we shouldn’t ever hide from our destiny.

TONY JONES: Okay. I’m just going to quickly go back to Anthony Albanese on this. To my right here we’ve just heard the possibility of a future Labour Government seeing a huge expansion of the immigration program. Would you accept that?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think you are paraphrasing Bill there, Tony.

TONY JONES: Well, that was the question. He certainly didn’t deny it.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, I don’t have a fixed view on it. I think there are times, depending upon economic circumstances, where immigration numbers should go up and there are times where they should reduce. You shouldn’t have just a fixed number. You need also to make sure that we get the infrastructure issues right and you also need to make sure that you have proper settlement programs, proper linking in terms of employment and skills and opportunities so that you have a successful migration system rather than being fixed on a number. I think that’s the key. We are an immigrant nation. I’ve – if I am elected leader, I will be the first person with a non-Anglo Celtic name to lead a major political party in Australia. I think that’s a good thing and funnily enough…

TONY JONES: And we’ll have to work out – we’ll have to work out whether to call you Albanese or Albanese-y, because we’ve heard both tonight.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s why everyone just calls me Albo. It’s easier. So–

TONY JONES: All right. Fair enough. Is it Albanese-y.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It depends. It’s actual Al-ban-s.


ANTHONY ALBANESE: It depends where you’re from.

TONY JONES: Thank you for clearing that up, Mr Albanese.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s a very gentle s in Italian but you always use the vowel at the end. But no one says Bolognese-y, do they?

TONY JONES: No, they don’t.


TONY JONES: Let’s move on. Our next question is from…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: There you go. If you learn nothing else tonight.

TONY JONES: It is how to pronounce your name. Our next question is from Nic Coleman. Over here.

NIC COLEMAN: Good evening. Nice purple tie as well. How will you, as potential leaders of the Opposition, ensure that climate change sceptic views that are salient in the Liberal Party and in the independents do not become socially acceptable and that there is serious action against climate change?

TONY JONES: Bill Shorten?

BILL SHORTEN: Thanks, Nic. We cannot afford to take a backward step about putting a price on carbon pollution. The science is with us and I actually think the community are with us on that. But what Labor has to do is be strong for our – what we stand for. What I hope at the next election is if Abbot and his – if the Coalition are running on their climate change scepticism that people will seek out our how-to-vote card because we actually believe it is real. We believe it’s man-made and we believe that you can take proper action on it. The other reason why we can’t afford to take a backward step is that what sort of political party would we be that if we said to the future generation, “The problem was too hard for us”? So I – you know, they say to us and journalists have said “Doesn’t Mr Abbott have a mandate to do what he has got to do?”. We’ve got a mandate too. All the people that voted for us have given us a mandate to stand true on the issue of climate change and I know that, across the party, we will.

TONY JONES: Anthony Albanese?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think part of winning the debate is ensuring that it’s not just an environmental issue, it is an economic issue. It is an environmental issue because it is about saving the planet. It’s about sustainability. But it is an economic issue because if we don’t take action, there are economic consequences. It is also an economic issue because those economies that are successful between now and the end of this century, that are most successful, are those that have moved first. First mover advantage in terms of a carbon-constrained economy. So there are real economic opportunities for job creation by tackling climate change. There are also consequences in terms of us being a part of the international community. I mean, if Tony Abbott, who has actually now got to front up to these big international forums goes along and says what he thinks about climate change, he will be laughed out of town. It will be an embarrassment saying those comments to David Cameron or Angela Merkel let alone President Obama.

TONY JONES: That’s a minute.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: So I think in terms of climate change, it has to be front and centre of our sustainability agenda but also our economic agenda.

TONY JONES: Quick follow up. Was it a mistake not to go back to Parliament and legislate for an Emissions Trading Scheme when you had a chance to do that a couple of months ago?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We didn’t, Tony. We didn’t have the numbers.

TONY JONES: You are absolutely sure about that, are you?


TONY JONES: What, the Greens told you they wouldn’t.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We didn’t have the numbers.

TONY JONES: The Greens told you they wouldn’t?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The Greens didn’t control the House of Representatives, Tony. We had 70 votes out of 150 is where we started and that was where we were at.

TONY JONES: Okee dokee. Our next question is from Rob Paparde.

ROB PAPARDE: Hi Bill, Albo. I’m a Liberal voter. You are now selling yourselves to get votes from your party faithful to become the party’s leader. Now, if successful, how are you going to sell yourselves and the party over the next three years to get my vote for you to become our country’s leader? How are you going to be able to sway me should you want to?

TONY JONES: Bill Shorten?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, first of all, Rob, I’d ask what you do and what you are interested in.

ROB PAPARDE: Well I’m interested in – I’m interested in small government, small business, enterprise and supporting people who want to basically help other people, good causes and genuine people and hard effort, the Australian way.

BILL SHORTEN: All right. What I would say to you, Rob, is what matters is the future of this country and Labor’s got the best plan for the future. Some of the things I have spoken about in this leadership campaign have been “How do we write Australia big?” and what I mean by that is Australia will only advance if we re-commit ourselves to the agendas of science, research, innovation, higher education. What that means is that you will have a smarter work force. More entrepreneurs will be able to innovate ideas from the laboratory into commercial reality. I also get that, Rob, in this country we all aspire to live longer and I think it is long overdue for us to have a debate and a discussion, how do we properly fund people’s retirement? I am not talking about superannuation in the first few years but all of us have got parents and grandparents. You see something happen to their 80s and 90s. They may have a fall and you see the spark of confidence, perhaps, dim a little more. How do we make sure we pay for people’s medical care? What I’d also say to you in this country is that this country can’t advance unless we support small business so what we have to do is make sure that our tax policies back up small business, that we are supporting small business…

TONY JONES: That’s a minute.

BILL SHORTEN: …in terms of how they deal with bigger business. I think that there is plenty of opportunities for Labor to re-define our policies, because entrepreneurs and innovators are part of what will make us successful. So I think we can do it and I’ve got three years to work on your vote.

TONY JONES: Anthony Albanese?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think this process itself means that either Bill or myself will be given a springboard so that – you are here today – tonight thinking about who the next Labor leader would be and you’re thinking about your vote in 2016. If this process wasn’t happening, you’d be thinking sometime next year, most people, not yourself necessarily, thinking “Who is the Opposition Leader again?” That’s normally what happens. So this is real cut through in terms of 2016. We’ll also need to hold the Government to account and you say you are concerned with small government but I think when people actually focus on areas like the Better Schools plan and whether that’s actually being implemented, the consequences whereby straight after the Federal election, we had or during it we had Colin Barnett say there were going to be cuts in terms of teachers aides being chopped out of the system. I think people do want good services as well, whether it be education, whether it be health, whether it be dealing with urban congestion. In this city, like others, they’ll be worried about the lack of investment in urban transport infrastructure and that, I think, provides us with a real framework going forward. So our job is to hold the new government to account, to draw into attention the fact that, in many respects, they don’t have detailed…

TONY JONES: That’s a minute.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …policies out there but also for us to advance our alternative. This process means that a lot of the work that’s been done, we are essentially cramming a year’s work into a month. That’s a good thing.

TONY JONES: Okay. We are coming to the end of the program. Our last question, I’m sorry to say, is from Lucy Moyle.

LUCY MOYLE: Hello. It appears that the Republican views present and even characteristic of the Keating era are somewhat diminished, as evident by the ALP pledging support for the Australian flag at the 2013 election launch. But under your respective leaderships, how would the ALP further approach the Republican debate? Would you increase its relevance or would you leave the party to fully support the constitutional monarchy?

TONY JONES: Bill Shorten.

BILL SHORTEN: In my first speech I gave in the Parliament, I said I foresee a time when Australia will become a republic. I do believe in this term of Opposition it is timely to start talking about what would a Republic look like. This Labor Party that I represent needs to be a strong party. People need to know what we stand for. To be clear, I don’t actually support changing our flag but in terms of our Constitutional monarchy, vis-à-vis a Republic, I believe we do need the start laying the groundwork to educate people that moving toward a Republic is a good idea, not a bad idea.

TONY JONES: You’d like to put your mother-in-law out of a job?

BILL SHORTEN: She does a good job and I am not going to talk about the work that she does directly.

TONY JONES: Sure. Anthony Albanese?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I think this is an area of consensus in the Labor Party in terms of there might be one or two but not too many. I think there is an agreement that this is a part of a modern Australia. I think we do need to have more of the debate. I’m a bit of a minimalist, for example, in terms of the sort of Republic. I would be concerned about duelling powers between a Prime Minister and a popularly-elected President. But I do think that we need more debate about these issues. I think it is inevitable that Australia will move to a Republic and I think that, in terms of the flag, I think that’s a very separate question. I don’t support changing the flag. I think that the issue of a modern Australian Republic though is something that’s time has come and it will happen, before or after gay marriage.

TONY JONES: Very briefly, do either of you have a timetable in mind if you manage to come back to government? Would it be something you put at the forefront of your agenda, and I will start with you, since you were talking.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I think in terms of you need to make sure that we don’t lose another referendum. So there needs to be, I think, a lot more community debate and community consensus before you would risk, in my view, going to a referendum. But obviously there is not going to be a referendum whilst Tony Abbott is the Prime Minister. So the first step is get myself or Bill elected in 2016 and as part of that…

TONY JONES: All right. Okay.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: …the next step is to put a timetable for a debate and a referendum. Myself, I think it would be worthwhile having a two-stage process. The first stage is do you want a republic, yes or no, and then have a debate about process.

TONY JONES: Bill Shorten, would you put this at the top of your agenda if you were the Prime Minister of Australia?

BILL SHORTEN: 5% of politics, in my opinion, happens in Canberra. 95% happens outside of Canberra. In order to make a change in Canberra, be it something as significant as the Constitution or, indeed major issues of policy even, you’ve got to lay the groundwork with people. So I think the challenge is to talk and work with people in communities to get them to understand the benefits. Until that happens, you are just engaging in some sort of ego trip or theoretical exercise. Until the work is done to educate people about the pros and cons of becoming a Republic, I think anyone who made a promise beyond that…


BILL SHORTEN: …is just kidding themselves.

TONY JONES: All right. That was our last question for tonight. Before we finish, each panellist will have one minute to sum up their case of becoming Labor leader. A coin toss has determined the order of the speakers. Anthony Albanese will go first.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m standing on a platform of vision, unity and strength for the Labor leadership. My vision is around four themes for the Labor Party to emphasise: jobs and a strong economy. That means not just defending jobs but the jobs of the future, new use of innovation, creativity; the second is opportunity. That means, of course, education but it also means opportunity in terms of expanding Labor’s base to small business, to contractors, to making sure that the self-employed feel they have a voice in modern Labor; the third area is sustainability, which must go right across our political approach to all issues; and the fourth is a fair go for all. I also think that I can bring unity to the party. As someone who was Leader of the House in a very difficult Parliament over the last three years, I demonstrated an ability to get support from a Parliament where you needed to get Adam Bandt and Bob Katter on the same page and we carried almost 600 pieces of legislation.

TONY JONES: That’s a minute.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think in terms of strength, I think my capacity of being both in government and in opposition for the 12 long years of the Howard government positions me in that I know how to operate in opposition and I look forward to working in whatever capacity after this democratic process is concluded.

TONY JONES: Bill Shorten? Your minute starts now.

BILL SHORTEN: I believe that the way the Labor Party becomes relevant to the future of Australia is by us focusing on what matters in the future, the big ideas. I believe that the Labor Party can do this through reforming the party, making it open and more accessible, by our policies, by making sure that we are talking about the issues that will matter to the future of people. Be it making life easier for small business, be it the proper provision of dental care, be it tackling tough issues which no one ever talks about, like domestic violence, by being a brave party, by talking about issues which go our future, such as science, research and innovation. For myself, if I was leader, you will hear less about I and more about the team. My particular skill that I bring is how to turn an idea which doesn’t have support into an outcome, how to turn a minority into a majority, how to make sure that we campaign outside of Parliament. I don’t believe there any swinging votes in the Parliament of Australia but there is over a million people. If the Labor Party gets its party right, gets its policies right and connects with the people of Australia by reaching out then Labor can win the next election and be relevant to the future lives of all Australians. Thank you.

TONY JONES: And that’s all we have time for tonight. Please thank our guests, Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese. Well done Albo.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well done to you too Tony.

TONY JONES: It’s a pleasure.


TONY JONES: Thank you, very much.

TONY JONES: And a very special thanks to our Perth audience and your terrific questions. Please give yourselves a round of applause, if you don’t mind. Thank you. Now, the Labor leadership will be decided within a fortnight but the leadership of the nation was, of course, decided on September 7 and we should just state for the record we have renewed our invitation for the new Prime Minister Tony Abbott to join us on Q&A. We hope that he will be here to face your questions soon.

Sep 25, 2013

Transcript of interview with Leigh Sales on 7:30 Report ABC

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: From today, ordinary members of the Labor Party will be able to start voting on who they want as Opposition Leader: Victorian powerbroker and former union boss Bill Shorten or Sydney MP and former Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Ballots were mailed out yesterday and would already be sitting in the letterboxes of some party faithful.

The leaders had their first debate last night, and compared to those we’ve recently watched between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott, it was a very civil affair with much agreement between the two candidates.

Nonetheless, they are trying to differentiate themselves in what they’re offering, and with me tonight is Anthony Albanese.

Good to see you.


LEIGH SALES: Opposition leaders who come in first after election losses usually are not the person who then goes on to lead their party to victory. They’re usually transitional leaders. Why then do you want the job at this time?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s true historically, but I believe that this is my time. I’m standing on a platform of vision, unity and strength that I can bring to the leadership of the party. I’m not someone who entered Parliament in order to be the leader. I find myself, however, in the circumstances, having been deputy Prime Minister, a senior cabinet minister, having had the experience of opposition, including being the Manager of Opposition Business during the period in which we were successful in 2007 – having that experience, I think being able to unite the party, that I think I can do. And really it’s about Labor governments aren’t the end in itself. It’s what we can do for people. And I’m not prepared to sit back and say that we won’t give it our best shot to win at the very next election, which I think’s possible. If only 30,000 people – if they’re in the right seats, of course – if only 30,000 people had voted differently, then we’d be in government today. So there’s a number of very close seats. So the next election is, I think, very winnable indeed.

LEIGH SALES: Are you one of those people who thinks that voters always get it right and so therefore you did deserve to lose the election we just had?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Voters, of course, always need to be respected. I think that’s one of the problems that Tony Abbott has, is that in 2010 he didn’t respect the outcome of the election. He spent the next three years essentially trying to be defined by what he was against.

LEIGH SALES: Come on, let’s stick to your side. That’s what we’re talking about.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Labor must always, Labor must always be positive. We must always be about the politics of conviction, not the politics of convenience. We have to put forward our agenda for the nation and not be defined by just what we are against. So what we’re for is a strong economy, jobs growth, new innovative industries, what we’re for is opportunity, whether it be from early childhood right through the education stages or small business. What we’re also about is sustainability, whether that be our natural environment or the built environment. Already we’ve seen the Major Cities Unit abolished. We have to be concerned about our cities and our regions.

LEIGH SALES: But if that’s what you’re for, people just didn’t buy that, people didn’t believe that’s what you’re for because they didn’t vote for you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well the fact is that we were too concerned about ourselves and internal politics rather than being concerned about the needs of the nation. And when political parties look at themselves rather than at the needs of the people, they’ll be punished and that’s what happened to us. We need to, every day, think about the same issues of concern that families are talking about around the table: how do their kids get a better education? How do they get access to healthcare? How do they get access to the jobs of the future with secure working conditions?

LEIGH SALES: Well on that point, on what you raise there, the former Labor Party president Warren Mundine wrote an opinion piece after the election loss and he wrote that – it was about why he’d lost faith in the Labor Party. And he wrote, “Labor doesn’t know its heartland anymore. It seems to think the defining characteristics of its traditional base are poverty and low education. Actually, the defining characteristics are hard work and aspiration. Working class people answered the call of the Labor movement. They aspired to better lives and they moved ahead. The problem is the Labor Party did not move with them.” Is that the sort of deep issue that the Labor Party needs to really have a good reflection at and ask itself: is that right? Is there truth in that?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, we always have to be concerned about the aspirations of working people. That’s why we have to reach out beyond just our traditional base. We have to be concerned about the needs of small business. During the election campaign, we did that, but I don’t think we got the message across. The fact that we were prepared to increase the income – the asset writeoff to $10,000, whereas the incoming government will reduce it. We didn’t get the support of small business and self-employed at the election. We need to make sure that we reach out, that we’re continually talking about the future agenda. It is only Labor that’s ever been concerned about the big ideas and the future agenda, whether it be the National Broadband Network, sustainability by taking action on climate change, moving forward as a nation by removing discrimination against same-sex couples and other people in society. We have to always be putting ourselves in a position whereby we’re talking about people’s concerns, not just today, but the concerns that we’ll look after their kids and their grandkids as well.

LEIGH SALES: So you’re trying to sell a broad and inclusive message, but union membership in Australia is around 18 per cent, yet union involvement in the ALP is way, way more significant than that. Do you not have a problem in that the Labor Party’s values and priorities are in sync with a movement that is not representative of four out of five Australians?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, when you look at there’s a dispute at the moment in Queensland with the mining union whereby there’s an attempt essentially to have a new agreement that will reduce conditions and will result in, for that local community, people not being able to work as local community members, but to introduce the fly-in, fly-out workforce in order to reduce those conditions. They’re concerns that Australia needs to be concerned about and Labor must always be concerned about those issues of working Australians. We need to be …

LEIGH SALES: Sure, but what about that broad point that I raise that you’re so heavily aligned with the union movement and most Australians aren’t?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well of course we need to expand our base and we need to be concerned with much more than just union members. We need to be concerned with the growing – there’s 1.9 million small businesses out there. We need to be concerned about their interests. That’s why the National Broadband Network I think will be an ongoing issue. Our support for fibre-to-the-premise meant that those small businesses will be able to compete. The alternative plan of the Coalition that they’re already rolling back on their pretty weak commitments at the election is one I think that will enable us to have stark differences between now and the next election. We need to defend our legacy, but also draw out what those real distinctions are between Labor and the Coalition.

LEIGH SALES: Just briefly before you go, why in this moment are you personally the guy who should lead the Labor Party? Why are you a better candidate than Bill Shorten?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I think I have the experience, firstly. Secondly, people know that what you see is what you get with me. I’m – I believe in the politics of conviction. I’ve had consistency of policy approach my entire political career. And I think I’m able to unite the party as well. I think the role of Leader of the House in a minority parliament was one whereby I had to get on, not just with everyone on my side, but with the crossbenches, and indeed from time to time, some Coalition members as well. I think that experience puts me in a position whereby I can take up the case to Tony Abbott each and every day from day one and I believe that the next election is very much winnable.

LEIGH SALES: Anthony Albanese, thank you very much.


LEIGH SALES: And Mr Albanese’s opponent, Bill Shorten, will join me on the program tomorrow night and I’ll put some of those same points to him.

Sep 22, 2013

Transcript of interview with Barrie Cassidy ABC Insiders

BARRIE CASSIDY, PRESENTER: the Labor leadership battle is a two way affair: Bill Shorten versus Anthony Albanese.

We’re joined this morning from Sydney by the latter.

Anthony Albanese, good morning.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LABOR MP: Good morning Barrie.

BARRIE CASSIDY: When did you first harbour the ambition to lead the Labor Party?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, very recently Barrie. The truth is that I have always seen myself as a team player who could make a contribution. I did want to be the leader of the House of Representatives, but until very recently I didn’t harbour ambitions to be leader.

Towards the end of the campaign, people started approaching me. I dismissed those approaches because I wanted to concentrate each and every day on maximising the Labor vote on September 7. So after September 7, I gave it some thought. I had to be very clear that it was something that I wanted to do. I had to be clear in my own mind also that I believed it was in the best interests of the Labor Party for me to put myself forward for the leadership.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Why is it, do you think, that you never really thought about it as a serious prospect?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh look, I’ve just seen myself as a team player. I know it is often said, Barrie, no-one goes into Parliament who doesn’t want to be the leader. That’s not my experience. My experience is that most people go in wanting to be a local member first and they might want to make a contribution as a minister at some time.

That certainly is where I was at for a long time. I think, as neither you or any of your journalistic colleagues can ever say I have said to you or to them “I think I might be leader one day”. I think I’ve played a role in terms of providing that support, using my skills in the Parliament as leader of the house and manager of opposition business. But also I wanted to be the infrastructure minister and be about nation building. I have been able to achieve that.

I think the circumstances of the party now are that I believe I’m the best person to take Labor forward and take Tony Abbott on at the next election.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Was it in any way driven by the fact that you knew Bill Shorten would run, and given you have new rules operating, you owed it to the rank and file to at least give them a contest to get involved in?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No. I had to make sure that I actually wanted to do the job and that I was, in my view, the best person to do the job. I also was encouraged to stand by people within the Labor Party across the political spectrum, from outside the Labor Party, from people in the business community rang me up and encouraged me to put myself forward.

So under those circumstances, I think it is a good thing that the democratic process is taking place.

I was there in ‘96 when we lost and what normally happens when governments lose is they go into a corner for a while and have a bit of self-reflection, and go through a difficult time. What’s happening now, it is two weeks since the election, we’re talking about Labor’s future, not just to ourselves as a Caucus but to thousands of Labor Party members. And, indeed, also out there in the community, I think there is an engagement in this process. That’s a good thing.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Labor members are probably more interested in policy than personalities too. Do you accept that the analysis seems to be there is no real policy differences between you and Bill Shorten?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, Bill and I share very similar values. And that mightn’t be convenient for the media, but so be it; we’re not going to create false distinctions.

I do think we need to talk about policy development, and there will be debates this week; there will be three at least in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth over the coming eight days. And, out of that, I’m sure there’ll be some differences of emphasis arise.

I certainly think that we need to defend the legacy where we got it right. And we got the big calls right over the Rudd and Gillard governments. Programs like the National Broadband Network, action on climate change, the Better Schools plan, DisabilityCare. We need to defend that.

We also need to acknowledge, I think, where we got it wrong. And areas like, I think, the sole parent payments is an area where we made a mistake. We essentially meant that some of the most vulnerable people ended up with less income. But perhaps just as importantly to them, to those that I have spoken to, there was a lack of respect, I think, for the role that they play as single parents, and a great deal of disappointment.

Labor must always be the party of the disadvantaged. We must be very clear about our values and what we stand for as a framework. And then, on top of that, you can get into the specific policy development.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Who drove the policy to take away the benefits to sole parents?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, I think we have to take collective responsibility Barrie. I was a member of the government and I don’t seek to blame any individual.

I think it’s really important that the Labor Party stop finger pointing. The reference beforehand that you’ve just had in your discussion about polling I really think isn’t helpful. I was a party official some time ago; there was never any leaking of internal polling. It simply has to stop.

BARRIE CASSIDY: On the differences between the two of you. You’re from the Left and that’s not traditionally – New South Wales Left – where prime ministers come from. Bill Shorten is known to build contacts with both unions and business. Does that give him an edge?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, I think, Barrie, I’ve got very good contacts with the business community. If you look at the role that I played, the establishment of Infrastructure Australia, where you have direct private sector representatives, a board chaired by Sir Rod Eddington with private sector reps there.

If you look at the work that I did as a minister involving business groups like the Logistics Council, like the Australian Trucking Association, in the framework, they actually got to come to ministerial council meetings and participate. Whether it be the establishment of the National Urban Policy Forum, with groups like the Property Council of Australia, I have very good links across the business sector. I was encouraged by a number of people in the business community to put myself forward.

And, indeed, I think many of those old labels really are outdated. I’m not putting myself forward as a candidate for a particular group of people in the Labor Party. I want to represent all of the Labor Party. And I want to take up the challenge of rebuilding Labor after what was a very significant loss two weeks ago.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Now you’ve said you have been loyal to both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, but when it came to the crunch, you have only ever voted for Kevin Rudd?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I actually voted for Kim Beazley when Kevin Rudd first stood.

BARRIE CASSIDY: In the Rudd-Gillard competition, you’ve only ever voted for Kevin Rudd?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s correct Barrie. And I have been up-front about my view of the events of June 2010. Each and every day in the Parliament and I think anyone I however, each and every day, Barrie, in the Parliament, and I think anyone who watched the Parliament, saw that I defended the government, whether it be under Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard, each and every day to the best of my ability. And I was never shy about doing that. Each and every day … and it was a tough Parliament, the last Parliament, and Julia Gillard did a remarkable job.

I think history will treat both the Gillard and Rudd governments very well indeed in terms of the achievements that we did; mainly going through the global financial crisis on our first term. And, under Julia Gillard, remarkable reforms particularly in the context of a minority Parliament. We got through almost 600 pieces of legislation. We didn’t suffer a single defeat.

And I think Tony Windsor’s comments were pretty strong this week. Unusual for Tony Windsor to come out supporting a particular candidate, but he did, and he emphasised the work I did in the Parliament, loyally, to the Labor Party.

BARRIE CASSIDY: You talk about the achievements and you go through Julia Gillard’s achievements, the NDIS was at the top of the list I guess, but the Murray-Darling Basin reform, education reform. What were Kevin Rudd’s significant policy achievements?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well the big one, of course, was the economic stimulus plan.

BARRIE CASSIDY: That’s not so much a policy initiative; that was a response to a crisis.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: That was a big policy initiative, Barrie, because what that did was result in the bringing forward of projects like the full duplication of the Hume Highway, like major infrastructure projects right around the country. And that resulted in… if you don’t get the economics right, if you don’t keep people in employment, if you don’t keep family with breadwinners, then everything else falls away. And that was critical.

Joseph Stiglitz has viewed it as the best designed stimulus package anywhere in the world. I think that was a major achievement. As well, if you compare when we came to office in 2007, Barrie, the first thing was ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

What’s their achievements in the first week: Sacking senior public servants; moving from stopping the boats to hiding the boats; appointing one woman out of 19 in the cabinet, but perhaps more drastically only one woman out of 12 parliamentary secretaries, thereby locking that lack of representation in for the future.

I think it has been a very poor start from the Abbott Government. No vision, no big policy initiatives. And it stands in stark contrast to our actions when we came into government.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Further on the question of loyalty, can you say hand on heart you knew nothing of the destabilisation and the undermining that was going on against Julia Gillard?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Of course not. Everyone knew about it Barrie, it was in the paper.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Yes but you knew beyond what was written in the paper and you knew who was doing the undermining?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Everyone knew what was going on, Barrie, everyone knew it. The question is do you involve yourself in it? And certainly I didn’t. I was of the view, I was of the view very strongly, that we should concentrate on taking up the challenge to the opposition.

And I think now what we need to do is actually look to the future. We need to draw a line in the sand under this and we need to unite and move forward with whoever is the leader Barrie.

BARRIE CASSIDY: OK, but you say you knew it was going on. You heard talk of the cardinals, the group that called themselves the cardinals, Kim Carr, Joel Fitzgibbon and Richard Marles, that was Rudd’s core group of supporters. Why didn’t you go to them at some point and say “This has to stop”?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, Barrie, the fact is, going over history, everyone knew this was going on. What my job was, each and every day, Barrie, I was leader of the house, minister for infrastructure and transport, minister for regional Australia and local government. I frankly, Barrie, had enough on my plate arguing against our political opponents. That was what I concentrated on each and every day.

What we need to do is to make sure that every member of the caucus moving forward does just that, Barrie.

BARRIE CASSIDY: You could have done more surely. And the suspicion is you didn’t want to because, as Pam Williams wrote in the Financial Review, that you were a secret cardinal. What do you say to that?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, Barrie, that’s just not the case. Pam Williams didn’t bother to speak to me about any of those articles.

There’s been some things published since the changeover that simply don’t bear resemblance to reality. I mean it was written on the front page of The Aus just a week ago that I was a Kevin Rudd supporter against Kim Beazley in 2005. I mean, anyone who was around then, including Kim Beazley, knows that is just not the case.

I was always up-front about my position, Barrie. I held a press conference that was fairly widely publicised, you might remember, about my position, publicly about the circumstances of what occurred in 2010. I don’t think that there’s anything productive to be done with going over all the entrails. I think what we need to do: put a line under the sand and move forward as a united team. We need to learn the lessons. And I think circumstances such as today’s leaked polling aren’t helpful at all.

BARRIE CASSIDY: That does appear as if there are elements within the Labor Party, and you presume they are the former Rudd supporters, who are just hell bent on trashing Julia Gillard’s reputation to justify the return to Kevin Rudd.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: And it’s not helpful because what I’ve done, both publicly and privately, Barrie, is defend the legacy of both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. I did it whilst they were in the leadership positions. I intend to continue to do it regardless of the outcome. Because that’s what Labor supporters expect.

One of the big issues we had during the election campaign was the lack of unity. And to give Tony Abbott credit, the truth is that he was very disciplined and his team were disciplined, and they reaped the benefits of it. The Labor Party needs to make sure that we are also a disciplined team; that we don’t go into trying to score what are at the end of the day petty political points.

Julia Gillard was an outstanding prime minister under difficult circumstances. And Kevin Rudd I think retires from leadership ambitions with having had an outstanding record as the prime minister. That’s not to say that there weren’t mistakes made by the Labor government, we need to acknowledge that, but we got the big calls right. And we are in a position to be successful at the next election. We’ve got 55 seats and that makes us very competitive indeed.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Just finally, if you beat Bill Shorten of course, can you go on and beat Tony Abbott, given that a first time opposition leader’s, I don’t think in almost 100 years, haven’t gone on and won in the first chop.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well it’s a tough challenge, Barrie, but it is one I’m up to. No-one has given me leg up in life. What you see is what you get. And I will be doing what I do in terms of the policy positions that I hold: holding the Government to account, defending our legacy where we have a good record in recent times, but also using the period of Opposition to develop what is the next National Broadband Network, what’s the next Better Schools plan?

It’s only Labor that has ever done the big ideas. We have an opportunity to develop that in Opposition in a constructive way, and I look forward to the challenge if I am selected. If not, I will be part of Bill Shorten’s team going forward to the next election.

We owe it to our supporters and we owe it to the nation to always be thinking about not ourselves but what are the interests of those families talking about around the kitchen table. How does my kid get a better education? How do I get proper health care? Is my job secure with decent working conditions? That’s what we have to focus on in the next three years.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Thanks for your time this morning, appreciate it.


Sep 15, 2013

Transcript of interview with Peter Van Onselen and Paul Kelly – Sky News, Australian Agenda

PETER VAN ONSELEN: We have just been speaking to the interim Labor leader, Chris Bowen.  We had hoped to also speak to Bill Shorten, we put a request in; he will hopefully come on in the next couple of weeks before the leadership is decided.

But we are joined now by the frontrunner, the favourite I’m told by most commentators, Anthony Albanese.  Welcome to the program.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you, Peter.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Can I ask you a question off the back of a comment that Bill Shorten made, I think on Friday, he said that this won’t just be a showdown based on personalities; it will include policy differences as well.  What do you think are going to be the key policy differences between yourself and Bill Shorten over who should lead Labor?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, it will be about different visions for the way that the Labor Party will move forward.  It’s about who is the best person to take us through what will be a challenging time.  We have suffered a defeat, we had our primary vote which was much lower than what we need if we are going to win, but we are competitive.

So I will be campaigning on three attributes, I told the caucus colleagues, one that I have a vision for the future, that we need to have four themes essentially around which we structure our position in Opposition.  One of continuing to prioritise jobs and economic growth but one which embraces new ideas: how do we adapt to new innovative industries; how do we deal with the challenge of what’s going on in China and in our region; how do we use platforms such as the National Broadband Network and smart infrastructure to expand new jobs.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But Bill Shorten would agree with all of that, surely?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Sure, but it’s a matter of different emphasis.  My first point is that, my second point is one of opportunity, education and training; making sure that we have the skills for the jobs of the future.  The third is sustainability.  I have a very strong position on climate change and the need for a sustainable Australia that includes issues such as public transport investment.  I think that is a big distinction between us and the incoming Abbott Government.  We can’t deal with urban congestion without that.  And the fourth is a fair go.  I support marriage equality, I support removing discrimination wherever it is found.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But getting down to brass tacks, I mean on most of those issues you and Bill Shorten wouldn’t be that far apart.  Isn’t the biggest reason why you’re more suitable for this position now than Bill Shorten is because he’s damaged goods?  The role that he played in both installing Kevin Rudd in the first place – sorry, removing Kevin Rudd in the first place and then installing him in the second place he has a damaged brand in the current climate?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What is clear when it comes to myself and Bill, what unites us is far more in common than differences.  And in terms of – so that’s true, but we will have different emphasis, we have – I particularly have stressed my interest in nation–building infrastructure being something that I have focused on in my time.

But I’ve had broad policy development as well and I think I have an ability unite the party, I have, I think, pretty broad support across the party from the business community, from a range of people that I have dealt with.  I have a record as well.  I have 17 years up to now in the Parliament.  There is an old 20–year rule in terms of people who get to be Prime Minister by and large have complied with that rule.  I have six years as a minister across a range of portfolios, vast experience as a shadow minister.  Importantly 10 years in being either the Leader of the House or Manager of Opposition Business.

I know what it’s like to be in Opposition, I know how you get to Government.  I was the Manager of Opposition Business, chair of our tactics committee leading up to the 2007 election, so I think that experience as well as the breadth of the portfolios that I have held in government and in Opposition…

PETER VAN ONSELEN: So Bill Shorten is not ready, you are?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, I think if Bill is chosen I think he will be a very good leader.  But I made an assessment…

PAUL KELLY: But he is inexperienced compared to you, that’s your basic point obviously?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I made an assessment that I was the best person at this time under these circumstances to lead the Labor Party.  I’m not someone, Paul – as you know there is not a journalist in the country who can say that I have ever said to them I want to be leader of the Labor Party.  I’m someone whose circumstances have put in a position whereby approaches were made either from people in the caucus or just people in the community saying ‘If you lose the election you should put your hand up’.  I thought about it very deeply because it’s an onerous challenge and an onerous responsibility.

But it’s also a great honour.  I have always been a team player and I have always seen – in the past I’ve seen that the best role I could play for the team – the one job I did aspire to was leader of the House of Representatives.  I’ve done that, I’ve done that through a minority Parliament, the most difficult Parliament that Australia has had, and I got 586 pieces of legislation through.

PAUL KELLY: We know.  OK.  This is an entirely new event, what’s going to happen over the course of the next several weeks.  So would you agree to debate with Bill Shorten, seeing it’s a contest, seeing as you are both going to be campaigning, what about the idea of a debate between the two of you putting forward your own ideas in this debating context?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We certainly will be having debates, Paul.  There is a meeting…

PAUL KELLY: How and when?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: There is a meeting tomorrow to finalise those issues.  It needs to be sorted through whether that will be just for ALP members or whether there will be some public element to that, that will be sorted out.  The national executive is meeting tomorrow.

PAUL KELLY: What would you prefer? Would you prefer the debate just for Labor members, surely you can’t do that, or would you prefer it to be in public?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m pretty relaxed, Paul.  One of the things that I have proposed, for example, there is an issue of how this issue is funded in terms of the party.  One of the things that there’s discussion of is whether we have a forum in which members of the business community come along to a lunch or what have you, with an interview, perhaps you could host it, Paul, of…

PAUL KELLY: Only too happy to.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Interviewing the two candidates and opening it up so that we get – this is an opportunity for Labor to show that we are inclusive, that we are open, that we are not frightened of debating ideas.  If this is done right this can give us enormous momentum at the beginning of what is going to be a difficult period.  It did that for Ed Milliband in…

PAUL KELLY: I take that on board; there are all sorts of advantages in this.  What about the risks and what about in particular the risk that has been raised – just say you win the contest, the risk is that you have only got minority of support inside the parliamentary party.  How much of a problem might that be for you as leader?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, I think people will make their own speculative decisions about what might or might not happen.  We will wait and see, Paul.  The great thing about a ballot of 40,000 people is that no–one knows.  That’s the great thing.  You can’t have three or four people in a room or in a restaurant deciding the future of the Labor Party.  I think that’s a good thing.  I think that brings with it enormous legitimacy and I don’t think there is anyone who would argue that either Bill or I don’t have very broad support within the caucus.  Caucus, I thought, was pretty constructive the other day as well.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: In fairness you’re not answering the question on that though, because you have to game this out.  It’s a fair question: what happens if the leader, whoever it is, wins the majority of support from the members but not the caucus? Because optically that’s a problem, isn’t it?  Leading a party where the results are put out in public – and we all know that a majority of the new leaders’ parliamentary colleagues didn’t want them, they wanted the other guy.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, it’s not a matter of not wanting them.  This is a difficult choice.  Most of the colleagues that I have spoken to have essentially said there are – and what I believe – there is two good candidates, it’s a difficult choice, they are going to make that choice and have a vote as are the 40,000 members of the party.  I mean, Ed Milliband went through this process.  It went for four months in the UK and he came through the process as the successful candidate.  He’s now in a position whereby in some polls he’s looking ahead of both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats combined.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Can I play devil’s advocate to that though?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: He’s in a position to win the next election.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Ed Milliband was taking on his brother.  Now his brother actually won more support in the caucus than Ed Milliband did.  There’s been stability since, I would argue, not because of the system but because his brother decided not to undermine his own brother.  Are you so sure that Bill Shorten would take the same view towards you if you won?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I absolutely take Bill at his word.  Both of us have – both of us are friends, both of us have a very positive relationship.  The fact that we are talking the process through in a constructive way and it’s a consensus process is, I think, a very good sign of what would happen afterwards.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: I want to ask you about the process.  Now you’re a supporter of this new system, we had Chris Bowen on before and so is he, he wrote about it in his book.  Are you as interested in imbedding this process as you are in becoming Labor leader?  Because it strikes me that you’re a long term leader of the factional left, this system empowers the left because the party membership have always as their President chosen someone of the left rather than the right.  It would strike me as natural that someone as loyal as yourself to the parliamentary left, not just to the Labor Party, would want to imbed a system like this for the benefit of your ideological ilk within the party.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s not right, Peter.  I gave up being a factional activist a long time ago and indeed I was going through my documents the other day and found my letterhead as a convener of campaign for Labor democracy.  In 1986 I was arguing the case for direct election of leader and direct votes in terms of delegates to party conferences.  This isn’t something that’s come from a couple of weeks or a couple of years, this is a couple of decades that I have campaigned for this sort of reform.  And in terms of the outcomes the truth is that the two people who have won the ballots in terms of rank and file ballots were John Faulkner and Carmen Lawrence.  They were extremely strong candidates.  There is no particular bias in terms…

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But of the left, both of them were of the left.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: And they were the best candidates.  They happened to be the best candidates.  It wasn’t because they were of the left, they were very strong candidates compared with the candidates who were put up against them.  This time around there are a number of – the left isn’t a majority of the machine in terms of the party organisation tends to be dominated not by the left, so there were a number of advantages that I certainly don’t have.  But I’m not going into this process as a left candidate, I’m going into this process as a member of the party and I don’t care about what faction people are, I certainly have broad support.  Whoever the leader is should never go to a faction meeting.

PAUL KELLY: I would like to ask you about Kevin Rudd.  What’s your view about Kevin Rudd’s future in the parliamentary party, and in particular is there any role for him on the front bench?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, he’s indicated that he doesn’t want a role on the front bench.  He, I think, has an honoured role as a former leader.  We should respect all of our former leaders.  Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard both led good governments; they both have a legacy that needs to be defended.  They can both be very proud, I think, of their achievements in Government.

PAUL KELLY: But as a leader would you invest Rudd with any particular role or status?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m not getting ahead of myself, Paul.  We are in a process.  What I would say…

PAUL KELLY: Let me rephrase the question, forget about whether or not you are leader…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: You might get the same answer, Paul.

PAUL KELLY: What’s your view about whether or not there should be some sort of role or status for Kevin Rudd?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: All former leaders should be honoured by our party, whether it be Kevin, or Julia, or Simon Crean, the same way that Bob Hawke and Paul Keating are.  I think it’s very important that we move past some of the rancour and that we have an opportunity now to really refrain the debate within the Labor Party around policy, around ideas.  Not personalities and not around conflict between individuals.

PAUL KELLY: What about the idea being put forward by Craig Emerson.  Emerson argued just a few days ago that while ever Kevin Rudd is in the caucus there is going to be chronic instability.  Do you agree with that or not?


PAUL KELLY: But what’s the record tell us?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What has occurred in the past in terms of is that – you know, there was conflict between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.  That’s a matter of the past.  What we need to do is move beyond that, Paul, and not go into all of that.  I mean I’m a progressive.  I’m about looking forward, looking forward, learning from the past but looking forward.  That’s what we all need to do.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Can I ask you, going back to this issue of policy differences potentially between you and Bill Shorten, you spoke about things that were more – that you had more in common than as differences.  If there was one key difference in the approach that you see yourself taking to the Labor leadership if successful versus your opponent, Bill Shorten, what would it be?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think it’s a matter of approach rather than one key sort of style difference.  I think in terms of approach my attitude towards nation–building infrastructure – and I notice it’s quite interesting that yesterday Joe Hockey was out there talking about economic stimulus and investment in infrastructure after being so critical of our economic stimulus which kept people in jobs, which did invest in things like bringing forward the funding for the Hume Highway meant it’s now being duplicated on our watch.  We heard about budget emergency, now they are back into that.  I think that there is a great deal of scope for us to intervene in those areas.

I think in terms of social policy I would have very much an emphasis on equality and removal of discrimination; I think I’ve got a record in that as well.  I think in terms of Bill and we shouldn’t pretend that there is a vast chasm between us ideologically.  The old divisions in terms of the right and the left are long past.  I’m a strong supporter of market–based forces.  I’m also a strong supporter of inclusiveness.  So if you want to see what leadership would be from myself just have a look at my record.  Things like the creation of Infrastructure Australia, a body that has empowered private sector representatives along with the Government to make recommendations that have chosen in this case 15 projects.  All of them undertaken and funded by the Government.  Or the ministerial councils that I chaired, I think I’m the only minister that did this – I might be wrong – but I included groups like the Australian Logistics Council as well as the unions.  I included them so they had a seat around the table.  That would be part of my approach.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Something else that I want to ask you about in a moment is your approach to carbon pricing if you were successful as leader.  But before that what about the approach to the team you have around you.  Because leadership is not just about one person it is about the team that you build.  Would you like to see, despite the new caucus rules that the caucus picks its own front bench, would you like to at least see a handful of captain’s picks so that you get key people onto the front bench that perhaps may not be as easily picked by your colleagues?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, I think those things need to be talked through with the caucus and it needs to be done in a mature way.  For example for someone who is outside of a faction that should not mean they are excluded from consideration.  And I think that’s really important that we get good geographic spread, that we get proper gender representation, that we get the best team possible.  Now that in recent times has been done by just the leader picking the team, bearing those measures in mind.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Is that your preference, the leader picks the team?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, I think the caucus has a responsibility to pick the team and they can do it in an appropriate way.  I think there is a danger in it that you don’t get the right geographical spread or you don’t get the get the right overall outcome because you don’t have that overview.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Because my understanding is that…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: But I’m sure that we can work that through.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Because my understanding is that internally you have expressed or you did express concerns about the return to the caucus system.  Is that right?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yes, I don’t think we always had our best team from ‘96 when the factions were chosen – were choosing all of the front bench.  I think I’m of the view – and I have had this view for quite some time – that the power of the factions needs to be diminished and the power needs to be given back to the grassroots.  We can’t continue to ignore the fact that we are an ageing party, that we are a party that has declined in terms of our membership, and that reflects all sorts of organisations.  It’s not just political parties, the local bowling clubs that don’t reform, that are just doing the things the way that they did are collapsing.  The ones that are surviving are ones that adapt to new technology, new times, embrace openness and embrace new ideas.  We need to do the same thing.

PAUL KELLY: If we just move on to climate change, you are obviously of the view that Labor has got to defend its carbon pricing position.  What are the political risks in doing that? Obviously if Tony Abbott repeals carbon pricing then this is a political risk for Labor maintaining this position which Abbott will depict as support for a carbon tax.  Are you prepared to fight this battle and do you think Labor can win this battle?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: You know what the biggest risk is to Labor in Opposition, Paul? Is that we have tactics that speak about the 24 hour cycle, or the one week cycle, or even the one term electoral cycle and ignore principle, vision, and what we need – what we stand for as a party.  We need to be prepared to stand up and argue our case.  If you believe that climate change is real – and I do – and I do because the scientists tell us – you have got a responsibility.  You have got a responsibility to act.  The best way of acting, in my view, is using market–based mechanisms through an emissions trading scheme.  I helped write the policy when I was climate change environment spokesperson a long time ago.

PAUL KELLY: There is no retreat on this?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Paul, this isn’t just a matter of tactics.  I think that the population will respond to political leadership that is prepared to stand up for its values and its principles.  Now the risk is sitting on the porch in retirement, having a beer and thinking ‘Gee, I wish we hadn’t rolled over and pretended that climate change wasn’t happening’.  You know.  And the other risk is, here is the risk for Tony Abbott, Paul.  If Tony Abbott goes to a G20 meeting or a UN framework convention on climate change, or any of the world’s forums and sits around with David Cameron, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and says “I think climate change is crap” we will be a laughing stock as a nation.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: But there is a difference between you standing by your principles on carbon pricing versus blocking an attempt to remove the carbon tax as it currently stands.  I asked this same question of Chris Bowen, Tony Abbott will be introducing the repealing of the carbon tax separate to his direct action plan and you yourselves in Government were planning to repeal the carbon tax and replace it with an ETS.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Replace it with.  We were essentially bringing forward the ETS.  It was always envisaged that there was a fixed price period and then it would evolve into an ETS.  What we did when Kevin Rudd took over the leadership was just bring that period forward.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: OK, one final question before we let you go.  Yourself versus Bill Shorten, if you find yourself in a position where you don’t win that contest, and I know you’re playing to win, but if you don’t will you be going on in politics serving on the front bench with Bill Shorten?  Perhaps even taking up a deputy leadership position.  Is your political career vested in winning this ballot or are you going on either way?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, I’m a team player.  The fact I have put myself forward for this position at this time does not change that.  I would serve as a front bencher if I was selected by the caucus under the new process and I would contribute in the best way possible.  That’s what I’ve always done.  I’ve never woken up in the morning and said over the time I’ve been in Parliament “How do I get to be leader”.  What I’ve done is woken up and said “How can I serve the Labor team today in a way that” – not because that’s an end in itself, because I truly believe passionately that it is only Labor that does the big ideas.  That gets the big vision like the National Broadband Network, like action on climate change.  That’s what I want to continue to do.

PAUL KELLY: I’ve got to put this question to you though.  You say all the time you’re a team player.  What do you say to your critics? You say you are always in the Rudd camp, you were always with Rudd right from the start before he even became prime minister and as a result of that you did a lot of damage to the government?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, ask Julia Gillard what she thinks about whether I was loyal to her.  And, you know, I was loyal each and every day.  See if you can find a journo, any of them, they are free to go out there and say that I undermined either Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard with backgrounding or anything else.  I was absolutely committed…

PAUL KELLY: So your conscience is clear?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Absolutely.  I acted in a way which, you know, I think was pretty clear.  I noticed a sort of rather bizarre front page splash in your paper yesterday Paul, that suggested that I was in the Rudd camp in 2005.  Well actually if you read the story – not the first time a headline has been different from the story – but Kevin Rudd did sound out whether I would be interested in deputy leader in 2005, that’s true.  What is also true is that I supported Kim Beazley and indeed did his numbers for him in that ballot against Kevin Rudd.  That’s not to say I wasn’t a friend of Kevin’s, I have been since 2005.  I remain a friend of Kevin Rudd, I remain a friend of Julia Gillard.  And one final thing, I must note that the story about the PM’s bed sit there, Julia Gillard when she was Prime Minister stayed in exactly the same AFP quarters that I’m sure Tony Abbott will be staying in, so there is nothing that new about that.  And I think it’s a pity the article didn’t pick that up.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Reference there to the front page of the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ for the sake of our viewers.  Mr Albanese, we are out of time.  We appreciate you joining us.  Good luck in your ballot against Bill Shorten.  I hope for your sake that you do a better job with the numbers than you did for Kim Beazley back in 2006.

Thanks very much for joining us on Australian Agenda.



Sep 13, 2013

Transcript of press conference, Canberra

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Today, after determining a final position with my family last night, the first person I told that I would be a candidate for Leader of the Labor Party was Bill Shorten. I then informed the Caucus. That is what was appropriate.

I am standing for the Labor leadership because I firmly believe that I am the best candidate to lead Labor back into Government at the next election.

I am standing because I have the policy credentials that have developed over a long period of time.

I am standing because as a senior minister in the Government for six years I looked after infrastructure, transport, regional development, local government, broadband, communications and the digital economy.

I did a good, sound job in implementation of all of our policies in those areas.

At the end of the Government period I was Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Leader of the House of Representatives, as well as being the Member for Grayndler.

I think I am up to a hard job.

My record shows also that I can work with a broad range of people to get results. The last Parliament was the most difficult since Federation. And yet we delivered 596 pieces of legislation through the Parliament, negotiated in good faith across the boundaries that normally occur in the House of Representatives to secure support for that legislation.

So my record shows that I have an ability to work with people both across the Labor Party but also across the Parliament, in the community and with the business sector.

In the coming weeks I will run for the Labor leadership on the same platform that I would run for Australia’s prime ministership. We have to change. We have to do better – for Australia and for Labor.

The leadership ballot in our party will be about two things. The future of our country, and the future of our party. I have no doubt which is more important.

Labor must always be about the concerns that are being discussed in the living rooms, around the kitchen table of Australian families.

How to get a secure job with decent working conditions.

The education of our kids.

Better health care.

Access to the National Broadband Network.

Access to transport.

Those are the issues that are important.

Labor governments are important; not in of itself, but for what they can do. I stand before you as the personification of what Labor can achieve in terms of changing peoples’ lives.

I grew up in a housing department – or city council it was back then – flat in Camperdown with a single mum who was on a disability pension.

I understand that Labor governments make a real difference to peoples’ lives. I had access to education due to the great reforms of Labor governments before me.

It is only Labor that takes on the big reforms. It is Labor historically that has done that. And it is Labor that will do it again.

Can you imagine the Coalition coming up with the National Disability Insurance Scheme?

Can you imagine them having the foresight to think through the Better Schools plan?

Conceiving of the National Broadband Network?

Bothering with national health reform?

Can you imagine them having the wit to fix the Murray Darling Basin – talked about for decades, but delivered by our last term of Government?

Or to take on the issue of climate change?

We need to advocate a platform for the future. Our platform for the future needs to have four key themes.

Firstly – and what must always be first for Labor – a strong economy with jobs and growth. That must be at the forefront. That means not just defending existing industries. It means how we reach out to new innovation, and the jobs of the future.

It means building nation building infrastructure of the future; particularly the National Broadband Network. The National Broadband Network is absolutely critical in applying smart infrastructure, in making sure that we prepare ourselves to compete in the region.

It means investing also in opportunities, and that’s the second point.

Creating opportunities is what Labor does. That means the Better Schools plan. It also means vocational education and training. It means ensuring we look after tertiary education. It means we ensure planning so that the skills are there to meet the jobs of the future.

It means creating opportunities for small business. And identifying where growth can occur.

It means also fairness in the workplace and opportunities for all.

The third theme is a sustainable Australia.

That means a clean energy future. It means ensuring that we continue to take action on climate change. It means support for renewable energy and clean energy. It means support for our natural environment. It means Labor always recognising that what we leave for future generations is important.

And the fourth principle that will provide a framework for moving forward is a fair go for all. I believe that Labor governments are at their best when they take on inequality and discrimination. Whether it be on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, religion or who people happen to love.

They are principles that are universal and they are principles that should be at the core of a Labor agenda.

In terms of the Parliament, I think I have a record of taking on these issues.

What you see is what you get.

I am someone who puts forward a view, strongly and passionately, when I believe it.

I am someone who is prepared to argue the case, whether in the Parliament, in the media, or out there in the community.

People would well recall a certain demonstration attended by the former member for Indi outside my electorate office in Marrickville where I was prepared to argue the case, and I will always be prepared to argue the case.

With regard to the Parliament, we should be standing up for our views. We should also be prepared to constructively engage, and not be negative for negative’s sake.

Tony Abbott did too much of that.

He did too much of that. He also did too much of not preparing his team for Government. We need to use this period of Opposition to encourage new ideas. New policies; what are the big picture visions for tomorrow?

What is the next NBN? The next DisabilityCare Australia? That’s what Labor Governments do.

And you can do it by taking advantage of the fact that unfortunately we are in Opposition.

The ballot process itself will be the start of that. The ballot process is an important empowerment of the Labor Party membership. And I am very glad that Bill Shorten will contest that ballot.

Bill is a friend of mine and he would make a very good leader. He’s a great communicator. He is someone who I think played an absolutely critical role in the creation of DisabilityCare Australia in its formative stages.

So he’s someone I look forward to working with into the future.

I want to see a process whereby the 30,000 or 40,000 members of the Labor Party actually get a say, get a say themselves in the future direction of the party.

Where this has been tried it has led to considerable growth in Labor Party members. So I say to you, the potential Labor Party members of Australia, that today the Caucus has agreed, or reaffirmed the fact that we want Labor Party membership to be more than handing out how-to-votes on polling day.

We want your involvement and there I no greater involvement than assisting to select the Leader of the Labor Party.

So I say to all those who are looking at this process and thinking that’s a good idea, that’s great, who am I going to vote for – that’s right I’ve never got around to joining,

Now is your time. Join up, be part of the Labor Party growth. Be part of the building, the rebuilding of Labor.

Labor is a party of nation building. Today we begin the rebuilding of our own party as a first step, not in of itself, but for why that is important for what we can do for our country.

So, it’s now time for us to engage over the coming weeks. I’ve devoted my life to the service of the Labor Party and the service of the nation.

I believe in the Labor Party. Not as an entity of itself, but I believe it’s only Labor governments that truly look after the long-term national interest.

And it is a great honour to put myself forward as I did today to be Leader of the Labor Party.


Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

Email: [email protected]

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