Subjects: Housing prices, The Killing Season, the Global Financial Crisis
KRISTINA KENEALLY: Anthony Albanese, thank you for joining us. Joe Hockey said this morning that Labor wants to smash housing prices and he wants to increase supply. Doesn’t he have a point that supply is a key part of housing affordability?
ALBANESE: Well Joe Hockey only takes his feet out of his mouth to change his socks. The more he speaks the more trouble he gets into. It is absurd to argue that Labor wants to decrease the cost of housing. What we do want though, is to deal with the issue of housing affordability. Supply is a part of that. Everyone knows that that is the case but everyone also knows, except for Joe Hockey, that there is an issue with housing affordability in Sydney. I don’t want the only way that someone who is young can get into housing in Sydney to be if they inherit a house off their parents.
KENEALLY: But wouldn’t you concede that parts of Sydney are affordable? I mean, Craig Laundy today said you can find an affordable house in Sydney if you are just prepared to move to certain parts of the city.
ALBANESE: Well that, of course, has issues associated with it as well in terms of getting access to employment. Increasingly what State of Australian Cities reports have identified is that we have drive-in, drive-out suburbs where people can afford to live but where the jobs aren’t located. So then it creates a social disconnect. Successful cities are inclusive cities. They are ones that aren’t created with suburbs of haves and have nots and we are in danger in Sydney of having your income being determined or easily identified by your post code. That’s not a good thing. It’s something that requires a government response that is more sympathetic than the responses we’ve seen from Joe Hockey or indeed last week when Tony Abbott was asked about housing affordability he said that the price of his home on the Lower North Shore of Sydney has been increasing in value and that is a good thing.
VAN ONSELEN: I’ve got to jump in, Anthony Albanese, and ask you this because the gaffes, if you want to call them that, and that’s perhaps arguable, or whether they are insensitive or not, that’s the rats and mice stuff here. This is your portfolio area housing and what you are saying makes sense. You are talking about the need for wholesale reform and a wider look at this. The Government is doing that. It’s looking at a tax White Paper. We are yet to hear about the federation reform that might be included in that White Paper and that sort of relationship between the states and the commonwealth and what needs to happen with land release, with incentives for stamp duty reduction and so forth or for that matter urban density. There are the sorts of things that we can have that discussion about later in the year. That’s where the focus should be, not supposed gaffes surely?
ALBANESE: Well the first step to finding a solution is identifying a problem. The government has shown this week it doesn’t even know what the problem is. It’s trying to pretend it doesn’t exist.
VAN ONSELEN: I think they are just buying time ahead of the release of the White Paper. It’s not so much that they don’t know what the problem is, they don’t they know, as none of us do, what the solution is and they are perhaps poorly wording that fact as they try to stall for time before giving it something more meaty.
ALBANESE: Well, that hasn’t been their response of course. Their response has been to dismiss this as an issue, to speak about the value of the homes that they own in the Prime Minister’s case or, in Joe Hockey’s case, tell people who are nurses, teachers, people who currently can’t possibly get into a house in terms of home purchase in my electorate at the moment, if you are on an average wage. It simply is not possible to purchase a home for above $1 million which seems to be the starting point in my electorate at the moment for any home. If you are in that sort of occupation, then it is simply not possible for you to afford a home in that electorate close to where you work and that creates some real issues around our cities and around urban policy. This is the same government that has abolished the Major Cities Unit, abolished the Urban Policy Forum, wont’ fund any urban public transport, says that …
VAN ONSELEN: All right, all right, Mr Albanese, we’ve talked enough, we’ve talked portfolio. We’ve got to get down to the real interesting stuff now, come on: Kevin Rudd verses Julia Gillard. Last night it was all congratulations to us on solving the woes of the Global Financial Crisis. That’s a little bit of a false dawn isn’t it? Episodes two and three – that’s where things are going to really get interesting.
KENEALLY: Let’s just go to the economic issues there on The Killing Season because Kevin Rudd said last night that …
VAN ONSELEN: I didn’t realise I was interviewing two Labor people.
KENEALLY: Kevin Rudd said last night that if the government succeeded in avoiding the Global Financial Crisis that they would get no accolades for success but if they had failed they would never be forgiven. That seems a fair enough point doesn’t it Anthony?
VAN ONSELEN: That’s a point that you can’t disprove.
ALBANESE: If I can just butt in with you two there for a second, I think the important thing last night wasn’t what Kevin Rudd said. It was what Hank Paulson, the then head of the US Treasury; Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; Ken Henry, the secretary of the Australian Treasury said – and they all identified Australia’s response to the Global Financial Crisis as the best in the world. If it wasn’t for that response there would have been hundreds of thousands of more people unemployed.
VAN ONSELEN: The most important part of that response was the bank guarantee, in particular the wholesale lending guarantee. Now that was only possible, you’ve got to concede – good decision to do it, hats off to the government of the time for doing it – but it was only possible because the Australian Government’s balance sheet had no debt and that was the case because of debt being paid off during the Howard years. You’d have to at least concede that.
ALBANESE: Well, in terms of the Howard years had the benefit – yes I concede – of the minerals boom, they had more than $350 billion of additional revenue on top of what was budgeted or forecast in the previous years. So they had all that windfall gain and that meant that the Budget was in a strong position. But Labor had the courage to act and at the time you might recall Joe Hockey himself, once again to go back to him, said it was inevitable that the Australian economy would go into recession. They opposed the major stimulus program. Tony Abbott, you might recall, slept through the Global Financial Crisis because he slept through the vote.
VAN ONSELEN: They only opposed the second one, Anthony Albanese. They agreed with the first one and that was the one that was timely. The second one just baked in spending going forward and it only took effect after we were already through the GFC.
ALBANESE: That is not right. The second one was about making sure that we had infrastructure investment, making sure that we had that pipeline which created that economic confidence into the future. You couldn’t just act at the end of 2008 and then do nothing. We had programs including in my area there were 5500 community infrastructure projects – small projects funded through local government, of which, by the way, there’s not a single issue been raised, that were very effective in creating that local employment close to where people lived all around the country.
KENEALLY: Anthony. I’ve got to ask about the political impact of The Killing Season. I suspect last night there were uncomfortable Labor figures around the country but also possibly Malcolm Turnbull felt a little uncomfortable watching the program. What do you reckon the impact on people’s voting intentions this series might have?
ALBANESE: I don’t think it will have an impact. It’s history. I thought last night’s program was well put together. All governments have their pluses and their negatives. I’m sure both of them will come out on this program but, importantly, I think the first responsibility of dealing with the Global Financial Crisis that we were confronted with, I believe, and I’ve said this consistently, history will regard the Labor Government’s performance there very well indeed. We are the only industrialised country that didn’t go into recession. That wasn’t by accident. That was because the government responded and …
VAN ONSELEN: And because of there being no debt on the government’s balance sheet. Come on, you’ve got to concede it’s that as well?
ALBANESE: Well, no. The fact is that if we had have responded in a similar way to the way which the Coalition would have liked us to when they opposed the economic stimulus program, we would have gone into recession. There would have been hundreds of thousands more people unemployed and that would have had a spiralling downward effect as it did in our competitors overseas.
KENEALLY: Anthony Albanese, thank you so much for joining us. We are going to leave it there
ALBANESE: Great to be with you.