ANTHONY ALBANESE – TRANSCRIPT – PODCAST INTERVIEW – THE GUARDIAN PODCAST WITH KATHARINE MURPHY – FRIDAY, 14 AUGUST 2020
ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
THE GUARDIAN PODCAST WITH KATHARINE MURPHY
FRIDAY, 14 AUGUST 2020
SUBJECTS: Opposition during the coronavirus pandemic; holding the Government to account; gaps between what the Government says and what they deliver; Labor’s values; Labor’s platform; the need for manufacturing to occur in Australia; energy policy; Eden-Monaro by-election; national cabinet process; economic recovery from coronavirus pandemic; climate change; Labor’s constructive role during the coronavirus pandemic; next federal election.
KATHARINE MURPHY, HOST: Hello, lovely people of the podcast and welcome to the show. You are with Katharine Murphy and the show is Australian Politics Live. And with me in the pod cave is someone who has missed their cue.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Oh, that was a cue?
MURPHY: Yes. That was a cue.
ALBANESE: Anthony Albanese.
MURPHY: Welcome. Thank you for coming on.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having us, Katharine.
MURPHY: There is a load of stuff to talk about, but I want to start with something that is slightly left-field, but I suspect might be a common experience of both of us in the strange times of a pandemic. I have been very conscious, because, obviously, the journalists need to keep governments accountable, that is very important, hence the name ‘journalist’. Also, opposition, hence in the name, need to keep governments accountable. But I’ve just noticed there’s a real difference among readers at the moment. There are readers who want accountability 24/7, all the questions asked, all the time. And then there are other readers who express some discomfort with this. I had a note from a guy this week, lovely bloke, said to me, ‘Why don’t you write something positive and affirming?’ And it was hard to know how to respond to that because, how do you write something positive and affirming from my vantage point? Anyway, long preamble. Opposition in the time of COVID, how do you find it?
ALBANESE: Well, it is not business as usual. And today is, of course, the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two. That was a time whereby the country came together and united. And everyone was focused in one direction. And to some extent, I think there’s an analogy with how people feel now. People are anxious, they’re concerned, they want governments to succeed. Because they know that it will have a direct impact on their health and on their standard of living if they don’t. So, it isn’t the normal political environment.
MURPHY: And that’s the point. So, people want governments to succeed, right? So, then where does that put you in the firmament?
ALBANESE: I think what that does is mean that we have to be constructive. So, we have to be prepared to hold the Government to account, even if that is sometimes uncomfortable, even if sometimes we say, ‘No, you should be all singing from the same song sheet’. And so, we have done that. Put forward constructive ideas. Some of which have been taken up, some of which haven’t. But I think that’s the key of what people are looking for. But it is difficult. There are some people, including some of our base, who just want us to criticise everything, every day. But others will say to me, ‘Good on you for working together’. The slogan in terms of. ‘We’re all in this together’ is more than a slogan. It is actually something that we need to do. And to my mind, one of the things that we’ve tried to do is to point out that where the Morrison Government has got things right, it’s because they have, in some areas, done things which are deeply uncomfortable for them. They have recognised that there is such a thing as society. The whole spirit of collective, basically, recognising that we are all interrelated. There is such a thing as society. We do have to look after each other. We do have to look after the vulnerable as an end in itself. But also, if we don’t, there are consequences for everyone. So, for example, putting homeless people up in hotels, not something that would be at the top of the Liberal Party agenda as a matter of course. It has also meant that in the way that the Parliament has dealt with the economic packages, we have said very clearly upfront that we will support the packages whilst reserving our right to be critical of a range of measures, as we have, in some cases being successful in terms of wage subsidies being adopted, in other cases, like superannuation, not being successful. But not being in a position to block all of the changes is something that I think most people have understood. The idea that we would, for example, when the wage subsidies and JobSeeker both had in them end time dates of the end of September and Scott Morrison was talking about snap-back, we clearly indicated that we were concerned about that. But to vote against it would have meant that none of it happened. There were no wage subsidies, there would have been many more people on the unemployment queue. And after all, wage subsidies were something that Labor argued for, and indeed, the Coalition opposed at the very beginning of this pandemic.
MURPHY: You mentioned some feedback, right? That people want the Government to succeed and others want different things. Obviously, during this pandemic, the whole structure of governance that Scott Morrison set up, the national cabinet with the premiers, was designed from the get go to exclude opposition leaders. That was the price of entry for the premiers in the middle of March when they had that frenzied conversation in the football stadium back then? Yes, we will create this sort of unity government, for want of a better term, but no opposition leaders. So, the whole structure is designed to exclude you. When you get out and about in the community, are people listening to your messages? Are they conscious that you’re participating in the debate? Because I’m very conscious that the structure of the governance excludes you. So, what’s the feedback?
ALBANESE: Look, honest assessment is that it is more difficult for us to cut through in the current climate. That’s just a fact. And that can be a source of frustration when people say things like, ‘Why haven’t you raised the issues with aged care?’, an issue that I’ve been raising each and every day. When people say, ‘Well, what have you contributed?’, it can be frustrating if you look at the measures that we said should happen that Scott Morrison resisted. Everything from travel issues, we shut down China, but people were streaming in from the US and other places, then spreading out to the respective regional cities, or other capital cities, through the major capital city airports without even temperature testing. We were raising that issue. We were raising the need to test more people. We were raising the issue of lockdowns and the need to lock things down when he was opposing it. Scott Morrison was opposing school closures. He was opposing the border closures and was particularly critical only of Labor premiers in particular in WA and Queensland. And then when Gladys Berejiklian close down the borders, no problem. We raised the issue, of course, of wage subsidies, paid pandemic leave, the issue of snap-back we were critical of, Parliament as well where originally, of course, Scott Morrison cancelled Parliament for six months. On all of those issues, we have pursued our agenda and changed the Government’s view. Now, we haven’t got a lot of credit for that. Well, so be it. Our job is to make a practical difference to people’s lives. And we said that you have to look after health, and then you have to look after the economic consequence of looking after the former. Because it was inevitable that there would be an economic cost to making sure that health concerns were front and centre.
MURPHY: Again, you say it’s frustrating at times, and you haven’t got a lot of credit, but so what? Because this is a crisis and Labor is showing up to be as constructive as it’s possible to be while raising issues that you think are legitimate in terms of flaws in the Government’s strategy, right? But when you’re in the pub, well not that you are, but you know what I mean. When you are wandering about, what do people say to you? Have they heard your messages, or have they not heard your messages? I’m genuinely curious about this.
ALBANESE: It’s mixed so that people who are less engaged in politics are very positive. I think they recognise that we are trying to be constructive, consistent with what I’ve said about being the Labor Leader, not the Opposition Leader. They recognise that we’ve been out there raising issues of concern. And the feedback is quite positive. The truth is that some of the base who want us to oppose everything, ‘Why don’t you just vote against everything?’ or, ‘It’s the job of the Opposition to oppose’ is a view out there. And I understand it, I get it. And in part, people are frustrated as well. They can see that, your reference to the national cabinet, they can see that the national leader meets with the state leaders. It doesn’t actually have the authority of a cabinet process, of course, as we all know. Then Scott Morrison does a press conference and says what the state leaders have all agreed to. It is Gladys Berejiklian and Daniel Andrews, who were arguing for restrictions, like on schools, for example, is a big source of disagreement with the Federal Government early. The Federal Government, I was contacting Scott Morrison directly about my experience of going to Sydney Airport and being shocked, frankly, that people were waiting in the Rex lounge to go to various regional centres throughout New South Wales who had just got off planes from the US, from the Philippines, from wherever, without so much as a temperature check.
MURPHY: And how did he respond?
ALBANESE: Well, he said that it was all okay. That was what they were saying at the time in terms of the medical advice. It didn’t pass the common-sense test for me that those international borders were so porous. And of course, we know what happened with Ruby Princess as well. So, this is a Federal Government whereby I think over a period of time, there are a range of characteristics that were there before the pandemic, that the pandemic isn’t hiding. One of those is the gap between what it promises and what it actually delivers. Another is its capacity to play the blame game. Since 1901, the Commonwealth are responsible for our borders. How the Ruby Princess circumstance, they think they can get away with saying, ‘It’s nothing to do with us’, even though there were federal officials on there. Scott Morrison blocking federal officials from giving evidence to the inquiry that’s been set up by the New South Wales Liberal Government is quite extraordinary. I gave a vision statement in the Parliament before what was supposed to be Budget Day in May. And I really thought when we were putting that together, that this would be our statement before Josh Frydenberg stood up the next day and outlined a plan going forward. So, we had in that, the talk about the need to have industry policy and energy policy. We spoke about public housing and social housing investment. We spoke about secure work and how the casualisation of the workforce had exposed some of the weaknesses in the economy. The decline of manufacturing had been exposed by the fact that we didn’t have PPE, personal protective equipment, and other basic things here. That we had to change what we were manufacturing as the pandemic was happening. And yet from the Government we’ve had nothing. Essentially, it’s back to ‘leave it to the market’. Even industrial relations changes, emergency measures, which unions cooperated with, Scott Morrison said he would set up a dialogue and he was going to consult. Remember when Sally McManus was besties with Christian Porter and they were going to sit down? And now what we see is them trying to impose, essentially, some of the more emergency level IR changes at the expense of the unions, including the companies that are posting record profits, which some of them are at the moment.
MURPHY: You’ve outlined a list of problems there. Problems in the response. Problems in the way things have been implemented. The gap, as you put it, between what the Government says and what it delivers. You know, these things are reasonably obvious at close range. But yet, the Prime Minister maintains a personal approval rating in the order of 65 per cent, which any leader would kill for, really, in any circumstances.
ALBANESE: But which most leaders have got.
MURPHY: Well, that’s absolutely right. Although, both Daniel Andrews and Gladys Berejiklian have come off their peaks during the pandemic. Funnily enough, Andrews is holding up relatively well given what’s happening in Victoria. But I’m just making a point, right? Morrison has an approval rating in that order. And you guys are, as we’ve been exploring in this conversation, not through want of effort, but structurally locked out of a normal political condition. I mean, that’s a stupid word. But you know what I mean? It’s like, it’s not political as usual, Parliament’s not meeting, all of that sort of stuff. So, then the question becomes for the Opposition Leader, how do you respond? Do you just chip away on issues and just assume the cycle corrects itself? Do you muscle-up because, obviously, Labor has been much more, I agree, I think you’ve been chipping away the whole time. But there has been an acceleration, particularly over the last couple of weeks, on aged care, which I think most people are not seeing. Because you are kind of locked out for reasons we’ve been discussing, right? You must run these ideas through your head all the time, Anthony, in terms of how you position yourself with all of these complexities, right? Some people want us to oppose everything. Some people want us to be a government of national unity. We keep saying these things, we don’t get credit for them. How do you put this all together? What is the approach?
ALBANESE: Sure, look, if it was easy, then I wouldn’t be the Opposition Leader. The truth is, though, that I think that the values which are seeing us through the pandemic, where things are going right, are Labor values. And they’re the values that will see us through the recovery as well. Recognising the power of government to make a difference to people’s lives. Recognising that no one should be left behind in the pandemic, but no one held back during the recovery as well. So, I think a massive mistake a few weeks ago, I think that exposed the real thinking, was when Josh Frydenberg said that his inspiration for the recovery were Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
MURPHY: The Prime Minister got a bit cranky with him for saying that.
ALBANESE: Because someone actually said something. Most of what Scott Morrison has been doing is not saying much. But the prejudices of the Coalition are all there. Why is it that the art sector has been left behind? Why is it that the university sector has been left behind? And even when the Prime Minister speaks about art, it’s straight off of a focus group. I mean, everything is market-tested. And we had the polling company that works for the Liberal Party in Tasmania actually doing a poll about whether Teddy Sheean should be given a VC, even though there’d been a recommendation by the independent tribunal who clearly found that should have happened. Everything’s market-tested, even the names of JobKeeper, JobSeeker, HomeBuilder, etc. When you look at the actual delivery, in terms of HomeBuilder, for example, most states can’t even apply for it. The idea that there’ll be all this additional investment is, I think, just plain wrong. Because people don’t have $150,000 in a bottom drawer to suddenly renovate their home. So, I think it’s a matter of just staying the course, being clear about what Labor values are. And one of Labor’s values is, as well, to be constructive. And sometimes that is more difficult. Some people say that the model of an Opposition Leader is Tony Abbott. No. That’s the model of a destructive, reactionary Opposition Leader who doesn’t care about institutions, who doesn’t care about the impact that it has on going forward. And what’s more, if you behave like that in opposition, you will behave like that when you come into government. I think that’s one of the problems with this Government is that they came into office in 2013, knowing what they were against, which was Labor and everything we stood for, but they didn’t have a plan to actually govern. I think I’m someone who listens to people, engages with people, but also acts on gut instinct. It’s the right thing to do to be constructive at this point in time. Now, there is a bit of a political cost to doing that. But we’re about saving lives too. We are about minimising the impact. Because one of the things about the economic consequences of this pandemic is that it’s uneven. The people who get hurt are the people who are the most vulnerable, they are the people in the most marginalised employment sectors. We cannot dismiss that. It’s the people who were queuing in those long queues outside Centrelink who we have a responsibility to represent.
MURPHY: Okay, you’ve sort of semi-crystallised the question here, really, with that last description. You say you’re not going to be Tony Abbott. I mean, you didn’t say that it puts a cancer in the system, but that it creates consequences beyond the election cycle in which you want to dominate, right? But then we’re going to get to a point in the election cycle, aren’t we, where you’ve talked about Scott Morrison’s capacity to market test, to put pleasing sounding ideas out into the marketplace, and in fact, reflecting back the country to itself. That’s what Morrison is very good at. He’s a mirror. It’s hard to get a glove on him, my set up is different, but I’m talking about opposition-ism at this point. It’s hard to get a glove on him because he reflects the country back at itself. So, at a certain point in the cycle, Labor has basically said, ‘I’ve been constructive as an Opposition Leader, because I’m a Labor Leader and because the country needs it’. But at a certain point, between now and the next election, there’s going to be pressure in your own show to crash through and cut through. So, are you saying to me that when that pressure starts to build up in the system, just because the closer that people get to elections, the more worried people get, the Government people will be worried, your people will be worried. Pressure will build up in the system. So, you’re saying, as that pressure starts to build up, you will always err on the side of what the country needs, rather than crashing through to some sort of victory?
ALBANESE: Well, to use your term back, that I think is, in part, I don’t fundamentally disagree with, but to think that through, the idea that the Prime Minister of the country is just a mirror means that he’s just a mirror at a particular point in time. That is something that explains the Scott Morrison who said no to border closures, school closures, the wage subsidies, paid pandemic leave, Parliament sitting, and then changing his view. Over a period of time, it becomes obvious, I think, that what the country needs, and what leadership is, isn’t just reflecting what a focus group says at a particular point in time. It’s about giving the country what it needs. And what it needs is a vision of a future that’s more than just returning to what was there or more than what people have at a particular point in time. It’s actually pointing towards how we build a better Australia. How we take people forward. And how we create, whether it’s the economy, whether it’s about social policy, whether it’s about environmental policy, a framework that is about a better Australia. We need to examine the weaknesses that have been exposed by this pandemic, including the nature of work. The first vision statement I gave was about jobs and the future of work. How do we envisage where the economy is going in 10 years’ time, what the opportunities are there, how we maximise the number of people who will benefit from those opportunities? If we just deal with the day-to-day 24-hour media cycle, which is the Morrison model, and what some people would want us to do, then you’ll never actually be able to create that picture or that vision and then set about doing it for how we create an Australia that is fairer and an Australia that provides opportunity for someone like me, who is a son of a single mum, grew up in a council house, gets to lead the Labor Party. That’s the sort of opportunity that I want to see for the country. That’s what we’re doing in the vision statements. And that’s what the platform work and other work that Shadow Ministers have been doing is as well, laying that groundwork. At the moment, I think a majority of people out there don’t want to hear, ‘Okay, what’s your vision for 2030?’ They want to hear how we get through the next month.
MURPHY: That was what I was going to ask you. A couple of things on that point. Basically, you’re saying that Labor strongest suit for the next election is presenting a set of propositions to win the future, for want of a better term, right? That’s what you’re saying.
ALBANESE: Deal with the present, but in the way that we deal with the present anticipates the future.
MURPHY: Yes, absolutely. But you’ve got to have the bandwidth. One, you’ve got to be heard. And two, people have got to have the bandwidth to take it on board. Now, I had Chris Bowen in the studio relatively recently. He said one of his lessons after the election was Labor’s platform was way too big. Heading for the next election, he said, ‘I think we should just have a handful of propositions that we nail, and we explicate rather than being the government in exile, we should identify some priorities and go for them’. Is that your view?
ALBANESE: Well, that’s what the review found that was adopted unanimously by the ALP National Executive, undertaken by Jay Weatherill and Craig Emerson. We had 284 fully-costed policies. Now, The Guardian might have run stories.
MURPHY: I think we probably didn’t most of them, actually.
ALBANESE: I don’t think you did.
MURPHY: No, probably not.
ALBANESE: A whole range of them, people didn’t know anything about. And the idea that when your door-knocking, you say, ‘Hi, Katharine. I’m running for Grayndler. Let me run through this list for you of why you should vote for us’, is quite frankly not on.
MURPHY: So, Labor will narrow its focus?
ALBANESE: We will narrow our focus, but it will be a clear vision with a clear outline of alternatives. One of the things I said was that Labor’s policies don’t carry over from election to election. And one of the problems we had was that because in 2013, we got to 2016, we won some seats. So, we just kept going and added. We didn’t actually take a step back. So, that created an issue for us. But I’ve said that our values are enduring. What does Labor stand for? We stand for jobs. Not an economy as the end in itself, but one that works for people, not the other way around. We stand for opportunity and aspiration, not in a sense of, ‘We’re worried about whether a billionaire is paying more or less tax’. The aspiration that allows kids of working-class people to either get a trade or go to university or have a better life. People are pretty simple in what they want. Like what my mum wanted for me and what I want for my son. I want him to have a better quality of life. And he certainly has had than I had it at his age. And they want healthcare and services to be available on the basis of need, not on the basis of wealth. We unashamedly are people who recognise that it’s not a bad thing to care for others. There is such a thing as society. And on the environment, that we need to have action on climate change and that it’s an intergenerational issue.
MURPHY: Let’s hit pause there because there is a public conversation that is happening now with frequency between your Resources spokesman, Joel Fitzgibbon, and the Energy and Climate Change spokesman, Mark Butler. Fitzgibbon opened the batting by saying you needed to sue for peace on emissions reduction targets, you needed the short-term emission or the medium-term emissions reduction target to be the same as the Coalition. Then, at every opportunity, Fitzgibbon been out making the case for the continuation of fossil fuels in various forms. That’s what he’s been saying. Butler has been saying that we’re not going to sue for peace on the medium-term emissions reduction target, and that you are going to maintain ambition in climate policy. So, who do we believe?
ALBANESE: What we believe is Labor platform. And it has been Labor’s vision ever since we participated, way back in Rio and previous forums that led to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, that it is an existential threat, that we do need to take it seriously. And that the position that I’ve outlined is very clear, which is that action on climate change will actually create jobs and lower energy prices. That we need to take climate change seriously. I was the Environment and Climate Change spokesperson who wrote with Kim Beazley, the Climate Change Blueprint in 2006. That is what led to, for example, the 20 per cent by 2020 renewable energy target. People would agree that has been the most successful measure.
MURPHY: No, all that’s fine. And I’m not asking you about your own record. Because your own record is clear. You’re the Leader of the Labor Party at the moment, and you’ve got hammer and tongs happening between two people in shadow portfolios.
ALBANESE: The Labor Party, from time to time, will have people who are out there that are passionate about policy and about making a difference.
MURPHY: That’s fine. I think that there’s too much straightjacket in politics. I think there should be more open discussion about things. But at the end of the day, someone wins, and someone loses. So, who’s going to win and who’s going to lose?
ALBANESE: Labor will always take climate change seriously. I’ve announced the net zero emissions by 2050. All of the policies that a Labor Government that I lead would implement would be consistent with that.
MURPHY: So, how about Fitzgibbon saying this week, as he did, that Nev Power, the chairman of the National COVID Commission, he’s produced a report on gas that we haven’t seen, that he is on board with it. Is the Labor Party totally on board with it?
ALBANESE: Well, we haven’t even seen the report. It hasn’t been released. And it is quite outrageous that Scott Morrison is the expert at this contracting out. He’s contracted out things to the states through the national cabinet process, he has contracted out industrial relations reform to a series of committees which the ACTU are participating in. And here he has contracted out to the NCCC, this body that are being paid by the Commonwealth. They’re not public servants. They all come into their positions with all of their history and all of their background. So, it’s not surprising that a committee chaired by Nev Power would come up with predictable response. But the Australian people aren’t allowed to see it. Because somehow, this is cabinet in confidence. Bear in mind, I do think that Scott Morrison has, we were talking before about frustration, I think that Scott Morrison getting away with having a cabinet committee of one, which is him, so that anything to do with him is somehow cabinet in confidence is just unbelievable. But here, the fact is that AEMO, the Australian Energy Market Operator, the people who run the grid, have come up with a 20-year plan, the integrated system plan. Now, under all of the scenarios, what they say is that by 2040, gas will be about 1 per cent of the total electricity market. The total. That’s what they say. And all of their scenarios suggest that it’s renewables with storage that will make the real difference. That’s where the expansion will be, that’s where the market will be. And that, indeed, there’s other prospects for green hydrogen and other potentials which are there. So, gas is an important part of the market. But if you look at where the growth is going to be, the people who actually run the energy sector, and this is a body established under COAG, that has continued to operate, hasn’t been destroyed by this Government. And you had, one of the leaks of this report, is the idea of a gas pipeline from the west coast to the east coast. Now, that is not new. There’s nothing new about that. I quite liked the plans that have been done by, I think, it’s The Chaser at one stage had a plan to tilt Australia, either west-east or north-south, that we can solve the water problem by just running everything down. We’re a big continent. A study was done 18 months ago that found that it would require billions of dollars of subsidy. So, you’d spend billions of dollars building this pipeline from the west to the east. It would then require a massive subsidy. Which is why the market will determine these issues, or should, and then you will end up with common sense solutions.
MURPHY: Then why is Fitzgibbon out saying, ‘We’ll accept a report we haven’t seen.’?
ALBANESE: Well, the Labor Party’s position, I speak for the Labor Party. And the Labor Party’s position is that we examine things based upon the detail. And if the rumours are right, as well, that this report suggests that gas would be viable at $4 a gigajoule, that’s below the production costs. So, you’re looking at, again, an ongoing subsidy.
MURPHY: Tax payers are massively on the hook for keeping gas prices.
ALBANESE: We’ll have a look at the detail. But it’s very clear that what we actually need in this country is an energy policy framework. Now, I wrote to Scott Morrison, constructively. It was a four-page letter. It outlined, I think, a series of principles. What we would do, what we wouldn’t do as well. So, I ruled out nuclear energy for Australia and made it clear. But what it would do is allow for different targets at particular times to be implemented based upon, from our perspective, based upon the science and what the experts told us was required to reach that net zero emissions. Scott Morrison hasn’t even bothered to respond to that. Josh Frydenberg went on radio and TV the next morning at 8am and dismissed it.
MURPHY: I mean, we could keep going. We definitely could, but we shouldn’t. Because we’re way over time. You put Kim Beazley in my head, let’s end here. I’ve spoken about that dynamic within Labor, whether or not everybody can keep their heads ahead of an election, whether everybody can remain on the same page. A cynical person would say, we’ve seen a bit of a beauty parade along the right in your show of people just positioning themselves for future opportunities. It is all visible, interesting. Kim Beazley, a Labor man, Labor values, viewed universally as a decent and nice man, was nonetheless run down by Kevin Rudd in the lead-up to an election. Do you think you will lead Labor to the next election?
ALBANESE: I know I will. I know that I will. And I know that we will win the next election. I actually think, in terms of where Labor finds ourselves, in terms of the positioning of where the debate is, think about the Coalition and what they normally run on. They run on debt and deficit scare campaigns and how they can run the economy. Well, where’s their surplus? Where is their management of the economy? We’ve got a million unemployed. We’ve got people being left behind. We have no plan from this Government in terms of energy policy is a good example whereby what business is crying out for, look at the zero net emissions targets, it is supported by the BCA, by Australian Industry Group.
MURPHY: I think even the Minerals Council support it.
ALBANESE: Everyone except for this this Government where they allow people like Craig Kelly out there with these cuckoo plans and the Prime Minister won’t even dissociated himself from that. Now, we’ve already had a test at the peak of what should have been the Government’s powers during a pandemic. We had a by-election. The Government spent double what we spent on that by-election. They spent pretty close to one and a half million dollars. You live in Canberra and you could not turn on a TV without getting saturation ads in the Canberra market, Illawarra, Wagga Wagga, and all in the Eden-Monaro. We had the retirement of a popular local member in Mike Kelly. We had a new candidate. They were running the same candidate that they ran just a year ago. So, they could continue on with the name recognition advantages that come with someone running for the second time. We had a great candidate in Kristy McBain. But we also had circumstance whereby because it wasn’t near the next federal election, we couldn’t say, ‘Vote for us and we’ll do this next month’. And we won. We won under circumstances whereby, make no mistake about the timing of some of the Government’s national security announcements that they made as well, designed to feed in to that campaign, and they couldn’t get elected to a seat which, by the way, on the current boundaries, at no stage, except for when Mike Kelly’s been the candidate, including throughout the Hawke and Keating Governments, does Labor win Eden-Monaro on the current boundaries. This is a seat where every state seat within the boundaries is a safe Liberal and National Party seat. Now, if they couldn’t convince people at that time, what that shows is that when people are actually confronted with thinking through who is best to represent them, as well as the weaknesses, and one of the issues in that by-election was Scott Morrison’s lack of empathy and, frankly, his contempt for people when he visited places like Cobargo and others and forced them to shake his hand in circumstances which people may well be reminded of. We certainly did remind them of them during the by-election. People voted Labor.
And during the next election campaign, it will be about two things. One, it will be about the pandemic, yes. And in that we will be able to say that we played a constructive role. Yes, wage subsidies helped minimise the economic damage, but we were the ones who advocated it. Yes, in terms of healthcare. We were the ones who were arguing for stricter controls. We are the ones raising aged care and saying there was a need to have a plan for aged care. We were the ones who argued for an Aged Care Royal Commission for some time before it was actually announced. All of those issues. So, it will be about the pandemic. But I think on that, we will be in a position to put forward our case that we made a positive difference to people’s lives. But people vote about the future. And in the future, it is Labor that will have a plan for jobs. We’ll have a plan for secure work. We’ll have a plan for climate change. We’ll have a plan for regional economic development. For social policy that doesn’t just leave people behind. For advancing social issues like what is happening with recognition of First Nations people, of those issues as well. And so, we will be able to put forward a positive agenda. And this Government that will lose Mathias Cormann in December, that will have, I think, one or two other ministers running for the hills between now and the next election. At the next election, they will have been there for three terms and almost nine years, or maybe nine years, depending upon the timing of when it is. What was the point of this Government? Where is their economic reform, social reform, environmental reform? They still won’t have an energy policy. They’ll still be blundering around trying to just run scare campaigns. And I think that the Australian people will vote for a positive alternative. And I intend to present that alternative whenever the election is called.
MURPHY: Well, you can’t get clearer than that. Thank you very much for coming on the show. Thank you to Miles Martignoni, the executive producer, and to Hannah and others who always helped with cutting the show. We’ll be back next week.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.