ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
SUNDAY, 24 JANUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Labor’s policies; constructive approach through pandemic; Government adopting Labor ideas; why people would vote for Labor; Government gutting TAFE; Government’s plan to cut wages; Superannuation; election timing; emissions targets and Scott Morrison’s isolation.
ANDREW CLENNELL, HOST: Anthony Albanese, thanks for joining us. A pretty rocky start to the year with this car accident wasn’t it? How are you feeling?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: It sure was. When people say that Labor leaders should crash or crash-through I don’t think they meant literally. But I literally crashed into 2021. I’m confident of a full recovery, I’ve still got a few pains and aches and still got to have some ongoing treatment. You have to put your health first, but I was very lucky. That’s the truth of the matter. I was confident I could deal with anything that 2021 threw at me after a difficult 2020 for the world. But this wasn’t in my expectation.
CLENNELL: Well, it’s going to be a big year ahead, I guess. I mean, I interviewed you last January, and you said this about policy –
CLIP OF ANTHONY ALBANESE FROM JANUARY, 2020: We haven’t swung at every sucker ball that’s been thrown at us, and I don’t intend to do so. I intend to be strategic, going forward, to have a full suite of policies driven by the economy, driven by jobs, but also strong policy on social policy about creating opportunity, about creating economic security, about creating a strong environmental policy lead with the centre of a strong policy on climate change, as well as having a strong international policy, about Australia’s place in the world, our place in the region. Making sure that we stand up for Australia’s national interests.
CLENNELL: Now, maybe you haven’t swung at every ball, but have you swung at enough balls? I know we’ve had the pandemic as well. I guess I would have expected more policy last year. Will there be more this year?
ALBANESE: Of course there will be but you have to deal with what’s in front of you. And of course, when we spoke this time last year, we’d just dealt with the bushfires. That was a time whereby Labor had got on the front foot, we were planning to roll out our policies in the Budget Reply. We did that. It’s just that the Budget Reply wasn’t in May. It was in October. And that was because of the pandemic. Look, Australians wanted us to put the national interest before partisan political interests. We did that. I make no apologies for that. We made sure that we didn’t make the perfect be the enemy of the good. So, even where we saw issues, like on superannuation, we still supported the overall packages, because if that hadn’t have happened the impact on our health, the impact on our economy would have been much worse. But the other thing we did, and we couldn’t have envisaged that this was going to be needed, was we put forward constructive suggestions much of which were taken on board. It was Labor that put forward the plan for wage subsidies that became JobKeeper. It was Labor that put forward the plans for mental health. It was Labor that put forward issues such as quarantining, we continue to raise issues such as the stranded Australians overseas. It was Labor who were arguing this time last year that Newstart, which became JobSeeker, needed to be increased. The Government listened to a range of those measures. I’m very proud that we played a constructive role, unlike what the Government did during the Global Financial Crisis.
CLENNELL: I accept what you’re saying in relation to those issues. But that’s not a reason for people to vote for you, is it? How are you going to get people to vote for Anthony Albanese?
ALBANESE: We’re going to get people to vote for us for two reasons. One is, people will always have a critique of the Government, and on this Government, they’ll be searching, at the next election, for longer in office in John Howard’s Government had. And people will ask themselves, ‘what was the point of this government? Where’s the economic reform? How has productivity been improved?’ Is their work more secure? Are their wages rising? Are they able to keep up their standard of living? Is there more opportunity for their kids? On all of those, the answer is ‘no’. This is a government that has just occupied the space. They’ve been more concerned about fighting each other than they have been fighting for people that they should be representing. And too many people have been left behind, including during the pandemic. We want to make sure that no one’s left behind and no one’s held back from the opportunity that’s there. So, we’ll be putting forward a plan for jobs and more secure work, a plan for creating better opportunity through education, starting with early childhood education where we already have a comprehensive, fully-costed plan on childcare out there. That’s not welfare, that’s economic reform, as well as being good social policy.
CLENNELL: But if you want to sum it up simply, how would a Labor Government, because you hear Scott Morrison’s already saying ‘jobs, jobs jobs’, he said that in both the last two days in Gladstone, how would a Labor Government do more to create jobs in Australia than the Coalition Government, when they say their they focus is on jobs?
ALBANESE: They have a slogan, they don’t have a policy or a plan. That’s the problem here. And we will have, be prepared to have, policies and plans in the best Labor tradition. It’s Labor that’s been prepared to engage in industry policy, working with the private sector, having proper planning, making sure that we skill-up Australians, making sure that we don’t gut TAFE the way that this Government has gutted TAFE and skills development in this country. Now there are 140,000 less apprentices and trainees today than there were in 2013. Wages have never been as stagnant since records began in Australia, as they have been under this Government.
CLENNELL: What’s your wages plan, for example?
ALBANESE: Well, what we’ll have of in terms of wages, we will change the industrial relations system so that there can be proper bargaining, so that there can be good outcomes. We’ll be having more to say about industrial relations in the future. But we now know that the Government’s plan is to get rid of the Better Off Overall Test. Their plan is actually to cut wages, to allow people on days like Australia Day coming up, a public holiday, to have those penalty rates removed from their awards. Now, when wages are stagnant, that’s not going to help Australians. And at the same time, as well, they’re obsessed. They showed their narrowness in their obsession about undermining superannuation in this country. Superannuation is not only about retirement incomes, it’s also a strategic national asset that has provided ballast for our economy.
CLENNELL: So you’re committed to taking it up to 12 per cent then, I guess?
ALBANESE: Absolutely. As is the Government.
ALBANESE: Well, let’s get to 12 per cent. But originally, when it was decided, in terms of superannuation, the policy was envisaged to rise to 15 over time.
CLENNELL: Is that something you’d like to see?
ALBANESE: Well, what’s legislated is 12 per cent. What’s legislated, and before the last election, the Government committed to no changes to that target. But they did that before the 2016 election, and then reversed that commitment. And they did it before the 2013 election and reversed that commitment.
CLENNELL: Sure. But let’s say I’m running a business. And you tell me, I’m paying 9.5 per cent, and you tell me I have to pay my employees 12 per cent. Doesn’t the Government, sort of, have an argument when it says, ‘Well, I can’t really afford the pay rises I could have now’?
ALBANESE: No, they don’t.
ALBANESE: Because it’s been legislated for a long period of time. You’re talking about a half a per cent increase on July 1. Half a per cent, from 9.5 to ten. That’s what’s been envisaged and it rises over a period of time.
CLENNELL: Isn’t one of the problems you’ve got is people will say about Scott Morrison, because he’s not the reformer, ‘this guy’s okay. He’s made a few mistakes, we don’t like a few things he’s done, but let’s not change horses. What’s the big idea, what’s the big change Anthony Albanese is going to make if we vote him in?’
ALBANESE: Well, what you’ll have is a Labor Government that is committed to economic reform, to boosting productivity.
CLENNELL: What’s the reform?
ALBANESE: Well, boosting productivity in areas like the creation of Jobs and Skills Australia for a start. Areas like child care reform. We will have other policies to boost productivity across the board, including on industrial relations.
CLENNELL: What about tax reform?
ALBANESE: Tax reform, we’ve said for example on the last election, that when it comes to franking credits, we won’t be pursuing any change on franking credits.
CLENNELL: Negative gearing? Will you keep that policy?
ALBANESE: Look, what we’ll have is a series of announcements. Everyone will know fully what our revenue policies are and what our expenditure policies are well before the election.
CLENNELL: What’s ‘well before’? Six months?
ALBANESE: Well, there’s a budget in May.
CLENNELL: After that?
ALBANESE: There’s a budget in May that will obviously produce new figures, and we will make it clear well before the election.
CLENNELL: When do you think the election will be?
ALBANESE: Look, the election’s due, of course, in 2022. If it’s early, it’s because Scott Morrison doesn’t have the confidence in his own Government to be able to last a three-year term.
CLENNELL: What are the chances of it being early?
ALBANESE: Well, that’ll be a matter for Scott Morrison. If he does that, it will be a vote of no confidence in his own capacity.
CLENNELL: Will you have a medium-term climate change target, not just the 2050 target?
ALBANESE: Well, there again, a lot will happen this year.
CLENNELL: Does that mean ‘yes’?
ALBANESE: No, what it means is that you announce one policy, not a policy in 2019, which then changes in 2020, which changes in 2021.
CLENNELL: We spoke about this last year.
ALBANESE: Yes. And I was right on that, and I was right.
CLENNELL: But will you have a medium, this is a pretty simple yes or no question. Will you have a medium term target?
ALBANESE: And I know I was right to do so, to not pre-empt, because what’s happened in the last year is that we’ve had the Biden administration elected recently, and they’ll have a conference earlier in the first half of this year, and then we’ll have the Glasgow conference, of course, the COP meeting later this year.
CLENNELL: You wouldn’t have a medium term target before then, then?
ALBANESE: What will happen there under the Paris Accord is that, at the moment, Australia is committed to a 2030 target, which they’re not going to meet. And under the Paris Accord they have to have another target.
CLENNELL: Do you agree with that target, by the way?
ALBANESE: That’s not my target. That’s the Government’s.
CLENNELL: Do you agree with that target?
ALBANESE: That’s the Government’s target.
CLENNELL: Do you think it’s as ambitious as it could be?
ALBANESE: I agree on net zero emissions by 2050, is what I agree on
CLENNELL: I feel like we’re going round and round the mulberry bush here.
ALBANESE: Well if you ask the same question, you should expect the same answer, Andrew.
CLENNELL: Which is a non-answer.
ALBANESE: Well, no. It’s an honest answer, Andrew, because the honest answer is that will determine our policy based upon announcing it once, not announcing it and changing it. If we’d announced a policy early on, then we would have had to have changed it. Because circumstances change in terms of the International debate.
CLENNELL: Sure. Would you like to have a medium term target?
ALBANESE: I will make this prediction, Andrew. Under the Paris Accord, of course, one of the things that I expect will happen. This is why the 2030 debate is so absurd, Andrew, is that that was set in 2015, based upon the experts, or Climate Change Authority recommendations of what was needed. I would expect that in the lead up to Glasgow, we mightn’t be talking about the Government having a 2030 target, we might be talking about the Government having a 2035 target, because that’s what Paris allows for, a continual change in terms of that being set.
CLENNELL: So, your planning, is that in relation to the possibility of that and you having to come up with your own 2035 target?
ALBANESE: I expect as well that, I’ll make this prediction to you Andrew. Scott Morrison, big challenge this year will be he’ll adopt net zero by 2050. Because, frankly, it’s absurd for him not to be there. He’s isolated. Every one of our major trading partners has net zero by 2050 except for China, which is net zero by 2060, which is a pretty strong target given where their projections are, and it will require massive action by China. Now, once that occurs, one of the things that he will have to do is explain the contradiction between him adopting that and, frankly, Angus Taylor’s absurd arguments that he’s put in the parliament about what the cost will be of net zero emissions by 2050. What we know is this, and this is a principle that we take, we need net zero emissions by 2050. We need targets that are consistent with achieving that. And that action on climate change is good for jobs, it’s good for lowering emissions, and it’s good for lowering power prices. And the rhetoric of the Government has changed so much. They know that there won’t be a new coal-fired power station built in Australia. Now, if you put that to them a year ago, they would have said, ‘Oh, no, that’s not right, Andrew’. But we all know that that’s the truth. And they’ve been exposed in the last year, but they’re still spending money on a study, money given to the proponents of a project at Collinsville that they know isn’t going to go ahead.