Jun 23, 2014

Interview transcript – SKY News

Subjects: High-speed rail; Labor party; federal campaign review

SPEERS: Anthony Albanese thank you for your time. This private members bill you’ve introduced today, would establish a planning authority, something Labor had promised in Government to establish.  Why is that needed if there is no decision yet on whether to actually build a high speed rail network?

ALBANESE: It’s necessary to ensure that you in the first instance preserve the corridor. If we don’t make decisions today to advance high speed rail it will be impossible tomorrow because urban growth and urban sprawl will make the corridor unworkable. That’s why we established a process, recommendations from people like Tim Fischer, a former Deputy Prime Minister, Jennifer Westacott, from the Business Council of Australia, recommended the establishment of an authority. That’s what this Private Members Bill would do, with representatives of each of the jurisdictions and private sector expertise,  to make sure that the planning work and the preservation of the corridor was there. We put $52 million in the budget to do that, and unfortunately the Coalition took that money out of last month’s Budget.

SPEERS: Sure, but urban sprawl isn’t anything new, it’s been going on and on and on for some time, why in the six years you were in Government didn’t this happen?

ALBANESE: We had the study that recommended only in June of last year. So we responded as soon as we could to that study, that recommended this process. It was a very detailed study David. It outlined, and it was all there on the website, still there on the Infrastructure Department website, a very precise corridor, a precise number of stations, even the design of the stations has all been done. You’ve got to do this planning work. This is about long term vision for the nation which would enable people to go three hours from Sydney to Melbourne or Sydney to Brisbane, but importantly also for regional cities such as Canberra, but right along the route, Port Macquarie, Albury-Wodonga, would be a real generator of that regional economic activity that would remove some of the pressure that’s on our big capital cities.

SPEERS: Can I turn to an article that’s in The Australian newspaper today by Troy Bramston, suggesting that you have been an unremitting critic of Bill Shorten and are guilty of undeniable treachery. Have you been undermining the leader?

ALBANESE: Troy Bramston is a failed factional operative who’s now become a writer of fiction. The truth is that I’ve been very loyal to Bill. Bill knows that, and he said that this morning. What this morning’s article is, is a series of assertions and hearsay with nothing to back it up. The one quote from anybody that’s in there is a quote from Bob Carr’s book that wasn’t known to me before today but Sam Dastyari has confirmed to the Senate today that that is not true. That indeed my position was –

SPEERS: Let me tell people what the quote was. The quote from Bob Carr’s diaries when he stated support for Julia Gillard he gets a call from Sam Dastyari saying that he was taking calls from Chris Bowen and Anthony Albanese that he had undermined their pro-Rudd campaign. So were you campaigning for Rudd?

ALBANESE: No and that’s not true. Sam Dastyari has confirmed that, that indeed the only conversation I had with him, which is a similar conversation I have with a lot of people around this building was that people should shut up about the internals and should get on with the business of governing. That’s what I did as Leader of the House just as now I’m getting on with the business of holding the government to account.

SPEERS: Well he also points to criticism of Bill Shorten’s decision to keep Joe Bullock at the top of Labor’s senate ticket in WA. You weren’t a fan of that?

ALBANESE: No I wasn’t and that was on the record in terms of the National Executive. At National Executive, I had a view that we shouldn’t just re-endorse the ticket prior to the court case being held. So my views are there, were known, I argued that case within the party.

SPEERS: Do you regard that as being disloyal to the leader at all?

ALBANESE: Not at all. That’s about the best interests of the Labor Party and putting my views forward without fear or favour on the National Executive. That’s something that I’ve always done. But it goes on to speak about alleged leaking. I mean that was publicly available information and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that I was more supportive of Louise Pratt than I was of Joe Bullock. That’s just a fact. But it goes on also to suggest that I was responsible for an article that leaked Bill Shorten’s speech in terms of party reform. I didn’t even have that speech. Bill and I had not had an opportunity to talk due to personal circumstances, miscommunication, but I wasn’t aware of what was in his speech until I read it in the paper.

SPEERS: Do you think Bill Shorten is doing a good job as leader now and can I ask you specifically where there has been some internal tension on the issue of East Jerusalem? Has he done the right thing there?

ALBANESE: I think Bill is doing a good job. I mean there’s talk about internal tension; I’ve seen none of it. I’ve seen no debate about that issue and no difference of opinion about that issue. Bill has done a good job of holding the government to account. Straight after the leadership ballot it required two things given that Bill and I contested each other. One was it required a generosity of spirit from Bill as the leader toward myself. That certainly occurred. I was able to choose a portfolio of my own choosing. I was able to appoint staff. I was able to get on with the business of making a contribution. And secondly it required me to get on with the business of making a contribution. I’ve done that in my policy area. I think we’ve ripped their so-called infrastructure budget, the infrastructure con,  apart piece-by-piece very effectively and also, I’ve been offering strategic advice to Bill as an experienced person who was Leader of the House, the Manager of Opposition Business –

SPEERS:  – no bitterness?

ALBANESE: Not at all.

SPEERS: And what about your future? Would you have a crack again for Leader after the next election?

ALBANESE: I expect that Bill will win the next election and he’ll be Prime Minister.

SPEERS: If he doesn’t though, will you put your hand up?

ALBANESE: I expect that he will win the next election and be Prime Minister. And I will certainly be happy to serve. That will probably see out my time because I expect that it will be a long term –

SPEERS: –  you mean the next term will see out your time?

ALBANESE: No, a long term Labor Government.

SPEERS: Right.

ALBANESE: So we’ll wait and see how long –

SPEERS: – So you’re not going at the next election?

ALBANESE: David, I’ve put a fair bit of effort into building up a knowledge of this place, of developing policy expertise in the area of infrastructure, transport and now tourism. I want to implement those things. I want to see the second airport for Sydney built. I want to see high speed rail advanced. I’m here for the long haul.

SPEERS: Speaking of that experience, the national review into Labor’s performance at the last election found that disunity was a problem. Do you believe there were problems in how that campaign was fought?

ALBANESE: Given the circumstances in which there was a change of leadership just prior to the election being called, of course things don’t run as smoothly as they would had there been continuity of leadership from 2007 right through. But under the circumstances, there’s no doubt, as the National Secretary said at the National Press Club, that Kevin Rudd returning to the leadership saved 25 seats. I think that is certainly the case. Kevin Rudd lead an outstanding campaign in my view. The fact that this report has been released, whereas the 2010 report was never released. It’s been released out there essentially so people could see the minor issues that were there –

SPEERS: Sure, they might be minor but do you think you could have won the campaign, the election with a better campaign?

ALBANESE: Under the circumstances it was always the case, and the report says this, and certainly Kevin was conscious of this as well when he retook the Prime Ministership, that the odds were against Labor winning. All the polls always indicated that. But we’re in a position now, as a result of the campaign, and in particular seats, but I think the national campaign, that we are competitive. We are in a position today whereby if we get the same result at the next election that we got in 1998, Bill Shorten will be living in The Lodge. And that’s remarkable given where we were at, at this time just 12 months ago, and I think George Wright and Kevin Rudd and it must be said Julia Gillard for the way that she held herself with a great deal of dignity and support for the campaign as well. Labor united for that campaign. Had she reacted differently certainly the outcome wouldn’t have been as positive as it was. But we’re in a position to form Government. What we’ve got to continue to do now is to hold them to account, but also build new policies for the next campaign.

SPEERS: Anthony Albanese thanks for joining us.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you.