ABC Melbourne Drive

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Monday, 6th December 2021

ABC Melbourne Drive

Discussing the gig economy, Powering Australia and more.

SUBJECTS: Campaign rally; election timing; weight loss; new glasses; ‘renewal not revolution’; the gig economy; Powering Australia; climate targets; delivering for pensioners; defence funding; JobKeeper; JobSeeker; better pay for child care workers; housing affordability; political future.    
 
ALI MOORE, HOST: Joining you on the Polygraph this Monday afternoon is the Leader of the Federal Opposition, the Labor Party, it’s Anthony Albanese. Anthony Albanese, welcome to Drive.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good afternoon. Good to be with you.
 
MOORE: And I should tell our audience that you are happy to take their questions -1300 222 774 is the number or you can text 0437 774 774. So Anthony Albanese, if yesterday wasn't a campaign launch, what was it?
 
ALBANESE: Well, it was a campaign rally.
 
MOORE: What’s the difference?
 
ALBANESE: Not much. It was very specific, rather than the full suite. So it was the entrée, not the main course.
 
MOORE: The entrée. So what's your best bet? How many entrées are we going to get until we actually get to the main course?
 
ALBANESE: Well, that's the thing. It's a decision that is in the hands of Scott Morrison rather than myself. He himself declared he was on campaign footing four weeks ago now. So I figured that it was fair enough to start rolling out more policies. I have said that we would look to the fourth quarter to step up, closer to the election, once we'd really worked on developing a serious policy framework. And yesterday's announcements of 20,000 extra university places and 465,000 free TAFE places in areas of skills shortage was a major announcement. And it follows our commitment, of course, to Powering Australia, our plan for climate change and creating jobs, that we released on Friday.
 
MOORE: And I will go to policy in a minute. But first of all, I wanted to play the man not the ball, if I can put it that way. I did note yesterday you’ve lost weight, you've got a new pair of glasses, I don't know, maybe a new suit. I'm just wondering, is this a very conscious decision by you? Do you think that this is a more appealing look? Do you get help with your image? Or is this all Anthony Albanese and just a normal work in progress?
 
ALBANESE: No, this is me. It’s an old suit with slight adjustments to it because I have lost weight. I went on a walk this time last year, December, down at Three Capes in Tasmania. Highly recommend it, beautiful part of the world. And I tried to get fit for that. And then, people might recall, I had a car accident and was lucky to survive in the first days of January this year. And that tends to really make you think about health issues etc as well. So I just kept going, I tried to get fit for the walk and I just kept going. I think you've got to be match fit during a campaign and I'm feeling better for it. The glasses are actually a pretty cheap pair from my local Greek optometrist. I went and it took me a couple of minutes to select but people seem to like them.
 
MOORE: I can’t tell you how many people, when you were on the telly in our living room yesterday, the number of people and number of guests who walked past and they all just stopped and they said, ‘Oh, Albanese, he’s got a new pair of glasses’.
 
ALBANESE: It's bizarre. I've had, for years, a similar style, I guess. I've had different glasses and the style have tended to be, I guess, less of a rim, not necessarily rimless. But these ones are solid looking, I guess.
 
MOORE: You never thought you’d have to come on and discuss glasses, did you?
 
ALBANESE: I did not. But let me tell you, even on the ABC I can do it in Melbourne, George Tsenkas, optometrist in Marrickville Road, Marrickville, will be delighted when I call him.
 
MOORE: A free ad for him. Hey look, let’s get to substance. Your slogan, ‘renewal not revolution’, what exactly does that mean?
 
ALBANESE: Well, that’s not the slogan. Far from it. The slogan, if you like, is “A better future”. That was a line in the speech.
 
MOORE: It’s quite snappy though, isn’t it? ‘Renewal not revolution’?
 
ALBANESE: Well, what it means by that is that we're not trying to knock everything down and start again. What we're trying to do is to build on the fact that Australia is, I think, the greatest country on earth, but we could be much better. And we can plan for more secure work, we can be more equal, particularly more equality for women, we can embrace the opportunities that are there from moving to renewable energy. We can be a renewable energy superpower in this region and for the world. And we can be better. We can acknowledge the fact that our history doesn't go back to the First Fleet, it goes back 60,000 years at least. And we should be proud of the fact that we live with the oldest continuous civilization on the planet and recognise that in our Constitution and recognise that and respect them.
 
MOORE: Is that though, I suppose, and I pick up on those three words, because is that your biggest challenge, do you think, as you head into the election, and looking at what happened at the last federal election, walking the line between scaring the horses and the status quo?
 
ALBANESE: Well, we want change, but change happens. The question is, do you have a vision which attempts to shape change in the interest of people or do you sit back and let the change happen without any proper discussion of it. Take what's happening with the nature of work. There is a whole range of change happening with the rise of apps and gig workers, not just Uber and all the various ways in which you can get restaurant food delivered and all of that, there's the handyman apps, there's apps for the NDIS, there's apps for services and goods right across the board. And that means, unless industrial relations keeps up with those changes, you've had circumstances whereby the Government haven't said that everyone should be paid the minimal wage. So they say that's complex. Well, it's not really. So things like the gig economy can have big benefits. It's much more convenient. We're not opposed to that. But we need to have a discussion about the nature of work, about security, about the fact that for more and more people, they can't find permanent work, and that makes it difficult to get a mortgage, it makes it difficult to plan to have kids. They’re the sort of issues going forward that we need to discuss, come up with solutions, come up with improvements. And government has a role to play in that.
 
MOORE: And I guess government has a role to play, particularly, with climate. And your climate policy, which was announced a couple of days ago, a 43 per cent cut to emissions by 2030. And I know that there's a lot behind that as opposed to it just being a statement. But I'm curious as to why it's less ambitious than the policy you took to the last election.
 
ALBANESE: Well, what we didn't do was come up with a figure and then work out how to get there. What we did was we looked at good policy.
 
MOORE: Is that what you did last time? Is that why it was 45 per cent last time?
 
ALBANESE: Well, we had a figure that was based upon where they wanted to go. But the truth is that you've got to learn. And the last time around there were issues with explaining some of the financing, the economics of the package, if you like. What we did was work up a whole range of policies, including the one announced in my first Budget of fixing electricity transmission, bringing it into the 21st century, and then get analysis done of what that would mean between now and 2030. We looked at the safeguards mechanism, which is the Abbott Government's mechanism, which is therefore, a bit over the top 200 polluters, those with over 100,000, which brings them into the system. And so, what would happen if you actually did what business is crying out for, and put that track down to 2050, to net zero by 2050? And we looked at electric vehicles, how do we make them cheaper, how do we improve the take up of them? How do we have Commonwealth leadership by having net zero by 2030 for the Commonwealth public service?
 
MOORE: So in essence, your learning was, though, that you don't start at the top and work backwards, you start from the bottom and work up?
 
ALBANESE: You start with the policies and then work out what does the economic analysis show. And this time we have the most comprehensive independent modelling ever done for any policy by any opposition ever. We had it go through RepuTex, who actually powered the current Government's plan back in 2015 that led it to, at that time, the Government had 26 to 28 per cent as the target. And it found 604,000 jobs to be created, five out of six of those to be in the regions, $52 billion of private sector investment, a reduction in power prices in homes on average of $275 a year by 2025. So it found really positive benefits, as of course the Business Council, Australian Industry Group, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, they've all been calling for this certainty. That's the thing that's been missing.
 
MOORE: Sure. And business has sort of stepped ahead of government. And I think that's sort of been well discussed. But let me go, Anthony Albanese, to some of our talkback callers who have got questions for you, 1300 222 774 is the number if you have a question for the Federal Opposition Leader. Bushy, you’ve got a question. Hi Bushy.
 
CALLER: Good afternoon, thanks for taking my call. I’ve been told to make it quick. With our ageing population of ageing people are you going to do anything with (inaudible)
 
MOORE: Increase the pension, is that the question?
 
CALLER: Yes. Number two, are you going to increase the defence budget because a lot of mature people my age who are ex-military would certainly be interested.
 
MOORE: Thank you. Two questions there, Anthony Albanese. The pension?
 
ALBANESE: The pension, Labor will always be better off for pensioners than the current Government. We, the last time we were in office, had the largest ever increase
in the pension.
 
MOORE: So does that mean no more increases?
 
ALBANESE: No, it doesn't mean that. It means we'll examine it on the basis of budgetary circumstances rather than announce, with respect to Bushy, on a program on a Monday afternoon. But I understand. I grew up in a household with a mum, it was just me and her, she was on a pension. I know how hard it is to grow up and to live in a household that relies upon a pension. So, you know, Labor governments historically have always been better off for pensioners. But we need to be responsible as well and to make sure that the numbers add up before any commitments are given.
 
MOORE: And quickly, before I go to traffic, defence?
 
ALBANESE: Defence, there is a uniform position between us and the Government. Both have the same position with regard to defence spending.
 
MOORE: OK, 1300 222 774 is the number. Let's just pause for a minute with Anthony Albanese and we will go to the traffic.
 
[Traffic report]
 
MOORE: Eight minutes to six and on Polygraph you are joined by the Leader of the Federal Labor Party, Anthony Albanese, who’s taking your calls. Kushal joins us. Hi Kushal.
 
CALLER: Hi, Ali. Hi, Anthony. My question’s on economic management. Now, we’ve all heard about the JobKeeper and JobSeeker program which was fundamentally a huge amount of waste of money, almost $40 to $50 billion to businesses, to large corporates whose revenue has increased and the profit has increased. So the question to you, Anthony, is why are you not seeking to go after recouping that amount of money when those businesses didn’t need that? Especially when we're looking at a huge deficit going forward and a shaky economy for the next few years.
 
MOORE: Albo? Anthony Albanese? What do you think?
 
ALBANESE: Well, this was a major stuff up by the Government. And it’s up to $38 billion has been identified of companies that were increasing their profits to the point whereby they shouldn’t have been eligible.
 
MOORE: And will you go after it?
 
ALBANESE: No, well, you can’t go after people who have received money due to the mistakes of Josh Frydenberg. These weren't companies that had to pay back money because the rules were so open that the scheme was designed this way. It's a fault in the scheme. It should never have happened. But there's an issue then with having the government giving people money according to the rules that were flawed.
 
MOORE: So would you favour more naming and shaming? If there's no legal recourse, are there ways of persuading?
 
ALBANESE: Well, what we have asked for, and this has been the source of some controversy, is that there should be transparency about it, particularly for the major companies. There should be much more transparency about the money that was given to large corporations because it was taxpayers’ money. A number of companies have done the right thing and have repaid the money. But some haven't. And given that it's taxpayers’ money, I think taxpayers are entitled to know.
 
MOORE: Marie in Newport. Hi, Marie.
 
CALLER: Hi, thanks for taking my call. Hi, Anthony. My question is about child care workers. We’re super stressed in the industry at the moment, we’re feeling very overworked and underpaid. As you probably know, some of us have degrees and diplomas and we're only earning $21, $22 an hour. And I just wondered if you had any plans to maybe look at the industry, given that some of the big companies we work for pay no tax in Australia, they send all their profits to big companies, their parent companies, overseas. They're getting all this support from the Government. And we're not seeing any of it as workers.
 
MOORE: Let's put that to Anthony Albanese. What can you do for child care workers?
 
ALBANESE: Child care workers need to be better paid. Part of our plan is for cheaper child care and to support child care workers. And there are things that you can do. When we were last in government, we put a case to the equivalent of the Fair Work Commission for better pay for social and community service workers. And that was successful. And I think for feminised industries, in child care, in aged care, there's a need to address the fact that the pay hasn't kept up with the cost of living. These workers deserve to be respected and to be thanked. But they need more than thanks, they need proper remuneration as well.
 
MOORE: Can you do that? Your only ability to do that is to be another party at the Fair Work Commission, is that right?
 
ALBANESE: You can put forward a submission, but you can also put forward a view, which is that you don't need to have a male comparator, essentially, in terms of the way that a case is put forward. So that traditionally, it's no accident, it's just a fact that feminised industries have been undervalued. And there's a need for the Fair Work Commission to take into account that fact when they look at wages. There is a need for increased support. And we've said, my first Budget Reply had an additional $6 billion for the child care sector. And we want some of that, of course, to flow through to child care workers. And we would, we’ve said, in areas of feminised industries like child care and aged care, we would take a case to the Fair Work Commission.
 
MOORE: Sophie's joined us from Geelong. Hi, Sophie.
 
CALLER: Oh, hello, thanks for taking my call. Albo, I wanted to ask about housing affordability, particularly for first home buyers. I’ve been saving for years and every time I get close to a deposit, the house prices go up too high. I’m wondering what Labor's thinking, what they will do at the next election?
 
ALBANESE: Look, one of the things that we'll do is increase supply by having a significant increase in social housing and in affordable housing for essential workers through our housing Australia's future plan. And that will produce 30,000 combined additional housing.
 
MOORE: Over what period?
 
ALBANESE: Over a period of across the forward estimates is where we would do most of that.
 
MOORE: So four years?
 
ALBANESE: That's right. And we think that that's a major thing that can make a difference. We think also there's a need, obviously, to look at housing supply in terms of planning issues. And that is providing a hold up as well. But we also need to make sure that we address the fact that wages have been declining. Wages are just not keeping up with the cost of living and the last Budget envisaged that real wages would actually decline over the following four years.
 
MOORE: Anthony Albanese, we only have about 30 seconds left. But I’d just love to finish with one text question from an anonymous texter, ‘Will this guy even be the Opposition Leader come election time?’
 
ALBANESE: Well, I hope to be the prime minister afterwards. That’s the objective.
 
MOORE: Right, I think we’ll just leave that one there. Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for joining us for the Polygraph and for taking our questions this afternoon. We look forward to talking to you again.
 
ALBANESE: Thanks, Ali.
 
ENDS

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Electorate Office

334a Marrickville Road
MARRICKVILLE NSW 2204

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

Parliament House Office

PO Box 6022
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Phone: (02) 6277 4022
Fax: (02) 6277 8562

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

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