Subjects: Greens Political Party, pension changes
WARREN MOORE: Anthony Albanese joins me on the line right now. Thanks for your time.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you Warren.
MOORE: From the cricket as I understand it?
ALBANESE: I am indeed here at Day 2. It’s been pretty good for Australia so far.
MOORE: It has, it has indeed. Well, what prompted you to write this opinion piece?
ALBANESE: During the election campaign what was very clear to me was the ongoing dominance of far left elements of the Greens Party, who have very different views from many of the good people who vote for the Greens because they care about the environment or they are disillusioned with the major political parties. They see themselves as progressives and they want change to happen in society, but there’s a real breach, I think, between the views of Greens voters and the Greens leadership in NSW that has put up now, on the last three occasions, candidates against myself in Grayndler, for example, who’ve been members previously of far left revolutionary Marxist parties, and, who at the last campaign, the candidate against me, who would see himself as a so-called progressive, said he would prefer to have Tony Abbott as Prime Minister than Bill Shorten because essentially you’d get better demos. Now I think people want a better society, not better demos and I think pointing that out; the emergence of this Left Renewal faction of the Greens that are pretty explicit of what they’re about. They are critical of the Greens leadership in Canberra; Richard di Natale. Bob Brown dismissed it as a bit of a joke and thought it might be a prank. Well it’s very real that these people do dominate the NSW Greens, particularly in the Sydney area.
MOORE: It’s been interesting since the election I’ve spoken to a number of people from the conservative side of politics about the emergence of the minor parties; One Nation, of course on the other side, I know they’ve been around a lot longer but also the Greens. How do you see this? I mean I haven’t had a conversation with this on air anyway from a member of the ALP about the same phenomenon. Do you think there is disenchantment with the major parties?
ALBANESE: Undoubtedly there is, but part of what I’m pointing out today is that people do need to be cautious about who they’re voting for. People who voted for Clive Palmer’s party, for example, at the election before last ended up getting essentially a party that imploded within months of the election and now almost doesn’t exist. The One Nation Party has imploded already with Senator Rod Culleton resigning from that party with very different views being expressed by the different members of One Nation who’ve been elected. And that’s a bit of the history of minor parties; is that often people who vote for them vote for them with the best of intentions, but the people who, once they get into Parliament and get elected, often put forward views that are very different from the views of the actual voters.
MOORE: Is it also the fact that they’re raising issues that people don’t feel or opinions that are being replicated by the major parties? In other words there’s a gap in the market if you want to look at it from a marketing parlance and therefore they think there’s too much overlap between the ALP and now the Coalition and therefore they’re looking for something else.
ALBANESE: Well I think historically in Australia you had people perhaps 40 per cent of people always voted Labor and 40 per cent of people always voted for the Coalition. Now that’s broken down. I was certainly raised, I say often that my mum raised me with three great faiths; the Labor Party, the Catholic Church and South Sydney Football Club. Now that’s less common these days as trade unions are less significant in the workplace, in terms of the number of members who they have. You have, I guess, a much more fluid society, as well, and because of the success, often of policies that the Whitlam Government and the Hawke and Keating Governments did a lot to open up educational opportunities, you don’t have a sort of big blue collar working class base that’s in unions for the Labor Party.
MOORE: I’ve often thought that in terms of union movements. Times have changed of course, but historically to some extent, they’ve been the victims of their own success haven’t they?
ALBANESE: Well that’s right but that’s a good thing. The Labor Party seeks to advance opportunity and to make people be able to have aspirations is very important.
MOORE: What about this week the big topic of debate, in fact this week and last week, on talkback I can tell you has been the changes to the pension and if you’re talking about policies or ideologies that’s something that Labor, maybe not the specifics, but ideologically you would support people who can support themselves not necessarily getting a pension to help others out wouldn’t you?
ALBANESE: We’re quite concerned about the direct impact of this and we voted against these changes that were supported by the Liberals and the Greens together, was how it got adopted in the Senate, and we were concerned. A good friend of mine who is retired recently, has worked all his life, certainly far from wealthy, had to move out of Sydney because he couldn’t afford to retire in Sydney, he moved up to Swansea where housing was more affordable, just south of Newcastle there. He made retirement plans based upon a certain income and now that’s been taken away. And a lot of people who’ve been impacted by this; people particularly on defined benefits schemes, teachers, public servants and they’ve found themselves to be substantially worse off as a result of these changes and I’m very concerned that they haven’t been targeted in the right way. There are a lot of people who aren’t paying their share of tax at the moment, and a lot of corporations indeed, and I think that should be where the Government targets its revenue changes rather than targeting many people who certainly are far from well off and have been impacted by these pension changes.
MOORE: I know it’s not your portfolio we’re necessarily talking about, but obviously something has to change to make the pension long term sustainable with an ageing population.
ALBANESE: Well superannuation was one of the things aimed precisely at doing that. That’s one of the reasons why, as well, we wanted to increase the super contribution up to 12 per cent and that’s been wound back by this Government.
MOORE: But as we move forward, ultimately this is going to have to happen where self-funded retirees lose their pension and we’re going to have these sensitivities. There’s got to be a transition.
ALBANESE: That is correct; once superannuation kicks in for the generation who are working now then it will mean that people will be able to rely upon that, rather than the pension. That’s one of the reasons why we changed superannuation to increase that contribution and it is beyond my comprehension frankly why those changes were wound back by the incoming Coalition Government when they came to office. Superannuation is something that Labor is very proud of. It’s a great legacy of Paul Keating, in particular, and his vision.
MOORE: Let’s get back to where we started. To do with your piece today and of course you’re concerned about this ultra-left faction of the Greens. I did touch on One Nation. We’ve got state elections this coming year in Queensland and Western Australia. Do you think that the rise of One Nation, and for that matter, the Greens will play a big role in those elections?
ALBANESE: There’s no doubt that the votes and preferences of minor parties will have a big impact on every election. It does, given that the minor party vote now is above 20 per cent and therefore people need to consider very carefully where their second preference goes. But also they need to think carefully about whether they want to vote for a party of Government, which in Australia is either Labor or the Coalition, or whether they want to vote for a minor party, perhaps risk that instability that can be created if you have a minority government rather than a majority government. I think people have to think very carefully about their vote, but the major parties also have to listen to what voters are saying. When one in five voters are not voting for the major parties, or in excess of that, we need to respond to that and work harder to try win that support; whether you’re a Labor politician, or a Liberal or National Party politician. We saw recently in New South Wales, of course, in the Orange by-election, the Shooters Party win, I think largely because of the Coalition changes that were made on a range of issues, including the National Party, including the greyhound racing issue. The point was made to me this morning by someone that the Nationals have their problems with the greyhounds, but the Greens have got the problem with the trots within their own party.
MOORE: We’ll leave it there. Enjoy the rest of your day at the cricket.
ALBANESE: Indeed, great talking to you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.