Subjects: Vinyl records, Budget, infrastructure, bipartisanship, Sydney Airport, banks, Newstart, GST.
REPORTER: In Townsville Albo, afternoon Anthony.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Indeed and I just heard your statement about what was coming up on the show. I actually have the vinyl. It’s a purple cover, purple and silver, of the original Australian cast recording for Jesus Christ Superstar with Jon English and Trevor White. I’ve got it somewhere at home I am sure.
REPORTER: You haven’t turned it into a pot plant holder or anything have you?
ALBANESE: No, I kept all my vinyl thank goodness. I was faithful that it would come back and it certainly has.
REPORTER: All right. Budget tomorrow Anthony Albanese. I’ve just seen that the Coalition Government reckons they will return to a surplus a year ahead and we could even have in the bank $7 billion. Initial reaction Anthony?
ALBANESE: Well we will wait and see the reality. They have been good at predicting. These are the same people who, when Joe Hockey came to office, said they would have a surplus each and every year and what we have seen is that The debt has doubled. It’s now out to over half a trillion dollars. They used to talk about a debt and deficit disaster when it was over $200 billion. It’s now double that at over $500 billion and they don’t talk about it anymore. So we will wait and see how it actually matches up with reality.
REPORTER: Yes. Anthony. They keep saying there is quite a difference between your lot – the Labor side of politics – and the Coalition side of politics. They reckon they can deliver lower taxes and better, if you like, living style. They reckon you would take us for a ride and you always overspend.
ALBANESE: The problem with that is that the facts are very different. You know that the ten best years for lowest tax-to-GDP ratios since the 1980s have all been under Labor governments – all ten of them. So this is a government that has increased the tax-to-GDP ratio, that has increased the deficit, increased the debt and what they haven’t had, we had when we were in government of course, the fact is we had to deal with the Global Financial Crisis. They have had good international conditions, rising commodity prices. They haven’t had either what we had, which was floods in Queensland and bush fires which were devastating in Victoria, but also added to fiscal pressures. This Government have had a dream ride and they have blown it, which is why I think what we are seeing now is a bit of desperation.
REPORTER: Yes, but surely Anthony Albanese we should be able to somehow get some bipartisan agreement on policy. I mean, this is a country should one side of politics make the decision, now as you know they have locked in this 23.9 per cent attached to the GDP. You don’t think that should be. There must be some middle ground where something must be harmonious and a compromise made given the fact that we are one country, surely one side shouldn’t be announcing policy without going to the other side?
ALBANESE: Well that is higher of course than what we had during that period in which we were in office. Look, I certainly am someone who is prepared to engage in constructive dialogue with the Government. There are two pieces of legislation in my portfolio tomorrow, one in the area of shipping and one in the area of heavy vehicles, both of which I will be giving second reading speeches supporting that legislation. Some of the big issues on infrastructure – it has taken bi-partisanship to ensure that there is a second Sydney airport. l’d like to see a bit of bi-partisanship on High Speed Rail, on a range of those big, visionary programs. What we haven’t had from this Government is any attempt at bi-partisanship. They seem to be driven totally by politics.
REPORTER: Now you are talking about Badgerys Creek which has been kicked around and into the high grass for so many decades Anthony Albanese. Do you think that regional airports around Australia, in fact NSW, will suffer if we’ve got to fly from a regional airport in NSW and we’ve got to fly into Badgerys Creek and we are looking for a doctor’s appointment in Macquarie St, it’s going to take us two hours to get into town.
ALBANESE: Well they will still be able to fly of course into Kingsford Smith.
REPORTER: Will there be (inaudible) there?
ALBANESE: There should be regional slots guaranteed into Kingsford Smith. But also it’s a fact that many people in Western Sydney want to fly to regional areas and it’s also the case that with what should happen with the aerotropolis around Western Sydney – it can’t be just a runway and a terminal; it has to be a catalyst for investment, for high value jobs in Western Sydney and that means people wanting to fly and to go to the science park up at Luddenham, to go to work and meetings at the high-value manufacturing sector in aviation, in renewable energy, in logistics and freight sector. That’s what I want to see, is an airport that creates jobs for people in Western Sydney.
REPORTER: OK. They reckon the income tax cuts anticipated in the Budget, they are looking at the tax cuts. That’s what they propose. You don’t like that?
ALBANESE: What we are concerned about is not tax cuts for working people …
REPORTER: But for the banks?
ALBANESE: Well what we are concerned about is the $65 billion of tax cuts for corporate Australia that there’s no evidence that there will be a flow-on in terms of increased wages.
ALBANESE: … or benefits to working people. That’s the concern.
REPORTER: In the grant of the working people Anthony, should we raise the Newstart allowance?
ALBANESE: I certainly think that Newstart Allowance is too low. That’s my view. I think that people would struggle to get on with that sort of income. It simply hasn’t kept up. The fact is that our first objective should be to get people who are on Newstart into jobs. But whilst they are on Newstart, we’ve got to make sure that they are able to live and live in a way that actually assists them to get into work, allows them to stay healthy and not be below the poverty line.
REPORTER: Of course the Coalition reckon Anthony that you cut the tax and we will spend more. Is that a logical circle?
ALBANESE: Well, how does that fit with the top-end-of-town business, which is their priority for big business tax? We certainly have always been of the view that if you put extra dollars in the pockets and the wallets of low and middle-income earners, they will spend it. They will create more jobs. The problem for this Government is that under its watch real wages are actually declining.
ALBANESE: And they are particularly declining for those at the lower end. And if they are unsure about the consequences of that, they could ask the people cleaning their offices in Parliament House, because they cut their wages as one of the first things that they did when they came to office.
REPORTER: Yes. I mean that old thing about could you live on $40 a day, that was proposed last week and then we found out I think the politician who said that has got a couple of million dollars invested into investment properties. Is that on old test on what you could do Albo? Could you live off $40 a day?
ALBANESE: Well no I’d struggle. That’s the truth. I know what it is like. I grew up in a single-parent household. I know what it is like to struggle with every single cent and dollar. Now the fact is that politicians are well remunerated. We work hard, but we don’t have the same issues that people who wonder whether they will be able to buy, you know, a big box of Wheet-Bix or a little one because they can only afford the money that they have in their pocket and I think it is our responsibility as politicians to always try and step into others’ shoes who are less well off than us.
REPORTER: Yes, but you’ve got to be bipartisan to do that. A couple of quickies before I let you go Anthony Albanese. Live exports: down and out, or up and running?
ALBANESE: Well when you look at Joel Fitzgibbon’s announcement I think it is the right approach.
REPORTER: You are agreeing with him?
ALBANESE: I am agreeing with Joel Fitzgibbon. I think that what we have seen is quite horrific and it’s unacceptable …
ALBANESE: … on our watch to see that sort of mistreatment of animals.
REPORTER: So would you end it?
ALBANESE: Well you can’t just sort of end it full stop.
ALBANESE: What Joel has called for is a phasing out for serious discussion with industry as well about how as well we can benefit in terms of additional jobs by value-adding.
REPORTER: GST. Where do you want it to go?
ALBANESE: Well that’s a matter really for the states of course. It’s the state-based tax and no changes can be made without agreement from the states. It’s significant I think that the Labor states as well as Labor opposition leaders in Coalition-held states and territories have agreed that there needs to be a change in the tampon tax so that people aren’t treated unfairly because they happen to be women.
REPORTER: All right. Tomorrow night as the Treasurer stands to his feet you will be sitting on the Opposition benches and I guess you will be yelling out “no’’, “woeful’’ and all that sort of thing?
ALBANESE: No. We’ve got to behave during the Budget speech.
REPORTER: Have you? What will you do when Bill stands to his feet on Thursday night?
ALBANESE: We’ve got to behave during both. I think the Treasurer and the Opposition Leader are entitled to be heard with some respect and I think that will happen. The Speaker, I am sure, will tomorrow lay down the law and that is a good thing.
REPORTER: Will Bill Shorten take the Opposition Labor Party, the Federal Labor Party to the next election Anthony?
ALBANESE: Yes he will and he’s campaigning extremely well. Labor is ahead in the polls and we have managed to I think set the agenda. I think if you look at our team across the board we are ready to form Government and across the board I think person-for-person I’d much rather be on our side and have confidence in the way that we’d manage the economy and the various policy challenges which we are facing than the other mob.
REPORTER :Anthony Albanese, member for Grayndler, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Cities, Transport and Regional Development. Shadow Minister for Tourism as well enjoying Townsville as we always will, I will let you get back to the business.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.