Subjects: Small business, One Nation, Malcolm Turnbull, Labor Party
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s been great to be able to open the Google Digital Skills Workshop that’s taking place here in Balmain today. Small businesses reply upon digital connectivity to talk to customers and to expand their businesses.
That this forum has been full to capacity shows that here in the Inner West we have many dynamic small businesses who want to work with the local chambers of commerce who’ve organised today’s forum along with Google.
Small business is the engine room of the national economy, creating jobs, creating opportunity and this forum is important so that our local small businesses can maximise the potential that they have for growth.
JOURNALIST: Just having a look at some of the issues of the day, One Nation are obviously under investigation by the Electoral Commission which has basically said this morning that for the first time they’ve had to use coercive powers to draw out information. How concerning is it that we’re at this stage?
ALBANESE: It’s of real concern that One Nation, it would appear from the evidence before the Senate Committee, haven’t been prepared to cooperate in the way that parties have traditionally always have.
This is the problem with One Nation. Many people support One Nation out of their views that they’ll somehow be different from the mainstream political parties.
What we see is Pauline Hanson seeming to have a pattern of relying upon these powerful unelected figures like David Oldfield and John Pasquarelli.
Now of course, the latest example is Pauline Hanson relying upon an unelected staffer, James Ashby who has had an interesting past, to say the least. What we have here is a political party that has a history of being elected and then unravelling, and it appears that it is unravelling before our very eyes.
These are some very serious allegations about One Nation. The recorded conversation, the One Nation response from James Ashby seems to be to a discussion about the way in which the conversation was recorded. Well, the issue here is that the conversation took place.
The issue here is that there was a conscious debate within a political party about how to rip off taxpayers. That is why there is an investigation. That is why Labor Senator Murray Watt called for the investigation.
It’s a real concern that Malcolm Turnbull and everyone in his Government appears to have not taken any action, not even referring this to the appropriate authorities.
JOURNALIST: The fact that coercive powers are having to be used, is that a concern politically for the wider political spectrum?
ALBANESE: It’s good that the authorities have the capacity to use these coercive powers, but they shouldn’t be required. Political parties should cooperate with the appropriate authorities.
There are some serious allegations that have been made and a political party such as One Nation, that has representatives in the Australian Senate, should be fully cooperating with any inquiry. We shouldn’t need these coercive powers.
JOURNALIST: We are looking at record or very strong economic growth, is this an indication that the Government is in fact on the right track?
ALBANESE: Well it’s an indication of the hard work of Australian businesses such as those that are represented here today. The Australian economy is very resilient. But what we need to do is to make sure that we have mechanisms in place that ensure that continues into the future.
The fact is we have an increase in debt of over $100 billion. The deficit is ten times higher today than it was when the Government introduced the so-called temporary deficit level.
Under-employment is a real issue in our economy. Many Australians are really struggling due to housing affordability issues and as well, the fact is that we have effectively a decline in real wages.
A decline in real wages means a decline in living standards and that is of real concern because those people who are low and middle income earners tend to spend most of their income.
That will have a dampening impact in the medium term on our economic growth unless we do something to lift real wages.
But this government’s response to that is to support a cut to penalty rates for some of the lowest paid workers in Australia.
JOURNALIST: With some of these issues you are just talking about there, escalating debt etc., can you really push the Government to increase more school funding; is that achievable?
ALBANESE: School funding is an investment in our future. School funding is an investment in creativity and making sure we maximise the potential of every young person. Two things will increase our future economic growth in this country.
One is investing in productivity boosting infrastructure. The second is investing in education, training and skills of our people, and that is why Labor has always regarded education funding as an investment.
JOURNALIST: Labor is doing reasonably well in the polls, perhaps on the leadership front not so good, is that a concern for you?
ALBANESE: Labor is doing well in the polls. We’re on 53 per cent of the two-party-preferred vote, and that is an indication that this Government is out of touch. Malcolm Turnbull seems to be someone who hasn’t implemented the policies that people thought that he would.
He came to the leadership of the Liberal Party and people thought he would bring a breath of fresh air to that leadership.
But what we’ve seen is him turn his back on policies that people know that he holds; turning his back on marriage equality; turning his back on support for actually investing in public transport not just talking about it; turning his back on advancing an Australian republic.
These are all issues that have led people to be very disappointed in Malcolm Turnbull and I think the Government is being judged harshly for that.
One of the important issues of real concern to the people at this forum today is access to high speed broadband. What we know is that Malcolm Turnbull on his watch as the former communications minister has purchased some 15 million metres of copper wire.
This is fraudband, not broadband and Malcolm Turnbull is being judged because of his bad performance as a minister as well as the disappointment in his Prime Ministership.
JOURNALIST: So it is more a reflection of the Liberal Party or the Coalition’s issues as opposed to leadership of the Labor Party as to why the polls are going so well?
ALBANESE: We’ve held the government to account and we’ll continue to do so. We’ve put forward positive policies. To take one issue of concern to Australians on housing affordability, we have been prepared to have the courage to advance, from opposition, changes to capital gains tax and negative gearing regimes aimed at housing affordability.
The Labor Party is leading from opposition because of the vacuum that the government’s creating because Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t have the courage of his conviction. What Australians want is politicians and leaders who will stand up for their principles and stand up as conviction politicians.
They want authenticity. They know that in Malcolm Turnbull, they haven’t got the authentic Malcolm Turnbull. They’ve got Malcolm Turnbull who’s constantly concerned about what Tony Abbott and his supporters think.
JOURNALIST: And again this comes back to the strong leadership of Bill Shorten?
ALBANESE: Bill Shorten has had the courage to take on issues like negative gearing and housing affordability and I think that has been reflected in Labor’s strength in the polls.
JOURNALIST: And just finally, is this with regards to the Labor leadership, is now or never an opportunity for you as far as potential leadership of the party?
ALBANESE: I’m concerned about being a good shadow minister and then a good minister in a Labor Government. I have always put the Party first. I’ve always put the interests of my electorate first.
The fact is that you do the job that you’ve been given at the time to the best of your capacity. That’s what I did as Leader of the House and a senior minister in the Rudd and Gillard Governments.
That’s what I’m doing now as an opposition frontbencher and I’ve been campaigning very hard to hold this government to account. As the Infrastructure Shadow Minister, what we saw in the Budget is a $1.6 billion cut in infrastructure investment in the Budget.
What we’ve seen is a failure to fund important projects like the Cross River Rail in Brisbane, Melbourne Metro, AdeLINK light rail, nothing for Western Sydney rail. I was at Campbelltown earlier today and the fact is that we need that rail line from Campbelltown up through the Badgerys Creek airport site, up to St Mary’s and onto Rouse Hill if we’re going to maximise the opportunities through the new airport.
So they’re the sort of issues that I’ve been concentrating on. I’ll continue to concentrate on policy issues and playing my role as a senior member of the Labor Party.
JOURNALIST: So not an issue?
ALBANESE: I’ve been continuing to do the job that I’ve been given. It’s a great honour to be a Member of the House of Representatives, to represent my electorate here in the inner west of Sydney but it’s also a great honour to be a senior member of the Labor Party and I don’t take that for granted. I do the job for the team each and every day. I’ll continue to do so.