Subject: ALP Leadership.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thank you for joining me. This morning Chris Bowen rang me and informed me that he would be announcing, later that morning, that he would be a candidate for Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. I’m a friend of Chris Bowen’s. We’ve been friends for a very long time. He has my respect and I also respect his right to put forward his candidacy before not just caucus members but before each and every member of the great Australian Labor Party. I welcome the fact that the membership are going to have an opportunity to have a say. One of the good things about our process, is that immediately after an election it will be an opportunity for literally tens of thousands of members to express to myself and to Chris, and to the wider party, why it is in their view that we came up short on Saturday.
I do know that in recent times it would appear that the Coalition have been able to claim an absolute majority of seats in the House of Representatives. I congratulate Scott Morrison on that outcome. He certainly fought a tenacious campaign that’s a reminder to the Party as we consider our future and our path to get into government, that we face a formidable challenge. Scott Morrison is obviously a formidable campaigner. And the fact that he’s been able to achieve this result shows that what we need to do is to go through our process, have a discussion as a caucus and as the organisational wing of the Labor Party, about how we can improve our position and be on the Treasury benches when it comes to the next Parliament after 2022.
I’m determined, as I’m sure Chris is as well, to ensure that this will be a positive campaign, that this will be one where we outline our respective visions for the future of our Party. It will be one in which we’re able to put forward, in a constructive way, why we think we are the best people, respectively, to lead the Labor Party. I myself will be campaigning very much on, one: my record, two: on I think the clear view that people have of me – what you say is what you get.
I’ve been in public life a long time. One of the things I’ve been able to do in public life is to have the honour of being able to travel the length and breadth of this great nation and to engage with people in a practical way. I’m one of only four people who served as a Cabinet Minister throughout the Rudd and Gillard Governments. I’ve been Leader of the House of Representatives, I’ve been manager of Opposition Business. At the end of our last period in government, I served as Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the House of Representatives, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for Communications and the Digital Economy.
I think I’m up for a big job and there’s no job that’s bigger than being Leader of the Opposition. There’s no job that’s tougher than being Leader of the Opposition. I’m tough. People know what my values are. I’m prepared to articulate them in a clear fashion and I like people, I like engaging people, whether it’s at this great footy ground here at Henson Park, whether it be in boardrooms or whether it be in workplaces or whether it be outside the local school, the local pub. I like people and I like engaging with people. This will be an opportunity over coming weeks for me to do just that. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: Is it your understanding that you and Chris Bowen will be the only leadership contenders?
ALBANESE: All I can do is speak for myself and Chris has spoken for himself. There is no one else who has put themselves forward. I acknowledge Tanya Plibersek’s announcement yesterday that he would not be a candidate in this election. The Marrickville pause …
Plane can be heard overhead
ALBANESE: I pay tribute to Tanya. She a very good friend of mine and has been so for a very long time. She’s in the neighbouring seat to me. She will play a key role in Labor’s future.
REPORTER: Why did she pull out? There was every indication that she was going to run?
ALBANESE: I think Tanya Plibersek can speak for herself and I think it would be extraordinarily rude for me to pretend that I can speak on behalf of the senior woman in the Labor Party. One at a time, you first.
REPORTER: You have mentioned that you can articulate complex policies, that you’re a man of the people,. you like being among everyone and that you understand what’s affecting people on the ground. Are those things that Bill Shorten didn’t understand in the election?
ALBANESE: Bill Shorten campaigned very strongly and very hard for the Labor Party, each and every day. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again so you can have it on rotation, if you like – there’ll be no criticism of Bill Shorten from me.
REPORTER: You and Chris Bowen have both said that you obviously need to go back to the drawing board on policies, including franking credits. You’ve both said as a key point that there needs to be more focus on economic growth rather than just wealth redistribution. What is actually the difference between you and Chris Bowen in terms of what you’re pitching?
ALBANESE: Well that will obviously come out in in coming days and weeks. But I think Chris and I, we’re all products of our background. One of the things about Labor Party, unlike the other side of politics, and I think this is a strength; I wouldn’t expect that there would be a massive chasm between my ideological position and Chris Bowen’s, because I don’t think there is and I don’t think we should try to create false distinctions where they’re not there.
I have a different perspective if you look at my history, I believe firmly in nation building infrastructure as a key driver of economic growth. I’m very passionate about it. I have particular projects I was looking forward this term to once again take up where I left off last term. I’d had discussions with people about the High Speed Rail project for example and advancing that agenda, which I believe is so important for Australia’s future, particularly the heavily populated area down our east coast. I also, in terms of my own experience will bring to our political activity that life experience. I have a background where I grew up not too far from here in public housing. I’m the product of a single mum. I’ve told, or I haven’t told, Karen Middleton told, my life story. It’s not a hagiography. It’s therefore for all to see. She’s a serious journalist of course and a colleague of yours in the National Press Gallery and for a long time. So, I was prepared to do that because I think it is important that people understand where people are coming from.
I believe in markets, but I believe that there’s a Government role to intervene in a market economy because markets don’t have a conscience. Markets are very good at a range of things in our economy. What they do often though is entrench existing economic and social relationships in terms of power structures. Therefore, there is a role for Government. We seek Government so that we can intervene to change outcomes. It’s not to change who’s in the white cars. There would be a strong agenda were I to lead the Labor Party, but it would also be one that’s founded upon a consensus model. I’m someone who has spoken, and you can all Google the speeches I’ve given, the Whitlam Oration and a range of others, spoken about the common interests that are there between unions and business. You can’t have union members if you don’t have successful businesses. I see jobs as being at the centre point of a Labor agenda. I see creating opportunity as being at the centre of a Labor agenda and I’ll have plenty of time to outline that directly to the members over coming days and weeks.
REPORTER: What about coal jobs, are you going to fight to protect them?
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that the coal industry is an important employer in places like the Hunter Valley. That’s a fact. The fact is also, when you look at the Queensland industry, the coal industry is largely coking coal which is used for steel and that’s an important product as well. The fact is also, the transition to a clean energy economy over a period of time will mean a massive growth in renewable energy jobs. Now when I say that, I don’t just mean directly in terms of the people who will run jobs in places like Kidston and operating Big Kennedy in Little Kennedy up in North West Queensland where I travelled with Bob Katter a while ago. It is the jobs that can be there potentially in manufacturing in Australia actually playing a role. I mean, when you talk about renewable energy the sun is free, the wind’s free. The only cost is essentially about labour and that is why it is potentially such a significant employer. I want to see Australia not just creating in terms of being involved in the resources sector; I want to see value adding.
So for example, one of the commitments that we made during the election campaign was about the Mount Isa-to-Townsville Freight Rail Network. When you have products like lithium that are so necessary for batteries, for storage that are in such demand, high-value minerals that are available up there, the potential for a growth in jobs in Far North Queensland and Western Queensland from those new minerals to mirror what is happening already in places like Western Australia, we need to not be a Parliament that just engages in fear about change. I understand that change is difficult for people. What we need is to explain and have policies for it and the Government doesn’t have them at the moment, policies that actually shape change in the interests of working people, in the interests of maximising employment, in the interests of maximising economic growth and in the interests of ensuring as well sustainability.
REPORTER: Chris Bowen said the factions aren’t important; he wants it as a non-factional vote. You live in the real world and have been the Labor Party a long time. The factions are going to play a big role in this. How disappointed will you be if you win the second time the popular vote, yet you get done over by deals?
ALBANESE: Well I’ve already had, last time round; I went through this process in 2013. I didn’t make arrangements with anyone. There wasn’t preparing or anything else on my side of the equation. I put myself forward on merits and at the end of the day after both ballots were counted I came up a little bit short. I got on with life. I got on with life and contributed constructively for the next six years as a loyal member of the team and what I will do this time around is put myself forward.
I’m very pleased with the level of support that I’ve received up to this point from caucus members and that is certainly not confined to the Left. It goes across the factions across the states. I’m running to lead the Labor Party. I’m not running to lead a faction. I did that a long time ago, a long time since I was active in leading the Parliamentary Left as a convenor, about 20 years in fact. What I’m interested in is leading the Labor Party. But that’s not really what I’m interested in. What I’m interested in is leading the country. I’m not running against Chris Bowen or anyone else. I’m running against Scott Morrison. I will conduct myself in this campaign with that in mind. Making sure that one of the opportunities we have is for the membership to have feedback to us but campaigning for a Labor agenda because I believe this country needs a Labor Government.
REPORTER: Do you think you can beat him?
ALBANESE: I am not engaging in public discussion. I think I can beat Scott Morrison. I absolutely think I can beat Scott Morrison. If I didn’t, let me tell you I wouldn’t be putting myself forward because Leader of the Opposition is not the most rewarding job. Leading the Labor Party is an incredible honour and a privilege. But Leader of the Opposition, it can be frustrating. The truth is, being a Shadow Minister is frustrating. You’ve got to be in Government to actually change the nation. When you change the Government, you change the nation.
People voted on Saturday to return the Morrison Government, to give Scott Morrison a mandate in his own right and I respect that. But the fact is, the fact is that who knows what their agenda is for this term because it’s just not clear at all. I think that in terms of my capacity as a Parliamentarian, my capacity to hold the Government to account, my capacity to articulate an alternative vision, a positive vision for the nation, one that is positive across the economy and jobs, but also speaks about social policy and lifting people up, creating opportunity through education, my capacity to articulate the reason why health care is so important.
I grew up as a son of an invalid pensioner. I know the difference that Gough Whitlam’s Government made to my mum’s health and to my life, therefore. I also have had a wide experience in terms of portfolios. I’ve had economic portfolios, I’ve had social policy portfolios. In the time that I’ve been in Parliament I’ve done Infrastructure and Transport obviously. I’ve done Regional Development that took me out to small towns and regions. I’ve done Local Government and met with local government right around the country. I did reforms that brought them in regardless of where local government stood. I went out there and funded projects, particularly in regional communities. I didn’t do what this Government’s done, which is just fund things in marginal electorates that they want to hold on to. Every, every electorate. You look at Warringah, for example; the Manly Foreshore, and you speak to the Liberal Party Mayor, or former Mayor, Jean Hay. I haven’t kept up with who the Mayor of Manly is, I’ve got to say, but that was funded under our economic stimulus plan, the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program. But I’ve also held portfolios like Family and Community Services, like Ageing and Seniors, like Employment Services and Training, like Environment and Climate Change, like Indigenous Affairs, Housing. I’ve had a range of experience. I will bring that experience and knowledge to the leadership, if I’m successful. But what I’ll also do, what I’ll also do, is have an understanding of how you mobilise the capacity of what is an incredibly talented Caucus, both frontbench and backbench. And I will ensure, for example, that the Shadow Cabinet operates in a way that allows for full and open discussion of proposals that are coming forward, so that we ensure that the outcomes have the benefit of the many, rather than just a few.
REPORTER: Albo, Labor campaigned heavily on climate change towards the end of this campaign. We’ve already heard from people like Joel Fitzgibbon that perhaps there was too much focus on that. Where does climate change fit into the ALP’s messaging under your leadership? And can I also frame this question with the observation that it’s 26 degrees in Sydney today and we’re eight days from winter.
ALBANESE: Well, climate change is a priority. Anyone who looks at the science knows that that’s the case. The fact is that the Coalition seem incapable of coming up with a policy, incapable of acting. And the problem for that is, is that the business community are saying that that’s holding back investment. What that means is it’s holding back jobs, holding back job creation. It’s not a matter of the environment or jobs. It’s a matter of the need to protect jobs by protecting the environment. That’s how you get it done.
That’s something that I developed in the policies that I put forward when I was the Shadow Minister. When I was the Shadow Minister for the Environment, the renewable energy target in this country was 2%. When we came up with, in 2006, in Kim Beazley’s climate change paper, discussion paper, one of the things that we adopted as part of that was the 20% by 2020 Renewable Energy Target. What that meant was that in 2007, there were eight thousand homes in Australia with solar panels. What that means now is that when you look around here, you can see solar panels. But when you go to every suburb in Sydney, or in Melbourne, or in Toowoomba, or in Townsville, or in Perth, or in Adelaide, or in Geelong, or in Launceston, what you see is solar panels on roofs. This isn’t an issue of environmentalists. This is an issue whereby good environmental outcomes are delivered by creating jobs and by creating economic growth and by reducing the costs of people who have renewable energy on the roofs of their homes. So that is an example. When we look at water, I was the Shadow Minister for Water; I’m prepared to give bipartisan backing wherever it is possible. But let me tell you, one of the things that we need to address here is what happened, what happened with the buyback of water that occurred in the Murray-Darling Basin? Because it stinks. And Angus Taylor and Barnaby Joyce, you know, hid for a while. There were a number of Ministers hiding during the election campaign. They won’t be able to hide in the Parliament. They won’t be able to hide in the Parliament and they should be held to account by you fine men and women in the Fourth Estate as well, because there are major questions to be answered about that, and about a whole range of issues.
REPORTER: But their electorates didn’t hold them to an account. Like, Angus Taylor increased his margin, so did Barnaby Joyce. So isn’t the question, maybe, people might believe in climate change but it doesn’t change their vote.
ALBANESE: I think people vote on a whole range of measures and one of the things that we need to do, isn’t…you can’t say on Tuesday precisely why you weren’t successful just two, three days earlier. What we’ll do is look at that scientifically, look at it methodically, look at it when people essentially have overcome, as well, the difficult period they’re going through it. There are many people, and I’m not so worried about Caucus members who’ve been re-elected, but there are Caucus members who haven’t been re-elected. There are their staff, there are, more importantly, the tens of thousands of Labor Party members, volunteers and supporters who have given up so much of their time to campaign for a Labor Government. And we fell short of that. So we’ll examine all of the issues with regard to our loss. What we shouldn’t do though is pretend that we didn’t lose. We lost. We got the votes of one in three of every Australian on Saturday. We need to do much better. We need to increase that substantially, if we’re going to be successful. Now, one more.
REPORTER: There are calls for …
ALBANESE: Sorry, have you had a go?
REPORTER:There are calls for fresh blood in the Labor Party. If you are successful as the leader, will Chris Bowen and Bill Shorten have a place in your Shadow Cabinet?
ALBANESE: The Shadow Cabinet isn’t elected by me. I’ll say that. It’s elected by the Caucus and that’s appropriate, that if they are elected by the Caucus. I think that we have an incredibly talented group of people that Caucus, through its processes, will have the opportunity to choose from. I can make this prediction – we will have more women in the Shadow Cabinet than they have in the Cabinet. We’ll have more women in the Shadow Ministry than they have in the Ministry and we’ll have more women in our Caucus than they do, even though they have a substantially larger number of seats, both in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Our people are talented. Our people have enormous capacity and I have great faith that that Caucus can take us into government at the next election. And I want the privilege of leading them.
TUESDAY, 21 MAY 2019