Mar 9, 2018

Transcript of Doorstop Interview – Melbourne

Subjects; Batman by-election, extension of number 11 tram, Greens political party candidate Alex Bhathal

GED KEARNEY: Good morning everybody. I’m Ged Kearney, the Labor candidate for the by-election of Batman and we are one week to go until voting day. I have had the most amazing support from everybody, right across the electorate and of course the wonderful people in the Labor Party. I’m very pleased to have Anthony Albanese with me today. We’ve had some great announcements this election.

If Labor is elected we will see $10 million going to our Northern College of the Arts and Technology. We’ll see $2 million going to establish a sensitive healthcare centre for the LGBTIQ community. We’ll see really essential funding going to the Aboriginal Advancement League so that they can build a wonderful cultural and sporting centre there. And, of course, the very popular announcement that we will extend the number 11 tram all the way to the Edwardes Park Lake. So without further ado, I’m going to hand over to Anthony. Thank you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks very much. It’s been great to be here once again with my friend Ged Kearney who I want to be able to sit next to in the Parliament of Australia. One of the things I want to do as the Transport Minister in a Shorten Labor Government is make sure that the number 11 tram is extended from West Preston up to Reservoir. Now this is a vital project. The fact is that Melbourne is one of the world’s great liveable cities. One of the things that makes it liveable and great for both residents and visitors like me, or visitors from around the world, is its light rail network, which is of course the longest of any light rail network in any city in the world.

It’s something that Victorians should be very proud of and indeed it’s a great national asset. This is why Federal Labor believes in investment in public transport in Government, unlike the Coalition and unlike the Greens political party, we can actually deliver it.

How do you know we’ll do it? Because we’ve done it in the past. The largest ever investment in a public transport project in Australia’s history is the Regional Rail Link, with our $3 billion commitment that we made to fix up the line there. Of course we also made a commitment to the Melbourne Metro, which was cut by the incoming Abbott Government. This light rail extension, the extension of the tram network, will be welcomed by residents but also visitors and will assist in the ongoing improvements here in Melbourne.

At this election you have a choice. The people of Batman can elect someone, Ged Kearney, who’ll be an advocate not just for this project but for other projects as well as part of a Labor Government. As part of a party that seeks to make decisions around the Cabinet table and at budget time. Either that or you can have someone who will be someone who has to wait until decisions are made and then protest or not protest against them.

What we know about the Greens party candidate in the Batman by-election now is she mightn’t even be a member of the Greens political party in a fortnight’s time after the by-election is considered. We know now that not just do we have a massive complaint of over 100 pages signed by more than a dozen members of her own political party, we also know that there have been multiple complaints, including complaints made in part with a fellow called Richard Di Natale, the national leader of the Greens political party. And it’s been interesting during this campaign Mr Di Natale has been prepared to say that the Greens support his party’s candidate here. He hasn’t said that he personally supports the candidate, because he has reservations. We know from ABC reports that those complaints have not been dealt with and they’re still in a position whereby it’s possible that the candidate will be either suspended or expelled from the Greens political party.

And this is what we see from the Greens party. We see it right around the country,  I saw it in my electorate last time around, whereby the candidate wasn’t supported by a whole lot of his own members. Here it is very clear during this campaign that you have Greens party members, not just supporters, who are refusing to support their candidate who has been imposed in this by-election. That should be of real concern.

So you have on the one hand a candidate who doesn’t have the support of members of her own party, who is subject to ongoing complaints, who may well be expelled or suspended from the Greens political party after this by-election is over. On the other hand you have Ged Kearney: someone whose record is out there for all to see over decades in a transparent manner; someone who, of course, began her working life as a nurse looking after people; someone who then went into the nurse’s union and made gains for hardworking nurses; someone who, because of that success and her reputation as a principled person of integrity, rose to the heights of being president of the national trade union movement.

With Ged Kearney you know exactly what you’ll get. You’ll get someone who will fight for her values and for her principles and be a voice within the Labor Party as well as for the Labor Party, for progressive views. And that’s why I really hope that next Saturday, in eight days’ time, Ged Kearney receives support.

I said at the beginning of this campaign that I thought that Labor would win this by-election. I still think Labor will win this by-election and as every day goes on and people have a look at what the options are: Ged Kearney – Labor, principled, feminist, progressive, activist – or someone who’s under a cloud from her own political party. I think the choice is very clear.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that voters will care that much about internal issues within the Greens? Or are they just going to vote on the issues like Adani?

ALBANESE: I think what they will care about is the fact that those people who know the Greens Party candidate the best are people in her party.
This isn’t a new candidate. This is someone who has run unsuccessfully and hasn’t received the support of the people of Batman on five occasions. So they know this candidate and they have expressed reservations.  There is a history of multiple complaints that Mr Di Natale has either just simply not told the truth about them being resolved or at best he has dissembled about the facts around these matters.

Whereas with Ged Kearney you know what you’re getting. What you see is what you get: a strong fighter, someone who has been fighting for the interests of nurses and the community her whole working life.

Local representation does matter. And whilst I respect the fact that Adam Bandt wants someone to have play lunch with, that is not what is important. What is at stake here is whether this electorate has strong representation. I want a progressive like Ged Kearney to join me in the federal caucus.

I want someone who will stand up for views with the authority that she will bring in. Ged Kearney, as a former president of the ACTU, won’t be coming into the caucus sitting up the back and working out how things work over the first couple of years during the first term. She will be someone who will be a strong voice from day one. And I think the electorate will get that. It does matter who candidates are and in this electorate we’re putting up the strongest possible Labor candidate. The Greens are putting up someone who a whole section of their own party don’t support and probably won’t be voting for.

JOURNALIST: There are ‘Stop Adani’ signs all over this side of the electorate. Do you think that you have done enough work on that? Bill Shorten has toughened his stance against the project; do you think you’ve done enough to convince voters?

ALBANESE: Voters are sophisticated. And the sort of people who are weighing up whether they will vote for Labor or the Greens political party understand that what you need to deal with the challenge of climate change is comprehensive policy solutions.

You need policy frameworks. That’s what Labor has put in place. We have put that in place with the renewable energy target. I tell you what, if the Greens had voted for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in 2009 it would be in place today.

We wouldn’t be having a debate as we are about the national energy guarantee. We wouldn’t be having chief scientist reviews. It would be in place. One of the things that is driving change around the globe, and is leading to a decline in demand for thermal coal, is the fact that around the globe both policy mechanisms and frameworks being put in place of emissions reductions schemes, be they in our region or internationally through the UN Framework Convention on climate change, those changes are leading to a reduction in the demand for thermal coal.

New technology is leading to renewables being an increasing share. That will continue. The fact is that it’s Labor that has been in a position to put in place those mechanisms. I think that one of the things that concerns me about some of the people in the Greens and those associated with them, is that progressives should be able to say what they’re for, not just what they’re against.

What Labor is for is action on climate change. What Labor is for is real mechanisms that put a cap on carbon emissions and drive that change throughout the economy.

What Labor is about is being a part of international processes that drive that change through the global economy. That’s what we’ve been in a position to do, not shouting from the sidelines, and if you want real action on climate change then it is a Labor Government that will deliver that.

JOURNALIST: So if Bill Shorten doesn’t support this project, does that mean he is going to lean on Queensland Labor to try to stop it?

ALBANESE: Well the fact is that we’ve put our policies out there, our policies on climate change …

JOURNALIST: Not on climate change, on the Adani coal project.

ALBANESE: That is a climate change issue. Either that or it’s nothing; that’s the argument here. We have a comprehensive plan to deal with climate change to transition our economy away from fossil fuels and towards renewables, to reduce emissions. It’s only Labor that has that plan …

JOURNALIST: But Queensland Labor is pushing for a giant new coal project.

ALBANESE: We will continue to put forward our proposals. We believe – that’s just Queensland Labor – that there should be no subsidies for private sector projects. That’s where government comes in; it’s a private sector project. This will receive no subsidies. It is Federal Labor that led the debate on that issue and let me say this: the advocates who came to see me about this issue said ‘if you stop the public subsidy of the rail line you stop the project’. And it’s very clear that this is a project that doesn’t have finance. Thanks.

JOURNALIST: The betting odds are looking a little bit more favourable now. How much do you think that is a swing against the Greens candidate?

KEARNEY: I don’t really look at the odds; I try not to take any notice of them. But I am feeling out there that it is a very close competition at this point in time. We are by no means way behind. I wouldn’t say that we are ahead at all but it is very close. That’s the indication I am getting on the ground.

JOURNALIST: Did you feel that you’ve been helped by the accusations against Alex Bhathal?

KEARNEY: I think I’ve been helped by wonderful people like Anthony Albanese, who are making great announcements on infrastructure and the announcements that we made with Penny Wong about the funding for the LGBTIQ community.

I think we have really had some terrific announcements, some very positive things to say in this campaign and I really think that is what is working.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Alex Bhathal is a suitable character to be a federal representative?

KEARNEY: I really don’t want to comment on that. I think that’s for the Greens party themselves to sort out. I’m just really focusing on what I can bring to the people of Batman and convincing the people of Batman that I will be the best candidate for them.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the hipster proof fence of Bell Street, is it going to hold?

KEARNEY: I am seeing a lot of change. People are telling me that we have had a very good response on pre polling. A lot of people are talking to me, I have been having house meetings, in houses, a lot of them are in the south where a lot of people have been coming along and having very good conversations with me about Labor and Labor’s policies. It will be very interesting to see on polling day how that plays out. Thank you.