SUBJECTS: Federal Election; Listening Tour; Shadow Cabinet appointments; Home Affairs Portfolio; border security.
ROSS HART: Good morning everybody, thank you everybody for attending here this morning in sunny Launceston. I’ve been very pleased to be able to welcome my friend and colleague the Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese here to Launceston to talk to key stakeholders including Launceston City Council and the Northern Tasmanian Develoment Corporation. This is part of Anthony’s endeavours to engage with local communities particularly in the areas where we didn’t perform well on May 18. Welcome Anthony to Launceston, welcome again to Northern Tasmania. You’re a frequent visitor to Northern Tasmania, it’s a pleasure have you in my former electorate.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, FEDERAL LABOR LEADER: Thank you very much. It is good to be here with Ross Hart and with Senator Helen Polley here in Northern Tasmania and we have just had a very constructive meeting with the Mayor of Launceston as well as with the Northern Tasmanian Development Corporation and the Chamber of Commerce. This has been an opportunity to discuss how we can do better next time round. I want to ensure that on election night in March 2022, it is a celebration here in Launnie rather than a circumstance that we have to regret. I have said before that the leadership of our party has to accept responsibility for the outcome because there is no doubt that in Ross Hart and Justine Keay who I will be spending time with later this morning and today, they were outstanding local members. They worked each and every day for the interests of Northern Tasmania. I am an inclusive leader. I am someone who I think is pretty approachable. Whether it be in the chambers of a mayor, whether it be round a business roundtable or whether it be in a local pub or local community. And I want to engage with Northern Tasmanians about how we can do better, about what they think went wrong, why they didn’t vote for us. Also, I want to acknowledge the fact that many people did vote for us. The margin here is just in the hundreds of votes. So it doesn’t take much to turn that around and to ensure that if Ross wants to have a crack again, I would certainly welcome that because he was an outstanding local member here for Bass and Tasmania needs strong representation. Happy to take questions.
ALBANESE: Look, what I did was work each and every day as part of Bill Shorten’s team. I worked hard for the election of a Shorten Labor Government and Bill worked hard for the election of a Labor Government. Bill’s now very much an important part of my team and yesterday’s Shadow Cabinet announcement, I think person for person is far superior than those who sit on the Government benches and the recognition of that is the mass exodus that has happened on the Government benches. They will suffer from the loss of Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne, Kelly O’Dwyer. They have lost some of their best people. They have had to keep people on the frontbench who they had to hide like Melissa Price. She can’t hide for three years from doing a media event. And they’ve had to repromote people like Stuart Robert who last time he was a minister was an absolute failure and had to resign. So I’m very confident that my team of experienced, mixed with new talent coming through, men and women from regional Australia, from cities, will be more than a match for those people who we oppose, but I say this as well – I want to be the Labor Leader, not the Opposition Leader. If the other side of politics comes up with a good idea, I will be constructive about it. I won’t oppose for opposition sake, but I do want to hold the Government to account and I want to develop a new platform going forward for 2022 and we will also have a look at some of the positions that we put at the election that weren’t taken up by the Government. We’ve just had a discussion here this morning about the hydrogen proposal that we had for Bell Bay that would have created jobs and economic activity, for biofuels in the Meander Valley that would have created jobs and economic activity. There are a range of ideas that we put forward that are well thought through, in the election campaign, for Northern Tasmania, and imitation is the highest form of flattery, I won’t mind that. I say to the Government, take them up. They are good ideas, they are supported by industry and business here. They are well thought through, they were fully costed and the Government should take up those ideas if they’re serious about backing up the interests of Northern Tasmanians. One at a time.
JOURNALIST: Did you lose seats in Tasmania because your campaign in Tasmania was run from the mainland?
ALBANESE: Well, I came down and launched the campaign here in Bass. And what I know is that very much Ross Hart was on top of his campaign as was Justine Keay. I think it is fair to say that some of the issues that didn’t cut through were developed by our leadership team and I accept my share of the responsibility for that.
JOURNALIST: What were some of the things that were spoken about yesterday up at Ravenswood (inaudible)?
ALBANESE: Look, one of the issues was clearly the issue of dividends. Whereby people who were affected by it, didn’t see themselves as being treated fairly, but also, people who weren’t affected by it, but thought they were, would be. The issue of some of the scare campaigns that were run about measures that were not on Labor’s agenda and have never been on Labor’s agenda and won’t be on Labor’s agenda. Obviously the Government, because it had no real agenda for the third term, other than not being Labor, that meant that a range of issues that were out there weren’t based upon reality, but what it also means is that the Government has a big challenge. Because they don’t really have a third term agenda in terms of they have tax cuts that they propose that we support on July 1 coming in. It is a pity that the Government has broken its first commitment by not recalling parliament in June to pass those tax cuts to come into effect on July 1. The offer remains. Bring parliament back. We’ll get it done quickly. One speaker aside and then we can ensure that the commitment that the Government had, that the Opposition also supported, can be put in place.
JOURNALIST: What do you need to do here in Bass to win back the voter support?
ALBANESE: Well, the first thing we need to do is to do exactly what I’m doing today. Come here and listen and engage. You know, it is three years to the next election. We don’t have to come up with a blueprint for 2022 in June 2019. What we do need to do is to listen to people, to engage with them, to meet with them. I say this and here is a challenge for someone to prove me wrong. I don’t believe that there is a politician from the North Island who has visited the South Island here in Tasmania more than myself over the last decade, since 2007. I don’t believe that’s the case. I haven’t checked that scientifically, but people here know that. This is my fourth visit here just this year. I’m regular visitor. I love this state. I love engaging with Tasmanians. There is always a really positive feel here in Tasmania. I feel very welcome here in Tasmania and every time I come here, also last night, there was someone who I have known for decades, since I was a very young man and she has moved here and it is fantastic. She is involved in the arts and cultural community here and it is good.
One of the things that we spoke about inside was that the various groups, be it the council, the Chamber of Commerce, or the NTDC want to see an increase in population in northern Tasmania.
JOURNALIST: If you love Tasmania so much, why have you got rid one of your Tasmanian MPs who is standing right beside you out of your Shadow Cabinet?
ALBANESE: Well, I haven’t. There was one Tasmanian in the Shadow Cabinet and that’s Julie Collins, and there is still one Tasmanian in the Shadow Cabinet. Because I say this, that when I became Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, I made sure that there was a Tasmanian in the Cabinet – Julie Collins. Before that, that wasn’t the case. I ensured that that was the case, that the highest, most senior levels of the Labor Party, that’s been the case.
There are no Tasmanians in the Cabinet – none – in Scott Morrison’s Cabinet. In spite of the fact that there are two additional seats in terms of the Coalition, none was deemed worthy. You now have two Labor seats in Tasmania, two Coalition seats and one independent in Andrew Wilkie. On our side, we have a Shadow Cabinet Minister. On their side, they don’t. We also, of course, I’ve indicated that Carol Brown will be the Assistant Shadow Minister for Tasmania and Carol Brown will play an absolutely critical role throughout Tasmania in being the eyes and ears. But also all of our sitting Senators and Members including Helen and Katrina and Anne, will continue to play a critical role as well, I must say, Ross Hart and Justine and others as well. Ross Hart’s out of Parliament, unfortunately. He is not out of politics and out of political commitment and love for this community. And the fact that here he is two weeks, two weeks out from what was a very disappointing result, personally for Ross and for Justine and politically for our entire team. Disappointed…
…So we’re disappointed, but we’re determined, absolutely to ensure that at the next election we get a much better result here in Tassie. Thanks very much.
JOURNALIST: Can you express for us the key pillars as you see it for Australia’s border security policies?
ALBANESE: I’m not quite sure what the question is that’s been written for you.
JOURNALIST: What are the main things that you want to see with Australia’s border security?
ALBANESE: Look, what we want to see is secure borders. It’s as simple as that. That’s the principle. You can be strong and you can be strong against people smugglers without being weak on humanity. We’ll be strong on border control, it’s a pity that record numbers indeed have applied for protection visas on Peter Dutton’s watch. Not on the former Labor Government’s watch – on Peter Dutton’s watch. Have a look at the figures, they’re coming by plane, they’re in record numbers, and they’re applying here. Border security is about more than what happens around our coast. It’s also about what is happening in the entire system and one of the things that hasn’t secured our borders at all is Scott Morrison’s most expensive press conference of a Prime Minister in Australian political history, when he flew to Christmas Island at enormous cost, at enormous cost, to Australian tax payers rather than hold a press conference in Cronulla. There are trees in Cronulla, as well as on Christmas Island, he should have done it there. Thanks very much.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) Kristina Keneally’s previous comments on turning back the boats (inaudible).
ALBANESE: Sorry, with the wind it’s…
JOURNALIST: Do you think Kristina Keneally’s previous comments on border security (inaudible).
ALBANESE: Kristina Keneally will be outstanding as the Home Affairs Shadow Minister. Peter Dutton will be held to account, as he needs to be.
JOURNALIST: What’s your response to Peter Dutton’s criticism of her selection?
ALBANESE: Well, Peter Dutton. You know, Peter Dutton needs to cheer up sometimes. And he needs to have something to say occasionally that is – remember, remember after he had his crash and burn bid which destroyed Malcolm Turnbull’s Prime Ministership – Peter Dutton went out there and he said “now I have a chance to smile, and you’re going to see a different side of me.” I say to Peter Dutton, cheer up mate. You’ve just successfully been on the winning side in an election campaign. Cheer up. Stop being so miserable. Stop talking our country down. This is a great country and you should be a bit more positive, and you know, I’ll have a cup of coffee with you in Canberra when we get back there, maybe to help cheer you up a little bit. But I worry about Peter Dutton’s negativity, his attacks, I think he, I think that Peter Dutton should just cheer up. That’s my advice.
JOURNALIST: And have you received the briefing…
ALBANESE: Hang on one tick.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) those left on Manus and Nauru?
ALBANESE: Well they need to be settled in third countries. The fact is that offers have been made that have been denied by the Government. The Government should stop playing politics. People can’t be left indefinitely, they have to be resettled – the Government knows that, the Government knows it.
JOURNALIST: And have you received the briefing on the interception of a boat near Christmas Island?
ALBANESE: No I haven’t.
JOURNALIST: So you stand by Kristina Keneally’s appointment?
ALBANESE: Absolutely. I stand by every one of the appointments that we made yesterday. Our team versus their team, person for person. They’ve really struggled, they’ve really struggled. I mean, this is, this is like going down to the local cafeteria – often you get the first term was the day one chicken. It’s fresh. The Abbott team was fresh and they were up for the job. The second day it’s a little bit staler, as happens, still sitting there, maybe being offered at a cheaper price. This is term three – day three of the chicken in the cafeteria, but they’ve had to turn it into a casserole and pretend that it’s new. You know, this is a team that is stale, where they’re really struggling to get any quality out of it, and we’ll see that over the next three years. Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.