Subjects; Kevin Hogan on the crossbench, marriage equality, Coalition Government in chaos
PATRICK DEEGAN: Today was the launch of our campaign for Page and it’s been a great opportunity to have important Labor people here like Anthony Albanese and Senator Jenny McAllister to support us and to really get our message out there to the community that Labor really is the party of fairness and equality. Labor is the party that will restore penalty rates. Labor is the party that will listen to the needs of the community. That’s what I’ll do as a candidate. I’m already doing it. I’m out there listening to people and it’s really just fantastic to get the campaign in full motion and getting our message out there to the community.
JOURNALIST: What is the community telling you?
DEEGAN: Well the community is telling me that they have had enough. They are fed up with the chaos in Canberra. They are really disappointed and dismayed that the National Party and the Liberal Party are continuing this chaos. They are confused about Kevin Hogan sitting on the crossbench. And they’re really hurting – their penalty rates are being cut, resources are being cut from their schools, nurses are struggling and people in aged care are finding it difficult to get the help that they need.
JOURNALIST: Considering what happened with Kevin Hogan recently, do you think you’ve got a bit of a step up to take victory next election?
DEEGAN: Well what Kevin does is Kevin’s business and that’s not my focus. My focus is on listening to the community. What prompted me to get into politics is for 20 years I’ve been working with the most disadvantaged people in the community and, in that time, I would have expected things to get easier for people, things to get easier for families. What I’m finding is that it’s getting harder. That’s why I’ve put myself out there to be the candidate, to stand up for the people of Page and to ensure that people of this electorate are no longer taken for granted and that they get a fair go.
JOURNALIST: Speaking of disadvantaged people, what’s the Labor policy on Newstart? It’s been said for years that it’s impossible to survive on that allowance. What’s the policy as far as perhaps increasing that?
DEEGAN: These are important policies and they are policies that Labor always takes very seriously. They’re policies that Labor puts a lot of consideration into and when Labor was last in power Labor looked at social services. They raised the aged pension, the first significant raise in many years. So the ability for people to make ends meet and keep a roof over their head will always be a priority for Labor.
JOURNALIST: Has the community lost faith with Kevin Hogan?
DEEGAN: What I’m hearing is they’re disappointed. They are feeling really let down. They are let down by a Member who is cutting their penalty rates, who voted against the Banking Royal Commission, who voted to cut funding from schools and hospitals. They are really disappointed and they are really keen to have a candidate who will actually listen to, and fight for, the community, which is what I intend to do.
JOURNALIST: Why has it taken you so long to get into politics?
DEEGAN: Why has it taken me so long? Well I’ve been involved in different ways for many years, working on campaigns. It’s just the right time for me. It’s the right time for me to step up and put myself forward as a candidate.
JOURNALIST: How important is the seat of Page for Labor?
DEEGAN: Well Page is a very important seat. It’s a seat where, for many years, whoever wins Page forms government. But it’s not just important because of that. It’s important because, well to me in particular, I’m part of the community. My family has lived in this area for generations and I want to see the best opportunities for people in this electorate.
JOURNALIST: Considering what happened recently with Kevin Hogan moving to the crossbench, do you think Patrick’s got a bit of a step up when it comes to the election?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Not at all. I think that what we’ve seen here is that Kevin Hogan put his hand up and said the Government is not worth supporting. That’s why he is sitting on the crossbench, but he is still in the National Party. He himself has condemned the circus that is the Government, of which he is a part. That’s why Australians are sick of this Government. This Government is out of touch and out of time and out of ideas. They are incapable of governing.
We’ve seen a Government for the first time in history shut itself down just a few weeks ago because they were incapable of continuing to sit on the Thursday afternoon. We’ve seen a Government that can’t explain why Scott Morrison has replaced Malcolm Turnbull as the Prime Minister of Australia. They say they were going well, but why was Malcolm Turnbull replaced? This is truly the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government – the ATM Government – whereby they are essentially giving money out to people who don’t need it but those who do need it from the ATM Government can’t get anything from it.
JOURNALIST: But it’s not just the Coalition that people are disillusioned with, it’s the two major parties. So why should people then vote for Patrick?
ALBANESE: Well Patrick Deegan is someone who is from this community, who will stand up for this community.
JOURNALIST: Why wouldn’t they vote for the Greens?
ALBANESE: Because Labor has led from Opposition. Labor has led on issues like the Banking Royal Commission. Labor has led when it comes to the Aged Care Royal Commission. And the fact is that Labor is the alternative party of government. We have prepared a sophisticated policy, not just what people want to hear, we have a responsible policy in terms of returning the Budget to surplus – having a stronger surplus than the current Government is projecting. We’re prepared to make tough decisions in the national interest. That’s something that the fringe parties won’t do.
JOURNALIST: Where was Labor when it came to same sex marriage?
ALBANESE: Well I was the first person who introduced a Private Members Bill when it came to giving same sex couples equal rights. That was in 1998, well before any minor party was doing anything about it. I’ve been an advocate, as have many people within Labor, and it is Labor’s campaign that was successful in changing the opinion in the end. The Government was very reluctant to do anything and we had, what we think, was $120 million that didn’t need to be spent on finding out what we already knew, which was that people in Australia are tolerant, are respectful of diversity and that marriage equality is now a reality and hasn’t undermined anyone’s marriage that existed before.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Mr Hogan’s move to the cross bench could backfire on him? Or do you think there’s an undercurrent within the electorate of people going: ‘Well good on him for throwing up his hands and saying what’s happened, not just during the Coalition era but also during the Labor era, isn’t good enough?’.
ALBANESE: Well the problem is you can’t do both. You can’t run as a National Party candidate – if he runs as an independent he might have some credibility in sitting on the cross bench. Mr Hogan isn’t saying he’ll do that, he wants the best of both worlds. He wants to be able to sit on the crossbenches while being a part of the Government.
JOURNALIST: Will he get kudos from the community for actually doing something and making a stand?
ALBANESE: Well he hasn’t made a stand. That’s the problem. He’s made a gesture. Making a stand would be to resign from the National Party and run as an independent. That would be something that would be taken seriously. As it is, he wants to be Deputy Speaker. He’s only the Deputy Speaker because he’s a member of the National Party. He still sits in the National Party caucus. He’ll be running as a National Party candidate. In the preselection that was held at Casino many people in his own party voted for an empty chair rather than vote for Mr Hogan. Both Mr Hogan and Mr Abbott have been challenged by empty chairs.
The most successful up and comer in the Coalition is an empty chair, because throughout the country that is what is going on. And that says a lot about Kevin Hogan and the way he’s seen by members of his own party. The fact is that him moving to the crossbenches was him putting his hand up and saying: ‘This Government’s hopeless; this Government’s incapable of governing the nation’. Well the way to fix that is to vote for Patrick Deegan and to elect a Labor Government and to elect Bill Shorten as Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: Speaking of Mr Shorten, why is that you’re doing this particular tour? Are you the most popular man in Labor and is that why you launch these campaigns rather than the Prime Minister?
ALBANESE: Well we didn’t have Prime Minister Morrison launch this campaign.
JOURNALIST: Sorry, forgive me, the Opposition Leader.
ALBANESE: Well you are forgiven for not knowing who the Prime Minister is, because there are many Australians who wonder who the Prime Minister will be next week. It’s pretty clear that they’re a rabble.
JOURNALIST: Back to the question I should have asked. Why you and not Mr Shorten? Are you more popular?
ALBANESE: No I launch lots of campaigns right around the country. And I’m a part of Bill Shorten’s team. This is my third campaign launch in the last ten days – in Victoria’s State Election, in the New South Wales State Election and in the Federal Election. I get right around the country. It’s something I’ve done for a long period of time and I’m always available to back in good, progressive candidates. Patrick Deegan is just that.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, Patrick Deegan may be a good candidate from your perspective and the community may take to him like a duck to water, but if there’s still an enormous sense of frustration with the two major parties, what is going to get Mr Deegan over the line? No matter how personable and how genuine we feel he is, if people in the community don’t feel he can make a difference in Canberra then they’re not going to vote.
ALBANESE: Well what they will know is that there will be, after the next election, either a Coalition Government led by the rabble that is there now or a Labor Government. They’re the options that they have before them in terms of who forms a Government in this country. And one of the reasons that I’m in the Labor Party, and one of the reasons why I campaign for Labor members to be represented, rather than people from fringe parties no matter whatever their merit, is that if you’re a part of a government party that makes decisions, then you’re a part of real change. You can make a difference to measures such as social security, to healthcare, to school funding, to infrastructure funding. All that crossbenchers can do is wait for a decision to be made by the Government and decide whether they’ll protest against it or not. They can’t actually make decisions, and social change and progressive change comes about by governments making decisions. It doesn’t happen by accident. It comes about due to determination and Patrick Deegan will be a very important part of that.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.