Subject: Leadership of the Australian Labor Party.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thank you for joining me. Earlier today I received a phone call from Jim Chalmers who informed me that he would not be pursuing his candidacy for leadership of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. I want to pay tribute to Jim Chalmers. He, in the short time he’s been in Parliament, has already made an outstanding contribution to the cause of Labor. And he will make an outstanding contribution into the future. Not just in Opposition, but in government. I want to work with Jim Chalmers, and I see him as having a key role in the Opposition if I am indeed successful in becoming Leader of the Australian Labor Party. Nominations of course opened this morning. I can confirm that I will be nominating. Nominations close on Monday and I don’t want to preempt the process. And on Monday, if it is the case that I am elected without a ballot, I’ll certainly have much more extensive things to say than I’m prepared to say this afternoon. The Marrickville pause.
Plane flies overhead
Can I say, though, in terms of my leadership style. One of the things that I have done this week, is spoken to colleagues in an inclusive manner. I’ve tried as well through forums like this to speak to the Australian people, again in an inclusive manner. I hope that’s one of the things that defines my leadership if I am indeed successful in being elected a member to lead the Labor Party. I of course have also consulted many party members. I’ve consulted trade union affiliates to the Labor Party, who play such an important role in our structures. Can I say that, in terms of inclusiveness, one of the things that I’ve done as well during this process is not tried to enter into any arrangements with anyone about any future positions. I’ve put myself forward on my merits and if I am successful I will come into the position exactly that, as someone who’s been elected and supported on my merits without any issues being raised about future arrangements, or any deals. I think that is really important for the integrity of the process. I think it’s been good that the other candidates who have checked out support with caucus and party members have been consistent about that as well.
Can I say also, that one of the things that we need to do as a Party is to recognise, and I say this again, recognise the magnitude of the challenge that we face, a magnitude which is on the basis of winning just the votes of one in every three Australian’s first preference last Saturday. But I don’t think it should be a cause for despair. I think it should be a cause for determination. We must work with the people of Australia wherever and whoever they are, to build a blueprint for a better country.
Now if I could sum up my approach in one word, to quote the late great Aretha Franklin, it’s this: “Respect.” Respect for people wherever they live, respect for people whatever their faith, respect for people whatever their sexuality and lifestyle, respect for each other. One of the things that I think is regrettable about the nature of what has happened in politics in recent times is that rather than our diversity being seen as a positive, it is being seen perhaps that we are a divided country. I think very clearly that we’re not. What unites us is much greater than what divides us. And one of the things that I intend to do, if I’m elected Leader of the Labor Party, is to put forward a positive vision – positive messages, positive policies about what I’m for, rather than just by what I’m against. And I think, frankly, the result in Warringah showed that the Australian people don’t want politics to be defined by just what people are against. And they responded to that. I intend to do that whether it’s specific policies or whether it’s engaging with people in our cities and regions; men and women; people regardless of their ethnicity; regardless of their faith. because I think our diversity as a country is a great strength. We are the most successful multicultural nation on the planet. We benefit and indeed are privileged to live in a country with the oldest continuous civilisation on the planet.
And I intend to pursue the reforms that have been advocated so strongly by Labor’s First Nations Caucus of Reconciliation. Noting that next week is Reconciliation Week and indeed a public holiday in Canberra next week for Reconciliation Day. We are diminished as a nation while we don’t recognise First Nations peoples in our Constitution. Happy to take just a couple of questions and then I’ll take many more after this process has concluded.
REPORTER: Mr Albanese, what’s your view, and I know you’ll want to talk to your colleagues if you become Leader, but your personal view on whether Labor should support the Government’s income tax package, if they refuse to break it up when Parliament comes back?
ALBANESE: I’ll talk to colleagues about that. Can I say very clearly that we are prepared to support the first tranche, which was about low and middle income earners, and so the Government shouldn’t play politics with this. The idea that you make a decision in 2019 about what happens in the middle of the next decade is quite frankly a triumph of hope over experience and reality. The truth is that our international global economic circumstance is very vulnerable. The talk of, well, not the talk, the reality of trade disputes between China and the United States and what impact that has on us. The Reserve Bank of Australia and Treasury are warning of a softening in the economy in terms of demand. We need to not pretend that you can decide today precisely what the tax system will look like many years hence. So we’re quite prepared, I’m sure, that Caucus would approve the expedition of the first tranche of tax reform. I note that Scott Morrison has already broken a promise, a very clear promise, that that would be in place by July 1. It’s not bad when a government breaks a promise in the first few days. It usually takes even the Liberal Party a little while, a couple of months, to start breaking promises, but they’ve already done that, and that was at the centre of their pitch to voters. One of the things that I think that it will determine as well, Caucus will think about, is how it is that the Government can breach such a clear commitment, when it made that commitment just in the lead up to the election last Saturday.
REPORTER: Can you tell me about your view on the CFMEU? You’ve been critical of them in the past, with some of their actions. They are affiliated with the Labor Party. Are you comfortable with that?
ALBANESE: I’m comfortable with trade unions being involved in the Labor Party. Yes, I am. What that does is give us a connection to our workplaces. And can I say this? That the trade union movement, particularly in the area of the construction sector; it’s a dangerous industry. Have a look at how many deaths there have been in the workplace and think about how many more deaths there would be if trade unions weren’t there, defending occupational health and safety. Having said that, when trade unionists step out of line, I will publicly say, just as when employers step out of line, that that’s inappropriate. People should behave according to the law at any time. Maybe just one more question.
REPORTER: (Inaudible) you must be fairly confident that you’ll be elected as leader?
ALBANESE: I’m not complacent about it and I don’t take it for granted. I think if you go back and have a look at the news broadcasts of last night they were different from the news broadcasts of the night before and they were different from the news broadcasts of the night before and the night before that. And if you go back to Saturday’s news, they were reporting that I’d be standing here as a Minister in a Labor Government on the basis of exit polls. So I’m not getting ahead of myself. And one of the things that I will do is respect proper processes. I’m doing that after nominations close at 10:00am on Monday. I will have more to say whether as a contestant in a ballot. And I support this process. Be very clear. There is no one who will say I have said, I don’t think a ballot is a good idea. That is not my position. My position is that I’m putting myself forward. Everyone else has a perfect right to nominate. If they do, I’ll put myself forward before the Caucus. I’ve had the opportunity to speak, I must say, to most of the Caucus members. I believe that a majority of them will support me in a ballot, if one is held, and I’m also aware of the relationship I have with the Party membership. I’ve travelled the length and breadth of this land. I don’t think there’s anyone who has launched more Labor campaigns, Federal or State, currently involved in active politics than myself. I know the Party members. I understand the Party members. I listen to the Party members. And can I say that one of the things that I will do, if I’m successful, is have a process whereby we go out there and consult and listen to the Party membership, to affiliates, as well as to people who did not support us. There’s an old saying I used to get told, that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason; because we should listen twice as much as we talk. And on that note I’ve talked enough. Thanks very much.