Subjects: Batman by-election; Victorian infrastructure funding; public transport; Mark Butler comments about coal; renewable energy; emissions trading scheme; Barnaby Joyce; Malcolm Turnbull, Greens Political Party.
GED KEARNEY: Good morning everyone. I’m Ged Kearney, the candidate for the Batman by-election that’s coming up on March 17. And I am really honored to have with me today a man who needs no introduction whatsoever, Anthony Albanese. We’ve had a lovely walk up and down High Street, Northcote, this morning. We’ve stopped in at shops. We’ve had some great chats to locals and it’s always a great pleasure to be here particularly on a day like today, which is a gorgeous sunny morning. With no further ado, I’m going to hand over to Albo who is here to make some very important announcements about infrastructure funding for this area and more broadly across the nation.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Ged. It is great to be here in Northcote supporting the campaign of my friend, Ged Kearney. I want Ged Kearney in a Labor Government because Ged Kearney is someone who has spent a lifetime standing up for working people; standing up for the community first as a nurse, and then as a representative of nurses making sure that they get a better deal in their workplaces. Rising from a rank-and-file nurse through to the presidency of the ACTU. Ged Kearney is effective. She gets things done and she is progressive. I want that progressive voice in the Caucus, having the arguments, putting forward the ideas, getting things done in government.
That’s a choice that people here in Batman have; an effective representative who can have a real say and deliver real change for the people of Batman; or someone who can wait until decisions are made and then decide whether they’re going to protest against them or not. One of the areas where change occurs is in the area of transport and infrastructure. We invested more in public transport from 2007 through to 2013 than all previous governments combined in the previous 107 years, or since.
It’s a great example that when you change the government, you do indeed change the country. We understand that the key to tackling urban congestion is investment in public transport. That’s why we delivered, here in this great state of Victoria, the largest single investment in a public transport project in our history, the Regional Rail Link project. We allocated $3.225 billion. That’s why we allocated $3 billion to the Melbourne Metro project, which was scrapped by the Abbott Government when they came to office; that funding, or lack of funding, confirmed by Malcolm Turnbull when he took over the Prime Ministership.
Malcolm Turnbull likes coming to Melbourne and taking selfies on trams. We want a government that funds trams; that funds trains; that fund buses, and doesn’t just take selfies on them. That’s how you make a real difference. Funding for Victorian infrastructure as a proportion of the national Budget has fallen from $201 dollars for every Victorian under Labor, to $46 per Victorian over the life of this Government. That’s simply not good enough. Victoria represents one in every four Australians. Melbourne is Australia’s fastest growing city. And yet what we have is Victoria receiving under 10 per cent of the national infrastructure budget.
Malcolm Turnbull was asked about that yesterday and he said it was all okay; Victorians were getting their share. The fact is that they’re not. We want to work with the Andrews Labor Government to make a difference here in Melbourne, and particularly here in Batman and we’ll be making further announcements during the campaign about the support for transport infrastructure that we would deliver here in Victoria. But you can’t deliver it sitting in the back corner. You can only deliver it if you’re a part of a government. Ged Kearney will be an effective member of the next Labor Government when Bill Shorten is elected Prime Minister at the next election. That’s why I think it’s so important, this by-election. Batman has a great opportunity to send such an effective local member to Canberra to represent their interests, to be that progressive voice for the people of Batman.
REPORTER: Mark Butler yesterday said that Labor would continue to support existing coal mines. How does that sort of announcement go down in an electorate like this?
ALBANESE: The fact is that we are going to continue to need, as Mark Butler said in his speech, coking coal for example. That’s how steel is made. That’s how we continue to see very much a future for it. In Mark Butler’s speech. He outlined I think very eloquently what is happening with the thermal coal market globally; how it is in decline; how we are in a position of having a transition to a clean energy future. But what you can’t do is just do that overnight. One of the things that Ged’s campaigning on is real change and real change means analysing things as they are and working out how to get them to where you want to be. We want a renewables future.
When Labor was elected to office there were a few thousand solar panels on roofs – not too many. When we left there were well over a million. We made a substantial difference. When I was the Climate Change and Environment spokesperson, the Renewable Energy Target in Australia was 2 per cent. I made the commitment as the Shadow Minister, with Kim Beazley, the-then Leader, of 20 per cent by 2020. When we did that we were told it was going to ruin the economy; that it couldn’t be done. Guess what? We got it done. And Labor in office ratified the Kyoto Protocol.
We tried to introduce an Emissions Trading Scheme. The Greens Political Party voted against it twice. If they had of just stood up, five of those Senators, and walked across and voted for a price on carbon, it would be in place today. It would be in place today and that would have an enormous impact in driving that change through the economy. As it is, in terms of energy policy, the current Government can’t seem to settle on a policy. They have asked the Chief Scientist for a document and then they ruled out that policy. They haven’t been able to put in that certainty that investors require, to drive that change through the economy.
But I am very proud of Labor’s record on climate change, on the environment. It is Labor that has made a difference, a real difference, and one of the ways that we did it is by changing the nature of the Renewable Energy Target to that 20 per cent by 2020 as part of our raft of comprehensive policies right across the board. Not slogans – policies. Policies like investing in public transport, which reduces the emissions that motor vehicles make; policies such as cleaning up the way that transport operates in terms of motor vehicle standards, heavy vehicle standards; policies like the Renewable Energy Target.
REPORTER: But they got rid of Labor in Northcote because that change to renewable energy wasn’t happening fast enough. You are up against the Greens who have a Renewable Energy Target of 100 per cent by 2030.
ALBANESE: Well why 2030? Why not tomorrow?
REPORTER: But you guys aren’t chasing that target yourselves.
ALBANESE: Why not tomorrow? What you have to do is have change that sends a signal to the market that’s ambitions and achievable. That is what Labor has. That is what Labor has. What the Greens have is slogans and no idea of now to get there. I feel sorry for Adam Bandt. I mean, it must be lonely sitting in the corner of the Parliament there next to Bob Katter and Andrew Wilkie and the Nick Xenophon Team. It would be good if he had someone to talk to. But that won’t make a difference.
What makes a difference is government and government making decisions. Ged Kearney will be in a position as a progressive voice to fight for the strongest possible initiatives and she has a record of doing that, being prepared to stand up and fight for her beliefs and values. She’s done it every day of her working life. And we have an opportunity to have Ged as part of the Labor team, as part of the next Labor Government.
REPORTER: So the Australian Conservatives have announced they’re running a candidate in Batman. Is this a threat to Labor?
ALBANESE: There’s always going to be some minor party candidates in the election. But the truth is, there’s only one political party that can form government, that’s running a candidate in this election – and that’s the Australian Labor Party with Ged Kearney. We’re focused on our agenda; our agenda preparing for government. It’s very clear that what we’re seeing right now is a Government that’s melting down before our eyes. I mean today, we have Mathias Cormann doing a photo opportunity as the Acting Prime Minister. I’ve been the Deputy Prime Minister of this country. It’s a great honour. The one job – and the hint is ‘Deputy’ – the first task of the Deputy Prime Minister is to deputise when the Prime Minister is not available. The Prime Minister is away; the Deputy Prime Minister can’t do his job and hence has gone on leave. He should just leave. And Mathias Cormann is the personification of not just the fact that Barnaby Joyce can’t do his job; he’s the personification of the weakness of the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who wants Barnaby Joyce to go but doesn’t have the capacity or the intestinal fortitude to make sure that that happens.
REPORTER: But considering the Liberals aren’t running a candidate, do you think that they’ll get some supporters, the Conservatives?
ALBANESE: There’s no doubt that in a by-election, votes will spray around and minor party candidates will get votes. But the decision that people are going to have to make on March 17 is – on top of whether they have a Guinness or a Kilkenny later in the day – the decision they’ve got to make is; do they want a representative who can be a part of the next Labor Government? This is a seat that is, was always going to be very unlikely to be won by the Liberals. It’s a tough campaign. The Liberals in not running have shown their hand, I guess. They’ve given up on being a government at the moment, so I guess it’s consistent with that.
People have a decision to make in this tough campaign of whether Ged Kearney gets to sit as a member of the Labor Government when it’s formed – I sincerely hope – after the next election. Because we want to have the best team possible in government, and there is no doubt that Ged Kearney would be a huge asset for this local community; in being able to stand up; in being able to take all that experience; in knowing how to actually get change done. It doesn’t just happen, and it doesn’t happen by putting a poster on a wall. It happens by being able to argue your case. By being committed; by being genuine.
Ged Kearney represents all of that. She has enormous support, can I say, not just inside the Labor Party, more broadly. Progressives support Ged Kearney. Not just here in Batman and Melbourne; she’s a serious national figure who has stood up for working people; stood up for the interests of the environment; stood up for the interests of women; stood up for the interests of those people who need assistance. Campaigns like domestic violence leave that has now been adopted as Labor policy – ten days is our policy that we would introduce. Ged Kearney has led the campaign on that,. She has made a difference from outside the Parliament; she’d make an enormous difference inside.
REPORTER: Yesterday Brendan O’Connor flagged that Labor could dump an original plan to legislate an increase to the minimum wage in favour of sort of changing the objective of the Fair Work Commision? What do you think about that? Isn’t that turning its back on workers and the lowest paid?
ALBANESE: It’s a very big call for you to suggest that in your loaded question. Brendan O’Connor has stood up for working people; will continue to stand up for working people, as will the Labor Party. The Labor Party makes no secret …
REPORTER: What do you think of the actual plan?
ALBANESE: …and makes no secret – well, you verballed Brendan O’Connor. That’s not what he said. We’re developing our policies and they will all be out there for everyone to see in detail. The fact is that Labor has identified and has campaigned on the issue that working people’s wages have not kept up with inflation and have certainly not caught up with the big end of town. The fact is that Labor has been brave in going out there, in opposing, saying ‘we can’t afford at the moment the company tax cuts. That is not our priority, helping out the big end of town’.
We stood up on issues like the tax cut, effectively, when the Government removed the levy on those earning above $180,000 a year because of course that was there to deal with the deficit. Since then, the deficit has increased. The debt has doubled under this Government. We have stood up for working people. And we would continue to do so and with Ged Kearney there we’d have someone of principle; of great experience in doing so.
REPORTER: How will you go about ensuring that minimum wages keep pace with cost of living?
ALBANESE: One of the things that we’ll do, for a start, is not resort to the sort of attacks that have been constant from this Government on the rights of working people through the trade union movement. We will release our full industrial relations policy well before the election campaign, but it will be consistent with Labor values. We’re out there consulting. At this stage in the cycle, we’re halfway through this term. We have comprehensive policies out there; on the environment; on infrastructure; on taxation; on housing affordability; on things like domestic violence leave. We have more policy released than any Opposition in history since Federation at this stage in the cycle.
So we’ll continue to work in the lead up to our ALP National Conference. Here’s a tip for you; it’ll be in Adelaide in July. One of the differences between Labor and the Greens Political Party is transparency. Our National Conference will have 400 people in a hall, broadcast live in all its glory; with disagreements, with votes on the floor of the Conference. It goes for days. Up there for all to see, the development of the Platform that we will take to the next election.
That contrasts with the Greens Political Party who had a leadership challenge and vote and no one bothered to find out until almost a year after it had taken place. They don’t allow the media into their state conferences or national conferences. They have a candidate here in Batman who has been challenged over issues; we don’t know what. We don’t know what they are within the Greens Political Party. And she is unable to say what that was about, what the outcome was. There’s no transparency in the Greens Political Party.
It’s about time that they were held to account. If the Labor Party said we’re holding a secret national conference that goes for days and we’ll tell you what happens after the event with a media release, the media would quite rightly be outraged. The Labor Party is the only political party that engages with the people who are members of the Party in an open, transparent way like that.
The Liberal Party just essentially have fundraisers. They don’t worry about pretending that they’re interested in policy. They get their policy written somewhere else. The top end of town write their policies. We develop ours; we do it openly and transparently. It’s about time that the Greens Political Party, including the candidate here in Batman were a bit more open about what is going on with the disputes within that Party here in Batman. Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.