Subjects: Infrastructure, Perth and Fremantle by-elections, polling, MyHealth, Braddon, Longman, Malcolm Turnbull.
PATRICK GORMAN: It’s fantastic to have Anthony Albanese – Labor’s Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Shadow Minister for Tourism, here in the electorate of Perth. We’ve been at the pre-poll where thousands of people have already cast their vote. But there is still time; if you need to vote early, head on down to the Morley Markets and get your vote in.
Anthony is here because Labor has a long-term commitment to infrastructure in Perth. You only need to walk around the Perth electorate to know that it is Labor that builds this community. One great example is what is now Yagan Square; the Perth City Link, that Anthony led the charge on to fund and build as Labor’s Minister in the previous Labor Government. And again it is Bill Shorten and Labor that leads the commitment to build up this community. And here in Morley, where Labor will fund the Morley-Ellenbrook Rail Line, it’s fantastic to have Anthony talking about Labor’s plans to invest in our communities, to create local jobs and to build the community of Perth for the future. I will hand over to Anthony to say a few more words.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks very much Patrick. It is fantastic to be here yet again campaigning in these by-elections that will be held now this Saturday. These by-elections are a critical test for Malcolm Turnbull and he has already failed in Western Australia by failing to be even in the field in Perth and in Fremantle. That’s typical of the contempt that we have seen from the Federal Coalition towards Western Australia. It is Federal Labor and Bill Shorten and I have visited these seats, and not just during the by-election, but have visited WA month after month, year after year, in opposition and in government, because we understand that Western Australia has unique needs.
And that is why here at Morley, the site of the Morley to Ellenbrook Rail Line, some $700 million – Federal Labor’s commitment – $200 million more than the Coalition have put on the table. But that is just one of the announcements that we have made. The Mitchell Freeway Extension, the Stephenson Avenue upgrade, the extension of the rail line to Byford, the Midland Station Upgrade with the extension to Bellevue, the Tonkin Highway, the intersection of the Leach Highway and Welshpool Road – all of these projects are critical infrastructure projects to create jobs and economic activity here in Perth and Western Australia in in the short-term, but to build productivity, sustainability and liveability here in Western Australia in the long term. It’s consistent with our approach when we were in government whereby every time I land in Perth I am reminded when I travel along the Great Eastern Highway or I look at the Gateway WA Project, or I go into the City and look at the Perth City Link, what we did when we were in government in delivering a more than doubling of infrastructure investment for Western Australia.
I am concerned that when you look at the Forward Estimates of the Coalition Government in this year’s Budget, it shows that there will be some $1.2 billion allocated to WA in this financial year, but that falls to $411 million over the Forward Estimates of four years. So it is due to be cut by a third and the Coalition have said that they want to address the issue of fair compensation for the GST, but what we are seeing there is a cut in infrastructure as well as of course the cuts to education and health. And that is why it is important that Patrick Gorman be sent to Canberra along with Josh to be a strong voice for Western Australia, to actually stand up for Western Australia’s interests. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: What do you make of the polling produced today that said Labor would definitely win all five by-elections this weekend if you were leader?
ALBANESE: The important thing about this Saturday is that Labor is successful in the seats where we are re-contesting. We are also running in Mayo of course, unlike the Coalition that isn’t prepared to even get in the field here in Western Australia. Longman and Braddon are challenges but we are working very hard. We have fantastic candidates, fantastic candidates in Justine Keay and Susan Lamb. They both deserve to be returned to the Parliament. They are working hard for their electorates. And we will be working each and every day this week to make sure that they are successful in the by-elections on Saturday.
REPORTER: But you can’t escape this latest polling which is suggesting that you are more popular than Bill Shorten?
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that I am part of Bill Shorten’s team.
REPORTER: But more popular than him.
ALBANESE: I am part of Bill Shorten’s team and it is the team that counts and what we have seen from 37 Newspolls in a row is that Labor under Bill Shorten would be elected to Government if the election had been held last Saturday or the fortnight before that or the fortnight before that, or any of the previous 37 fortnights. That’s the critical message that I take from the polls because what I want is to be part of a Labor Government and to be the Infrastructure Minister again – to come over here with Prime Minister Shorten and actually be able to turn the first sod on projects that we have announced and to see them under construction.
REPORTER: But you are here today and Mr Shorten hasn’t done a press conference since last Tuesday. Are you hiding him?
ALBANESE: I think the idea that Bill Shorten isn’t available to the public …
REPORTER: Well he isn’t.
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that he had a campaign launch in Longman. I know that’s the case because I saw it on the television last night. And the fact is that every member of Labor’s team has been out campaigning in all of the by-election seats, but not just the by-election seats as well. We’re campaigning to win government. So this afternoon I have an infrastructure forum in Canning with local councils with Peel Development, with other organisations looking at infrastructure for that regional community. One of the ways that they’ve missed out is that Canning has been defined – and the Mandurah area – as being not part of regional Australia. That isn’t good enough and one of the things that we will do is to change that so that it is once again eligible for regional funding as the outer suburban areas should be.
REPORTER: Labor might be ahead in the polls but Malcolm Turnbull is still ahead as preferred Prime Minister. Why do you think that is?
ALBANESE: Well we don’t elect a Prime Minister. What we elect is a government and the fact is that Labor is ahead in the polls as we have been for each of the previous 37 Newspolls.
REPORTER: Why is it, do you think, that you’re more popular than Bill Shorten though?
ALBANESE: I’m not going to comment on the specifics of polls, except the one that counts. The one that counts is the one that shows that Labor would be elected to government if the election was held last Saturday or this Saturday coming. That’s the critical factor. We’ll continue to campaign as a team. I’m happy to be part of the team as I always have been.
REPORTER: It must be flattering though to be the most popular? It must be flattering?
ALBANESE: Look, I just get on with my job that I’ve been given to do. And the job – I was raised with an old-fashioned principle, which is do the job that you’ve been given to the best of your capacity – be a team player and that is what I have been for Labor for now 22 years in the Parliament. I look forward to working in the lead-up to the election and to see an election of a Labor Government, but in the meantime, Labor having success this Saturday in these by-elections.
ALBANESE: One at a time.
REPORTER: Is Labor really the underdog in Longman?
ALBANESE: Well the polls that have been published would suggest that it’s a very tight race. But I’m confident that when people think about whether they want $17 billion to go to the big banks or whether they want funding for education, funding for Caboolture Hospital, funding for public transport through the Cross River Rail Project that will lead to an increased number of trains due to the increased capacity on the rail network for South East Queensland, that will have an impact in Longman.
There’s no doubt that I think that Labor’s got a very good case to put. We’ve been putting it. We have a great candidate in Susan Lamb. Susan Lamb’s someone that I’d want in my corner. She’s a fighter. She has shown that. The courage that she’s shown; the speech that she gave in the Parliament when outlining the personal issues that she has had to deal with – that’s the sort of person you want in your corner, not someone’s who’s stood up for Campbell Newman’s Government and was quite happy to sit back and cheer on the cuts to health and schools and everything else that happened in the northern suburbs of Brisbane, and cheer on the cuts of Tony Abbott’s Budget in 2014, and cheer on the ongoing cuts that are entrenched in the Budget for education and health and the ABC and everything else that characterises the Turnbull Government.
REPORTER: Will you opt out of MyHealth?
ALBANESE: I have not given it a minute’s thought, I’ve got to say.
REPORTER: Well a lot of people are grappling with the decision.
ALBANESE: Yeah and I’m sure they will and when I get a chance to grapple with it I will look at all of that detail.
REPORTER: You’ve only got three months.
ALBANESE: But I have got three months, so I’ll let you know in the next three months. I’ll be back in Perth between now and then, so plenty of time.
REPORTER: Do you think that the Government has a good enough track record on digital projects to manage MyHealth?
ALBANESE: I certainly don’t think they have a good track record on digital projects. They stuffed up the census. We know that some previous records relating to health were made available to people when it shouldn’t have been. So certainly the Government when it comes to competence has stuffed up a whole range of things but one of the reasons why they do is that they can’t agree with themselves. You have circumstances whereby an energy policy still isn’t fixed, they don’t have one. They don’t have an infrastructure policy. I saw this morning Malcolm Turnbull’s in Tennant Creek, and good on him for visiting Tennant Creek, but to compare what’s needed for Tennant Creek to City Deals that should apply to big capital cities was one of the most bizarre analogies I’ve seen for a long time.
REPORTER: If Labor wasn’t to be successful in any of these by-elections on the weekend, what do you think it would say about Bill Shorten’s leadership?
ALBANESE: We intend to be successful. Each and every one of us is united in working for one objective – to be successful in these by-elections. And, then, to be successful at the election campaign and to make sure that Bill Shorten is elected Prime Minister and to make sure that the rest of the team are elected as Ministers.
REPORTER: Is there a danger for Labor in Western Australia if there’s a low turnout? Because it seems that analysts and pollsters are handing Fremantle and Perth to Labor already.
ALBANESE: Well that’s one of the reasons why I am here. And it’s no accident that I’m holding this media conference just across the road from where the early polling can take place – to remind people, with Patrick, that people do need to get out and vote. Voting is compulsory. A lot of people go through in different parts of the world, go through incredible trauma and struggle to have the right to put a piece of paper into the ballot box and cast their democratic ballot. It’s been fought for; it should be something that is cherished. We in Australia do have compulsory voting and that’s a good thing and people should vote. They can vote this week, they don’t even have to give up their Saturday.
REPORTER: I’ve got a question for Patrick if everyone is done with?
REPORTER: I just have one question – will you be spending much time in Braddon and Longman this week?
ALBANESE: I will be out and about. I certainly have a visit to Longman scheduled and I will be seeing about Braddon. It’s not scheduled at this stage. But I will be in Longman later on in the week. We obviously are coordinating visits so that everyone isn’t in one place at one time. But I’ve been to Braddon twice. I’ve been to Longman and I’ve been to Perth and Fremantle twice also. So I’ve been out there campaigning as I always do. This is my seventh visit to Western Australia this year.
You might want to ask Malcolm Turnbull how many times he has been to Western Australia this year and for how long. During the last Federal election campaign I know he flew in, headed south of Fremantle for about an hour and a half, and flew out. That was about it. I think you have to spend time in Western Australia to understand the needs of Western Australia and that’s what I do. I have a regular slot, to give a free advert, on 6PR every now and again and I’ll be talking as I do regularly to Oliver Peterson this afternoon on 6PR as well. Again, taking talkback calls and getting to know what the issues are here in Western Australia. Because it is a big nation as I found this morning when it took well over five hours to get across this great nation.
REPORTER: Have Susan Lamb or Justine Keay reached out to you to ask to come to their seats before Saturday?
ALBANESE: I talk to them all the time. And Susan Lamb and Justine Keay are both very good friends of mine. I’ve been campaigning with them, I’ve held functions with them that have been very successful. I even went – the last time I was in Longman, a couple of weeks ago, I got the train from Brisbane Central, up to Narangba with Susan Lamb talking to people all the way up about the issues that they’re concerned about. About the need to actually fund Cross River Rail and to get it done something that was the number one issue on the 2012 infrastructure priority list, that Malcolm Turnbull has refused to fund. I mean we have a Prime Minister who likes to take selfies on trains and trams; he just doesn’t like to fund them. And it’s about time that he actually funded the Cross River Rail Project:
REPORTER: Patrick, just one for you …
GORMAN: Just to – back off that though, while we’re giving plugs to radio stations, I will also give a plug to RTRFM who I spoke to this morning, based in the heart of the Perth electorate. Got to give the community radio sector a shout out as well (inaudible) of course I love the ABC.
REPORTER: I’m sure they asked you this question. How do you characterise the Liberal’s decision not to run against you in this seat?
GORMAN: Hugely disappointing.
REPORTER: You said it with a smile.
GORMAN: Malcolm Turnbull has been a disappointment in many ways. But yet again, to not run and therefore not to rock up – as Anthony said, we haven’t seen Malcolm Turnbull in the Perth electorate for more than two months. Now, that’s not just disrespectful to the people of Perth, not running a candidate, but it’s disrespectful to Western Australia, in not actually coming and talking to Western Australians about our infrastructure needs, about our health needs, about our needs for schools, hospitals – and of course, universities and TAFE. Why the Liberal Party made that decision is a matter for them. I think they probably would make a different decision if they could go back in time. It has been something that people have raised with me, when I’ve been out door-knocking. They say: “I don’t understand why they did this, it is hard to comprehend’’. There is a member of the Liberal Party who is running in this election, so obviously he’s got some institutional support behind the scenes from the Liberal Party. But it is a weird circumstance and they should have put a candidate up.
REPORTER: There is a couple of, I guess, so-called independent Liberals. Do you have anything to worry about there? Have you got any preferences?
GORMAN: Independent Liberal, independent whatever. My concern is there’s a few candidates that haven’t actually even completed the AEC’s citizenship forms. Now this was a new thing that was one of the reasons that we allegedly had the delay in this election. Some of those so-called independent Liberals haven’t even bothered to fulfil the basic paperwork that the AEC has asked for. That’s bizarre. I think it’s disrespectful to the voters of Perth, but I guess that’s what we’re seeing from the Liberal Party at the moment. It’s very disappointing and thank you all for coming.
REPORTER: Are you hopeful of an Albo bump after his visit today?
GORMAN: I hope we see more people at pre-poll because Albo has told everyone – that if you need to vote early, if you can’t make it on election day, go and vote at the Morley Markets. We’ve been blessed in this election with a range of Shadow Ministers and today is former Deputy Prime Minister day. I’ve got former Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Later on we’ve got former Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan doing a phone bank with our volunteers. We have had a great turn out of people, we’ve had – Bill Shorten obviously launched my campaign nine days ago.
REPORTER: There’s still a few days left. Would you like him to come over even though he’s less popular than the man standing next to you?
GORMAN: I’ve had Chris Bowen here, Bill Shorten, Tanya Plibersek, Penny Wong, Catherine King, Jim Chalmers, Madeleine King. I think Amanda Rishworth is here tomorrow. It’s been great to have support of the entire Labor team and as Anthony said, we’re a united team.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.