Subjects: Budget, polls, Bill Shorten.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: This is a Budget that was a failure when it comes to actual infrastructure investment. It is due to decline from $8 billion in the current financial year to just $4.5 billion across the Forward Estimates – over four years – so a cut almost in half. This is a Government that talked up infrastructure investment before the Budget, but didn’t actually put the dollars in the Budget to create the projects that are needed. And on projects like Melbourne Airport Link, they pretend that it can be done for free. It can’t. It needs real investment, just like we need real investments in Western Sydney Rail and in Cross River Rail in Brisbane and other important projects.
REPORTER: I don’t know if you have had a chance to look at party stalwart Graham Richardson’s column in The Australian today where, I quote, where he says he uncomfortable about the number of people who approach him in the street and say that they don’t trust Bill Shorten. Does Bill have a trust problem?
ALBANESE: Well Graham Richardson of course is a commentator these days rather than an ALP activist and I believe very strongly that we are in a position to win the next election and if you look at the polls, the fact is that under Bill Shorten, Labor is ahead in both of the polls that were published this week, one of which showed an increase from 52 per cent two-party-preferred to 54.
REPORTER: They are specific stats about the party which is valid that you have pointed those out, but what about Bill Shorten and the issue of trust? Do you think that there is an issue from the voter in regards to trust when it comes to the Opposition Leader?
ALBANESE: Well Bill Shorten has been advancing policies that are receiving the support of the Australian people. Our support for education and health and infrastructure investment, our strong opposition to giving a tax break just for the big end of town, for big banks and big multi-nationals. Bill Shorten has been leading the party on that case and that has been well received, which is why we have been ahead in the polls now for 32 Newspolls.
REPORTER: If the party does drop a seat in the by-elections that are coming up, how much pressure does this put on Bill Shorten?
ALBANESE: Well we intend to win these by-elections. We think we have got a good story to tell, we’ve got good local candidates. We have big issues of education, health, infrastructure, child care. Our priorities are different from the current Government’s and we will will be advocating that case in all seats right across the country in these five by-elections. I think it says a lot about the Government itself that they are not even bothering to field a candidate in Perth where last time they got 42 per cent of the primary vote, or Fremantle. I think that is showing contempt for the Australian voters.
REPORTER: Will there be any soul-searching if you do lose seats?
ALBANESE: Well we intend to win these by-elections and we intend to win the next election.
REPORTER: Many Liberal MPs think that you have what it takes to beat Malcolm Turnbull. Does that give you confidence?
ALBANESE: Well I am out there arguing my case as I have just done on infrastructure, on transport, on regional development, on cities, on tourism, and taking it up to the Government. That is what I do. I do it in a consistent way. I do it not just in my electorate but right across the country and that is my focus – being part of the Labor team. I think we have a very strong team across the board and person-for-person I think I would much rather be a part of Labor than the Coalition, which is a very weak team which is divided at the top, that has sniping from the back bench from the former prime minister and the former deputy prime minister. We have a very positive agenda and it is not surprising that that is being reflected out there in the community.
REPORTER: Do you think Bill Shorten is an enigma?
ALBANESE: I think Bill Shorten is a strong person who has a record going back many, many years standing up for working people first as a trade union leader and then as a Parliamentarian. Thank you.