ISSUES: Labor Leadership
CHRIS UHLMANN: Anthony Albanese is the Leader of the House. He supported Kevin Rudd in the leadership ballot and his press conference on Saturday will be remembered by many for his emotional call for unity in the Labor Party. He joins us now.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you, Chris.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Is that the end of it from your point of view?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yes, it is. Absolutely.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Will you ever again support a bid against a leader?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No. This was unique circumstances, Chris, as I made clear in my press conference on Saturday. I made clear that in part my reasons were the events of June 23rd, 2010 and who I thought was best positioned to take us to success at the next election. But I also made it very clear at my press conference that I was a supporter and a friend of both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, that both of them have led outstanding governments and that we should be proud of our record in government since 2007.
CHRIS UHLMANN: You argued hard against dumping Kevin Rudd last time, saying that people shouldn’t be changing leaders, and obviously this time around you said that you had a moment in time where you could express your dissatisfaction with what happened last time. What has this generation of the Labor Party done to your 120-year-old party? Great damage?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I certainly think, Chris, that it hasn’t been our finest hour in recent days. That’s why I argued against a challenge. I would not have voted against a challenge to the leader. What occurred was that the leadership was thrown open as a result of Kevin Rudd finding his position as a minister for Foreign Affairs in particular untenable. Those are circumstances which I think are very unique. I did the right thing by offering my resignation as Leader of the House. That wasn’t accepted by the Prime Minister because she accepted that I have been very loyal to her leadership.
CHRIS UHLMANN: As you have, and you made the point that you’ve devoted your life to this party. Do you worry about what this generation of politicians is doing to your party?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I certainly think that people will reflect on some of the actions of recent days. The really positive thing to come out of today was the statements and I think the genuine goodwill that was there right across the caucus once we’d dealt with this issue. I certainly said on Saturday that what I wanna do is to fight Tories. That’s what I do. That’s what I like doing. I think that is what those of us who believe that the Labor Party is the party that can act in the national interest in government want us to do.
CHRIS UHLMANN: When you came to government in 2007 Campbell Newman was the highest ranking Liberal in Australia as the Lord Mayor of Brisbane. Now what we’ve seen since then is decimation in New South Wales, going very close in South Australia to losing government, problems in Tasmania, in the Northern Territory and Queensland now heading to the sort of New South Wales kind of result when they go to the polls. So, what have you done?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well the Labor Party’s been around for 120 years, Chris.
CHRIS UHLMANN: And will it be around for 120 years more?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It certainly will be. I’ve been a member for more than a quarter of its existence. The Labor Party is a resilient movement because it’s the only movement capable of dealing with working people, pensioners, the retired, young people, the aspirations for the future. We have a great task. We have a great task.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Party members are rushing out of the party at the moment; you’re down to 30,000 members around the country. It’s an old party getting older, as Senator John Faulkner said. How do you encourage people into the Labor Party when this week is what they see of it?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I think what we’ve gotta do is stress the fact of why we’re involved and we’re involved in issues not because of personalities. We’re involved because we want to make Australia a better place, whether that be…
CHRIS UHLMANN: Was this about anything but personality and wanting to be Prime Minister, this week?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, there are some issues there, but we’ve resolved them, Chris, and I don’t think it’s appropriate…
CHRIS UHLMANN: And it’s all better now?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, it’s been resolved. What we’re about is enhancing opportunity rather than entrenching privilege. We’re about dealing with long-term issues of infrastructure and skills development, dealing with climate change. Those big picture issues. And it’s only Labor in government that can deliver that. And I think that we have a good record. We need to go out there and sell that record and stand on it. Because I think when people reflect on the alternative, which is nothing but Tony Abbott turning the Coalition into the No-alition, just saying no to everything, I think we’ve got a good story to tell.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Sure. Let’s look at our party for a moment. This week, your own turned on a former prime minister and demolished his record and they started talking about him being dysfunctional and his government being paralysed. So far from talking up your record, in the last week all we’ve seen is Labor trash its own.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I can only be responsible for myself. What I’ve done is say that we’ve got a good story to tell. I’m very proud of being a part of the government that Kevin Rudd led from 2007 and being a member of the Gillard cabinet as well. I’ve been Leader of the House during that entire period.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Time is short. Senator Mark Arbib, you know him very, very well; in fact people sometimes think that you’re closer than someone in the left and someone in the right should be.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’re very close.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Are we to take at face value what he said today that he’s leaving for the unity of the party, and if that’s the case, shouldn’t some other powerbrokers step aside as well?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, you have to take Mark’s comments. I’ve spoken to him. I spoke to him over the last week. He’s someone who I think has a great legacy. He’s been a great contributor to the Labor Party. He’s always put the interests of the movement before himself. He’s been frustrated, as many of us are, with the lack of time we get to spend with our family. He’s made that decision. It is absolutely at face value. And I think he leaves Parliament having made a great contribution to the party over a period of time as a minister who’s interested in Indigenous kids and sport, as a member of Parliament, but also as general secretary – yes, the big secret’s out, we were mates. We actually ended some of the nonsense that went on in the New South Wales branch and that’s to his credit.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Last piece of truth we might hear in a while. Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for joining us this evening.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to see you, Chris.