Oct 30, 2012

Transcript of Interview – ABC Radio National with Fran Kelly

Issues: Carbon price; Asian Century White Paper; Gonski; NDIS; Transport discussion paper; SA Senate ticket 

FRAN KELLY: Federal Parliament has less than two weeks to run before the Christmas break and then of course we’re into a new year that will bring a federal election.

The Gillard Government is increasingly confident that Tony Abbott’s campaign against the carbon tax has stalled, as evidenced by Labor’s stronger performance in recent opinion polls.

But the ALP has its own troubles, the latest being fury in the left of the party at Penny Wong being placed second on the South Australian Senate ticket behind the right’s Don Farrell.

Anthony Albanese is the Government’s Leader of the House. Minister, good morning. Welcome to Breakfast.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning, Fran.

FRAN KELLY: Tony Abbott said yesterday that the next election will be a referendum on the carbon tax and a prime minister who didn’t tell the truth. Is that what you think people will be voting on at the next election?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What we saw yesterday, it was like a band that had run out of ideas for a new song so they went back to the greatest hits album. We had carbon price, we had boats, we had the same old, same old, in spite of the fact they’ve had three weeks to think of a new question.

What the next election will be about is who has a plan for the future and in recent
times we’ve seen the Asian Century White Paper put out, documenting how we take advantages of the opportunities of the new century and where we are in the world.

We have plans including Gonski and the NDIS. We have a plan in my area for infrastructure and yesterday I put out a discussion paper about active transport including cycling, walking and, of course, increasing use of public transport in a country where eight out of 10 journeys are still made by the motor car.

We have a plan for the future. The Opposition yesterday, my opposite number, Christopher Pyne, described all of these things – Gonski, NDIS and the Asian Century White Paper – as distractions.

These aren’t distractions, these are core government issues and, of course, the price on carbon has come in on July 1 and the Opposition’s fear campaign frankly has run flat.

FRAN KELLY: Tony Abbott’s plan for the future includes rescinding the carbon tax and he’s adamant about that. As he pointed out yesterday, power prices have risen, he said, 90 per cent under Labor, including 15 per cent in the last quarter. There will be more power bills before the next election.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: He should have a good chat to his state Coalition colleagues including in places like Western Australia where we saw a 70 per cent increase, and in NSW.

Tony Abbott only has this scare campaign. He’s tried to pretend that it was all about the carbon price. We know it’s absolutely not about that. It really doesn’t make any sense at all for him to continue to bung on as if it’s all about the carbon price.

FRAN KELLY: Do you think the carbon tax is a vote-winner?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The carbon price and taking action on climate change absolutely is the right thing to do for the nation.

FRAN KELLY: Is it a vote-winner?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Sometimes what you’ve got to do in government is to actually do the right thing by the national interest and we don’t sit down in the Cabinet processes and think: is this going to win a vote or lose a vote? What we sit down and think is: what is in the national interest to secure our future?

And we know in this part of the world – we know that climate change action is being taken by our neighbours. We know that there’s an advantage in moving first to a renewable, clean energy future and that’s what we’re determined to do.

FRAN KELLY: So you will be campaigning on it at the next election?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Absolutely we’ll be campaigning on the fact that climate change is real and the Government has a responsibility.

There is a cost of carbon pollution. The question is should we assist in that process or should we just pass the cost on to our children and grandchildren?

FRAN KELLY: You’re listening to RN Breakfast. It’s 12 minutes to eight. Our guest in the Parliament House studio this morning, the Leader of Government Business in the House, Anthony Albanese.

On another matter, Minister, the South Australian Senate ticket was decided on the weekend. Senator Penny Wong, who’s the Finance Minister, came in at number – relegated to second place on that ticket. Now you say that shows the Labor Party, quote, is grubby and self-indulgent. This is the Labor Party process at work, isn’t it, with the unions and the faction bosses calling the shots? This is how it happens every time.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We need to make sure, Fran, that the Labor Party, the modern Labor Party acknowledges that the end process is not our internals. The end process is about the electorate and I think that common sense should prevail here.

I’m confident that common sense will prevail here. Penny Wong is a senior Cabinet Minister and certainly it’s no shame being number two to Penny Wong. She’s an outstanding economic minister. She’s someone who was the Labor Party spokesperson when we came to office in 2007 in that election campaign. She’s someone who appears regularly on your program and throughout the media articulating Labor’s vision. And as a senior economic minister there’s a reason why the Labor Party has always given support to Cabinet Ministers and that’s because in the lead up to the South Australian state conference for example, Penny Wong was putting together MYEFO with the Treasurer and that is the focus, not internals.

FRAN KELLY: So can I get it clear here? You’re a senior factional leader in New South Wales, you’re not opposed to union secretaries, union delegates picking the ticket, you just want them to make a different decision or do you want that process changed?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: To be very clear, I think the party needs reform. I think the party needs reform and we need to give our membership a direct say on more issues than we do at the moment.

FRAN KELLY: So the rank and file should be choosing the Senate tickets?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, let’s talk about a balance there. I think that the Labor Party membership need to have much more say in terms of outcomes directly electing people to national conference. At the moment there’s a direct election ballot for policy committees. That’s a good thing.

People expect to be empowered in joining a political party. The truth is that the major political parties have declined in terms of their membership and unless we respond to the challenge that’s there and modernise our structures to reflect modern society, then I think we will decline in terms of our membership and you need that base.

FRAN KELLY: So how far are you going to push this because the Prime Minister when we spoke to her on the program yesterday didn’t really engage in this, she didn’t seem to think it mattered that Penny Wong was number two because Penny Wong on that position would still be elected to the Senate, will you take this to the national executive on Friday and seek to have it overturned?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What I’ve said very clearly is that this shouldn’t stand just as John Button, Gareth Evans. What should have occurred…

FRAN KELLY: Do you want it overturned by the national executive?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I want common sense to prevail. I think the best way for this to be resolved is for common sense to come in and for Don Farrell to recognise and to agree to be number two.

What happened for example in Victoria – Kim Carr ended up number one in a ballot where Gareth Evans was number two. He simply stood up at the Returning Officer’s report and said I acknowledge that Gareth Evans should lead the ticket…

FRAN KELLY: Now there is a suggestion this morning…

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Penny Wong should lead the ticket in South Australia.

FRAN KELLY: There is a suggestion this morning that Don Farrell has told Adelaide media that he will take second spot. Have you heard that and do you think that’s what’s about to happen?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think common sense should prevail here. I think I’ve been pretty clear about my views, Fran, and I don’t resile from them. This is a case whereby modern Labour can’t be seen to be concentrating on our internals at the expense of what is going on out there in the electorate and what is expected. And Penny Wong as the Finance Minister should lead the ticket for the Labor Party at the next election.

FRAN KELLY: Anthony Albanese thank you very much for joining us on Breakfast.


FRAN KELLY: Anthony Albanese is a Cabinet Minister of course but also the Leader of Government Business in the House.