Sep 2, 2013

Transcript of interview with Fran Kelly – ABC Radio National

Subjects: Federal election; Labor’s support for small business and TAFE; Liberal cuts; Treasurer Chris Bowen; NBN and the digital divide; Coalition costings; The real choice at the election.

KELLY: Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was Kevin Rudd’s warm up guy yesterday. Minister, welcome to breakfast.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you Fran.

KELLY: The Prime Minister said yesterday you haven’t seen anything yet. What’s to come? What are we going to see?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: You will see more policy, but importantly what you will see is Labor fighting to put our case every single day, right up to six o’clock Saturday night.

We believe that we’ve got a good record, a good sound economic record with all of the fundamentals being the envy of the world as Joseph Stiglitz has pointed out in an opinion piece today – the Nobel Prize winning economist.

The fact is we do have a good record, but there is more to be done. We want to complete the rollout of the National Broadband Network. We want to make sure the Better Schools plan gets rolled out in full so we end that debate that’s been talked about on shows like yours of public versus private education forever. And in terms of the measures we raised yesterday – support for small business.

These are the contrasts that we will be making. There’s a real choice that people have on Saturday and there are real consequences. And it’s extraordinary, as Michelle just said, that the Opposition continue to hide where their cuts will come – to jobs, to schools and hospitals.

KELLY: Just on this though, that’s very much the message Kevin Rudd has been trying to get across for the first four weeks of this campaign, and today’s Newspoll suggests it hasn’t done much to persuade the electorate. So in terms of you haven’t seen anything yet, is there a major policy announcement to come this week?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: You will have to wait and see Fran. But yesterday we had a significant policy announcement with regard to small business. Increasing the support up to $10,000 that small businesses can claim immediately as a write-off in terms investing in expansion of their business, supporting jobs with the great job creator of small business.

KELLY: But the small business peak group has come out today and said on balance it still supports the Coalition, favours the Coalition’s policies.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well you know there are a few employer organisations that tend to support the Coalition. But the fact is individual small businesses will make up their minds based upon what is good for small business. And Tony Abbott has a more than $5 billion cut in store for small business.

We also put out of course yesterday policies with regard to vocational education and training. We are not going to sit idly by while we continue to put more money in real terms – we’ve put significant additional resources into TAFE – and watch while Liberal state governments rip money out.

And I think what people will weigh up between now and Saturday is do they want to risk the combination of Coalition state governments ripping money out of schools and hospitals, combined with a Federal Government either encouraging that or doing the same thing in terms of where they have to make their cuts.

And do they really want to risk it? They are unsure about Tony Abbott, we know that. They are unsure when it comes to international policy as well. Can you imagine Tony Abbott at a G20 meeting with Barack Obama, David Cameron and other world leaders when he says that climate change is crap.

KELLY: But the bad news for you is it seems on latest polling the voters are prepared to imagine that and they are now prepared to elect him as the 28th Prime Minister.

Is your problem that you need to address, and how do you address this perception, that this election is already over?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: If you keep reinforcing it, we will keep challenging it Fran. The fact is that –

KELLY: It’s not me reinforcing it, I’m looking at the polls and I’m looking at the fact that your Treasurer Chris Bowen couldn’t even attend the campaign launch because he has to keep campaigning in his seat of McMahon.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No he didn’t. No he didn’t.

KELLY: That’s not right?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: That’s an ignorant statement. He didn’t attend because he was receiving an award from the Coptic community. It was a very significant award and it was one in which the date had been set a long time in advance. And out of respect for that community, given he was receiving this award, he did that – entirely appropriate.

KELLY: Alright, let me ask you this way then, do you agree with the polls that say the Coalition will win and will win comfortably?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s not a matter of whether I agree or not, polls are polls. Polls take opinion at a point in time and what they show is that clearly Tony Abbott is the significant favourite to win this Saturday. That’s why people have to think through exactly what a Tony Abbott prime ministership would mean for their school, for their hospital, for their job, for their penalty rates, for their working conditions.

And if they are unsure – if they are unsure of any of those things – they shouldn’t vote for him. If they are unsure about the National Broadband Network – if Tony Abbott wins – his regional communications spokesman last week, Luke Hartsuyker, when in Geraldton Western Australia, said you’re one of the lucky ones because the NBN is connected throughout Geraldton. What he’s really saying is there will be a digital divide whereby some suburbs like Blacktown will be divided between those who have already had the NBN rolled out and those who won’t.

That will make a difference to house prices, people will look to live in the areas that have already been connected by Labor. You will have 40,000 plus ugly huge fridge-type cabinets on the corners of streets, you will have old copper wire to the homes and you will be stuck with last century’s technology unless you can afford to have fibre, to pay yourself to have fibre connected up to your home.

These are essential differences that are at stake next Saturday and I believe when people weigh that up, even on the polls you refer to Fran, you are talking about three or four people in every 100 making a different decision from those particular people who have been polled in Newspoll or any other polling organisation.

KELLY: So you think you will win?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think we certainly can win. The truth is that we are not favourites to win. But we can win because the Australian people don’t like being taken for granted.

And what Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb are saying is we’re going to treat you like mugs. We’re not going to give you any of the facts of where the cuts are going to come. We’re not going to put our costings out until the electronic blackout comes so that all you’ll be able to hear in terms of advertising and analysis is of course mainly newspaper coverage. And we know what that’s been like this campaign in terms of a number of the newspapers, some of which are of course monopolies in particular cities.

KELLY: If Labor loses, then there will be a lot of pouring over the strategies, the election campaign and also the decision to dump Julia Gillard so close to the election and go with Kevin Rudd. If today’s Newspoll is anywhere near correct and Labor’s primary vote comes in at 33 per cent, that’s five points lower that the primary vote that Labor received under Julia Gillard. Did Rudd supporters – and you were one of them – have you over-estimated the effect Kevin Rudd could have on Labor’s support?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What I’ve done is do what I believe is absolutely in the Labor Party’s interest and I’ve acted in that way the entire time I’ve been in Federal Parliament.

KELLY: Will Labor win more seats under Kevin Rudd than it would have won under Julia Gillard?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We can win the election this Saturday. That is my sole and only focus. Because at the end of the day you win elections and you are part of a government and can change the country for the better or you sit in Opposition as I did for 12 years and watch the country go backwards, and watch the sort of government that Tony Abbott would be.

I don’t want a climate sceptic as the Prime Minister of this country. I don’t want someone whose vision is so small and so narrow. I don’t want someone who is stuck in the past. I don’t want someone who wants to divide the country and not unite it.

And that is why I’m on my way now to the electorate of Robertson to campaign with Deb O’Neill. I’ll be campaigning every single day between now and Saturday at six o’clock. That is my sole and only focus.

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

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Great to talk to you Fran.