Sep 13, 2013

Transcript of press conference, Canberra

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Today, after determining a final position with my family last night, the first person I told that I would be a candidate for Leader of the Labor Party was Bill Shorten. I then informed the Caucus. That is what was appropriate.

I am standing for the Labor leadership because I firmly believe that I am the best candidate to lead Labor back into Government at the next election.

I am standing because I have the policy credentials that have developed over a long period of time.

I am standing because as a senior minister in the Government for six years I looked after infrastructure, transport, regional development, local government, broadband, communications and the digital economy.

I did a good, sound job in implementation of all of our policies in those areas.

At the end of the Government period I was Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Leader of the House of Representatives, as well as being the Member for Grayndler.

I think I am up to a hard job.

My record shows also that I can work with a broad range of people to get results. The last Parliament was the most difficult since Federation. And yet we delivered 596 pieces of legislation through the Parliament, negotiated in good faith across the boundaries that normally occur in the House of Representatives to secure support for that legislation.

So my record shows that I have an ability to work with people both across the Labor Party but also across the Parliament, in the community and with the business sector.

In the coming weeks I will run for the Labor leadership on the same platform that I would run for Australia’s prime ministership. We have to change. We have to do better – for Australia and for Labor.

The leadership ballot in our party will be about two things. The future of our country, and the future of our party. I have no doubt which is more important.

Labor must always be about the concerns that are being discussed in the living rooms, around the kitchen table of Australian families.

How to get a secure job with decent working conditions.

The education of our kids.

Better health care.

Access to the National Broadband Network.

Access to transport.

Those are the issues that are important.

Labor governments are important; not in of itself, but for what they can do. I stand before you as the personification of what Labor can achieve in terms of changing peoples’ lives.

I grew up in a housing department – or city council it was back then – flat in Camperdown with a single mum who was on a disability pension.

I understand that Labor governments make a real difference to peoples’ lives. I had access to education due to the great reforms of Labor governments before me.

It is only Labor that takes on the big reforms. It is Labor historically that has done that. And it is Labor that will do it again.

Can you imagine the Coalition coming up with the National Disability Insurance Scheme?

Can you imagine them having the foresight to think through the Better Schools plan?

Conceiving of the National Broadband Network?

Bothering with national health reform?

Can you imagine them having the wit to fix the Murray Darling Basin – talked about for decades, but delivered by our last term of Government?

Or to take on the issue of climate change?

We need to advocate a platform for the future. Our platform for the future needs to have four key themes.

Firstly – and what must always be first for Labor – a strong economy with jobs and growth. That must be at the forefront. That means not just defending existing industries. It means how we reach out to new innovation, and the jobs of the future.

It means building nation building infrastructure of the future; particularly the National Broadband Network. The National Broadband Network is absolutely critical in applying smart infrastructure, in making sure that we prepare ourselves to compete in the region.

It means investing also in opportunities, and that’s the second point.

Creating opportunities is what Labor does. That means the Better Schools plan. It also means vocational education and training. It means ensuring we look after tertiary education. It means we ensure planning so that the skills are there to meet the jobs of the future.

It means creating opportunities for small business. And identifying where growth can occur.

It means also fairness in the workplace and opportunities for all.

The third theme is a sustainable Australia.

That means a clean energy future. It means ensuring that we continue to take action on climate change. It means support for renewable energy and clean energy. It means support for our natural environment. It means Labor always recognising that what we leave for future generations is important.

And the fourth principle that will provide a framework for moving forward is a fair go for all. I believe that Labor governments are at their best when they take on inequality and discrimination. Whether it be on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, religion or who people happen to love.

They are principles that are universal and they are principles that should be at the core of a Labor agenda.

In terms of the Parliament, I think I have a record of taking on these issues.

What you see is what you get.

I am someone who puts forward a view, strongly and passionately, when I believe it.

I am someone who is prepared to argue the case, whether in the Parliament, in the media, or out there in the community.

People would well recall a certain demonstration attended by the former member for Indi outside my electorate office in Marrickville where I was prepared to argue the case, and I will always be prepared to argue the case.

With regard to the Parliament, we should be standing up for our views. We should also be prepared to constructively engage, and not be negative for negative’s sake.

Tony Abbott did too much of that.

He did too much of that. He also did too much of not preparing his team for Government. We need to use this period of Opposition to encourage new ideas. New policies; what are the big picture visions for tomorrow?

What is the next NBN? The next DisabilityCare Australia? That’s what Labor Governments do.

And you can do it by taking advantage of the fact that unfortunately we are in Opposition.

The ballot process itself will be the start of that. The ballot process is an important empowerment of the Labor Party membership. And I am very glad that Bill Shorten will contest that ballot.

Bill is a friend of mine and he would make a very good leader. He’s a great communicator. He is someone who I think played an absolutely critical role in the creation of DisabilityCare Australia in its formative stages.

So he’s someone I look forward to working with into the future.

I want to see a process whereby the 30,000 or 40,000 members of the Labor Party actually get a say, get a say themselves in the future direction of the party.

Where this has been tried it has led to considerable growth in Labor Party members. So I say to you, the potential Labor Party members of Australia, that today the Caucus has agreed, or reaffirmed the fact that we want Labor Party membership to be more than handing out how-to-votes on polling day.

We want your involvement and there I no greater involvement than assisting to select the Leader of the Labor Party.

So I say to all those who are looking at this process and thinking that’s a good idea, that’s great, who am I going to vote for – that’s right I’ve never got around to joining,

Now is your time. Join up, be part of the Labor Party growth. Be part of the building, the rebuilding of Labor.

Labor is a party of nation building. Today we begin the rebuilding of our own party as a first step, not in of itself, but for why that is important for what we can do for our country.

So, it’s now time for us to engage over the coming weeks. I’ve devoted my life to the service of the Labor Party and the service of the nation.

I believe in the Labor Party. Not as an entity of itself, but I believe it’s only Labor governments that truly look after the long-term national interest.

And it is a great honour to put myself forward as I did today to be Leader of the Labor Party.