Transcript of Press Conference – Post National Press Club Address – Canberra – Friday, 8 November 2019
NATIONAL PRESS CLUB OF AUSTRALIA
FRIDAY, 8 NOVEMBER 2019
SUBJECT: Australian Labor Party 2019 Federal Election Review.
JOURNALIST: One of the elements that came out in the review, and we have certainly heard this after election day, that there were a number of people, religious communities, who felt that Labor wasn’t speaking to them at all. In the time since the polling day, what attempts have you made to talk to them and listen to them about the direction of the Labor Party and what are you going to do about it?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, one of the things that I’ve done is to have meetings with the religious leaders who have asked for meetings. But I’ve done more than that as well. We had an incredibly successful roundtable just a couple of weeks ago with senior members of my team, with the leaders of the Catholic Church, Anglicans, Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus with evangelicals. Everyone was there across the spectrum and it was incredibly constructive. And they were prepared to engage and reach out. One of the things I think people look at is my background and what I’ve done, not just what I say, is that at times, I’ve always and consistently without exception, argued that where people have put their hand up and say, ‘because of conscience, because of my faith, I can’t go in a particular direction’ I have respected that. So, I stood up, for example, for a conscience vote consistently on marriage equality. There was no one in the Parliament who has supported marriage equality for as long and as consistently as I have. I’m completely against discrimination against LGBTIQ people regardless of what form it takes. But I understood during that debate that if you were someone of faith and marriage wasn’t a civil institution, that it is something ordained by God, that I understood that was a different perspective. So, I didn’t agree with that position, but I understood it and I respect it. I think what we need in our society is to actually have a bit more respect for each other’s views and where they come from. We are an incredibly successful, diverse nation. And I will bring that perspective, I think, because of that, I don’t have to say, ‘this is what I do’ in the future. What I have to do is say, ‘look at what I’ve done in the past, you know the sort of Leader I want to be’.
JOURNALIST: Chris Uhlmann, Nine News. One of the graphics in the review shows that since 1993, Labor Party’s primary vote has dropped from 49 per cent essentially down to 33.3 per cent. So, that clearly goes beyond one election campaign, one Leader, or one set of policies. Why have so many people from Labor’s base deserted them and how do you fix it?
ALBANESE: Well, some of this, of course, is an international trend. The truth is that there is a breakaway from the mainstream parties and we see that phenomenon occurring internationally. So, it’s a challenge for parties of the centre left, social democratic parties, to actually hang on to their base and to ensure that they lift their primary vote. One of the things that we have to do, I think, is to be clear about our values. The report indicates that while some of the policies needed to be looked at, Labor’s values are eternal. I think that gives us some prospect of reaching out and representing people, regardless of where they live, regardless of where they disagree with a particular policy framework that we are putting forward. And to put forward a philosophical position that, I think because I’ve been in public life for quite a while, people know what to expect from me. A strong economy, jobs at the forefront. We have to get that right. And then and only then we get a mandate to do the sort of social justice provisions, environmental reform, other reforms that are needed.
JOURNALIST: Greg Brown from The Australian. The review outlined that Bill Shorten’s ambiguity over the Adani issue cost support not just in central Queensland but also in Queensland as a whole and even the Hunter Valley as well. So, given this has been approved by federal and state agencies, are you happy that the project is going ahead? And if you are happy that it’s going ahead, can you outline what you think its benefits are for Queensland and Australia?
ALBANESE: Well, it has been approved. So, it’s done and dusted. The benefits are obviously jobs. The question that is still there is over the financing of the project. And that’s been something that I have argued consistently. What we need to do at the federal level is to have the right environmental frames on, has things gone through the EPBC Act? Are those environmental protections in place? If not, the future projects like that will be determined essentially by the market, by demand internationally, in this case. And that’s why the project was drawn into question. Because it was unable to get finance. So, now they’re getting internal finances, what is proposed on the project, but it’s much smaller. One of the things I did last week was to talk about and in my speech to talk about jobs and the environment as not being a zero-sum game. And that is, in my view, very much the right approach that we should take. I think good, strong action on climate change will lead to more job creation, not less.
JOURNALIST: David Crowe from the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, thanks for your speech. One of the finds in the review was about people who backed the win, who assumed Labor would win and therefore demanded Labor addressed their policy priorities. Now, in your speech, you talked about scaling back the policy platform because it’s got so much in it. Do you think that interest groups who pursued Labor would win didn’t fight hard enough for Labor and will you be saying no to some of interest groups because they can’t have what they want in the Labor policy platform?
ALBANESE: The answer to the first question is yes. Quite clearly that’s the case. Take, for example, I met with one of the interest groups before the election, outlined the process of the EPBC Act and the way it works for Adani, and said, you know that if Labor had said we would stop or make a decision that wasn’t based upon science on Adani, it would be overturned in the courts. We know that because there’s been cases on it and yet they didn’t seem to respond to that at all. And I think that too many of the interest groups were concerned with influencing the future Labor Government rather than getting them. They assumed that it would happen, and they took it for granted. And quite frankly, I’ve said this over a period of time, for people who say their priority is to get rid of the current Government or a Coalition Government, there are always a lot more people handing out for Get Up in my electorate of Grayndler than there are in Reid right next door, a seat that determines Government one way or the other.
JOURNALIST: Phil Coorey from the AFR. I don’t want to be like one of those impatient guys waiting for the resurrection. One of the things I’ve heard repeatedly from your colleagues since the election, with the clarity of retrospective and Stephen Conroy said it as recently as this morning is that Labor spent a lot of money and promised to spend a lot of money on health and education, tens of billions more than the Coalition. And the view now was that it didn’t win as an extra vote because you’ve already got those people (inaudible) and not raising as much revenue as you did before the election. Can we assume that is going to be looked at as well in terms of, are you going to out-spend them for the sake of it or are you going to be more clinical with where you spend your money?
ALBANESE: Good try. Labor will always be better on health and education than the Coalition. That’s true. We actually believe that education is about creating opportunity, not just entrenching privilege. And we believe that health should be accessible to anyone regardless of their income. You should get proper health care. So, that’s a given. Specific policies, we’ll work on. We obviously will work on, in terms of the funding, that will be available. If we don’t have the same level of revenue, you can’t have the same level of expenditure. That’s just a fact. So, we will work through all of those issues. One of the things I’ve said is it that we will be orderly. We’ll have proper processes. But the Labor Party is committed to education, whether it be early childhood school, TAFE in particular, which has been abandoned, the universities. And of course, healthcare is one of the reasons why I’m involved in politics. My mother was an invalid pensioner, suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. I got to see the good and bad of people who need health care, not getting it but I also saw what happened when you do.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese thanks for your speech. Andrew Probyn from the ABC. Like my dear fellow disciple Phil Coorey, I’m going to bang on the Resurrection Stone. Finding 37 said that Labor’s climate change policy won the party votes among young and affluent older voters in urban areas. If I could venture an interpretation, does this suggest that Labor was more attractive to people who are perhaps less exposed to household bills or care less. And if you agree with that interpretation, if Labor does pursue an ambitious climate change policy, do you pledge here to spell out exactly what the cost of those policies will be to middle Australia, who clearly were a bit scared by your climate change policy, according to this review?
ALBANESE: Well, the thing about climate change it won’t have an impact just based upon wealth or based upon where people live, it’s having an impact now. Go out and actually talk to some of our farmers who have spoken to me about the impact. People who are not Labor’s natural allies, speak to the NFF and what they’re saying about climate change. We had an announcement yesterday with, I think they had five Ministers to sort of try and cover up for the debacle that happened last time with the leaks and the Nats announcing drought policy on the same time on different channels, not one of them mentioned climate change. Not one. That’s unacceptable. So, we’ll have strong climate change policy. I think that’s not something that you can pragmatically say, ‘oh, we won’t bother with that’. Because it’s a challenge. And whether you’re Pope Francis or the British Conservatives or the New Zealand Government yesterday in the Parliament passed, I’m not sure of all of the detail, but they passed strong legislation where only one person in the whole Parliament voted against it. Margaret Thatcher was one of the first world leaders who spoke about climate change. This shouldn’t be a divisive issue. This should be something that the entire Parliament is working towards, as is happening in other parts of the world. I don’t think that my son and hopefully grandkids to come, not for very quickly, should be subject to policy decisions made by Craig Kelly. It’s as simple as that.
JOURNALIST: Joel Fitzgibbon said this morning that he recently reached out to the Prime Minister to see if there is an appetite to getting a bipartisan agreement on climate change and energy policy. Did you condone that? Do you agree with his view that there needs to be that bipartisanship now?
ALBANESE: I’ve said consistently that across the board we have conflict fatigue and wherever possible we should get agreement. I don’t think climate change should be a divisive issue. Have a look at Boris Johnson’s commitments in the United Kingdom that he’s campaigning for as Prime Minister. If you go to an international conference, you’d think you’re in a different world. I’ve been to two UN Framework Conventions on Climate Change. You have big business. Here you have BHP and big business, banks, a range of people saying there needs to be action taken on climate change. The response of the Government is to threaten those businesses and somehow to say they’ll make it illegal for someone to exercise their democratic right to actually say: ‘oh, I think it’s bad that this project be financed because it’s going to have a negative impact on the economy’. We sometimes, I don’t think in this country, see just how far of the mainstream the Abbott forces and the, you know, the mob who were not just climate change sceptics, but they are market sceptics as well, had dragged the political debate in this country. And I’m not going to be dragged with it.
JOURNALIST: A lot of people know you as Anthony Albanese, fighter of Tories. But one of the first things you said when you came to the leadership, and you’ve said it several times here today, is that people have conflict fatigue. You’re telling people that everyone needs to take a breath. Things need to calm down. Do you think the gap between these two perceptions of you as the Tory fighter and the person who’s declared conflict fatigue is one of the reasons why there’s been a progressive backlash post-election. And I’ll ask the same question in a slightly different way.
ALBANESE: Sounds like two so far.
JOURNALIST: No no, it’s one question. I promise, Albo.
ALBANESE: Make the second one from Guardian UK, or something.
JOURNALIST: It’s all Guardian Australia, mate. You’ve been in public life a long time. You went through the Rudd Gillard period which is still traumatic for a lot of participants, right through the difficulties of that. Right through two terms in Opposition. Do you have the energy and the drive to bring the fight over the next three years that’ll bring Labor to government?
ALBANESE: I’ll answer the second one first. You bet. Just watch. I’ve been Labor leader for just months. Five months. We have changed the National Secretary and changed the National Office. We have changed the Labor Party team and frontbench. We have repaired relations with business. I have reached out to the Trade Union movement and the Labor base. I have travelled to every capital city as well as regions around the country on a listening tour and genuinely listened. We have commissioned a review that has been brought down earlier than any other review in Labor’s history into an election loss. We have adopted all the recommendations of that review unanimously, yesterday. I have today outlined a four stage process in the leadup to the election campaign. We have sat down with every Shadow Minister and identified the five themes they want in their portfolios and how that fits with the themes going forward. I have begun a series of vision statements, the first of which was in Perth last week, the second of which will be in a couple of weeks in Brisbane and the third of which will be in Sydney on December 7. We have held the Government to account on things like aged care, on Newstart, on Angus Taylor, on the whole way that they’ve conducted themselves, on their lack of an economic plan. We have concentrated on the big issues that people are concerned about, particularly jobs and the economy, and the Government’s failings and the Government’s complacency and sleepwalking on all of that. You bet I have the energy and I’m looking forward, I’m enjoying the job, I’m looking forward to it. To the first question. The context of that statement, ‘I like fighting Tories’, is the reason why I’m here today and it’s perfectly consistent with everything I’ve said as Leader. Because that context was one in which Labor frontbenchers, one by one, went out and made public statements about who they were supporting in a battle between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. On 23 June 2010 I told my colleagues, and it’s out there publicly, that they would destroy not one but two Labor Prime Ministerships that night. That judgment proved to be correct. I was loyal to Kevin Rudd and I was loyal to Julia Gillard under circumstances whereby we had a minority Parliament with 70 votes out of 150 and didn’t lose a vote on the House of Representatives. This Government struggles with 76. That’s why Parliament stops at 8 o’clock now. Because they’re worried about people going out and not getting back for a vote. So my comment at that time, which was on the the Saturday before a ballot on the Monday, where Kevin Rudd was clearly going to lose, I outlined why I was voting for him, because there was not that opportunity to register in 2010 that what happened was wrong. I said at that time, the context was ‘Labor should not be fighting ourselves. We should be fighting the others.’ And that’s still my position. And that’s what I say today. I want to lead a unified party. A unified party. We’ve been through a difficult time. But frankly some of the self reflection stops today. That’s the point of the review. That’s the point of me coming here, taking all questions. Because it’s too important. It’s self-indulgent. And I saw some of that behaviour, being self-indulgent, and I called it out at the time. And of course we know how that movie ended. I’m very proud, and I’m still friends with Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. I was proud to serve in both their Governments. And you look at their legacy, and I won’t go through it all but you know, NDIS, taking action on climate change, saving Australia from the Global Financial Crisis, Infrastructure Australia, the education reforms. All the things that we did in that six year period, it’s a tragedy that it was cut short. I think one of the lessons of Labor at that period in government, compared with Hawke and Keating, is that you need long term government to entrench reforms. And that’s why I am acting as Opposition Leader the way that I would act if I was Government Leader. Because you have to change the culture and the behaviour within. I intend to do that. I intend to do that with vigour and energy. Try and keep up with me.
JOURNALIST: Obviously you’ve just said you’re adopting all the recommendations of the review. The three principle findings were in relation to the narrative, the cluttered policy agenda, and the unpopular leader. Can you pledge here today that none of those will remain going into the 2022 election? That is that you will obviously not have that cluttered policy agenda, you will seek to have a very clear narrative, and I guess the hard question is if you were an unpopular leader, notwithstanding the protection the rules now give you, that you would seek to step down?
ALBANESE: I will lead Labor to the next election. And I’m very confident if we do all of the things that are outlined in this review but also the things that we have been doing. I spoke about impatience before. If you look at the things that we have put in place; if you had’ve asked me in May, would you in November take all of that having been done, I would’ve said you bet. You bet. Compare it with 2004. Compare it with what happened after 2001. It’s a very different world. And it’s been a tough period, there’s no point gilding the lily about it; people are disappointed. They’re frustrated. So they expected, a whole lot of people, the solution was if you just do exactly the same thing, but just do it louder in capital letters with exclamation marks, it will all be okay. Well, that’s a hard message to stand there and say no it won’t. But that’s leadership. That’s taking responsibility. And I’m doing that.
]JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison framed this last election campaign on day one in the first answer he gave after visiting the Governor-General. He said: “if you vote for me, you’ll get me. But if you vote for Bill Shorten, you’ll get Bill Shorten.” A lot of people saw that as a threat. Yet remarkably, the report by these two eminent gentlemen here says there was no cogent plan to attack Scott Morrison. What’s your plan?
ALBANESE: My plan has begun already. Which is that he doesn’t have a plan. He is complacent and he’s been on a victory tour since May. I find it extraordinary that what we have in this country at the moment is economic growth that’s been downgraded. We have wage stagnation. We have consumer demand that’s collapsing. We have retail trade figures that are the lowest since the 1990’s. We have productivity that’s actually going back quarter after quarter. We have interest rates that have been reduced to below 1 per cent when the other mob used to say there was an emergency level if it was at 3 per cent. And we have a Prime Minister who ridicules the idea that there was a Global Financial Crisis. We have two million Australians being underemployed. We have aged care in absolute crisis. You have real problems with the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. You have 250,000 Australians who’ve got debts that they didn’t really have because of robo-debts being generated and now, the same thing is happening in childcare. You have no energy policy from this Government and energy prices have more than doubled. They’ve doubled the debt in spite of them talking about their financial responsibility. Across the board this Government has just concentrated on just having ‘Wedgislation’ as it’s called: ‘How do we get legislation in there that Labor will vote against’? They are acting each and every day like an Opposition in exile on the Government benches, and that’s not good enough. By the time we get to the next election people will be asking themselves: ‘this mob have been here for three terms; nine years; three Prime Ministers; three Deputy Prime Ministers; a number of Treasurers; Defence Ministers; six Social Services Ministers; what was the point of them’? What was the point of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Governments? And I think they’ll be looking for a clear alternative. An optimistic alternative. One that actually says how do we shape the future, how do we make a difference to improve people’s lives in a practical sense. How do we deal with the big challenges that are there? People are worried about what jobs their kids will have, how the economy is transforming. This mob, you’d think nothing is happening out there. From the mob that brought you a copper based broadband rather than fibre. And I think we will be in a very strong position. And I’m confident that with unity, with determination, with commitment, we will get there.
JOURNALIST: You’ve said that you’ve accepted all the recommendations from the review. One of those that you didn’t mention today was a call for legislation to put a cap on donations and also for truth in political advertising. Do you see that as something that would be possible to get done now from Opposition or is that something that would have to wait until you won government?
ALBANESE: Well, one of the things that we have to do in general, and it’s a good opportunity to say. The idea that Labor is in a position to carry legislation is not true. We don’t have a majority on the floor of the House of Representatives. And the Senate is the most conservative friendly Senate that we’ve seen since Workchoices was introduced. That’s a fact. Just a fact. So one of the difficulties that we’ve had is people’s expectation that somehow we can change a whole lot of things from Opposition. What we can do is hold the Government to account though, and what we can do is pursue legislation. Do I think the Government is likely to adopt that legislation, to restrict the Clive Palmers of this world from spending tens of millions of dollars in an election campaign? I suspect not. I suspect not. But we’ll certainly hold them to account for it and I think that Australians want to see a level playing field in our democracy. They don’t want to see the kind of abuse of power that occurred. They don’t want to see the lies that were told during the election campaign about Labor’s agenda that just weren’t true, that were pushed out there. A general issue is social media. So much now can be pushed out there and that’s one of the things that we need to have more of a public debate about. But certainly I support the recommendations, as does the Labor Party. They’re sensible recommendations and I think they’re important recommendations to maintain faith in our democracy, which we should never take for granted.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, in your speech you highlighted getting rid of John Setka but he hasn’t resigned and won’t resign his union positions. Do you believe that the unions should expel him from those positions, remove him? And more generally what do you think of the union’s general behaviour.
ALBANESE: I think that democratic organisations like trade unions shouldn’t be dictated to by me any more than our hosts here at the National Press Club should have my view over who the President of the National Press Club should be. They are democratic institutions. What I had control over, I acted on. I did it at a time whereby a whole lot of people said: ‘oh, that’s a bit difficult, he hasn’t gone in the first week, he didn’t just roll over’. Guess what? He was never going to; it was a difficult call to make, frankly. Think of the counterfactual, if I hadn’t have gotten rid of him, what would have happened to my status as Labor Leader here? So, I’ll control what I have, and I will say this about the union movement: the union movement plays an important role in civil society. Without the construction union being on worksites, there’ll be more deaths; there’ll be greater wage theft; there’ll be a whole range of people working illegally; Greater issues with the quality of products being put in – a whole range of issues. Trade unions play an important role, and I won’t, regardless of the actions of one individual, do anything other than support the right of trade unions to exist and the right of members to join trade unions, because unless they do, the power imbalance that is there between an individual worker and an individual employer is just too great. And we also need to remember that many of the things we take for granted today were fought for by the trade union movement and won by the trade union movement.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, Amber Austin-Wright from Network 10. You told Mark Kenny that you would lead Labor into the next election no matter what. But isn’t that a direct violation of the review given and found that unpopular leaders cost votes?
JOURNALIST: From the Adelaide Advertiser. Mr Albanese, thank you for your speech. You’ve been in Adelaide once since the election, and you’ve vowed to go to Western Australia every six weeks. There is concerns that SA is becoming a flyover-state, because there’s not that many marginal seats there. My question is, when are you coming to Adelaide? And how important is the State to you politically?
ALBANESE: I love South Australia and Penny Wong makes sure that I’m a regular visitor. And it has been a busy time, but I will go to Adelaide again before the end of the year. I also have a trip planned to Whyalla, because I think what’s happening in Whyalla is a great example of exciting new job creation; of the role that renewables can play in manufacturing. And so I did have a couple of (inaudible) trip to Adelaide. I planned to go to the South Australian Labor Conference, but the timetable didn’t quite work. I don’t think anyone can argue I haven’t been everywhere, man – as the Australian song goes. And I have been a regular visitor to South Australia for a long period of time, and dare I say to the National Press Club: I have a fantastic appearance Wednesday mornings on FIVEaa, on ‘One Tribe’ program. So, I talk to South Australians regularly.
JOURNALIST: Sarah Ison from the West Australian. Thank you again for your speech. You said that the people who resented being referred to as the ‘top end of town’ have a point. Can we expect that name to be officially slashed from the vocabulary with everything that it implies?
ALBANESE: I guess if that people did find it offensive – a whole lot of people who are certainly not anyone (inaudible) as that. And I want language that is more unifying wherever possible. That isn’t to say that I’m not concerned about inequality. That isn’t to say I’m not concerned about the fact that increasingly, if you look at PAYE tax take from working people – increasingly is taking more of a share than capital. And that is something, you know, all of those things need to be looked at. But I think in terms of to generalise it clearly created an impression that was negative.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, Trudi McIntosh from Sky News. The review specifically points to a moment in the campaign where Bill Shorten promised that worker in Gladstone, who was on $250,000, that he would look at lowering that tax rate. You speak a lot about aspiration today. What are you going to do in terms of borrowing that top marginal tax rate?
ALBANESE: I’m not going to make policy announcements at the National Press Club. That’s what I’m not going to do. We will have considered policies that go out. We’ve said that the second stage of the tax cut should be brought forward. I think we were right when we said that, we are even more right today.
JOURNALIST: Anthony Galloway from the Herald Sun. One issue the review raised was ethnic communities going away from Labor, particularly Chinese Australians in Reid and Chisholm. I was wondering if you can dissect why that was and what do you do about it?
ALBANESE: I think one of the things we need to do is to talk with people from those communities and engage with them. My seat is next to Reid and the area, in which there is a large Chinese Australian population around Ashfield, is shared. I think one of the things that I found when I have already engaged in discussions with the communities is that quite often they will feel vulnerable. There is a need to acknowledge the contribution that migration has made to this country. There’s also a need to emphasise, I think, the work that Labor historically has done. The Racial Discrimination Act is a great legacy. This mob tried to get rid of it, you might recall, during this term. You know, if you grew up with a name like Albanese in the 60s, you know what it’s like to be called a wog. It exists. And so, you know, I know what that’s like and I know how hurtful it can be, because you don’t know where it’s coming from. So, intend to engage very much with those communities. In my own seat I have a great deal of experience; I have the whole of the United Nations, and I said recently at the Migration and Settlement dinner that was held at the Great Hall, that one of the great things about Australian multiculturalism is that it is more important today than ever before in my view. Because at a time when there is conflict around the world based on race or religion, sometimes sex and religion; our great project of bringing everyone together, having a harmonious society, being enriched by its diversity can be a microcosm for the world. A place where Turkish Cypriots can live next door to Greek Cypriots, as they do in my electorate. A place where Jews and people of Islamic faith can live next door to each other, as they do in my electorate. You know, this country is the greatest country on earth. We can be even better, but we need to keep working each and every day. And part of that is the great multicultural project.
JOURNALIST: I’ll be quick, Brett Mason from SBS. Mr Albanese a lot of the election campaign – in fact almost the entire election campaign – focused on domestic policy. There are lots of Australians who are concerned about Australia’s role on the international stage. You’ve said today that Mr Morrison’s concept of negative globalism is weird and perhaps a little sinister. How would your foreign policy agenda differ to Prime Minister Morrison’s?
ALBANESE: What I won’t do is move away from what has been one of Australia’s strengths. We’re a middle ranking power; we punch way above our weight in international forums quite often. Because of where we’re located, our history. I’ve seen at the G20, the first G20 meeting, you had China and the US, you had Kevin Rudd going between the two and playing an absolutely critical role, not just for Australia but for the globe. The idea that you can do – and I am not sure that it’s a whistle, it’s more of a loud hailer – speak about negative globalism and international institutions without naming them is, I think, incredibly negative and irresponsible. And in our region in particular, we need to engage in our region. Yes, some of the difficult issues that we’ve had, that I’ve dealt with, that have led to some issues; not everyone in my party has sent me roses for supporting an agreement, an economic partnership with Indonesia. Part of that is about regional engagement, being responsible, not just saying no. If you are Indonesia and there were people opposing that agreement and you thought to yourself: ‘hang on, so Australians think it’s okay to go to China, Korea, Japan that all have free trade agreements, Singapore. But what’s different about me’? You have to be responsible, and you have to acknowledge that in today’s globalised world – and that’s why one of my five themes will be Australia’s role in a globalised world. And that will require, quite frankly, bringing the Party with us sometimes and being prepared to engage in that debate, as I was, sit down and argue the case. But it’s something that I think is very important. We can’t be isolationist and we can’t fall into the sort of populist statements that right-wing leaders have made in some other places as a matter of convenience. So, that’s the difference. You won’t see that sort of populist opportunism from me because these issues are too important.
JOURNALIST: Paul Bongiorno from the Saturday Paper, Mr Albanese. It’s clear from the review that in proposing the dividend imputation loophole helped fuel the scare campaign that upset many older Australians. I’m happy to say not this older Australian, because I happen to agree with Labor that if you haven’t paid the tax, you don’t deserve the tax rebate. However, is it the problem now for Labor going forward that if you were tempted to follow, say, John Howard and say: ‘never ever’ in Opposition, no one will believe you anyway. And if you leave it on the table and take it to the next election, you’re only giving your opponents a chance again to run the same scare?
ALBANESE: We will make an announcement at an appropriate time. But can I say this: during the election campaign at Rozelle one day, I had a woman come up to me and she said: ‘I’m very worried about this franking stuff’. I said: ‘Oh, yes, what are your circumstances’? She said: ‘well, I’m a pensioner I can’t afford to pay any more’. I said: ‘well, pensioners are exempt from the policy, how many shares do you have?’ She said: ‘Oh, I’ve never had a share, love’. That was the problem. When you have got to explain dividend imputation and franking credits from Opposition; it was a tough ask. And it was a tough ask, it’s identified, I’ve spoken of it before; we will make announcements at appropriate times.
JOURNALIST: Amanda Copp from National Radio News Report we broadcast from two community radio stations around the country. You’ve said that people have conflict fatigue and Labor wants to put forward a positive agenda. But I don’t think anyone can deny that negative campaigns are effective when it comes to election campaigns. Your review says that Labor failed to sufficiently campaign on reasons to vote against the Coalition. How do you think that you’ll balance the effectiveness of negative campaigns with your aim for a positive agenda?
ALBANESE: Well, the Government’s giving us a lot to work with in terms of negative campaigns. So, in terms of the other statements that are made about truth in advertising, we could almost just run out Scott Morrison’s speeches together about negative globalism; on the one hand. We could run out Social Services Minister who says that pensions, basically it’s sort of a luxury. We could run out Angus Taylor on any range of issues. I think that will get some of the job done. But we can’t rely upon people just voting against the Government, and I don’t intend to. I intend to hold the Government to account. I think one of the problems this Government has, is that – Tony Abbott I used to say: He turned the Coalition of yesterday into the ‘NOalition of today.’ And I think he did that, but that’s one of the problems this Government still has. They spent that whole time saying who they were against: Julia Gillard. What they were against: Labor. And they’re still doing it; do a count. Here’s a challenge for the media back: do a count of how many times in the first 30 seconds in response to either Dorothy Dixers or from us, the word ‘Labor’ is mentioned. They are supposed to be the Government. I want to govern to do things, not to oppose them. And I make no apologies for that.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.