Subjects: Federal Election; Craig Kelly; student protest; Fairgrounds Music Festival; Tom Uren Memorial Lecture
RICHARD PERNO: Do you know who Tony Albanese is? Tony Albanese. Have you ever been called Tony?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: No one calls me Tony. My mother used to – when I was a little kid, I still remember my late mum, if anyone called me Tony she’d say: “If I wanted to call him that I would have called him Tony, it’s Anthony”.
PERNO: It’s Anthony. I can imagine you as a little kid, shorts way down to your knees, Bermuda socks up to your knees, they were grey – weren’t they? A little bit of dribbling because you couldn’t control yourself, a nice little shirt on.
ALBANESE: Oh come on, now you’re being mean.
PERNO: A nice little tie. What were you like as a kid, a rat bag or a nice bloke?
ALBANESE: I was a little bit naughty, you won’t be surprised.
PERNO: I won’t be surprised.
ALBANESE: I went okay.
PERNO: It’s all clear. Green lights for Craig Kelly and Co. Anthony Albanese, Member for Grayndler the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Tourism. You must be licking your lips just sitting back and watching the Libs implode.
ALBANESE: It is pretty amazing that you’ve had this intervention to save Craig Kelly who frankly has spent his entire time in Parliament really running down his own side and creating internal havoc for them. And someone like Jane Prentice who I think should be a Minister in the Coalition Government, that was knocked off by a bloke who used to work for her. She is on the front bench as a Parliamentary Secretary, no one lifted a finger. Ann Sudmalis sits in a very marginal seat, in Gilmore, not too far from us here in Canberra. No one lifted a finger. They don’t even have a candidate. She’s been knocked off by nobody and sent to New York, to the United Nations General Assembly, where she can’t cause any difficulty. But Craig Kelly gets saved. It’s beyond belief, really. Of course you’ve had Malcolm Turnbull’s extraordinary intervention yesterday and this morning, about that issue and about when the election should be held, next year.
PERNO: Well, there was chatter and then it became confirmed he was on the ABC this morning saying: “Yeah I got to admit, Scott Morrison and I decided on March 2”. They should get to an election as soon as the Christmas break is over. We heard it loud and clear, Anthony.
ALBANESE: Well, I think March 2, would be a good idea not the least of which it would put the Government out of its misery and at least stop them fighting each other.
PERNO: Put the sick dog down, do you reckon?
ALBANESE: Secondly, it’s my birthday. It would mean that I got lots of birthday wishes on that day, as I went around the polling booths and it would give me an extra pitch to voters, to vote for me, given it was my birthday. You would have to be pretty mean to vote against someone on their birthday, I reckon.
PERNO: I know, mate.
ALBANESE: I’m in favour of the 2nd of March.
PERNO: Okay, 2nd of March for Anthony Albanese’s birthday. But quite frankly, Anthony Albanese, it seems that major parties are on the nose, given how many independents we have been voting for in the last couple of elections. Would you agree?
ALBANESE: Well certainly I agree that the major parties need to do much better. But what we’ve been seeing in recent times, is essentially Liberal seats, what should be Liberal seats. Wentworth which has, of course, the most expensive real estate in Australia, along Point Piper and Vaucluse and suburbs like that. You’ve got Mayo, which was held solidly by the Liberal Party forever and you’ve had the electorate of Indi based around Wodonga and Shepparton – all three are now held by independent progressive centrist women. It says something about the Liberal Party – it’s a problem that they had I think in Victoria. If you say to people: ‘Well Malcolm Turnbull wasn’t a real Liberal and anyone with those sort of views anyone who thinks we should act on climate change isn’t a real Liberal,’. then what you’re saying isn’t just to the people you’re fighting with in the party room. The problem is saying to people who voted Liberal their whole life that you’re not one of us.
PERNO: Anthony, is Cathy McGowan not going to run?
ALBANESE: I think she’s running.
PERNO: We got wind of it last week that maybe there was a bit of a doubt there, somewhere.
ALBANESE: She looks pretty keen around the corridor. That’s new to me. She was talking to me just a little bit earlier about High Speed Rail and the need to progress it. She’s keen on it going through her electorate between Canberra and Melbourne.
PERNO: High Speed Rail. I’m not going to get you on that, because that’ll get you off the tracks. Did you see that? The kids were revolting last week and going on strike. What did you think about that?
ALBANESE: I think that if young people have a concern about the state of the world that – after all they’re going to be around for longer than you and I – then I think that is a good thing.
PERNO: Didn’t we all protest when we were at school against the – Vietnam – you know, there was all of that protest going. But did you hear the Prime Minister? He was asked about that too, Anthony Albanese, what did you think about that? He said: ‘I reckon the kid should be in school learning not protesting’. He’s not connecting, is he? He’s out of touch.
ALBANESE: Well what school is about? It’s about learning from textbooks, but it’s also about learning about life. And one of my first demonstrations was in 1975. So I would have been, just turned 12 years old, when the Whitlam Government was replaced. So it happened that with the coup of November 11, it just so happened that I went to St. Mary’s Cathedral, which is the back of the cathedral in the city, and the big demo was at the Domain. And certainly myself and a whole lot of classmates went across to that very historic event. And when we got back to school no one got into trouble. It was seen as – you know we didn’t have permission – but we saw that as being more important. And the few hours I missed out on school there, I learnt a lot more than I would have sitting at a desk.
PERNO: I just think that Scott Morrison was saying the kids should be in school learning and not outside protesting. I know where you were on Saturday. I know where you were Anthony Albanese.
PERNO: Anthony Albanese was seen in Berry. Attending the Fairgrounds Music Festival, appearing in conversation with the British musician this fellow, author and political activist Billy Bragg. That’s where you were, wasn’t it?
ALBANESE: It was great fun. It was a really interesting discussion. The organisers were a bit shocked by the many hundreds of people who tried to turn up that couldn’t fit in because people were really engaged. And we had a discussion for an hour – talked about everything from his music, to Brexit and what was happening with the European Union, what was happening in the state of the world and it was a good discussion. I’ve known Billy, showing my age here, I met him when I was President of Young Labor. I organised for him to come and do a talk on his first tour of Australia That was back in 1987. So when I thought about that, it was a bit of a shock that we’ve known each other for 31 years. But it was something a bit different. Many of these musical festivals are fantastic for employment and the regional economies, of course. Canberra has a fantastic Folk Festival. And they create jobs and economic activity and it was good that it was just the day after Tony Burke released our contemporary music policy in Sydney. So people were interested in that, as I went around the festival as well. And most of these festivals have a talk component and this was a real family event, the Fairgrounds Festival. They had over one thousand kids registered aged under 12, and it was a good thing to see families out there enjoying the weekend.
PERNO: Anthony Albanese, Berry is a good example of a little town that thought it was going to die because of the highway not going through it. They reinvented themselves and it’s a true big artisan town now, it’s a great little town.
ALBANESE: Oh it is a fantastic town and a friend of mine Rick Gainford owns one of the Bed and Breakfasts there, and it’s certainly going gangbusters. It was certainly very full on the weekend.
PERNO: Full in more ways than one. And yesterday you also hosted the annual Tom Uren Lecture?
ALBANESE: That was very good. I did that in my electorate, drove back to Sydney Saturday night and I hosted Gareth Evans, of course, the Chancellor of your great Australian National University, here in Canberra. And Gareth talked about Australia punching at our weight in international affairs. He was introduced by Senator Penny Wong – so we had the former Foreign Minister and the person I hope is the next Foreign Minister, in Penny. We had over 500 people there, and it shows that people are interested in the state of the world and that they are prepared to come along on what was a very warm Sunday afternoon to hear Gareth.
PERNO: Cheryl Kernot wasn’t in the audience, was she?
ALBANESE: I think I’ll let that one go through the keeper. Gareth Evans has enormous respect. And he is one of – not just Australia’s great statespeople, but internationally he is very highly regarded for the work that he did with Cambodia, the work that he did on nuclear disarmament, the work that he did in lifting Australia’s profile in the region.
PERNO: All right. Seriously, Anthony Albanese, would you take on a Federal election, March 2, on your birthday? Is the Labor Party ready?
ALBANESE: We’re ready. We’re more than ready. We’ve got an enormous amount of policy out. I think more than any Opposition has in – certainly in living memory and we’re ready to contest. And I think it’s pretty clear that the Government isn’t able to govern – just normal functions of government aren’t happening at the moment. And the fact that they themselves have essentially moved Parliament to part-time – when we get up this Thursday, if the election is held in May, it will mean that there are just ten sitting days in eight months. That’s just us not doing our job, frankly. And it’s bad for the Canberra economy as well.
PERNO: That’s it, too. All the pubs and the cafes go dry. Anthony Albanese Member for Grayndler, the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Tourism – this thing called a fast train, that one day I might talk to you about. Enjoy the rest of your week, and we’ll catch up before Christmas. Thank you, Anthony.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Richard.