Subjects: Infrastructure, public transport, Labor Party conference, by-elections, Barnaby Joyce, Pauline Hanson.
RICHARD PERNO: Anthony Albanese, Member for Grayndler and the spokesperson on everything else. G’day Anthony.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day Richard, good to be with you.
PERNO: And you. You kicked off the Financial Review conference at the Sofitel in Sydney today. And of course, being the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure that was your main thrust. You know, I don’t know if this is maybe naive Anthony, I’ve always thought infrastructure is almost a bipartisan thing.
ALBANESE: Look, it should be and that’s why we created Infrastructure Australia, to try and get the politics out of the choice of infrastructure projects. But the truth is that there is also always going to be some differences. But I’d like to see them minimised. Today though I was pointing out that some of the general direction the government is going in is really problematic. The idea that you can fund public transport projects off-budget, that is rather than giving grant money to build a project that costs money to the Budget, that it somehow is just a loan or can be done effectively for free because the money will be paid back, is just not realistic. And that will lead to projects essentially having the expectation that they’re going to be built, like the Airport Rail Line to Melbourne, but not actually eventuating.
PERNO: Yeah, I’ve often wondered why in major cities, Anthony Albanese, public transport isn’t free. I mean why isn’t it just treated as a shuttle service and not really a luxury?
ALBANESE: Well, it certainly makes a contribution to the economy. That’s the thing. But the return isn’t direct to the owner of the infrastructure. The state governments or the private sector doesn’t make money in itself from a public transport project.
ALBANESE: It’s the fact that the fare box usually contributes. It’s around about 25 cents for every dollar of maintenance and operating costs, let alone the upfront capital that it costs to build the rail line or the light rail line.
ALBANESE: That’s just a fact. But it makes a big difference to the economy in a city. If you look at it all the world’s greatest cities they have very effective public transport networks. There in Canberra I’m convinced the light rail line will make a major difference, not just for people who live in Canberra, but for visitors to Canberra as well. One of the things about public transport, you know from your own experience when you visit a city overseas, you catch public transport.
PERNO: You do, you do. The number 8 bus in Hawaii springs to mind. Anthony, you’ve used that the big orange one that takes you anywhere and drops you off. But it’s a shuttle service and one comes and one goes. You hope that’s what’ll happen with the light rail here in Canberra, Anthony Albanese. But it’s causing a lot of heartache for those who have businesses or live along the rail at the moment. There are businesses closing down and they’re closing down because no one’s going to them because it’s too bloody noisy mate.
ALBANESE: Yeah, look it’s always difficult when you’re building infrastructure. The Gold Coast light rail line was problematic while it was under construction. Now everyone regards it as just such a major benefit for the Gold Coast. It’s one of the things that made the Commonwealth Games work so effectively. Without it, it would have been a real problem.
PERNO: Yeah, but they’ve had problems in Sydney, haven’t they? I mean there’s been businesses shut down on that route rail line.
ALBANESE: Oh, Sydney is taking a very long period of time. And there are other issues with the Sydney light rail project because it won’t actually match up to the existing small amount of light rail that’s there. So you won’t even be able to go from the Inner West to the footy for example because you’ll have to change at Central because they’re two different systems, which is really a question of competence of the State Government and the way that they’ve done the contracting for that project.
PERNO: Yeah it’s been a real dog’s breakfast. Anthony Albanese on Canberra Live. Thirteen past 4. You’ve finally succumbed. You’ve decided to shift your conference because you spat the dummy because of the July 28 by-election. Cry me a river.
ALBANESE: Well we had to shift it …
PERNO: What was all the kerfuffle about? Is it, oh dear, we know, its politics. And I’m quite surprised, Anthony, that your party said: “Oh Malcolm Turnbull is doing this because its politics’’. Hello, you’re all politicians. What did you expect?
ALBANESE: I did expect that when you have a vacancy, like we had in New England or in Bennelong, that you’d call a by-election and you get that position filled as soon as possible because people do have a right to be represented. This is a very long way away. We’re talking now, it’s the fourth of June, and these seats have been vacant for some time and they won’t be filled until the 28th of July. It is possible that the by-elections could have been held on the 16th of June, so six weeks earlier than they are being held. And that is the objection, and the fact that they happened to pick a date that was the same as the ALP National Conference, it means as Santa’s getting ready to fly around we’ll be in Adelaide at the ALP National Conference from December 16-18.
PERNO: You’ll just have to change your cuisine and eat some South Australian food and drink some South Australian wine.
ALBANESE: There’s never anything wrong with South Australian food and wine.
PERNO: I’m sure there isn’t. Anthony, how confident or not are you in these by-elections?
ALBANESE: Look I’m confident. We’ve got very good candidates and we’ve got a good story to tell and we’ve got a Government that’s pretty dysfunctional at the moment that is at war with itself. Today I noticed Tony Abbott down there campaigning in Braddon. I’m not sure if he is campaigning for Malcolm Turnbull or not.
PERNO: No, he is eating onions Anthony. He is eating onions.
ALBANESE: That did happen in Tasmania actually.
PERNO: I know.
ALBANESE: Anything is possible from what comes out of that. I think we’ve got a good story to tell about the policies that we have there in education, health and infrastructure. We have a Government that I think is not just eating onions, it is eating itself in the way that they seem to be campaigning and fighting amongst themselves. We have good local members- Justine Keay and Susan Lamb and Josh Wilson are all re-contesting. They’ve been good local members in their first term and we’ve got a new outstanding candidate in Patrick Gorman in Perth.
PERNO: Yes Perth, took over from that. Hey what about Mayo?
ALBANESE: Well Mayo, it’s unlikely the truth is that we’ll win, but we’re doing the right thing putting forward a candidate.
PERNO: Who? Who will that be?
ALBANESE: I think we’re in the process of selecting a candidate.
PERNO: Well come on. You knew. Just imagine if they put the by-elections where you think they should have had it in the middle of June. You would have stuffed up there too, wouldn’t you?
ALBANESE: No, we would have had one sooner.
PERNO: Would you?
ALBANESE: We will certainly be putting forward a candidate there, unlike the Liberal Party who don’t have a candidate in Perth or Fremantle. In Perth last time they got 42 per cent of the vote. Labor in Mayo last time got in the teens.
PERNO: All right Anthony, I was reluctant to ask you, two final points, Albo. One, did you watch the soap opera last night?
ALBANESE: I did, for better or worse, I did watch it. I didn’t think there was much new in it. I couldn’t care less about the personal issues, they’re a matter for Barnaby and the people directly impacted. But I did think that out of it the fact that Barnaby Joyce said that he knew that his career as Deputy Prime Minister was finished…
PERNO: That he’d lose his job.
ALBANESE: But he still ran in the by-election in New England.
PERNO: But he won.
ALBANESE: He did win, but he kept the fact that he thought his career as Deputy Prime Minister was over from the voters in New England at that time.
PERNO: Do you reckon he will come back after this vacation?
ALBANESE: He will come back I am sure to Parliament, But my view is that Barnaby probably needs to recognise the reality which is he is not coming back into the senior role that he has had in the past and probably needs to, you know, enjoy some time with his new family and move on. But I mean, that is really a matter for him.
PERNO: Will your side of the Green House Anthony Albanese hold back, or will you chuck stuff at him when he stands to his feet? Or will you ask the Prime Minister about his future? Will you do all that?
ALBANESE: Well his personal issues are a matter for him and we made sure earlier on in the year we didn’t raise those issues. We didn’t seek to gain political advantage from it and that is as it should be. There are other parties to these issues which need to be borne in mind and I think it is very unfortunate that they chose to do that interview frankly, particularly a paid interview. I don’t think that parliamentarians should do paid interviews. I am certainly not being paid for talking to you on a regular basis.
PERNO: I can’t afford it Albo. I’ve only got $4.
ALBANESE: Nor would I want to. I mean it is part of our job is to communicate …
PERNO: That’s right
ALBANESE: … with the public through the media.
PERNO: I’m just feeling that he will come back and maybe think about his future. He’s not the, if you like, the rogue boy and we supported him. That has all changed in our eyes. Maybe he will throw in the towel. Speaking about those who are out and about, what do you make of Pauline Hanson and One Nation?
ALBANESE: Well they have fallen apart again. Pauline Hanson seems to have an incapacity to manage people in her party and the giveaway is any political party that is named after an individual is a form of demagoguery really and a cult-like status and it’s not a democratic party. Pauline Hanson has a structure to that party which ensures that she is in charge for life.
PERNO: Yeah, but you don’t give her any credit at all? I mean you have never started a party have you Anthony Albanese? You’ve never come out and said I’m going to form a party, we are going to call it the Albo Party. So you’ve got to give her some credit that she has stood up for herself, formed a party, was hugely successful. Things fall apart in a family. You don’t give her any credit for that at all? When are you going to start your bloody party?
ALBANESE: I travelled to India last year with Pauline and we got on quite well on a personal basis.
ALBANESE: But the truth is that her party when it gained a number of seats in Queensland fell apart. This time round she got four people elected. That is to her credit. It has been cut in half to two now and you know there is something structurally wrong with that as opposed to just being, I guess, an independent. The attempt to go to the independents in general is, I think is a lesson from the current Senate. There are so many people who have changed parties from One Nation, from Nick Xenophon’s Team, to Family First, Jacqui Lambie’s Party Number 2 was replaced. It was an Independent. He’s now a National Party member in Tasmania. I really think that if you change your label you are obligated to go back before the people and be elected as such.
PERNO: Start again. All right, I will mention two more words Clive Palmer. We don’t want to go there. That’s another one.
ALBANESE: Exactly and that didn’t end well either.
PERNO: No it certainly didn’t. So maybe the way to go is not to form your own party, not stick your neck out, not try and do something independently but go with the flow. Anthony Albanese, Member for Grayndler and Shadow Minister for everything else in the world, we will catch up in a couple of weeks. Look forward to seeing what is going to happen. Thank you Anthony.
ALBANESE: Great to talk to you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.