Subjects: Federal election, Unions NSW court decision, pill testing.
CHRIS SMITH: Anthony Albanese, welcome to the program.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day Chris.
SMITH: Remember that day? ‘In your guts you know he’s nuts’?
ALBANESE: I do indeed. It’s a quote from the US Presidential Election campaign between Goldwater and – gee I’m trying to think of the other guy – and what happened was that there was a very right-wing candidate who was appealing at the time of course, there were big racial problems in the US and he was appealing to some of the lower elements in terms of pressing some buttons and his slogan was: ‘In your heart you know he’s right’. So the response that the Democrats came up with was: ‘In your guts you know he’s nuts’.
SMITH: A classic. One of your classics. Now just for my listeners in 2019 we’ve got a raft of fresh faces on the show this year – we like to freshen things up – you’re one of them.
ALBANESE: I’m glad you classify me as a fresh face, Chris.
SMITH: Yeah. Well you’re a fellow South Sydney supporter so you’re halfway there.
ALBANESE: South Sydney tragics mate. We are and it’s going to be a great year this year.
SMITH: Let’s hope. Fingers crossed. It could be a great year for Labor. All the polls are saying you are a lay down misere to win the Federal election. Is it unlosable?
ALBANESE: It’s never taken for granted. We were ahead in 1998, in 2001, in 2004 and when Parliament went back after those elections I was still sitting on the Opposition benches. We have put out more policy I think than any Opposition in living memory. We’ve been out there campaigning hard on our positive alternative vision, as well as holding the Government to account. But I’ve got to say at the moment one of our greatest assets is the Government because they have stopped governing. They just talk about themselves and anytime they’re asked about one of their policies what they say is: ‘Well what Labor will do…’. They’re simply not functioning as a Government at the moment.
SMITH: Well I’m surprised that seven members of the Coalition aren’t fronting at the next election. But when we did a count this morning it came to seven for the Coalition, but you’re also losing eight. That’s sort of gone into ether a lot. You’re losing eight, why’s that?
ALBANESE: Well I don’t know who the eight are. But certainly Jenny Macklin is retiring and Wayne Swan is retiring as well. Wayne was elected in 1990 and Jenny Macklin was elected with me in 1996. I’ll miss her dearly. But they’ve both been Deputy Leaders of the Party. Wayne of course was Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer for a long time and it’s not surprising that he is a moving on and it’s not surprising that Jenny is also. They’ve made an outstanding contribution.
SMITH: Is Bill Shorten up to the job of Prime Minister?
ALBANESE: Absolutely he is and he’s shown I think as Leader of the Opposition, a tenacity, a preparedness to lead on policy issues. He’s shown a capacity to unite the show. We’re a very strong team and I think that the comparisons are being made with the Hawke Ministry in 1983. You have people who’ve served in senior positions in government. I’ve been a Deputy Prime Minister and a Government Leader of the House of Reps for six years. I’ve dealt with infrastructure and transport and over the last five years I’ve shadowed no less than 13 different Ministers. I mean it’s a revolving door and what I get from the aviation sector, the maritime sector, people involved in logistics is they want someone in charge who actually knows what they’re doing and hasn’t got a pile of paper on their desk because they’re incapable of making a decision and that’s where –
SMITH: It’s a big call though to equate Bill with Bob Hawke.
ALBANESE: I equated our team, which is I think a very strong team, and Bill Shorten has some similarities with Bob Hawke. They’re both former trade union leaders and they’re both I think highly regarded within the entire labour movement.
SMITH: Now you had a big victory today. The Unions NSW had a big win in the High Court with the overturning of laws imposing caps on pre-election advertising spending by unions and other third party campaigners. Can I ask this question though and I’ll ask it through an email I received only just before I came on air from Orma at Carlingford: ‘I’m so glad you brought up the donations scandal. I’ve always wondered why the unions are allowed to donate unlimited funds to the Labor Party while companies and others are limited to what they can donate’. Fair question.
ALBANESE: Well I’ll tell you what – there’s a few businesses out there donate a hell a lot more money to the Liberal Party than certainly Labor gets. Every election campaign that I can remember the Coalition have outspent Labor – every election state and federal – and I expect this one will be no different.
SMITH: Okay, one quick one before we let you go. I know this is a predominately state issue but I’m interested, you’ve got kids – the debate around recreational drug use and pill testing. It’s not going away. This call for pill testing, it seems to be gathering a little bit of pace. Gladys Berejiklian is standing firm as I know Bill Shorten is. What’s your stance on pill testing?
ALBANESE: Well look it is a state issue. The NSW Labor Party under Michael Daley have said that they will convene a summit of experts. And I think that is an appropriate thing to do, to listen to the health experts, to actually do what they recommend.
SMITH: So you’re giving pill testing a chance?
ALBANESE: I’m saying let’s have a discussion. NSW Labor have made a decision to have a discussion after the election, they’re saying that upfront. We know that one kid dying is one too many and we know that in recent weeks essentially there’s been a rate of around about one a week it would appear that there is a tragedy. That is a tragedy for that young person, for their family and we know that just saying no isn’t working.
SMITH: Okay what about this loony suggestion from Dr Alex Wodak today that MDMA should be regulated and sold at pharmacies?
ALBANESE: Well I just think that’s not a serious suggestion at all and what we need to do though is to sit down and I’m not preempting that any decision that a summit might make. I of course won’t be a participant – it’s a state issue. But I do think that a preparedness to discuss these issues in a mature way and come up with outcomes that are in the interest of saving lives is the right way to go.
SMITH: I look forward to having a chat with you from time to time. Thank you so much for yours this afternoon.
ALBANESE: Thanks Chris, I appreciate the opportunity.
SMITH: No problem.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.