SUBJECTS: Listening tour; John Setka; State of Origin.
CHRIS SMITH: Albo, good afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: G’day Chris. Greetings from a very sunny Darwin.
SMITH: So you’re still on this listening tour. As my late dad used to say to me, ‘Chris are you listening or just hearing?’
ALBANESE: Well exactly. You have to have two ears and one mouth for a reason. It’s always good, I think, after a defeat – we weren’t successful on May 18 – it’s important to get out and about to talk with people. People are still engaged politically, as well, I think, post-election, more so than in the past-
ALBANESE: -I believe, because, well, I think there was an assumption that Labor was going to win and people are interested themselves in why that didn’t occur, and so they are engaged. I have done a range of meetings, here for example, Adelaide, but I’ve also done Tasmania, Perth, Mackay, Brisbane. The other thing that I’ve done is to go to where people are. So, whether that was the Westfield at Burwood and just walk around there with our candidate Sam Crosby who was unsuccessful at the election and Jason Clare. I went on Sunday, as soon as I arrived here, I went out to the Darwin Supercars. I think if you go where people are who aren’t expecting to see you you’re getting a broad cross section. In Perth, I caught the train from the city down to Mandurah with Madeleine King, who is now our Shadow Trade Minister, and Josh Wilson and talked to people on the train and they wanted to engage. So, it’s been, I think, a very positive exercise.
SMITH: And what’s the etiquette now, in terms of engagement. What is the etiquette with the Opposition Leader and the Prime Minister? Do you get to sit down, and will you sit down with Scott Morrison prior to Parliament sitting in the first week of July to talk about you know, stuff?
ALBANESE: Look, we have a reasonable relationship. I’ve known Scott for a long time. Of course, we are both Sydney members and we had a chat briefly at Bob Hawke’s amazing send off last week at the Opera House, which was an extraordinary tribute to a great Australian.
SMITH: Sure was.
ALBANESE: And it was a very constructive discussion. I’m sure that we will have a chat prior to Parliament sitting on an informal basis, and certainly I’m always available to engage in a positive way. One of the things I’ve said is that I’m the Labor Leader, not the Opposition Leader. I don’t want to oppose for its own sake.
SMITH: That’s good to hear.
ALBANESE : People are looking for solutions rather than arguments.
SMITH: That’s right.
ALBANESE: One of the things that’s come through to me from people: they really want us to get agreement wherever it’s possible. Our job’s to hold-
SMITH: -Okay. That’s not possible with John Setka-
ALBANESE: -to account, of course.
Well, I think that is highly unlikely with Mr Setka, but-
SMITH: -Are you worried about losing $10 million in donations from the CFMMEU?
ALBANESE: Well, what I’m worried about is doing the right thing, Chris. It’s as simple as that. And I’m worried about upholding my values, and my values and the values of the Labor Party and the labour movement are bigger than any individual in the movement.
SMITH: So you’re ignoring those threats?
ALBANESE: I don’t respond to threats, Chris, it’s as simple as that, and I think the fact that threats are made perhaps reinforces the fact that there’s a problem. If people think that that’s the way to engage then I think it says more about the people making the threats than those receiving them.
SMITH: Bob Hawke said that he wouldn’t tolerate the actions of the CFMMEU, the old CFMEU, and would throw them out. You could flex your muscles a step further and throw them out. Would you like to do that?
ALBANESE: Look, the construction union plays a really important role in workplaces, and part of my concern is that you hear from the Government about Mr Setka and various allegations of misdemeanours. What you don’t hear is the other side of the equation; is employers not paying people properly; is occupational health and safety issues in a very dangerous industry; is the use of foreign labour in an inappropriate way, rather than employing Australians to do important jobs. You don’t hear about those issues. You don’t hear about these issues in Sydney at the moment, of course, at Mascot with buildings that aren’t up to appropriate standards. That’s an issue that we’ve been raising for some period of time through Kim Carr in particular in the last Parliament, and through a Senate inquiry into building codes. We’ve seen issues out of Homebush, of course, and my concern with the Government’s approach to all this is that it’s essentially an anti-union approach. Now, I think that the trade union movement plays an important role in our society and I’m certainly not anti-union. What I will do, though, is that where people are doing the wrong thing, call it out. And I’ve called this out-
SMITH: -He’s not budging. ‘You won’t get me, I’m part of the union.’ I can hear The Strawbs singing the song right now.
ALBANESE: Well look, to be clear it’s up to the union itself what happens to Mr Setka with regard to internal matters in the union. I’ve made it very clear I’m not interfering in that. Sally McManus has had something to say about Mr Setka’s standing in the union movement, and-
SMITH: -But you want him dumped from the Labor Party.
ALBANESE: Well, that I do have the say over and I don’t want him in the party that I lead and I will take a position to the Labor Party National Executive on July the 5th. He’s already been suspended based upon a recommendation that I made, and I make no apology for ensuring that the Labor Party and its interests are put before the interests of any individual. There’s no doubt that every time I’ve seen Mr Setka get publicity it hasn’t been positive and it hasn’t reflected well on the Labor Party, or indeed on the trade union movement.
ALBANESE: Now, it’s up to the trade union movement to deal with those issues itself, but it’s up to myself as the Leader of the Labor Party to show leadership, and I’ve done it
SMITH: Okay, I’ll let you go. Your tip for Sunday, Origin?
ALBANESE: Well of course I’ll tip the Blues, but I’m a bit worried about the seven changes. I think that, you know, if Latrell Mitchell isn’t one of the best 17 players in New South Wales, and I say that even though he’s a Rooster, I think they’re kidding themselves.
SMITH: It’s like dropping GI.
ALBANESE: It’s just absurd.
SMITH: I agree. I’ll leave it there. Thank you, Anthony.
ALBANESE: Shocked by that decision. Thanks, mate.
SMITH: Good stuff. Labor leader, Anthony Albanese.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.