SUBJECTS: Leichhardt Wanderers and Leichhardt Juniors; Bill Shorten’s mother; callers on Shorten; pre-poll figures.
CHRIS SMITH: The Member for Grayndler, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development; Anthony Albanese. Good afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good afternoon from Melbourne Chris.
SMITH: How’s the weather in Melbourne?
ALBANESE: It is really ordinary.
SMITH: Melbourne weather.
ALBANESE: Cold and windy and wet. So it was pretty chilly in Sydney early this morning. I left at 6am as you do.
ALBANESE: And it was pretty chilly. But it’s even colder here, let me tell you.
SMITH: Well, it’s scrubbed up nicely this afternoon so …
ALBANESE: That’s good. Well I’m on my way to the airport to head back home, and I actually have a little event this afternoon with the Leichhardt Wanderers Junior Rugby League Club.
ALBANESE: And that will be good. Got a little announcement of support for them, and I think they’re the club of …
SMITH: Robbie Farah.
ALBANESE: Of Robbie. Yeah. Robbie Farah …
SMITH: Robbie Farah played for the Wanderers. My son played for the Wanderers at one stage.
ALBANESE: Oh, there you go.
SMITH: It is a really good junior club.
ALBANESE: They have a game every year between the Leichhardt Wanderers and the Leichhardt Juniors.
ALBANESE: And Robbie Farah – I was there one day to raise money for the club and for the kids to have equipment and stuff, and the whole community comes along there to Blackmore Oval, and Robbie Farah was running water on for the team. As were some of the other prominent players as well come along and help. But Robbie is a great ambassador for the game, and it’s good he’s going well back with the Tigers.
SMITH: Well, his old teammate Aaron Woods actually played for the Leichhardt Juniors.
ALBANESE: He played for the Juniors yes. He was certainly there. He participates every year. He’s still there, even though he’s not playing in the district, he’ll still be there, I’m sure, helping out for Leichhardt Juniors. It’s a good thing that people are prepared to put back in.
SMITH: Yeah good stuff. There’s a lot of local rivalry between those two clubs. Now, a bitter rivalry between the Daily Telegraph and Bill Shorten today. Bill’s upset with the Tele, after it criticised his story about his mother’s career on Qanda. Now, Bill Shorten made out that his mother’s dream of being a lawyer was thwarted by her working class roots. It was almost a throwaway line, but it was given as some kind of motivation for what he wants to do when he becomes Prime Minister. Let’s have a listen to it in context from Qanda on Monday night.
BILL SHORTEN: I went to this university. The reason why I went to this university is because my mum worked here for 33 years. My mum came from a working class family. She was the first in her family in the early 50s to ever go to university, ever. No one ever thought – my grandma, English grandma, she was a cleaner and a barmaid. They wouldn’t have thought we’d ever be sitting here talking to you like this. But if my mum – she became a teacher, but she wanted to be a lawyer. But she was the eldest in the family, so needed to take the teacher’s scholarship to look after the rest of the kids. My mum was a brilliant woman. She wasn’t bitter. She worked here for 35 years. But I also know that if she had had other opportunities, she could have done anything. I can’t make it right for my mum, and she wouldn’t want me to. But my point is this: what motivates me? If you really want to know who Bill Shorten is – I can’t make it right for my mum, but I can make it right for everyone else.
SMITH: Anthony Albanese, it gave me the impression that his mother didn’t achieve anything more than what he pointed to there, which was a teaching role at a university. In fact she did. She did become a lawyer. She did become a barrister. By leaving that point out, it sounded like as if his mother really missed out on opportunities in life.
ALBANESE: Well I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think that’s a fair judgement. Bill has spoken about his mum becoming a lawyer many times. It’s not something that’s a secret. He’s very proud of the fact indeed, that even though it was delayed for many decades, her opportunity to study law was only when, indeed Bill and his twin brother were at university themselves. It was much later on. And he hasn’t hidden that fact or tried to gild the lily. Obviously …
SMITH: But there would have been a lot of people watching that on Qanda on Monday that didn’t know the background or the backstory involved with his mother, and had heard about his mother for the first time.
ALBANESE: Well I think a pretty simple principle applies here: You know, back off. Having a go at someone through their mum, and that’s what The Telegraph have done today, and it is unacceptable in my view that that has happened. It would be very upsetting and traumatic for Bill. I actually went to Bill Shorten’s mother’s funeral, and I did that in part out of respect for him, but also out of respect for her, because of the contribution that she’d made to his life and his brother’s life. And I know how close they were. And you know my background Chris – there’s a book written about it. It was just me and my mum growing up. I know what it’s like to feel that attachment to your mother. And I’m really a bit shocked that the Daily Telegraph’s front page, when I looked at it this morning, I just thought: ‘Gee, that’s just too far’.
SMITH: Okay. Well, Scott Morrison was the first to comment on it today, and in a press conference earlier, he said that mothers are off limits, as are wives, despite the fact that they do a wonderful job.
SMITH: But then Bill Shorten, at about 11:30, held a press conference and he told the full story. As a matter of fact, I think he spoke for between six and seven minutes on the subject, and it was very moving. It was the first time I heard such emotion from the Opposition Leader. Here, again for our listeners, if you’ve just joined us, this is what Bill Shorten said a short time ago.
SHORTEN: She could have done anything. I can’t make it right for my mum, and she wouldn’t want me to.
SMITH: Yeah that’s his final words on Q&A. Let’s see what he said today.
SHORTEN: Then she went to the Bar. And I noticed the Telegraph said she was there for six years. I just wish some newspaper outlets would do some of their homework beyond that. She got about nine briefs in her time. It was actually a bit dispiriting. She’d wanted to do law when she was 17. She didn’t get that chance. She raised kids. At 50, she backed herself. At 53, going to the Bar, she got a barrister, and she read from it. That’s the technical term – that was the apprenticeship. She did her best. She went down, and did some Magistrate’s Court work. But she discovered in her mid-50s that, sometimes you’re just too old. And you shouldn’t be too old, but she discovered the discrimination against older women. And so she eventually – while she kept her name on the bar roll for a number of years, she came back and she did other things. Do you know that my mum wrote the book on education and law in Australia? Brilliant. She’s brilliant. And that’s what drives me. She went back to Monash and taught.
You know, I saw a pretty bloody lazy editorial. I didn’t read it all, because there’s only so much time in your day and you can’t afford to waste it on the rubbish. It said she achieved her dream. Who do some people in News Corp – and it’s not all the journalists, I make that very clear. Who do some of these lazy people think they are? That because they think that I explained myself at Qanda on a Monday night, that they play ‘gotcha’ shit about your life story? More importantly, my mum’s? I’ve spoken about my mum at length. I choose to give you that last bit of the battle of her time at the Bar. Because my mum would want me to say to older women in Australia: just because you’ve got grey hair, just because you didn’t go to a special private school, just cause you don’t go to the right clubs, just because you’re not part of some backslapping boys club, doesn’t mean you should give up. What I said at Qanda is what drives me. What I did on Monday night is I explained who I am. I explained what drives me. My mum is the smartest woman I’ve ever known. It has never occurred to me that women are not the equal of men. It’s never occurred to me that women shouldn’t be able to do everything.
SMITH: Anthony Albanese, is that the first or second time you’ve heard that?
ALBANESE: It’s the very first. I’ve been at a press conference myself, so I haven’t seen any electronic media today, other than ones I’ve been on. But that was very powerful. It was real. It was human. And it was a man responding to what he perceives, I think quite rightly, as a political intervention attempting to hurt him through his mother, who has passed away. She’s not around to defend herself. So, you know, I just think in hindsight, I would hope that the people involved who made the decision to put that on the front, have a think about it. And I think if they do that, they’ll understand that maybe that wasn’t the best judgment. I mean, you know me Chris. I don’t have hostile relations with people in the media. You know, I’m prepared to engage and talk with people across the board. I’ve got this regular segment on your show and on other radio program run by other operators. And you know, I have a regular slot on Channel Nine. But I think really it’s regrettable and it’s unfortunate. I’m pleased with the Prime Minister’s comments, as reported by you, that he has said that mothers should be off limits, as should partners and people’s family. I know that’s certainly the approach that I take when there’s been on very few occasions. By and large, the media are very good, I’ve got to say. They’ve been very good …
SMITH: I’ll get you to stay there. We might see what listeners make of all of this …
SMITH: And I’d also like to talk to you about pre-polling, because the figures we get today are quite extraordinary. Anthony Albanese and your calls on this subject right after the break.
SMITH: Eighteen to one. We’ve got Anthony Albanese with us. He’s going through security right now at Tullamarine. When he gets out of the other side, he’ll probably get asked to be frisked for explosive material. You know how it works. Murphy’s Law – you’re always the one that gets picked out. So we’ll get back to him in just a second. Let me take a couple of calls. I want to go to Mike first on line eight. Mike, what are your thoughts on Shorten’s emotional response to the Q&A story?
CALLER: Oh I’m sorry Chris. I have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever for that particular thing – his tearjerker response this afternoon. It’s all well and fine for him to drag his mother into the political arena pretending that she never ever got the opportunity, yet we find out he’s only again told us a quarter of the story.
CALLER: As he’s told us a quarter of the story with every other thing he’s had anything to do with. And wives and things are off limits – well that’s fine too, great. But he didn’t stop having his wife introducing him at the conference last weekend …
SMITH: Yes, but see, this is the point: leave wives, leave mothers out of it. But when you start to refer to your mother, or use your wife to introduce you, surely then they become fair game for scrutiny?
CALLER: Got no credibility whatsoever. He won’t tell the truth. He only tells you a quarter of the story. And when he does, he pretends: ‘Oh well, why would you not believe me? Why not trust me?’ I’m sorry.
SMITH: Okay Mike, thank you. Let’s go to Peter on seven. Hi Pete.
CALLER: It’s a lie – lying by omission. And further to that, I would ask Shorten to put all his statements and promises in a statutory declaration.
SMITH: In a stat dec?
CALLER PETER: Yes.
SMITH: Yes, well you can imagine how many politicians would be caught out. Imagine how many politicians would be caught out if we forced them to write a stat dec?
CALLER: I would love it to become law.
SMITH: Thank you Peter. Don’t hold your breath, you’ll go blue, 131 873, Chris on line two. Hi Chris.
CALLER: Hey Chris. Chris, we all love our mums. That’s a given. But I find it a bit rich that he’s got the time to explain that story where he’s been given ample equal time to explain how he’s going to pay for the things he’s going to do when he comes – if he makes Prime Minister …
SMITH: You mean opening up about his family in that lengthy …
CALLER CHRIS: Well that’s it. Like you know – he loves his mum. That’s a given. Fair enough. But, you know, if he’s going to stand there for a couple of minutes talking about that, why not stand out at the front of the public and say how he’s going to pay for all these things he’s going to bring in if he becomes Prime Minister?
SMITH: All right Chris. Thank you for your call. Anthony Albanese – once you raise an argument using your mother, is it not fair game that others would criticise the context of that use?
ALBANESE: Look, I think the problem here is that the article would appear to suggest that this is something that’s been hidden. Bill has not hidden his mother’s background, or the fact that she did eventually get to become a lawyer at any stage. And if you look at the comments that he made on Q&A about motivation – one of the things – it does motivate a range of people in politics. I’m not saying it’s just on one side of politics. But I’ve heard from so many people that we’re all products of their backgrounds, and they’re motivated by the fact that we want better things for our kids than we enjoyed, and we had parents who gave up things for us. And it’s not surprising that when someone’s trying to, I guess, tell the public about what motivates them in their life and their contribution, that occasionally people refer to their background. And that’s all that happened here. And the suggestion really from the article, that somehow, there’s this ‘gotcha’ moment, and Bill was trying to be too clever by half, I just don’t think it’s fair …
SMITH: It’s certainly not a black and white issue. But because of what he didn’t say before, some people are left with a different impression of how he explained his motivation. But I want to go to Reece on line three. Reece, go ahead.
CALLER REECE: Hi guys. I just want to pass a comment. My parents subscribe to The Telegraph. I describe them as conservative people – voters. And after the editorial this morning, my mum was pretty upset, and I saw her cancel the subscription. Which is pretty rare from my mum who, you know, loves the fact that she lives in Scott Morrison’s electorate. She’s a Liberal voter. But I think some things are off limits, and that upset my mum.
SMITH: All right, good on you Reece. Thank you very much for your comment. I want to move on to something else just with yourself Anthony, and these pre-polling numbers on Friday afternoon …
ALBANESE: They’re big aren’t they?
SMITH: Ah! We’ve jumped to 1.15 million, with at least another four million expected to vote before May 18. This doesn’t even take postal votes into account. Do we have to change the rules here? Or is this the way people want and prefer to vote?
ALBANESE: Look, I think we need to look at a potential shortening of the period. This is just my personal view. I think three weeks of a campaign is a very long time for booths effectively to be open. I think that it’s a good thing to maximise people’s participation. Obviously I want every Australian to have the opportunity to vote and to have their say. It’s a very important principle. But the Labor Party – we had our campaign launch on Sunday. The Government is still looking for some policies to launch next Sunday. By then, it’s possible that, you know, close to two million people might have voted by then. And that means that they’ve voted without knowing what all the policies are that have been put forward. And I just think it does need to be examined. This is a relatively new phenomenon. It used to be very unusual for people to vote at pre-polling. Normally the figures were in the low thousands. So, you know, two or three thousand people in each electorate was a high number.
SMITH: I think people don’t want to cop queuing up. They don’t want to go and have the democracy sausage. They actually don’t enjoy queuing up at the ballot booth on Election Day. They want to do what they usually do, when it comes to purchasing items, is get online and make it easier for themselves.
ALBANESE: Yes. Well then, that’s the other thing then Chris. Think of the P&Cs out there. They bake cakes. It’s a major fundraiser – the old sausage sizzle on Election Day…
ALBANESE: You can’t have a sausage sizzle on pre-poll every day. I’ve designed myself – I got asked by a local small business – a sausage factory, Chrissie’s Cuts, to design an ideal sausage, and I’ve designed the beef and bush tomato sausage, then I went and helped make sausages on Saturday. It was a good bit of fun, but it plays an important role. I love Election Day whether I’m the candidate or not …
SMITH: I bet you do.
ALBANESE: It’s good – you get to meet so many people in one day, and all the P&Cs – like it’s a major fundraiser for them right around the country. There’s volunteers helping out their local school, and in some places, you have – Annandale Public School normally has a fantastic kids concert on every Election Day. I’m not sure if they’re having it this time round, but I don’t want to lose that tradition.
SMITH: All right, I’ll let you go. You’re just about to board your plane to come back in more warmer weather. Thank you very much. If I don’t get to chat before the election, all the very best to your party.
ALBANESE: Thank you very much Chris, and it’s been great doing the program. And hopefully I get re-elected, and I can do it after.
SMITH: I’d love to have you back on. Absolutely.
ALBANESE: After the 18th of May as well.
SMITH: Let’s do it. We’ll talk about that and get you on regularly. Thank you mate.
ALBANESE: Thanks Chris.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.