Subjects: Wentworth by-election, Kevin Rudd book.
NEIL MITCHELL: Anthony Albanese, good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning, Neil.
MITCHELL: Do you accept you’re both on the nose?
ALBANESE: Well, quite clearly there’s no reason for complacency in this result on Saturday for Labor and we’re not complacent, but –
MITCHELL: But are you on the nose, as well?
MITCHELL: Did you run dead?
ALBANESE: Very clearly the voters of Wentworth got a message each and every day including from the Prime Minister that there were two possible outcomes on Saturday. One was the Liberal Party. The second was a minority Parliament with Kerryn Phelps being elected. So I’m sure a lot of people who would normally vote Labor heard that message. People in Melbourne would have heard that message.
MITCHELL: So you reckon people – Labor voters – voted for Phelps just to make a point?
ALBANESE: Well, there’s tactical voting occurred, quite clearly. We had a very good candidate on …
MITCHELL: But you had an 11 per cent swing against you. Look, I know that’s nowhere near as bad as the Government. But it’s the message I’m getting, and you must be getting it too. It’s a pox on both your houses.
ALBANESE: Well I think quite clearly here that the pox was on the Liberal Party. We’re talking here about –
MITCHELL: They got most of the pox –
ALBANESE: We’re talking here about …
MITCHELL: But you got a dose of it yourself.
ALBANESE: I’ll give you the big tip here, Neil. If you live in Point Piper –
MITCHELL: Which I don’t.
ALBANESE: – And you live in more expensive real estate than Manhattan or Tokyo, chances are you’re not a Labor stalwart and so …
MITCHELL: Yeah, but you’re still 11 per cent down on last time.
ALBANESE: Well, this time there were 16 candidates. This time you had a very high profile, progressive, Independent and it’s not surprising at all.
MITCHELL: So no lesson for Labor in this?
ALBANESE: Well, I think there is certainly – not in this, but in general – yes there has been a trend towards Independents and third parties away from major parties. That has happened for a period of time. Yes Labor has to take that into account and yes we have to try harder to get the primary vote of people. We know that both major parties have had a primary vote in every poll except for one, below 40. And we need to work harder on that. That’s something I’ve said very publicly for a long period of time.
MITCHELL: I agree with you, so how do you do it? How do you actually re-engage people?
ALBANESE: Well, I think people want us to be talking about the issues that they’re concerned about. About education, about health, about the fact that their wages haven’t increased, about job insecurity –
MITCHELL: So why aren’t you?
ALBANESE: Well, we are. And that’s one of the reasons why I think people will be –
MITCHELL: So why is Bill Shorten on the nose?
ALBANESE: Well, I think Neil that it takes a brave man to, after Saturday’s results against the Government, to suggest that this is a bad outcome for Labor. The message about Saturday is about the Government. It’s about the deposing of an elected Prime Minister – Malcolm Turnbull.
MITCHELL: I agree. I agree.
ALBANESE: And the fact that Scott Morrison can’t say why, that’s why people are angry. I handed out on Saturday.
MITCHELL: No, that’s nonsense. We know why they got rid of him …
ALBANESE: Because they could.
MITCHELL: Because they thought they had a better chance of winning. Why did you get rid of Julia and Rudd, same thing?
ALBANESE: It’s a bit different here, Neil. Because one of the things that we’ve seen happen … look, on Friday night there – the Bellevue Hill Branch of the Liberal Party held a forum with Tony Abbott, Craig Kelly, Andrew Hastie from Western Australia – travelling over the night before a by-election, in the electorate of Wentworth. They were having a forum, a sort of hard-right forum about how to stop the left. These are people who never saw Malcolm Turnbull as being a legitimate member of the Liberal Party.
MITCHELL: Look, I’m not arguing that this was good for the Liberal Party. But I’m arguing that it wasn’t particularly good for your people either. It was the strength to the Independents. You were handing out how-to-vote cards on Saturday. Were you handing out Kerryn Phelps ones or Labor ones?
ALBANESE: I was certainly handing out Labor ones, as I have been doing since I could walk.
MITCHELL: Of course. Now look, you’re former Leader of the House. You want an early election, right?
ALBANESE: Well, I think the Government says there should be an early election.
MITCHELL: Do you want an early election?
ALBANESE: Well, I think that if the Government can’t govern and there’s no indication, frankly, that they can govern when they had 76. When they’ve got 75, I think, in the Government’s own words they’ve said this would create insecurity. Not just political instability, but economic instability as well.
MITCHELL: You are making me look stupid.
ALBANESE: I could never do that.
MITCHELL: You are. In the first half hour I said I want to talk to Anthony Albanese, there is no spin. And you’re sitting there like Shane Warne. Do you want an early election or not?
ALBANESE: Of course I want an election, because any time there’s an election you can win.
MITCHELL: An early election?
ALBANESE: Well I think the Government itself, is what I’m saying –
MITCHELL: What’s that, Shane?
ALBANESE: No, you have to listen to what they were saying last week.
MITCHELL: But I’m asking you. Do you?
ALBANESE: That’s the problem here. I, in general, think that governments should serve a full term. That’s my starting point. My second point is, though, if governments can’t govern, then give the people a say.
MITCHELL: So are we in that position?
ALBANESE: I think we are.
MITCHELL: We are. So you want an early election?
MITCHELL: We’ve got there. Can you force one? Former Leader of the House, tactically, can you force one?
ALBANESE: Well, this mob have lost votes when they had an absolute majority. So we’ll wait and see whether they’re capable of governing. Last week was a debacle. We had the issue of voting for the Pauline Hanson ‘it’s okay to be white’ motion – and they’ve (inaudible) saying it was an administrative error. We had foreign policy and the location of our Embassy in Israel being determined by a by-election, not determined on its merits or on the national interest. We had absolute chaos from the other side of politics. And we had, remarkably, I don’t know – I thought I had seen everything with Malcolm Turnbull being knocked off –
MITCHELL: And Julia. And Kevin.
ALBANESE: – But the idea that you can bring back Barnaby Joyce as the National Party is just bizarre, but that’s what they’re contemplating.
MITCHELL: What could you use to put the Government in a position to force an election? Is it the kids on Nauru? Is it climate change? Is it Peter Dutton – referring Peter Dutton? What can you use? Tactically – you’re the tactical expert. What do you do?
ALBANESE: The only thing that ensures there can be an election has to be called is a motion of no-confidence. The Government has guarantees of confidence from Bob Katter and from the Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan, so at this stage they have a capacity to do that.
MITCHELL: So that means you can’t force an election?
ALBANESE: Well that’s right if they stick to where they are know. But if the Government has another week like they had last week, I’ve got to say that some of their own side might decide that it’s too much. We’ve already got the Deputy Speaker sitting on the cross benches and not voting with the Government, and that happened last week – Kevin Hogan, the Member for Page – and we have I think a state of absolute chaos. We have no energy policy from the Government, not because they were going to lose it on the floor of the House, but because they were going to win with Labor’s support.
MITCHELL: Will you accept though – I raise Bill Shorten – and yes look it is a better result for Labor than it is for Liberals certainly in Wentworth. but Bill Shorten’s on the nose. His popularity is pretty ordinary. Even for an Opposition Leader. You’ve got to agree with that surely?
ALBANESE: Well no I don’t agree with that. You won’t be surprised by that. But also you look at the …
MITCHELL: How do you justify it though?
ALBANESE: Well you look at the team that Bill Shorten leads and we’ve been ahead in Newspolls for a long period of time now.
MITCHELL: You’d walk it in wouldn’t you? You’d walk in an election.
ALBANESE: Well I don’t think any election is a walk-in. Once an election’s called it’s a brand new ball game and any political party that’s complacent and taking the Australian people for granted will be punished accordingly. But we’re working very hard. We’re leading from Opposition on a range of issues including tax policy, education policy, health policy, infrastructure policy and we’ll continue to do so.
MITCHELL: Kevin Rudd’s book I’ve been, for my sins, reading it at the weekend. You come out of it all right. I mean not surprising Wayne Swan, Julia Gillard, Bill Shorten all get a bit of a belting. Were you aware of this so-called ‘Kirribilli deal’ that you’d done with Julia Gillard to hand over the prime ministership to her?
ALBANESE: No I wasn’t.
MITCHELL: You should have been. It’s a pretty ugly thing to do isn’t it, to be raffling the prime ministership like that? I mean it happened under Hawke and Keating. It’s happened under various governments. It’s pretty ugly stuff isn’t it?
ALBANESE: I haven’t read the book. I read David Speers book. I’m launching it at 10 o’clock on the very recent coup and it’s a very good read – On Mutiny.
MITCHELL: Well I’m sure you will read Kevin Rudd or at least the index. I just give you a test to it, Luke Hilakari from the Trades Hall Council has tweeted this today in Victoria: ‘Hey Kevin Rudd how about you shut up for a bit? You had your turn. You blew it. Nobody likes a wrecker. You’re embarrassing yourself. How about you give us all a break?’ You agree with him?
ALBANESE: Look I have no intention of getting into an argument about things that happened in the past.
MITCHELL: But is he damaging you? You mightn’t have read the book, but you will have read all the stories.
ALBANESE: I have no intention of getting into that as I said.
MITCHELL: He’s your mate.
ALBANESE: As I said during one of the disputes on our internals – I like fighting Tories, that’s what I do. And that’s what I will continue to focus on.
MITCHELL: But you were his deputy? He’s one of your mates. And he’s out there damaging Labor. Wouldn’t you just pick up the phone – as they did to Malcolm Turnbull and he wouldn’t listen – why wouldn’t you pick up the phone and say: ‘Kevin hose it down a bit’.
ALBANESE: Well I have not read the book.
MITCHELL: But you’ve read the stories, the reports of the book, haven’t you?
ALBANESE: I don’t have the book.
MITCHELL: Have you read the reports of the book?
ALBANESE: I have not read today’s newspapers.
MITCHELL: Yesterday’s newspapers. Come on.
ALBANESE: I read something on the Saturday. I’ve been very busy.
MITCHELL: What is it with ex-Prime Ministers? They are all bitter and nasty.
ALBANESE: Well people like to put things – their versions of things – their version of history. Julia’s done it. Kevin’s done it. John Howard did it.
MITCHELL: Well it wasn’t too bitter. Neither was Julia in fairness.
ALBANESE: They’ve all done it. And David Speers book is much more interesting because it’s about events of the last two months that are still ongoing.
MITCHELL: (inaudible) … Well good to talk. Will you be going to the rallies this week? The union rallies?
ALBANESE: Mate, I’m in Parliament.
MITCHELL: Oh are you? Bad luck.
ALBANESE: I’m in Parliament so I’ll be here in Canberra. We’ve got actually a very good thing happening this morning – the apology. That will be a very sombre occasion and I just hope that the victims of abuse get some small level of comfort from the fact that the nation is apologising to them.
MITCHELL: I agree. Thank you for speaking to us. You happy there was no spin in there?
ALBANESE: My pleasure Neil. It is always good to talk to you.
MITCHELL: No spin?
MITCHELL: (laughter) … Anthony Albanese, senior Labor frontbencher, former Leader of the House.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.