SUBJECTS: Visit to Adelaide; South Australian infrastructure investment; submarine maintenance jobs in SA or WA; freedom of speech; China.
HOST: Anthony Albanese joins us, the Federal Leader of the Australian Labor Party. Good morning to you, Albo.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning. What a great song.
HOST: What a great album too.
ALBANESE: It is indeed.
HOST: Save that for your next appearance on Rage.
ALBANESE: You guys can come sit next to me on that red couch that they have there.
HOST: I would love to host Rage.
ALBANESE: That was on my bucket list. Absolutely.
HOST: You’ve been in Adelaide for the last couple of days. What have you been up to here?
ALBANESE: I have. I was here meeting with Peter Malinauskas and my Federal colleagues, talking about the need to stimulate the South Australian economy, like everywhere else. I’m pleased that there is some breakthrough today, we will wait through and see the detail of when it actually gets rolled out in terms of increased infrastructure investment. But, yesterday we were at Marion Road, which was promised in 2016, before the election, so two elections ago there was a commitment to have an upgrade there. And I was there with the Local Member, Jayne Stinson, and Catherine King, our Shadow Infrastructure Minister, just saying, ‘Where is it?’ Not only have we not seen the upgrade, we haven’t even seen the planning work which the Turnbull Government, as it was back then, committed two million dollars before the 2016 election.
HOST: In terms of jobs, the big issue that is energising people’s minds here is the issue between SA and WA over where the subs maintenance jobs will end up landing. Does Federal Labor have a view on this?
ALBANESE: My view is that I would expect the SA Government to be pushing their interests just like how I would be expecting Mark McGowan to push the interests of WA.
HOST: Are you going to sit it out? Do you have a view?
ALBANESE: The question here is that it is a federally funded project and you have to have a good reason to transfer jobs from one place to another. The Government hasn’t put forward anything at this point in time. And what they need to do is to end the uncertainty because one of the issues that is there in the economy is the insecurity people are feeling about work. We have wages stagnating. We have economic growth being lowered every time that interest rates decrease which sends a message that the Reserve Bank thinks there is trouble on the horizon when it comes to future economic activity. We have got consumer demand down. The retail trade figures last fortnight were the lowest since the 1990s. So, the Federal Government has the responsibility, I believe, to make its position very clear. Clearly, a decision will be made prior to the next Federal Election, so that is out of our hands. But we need to, I think; provide that certainty for the workforce.
HOST: Albo, what is your philosophy when it comes to politicians speaking their mind about China? We have had incidents in recent weeks where China’s human rights records have been criticised, the detention of Uighur minority, in light of documents that were made public, has been criticised by Australian politicians, and in-kind, China has talked about denying entry visas to Coalition MPs. What’s your instruction to Labor MPs about speaking their mind on China?
ALBANESE: That freedom of speech is really important and people should say what they think. It’s one of the distinctions between the political systems that we have. Australia is a democratic nation where freedom of speech is very important; I am a big supporter of the ‘Right to Know’ campaign, and for greater transparency in our political processes in order to restore trust, which has been diminished somewhat. Part of that has to be the right of politicians to say what their views are. Now, from time to time that doesn’t mean that should be accepted. It should also be the case, I think; Andrew Hastie’s comments a while ago were pretty intemperate with regard to comparing China to Nazi Germany. I do not think that it was appropriate. But he has a right to say it. I have a right to say that I think that they weren’t appropriate comments. And China, and whoever else for that matter, should respect our right to be able to put forward our views in a respectful way. I think it is appropriate when we deal with other nations, particularly when we are travelling, there is obviously a need for diplomatic language, just as we would expect that if we were hosting visiting politicians here from other countries. We would expect they would treat us with some respect. That doesn’t mean that politicians from other countries might want to say something about our treatment of Indigenous Australians or our attitude towards climate change not being adequate, as the Pacific Island states have certainly done in recent times. They have a right to do so.
HOST: Anthony Albanese, always great to catch up with you and we will do it again soon.