Subjects: Liberal Leadership, energy policy, METRONET, Julie Bishop, dividend imputation.
OLIVER PETERSON: And minus his sparring partner, Christopher Pyne, today we welcome to 882 6PR the Shadow Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development spokesman, Anthony Albanese. Good afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day, good to be with you again.
PETERSON: Is it like Christmas in August for the Labor Party today, Albo?
ALBANESE: No I think most people in the Labor Party are a bit like me, shaking our head at the state of the Government. But we’re concerned I think about the impact on the nation of last week’s event. I think it’s been incredibly disruptive for those of us who are in public office and regard politics as a noble profession. We’ve all taken a bit of a battering in the last week due to the actions of a few people in the right-wing of the Liberal Party led by, of course, Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott.
PETERSON: Do you believe the Newspoll result today though of 44-56 – the two-party preferred – if we go to an election tomorrow all of a sudden the ALP will be picking up 21 seats from the Liberal and National parties? Do you believe now that it is just a matter of time for the Government? The time bomb is really ticking? They’re done, they’re toast?
ALBANESE: No that can never be the case. We can never be complacent about it. But it certainly isn’t surprising that the Government has been marked down given that last Thursday they actually put their hands up and stopped governing. They shut down the Parliament. I was quite shocked by that as someone who has a great deal of respect for the Parliament as a former Leader of the House of Representatives. I’ve never seen anything, nor has their been anything quite like that. I doubt whether it’s even been contemplated before. And that really was the Government sending a message of: ‘This governing stuff is too hard for us, we’d rather just engage in this ongoing brawl that’s gone on within the Liberal Party’. And there are signs that it’s not over yet. Tony Abbott was out there continuing to snipe today at Scott Morrison. The fact that – I understand you’ve had a great deal of difficulty getting anyone from the Government on to your program to defend what’s been going on.
PETERSON: Well absolutely. Absolutely. But of course we love to talk to Anthony Albanese here on Perth Live. You’re almost an honourary West Australian.
ALBANESE: Well I love to talk to the listeners and I like the West a lot and I’ll be there next week, so maybe we’ll catch up.
PETERSON: You might as well drop by as well again. You know it would be great to have you.
ALBANESE: I can drop in next Tuesday afternoon perhaps. I’m speaking at a tourism dinner – not a dinner – tourism conference on Wednesday morning for the WA tourism industry, which is of course so important. One of my concerns here is that the Government when it changes ministers so regularly – I can’t keep up with who I’m shadowing. I’ve been shadowing – I think there’s been four different Infrastructure Ministers, we have another different Tourism Minister which has been three in the last little while. So it’s very hard to get continuity of policy. In order to govern it does take time to build relationships with the private sector, with business, with the community and to get on top of your portfolio and what we’re seeing is change after change after change and that isn’t a good thing.
PETERSON: Okay you’ve lived through obviously, and you played a pretty crucial part in the Kevin Rudd-Julia Gillard governments and obviously their removals as well, but can I just cast your mind obviously to what’s occurred over the last week in the Liberal Government with the Coalition? Have you seen the cards fall as quickly as those newspaper reports which emerged Thursday week ago to suggest that Peter Dutton and some within the Liberal Party were starting to mount a challenge? Can you believe how quickly the Government was in free fall? Really it was in a downward spiral and all of a sudden by Friday Scott Morrison’s the Prime Minister of Australia.
ALBANESE: Well it certainly was in freefall and what’s, I guess, surprising about it all is that the Government was a little bit behind in the polls, but was on 49 per cent, which is basically even-stevens. They had a substantial advantage in preferred Prime Minister for the entire time that Malcolm Turnbull was the Prime Minister. They resolved in their party room to have an energy policy and then it all started to unravel and we still don’t have an energy policy of course in this country. One would have thought that once that had been resolved they could then tick a box next to that and move on to the next challenge, but it just all fell apart very, very quickly. And it was quite clear that there’s been a small minority within the Liberal Party who’ve been just determined to wreck it if they couldn’t control it and that’s not a good thing. I think that public service would be much more positive if people like Tony Abbott, if they’re just determined to play a destructive role – I must say from time to time that helps the Labor Party, but it doesn’t help public discourse and it doesn’t help the faith that your listeners have in the political system and one wonders why he’s hanging around.
PETERSON: Did you sit back sometimes and think that, exactly right, that some of this – disunity as you know is death within politics – and when you heard some backbenchers, like Tony Abbott on the Government side constantly criticising their own Government, did you almost sit back and say: ‘We can’t believe it, they’re doing our job for us as the Opposition.’?
ALBANESE: There’s no doubt that some of them have been determined to do that and have consciously tried to drive down the polls because they would rather not have a Liberal Prime Minister. I think to have Malcolm Turnbull there – they just didn’t see him as being a legitimate member of their party, which is quite extraordinary really. The world has moved on. The world has moved on in energy policy, in supporting renewables. The world’s moved on in social policy, in recognising we are a diverse society and having more respect for difference than we used to perhaps.
PETERSON: But talking about the world moving on, then do you find it interesting that those ministers who have been appointed to those positions? I speak of energy with Angus Taylor and population now – there’s a Population Minister in Alan Tudge. It would appear as though Scott Morrison is going to make these two particular issues front and centre of a re-election campaign – trying to put a cap on migration and sort out Australia’s population, that appears to be a sore point particularly in the eastern states and trying to reduce our electricity prices. So Angus Taylor and Alan Tudge front and centre of the Government’s attack. Is the Opposition – is the Labor Party ready to thwart those challenges?
ALBANESE: We certainly are. We’ve been constructive about energy policy. We understand that the future of our energy will increasingly be distributional. That is, will be the sort of things that we see individuals and businesses taking action on. Be it the move towards cars that produce less emissions in terms of electric vehicles, or (inaudible) solar panels on people’s homes, all of these changes – people are voting, if you like, with their own actions. Increasingly as well, the fact that we have batteries and storage for renewables means that it is more effective, cheaper. Indeed the only thing that is putting downward pressure on prices at the moment is the renewable energy target that we put in place when we were in government.
But what business has been crying out for is certainty and they’re not getting that, and that is a real concern when it comes to population. One of the things that I’ve spoken about consistently is – it’s a question of infrastructure. There’s not a magic number that’s correct. What’s important is people’s quality of life and there’s no sign that the Federal Government, in the areas where urban congestion is more extreme – particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, are addressing the public transport questions.
We have in WA, a State Government that’s showing a great deal of leadership with the METRONET program. And also we’ve been looking at, of course, on my visits across there, the funding that’s required to deal with some of the real choke points when it comes to some of the road network around Perth as well. So infrastructure is the key when it comes to those issues and that requires investment and the Government’s forward program under former Treasurer Scott Morrison shows investment falling, from around about $8 billion in the last financial year, down to $4.2 billion over the Forward Estimates. Now, that’s a recipe for making urban congestion worse not better.
PETERSON: All right, my guest Anthony Albanese on the Monday Agenda. If Malcolm Turnbull quits the Parliament, will the Labor Party be running a candidate in his seat?
ALBANESE: Well, we haven’t made the decision on that yet. That’ll be a matter for the organisational wing of the Party. We’ll wait and see. It’s so close now to the next Federal election. What we think is that there should be an election in Wentworth but it shouldn’t be a by-election, there should be 150 of them right around the country. Scott Morrison doesn’t have a mandate to be Prime Minister, the Australian people should decide who the Prime Minister is and the Government should go to an election, because quite clearly they’ve lost their way. They’re out of steam and we need certainty on policy going forward.
PETERSON: Should Julie Bishop be Australia’s next Governor General?
ALBANESE: Well that will be a matter for whoever the government is at the time. Certainly I think that – Julie Bishop, I wish her well in her future endeavours. She has worked very hard in the national interest, it’s a tough job being a foreign minister of an island continent located where we are in the world, where a lot of the meetings that take place, they were in Europe or in the United States. And we’re also in the fastest growing region of the world of course, the Asia-Pacific, Indian Ocean region, and that is so important and it’s a tough job. But coming from WA, I think it’s even tougher because you also have to get across the country so often. It’s one of the reasons why I very consciously make a decision to spend time in Western Australia whenever I can, because I know that people expect politicians and public representatives from the west to be in the east all the time and think nothing of it. Well I think that the least that can happen is for people from Sydney and Melbourne and Brisbane, to spend time in Perth and indeed in regional Western Australia as well.
PETERSON: Yeah, indeed. Now we are running out of time, two very quick last questions. Jerry asks: with Super Saturday by-elections only a few weeks ago there was some talk Bill Shorten could be gone. Now if he is Australia’s next Prime Minister – how sure can we be, Anthony Albanese, that what we have just witnessed over the Labor and now Liberal Government years – that we’re not going to see a repeat? That Bill Shorten wouldn’t serve out his full term as Prime Minister if you are to win the election?
ALBANESE: Well I think have a look at the way that Labor’s conducted ourselves. And the way that senior people such as myself have conducted ourselves. We haven’t engaged in navel gazing. What we’ve done is get on with the job. As I’ve said before on your program, I’ve got on with the job that I’ve been given and we’re working as a team.
PETERSON: All right and Tay asks: ‘Will you still be removing franking credits from share dividends? Will that still be a Labor policy heading to the next election?’.
ALBANESE: Yes. Well, we haven’t changed our policy on that. We understand that it’s a difficult one, but we also understand that to return the Budget to surplus requires difficult decisions to be made. And the fact that it’s costing now $5 billion rising to $8 billion dollars over the next few years – annual costs to the Budget – is something that the Government just can’t afford at the moment. If we’re going to be able to fund education and fund our health system and as well improve our fiscal position. And one of the things that I think Labor has done, and it’s a difficult thing to do, is to put out not just all the good news, but to put out the savings that we would make and to fully account for where our commitments would come from. And I think I understand that some people will regret the fact that we’ve made that decision, but we’ve been honest and upfront about it.
PETERSON: All right, Anthony Albanese we’ll see you in Perth next week, thank you.
ALBANESE: See you Ollie, thanks for having me on.
MONDAY, 27 AUGUST, 2018
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.