SUBJECTS: Election campaign, Western Australia, Labor Party leadership.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good afternoon, Ollie. Good to be with you.
OLIVER PETERSON:Well, what went wrong in the election? Was it the salesman, or was it what Labor was trying to sell?
ALBANESE: Well, we’re certainly going to have to examine the policies and the nature of the campaign. The important thing is that we do that honestly but also that we make sure that whilst we examine our policies we make it clear that we’re not going to change our values. Labor’s values are eternal – the values of fairness, the values of making sure that people get opportunity in life rather than just entrenched privilege, the concern for our natural environment and dealing with climate change, dealing with improving people’s lot in life through education, health and services. At this campaign though, quite clearly, we got some of the specific policies wrong and we need to listen to the electorate. Part of what we’re going to have to do now is have a real good listen and a consultation process with the community, examine where we fell short and why, and make sure that we do better next time.
PETERSON:When you mentioned there all the values, opportunity sticks out for me because when you look at some of the policies Labor put forward it really created a picture here trying to divide people based on their age, retiree taxes targeting franking credits, capital gains, negative gearing. We all know the way that’s all played out now because of Saturday night, but was there enough opportunity there in Labor’s policies for everybody?
ALBANESE: I think one of the things that we need to talk about more is how we create wealth, not just how wealth is distributed, and that message of jobs and opportunity is central to Labor’s message. It’s what we’re about. And clearly one of the issues with the dividend issue is that for some people who had conducted their affairs based upon the rules that were in place – I think they got the impression that we were somehow saying that they had done something wrong, and of course that isn’t the case. Quite clearly the cost to the Budget of some $6 billion means that it can’t continue to grow exponentially into the future and I think the Government will have to do something about that if we’re going to have enough funds for education and health and infrastructure. But we need to examine policies like that. We were getting feedback anecdotally as we went around the country and at prepoll booths and clearly that’s one of the issues that we’re going to have to look at and give consideration to going forward.
PETERSON: So who is to blame for these policies? Is it all Bill Shorten’s fault?
ALBANESE: No, we have to accept collective responsibility. I’m a senior member of the Labor Party team. Bill Shorten worked very hard for the Labor cause each and every day and he has my respect. One of the things we need to avoid in having an analysis of where we did fall short, is to avoid any acrimony and finger-pointing. We need to examine and have responsibility collectively for the outcome because being a Labor MP is a great responsibility. There are so many millions of Australians who rely upon us to be in government, and we won’t be there for the next three years.
One of the reasons why I’m putting myself forward to lead the Labor Party is that I think I’m in a position to engage with people. Part of what I’ve done, as you know Ollie, is sit in your studio there in 6PR in Perth, and talk with people and engage with people directly, and I think I’m in a position as well, with a great knowledge of the entire country. I am a regular visitor to the West. The truth is that you can’t engage with Western Australians from Canberra or from the East Coast. You need to actually go there, visit, talk to people, develop relationships, and find out exactly what the priorities are for people throughout your state.
PETERSON: Now that Tanya Plibersek has ruled herself out, saying it’s not her time, who are the biggest threats to you becoming Labor leader? Is it Chris Bowen or Joel Fitzgibbon?
ALBANESE: Look, I’m just putting myself forward in a constructive way. We’ll wait and see how this plays out over coming days and weeks perhaps, but I’m putting myself forward constructively and other candidates have a right to give consideration as to whether they’ll nominate or not. The great thing about the Labor Party reforms is we’ll not only give caucus members a say, we’ll give each and every rank and file member of the Australian Labor Party a say in who leads us to the next election.
PETERSON: Bill Shorten was never personally popular, you were always the popular choice of course, by the party faithful – why didn’t you challenge him during his six years as leader of the Labor Party?
ALBANESE: Because I think that is was very important that we be unified and I accepted the result in 2013. I worked very hard, as you know, I would have visited Perth on ten occasions, virtually every month, for year after year, campaigning very strongly to elect Bill Shorten as a Labor Prime Minister. I think that no individual is more important than the team and I got to play a role in Bill Shorten’s team, and I’m now putting myself forward to be the captain and we’ll wait and see what happens there, but I’ll respect the decision of the Party. I think that the time is right for me to lead Labor. I think I am the strongest candidate to lead us into government, which is why I’m putting myself forward and in part that is because of the feedback that I’ve had from Western Australians when I’ve been there, whether it be during the campaign – I not only visited Perth, people said to me; “Why did you visit Durack?” But I did that throughout. The regions of Western Australia are very important as well and we had significant commitments to the regions, including the Albany Ring Road and roads around Karratha and in the north. But I’m putting myself forward. I think people know me. They know my background. They know that I’m prepared to engage with people directly, that I’m a good listener, not just a talker, and that’s how you learn – by engaging with people, getting that feedback. And that clearly is something that we have to do over the coming months regardless of who the leader of the Labor Party is.
PETERSON: And I think that Labor probably took many in the electorate, particularly here in Western Australia, for granted and as you have just indicated Anthony Albanese, you know the importance of coming here to Perth, coming here to Western Australia, engaging with people, fronting up, taking talk-back calls here at 6PR when you’re in Western Australia. Now some of your colleagues, including the former leader, Bill Shorten, including Chris Bowen, they were never interested in any of that. In fact, they weren’t very interested in talking to the West. They weren’t very interested in engaging with West Australian voters. That’s a big mistake. You can’t just pop in and pop out and really take WA for granted. I think that’s a big message that your party has to grapple with.
ALBANESE: I think to be fair, Bill Shorten was a regular visitor to the West and brought the entire Shadow Cabinet to Perth recently. So, I think to be fair, Bill was engaged there. One of the things that I like doing, and I do it not just in Perth, but I do it across the country, is engage in that talk-back feedback. I find that when I’ve sat in your studio it’s been an experience whereby sometimes it’s difficult – the truth is – but you learn something, and it’s a risk to do it but it’s one that I hold dear. I think that the key to being effective and to getting the right policies is to make sure that you don’t just engage with people who agree with you and tell you everything’s going okay. You’ve got to engage with people outside your comfort zone and I’ve always done that. I’m someone who consistently has spoken about building consensus. I’m someone who consistently, not just in terms of word, has said that business and unions and the community have far more in common, that unites us, than what divides us. And I put that into practice through models like the Infrastructure Australia legislation whereby you have business representatives working with government in order to give advice to governments about what projects should be funded. I’ve consistently put in place that philosophy of trying to get as much consensus as possible, of trying to unite the community rather than divide it. That’s the sort of leader I would be if I was given the great honour of leading the Labor Party.
PETERSON: Anthony Albanese, appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having me on the program.