Subjects: By-elections; WA infrastructure; general election; GST; asylum seekers; population; City Partnerships; Australian values; NRL.
OLIVER PETERSON: Joining me in the studio is Anthony Albanese. Good afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day, good to be here again Ollie.
PETERSON: Well, John sends me an email and he says, “Hi Ollie, if Anthony Albanese doesn’t want the top job, then why is he touring around the country and always coming to WA?”
ALBANESE: I love WA. And I’m here campaigning today with our candidates, Patrick Gorman and Josh Wilson. I was down in Canning doing a roundtable about infrastructure at the wonderful Byford Secondary College, with all the local councillors there – with Mellisa, talking about the Peel Region and growth in infrastructure and job creation. So it was a really good forum and I dropped in to where the polling booth is there at Perth and handed out for a little bit – did a press conference with candidate Patrick Gorman. And I’m – tonight have a couple of other things on and I like dropping into the studio here, it’s always better to be in the studio than on the phone.
PETERSON: Yeah, it’s good to have you with us at the studio.
ALBANESE: And we haven’t got Christopher Pyne here, so it’s even better.
PETERSON: And we haven’t got Bill Shorten here either, you’ve got the golden touch Anthony Albanese, at the moment. The polls say that you might be on the nose in Longman or Braddon, but if you were the Leader of the Labor Party you would be a shoo-in.
ALBANESE: Well, I’m part of the Labor team. So if people want me to be a Minister in a Labor government, then I’m part of that team. Bill Shorten is the captain. But I am very keen to be an Infrastructure Minister in his government, after the election.
PETERSON: All right, and that’s where it stops. What happens this weekend if the by-elections don’t go the way that they should for the Labor Party?
ALBANESE: We intend to win the by-elections. What we’re not doing is talking about internals, whether it’s the issue of the lead-up to the by-elections this Saturday, of course there’s five of them – we’re running in all of them. The Liberals are nowhere to be seen.
PETERSON: Well they’re not running here in Perth …
ALBANESE: In Perth and Fremantle.
PETERSON: No, are you surprised – particularly in Perth, are you surprised the Liberal party isn’t putting up a candidate?
ALBANESE: I think it’s incredibly weak frankly. The Liberal Party got 42 per cent of the primary vote, last time around. And they’re not running a candidate. I think that is a big let down to their supporters. We’re no chance of winning Mayo, I’ll give you that scoop, on Saturday.
PETERSON: Can the Liberal Party win it, or will that stay with the Centre Alliance?
ALBANESE: I think that Rebekha Sharkie will be re-elected on Saturday. We’ll wait and see. But you know, we’ll struggle to hit 20 per cent, it’d be a good result for us. But we’re still running. So you give your supporters someone to vote for.
PETERSON: So in Longman and Braddon though, over the next few days, are those electorates going to see the likes of you or your Leader, or Malcolm Turnbull, or Scott Morrison on the hustings?
ALBANESE: I think you’ll see frontbenchers from both sides. I’ll certainly be in Longman at the end of this week and campaigning with Susan Lamb – I’ve been there already. And I’ve been to Braddon twice and I’ve been to Perth and Fremantle twice. So I also am campaigning of course, for the next general election whenever it may be – so seats like Canning and others.
PETERSON: Do you think it’ll be next year?
ALBANESE: Look I think it probably will be, it should be. The Prime Minister has said it will be. So we’ll see whether he’s a man of his word. I think it would be a big breach of his word if an election was held this year.
PETERSON: Is there much chatter within the Labor Party around the leadership?
ALBANESE: No, we’re just busy getting on with the jobs that we have. I’m a bit old fashioned – do the job that you’ve got, do it to the best of your capacity and that’s what you have to do.
PETERSON: The Courier Mail reporting this morning that, and I quote: “Highly placed sources have told the paper that Mr Shorten is calling senior members of the Left to sandbag his supporting Caucus, signalling that he’s preparing for a showdown.” Any truth to that?
ALBANESE: Well, I don’t know who against or what for. I think the showdown that Bill Shorten has is against Malcolm Turnbull at the next election. And then the little mini, the entree if you like, is this Saturday.
PETERSON: All right, this Saturday. Are you confident though, that the Labor Party will win in Longman and Braddon?
ALBANESE: Look, I’m certainly confident but not overly confident. I don’t take it for granted. The polls show that they’re both pretty tight. They’re both difficult seats, they’re both seats that have – they’re not solid Labor seats. They were both held before the last election by the Coalition. They’re seats that we won. But in the two candidates that we have Susan Lamb and Justine Keay – I can’t think of more hard working, diligent, committed, principled representatives for those electorates, than those two.
PETERSON: Do you support the government’s GST fix?
ALBANESE: I certainly think it’s good that they followed Labor’s lead, Ollie. People talk about why do I come to WA. Well, we were here committing to the Morley to Ellenbrook Rail Line and the Byford Rail Extension and Midland Station Upgrade and the Mitchell Freeway Extension. All of those works that we committed to, to ensure that WA got a fair go, essentially, having the ceiling of 70 cents in the dollar. Now that’s precisely what the Government has adopted, which is our policy. My concern, is that they’re giving with one hand and might be taking with another. Because what we see in infrastructure investment is $1.2 billion from the Commonwealth this current financial year for WA infrastructure. That falls across the Forward Estimates of four years, to $411 million. So …
PETERSON: Do you think the Government might be a little premature, particularly here in WA?
ALBANESE: It drops into a third …
PETERSON: With the WA Liberal Party members more or less doing a victory lap – you know, deciding to raise their bat to the crowd at the moment saying: “We’ve solved it, it’s fixed, vote for the Liberal Party!?”
ALBANESE: They haven’t said where the money is coming from. And they’re cutting WA hospitals and they’re cutting WA schools – both public schools and private and independent schools. And they’re cutting infrastructure. So it’s a matter of WA getting a genuine fair go from the Commonwealth and that’s more than the GST.
PETERSON: It’s going to be your job and Labor’s job though to convince West Australia in particular that they’d be better off voting for Labor over Liberal federally.
ALBANESE: And we’re determined to do that. And just compare how often Bill Shorten or myself or Chris Bowen are here in Western Australia, compared with …
PETERSON: You’re here all the time.
ALBANESE: I am. This is my seventh visit I think this year, seven or eight, and Malcolm Turnbull’s been here I think once, maybe twice, not for that long, and hasn’t been sighted of course while these by-elections are going on. So I think – that’s the case also with Scott Morrison. You don’t see senior …
PETERSON: Scott Morrison was here last week, he was on the GST sell.
ALBANESE: But you don’t see them regularly here, like you see your good Labor team.
PETERSON: So when you’re Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, will you come to Perth as often as you are at the moment?
ALBANESE: I’ll come as the Infrastructure Minister after the election.
PETERSON: Just trying to slip that one in.
ALBANESE: That was subtle mate, that was subtle.
PETERSON: Absolutely. Couple of other issues obviously on the national agenda at the moment and in particular what you weighed in to, should we be turning back the boats?
ALBANESE: Well look, the fact is that it’s worked in terms of the Government’s overall policy on asylum seekers. The problem is that people have been on Manus and Nauru for five years and one of the things that I can say is – no one wants to see boats coming. How do you actually though, stop people smugglers but still maintain some humanity – you need to get those people settled in third countries. And the other thing you need to do is set up regional processing through the UNHCR, so that people don’t have an incentive to get on boats as well. And that is what is provided for in the Labor Party platform and it’s a platform I, along with other members of the Caucus, support.
PETERSON: All right, population policy, where do you sit on this?
ALBANESE: I think population policy is largely about infrastructure and quality of life, that’s what people mean. I don’t think there’s an ideal single figure that’s sort of magic and fixes everything. The question is, is infrastructure being rolled out in advance of population growth? And today down in Canning meeting with the Mayors from the Shires down there, from Murray and Serpentine and from the Peel Development Organisation, what they’re concerned about is making sure that with this massive population growth that’s going to come into the Peel region that the infrastructure’s there. The roads, the jobs importantly, they’ve got quite an exciting proposal for an agricultural, high-level, high-tech, high science-based industry there.
PETERSON: Sure, and when we have a population based discussion, particularly in a West Australian context, we need to be encouraging more people to actually move here to WA.
PETERSON: And I know that you’re bursting at the seams, if you like, in Sydney or Melbourne and we hear that, but there has to be some incentive for those who want a job or set up a family to come to WA.
ALBANESE: Well the key is jobs you know, and you need to have employment not just in the CBDs of the capital cities, but in the outer suburbs and in those growth areas. I’m a big supporter of the NGAA. Today we had as well Wanneroo Shire President was there – and from all of those outer areas, the areas where the growth’s happening, so they need good public transport. The State Government’s prepared to do that with Metronet. That’s why the Federal Government needs to kick in there. But we need to do other things as well, in terms of employment and one of the things that all of the Councils have come together is to support a unified strategy for – across, it’s 11 or 12 local government areas, for sporting facilities. I mean where do the kids get to play? Where do people get that community interaction?
PETERSON: Very important.
ALBANESE: So all of that is I think, what feeds into so-called population policy, but it’s really about the quality of life in our cities. We released a City Partnerships policy just a couple of weeks ago that’s aimed at addressing all of those issues.
PETERSON: All right, Australian values. Do we need an Australian values test that Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge was spruiking in the UK?
ALBANESE: Good old Alan Tudge, he’s always got an idea. He’s actually the Minister, he’s in a position to do things, but he’s always floating these ideas and he’s floating ideas overseas. What Ministers traditionally have done is go overseas and talk Australia up. I’m somewhat concerned that he went overseas and talked Australian down.
PETERSON: What would it be, an Australian values test, what would it be asking?
ALBANESE: Well exactly. I made a comment the other day that I saw Majak Daw and Aliir Aliir marking each other in a North Melbourne, Sydney Swans game just last week, where Aliir kicked his first ever goal in AFL to win the game for the Swans. You know these two guys have come from the most troubled area of Africa in Sudan there. Here they are, first generation, what can be more Australian than playing our Indigenous sport of Australian Rules Football. And to me you know, I think we should accentuate the positive, as that song goes, about harmony in our society. Yes there’ll be some issues from time to time and they need to be addressed and we shouldn’t sweep them under the carpet. But let’s acknowledge that we live in the most successful multicultural, harmonious nation in the world and we should celebrate it. I wish the world was as harmonious as Australia is, where people of different races, religions and backgrounds all live together side by side and all cheer for, or against each other at the footy.
PETERSON: All right, before I let you go, seeing as you have been able to segue into sport, Rabbitohs were first on the ladder going into last weekend, they’re now third. Is the season over for South Sydney?
ALBANESE: Only on percentage though, only on percentage.
PETERSON: (Inaudible) second.
ALBANESE: Only on percentage. Well you know, we won nine in a row. I was a bit worried that – you’re going to lose a game eventually, you want to lose a game in July rather than September.
PETERSON: Fair enough.
ALBANESE: That’s done now, we’ll see how we go versus Parramatta. I went to the game on Saturday night, it was not a great experience I’ve got to say, but the Tigers did play extremely well to give credit where credit’s due.
PETERSON: Well hopefully they recover, and hopefully from Labor’s point of view, Longman and Braddon are in the can or maybe not, we’ll wait and see this weekend. Anthony Albanese thanks for stopping by.
ALBANESE: Thanks Ollie.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.