SUBJECTS: Newstart allowance increases; Labor’s 2019 Federal Election performance; Labor policies going forward for Western Australia; Labor’s policy review; the Labor Party’s values; climate change policy; climate change protests.
OLIVER PETERSON, HOST: At 12 minutes to 4 o’clock with the Australian Labor Party Leader Anthony Albanese, live on your radio right now. Good day.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good day Oliver, how are you?
PETERSON: I’m very well. We’ve just had on the program Dr Brendan Rynne from KPMG Australia. They’ve put a submission into the Senate, you’d be well aware, in regards to increasing Newstart by a $100 per week. Are they on the money?
ALBANESE: Well, I wouldn’t put that figure on it. What I think you need to do is for the Government to do the proper modelling and to consult, obviously, with Treasury. But, it’s very clear that $40 a day simply is just not enough. And the idea that the Minister said last week, that if you give people more money for Newstart it will just go to drug dealers and pubs, is I think a bit offensive. But the biggest growth of people who are unemployed are those over the age of 55. And the idea that people should not be given a level of support enough for them to survive is, I think, just not on in 2019.
PETERSON: Should it be taken out of successive government’s hands and given to some sort of independent tribunal to decide?
ALBANESE: Well, I think that’s a reasonable suggestion, frankly, to have some sort of assessment not based upon politics or trying to create division in the community. The fact is that a whole lot of people who lose their job, particularly later in life, find it difficult to get back into work. And what they need is support. And they also need confidence. If you are treated in a way whereby you are disparaged, like the Minister did last week, then that’s not going to help your confidence and your capacity to go along to a job interview and be successful at it. The other thing is that not only do individuals deserve an increase, I think, and need it, essentially, to get by. It would be good for the economy because we know that people who are on Newstart would spend it. They’re not likely to save it and overwhelmingly they’d spend it on the essentials of life. On food and shelter and stimulating the economy, which itself would create jobs.
PETERSON: Talking of having success in job interviews, you’re well aware of doing that yourself and losing jobs. Bill Shorten, your former Leader, he’s now taken responsibility over the weekend for Labor’s dismal performance at the Federal Election. Anthony Albanese, if you’d been Leader would you be Prime Minister today?
ALBANESE: Look, we can go through hypotheticals all we like but I was a member of the team, our team lost. Bill, as the captain of that team, has accepted responsibility and good on him for doing so. Quite clearly we just need to do better. And what I’m doing is looking forward rather than back. We’ve got a review happening at arm’s length from myself and Bill and everyone else that’ll give a report to the National Executive. But I’m really focused on the future. I’ve announced that the first vision statement that I give, which will be on jobs and the future of work, will be in your great city of Perth. It’ll be at the end of October. And I want to outline an agenda for economic growth and jobs, to make sure that we’re creating wealth and not just talking about the distribution of it, that we’re talking also about social justice and fairness, and we’re talking about the need to enhance our natural environment, including taking action on climate change.
PETERSON: Well, we’ll cover that in a moment. But one thing I’m quite surprised about with Bill Shorten’s comments is he took Queensland and Western Australia for granted. Now this is a successive issue for the Labor Party. If you go back to the mining tax, and now obviously the franking credits policy, the negative gearing policy, and it seems to have the similar conclusion of, ‘oh we weren’t aware of what was going on in the West’. Now I know very well that you’re here regularly, and as you’ve just said you’ll be here in a couple of weeks as well, why is it that the Australian Labor Party has neglected, or why does the Australian Labor Party at a Federal level not understand what Western Australia wants as part of the Commonwealth?
ALBANESE: Well, I think I certainly do. It’s no accident that the very first vision statement I’m giving will be in Western Australia. And it’s no accident either that I’ve been there at least once a month, effectively, for a number of years, not just since I’ve become the Leader of the Labor Party. One of the things that I understand about our great and vast continent is that the issues that are there in the West are different from the East Coast, and you need to develop relationships, you need to talk with people, you need to listen importantly. And one of the first stops I made on my listening tour after the election was to Perth and Freo. I’ve talked with businesses. I’ve talked to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I’ve talked to unions. I’ve talked to Party members. I’ve just talked to punters about what they thought, particularly those people who wanted to vote Labor but felt that they couldn’t for various reasons. One of those was the issue of franking credits, certainly created some concern in the community. And I think also things like, dare I say it on 6PR, going on your program and taking callers at random, taking all comers and listening to people and engaging in that way, is a really effective way of hearing what the community is saying.
PETERSON: Of course it is. Talking of the franking credits policy, negative gearing policies; are those policies now dead, buried and cremated?
ALBANESE: Well, basically we’re starting again with all policies essentially not going through unless we say they will be continued. What I’ve said is that all policies are up for review but our values aren’t. The Labor Party’s values of fairness and equity aren’t about to change. We want the economy to grow. We want people to have opportunity in life. We’ve always supported, for example, Medicare. We’ve always supported education funding. We are the Party of superannuation. So, there are a range of values that we have which are core to who we are. Now, that’s not going to change. What we need to do though, is clearly to reassess the policies. Essentially we’ll be coming up with a whole suite of new policies going forward. They’ll be ones that, I think, can win the support of the Australian people in 2022.
PETERSON: And is climate change policy on that agenda? Are you okay, Anthony Albanese, with the action that protesters are taking, in particularly this week, threatening to shut down all capital cities?
ALBANESE: Look, the people need to engage in a democracy, in peaceful protest that gets messages across but don’t alienate people from that message. And if people are serious about acting on climate change, and I am, then they want to bring people with them on that journey of why we need to take action. And I think, quite frankly, sometimes some people who are involved in various movements, of the left or the right, act inappropriately. When they do that, they should be called out for it. I was in Brisbane earlier today and there was talk of using drones around the airport. That would be incredibly dangerous and it should be called out for the irresponsible action that it is. But it’s a good thing that people are interested in the future of our natural environment and have an interest in climate change. But there are ways of demonstrating your support for particular actions without being disruptive.
PETERSON: Anthony Albanese, we are out of time this Monday afternoon. I really appreciate your time here on 6PR. We’ll see you soon.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much. I’ll see you in the studio and in a few weeks.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.