Subjects: Barnaby Joyce, the Nationals, company tax, Labor road funding announcement; tourism awards; Christopher Pyne, Perth visits.
OLIVER PETERSEN: Anthony Albanese, it is great to have you back in the studio on Perth Live. Good afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s good to be back in Perth. It’s a beautiful day here.
PETERSON: It certainly is a beautiful day here. I imagine as you were doing your Today Show commitments this morning on Channel Nine from Sydney, and the flight across to Perth, by the time you landed the Deputy Prime Minister had resigned.
ALBANESE: Well yes. The elephant has left the room literally, so I think Australians will breathe a sigh of relief that they don’t have to talk about it too much anymore.
PETERSON: Well it has dominated. What is it, 15 days in a row I think in the Daily Telegraph it has been the front page story?
ALBANESE: Well it has been a shocker and everyone knew that Barnaby Joyce had to go. I actually felt sorry for Christopher Pyne this morning on the Today Show. Karl Stefanovic asked him about half a dozen times to express confidence in Barnaby Joyce and of course he couldn’t. Everyone knew that there were just so many issues where there were breaches of ministerial standards and he was relying upon trying to argue there was some technical way in which he hadn’t breached the standards. Australians know when something is up. What was he thinking when he accepted basically a house for free off a significant businessman in Armidale? I mean, for goodness sake, just after had said people should move to Armidale as a solution to the housing affordability issue.
PETERSON: And the personal issues to one side about them moving somebody over, whether or not Vikki Campion was his partner at the time, from office to office to office; now it may not be a breach of ministerial standards or guidelines, but that is probably where a lot of the focus turned its attention to in the last ten days at least.
ALBANESE: Well that’s right and the fact is if you are junior position like the Whip for the National Party, Damian Drum, he is simply not entitled to have someone with the title Senior Adviser. That’s a title that goes to staff of senior ministers – of Cabinet ministers – and so I think people were well aware of that and that is why there continued to be this pursuit of the issue. I think that Barnaby Joyce’s relationships are matter directly for the people involved, but here there was an issue of public expenditure and accountability.
PETERSON: Does it worry you a little bit Anthony Albanese; you have been in Parliament for a long time now; you have seen what has played out with Barnaby Joyce over the last two weeks, where our role as the media is playing here? Are you worried, stepping out of the politics for a moment and Barnaby Joyce being on the other side of the political divide, did the media go too far with its investigations into Barnaby Joyce? Is everything up for grabs now in your personal life for example, or of your colleagues’ in Parliament?
ALBANESE: Well look I hope that we don’t go down the US or the UK road because what we see with some of the tabloids in the United Kingdom in particular is no one talks about education or health or housing or transport or other issues.
PETERSON: Well admittedly the last two weeks we haven’t talked about anything else have we?
ALBANESE: That is right and Australia is better than that. I think in general we have an attitude that people’s private life is their private life. Certainly we never raised, as the Labor Party, we never raised Barnaby Joyce’s situation and personal circumstances and relationships. It was pretty common knowledge frankly in Parliament House but we never went there because it wasn’t appropriate.
PETERSON: Is this the end of the Government? Can the Nationals and the Liberal Party still work together?
ALBANESE: Well, it’s going to be difficult. They have got to work through of course who the Deputy Prime Minister is.
PETERSON: Who do you think it will be? Who is going to be the next Leader of the Nationals.
ALBANESE: Who would know?
PETERSON: Maybe they could get the Akubra and put everyone’s name in a hat.
ALBANESE: That’s the point here. There is a range of them putting themselves forward. The fact that there is no obvious candidate suggests there is a lack of talent there, either a lack of talent or lack of experience. Some of the newer people we have seen rise to the Cabinet – David Littleproud has risen to the Cabinet. A media release has just come out a little while ago saying that the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, who I shadow, is John McVeigh. I have never met the bloke. I have never, ever met him.
PETERSON: OK. So bring it on in Infrastructure and Transport.
ALBANESE: And when he was first appointed I thought he was a senator. I had no idea where he was from and he is in the Cabinet and now he is acting not just in his own portfolio, and I am not sure what his portfolio is, but he is now acting in Infrastructure and Transport so I am shadowing him, which will be a difficult task because to shadow someone you’ve of course got to be behind them and looking at what they are doing. If you can’t recognise them it is going to be a pretty difficult task I reckon.
PETERSON: Does this gift the Labor Party, does this gift the Opposition, does this give you an advantage now, heading into the rest of 2018?
ALBANESE: I think the thing that really gives us an advantage is the lack of narrative, the lack of sense of purpose for the Government. The view out there that Malcolm Turnbull is occupying the Lodge, but really they are acting like an opposition in exile and part of what I would say is that if they want to behave like an opposition in exile, why don’t we just make them the Opposition?
PETERSON: Does this feel similar to you watching the Government this time around to when you were the Government a few years ago and the revolving door between your mate Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, and it looked like the wheels were off from the Labor Government at that stage?
ALBANESE: There is no doubt that we were responsible for some of our own problems. I think that the Australian public, people listening to this program this afternoon, want a government that is concerned about them. About whether their kids are getting a good education, about whether they have got access to health care, about whether the Government is responding to future challenges like getting fast broadband, about fixing transport and infrastructure issues, about dealing with climate change and the environment. They don’t want a government that is focused on themselves.
PETERSON: Yeah we want to be talking about the issues on the national agenda not a political personal life. Company taxes are something that obviously the Government has been trying to push now for a couple of weeks. That conversation is not really getting anywhere at this stage, most of our listeners – you’re right Anthony Albanese to ask this afternoon, I wouldn’t mind a pay rise, I wouldn’t mind being able to put a better meal on the table tomorrow night.
ALBANESE: Absolutely, and at the end of the day Australians are pretty simple I reckon. We all want more for our kids than we had ourselves, a better quality of life, and we want to be able to see that our living standards are able to be lifted and what we’ve seen with real wages in decline for the first time in generations really, is a lot of pressure being put on families out there.
PETERSON: Indeed. Now you came to Perth today for a number of reasons not just to talk, obviously, about the national political agenda, but you’re here to spread the magic dust should the Labor Government win the next election. There is a little bit of money on offer for a major road project.
ALBANESE: That’s right, the project has been identified as Perth’s most heavily congested road, it is the Leach Highway and Welshpool Road and today I was there with Rita Saffioti, the State Minister and Hannah Beazley, our candidate for Swan, and Lauren Palmer, our candidate for Hasluck. We announced that we would put in our share of the $93 million that it will cost to fix that road. It has a benefit-cost ratio; the business case is all done – more than seven dollars benefit for every dollar that is invested. So even today when we did the media conference a little while ago, you could just see the traffic banking up and of course in the morning and afternoon peaks, it’s an acute issue. We’ve got a solution to fix it.
PETERSON: Very good, and you’re here for the Tourism Awards this evening, they should be fantastic.
ALBANESE: They will be great and I look forward to seeing the new stadium, I haven’t been there before.
PETERSON: You’re going to love it.
ALBANESE: It will be a great thing. The Qantas Australian Tourism awards are held every year and they have paid tribute, WA usually does pretty well I have got to say, in them.
It’s a great night, it’s a celebration of the importance of tourism to our future growth. There’s about 1 million Australians earn their living directly and indirectly due to tourism and of course the prospects for the west, I’ll be back over here next month for the first direct flight from Perth to London and that’s incredibly exciting and that will change the whole dynamic.
Not just opening up for overseas tourists, but I think it will be very attractive for people from the east coast. To come to Perth, do some business or have a look around, not just here but up or down the coast, or go have a look at Kalgoorlie, go across to Rottnest, to then travel onto London directly and not have to go through customs in Singapore or Dubai or Abu Dhabi or some other stop. I think it’s a great thing that Qantas are doing and it’s particularly good for Perth.
PETERSON: Indeed, and also your sparring partner, because we’ll be talking to yourself and Christopher Pine shortly, he still hasn’t been here despite saying that when he comes to Perth everybody will put him on their shoulders when he goes to Henderson.
ALBANESE: See he lives in Adelaide, and he never looks, he looks up north and he never looks to the left, he just can’t cross that Nullarbor and you know he has got defence as well, he has got his own RAAF Plane. He could hop on, come over here. I’m a regular visitor and I think one of the things that is really important is that you can’t just drop in for an hour or two hours every year. You’ve got to come here regularly, develop relationships find out the way that the city ticks.
It’s a good thing. I just had lunch at a little café. You’re talking to people about what’s going on, what they think is happening in the economy here and I always enjoy my trips to Perth, it’s always pretty good weather too.
PRESENTER: It certainly is, we’re happy to host you Anthony Albanese. Good to see you again and we’ll catch up shortly.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
FRIDAY, 23 FEBRUARY, 2018
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.