Subjects: Park and Ride Scheme; infrastructure; WA politics; Christian Porter; Kevin Rudd; Joe Hockey; Mathias Cormann; pensioners; Uber; drought; Mitchell Freeway; Perth; wages; Safe Rates; road safety; Election 2019; travel; unions.
OLIVER PETERSON: Anthony Albanese live in the studio. Good to see you, welcome back.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks for having us on again, Ollie.
PETERSON: If you want to ask Albo, hit the phones right now – 9221 1882 – another edition of Talkback Democracy. What are you doing back in Perth?
ALBANESE: Well I was down in Canning earlier today at Mandurah Station with Mellisa Teede, our fantastic candidate. I went down there during the by-election that was held and quite clearly there’s a need for increased commuter parking there. So I did that. I then had some meetings with Kim Travers, our candidate for Pearce. We met with some business people. I then had a meeting at Woodside. I’ve got some things on tonight. I’ve got a sundowner on after this.
PETERSON: Oh okay, come have a beer with Albo.
ALBANESE: It’s a busy time. Beer with Albo. Even better than talkback with Albo is beer with Albo.
PETERSON: Ask Albo – 9221 1882.
ALBANESE: Maybe we could combine the two.
PETERSON: Yes beer and talkback.
ALBANESE: That’s vision!
PETERSON: What could possibly go wrong? The Mandurah train station, you were there promising the car park, that’s been on the cards though since Don Randall’s passing really; at any by-election either party has been promising to do it. So if you want the car park, vote Labor, is that your message?
PETERSON: There will be a car park in Mandurah at the Mandurah Train Station.
ALBANESE: Absolutely with $16 million from each level of government – a multi-storey car park. It is of course the end of the line. A line built by the former Labor Government here in WA and I’ve always loved going down the Kwinana Freeway when you see the trains go past the cars. It really is a great example of public transport that was – basically its patronage far exceeded what the forecasts were and I think that will be the same with the whole METRONET roll-out that Mark McGowan’s Government is doing it in partnership with us, I hope.
PETERSON: Would the Lakelands train station be on your radar?
ALBANESE: It is and Mellisa certainly has raised that with me. We’re in a process of consulting out there.
PETERSON: Does it depend on whether or not you beat Andrew Hastie?
ALBANESE: No, no we will, if we are in government, we will be fulfilling the commitments that we make. It’s as simple as that. But, I’ve got to say, that Andrew Hastie hasn’t delivered much since the by-election. He’s gone a bit missing and the WA Liberals are just too busy fighting over seats and arguing with each other and getting campaign buses for free and getting free international trips to worry about the people who actually vote for them.
PETERSON: So what do you make there of Christian Porter’s appointments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the buses and Joe Francis, the former Corrective Services Minister, getting one of those roles?
ALBANESE: Well it’s red hot to announce in the very last hour of the Parliament sitting last Thursday, after everything else that had happened over the Helloworld, hello conflict of interest scandal, over everything else that had happened, to make all of these appointments and multiple former MPs, former staffers, including one of his own staff, and then we find that Joe Francis, this former WA Liberal MP, has given him a bus for free and he seems to of…
PETERSON: He says he gave it to the party, not to Christian Porter directly.
ALBANESE: Well I’ve seen the bus and I’ve seen Christian Porter standing in front of it with a super-duper Christian Porter big sign.
PETERSON: Would you catch it?
ALBANESE: No, I think that that bus is stalled and it’s like the Government, it’s rusted and it’s just dealing with itself. It doesn’t go anywhere. That’s the problem; it doesn’t move forward.
PETERSON: But shoe on the other foot, don’t you scratch each other’s backs? When Labor is in government don’t you appoint and give special consideration to some of your old mates and give them jobs? Jobs for the boys or the girls, isn’t that what everybody does? If you’re a Liberal, you help your friends out. If you’re a Labor Government, you help your mates out.
ALBANESE: Have a look at what we did in government, the appointments that we made. People like Brendan Nelson, we appointed as an Ambassador, former Liberal Leader. I appointed Bruce Baird as head of the Heavy Vehicle Regulator. I appointed Mark Birrell, a former Kennett Government Minister. It should be on merit and far be it from me as a politician to say that former politicians don’t have merit, because they can, but you look at this Government’s appointments and it’s dozens and dozens and dozens of mates and no meritocracy here. They’ve been mean spirited. They refused to back Kevin Rudd for the UN Secretary General position.
PETERSON: Would Labor appoint Kevin Rudd to that role? Would you endorse him if you could?
ALBANESE: Well, it’s a UN position.
ALBANESE: Of course we would. We would back any Aussie candidate.
PETERSON: But Kevin Rudd’s an old mate of yours?
ALBANESE: But we’d back any Aussie candidate. We supported Malcolm Fraser, in spite of the history, for playing an international role. We’ve said that people like Julie Bishop, if an appropriate position comes up for Julie, she’s obviously a distinguished former Foreign Minister and she would make a good appointment some time down the track.
PETERSON: Would she be a better appointment than Joe Hockey? Would you remove him from his post?
ALBANESE: Well I think that Joe has some questions to answer about the Helloworld issue, but we’ll see how that plays out. I think he does have questions to answer. I quite like Joe, personally, but I just find the whole Helloworld stuff quite extraordinary.
PETERSON: This is starting to tell a little bit of a tale, Albo, and you’ve been around for a very long time as well in politics and it’s one thing that many people ring us and say: ‘I’m just sick of this kind of sense of entitlement or the backscratching that goes on’. Does it worry that this really goes to the to the heart of all politicians and your integrity when you get labelled with this regardless of whether you’re Labor, Liberal, Green, One Nation, whatever you might be?
ALBANESE: Oh absolutely. Look there’s no doubt that people out there think about themselves and their lives and what it’s like. The idea that you get a $3,000 trip and you don’t notice that it’s not on your credit card and that you haven’t paid for it, which is basically what the excuse is…
PETERSON: From Mathias Cormann.
ALBANESE: Yeah, Mathias Cormann basically saying that it’s a stuff up. Helloworld is of course run by the Treasurer of the Liberal Party and Helloworld have benefited from significant government contracts. Now in politics I think you’ve got to be really, really careful about these issues. You have to declare things above three hundred dollars. I declare all sorts of things, you know if I get a pen or something simple, someone gives me a footy scarf I declare it, because I think that we have a responsibility to be cautious and we are in a privileged position compared with the people, most of the people, that we represent. That’s not to say we don’t work hard. I mean I woke up this morning in Melbourne…
PETERSON: Here you are in Perth, going to a sundowner.
ALBANESE: Here I am in Perth, down to Mandurah and I’ll be going into the evening. It’s pretty tough sometimes, and people look at that and go: ‘Oh, he’s flying around isn’t that luxury?’. I’d be very glad to never get on a plane again, I’ve got to say, but then again – except to come here!
PETERSON: To come to Perth.
ALBANESE: Yes, to come to Perth.
PETERSON: For Ask Albo.
ALBANESE: But for a couple of weeks, not for a day.
PETERSON: For a flying visit. Let’s go to Paul who wants to put a question to you. Good afternoon.
CALLER: Good afternoon both Ollie and Mr Albanese, how are you both?
PETERSON: We’re fantastic, mate.
ALBANESE: I’m good thanks, Paul.
CALLER: Good to hear you’re in Perth. Listen though I’m just asking a question about pensioners. Does the Federal Liberal Party were in the pipeline, I heard it on 882 6PR was going to do with once of payment to pensioners. Now if they do that will Labor Party tick it or will they reject it?
ALBANESE: Well, I haven’t I haven’t seen that, Paul, that announcement here. I haven’t had the opportunity to be listening to 6PR today, I’ve been on the road and at meetings. Can I say this though, the last time we were in government we put through the largest ever increase in the pension in Australia’s history, and that’s something that I was very proud of. We also of course tripled the tax free threshold for those people on really low incomes, from $6,000 to up above $18,000, and Labor will always stand up for those people who are most in need.
PETERSON: Hello Gary. Gary, go ahead.
ALBANESE: G’day Gary.
PETERSON: I don’t think Gary’s there at the moment. Hello Clark.
CALLER: Yeah, hey Albo.
ALBANESE: Hey Clark.
CALLER: Yeah just had a query, I’ve just come back from Phuket actually on a holiday and they banned Uber in Phuket because it was affecting the taxi drivers and it’s been banned in other countries of the world. What’s Labor’s stance on Uber? They going to ban it if they get in?
ALBANESE: No we’re not about banning it. We think the emergence of the share economy is really important, it’s significant, whether it be Uber, Airbnb, there’s a range of companies in terms of – shared motor vehicles, there’s various schemes around the states. We do think there’s a need for proper regulation to make sure that people who are working for companies in the share economy aren’t ripped off, but we think that that is a legitimate way in which, for many people, they’re earning a few extra dollars that might help them pay for a holiday to Phuket. But there is a need, I think for, an appropriate regulatory oversight of all of these companies, plus one of the issues is food delivery companies as well have come under scrutiny and we just need to make sure that whilst we’re not limiting entrepreneurship, we’re making sure that people aren’t getting ripped off at the same time.
PETERSON: This is ‘Ask Albo’ – one from Facebook on the Oliver Peterson 6PR Facebook Page – comes from Wade. He says: ‘What is the Labor Government’s stance on helping out our struggling farmers all over Australia and also what are you going to do about the large amount of nations buying up large amounts of quality land in the north of Western Australia? Keep Australian farmers Australian.’ He writes.
ALBANESE: On the second point of course foreign investment has always played a role. We need to make sure, though, that the national interest is put first and there are various mechanisms to make sure that happens. Overwhelmingly land in this country is owned by Australians and it is important that we support our farmers. They’re doing it really tough. There was a debate in the Parliament last week for example, about establishing a drought fund. The Government, what it wants to do, and it’ll be debated in the Senate when we get back, it wants to take money from the Building Australia Fund – which is used for major infrastructure projects, that’s how we funded Perth City Link here, the upgrade for example – and give that into a drought fund. What we said is no, farmers are doing it tough they need their own fund but we won’t take it from somewhere else. We think it’s deserving in its own right. So that’s a position that we took, but our farmers you know they do it really tough at times like this. And one of the good things, I think, is that I represent an inner city seat …
ALBANESE: … is the way that people – regardless of where they live – have respect for our farmers and have dug deep to provide them with assistance. I know my electorate office in the Inner West of Sydney, we were collecting funds for the farmers and that’s a good thing.
PETERSON: Hello Gary.
ALBANESE: Hi Gary.
CALLER: (Inaudible) I spoke to the Premier in January on one of the shows on this radio station, about what’s going on with the third lane for the Mitchell Freeway, between Aussies Drive and Hepburn. Because it was supposed to be done a couple of years ago and now all of a sudden it’s paused because of the State’s financial worries. We need it back on the agenda, to get done, because traffic is an absolute nightmare. From 5:30 in the morning until 11:00 in the morning (inaudible).
ALBANESE: It is and I’m very conscious of that, and that’s another issue that our candidate for Pearce, Kim Travers, has very much raised with me and we’ve committed to the upgrade in terms of the Mitchell Freeway just extending the widening further up to the north. Of course, Perth is a city – in the time I’ve been coming here it’s grown. And it’s grown to the south and it’s grown to the north in particular. Obviously residents of this great city like living pretty close to the coast and it’s …
PETERSON: Why not, it’s so good.
ALBANESE: Absolutely. Your beaches – I reckon for people who aren’t from Perth – I always say to them go to Cottesloe or Scarborough, they are amazing beaches …
PETERSON: Better than Sydney beaches?
ALBANESE: They’re different. They’re different.
PETERSON: Come on, no one in Sydney is listening at the moment, you can say it, it’s all right.
ALBANESE: There’s this new thing called the ‘Interweb’, and they might be listening. But I think Australia has the best beaches in the world and many of the best ones are right here. I’m a big fan of Smiths Beach down the coast.
PETERSON: What, because Stephen Smith hangs out there, does he?
ALBANESE: Smithy was actually the person who told me about Smiths Beach. I think he was trying to claim it was named after him.
PETERSON: Sure he is.
ALBANESE: But it’s just extraordinary and right up and down the coast, of course, this is a great state. Let alone the beaches around Esperance as well, I’ve got to say,
PETERSON: Yeah, lovely. They’re outstanding. We’re going to take a couple more calls in a moment. It’s ‘Ask Albo’ – your opportunity to access one of Labor’s most senior politicians and soon he may be a minister if the polls are to be believed; they are on course to defeat the Government. So if you’ve got an issue for him …
This is ‘Ask Albo’ with Anthony Albanese – Hello Daniel.
CALLER: G’day Anthony, g’day Ollie.
ALBANESE: G’day, Daniel.
CALLER: Number one, I’m a big fan of your work. I like the way you go about things.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much mate, very nice of you to say it.
CALLER: Just wanting to know, basically, I’m a truck driver sort of, you know, a blue collar worker. I haven’t really seen any sort of increase in my wage since about 2003. I know there has been increases in wages in some areas, but in real terms my rate hasn’t really gone up much since about 2003 and I was just wondering what your government – if you do form government – what you could do to put pressure on a bit of a wage rise?
ALBANESE: Not only do you think that it is a problem for you personally, the interesting thing about the low wage rises and not keeping pace with the increase in profits that we’ve seen, is that the Reserve Bank of Australia and every economist knows it is a problem for our national economy. Because if you lift your wage by a bit, guess what, you spend it. You don’t save it, you spend it. And that helps create more jobs for others. What we’ll do in the trucking industry in particular, is that we’re serious about Safe Rates. We don’t think the circumstance whereby truck drivers are put under pressure to lower their costs, or to drive too fast, or to drive for too long are acceptable. And we’ll work with industry to make sure that we do have Safe Rates so that we – not just lead to better living standards, but importantly keep not just you safe on the road, but everyone who shares the roads with you.
PETERSON: All right, I think Angela might be on a similar topic. Good afternoon.
CALLER: Hi, how are you going? What I wanted to know was, I’ve emailed Josh Wilson, I’ve had Glenn Sterle contact me, I’ve tried to contact the TWU both here in WA and federally, trying to get more detail on the Safe Rates. But everyone seems to be ducking for cover. So what we really want to know is a lot more detail and if there is a link or a release that can be sent out that has a lot more detail. I know Glenn Sterle did contact me and I left a message and called him back however he hasn’t called me back again. But everyone keeps talking about saving lives on the road, that’s what Safe Rates will do, but how the hell will it when – are you actually looking at improving road conditions and heavy haulage routes and keeping cyclists off heavy haulage routes? And with Roe Eight not being extended that would have helped keep our drivers safe as well. So what exactly is Safe Rates and when will we see more detail, a lot more detail, well before the election?
ALBANESE: There are three things you can do to improve road safety. One, better infrastructure, literally better roads. So we put in record funding, not just for roads around Perth like Gateway WA, but roads that are still underway that were funded by us when we were in Government like the Swan Valley Bypass. But we also did the Great Northern Highway, Muchea and (inaudible). We did a range of projects, the North West Coastal Highway, to make sure that roads were safe. The second thing is new technology which is important. The newer trucks have better technology and that can have an impact. The third is, of course, personal awareness; people being aware, drivers, when you’re behind the wheel, to drive safely. But the other thing is, what Safe Rates is about is pretty simple, it’s that you can’t have an unregulated area whereby drivers are put under pressure to drive without getting appropriate rest without getting appropriate conditions. And one of the things that we will do is to finalise that in consultation with industry. There was a two-day meeting in Parliament House during the last fortnight sitting. Glenn Sterle is hosting a Safe Rates forum with industry, with people from the sector as well as with the unions in Canberra during the break, because we have a part-time Parliament now. So they will be working on some of the detail and Glenn has carriage of it, as the Assistant Shadow Minister for Road Safety.
PETERSON: On that point of the part-time Parliament, you’ve got a couple of days before the Budget is handed down in April?
ALBANESE: We go back on Budget Day, April 2. And then we sit April 3 and then Bill will give the Budget Reply on April 4 and that’s it.
PETERSON: That’s it. Then Scott Morrison, you believe, will call an election?
ALBANESE: Absolutely. He said he will and there’s no doubt that they have to …
PETERSON: So what are you going to do between now and then?
ALBANESE: Come to Perth, here I am! I was in Melbourne yesterday; I’ll be in Perth obviously tomorrow morning. I’ll be in Melbourne at the Avalon Air Show as Shadow Transport Minister on Thursday. And on Friday I’ll be at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, which were held here at new stadium in Perth last year. This time it’s in Cataract Gorge in Launceston. They’re putting a huge marquee up, it is the biggest event for the tourism sector and WA did really well last year and I’m sure they’ll do well again.
PETERSON: All right, we’ll try and squeeze another one or two in. Paul, very quickly, how are you going?
CALLER: Good, how are you going?
PETERSON: We’re good, mate.
ALBANESE: Hi Paul.
CALLER: I know, Albo, you’re talking about the rail project – I was on that for two years. And one of the things that scares me about Labor coming back in, I sort of (inaudible) the unions run amok a bit there. There was many days where they’d go out and strike. Say it was 37.5 or 37.7 in Perth and they’d let everyone go all the way down to Mandurah, where the sea breeze might be – it was only 25 degrees there. It just was day after day there were many occasions, where you would go to work and it would end up being you’d go home half a day because we were short. And we ended up losing a lot of money.
ALBANESE: Which project was this, mate? Was this the Mandurah Extension or Perth City Link?
CALLER: It was, well basically the new rail line from Perth to Mandurah.
ALBANESE: The truth is, when we were in office, industrial disputation was down compared with during the Howard years. On average, in terms of number of strike days lost. We want to work with, we make no apology for saying we want to work with unions, but we want to work with employers as well. If you don’t have employers giving people jobs you won’t have trade union members. There’s a common interest and one of the things that I’ve done today, for example, is meet with many of the business sector and I’ll be doing that again in about an hour’s time.
PETERSON: All right, for the Sundowner. Anthony Albanese we are out of time. We’ll see you again here in the coming months, thank you very much.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having me on.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.