Subjects: By-elections; infrastructure; Newspoll; defence; NBN; citizenship; South Sydney Rabbitohs; corporate tax cuts.
T: Six past four, we’re kicking off another round of Talkback Democracy this afternoon. So if you would like to put a question to my guest, Anthony Albanese, senior member of the Labor Party, pick up the phone dial the number right now. He’s live here in the 6PR studios. Anthony Albanese, good afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day, good to be here.
PETERSON: Are you going to nominate for the State in the by-election in Darling Range Albo? Is that why you’re here – to run for the WA Labor Government?
ALBANESE: Well that’s always an option Ollie. I’m not sure my family would deal with a commute over to WA to the WA State Parliament.
PETERSON: Fair enough.
ALBANESE: Just because I’m a regular mate, doesn’t mean I want to be in the WA Parliament.
PETERSON: Seventh visit this year?
ALBANESE: Seventh visit this year. I was with Josh Wilson out at Freo earlier today and …
PETERSON: Working on the by-elections …
ALBANESE: A bit later I’ll be with Patrick Gorman in Perth at Mount Lawley and I had a fantastic roundtable actually with the WA Tourism Council at lunch time, so it’s been a very productive day.
PETERSON: Let’s start there, saying, you know, catch up with Patrick Gorman in the seat of Perth later. Are you surprised the Liberal Party isn’t putting up a candidate?
ALBANESE: I’m shocked, frankly. They got 42 percent of the primary vote at the last election and I think that the Liberal Party faithful are entitled to wonder why it is that they won’t have a candidate to vote for in a by-election. We’re standing even in Mayo where we have as much chance of that happening as there is of me running for the WA State Parliament.
PETERSON: So you’ve just got to put up a candidate and show you’re interested in the seat. It’s only on a 3 percent margin as well regardless of whether the federal government may be on the nose in the seat of Perth. Surely the Liberal Party has to run a candidate?
ALBANESE: And we’ve got a new candidate in Patrick Gorman. Tim, of course was a new candidate last time around but he had been known because he’d run for Federal Parliament before in the neighboring seat. So it is quite an extraordinary decision to say “no this is all too hard we won’t we won’t be bothered.” And I think it’ll have a flow on effect in WA in general, in that the Liberal Party won’t be out there in the field and the campaign will inevitably spread beyond the voters of Perth and Fremantle they’ll be listening to Labor Party people spruiking why people should support Labor forming government after the next election.
PETERSON: Well the Liberal Party argues that it’s saving its war chest, if you like, for the next federal election and it’s maybe its pockets are empty at the moment, it doesn’t have the money to fight a by-election in the seat of Perth and a state by-election in the seat of Darling Range. But do you think this has something to do with the fact that the Treasurer Scott Morrison has this Productivity Commission Review now, into the GST but he hasn’t made it public?
ALBANESE: I have no doubt they want to avoid getting questions about a review that no-one’s seen except for Scott Morrison. But he can’t hold on to it until after the next federal election, surely. So you’d be better off just putting it out there letting people see what’s in it and then coming to a determination. I think there’s pretty much a consensus that WA has not got its fair share from the GST. The solutions are always much more difficult of course to identify than the problem. We’ve come up with the $1.6 billion Fair Share for WA Fund.
PETERSON: And on that, it does look after you announced it, we saw Malcolm Turnbull the Prime Minister and the Liberal National Government more or less commit to basically the same plan. So I just want to ask you, Anthony Albanese, if hypothetically the Labor Party forms next government and some of those projects that you’ve identified are already underway and the money was already allocated. Would you find other projects in Western Australia to invest that $1.6 billion in?
ALBANESE: Of course we’ll have more to say about infrastructure in WA. But our $1.6 billion is over two years. What Malcolm Turnbull announced was $3.2 billion over 10 years. So most of that money is well outside the Forward Estimates. We could have three different governments by then, so it goes from $1.2 billion in the current year to $411 million dollars in 2021-22. Now that’s just not good enough. That’s a drop off of almost three quarters in over the four-year period and what you need on infrastructure is to have that constant investment. That’s what we did – when I was the Minister we had new announcements in every single Budget – be it the Great Eastern Highway, Gateway WA, Perth City Link, the Swan Valley Bypass down at Esperance, up the Great Northern Highway, the North West Coastal Highway. We made sure that there was a rolling issue of infrastructure projects coming through because that way you get efficiencies as well. Look at the Gateway WA project, I was with the Perth Airport CEO …
PETERSON: Kevin Brown …
ALBANESE: And others in the tourism sector today lunchtime, and it’s made such a difference to this city.
PETERSON: Talkback Democracy, a rare opportunity for you to put a question to Anthony Albanese senior Labor MP today. Obviously your portfolios, once again, transport, tourism, infrastructure, regional development. Absolutely everything you can speak on …
ALBANESE: Building stuff.
PETERSON: Building stuff, that and many more – if you would like to put a question to Anthony Albanese. I want to ask you what do you make of today’s Newspoll showing that for the 66th survey in a row, Bill Shorten has been behind as the preferred Prime Minister?
ALBANESE: Well what it showed as well, is that Labor is ahead 52-48 today. And that’s what determines whether you’re in government or not. If the election was held last Saturday Labor would have been forming government and I’d be – I’d have the same title probably, except with that nasty little word shadow rubbed out before my name. The most annoying word in politics is shadow.
PETERSON: But the polls now show that you are the preferred leader of the Labor Party.
ALBANESE: Well that’s, one poll shows that, but I’m doing the job that I’ve been given, Ollie, as you know, I work pretty hard, I get around the country.
PETERSON: Yeah, well you’re here for the seventh time this year. You front up, you’re likeable, you’ve got the public traits of a candidate for Prime Minister and obviously the poll has Malcolm Turnbull 47-30 on the preferred PM against Bill Shorten. That’s a huge gap, that’s 17 points, is this something your colleagues need to address?
ALBANESE: Well we need to all look at our performances, but we’re a team and the team is doing really well and the team is ahead. And Bill is the captain of the team I’m happy to play the role of halfback or five-eighth or wherever I’m picked. The Origin teams have been picked at the moment and I am happy to play that role. I’ve always been a team player …
PETERSON: But should the captain, maybe he injures himself or all of a sudden he’s out of form. Would you be prepared to step up and be the captain?
ALBANESE: I’m happy with the job that I’ve got Ollie, good try. But I am very happy with the job that I’ve got and Bill has confidence in me, he’s given me a role that’s significant in the Opposition and I think I’ve been holding the Government to account as well as, I like – I enjoy campaigning and it’s been terrific campaigning here today with Josh and I look forward to campaigning with Patrick as well.
PETERSON: But when we look at those stats it’s just one more, Anthony Albanese are you worried that when people go to the ballot box they cast a vote, they realise how unpopular Bill Shorten is, as being in charge of the Labor Party and then they say “no I’m not going to vote Labor” and now we re-elect the Coalition.
ALBANESE: Well of course I want Labor to win. And my job is to do everything that I can to contribute to the team to make sure that we do win. You can’t make a difference from Opposition. You can, you can push change and I think the way that we – one of the reasons why I’ve been here seven times this year is announcements like Midland Station, the Ellenbrook Line, Stephenson Avenue Road Project, Leach Highway. All of these projects that we got out there and announced our support for that – then the Government came in, was leading from behind this Government, when it comes to infrastructure here in WA. So you can make a difference. Our opposition to the Perth Freight Link Project made a difference, I think, to State Labor’s victory as well. So I think in life what you’ve got to do is to not worry about the job that you don’t have, to worry about the job that you do have and do it to the best of your capacity and that’s what I’m doing.
PETERSON: All right, let’s talk to Chris who’s there on line one. Chris, you have a question for Anthony Albanese. Good afternoon.
CALLER: G’day Albo, G’day Toady. Look mate, I’d say I’m largely a Liberal voter, I voted Liberal. But look, I can be …
PETERSON: Can be swayed, Chris?
CALLER: I can be, I wouldn’t say I’m a swinging voter but I can be swayed. And my biggest concern is our defence and the potentially disastrous purchase of, and I would say almost certain disastrous purchase of, World War Two era French submarines. And look there’s already predictions this will be a $75 billion blowout and these submarines will be superseded by the time we get them with modern technology, such as drones and whatever. And I think I would actually happily vote for anyone that cuts that whole deal in the bud.
But, just hopefully it’s not set in stone somewhere. It probably is, but this purchase of this submarine will break our back and I’m talking financially we’re already in huge debt and this is going to be the mother of all white elephants.
PETERSON: All right.
ALBANESE: Thanks Chris. Look I respect your view but there is of course – contracts have been entered into with the French-based company and that project is underway. It does have bipartisan support. I’m not an expert on defence procurement, I must put my hand up and concede. I don’t think Christopher Pyne is either, by the way, The Minister, to be fair. But certainly we would act in government as all government should with proper advice from the people in the Defence Department. We have an outstanding military in this country who do know what they’re doing and I would certainly do what I’ve done when I was last in government which was as a member of the National Security Committee and a member of Cabinet really listened to the advice of our defence personnel when it comes to defence issues.
PETERSON: Thank you Chris. Abe, good afternoon.
CALLER: Yeah good afternoon …
ALBANESE: Hi Abe …
CALLER: How are you mate, just on, similar to the GST. Why is it, why aren’t you guys pushing the Government to roll out better services for the NBN in WA?
ALBANESE: Oh, Well we …
CALLER: We always seem to miss out, we’re always on the slowest system fibre to the node instead of – at least fibre to the curb.
ALBANESE: Well absolutely and this is a huge issue with, it was raised with me this morning when I was in Freo with Josh. It is a tragedy, frankly. I was the Communications Minister at the end of the government and what I know is that, you know, this is pretty simple. Fibre is 21st century technology, copper is not and the hybrid model that Malcolm Turnbull imposed as the Communications Minister relies upon copper, either from the curb or sometimes even longer distances than that and it’s simply not reliable. One of the problems in Australia, including here in the West, is that the copper wires were laid many decades ago. They’re rusting. They’d need replacing regardless of the issue of broadband technology and of course it’s not surprising that when the pits were dug up people found asbestos, we were the greatest users in the world of asbestos …
PETERSON: I think there could be a vote winner in here for the Labor party if you can deliver faster NBN to WA than the Liberal Party, I think many people would vote for you.
ALBANESE: Well, we are absolutely committed to doing just that. We were doing that when we were in government it was disrupted but we believe in giving the best possible service and for WA it is so important because the NBN is about overcoming the tyranny of distance.
PETERSON: Correct. And we do here from time to time. It’s because we are isolated from the rest of the country as to why it is slower. We’ll take more of your calls next, your opportunity, Talkback Democracy with Anthony Albanese, twenty past four.
And it’s Talkback Democracy with Anthony Albanese. Line Four is Alan. Good afternoon.
CALLER: Good afternoon to you.
PETERSON: Go ahead mate.
CALLER: The question is, gentlemen, I paid union dues from starting work to retiring and I see a lot of waste of money in the Labor Party and with this Section 44 the people taking money from Parliament in turn says to me, if he did that in private enterprise you’d be done for stealing as a servant. And the second one is, when Craig Thomson was in Parliament which Mr Albanese knows all about. He would use his credit card on prostitutes. What’s the answer?
PETERSON: All right, so the by-elections I think Alan, now we’re up to – what are we up to now? Twelve, fourteen, fifteen by-elections, I think it is overall? And all Senators who’ve been …
ALBANESE: Well there’s quite a few Senators, have come and gone quite quickly because they don’t – you don’t have to have a by-election and a couple of those have changed their political parties. One of them today …
PETERSON: Yes, the Nationals picked up another.
ALBANESE: Rather strange year I think. I think that you shouldn’t change your party unless you put yourself before the electorate. And that’s what’s happened today. With regard to the citizenship issue – even the electoral handbook said basically you had to do your best endeavours and that’s been changed by the High Court rulings that have been made. Josh Wilson for example, in his case he became the candidate and filled out the form the day he was pre-selected. He sent off the form and paid his money, the very next day. So it’s pretty hard to say that he didn’t do the right thing. However the court has ruled a very strict interpretation which is a change from previous rulings and that’s meant a by-election, that’s unfortunate. We regret that, we have apologised for that, but we’re out there fighting in each of these five by-elections one of which was caused by …
PETERSON: In hindsight should the Labor Party have got their house in order last year when we held all the elections at once, plus Barnaby Joyce and John Alexander’s?
ALBANESE: Well to be fair, Ollie, we moved a motion in the Parliament to refer everyone to the High Court for determination. The crossbenchers voted for it. It was tied and lost on the Speaker’s casting vote. So we tried to get everyone who there was any doubt over, referred and dealt with, and the Government opposed that and that’s why we’re in the circumstance of having by-elections now, rather than earlier on.
PETERSON: All right, Harry wants to talk about the NRL. Good afternoon.
ALBANESE: Oh good on you, Harry.
CALLER: G’day Ollie, G’day Albo.
ALBANESE: Hi mate, who do you support?
CALLER: On behalf of the WA South Sydney’s Supporter’s Club welcome to Perth.
ALBANESE: You are a good man.
CALLER: Welcome to Perth. We’re looking good for number 22 hey Albo?
ALBANESE: Mate, they are on fire. Did you see the Warriors game?
CALLER: It was beautiful mate, it was beautiful.
ALBANESE: It was very good to knock them off in Auckland. It erased the tragedy of the Perth defeat, over here in Round 1.
CALLER: Absolutely mate, and that was terrible too. Anyway mate, good luck.
ALBANESE: Well Rugby League has got a lot of support here in the West and of course next year …
ALBANESE: There will be a State of Origin game here and that will be, even if you haven’t liked rugby league particularly in the past, if you go to one game in your life go to the State of Origin next year.
PETERSON: Yeah it’ll be good. Good on you Harry. Hello Bruce.
ALBANESE: Hey Bruce.
CALLER: Look, I’ve got a problem I think that it should be a rferendum on dual citizenship and it should be a simple question. If you’re an Australian Citizen and you’re born in Australia, you should be eligible because I’m annoyed with the Murdoch Press that say Shorten was sneaky and dishonest with dual citizenship because the Labor Party, with the exception of David Feeney, took action in every case to rescind their citizenship. (Inaudible) so fair enough, but the Liberals did none and Malcolm Turnbull got up and said the High Court will find all these Members are eligible.
ALBANESE: Thanks mate. We’ve had in our Labor Party platform for a long time, simplifying Section 44. It is in there of course as a carryover from before there was Australian citizenship and when we were all citizens of the United Kingdom, effectively is why it’s there. Ironically it is people who have family connections with the UK who’ve been caught up in this issue with the exception I think of, Barnaby Joyce was a Kiwi and one of the Greens I think was a Canadian.
PETERSON: Scott Ludlam.
ALBANESE: Well, oh he was a Kiwi as well, Scott and the other one was a Canadian. But from the major parties in terms of the causes of the by-election, it all relates to the UK. Look, I agree with you. It should be simple but the truth is, we now have a ruling from the High Court and I think frankly it would be pretty unlikely that a referendum would be carried because people would say “why should we make it easier for the politicians.”
PETERSON: Correct and it would be a hard one to sell regardless of, you know, across the political divide it’s a hard one to sell a Referendum on making, really, your jobs easy.
ALBANESE: I agree. And I think there are other issues that we need to deal with in the Constitution. 118 years on it would be good if we recognise that there were people here for tens of thousands of years before Captain Cook sailed in and then Arthur Phillip brought the First Fleet.
PETERSON: Now just, we are running out of time but just before you go I read today and hear Pauline Hanson sounding to soften, if you like, around her opposition to the company tax cuts of the Government. Is it dead buried and cremated as your leader says? Or do you think the Government has this, this glimmer of hope that it might be able to somehow sweet talk the crossbench into company tax cuts?
ALBANESE: Look, trying to ascertain what Pauline Hanson’s thought patterns are is probably above my pay grade and so I don’t know, is the truth. I’d take her on her word though, she said that was the final decision but whether she changes from the final decision and comes up with the final final final decision, I guess well, we’ll wait and see. What is clear is that, I just think it’s wrong priorities and that we need to invest in education and health and infrastructure and early childhood and the ageing of our population. All more significant than giving company tax cuts to the big end of town, to the big companies.
PETERSON: All right. I’m sure that tax becomes the major sore point between both major parties in the coming weeks. Really appreciate you dropping by and taking a few questions on Talkback Democracy.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having me. It was a very good segment. Thanks for the people who rang.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.