SUBJECTS: Visit to WA; visit to ATCO Gas; visit to Cecil Andrews College; renewables industry; the future of work; importance of WA for policy creation and the next election; importance of Queensland for policy creation and the next election; ALP post-election review and the review of policies; bushfires; Jordan Steele-John & Barnaby Joyce’s comments; climate change; Ensuring Integrity legislation.
OLIVER PETERSON, HOST: Joining me live in the studio is the Australian Labor Party Leader, Anthony Albanese. Welcome back to WA.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good afternoon. Great to be here for my tenth visit this year.
PETERSON: Your tenth visit this year?
ALBANESE: I love Perth. I love WA.
PETERSON: What’s brought you back this time?
ALBANESE: Well, I wanted to follow up from the Jobs and the Future of Work vision statement that I did here at Kings Park just a couple of weeks ago. And what a fantastic place I went today with Josh Wilson to ATCO Gas, to their Clean Energy Innovation Hub down at Jandakot. And it’s just extraordinary. It’s everything I was talking about in one place. The future is here, if you go down and have a look at that. What they’ve put is over a thousand solar panels on the roof there. Its energy is stored with a whole bank of lithium batteries and with hydrogen. They’re developing various methods. They can change the amount of hydrogen compared with gas to see what the impact will be in terms of energy savings and efficiencies. There’s a house there that they’re powering. That house is using a very small proportion of the energy that it’s producing. So, it’s putting energy back into the building and the structures there at ATCO, a fantastic facility. And they’re also training people. So, it’s everything I was talking about. It’s the big three pluses of a clean energy future; jobs, plus lower energy bills, plus reducing emissions and good for the environment.
PETERSON: So, this is what you want to change the narrative to be about renewable energy is an opportunity and a job creating industry?
ALBANESE: Well, it sure is. And when you have a major company like ATCO there, this is a major gas company recognising that innovation and that change happens and that they want to get ahead of the curve because you, of course, have first mover advantage when you do that. And then I went to Cecil Andrews College, which is just amazing. I went there with Matt Keogh. I’ve been to a lot of schools over the years.
PETERSON: Is this the best one?
ALBANESE: I haven’t been as excited. This is a disadvantaged area. It has almost 40 per cent of the students are of Indigenous background and other people from different backgrounds, migrant backgrounds and it’s not a wealthy area. And these young people are being trained not just for the jobs of today, but for the jobs of tomorrow. They’re making sure that the sort of education and skills that they’re learning are transferable because we don’t know.
PETERSON: So, learning some practical skills at school?
ALBANESE: Amazing stuff. So, learning maths through sporting analogies. Looking at things like, we saw drone technology, we saw artificial intelligence. They’re working on making all sorts of things, including robotics. They’re working on media and the arts. Really looking at science, technology, engineering and the arts.
PETERSON: You seem quite inspired by this?
ALBANESE: Oh, look, it was just fantastic. The enthusiasm of the kids and companies who come in from outside, Thales and a range of big companies who are there providing assistance. Indigenous elders are playing a role there as well, mentoring. The parents are engaged. The teachers are just extraordinary people, many of whom have won prizes. They’re competing in national, and indeed, in international forums against schools that are relatively privileged. You know, they have to raise a lot of money there. And to go in a classroom whereby students voluntarily, four days a week, stay at school to five o’clock to get one-on-one tutoring to try and be the best that they can be is, I think, really exciting. If there’s one way that you break intergenerational disadvantage, it’s through the power of education. And the principal there is a powerhouse. The students are enthusiastic. They’re working on things like 3D printing and everything you can imagine was all there, virtual technology. It was quite an amazing experience.
PETERSON: All right. So, you seem as though coming to WA is creating opportunities for you. As you said, it’s your tenth visit this year. Do you think your path to winning the next election, to becoming the Prime Minister of Australia, is easier to win in Western Australia than, say, Queensland?
ALBANESE: Oh, look, I want to be successful everywhere. And I’ll be in Queensland next Friday, and I’ll be a regular visitor to Queensland as well. Queensland is a different state, of course. It’s very regional compared with WA, where the population is centred here in Perth and the surrounds. But Queensland, of course, also has very different issues; from far north Queensland to north Queensland and central Queensland. Never go to central Queensland and say that you’re in north Queensland.
PETERSON: You’ve learned the lesson the hard way, have you?
ALBANESE: I knew that from very early on. As a student, I drove all the way up the Coast in a in an old bomb car, staying in tents all the way up for a month.
PETERSON: And you learned that there’s a difference between south east Queensland, central Queensland, far north Queensland.
ALBANESE: Never make the mistake.
PETERSON: Ben’s got a question for you if you want to chuck the headphones on. Anthony Albanese. Good afternoon to you Ben, hello.
CALLER: Hi, guys. How are you going? Thanks for visiting WA.
ALBANESE: Hi, Ben. Good to be here. It’s a bit of a hot day, though, isn’t it? I hope everyone’s safe.
CALLER: I was just at the beach today so that’s fine.
PETERSON: Ben, what’s your question, mate?
CALLER: So, just wondering what your thoughts are, Mr Albanese, on why it took a full extensive review for Labor leaders to eventually look in the mirror and take responsibility for the recent election loss?
ALBANESE: Well, I certainly on the day I became Labor Leader, I accepted collective responsibility.
PETERSON: How was it that it found there was no strategy to win? I mean, you employ so many people within your Party and the like to develop a way to win the election. And then all of a sudden you turn around, there’s no strategy. How did that happen?
ALBANESE: Well, it’s an uncomfortable review. There’s no doubt about that. But I think, and I hope we get some credit for the fact that you don’t have to put in an FOI to see it. There’s no review like it being seen in full. None of it is redacted. It’s all out there for everyone to see. And I responded the very next day with, you wouldn’t have been surprised because it’s consistent with what I’ve said on this program, that we have a four-stage process in between now and the next election. The first stage was review. That’s been done. Now we’re in the vision statements. And that has begun here in Perth two weeks ago. And then we’ll have platform in the lead-up to the National Conference. And throughout the term we’ll have policy development and announcements. We’ve had some of them, but we won’t be releasing all of our policy until we know what the political and economic context is.
PETERSON: Franking credits, negative gearing, are those policies dead now?
ALBANESE: Well, we will make announcements at the appropriate time on them. But quite clearly with franking credits, there were issues.
PETERSON: Wouldn’t it be better to just get rid of them now? Start with a clean slate?
ALBANESE: Well, I know that you’d like announcements on 6PR, live. But, I will be undertaking proper processes for the way that we conduct ourselves. That’s one of the things I think is very important. I want to lead in Opposition as I would lead in Government. And what you need is proper Cabinet processes in Government. You need a plan. You need a strategy. We’ve put out what the five themes of Labor are. And we’ve started to do that with jobs, of course, as a first one, an economy that works for people and not the other way around. Fairness, infrastructure, investment and action on climate change, it sees it as an opportunity, not just a challenge.
PETERSON: How do you do that?
ALBANESE: And national security. Well, I’ve done that, in terms of, I outlined in my speech here two weeks ago and today, having a look at ATCO is a great example of the opportunity that is there. You have the chief scientist, Alan Finkel has spoken about more than 80,000 jobs with regard to hydrogen.
ALBANESE: We’ve got a book out by Ross Garnaut just this week, called Superpower, that sees Australia as potentially the renewable energy superpower for the world. And we can be conducting advanced manufacturing here. I went with Anne Aly on the north side just a couple weeks ago, when I was here, the very next day looking at the exciting proposal that she has supported there in conjunction with the council, and that would be to see a series of land essentially be used for renewables and recycling in particular, in particular recycling of glass and the production of that into see-through solar panels which you can have that have been developed, so that effectively you can have your window producing energy.
PETERSON: All right. So, this is all part of the opportunity in regard to renewables and the like. I just want to turn our attention to the fires for a moment, because this week we’ve seen a spectacle between the Greens and the Nats fighting over the cause of the blaze in New South Wales and obviously in Queensland as well. Now, we’ve had the Greens blaming the Government over a lack of action on climate change. And then you had the Nationals blaming the Greens councils for restricting hazard reduction burns. Barnaby Joyce, as we know, he went as far saying to people who died in the weekend bushfires in New South Wales most likely voted Green. And he’s since had to try to backtrack from those comments. Labor’s tried to stay out of the fray here. But now the bushfire emergency is a bit calmer. Do you have a view on why we’ve seen such ferocious fires and it’s not even summer as of yet?
ALBANESE: Look, what we’ve tried to do is act with maturity while some lost their heads, frankly, around. I think the comments of the Greens Senator from WA were just not on. Completely unacceptable. And Barnaby Joyce’s comments were completely unacceptable. What I’ve said is that the priority had to be, and I visited the north coast of New South Wales yesterday, the priority had to be on practical issues. And the first practical issue was saving lives. I met with the firefighters who’ve been out there day after day, week after week, putting their own lives on the line. They don’t want to see politicians yelling at each other.
PETERSON: So, politics stay out of it for now.
ALBANESE: They want to get through this. Look, there’s no question that the science of climate change tells us that bushfires will be more intense, and they’ll be more prolonged, that they’ll come earlier.
PETERSON: But do you think that climate change or the lack of hazard reduction has been having impact on these fires?
ALBANESE: We’re seeing what the scientists told us would happen.
PETERSON: So, climate change is causing these fires?
ALBANESE: What we’re seeing is what the science told us. But, what we know also is that there have been bushfires in Australia as long as recorded and unrecorded history has occurred. So, what you can’t do is say that any specific event is because of climate change.
PETERSON: Right. But, can you partially let it contribute to why there are fires at the moment?
ALBANESE: What you can do is look at the science and look at the overall trends which are there. And the trends are clear. And that is just a fact. But, that doesn’t mean that whilst this emergency has been going on, it’s appropriate to get into a big debate about attacking political opponents out there.
PETERSON: And on that, these were Jordan Steele-John’s comments in the Senate yesterday.
AUDIO OF JORDAN STTELE-JOHN:
“You are no better than a bunch of arsonists, borderline arsonists.”
PETERSON: Should Richard Di Natale condemn those comments and ask Jordan Steele-John to withdraw and fall into line?
ALBANESE: Well, of course he should. Because, you know, the tragedy is that sometimes fires are the result of arson. Now, I find that just blows my mind that someone could deliberately light a fire that potentially leads, not just to a loss of property, but loss of life. But it does happen. And to trivialise it, is just not on.
PETERSON: I want to ask you about the union busting bill. It seems the Government’s legislation to crack down on rogue union officials and organisations is struggling to find support. Now, if Labor doesn’t back at, it means the Government needs to find four Independents to back it in. It’s got three of those Crossbench votes. But that fourth and final vote is proving elusive. Neither Jacqui Lambie or Pauline Hanson seem interested in supporting the Government’s bill. What do you think is wrong with cracking down on organisations and officials who do the wrong thing? Isn’t this all the bill is designed to do?
ALBANESE: No. It is designed to undermine the trade union movement. Full stop. This is WorkChoices Lite. This is an unsupportable legislation. If someone is doing the wrong thing, by all means they should be prosecuted. I’ve taken strong action where unionists have stepped out of line in the Labor Party. John Setka, you will well recall. I announced in Perth, in fact, that I would remove him from the Labor Party. And that has been achieved. Because his values and his actions aren’t consistent with the values of modern Labor. Now, in terms of what occurs industrially, the problem with this legislation is that it’s aimed at destroying all unions and aimed at weakening unions capacity to deal with issues like wage theft, where today we’ve had a Senate inquiry, we’ve got the numbers to do that, against the Government’s wishes, it must be said.
PETERSON: So, how do you hold those to account who do the wrong thing? Does it just come from within the Labor Party itself?
ALBANESE: No. There are a lot of laws whereby if you do the wrong thing, you get prosecuted. They are there. And certainly, those laws have been undertaken by this Government. And many people, of course, have been prosecuted when they’ve done the wrong thing. But from this Government, you never hear of employers doing the wrong thing. When people die on work sites because there haven’t been appropriate protections and standards put in place. They wave through, essentially have a little, ‘oh, that’s really bad, it shouldn’t happen’ when we hear about wage theft, whereby, across a number of major corporations now have not paid their wages accordingly. You’ve got a Government that’s determined to undermine industry superannuation funds because of some connection with the union movement, even though every statistic shows that industry funds far outperform. I mean, they’re producing returns around about 8 or 9 per cent. Go to a bank and see if you can get 8 or 9 per cent on your money.
PETERSON: That would be nice.
ALBANESE: But industry super is delivering that and has consistently done so. So, this is a Government that just doesn’t like unions.
PETERSON: All right. We are almost out of time. What are you up to in Perth tonight?
ALBANESE: I am going to go have a beer with some of the Labor faithful.
PETERSON: Have a lager with the Leader.
ALBANESE: Indeed. So, people will come along there just to say g’day. And I mightn’t be back before Christmas. We’ll see how that goes. But, it will be good to catch up with the faithful tonight.
PETERSON: All right.
ALBANESE: It’s not a fundraiser, it is just to come along and have a beer.
PETERSON: Have a beer and say g’day. Well, we thank you for all of your contributions to our program throughout 2019. If we don’t catch up before, Merry Christmas and we’ll talk to you no doubt again in the New Year.
ALBANESE: And to you mate. I look forward to being a regular visitor back here next year.
PETERSON: All right. We look forward to that as well. The Australian Labor Party Leader, Anthony Albanese, live in the studio.