Subjects: Libspill; Malcolm Turnbull; Labor Party; polls; China Free Trade Agreement; government’s plan to destroy Australian shipping industry
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Today marks the end of a tumultuous sitting week for our federal politicians, as Malcolm Turnbull enters day three of his prime ministership.
He’ll spend the weekend reshuffling his Cabinet, as rumours continue to whirl about the likely winners and losers.
The change in prime minister has inevitably shifted focus to Labor’s leadership as well, after early polling following this week’s spill showed a bounce in figures for the Liberal party.
We’re joined now by Anthony Albanese who, back in 2013, unsuccessfully contested the leadership against Bill Shorten, but was the party’s rank and file choice to lead the party.
Anthony Albanese joins me now.
Anthony, good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning Michael.
BRISSENDEN: Inevitably this is going to have a big impact on your side, isn’t it?
ALBANESE: This will have a big impact on the nation. The nation has changed its prime minister this week and unseated an elected first term prime minister.
Tony Abbott didn’t quite make it to the two year mark and that will have, in the short term but also I think the medium and long term, a big impact particularly on the internal dynamics of the Liberal party and we’re seeing that played out already.
As you said, there will be winners and losers. The losers won’t be happy and no doubt, that is part of the difficulty that Malcolm Turnbull has to deal with.
BRISSENDEN: Yeah, indeed. Early polling is putting Malcolm Turnbull well ahead of Bill Shorten, you’d be aware of that, in the preferred prime minister stakes already, even after a couple of days it’s 50/50. The whole equation has changed, hasn’t it?
ALBANESE: Well, you expect there to be a bounce for a new leader. That is what happens. And on this occasion, though, it’s a bit surreal. We have parliamentary Question Time where you have Joe Hockey sitting there as the Treasurer answering questions and everyone in Australia seems to be of the view that he won’t be treasurer next time Parliament sits.
BRISSENDEN: Does it call into question Bill Shorten’s leadership? It obviously puts some pressure on it, doesn’t it?
ALBANESE: No, look, one of the things that has occurred, and a big distinction in Australian politics is the unity and sense of purpose on our side as opposed to the chaos and division on their side.
BRISSENDEN: Really, really? Certainly at the moment perhaps
ALBANESE: Well, they have certainly seen that. We went through our processes after the 2013 election. One of the things that occurred then that gave us a lift was we had a dignified and mature debate about the future of Labor and where we wanted to take the country.
And from that point, Labor was in a strong position that has gotten stronger and has led to, of course, the Liberal party taking the extraordinary measure that they did on Monday night.
BRISSENDEN: Some might say it’s hamstrung you, though. I mean what happens if the polls do shift significantly and remain a reverse of what we’ve seen over the last 15 months? I mean, you’re in a position now where it’s very difficult to remove a leader that’s unpopular, aren’t you?
ALBANESE: We made a decision and that decision has served us in terms of a unified team going forward.
I’ve made very clear that I want to be a minister in a Labor government, and that is the sense of purpose that every member of our team has – from Bill Shorten as the leader right through to backbench members.
BRISSENDEN: Can you win an election with Bill Shorten as leader?
ALBANESE: We certainly can win an election. Even today’s poll that shows a slight bounce, what’s extraordinary is that it doesn’t show that the Liberal party is ahead.
They’ve changed leaders, they’ve you know, pressed the in case of emergency break glass, they’ve put an axe through that and still they’re not ahead in the polls.
What that shows is that the problem isn’t just one of personality. The problem is the performance of this government. We’ve changed leader, but we haven’t changed a bad climate change policy, we haven’t changed a bad infrastructure policy, we haven’t changed a bad education policy.
BRISSENDEN: Well, it’s only been three days since Malcolm Turnbull’s been there.
ALBANESE: And he’s made it very clear that he has turned his back on things that he has supported for years and years, like action on climate change, water in the Murray Darling Basin, marriage equality, in order to secure the leadership, he has put his own personal ambition before his stance that he used to talk about, him being a conviction politician.
We know that his only conviction was to get to the Lodge.
BRISSENDEN: We know where he stands on those issues though. It wouldn’t surprise you if over time those policies shifted somewhat.
ALBANESE: He’s made it very clear that they won’t.
BRISSENDEN: But it wouldn’t surprise you if they did, would it? And you would have to be prepared for that?
ALBANESE: What will constrain him is that his internal dynamics, the way that he got to the prime ministership has meant that he has had to give commitments – some of which are, quite frankly extraordinary: taking water out of the environment portfolio and giving it to the National Party.
We’ll wait and see. I’ve said Malcolm Turnbull, for example, on public transport is on the record over a decade speaking about public transport issues. He needs to not just get on trains and buses, he as Prime Minister, needs to fund trains and buses.
We’ll wait and see whether he does.
BRISSENDEN: The harsh reality for you – particularly in those inner urban seats, the inner urban seats like yours – is that Malcolm Turnbull is among some Labor voters, more popular than you are.
ALBANESE: I don’t think, I think you’ll find that that’s not the case in Grayndler, Michael.
And I think that in areas like mine, what they will say is “Malcolm Turnbull has said he’s a Republican but won’t do anything about it, has said he supports action on climate change but has this dreadful policy of paying polluters. He said he’s in favour of marriage equality but ‘oh, let’s just put that off and have what will be a very divisive plebiscite” that just weeks ago, just weeks ago, he was on the record saying that was a bad idea.
I think they’ll be concerned that Malcolm Turnbull has had to essentially sell out the principles that he’s held for such a long time in order to secure the prime ministership.
People want politicians who actually stand up for their beliefs.
BRISSENDEN: Okay, some things about politics haven’t changed of course and one of those is the stoush over the China Free Trade Agreement.
Now why are you still taking such a strong stand on this after a parade of Labor luminaries, former leaders and political figures, have all come out saying you should sign up?
ALBANESE: Our stance is pretty clear. We want for Australians to have an opportunity to apply for jobs that will be created through the free trade agreement. We’re pro-free trade, we’re pro-engagement with China.
BRISSENDEN: And pro-CFMEU as the Government keeps pointing out.
ALBANESE: The problem for this Government is that they equate jobs and workers with the union titles.
You only have a union if you have union members. Their solution is to wipe out those jobs. We’ve seen that, Michael, in the area of shipping where you broke the story on this program just a week ago; and we’ve seen there a call for papers that Warren Truss will have to produce for the Senate by 12 o’clock today.
Because we know there, that in order to destroy the jobs of, in this case, MUA, the Government strategy is to replace an Australian workforce on our coasts with a foreign workforce paying foreign wages.
BRISSENDEN: This is the point where you’re being painted as xenophobic and racist by some. I mean, what is your answer to that? Clearly this is a very significant free trade agreement that will have economic benefits for this country and you keep pointing out these things.
ALBANESE: Well, what we point out is that we want Australians to benefit from free trade – not just a couple of people, the nation, and to benefit through the creation of jobs.
All we’re saying here is that labour market testing before your bring in, just as provided for under 457 visas, you have to have labour market testing in order to see if Australians can do the jobs first.
I don’t think that’s a radical position Michael, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask.
And you’ve got to wonder really why it is that the Government is playing politics with this issue, why they can’t fix the arrangement and be prepared to sit down with Labor and come up with a practical response to the issues that have been raised.
BRISSENDEN: Okay, well leave it there. Anthony Albanese, thanks very much for joining us.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
BRISSENDEN: And that’s Anthony Albanese, the shadow infrastructure minister.