Apr 4, 2014

Transcript of radio interview – ABC AM Agenda

Subjects: WA Senate election; party reform; Cambodian talks; Manus Island

CHRIS UHLMANN: Labor is delighted to have a second crack at the Senate in Western Australia because at the first poll it returned just one senator.

Anthony Albanese is Labor’s spokesman for infrastructure, transport and tourism. Good morning.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning Chris.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Anthony Albanese, what does Labor offer the West because whatever it is the people there don’t seem to be buying it?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, of course voters in the West can’t change the Government tomorrow but they can put a handbrake on the cuts that are coming from the Abbott Government.

We know that they’re hiding the Commission of Audit, the savage cuts that are in there. We know that Colin Barnett, who is Tony Abbott’s role model has had savage cuts to education already – some 350 teachers and $180 million.

We know they’re planning a new Medicare tax; we know that they’re contemplating spreading the GST wider and we know in my area of infrastructure, that they’ll cut half a billion dollars from public transport infrastructure that’s already been put in the Budget.

I think people are seeing that Tony Abbott had a plan to win government but he doesn’t actually have a plan to govern.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Can you really be serious in Western Australia when your lead Senate candidate is reported in The Australian this morning as making a speech in November last year where he had admitted that he hadn’t always voted Labor, that the party was full of mad people and that working families don’t trust it?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, Joe of course is a colourful character, but one thing I know about Joe is that he spent his life standing up for working people as a union official representing shop assistants and I know that if he’s elected to the Senate tomorrow, that I expect him to be, he’ll stand up for working people in the national parliament.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Well, if Joe Bullock doesn’t vote for the Labor Party, why should anyone else vote for the Labor Party?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, that of course isn’t the case. Joe said that many decades ago, on one occasion, he didn’t vote for the Labor Party‚Ķ

CHRIS UHLMANN: In 1975, in 1975 when he voted against Gough Whitlam in an election that was sparked by a constitutional crisis. I mean if you don’t have your mates with you then, when are you going to have them?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What I hope tomorrow is that tens of thousands of West Australians who haven’t always voted Labor, vote Labor tomorrow because they know that this is an opportunity to ensure that Tony Abbott is able to be held to account rather than taking them for granted which absolute power in terms of the Senate would do.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Your number one Senate candidate said Labor hasn’t demonstrated that they’re capable of being trusted and looking after working people and their families, so if that is the case, if he believes that, why should people vote for him?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, I think Labor very clearly is putting forward at this election how we’ll stand up for working families and one of the issues of course is penalty rates. That’s vital for people to put food on the table and many families in Western Australia rely upon those penalty rates.

It’s pretty clear that Tony Abbott has an agenda of bringing back WorkChoices by stealth, of undermining the living standards of working families. At the same time of course, he’s prepared to give $75,000 to those people who least need it through his unaffordable Paid Parental Leave Scheme.

It’s about priorities. Labor’s priority is about a strong economy but making sure that fairness is there as well.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Anthony Albanese, I guess we’re talking about what Labor is offering the West. Is Joe Bullock the best person that the Labor Party can offer West Australia?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, we have a ticket tomorrow that includes Joe Bullock, Louise Pratt and other candidates who’ll be out there campaigning and have been campaigning for weeks. The Labor Party is a diverse party but in Joe Bullock, he’s someone who stood up for working people. I know Joe, and he’s very sincere in the views that he holds and I certainly know that Louise Pratt is someone who has been an outstanding performer in the Senate, has risen very quickly to be a member of Labor’s frontbench team and I want to see Louse be able to continue to make that contribution in the years ahead.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Bill Shorten has said that Mr Bullock is exactly the sort of person Labor needs to represent workers in Parliament. Do you agree?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, we need a diverse range of people and views. We had that in the Labor Party and there’s no doubt that WA’s Labor team tomorrow, if we don’t secure at least two quotas tomorrow then that will, I think be a huge bonus to Tony Abbott. One frankly, that his appalling performance in the first six months does not deserve.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Isn’t Mr Bullock finally, a sign that the Labor Party needs to loosen its ties with the union movement?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, my views are very clear which is that our links with the union movement are very important, those connections with working people. At the same time I have a view that we need to empower the Labor Party membership through more direct elections just as we did in what was I think a very successful process that myself and Bill Shorten engaged in, in the leadership campaign including in Western Australia where we had many hundreds of people turn up and participate in that process.

We need to extend that throughout the Party, democratise further and empower the membership.

CHRIS UHLMANN: And have them vote for Senate candidates?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’ve said very clearly that I believe the membership should have a direct say in all of our public office pre-selections as well as electing our delegates to the ALP national conference and to the policy making processes.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Okay, on another issue, Scott Morrison is in Cambodia for talks. It looks like the Government is working on regional resettlement options at the moment. It that a good thing?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, certainly regional cooperation in terms of the issue of asylum seekers is important. There is a regional dimension to it and it’s not surprising that the Government is having those discussions with countries in our region.

CHRIS UHLMANN: And finally briefly, Ronnie Knight who is the Manus Island MP says that he doesn’t believe there is enough land and resources to actually re-settle refugees in Papua New Guinea. Is that a sign that program, which Labor championed, is not working?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, I think what that’s a sign is that there be a diverse range of views within Papua New Guinea just as there are in the Australian Parliament about these issues.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Anthony Albanese, thank you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to talk to you, Chris.

CHRIS UHLMANN: And Anthony Albanese is Labor’s spokesman for infrastructure, transport and tourism.