Subjects: Leadership spill.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Good afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good afternoon Raf, thanks for having me on.
EPSTEIN: What do you make, first of all, of Malcolm Turnbull’s departure – Imminent departure from politics, just the man and the politician?
ALBANESE: It is a tragedy that someone with so much capacity has been torn down by his own side. He of course must accept some responsibility for that given that in order to secure the leadership of the Party he gave up so many of his core beliefs including the need to take action on climate change. I think this week, where we saw the Government essentially say that energy policy is too hard, was a final indictment of that.
EPSTEIN: Forgive me interrupting but that’s exactly what the Prime Minister said today. I don’t think he believes his own party is capable of dealing with emissions or climate change.
ALBANESE: I missed his statement, but I’m not surprised. He’s right. But in order to do it he had an opportunity – holding the office of Prime Ministership to show leadership and he didn’t do that. He compromised. We’ve had the Emissions Intensity Scheme, the Clean Energy Target and then various versions of the National Energy Guarantee, and Tony Abbott and the forces around him were just determined to see absolutely nothing happen. And the tragedy of their obsession, means that now we will have higher prices and higher emissions than we would otherwise, almost as if any policy is better than no policy.
EPSTEIN: Can I ask you a systemic question, Anthony Albanese, your party paid dearly for exactly the same dysfunction when you were in government. Now we have watched the same group of people from the other side go through – well they basically walked off the cliff like a bunch of lemmings. How do we know this isn’t going to happen again if you win the next Federal Election?
ALBANESE: I think quite clearly it requires people to take responsibility for their own actions. I argued on 23 June 2010 that there was a diabolical decision that if people proceeded down that track, they would destroy not one but two Labor Prime Ministers. And that unfortunately was proven to be correct. The fact is that we have been stable and we …
EPSTEIN: I don’t doubt that you’ve been stable in opposition, and forgive me interrupting, but how do you – how can you reassure people and this is not a partisan question, this is a system-wide: how can you reassure people it won’t happen when you’re in government? Just because it seems the incentives are there to produce what is collectively irrational but individually seems rational.
ALBANESE: Well, one of the things that we did of course, is that when I became Deputy Leader to Kevin Rudd, we took reforms to the Party that ensured that you just can’t have almost an overnight insurrection such as we’ve seen this week. I mean this week, of course, has lasted for a very long time. It needs a substantial majority to want to change leader, and that figure is higher in government than in opposition, which is appropriate. And it requires a cultural change as well. The truth is that you can’t determine these things just by rules. You have to look at what the fundamental driving forces are there behind this week’s activity. And that is that there are some people in the Liberal Party, who don’t see, never saw, Malcolm Turnbull as a legitimate leader of their Party. They regard him as an entrist into the Liberal Party who happens to have taken it over. So what we saw today was that the Liberal Party’s most popular figure and bear this in mind, Malcolm Turnbull didn’t lose a preferred Prime Minister poll, any of them ever, the entire time he was in the leadership. It was something like 58 Newspolls in a row. He was ahead and that matters, the truth is, in election campaigns.
EPSTEIN: Labor has spent two years telling us it doesn’t matter.
ALBANESE: The truth is it does matter. Of course it matters. And just like any politician who says that they don’t look at polls knows that it’s just not true. Of course people look at polls.
EPSTEIN: Can I just ask you about the different prospects. To be honest neither Scott Morrison nor Peter Dutton are very high up in terms of preferred Liberal leaders for any set of voters, Labor, Liberal or everybody else. Scott Morrison, though, is more of a centrist. He is a tougher proposition for Labor to tackle isn’t he, than Peter Dutton?
ALBANESE: I think that is probably a fair assessment. But the truth is that Scott Morrison has been different things at different times of his career. Whether he can put together the rubble that’s left of the Liberal Party, I doubt frankly.
EPSTEIN: It’s all over. Greg Hunt says they’ve drawn the line under a decade of tension. Tony Abbott says we’re all going to be united.
ALBANESE: Well Tony Abbott of course has behaved – look I think for some context I understand people’s frustration with the last 10 years against all sides of politics. But I’ve got to say this year, this week colleagues of mine were saying and the Liberal Party members around Parliament House were agreeing, saying: ‘and we thought you behaved badly’. And there’s no doubt that we did, but these guys have just been relentless, ruthless, overt.
It’s been quite an extraordinary operation.
EPSTEIN I have heard that from a few people, I couldn’t quite get a gauge on it myself. Albo I want to leave it there because Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg are about to speak to the media.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having me on.
FRIDAY, 24 AUGUST, 2018
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.