Transcript of Radio Interview – ABC Melbourne Drive with Francis Leach – Thursday, 27 September 2018
Subjects: Infrastructure; debt; women in Parliament; Grand Finals.
FRANCIS LEACH: Mr Albanese, welcome. How are you?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Very well thank you Francis.
LEACH: What were you talking about down in Frankston?
ALBANESE: I was down there with Peta Murphy, who is our candidate for the seat of Dunkley, and Jacinta Allan, the State Minister, to announce a 500-space park-and-ride facility – commuter parking at the station there. It’s been two years since I was at Frankston Station. There has been an amazing rebuild and renovation done there by the State Government, but it has been identified by a forum I held a month ago with the local community-based organisation and businesses we held at the art gallery there, and they identified park-and-ride as a real priority, commuter parking, so this will make a big difference. We are very serious about dealing with traffic congestion by investing in public transport, but you also need to facilitate people getting access to that public transport so park-and-ride facilities are really important for that.
LEACH: There’s been a lot of talk about infrastructure in this state in particular and often a lot of what needs to get done falls between the crack between federal and state governments and the funding shortfall. Why should people believe the Labor will be any better at delivering on a better financial return for Victorians when it comes to infrastructure spending?
ALBANESE: Because we did last time. We delivered over 25 percent of our national infrastructure budget to Victoria. We did things like the Regional Rail Link – the largest ever public transport investment by any Federal Government ever, and we delivered on upgrades to the Monash Freeway, the Geelong Ring Road, Princes Highway East and West. We built here in Victoria and we worked co-operatively with both the Labor and Coalition governments. We had $3 billion in the Budget for the Melbourne Metro project, which Tony Abbott removed when he got elected and this week the new Budget figures are out on what the actual investment was in the 2017-18 financial year. That showed Victoria got 7.7 per cent of the national infrastructure budget. It is entitled on a per capita basis to one in every four dollars, and Melbourne is of course the fastest growing city in Australia and Victoria is the fastest growing state.
LEACH: If you are going to deliver that increased spend, you are going to need to find the money from somewhere and the Federal Government, has announced this week that its deficit projection has shrunk significantly to a $10 billion deficit – one that was projected to be $30 billion. Aren’t they doing a reasonable job in making the money available in order to achieve the projects that they want to spend it on?
ALBANESE: Well they are not really. When you look at debt has increased by $5 billion every year that they have been in Government in terms of the net debt. We have seen a doubling of the debt levels since they were in government and it isn’t as if there haven’t been good global circumstances. There has been no Global Financial Crisis that they have had to deal with. They haven’t had to deal with the significant bush fires and floods that we had at the same time as the Global Financial Crisis.
LEACH: There’s significant drought at the moment.
ALBANESE: Oh absolutely and that is causing significant hardship for people in those rural communities. But this is a Government that hasn’t been able to fulfil the commitments that it made on budgeting and we are an Opposition that has learned that you need to do the hard policy work in Opposition in order to be a good Government. We have put forward savings, some of them quite difficult savings, on dividend imputation, for example, on what we’d do with negative gearing and Capital Gains Tax for new dwellings for new investments. All of them of course we have made sure that we have corralled them in terms of the negative gearing changes, but over a period of time that will make a difference. So all of our commitments are fully funded and one of the priorities for a Labor Government is nation building. That is what Labor governments do.
LEACH: But if this Government is reducing debt without having the impost of new taxes, aren’t they winning the argument?
ALBANESE: But they are not reducing debt. That is the problem Francis. Debt has continued to increase every year under this Government and indeed you had today an Assistant Treasurer go out there, Stuart Robert, and confuse debt with deficit and say that the debt in Australia had been reduced to $10 billion, whereas that is of course the deficit figure. The debt figure in terms of gross debt is some $530 billion and the net debt is around about $340 billion under this Government.
LEACH: Can we talk a little bit about the ABC situation? What is the view from the Opposition benches on what has occurred with ABC management in the last seven or eight days?
ALBANESE: Well, I think we go back to the campaign that has been conducted by this Federal Government to undermine the ABC, whether it is the cuts – $83 million is the latest cut to be imposed on the ABC; whether it be the attacks on its independence, the attacks on journalists; the Liberal Party National Council of course passing a resolution calling for the privatisation of the ABC. We think that the ABC is a cherished national institution. It is a public broadcaster, not a Government propaganda arm.
LEACH: But there has always been political pressure applied to the ABC by all sides of politics depending on who is in Government. This isn’t just coming from those on the Government benches now. It’s been a long-term situation.
ALBANESE: There is a very big difference Francis between someone saying: “I don’t agree with what Francis Leach said about St Kilda winning the comp every year …
LEACH: That would be a lie … fake news.
ALBANESE: … I think he is wrong in that assessment,’’ or whether what particular news stories are out there. People are entitled to express their views and criticise. What we have had here though is systematic attack including calling on the CEO basically to sack journalists in order to curry favour with Government in order to secure funding for particular programs. That’s the way that the Chairman put it in the emails to Michelle Guthrie.
LEACH: But Anthony Albanese, how do we protect the ABC and have that independence so that it is the public broadcaster, not the state broadcaster. Is there a change that needs to occur – a circuit breaker between the politics in Canberra and the ABC?
ALBANESE: Well, we made significant changes when we were in Government under Stephen Conroy of course about the way the board is appointed to try to enhance that independent role. Part of it is a cultural change. This debate in itself I think will be, over the long-term. The fact that there is transparency about this this now means I think there can be a focus on why that independence is important and that will place pressure on politicians to back off essentially inappropriate conduct. I remember with Emma Alberici has being a the centre of this, I debated Malcolm Turnbull when I was the Communications Minister. He was the Shadow. Emma had a view about the National Broadband Network which was consistent, it’s got to be said, with just about every expert on broadband. All were talking about the need for fibre to the premise rather than the sort of copper stuff from last century that is being rolled out now and we have seen the NBN debacle come through. And I think I was there at the point of the first dispute between Malcolm Turnbull and Emma Alberici. Emma gave both of us frankly a hard time during that Lateline debate. But Malcolm didn’t seem to be prepared to support any criticism at all.
LEACH: Just to finish on another situation in Lindsay, the seat of Lindsay, another Emma, Emma Husar. There’s up to 17 candidates that have put their name forward to replace her. There has been a big debate within the Liberal Party around participation of women in parliamentary life and the issue of bullying. But in the Labor Party Emma Husar was bullied out of her seat as well. Is that something that you need to address as you go into the pre-selection for the seat of Lindsay?
ALBANESE: Well I don’t think that is a fair characterisation of Emma Husar’s situation. There are issues between Emma and her staff, many of whom were women, or former staff who had made complaints, and that was dealt with by the party. Emma chose to say that she wouldn’t recontest in the Parliament. I wish her well in whatever she chooses to do in the future, but the fact is that we are verging on 50 per cent representation of women. There has been a substantial increase since I was elected back in 1996 and there are women in very senior positions coming through – our candidates right across the broad, including Peta Murphy, who I was with today. After the redistribution Dunkley is now in the Labor column so if everyone votes the way they did last time, that will be another woman from Labor elected to the Parliament and the Liberals are knocking them off in pre-selections one by one and are headed toward potentially having single figures of representation of women in the House of Representatives.
LEACH: Just to finish on a lighter note, Melbourne Storm go to Sydney this weekend. I know you are a big rugby league fan. Your team isn’t contesting in the NRL Grand Final, but could you cope with another Melbourne victory in the NRL?
ALBANESE: They are playing the Roosters Francis.
LEACH: My enemy’s enemy is my friend?
ALBANESE: We are all Storm supporters now mate. The Roosters have had a history of taking South Sydney players one by one. They don’t have any juniors.
LEACH: You’ve got a purple tie on by the way.
ALBANESE: I do indeed. So I just hope it a good match. I don’t have a dog in the fight, but I would be very pleased to see the Storm win and I think they have been a remarkably successful team over a long period of time and I am glad that Billy Slater is getting to play his last match.
LEACH: Good to talk to you. Thank you for being here.
ALBANESE: Thanks Francis.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.