SUBJECTS: Leadership of the Australian Labor Party; women in leadership positions; Climate Change; hats.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN: And Anthony Albanese joins us. He is the Australian Labor Party’s Member for the seat of Grayndler. He is, I think the Labor Party Leader Elect. Anthony Albanese, welcome.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day Raf. Good to be with you.
EPSTEIN: Would you have rather had a competition for Leadership, would it have been better for the Party?
ALBANESE: If you don’t think there’s been a competition, you haven’t been paying attention.
EPSTEIN: But, you know, a public way or attempt to woo the Members and their votes, you don’t think that might have been healthier for the Party?
ALBANESE: I think it was up to people to assess their candidacy. A number of people put themselves forward and they made a decision that they were unlikely to be successful given the support I’ve received from the Caucus and the Party. I agree with that assessment. And I think, yes, I certainly wasn’t worried about having a process at all.
EPSTEIN: Would you have preferred a contest?
ALBANESE: I think in 2013 it was very useful for us, after the loss of Government, to be able to engage Party Members around the country and to have that process. And one of the things that it did was, it meant that we moved forward straight away. But I think it would be very disingenuous, of any candidate who’s ever been elected unopposed to a position, to say that they regret it. I just don’t think that would be honest. So, I’ve been elected and I think that the positive message out of that is, that people will be united around my Leadership. Whenever you have a contest inevitably there’s – argy bargy goes on.
ALBANESE: And that happened over the last week. Candidates put themselves forward and then decided to not proceed with their nominations. And I don’t believe that anyone can suggest that, well it’s just a fact, there were no deals done, no arrangements entered into. And because of that I enter into the Leadership position, essentially being able to say and act upon not owing anyone individually.
EPSTEIN: You don’t owe anyone any favours, yeah.
ALBANESE: But owing of course the Labor Party collectively, which is something that I owe a lot to for my having the privilege of being a Member of Parliament, let alone leading the Labor Party. Something that I certainly didn’t aspire to and hadn’t even considered until 2013.
EPSTEIN: Can I just ask about a Deputy. The Labor Party has spent, I don’t know, more than a year criticising the Liberal Party for its lack of including women. Do you think it’s hypocritical that you won’t have a female Deputy?
ALBANESE: Not at all. What we will have is women in very senior positions. Clearly, Penny Wong will be the Leader of the Labor Party in the Senate. And there’ll be other women in senior positions.
EPSTEIN: Will Kristina Keneally be the, or will there be a woman Deputy Leader of the Senate, serving with Penny Wong?
ALBANESE: We’re working through those issues. And one of the things that I’ve said, very clearly, is that I respect caucus processes.
EPSTEIN: Can I ask you about the caucus processes? Because I think it’s the Australian reporting that Don Farrell wants to stay on as Deputy Leader in the Senate, do you support him doing that?
ALBANESE: I’ll be putting my views within the Caucus and I would hope that they are views which are respected. And people are entitled to respect and for us to work those issues through. But certainly if you look at the women who we will have in senior positions in the Party, I’m sure that people can wait three days …
EPSTEIN: I’m sure we can, but I guess I’m interested in a statement of principle from you.
ALBANESE: You’re interested in an exclusive, Raf.
EPSTEIN: No, no I’m interested in a statement of principle from you. If Don Farrell is pushing to be Deputy Leader in the Senate, Richard Marles is your Deputy in Victoria, that would be three of the four leadership positions going to men. That would be hypocritical given what Labor has said in the past couple of years, wouldn’t it?
ALBANESE: As a statement of principle I support women being in very senior positions in the Labor Party.
EPSTEIN: And would you be happy with three out of four of those positions being men?
ALBANESE: You can read into that what you like. But I’m not about to make a pronouncement on ABC Radio in Melbourne. What I will do is speak to my colleagues and treat them with the respect, and the processes with the respect that they deserve.
EPSTEIN: Anthony Albanese is with us, he is the Labor Party Leader Elect. We’ll get your calls on 1300 222 774. Do you need as a Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, to win the next election, do you need to pick a bit of a fight with your own side? Tony Blair did that on Clause IV, changing a significant part of the British Labour Party’s platform. Bob Hawke spent a lot of his time, actually, in the 80s fighting inside his own Party insisting on change. Do you need to do that with your Party to convince people for the next election?
ALBANESE: I wouldn’t say that I need to do that. What I do need to do, though, is to stick up for my values and from time to time be prepared to take on vested interests in the Party. And in part the way that I have achieved support for the Leadership will enable me to do that. The fact that there aren’t little arrangements being entered into. The fact that I’m able to say that I’ve got the support for the Leadership on merit and without engaging in arrangements. Which do take place in politics from time to time, is I think a strong position. But part of that as well, is me saying as I said to people, that I wouldn’t be a Leader who just dictated from the top, that I would for example, allow for caucus processes to take place.
EPSTEIN: But you need to rejig policy don’t you? You can’t win the election unless you do a substantial revamp of policy?
ALBANESE: Of course we do. The truth is that if you go to an election that you’ve lost with the same positions in three years’ time, you’re asking to lose again. I’m determined that we win the next election.
EPSTEIN: Can you win? Is it possible?
ALBANESE: Oh absolutely it’s possible. The millions of Australians who rely upon us need us to win and we have to accept a collective responsibility for what was a poor outcome on May 18. We got the votes of one in three Australians and I know some social media, from some of our supporters, saying that we were robbed or there were excuses. The truth is we have to accept the verdict of the Australian public when it comes to their votes and that we need to do much better next time to secure that support. Now the bad news for the Government is that 25 per cent of Australians didn’t vote for either of us. And what that means, though, is that there’s fertile ground for a party of government to win the support of that one in four Australians.
EPSTEIN: Can I ask about the fertile ground of policy. Tony Burke came out last week and said we’ve got to get rid of a market mechanism, something like an emissions trading scheme, that you’ve been trying that for 10 years and that’s over. Keep the target, keep the Paris target that Labor proposed, keep Labor’s aim at significantly reducing emissions, but do it without a market mechanism. Do you agree?
ALBANESE: We’ll examine all of those issues but I’ll say this, the science is in on climate change. Climate change is real. We need to act and the sooner we act the better it is for jobs, the better it is for the economy, the better it is for the environment. And I’m certainly not a climate sceptic, I’m also not a market sceptic and I’ve engaged with the business community. What the business community are saying very clearly, is that they want certainty to be able to invest now in 2019, in May …
EPSTEIN: You would give them certainty if you didn’t have a market mechanism because the Coalition don’t really have one.
ALBANESE: Well the Coalition doesn’t have anything. They’ve had 14 policies and adopted none of them.
EPSTEIN: If I can return to what Tony Burke said, though, that you’ve tried for 10 years with a market mechanism and you’ve been given a verdict multiple times, is he right?
ALBANESE: Well, I’ve just given the answer to that I’m not a climate sceptic and I’m not a market sceptic and I believe that we need to argue our case but we need to argue our case on specifics, including mechanisms, based upon where we find ourselves in the lead up to the next election. Now a lot could happen. The Government, it is simply unsustainable for the Government to go through another term without having an energy policy and without having a climate change policy. So we’ll wait and see and we’ll make, obviously determination based upon any legislation that’s brought forward. But I say this, we were prepared to be constructive about the NEG, which Josh Frydenberg and others in the Turnbull Government, including Scott Morrison, were supportive of. We were prepared to engage on that because we recognised that a policy was better than no policy. Even if it wasn’t perfect and that would have provided certainty for business and as long as the targets could be adjusted, based upon priorities, and that was something I think that Labor would have supported. So we’ll wait and see. What I can’t do is give specific, theoretical policy responses because we don’t know what the Government will determine its position is, it would be nice to know that.
EPSTEIN: Okay I know you’ve made the point on climate. Let me ask you if I can get a non-theoretical answer to this question. This is not about policy. Between now and the next election will I see Anthony Albanese wearing, and I’m grateful to a texter for this question, will I see Anthony Albanese wearing either an Akubra or a baseball cap?
ALBANESE: Well, I wouldn’t call it a baseball cap but I am known to wear various caps as a tennis player.
EPSTEIN: So will you wear one to do press conferences or meet people in front of the cameras?
ALBANESE: I certainly won’t be wearing one to do press conferences. But at times as well, I do own a number of Akubra’s. I do indeed.
EPSTEIN: How does that go down in inner Sydney?
ALBANESE: Well they’re pretty practical when you are travelling. Particularly in northern Australia and I intend to spend a fair bit of time in the north.
EPSTEIN: Does it look weathered or does it look like it’s out of the box and new?
ALBANESE: No, it’s very much used and I do have a particularly huge one, I must say, that was given to me by Cloncurry Council up in Bob Katter country that is as big as Bob’s. That is pretty pristine I’ve got to say, in my house.
EPSTEIN: Hasn’t been brought out in the sun. Don’t bring it in to the studio. Thank you for your time.
ALBANESE: Thanks Raf.
EPSTEIN: Anthony Albanese, the Labor Leader Elect. Some of your texts: great bloke, straight shooter, not afraid of ABC interviews.