Jul 19, 2017

Transcript of radio interview – ABC News England Breakfast Program

Subjects: Barnaby Joyce; Earle Page Political Lecture. Armidale Council election.

PRESENTER: Former Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will visit Armidale tonight to deliver the Earle Page Political Lecture. He is currently the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development and the Shadow Minister for Tourism and I will be interested to hear from you. I was reading the GQ profile on Barnaby Joyce last night and he said that one of the politicians that can really compete with him is Anthony Albanese. Mr Joyce thinks Mr Albanese can speak to his people so I will be interested to feel if this hits a chord with you or you feel it misses the mark. This is Anthony Albanese and his topic tonight for the Earle Page Political Lecture will be Positive Politics in the Age of Disruption.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: What the lecture is about is the need to have a positive outlook at a time where, I think, there’s a lot of disillusionment with politics. We’ve seen, I think, outcomes that weren’t expected in a range of elections, results from the right, the left, and the centre. President Donald Trump is something that wasn’t anticipated even while the election was being conducted in the United States. In the United Kingdom Jeremy Corbyn came within a very small margin of being elected Prime Minister. In France, Emmanuel Macron was swept into office as the President, but also with a new party, just formed, won an overwhelming majority of seats. We’ve seen the Brexit event. And here in Australia we’ve seen record votes for parties that aren’t either of the governing options here in Australia. So what tonight’s really about is why that is occurring, and I argue that it is inequality, both of power and of economics that is causing that disruption – that people don’t feel like they’ve benefited from economic globalisation, and that presents a challenge to the major political parties in this country. And that challenge must be met with a positive vision and that the ongoing negative politics of which we’ve seen too much of in recent years, I think, helps reinforce that disillusionment with mainstream politics.

PRESENTER: Interesting when you talk about the disruption, fairly young parties coming to the fore overseas, and likewise. I know you’ll also be launching the campaign for the Armidale Council election’s Labor candidate, Deb O’Brien while you’re in town as well. Is part of the reason Labor is becoming more active in Armidale and in this space because of that disruption? Do you see an opportunity in what has for a long time been National Party heartland?

ALBANESE: There’s no doubt that there is. Of course historically, seats like Northern Tablelands have been held by the Labor Party in the State Parliament. I think we saw in the Orange by-election last year, the election of the Shooters and Fishers party to the lower house. We’ve seen in seats like Lismore, become three-way contests and there’s no doubt that traditional allegiances have been broken down, that whereas often nationally in the past you could see how both parties would be on above 40 per cent, and it would be a matter of fighting for that middle ground, that 10 or 15 percent that was up for grabs. These days, it’s very different and traditional allegiances have gone out the door, we’ve seen traditional Labor-held seats be lost to Labor, and the same thing has happened with the National Party and the Liberal Party. So I think no doubt, Labor has been historically, of course, under Bill Mckell, formed his majority based upon rural and regional seats, and if you look at the objective factors, then you’ll see that, I think, there’s enormous political opportunity for Labor.

PRESENTER: And you think this locally, and further abroad, is driven by a sense of dissatisfaction, disempowerment, economically?

ALBANESE: Yes, and a feeling that people don’t want to be taken for granted. Tonight I’ll be talking about a range of challenges that are there for the long term – dealing with climate change, dealing with infrastructure including the National Broadband Network, dealing with inequality. And political parties that come up with real solutions will be able to gain support from that great mass of the population who aren’t wedded to any particular ideology. Hence we’ve seen internationally and indeed in Australia of course, we’ve seen in the New England region, considerable representation both at the Federal, State, and local level from people like Tony Windsor, who have risen to prominence promising to make strong, local representation, rather than on the back of a national political backing.

PRESENTER: So this sounds like, I wouldn’t go so far as to say a declaration of war, but maybe we can expect to see more visits, announcements and the like from the Labor Party in this region.

ALBANESE: Well that’s right. We, I think, have a pretty good record in that region to stand on. Armidale was the first place on mainland Australia that got the National Broadband Network switched on. And that was switched on on the basis of fibre to the premises, not the second-rate copper network that a lot of people in my electorate are complaining about at the moment. We had upgrades to important projects like the New England Highway, the Bolivia Hill project that Tony Windsor took me to see first-hand, and once you drove along the highway and had a look at that death trap, then I knew something had to be done about it, so we provided that funding. The Hunter Expressway has made a big difference in terms of access to Sydney for people in New England. So there’s a range of things that we did that I am quite proud of, whilst I was the Minister for Infrastructure or the Minister for Regional Development. Even the upgrades of the saleyards there at Armidale have made a big difference for the workforce there, and also for the people who use the saleyards.

PRESENTER: The Earle Page Political Lecture, taking place at a university. I imagine you’ll have quite a young audience as well. What message do you want to give to young people while you’re in the region?

ALBANESE: I want to give them a message of hope, that there’s a need to be positive. Part of what I’ll be talking about tonight is that often people even who classify themselves as progressive have a romantic view of the past, and can be negative about what’s going on at the moment, and our future. But I think history does move forward. I talk tonight about the gains that have been made in terms of women’s representation in the Parliament, in terms of removing discrimination on the basis of people’s sexuality, the advances that were made in terms of reconciliation – proposals that were radical when they were first raised that are now accepted as part of the mainstream. We now accept that Medicare and universal healthcare is absolutely critical. The recent debate about education, I saw as positive in the extent that we had an acceptance that needs-based funding needed to be the principle. Now there’s a debate about what the level of funding should be. We don’t think its adequate, but nonetheless, the adoption of that principle is, I think, a good thing.

PRESENTER: You talk about this air of negativity in the world these days. How much you think social media contributes to that, stirs it up, magnifies it?

ALBANESE: I talk about that a bit tonight as well. I think there’s no doubt that social media does add to some of the negative politics and the environment, because it by definition, Twitter, with 140 characters, makes it very difficult to have a sophisticated debate. Much of politics is about nuance. It’s about things that aren’t simply black and white, yes or no, right and wrong. The world’s a bit more complex than that, and that combined with the pace of the media, where there are less and less journalists who have the capacity to research articles for a week, or two, or three, let alone a month, which used to happen a lot more. You still have, thank goodness, the ABC, and programs like Four Corners. But a lot of the time if you look at the press gallery in the two decades that I’ve served in Canberra, has changed. There’s a need to get an article first up online, and to do it in an immediate way, and hence often that will be done superficially. One of the reasons why I’m attracted to doing events like the Earle Page lecture, is it gives you an opportunity to really outline a philosophical view, and to present an argument in a way that is more complex than the opportunities that you get a lot of the time, when you’re just giving a grab on media or when you are trying to portray something on Facebook or through social media.

PRESENTER: That’s Anthony Albanese, former Deputy Prime Minister, travelling to Armidale tonight to give the Earle Page Political Lecture.