Subjects; State of politics; Australia Day; WA infrastructure; GST; Cabinet papers found;
PAULA KRUGER: Anthony Albanese, welcome to Perth, firstly.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning, Paula.
KRUGER: And thinking back on 2017, do you think it was a tricky year, and what went wrong?
ALBANESE: I think the state of politics has been dire for a little while now, and all sides have to take some responsibility for that. I think there’s too much coming up with an idea, but because it’s from one side of politics, the other side of politics just says no. For example, the government was looking at housing affordability and capital gains tax, negative gearing. As soon as we came up with the policy they said no. And I think, you know from time to time Labor has also done the same thing. I think it is a bit broken.
There is a need to take a bit of a step back and look at why there’s so much disillusionment. I mean, both major parties have primary votes in the mid-30s and historically that’s way below the sort of votes for either Labor or the Coalition that we’ve seen historically where people have won elections with votes above 45 percent of the primary vote. So we need to respond to that. I think we need to be more mature about how we deal with issues.
An example of that is the proposal that I put forward on Australia Day and how we move beyond the change the date debate, which potentially is very divisive, to enhancing the date by recognising the First Australians in our Constitution and also by advancing the republic. Now, that was put forward not in a party political way. It was put forward as an idea to try to work out a way in which we can unify the nation going forward, rather than have this annual divisive debate where you either have to be for Australia Day or for moving the date.
KRUGER: And I guess that’s one of the concerns from people as well, they are concerned about the standard of debate among politicians. Looking at the polls, because that’s where we hear how people are feeling about politics, do you think Labor should be doing better in the polls than they are right now?
ALBANESE: If you look at the two party preferred vote, we’ve been ahead for a considerable period of time but our primary vote isn’t as good as it should be, and neither is the other side of politics.
KRUGER: You mentioned the two party preferred figures there, but what about the preferred Prime Minister figures? Do you have a leadership problem, because you still haven’t been, you know, since Malcolm Turnbull’s been Prime Minister, you’ve been behind in that preferred Prime Minister poll.
ALBANESE: We’d obviously prefer to be in front there, but it is at the end of the day, it’s the two-party preferred vote that will determine whether we’re able to form government or not. And on those figures we’ve been hovering around between 52 and 54 for a long period of time, but with the primary vote of 35/36, which isn’t what we would want. So you’re dependent upon a flow of preferences, and I think what people are saying here in WA, but right around the country, I think that the extraordinary polling figures of Nick Xenophon in South Australia, tell us that people are looking for alternatives and that’s a bit of a wake up call to the major parties.
KRUGER: If you’re pushing towards the federal election, and there is some speculation that there could be an early federal election this year, if you’re pushing towards that, you need everything going for you. So having preferred prime minister leading your party is definitely an advantage, is it not?
ALBANESE: Of course that’s the case. That’s just a fact. But sometimes when you are the Opposition Leader and you’re making difficult decisions, then the Prime Minister obviously has an advantage in being able to be out there making decisions that then become reality, because it’s governments that can change the nation. I think that Malcolm Turnbull too, when he took over, his figures was stratospheric, frankly.
He was in a very strong position and part of the disillusionment in politics is a general view out there that he’s been a bit of a disappointment, even from people who were very supportive of his rise, that on issues like the republic, on reconciliation, on support for public transport, on so many issues, he hasn’t been authentic. He hasn’t followed through on his own views and he is constrained by the Tony Abbott forces in the party. I think that is of concern as well. People want a leader who is actually prepared to lead, and when that happens, I think they respond and Malcolm Turnbull at the moment isn’t leading. It’s creating a bit of a vacuum out there.
KRUGER: You mentioned that people see the Prime Minister as being a bit of a disappointment but can’t the same be said of the Opposition Leader when he’s been in that – he was voted into that position four years and four months ago, more than four years and four months ago – how long is he going to need to push himself into a position where he’s preferred Prime Minister?
ALBANESE: Bill’s the captain of the team, but the team vote is recognised with the two party preferred vote. Bill has been prepared to be out there and take some brave views. Yesterday he announced of course the National Integrity Commission. We’re looking for bipartisan support on that, to get that done. But that was, I think an example of leadership being shown, just like our policies on housing affordability and a range of other issues that were put out there.
They have led the debate, and as a Party in my area of infrastructure and cities and tourism, we’ve been leading the debate yesterday here in Perth. Again out there at the rail line part of Metronet at Morley station, talking about the new station and new design on that new line into the northern suburbs of Perth. Today I’ll be with Lauren Palmer talking about infrastructure here in WA, our $1.6 billion dollar fund that we’ve established in order to particularly support public transport, but also road infrastructure.
KRUGER: Anthony Albanese, I want to get to some of our audience in a second, but firstly today there is a Cabinet report that has been obtained by the ABC which has revealed that senior government ministers at the time of when Kevin Rudd was Prime Minister were warned about critical risks of the home insulation scheme before the deaths of four young installers. Now, are you able to clarify what was known about the risks of the energy efficiency home package before it was rolled out?
ALBANESE: I haven’t seen the document, so it’s difficult to comment on it, but there would be nothing unusual about a Cabinet document, if that is what it is, having a risk assessment as part of it. That would be normally the case. And so it could well be that this is just normal practice. That that’s one of the things that you do. Even financing any road project will have in it, as the bureaucracy tends to do, cover off on an issue like fixing the roundabout outside the studio here. What’s the risk? The risk is that there’s increased traffic congestion around that roundabout project. The risk is that the timetable mightn’t be met with weather conditions etc. So you know, I’m not sure about this document.
One of the things I am certain about is that this issue has been examined more than any other issue that I can think of. Everything from Royal Commissions to coronial inquests. I do know that of the four deaths – and every single death at a workplace is one too many – of those four, three of the employees were prosecuted for serious breaches of occupational health and safety. I am also aware of the fact that there have been other deaths not associated with the insulation scheme at all but associated with ongoing home insulation, that have occurred both before the home insulation scheme was rolled out as part of the economic stimulus plan.
KRUGER: Okay. Yes. We’ve got Anthony Albanese in the studio and we’ll be taking your questions. It’s a quarter past nine. It’s just been revealed by ABC Online that these leaks weren’t really leaks but they were actually files found in a secondhand furniture shop in Canberra. So hundreds of top secret and classified documents were in these abandoned filing cabinets. Now, we’re only just hearing about that. Is that a concern to you, Mr Albanese?
ALBANESE: Of course it is. Cabinet documents shouldn’t be shouldn’t be left around, if that’s what they were. I don’t know if the report says they were Cabinet documents, or the nature of these documents. I do know that there’s been two leaks of Cabinet discussions from the current government in the last week as well, again to the ABC. The one that suggested that they were considering removing all income support for those under the age of 30, that was considered as part of the 2014 budget. And again, another leak occurred just yesterday that was Defence related as well.
KRUGER: I understand The World Today will have a full report on that, and in the meantime I think a lot of investigative journalists will probably be hanging out at second-hand furniture shops for a while.
ALBANESE: The bidding price at these second-hand furniture shops for filing cabinets from Parliament House has just gone up.
KRUGER: I hear a reality series there. Look, we’ve just got a text from one of our listeners. His name is Justin and Justin says we need term limits for MPs to regenerate. Fifteen years is a max. How long have you been in politics, quite a while?
ALBANESE: I’ve been in there for a long time.
KRUGER: Do you need to regenerate?
ALBANESE: I’m just getting started. I think that, quite frankly, one of the things that – I’ve been in politics for 21 years – I learn something new every single day. Nothing beats experience. One of the things about coming to WA regularly, as I do, and this my first visit this year, but I’ll be here four times between now and the end of March.
KRUGER: Will it happen to coincide with certain NRL games being played at Perth Stadium with your beloved Rabbitohs?
ALBANESE: My Rabbitohs. I have been invited to that to have a look at the new stadium, but we’ll wait and see. That’s not one of the scheduled visits. The next time is in a couple of weeks, the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards are being held here at Crown and that is a major event. One of the things that I find on infrastructure is that – a number of years ago what I did was hire a car in Perth for a week when I was here and just drive around. Just get a feel for the way that Perth worked. You know, it’s one thing reading a document about the Leach Highway and the harbour issue and Freo Port and all the infrastructure issues which are around – the Perth City Link project.
KRUGER: It’s a lot different to Sydney’s inner west in a car.
ALBANESE: It is massively different and you need to embed yourself, and over a period of time, to connect with a community and one of the things that I’ve done; I came to WA seven times last year, is come here, talk to people, not just fly in and fly out for an hour either. You’ve got to actually get out there and be engaged. Yesterday I had a tour conducted with the Mayor of the City of Stirling looking at the urban renewal projects including around Scarborough Beach with Tim Hammond and it was really good, just engaging with people out there in the community, and getting a feel for what’s happening. You’ve got to come and have a look. That’s one of the areas in which experience does count.
KRUGER: Now, you also have the shadow portfolio for tourism and I mentioned the NRL double-header that is happening in March. Given that South Australia and in New South Wales, there’ll be some big changes with the major sports stadiums there. What are some of the events that Perth could host?
ALBANESE: Tourism and particularly event tourism could be a major growth industry, particularly with the new stadium. I know that for the double header, Souths, of which I am a supporter, are coming over here and they’re looking at trying to get 3000 people. They play a game here in Perth every year. They play a game in Cairns. People who come won’t just come for a day, they’ll come for a week. They’ll go and have a look at Rottnest and they might go up to Geraldton or down to the Margaret River for a few days before or after. It can be a major boost having the right infrastructure, having the right events that attract people here. The Hopman Cup – that Roger Federer selfie with the quokka on Rottnest Island is dollars for WA. It’s jobs. That’s what that represents. People around the world saw that. That’s a fantastic thing.
I have had roundtables too last year with the tourism sector here, looking at ways in which, often on tourism it’s all about the East Coast, it’s about Sydney. the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru. There needs to be a specific strategy aimed at getting people to the West. It’s closer here to our northern neighbours, where you have such a growing middle class in China, India, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia. The opportunities are enormous particularly because of the attractions that the West has – a major global city here in Perth, but iconic tourism destinations. For people living in crowded cities in Asia, the Margaret River, Broome, the Kimberley, around Exmouth and Ningaloo. These are all major attractions which can mean increased growth as the WA economy diversifies and tourism has got to be a big part of that.
KRUGER: One of the other concerns regarding the economy comes down to GST. There is a view that Federal Labor is being a bit too careful on this issue. It’s almost as if you don’t want to offend voters in the other states by promising too much to WA. Now, instead of offering a top up payment, don’t we need a more long term solution on this?
ALBANESE: We haven’t of course ruled out considering the Productivity Commission report. We’ll wait and see what happens.
KRUGER: Because that’s been delayed, hasn’t it?
ALBANESE: Yes, it’s been delayed, but delayed, by the Government, not by the Labor Party, obviously. So we’ll give consideration to that. But the idea I think that you know, we all take money off a territory like the Northern Territory in particular, or Tasmania is one that we have said we wouldn’t support. We will support a positive response to WA. Clearly WA isn’t getting a fair deal from the current system, and that’s why we’ve got this $1.6 billion dollar fund and I notice that Colin Barnett, in a moment of honesty on the way out, has said that Federal Labor has put forward the best plan of any political party in his time on the GST. This is real and we’re putting it into, the $700 million dollars we’ve committed as part of Metronet. There’s other projects that we’re looking at as well. I met with Rita Saffioti again yesterday, and talked with her about the projects that she’s getting ready in terms of planning, so that they’re shovel ready. That $1.6 billion dollars is a substantial contribution that will create jobs in the short term, but will boost the economy of WA into the future.
KRUGER: Anthony Albanese, that’s all we have time for. Thank you so much for coming in.
ALBANESE: Great to talk to you.
KRUGER: Wishing you and all your political colleagues the best for the political year ahead.
ALBANESE: Thank you. We’re back in Canberra next week.
KRUGER: Back at school next week.
ALBANESE: That’s right.
KRUGER: Okay, that’s Anthony Albanese. He is the Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure as well as tourism and cities.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.