Transcript of Radio Interview – ABC Radio AM with Sabra Lane – Canberra – Wednesday, 4 December 2019
SUBJECTS: PISA results; reintroduction of Ensuring Integrity Bill; trade unions; Queensland; carbon emissions; ALP’s policy platform.
SABRA LANE, HOST: We’re joined now by the Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese. Good morning and welcome back to AM.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, Sabra.
LANE: Just on those PISA results, Australia has gone backwards. What should happen?
ALBANESE: Well, this is a huge wake up call for the Government that’s in its seventh year and is pretending it was elected yesterday. This is a big F. A big F for fail. And it will be of concern to every parent out there, every grandparent, and indeed students. The fact that we are going backwards by a year in maths, but also in in literacy, in English, and science is a shocker of result. And the Government has whipped money out of education.
LANE: But just on that point, they have put more money into education. They haven’t put as much money that Labor promised. So, that’s false isn’t it? That’s fake news isn’t it?
ALBANESE: That’s not right. The fact is they were elected saying there would be no cuts. Remember Tony Abbott’s famous comment the night before the 2013 election, ‘no cuts to education’. There was money allocated for the Gonski reforms. They ripped out $14 billion from public education.
LANE: And the Government committed to Gonski and put money in.
ALBANESE: They put the money back for independent and Catholic schools. They never put the money back that they took in that 2014 Budget from public schools.
LANE: The Ensuring Integrity Bill, the Government’s going to resubmit that to Parliament and are going to reintroduce it today. Given that it’s now also saying that it will make further amendments to win the crossbench supporters, is it a given that it will pass?
ALBANESE: Well, this Government doesn’t have a plan. The Prime Minister is going to go into next year’s Parliament with the same agenda that he had this year and the same agenda they had during the last term of Parliament of attacking unions. This is an ad man without a plan in charge of this country. It is about time he accepted that what he needs to do is to have broad economic reform and a plan to turn around the economy, not just sit back and attack trade unions.
LANE: On the substantive point of that question, is it a given now that it will pass?
ALBANESE: Not at all. The fact is that this is not in the interests of working people. And every time this Government sees a nurse or sees a teacher, what they see is a trade unionist who they deride as being a thug. I was at the nurses union last Friday, celebrating. That is the largest union in Australia. This Government’s determined to have a two stage process of attacking working people; first you undermine their organisations, and then you go after their working condition.
LANE: How will you convince Pauline Hanson to continue to oppose it?
ALBANESE: I think that what the crossbenchers did last time isn’t listened to people in this building. They listen to people outside the building who came here and spoke about their experiences.
LANE: But you also had carrot cake. You sat down with Pauline Hanson?
ALBANESE: I talk to the crossbenchers all the time. And indeed, Pauline Hanson I have many differences with but she makes a mean carrot cake. But the fact is that we will continue to talk to them. What we have in this country is wages that are not keeping up with the cost of living. People are really struggling to get by. We have penalty rates being cut for working people, this Christmas. Families will be deciding whether they cut back on their Christmas beach holiday from three weeks to two weeks. Whether they cut back on presents they buy for their kids. And this Government’s solution is to attack trade unions that will lead to a further reduction in wages and conditions. That is what their agenda is.
LANE: All right. It’s been six months since the election, six months since you became Leader. What’s your biggest lesson of this year?
ALBANESE: Look, we have learned the lessons and we put that in our review. We have adopted all the recommendations.
LANE: I am talking about you personally.
ALBANESE: That we need to be positive and optimistic about the future for this country. We need to talk about the need to create wealth as well as its distribution. We need to talk about the issues of concern to all Australians. Our first priority is jobs. And that was the basis of my first vision statement. The second was on the economy. This week, this Saturday will be the third vision statement putting forward that positive agenda. We need to tell a story. We had a lot of policies we took to the election. We didn’t have enough of a story.
LANE: And six months in also means that we’re two and a half years out, or less, to the next election. Labor holds six of thirty seats in Queensland. You can’t win Government if you can’t win a fair swathe of seats in Queensland. How will you, an MP from an inner-city trendy Sydney seat, convince people in Winton, Charleville, Townsville that you will stand up for them?
ALBANESE: I’ll be going to Barcaldine next week. I’ll be going to Emerald, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Maryborough. I’ll be traveling by road throughout Queensland, talking to Queenslanders about the interest that they have. Queenslanders will know wherever I go, there are road projects, rail projects, community infrastructure projects that I supported and got funding while I was the Infrastructure Minister, while I was Regional Development Minister.
LANE: Do people know who you are? Because a lot of punters who aren’t parliamentary nerds, and I know that you call yourself a political nerd, they don’t know who you are?
ALBANESE: Well, I’m getting out there. And I think I have a long record of experience wherever I travel. One of the benefits of being the Local Government Minister and spokesperson is that I have contact with those local communities that I had that have built up. When I travel into Charleville, I can go to the local town hall that was upgraded. I travelled around north-west Queensland with Bob Katter, just last year looking at renewable energy projects. I am someone who’s comfortable in a boardroom, but I’m also comfortable in a pub. And I’ll be talking to them about their concerns. What they are concerned about is their jobs. They are concerned about their standard of living. They’re concerned about the future of work for their kids and grandkids.
LANE: In Queensland, the policy of cutting carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, Labor policy, didn’t seem to resonate with people. Is that still Labor policy?
ALBANESE: Well, Queenslanders are concerned about climate change, like all of us are. They know. When I speak to farmers, they concerned about drought and draw a direct link.
LANE: Sure. But on that question, substantive point, people think that you’re crab-walking away.
ALBANESE: Look, we had a target that was set in 2015. The next election will be in 2022. Seven years has past. We therefore, obviously can’t have the same policy in any area that we had in 2015. What we can have is the same values. And the fact is we need to take strong action on climate change. And under my leadership, that will happen.
LANE: But it may not be 45 per cent by 2030?
ALBANESE: Well, seven years have passed, Sabra. So, we’ll give consideration. We’re not going to also give the Government a leave pass to do nothing between now and 2022. We need, at the moment, emissions with the droughts having some impact on reducing emissions. But otherwise, emissions are rising. The Government doesn’t have a plan to deal with climate change. We think that not only is action on climate change good environmental policy, it’s good economic policy. We can have more jobs, less emissions, and lower power prices as well.
LANE: It’s an easy question. Yes or no? 45 per cent by 2030. Will it stay, or will it go?
ALBANESE: We’ll make decisions and announcements at the appropriate time closer to 2022. Because that is not a simple question at all. Because you need to know what the base, your starting point, is. And the starting point isn’t now. The starting point will be the next election.
LANE: The National Policy Committee meets this Friday. What will it discuss? Will it look at slimming down the ALP’s policy platform, because it is quite chunky?
ALBANESE: Well, the fact is that it is over 300 pages. It’s one of the longest policy documents of any centre left Party in the world. We can have a bold program without repeating ourselves. We’ll set up a process to make sure that it’s still bold. But in my view, it should be something that is far more readable than what’s there at the moment.
LANE: Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for joining AM this morning.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Sabra.