SUBJECTS: Today’s visit to Bendigo; regional cities’ positive impact on the economy; housing issues across Australia; role of the Leader of the Opposition; Scott Morrison’s trip to the United States.
HOST: Very pleased to have as our guest on the show, the Leader of the Federal Opposition, Anthony Albanese. I was just thinking before the interview that Mr Albanese sort of sounds like I might be talking to a headmaster or someone and I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone call him Anthony. So Mr Albanese, would it be okay if we’ve dispensed with formality and I went with Albo?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: That would be fine Robbo.
HOST: Terrific. Listen, welcome to the show. Thanks very much for your time this morning.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having me on.
HOST: What brings you to our beautiful part of the world today?
ALBANESE: Well I’ve been invited by Lisa Chesters in Bendigo where we’re going to the Keech 3D Advanced Manufacturing Centre there that employs over 100 people in Bendigo. It’s an example of a real success story in a regional city employing Australians and making a positive impact on the economy. Later on, we’ve been invited to have a look at the Haven Home Safe which is a social housing residential complex there and we’ll be having morning tea with the residents. And we’ll be having a look at other issues around Bendigo including the potential advance of projects that we’ve promoted during the election campaign that we think should proceed. Projects like the Rail Trail, projects like the upgrade of Bendigo airport, and arguing essentially that the economy needs a bit of a push at the moment and these projects are ready to go. They create jobs now and helped to boost the economy here in Bendigo.
HOST: I guess not just central Victoria but a lot of regional Australia, particularly in relation to Keech 3D and companies like that, regional areas with the costs so high now in major metropolitan areas, regional manufacturing and business is something that obviously has to be on everybody’s agenda.
ALBANESE: Absolutely and it’s actually huge comparative advantage that regional cities have, like Bendigo. And Bendigo is doing it really well in terms of Advanced Manufacturing and Defence, in newer technology such as 3D printing and other companies as well. Part of the reason for my visit here is to showcase Central Victoria and to encourage that business investment here in the region where overheads are less than they would be if it were located in the centre of Melbourne. And it also has some advantages in terms of lifestyle. Bendigo and Central Victoria is a fantastic place to live for workers and commute times are less, urban congestion is less. And it’s a great lifestyle. Lisa Chesters is very proud to represent this area and I can understand why.
HOST: I guess then with the other part of your visit you mentioned the Sidney Myer Haven and part of that also demonstrates that we are not immune, as is anywhere in Australia, of the homeless situation and housing issues and dare I say, a crisis at times as well.
ALBANESE: Absolutely. They’ve got a mobile van that they used to service some of the outreach places in the area and throughout the region. We’ll be assisting there to serve morning tea and to talk to residents and to talk to the operators of the service there. And I’m looking forward to that this morning.
HOST: Just on a more general issue, the Leader of the Opposition’s role, has it been more challenging than you expected or is it really what you thought it would be?
ALBANESE: Look, I always knew that it would be a difficult job and it is. It’s challenging. You don’t have the resources of government. But I love getting around and meeting people, talking to people, listening to what the issues are out there and putting forward proposals which hold the Government to account. But also, it’s an opportunity over the next two and a half years to develop our plan for the next election so that we can be a very strong alternative government. I think the lesson of governments in recent times, the current Government I think suffered from just saying no to everything when they were the Opposition, and Tony Abbott was an effective Opposition Leader. But, I think they weren’t really prepared for government and they’ve suffered from that in terms of, even now, not having a clear agenda going forward on a whole range of issues like energy policy, and climate change, and dealing with the slowdown that’s happening in the economy. And that’s why it’s important to get those policy proposals right, to engage with the community and to really be ready in 2022 or late 2021. And that’s what I’m doing, getting out and meeting with people right around the country and working hard along with the team. Lisa is a really strong representative for Bendigo. And making sure that we want to represent Australians wherever they live, whether in the cities or in the region.
HOST: Just before I let you go, I know you’re tight for time. Your thoughts on the Prime Minister’s trip to the States, the ‘Scomance’ as I’m calling it, even Aunty Mary’s poetry getting involved there. I mean my first thoughts were, ‘lads come on, get a room’, but what are your thoughts?
ALBANESE: Look, it’s a good thing that the Prime Minister visits the United States. They’re important allies. I do think that he needs to concentrate on what Australia’s national interest is rather than being a partner in what would appear to be some of Donald Trump’s re-election campaign there in Ohio. And I think that our relationship with the US is a very important one. It is a good thing that he is there but he needs to make sure that he’s raising issues like ending the trade conflict that is there between the US and China and play a constructive role by urging action on climate change and really looking after Australia’s national interests. That’s going to have to be his main focus. But if he wants to have dinner and some social occasions, that’s understandable as well. And that’s a good thing, but he needs to keep his eye on the main game because there are real issues here in Australia that we need to deal with. It’s all right to find $150 million for the program to send people to Mars, but we need to have a clear idea of what that’s going to be used for and it is a bit disappointing that announcement seemed to take some of his own ministers by surprise apparently.
HOST: Mr Anthony Albanese, Leader of the Federal Opposition, thank you so much for joining us on the Wake Up Call this morning and enjoy your visit to our beautiful part of the world.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much Robbo, it is always great to be in Bendigo.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.