Subjects; Victorian infrastructure; Victorian State Election; LGBTIQ funding; radio funding; diversity; SSM postal plebiscite; superannuation.
HOST: Now, you know who we’ve got on the phone?
HOST: We’ve got Anthony Albanese. G’day Albo, it’s Macca. How are you?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day, I’m very well.
HOST: And it’s Tass here, good morning to you.
ALBANESE: How are you?
HOST: Very well. I last met you at an event in Middle Park, it was, what, six weeks ago?
ALBANESE: At an event for Martin Foley.
HOST: That’s it, that’s it.
ALBANESE: At the Middle Park Bowling Club. I reckon anyone who finds the Middle Park Bowling Club should get a free beer.
HOST: I agree with that, because you’ve got to go down that funny little road through the park.
ALBANESE: That’s right, you’ve got to do this, under the pass. Unless you knew, I think I’d still be searching today.
HOST: Now I hope you’ve been keeping your eye on the election here in Victoria.
ALBANESE: I have. I was down there of course helping out Martin Foley. Last week I was there – I gave the John Button Lecture for Richard Wynne. John Button was a member of the Richmond Branch for many years. And so Richard invited me to give the lecture this year which was a great honour in front of, named on behalf of, a Labor icon, and I have been watching Victoria. Of course it’s a pretty important election. Today it’s all over, you’ll be glad to know I’m sure.
HOST: It certainly is. So we’re very interested in your analysis of the, given your portfolio as the Opposition Minister for Infrastructure, we’re interested in your analysis of the infrastructure components of the two major parties and perhaps the Greens as well if you’ve got any insights into that. But what are your reflections on their infrastructure commitments?
ALBANESE: Look, I think this really is a critical election. At the moment what we’ve seen from Canberra is this view that what you need is just roads and that’s the way that you deal with urban congestion issues. And I take a very different approach. Of course Daniel Andrews’ Government takes a different approach as well.
They’ve concentrated on removing level crossings, building the Melbourne Metro, which they’ve had to do by themselves because Tony Abbott took out $3 billion commitment that I made as Infrastructure Minister and put in the Budget in 2013. And then we have the commitment to the suburban Rail Loop which both levels of Labor have committed $300 million to. That’s a really exciting project. One of the problems with our big cities is that, whether it’s Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane, but particularly Melbourne and Sydney, are growing, is that you can’t have a hub and spoke – you can’t have everything going through the CBD day and night. So the suburban rail loop that will connect up 11 or 12 lines including through the airport will just make it so much easier to get around. It’s a bit of a project. It’s long term. It won’t be done in the next term of government, but I think it shows a really stark contrast on infrastructure. What has …
HOST: It’s been described as being quite a visionary project, but I would be slapped at home if I didn’t actually ask you this question. My partner keeps on saying: “Ask Albo, ask Albo when you speak to him today”. But why is it that in Australia it takes, you know, 10 years to build a train line whereas it takes two years to build a highway? Why is it, why is that the case? Why is it that our infrastructure construction is so slow in this country?
ALBANESE: Well it’s lower than some other countries for some good reasons and some not so good reasons. The good reasons are, we have very different occupational health and safety provisions, than a place like China, for example.
HOST: In other words, we value human life.
ALBANESE: Yes, essentially. We also value our environment. So there is a range of regulations that have to be gone through. I remember being in Shanghai many years ago. I went away in one of the first terms of Parliament. We were high up in this building and they were saying: “If there’s going to be an airport, there’s going to be the main airport where we’re going to build it in Pudong”, and I said: “In how long?” And we were looking at, just paddy fields. And they said: “Oh about four years”, and I said: “What’s happening to the people who are there?” “Oh they’re moving”. We have very different provisions so you do have to go through much stricter processes here in Australia but we have got some exciting things done.
The Regional Rail Link that was done when I was a Minister. The largest ever Federal contribution to a public transport project is now fantastic with new stations at places like Wyndham Vale and Tarneit. They’re a good example of what should happen if you build the railway line before the people and the housing and everything else that’s there. That hasn’t happened too often but that’s a good example of the planning from the former government and Steve Bracks and John Brumby.
Daniel is, I think, doing the right thing. It helps that Tim Pallas is the Treasurer who was a former Infrastructure Minister and I think they’ve got quite exciting proposals. They’re ahead of where they said they’d be in terms of the removal of level crossings and I think they’ve done it too, importantly without much Federal support. The amount of infrastructure dollars that went to Victoria last year, as a percentage of the national figure, was 7.7%. Even though one-in-four Australians are living in Victoria and Melbourne is Australia’s fastest-growing city, Victoria is Australia’s fastest-growing state.
HOST: Yes, I want to ask Albo in terms of the tone and the style of the campaign both have been very different. We’ve seen The Age in Australia, their editorial encouraged people to vote Labor and the Herald Sun encouraged people to vote Liberal. No surprises there. But the style and tone of the campaign. Often it’s, you know, for us as commentators we have a particular view, but as a Member of Parliament yourself and been through many elections as well as many elections where you’ve fronted up to the Greens. But also you’ve had a rare endorsement from News Corp in the last election when they ran a little campaign to save Albo, didn’t they?
ALBANESE: They did unusually. But I think in terms of the business model that the tabloids have, is to get people talking about them and it was a very successful front page.
HOST: It was, wasn’t it?
ALBANESE: It got people talking about the Daily Telegraph. And at the time my opponent had some pretty out-there views. He had argued that it was better to have essentially, the shorthand was, it was better to have Tony Abbott than Bill Shorten as Prime Minister if it meant better demos. And that is to me the weakness in the Greens Political Party is that essentially you can have people, take Martin Foley or Richard Wynne, they’re sitting around the cabinet table making decisions, really making a difference, not waiting until decisions are made and then deciding whether they’ll support it or oppose it or have a demo. And I understand that not everyone will agree with that perspective, but from me and who I am, given what we all sacrifice to be involved in politics in terms of giving up a whole lot of time and relationships with family and all of that, I don’t think I’d do it unless I was about being able to make those decisions and really make a substantial difference to people’s lives. And the plan that the Andrews Government have in terms of making a difference on renewables, making a difference on public transport, making a difference in how things like funding of your great radio station, actually makes a difference and it’s government that makes those decisions.
HOST: I think Macca has to say something.
HOST: Look, I want to acknowledge Josh Burns, who’s the Labor candidate for McNamara. As you know your good colleague Tanya Plibersek came down to Melbourne to pledge from a Shorten Government if elected next year $10 million for capital works, a capital contribution at the Pride Centre. But $600,000 for Joy for its transformation digitally and to move to the Pride Centre. Josh raised that and I know that that was discussed, you know, amongst Shadow Cabinet and that was a policy commitment given so we want to acknowledge that and your role in that.
ALBANESE: Absolutely. Josh I met with, when I did the Martin Foley event and beforehand I think he will make a huge difference. He’s very passionate about the local community and he fought very hard to get that commitment that will make a real difference. Joy FM is, I think, for your listeners to not take it for granted, there’s nothing like it in Sydney.
HOST: No we’re unique in Australia. That’s absolutely right.
ALBANESE: It is very special. In Sydney, years ago myself and Tanya Plibersek, when I was the Infrastructure Minister we gave a (inaudible) into a local radio station here FBI that, very similar in terms of largely run by volunteers and commitment from the local community, it does a whole lot of fantastic social programs. And it gives a voice to people and a small capital grant there, and they were about to go under because they basically didn’t have the right antenna and equipment. And a small grant there, I think from memory it was only about a couple of hundred thousand dollars, which in the scheme of things isn’t one of the larger government grants, but it kept it going and it’s thriving today.
HOST: A couple hundred thousand dollars wouldn’t even pay Stuart Robert’s travel expenses.
ALBANESE: For a week.
HOST: For a week. And of course we got a commitment …
ALBANESE: Let alone his internet bill.
HOST: That’s right. That would be a year’s internet. We did get from Daniel Andrews on Thursday on Tom and Warren’s show on Joy, a commitment of $200,000 a year for four years that wonderful word recurrent funding.
HOST: Absolutely. Well actually it’s better than gold, Tass, it’s platinum. That will secure, should they be elected, Joy’s future. It’s also fair to say we did get a commitment of $500,000 from the Liberal Party.
HOST: Victorian Libs.
HOST: Victorian Libs. Good mate of yours Michael Kroger, he’s working honest to try and get a matching commitment from your people on the other side of the House from the Federal Liberals. We’ll see how that goes. I can’t quite see ScoMo signing that check.
ALBANESE: Yeah I’m not sure what the Tony Abbott forces that seem to be pretty dominant at the moment on those sorts of issues would think of all that.
HOST: Should we – no, no go on.
ALBANESE: But they shouldn’t have a problem. Like political parties, government have to represent everyone in the community and Australia is a diverse community. They’re made up of people of different races, religions and, yes, different sexuality. And it’s important that people see that the government is about them. It’s about an inclusive society and your radio station plays an important role in that.
HOST: Well we couldn’t disagree with you on that. It does feel to me though like some of your Federal colleagues on the other side actually are really committed to this notion of inclusion the way in which you have described. And it does make us feel constantly a little bit like you know: ‘You’re second class citizens and you know, just get what you’re given really.’
ALBANESE: Well and it’s unfortunate that there are some people in politics, and we’ve seen it played out in the Victorian election, who’ve been prepared to take what they see as groups that aren’t part of the majority and been prepared to vilify them openly to solve the sort of rhetoric that we’ve seen about so-called African gangs. That people can’t go out at night at, have dinner in Melbourne. But smear campaigns and the preparing to point the finger at anyone who isn’t the same as them is a bit sad actually. I think sometimes – I remember a few years ago Tony Abbott in a profile interview said that, you know, he was scared of gay and lesbian people.
ALBANESE: And that’s quite sad. I think one of the great privileges of living in a country like ours is benefiting from the diversity and celebrating and admiring of each other with different not just cultures but subcultures as well. And you know I’ve always found that the community in Sydney has always been welcoming as long as people are prepared to show tolerance and respect then they’ll open up to them. And I think our Mardi Gras celebration every year is an example of that. But there’s many other examples as well.
HOST: Now I don’t know whether you’ve read it Albo, I’ve just actually finished Bob Woodward’s book Fear, which is about Donald Trump’s White House. And there’s a very clear thread and stories coming through that. And it is about picking out a particular group and marginalising them and insulting them and vilifying them. And this playbook unfortunately seems to be entering Australian politics. You know, whether it’s African gangs, whether it’s trans kids, whether it’s some of the quite ridiculous responses to the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, that there’s an element there that a lot of politicians are choosing, Pauline Hanson obviously is a great example. David Leyonhjelm. Fraser Anning. Particularly on the Right, using fear and marginalisation and racism as weapons as Trump has. How do we as a community respond to that Albo? What is the best way to respond to that?
ALBANESE: Well one way is to call it out for what it is. You just need to look at where it derives from to call it out for being a cynical exercise. I’m not sure what’s worse sometimes, people who are bigots or people who are not but choose to play that card for political advantage knowing that it’s wrong. People who aren’t …
HOST: I think they’re worse.
ALBANESE: Racist or sexist. I think sometimes you just shake your head for people who do know better. And many people in the hierarchy of course do know much better than that. But one of the things that happened of course is that the Republican playbook has been played out here very explicitly with people from the US coming here to assist on election campaigns. It certainly happened in the South Australian campaign recently which was successful for the Coalition. I’m not sure whether it is being, personnel are being used in Victoria by the Coalition or not. But certainly some of the fear campaign that’s been run by Matthew Guy. I’ve met Matthew Guy, he seems pretty reasonable one-on-one, but some of the rhetoric aimed at scaring people into voting for them is I think pretty shameful.
And we need to be much, much better than that. But I think the way to combat it is just to call it out, to engage in the debate whenever these issues are raised. And I have a great faith in humanity. I mean when, I first moved a Private Member’s Bill way back in 1998 in my first term about superannuation for same-sex couples and that was like revolutionary. People were shuffling in their seat. People were really uncomfortable about it including some people in the Labor party, it must be said.
HOST: And if I recall correctly didn’t your colleagues want to know when you had become gay?
ALBANESE: Yes, well why else would someone be promoting these issues. I think it was because it was my first term, a lot of people didn’t know me and didn’t know my partner. And so she was surprised to hear the rumours I’m sure. But it was: “Oh I didn’t know Albo was gay, that’s nice”. Because someone advocating these issues and, I deliberately picked superannuation because it was an area whereby you could say this is someone’s own money, they have a right to deliver it to their partner just the same as if it was someone of an opposite gender and people could accept that. And when you got that principle you could then move on to well if that discrimination is bad. How about migration, health, education?
ALBANESE: And of course eventually, but it is over a relatively short period of time when Australians voted, they shouldn’t have had to of, we knew what the result would be, and it’s unfortunate that Malcolm Turnbull’s weakness meant we did have the voluntary postal vote. But the support for that in the end was overwhelming.
What that showed was that people had thought about it. It didn’t happen just by accident. It happened because people went out there and argued the case particularly people from the community but also people who supported the community as well. And it’s a very good thing that that happened.
HOST: Now I actually remember that campaign on superannuation. Yourself, Tanya, Michael Danby, Simon Crean. You might recall us getting moved on out the front of the body shop in the Bourke St Mall.
ALBANESE: That’s right.
HOST: That’s how long …
ALBANESE: I actually took a photo of, I was in the Bourke St Mall just last week for the Richard Wynne, the John Button event, and I took a photo because it just hit me, the Body Shop, that’s where we launched the campaign which was ‘Same-Sex Same Right’.
HOST: That’s right.
ALBANESE: And we collected petitions in every body shop right around the country for this Private Member’s Bill. And the fact that, that was a radical thing for them to do at that time as well for a company to be associated with same-sex rights. And 20 years on it’s not, it’s not that radical a move, but it was then to their great credit.
HOST: Now were we’re nearly out of time.
HOST: I just have to tell another anecdote Tass.
HOST: Well you better hurry up.
HOST: Because, Peter Costello at the time. You know one of the issues here was that you know as a same-sex couple if I if I died that my partner could inherit my superannuation, but would have to pay marginal tax on it. And Peter Costello thought that was right and I got into trouble at the time because I told him to keep his grubby dirty hands out of our coffins.
ALBANESE: It was a succinct but effective grab.
HOST: Now Albo as we wind-up. What’s your prediction for the outcome of today’s State election?
ALBANESE: Look I think that I’m not silly enough to make predictions.
HOST: But we’re asking you to.
ALBANESE: At least not on air. I think Daniel Andrews Government does deserve to be returned. I certainly hope that they are. And I hope they are returned to govern in their own right. Having been part of a minority government that I think was very effective under Julia Gillard, the truth is that the politics of that were very difficult, explaining that everything was undermined very unfairly I think every time that we made a policy issue. So I hope Daniel is able to continue to be a progressive government there in Victoria is the most progressive government in Australia.
HOST: That sounds more like a wish than a prediction.
ALBANESE: Well I think that, I think it will be re-elected, but it’s in the hands of the voters and we will wait and see. But I predict that Richard Wynne and Martin Foley will both be re-elected. They are people who are from my experience of people campaigning with them, they’re held in high esteem by their local community and they deserve to be.
HOST: And that’s a big call for Richard Wynne given that there is no Liberal candidate running against him.
ALBANESE: Yeah but you look at what’s happened there, the protection of the Yarra, so it’s got trees not high rises on its banks. The Safe Injecting Room, that will go if there’s a change of government. That will go. That will make a difference in terms of literally costing lives. The sort of changes that he’s made in the local community to the schools will all be undermined if he’s not there to stand up for them.
HOST: Ah we’ve run out of time Albo. We’ll let you get back to concentrating on removing what you would probably regard as the Federal minority government representing a minority view.
ALBANESE: I am looking forward to Monday in Parliament. It’s going to be an interesting last fortnight.
HOST: Yes. Look thanks for your time. You’ve been very generous with us this morning. I know how important Saturday mornings are to politicians you know lots of family stuff and other things to do so thank you so much for your generosity. Your support of Josh Byrne proposal for funding for Joy, should you win, we really appreciate it. Thank you.
ALBANESE: It’s been my pleasure.
HOST: Yeah cheers. Thanks a lot.