Subjects: Royal commission, shipping, State of Origin
STEFANOVIC: Anthony Albanese, the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Tourism joins me now in the studio. Anthony, good afternoon to you.
ALBANESE: G’day Karl, Good to be with you.
STEFANOVIC: Should Bill Shorten, given what’s happened today, step aside as Labor Leader?
ALBANESE: Oh no, certainly not. He’s appeared before the Royal Commission. His appearance is ongoing. So I haven’t seen everything that happened there. I’ve been pretty busy doing my job today. But you know he was asked to appear, he asked to bring forward that appearance. My understanding is, I am told, that he is answering all the questions and let the Royal Commission do its job. I don’t think that politicians should be giving a running commentary whilst the evidence is still being given.
STEFANOVIC: It reflects badly on him. This happened in 2007 and they’ve only declared it as of Monday this week. That looks bad.
ALBANESE: Well, from time to time there are late declarations. Of course, Tony Abbott has been someone who has put in late declarations over various issues over the years. It’s not the first time that that’s happened.
STEFANOVIC: But, I mean how silly is this? He’s known this is coming. He’s known his appearance there is coming. He knows there’s going to be something there. But it’s either incompetent, negligent or intentionally dishonest for him not to declare before now.
ALBANESE: Well, clearly as you just said he knew it was coming. He got information I think, I assume the Royal Commission tell the witnesses what subjects they are going to ask about. He’s been happy to go there and to answer all of the questions and that’s an appropriate way for him to proceed.
STEFANOVIC: Arthur Sinodinos stepped aside while ICAC was ongoing. Why shouldn’t Bill Shorten?
ALBANESE: No, there are no allegations that I have seen, unless something has happened while I have been on my way to 2GB, that Bill Shorten has done anything wrong here. Arthur Sinodinos had some pretty serious allegations made against him and he stepped aside after a long period of time where the Prime Minister stood by him.
STEFANOVIC: Just given the amount of time though since 2007, for it suddenly to be declared this week, this looks bad for him, doesn’t it?
ALBANESE: Well Bill, I am sure, answered those questions before the Royal Commission.
STEFANOVIC: OK. How long is he going to be leader for?
ALBANESE: He’ll be leader until the next election and after the next election he won’t be Leader of the Opposition. I hope he is Prime Minister.
STEFANOVIC: Have you ever woken up in the morning and gone: I wouldn’t mind leading the party?
ALBANESE: Obviously, I have Karl, given that I contested the leadership? It would be …
ALBANESE: … dishonest to say no. Actually, one of the things that I wake up now and think is thank goodness I get to talk to Karl and Lisa every Friday morning at 6am.
STEFANOVIC: And even better now on 2GB.
ALBANESE: Even better.
STEFANOVIC: Hey Anthony, in all seriousness though, Bill has had a shocking couple of weeks, not the best for him, not the best for your party. Would you let it run down that badly heading into an election before actually assuming control of the party. Would you have enough guts to do it?
ALBANESE: Well I think Karl, as you’ve said, we’ve had a couple of difficult weeks. That’s true. But guess what? The polls show that we’re ahead at this point in time. I think it was, one of them was 53 to 47. So that’s a pretty good outcome. What matters is, I think, that we are in a position to win the next election. There’s no doubt that we are. We are very competitive and one of the reasons why we are competitive is because Bill Shorten has been very determined to hold the government to account.
STEFANOVIC: Bill Shorten is not going to survive, Anthony, is he?
ALBANESE: Well, he is surviving. He is leader. And you can’t just, under our rules as well. One of the things we did is that we learned the lessons of the period when we were in government where you had a lot of destabilisation. I think some of that showed out in a recent program on a non-commercial channel, to not give them a free ad, and one of things that arose from that was that we have put in place structures so that the leader was elected is the leader for the whole term and that is the decision that we made. The process that I engaged in was a very constructive one and Bill Shorten will lead us to the next election.
STEFANOVIC: You don’t have any of these declarations that you need to make? Political donations in your past?
ALBANESE: I never worked for a union of course, Karl, so that knocks out any of those issues.
STEFANOVIC: All right. Gee your phone’s running hot. Anything we should know about?
ALBANESE: It’s not even on. It’s not even on. It’s not me. It’s someone else in here Karl.
STEFANOVIC: Are you sure? Are you sure? What I like about you Anthony is that you are always honest. Have you ever woken up or have you ever thought: I’d like to be Prime Minister one day?
ALBANESE: Well, obviously if you run for Leader of the Opposition and that is one of the reasons why I took some time you might recall after the last election. Bill was out of the gate, declared himself as a candidate. I had been Deputy Prime Minister. I had been Acting Prime Minister and I did have to think that through because it is a big job being Leader of the Opposition. I did think it through and at that point in time if I hadn’t of thought that I wanted to do the job, I wouldn’t have been a candidate. But it’s a big step and I made it then. I’m not sorry that I ran in that ballot. I gave it a good crack and I did quite well amongst the rank and file membership of the party. But, of course the caucus …
STEFANOVIC: Quite well? You were the most popular by a country mile.
ALBANESE: Well, the caucus had a different view and I respected that and, as you know, I have got on with doing my job each and every day since.
STEFANOVIC: Do you want to be Prime Minister one day?
ALBANESE: I think probably that has passed. The truth is that, you know, I am 50 now, or more than 50, and Bill I hope wins the election next year and I would like to serve as a minister in his government and that would hopefully see me off.
STEFANOVIC: There’s a couple of issues I want to talk about. It’s coming up to a quarter to five and we do have to shift gears after five to Origin. I’ll get your thoughts on Origin in just a second. But in relation, I want you to explain if you can to our audience cabotage. As simply as you can because I think most would be aggrieved listening to what is happening in relation to cabotage if you don’t mind.
ALBANESE: Well the simple principle is that when it comes to shipping around our coast that there will be preference for Australian ships above foreign ships and that if foreign ships operate around the coasts then they have to pay Australian wages and conditions. So put really simply if you want to take goods from Sydney to Melbourne on a truck, you have to pay Australian wages, you have Australian standards. But if you want to use the blue highway – the ocean rather than the Hume Highway – then under the government’s proposals, you will be able to have a foreign ship with foreign standards paying foreign wages and conditions.
STEFANOVIC: Effectively that is what’s happening?
ALBANESE: And it will wipe out the Australian industry.
STEFANOVIC: That’s a good point. It’s a good point and I am critical of the government in relation to this because effectively they are doing it at half the cost or a third of the cost of our own transporters and they are costing jobs here in this country. That needs to be changed. You broke down or watered down some of the rules in relation to that when you were on government though. Will you fix that?
ALBANESE: We certainly were prepared to look at changing some of the regulations but what we are not prepared to do is have a circumstance whereby in the legislation that is there there’s not even a definition of an Australian ship. Why? Because the Government doesn’t draw any distinction. There’s a whole lot of reasons. You know there’s a lot of talk from this government about boats but they want to see the Australian flag disappear from around our coast. And when you have environmental issues like the Pasha Bulker, remember off Newcastle, or the Pacific Adventurer or the Shen Neng off Queensland, environmental disasters. They have all had something in common – they have all been foreign-flagged ships and some of these ships do it on the cheap. But there is a cost because of the environment. As well there is national security interest in us having Australian shipping around our coasts.
STEFANOVIC: When it is mentioned – cabotage – you’ll know what it is. To all of you listening out there I think the government does need to do something about it. It just defies belief to me that we’d be allowing foreign companies to come in and to undercut our jobs, undercut our prices and to also shift the profits overseas.
ALBANESE: Yes well the Australian industry simply can’t survive. And guess what? When there is no Australian industry the prices will go up.
STEFANOVIC: You should go on QandA and talk about this stuff.
ALBANESE: I should go on QandA.
STEFANOVIC: You need to go back on QandA. It’s like a love fest on there for you isn’t it? An Anthony Albanese love fest.
ALBANESE: I go on everyone, I talk to Andrew Bolt.
STEFANOVIC: It’s like being in a panic room for you.
ALBANESE: No, I used to talk to Steve Price and Andrew Bolt regularly when they had their show in here late at night. I think that when you are in politics you’ve got to be prepared to speak to people who agree with you and people who don’t and I don’t understand frankly this absurd dictum that Government ministers won’t appear on QandA.
STEFANOVIC: I’m talking to Anthony Albanese and it’s coming up to 12 minutes to five. We are about to talk Origin after five, Now you are a mad South Sydney Rabbitohs supporter aren’t you? Rabid?
STEFANOVIC: A rabid Rabbitoh. You love them.
ALBANESE: Completely irrational.
STEFANOVIC Can they win this year do you think?
ALBANESE: I certainly think they can but I always think they are going to win, Karl. There were 43 years between 1971 and last year when I ought they were going to win. They certainly can win and they are starting to get their best team back on the paddock week after week.
STEFANOVIC: Those Burgess boys are amazing aren’t they?
ALBANESE: They sure are. They are missing Sam but big Tom is really coming on I think.
STEFANOVIC: Do you struggle to understand the Burgess boys?
ALBANESE: They are actually lovely blokes.
STEFANOVIC: Of course they are. And their Mum is incredible.
ALBANESE: Their Mum is sensational.
STEFANOVIC: Ok. Origin. What are you doing for Origin night?
ALBANESE: This is a bit embarrassing. I am working believe it or not. Hopefully there will be a screen. The Miners Federation have their centenary dinner on at the Sydney Town Hall tonight.
STEFANOVIC: You’re not taking any donations are you?
ALBANESE: And I’ll be attending there representing the Labor Party but I am advised that there may well be a very big screen for people, given that the biggest membership is in NSW and Queensland. I was actually in Brisbane this morning and let me tell you, there’s a lot of hype up there and I think the Blues can win. I
think our forward pack is superior to dare I say it, your guys.
STEFANOVIC: You are a busy man. I really appreciate you coming in and sparing some time with us this afternoon and all the very best. We’ll see you very soon.
ALBANESE: Pleasure, enjoy the game tonight.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.