SUBJECT: Listening tour.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: The territory voted Labor so they were disappointed with the outcome but very determined that Labor supporters – are determined to ensure that next time we’re part of a Labor Government. I’m talking to a range of people but I’m talking to people who didn’t vote for us as well. And they’re talking to us about the importance of jobs and economic growth here in the territory. There’s a lot of concern of course about the downturn that’s occurred after INPEX construction was gone through. And so I think they’re concerned about the schools funding. Today of course it’s a story about the hospital here.
ALBANESE: …on that being overflowing and the need for increased health funding. Of course we would have contributed an extra $92 million had we been elected for health services here in the Territory, including an upgrade for the mental health facility at the hospital and a new CareFlight helicopter as well. So unfortunately we didn’t get there but we need to and I think the first stage is to get out there, talk to people and engage with them about how we can ensure that after election 2022, we have a different outcome.
WOOLF: Well and as you rightly mentioned, jobs and the economy. We know that they’re certainly on the radar here in the Northern Territory and have been for some time. They also well, they’re two things that worked out to be the biggest issues relayed during the federal election. They’re top of mind as I said here in the territory. We know the Northern Territory Government has lifted its three year moratorium on the exploration of fracking for onshore shale gas in the Beetaloo Basin and they expect the engineering works could resume really very soon. How big an impact will this have not only in the Northern Territory but the rest of Australia in terms of energy needs?
ALBANESE: Well certainly Australia needs to secure our energy supplies. We had – there was a range of issues during the election campaign about those issues including the whole issue of fuel security. One of the things that will be critical is that the NT Government have developed a Northern Australia gas plan. We wanted to work with the Government on that. We also wanted to work with them in other areas of job creation like the ship lift here in Darwin would be absolutely critical for long term jobs. So I think we could identify where a government contribution could make a difference in the short term, in terms of construction but in ways that lead to long term, secure, employment growth. And the ship lift is a great example of that and I think that’s one of the reasons why we were successful with Luke and Warren and Malarndirri at the election campaign.
WOOLF: Well we do know that as you mentioned, obviously the Federal Labor Party did say that they’d ear mark $300 million towards that ship left. Unfortunately that isn’t happening at this stage as far as we know. Will you help the Northern Territory lobby the federal government to try and get some assistance so that the ship lift can still move forward?
ALBANESE: Absolutely. One of the things that you can do in Opposition is be constructive and be prepared to work with the Government, but of course it goes two ways. The Government’s been told by the Reserve Bank when they reduced interest rates this month that the economy, in terms of growth is essentially flatlining at the moment. And what the Reserve Bank said was that they couldn’t do all the heavy lifting, Government had to as well. And that it needed a stimulus and explicitly they called for a bring forward of infrastructure investment. Now you not only have the ship lift, a range of the roads that we had in our strategic roads package, $173 million to boost jobs in areas like we made the announcement out at the mango farm. The Northern Territory of course is now Australia’s greatest producer of mangoes. If we can do that more efficiently that will help to create jobs and create exports and an income for the nation. And those issues are I believe really critical and the Government should bring forward some of that infrastructure investment. They also need to look at trade issues and today I’ve announced that Luke Gosling will head a regional trade taskforce for us. He’ll be reporting of course to us as the Labor Party, but I see it more broadly that if we come up with a good idea the Government should be prepared to back it in.
WOOLF: What do you see as being sort of, what are you hoping that Luke Gosling will be able to achieve in that role?
ALBANESE: Look he is ideally situated of course here in Darwin, capital city next to the fastest growing region of the world in human history. The fact that Indonesia and Malaysia aren’t in our top 10 of trading partners shows that we can do much better. Luke of course speaks Indonesian, he’s engaged in the region. He was an adviser to the President of Timor Leste when that fledgling country was first established and I think he is ideally positioned. His knowledge of course of the defence industry as a former serviceman gives him I think additional contact and experience in the region. And there is enormous potential for us. We need to do, look at ways in which as well we can value add. We know that we’re pretty good at resource extraction and then exporting it, but ultimately we buy back those minerals and resources once the value has being added on in terms of manufacturing. In what ways can we really boost jobs growth here in Australia so that we maximise our potential?
WOOLF: Yeah and I think for us in regional Australia and certainly in northern Australia we feel very strongly about that. We very often hear these types of lines from politicians but then we don’t really feel as though regional Australia is focused on as heavily as what it should be. I know as you said we sit very closely to one of the fastest growing regions in the world but it’s being able to capitalise on that and it’s sort of making sure that we’ve got the infrastructure in place here in the Northern Territory where we’re able to you know to service one of those growing regions and it can be very difficult even when we talk about things like the ship lift. We’ve got great ideas in theory but we often don’t have the support of the federal government to try and make them come into play.
ALBANESE: No that’s exactly right. That’s why the Government needs to really get on board this proposal. It makes no sense as well for defence vessels for example to go all the way down to Henderson if they need servicing if they’re operating in northern waters. And as well in terms of the growth of super yachts that’s occurring around the world, Australia is a great destination for them. If the vessels could be serviced here as well that would make an enormous difference and will encourage the tourism sector here as well. So it’s about identifying where is it that the Northern Territory has a comparative advantage over the rest of Australia and that’s many because of your location, and so that would be a big plus. That’s one of the reasons why I’m spending a few days here, talking with business tonight, the Chief Minister is hosting a function, businesses will be there and have the opportunity to engage with their ideas. Yesterday I did that on a more informal basis at the supercars and it was a good day. The Territory has so much to offer and this city is such an amazing place.
WOOLF: We really do. Well we are going to have to leave it there of course, Leader of the Federal Opposition, Anthony Albanese we really appreciate your time this morning.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having me on the program.
WOOLF: Thank you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.