SUBJECTS: Leadership of the Australian Labor Party; Federal Labor Caucus; Adani; Shadow Ministry.
OLIVER PETERSON: We’re going to do something a little different now on ‘Perth Live’, because we have never spoken to the Federal Opposition Leader. We’ve never spoken to the Leader of the Labor Party. But we’re going to break that duck right now, because there is a new Federal Opposition Leader, confirmed today, the Leader of the Labor Party, Anthony Albanese. Good afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good afternoon, Ollie. This is my actual first radio interview as Opposition Leader.
PETERSON: Well it’s good to see that you’re doing it here on 6PR, Anthony Albanese, and congratulations on the appointment as the Opposition Leader of the Labor Party.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much, mate. And Perth is obviously very important to us. I have long engaged in Western Australia and particularly through your program. So I think it’s appropriate that my first interview be with yourself and I look forward to you having the Labor Leader on many more times.
PETERSON: Well we look forward to that as well, Anthony Albanese. You’ve got a big task ahead of you. Of course, you’ve been elected the Labor Leader today, unopposed, Richard Marles as your Deputy. What’s going to be your first item of business?
ALBANESE: Well my first item of business is – tomorrow I’ll be travelling to Queensland – to one of the electorates where we weren’t successful last Saturday. And talking with people and listening, importantly, for how we can do better next time. I of course will visit the west as well, as soon as possible. I was there just a couple of weeks ago, of course, and I’ll continue to engage with people. I think at this stage in the cycle it’s a matter of listening, doing an assessment of how we can do better, why people who were prepared to vote for us didn’t last Saturday. As well as talking to Labor Party members and people who campaigned very strongly for us and who were disappointed by the outcome, about how we can do better next time.
PETERSON: I’m sure when you get to Queensland you are going to be asked about Adani, so do you support the mine, or don’t you?
ALBANESE: One of the things that I am going to do, very clearly, is to not engage in policy on the run. What I support is proper processes when it comes to resources projects. Resources projects are important in terms of job creation, but they’re also important that they be got right and there be proper environmental assessments. The federal environmental assessments for that project have been completed, and it’s now up to the State Government to go through their processes, which they’re doing.
PETERSON: So when will you be able to reveal what your stance will be in regards to Adani, once you’ve heard from the State Government?
ALBANESE: The fact is, that we’re not going to have a say in the future of that project. And what I’m focused on at the moment is the Caucus meeting on Thursday. They have to select a frontbench. One of the things that I said today in my media conference, after nominations closed, is that I’m going to hasten slowly. We need to learn the lessons of what happened last Saturday. But one of the lessons that is very clear, is that who the next government will be at an election, held in March 2022 or December 2021, won’t be determined this week, or this month. And we need to take our time, be methodical, consult properly, bring people with us. And that’s something that I’ve tried to do in all of my political engagement during my Parliamentary career up to now. I’m now doing it with a different hat on. So I think, one of the things I said today, was that: ‘we have two ears and one mouth for a reason’. There’s an old saying: ‘we need to listen more and talk a little bit less’, at this stage in the cycle. And I’m not going to be making big policy pronouncements on the run. I’ve said that all of our policy which we took to the election is obviously up for discussion. Our values aren’t. My Labor values, they’re part of who I am and I’ve always been pretty upfront about the way that I talk and engage with people. I’m someone who goes and talks to people through talkback radio and I look forward to coming on your program next time I’m in Perth and doing just that.
PETERSON: So everything that was on the agenda Saturday week ago, is currently under review in terms of sort of franking credits, renewable targets, this is all a matter for discussion within Caucus, it’s a matter for discussion once the Shadow Cabinet has been assembled? And you will take stock of everything that went to the election, and what did work and what didn’t work, and you will use this time to review your policies?
ALBANESE: That’s right. You can’t say that the policies in 2019 will be exactly the same in 2022, with the best of intentions now. Some of those will obviously be maintained. Do we support public education? Yes. Do we support Medicare being at the centre of our health policy and our health system? Yes, we do. Do I believe in nation building infrastructure, including public transport investment? Yes, I do. Do I believe the science is in on climate change? Yes, I do. And that requires action. Do I believe that job creation is absolutely essential? Yes, I do. But with regard to the specific policies that we take forward, they will be a matter for assessment by the Caucus by the Party members. I want to value the opinions of all of the people who are part of our team and what’s more, value the opinions as well of people who didn’t vote for us on May 18. The fact is, we need to do better than get the votes of one in three Australians. And quite clearly out there as well …
PETERSON: It’s a big task.
ALBANESE: Well the Government needs to recognise as well that one in four Australians didn’t vote for either Labor or the Coalition in May. Just 10 days ago. And, therefore, those people are really saying at the moment they don’t support either the Government or the Opposition as their first choice. Now that means that there’s an opportunity to connect with those people. There’s an opportunity to convince people who were considering voting Labor. But didn’t in the end give us their primary vote, after we’d been ahead in every poll for a very long time. To do an assessment of why that is the case and how we can do better and ensure that next time, they go into the polling booth with the confidence to give us their number one vote and to elect Labor members. Including in electorates in Western Australia.
PETERSON: Will any West Australian MPs be in your Shadow Cabinet?
ALBANESE: All of the internal processes will take place between now and Thursday. The Caucus selects the Shadow Ministry, and then I’ll consult about the allocation of portfolios and who’s in what position. I regard your State as being very important. I don’t think there’s been anyone on, who’s an east coast representative, who has visited your great State more than I have over the last decade. I’m sure someone can do the research on that but I’ve been there, just about once a month, or ten times a year, every year. And I’ve done that because I don’t believe that you can understand the issues in Perth and in Western Australia without visiting your State.
PETERSON: And that’s what you’ll continue to do as Opposition Leader?
ALBANESE: I will. And I’ll continue to develop relationships. I have good relationships with the business community in the west, with people in the media, such as yourself, who I’ve built up a relationship with over a period of time. So that people who listen to your program are used to hearing from me, it’s not something unusual. I have engaged right throughout the State, not just in Perth. During the election campaign, someone said to me: ‘why did you go to Durack? We’re not going to win Durack’. And the truth is that Durack wasn’t on the target list, but I went because I gave a commitment I would speak to people in the north west about the issues, particularly promoting tourism and do a roundtable there, about how we can increase job creation in the Kimberley, in the East Kimberley, as well. People came out in the Pilbara. So I have a record of engagement with people in the west and I’ll continue to do that. We have an outstanding Caucus team from the west. Unfortunately, there’s not enough of them. And I want to make sure that after the next election they’re joined by colleagues who proudly wear the Labor banner.
PETERSON: Will Bill Shorten be on your frontbench?
ALBANESE: All of the frontbench is up to the Caucus to determine, but at this stage I think Bill has indicated publicly that he will serve and if he does that he’ll be respected as a former Leader.
PETERSON: Will that help you? Will that help Labor’s chances or would you prefer him to move to the backbench?
ALBANESE: It’s a matter for Bill, what he does. What I’ve said to Bill, is that he will be respected. No one could have worked harder for the election of a Labor government than Bill Shorten.
PETERSON: Anthony Albanese, appreciate your time here on Perth Live in your first radio interview as the Opposition Leader, good luck to you.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Ollie.