Subjects: Infrastructure investment; Badgerys Creek; urban policy; election; Labor Party.
FRAN KELLY: Labor MPs return to Canberra today for their first caucus meeting. They’ll be congratulating themselves no doubt, but they will also be looking to appoint a new leader, well actually reappoint the old one it would seem. Under the party rules it demands a spill of the Labor leadership after a loss and the question is will there be a challenger? Anthony Albanese was considered the most likely to put up his hand. He joined me earlier in the Parliament House studios. Anthony Albanese, welcome and congratulations on your re-election Grayndler, perhaps easier than you might have imagined.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you again Fran.
KELLY: And congratulations on your re-election in Grayndler. Perhaps in the end, a little easier than you initially thought.
ALBANESE: Well, it was a hard fought campaign but it was a very pleasing outcome to get a swing to me and more than double both the Liberal and the Green vote, both of which went backwards.
KELLY: The Labor leadership will be spilled today when caucus meets in Canberra. Will you be a candidate?
ALBANESE: No, I won’t be. What will happen today is nominations will open in accordance with the rules. Nominations will close next week. But I think everyone acknowledges that there will be only one nomination and that nomination will be from Bill Shorten. Today, I’ll move a motion in the caucus authorising Bill Shorten to negotiate with the crossbenchers on behalf of Labor.
We are in circumstances whereby the election still hasn’t been determined. Votes are still being counted and we want to make sure that we get that certainty there for Bill Shorten and for the Labor leadership team who of course have run a very successful election campaign, which has seen Labor win a number of seats. Whether there’s a majority or a minority government remains to be seen.
KELLY: I have to say that on 7.30 on Monday night you were a little less definitive. You said and I quote: “You don’t ever consider changing who the captain in extra time.’’ Well we are in extra time still. The siren hasn’t sounded.
ALBANESE: No, I wasn’t. I was completely clear Fran, if you look at that whole interview. Indeed there was a rather interesting cut, as happens in the media form time to time, in one of the reports that put three answers all together and pretended it was an answer to a different question. But I made it very clear on Monday night, and I have made it clear since – well any time I have been asked frankly – that no-one has ever said that they are about to challenge Bill Shorten, that Bill Shorten will be elected unopposed. That was always going to happen after this election result.
KELLY: As I understand Labor’s rules – the ones introduced under Keven Rudd – if you don’t put up your hand for the leadership at this meeting, this is your one shot at it for the next three years pretty well. So if Bill Shorten is elected Labor leader this week he will be the Labor Leader for the next election whenever that may be. Do you rule out any challenge at any stage over the next term of Parliament?
ALBANESE: Bill Shorten will lead Labor on an ongoing basis. I was asked on Monday night would Bill Shorten lead Labor forever? What I said on Monday night was that the Labor Party has been around for more than 100 years so hopefully it will outlives, literally, Bill Shorten, Anthony Albanese, yourself and everyone else.
I hope it is still going in a hundred years’ time. So they are the circumstances – nominations will be called this week, they’ll close, Bill Shorten will be elected as leader unopposed. But in the meantime he will have the authority effectively to continue to act as leader.
KELLY: And just on that, continuing to act as leader and as you say the authority to negotiate with cross benchers, why would negotiations with the crossbench be involving Bill Shorten given it is unlikely – well I think it is impossible now – that Labor will lead isn’t it? I mean it will be a majority or minority Turnbull Government. Won’t you be irrelevant once that happens? The job of negotiating with the independents falls to the government, as you know very well from experience.
ALBANESE: I do Fran, and what I know is that one of the things that the Coalition did very badly between 2010 and 2013 was to have ongoing discussions with the crossbenchers. That’s why the scoreboard was 595 to nil at full time at the end of the 43rd Parliament. And we won’t take that arrogant approach that the Coalition had.
If you compare their rhetoric about that Parliament between 2010 and 2013 that they said wasn’t legitimate; they said it didn’t have any authority and they behaved as complete oppositionists and were very destructive with now, they are talking about reaching out across the Parliament and their rhetoric is very different.
Labor will take a constructive approach. We’ll be prepared to work with the cross benchers and it is important that those discussions begin immediately and whether there is a majority or minority government remains to be seen.
What’s clear is that the government will be very vulnerable. I know what it’s like to run a tight Parliament. We had 70 votes at the end of the Parliament out of 150 but we were still able to get our legislation through and I look forward to making a contribution to the strategic questions of how the Parliament runs in the next term.
KELLY: I should ask you, I should perhaps have asked you earlier, is Labor conceding defeat at this point?
ALBANESE: Certainly not, and it’s certainly not up to me to make those decisions. With today’s caucus meeting Bill Shorten will continue to be in charge of making the calls on behalf of the Labor caucus.
KELLY: You are listening to RN Breakfast. Our guest is Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese. You talked earlier about Labor in opposition not being as destructive or obstructive as the Abbott Opposition was when you were last in government. Standard and Poor’s rating agency has put the Parliament on notice essentially not to let this tight election result stymie efforts of Budget repair. Here’s the Treasurer, Scott Morrison.
SCOTT MORRISON: And that’s why I say as an invitation more than anything else to the Parliament as a whole, is this something we have to work on together? It is not an option to simply not look at this.
KELLY: Do you agree with that? Will Labor work cooperatively with the Government to get the Budget down, give the green light perhaps to some of its spending cuts given the warning from Standard and Poor’s?
ALBANESE: It’s almost breathtaking to hear someone like Scott Morrison who was a part of a show, who disrupted Question Time each and every day with suspensions of standing orders that I had to respond to, that had stunts over and over again every day, that ridiculed and engaged in attacks on fundamental legislation, the way the Parliament runs and who very proudly said they were about wrecking the Parliament, who are now talking about engaging in a constructive way across the Parliament. We’ve always been constructive Fran. We’ll continue to be constructive about issues that matter. But we will continue to hold this government to account and we will continue to represent the views of those millions of Australians who voted Labor last Saturday and who expect their views to be represented.
KELLY: Is that a recipe for stalemate though in terms of Budget repair?
ALBANESE: Well, we’re entitled to pursue the agenda that we put forward to the Australian people at the election. We’ll continue to do so. We of course will do so in a constructive way and as Labor always has, if there is a good idea we are prepared to come to the table. But we are not prepared to just adopt the Coalition position given that they don’t really have a mandate.
They went through an election campaign in my portfolio area of infrastructure without announcing support for a single major infrastructure project anywhere in the country. They announced 76 little road projects, 74 of which were in Coalition held seats. That’s not the way to govern a country. That’s not the way to ensure future productivity growth.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we are back at the polls very soon Fran. Certainly much, much sooner than three years because of their failure to be able to provide that leadership.
KELLY: Just finally, on another issue, Bill Shorten says it’s clear from the Chilcot report into the Iraq War that John Howard has questions to answer about why Australia went to war in Iraq. Under the Gillard Government, Labor ruled out an inquiry into the Iraq War. It was an Andrew Wilkie proposal. There are calls again now for an inquiry. Will Labor support one?
ALBANESE: Well, that’s something that certainly is worthy of consideration in the wake of this report. I’m very proud that I was a part of the Labor Party that opposed our engagement in the Iraq War. We did so in a principled manner and I well recall Simon Crean’s speech to departing troops outlining our position. I think he showed great leadership during that period and the Labor Party position has been proven by history to be correct.
KELLY: Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for joining us.
ALBANESE: Thanks Fran.
KELLY: Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.