Subjects: Federal Election, Public Transport, Greens/Liberal Preference Deal
FRAN KELLY: Senior Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese joins me in the breakfast studio. Anthony Albanese, welcome to breakfast.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you, Fran.
KELLY: Bill Shorten says Labor’s the underdog but the polls today, the two major polls have you around 50-50. This election is yours for the taking, isn’t it?
ALBANESE: No. We do go into the election as the underdogs. Historically what’s tended to happen in election campaigns is that governments have an enormous advantage. They have an advantage in, of course, picking the timing though it would appear that Malcolm Turnbull, for reasons beyond my comprehension, gave that up earlier this year, but they have increased resources.
You’ve seen in terms of, even yesterday afternoon, for every Liberal Party ad, there were three ads paid for by the taxpayer still rolling out on TV.
KELLY: Which is not illegal, is it?
ALBANESE: It’s pushing their agenda in a pretty crude way. What we didn’t do Fran is what they’ve done in my area, which is to actually cut the infrastructure construction budget by $18 million to pay for ads.
It was money that was supposed to go into building roads and railway lines. They’ve taken it out to spend on ads to advertise and hide the fact that they really haven’t done anything when it comes to infrastructure this election.
KELLY: I’ll come back to infrastructure but perhaps the real story in the polls for Labor when I said it’s yours for the taking, perhaps the reason it’s not is because although it’s 50-50 on the two party preferred vote, Labor’s primary vote in the Ipsos poll, in the Fairfax papers is still only 33 per cent, which is where it was when you lost heavily to Tony Abbott three years ago.
No one can win with a primary vote of 33 per cent.
ALBANESE: If our primary vote is 33, not only will we not win, we will have a very bad outcome. That’s one of the things you have to do when you look at the polls is look at –
KELLY: So why haven’t you been able to lift that primary vote given all the difficulties that the government’s had?
ALBANESE: Well, this is a government in its first term. It’s a government that changed leaders and had a popular leader come in, Malcolm Turnbull. It was a great sense of relief, I think, when Tony Abbott was deposed. He was going to end the three word slogans. He was going to talk to the Australian people like adults. I listened to Julie Bishop’s interview before. She obviously wasn’t in the studio but it was as if, like the rest of senior members, they’re just reading off the cue cards. They’ve got the three word slogans, just over and over and over, and I reckon over eight weeks if they continue to act like automatons, I mean selecting Mathias Cormann is a very brave move, he’s on message, sure, but will anyone listen to him repeating slogans for eight weeks?
KELLY: Are the messages perhaps not so much the issue when it comes to the crunch in 8 weeks’ time for the electorate? We’ve had four Prime Ministers in less than three years. Are voters going to want to stick with stability? Is that your biggest challenge?
ALBANESE: Well, I think what our task is to put up our alternative and we’ve been doing that, Fran. I think the voters are rewarding Labor for the fact that we’ve been brave. We’ve been prepared to put out fully costed policies, much more so than any other opposition in the 20 years that I’ve been in politics. Out there on issues like addressing housing affordability, that’s a brave move what we’ve done and I think the voters are rewarding us. This is a government that’s run out of steam. Why are we having this early election, Fran? Because the government doesn’t have an agenda, it doesn’t have a sense of purpose.
Malcolm Turnbull’s not only at war with Tony Abbott, he’s at war with himself.
KELLY: Well the government would say we’re having an early election because you wouldn’t work with the government to get anything through the Senate.
ALBANESE: That’s nonsense, of course, Fran. I was Leader of the House with 70 votes in a House of Representatives out of 150. We got our legislation through. We treated people like adults. This is a government that has been incapable of explaining its agenda, that the Senate quite rightly rejected its unfair Budget measures. That’s what the Senate is supposed to do, provide that scrutiny.
KELLY: Bill Shorten says the election is “most definitely about what I stand for and what my opponent stands for,” which sounds like it’s going to get pretty personal. How much is he going to play the man in this election?
ALBANESE: We are playing the policies. Our alternative on education policy. The Gonski reforms that were supposed to be bipartisan. To end that divisive silly debate about public versus private schools. Valuing every child. Giving them every opportunity. Medicare being at the heart of our health system. Not being undermined. Infrastructure. Not just riding on trains. Malcolm Turnbull –
KELLY: He wants to build trains. He has a train building policy in his cities policy.
ALBANESE: No he doesn’t. Where is it Fran? Where is it?
KELLY: The Badgerys Creek train. The Melbourne Metro.
ALBANESE: There’s no money. There’s no plans there, Fran. His cities policy consisted of $50 million for plans. That will plan a couple of major infrastructure projects. That’s it. It’s been a great disappointment. Nothing for the Cross River Rail. The Melbourne Metro money is the money from the Asset Recycling Fund that was put in there by Tony Abbott in 2014. Not a dollar of actual grant money. Nothing for Adelaide Light Rail. Nothing for the Metronet project in Western Australia. Nothing for the Gawler project. Nothing for Cross River Rail in Brisbane.
KELLY: So you’d say that it’s not going to get personal, it’s all about the policies, and yet Bill Shorten’s first media comment in the election this morning, he’s going to put one out every morning I guess; ‘this election will be a contest between Labor putting people first and the Liberal Party looking after vested interests and the top end of town”. Now, how can you paint it like that when in the Budget this government did go after the top end of town on superannuation, on multinational tax? You know that’s, that’s an unfair picture of what the government did in that economic plan, isn’t it?
ALBANESE: No, Fran. They adopted some of our policies in those areas, in multinationals, and some of our policies in terms of superannuation. They put back the low income superannuation contribution that they took away just a couple of years ago. So what you don’t do, Fran, is say ‘we’re going to cut things in 2014, put them back in 2016 and pretend they’re new, and pretend that we’re doing something that’s positive.’ They still have the $80 billion of cuts to education and health. They still have the cuts to pensions. They still have the cuts to welfare payments. They still have –
KELLY: And you still have higher taxes and higher spending.
ALBANESE: They still have a position – well, we don’t actually Fran. If you look at $71 billion of savings in last week’s Budget Reply on top of the savings that we have already, they plan a tax cut for people like you and I, if I can be so presumptuous, in terms of our incomes. The bottom 75% of Australians got absolutely nothing out of the Budget except for cuts.
Cuts to the dental scheme. Cuts to health. Cuts to education. That’s why we say this election is about putting people first rather than helping out Malcolm Turnbull’s mates at the top end of town.
KELLY: It’s fourteen past eight. Our guest is Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese. Today’s front page of your hometown paper, the Daily Telegraph, ‘land of hope and fear – PM’s passionate pitch of optimism as Shorten champions fair and scare campaign’. So that’s the front page of the Tele –
ALBANESE: That’s bold, isn’t it Fran? You’ve got to give them credit for chutzpah, the Daily Telegraph worrying about fear.
KELLY: But I want to talk about trust, because Bill Shorten was all about trust, who do you trust with schools, hospitals, Medicare, on it went. The truth is there’s plenty of research to show trust is in very short supply in the electorate when it comes to our politicians. The Scanlon Foundation survey has seen trust in politicians nosedive since 2009. It’s around 30 per cent now. So when Bill Shorten or Malcolm Turnbull ask the voters who do you trust, the answer for many people is none of you.
ALBANESE: That’s certainly the case, Fran. And that’s acknowledged.
KELLY: What should we do about that?
ALBANESE: Well, I think that one of the things that you do about it is what we have been. Putting forward our policies well in advance of an election. See, Tony Abbott prior to 2013 had that three years of the minority parliament where he expected the government to fall over the next day. So it was just all negative. He was very good at it. Very good at the scare campaigns, but he didn’t have a plan when he got into government.
Malcolm Turnbull had a plan to get rid of Tony Abbott, but it’s very obvious that he just didn’t have a plan to govern, and I think the trust factor when it comes to Malcolm Turnbull, I mean how can you actually know that climate change is such a challenge for this and future generations, and not do anything about it?
Not even talk about it yesterday. I think that’s one of the things that is breaking down trust is Malcolm Turnbull on climate change, on marriage equality, on the republic, essentially walking away from a lifetime of positions that he’s taken.
KELLY: Can I just ask you finally, you’re one of Labor’s strongest retail politicians. You’re going to be pretty busy in your own seat of Grayndler though I would imagine because Greens leader Richard Di Natale, he’s going to be campaigning with the Greens candidate in Grayndler today, firefighter Jim Casey.
A redistribution means your seat’s changed, you’ve lost some traditional Labor suburbs, there are two state Green MPs within Grayndler boundaries now. You still hold your seat by more than 18% but if preferences go to Jim Casey – if Liberal preferences go to Jim Casey you could lose your seat, couldn’t you?
ALBANESE: Of course I could.
KELLY: How worried are you about this?
ALBANESE: I’m not taking it for granted, but I’ll say this Fran. It says a lot about Richard Di Natale that his priority today on day one of the election campaign, and he flagged it yesterday, is removing me from the Federal Parliament. If you think that Parliament will be a more progressive place without me in it, without me within the Labor Party, and within the Parliament, then by all means –
KELLY: Yeah, but –
ALBANESE: That’s his priority.
KELLY: That’s not how parties decide who to campaign against, is it? They want to win seats.
ALBANESE: No. Richard Di Natale could choose to target Liberal party members. What’s gone on here is that the Greens have an arrangement with the Liberals, where the Liberals will preference the Greens in seats the Greens are trying to win and in return the Greens will issue open tickets in seats like Chisholm and Bruce and other marginal seats, which will increase the chances of Malcolm Turnbull remaining as Prime Minister.
Increase the chances of Peter Dutton remaining as the Immigration Minister. That is very deliberately the conscious strategy that they have and I think progressives will have a backlash. I stand on my record. What you see is what you get with me. I’m prepared to stand up for my values in a consistent way. I’ve been doing it for years and that’s why I’ll be returned as the Member for Grayndler.
KELLY: Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for joining us on this day one of the election campaign.
ALBANESE: Thanks Fran.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.