Nov 27, 2018

Transcript of Radio Interview – Triple M – Australia By Night with Stephen Cenatiempo – Tuesday, 27 November, 2018


Subjects: Social media; bipartisanship.
STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: I picked up an article in The Australian today and I read it and I thought: ‘Yep this is what I’ve been saying for years’. And it was written by a bloke that – look I’ve had some knock-down, drag-out battles with him on-air during my career and we probably don’t agree on anything ideologically, but I think he’s 100 per cent right on this. He’s the Opposition Infrastructure Spokesperson, Anthony Albanese. Albo, good to speak to you mate.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you. I’m glad there’s something you agree with me on.
CENATIEMPO: Well you and I have we’ve had some pretty robust discussions on-air. But you always speak common sense and that’s the one thing I’ve admired about you and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with this opinion piece in The Australian today, about the echo chamber that social media has become.
ALBANESE: Well that’s right and I guess in part me talking to you now is a part of what I’m saying through this article – that you have to talk to a broad audience. You need to talk to people who just don’t agree with you. You need to be prepared to engage in the debate and if you’re confident about your views, you shouldn’t fear that. But one of the things social media does, is that people follow people that they agree with. And that therefore reinforces their opinions, and this can be either on the Left or the Right, and that creates a polarisation of views that I don’t think is particularly healthy.

It also creates a tendency away from understanding that compromise is important in politics, as in life. And a lack of respect sometimes for people of different views and – even the fact that the article was published today in The Australian and I tweeted it out, I put it on my social media and people responded, some people responded to that by saying: ‘How dare you write an opinion piece in The Australian, it’s an echo chamber itself’. Which, I guess, just reinforces what the article was saying.
CENATIEMPO: Albo, you’ve been around a long time and I was just looking at your – eight elections now you’ve held the seat of Grayndler – it makes me feel old to think that I ran at the same election you were elected in all those years ago. But there seems to have been this view, I mean, and you’ve been around long enough to remember politics before social media. Are politicians responding to this echo chamber too much these days?
ALBANESE: I think they can and if you look at – even the comments of Julia Banks today with her resignation from the Liberal Party – I think that there is a danger that politicians will respond to people, essentially, who have similar views to them and that will be reinforced and that they won’t engage because they will continue to have a view that everyone thinks in a particular way. This was a part of my piece today, arose from the John Button Lecture that I gave in Melbourne during the election campaign just a couple of weeks ago. And one of the points that I made in that, was to say that the phrase: ‘Everyone thinks that … ‘, is more and more common now than when I was elected 20 years ago. People will say to me verbally, but particularly on social media: ‘Well, everyone thinks …’, in a particular way, whether it be about migration or about transport issues or about the environment. And the truth is that there are very few issues where everyone has one opinion. I mean, I wish everybody was a South Sydney supporter, but the fact is they’re not. And you need to be prepared to respect that. Engage in dialogue. There’s too much shouting I think at the moment and people wanting answers that are just essentially in – Twitter now is 280 characters – but you can’t for example have a sophisticated policy on climate change in 280 characters.
CENATIEMPO: Well that’s an interesting point. But I guess the extension of this is, how do we reach across the aisle these days? You know, I mean I remember the days in Parliament where you’d go and have a beer with your opposite number on the other side after you’d had a debate in Parliament. That seems to be disappearing a bit, too. And it’s permeating the entire population now. How do we close the gap?
ALBANESE: Well, I think we’ve got to talk about it. And that’s what my opinion piece today is about. But we’ve also got a responsibility to just act. I try to engage in different forums. I talk to people like Andrew Bolt and others. I was the only minister who went on Andrew Bolt’s program during the period of the Labor Government, when he was on commercial TV. And I felt that was talking to his audience. Now I might not agree with Andrew Bolt on a whole range of issues, but I found the interviews respectful and that was a good thing. I think the opinion pages of The Australian actually reflect a very broad range of opinion, and that’s a good thing. And the idea that people say – obviously it’s a newspaper with a conservative bent – but it’s not exclusively so, particularly not when it comes to opinion. And the idea that we should shy away from engagement in that because I’m a progressive member of the Labor Party is in my view very counterproductive.

One of the things that I do is appear on a few programs with Christopher Pyne, including the Today Show, every Friday morning. Now, some people say to me: ‘How can you appear with Christopher Pyne?” Well I think it’s a good thing. We try to not yell at each other. We try to, it’s early breakfast TV, we try not to be too partisan in our comments where that’s possible, while sticking up, obviously, for our own side of politics. Christopher I think gets the same feedback. People say: ‘Why are you talking with someone from the other side of politics and it seems like you like each other. How can that be?’ To people for whom that might be their only political thing they listen to or watch in an entire week, who enjoy the fact that we’re respectful of each other and that we do like each other, we get on. That’s a good thing.
CENATIEMPO: Albo, in almost a decade a decade of broadcasting whenever I’ve picked up the phone to you, you’ve always picked up, you’ve always been available, you know, unless you had something else on, of course. But what I find is more and more politicians are reluctant to come on a program like this. I mean we’re broadcasting to 35 radio stations across regional Australia. Talking to real people tonight. Are politicians afraid of that feedback these days? Why is it that less and less of your colleagues will, I guess, come on a program like this these days and answer questions?
ALBANESE: Well I think that for many of them it is more comfortable to go on programs where they know they’ll get agreements, where they’re more comfortable. And I’m someone who goes on a whole range of radio programs, you know, across the ABC, SBS, but also commercial radio. I think it’s an opportunity to put my point of view about issues and I’ve never been frightened of saying what my views are. And one of the things that I say in the article today is, if you have faith in your ideals and policies there’s nothing to fear from debating them, particularly with those who disagree. And when you think about it, if you’re trying to win majority support for your political positions then talking to people and convincing them of your position is one way in which you can do that. The truth is that I hope that we’re always open to discussion and to changing my mind. I’ve certainly changed my view about issues over the years and I would hope that that’s the case based upon when facts change, you have to change your view of the world. And in part one of the ways that we do that is by conversing with people and I enjoy conversations that I have with people, whether it’s in the supermarket or whether it’s on radio. And radio is a particularly effective form, I think, in which to have mature conversations as long as people are respectful, then I’m prepared to talk to them.
CENATIEMPO: Well said. It’s a very old-school outlook, Albo. But I think a lot of people could learn from it. Always good to speak to you.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much for having me on the program.