SUBJECTS: Labor Party Leadership; Queensland; Uluru Statement from the Heart; Climate change; Adani.
SABRA LANE: Anthony Albanese joins me now. Congratulations on winning the hardest job in Australian politics.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION ELECT: Thank you very much. I’m up for a hard job. At the end of our last period in government I was Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the House, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for Communications and the Digital Economy so I had a bit on then but I must say this is a big challenge but it’s an incredible privilege to lead the party that I love.
LANE: You’re starting your listening tour in Queensland, are you any clearer yet on why three out of four Queenslanders voted for anyone else but Labor with their primary vote.
ALBANESE: Well look one of the things that I’ve said is that we have two ears and one mouth and we should do a lot more listening than we do talking at this stage in the cycle. And so I’m talking to people in Queensland. I do love Queensland except for three nights a year; State of Origin time. Apart from that, I’m very much a friend of Queensland and part of what we need to do firstly is to acknowledge that we got thumped in the election. We got the vote of one in three Australians and one in four Queenslanders. So quite clearly we need to do better if we’re going to get into government.
I do start I think with an advantage which is I have travelled to every corner of Queensland over many, many years and there are projects that I’ve been involved with, on the Bruce Highway in particular but right throughout the state including Mt Isa and Cloncurry and Charleville and Birdsville; there are places right throughout Queensland. And in the period in opposition as well, I was the only person who turned up at the regional tourism conference that was held in Dalby. I have a great affinity with Queenslanders. I think they’re straight talking people and so am I. I have mates across the board from Queensland. I get on very well with people not just on my side but people like Bob Katter and even David Littleproud and others. I have a strong relationship with but it’s my job to make sure that we are in a position to do much, much better in Queensland come 2022.
LANE: All right. Scott Morrison talked a lot about aspiration in the election. The Coalition seems to hear and respond to that. Labor doesn’t seem to respond as well. Do you not understand aspiration?
ALBANESE: Well I certainly understand aspiration. My life as the son of a single mum who was – my mum lived in the same council house in Camperdown for all of her 65 years and for the latter period of it was dependent upon an invalid pension for a very long time. She was in very poor health. I understand what aspiration is. I’ve aspired myself to a better life and I’ve achieved one but I think that Australians aspire to more than a better life for themselves. They want a better life for their family and in particular their children. They want a better life for their friends, for their neighbours in their local community and also for the nation. I think that Australians do care about more than just themselves and one of the things that I said yesterday is that there is indeed such a thing as society and it needs to be an inclusive society, one where people are respected, regardless of where they live what their faith is, what their ethnic background is, who they love. We need to ensure that all Australians are respected and that one of the things that this great country does is provide opportunity for people to better their lot in life. It’s up to government to facilitate that and to make sure that we don’t have a country of haves and have nots.
LANE: Okay on that on that point about community, you’ve said that the public is very conflict fatigued and you’ve nominated Indigenous recognition and climate change as areas where you’d like to be bipartisan. Has anyone from the government talked with you about that in the past 24 hours?
ALBANESE: No, and look I wouldn’t expect them to have but a number of Government Ministers and significant people in the Liberal and National parties – I won’t embarrass them by saying who they are – have reached out certainly through text messages and other phone messages and congratulated me on my appointment. I’m someone who engages with people. I have a range of relationships, not just with my side of politics, but as Leader of the House in particular I developed relationships across the chamber and that’s a good thing. I do believe that the Australian public have conflict fatigue. They don’t want to see people on the TV yelling at each other, what they want is outcomes and solutions not just arguments.
LANE: What’s your view on a voice to Parliament? The Government’s been cold on this. What’s your view?
ALBANESE: Look I support the Uluru statement and I want to sit down with the Government and talk about how that can be advanced but also, importantly to engage with the First Nations people themselves on this. That was a product of substantial debate and engagement by First Nations peoples across the country and it was a significant step forward. What it wasn’t was advancing a third chamber of Parliament – it was simply really saying that Indigenous Australians deserve recognition in the Constitution but they also deserve to have their views considered on matters that affect them. One of the things that we need to do obviously is to advance practical reconciliation through closing the gap. Now this is a challenge which frankly all governments, all political parties and we as a country have let Indigenous Australians down. It is a sad fact that they are the most disadvantaged group in our country. We all benefit from the incredible privilege that we live in a country with the oldest continuous civilisation on the planet. That means that it is something that should be respected by all of us. But we just need to do better. And the truth is that you can’t have constitutional change without bipartisanship; it just doesn’t happen in this country.
LANE: Okay. On conflict, Adani is an issue that’s caused a lot of conflict, do you think the economics of this project stack up?
ALBANESE: Well the important point there is it’s not up to the Government to determine that, it’s up to markets themselves. What it’s up to government to do is to give environmental approvals. That’s happened of course at the federal level, at the state level it’s being considered. But one of the things that has occurred over a period of time is that the company itself have met a range of – have not met – a range of timelines that they’ve put forward but we will see what decisions the company makes once the approvals are either made or not made by the Queensland Government. I just say this, and I’ve said this before the election, it was reported in The Herald, my view is that the demonstration that went through central Queensland and went into the towns in terms of Clermont in Queensland and you had essentially people on two sides – one side people who genuinely cared about the planet and thought they were doing the right thing, but on the other side, people who cared about their jobs and cared about the future of their families as well. And the truth is that that was incredibly provocative and did nothing to advance in my view, a genuine debate about climate change. My view is that climate change, the science is in; we need to act. But to reduce it to a debate about a single mine is in my view very unproductive. It does nothing to advance the debate and good policy is about jobs as well as about clean energy as well as about making sure that we take the community with us.
ALBANESE: And I think could do with less yelling and more genuine debate.
LANE: Anthony Albanese, we’ll have to leave it there. Thanks for talking to AM this morning.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much.