Subjects: Emma Husar; population; opinion polls; Labor leadership; infrastructure.
LEIGH SALES: Anthony Albanese, thanks very much for coming in.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you Leigh.
SALES: What is your reaction to the news that Emma Husar won’t be contesting the next election?
ALBANESE: Well she has come to this decision herself. Obviously she believes that that is the best thing to do for herself and for the party. It is now time I think for the endless media speculation to be put to bed and for people to move on from this issue. Obviously the party is going through its investigation process. It will be concluded in the following 48 hours. It will bring down any recommendations so it should be allowed to now go through its course.
SALES: Emma Husar says the allegations against her are vicious and baseless even though she won’t contest the election. Is it possible she is the victim of a smear campaign for some reason?
ALBANESE: What is absolutely certain is it is not in Emma’s interests, nor in the interests of those people who have made complaints and forwarded those complaints in good faith to Mr Whelan’s investigation, to have people who aren’t aware of the facts, such as myself or yourself for that matter, making further commentary on this matter.
SALES: Let’s turn to hitting a population of 25 million this week. Are you in favour of a big Australia?
ALBANESE: Well, what I am in favour of is a productive, a sustainable and a liveable Australia for all of our citizens. The fact is that it is the quality of life that is important, rather than any particular figure I think.
SALES: A substantial proportion of Australians don’t like immigration. How much is opposition to it tied to racism?
ALBANESE: I think that by and large Australia is a tolerant country. We are a very successful multicultural nation. With the exception of the First Australians we are all either migrants or sons or daughters or more distant relatives of people who have migrated to Australia as a land of opportunity. We continue to be so and I’m very optimistic about our future. One of the things that does happen though, is that politicians, if you have issues of urban congestion not being dealt with, if you have a diminution of people’s quality of life, then some politicians will point towards some other group that’s not them to provide some blame. That is not productive. That is not the Australia that I want to see advance in this century.
SALES: Let me ask you about a few other things. When Labor last won majority federal government its primary vote was 43 per cent. Today it is 36 percent. What primary vote will Labor need to win the next election?
ALBANESE: Well of course what we have seen Leigh is an increase in non-major party votes. I think that is an issue for both …
SALES: So does that mean you have to look down the barrel of minority government again?
ALBANESE: No it doesn’t mean that at all. What it means is that we need to work very hard to increase that primary vote, to restore faith. Both of the major parties I believe are suffering from a view that they are not able to stand for all of the issues and secure the support of the sort of figures we used to see – 40 per cent and above for both of the major parties and neither party is doing that at the moment.
SALES: Bill Shorten does not have a good personal approval rating. How much of a drag is that on the party’s primary vote?
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that we are a team and Bill Shorten leads that team.
SALES: But Bill Shorten is not well liked by a majority of people in the electorate.
ALBANESE: Well Bill Shorten leads that team and when I go to places with Bill and see him engaging with people, people like him. People like our policies and the important thing is the way that our entire team is regarded and whether people are prepared to elect us into government. We have won 37 Newspolls in a row. That is quite remarkable. And in terms of the by-election, Malcolm Turnbull, for reasons beyond my comprehension, talked up the prospect of the Government winning a seat off the Opposition for a first time in a hundred years. What that showed yet again was the lack of judgement from Malcolm Turnbull when it came to basic political strategy.
SALES: There’s always a lot of speculation about whether you are still interested in the Labor leadership. So let me just ask you straight. At some point in the future, you know, who knows when, Bill Shorten will cease to be the Labor Leader. Are you interested in being next in the seat?
ALBANESE: Well ask me when that happens in 2035 Leigh.
SALES: I just want to know if you’ve still got the baton in the back pack.
ALBANESE: What I have said consistently is that I am interested in Labor being in Government and I want to be part of that team.
SALES: The way I phrased that question I am not trying to, you know, suggest there is any imminent challenge or anything. I am just asking, you know, generally, in five years, 20 years, whatever, have you still got an interest in being the leader?
ALBANESE: Well, we will wait and see if I am here in 20 years as a Member of Parliament. It’s possible that I will be going for Philip Ruddock’s record, but I doubt whether that is the case. My ambition is to be a minister in a Shorten Labor Government, to be able to advance the sort of policies that I want to see in terms of infrastructure; building public transport around the nation; re-establishing the Major Cities Unit; developing the sort of policies that we have put out there; making sure that High Speed Rail is advanced; preserving the corridor; setting up the authority; going to the market to see if it can be tested about High Speed Rail down the east coast of Australia; making sure that we have the Cross River Rail project; building Western Sydney Rail. That is my ambition and I think that if we are able to do that, no one will be more happy than me. We are a Labor team. We are very united. That is one of the reasons I think why we have been successful.
SALES: Anthony Albanese, thanks for joining us.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.