Subjects: Labor election prospects; Coalition how-to-vote infighting; hung parliament prospects, religion in politics, tourism and cities policy.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Anthony Albanese, welcome.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good afternoon Patricia.
KARVELAS: The finish line is seriously in sight. We can all see it. How confident is Labor feeling, going into these final few days?
ALBANESE: Well, what we are confident of is that we have put forward a coherent vision for the nation – a coherent vision that’s about closing tax loopholes that are the source of a reduction in revenue from just a few, whether they be individuals or big multinationals, and using that revenue to fund better schools, better hospitals, better public infrastructure; that we have a united team. And on the other side, we’ve seen today an explosion once again, about Tony Abbott’s forces blaming – ‘sabotage’, as they’ve called it, for people handing out how to votes for Jim Molan below the line, and confusing voters. And then Barnaby Joyce of all people, of all people, saying that there’ll be absolute chaos, and calling for the National Party to hand out how-to-votes that also are contrary to the agreed ticket, and encouraging people to vote below the line.
So if this is the state of the Coalition just a few days out from polling day, I mean, goodness knows what they’d be like if somehow they limp across the line, in partnership with, of course, Clive Palmer and Pauline Hanson. All we know is that as bad as the last six years have been, the next six weeks, if they go across the line, will be really something else, because they just hate each other frankly, and they’re quite clearly not capable of governing in any coherent way. And the reason why Scott Morrison has to re-announce the same policy, day after day, that he announced on Sunday that we matched, is because they really haven’t got much else to offer about the future.
KARVELAS: Okay, let me pick you up on this – this ticket. You’re right. There are some issues. You’re absolutely right – NSW, Jim Molan, you mentioned the Nationals. All true. I’m not endorsing, you know, your assessment of it. But it is true that there is a dispute, and there is clearly some how-to-vote cards being handed out for Jim Molan, for instance, putting him higher because he’s in an unwinnable position.
ALBANESE: It’s civil war, not a dispute.
KARVELAS: But it has happened in the Labor Party. It happened with Lisa Singh in Tasmania, didn’t it? I mean, there’s been candidates been put in unwinnable spots, and in the Labor Party, Lisa Singh campaigned for herself.
ALBANESE: No. You didn’t have people who were Labor Party members, handing out how-to-votes like you’re having here. And here is – bear in mind this; this is happening in the seat held by the former Prime Minister, who was elected during – it seems like a long time ago – but in the life of this current Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Government, Tony Abbott was the first cab off the rank. And he’s under siege in his own seat, because he is out of touch on issues like climate change, marriage equality, and any of the future agenda that people are concerned about in his electorate. And here you have this distraction, whereby some of his lieutenants, who backed him in as the Leader, and who’ve been part of his right-wing push in the Liberal Party, are out there handing out how-to-votes, backing in Jim Molan to do over the National Party candidate who’s number three on the Coalition ticket. And in return, the National Party, led by the former Deputy Prime Minister, and their former Leader as well, saying that they’re going to have a separate how to vote as well that also breaks the ticket.
ALBANESE: So, if they can’t agree between themselves on who people should vote for, then maybe people shouldn’t vote for any of them.
KARVELAS: All right.
ALBANESE: Because quite clearly, they just don’t have their act together.
KARVELAS: There’s growing talk about the possibility of a hung Parliament. Do you agree with Scott Morrison that independent candidates should say now which major party they’d back if there was a hung parliament scenario?
ALBANESE: Well, what I think Scott Morrison should do – forget about the independents speaking – Scott Morrison should say what he’ll back if Clive Palmer – Clive Palmer doesn’t give preferences on the basis of nothing. This is an ultimate deal maker …
KARVELAS: Sure, but that’s not the question I asked Anthony Albanese. I asked about the independents. Should they declare?
ALBANESE: But that’s the important one because I’m worried about Scott Morrison not declaring what the deal is that he has with Clive Palmer, what the LNP deal is with Pauline Hanson in Queensland, whereby Scott Morrison said that the Liberal Party would put Pauline Hanson below Labor, but that isn’t happening in the key seats in Queensland. And as for the independents: well they’re independents – they can speak for themselves.
KARVELAS: Sure, but do you think they should – yes, of course they can speak for themselves – but you can have a view on what they should do. Should they, given we may be facing a hung parliament, declare who they’ll support?
ALBANESE: They can speak for themselves. What I’m doing is running for the Labor Party against Scott Morrison and the Coalition Government. And the only reason why – the only reason why these independents are prominent in seats like Warringah, Indi, Farrer, Wentworth, Mayo, Curtin, and others, is because Scott Morrison is a part of this shift to the right that we’re seeing amongst the Coalition parties, so that a whole lot of people who saw themselves as Malcolm Turnbull-Liberals, see themselves as not being represented by the modern Liberal Party, as some of them call themselves.
KARVELAS: Okay, so you’ve said if you win Government, then you’ll consider yourselves to have a popular mandate for major changes you want to make. Would you still claim that mandate, in the event of a hung Parliament or a tight vote?
ALBANESE: We’re campaigning for majority Government. That’s our objective: is to get 76 seats plus on Saturday. That’s the only scenario that we’re thinking about.
KARVELAS: And if you don’t get that scenario, because we’ve seen it before …
ALBANESE: That’s the only scenario. We’re not war gaming anything else, Patricia. We’re war gaming trying to secure a majority. And I hope that people in seats, that are contestable between Labor and the Coalition vote for Labor candidates, and that we secure a majority. I think that would be very much in the interests of …
KARVELAS: Do you think you’re on track to secure that majority Anthony Albanese?
ALBANESE: Well I wait and see. I don’t take any vote for granted. I today have been in Melbourne. I have been in Geelong I am back in Sydney. We’ve had major policy launches on tourism and our cities policies. We have put forward I think a coherent argument for what we would do in Government and as well we have put forward a cohesive team that has been consistent, the same Leader, Deputy Leader Shadow Health Minister, Shadow Infrastructure Minister, same Senate Leader …
KARVELAS: I get that there has been some consistency there. Is it wrong to bring in the Prime Minister’s religion into the campaign? Should politics and religion be kept separate?
ALBANESE: Well I certainly am of the view that people’s religion is a personal issue for them. What is important is what people do with their political representation and Scott Morrison of course was the person who brought religion in. No-one smuggled a camera in to his church service in the first days of the campaign. That was a decision that he made. I am not quite sure why he did that but that was a decision frankly for him. The issue here with regard to marriage equality and Scott Morrison is that in spite of the fact that they said that they would respect the voluntary postal survey that I certainly think and argued and we argued wasn’t necessary – it cost $120 million of taxpayers money to do it – and then Scott Morrison, like Tony Abbott and a few others walked out, didn’t vote in the Parliament when that issue came before the House of Representatives and it is perfectly legitimate for Scott Morrison to be held to account. I noticed that in your introduction you were speaking about the alienation of young people from the Coalition and how Scott Morrison was trying to connect. Well I will give him the big hint – one way he can connect is by acknowledging that for most young people, they wondered what it was all about; why who someone loves was an issue that they got a say in and as a result of that of course what happened was that literally over half a million people got on the roll. That is something that the advocates of the voluntary postal survey might regret after Saturday night because it mobilised them and the fact is that on climate change, marriage equality, on all these issues whereby young people have a modern approach, the fact that the Coalition is stuck in the past is a problem, but the bigger problem is that they want to rest of Australia to go back there just to keep them company.
KARVELAS: If I could just turn to your portfolio now, you have announced plans to replace the Coalition’s City Deals with a City Partnership program. How would it be different to what the Government has been doing?
ALBANESE: Well what it is about isn’t just a deal where there is a signature and then we go away. What we will have is a coherent approach. So we will re-establish the Major Cities Unit, with guidelines. At the moment the City Deals are essentially just election commitments put together in a document and thrown out there and it is said that they are City Deals. Now some of the measures are very worthwhile that have happened but it is not changing the planning mechanisms. The problem is in this country that we have three levels of government and because of that we find it difficult to get that long-term planning. What are the comparative advantages for example of a region like Geelong? How can we ensure in the future that employment growth occurs, that economic activity? How do we make sure that we don’t just have growth in our outer suburbs without having an approach for where will they work, where will they have the social infrastructure, the kids to go to school, where will they get health care, where are the recreational activities? All of that planning that we could be much better at. Too often we have had the growth of housing areas into the outer suburbs and then after the event tried to retrofit infrastructure on to the system. Now City Partnerships will be an attempt to do just that. They will be done through the Major Cities Unit. There will be guidelines worked out and it will be a cohesive approach towards urban policy. We still have a Coalition Government that hasn’t funded projects like the Melbourne Metro and Cross River Rail – are absolutely essential to deal with urban congestion and with the capacity of the rail network be it in Melbourne or Brisbane or others of our major capital cities.
KARVELAS: Very briefly you have just released a new tourism strategy as well. Where do you see the major opportunities to expand the Australian tourism industry?
ALBANESE: Well I think there is enormous opportunity Patricia. We are fortunate to be living in the area of the world that has seen the fastest growth, not just in recent times, in human history. This compared with the Industrial Revolution in the UK, what we are seeing in the Asian-Indo-Pacific region is quite phenomenal. What that is seeing is massive rise in the middle class, real opportunity to expand our tourism capacity to bring those sustainable jobs in and that is the big game changer that we have. We also want to market domestic tourism. We think Tourism Australia has a role there and that has been withdrawn. The other big distinction is that we will put Tourism with the department that I hope to lead in Infrastructure and Transport because the two connections are one – how people get here and get around this vast continent – be it aviation to get here and then other transport modes to get around the country. Secondly is infrastructure – that is the thing that makes a difference. So for example, we launched the tourism policy at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. That’s a major tourism attraction. We have announced major support for tourism be it our $1 billion Northern Australia Tourism Fund, or whether it be support for specific projects, be they enhancing natural beauty in areas like Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth or facilities like MONA, which has really driven tourism into Tasmania in recent times.
KARVELAS: Anthony Albanese, we are out of time. Thanks you so much for coming on Afternoon Briefing.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having me on the program Patricia.
WEDNESDAY, 15 MAY 2019
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.