Subjects: Victorian State Election; Liberal Party; Greens Political Party; national security.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Anthony Albanese, welcome to National Wrap.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks for having me on the program.
KARVELAS: What lessons can Labor take from the result on Victoria?
ALBANESE: Well what it shows is that if you do the policy work, which we are doing as well, if you put forward a comprehensive program on education, on health, on transport, on issues that matter to people and then, importantly, if you have privilege of being in government, if you fulfil those promises, you will be rewarded. And that is what has happened with Daniel Andrews yesterday. He has led a government that has been a good government. It’s been a government that has made a positive difference to people’s lives and it’s one that has continued to make positive promises and have a vision for Victoria.
KARVELAS: A lot has been spoken of the Federal implications of which many people say there are many. Do you really think this is partly about the rolling of Malcolm Turnbull?
ALBANESE: I think there is no doubt that the ongoing chaos that is the Liberal Party nationally, including in Victoria, where people like Michael Sukkar and Greg Hunt played a key role in the rolling of an elected Prime Minister, an elected Prime Minister who had won 58 Newspolls in a row as preferred prime minister, had an impact. And we saw it again yesterday. While the Victorian election was taking place in New South Wales they were meeting to roll Jim Molan from the Senate and to have once again an ongoing brawl over who would stand both at the next Federal election and at the New South Wales election next March.
This is a Liberal Party that is split down the middle, that is incapable of functioning, that is incapable of putting forward a policy framework and that therefore retreats back into fear campaigns, negative campaigns. We saw some of that with Matthew Guy, but he was ably assisted in his fear campaign by people like Peter Dutton warning that you couldn’t go out to a restaurant at night in Melbourne, by people at senior levels of the Federal Coalition joining in on the fear campaign aimed at the Victorian State election. And guess what? It failed dismally and Victorians rejected the negative fear-based approach of the Coalition.
KARVELAS: Tony Burke put out a tweet where he said there was no such thing as dog whistling any more. Do you agree with that sentiment?
ALBANESE: Well I think it is more shouting and one of the things about the Federal Government is that they have behaved like an Opposition in exile since they were elected really, back in 2013. None of them seem to have had a plan to actually govern. They have had a plan to fight each other, but not a plan for the nation and we see that writ large with the fact that there is no energy policy at the national level and we see it in terms of their preparedness to engage in the culture wars in a way in which they actually think that people such as some of the late night commentators on Sky News are correct in saying that the reason why Daniel Andrews was re-elected yesterday with such a thumping majority is because Matthew Guy wasn’t Right wing enough.
I mean, I don’t know who these people talk to. It would appear that they just sit in front of people like The Outsiders program and others on Sky News and believe that that is representative of Middle Australia and quite clearly, it’s not. Middle Australia actually is pretty comfortable with Australia’s diversity and Middle Australia wants nothing more, nothing less than a quality education for their kids. They want better hospitals. They want to deal with urban congestion. But they can spot people trying to go the low road from a mile away and that’s really what has happened in Victoria. It’s been a campaign without any substance from the Coalition and they have been punished accordingly.
KARVELAS: I’ve heard some Liberal MPs, some because I can tell you there are strong views to the contrary on this one, that say what we have seen happen in Victoria is essentially Melbourne is a Lefty town and we shouldn’t take any lessons from it. Is it true? Is Victoria a kind of progressive oasis?
ALBANESE: Well I don’t know how they define what happened in Wentworth, where Kerryn Phelps will be sworn in as the member tomorrow, how they define what happened in Longman in Queensland, what happened in Braddon in Tasmania, what happened in Mayo in South Australia and what happened in Fremantle in Western Australia. I mean, we have seen elections right around the country where essentially people have been rejecting the divisive and negative approach of the Coalition, rejecting the approach that tries to pit one group of Australians against another. They are rejecting the approach that says that everything bad is connected with the trade union movement.
They have rejected essentially a Liberal Party that has moved further and further to the Right and it is the case that if you move further and further to the Right, then people who are moderates, who previously have supported the Liberal Party, when they hear senior members of the Federal or Victorian or New South Wales Liberal parties saying that Malcolm Turnbull isn’t really a Liberal, that he went into the Liberal Party as some form of closet Socialist and took it over and that it’s good that he is gone, then I think what that says to those voters, those moderates, the people who have small l liberal views, who support tolerance and support multiculturalism, but who also tend to support a dry economic market-based position for the economy and for government intervention, they are essentially saying to that cohort: “You are not a part of what makes up the modern Liberal Party’’. And Robert Menzies of course, when he formed the Liberal Party as a Victorian, made a conscious decision to call it the Liberal Party, not the conservative party because he had a view that Australians were essentially progressive people.
KARVELAS: Let’s talk about the Greens, because you have often been challenged by the Greens – that’s an issue in your own seat. The Greens look to have lost one of its lower house seats Northcote and potentially a few of its Upper House MPs as well. I think they have probably still held on to Melbourne though. What does it say about the Greens, because they obviously had a bad campaign in Victoria. Do you think this is just isolated to this bad campaign, or do you think that has broader implications for seats like yours at the next Federal poll?
ALBANESE: Well the Greens Political Party have a real structural and cultural problem. They are at war with themselves of course in Victoria, and in New South Wales if anything, it is worse. You have people giving speeches against fellow Greens MPs under parliamentary privilege. You have an ongoing civil war going on and I can’t see how they can possibly have party room meetings in New South Wales and they continue though, to be characterised as well as a political party that targets progressive members. They targeted people like Martin Foley and Richard Wynne, who have made an enormous difference to progressive change as part of the Victorian Labor Government and the difference is that I think people could see that they were, to name just two people, they were making a difference each and every day to support the gay and lesbian community, to support good environmental policy, to support social housing, to support the upgrade of schools and hospitals in their areas and to support a progressive position such as the drug injecting room, which is saving lives, which is located in the electorate of Richmond. And what we have is the Greens essentially targeting those people. And people know that, whereas Richard and Martin and others, myself if we are successful in the Federal election next year, will be sitting around a Cabinet table making decisions.
KARVELAS: Do you feel like you are in a better position now after you have seen this result in Victoria in your own seat?
ALBANESE: I think in my seat what I know is and two people said to me over the weekend who I ran into yesterday on separate occasions, said to me that they had resigned from the Greens because they regarded them as a rabble in New South Wales and that has been the case for some time, the division. But now it is out here in the open for all to see and that is the division which is there in Victoria and it is a division which is there in the Greens caucus here in Canberra and I think that people will reject the essential opportunism of the Greens Political Party. If they are serious about making a difference and promoting real change, then they want someone who is part of the Government, not someone who can wait until a government makes a decision and then decide whether they will protest it or not.
KARVELAS: Anthony Albanese, the Government wants laws to allow police access to encrypted messaging. A bi-partisan committee is looking at that Bill as you know. Will you try and pass this in the next two weeks given that you say that you want to have essentially a bi-partisan approach to national security legislation?
ALBANESE: Well the committee needs to be allowed to do its work and they made a very strong statement from the Chair, a member of the Liberal Party, Andrew Hastie and the Deputy Chair Anthony Byrne just last Friday about this, essentially warning the Government against trying to politicise these issues. National security is something that the Labor Party takes seriously as does almost every Australian.
KARVELAS: Do you feel comfortable with this encryption legislation? What are your personal views?
ALBANESE: Well I will wait and see. I haven’t seen the legislation yet of course.
KARVELAS: But you know what the proposition is. Do you think it is a fair proposition that police get access to encrypted messages?
ALBANESE: I will wait and see the detail and also see what the examination of this committee is.
KARVELAS: But Peter Dutton says there is a sense of urgency given police say so much communication from people who are radicalised are communicating this way.
ALBANESE: Well Peter Dutton, you know, has been out there of course is prepared to play politics from time to time. These issues should be above politics. They should be considered in a sober and serious manner. They should ensure that there aren’t any unintended consequences in terms of, we need to protect Australians but we also need to protect our freedom well, and that is why this committee, on more than I think there have been something life 15 pieces of legislation that have been examined, they have come up with, previously, more than 100 amendments that have all been adopted. Not some of them, all of them and I pay credit to the committee for doing that work and I think the committee should be allowed to do its work. If need be, if something is really urgent, once they have done their processes, Parliament can always be recalled to deal with any urgent matter. But they should be allowed to do their work and these matters shouldn’t be matters of political consideration. There’s only one consideration here, which is the national interest.
KARVELAS: Anthony Albanese, thanks for coming on.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having me on Patricia.