Subject: ALP Leadership.
LEIGH SALES: So far Anthony Albanese is the only Labor MP to put his hand up to be the party’s new Leader. Tanya Plibersek ruled herself out of contention this afternoon. Some of the other names being bandied around are the Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen and the Shadow Finance Minister Jim Chalmers. Anthony Albanese joined me in the Sydney studio. Anthony Albanese, you’re a bloke who’s grown up in inner city Sydney. You represent one of the furthest left electorates in the country. Why are you the potential Labor Leader to broadly appeal to all Australians?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think my story as someone who grew up with a single mum in public housing in Camperdown. I’m someone who has got out and about around the country as Regional Development Minister, as Minister for Infrastructure. As a Shadow Minister for a range of portfolios as well, across the economic, social and environmental portfolios. And I’m someone I think that can walk into a pub in Hughenden or walk into a boardroom in George Street Sydney and have a discussion with people which is based upon respect and based upon dealing pretty frankly with people. I think what you see is what you get with me and I think I’m in the best position to take Labor forward into government. We’re now three days closer to the next Labor government as far as I’m concerned and I’m very determined rather than despairing when it comes to Labor’s prospects.
SALES: How would your leadership differ to Bill Shorten’s?
ALBANESE: I think I’m someone who comes from a different background. I think quite clearly I have had a range of jobs, I’m an economist by training. I’ve been in Parliament for more than 20 years. I’m very much a consensus person and people will judge me by who I am rather than by comparison to Bill Shorten or anyone else.
SALES: If you do become Labor Leader will you grow go from scratch on your economic policy and what will be your guiding principle?
ALBANESE: Well I think what we need to do is to re-examine our policies but not re-examine our values. So it’s our values that drive our policy across the board. So on economic policy the value is that we want economic growth and job creation, that we want people to have opportunity in life, that we care about the distribution of wealth, but we also care about the creation of wealth.
SALES: Was, in that context, your franking credits policy the wrong move?
ALBANESE: I think the issue with the franking credits policy was that it impacted on some people who had made arrangements on the basis of the existing laws that were there and they felt as though what we were doing was changing the rules midstream.
SALES: Your colleague Joel Fitzgibbon said today that Labor’s tracked too far to the Left away from the centre and that it needs to be less ambitious in its pace of change. Do you agree?
ALBANESE: Well what we need to do is to explain the fact that change is occurring and ensure that we put forward a strong argument that a Labor government will shape that change in the interests of working people.
SALES: And to have you moved too far to the left away from your working class base?
ALBANESE: Well I think that the working class will certainly benefit from many of the policies that we put forward at the election. But clearly we’ve had a message sent to us on Saturday. We need to respect that message. We have not sold the message well enough, I don’t think, that we are interested in jobs and economic growth as the priority as well as the distribution of wealth in our society.
SALES: But when you say you haven’t sold the message well enough, that implies that you think what your issue is is communication not the actual policy.
ALBANESE: There’s two issues. I think there are issues that need re-examining and it’s up to the caucus. One of the things that I’m not going to do if I’m elected as leader of the Labor Party is to make policy on the run. I’ll talk with the caucus, we’ll consult, and on these issues I think it’s very important that in coming months we have a listening exercise that I and other shadow ministers go out there have meetings in towns and cities around Australia and listen to the feedback from our party members, our supporters and from those people who were disappointed.
SALES: But that’s you should be doing all the time, isn’t it?
ALBANESE: We do campaign all the time. But particularly after an election. This is a chance to recalibrate and we can’t do things exactly the same way or we’ll get exactly the same result.
SALES: On the disconnect issue that I mentioned before. Is there a fundamental problem for Labor in how it views the issues facing Australian society? Because you’re coming through the prism that most Labor MPs have affiliations with the union movement, whereas only 14 per cent of Australian workers are union affiliated.
ALBANESE: Look I think our connections with the trade union movement give us that direct contact with working people. Trade unions are in touch with people at the workplace all the time and I think that is a positive compared with the Liberal Party, that doesn’t have any structural connection with workplaces and what’s going on at all.
SALES: But 86 per cent of Australian workers aren’t in those unions.
ALBANESE: Many of those workers benefit from particular gains that are happening right now, that are being fought for by unions. But every single one of them without exception benefits from the gains that have been made by the great trade union movement over a long period of time.
SALES: Only about one in four Queenslanders have voted for Labor. What’s gone wrong for you up there?
ALBANESE: Well that’s one of the big things that we’re going to have to examine and one of the first things I’ll do is, if I’m successful, is to go to Queensland not just to south east Queensland but throughout Queensland and to talk with people. I’ve done that in the past during the election campaign. I was throughout regional Queensland. We need to really examine how it is that we only got 25 per cent, of course our primary vote was only one in three Australians throughout the country. So it’s not just a Queensland issue. Our primary vote of one in three is simply not good enough. So Queensland has to be a priority.
SALES: Thanks for coming in to speak to us.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having me on, Leigh.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.