SUBJECTS: Federal Election; tax cuts; Shadow Ministerial appointments.
MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: We’re joined from Launceston by the Labor Leader Anthony Albanese. Mr Albanese good morning to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, FEDERAL LABOR LEADER: Good morning – bit chilly here!
ROWLAND: It looks a bit chilly! Why is Kristina Keneally the best person to take on the Home Affairs shadow portfolio?
ALBANESE: Peter Dutton will know he’s alive each and every day with Kristina Keneally as the Shadow Minister. She’s an effective communicator. She’s an important part of my team and I’m very proud of all of my team. We will hold the Government to account each and every day but we’ll also develop our own policies and our own agenda to take to the next election. We don’t have to do that today, it’s three years away, but we’ll work in a methodical way to make it clear that we’re a real alternative in 2022.
ROWLAND: Kristina Keneally has said in the past is instinctively opposed to boat turn backs. She wanted a Royal Commission into asylum seekers in Australia. She has disavowed those comments of course but do you fear, Anthony Albanese, they will hang like an albatross around her neck?
ALBANESE: Not at all. I don’t think that anyone including Peter Dutton thinks that everything that has been done is perfect. What we need to do though, is to ensure that we do have secure borders but we don’t have to lose our humanity in doing so. And it’s not surprising that someone like Kristina Keneally, coming as she does from her background in terms of faith, like many of the leaders of the Catholic and other communities, are concerned that people on Manus and Nauru have been there for a very very long period of time. Now, the Government needs to sort that issue out. They’re now into their third term. See, you can have secure borders without losing our humanity.
ROWLAND: Okay, how do they sort it out? What’s your policy prescription?
ALBANESE: Well, what they need to do is find third countries of settlement. We’ve been saying that for a very long period of time, and the Government has knocked back offers for third countries of settlement. You can’t leave people in detention indefinitely forever. There’s also the economic cost of doing so. We saw during in the lead up to the election campaign the most expensive media conference in Australia’s history, where we had hundreds of millions of dollars allocated for Christmas Island so that Scott Morrison could go and stand under a tree and hold a press conference and take the gallery with him. He could have of course done that on Cronulla Beach just as effectively. So what we need is to ensure that there is bipartisanship when it comes to securing our borders. But the Government also needs practical policies that doesn’t just throw money that is unnecessary at the issue in order to try to score political points.
ROWLAND: Still a very difficult time for your predecessor Bill Shorten. Of course he was expecting to be in the lodge at the moment. He has now been appointed by you as the Shadow Minister for the NDIS. What are you expecting from him in that role?
ALBANESE: Look he he will be fantastic holding Stuart Robert to account. It’s a bit of an easy target I’ve got to say, Stuart Robert, he’s been a disaster the last time he was a Minister. He’s been a disaster when he’s been on the backbench and having to pay back a hell of a lot of money for his home internet which was at the level of a major company almost. So the NDIS is too important to have been allocated to a failed Minister. Bill Shorten, of course, played a critical role in the establishment of the NDIS. There is no-one who is more committed, who is more connected up with the community than Bill Shorten with regard to those issues and he’s really looking forward to the role and I am sure he will do it very well, indeed.
ROWLAND: In the wake of the announcement of the new frontbench team, a number of your colleagues, including the new Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers, Shayne Neumann and Joel Fitzgibbon have all said they strongly support the coal industry. Anthony Albanese, is that a message Labor should have made much more strongly during the election campaign?
ALBANESE: Well, what they have said is two things: The first thing is, we need strong environmental safeguards. Environmental approvals go through at the federal level through the EPBC Act. The EPBC Act actually ensures that you can’t have political interference, that you make decisions based upon science and we support that rigour. We don’t want damage to water or flora or fauna from any project. But, once that approval is done, the private sector invests and they create jobs and it is very clear that that is the role of the Commonwealth Government. And Joel Fitzgibbon, of course, is the Member for Hunter. He is well connected with the resources sector. The other thing that we want to do, though, is to make sure that we value add. I look at minerals like lithium that are currently being exported and then it comes back in the form of batteries for solar energy and for other products. I want that high-value manufacturing to be created here.
So, I think Joel Fitzgibbon, working with Brendan O’Connor as the new Shadow Minister for Industry, working with Murray Watt as the Shadow Minister for Northern Australia, they have important roles to play because we want to see new industries. And Clare O’Neill has been given the important responsibility as Shadow Minister for Innovation, Technology and the Future of Work. One of the things that we need to ensure, is that we have increased job creation here. We have been a great nation at innovation. What we haven’t always done is take economic advantage of that innovation and those new ideas.
ROWLAND: Okay, a couple of other issues before we leave you, Anthony Albanese. The Finance Minister Mathias Cormann on Insiders yesterday ruled out any prospect of breaking up the Government’s income tax cut package. Is that a deal breaker for you?
ALBANESE: Well look, we will give consideration to it, but Mathias Cormann should be held to account, as should Scott Morrison for their commitment. Their commitment was that tax cuts would come into play on July 1. There is no reason why the Parliament can’t sit before July 1, sit for an hour, I’ve made the offer. One Speaker aside in the House. The Senate, of course I can’t control, but we can put those tax cuts through in a day and it can be done efficiently, and then the Government can fulfil the promise that they themselves have had. We will consider the second and third elements of that package on their own merit. But I have got to say that Mathias Cormann or anyone else who looks at the international economy, looks at the uncertainty that is there, looks at what is happening between the United States and China, in particular, and the potential impact on our domestic economy, and suggests that they know what the economy will look like in the mid-2020s. You know, you can’t have a mandate into elections into the future. You can have certainly an argument that July 1, those tax cuts should be delivered and I believe they should be.
ROWLAND: Okay and finally, News Corp, Australia’s executive Chairman Michael Miller said in an interview this morning that he believes Labor focused too much time during the final stages of the election campaign attacking News Corp instead of attacking Scott Morrison. Do you believe, Anthony Albanese, that Labor got a fair go for News Corp during the election campaign and is still getting a fair go from News Corp?
ALBANESE: I think that many elements of the media don’t give us a fair go. I think that is a fact. But, frankly, that is a fact that just has to be built into our considerations. I don’t see that it is terribly productive to engage in a debate between Labor and the media. What I believe we should do is just engage in our own policies, get out there, argue our case – in every forum that is available. Including forums that are hostile. I go on Sky News after dark, as it is known, occasionally and am prepared to argue my case to Andrew Bolt and to others who I have fundamental disagreements with. That doesn’t worry me. I think people factor that in to their consideration in how those debates occur and if you are confident about your values, if you are confident about your stance on issues – and I have been in public life a long time, people know me – what you see is what you get. I will argue my case in any forum, and I think people will take into account their ideological position that is held.
I did note there was a front page article in the Oz, I think it was on Saturday, saying that there was pressure on me to take a particular stance of cooperating with the Morrison Government. If you turned over to page 9 you saw a direct quote from me saying, “I want to cooperate with the Morrison Government” on that very issue. These things happen and it is up to editors to make those decisions, but if they make decisions which clearly indicate I guess a starting point that is not balanced, I reckon people can work that out.
ROWLAND: Anthony Albanese, before you get pneumonia, we will leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us in Launceston – a very chilly Launceston this morning.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Michael.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.