HOST: Anthony Albanese is in Rockhampton. Welcome to the program.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good afternoon, Patricia. I’ve got the beautiful Fitzroy River behind me.
HOST: You are having a lovely time. Melbourne’s not quite as special right now.
ALBANESE: It’s a pretty busy time.
HOST: It is, actually. Scott Morrison said in an interview today that he’s open to nuclear power in Australia, but he’s since tweeted really clarifying saying ‘Labor are getting desperate and we’re only eight days in. This is not our policy and we have no plans to change that’. Do you accept that, that actually they have no plans for nuclear power in Australia?
ALBANESE: Well, Scott Morrison is the person who has put this on the agenda and he needs to say where it would be, because we know that nuclear power plants need to be near water, so here in Rockhampton, in Gladstone, Bribie Island perhaps, Townsville, perhaps Phillip Island in Greg Hunt’s electorate. He needs to say exactly where it would be. We know that he’s not the first conservative Prime Minister to visit this. John Howard did when he was the Prime Minister and convened an inquiry into nuclear power.
Of course, we know that nuclear power doesn’t stack up in Australia and it would appear that this is a Government that will do anything rather than actually talk about renewables and what we have a lot of here in Australia where the sun shines and the wind blows, as I’m experiencing right now.
HOST: OK, but he’s just said it’s not their policy, so you say he needs to explain where he’s going to put the nuclear power plants. Well, he doesn’t, because he says it’s not their policy.
ALBANESE: Why did he raise it? Why did he put it on the agenda if they haven’t been giving consideration to it Patricia? That’s what he’s got to answer: why it is that during an election campaign Scott Morrison, so desperate to try to look like he has an energy policy somewhere, has now put nuclear power on the agenda during this election campaign?
Labor is opposed to nuclear power. We don’t think it is necessary, we don’t think it economically stacks up, and issues like nuclear waste and where you would locate a power plant, are issues that are all outstanding. It’s up to Scott Morrison to say why he has put this on the agenda today.
HOST: Labor has reportedly decided against an additional, last-minute tax package to offer greater relief for workers earning between $90,000 and $120,000. What ultimately led you to that decision not to help workers in that bracket?
ALBANESE: Well we’re already, of course, saying for those people up to $120,000 they’ll get exactly the same under Labor of what’s already in place. We’re also saying, though, that if you’re earning under $48,000 you’ll be better off. But we’re also really cognisant of the fact that the PEFO – the pre-election fiscal outlook – indicated that this Government is going to have to make $40 billion of cuts every year in order to fund the tax cuts for the really wealthy that it wants to put through during the next decade. Now, what that means is cuts to schools, cuts to hospitals, cuts to infrastructure. We want to make sure that we can have bigger surpluses so that we can withstand any future international shocks in the economy that we’re not aware of at this point in time, and we’re putting forward a very responsible economic program saying where we would fund things from by closing loopholes and what it is we would commit to according to Labor’s priorities, which I believe is all about taking pressure off families and those low and middle income earners who need that support.
HOST: The Greens have described Labor’s plan to allow big polluters to buy international carbon credits instead of forcing them to reduce their own emissions as like ‘paying someone else to go on a diet’. That’s the language they’ve used. Is this part of your policy up for negotiation?
ALBANESE: Well, what hypocrites the Greens political party are. They speak about the policy that they’d like to say they were involved with under Julia Gillard that allowed for the trading on international markets of these permits. They supported it. They say they’re proud of it, but once again they showed themselves to be opportunistic and, of course, they’ve threatened to vote against not just this measure, they’ve threatened to vote against Labor’s very strong policies that we have and practical policies to deal with the issue of climate change. They did that in 2009 and they’re directly responsible for the last decade of energy and climate change policy paralysis that we’ve seen and, of course, over the last six years we’ve had no policy at all. The Greens decide to just be opposed to anything that Labor puts forward, even when it’s exactly the same as what they were prepared to support in government and claim that they helped to assist put in place.
HOST: The Greens leader wants a seat at the table as Labor implements its climate policy, if you’re successful, of course, in the next Parliament. Will they have a seat at the table?
ALBANESE: What we will have is a Labor Government governing for the Labor Party and a Labor Cabinet and I am very hopeful to be a member of that Cabinet.
HOST: But you’ll have a Senate to deal with?
ALBANESE: Well, the fact is that we – and we deal with the Senate all the time, as the current Government has to do – we’ll deal with the Senate as it’s elected. But we will support the policies that we are putting forward, not the opportunism of the Greens political party, who are frankly all over the shop, including on climate change. They come out with policies without having any pathway to get to the result that they say they can achieve, and whilst many people out there who are thinking of voting Green do so with the right motivations and because they want to assist in the environment, the fact is that my opponent and many of the Greens political candidates never actually mention the environment or climate change. They are more obsessed with some extreme hard left agendas, which they’ve brought in from the political parties on the fringes that they used to belong to.
HOST: Alright, now Scott Morrison has been really hammering your climate abatement policies today. Aren’t voters entitled to be wary about your climate change policies if you’re not prepared to say what the total cost will be to the economy?
ALBANESE: We’ve had analysis that we’ve put out there, Patricia, which is, of course the basis – the foundation of our policy is the same as what the Government was adopting in their party room in terms of when they had the debate about the NEG, was adopted not once but twice. And, of course, the modelling of the different targets which are there, as Warwick McKibbin demonstrated, both show a 23 per cent growth in the economy in real terms over the decade of the 2020s.
We know that, as well as a cost, there is a great benefit, and one of the benefits of the Australian economy moving towards a clean energy economy is that you have, as we’ve seen with the growth of renewables, enormous benefit in terms of savings to individual households, but also benefits to the national economy.
Now, one of the concerns that we have is that many of those benefits that can be gained if you have first-mover advantage, in economic terms, have been lost, because we are falling behind the world. So, for example, the practical measures that we have put forward on moving towards more use of electric vehicles, exactly the same things that Josh Frydenberg just months ago was saying was a very positive initiative and would benefit consumers, we’ve had these quite dramatic and hysterical campaigns from Scott Morrison and other Government Ministers repudiating what they themselves were saying just months ago.
HOST: Just in your own portfolio, the Grattan Institute is calling for a review of the discount rate which is used to assess the costs and benefits of future transport projects. They say the 7 per cent rate is too high. NSW Labor committed to review this if they won the election. Would Federal Labor do that?
ALBANESE: We’ve got an independent attitude towards Infrastructure Australia, unlike this current Government. The current Government has essentially nobbled Infrastructure Australia. We’ve seen that with the appointments at the last minute, just before they went into caretaker mode, of members who then went out and were critical of the Labor Party and made partisan comments.
What we’ve said we will do is take the advice of Infrastructure Australia. We’ll also make sure that it’s renewed and we’ll consult the Opposition on the appointments to the Infrastructure Australia board so that people can truly have the confidence in that board, and in Infrastructure Australia, that it is de-politicising the debate because that is what is needed.
That’s what we did when we were last in government, when we funded all of the priority projects that Infrastructure Australia recommended, whether they be rail projects, like the regional rail link in Victoria, or whether they be road projects like Majura Parkway in the ACT, or whether they be freight rail projects like Goodwin to Torrens.
What we want to do is to have objective assessments, including on how the cost-benefit analysis is done, so it’s above politics, rather than engaging in a political debate about, frankly, formulas that I doubt whether many of your listeners here this afternoon would be conscious of, issues like discount rates.
HOST: Just finally on the campaign, we’re at the end of week one. Labor has released a lot of policy detail, policies full stop, compared to the Coalition, which is going into the election with relatively little, apart from this big tax plan. Has that left you exposed? Because this campaign, I’ve been watching it closely this week, you are constantly as a campaign on the defensive and the Prime Minister and the Government are on the offensive. You’re consistently trying to defend policies. Has your campaign had trouble this week?
ALBANESE: Well, Patricia, someone’s got to lead in this country and Labor has been leading from opposition, and Bill Shorten has been showing courage in putting forward those policies. I’ve been here today with Russell Robertson, announcing funding for Stanage Bay Road. This is a road used by the defence force for the Shoalwater Bay training facility which is currently unsealed. It represents a major problem for locals because of the damage that’s done on that road. It’s taken the Labor Party to come here, something that should be frankly a no brainer, and promise with Russell Robertson to fix that.
HOST: Does your campaign need a reset because you’ve been constantly on the back foot all week?
ALBANESE: We make no apologies for the fact that, unlike the current government that went to an election in 2013 promising no cuts to education, no cuts to health and no cuts to the ABC, and then did the exact opposite in the 2014 Budget, what we’re doing is outlining our plans on the economy, on infrastructure, on education, on health, on all of these matters, saying how we’re going to pay for the commitments that we’re making. I think that’s the right and mature thing to do before the election.
HOST: But how risky is that, Anthony Albanese, given that you’re constantly on the back foot?
ALBANESE: We have had our policies out there for a very long time. What that means is that it is very difficult for a desperate Government, that constantly just talks about what Labor will do. I’m waiting for the Government to actually announce what it will do. They haven’t been capable of doing that over recent years because they’ve been too busy fighting each other to fight for the interests of the nation. Labor will continue to be rolling out policies in this campaign, whether they be specific policies, or we will also have a tourism policy, an infrastructure policy that bring all the elements together of the direction in which we want to take the country in order to lift living standards and create a fairer Australia.
HOST: Anthony Albanese, thanks for joining me this afternoon.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.