May 29, 2016

Transcript of television interview – Australian Agenda, SKY

Subject/s: Grayndler; Greens Political Party; costings; education; infrastructure; immigration; Labor Party platform; Malcolm Turnbull; housing affordability; debt; Infrastructure Australia; universities.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: As mentioned off the top of the program, our first guest is Anthony Albanese. Appreciate your company.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you again.

VAN ONSELEN: No doubt we’ll get into the costings in a moment, but just a quick one on your seat before we talk about the national campaign.

ALBANESE: Always a primary concern, Peter – a precondition to serving in the Parliament.

VAN ONSELEN: There’s not much else, is there, if you don’t hold your seat? You’re up against a stiff challenge from the Greens, but their candidate is a radical left-wing anti-capitalist campaigner. We know that from his past rhetoric. Surely, surely, there is no chance that the Liberal Party, in the midst of a campaign when they’re advocating for company tax cuts, will preference the Greens over you.

ALBANESE: Well, it would be extraordinary if they do. And if they do, I’ll have a very clear message – which is, a vote for Malcolm Turnbull is a vote to abolish capitalism. That’s what they’ll be saying if they give preferences to my Greens party opponent. He’s someone who has a record on industrial issues, on issues of the economy, on issues of supporting the boycott divestments and sanctions campaign against Israel. This is someone who, in a video posted by the Greens themselves – so they’re quite proud of it – said he’d prefer a Tony Abbott government above a Bill Shorten government, essentially, because you get better demonstrations. It’s a very old-fashioned, hard Marxist view of the world which says that if you just oppress people, they’ll rise up against a system. I believe in lifting everyone up. That’s my objective and I’ve got to say, when I’ve been door-knoc king in Balmain and Rozelle and Annandale, there aren’t many people, when I knock on the door, say, “The big issue for me is, are you going to abolish capitalism”?

VAN ONSELEN: Just a quick one as a follow on to this, though. Do you think there’s any chance the Liberals would do this? Because I understand tactical preference structures, but surely there is a limit and this strikes me as having gone well beyond the limit if they decide to do it.

ALBANESE: Well, we’ll wait and see. But, strategically, they’ve refused to rule it out. There’s been a big focus on this. It’s not like there hasn’t been considerable publicity. You have a candidate who is becoming somewhat notorious, who I’m running against – and this week, of course, we had revealed that the Greens Party Secretary, essentially, in NSW here, has taken the Greens Party to the Fair Work Commission over industrial issues. You have a very split party between the hard left associated with Lee Rhiannon, people who, like my opponent, spent a lot of time in an international socialist organisation. She spent a lot of time in the pro-Moscow Socialist Party of Australia and edited the East German Magazine here in Australia. They’ve all gone into the Greens. And they dominate the NSW Greens. This isn’t the Bob Brown Greens. These are people more interested in playing politics t han they are in conserving the environment or any particular issues that you might associate with the environmental movement.

PAUL KELLY: So I think what you’re really saying is that if the Liberals do decide to direct their preferences this way, you’d seek to make this a national issue and a national judgment on Malcolm Turnbull?

ALBANESE: I certainly would. And I think the Liberals need to bear that in mind. It’s their call. But I know that locally what’s happening is that a whole lot of people who would normally vote for the Liberals are saying that they’re voting for me because they don’t want to risk this person representing them. They want someone from mainstream politics representing them. And, indeed, many of the Greens, including – I had, I’ve had a couple of Greens party members say that they’ll be handing out for the Greens, but they won’t be voting for them in the House of Representatives because this person just doesn’t represent their views.

VAN ONSELEN: In the mainstream debate over costings during the week between the major parties, we saw that your side of politics have now confirmed that they will be going with the position of the Government on the Schoolkids Bonus, regrettably. But what’s changed?

ALBANESE: Well, what’s changed, of course, is the policy that we announced supporting $37 billion into schools to make sure, as part of our, our support for needs-based funding arising from the Gonski report – you have to make choices. And the choice that we’ve made is that the best thing we can do for equity in terms of our school system is supporting those Gonski reforms. Something that, of course, at the last election, the Coalition said was bipartisan.

KELLY: Were you involved in the decision about the backdown?

ALBANESE: I don’t talk about the internal politics …

KELLY: Oh, yes, you do. Yes, you do. I know you’ve talked about internal processes from time to time.

VAN ONSELEN: I think, in fairness, there wasn’t an internal process, was there? It didn’t go before Shadow Cabinet, so how could you have been involved?

ALBANESE: Well, the processes took place and it’s one that I support.

KELLY: Taken by a small group very quickly.

ALBANESE: Look, it’s one that I support. I think it is a logical thing to do for us to say we are going to prioritise – when it comes to school-based education, the big picture is the Gonski reforms, is supporting every child in every school, and to provide that opportunity. And that’s a big difference at this election. That is something that is being spoken about. When I’m on the sideline at school sports or weekend sports with school-aged … my son’s friends and parents, that is a big issue. And that is the issue that we want to fight on when it comes to school-based education. The truth is, you’d always like to do more, but we are fiscally responsible. We have made sure that everything we say we can do we can afford to do.

VAN ONSELEN: But you spent many years throughout this term of Parliament railing against the Government’s position on the school bonus, Schoolkids Bonus. Was that just posturing? Did you always know you were going to get to this point?

ALBANESE: No. We’re very critical of what they did. But of course we also spent a considerable time saying that you said not one school … remember those corflutes at the last election campaign? Your school will get the same amount of funding no matter who is elected?

VAN ONSELEN: They honoured that for four of the six years. It’s just years five and six that they changed.

ALBANESE: And they walked away…and years seven, eight, nine and 10, Peter. That’s the problem. That’s the problem.

VAN ONSELEN: But things change, don’t they, Anthony Albanese? It’s just the same as Labor’s position on the Schoolkids Bonus. Things changed.

ALBANESE: No. Because the big difference here is that what the Gonski reforms did – and this wasn’t, you know, a Labor Party sub-committee of the National Executive – this was David Gonski, an honoured Australian, I think a very bipartisan person, who looked into it with the experts. How do we stop the decades old debate – remember the debate in the Labor Party was divisive for a long time about, do you fund private schools, do you fund public schools, where should the money go? This was an attempt, once and for all, to end that and to end that in a bipartisan way. This is true reform. True reform is something like the creation of Medicare. This was the educational equivalent, a real opportunity. Remember Mark Latham’s divisive policy that he had? It was ending all of that. And it is a tragedy, in my view, that the Liberal Party walked away from that. I think it’s a good thing that the 2013 election, we said this is bipartisan, this will end it. It’s the sort of thing that … in terms of if you’re serious about politics and political change, what you want to do is make a permanent reform that changes the nature of Australia. That would have done that. And that’s why that’s been our No.1 priority and we make no apologies for it.

KELLY: Do you think that Labor will have the courage and the fiscal commitment at the end of the campaign to bring down a Budget bottom line which is better than the Government’s over-the four-year forward estimates period?

ALBANESE: Well, certainly what we will do, Paul, and we can guarantee, is that we will have an absolutely responsible Budget bottom line. Now, your statement is predicated on me knowing not just what we do but what they do, so that’s a difficult thing to say, at this point in the cycle, that you’d understand. I mean, normally, the election would be called today, of course, for July 2. But what I know is that every time we have made an announcement, we’ve said where the money is coming from. I know that we’ve made more savings than we have expenditures. I know that, for example, in my portfolio, just this week, Bill Shorten has been putting figures on the investment that we would make in nation-building infrastructure. We’ve said what the priority projects are for public transport projects around the country. This week, we said $1 billion for Metronet in Perth. Vital project. No doubt that it’ ;s number one. But we’ll take $1.2 billion – or it’s a little bit more than that – from the Perth Freight Link project. We won’t proceed with it. So we haven’t said you can have your cake and eat it, too. We’ve said that’s a project that doesn’t achieve the objectives that it said it would, doesn’t take freight to what will be the new Outer Harbour, which is what is required, given the existing port will be at capacity by 2021/22, given the road doesn’t work out how to get that freight to the port or across the river … that’s not our priority. Our priority is public transport, dealing with urban congestion in Perth and we’ll fund it with $1 billion commitment.

VAN ONSELEN: But when you say that you’ve made more savings than expenditure, you’re talking about over a 10-year set of projections, not over four years. And the word “savings” is a euphemism for tax increases.

ALBANESE: No, it’s not. I’ve just given you an example of a saving, an expenditure that’s in the Budget that we will not proceed with. There’s been issues with …

VAN ONSELEN: It’s both, though. It is both.

ALBANESE: Of course it’s both. A difference to the bottom line, which is pretty simple, revenue versus expenditure. And so measures like the direction action component of climate change, we say that doesn’t achieve its objectives. We say that’s funding polluters to continue to do what they’re doing at the moment and we won’t proceed with it. That’s a cut. That’s a significant statement for us to make because it’s a complex argument. Because, you know, you could argue that, “Oh, well, it’s not a bad thing they’re getting this funding.” Well, we think it’s about priorities. Our priority is the renewable energy target, is an Emissions Trading Scheme with a comprehensive plan of how to deal with that – including segment by segment, so that we ensure, in terms of electricity prices, we deal with their ridiculous scare campaign on that issue.

KELLY: Now, a fortnight ago, Bill Shorten said in relation to boats, asylum seeker boat arrivals, our policy, that is Labor’s policy, is the same as that of the Government. Is that your view?

ALBANESE: Well, it is when it comes to offshore processing …

KELLY: No, no. Sorry. Is that your view generally on this issue of asylum seeker boats? Do you use that language?

ALBANESE: Well, there are some differences, Paul. And the differences are …

KELLY: So you disagree with …

ALBANESE: No, I don’t, Paul.

KELLY: You disagree with Bill Shorten?

ALBANESE: No, I don’t, Paul. You’re playing word games.

KELLY: No, no. I’m not. I’m not.

ALBANESE: What Bill Shorten said, very clearly, was that we had the same policy when it comes to offshore processing and to making sure that we stop people smugglers. And our policy on that is exactly the same. The difference is that we don’t believe that you have to be weak on humanity to be strong on stopping people smugglers. So we would increase the intake – Bill Shorten has said that – to 27,000 over a period of time. We will provide $450 million for the UNHCR. We’ll engage with the community. Bill Shorten has said, just in the last couple of days … has repeated that he’d send Richard Marles, as his new Immigration Minister, to Geneva as one of the first things, to re-engage with that international community. Bill Shorten has said very clearly that we don’t support the indefinite detention of people on Manus and Nauru, that those people have to be dealt with. And the truth is, Paul , as you know, those people can’t be left there forever. That’s the truth.

VAN ONSELEN: But you’ve also changed, as a party, your position on turnbacks. You voted against that.


VAN ONSELEN: At national conference. You’re bound, obviously, by frontbench solidarity on this.

ALBANESE: No, no. I’m …

VAN ONSELEN: Have you changed your personal views?

ALBANESE: No, no. I’m bound by much more than that, Peter. I’m bound by the position I’ve held my whole life. My whole political life – perhaps not as a very young kid, but I’ve been in the Labor Party since I was a teenager and, ever since then, I’ve argued that the Labor Party platform should bind the Labor Party, that what we do is, we have our debates, we have our discussion – we do ours live on Sky News for a week. The Libs don’t do that. And the important thing about that, that’s one of the reasons why we’re in such a strong position now, I believe …

VAN ONSELEN: Can I just interrupt because my question really is, are you bound or have you changed your mind?

ALBANESE: I support the existing policy that’s there. I think there’s a strong argument for it and, um, it, it, it was adopted by the conference. I voted openly, publicly. That’s a good thing …

KELLY: Well, just to clarify …

ALBANESE: That we’re able to have those debates.

KELLY: You’ll be obviously a very senior Minister in any Labor Government. Does that mean that you will be supportive of Labor deciding to turn back boats?


KELLY: You will?

ALBANESE: Very simply, I support, I support those processes in the party. And the good thing is, now we can go forward with, with a policy that’s been determined by the Labor Party. The Liberals don’t have that. The Greens, goodness only knows. They don’t even let media anywhere near their conferences. They have leadership coups without telling people until months afterwards. So, the Labor Party has our processes. I support them. And I have always argued – and one of the things that … I don’t talk about internal issues like Cabinet, but let me tell you one of the things that I’ve always done, as have many other people in the Labor Party – and it has mattered. People in the Labor Party at senior levels – have a look at the Cabinet, have a look at the platform – say, “Is this compliant?” And if it’s not, then – you know, I don’t support breaches of the platform. I’ve b een very consistent in that for a very long period of time.

VAN ONSELEN: You’re watching Australian Agenda. We’re talking to Labor frontbencher, Anthony Albanese. We’ll continue to do so when we come back.


VAN ONSELEN: Welcome back. You’re watching Australian Agenda, where Paul Kelly and I are speaking to Anthony Albanese.

KELLY: Malcolm Turnbull’s lead over Bill Shorten as better Prime Minister continues to erode. Um, as far as you’re concerned, what do you think is the main problem with the way Malcolm Turnbull’s campaigning?

ALBANESE: Well, I think when Malcolm Turnbull took over from Tony Abbott in the coup last year, there was a, a sense of relief. Australians thought, “That’s good. That’s an end to the old politics”. Malcolm Turnbull captured that mood. He used to speak about the new politics. He used to say he’d treat Australians like adults. He’d move away from the three-word slogans. People expected a different Malcolm Turnbull. Now they look at Malcolm Turnbull, but they hear Tony Abbott. He’s been reduced to slogans. He hasn’t been consistent with positions he’s held for so long on climate change, on marriage equality, on the Republic, on support for public transport. So I think they’re very disappointed. They’re not angry with Malcolm Turnbull. They’re disappointed with Malcolm Turnbull.

KELLY: But isn’t the reality, when you go around the country, unlike at previous elections when there’s been a change of government – say 2013, say 2007 – that there’s no real strong mood in the country for change?

ALBANESE: Well, have a look at the polls, Paul. I think the polls are doing better than we could have expected, certainly, at the end of last year. If you had a look at where we were, we were facing a loss of seats. Now I think it is unclear who will win this election. We are, at the very least, competitive. And I think not just Malcolm Turnbull being marked down, but Labor’s been setting the agenda. What have you had from Malcolm Turnbull? Thought bubbles floated, the GST increased then not happening, state-based taxes not happening, no funding for public education – that was a cracker, that one, that the Federal Government would walk away from every dollar of public funding, public education funding and just put it into private schools. So people, I think, are questioning that. And, at the same time, you’ve had Labor with a range of positive policies out there. The issue of the capital gains tax, negative gearing changes, a difficult decision. But dealing with housing affordability, putting a policy out there …

VAN ONSELEN: But just on that …

ALBANESE: Being prepared to argue the case.

VAN ONSELEN: Just on that. Is it about housing affordability? Because every time I’ve interviewed someone on the Labor side and I’ve asked whether this is going to have a suppressive impact on housing prices, they skirt around the question. But if it’s about housing affordability, by definition, it would have to have a suppressive impact on house prices.

ALBANESE: Well, what it will do – it won’t mean house prices fall. That’s a scare campaign. What it will mean is that the increase in housing prices will be less than it would be otherwise. And it also means that individuals out there, if they’re competing to buy a house, will no longer go along to an auction. If you’re a young couple in my electorate and have to compete against investors for existing properties. And it will also, by increasing housing supply – because you’ll still be able to invest, in the future, in new construction – that will boost housing supply as well. So the laws of supply and demand will kick in there.

VAN ONSELEN: But just on that idea of the ability to continue negative gearing on new housing. It won’t affect people in your inner-city electorate, but in the outer metropolitan electorates, where you do have greenfield sites with new homes, they tend to be the homes that are purchased by new home buyers. They’re cheaper, the land’s cheaper, the build can be cheaper. You’re pushing investors into those markets. Isn’t that going to make it harder for new home-buyers?

ALBANESE: No, because what you’ll have is an increase in supply, which will have an impact in terms of price. And so …

VAN ONSELEN: But then investors won’t want to buy out there if that’s the case.

ALBANESE: Well, no. There are two things we’ve done in terms of investors. One very important. This policy will have no impact on existing property investors. So very important that we’ve done that. There’s no retrospectivity here. But, secondly, one of the big things about negative gearing that it was supposed to do was to increase supply. Now, we know that 93% of negatively geared properties are going into existing properties. So, by doing the policy that we have, it’s a boost for construction, a boost for jobs and a boost, therefore, for the economy.

KELLY: Do you think, given the strength with which Bill Shorten is campaigning, given that he’s recovered so much ground, that he’s pretty much guaranteed to remain leader after the election?

ALBANESE: I hope he’ll be Prime Minister after the election. That’s our objective. And my objective is to be a minister in his government. And you’ve got to say that we have the momentum in this campaign. We’re the people setting the agenda. Whether it be on the economy, through the housing policy that we’ve put forward, on education, on health, on infrastructure, it is Labor that is setting the agenda. It is the Government, with all the resources that they have, that are following and responding.

KELLY: Sure. But can we just go back to this question: So do you still have leadership ambitions?

ALBANESE: Well, I have an ambition to be a Minister in a Shorten Labor Government. That’s my sole ambition.

KELLY: Do you still, do you still have leadership ambitions?

ALBANESE: Well, my sole ambition is to be Minister in a Labor Government, and I expect that, if we win on July 2, we, because we’ve done the hard work in policy, unlike what happened with the Abbott Government – see, I think the problem was they had a plan to get into government, but they didn’t have a plan to govern and Malcolm Turnbull had a plan to get rid of Tony Abbott, but he also doesn’t have a plan to govern. We have a plan to govern. I think that would establish the framework for a long-term Labor Government. That would see me out.

VAN ONSELEN: Just on what you said before, though, Anthony Albanese. You said that Labor has the momentum. It’s hard to disagree with that in many respects. The latest ReachTEL poll has Labor ahead 52-48. There’s five weeks to go. So that being set up in terms of key performance indicators in terms of the next five weeks of the campaign. Labor has the momentum and it’s ahead 52-48. Bill Shorten can’t survive if he doesn’t win the election, surely.

ALBANESE: I expect that we will win the election. That’s my hope. That’s what we’re working towards each and every day.

VAN ONSELEN: But he would have found a way to lose it if he’s got the momentum and if he’s ahead 52-48 with five weeks to go.

ALBANESE: We’re not in this to lose. We’re in it to win.

VAN ONSELEN: One last question on infrastructure – well, actually, probably the first question on infrastructure. We haven’t really gotten to your portfolio yet.

ALBANESE: I worked it into one of the answers.

VAN ONSELEN: I did notice that. So I feel that we’re already there. But I want to ask you about the fear that politicians on both sides seem to have about a debt debate. Infrastructure should be quarantined from that discussion, shouldn’t it? I mean, it’s one thing to deal with debt around recurrent expenditure where it is a problem for the Budget, but around infrastructure, particularly productive infrastructure, don’t we need some way, in the political discourse in this country, to be able to separate the two so that we don’t see infrastructure debt as necessarily a bad thing?

ALBANESE: That’s – I couldn’t have put it better myself, Peter. I think there’s a recognition, at least on the Labor side of politics, that that’s the case. A part of what’s missing – and hopefully it will come out tonight in the debate – I’m sure is, how do we boost productivity? How do we grow the economy? I mean the other side say, “You know, we’re not about the economy.” We are absolutely front and centre about the economy. And you do that by two things. Investing in capital and investing in people. Now, there’s been a big focus, so far in the campaign, in investing in people: our education policy, our early childhood policy, policy for universities. But investing in capital is critical. Urban congestion, to take one issue, will cost the national economy $53 billion in lost economic growth and activity by the year 2031 unless it is addressed. That’s why we’ll fund the Melbourne Metro, Cross River Rail in Brisbane, Perth Metronet, AdeLIINK, a light rail project in Adelaide, Western Sydney Rail, including through Badgerys Creek. We have an agenda for nation-building. It is, it is extraordinary that at a time when the mining boom investment was coming off, moving from the investment to the production phase – what should have happened is that infrastructure investment stepped up to fill that gap. Instead, what we’ve seen between the quarters of September 2013 and September 2015 is a 20 per cent fall in public sector infrastructure investment.

KELLY: OK, so we’ve got that fall, we’ve got that gap. How do we best finance infrastructure? Given we’ve got this infrastructure gap, how do we best finance it?

ALBANESE: I think there’s a range of ways that you can do it. Firstly, we have the $10 billion infrastructure investment financing facility that we’ll establish. So you look at, for example, what ways that $10 billion can facilitate many times that in terms of investment. The Melbourne Metro project already builds, into the project, the value uplift that will occur around, around that project. This week, um, myself and Bill Shorten were in the electorate of Macarthur announcing an upgrade of Appin Road. Now, one of the things that will do is open up new housing so that the developers there will have to make a contribution. So you capture some of that value uplift in terms of that project. But, secondly, also, we should be prepared, in my view – and I’ve argued this strongly, as you know, for a period of time in major speeches – um, we should be prepared to do what Peter suggested should be done, which i s to draw a distinction between capital expenditure and recurrent expenditure. Capital expenditure, that grows the economy, that produces revenue, pays for itself. And if it’s good investment, it more than pays for itself.

KELLY: Well, how do you draw that distinction, then, between capital and recurrent? Do you, do you fundamentally reorganise the Budget along those lines? What’s the … what’s … what’s the way you do that?

ALBANESE: Well, there are a range of methods that you could do that in terms of identifying particularly capital expenditure. And I think that’s something we would look at in terms of the future. But we specifically, have out there, support for a range of projects that have been through proper processes. Like, the Cross River Rail project was approved as the number one project in 2012 by Infrastructure Australia. That’s why Infrastructure Australia are beefing it up. One of the things we’ve announced, Bill Shorten, in his budget reply – not this year, but last year – announced increased funding for Infrastructure Australia and beefing up that process.

VAN ONSELEN: But on that. What about more independence in the ultimate decision-making? I mean, George Megalogenis, you would have seen, wrote about this in the recent Quarterly Essay. He worries, more than anything – and this is a criticism of both sides – that infrastructure, long-term projects keep getting used as a yo-yo in political terms between governments. He’d like to see a version of the Reverse Bank vis-à-vis monetary policy be established around infrastructure. That means more than just Infrastructure Australia.

ALBANESE: Well, Bill Shorten has, in his speech to the Brisbane Media Club, now almost a year ago, foreshadowed exactly that as Labor’s policy in terms of a beefed-up Infrastructure Australia with a great deal of independence. And that’s consistent with what we did in government. We funded all 15 Infrastructure Australia priority projects, all of them. We took the politics out of it. Projects like the Majura Parkway – that’s now open – which skirts around Canberra’s CBD, would never have been funded. There’s no politics in it. There’s no votes in it. Goodwood to Torrens, a project in Adelaide, a rail freight project that was cut in its funding by the Turnbull government just three weeks ago in an election announcement. Now that’s a project that has a BCR – that is a benefit versus cost – of something in the order of three or four to one. Now, that’s the sort of thing that shouldn’ ;t happen. And what happened with Tony Abbott’s first Budget was, he took money from projects that had been through the Infrastructure Australia process, like the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail and the M80 road project, and funded toll roads that don’t stack up. Perth Freight Link, the East West Link in Melbourne, with a benefit-cost-ratio of 45 cents for every dollar invested. And in Sydney the WestConnex project was given advance money before they knew where it was going. And it’s not surprising that if you get the process wrong, you get the outcome wrong. And that project has blown out from a $10 billion cost to a $16.8 billion cost.

VAN ONSELEN: Just one final area, if we can, before we go to our next guest – which is the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney – reports today in the News Limited Sunday papers about the nature of enrolments at university since the uncapping of places by the Labor Party – which has been continued by the current government – the data seems to suggest that there hasn’t been any uptick. I think it’s a 1% uptick in people from lower socioeconomic families going to university. It sounds like it is wealthier students, with lower entrance scores via school, that are taking advantage of this uncapping of places. That’s not what Labor had hoped for.

ALBANESE: Well, what we had was a target of 20 per cent of university enrolments being people from poorer backgrounds. We had a policy of 40 per cent of Australians under the age of 35 having a university-level education. And that was what is seen as world’s best practice in terms of for the economy, not just for the individual. But one of the cuts that have been made to higher education – which are $2.5 billion under this government – $150 million of that is for equity programs. Now, that was a program that was designed to provide assistance to people from those disadvantaged backgrounds to make sure that they could get through university. That cut is a mean-spirited cut. It’s consistent with a government that does represent the top end of town and will always do its best for people, like me, earning above $180,000, who are going to get a tax cut as a result of the removal of the deficit levy even though t he deficit has tripled.

VAN ONSELEN: Is Labor committed to reintroducing that?

ALBANESE: We’ll be announcing all of our policies during the election campaign.

VAN ONSELEN: Sure, sure, but you sound pretty strong on this.

ALBANESE: We are pretty strong and we have out there a comprehensive higher education plan and part of what our higher education plan under Kim Carr will be – and we’ll be very strong – is about equity.

KELLY: OK, so we won’t see a Labor flip-flop or retreat on this issue in terms of its opposing the Coalition Government’s cut to universities?

ALBANESE: Well, we’ve said, Paul, very clearly out there, that this is a priority for us.

KELLY: I know you’ve said this, but you’ve said that on other issues as well.

ALBANESE: No, no, no. But that’s not right, Paul. What we’ve said – be very clear about schools. We have a $37 billion commitment on schools. So, um, we make no apologies for the fact that we’re about improving educational opportunity right through life. And one of the things that the equity program dealt with is issues like older people, women, for example, going back into the workforce, getting those skills, that uplift that can occur. Many disadvantaged people as well, of course, drop out of school, drop out of opportunity. They’re people with capacity. We want to make sure that they can be the best they can be in terms of for themselves, in terms of their living standards, but importantly also, we recognise that education doesn’t just benefit the individual. In the Asian century, we have to compete on the basis of how smart we are, not on the basis of how low our wages and conditions are.

VAN ONSELEN: Anthony Albanese, we appreciate you joining us on Australian Agenda as always. Thanks for your company.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you.

VAN ONSELEN: And we’ll continue this education discussion with Michael Spence, the Vice-Chancellor of Sydney University, after these announcements.