2016 Subjects: The arts; Badgerys Creek Airport, Malcolm Turnbull
JANINE PERRETT: But first-up I said politics was coming back, and we’re about to have an interview with Anthony Albanese, Labor’s Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure and also Tourism, and it’s Tourism he is talking about, which is appropriate at this time of year. He wrote a column today in The Guardian newspaper lauding the importance of the arts and saying that it’s often under-represented and under-appreciated and that we should all make note of this and he also gives you lots of tips on things you should be seeing and doing in Australia this holiday season, here’s Anthony Albanese.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well it’s important that we do defend the arts and that we do so not just because of the contribution that the arts make to community building and to our sense of ourselves and promotion of Australian culture, but because of its contribution to the economy and specifically its contribution to Tourism. Some 43 per cent of Australians will attend a sporting event every year, we’ll go to a footy match or the Boxing Day test, or go to the tennis. But some 86 per cent, double that, will go to an artistic or cultural institution, we’ll go to the National Gallery or one of the state galleries, or the National Museum, or we’ll attend a cultural or artistic event, and I think often the arts are seen as an easy target for cuts by government without taking into account the important contribution that the arts can make to tourism. I use in the article that’s published today examples such as Canberra and the exhibitions which are held on the 100 Objects from the British Museum, or the artistic events that are hosted by the National Gallery, that attract people to come to Canberra, or the permanent institutions like MONA in Hobart which has transformed Hobart as an international destination. These are all important. Particularly festivals such as the Sydney Festival every January, brings this city alive, the Comedy Festivals that are held. The Writers’ Festival …
PERRETT: And the Elvis Festival, you mentioned you’re going to shout out to that, 20,000 people.
ALBANESE: The Elvis Festival in Parkes goes for four days in mid-January every year, they attract international visitors to the great inland city of Parkes, it’s difficult to get accommodation. People are staying in tents. They’re in Parkes in mid-January and it is a major international event that is particularly important for our region, they’ve been able to find a niche artistic or cultural event that will be unique. Parkes is now known around the world as one of the destinations for one of the great Elvis festivals that are held and it importantly creates jobs and economic activity.
PERRETT: Absolutely, now I wanted to ask you though, why this subject and why today? I know you talk on infrastructure, you’ve got other areas, and I know you said you were watching the cricket yesterday so you’re obviously into sport. Is there a particular one of those artistic endeavours that you thought needed support? Has it been something that you’ve grown to be interested in? Because there was some criticism when the arts was left out during the election, that not enough politicians broadly, apart from those with their particular portfolio, were literally getting out and making this message that you have made today, so I’m asking why now?
ALBANESE: Well as Labor’s Tourism spokesperson the emphasis that I have today is on the economic role that the arts can play in promoting tourism. And these one-off events or institutions, like MONA, but one-off events like the Writers’ Festival, the Elvis Festival, the bringing of attractions to our major cities or our regional centres are all important drivers, and I think that at a time when Australians are kicking back watching the Boxing Day Test on television as I was doing yesterday, that’s a great attraction for jobs and economic activity as well. But often I think the arts are underestimated, and I think it’s important that I happen to represent an electorate that has more artists across the spectrum than just about any electorate in Australia, and I know that people in the artistic community often feel like they’re forgotten. I’m struck whenever I go to see a play or an artistic event if I am fortunate enough to meet the director or any of the actors, they’re always appreciative, they thank you for coming along.
PERRETT: Yeah well that’s because they feel as I said during the election, that both sides have pretty well ignored them, I mean obviously we all know about the disaster, the Catalyst that George Brandis did, but a number of artists pointed out to me that, you know it’s a long way from the days of Gough Whitlam who just wrapped himself in the artistic community, even Paul Keating had the creative nation statement, and even Labor since then really hasn’t come out with a strong arts policy. Do you think that even your side of politics could do more in this area in the new year?
ALBANESE: Look I think with Tony Burke as our arts spokesperson you’ll see just that happening. Tony Burke as we speak is up at Woodford, enjoying the Woodford Festival, again a great regional festival that creates so many jobs on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland there in Queensland. And I know that Tony Burke has brought together writers to Parliament House, he’s brought together musicians and people in the music industry concerned about some of the proposals that are there that would damage, in our belief, in Labor’s view, the rights of the Australian creative sector to provide stories and that’s what the parallel imports position, promoted by the Productivity Commission and the Government would do. This sort of flat-earth policy that somehow we shouldn’t support our Australian book publishers, writers and indeed the printing sector as well. So Labor came out with a very strong policy on that before the election. It was driven by Tony Burke and Tony Burke is very passionate indeed, across the whole spectrum of artistic endeavours that take place. The Laneway Festival next month will take place in my electorate, that brings together more than 10,000 young people in particular, who enjoy each other’s company and have a sense of community and that creates many jobs in the local community as well.
PERRETT: You do a great job as Shadow Tourism Minister and it is obviously a very important industry. One of the things we have the debate on in a number of the shows that I’ve done is the actual term the arts part of the problem? And we know in the post-Trump world elitism is anathema to voters. Is it that it is seen as the elites that the arts is identified with, the opera for instance, and maybe we should just rename it entertainment or whatever.
ALBANESE: Well perhaps that is a good idea, because certainly as the figures show when you have 86 per cent of Australians attending an artistic or creative event every year, and it’s right throughout the whole spectrum, it’s young people attending music festivals, it’s people attending writers festivals, it’s people attending national galleries, as well as people attending their local symphony orchestra or the national opera, or these other big events as well. And it’s also those big festivals, like the Sydney Festival, that bring people from, around the world to our nation. I also attended a great celebration in Central Australia earlier this year in Alice Springs when they had their Tourism Awards. So many of those awards were associated with cultural events for our indigenous communities. Certainly it can be a great driver of jobs in indigenous communities as well.
PERRETT: And a great driver of jobs overall. I think more people are employed in tourism than in the mining industry for example but that gets all the attention.
ALBANESE: Many more so, almost one million Australians directly are employed as a result of the tourism sector.
PERRETT: I was going to ask you for your recommendation, but I reckon that you have been such a good Shadow Tourism Minister that you must have mentioned every single event over the summer, has got a plug. So I’m going to ask you two more quick questions just on general politics while I’ve got you there before you can go back to lounging around, well not that you ever lounge around but having a holiday, a well-earned break as they say. Infrastructure, obviously Sydney Airport became an issue last week we saw the Government start saying that they are not going to just give more billions of dollars to the Sydney Airport Corporation, who you have never been a huge fan of, or you had your issues with previously. The Sydney Morning Herald in an editorial welcomed it, while I know it’s tempting to criticise them for not supporting the structure, on the other hand if Sydney Airport Corporation wants to get this shouldn’t they stump up? Isn’t it about time we stopped having Government money being thrown into what is a private sector issue?
ALBANESE: Well I think that the Government has got the balance right in the offer that they’ve made to Sydney Airport. Sydney Airport have until April to respond, because they have the first right of refusal for building Sydney’s second airport or what will be Western Sydney’s first airport. It’s important that it be got right. So I think in terms of the idea that the Government would pay for all of the infrastructure but the private sector operator would get all the benefit seems to me to be an unreasonable proposition. And the Government agrees with that and they have put forward an appropriate measure. I am concerned that Sydney Airport have spoken about wanting to delay the timing of their response. We need to get on with this and the second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek needs to be got right. This is an opportunity in the greenfields site to make sure that rail is available from day one. To make sure that the issue of access to aviation fuel is there through a pipeline, to make sure that this is not just a terminal and a runway, but it is a catalyst for jobs in Western Sydney, and I certainly have been constructive in the propositions that I have put forward I want the Government to get on with this, and once Sydney Airport makes up its mind in April, either the option is there for them to proceed, or of course for the Government to do it itself and it can do that off-budget by creating a company similar to the Moorebank Intermodal model, or there is a number of models there and then sell the lease to a private operator down the track, taking into account that expenditure on infrastructure which has taken place. And I have no doubt that there would be a range of bidders who would want to operate a second Sydney airport, because I have no doubt that it will be a big success as long as the infrastructure is got right.
PERRETT: And if the only bidder with that kind of money and infrastructure experience and was say a Chinese foreign company would you be happy with that too?
ALBANESE: I don’t want to get ahead of the process. The process at this point is that Sydney Airport have the first right of refusal, they’ve received the documents it comes after two years of consultation between the Government and Sydney Airport. I’ve been briefed extensively by the appropriate Government Ministers on this issue so I’m not critical of that. It’s important that when it comes to nation-building infrastructure projects that will occur over longer than the life of one term of one Government, that they be bi-partisan and I’ve attempted to do everything I can to put the national interest first on this issue and I continue to do so.
PERRETT: Well that’s a very refreshing change from the year in politics we’ve seen, and let’s hope that all is well for 2017. So we won’t let you go without asking you for a quick prediction in politics next year, Bill Shorten to still be leader? To be Prime Minister? Or anybody else, you know, anything happening there? What do you predict, what’s your major prediction?
ALBANESE: I think the interesting thing will be what happens with Malcolm Turnbull. I say this without any glee, I think that people are disappointed in Malcolm Turnbull and I think the question is will we actually see him govern as himself. Which is what people want, I think people will want authenticity in politics and they know that Malcolm Turnbull has had views on marriage equality, on climate change, on the republic, on public transport for a long period of time and they aren’t being implemented. And he’s in a position to make a difference, I hope that he does for the sake of the country. If he doesn’t I suspect people will say, well what’s the point of Malcolm Turnbull being in Government and that you will see a change in the Prime Ministership sometime later next year.
PERRETT: Anthony Albanese thank you so much for your time today.
ALBANESE: Great to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.