Subjects; Voluntary euthanasia; marriage equality, opinion polling; New Zealand election, Tony Abbott.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning Sam.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: This is obviously a very emotional debate in relation to euthanasia. What is your position on it and what do you think of the legislation that has just passed the Victorian Parliament?
ALBANESE: Well we had a debate of course in the Federal Parliament about voluntary euthanasia. I voted in favour of voluntary euthanasia at that time. I must say it was a very dignified debate. It was a debate that showed Parliament at its best and I think that has happened in Victoria as well.
You’ve had a debate whereby you have had a conscience vote. It’s precisely the way, I think, that we should have dealt with the issue of marriage equality. I think it is very clear that if there was a plebiscite or a postal survey about voluntary euthanasia in Australia that a majority of Australians would vote yes to it. It is a difficult issue.
I certainly respect people’s views who don’t share my position on it. I do think that it is one of the issues where I think it’s not 100 – zero. It’s a sort of 60-40 call. Most people have to grapple with their conscience.
We want to make sure that loved ones don’t endure pain in circumstances which are so difficult. We all will depart this earth and it’s a matter of the circumstances in which we do and no-one wants to see people in pain.
The other argument about making sure that we value human life is also I think a very important consideration.
MAIDEN: Okay. But let’s talk about this idea of a plebiscite. I mean you raised the idea of a plebiscite on this issue and you said that if we had one in Australia in relation to euthanasia, you think it would be successful.
Should we have a national plebiscite now on this issue so voters can have their say, just as they have been able to have their say on same-sex marriage?
ALBANESE: Look, I think we have a system in Australia of parliamentary democracy that serves us well. I didn’t support the postal survey and I don’t support a postal survey on voluntary euthanasia. I think there is some irony for people who are arguing for the plebiscite.
I actually said to some people who I had respectful discussions with who were saying we need to debate this and everyone needs to have their say, of whether they would support a plebiscite on this very issue and they had the opposite view of course.
I think that this has been dealt with by – it’s not by the Andrews Government; it isn’t government legislation, it is legislation in the Victorian Parliament – as best as it could be dealt with.
I think it has been dealt with appropriately. I think people like Andrew Denton deserve a great deal of credit for being prepared to engage in civil society and promote this discussion and people certainly are having their say and having their say through their elected representatives.
MAIDEN: But you don’t think it’s time for you to rethink your position on this plebiscite? I mean people said that this would be incredibly divisive.
ALBANESE: And it has been, Sam.
MAIDEN: OK, but if the Yes case gets up pretty powerfully, and all of the polls suggest it will, won’t that also be a powerful endorsement that the majority of Australians actually support same-sex couples and same-sex people in Australia and they have demonstrated that at the ballot box?
ALBANESE: But we knew that already Sam. We knew that and this poll won’t be any different from the Newspoll or what the public polling has been showing. I expect that the Yes vote will be successful by a similar margin to the one in which the polls have taken place. It always amazes me that; a bit like people who speak about secret party polling. I will give you the big tip, Sam, the secret party polling is usually exactly the same as Newspoll and the published polls.
MAIDEN: Oh come on. It’s got a bit more detail than that doesn’t it, the party polling?
ALBANESE: On the stuff that people are interested in in terms of your viewers – what the votes are, what the positive and negative is for leaders or candidates – it is usually pretty much the same. And in terms of this exercise though, you’ve had 122 million reasons to not have this postal survey.
We could have got this done. It could have been done some time ago. As it is I think we will have marriage equality by Christmas and this time next year – I will make this prediction to you – no-one will be asking questions of politicians or of anyone else for that matter about marriage equality except for one: Did you enjoy John and Bill’s wedding or did you enjoy, you know, Wendy and Mavis’s wedding last Saturday, because people will wonder what all the fuss was about.
MAIDEN: Okay, let’s go to a bit of diplomacy and a German term schadenfreude, is there is bit of schadenfreude do you think in relation to all the mud that was thrown by the Turnbull Government accusing Labor of trying to bring down the Australian Government with a foreign power in relation to this Barnaby Joyce and the questions about his citizenship and so on?
And now the government is the New Zealand Labour Government, that was the mob that Julie Bishop was saying a few weeks ago that she couldn’t work with.
ALBANESE: Well, it certainly is and it’s a good choice of phrase by yourself Samantha. I think that Jacinda Ardern will make an outstanding Prime Minister. I met her and indeed I addressed the New Zealand Labour Party caucus just about 18 months ago and they have some outstanding people.
They are ready to govern and I think Julie Bishop has used the word ‘congratulations’ for the new New Zealand Prime Minister and she needs to say one more word, in my view, show that she is big enough and say ‘sorry’. She should do it.
MAIDEN: Yeah, so you think that she should apologise? Because the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was saying today no apology required.
ALBANESE: Well, that’s the sort of macho stuff that doesn’t really help relations. When you commit an error, say sorry and then you move on. That’s the way we deal with things as adults. So Jacinda Ardern, she’s tough.
She’s shown that, over what has been a remarkable rise to prominence in politics from being a relatively junior frontbencher in the New Zealand Labour Party to being the Prime Minister of New Zealand, so I don’t think she’ll lie awake at night worried about Julie Bishop and whether she says sorry or not.
I just think it’s the right thing to do. It was a really juvenile performance frankly from Julie Bishop on that occasion trying to accuse somehow the New Zealand Labour Party of being responsible for what is purely the responsibility of Barnaby Joyce himself to not have his house in order.
I mean, it’s no accident that there are no Labor or Liberal party parliamentarians before the High Court at the moment. They’re from the minor parties, be it the National Party, the Greens Party or Nick Xenophon or One Nation.
MAIDEN: Yeah, so time for an audit do you think either way to find out if there’s any more of them hiding underneath any rocks?
ALBANESE: Where’s the issue? Everyone who’s before the High Court will be dealt with. I can say, you know the smart thing to do? Not have an audit after people are elected. Have a proper process before people are candidates. That’s what the Labor Party does.
MAIDEN: Okay, but just before you go you’re a keen student of politics, you can always read the room. After this week and this debate over energy policy do you think Tony Abbott’s stocks within the Liberal Party are reduced or do you think that they are elevated because he is essentially once again forced Malcolm Turnbull into his view in relation to dumping the clean energy target?
ALBANESE: Well, I think it’s a bit each way. Tony Abbott certainly has been shown to be influencing the policy debate in Australia and influencing the government far beyond what a backbencher should be doing.
I mean, the speech in London was an extraordinary speech for someone to give. He should watch Sky News a bit more and see the rise in both the number and the intensity of natural disasters.
You can’t say that any specific one is because of climate change. What you can do is point towards the trends that are clearly there. And you can point towards as well the fact that the three hottest years on record are 2016, 2015 and 2014.
It’s not by accident and so I think his speech was quite extraordinary dismissing the science and indeed saying that we could be better off with global warming. So there’s no doubt that in terms of him having an influence that has increased because it’s only a few months ago that the government brought down the Finkel Review.
The Chief Scientist made recommendations. Malcolm Turnbull recognised that the Clean Energy Target was a positive way to go and the Opposition responded constructively to it as the Labor Party because we want that certainty as well.
But his stocks within the party, I didn’t think they could go any lower but they continue to dive bomb in my view. He’s shown contempt really, not for people who have not been friends of Tony Abbott for some time but I think people who backed him right up until Malcolm Turnbull’s successful coup in 2015 are very angry with him.
They regard his behaviour as selfish and destructive. I think the Australian people know that he is a good wrecker. He tried to wreck the Labor Government and in some ways he was effective at that.
But with regard to the prospect of him ever running anything, running the country or running a portfolio what we need is someone who’s positive. Someone who actually has a plan to get things done, not just a plan to tear things down.