Subjects; Election results; Greens Political Party; SA infrastructure record; renewable energy; tax policy.
ASHLEIGH GILLON: Joining us live from Canberra is the Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese. Good to see you. Thank you for your time.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning, Ash.
GILLON: We’ve seen mixed results for Labor over the weekend with the loss in South Australia, the win of course for Ged Kearney in Batman. What do you take from the win in Batman? There has been some analysis suggesting that Ged Kearney’s going to be bringing a new left-leaning push to Canberra. I know you’d be excited to see that on a few fronts including asylum seekers.
ALBANESE: Ged will bring a lifetime of commitment to progressive politics to Canberra. It was one of the reasons why she was successful. She was authenticity writ large and she’s a very experienced person, of course. She has real life experience as a nurse, she has experience as leader of the Nurses Federation and then as President of the ACTU. So Ged will be a contributor to Labor both in Opposition, hopefully for a very short period of time, before being a contributor as part of a Labor Government. One of the things that people did on Saturday was they voted for someone who could be a strong progressive voice in a party of government rather than just a party of protest such as the one which Richard Di Natale leads. I notice that he’s confirmed that the Greens Political Party are a party of protest by protesting ever since Saturday night about the outcome.
GILLON: Well, I’ll be speaking to Sarah Hanson-Young next hour for more on the Greens situation and their reaction to Batman. In South Australia though, Jay Weatherill has announced he will be standing down as Leader. He described the South Australian election as a referendum on renewables. What then is the take out from that election? Does it suggest that voters are turning their back on renewables? Does Steven Marshall now have a mandate to scale that back in that state?
ALBANESE: Not at all. What we saw on Saturday was remarkable. Indeed, after 16 years in office Labor achieved swings in more seats than they had swings against them. Of course we’d had a redistribution which effectively turned four seats from the Labor side to the conservative side and still we had an outstanding result. The fact that people like Stephen Mulligan were re-elected; the fact that my mate Biggles, Leon Bignell has had an amazing result. He’s still ahead there in Mawson. He had everything up against him. People had written him off and he’s ahead there. He certainly won on primaries and he’s still ahead on two party preferred. So really Jay Weatherill can be very proud of his legacy; of the infrastructure build including the North-South constructions; the Northern Expressway; the Noarlunga to Seaford Rail Line. The beginning of the Gawler line electrification; the modernisation of the Adelaide Oval; the Convention Centre; the Royal Adelaide Hospital. He can be very proud that throughout South Australia he has a great legacy and part of that is of course renewables; the world’s largest battery. He had a plan, obviously, to go further with that but South Australians do support renewable energy. The idea that it can be just wound back, just like in the rest of Australia there’s great support for renewables, is I think that Steve Marshall will be misreading the fact that he’s fallen across the line in this state election very wrongly indeed if he thinks he has a mandate to just tear apart what is a great legacy of both Jay Weatherill and before him Mike Rann’s Government.
GILLON: Well it looks like South Australia is heading in a new direction on that energy front under Steven Marshall. I’m keen for your view on a federal issue though, Labor’s tax policy announced last week in regards to the franked dividends rebate. Is there room for compromise on that policy? We’ve seen new modelling out this morning suggesting that there would be a way to spare some 200,000 pensioners from being affected if there was a cap placed at the $500 or $1000 level regarding those rebates.
ALBANESE: What Labor has done very strongly is put our policy out there well in advance of a federal election and well in advance of what we say would be the starting date for changes. That’s unlike what governments tend to do, which is to scrape into office through an election and then say ‘oh, the finances are different, we need to make these changes’. We’ve been quite upfront about the fact that it is simply unsustainable to the Budget that you have more money going in terms of payments to people who haven’t actually paid any personal income tax. This was of course intended to be a rebate in terms of tax liabilities, to reduce people’s tax liabilities, when it was instituted in 1987 by the Keating Government.
The thing that’s really changed substantially even since the Howard Government made this change, at a time where the fiscal position of the Budget was far different than it is today, is that superannuation for those above above retirement age is of course tax free. What that’s meant is a whole range of people, some of whom are gaining massive amounts of tax payments from people who are working hard to pay their tax, the PAYE tax payers is being transferred to some people getting large amounts and and that simply isn’t sustainable.
GILLON: But again Anthony Albanese, is there room for compromise here if there is a way to affect fewer pensioners while also not affecting the total savings Labor’s trying to achieve here?
ALBANESE: We have our policy out there for all to see, and that is our policy.
GILLON: And are you open to compromise on that policy?
ALBANESE: That’s our policy. I’m not the Treasury spokesperson. That’s our policy that we’ve put out there for all to see. The fact is that we expected a scare campaign about this issue. The fact is that more money is going to these payments than currently goes from the Federal Government to pay every single public school in the country. That is simply not sustainable, and for a Government that was elected and said it would engage in Budget repair, what we’ve seen is that the debt is now some half a trillion dollars, has increased substantially from a Government that said that it would produce a surplus in its first Budget and every year thereafter, we’ve seen deficits into the future. Labor is being responsible with regard to this measure by pointing out that when it was first introduced, it was expected to cost the Budget $500 million and it’s now costing in the immediate future, we can see that will rise to $8 billion dollars and that is not sustainable.
GILLON: Anthony Albanese joining us live there from Canberra. Thank you.
ALBANESE: Thanks Ashleigh.