May 23, 2019

Transcript of Television Interview – SKY News, AM Agenda – Thursday, 23 May 2019

Subject: Leadership of the Australian Labor Party.

KIERAN GILBERT:  Let’s go live to Labor candidate for the leadership, Anthony Albanese. Thanks very much for your time we’ve got Scott Morisson, Albo, it seems to fit.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning, greetings from Marrickville.

LAURA JAYES: Well Albo, we will just maybe stick with Mr. Albanese at the moment. You are the only declared candidate in this leadership contest at the moment. Do you expect that Jim Chalmers will stand as a candidate as well? And do you welcome having a month long process to select a leader rather than it just being handed to you?

ALBANESE: Look I don’t think anyone can suggest that anything is being handed to me during this process. Quite clearly people have tested support, more than one, and what they found is that I have substantial support in the caucus and in the party. The fact is, we have rules that I very much support that give rank and file members the opportunity to have a direct say in who the leader is if there is a contested ballot. I’ve got to say, on that level I certainly would welcome a contest. On another level of course, I and everyone else I think in politics is pretty exhausted at the moment so it would be a challenge on a personal level to go through a number of weeks. So look, I’ll just wait and see. People have every right to nominate. Nominations I think only open in about half an hour’s time. So they’re not even open yet. They close at the beginning of next week. If there is another candidate, I will certainly continue to canvass with my colleagues and I’ll continue to canvass across the party. Regardless of whether there’s a contest or not, I’ll be talking to party members right across the country.

GILBERT: Have you found yourself in an interesting and a different situation where many of your party are grieving, yet for you, this breathes some new life into your political career. This gives you another chance of having a crack at the top job.

ALBANESE: Well I think I’m grieving as well, Kieran I’ve got to say. I expected now to be setting up a ministerial office and I didn’t take that for granted. I always thought that we might not get across the line. But the truth is I did think and all the polls indicated that we would win in what would be a close election. So this is certainly unexpected but one of the things that is really important about the Labor Party. We’ve been around since 1891. Many people have written us off at various times and spoken about Labor being in difficulty. The truth is, we’re still very competitive. We’ve won in the order of, we’ll wait and see what the final outcome is, but somewhere certainly in the mid-sixties, so we’ll need a dozen seats to form government after the next election and that’s a challenge I don’t resile from that. And I don’t resile from the fact that we only got one in three Australians to vote for us as their first preference on Saturday. But the truth is that Labor is resilient and I’m pretty resilient. I haven’t always had an easy life and I’m pretty tough and one of the reasons why people are saying that they will support me, colleagues I’ve spoken to, is that in the Parliament I’ve shown a preparedness to take on the other side of politics. To hold them to account whether in opposition or in government. I was the Manager of Opposition Business the last time we went into Government in 2007. And I think I played a role in that. I want to play a role as Leader of the Opposition, holding the Government to account but also developing a forward looking Labor agenda for the next election.

JAYES: Forward looking OK. So let’s get to some policies, I know you want to consult with your colleagues but is the Emission Reduction Target under review for example?

ALBANESE: Look the truth is we’ll look at all of our policies. What we won’t look at is our values in terms of, they are eternal, the Labor values. They do change over time but our commitment to working people and lifting living standards is not. Our support for the right to workers to join unions and to participate in unions is certainly not up for grabs either.

JAYES: You’re running on the platform of being a straight talker. So what is the position on climate change which Bill Shorten ran so strongly on? Just on this one policy, the Emissions Reductions Target, do you need to urgently review that before the next election?

ALBANESE: Look we’ll review all of our policies before the election but it will be in the frame of the need to take action on climate change. We accept the science. We accept also that it’s good economics and good job creation to have strong climate change policy. And that’s the frame that we will examine that policy in. But we need to look at all of it. You don’t go through an election campaign, lose as we did going backwards, we lost seats, we lost votes in terms of where our primary vote stands and say we’re going to take that policy to the next election. So we will review it all and I’ll do it also in a consultative way not just with the caucus, with the party membership with trade unions and with people who didn’t vote for us. We want to hear how they think we can do better.

GILBERT: Well you have always gone on with interviews and programs that don’t necessarily see the world as you do. Would that be a change of style and your approach as well? Will that be a change of style in your leadership, if you do take the job as most of us expect you will, that you will encourage your team as well to engage with elements of the media that are critical? Because of course Bill Shorten was much more cautious on that front. In fact you know, openly slamming News Corporation and so on at the end of the campaign.

ALBANESE: Look I’ve always had a view that if you’re a progressive in politics and you therefore are about change, by definition you don’t get change by just talking to people who agree with you. You need to talk to people who don’t agree with you. So for example when I was a Cabinet Minister in the Rudd and Gillard Governments, I was the only minister I think who ever appeared on the Bolt Report on a Sunday morning. I will talk to people across the spectrum and engage. I don’t think that saying ‘you disagree with my point of view therefore I won’t engage with you’ as long as people are respectful. Andrew Bolt is someone I have very little in common with but he’s respectful when he interviews you and I will continue to talk to him and others including you two fine morning presenters there on Sky TV.

JAYES: Thank you. I appreciate that. Now you’ve said that you want to end the class war rhetoric.

ALBANESE: Not that I’m saying you’re like Andrew Bolt by the way.

JAYES: No, no we got it. You want to end the class war rhetoric. How will you do that, can you give us one example of how you will do it? And, be honest, haven’t you been guilty of waging it?

ALBANESE: I accept responsibility, like the rest of the team. We have a collective responsibility for the outcome on Saturday. Simple as that. So I don’t shy away from that. I’m not pointing the finger at anyone else. I’m a senior member of Labor’s team, we exercised a collective responsibility, the whole caucus exercised that in the lead up to the election. But one of the things I think we can do for example and I have said this consistently. If you look at speeches I’ve given and what I’ve done, for example, I don’t think that it’s a matter of choosing whether you’re on the side of unions or on the side of business. In my view common sense tells you that unions and business have a common interest. Successful businesses employ more people, which means more potential members of trade unions. And trade unions can only get wage increases and increases in living standards if businesses are profitable and are able to pay their workers. And all of the workforce have an interest in growth in the private sector, in ensuring that more jobs are created. So I think sometimes in the debate that’s forgotten. I don’t think in substance. But I think in some of the ways that that rhetorically positions are put, it would it would appear that maybe that’s been forgotten. I’ve said this before, I said it in a couple of major speeches in recent times over the last couple of years that we needed to very much speak about how we find solutions not just arguments. And I think that’s a big distinction between us. And if I’m lucky enough and fortunate to win the Labor Leadership, then I think that’s a distinction with Scott Morrison. Because when you look at class war it is Scott Morrison and the Coalition Government that have very much framed things in terms of an anti-war position with the attacks that have occurred on penalty rates, with the attacks that have occurred on people’s right to join trade unions and to organise collectively and bargain collectively. So I think that it is a matter of reset. The truth is that Labor hasn’t had in recent times as good a relation with business as I would like to see. I’ve always had a good relationship with the business community as well as the trade union movement, and what does that look like in practice? It looks like things like the Infrastructure Australia model that was established on my watch, as one of the first pieces of legislation of the Rudd Government and something that’s been very successful.

GILBERT: You’ve also had good relations I know in your part of the world with the religious groups there the Orthodox Church, the Lebanese Maronite community as well. How do you use that as the base upon which to build a Labor Party that gets people of faith? Because that’s something that Chris Bowen certainly commented on yesterday. But I think he would have seen that in terms of the six per cent swing against him in his seat of McMahon.

ALBANESE: The position that I start from isn’t from the bottom. I have very good relations with the Greek Orthodox community, with the Maronite community, with the Islamic community, in my electorate and beyond. When the late His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos had his celebration for his Anniversary as a Primate here at the Greek Orthodox Church, I was the only politician who he wanted to speak at that event that was held where every single Greek Orthodox Church around Australia had a table at Lilyfield. I have a deep understanding and relationship with those communities. That doesn’t mean that I always agree with the views that they put over issues like marriage equality. I had a different position, but I respected their right to disagree with the position that I held for a long period of time. And that’s why I supported, strongly, unlike many people who are very close to me politically, a conscience vote. So I’ve been very consistent. People know what they will get from me, because of the experience I have in public life and the relationships that I’ve built.

JAYES: You’ve now taken negative gearing changes to two elections, those two elections you’ve lost. How would you justify continuing on with that policy?

ALBANESE: We’ll examine all policies. We’ll examine all of them. One of the things of course that we do need to address is housing affordability. Labor took a range of plans to the election, the government didn’t take much at all. They don’t have a plan for housing affordability. That was just one of the measures that we took. We took a plan also for an additional 250,000 affordable housing units, dwellings, either units or homes to the election, as well. We took a substantial policy on housing affordability to the election, that is something that we need to look at. We can’t shy away from intergenerational issues. And the truth is, you know, I grew up in in public housing and the first place I moved into was in a street about 200 metres from where I’m filming this interview now. And my mum who was born and died in the same council house in Camperdown after 65 years, she drummed into, you know, when you get the opportunity, buy your own home because it’s dead rent, it’s dead money. She used to say to me. I was very conscious of that and as soon as I had the opportunity to save and have enough for a deposit I did that. You’ll notice during the election campaign when the Morrison Government came out with a policy about deposits and needing a lower level of deposit we immediately said: ‘that’s a good idea, we’ll support that’. When the Government comes up with good ideas we’ll support it. But they don’t have many ideas at this stage. They can’t run a government on just attacking Labor. And at the moment we’ve just seen an election campaign whereby they ran an effective negative campaign. But it was a negative campaign. I don’t know what their agenda is for the next term, but they better find one pretty quick because we will them to account.

GILBERT: Anthony Albanese, we look forward to talking to you many times over the next few years, most likely in the capacity of Labor Leader. But this morning we appreciate it live from Marrickville, thanks.

ALBANESE: Thanks very much.