Subjects: ALP National Conference, trade unions, nuclear disarmament, infrastructure.
DAVID SPEERS: Anthony Albanese thanks very much for your time this afternoon. Let’s just pick up on the Labor conference. A lot of concern amongst employer groups about where the party has landed on industrial relations. Will there be industry-wide bargaining under a Labor Government?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well one of the things that Bill Shorten has said is that he will get together, in the first week he is talking about, with employers, with unions and actually work on a consensus model rather than the antagonistic model that has been pursued by the Coalition Government. The truth is that the current bargaining system isn’t working. That’s why we are seeing record profits but real wages actually in decline. The Reserve Bank and every economist in the country has identified low wage growth as being a real problem for our national economy.
SPEERS: Sure, but you’ve got to spell out before the election what you are going to do with industry-wide bargaining.
ALBANESE: And we will be spelling out all of our policies before the election. But what we are saying is that the current system quite clearly isn’t working. That is what the Reserve Bank is saying.
SPEERS: But is more union power the answer here? Giving them greater access to work sites, industry-wide bargaining, getting rid of the ABCC, these sorts of things?
ALBANESE: Well it is very clear that the decline in union membership is a part of the explanation for the decline in real wages. If you have circumstances whereby unions aren’t able to bargain and represent workers, what we know is that the power relationship between an individual worker and an individual employer is not an even one. That’s why trade unions exist.
SPEERS: You are quite open about the fact you want unions to be bigger and more powerful in Australia?
ALBANESE: I think unions play an absolutely critical role in civil society and I think a strengthening and growth of unionism would be good for our national economy.
SPEERS: Let’s deal with a couple of the other things that were decided late yesterday. You were involved moving a motion on the Nuclear Ban Treaty. Would a Labor Government sign this UN Nuclear Ban Treaty?
ALBANESE: Well what we have said is that we would sign and ratify after considering a range of factors including the effective examination to make sure that the structures were in place, to make sure that it was happening, to make sure that it was consistent with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
SPEERS: So you would want the nuclear states themselves to agree to this as well? None of them have.
ALBANESE: Well what we want to see is a pathway and one way in which you encourage people to join a collective organisation is to join yourself and part of the problem that we have seen with the Nuclear Ban Treaty is that Australia, like in so many areas, has withdrawn from the process, didn’t participate. We are on the sideline.
SPEERS: But would we sign up if the US doesn’t?
ALBANESE: Well the truth is that the US was very reluctant to sign up to past global agreements, such as banning land mines. Does anyone today say that that was a bad thing? That was a very ambitious proposal when it was put forward.
SPEERS: So we would sign this without the US?
ALBANESE: That’s a matter for a future government decision. But like all of the Labor Party platform, what we do is set out our principles and then Labor governments make decisions based upon advice.
SPEERS: That’s the same with Palestine too.
ALBANESE: It’s the same with all of our platform. That’s the way it works. The platform sets out the principles to guide Labor in government and I think yesterday’s adoption of support for what began with ICAN, began with people 10 years ago in Melbourne forming the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons, they won the Nobel Peace Prize 10 years after they were formed in 2017, and this year I think it is a significant step forward and it is not surprising that over 80 per cent of Australians say they support eliminating nuclear weapons. I can’t understand anyone who would say, I’ve got to say, “I think nuclear weapons are a great thing’’. I think everyone wants to see …
SPEERS: Sure, but you’d put a lot more pressure on the Americans if you say we are going to sign it with or without you.
ALBANESE: Well, we have declared Australia’s position in terms of where Labor wants to see the world going.
SPEERS: With respect, you have said you will work with allies and take advice.
ALBANESE: Of course and we always do. But that doesn’t mean that we have a subservient relationship. I mean, I think our US alliance is absolutely critical and the resolution recognised that yesterday. But at the same time what we don’t do is give any other nation a right of veto. We have had very clearly differences with the United States as we do for example as a party when it comes to the embassy in Jerusalem issue and that is not a bad thing.
SPEERS: A final one in your portfolio area. It seems as we head into the election neither side is going to dramatically cut the migration intake right? So dealing with congestion in Sydney and Melbourne comes down to more infrastructure?.
SPEERS: What would Labor do to ease these congestion pressures?
ALBANESE: It comes down to not just better infrastructure but how you do it as well – the quality of it. What that means, in effect, is the quality of planning. The problem that we have had in our cities is that we have had housing growth without considering how people will get to work, what the social and community infrastructure is – education and health – and around that how we create a 30-minute city. We have seen also a failure to invest in public transport.
SPEERS: Will you do a lot more on public transport?
ALBANESE: Absolutely. We committed more to urban public transport between 2007 and 2013 than had been committed in the previous 107 years. We changed the way that the Federal Government deals with public transport. The Howard Government – zero. Not a dollar. Not a public transport anywhere in the country.
SPEERS: Are you going to give it priority over roads?
ALBANESE: The truth is if you are going to deal with urban congestion, you need to do both, but the priority has to be public transport. You can’t solve it with just roads, with just private motor vehicles. What you need to do if you are talking about moving large numbers of people, then you need public transport to do it.
SPEERS: Anthony Albanese. Thanks you very much for joining us and throughout the year – a very Merry Christmas.
ALBANESE: Merry Christmas to you David. Thanks you for having me on the program throughout the year. I will see you in 2019.
WEDNESDAY, 19 DECEMBER, 2018
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.