SUBJECTS: Labor election prospects; Labor costings; National Energy Guarantee; Adani mine; Labor election campaign assessment.
DAVID SPEERS: All right, welcome back to the program. And we’re going to bring in our guest this afternoon: the Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese, joining us from Sydney. Very good afternoon to you, thanks for your time.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thank you David. Thanks for having me on the program.
SPEERS: You’ve seen and fought a lot of elections. What’s your sense of it? Just what are we? Less than 48 hours away. Is Labor going to win?
ALBANESE: Well I’m certainly hopeful, but I’m always hopeful that Labor’s going to win. But of course, we can’t pre-empt what the voters have to say on Saturday, even though of course, some three million and perhaps many more, by the time we get to 8 a.m. on Saturday, will have already cast their votes. I was on pre-poll for a while this morning. Certainly it was – it was pretty positive at Marrickville Town Hall, but one would hope that that would be the case. And I think, though, that many Australians will be pondering, essentially, the big divide that’s there at this election campaign, with Scott Morrison essentially saying ‘keep things steady as they go’. Labor’s saying – well, we actually think it’s pretty chaotic up to this point, and we actually need real change. And we’re offering that real change at the election. And that’s one of the reasons why Bill Shorten was in Blacktown today to really symbolise, if you like, that message that it is time to change the Government, and therefore to change the direction of the country.
SPEERS: Well, it is quite a lot of change that he is offering, and he spoke there at Blacktown about climate change in particular – wanting to do a lot more on climate change. Now this question has followed Labor throughout the campaign and still hasn’t really been answered: do we know what cost Labor’s plans will have on wages, on jobs, on the economy?
ALBANESE: What we know David, for certain, from every economic analysis that’s ever been done on action on climate change, is that the sooner you act, the cheaper it is, and that delayed action means increased costs. And we can see that with the way that the Government has handled – I think it’s 14, 15 – I’ve lost count – how many different energy policies they’ve almost adopted, but not quite – held back from at the last minute. And because of that, we haven’t had the investment certainty that will really drive that change through the economy. We have a comprehensive plan. We know that when you do measures such as increase energy efficiency, you save money. We know, for example, from the Government’s own figures, that our fuel standards that we want to introduce, that they themselves spoke about, will save motorists around about $500 per year. We know that when they were introducing the National Energy Guarantee, which is the basis of our system as well, that they were saying that would save every household $550 per year. So we know on the Government’s own reckoning that the policies that we’re putting forward will actually save money.
SPEERS: Yes but, with respect, these – well, the National Energy Guarantee was based on a very different target to the one you’re suggesting at 45 per cent. Just on that – how hard will Labor try to get the National Energy Guarantee in place should you win? If you can get a deal with the Greens, would that be enough to go with the National Energy Guarantee? Or would you want the Coalition to be onboard?
ALBANESE: Well, we think that the Coalition – there’s enough people who voted for it in their party room. Let’s be clear here. Scott Morrison voted for it. Josh Frydenberg voted for it. So what we will be saying to them is: just do what you said you’d do when you were the Government. Not once, but twice it went through their party room. So common sense tells you that this will be called for. No doubt if we’re successful on Saturday, what you will have is the business community calling for certainty, saying it’s time to end the Tony Abbott-era, essentially, that began way back in 2009 was, of course, aided and abetted by the Greens political party.
SPEERS: Yes, but again, your target is very different. It’s almost double the Government’s, and I’m not sure the business community are rallying around your 45 per cent number.
ALBANESE: Well, there’s a whole lot of the business community are in fact David. And they know that the quicker you transition to a clean energy economy, the better it will be for them. They want certainty. And they – of course, many people will argue about what the target should be. But there’s no argument that there needs to be a framework in place. And what we’ll be doing is putting a framework in place to drive that change across the economy. I mean, one of the things about the right wing of the Liberal Party, is that not only are they climate sceptics, they’re market sceptics as well. They’ve actually got a position that’s almost anti-business, really, when it comes down to it. They don’t want the economy driving that change through.
SPEERS: Well let’s talk about who’s anti-business. The Adani mine has been a controversial one through this campaign. We see in some polling that the Government’s holding up pretty well. Labor, perhaps, not making the gains in north and central Queensland you might have hoped. How much of this is because of Adani, and what’s your view of the Adani mine Anthony Albanese?
ALBANESE: Well of course, the Adani mine is just one of six proposed mines in the Galilee Basin. There’s an economic argument about whether the market will allow for the opening up of a new coal basin. And at the moment, what you’ve had is that Adani haven’t been able to get, essentially, financing for the mine. With regard to any of the environmental concerns that are there, that’s still being dealt with by the Queensland Government. And what we’ve said consistently is that you’ve got to listen to the science. And of course, we know that the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC), in which the Commonwealth’s main environmental legislation provides for that advice to be given on an objective scientific basis. Not on the basis of politics. So indeed, if you make a decision based on politics, which is what the Liberal Party did over wind farms in Victoria, over the orange-bellied parrot, where they pre-empted the decision, and were perceived by the court – found by the court, not perceived, found by the court to have made a political decision, that decision then got overturned. And that’s something that the environmental movement fought strongly for. It makes sense to have environmental regulations that are above politics, rather than are subject to political dispute. And that is certainly something that …
SPEERS: Okay, but in principle though – in principle, you’re not opposed to further coal mining in Australia?
ALBANESE: No. In principle, we need to listen to the science David. And that’s something that Labor will do in Government. It’s something that we’ve done in the past, and it’s something that we’ll do in the future. The issue of future coal mines is one, also though, about economics, and whether there is a market for it and the fact that …
SPEERS: And that’s for the market to decide. That’s …
ALBANESE: Well, the fact that companies themselves said that they required, essentially, government subsidy. Remember the big argument over this mine, was from the Government saying that somehow taxpayers should fund this foreign company to build a rail line. And that was something that was rejected by Federal Labor. It was also rejected by the Palaszczuk Labor Government.
SPEERS: It has been rejected, yes. Now let me ask you generally Anthony Albanese: you are often touted as an alternative leader for Labor. You, of course, stood against Bill Shorten way back in 2013. Would you have done anything different in this campaign?
ALBANESE: Oh look, I think the time for having assessments about campaigns isn’t there yet. What it’s time to do, is to knuckle down over the next 48 hours, and do everything we can to win every vote. But we’ve worked very hard. Bill Shorten and the entire team have worked hard. And one of the big differences, I think, in this campaign between us and the Government, is that Scott Morrison, you know, is sort of Nigel No Friends out there. He hasn’t had anyone to talk to, and has been campaigning by himself essentially. And that contrasts with Labor’s approach, which is a team led by Bill Shorten, out there campaigning right across the country, having press conferences with various senior Shadow Ministers, as well as candidates.
SPEERS: Well he hasn’t done the National Press Club this week though, in fairness, has he? That’s been a tradition of campaigns for many, many years.
ALBANESE: I don’t think anyone can argue that Bill hasn’t been accountable. He has done the 7.30 Report. He has done QandA. He has done the Sky News Forum, of course, David. He’s done the Channel Seven forum…
SPEERS: That was – that was the highlight.
ALBANESE: I’m sure it was for you. The Channel Seven – he’s made himself very accountable to the media each and every day. Today his priority, and it’s understandable, was to go to Blacktown in western Sydney – a key area for Labor – and to take the case for the need for change for a new generation. Just as Gough Whitlam in 1972 made the case for a generation for change, Bill Shorten today has …
SPEERS: Is he a Whitlam-esque leader? Would you liken Bill Shorten to Gough?
ALBANESE: Well, it’s a different generation, so our priorities are different. But one of the major priorities that Bill spoke about today, of course, is the challenge of climate change. And it is a challenge for our generation and ones to come. It is a challenge to make sure that we take advantage of the opportunities which are there. I mean, Professor [Ross] Garnaut was speaking today about the real prospect of Australia being an economic superpower in a clean energy world, because we have such enormous advantages. Not just in terms of, obviously, the sun and wind, and our vast continent, and those natural features, but also for many of the products that are available and are key to the future economy. Products like lithium, and some of the new minerals that are going into batteries, and will be key to storage and other energy, but other products as well. We have to make sure that we take first-mover advantage right now and set ourselves up, not just to dig things out of the ground and export them, products like lithium, but to actually take advantage and build high value manufacturing here, to build those high value jobs here, so that we take advantage of what is an enormous opportunity.
SPEERS: We’ve got to go. Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for your time this afternoon.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much David. I’ll probably see you on the other side, one way or the other.
SPEERS: I look forward to it, one way or another. Thank you mate. We’ll look forward to that.