Subjects: Liberal Party chaos.
KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me now is senior Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese. Well, we have been here before haven’t we, in terms of a Prime Minister under threat sadly many times over the last ten years.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We have and it would be quite extraordinary if, for four terms in a row, an elected Prime Minister didn’t get to see out their term. But I think that is what we are facing here. No doubt the Liberal Party is in absolute crisis and it’s very deep because it is about different values and different world views. And people like Tony Abbott and Craig Kelly and others who have made this seat their own in the Sky studio, up here day after day, hour after hour, are trashing their own Government.
Tony Abbott’s behaviour is quite unbelievable. I mean this is the guy who signed up to Paris. This is the guy who as Prime Minister established a 26 to 28 per cent target and yet he has done everything to wreck that. When Malcolm Turnbull capitulated completely and showed himself to not have any convictions about anything anymore, except retaining power, they have then responded to that by pointing out his weakness.
GILBERT: From a Labor perspective you are obviously feeling very comfortable in the sense of the Labor Party trajectory to win the next election. Would it have been better to have some sort of bipartisanship, some sort of deal, some sort of framework for that most contested of spaces – energy – so you are not starting with a blank sheet of paper as of the next election?
ALBANESE: Well, we tried Kieran. The Government came up with an Emissions Intensity Scheme. We said we would give that constructive consideration. They then abandoned that. They asked the Chief Scientist to come up with a plan. He came up with the Clean Energy Target. We said we think we can work with that. They abandoned that. They then came up with the NEG – the National Energy Guarantee. We said we would be constructive about it as long as it didn’t constrain future governments to enhance the target, because we thought the target was very weak, given that we will reach 24 per cent by 2020 as a result of our policies, as a result of the Renewable Energy Target that was established under the Rudd Government. We thought you need to do better; as long as that could be adjusted, we said we’d be constructive.
And now we have a Prime Minister yesterday standing up in Parliament and saying that he wouldn’t introduce the legislation, not because he was worried Labor wouldn’t support it, but because he was worried that Labor would support it. That is the big thing that came through Question Time yesterday. I was Leader of the House of course during the Rudd and Gillard Governments and under the Gillard Government we started off every piece of legislation with 70 Government votes – 70 – and we had to get to 75 and we did it for every piece of legislation. We did it for the NDIS. We did if for all of the ground-breaking policies that we had in terms of education and health and infrastructure – all the big picture reforms that we put through in Government. We did, I think from memory, 595 to nil was the scoreboard at the end of that term – and yet this Government isn’t prepared to argue its case on something that is fundamental because one of the things …
GILBERT: But you touched on it before. It is riven by division right now this Government in terms of its view on those policies and those climate wars, they continue unabated. But the thing is, if there were to be a change of leadership – I remember when Tony Abbott became the (inaudible) the Labor Party was delighted with that change. But in the end he turned out to be a very potent opponent. Are you more cautious this time when it comes to Dutton if he were Prime Minister?
ALBANESE: Well what’s important here Kieran is that the seeds of the destruction were sown by how Tony Abbot got there. So Tony Abbott – people say he was an effective Opposition Leader. He behaved as Opposition Leader like he did as Prime Minister, like he has as a backbencher. He’s sitting back there throwing rocks. He wasn’t capable of governing and that’s the problem. How you get there is important, because how you get there determines what the culture is and the culture of the Liberal Party at the moment and really since Tony Abbott’s rise in 2009 has been toxic. So Tony Abbott had a plan to get into government; he just didn’t have a plan to govern. And then Malcolm Turnbull had a plan to get rid of Tony Abbott, but he also didn’t have a plan to govern. And that’s the problem we’ve got here. Take energy policy. We have had now five years of drift, five years of uncertainty, five years of investors out there not being certain about what the policy framework is going forward and as a result we’ve seen higher energy prices than we would have if Labor’s policy had been continued or if they’d adopted any one of the myriad of policies that have essentially been about certainty.
GILBERT: Given how turbulent it is right now it’s hard to predict as you know these things – very hard to predict how they unfold. But is Labor ready for an election if it were to happen sooner rather than later, because that could be the outcome here?
ALBANESE: We’re always ready Kieran. One of the things I’d say about Labor is that we’ve used our time in opposition to actually prepare for government – to do the hard work on policies. We have in my area of infrastructure a comprehensive plan of how we’d deal with cities with recreating the Major Cities Unit, with the sort of programs that we would implement through a City Partnership Policy. We have a plan for regional economic development and driving decentralisation as well. We have a plan for tourism and we have engaged with the business community, with the sector.
One of the things on my much reported Whitlam speech that I was talking about is writ large by this week’s activity here in the House. What people want is a government that has a plan for the nation, not just a plan for its internals. They are sick to death of this and I think that if Malcolm Turnbull decides that the way for him to have a circuit breaker here is to is to get through this week and then visit the Governor General on the weekend or next week, then I think that would be a good thing for the nation because something has to change. This is chaos in this Parliament at the moment.
GILBERT: Mr Albanese as always, I appreciate your time. Thanks.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you Kieran.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.