Subjects: Popularity; Campaign launch; Australian shipping; Pre-poll duration; China relations.
LAURA JAYES: Welcome back to AM agenda. Now let’s go live to Sydney, to the man who got among the biggest cheers at the Labor launch on Sunday. Anthony Albanese thanks so much for your time.
ALBANESE: Good morning.
LAURA JAYES: Now Bill Shorten was asked this question last night whether there’s a frank and candid answer as to why he is pretty unpopular. Can you answer that?
ALBANESE: Well that’s not my experience when I’ve travelled with Bill. He’s very engaging. He talked with people yesterday at the Nepean Hospital and the fact is that when you are Opposition Leader, sometimes it’s a difficult job. But we have been ahead in every poll for a number of years now including both the major polls that were published this week. So, Bill leads a team that if the election was held on the weekend according to those polls he would lead into government and be only the third Labor Leader since the Second World War to do so, after Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd.
KIERAN GILBERT: You were recruited though to the campaign to provide a bit of your personal popularity out in the seat of Lindsay yesterday. You’d, you’d obviously know, you’re been a big part of the campaign, you’d recognize that.
ALBANESE: Well, I’m out and about in every seat, Kieran. Yesterday was the first day in many that I haven’t been on a plane and that was a good thing to actually sleep in my bed for the two nights in a row and I’ll be there tonight as well. I’m campaigning more locally and I have local events on today but I’m also launching our shipping policy today, in front of an organization that has been gathered together by the Maritime Industry Australia Limited, the peak industry organisation, who are very supportive of our shipping policy and our support for the Australian flag to be on the back of Australian ships, hopefully Australian manufactured ships, with Australian seafarers on them.
LAURA JAYES: It was interesting to see on Sunday the big focus on the team rather than Bill Shorten personally. Why is that? Is it because you and others bring something to the table that Shorten just doesn’t have cut through on?
ALBANESE: Well, Bill will lead a cabinet government, that’s a good thing. We’ve seen on the other side of politics absolute chaos and division. Three Prime Ministers, three Deputy Prime Ministers. I’ve shadowed no less than 13 people just in the infrastructure side of my portfolio, since I’ve had that job. I’ve shadowed four different people in tourism, five if you count the ghost at the beginning of 2013 when government changed because they forgot to appoint a Tourism Minister. So we’ve had chaos on the other side. We’ve had consistency on our side. I think it’s a big strength. The fact that we’ve had one Leader; one Deputy Leader; one Shadow Treasurer; one Shadow Infrastructure Minister; one Shadow Health Minister; people in key portfolios many of whom will resume from their duties, if you like, that they had in 2013. And what that means is that if we are successful in two weeks’ time I know that my knowledge of the portfolio is so much greater than it was when I was sworn in as a minister at the end of 2007, and that’s a huge advantage. It means that in terms of that learning curve that you go on about how cabinet government works, what those processes are that are very different in government from opposition, and I think that’s one of the weaknesses of the current government. Before they’ve been able to get on top of issues in portfolios such as the various people that I’ve shadowed, they’ve been moved on and that’s been a real problem because they go back to point A every time that happens. So, Michael McCormack, it’s not surprising that we haven’t been able to nail down a date for a debate between the two of us because the truth is he hasn’t had the portfolio for as long as I’ve had the shadow portfolios.
KIERAN GILBERT: We’ve just got some numbers in from the AEC, some breaking news, just now in terms of an update on the early voting. It’s going to top one million early votes today. What do you put that down to Anthony Albanese? Is that because of convenience or do you read more into it in terms of you know, normally it doesn’t reflect well on the incumbents, but the AEC has got a lot of resources out there, so could it be a convenience story we’re talking about here?
ALBANESE: Look I think there’s two elements to it. One is people’s knowledge that it’s available and the truth is people aren’t having to give their reasons for not voting on polling day, having to provide evidence of airline tickets that they’re headed overseas. People are just being allowed to vote, and for many people avoiding queues on it on May 18 is a major incentive.
LAURA JAYES: Is it too long? Is this three week period too long?
ALBANESE: Well, I would have thought that that needs to be looked at because, you know, I think pre-poll voting is very valuable, but three weeks is a very, very long time and I think that we only had our launch on Sunday, the Government is still trying to find some policies to launch next Sunday, which will be after, by then I should imagine, there’s a potential for two million people to vote frankly. All history suggests that the closer you get to polling day the larger the numbers of people voting in pre-poll will be. So if there’s a million already by today then I would expect that that number will be very large indeed. And I do think it’s not a bad thing. Anything that maximizes the opportunity for people to vote is a good thing but three weeks is a long time.
KIERAN GILBERT: It’s certainly convenient. Well, let’s look back at the launch; the comments made by Paul Keating in relation to China have been widely criticized by a number of commentators and those in the security apparatus. What do you make of the reaction and does Labor need to reset not just relations with China but the debate more broadly to make it more nuanced, more constructive in this country?
ALBANESE: Well, I think that Labor, obviously, we don’t agree with Paul’s comments about the security agencies. They were very strong and colourful comments as Paul Keating has a right to put forward and which he does very well. We will take advice from the security agencies and certainly I know the Head of ASIO and I think he’s a very good person who works very hard in ensuring that our country has the protection that we need. There are threats to our national security. Some of those come from our own citizens. We saw that it was an Australian who committed the atrocity in Christchurch for example. So we do need to work closely with our security agencies and, and listen to their advice.
With regard to China, I think that what Paul Keating was saying there is, is correct in terms of we need to acknowledge that there are issues with China with the nature of the government that is not a democratically elected government. They don’t have elections like we’re going through now and that therefore reflects in the nature of the regime. But I do find some of the commentary on China almost naïve, like the suggestion that someone has had contact with people in the Chinese Communist Party in China, who does business in China, is no more shocking than someone having contact with the Liberal Party or the Labor Party here because they don’t have a separation of state and party there. The party is effectively the state. And so every Australian business person, for example, who has established business in, in China – and there are enormous opportunities; they’re an important trading partner for us – will have had contact with people by definition who are associated with the Communist Party of China. And sometimes that’s reported in a way that is perhaps more suited to a fictional spy movie and I do think that it is an important relationship. China has had friendly relations with Australia regardless of who’s been in government, and it is a relationship that we can have that doesn’t diminish our relationship with the United States or anything else. But the three pillars of our relationship, of our foreign policy – alliance with the US, relations in our region and support for multilateralism through forums like the United Nations are really important.
LAURA JAYES: OK, I want to ask you about (inaudible) because this is a big feature of this campaign. There’s a number of scare campaigns that seem really difficult for Labor to counter about death taxes, refugees and safe schools. Who do you think’s behind it?
ALBANESE: Oh look, that’s above my pay grade, Laura. But I hope that, I really hope that, there’s no mainstream organisations behind some of the quite frankly absurd scare campaigns that are out there, some of which are really bizarre. I do say that the government itself has run some pretty handy scare campaigns as well. I mean the whole world is moving towards electric vehicles. That was acknowledged by Josh Frydenberg with writing op-eds about it. Angus Taylor was launching a new battery charging station, funded by the Government, and yet when we announced our policy you’d think that the world was going to end with nonsense like we’re coming for people’s utes and all this sort of rubbish. So I do think there’s a responsibility in this age when you can have fake news out there get traction, for politicians, all of us, to be mindful of making ridiculous comments, which from time to time, I’m afraid that even Prime Minister Morrison has done during this campaign.
KIERAN GILBERT: Anthony Albanese we will talk to you next week in the final week of campaigning, appreciate that.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.