Subjects; By-elections; Mayo preselection; citizenship; single parent families; boat turnbacks; ALP National Conference.
SAMANTHA MAIDEN: Well, if you’ve had time for a little breather there to recover from that fabulous cooking segment with Barnaby Joyce, joining me now live in the studio is Shadow Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m glad I missed it.
MAIDEN: I won’t ask you about cooking, but there is an egg on the front page of The Daily Telegraph all over Bill Shorten’s face. It’s a bit rough although I think the Tele has done some terrible things to you over the years. They put you in a Nazi outfit once.
ALBANESE: They have. They do that.
MAIDEN: But it is a bit embarrassing for the Labor Party, isn’t it?
ALBANESE: It obviously isn’t a good thing, but what’s important now is that we have an opportunity to put out our case, not just in one seat in a single by-election, but in the by-elections that will take place across four states. It’s a chance to really put up our argument about our priorities of education and health and childcare and infrastructure funding versus their priorities of giving a further leg up to the big end of town.
MAIDEN: So how do you think the Labor Party could have handled this a little differently? Do you think with the benefit of hindsight that you should have just done a mass referral or that they should have gone in with one lot, with Katy Gallagher or they should have resigned a little earlier?
ALBANESE: I don’t think the mob out there give two hoots about that. It’s a bit like having a debate after a footy game in which I always think that Souths haven’t had a fair rub of the green and whether, you know, someone dropped the ball at the right time or forward passes. That doesn’t matter. What matters is the outcome that the High Court has determined means these by-elections are on. This is about that, and our focus should be on the future and on our plans for Australia. This gives us an opportunity to really campaign on Labor’s vision for Australia in the lead up to, as a bit of a dry run if you like, to the general election, whenever that may be, whether it’s later this year or early next year.
MAIDEN: So a Super Saturday of by-elections and then Tim Hammond’s seat of Perth is included in that as well and that’s, you know, pretty safe Labor. So do you think on balance you’re likely to hold all of those seats?
ALBANESE: Labor’s been ahead of course in the national polls for some time, the famous ’30 Newspoll’ comment that Malcolm Turnbull wishes he’d never made; it’s now up to 31 or 32 that we’ve been ahead. These are all held seats. Traditionally, by-elections tend to favor oppositions and we’ve got good candidates. These people have all been good representatives. In Perth I’m sure we’ll have a very good candidate there when that’s determined. We endorsed at the ALP National Executive last Saturday the other three. They are good hard working representatives in their seats. They’re all having an impact both in their local communities but here in Canberra and they’re all worthy of support and I’m sure that they will get that support. We’ll certainly be doing what we can as a movement to mobilise support for them on the ground.
MAIDEN: So five out of five are a perfect score?
ALBANESE: We’ll be out there. Mayo of course is not one of our held seats. We’ll wait and see what happens there. Of course you’ve had the collapse of the Nick Xenophon team. So that dynamic…
MAIDEN: Will Labor not run in Mayo then?
ALBANESE: I don’t know, is the truth.
MAIDEN: What do you think about Georgina Downer, the Downer dynasty rising again?
ALBANESE: We’ll wait and see. Rebekha Sharkie of course is a former Liberal. She worked for Jamie Briggs. I think Jamie would acknowledge he probably wasn’t the best candidate…
MAIDEN: He was alright for a while.
ALBANESE: He had a few issues, Jamie.
MAIDEN: Only toward the end.
ALBANESE: I got on okay with Jamie but he did have a few issues.
MAIDEN: It was a bit of a wild ride, but Georgina Downer, she’s the daughter of a politician, who’s the son of a politician…
ALBANESE: Who’s the son of a politician. You forgot one generation there.
MAIDEN: But there’s actually been a show on the ABC, the Downer dynasty.
ALBANESE: I missed that. That would have been as fascinating as Barnaby Joyce’s cooking tips.
MAIDEN: No, it was good. You didn’t watch all of it. It was very good. He sounds like he’s a good cook.
ALBANESE: I didn’t even know it existed.
MAIDEN: So, I mean do you think that that looks a little ‘silver spoon in your mouth’ or is that okay?
ALBANESE: I’m not going to have a go at anyone because of their family. Georgina’s entitled to run. She hasn’t been preselected yet of course. I thought she was living in Victoria. She ran in a preselection there.
MAIDEN: I spoke to her last night. She was in Timor-Leste. But she grew up in Mayo.
ALBANESE: Sure. She obviously has a connection with South Australia and with Mayo.
MAIDEN: Now in relation to your own family and the citizenship stuff. This issue came up with you because of your family history and this is one of the things, I mean your family history is not sad; your family history is kind of beautiful and lovely, but this whole issue dragging up everyone’s past and Susan Lamb, it’s an issue. You’ve talked about the fact that your mum was a single mum, she brought you up herself. You didn’t really know for a long time exactly who your dad was and then you did this research and it was Carlos and you found him and…
MAIDEN: Carlo, sorry.
ALBANESE: Italian, not Spanish.
MAIDEN: So it was Carlo and then you went found him. But you argue that you would not be eligible for dual citizenship because he didn’t appear on your birth certificate. If Carlo was on your birth certificate would you have a problem?
ALBANESE: Well then it’s a matter of – you’re running through hypotheticals. The fact is that I’m lucky that I did the book with Karen Middleton – available in all good bookstores. Karen put out in great detail, in 320 pages I think, my family history. My birth certificate of course has a dash next to ‘father’.
MAIDEN: Does that turn out to be a lucky dash in this context?
ALBANESE: I wouldn’t say that someone who grew up in a single parent family is lucky. No.
MAIDEN: Depends on the family though, doesn’t it?
ALBANESE: Families are diverse and one of the things about that…
MAIDEN: Are you suggesting single families are not, I mean I know…
ALBANESE: Not at all. You do it tough. That’s the truth. And I did it tough growing up in a family with a single mum who was an invalid pensioner. That’s the truth. I lived by myself at a very young age.
MAIDEN: The question is just if his name was on the birth certificate…
ALBANESE: If there was a legal status to my father’s relationship with me, then yes, that would have been an issue I would have had to have dealt with.
MAIDEN: Okay. Now, in relation to this tax stuff, you’re going to have your Budget Reply speech. How’s that going? Is there a bit of argy-bargy behind the scenes or do…
ALBANESE: No. We’re preparing the Leader of the Opposition’s Budget Reply tonight. I think it will be a real contrast. It will be a Labor speech, as all of Bill Shorten’s Budget Replies have been. With an emphasis on fairness; with an emphasis on building a strong economy; but with a sense of purpose; an acknowledgment that trickle-down economics doesn’t work. On infrastructure, for example, this Budget has across the forwards $2 billion less in it than last year’s Budget. This is a Budget whereby infrastructure investment falls from $8 billion in 2017-18 down to $4.5 billion.
MAIDEN: They always do that with infrastructure spending. It drives me crazy and you guys did it as well. You mix all the money up and you say it’s new and it’s not.
ALBANESE: We actually built some things. What they’ve done – the greatest mirage is the grand announcement about an airport rail link to Melbourne with $5 billion dollars available, but it’s an equity investment that doesn’t work for public transport because it doesn’t produce a return.
MAIDEN: At least they’re getting a train in Melbourne. I’m happy about that.
ALBANESE: They’re not getting a train. They’re not getting anything. There’s no money. Not a dollar for grant funding. Just like in Western Sydney, they had another front page about the rail line through Badgerys Creek. You know how much money there is for construction? Zero. Not one dollar.
MAIDEN: You’ll no doubt have this debate about infrastructure and taxes while at the ALP National Conference. Also though a debate over asylum seekers which will take place in the context potentially of the, you know, the lead up of these by-elections. Now, you now saying that…
ALBANESE: No, it will be after.
MAIDEN: Well but it will be the debate in the lead up, if you know what I mean. Like the debate as we go into it, happening in tandem. You now say that you support boat turnbacks after all of that hullabaloo.
ALBANESE: I support the Platform of the Labor Party. See, what we do in the Labor Party is – live on Sky News – we have a debate that goes for days.
MAIDEN: I know, but do you support boat turnbacks? Yes or no?
ALBANESE: I support the Labor Party Platform. That’s what we do, Sam.
MAIDEN: But you had a huge blue about this. Are you prepared to have that blue again?
ALBANESE: Did I speak at the conference on this issue? It’s an interesting definition of a ‘big blue’, Sam.
MAIDEN: Well, behind the scenes you did. I mean, there was a big debate in Shadow Cabinet and all factions had come in to protect Bill Shorten.
ALBANESE: You weren’t there.
MAIDEN: I was there.
ALBANESE: You were there on the floor of the conference and what happens in the Labor Party is we have debates. That’s a good thing. You know what happens when you get lots of ideas and people discussing them and working them through? You get a better outcome.
MAIDEN: So you’re going to try and open up the boat turnback thing but …
ALBANESE: What I do is the chapter that I’m in charge of. It’s a fantastic chapter, Sam.
MAIDEN: Look forward to that, but the…
ALBANESE: I’ve helped to write that chapter. Well that’s my job. Not other people’s jobs. That’s Shayne Neumann’s job.
MAIDEN: But do you support 90 day processing offshore as well as onshore?
ALBANESE: Sam, when I was a minister in the government, we supported offshore processing. We’ve made clear what our policy is. Our policy is in the Platform for all to read and I support the Platform of the Labor Party, and guess what? At this conference, the outcomes that come across the whole range of policies, that will be the Platform of the Labor Party. That determines the principles and then, of course, it’s up to the caucus…
MAIDEN: Okay, but can you process people within 90 days offshore.?
ALBANESE: That’s a matter for Shayne Neumann and the respective spokespeople. What I’m concerned about in terms of the platform at National Conference, and the part that I’m developing, is my chapter. That’s all about nation building. That’ll keep me pretty busy. You should come along to the conference, Sam. It’s terrific.
MAIDEN: Are you kidding? I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
ALBANESE: It’s terrific and it’s shown live, unlike the Liberal Party that don’t have real policy debates and real conferences, because they just get their instructions from the big end of town and they just go, ‘yep, we’ll do that’. And the Greens, well who’d know Sam? Who’d know? They might be holding a conference as we speak, because they don’t tell anyone, they don’t invite the media. They have leadership ballots where we find out about 10 months afterwards that they’ve happened.
MAIDEN: All right, well good luck with that. Thank you for your time today and we’ll talk to you soon.
ALBANESE: See you in Adelaide at conference.
MAIDEN: I can’t wait.