Subjects: Federal election, taxpayer-funded advertising, Budget, Infrastructure Australia, rail and road investment, electric vehicles, tax, Labor’s Medicare Cancer Plan.
DAVID SPEERS: Thank you very much for your time this morning. Look just on the election timing; can we begin there? The election won’t be on May 11 apparently because of some of the public holidays that would fall during the campaign, even interrupting a bit of early voting. Is that a reasonable reason for waiting another week?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well if you believe that I’ve got a bridge I can sell you David. The idea that they are not holding an election because pre-polling three weeks beforehand is on a public holiday that is quite frankly just absurd. The only reason why this is occurring is so that they continue their roll-out of taxpayer-funded advertising; advertising that people in my electorate right here in Marrickville are paying for each and every day. They have spent $200 million on taxpayer-funded advertising since January of last year and they are spending around about $680,000 a day on advertising. And what are they advertising? They are advertising infrastructure that they are not actually building; they are advertising tax cuts that they are not actually delivering and education that they are not actually providing support for. This is a farce.
Last night in Parramatta there was a mobile billboard – a video billboard – showing taxpayer-funded advertising parked in the middle of restaurants, annoying those people who were trying to have a night out with their family and their friends. This is outrageous.
Scott Morrison should do one of two things today; he either should go and visit the Governor General and call the election. He can call the election for May 18 today, David, nothing’s stopping him doing that. Or he should commit to stopping all taxpayer funded advertising right now because this is an outrageous abuse during what we all know is the caretaker period in reality. It’s got to stop.
SPEERS: Well in reality, technically we are not in caretaker period until the election is called.
ALBANESE: We all know the election is coming.
SPEERS: Yes but it hasn’t been called.
ALBANESE: We all know the election is coming David.
SPEERS: We are not in caretaker mode just yet. We know it’s coming. We’ve known that for a while.
ALBANESE: That’s correct but in effect we are, David, in effect we are. We have an unelected Prime Minister who is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars every single day.
SPEERS: Waiting another week means there will be Senate Estimates starting from tomorrow. Can you give us a sense or whether Labor is ready for that and whether you will be pursuing anything in particular in Senate Estimates?
ALBANESE: We are ready for everything, David, because one of the differences between the two political parties seeking to form Government is that we have been preparing for Government; developing policies that we want to implement, policies based upon the impact on people, rather than the impact on politics and based upon delivering outcomes, not delivering arguments, which is what the Government’s approach is. So we are absolutely ready. While the Government has been fighting itself, we have been preparing polices, putting them forward in a constructive way. I must say more policy than any Opposition certainly in modern history has ever put forward, with the detail there, outlining exactly what our plan for Australia is. See the difference is David …
SPEERS: Let’s talk a bit about that.
ALBANESE: … they have a plan to get re-elected. We have a plan actually for Australia.
SPEERS: OK. Now you have been talking about, in your portfolio area in particular, trying to clean up some of the pork barrelling, the short-term investments when it comes to infrastructure. You want to take the politics out of infrastructure decisions. Tell me a little bit about this. Are you seriously saying there would be no more political appointees under a Labor Government?
ALBANESE: Well who were the political appointees last time that we appointed to Infrastructure Australia, David? We had an Infrastructure Australia board chaired by Sir Rod Eddington – respected to the point whereby the Government actually promised to reappoint him as Infrastructure Australia Chair and of course they broke that promise as one of the first things they did when they came to Government. We had Heather Ridout, a Reserve Bank Board member. We had Kerry Schott. We had Mark Birrell, was the Deputy Chair, who was the only person with any political background. He was a former minister in the Victorian Government – not the Labor Government; the Kennett Government, and he was very good appointment to that Board.
SPEERS: Of those appointments this Government has made, who is in your sights? Who will you actually sack?
ALBANESE: Well what we need to have is a renewal of the Infrastructure Australia Board and we will be asking for that and we will be consulting the Opposition on who should be appointed to the Board. It is quite extraordinary that this week a new appointment was made to the Infrastructure Australia board who immediately on day one – on day one – attacked the Labor Party. There have been three appointments in the last few weeks to the Infrastructure Australia board. Frankly a couple of them I have never heard of. The fact is that we consulted very widely and I have been consulting as well with the sector, with organisations like Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, with people across the board about giving us your ideas about who should be on the Infrastructure Australia board to make sure that it is above politics. And one of the important things about that is that last time when we were in government, we funded every single priority project that was put forward. Many of those simply wouldn’t have got through the political process because they weren’t about changing votes – projects where you are like the Majura Parkway, for example there, David.
SPEERS: Let’s look at some of the projects you are talking about now. On Friday you announced $1.5 billion for the Bruce Highway upgrade and extension. The Government has made a similar promise. So what is the difference? This often becomes difficult for voters to discern. Are you saying more money than what the Government has announced?
ALBANESE: There are two major differences here David. The first is that you can’t deal with urban congestion by funding just roads. So we will fund Cross River Rail in Brisbane. We’ll fund Western Sydney Metro here in Sydney. We’ll fund the Suburban Rail Loop in Melbourne. We want to fund the AdeLINK light rail plan in Adelaide that the Government has walked away from. The other big difference is when you looked at what they actually announced in the Budget and then look for the detail, it is a very sad tale. Indeed, take South Australia – over $2 bilion promised going forward in the Budget. When you look at the detail there is $95 million available over the next four years. So you’ve got to elect them not once, but twice. Whoever would lead the Liberal Party. If Scott Morrison is successful it is unlikely he would see out the term. In terms of Geelong Fast Rail – a lot of rhetoric there; no dollars this year, no dollars next year; 2 per cent of funding right up to the mid-2020s. It is quite farcical. So big figures; announcements, but no actual dollars in the Budget to deliver these projects.
SPEERS: All right, well you had a big announcement during the week on Budget eve in relation to Labor’s climate policies and electric cars in particular, which falls in your patch. Fifty per cent of new cars sold would be electric cars by 2030, says Labor. Given they make up only 0.2 per cent of new car sales today, how on earth is 50 per cent in 11 years achievable?
ALBANESE: Well I will give you a parallel David. In 2007, when we were elected to government, there were about 7000 or 8000 solar panels on homes here in Australia. Today the figure is two million – a revolution taking place. What is happening around the world is there is not an automotive manufacturer that is looking at how do we build a new internal combustion engine for a passenger motor vehicle. It is all looking at EVs and other technology as well – new technology like hydrogen. In Norway last year, not a third world country, 47 per cent of new car sales were electric vehicles – 47 per cent. Australia is falling massively behind the world.
SPEERS: We are. We are lacking on the charging stations, which is one of big problems. People don’t buy them.
SPEERS: You have made an announcement in that regard as well, but there are also concerns about the range of these vehicles, about the price obviously and about how long they take to charge. Surely this technology will improve, but right now would you be buying an electric car given some of these concerns?
ALBANESE: Absolutely if one was here and affordable and available at a reasonable price. That’s one of the problems.
SPEERS: That’s the key isn’t it? They are not.
ALBANESE: Exactly. And it is about the old demand and supply. In Europe there are so many models that are available, more than 20 in the UK available for under $40,000. The fact is that the technology is moving forward so fast and we’ve been left behind. That is why we have a comprehensive plan – 20 per cent depreciation in the first year as part of our investment initiative for business and that would be available; a 50 percent target by 2025 for government vehicles for purchase in the government fleet. I must say something; there are targets now – right now – in New South Wales for example. The Berejiklian Government isn’t as sacred of the future as the Morrison Government is. They have a target. They also have funding by the way for charging and we have $200 million available and already, if you look at the heavy vehicle safety program and the road stops that have been rolled out, that will make it very easy to happen.
There has been a bit of a debate today or this week as well about how long it takes to charge your vehicle. The truth is the Electric Vehicle Council will tell you that the latest technology provides for charging which can take 10 minutes to charge your car. Now it is true that some of the older vehicles …
SPEERS: Well hang on. For a full charge of one of these new cars you can do it in 10 minutes? A full charge?
ALBANESE: That is absolutely what the technology is delivering in places like Europe as well. Of course this is for newer vehicles. It is true that older EVs, your Mitsubishi MiEV and some of these vehicles, can’t charge as quickly. But that is just an example. One of the things about humanity, David, is that we are innovative. And this is not just about the future, this is about the present. These initiatives are being rolled out right now around the world and all people have to do is to sit down with any of the manufacturers in Europe, in Japan, in the United States. Or they don’t even have to do that. Have a look at where we did the press conference on Monday. You were there David – that charging station is manufactured right here in Australia. So part of our vision is also to boost manufacturing here in Australia.
ALBANESE: Why is it that we send all our resources overseas, and then buy it back at inflated prices?
SPEERS: A couple of quick ones finally. The tax debate – we’ve seen both sides now lay out their tax plans during Budget week. Labor would give more, a little more, to those on the lowest incomes. But if you are earning more than $90,000 a year, you would be worse off under a Labor Government than the Government when you look at these two tax plans because you are actually promising to repeal tax cuts that have already been passed. What do you say to those earning $90,000 or more who may in fact really want a tax cut right now?
ALBANESE: What I say is have a look at the plans that are actually in place and who is delivering for those who most need it. Have a look at how better off you will be under Labor and low-and-middle income earners will be better off under Labor. It is true that those at the high end, those earning above $200,000 for example, will be worse off.
SPEERS: I’m talking about those earning $90,000 and more. They are the ones who will be worse off.
ALBANESE: And so am I David. And the fact is if you look at our comprehensive plan across the board, our plan for funding schools, our plan for funding hospitals. If you are one of the half of Australians who will be directly impacted by cancer at some stage in your life, or if you have a family member or a friend; that’s just about everyone, you will be better off under Labor’s Medicare Cancer Plan, including of course today an important announcement to extend that to children including increased funding for Canteen, a wonderful organisation that we will be announcing today that looks after those young people who are impacted by cancer. So that is a very important initative. Low and middle income earners will always be better off under Labor. This is a Government that has just looked after the big end of town. Labor has a plan. We will have bigger surpluses. We will have a fairer tax plan and we will have investment in the things that make a real difference to people’s lives – education, health and infrastructure.
SPEERS: Anthony Albanese, we have to leave it there. Thank you for joining me this morning.
ALBANESE: Thanks David.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.