Subjects: Disendorsed candidates; Labor election costings; Liberal Budget costings; Liberal power policy; Liberal launch.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Fresh scandal has forced another candidate to pull out of the election race. The Liberals’ Gurpal Singh resigning from the Victorian seat of Scullin after criticising an alleged rape victim, and linking same sex marriage with paedophilia. It comes as we enter the final week before heading to the polls, with neither party emerging as a clear favourite. Joining me now, in Melbourne, is Labor’s Anthony Albanese, and the Coalition’s Simon Birmingham, in Adelaide, for us this morning. Good morning to you both.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning Deb.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning Deb.
KNIGHT: Simon, Mr Singh is the third Liberal candidate to be disendorsed so far this election. Will you be reviewing the vetting processes to stop these dud candidates from getting through?
BIRMINGHAM: Well Deb, as I said last week when we were having a chat about these matters, I think there is a clear message, and it’s one for both major parties to make sure that the vetting processes are more thorough in future. I’m sure if the same scrutiny was applied to the rabble of minor party candidates out there, we’d find probably even worse instances. But there’s a message there for both major parties. This time last week, Albo was defending Labor’s candidate in Melbourne. Bill Shorten stood up a couple of hours later and defended him. But then by the end of the day, he was gone. So it’s been a problem for both sides, and we’ll both have to review this, I’m sure, post-election.
KNIGHT: And bipartisan on that Albo?
ALBANESE: Well quite clearly, there is a problem when you have candidates changing or being removed from endorsement during an election campaign. It’s happened with multiple candidates in the Coalition. It did happen with our candidate for Melbourne, and certainly I think what it does really is just create confusion in the electorate.
KNIGHT: Yes well, we will welcome a review, that is for sure. Now Labor is making a bold play today, releasing its full election costings and a doubling of the surplus within four years. Albo, you usually don’t wait – the Opposition – until the dying days of a campaign to cough up the numbers. You must be super confident you’ve got this in the bag?
ALBANESE: What it is, Deb, is we’re super confident that we have the right policies to take the nation forward. We have been outlining a policy program, not just during this campaign, but over many years. And we have a vision for the nation’s future. It’s one of fairness. It’s one that closes tax loopholes and then uses those funds to boost education, health, and infrastructure.
KNIGHT: But there’s a lot outside of your control when it comes to promising these big surpluses that you really can’t rely on – outside factors impacting the economy. Can you really rely on these figures?
ALBANESE: Well, what you can absolutely rely upon is the fact that we have put forward, in a transparent way, how we will pay for our commitments and what our commitments are. And the fact is that the Coalition still are trying to write some policies for their campaign launch on Sunday. I mean, they have not put forward any agenda for a third term. It’ll be just more chaos and more cuts. We know that they wanted $80 billion of tax cuts for big business. We know that there’s a $77 billion black hole for them …
BIRMINGHAM: Come on Albo.
ALBANESE: That they’re going to have to make in cuts in the future in order to pay for their personal income tax cuts for those really high income earners above $200,000.
BIRMINGHAM: Deb, we put forward a Budget less than two months ago: a Budget that had 700 different measures in it, greater support in mental health, in suicide prevention, greater support for apprenticeship creation. All of it, of course, underpinned by the fact that we’ve got clear evidence now that the Budget is coming back into surplus. And today, many …
KNIGHT: Okay well, your big play today though it seems will be on power – vowing to cut prices by 25 per cent by 2021. You’ve had six years in Government, Simon, to tackle this. It’s hitting household budgets hard today. Why would voters be swayed by a price cut target that’s years away?
BIRMINGHAM: Because this is an area, just like other areas of economic management, where it’s chalk and cheese between the Coalition and Labor Party. The type of policies that we’re applying, in terms of driving the energy market, are going to create a 25 per cent reduction in wholesale prices. …
ALBANESE: You don’t have an energy policy.
BIRMINGHAM: Whereas, what Labor’s proposing with radical changes in terms of the way in which energy policy will be driven in this country, is projected to drive a 58 per cent increase in wholesale energy prices. The vast difference is …
KNIGHT: Okay, look …
ALBANESE: Simon used to support the NEG.
BIRMINGHAM: Albo, I just wanted to finish saying in terms of …
ALBANESE: You used to support the NEG.
BIRMINGHAM: In terms of surpluses, many Australians today are going to hear the Labor Party claiming that Labor will deliver bigger surpluses, and they’ll see pigs flying through the sky Deb. I mean 1989 was the last time the Labor Party delivered a surplus.
ALBANESE: Simon, you don’t have an energy policy. You have nothing.
KNIGHT: I wanted to talk about the big launch on Sunday. Now Labor made a big thing about the strength of its female MPs at its party launch last weekend. And Simon, not only will high profile women like Julie Bishop be no shows at the Liberals’ launch on Sunday, you’re also ruining Mother’s Day celebrations for people. What are you doing?
BIRMINGHAM: Well this happens to be the last Sunday before Voting Day, and it’s not unusual. In fact, it’s pretty common that of the two last Sundays, one party launches on one, and the other launches on the other. So, this is the last Sunday. Labor did last weekend …
KNIGHT: So it’s just a matter of timing. But what about the fact that you won’t have any of the former leaders along? Paul Keating, Julia Gillard, and obviously Kevin Rudd were there for Labor. But we won’t see anyone at the Liberals?
BIRMINGHAM: Well indeed, the former leaders were at the Labor campaign launch. And I saw Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, and the only thing that reminded people of was that neither of them could trust Bill Shorten. We saw Paul Keating, and he created a distraction by attacking the heads of the nation’s intelligence services. Our campaign launch, rather than being about characters of the past, is going to be about policies for the future, and making sure the contrasts …
ALBANESE: You can’t even invite caucus members.
BIRMINGHAM: The contrasts of the policies are strong: more jobs under us, fewer jobs under Labor. Lower taxes under us, much higher taxes under Labor. Lower electricity prices under us, much higher electricity prices under Labor.
ALBANESE: What nonsense. The fact is you can’t invite even people like Julie Bishop. She’s still a member of your caucus. You can’t invite her to the campaign launch, because she’d remind people that you actually removed, not one, but two sitting Prime Ministers over two terms. You’ve had three Prime Ministers …
BIRMINGHAM: What were Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard a reminder of?
ALBANESE: Three Deputy Prime Ministers – you completely, you can’t even put yourselves in the same room. I mean, you have such chaos and hostility …
KNIGHT: Okay. You know where you will see Julie Bishop? Right here on our election coverage on May 18 as well. So tune into that.
BIRMINGHAM: That’s fantastic news.
ALBANESE: I’ll be here too Deb.
KNIGHT: As well, you bet. Albo will be flying the flag …
ALBANESE: Why don’t you give Birmo a berth?
KNIGHT: Well, we might take you up on that. He might be busy.
BIRMINGHAM: You and I have had a talk about that actually Albo.
KNIGHT: All right. Okay. You’re talking at least. That’s a good sign. Thank you.
ALBANESE: We talk all the time. You see, he’s got more friends on our side than he has on his own, you see.
KNIGHT: Okay, got to go fellas. Thank you so much.
ALBANESE: That’s the problem with the Coalition – them talking to each other. That’s the problem.
KNIGHT: We’ll talk again soon. Georgie.
BIRMINGHAM: Thank you. Hey, here’s a handshake for you Albo too, okay?
GEORGIE GARDNER: Deb.
KNIGHT: Oh yes, good handshake.
ALBANESE: Thumbs up.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.