Subjects: Labor Leadership, Labor policy outlook, Coalition tax relief.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Now, as Scott Morrison settles into a new term as Prime Minister, Labor begins the rebuild of its damaged party. And this morning, they have an unofficial new leader. Anthony Albanese is the last person standing for the top job after Queensland MP Jim Chalmers pulled out of the leadership race. Albo joins us in the studio now, along with the Coalition’s Simon Birmingham in Adelaide. Good morning to you both.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning.
KNIGHT: Now look – we’re going to have to start calling you Mr Albanese, Albo hey?
ALBANESE: No, I’ll always just be Albo.
KNIGHTS: Always just be Albo?
ALBANESE: But I’m not getting ahead of myself. Nominations close on Monday. It’s important to respect the process.
KNIGHT: It’s yours though. There’s not going to be any surprises?
ALBANESE: Well, there’s been a few surprises this week. So – a few people have tested their level of support. I’m very confident but not complacent about the level of support that I’ve received from Caucus members and from party members and affiliates. So I’ve been quite humbled by the level of support which is there.
KNIGHT: Who’s likely to be your Deputy, you think? Because obviously Labor champions itself as gender diversity. Is Clare O’Neil likely to be the Deputy? She’s from the right. She’s from Victoria.
ALBANESE: Well, we’ll wait and see. That’s a matter for the Caucus. Of course, the Leadership of the Party is a matter for the Caucus and the entire membership. We had those democratic reforms that have been so important in attracting people to the party. And many people, indeed, have joined the Labor Party this week.
KNIGHT: But who would you like as Deputy?
ALBANESE: I’m going to respect the Caucus process.
KNIGHT: Look at you. You’re all – you’re all leadership material and diplomatic now.
ALBANESE: Well, Penny Wong will be the Leader of the Labor Party in the Senate, and I really look forward to working with Penny. The thing about our team is that it has so much talent and capacity, and I want to harness all of that talent and capacity in order to hold the Government to account, which I acknowledge and congratulate them on their victory last Saturday. But we need to do that. They haven’t got a blank cheque. They need to be held to account by a strong Opposition. And we also need to be resetting our policy framework over the next three years so that next Saturday night, or the Saturday night in 2022 is a hell of a lot better than last Saturday night was.
KNIGHT: Well you’ve got – you’ve got three years. Not next Saturday night. You’ve got to wait.
ALBANESE: Indeed. No, that’s right. I wish it was next week, but it’s not. But it was a tough night here on the panel at Channel Nine on Saturday night. That’s the truth of the matter.
KNIGHT: Now Simon, it looks like it is going to be ScoMo versus Albo. Both appeal to everyday Aussies. Both like a beer. Both support their NRL. Is Albo going to be a stronger opponent for you than Bill Shorten was?
BIRMINGHAM: Well Deb, I’ll wave the AFL flag when required. But I wish Albo well. It’s important for Australia, for our democracy, that all of our leaders do well. And so, I do wish Albo all the best if it is to be him. I mean, we’ve seen that Bill Shorten this week has, I think, quietly been ringing just about everybody in the country, almost everyone but me, asking if they’ll run against Albo. But it looks like it will be Albo, and so we wish him well. He of course has, as the Labor Party do, some lessons to learn from the election last weekend, and really to make sure that they get back in touch with aspirational hard working Australians. They were the people who we feel – the silent hardworking Australians, as Scott Morrison said on election night – they put us back in. They want to see us deliver the tax relief that we’ve promised to them. They want to see us, of course, get on and deliver, as well, our plans for greater support in mental health, support for families, extra home care places for older Australians – all of those things that we promised in the election. And I hope that Albo will not lead an obstructionist Opposition, but instead will let us put those plans in place while he deals with Labor’s plans for the next election in three years’ time.
KNIGHT: And Albo, is that what you need to do? Do you need to bring the party back to the centre? Do you need to drop policies like the franking credits, like the changes to negative gearing? Do you need to have a complete re-shift here?
ALBANESE: Well, I’ll make this point about aspiration. My whole life is an example of how in this country of opportunity, you can go from very humble beginnings: the son of a single mum growing up in council housing in Camperdown to be the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. People do aspire for a better life and Government has a role in encouraging and facilitating that. But people aspire to more than things for themselves. They want a better life for their family, for their community, and indeed, for the country. And it’s not just a matter of individualism, and I very much will be in that frame. That’s what I’ve tried to do my entire political life. And of course, we need to reset policies after a defeat. We’ll do that. We’ll go through it in a constructive and methodical way.
KNIGHT: So will franking credits stay?
ALBANESE: Well, we’ll go through it. One of the things that I won’t do, if I’m elected as Opposition Leader, is just make policy determinations on the run, even here on the Today Show.
KNIGHT: Oh, come on.
ALBANESE: I’ll consult with colleagues. I’ll appear here regularly – always available to the media. But we’ll work these things through. Clearly we didn’t do well enough. If we do the same, we’ll get the same result. I want a better result.
KNIGHT: But in terms of the aspirational side of things, obviously so many people within that middle, you know, the quiet Australians, as the Prime Minister referred to, who were aspirational. We want to encourage that.
ALBANESE: Of course we do. And you know, as I said, my own life, my own experience. I mean, my mum was born, and died in the same house she lived for 65 years in public housing. She, day after day, from the time I was a kid I can remember what she said was: ‘Buy your own home’. And one of the things we need to address in this country is housing affordability. Now the Government doesn’t have a plan for that. The one thing that they came out with during the election campaign, we immediately backed in. And that’s my view. If the Government has good ideas, I will back them in. And I have that record. I mean, Western Sydney Airport is only occurring, not because the Government made a decision, but because the Government and the Opposition made a decision. That’s what made it happen and enabled it to go forward. And I’ll be constructive.
BIRMINGHAM: So Albo, will you take off the table then, at least, the tax hit on first home super saver accounts? You know, that was going to be nearly $400 million in extra tax on …
ALBANESE: We will look at our policies. I’ve said that. We’ll look at them in a methodical and clear and concise way. It’s a long time before 2022.
KNIGHT: You’ve got three long years.
BIRMINGHAM: Well then, let’s deal with the short term.
ALBANESE: We’ll have our policies out there very clearly.
BIRMINGHAM: Will you at least support – will you at least support the Government’s legislation for tax relief for Australians?
ALBANESE: He’s taking over the show.
KNIGHT: Well, it’s a question I want to ask.
ALBANESE: Let me tell you, we will support any proposal for this term – for this term – that they have a mandate for.
KNIGHT: So you won’t back the second or third tax cuts?
ALBANESE: No, we will consider that. But let me tell you, it is a triumph of hope, over experience and reality that the Government knows – the Government knows what the economic circumstances are in 2025 or 2023, in the middle of the next decade. Ask Ross Greenwood what’s going on in the economy, and whether he knows, for sure, what the economy will look like in three years’ time.
KNIGHT: But isn’t this just playing to the whole class warfare thing? I mean, it’s coming back down to that, which you want to move on from.
ALBANESE: Not at all. Not at all. It’s a matter of – we’ll give consideration to it. That’s a matter for our proper processes. But I’ve said very clearly: we could, in my view, the Government should return Parliament, which it said it would do. It said it would pass the tax cuts by July 1 that come in. We’ll back them in. Hand out there to you Simon. Get on board. Get the House of Reps and the Senate back. Only needs to happen for a couple of hours. We’ll do a deal. I can do that. One speaker a side, and Bob’s your uncle. Tax cuts delivered July 1. That’s what the Government said it would do.
KNIGHT: So Birmo, is that – is that something that you would accept? But obviously, you want to move more than that, don’t you?
BIRMINGHAM: Well Deb, we want to implement everything that we promised to the Australian people, and when it comes to tax relief, we put out a long term plan. Australians often criticise their politicians for not looking long term enough or far enough into the future. Our plan sees Australians have the certainty to know that over time, if they work harder, they’re not going to face bracket creep. That nine million Australians will pay no more than 30 cents in the dollar under our plans. That the top income bracket will actually see that they pay a higher share, over time, of income tax. But for those who want to work an extra shift, get a promotion, they’re going to have a chance to get ahead. Now we’ll bring the Parliament back as quickly as we can to legislate our tax relief. But really, you’ve got to question if the first act – if the first act …
ALBANESE: Well, why won’t you – why won’t you stick to your commitment?
BIRMINGHAM: Well, as soon as the writs are – we have clarity on when the writs will be returned, we’ll get the Parliament back. But Albo, it would be remarkable if your first act as Leader of the Opposition was to oppose a package of tax relief, to oppose a long term package of tax relief, that would show a real tin ear for the Australian people.
ALBANESE: Your first act is a Government is to breach the clear commitment which you made to the people before last Saturday.
KNIGHT: All right. We will see how this unfolds.
BIRMINGHAM: No, come on Albo. We will legislate every cent, and all we need you to do is vote for it.
KNIGHT: All right. Fellas, thank you very much for joining us.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
BIRMINGHAM: Thank you.
KNIGHT: And Albo, we will talk to you next time as Opposition Leader, I’m sure.
ALBANESE: Well, we’ll see what happens.
KNIGHT: All right. Good on you Albo, thank you. He’ll be with us still on Friday mornings. There you go. He said it Georgie.
GEORGIE GARDNER: Yes, that is true. We will see what happens. Well done.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.