KARL STEFANOVIC: Welcome back to the show. With the crucial Super Saturday by-elections less than 24 hours away. Labor is facing the wrenching prospect of losing every seat it contests against the Liberals in tomorrow’s multi by-election. We’re joined now by Labor’s Anthony Albanese and in Adelaide, Christopher Pyne. Gentlemen, good morning to you.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning, Karl.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
STEFANOVIC: Christopher, I’m going to start with you because you may only get one question this morning. How long has Bill Shorten got?
PYNE: Look it’s amazing Karl that we’re even talking about winning any by-elections. The Government hasn’t won a by-election from the Opposition since 1920. The fact that we could be looking at winning Longman or Braddon, and that Labor’s not getting four or five per cent swings’ speaks volumes to the fact that Bill Shorten isn’t trusted by the Australian public and that the public have worked out they can’t afford Labor. They don’t want Bill Shorten’s $270 billion of new taxes. They don’t want to be run by the CFMEU and they just don’t trust Bill Shorten as Prime Minister of Australia.
STEAFANOVIC: Anthony you’ve been very honest in the past week. Are you too gutless to push for the Labor leadership?
ALBANESE: What I’m doing is trying to win these by-elections. I was in Longman yesterday. I was in Perth and Fremantle earlier on in the week where the Libs aren’t even contesting a seat like Perth where they got 42 per cent of the primary vote at the last election.
STEFANOVIC: Bill Shorten is not working, why don’t you push for the leadership?
ALBANESE: What I’m doing is working as part of Bill Shorten’s team. And we are a team. We’re working to make sure we get a successful result tomorrow. We’ve got great candidates in Susan Lamb and Justine Keay in two key seats.
STEFANOVIC: What you want, is someone else to do the dirty work for you and lance that boil.
ALBANESE: What I want is for Labor to be in government and to play a role in that team. I’m a team player.
STEFANOVIC: It’s not going to be Bill Shorten that does that.
ALBANESE: Well, we’ll see, Karl. What we know is that tomorrow’s by-elections are obviously critical. Bill Shorten leads a Labor team. I want to be a Minister in Bill Shorten’s Government after the next election.
STEFANOVIC: Is it going to be hard for you to skewer Bill Shorten?
ALBANESE: What I’m concerned about is making sure that tomorrow and beyond people understand that they do face a very real choice. A choice between the big banks and the big end of town and a choice between a Labor Party that’s committed to education, health, infrastructure and the right investment.
STEFANOVIC: The issue here is you know you’re the most popular Labor candidate, you know you’re the most likely to lead your party to success at the next election. But you don’t want blood on your hands. You can’t have it both ways.
ALBANESE: What I want is to be part of the Labor team. And I’ve done that. For five years I’ve been sitting in this chair having questions about the leadership and I’ve been consistent. What I’ve consistently said is that what you need to do in life is to do the job that you’ve been given to the best of your capacity and that’s what I’m doing.
STEFANOVIC: I think maybe the Australian public don’t want to go through all this. Maybe they want you to take over from Bill Shorten now. You have to read that, you have to make a decision, you have to show leadership as well, don’t you?
ALBANESE: Well what I’m showing is that I’m part of the Labor team and I think people want to see a team.
STEFANOVIC: They want to see leadership.
ALBANESE: They want to see a team. Our team is led by Bill Shorten. That was a decision that was made in 2013.
STEFANOVIC: The public doesn’t want to see soft Anthony Albanese. They want to see Anthony Albanese stand up and say, “I want to be Prime Minister, I want to lead this party”, and at the moment you haven’t done that.
ALBANESE: I think what they want is to see an alternative government that is united and that’s determined to put forward the sort of policy propositions that we’ve put forward. We haven’t been a small target in Opposition we’ve been prepared to be big and bold and we’ll continue to be so.
STEFANOVIC: So if the party comes to you and says righto it’s time for Bill to go, you’ll say no it’s not time for Bill to go?
ALBANESE: Well that’s not happening, Karl. What’s happening …
STEFANOVIC: But if they did?
ALBANESE: The party isn’t focused on internals …
STEFANOVIC: But when they do, because they will?
ALBANESE: The party isn’t focused on internals. What the party is focused on is fighting Christopher and his mob, because we think they’re a rotten Government. We think that they’ve run out of steam. We think that Malcolm Turnbull isn’t who the Australian public thought he would be. They thought they were getting someone who would stand up on issues like climate change. He said he wouldn’t lead a party that wasn’t as committed to action on climate change as he is. Well now we just see a mess when it comes to energy policy and that has real implications.
STEFANOVIC: Now you’re sounding like the Leader of the Party.
ALBANESE: What I’m sounding like is an advocate for the Labor cause. I continue to do that and I will do it to the best of my capacity.
STEFANOVIC: Will you be Leader at the next election?
ALBANESE: What I will be is part of the Labor team.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, but that’s not ruling it out.
ALBANESE: I’ll be part of the Labor team. I’ll be the Shadow Infrastructure Minister. The one word that I want to change in my title is getting rid of that rotten word shadow.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Christopher, final word?
PYNE: Yesterday Anthony threw Bill under the bus saying that he knew about the Emma Husar story weeks ago …
STEFANOVIC: How did he not know that?
PYNE: When Bill Shorten says he only heard about it last Wednesday. Everywhere – if Anthony didn’t want people to be speculating about him being the Leader he would stay home in Grayndler. He’s all over the country.
ALBANESE: You wish I did.
PYNE: He is campaigning all over the country. Even in seats where the Liberal Party isn’t running, because he’s currying favour with the caucus. And yesterday he threw Bill under the bus. On the one hand he said he didn’t want to be Leader. On the other hand he completely disagreed with Bill Shorten in terms of when people knew about the Emma Husar issue and he can’t have it both ways.
ALBANESE: I didn’t at all. What I did was give an honest answer to a question when I was asked.
STEFANOVIC: But why didn’t Bill know about it if you did?
ALBANESE: I have no idea.
STEFANOVIC: Have you spoken to Bill lately?
ALBANESE: I speak to Bill all the time.
STEFANOVIC: When was the last time you spoke to him?
ALBANESE: I spoke to him, I think, maybe earlier this week.
ALBANESE: We speak all the time.
STEFANOVIC: I understand.
PYNE: Which year was it, 2017?
ALBANESE: I speak to him almost as often as I speak to Christopher.