SUBJECTS: Sports rorts; climate change; bushfire crisis recovery in Adelaide.
HOST: Albo, good morning to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning. Good on you for the campaign, guys. I have been up at Woodside myself and I have been to Cudlee Creek and around the Hills there. It is indeed an amazing place, but it is really doing it tough. And it is good that your show is helping out.
HOST: It is the least that we can do, Albo. Thanks for your comment. What was your assessment when you came over here, because you have been working right through. What did you make of it when you came here to SA?
ALBANESE: Look, I think the big thing that is missing at the moment for South Australia, but also for some areas, but South Australia specifically the Adelaide Hills, there’s going to have to be an industry package to support the wine industry, grape growers there. A one-off grant won’t be a substitute for what I saw on the ground, which was whole areas wiped out, very close to the Woodside township there, I have got to say. And that means that those small businesses, they are largely family run, they won’t have income this year, or next year, or the year after, or the year after that. Now, we are going to have to make sure that the Commonwealth, together with the state government, puts together a package of industry support for that industry. There are other industries as well that need to be looked after. Because they are so important for the South Australian economy, they are important for jobs, they are important for tourism indirectly as well. It is one of the reasons why people go to the Adelaide Hills. I have got to say that one of the things about Adelaide that I don’t think is understood enough is that people who are reading this transcript are on the east coast. Get over there. The Adelaide Hills are so close to the city. You can just drive up there. You can drive up there quicker than I can drive from the inner west of Sydney into the city. And you’re in this pristine little villages with fantastic coffee shops and restaurants and good places to stay, nice pubs. And it is a good thing. But it needs those industries to survive. Because the other danger, of course, is that after something like this you will see some of the small businesses swallowed up by big businesses. And one of the things that gives the wine industry its creativity is that you have so many players in the industry.
HOST: That’s an important point. The Prime Minister this morning in The Australian has called for a national standard for bushfire hazard reduction burns. And he went on to say these sort of tracking measures to cut fuel loads are at least as important as monitoring carbon emissions. Do you agree with him?
ALBANESE: Well, he is really trying to distract from the Government’s inaction when it comes to climate change and emissions. Everyone agrees that hazard reduction is important. But the people that I listen to are people like Shane Fitzsimmons who has done a remarkable job, the head of the Rural Fire Service in New South Wales, when he speaks about hazard reduction, whether it has happened, whether improvements can be made. Where I have been at the Blue Mountains which has an incredible amount of loss, Blue Mountains National Park has been destroyed, something in the order of a million hectares. I went through with the head of the RFS there in Katoomba. And they certainly did hazard reduction in April of last year. Sydney felt it because the smoke went over the Sydney basin over the Easter period. That made an enormous difference in stopping the fires in the lower Blue Mountains area. What you had this time around which you haven’t seen before is fires in all sorts of directions with the extent of the fires that occurred there or the fires in KI was just extraordinary, how much was burning at once. On the north coast of New South Wales, very early on when I visited there months ago now, one of the issues that they said they had difficulties with is they haven’t had the amount of hazard reduction that they usually do because the people doing the hazard reduction were off fighting fires. They began in the middle of the year and they were fighting fires in June, July and August. In a place called Rappville near Casino in the north coast, it had a devastating fire in the first half of the year. And so, that certainly had an impact. And what they need, I wrote to the Prime Minister in November about these issues, is that it needs greater resources, greater people on the ground in terms of being able to carry out this work. And there is no doubt that is one of the things that has to occur. No one disagrees with that.
HOST: Albo, you have been criticised by those on the left side of politics in this country in recent days for a couple of things including backing the coal industry, but also saying that the emissions reduction target of 45 per cent on 2005 levels that was taken from the last election was a mistake, and not replacing it with another target. Is this a change in rhetoric to reconnect the Labor Party with the workers rather than these trendy inner-city interests?
ALBANESE: Well, some of it is just an example of social media gone crazy and misreporting, frankly. What I said was that in 2019, we took all the policies that we had in 2016. I wasn’t speaking specifically about the emissions targets. It was a mistake to say, ‘Well, we’ll just build on and keep going’. And so, for example, the 2030 target was established in 2015. Now, the next election is 2022. So, by definition you can’t have the same because it’s not 2015. I said in that interview that you don’t have a Tardis. And so, everyone has jumped on. I didn’t say that it was too high or too low anything else. I said that will need to be examined down the track based upon what the starting point is. And common sense tells you that if you have a target with an end date and a beginning date as well. And the beginning date of any possibility of us putting our plan into action is 2022. Because that’s when the election is. So, I think there was a bit of a view, and something that I have called out, that somehow you should just keep going like we didn’t lose 2016 or 2019, we just keep going. We just say we will do exactly the same thing. And if you do exactly the same thing, guess what? You should expect the same result.
HOST: The Federal Government have set their targets somewhere between 26-28 per cent. Will whatever you ultimately announced be more ambitious than what the Federal Government have outlined?
ALBANESE: Well, I said it should be as ambitious as possible.
HOST: Not necessarily more ambitious?
ALBANESE: Well, it should be as ambitious as possible. But at the moment the Government isn’t going to get to its target. And they put their hand up and admitted that when I went to the Madrid conference and argued for an accounting trick to take into account what Labor did when we were in Government. I think Labor will always be more ambitious than the Coalition. The history tells us that. That the Coalition have been very complacent. They have sat back whether it is about the economy, or about emissions, or about the upcoming bushfire crisis which people could see was coming. They are defined by their complacency. And I think that we do need strong action on climate change. But we need one, not based upon emotion, based upon science. We need for example, the idea of what I’ve said about coal exports is that they’re not going to end immediately. That is just a fact.
HOST: Just before we let you go, Albo. Fairfax newspapers are reporting this morning that Federal Cabinet Minister Bridget McKenzie approved the $36,000 taxpayer funded grant for a shooting club in regional Victoria without publicly declaring that she was actually a member of the club. Do you think that the Prime Minister is going to continue to stand by her?
ALBANESE: She’s got to go. This is just red hot. This is just a rort. It fails the pub test. It fails every test. That you had $100 million program in which you had Sports Australia with experts examining it. You had this under the act. That was the basis of the program. And he had a minister intervene for most of the grants that actually went out were political decisions made by the minister. And they’ve had to refer the legality of it, because it’s not clear what the legal basis is. And that’s what the National Audit Office has said. This is a damning report. And this minister has to go like Angus Taylor has to go for misleading Parliament. This Government at the moment, if Scott Morrison doesn’t take action here, this goes to fundamental integrity and faith in politics, and a whole lot of grants that were given to some clubs and I’m sure that many of them are worthwhile, but the problem is that in order to get those grants, clubs that should have received the money, that in good faith went through processes, spent hundreds of hours doing applications, getting close, they missed out. And they missed out because of electoral boundaries and because this minister, this club of course was in the seat of Indi where she went and said, ‘I’m establishing an office here’. They were trying to knock off the sitting Member. And it of course began, people’s attention was drawn to this when Georgina Downer presented this oversized cheque with her name on it. She wasn’t even a Member of Parliament, of course, when she was running against the independent as if it was her money. It is not her money, it is taxpayers’ money. Money paid into Treasury by your good listeners working hard each and every day.
HOST: Anthony Albanese back for 2020 with One Tribe. We’ll catch up again soon. Thanks for joining us.
ALBANESE: Thanks, guys.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.