Anthony Albanese has spoken to the media, following the announcement of his candidacy for the Labor leadership.
Albanese is the current deputy leader of the party and Deputy Prime Minister in the defeated Labor government. He held the Infrastructure and Transport portfolio throughout the life of the Rudd and Gillard governments.
A rank and file ballot of ALP members will now be held to choose between Albanese and Bill Shorten. The rank and file vote will be weighted as 50% of the total with a Caucus vote to count for the other 50%.
Albanese held a press conference after the Caucus meeting today. He said he believed he was the best person to lead the party with the best policy credentials in the party, as well as the ability to argue Labor’s case in public and in parliament. “I think I’m up to a hard job,” Albanese said.
Albanese praised Bill Shorten as a very good candidate for the party leadership. He said he had informed Shorten of his candidacy before making his announcement to Caucus.
The rank and file leadership ballot was the first step towards rebuilding the Labor Party, Albanese said. “Now is the time to join us,” he said.
“I have given my life to the service of the Labor Party,” Albanese said.
Albanese has been the member for Grayndler since 1996.
- Listen to Albanese’s press conference (34m)
- Watch Albanese’s statement (10m)
Transcript of Anthony Albanese’s press conference.
JOURNALIST: Do you plan to take part in debates with Mr Shorten and would there be a debate in every state so the Labor Party members can all have the chance to see you up close?
ALBANESE: Those details will be worked out. I only indicated to Bill this morning that I would be a candidate for sure in the ballot.
I thought it was important – call me old-fashioned – that you announce things to the Caucus. I know it is frustrating to members of the media.
JOURNALIST: But will there be a debate?
ALBANESE: I assume there will be. Certainly I have discussed with Bill the debates that will occur.
Obviously we have a situation whereby nominations have been formally called. They will close next Friday. My understanding is that then the ballot papers will go out the following week and they will be open for two weeks.
JOURNALIST: You didn’t say in your spiel what you would do as Leader of the Opposition in defending Labor’s legacy as regard the carbon price or other key bits of legislation, for example, the mining tax as well that Mr Abbott intends to repeal?
ALBANESE: I believe Labor has a mandate to defend our legacy. My position is very clear: I believe in action on climate change. I helped write the policy that saw us have and support an emissions trading scheme.
I said on Meet the Press, Paul – just to give you a free plug – last Sunday, that I could not look my son in the eye and say sorry for reasons of whatever we gave up the argument.
Climate change is real. The scientists tell us it is real. We need a market-based mechanism to deliver that change. That’s my position. That’s always been my position.
Labor has to be prepared to argue out our case. Argue it out consistently. Consistently to our supporters, but also to those who are not our supporters. To embrace that change, to be prepared to go on and debate, as I have on three occasions, Andrew Bolt about climate change. Let’s have the debate.
JOURNALIST: So you won’t respect Mr Abbott’s mandate?
ALBANESE: Which one is that, Paul? Which one is that? Mr Abbott had a mandate in 2007 of supporting a CPRS. He went to an election with the Shergold report. All parties were elected in 2007, when we came to government, on the basis of putting a price on carbon.
JOURNALIST: Your opponent in the leadership ballot has a reputation for pragmatism. Are you concerned that he may not defend Labor’s mandate on carbon pricing? Second question, what do you say to people who regard you as too aggressive and too progressive to be Labor’s leader at this time?
ALBANESE: Well, surely you don’t think that Katharine, because you know it’s not true.
Bill has made his position very clear. His position, I think, is exactly the same as mine on the carbon price question.
With regard to the Parliament, can I say this: talk to Tony Windsor, talk to Rob Oakeshott, talk to Bob Katter, talk to a range of people who I was prepared to sit down and discuss issues with in order to secure passage of legislation. It didn’t just happen. There were others as well, of course, particularly Julia Gillard and Joel Fitzgibbon.
But I think I have a proven track record of being able to negotiate and gain consensus, not just within my party, but also much broader.
I come here as someone with 17 years in a public office. I think one of the things that I bring to the leadership is that I have had time in Opposition. I know what it is like and what has to be done. I was the Manager of Opposition Business in the period that led to our victory in 2007. That experience I think does count.
That experience I think will assist if I’m given the honour of being the Leader of the Labor Party.
JOURNALIST: Given you and Mr Shorten are pretty much lock step on policy, there is little policy differentiation, do you see that as your main advantage over him – just experience and longevity in Parliament?
ALBANESE: People will make their own decisions but I believe I’m the best candidate, otherwise I wouldn’t have run.
There is no-one in this press gallery who can say I’ve ever said to you I think I should be the Leader of the Labor Party. The first people to hear that were the people in the caucus, and I’ve been here for 17 years.
My view has been I will make a contribution to the team. That’s what I’ve done. I now believe that the best contribution I can make is leader. And in part of that is the preparation that I’ve had.
Whether it be the work that I’ve done inside the Labor Party, but particularly the work that I’ve done inside the Parliament, listening to and having discussions with people like Kim Beazley and Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard and working across the party, working in Parliament.
I think I have a sense of what is required. What is required as well is we need to move away from having just tactics. There’s been too much tactics. What we actually need is vision, and moving beyond the 24-hour media cycle.
We need to be focussed over the next three years, not on what is on the nightly news not on getting a grab, but on positioning ourselves so that we have a very clear, articulated and understood vision of our alternative for the nation around the economy, around opportunity, around sustainability and around a fair go. Around those four themes that I outlined.
JOURNALIST: Who would you like to be your deputy? And you’ve spoken about what a great candidate Mr Shorten would be, he has spoken about what a great candidate you would be, you’ve said what you would bring. But let’s compare the two of you now because that’s what this is about. What would you bring that he doesn’t bring? Why go through this process if you’re only doing it because it’s going out to the wider membership?
ALBANESE: One of the things you will see from me during the campaign is advocacy of why I’m the best candidate.
What you won’t see from me at any stage is any criticism or any critique of Bill Shorten’s candidature.
I will put forward in a positive way – this is a real opportunity for us to draw a real line in the sand. It’s a pretty dramatic one. This is a big step of reform.
This is good for Labor, but it’s good for the nation. People will be engaged in this process. Political parties need to reflect the changes in society.
When I first joined the Labor Party, your job was to go along to a dingy hall once a month and you sat there and you got the report from the local council or if the MP was there and you passed a motion on paper and it went off in an envelope. A few months later it came back from the electorate council. That’s gone.
The Labor Party must modernise. All political parties do. I will make a prediction for you; this is the first time there’s been a broad vote in terms of leadership, it won’t be the last and it won’t be confined to the Australian Labor Party. Just as in Britain.
JOURNALIST: There is a chance that there will be quite a large disparity between the Caucus vote and the vote in the rank and file.
ALBANESE: Well you all think you know a lot about the Labor Party’s internals! We’ll see.
JOURNALIST: There’s a chance. How do you answer that and how will you deal with it? Secondly, it also has the impact of diluting the effect of the influence of factional warlords. What do you say to those people?
ALBANESE: That’s the idea. That’s the idea.
We are opening up the party unashamedly to broader participation. That’s a good thing. The Labor Party needs to move beyond narrow factions, it needs to open up, just as society has opened up. People are demanding greater participation.
The advent of social media, the advent of the changes in society mean that organisations whether they be political parties or the local bowling club that does things the way they did it in the 1960s means you wither. That is what is
occurring to the bowling clubs that haven’t changed. So we need to change as well.
It’s not unique to political parties. The whole of society has changed. Individuals demand more say.
JOURNALIST: In your opening remarks you talked about a whole bunch of policies but on that list, better schools, health and so forth I couldn’t think of Bill Shorten having any different position to you. So will this ballot simply be a choice between two individuals or is there any scope for it to canvas different approaches to particular policies. And would you nominate any policies that you would emphasise under your leadership in particular?
ALBANESE: One of the things that I would emphasise is an approach towards infrastructure, for example. It’s been a passion and driven my six years as a minister.
I think in terms of infrastructure development, and I will outline this further to the party in terms of the campaign, I think there is a scope for us to draw a real distinction in terms of economic policy between policies like the paid parental leave scheme that puts a $5 billion hit on the budget without a return. So, in my view, policies like that hurt the budget and the fiscal position.
I believe that there is a need to draw a distinction between that and capital investment that provides a return to the Government. Whether it be through the National Broadband Network or whether it be the need for nation-building infrastructure.
I think there has been, quite frankly, a pretty backward debate because of Mr Abbott’s obsession with debt and deficit and the rhetoric that is there.
So it hasn’t been possible to have a debate that is rational, such as people like Warwick McKibbin and others who are certainly not on the progressive side of politics, have advocated.
I think we need a debate about nation-building infrastructure and how we get it done.
Mr Abbott says that he wants to be the infrastructure Prime Minister, except he has got less money in the roads budget, he’s cutting money on the Bruce Highway, cutting money on the Pacific Highway, ripping $2.5 billion out of roads in the Regional Infrastructure Fund, he has no money at all for urban congestion, not a cent, and I think that’s a big distinction between us and them. And he is going to wreck the National Broadband Network.
Log on to the NBN website today. They’ve blocked it. It just has a screen that says we’ll get back to you after we’ve finished up working out how we stop the advance of modernisation through the National Broadband Network.
I think all of those issues are important. That’s an emphasis. No doubt, different people bring different emphasis. Julia Gillard: education. Kevin Rudd: foreign affairs. I would bring an emphasis on infrastructure and on nation building.
JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to anyone about being your deputy, has anyone approached you – the names Tanya Plibersek and Mark Butler have been thrown up?
ALBANESE: No, that’s a matter for the Caucus. And I do not intend trying to play a tactical manoeuvre by anointing anyone. That’s a matter for the Caucus.
The caucus, quite rightly, would do its task. I’m the current deputy by the way. So in terms of the position, I would work with whoever the Caucus wanted to put forward.
I have indicated today that I would be prepared to serve as part of Bill Shorten’s team if he is successful. He has indicated to me, we did this in private, but also publicly in the caucus.
Can I say this too, whoever it was who was tweeting out of Caucus today, like it has got to stop. It’s just got to stop.
JOURNALIST: Wouldn’t they be getting information from someone in Caucus though?
ALBANESE: It’s not helpful for people to be sitting in a Caucus room tweeting to members of the press gallery. No, it’s not.
JOURNALIST: You’ve said a bit about debates before. Can you give us a sense of how public this contest will be between you and Bill Shorten over the next few weeks? Will the debates for example be conducted in public, or will there be the possibility of them being televised? Do you propose to have a similar process to the American one?
ALBANESE: Well the American one is a bit different because the American one, it’s not members of a political party. So by definition it is much broader.
What I’ve said to Bill, and we have agreed, is that we will sort these things through so that we are both in agreement for all of the processes. And that’s important. So I’m not going to pre-empt any of those processes. I will have discussions with Bill.
Each of us have a couple of assistants who can have discussions about some of the minutiae. The national executive will meet next week to set in place those processes as well.
But I’m sure that this can be a very constructive process. Both of us are absolutely committed to making sure that this is a positive, a positive campaign between us.
I respect Bill. I believe he respects me as well. That is appropriate.
JOURNALIST: The campaign costs of jetting around the country would be borne by yourself?
ALBANESE: We can sort all that out. All of that will be sorted out on Monday. We’ve only had – and I don’t make any apologies for it – we’ve had a couple of hours, maybe a bit more, since I announced that I would be a candidate.
JOURNALIST: Not paid for by taxpayers though?
ALBANESE: No, no. The party will sort out the issues.
JOURNALIST: You said at the start of the press conference everyone join up and get involved. But is it –
ALBANESE: No, well they won’t get a vote, but I’m saying that as a signal. So to be very clear –
JOURNALIST: What is the eligibility criteria?
ALBANESE: That’s all to be sorted out, there are processes. It is there in the rules.
My view is that people will get to participant. Because it is so big, the great beauty of if you’ve got 20 people in a room, sometimes you can work out what will happen. When you have 40,000 people, it’s far more difficult to work out what will happen.
JOURNALIST: It has got to be existing members?
ALBANESE: Existing members who have been members for a certain period of time will receive a ballot paper through a postal ballot. We’ve conducted this before. We’ve conducted it through presidential elections and, guess what, we got pretty good outcomes.
We had good people elected and in terms of when we had ballots we had Carmen Lawrence and John Faulkner I think were the two people who won the two ballots that were held. In terms of those processes, people got to participate and it was a very positive thing.
JOURNALIST: You said earlier on that you hadn’t previously had leadership ambitions and you talked it through this week. Is this your one shot in the locker to go for the leadership? If you get it, you get it, if you don’t get it you won’t seek it again?
ALBANESE: I didn’t think this opportunity would come around. I was serious when people asked me about it at various press conferences in the last couple of weeks that I was focussed every single minute of every day up until Saturday 6 o’clock on maximising the Labor vote. It was pretty obvious that it was always going to be very hard for us.
But the fact is we are in a position to win. We are in a position whereby we will have around about where Kevin Rudd – if we win the same number of seats that Kevin Rudd won in 2007 or Kim Beazley in 1998, more significantly perhaps, after just two years of John Howard – who I think is the most formidable conservative politician of his generation. We almost took him out after one term.
That shows what a determined and united Opposition can do.
The one thing I think we have to do better than we did between 1996 and 1998 is to defend our legacy and not be shy about it.
The Hawke and Keating governments were good governments. So were the Rudd and Gillard governments. History treats the Hawke and Keating governments very well, they will also treat our period in office very well.
Not perfectly; we’ve obviously made mistakes and there are big messages there, we do need to do better, but nonetheless, getting the big calls right, particularly seeing Australia through the global financial crisis.
JOURNALIST: Whoever wins this contest, will they be guaranteed the leadership until the next election and how can you be sure there won’t be any further leadership tension?
ALBANESE: Have a look at the rules. Have a look at rules. There is a lot of talk about mandates. This is a big mandate. I wonder what would have happened in the Liberal Party in terms of their leadership vote that they had that was won by one vote by Tony Abbott, with someone being absent.
So in terms of processes, this is an inclusive process. It’s a really positive thing. I think it is really exciting that people are going to get this say.
JOURNALIST: If you won’t nominate an individual for deputy, what is your view on whether or not leader and deputy leader should maintain the usual factional balance; that is that the deputy should come from the right?
ALBANESE: We’ll sort all that out. We’re in a position of leader and what I won’t do is anoint a deputy leader.
I stood for deputy leader in a ballot down the corridor and I won that ballot. I won that ballot with cross-factional support and I won that ballot with the support of Gillard, Rudd, Swan, Emerson, Ludwig, Combet, Plibersek, Macklin; a host of colleagues across the spectrum all supported me in that ballot.
People will make their own decision about not just the deputy leader but also the full front bench team will be selected by the caucus. That’s a good thing.
What is important, I think, and has been underestimated a bit about the result of Saturday, as disappointing as it was to lose so many valued colleagues, key cabinet members were all returned. Mike Kelly is looking doubtful of course, and he would have been in the cabinet after the election if he had.
But the makings of the next Labor Government, an experienced team, are there.
If we are united, if we advocate in a coherent and strategic way, if we present the alternatives that are there, I think Tony Abbott is – because of the nature of the way that the Opposition conducted itself.
Remember we had a budget emergency allegedly. Now I’m still the deputy Prime Minister because the alternative Government that won the election six days ago hasn’t even been sworn in.
The emergencies have all gone. In terms of their policies, there’s very little detail. And when people talk about a mandate, if someone can explain to me the mandate they have on education policy, other than we will do what you were doing over the first four years and then we don’t know what we will do and take away any obligation of state governments to kick in, I would like to know. Maybe you know it – I don’t think the Australian people do.
They need to be held to account for that lack of detail they put up. Where they did put up detail, such as on the National Broadband Network with their alternative fraudband plan, I think it was found sorely wanting.