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Transcript of interview wth Fran Kelly: RN Breakfast: 29 January 2018: support payments; Australia Day, Indigenous recognition; defence industry; Tasmanian election

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Subjects: Support payments, Australia Day, Indigenous recognition, defence

industry, Tasmanian election.

FRAN KELLY: So another Australia Day has come and gone and the occasion, as we

were discussing on the day itself, marked yet again by a divisive debate over our national

identity. A lot of Australians celebrated the landing of the First Fleet in 1788, while

marches were held in many cities protesting against the date of the national day. Labor

frontbencher Anthony Albanese has now entered the fray. He is proposing twin

referendums to be held on a future Australia Day, one on the Republic, the other on

indigenous Constitution recognition, as a way of creating a national platform of unity.

Anthony Albanese joins me in the Breakfast studio. Anthony Albanese, welcome back


ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks for having me Fran.

KELLY: Before we get to the referendums and your ideas there, this revelation we have

heard this morning that the Abbott Government considered removing all under 30s from

income support in the Budget in 2014, which would have saved $9 billion over four years.

No government would every get away with a plan like that anyway would they, and that’s

the conclusion they came to?

ALBANESE: Well they certainly tried on a range of harsh and punitive measures in the

2014 Budget. It was a Budget based on division and vilifying some of the less well-off in

our society. It’s not surprising that some people pushed back against it and good the fact

that Kevin Andrews pushed against this. The problem that the Government had is clearly

people including the then Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and the then Treasurer, Joe

Hockey, it would appear, thought that it was OK to put young people in a position whereby

they had no income support whatsoever.

KELLY: Well does it appear that? I mean they called for ideas. Isn’t that what happens? I

remember in the 2010 election campaign Julia Gillard was hammered - it was leaked that

she questioned during a Cabinet meeting Labor’s paid parental leave scheme for instance.

She said: Look this is how good policy gets made, you test it.

ALBANESE: Well this was a bit more than that Fran. This was looking at options to

essentially take all income support off young people. They didn’t understand that investing

in young people is not just good for themselves and their contribution they are able to

make; it’s good for the economy. And we did see in that Budget, massive cuts to

education. We have continued to see a failure to support training and skilling that is

required for the jobs of the future and that approach is really consistent with ideology that

was behind the 2014 Budget. What is interesting is why has it come out now? A Cabinet

document being leaked in such a manner can only be designed to cause pain to Tony

Abbott and it is a part of the ongoing warfare that is occurring within the Liberal Party at

the top.

KELLY: Let’s go to your idea, this idea of holding the referendum on indigenous

recognition referendum on January the 26th. Why would that calm the argument? What is

your thinking? That it is all about the vibe?

ALBANESE: No, it’s about moving on from an argument and looking for a solution. The

truth is that Australia Day is about our past, our present, as well as our future. Australian

history didn’t begin in 1788. It goes back at least 65,000 years and it is important that that

be recognised and at Australia Day ceremonies around the nation it is of course. But it is a

day of great sadness for indigenous people and that needs to be acknowledged. But

Australian history isn’t just about that. It’s also about what happened - the reality of the

arrival of Europeans and the millions of people who have migrated and made Australia the

country that it is today.

I am not saying my response is the only response. I am saying it is a response, just like

Noel Pearson had a very constructive idea that he put forward in the papers on the

weekend as well, I think, coming from the same perspective - how do we move on from

what is a divisive debate? But if you look at how that debate has developed, if it becomes

more and more divisive of whether you are either for Australia Day or for Indigenous

recognition, it seems to me that that is a debate that won’t take the country forward.

KELLY: Sure, but your notion of having the referendum on Constitutional recognition on

that date, do you think that would sort of reposition the date in the minds of the nation. Is

that your argument?

ALBANESE: Well it would change the meaning, rather than change the date. It would

mean that …

KELLY: This is the day we recognised indigenous Australians.

ALBANESE: Yes. We were acknowledging that yes, this was the arrival of European

settlement and that led to the migration of all those millions of people who have come to

make Australia the country that it is today. But it is also about recognising the past and

reconciliation. And when I say recognition of course, indigenous people have determined

for themselves what they want to see with the Uluru Statement from the Heart. And

consistent with that of course is a recognition in the Constitution. But more than that,

indigenous people want a voice. They don’t want a third chamber of the Parliament. That

has been used as a way of knocking the idea. It’s not that. But they do want a say and to

be able to have their view heard.

KELLY: And of course the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has already ruled out the

notion of putting that proposal - the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the third chamber

notion - to a referendum. If Labor was elected under your plan would that proposed model

be revived?

ALBANESE: Well the Statement from the Heart is about more than constitutional change.

It’s also about having a voice and that is something I think is worthy of discussion and

debate. We need ...

KELLY: And a referendum.

ALBANESE: Well, you don’t need a referendum necessarily for that. What you need a

referendum for is any element that changes the Constitution. And that is an important

distinction that is there. But our Constitution is inadequate whilst it doesn’t recognise the

first Australians.

KELLY: Bill Shorten’s office won’t be drawn on your plan. Have you discussed your idea

with Bill Shorten or other colleagues?

ALBANESE: I have discussed it with colleagues including in the community. I very

consciously made this address, as I do every Australia Day, to a ceremony in Enmore

Park. I raise ideas with my local community. I don’t want this to be a party political debate.

One of the problems with politics in this country is that Labor or the Coalition come up with

an idea and immediately the other side of politics says no. What we need is a debate with

civil society most importantly of course. You can’t have any resolution of these issues

without indigenous people having their say.

This is an idea that is put forward in the spirit of reconciliation, the spirit of how we engage

in way that addresses Australia Day being about not just the past, but the present, the

country we are today, and also the future.

KELLY: Yes, but it is a big idea. You are the Shadow Minister for Transport and

Infrastructure. Of course, you are allowed to talk with your constituents about big ideas.

But it is weighing in on an issue that is contentious; that Bill Shorten has, well, been trying

to avoid in the sense that he doesn’t think that we should change the date. But I am

wondering whether you discussed this notion with Bill Shorten before you delivered it.

ALBANESE: Well Fran, I got back from overseas on the morning of Australia Day and I

raised it in the spirit of which Australia Day commemorations are held. This wasn’t, very

consciously, a party political position. This is a position put forward by myself. A number of

people have contacted me to express support. Some have expressed a lack of support.

That’s fine. What we need to do is to acknowledge that this year the demonstrations and

the conflict over Australia Day were bigger than last year. Last year the conflict was bigger

than it was the year before. Unless we have a way of actually moving the debate forward

rather than just having the tired old arguments and what that requires is for people not to

have their party political logo on. What that requires is that people who are senior in

politics, in civil society, the indigenous community, to put forward ideas. I note that Noel

Pearson did on Saturday as well and that is the spirit in which I have put forward this idea.

KELLY: Anthony Albanese, we heard on AM this morning the Government is planning to

invest a lot of money into a loan facility for our defence exporters. It wants Australia to

become one of the world’s top ten defence industry weapons exporters. Does Labor

support their drive?

ALBANESE: Well, I am very supportive of any proposal that creates jobs. That’s the

starting point. But I have got to say, why is it that the Government isn’t talking about

advanced manufacturing, isn’t talking about the advances that we can make in terms of

food for example?

KELLY: This is advanced manufacturing.

ALBANESE: Well it is, but just in defence. This is a Government that seems to say that

manufacturing of cars, advanced manufacturing, use of smart technology is all bad;

renewable energy - all of this is bad. What we will do though, when it is defence, it’s OK.

What is say is yes, defence industry is important in terms of manufacturing. There can be

spin-offs as well for other industries by investing in innovation in defence.

But why is it that the Government isn’t investing, for example its attacks on the energy

sector; if we had commercialised over the years the breakthroughs that have been made

in Australia is solar, in wind, in wave technology, then we would be a lot better off today in

terms of jobs and in terms export potential.

KELLY: One just final question and briefly if you would, Tasmania goes to the polls next

month, in March sorry. Poker machines one of the key issues. State Labor has a plan to

remove all pokies from pubs and clubs. Would you like to see that adopted by the ALP on

the mainland?

ALBANESE: Well it’s not a national issue. It is a state-by-state issue.

KELLY: But what is your view? As you say, you have big ideas. You speak out.

ALBANESE: Well, in NSW the poker machine industry has a different role in terms of the

clubs. I don’t support the removal of all poker machines in clubs in NSW for example. But

Bec White has got a very clear policy. She is putting it forward for the Tasmanian state

election and good on her for the fact that she has been so clear about it. I think Bec White

represents the future for Tasmania. The Coalition, Mr Hodgman and his backers like Eric

Abetz, represent the past.

KELLY: Anthony Albanese, thanks very much for joining us.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you.