Labor heavyweight joins Griffith Podcast as election looms

Griffith Podcaster Nance Haxton talks to the Hon. Anthony Albanese MP

I think protecting our borders is an issue that can be done without losing our humanity.”

So says the HonourableAnthony Albanese MP, the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, and Cities, and Shadow Minister for Tourism, who told Griffith University’s A Middle Ground podcast that Labor ensured the passage of the Medevac Bill because the party finally had the numbers on the floor of parliament to do it.

“It’s getting that balance right,” Mr Albanese said.

“Quite clearly, the people who drowned at sea and the circumstances that occurred then required a change of policy direction, but you don’t have to go down the road in which the government has gone of indefinite detention, and they surely could have found third countries of settlement well before now.

“The idea that you have indefinite detention, where people held for more than half a decade without hope, and people who are in need of medical care weren’t getting it…something that is being done in Australia’s name, is a situation which is completely unacceptable.

“You can have, I think, border security without giving up your national soul, and without giving up your sense of decency. We are a generous nation, and I think the idea that someone is in need of medical assistance, but is not able to get it, even though they are in our care, needed to be addressed. That’s why I strongly supported the legislation.”

Despite refugees and border policy dominating much of the tumultuous last two weeks of Federal Parliament, Anthony Albanese says Labor is confident the party can make the looming election campaign about more than just boats and immigration.

“There are 900 people in Australia right now who have been brought here either to get medical assistance, or their family members have been brought here to get medical assistance. That hasn’t led to a crisis, that hasn’t led to a change in the way that our border security is operation, and the government has engaged, I think, in a reckless and, indeed, dangerous rhetorical position because it seeks political advantage from what should be a humanitarian issue that’s above politics, in my view,” he said.

“We’ll be talking about things that actually make a difference to people’s lives. Making sure that people are actually getting paid for the work that they do.

“When it comes to how you build the economy, we think there are two things you can do: invest in people, or invest in capital through infrastructure. We’ll do both.

“We believe in climate change. The science is in, and we need to act on it. We need to support a transition to a clean energy economy. That means supporting renewables.”

The Federal member for Grayndler told Nance Haxton in the latest edition of the “A Middle Ground” podcast series, that he thinks there will be more retirements before the federal election in the wake of recent announcements by Julie Bishop and Jenny Macklin.

“Look, I think there probably will be a couple more people go, who haven’t announced it yet,” he said.

He says after 23 years serving the people of the electorate of Grayndler, he’s noticed some worrying changes in the nature of politics, and the cost of being a politician.

“One of the impacts of social media that people need to be conscious of, I think, and we’re not having enough of a debate about in the the community and civil society, in general, is the increased polarisation of our politics,” he said.

“I think the polarisation that we’re seeing in some of our politics, the lack of respect for having a different view is, I think, something that the significance of which hasn’t been recognised enough.”

Griffith University Professor of Politics and Policy Peter Van Onselen also gives his perspective in the podcast on why Anthony Albanese’s popularity has endured.

“His earthiness, but also his political fighting abilities even in his own backyard,” Mr Van Onselen said.

“He was a formidable Leader of the House, briefly Deputy Prime Minister at the end but formidable Leader of the House throughout the Gillard/Rudd years and managed to loyally serve both even though we all knew he was a Kevin Rudd supporter.

“But in opposition before that, in his factional dealings throughout his time as a senior player on the left and even organisationally in New South Wales as the senior left figure in the party organisation, he has been a long term policy wonk, not just political strategist for Labor, and I think that that mix has served him well.

“Despite him being on the left of the Labor Party and socially progressive on all these issues, the Sydney’s Daily Telegraph have turned him into a bit of an icon, they love him too. They’ve splashed him on the front page, `Save Albo’ when he was under threat from the Greens. So I guess for them, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. He’s got broad support.”

Mr Albanese told “A Middle Ground” that the Uluru Statement will be revisited in Labor’s first term if it wins the federal election.

“The Statement from the Heart is an amazing document,” he said.

“It was produced out of an extensive consultation with First Nations people, and the fact that the government just dismissed it was so disappointing.”

He also won’t rule out spinning a few discs in the leadup to the federal election, as his reputation grows as a DJ.

“That could well happen,” he said.

“It’s been a bit of fun. It arose out of hosting Rage, which was certainly something that was on my bucket list, and people liked the music that I played on Rage, and that led to doing some DJ work, largely to do fundraisers.

“The last one I did was for The Girls’ Refuge. That is a place in Leichhardt, in my electorate, that takes young women and girls who are escaping domestic violence, escaping exploitation within their family, and it’s a very worthy cause. We had about 500 people at the Leichhardt Bowlo, so if I can do something like that, and raise money for a good cause, then it’s a good thing.”