TRANSCRIPT - TV INTERVIEW - ABC NEWS 24 - Friday, 8 November 2019

08 November 2019


SUBJECT: Anthony Albanese’s address at the National Press Club; ALP campaign review.

ANDREW PROBYN, HOST: Let me bring in Kristina Keneally here. Modernising, how do you modernise a party?

KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE: Well, I think Anthony laid out the process he's going to take us through and it's clear that all of the members of our party,  our supporters, need to be involved in this conversation. Anthony makes clear our values don't change. The Labor Party always has stood for good jobs, economic opportunity and growth, good wages. What happened at the last election – we allowed ourselves to be seen as the opponent of those things, not the champion. What Anthony has made clear is we take the lessons from this review and we start that process of modernisation.
PROBYN: What do you make of the Emerson-Weatherill review? It was pretty brutal. It went to the very heart of some of the problems with regards to Bill Shorten. Was it fair?
KENEALLY: I read every word of it yesterday afternoon. It was searing, honest, it was hard reading. At times it made me very frustrated. But in the end, it's what we needed to see. It's what we needed to see and understand. There's lots in that review that goes to strategic campaigning, and that's really for the party organisation to manage. I think for those of us in the labour movement and who want to see a Labor Government – a government that stands up for working people – there's much in here that challenges us to think about how we present that at the next election.
PROBYN: Well, let's get down into some tin tacks. Franking credits – is this a policy that lives beyond today, let alone 2021?
KENEALLY: Anthony made clear that today is not a day for announcing...
PROBYN: I think he made it pretty clear.
KENEALY: He made it clear today is not a day for announcing policies. But you are right, he did make clear that that was a policy that was complex, that was easily weaponised against us, and it quite frankly did scare some people. And, really, this is now one of the things that we'll have to consider over the course of the coming months, as we go towards that platform, and then towards the next election.
PROBYN: It's a dead duck, isn't it?
KENEALLY: You know, I'm not going to stand here today and make announcements either on behalf of policy – as much as you might try to get me to do so. But I would invite people to have a look at the review, to understand the context in which all of our policies were announced, the fact that really there were too many, and that we were away from our core message. Our core message as the Labor Party has always been about creating an economic opportunity, allowing people the chance to have good jobs, secure jobs with good wages. I think right now in this economy, people are wondering, are their kids, as they leave school, gonna get those jobs? Are they going to be able to afford things like rent and buy their own home? And we've got a Government that has no plan. This is our challenge, as an Opposition Party, one, to hold the Government to account, but, two, to build a platform that is about hope and aspiration.
GREG JENNETT, HOST: I might just tag in at this point, Andrew Probyn. Good try on the poking and prodding on policies. But, Kristina Keneally, just to inject a couple from me at this point – it's Greg Jennett in the studio here – Anthony Albanese said, and I quote, he wants the Labor Party to be the Party of the future, quote, ""not a party of grievances"". Can you ground that in some context for us? In what sense was Labor a Party of grievances until May 18?
KENEALLY: Well, one of the things that the Weatherill-Emerson review, Greg, made very clear is that far too many people, both within the Party and outside of it, really banked the win. And what they then sought to do was to get their particular issue somehow committed by Labor before the election. And I really think that's what the review points to, the fact that everybody wanted to see their specific issue reflected in the platform of the Party they assumed and banked was going to win government. And what the review makes clear is that that took away from our capacity to build that narrative, that we are the Party that's about delivering growth and opportunity, about jobs and good wages – because the message was too complex.
JENNETT: Right, so how do you build the big Labor project that he talks about – the big Labor project, the national project – seems to be about harnessing the unions, community groups, members of the public? How do you do that while telling particular interest groups, ""Don't get too close, and don't tell us what we should be doing""?
KENEALLY: Well, I think the policy – excuse me – the process that Anthony laid out today, particularly going towards the next platform, is really important. It's important to reflect, as Anthony has pointed out today, that our platform is quite large and quite complex. And it stands pretty much alone in the centre-left parties around the world for its complexity. We need to get back to being clear about what we are as a party. We always have been and we're founded in a movement that stood up for working people.
PROBYN: Well, let's look at that Labor platform, and for viewers' sake, the Labor platform is a very big, thick document; it's actually quite granular in detail. This review has recommended that the national platform be completely revised and focused on principles and the sort. Now, that suggests that they don't want a big, thick wad of documents – they want something that can be built on by the leadership, by the executive. Is that what you want to see?
KENEALLY: Well and the review also makes clear that it is unrealistic to design a platform that you're going to adhere to in every single paragraph and subparagraph over the course of three or five years. Because you don't know what's going to happen in the global context, in the economy, and in the community, what challenges you're going to have to respond to. I think this is where Anthony has been taking us, in his role as leader, reminding us that it's our values that are eternal, our policies will need to respond to the challenges of the time, but our values remain eternal. And in that sense I do think the platform needs to be a clear expression of those values, those principles, and how we would use them in government.
PROBYN: So, for example, climate change, I mean, we were talking about banging on the resurrection stone there in asking him questions on what happens next if Labor is to get back to power. But on climate change, do you have to be a bit more honest about the cost of your climate change policies?
KENEALLY: Well, I think we as a country need to be honest about the costs as well as the risks. And the risks are multiple, whether they are in energy supply, whether they are in energy security, whether they are in rising costs of energy, because we're not investing in renewables, or indeed whether they go to some national security matters. The reality is climate change is here, it's real, it's present, it poses significant risks and we have to take action as a nation.
PROBYN: It costs money, though, doesn't it?
KENEALLY: It costs money not to do things as well in this area. And what I think you would have seen last week, Andrew and your viewers, when Anthony spoke about the future of work, was recasting the debate. This is not a simplistic debate between there's action and no action, there's no cost and cost, there's jobs or the environment. The reality is we are challenged as a nation and as a world to take action on climate change. What we need to see this is not just a risk but also an opportunity. We can be a global powerhouse. We can create a whole new manufacturing industry. We can build jobs in response to this challenge and yes, metallurgical coal has a role to play in that as well. This isn't an either or and it shouldn't be cast in that way.
JENNETT: Senator Keneally, another one from me. It's a variation on a theme I think it was approached by a couple of other journos during the Press Club session and it goes to the central findings of the review. There were three of them, of course. A cluttered policy agenda, a strategy that lacked clarity, and the third was an unpopular leader. Removing Anthony Albanese from the equation, if you wish, I just want to take you back to Bruce Hawker, the man who helped devise what we call the “Rudd Rules” around leadership. He has said previously he never wanted them or meant them to apply in Opposition. So, my question is, after that preamble, if Labor were stuck with an unpopular leader – seems to have been the case recently – how binding, how much of a frustration is it to have those set of leadership rule processes on you in Opposition?
KENEALLY: I think the leadership rules that the Labor Party has, which I might note were also adopted by the Liberal Party not too long ago, have served to provide great stability for our Party. What I would say is that the review also makes the point that the unpopularity of Bill Shorten was something that, one, was fuelled in part by a never-seen-before advertising campaign privately funded by Clive Palmer. And, secondly, that there were things that the Party could have done around it to address that, and they failed to do. They weren't agile enough in addressing that attack. And then lastly the review also makes the point that the lack of a strategy in the campaign and too many messages really were significant parts of the problem. That is, if those had been addressed, whatever was going on in relation to the attacks on Bill Shorten personally, Labor should still have been able to win the election.
PROBYN: But it seems to be clear, from the review, that having a bold agenda and an unpopular leader is absolutely poisonous?
KENEALLY: Well I wouldn't agree with that, and I reject the premise of that. A bold agenda isn't necessarily a bad thing, and I think that's what we've heard from Anthony today. A bold agenda is what you need. Seeking to take government and to govern in the national interest and to the benefit of working people, is absolutely bold and it's what we should be doing as the Australian Labor Party.
PROBYN: Kristina Keneally, thank you very much for your time.