Deputy Prime Minister and member for Grayndler, Anthony Albanese, says a long-term Labor government is vital to secure what he regards as a proud record.
In an exclusive interview at his campaign launch last week, Mr Albanese told the Inner West Independent that Labor’s grand-narrative was about building for the future.
“This election is really important if we’re going to have the Better Schools Plan, if we’re going to have the NBN rolled out, if we’ve going to have DisabilityCare become a reality not just a trial, if we’re going to have action on climate change through an ongoing price on carbon through an emissions trading scheme,” he said.
“For those four reasons alone it’s important that Labor continue as a government. It took a long term Labor government to entrench Medicare, and to entrench long term reforms like superannuation which is now the envy of the world. You need those long term Labor governments, that’s why it’s so important.”
The seat of Grayndler has been Mr Albanese’s domain for 17 years. On August 21, some 300 true believers gathered at the Vic on the Park Hotel in Marrickville to ensure he clocks up a full 20.
It was his biggest campaign launch ever, he says – and with Mr Albanese on its tightest margin and Labor in one of its darkest hours, perhaps that’s fitting.
His re-election is not assured but seems likely now that he will receive Liberal Party preferences instead of the Greens’ candidate Hall Greenland. Those preferences brought Sam Byrne within 4.2 per cent of victory in 2010. But recent polling shows the Green vote going backwards.
Mr Albanese said he wants to continue in the job because “you can make a difference to people’s lives”.
Asked to nominate his three most important policy priorities for the local area, he mentioned the National Broadband Network rollout, the second airport, and social policies.
“That’s about childcare, the paid parental leave scheme, increased child care places, increased aged care places,” he said of the latter.
Mr Albanese has announced a second Sydney airport will be a priority for a re-elected Labor government. He said that it was vital to ensure the continuation of a curfew and flight cap at Kingsford-Smith – things which “have so upset the vested interests of Sydney Airport at the moment”.
Mr Greenland wants Kingsford-Smith airport demolished and moved to the city’s outskirts, a plan Mr Albanese desxribes as “an absurd proposition”.
“He doesn’t’ want it moved to the west of Sydney, he opposes Badgerys Creek and Wilton as well,” Mr Albanese said. “You can’t have a city that’s a global city like Sydney without an airport. The problem with that proposition isn’t just that it’s impractical and not real, it’s that that attitude is what will entrench the single airport here, which will lead to pressure on the curfew and the cap.”
The Deputy PM, who is a leader within Labor’s left faction, also took issue with criticism from the Greens that he is failing to represent the progressive views of his electorate.
“If Hall Greenland thinks that I’m a conservative, then it shows how off the spectrum he is,” he said.
Mr Albanese feels modern Labor is “absolutely” compatible with environmentalism, but says you have to be part of a “broader movement” and “part of the mainstream”. He criticised the Greens as a party of protest rather than action.
“What the Greens do is wait for a decision to be made and then they can object to it. I’d rather be round the table when the decisions are made, as Deputy Prime Minister.”
He said the government had a strong record on environmental policies.
“We have introduced a price on carbon, we’ve introduced the world’s largest marine parks, we’ve resolved the conflict over Tasmanian forests – this term, in the last three years, we’ve done all of those things,” he said.
“If you’re a member of the Greens political party, you basically wait for a decision to be made and then you protest for or against. I’m about making a difference, and to be a part of that you have to be a part of the mainstream, and you’ve got to also acknowledge the economy as well as the environment.”
Mr Albanese denied he would be a leadership candidate in either government or opposition.
“I’m very happy to be Kevin Rudd’s deputy, it’s a great honour,” he said. “I don’t have leadership aspirations – I think a good deputy is someone who doesn’t want to be a leader.”
He said having a Deputy Prime Minister as a local member was a positive.
“On three occasions I’ve been acting PM and I’ve led the government from Marrickville on each of those three occasions.”