ABC NEWS RADIO
MONDAY, 20 MAY 2019
Subjects: The federal election result.
JOURNALIST: What went wrong?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: It was certainly a heavy blow. We worked extraordinarily hard putting together our Fair Go Action Plan, more positive policies than any opposition has taken to an election in the post-war era. We're very proud of the solutions we had around climate change, around wages, around tackling our education issues and the schools, investing in health care. But we were up against a ferocious scare campaign run by a guy whose main track record is in advertising and he was able to successfully scare Australians into thinking that it was better to stick with the current approach – whatever that is.
JOURNALIST: But Andrew, do you think those issues around climate change really wash with voters in regional Queensland that are concerned about jobs?
LEIGH: I think there are plenty of people in regional Queensland who’d like to keep the Great Barrier Reef, given the thousands of tourism jobs that are associated with it. People see climate change in their everyday lives with the increasing temperature records being set right across Australia, with our hottest summer on record. People are aware that we need to tackle climate change, but unfortunately the current government – led by a man who likes waving around lumps of coal in Parliament – was able to persuade people that this ought to be a referendum on a set of policies Labor was never intending. The scare campaigns, the lies - we faced them in greater number than I think any opposition has had to in the past.
JOURNALIST: Okay Andrew, so at least three candidates have emerged as possible leaders for the Labor Party - Anthony Albanese, Tanya Plibersek and Jim Chalmers. Who are you throwing your support behind?
LEIGH: Any of those would do a far better job than the current prime minister and the fact is that they've all been part of forming the set of positive policies we've got. Matt, we’ve got to remember is that policymaking is like a muscle, so we've grown stronger as a party through this period under Bill Shorten's leadership, developing positive policies and working on the ideas agenda. We'll continue to do that under any of the leaders we choose.
JOURNALIST: Okay. Well Anthony Albanese, he's the first to officially enter the race. Do you think he's someone who can appeal to those voters in regional Queensland that Labor could win over this time?
LEIGH: Absolutely. Anthony Albanese has extraordinary strengths. He's somebody who deeply understands infrastructure better than anybody else in the Parliament and somebody who has a great capacity to connect with the Australian people. Labor is spoilt for choice. We have leaders who have far more experience. As Scott Morrison puts together his frontbench today, he’ll be putting together a frontbench which will be meeting an opposition with significantly more experience, deeper values, better understanding of the issues. So we will come back into Parliament with the fight in our bellies, willing to articulate that Labor agenda because those issues don't go away. An election result doesn't change the fact that Australia has a problem with wage growth, that we have rising emissions. It doesn't change the fact that our school test results have been falling every time the international tests have come around. So we have some serious challenges and Labor’s going to be in there pushing those hard conversations.
JOURNALIST: Okay. But you say Labor is spoilt for choice, but what about Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen, because he's also considering running. Do you think he's a good idea, given that he was the architect of your contentious tax plans?
LEIGH: Chris is the most experienced Shadow Treasurer that the nation has ever had, somebody who has served as treasurer. I've worked closely with him as Assistant Treasurer. I know not only his huge policy brain, but also his extraordinary consultative approach. He's somebody who understands the sweep of Australian history, has great values, proficiency in Indonesian and understanding of the need to reach out to our region. So Chris is somebody of enormous gravitas. Again, we have extraordinary people in the Labor side and we will continue to mount that positive agenda for change.
LEIGH: We're not retreating into our shells, we're not turning around. We're not going to turn into a rubber stamp for the Morrison Government simply because of the result on Saturday night.
JOURNALIST: Okay, Andrew. Well aside from the issue of leadership, what sort of soul searching is underway in the Labor Party to understand how this loss could happen?
LEIGH: I think we need to explore exactly what happened in these particular seats. There's swings towards us in some areas and against us in others and we need to look particularly at the issue of the breadth of our agenda and how we balance that that positive message with holding the Government to account. We need to ensure that we are focused relentlessly on the issues that matter to Australians. But I was very proud of the work that Bill Shorten did in unifying the team and bringing together those positive policies. So we do need to be very sure we're not throwing the baby out with the bathwater and that we maintain not only the energy and conviction, but also the willingness to argue elections based on ideas. It would be doing a disservice to the Australian people if we were to retreat into fear and smear. The role of the Labor Party in Australian politics is a different role from the role of the Coalition. We have always been the advocates of big ideas and that's not going to stop today.
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra.