Transcript - ABC News Breakfast




SUBJECTS: ALP National Presidency; next federal election; the Trumpification of the Liberal Party; wage growth; the need for a strong, independent ABC

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Let's turn to federal politics now and the Labor Party has elected a new National President.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: You might know his name. It's a familiar face, former Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan, who joins us now from Parliament House. Mr Swan, good morning, congratulations.

WAYNE SWAN, MEMBER FOR LILLEY: Good morning Virginia.

TRIOLI: You just can't stay away from the central political fray, can you? 

SWAN: No, I'm a glutton for punishment, I think! That's pretty clear.

TRIOLI: That may become even more clear. Let's get to the heart of it; we'd better not beat around the bush here. Will Federal Labor win the next election?

SWAN: Of course, but it's not going to be easy. And we've got to win it organisationally and we've got to win the battle of ideas. And I think that we've got a policy platform which will make Australia more democratic and more equal. And I'm going to be out there, arguing that case with Bill Shorten. The Presidency of the Party means I can work to make sure that we get elected.

TRIOLI: Sure. So, when do you reckon it'll be? What's the best money, do you think, in terms of timing? No seriously, I mean, you must spend your life just at a granular level focused on this. When do you reckon it'll be called?

SWAN: I think it'll be next year. There's a lot of talk that they're going to go early—

TRIOLI: Maybe September, yeah.

SWAN: Yeah, but I think it'll be next year. But whenever it is, there's going to be a real battle of ideas taking place about the future of Australia. And Labor will be arguing for a fairer, more prosperous Australia. The Coalition will be putting forward a program based on trickledown economics, where the rich get richer, the middle class gets hollowed out and there's great armies of working poor. There's going to be a really clear difference in this election campaign. 

TRIOLI: We'll get to some of those ideas in just a moment. But I want to put to you that you are, and can be, a highly divisive figure. Because some see you as a saviour, through the GFC – what you and the Prime Minister did at the time – and others argue that your spending has left us with crippling debt and budgets that don't balance. So you're a risky figurehead, aren't you, at a time when Federal Labor actually stands quite a good chance of winning the next election?

SWAN: Well, I don't share those assumptions—

TRIOLI: But you see it, I mean, you see the praise for you, and you see the extreme strong criticism for you as well, I'm sure. 

SWAN: Well, I do. It's pretty clear that I'm a target of the radical right, because I've been a strong advocate of a much fairer Australia. And at the moment, the radical right is ascendant in the Liberal Party. They are a group of people who believe we live in a corporation, not in a community. They've got a program which just says give tax cuts to the rich and powerful, have deregulation for everybody else, and wage suppression. There's some very clear lines here. I've not been afraid to take them on.

I believe Labor can win, if we're very clear about a better program, a fairer program, and a more democratic program. And that will attract the attention of the radical right, who now run the Liberal Party. I mean, Nick Greiner the other day said this campaign was a battle for the heart and soul of Australia. And I agree that it is. Do we want a fairer, more democratic Australia, or do we want to go down the American road, with the Liberal Party who've become Trumpified and radicalised on the right?

TRIOLI: There is one particular issue that I agree with you on, when it comes to the clear battlelines, and that really is this galvanising discussion around wage fairness and wage growth which, as we know, is at its slowest and most stagnant period we've seen for a very long time. This, by its nature, has to logically then bring in – and we're seeing already – the trade unions coming to the fore, saying, that's where we play a role.

SWAN: That's right.

TRIOLI: But is Federal Labor entirely comfortable, then, with the ACTU and all of those unions associated with it, wrapping themselves around the Party saying, yep, we're with you in lockstep here, arguing for wage fairness? Because that comes with problems and associations that you might not necessarily like.

SWAN: Well I don't share any of those assumptions. We do absolutely believe in wage fairness—

TRIOLI: I mean, doing this in concert with all of the unions in Australia – are you comfortable with that?

SWAN: Well I regard myself as being within the labour wing of the Labor Party. And the trade unions are very important part of the Labor Party. And we're seeing at the moment that the weakness of the union movement has led to a situation where we've had wage suppression. And the living standards of millions of Australian workers have been suppressed.

Now we've got a government that's been part and parcel of that, and that's why there will be a very clear alternative. The Labor Party believes that we create prosperity so we can spread opportunity. The Liberal Party honours wealth itself. What it says is that if we make a few people really rich, then the rest of us will prosper. And we're seeing very clearly that's not the case.

TRIOLI: I want to ask you just finally – the ABC's become an election battleground, it would seem, this time around. We, as an organisation, will always have our supporters and will always have our detractors. Is that a fight that any party can really win?

SWAN: Well it's a fight that must be won for the future of the country. An independent, public broadcaster is an essential part of a democratic society. Because when the media is taken over by plutocrats and powerful vested interests, we don't necessarily have an independent media. That's why the ABC is the target of the radical right who now run the Liberal Party, and—

TRIOLI: Yeah, but also I think it's fair and true to put in there that the way that Bill Shorten has spoken about the ABC in relation to using that as an attack on the government means that the ABC's now caught in the middle as a political football. That's what my question goes to. When your side and the Liberal side does that, we're just stuck in the middle.

SWAN: Well...

TRIOLI: I don't know about that fair and independent bit when we're in the middle of that. 

SWAN: I think the ABC is a fine public broadcaster. It's an essential part of our democracy. And the Labor Party will be defending the ABC to the death.

TRIOLI: Good to talk to you this morning Wayne Swan. Thanks for joining us.

SWAN: Thank you.



Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra