Transcript - ABC Radio Brisbane Breakfast




SUBJECTS: ALP National Presidency; climate change; Newspoll; asylum seekers; fighting inequality

CRAIG ZONCA: To Canberra we go now. Wayne Swan – that is a name you would know in political circles. He's been in Parliament since 1993, the Federal Member for Lilley. But he has a new gig. Yes he's been the Treasurer previously, but now he's taking on the role as National President of the Australian Labor Party. Wayne Swan, good morning.


ZONCA: What influence do you really have on Party policy as the National President?

SWAN: Well, I've been out there arguing and discussing policy in the Party and in the community all of my political life. I'm not sure if you said before that I'm still the Member for Lilley – and I'm very active as the Member for Lilley. But I'm not running in the next federal election. So when I announced I wasn't running for the seat of Lilley, I announced that whilst I was getting out of Parliament, I wasn't getting out of politics.

And what I want to do, as the President of the Labor Party, is to use my experience when it comes to policy, my experience when it comes to campaigns, to make sure that the Labor Party not only wins the election, but has a first-class policy platform to put to the Australian people. And I want to use that experience to that end.

ZONCA: As President, is it about keeping peace between warring factions?

SWAN: Well, I think it's about everything when you're President. You're responsible for the organisation. I've had a lot of experience. I know a lot of people across the Party, at every level, from the local level right through to the Parliamentary wing. So I'm pretty uniquely placed to bring people together and I hope I can play a role doing that.

REBECCA LEVINGSTON: It's been reported that you're from the right faction. For people way outside of politics, how do the factions inside the Labor Party work? 

SWAN: Well they're pretty fluid. They are frequently presented in the media as being rigid organisations that have strong control over the decision-making bodies, be that of the Party wing or the Parliamentary wing. And it's not quite like that. We've had a ballot for the Presidency, and most rank-and-file members of the Labor Party are not associated with, or members of factions.

So I've been elected by people right across the Party, in terms of geography, in terms of their ideological views, and so on, so I regard myself as not being a representative of a faction; I regard myself as being a representative of the Party.

LEVINGSTON: But do you think Labor's moved to the right in recent years? Let's say when it comes to issues around asylum seekers, detention centres – even climate change, that sort of thing?

SWAN: I certainly don't think we've moved to the right. We're a party of the centre-left and I think we have been fairly and squarely there for some period of time. When I was the Treasurer of this country, I'm proud of what we did to combat climate change. We put in place two emissions trading schemes. Now, they've been subsequently destroyed by the government. But what we've done in terms of economic policy, what we've done in terms of climate change, has been in the very best traditions of a progressive party that's on the centre-left.

LEVINGSTON: You're listening to Wayne Swan, who is the Member for Lilley – but only up until the next federal election. Yesterday he added a new title to his resume: National President of the Labor Party. Wayne Swan, I'm wondering if you have a say or an influence on who is the leader of the party? Because, it's fair to say that Australians don't seem to be warming to Bill Shorten. Is your party backing the wrong leader going into the next federal election?

SWAN: Well, one of the reasons I've run for the Presidency is to support Bill Shorten and make sure that Bill Shorten becomes the next Prime Minister of Australia. Being the Leader of the Opposition is the toughest gig in Australian politics. And we have a lot of opinion polls and so on, but Bill has been extraordinarily successful as Opposition Leader. We went within a seat or two of winning government at the last election. And if you want to use opinion polls, Bill has been in front – the Party has been in front for well over 30 Newspolls. Now, I don't use that metric, but some people do, so—

ZONCA: Well the Party has been in front on two-party-preferred basis, but Bill Shorten has well and truly been well behind in the preferred PM stakes in every poll that's been taken. 

SWAN: There's nothing unusual about that, Craig. If you want to talk opinion polls, it's very rare, at any level – be it state or federal – for an Opposition Leader to be in front of a leader of a government. Very rare indeed. And I've served with any number of Opposition Leaders who've been behind. So there's nothing unusual about that. But there is something quite unusual about the record of poll wins under Bill Shorten, that the Labor Party has put together. It's a record – a record number of wins.

LEVINGSTON: Wayne Swan, where do you stand on some of the divisive issues confronting your Party, such as offshore processing of asylum seekers? Should that be happening in 2018?

SWAN: Offshore processing is absolutely essential to stop the people smugglers, but what we shouldn't be doing is leaving people in indefinite detention. Now these are issues that will be discussed passionately at Labor's National Conference and that will occur later in the year. But I do defend our position on this, which is the Party policy, which is we should not have indefinite detention. But we do need offshore processing.

LEVINGSTON: And yet the discussion around that exact issue was shut down at a Conference not too long ago. As National President will you make sure that that conversation occurs?

SWAN: Well, it was at a Victorian Conference, and this is a national matter which will be discussed at our National Conference. We are a passionate party about all of the great issues of our time. We're a Labor Party, which means we always put the economic interests of working people first. And we will be talking about a whole range of issues – about how we deal with growing inequality in Australia, and how we make Australia fairer and more prosperous. All of those issues will be on the agenda. 

The Labor Party is not a single-issue party. We believe in equality across the board. We believe in economic equality, gender equality, racial equality. We believe that equality – making Australia a fairer place – is fundamental to our wellbeing as a community. 

LEVINGSTON: Wayne Swan, we've got ten seconds before the news is here. Is it a full-time paid gig, this role?

SWAN: It's not full-time and it's not paid!

LEVINGSTON: Appreciate your time this morning and all the very best with it. Thanks so much.

SWAN: Thank you.

LEVINGSTON: Wayne Swan – still the Member for Lilley, but now the National President of the ALP.



Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra