Transcript - Sky News AM Agenda (ALP Presidency)




SUBJECTS: Candidacy for National President; inclusive growth; full employment; Adani; Kevin Rudd; 25th anniversary of election to Parliament.

KIERAN GILBERT: Welcome back to the program. With me now, former Treasurer Wayne Swan. Mr Swan, thanks for your time. You’re going to leave Parliament, but you’re not leaving politics – you’ve announced your candidacy as the Right’s candidate for the National President of the ALP. Can I start by just asking you: will you be able to work with the Left if you were to be successful at the upcoming vote for this?

WAYNE SWAN, MEMBER FOR LILLEY: Well I don’t see myself representing one particular group in the Party. I see myself with the whole Party. All of my life in the Party, I’ve worked across the various groupings in the Party, going right back to when I was State Secretary in Queensland. And most particularly, when we’ve been in Government, I’ve worked across all the various groupings. In fact, some people would say that I’m closer to many in the Left than I have been, at various times, to people in the Right. I don’t think that those labels now accurately describe many of the policy positions that we are putting forward. What we’ve got to do is we’ve got to have a framework which fights inequality, which deals with the power of vested interests and we need the unity of bringing all groups together so we can win this election for Bill Shorten and his frontbench.

GILBERT: What about the democratisation of the Party? The Left candidate, the incumbent, Mark Butler, the Shadow Minister for Climate Change. He says that even registered supporters of the ALP – not just members, but registered supporters of the ALP – should be able to vote in some ballots. Do you agree with that idea of opening up the Party?

SWAN: Well certainly we do need to open up the Party as much as we possibly can. So there is a whole reform agenda out there, much of which I support. There are some new ideas which are being put on the table and we should look at them thoroughly. But one of the ones that I’m opposed to is basically saying to anybody who wants to be a registered supporter, that their rights to participate in the Party are the same as the Party membership. I don’t think we should go down that road; that’s going down the road of a hollowed‑out Democrat Party, where membership is virtually meaningless. I think at time when we’ve got to fight powerful vested interests, when we’ve got a real contest on our hands, our members are our most valuable asset. And that membership in the Australian Labor Party has got to mean something. So, all of these ideas will be on the table, but more important than that, I think in the period ahead for the Party, we’ve got to put much more emphasis on ideas. If you look at what’s been going on to centre-left parties around the world, they’ve been getting smashed because they’ve lost the ideas debate. They’ve been compromised to some extent by neoliberal economics. Here in Australia, we’ve got to foster a much stronger debate about what we stand for – which I think is inclusive prosperity, defeating trickledown economics – we’ve got to have ideas which excite people to join the Labor Party and get involved in the campaign. And if you look at the experience of Sanders and Corbyn, people came to them because of the ideas they were putting forward, and we’ve got to get that level of excitement about our platform in this coming period.

GILBERT: So, not be focused too much on the structures within the ALP, but the ideas, to take a leaf out of Jeremy Corbyn’s playbook, or Bernie Sanders’s, as you’ve alluded to him as well?

SWAN: It’s about the substance of our policies, not just the structures. Yes, the structures are important and we’ve got a very big campaign to run. Both are important. But as we present our face to the Australian people, we’ve got to show them that we’ve got a program to deal with growing inequality, we’ve got a program that’s going to take on the power of vested interests, and we’ve got a program which will not only create prosperity but spread opportunity and we need to excite people about that message.

GILBERT: Are you worried, though, if you went too much down the Corbyn path, for example, that you would alienate the middle ground in Australian politics?

SWAN: Oh look, I think the most important thing to put forward is a policy platform that ensures that when we create prosperity, we spread opportunity. Growing inequality in Australia is evident for everybody to see. And it’s accelerated in recent years. I mean, record‑low wage growth, the wage share of the economy is at record lows, company profitability is high, and so many Australians are being left behind. I heard an interview earlier with a government representative. The fact is that underemployment in this country is very high, casualisation is high, people are being left behind, and we need an exciting program and a commitment to full employment which will bring people into the Party, so we can win this forthcoming election.

GILBERT: Well, on that – do you agree with Bill Shorten? He’s opposed to the Adani mine, he doesn’t support it. As a Queenslander, and someone who – as you say, you want full time jobs – what’s your view on it? Do you think that the Labor Party needs to be open to this idea? Particularly when you’ve got the Adani Chief Executive, front page of the AFR, saying they’re pushing ahead with the Carmichael mine.

SWAN: Like most Australians, I’ve got reservations about this mine. Does it stack up environmentally? Does it stack up economically? And our position is that if it doesn’t stack up, then it shouldn’t go ahead. But those processes have to be worked through. And we have to do it in the framework of the law. But I’ll make this point – the job impact of the Adani mine has been dramatically exaggerated. There is a huge problem when it comes to unemployment and underemployment in central and north Queensland and Labor is responding to that. And it will not be solved solely by the Adani project.

GILBERT: You’ve said this has got to be worked through, but from what Mr Shorten is saying, in his view, it has. He says environmentally it doesn’t stack up. He’s making that judgement already.

SWAN: Well, there are further processes to come through. The finances have not come through. I’ve led the argument in the national Parliament that there shouldn’t be a massive public subsidy for this mine. And the government backed off that. The fact is that its finances are yet to be arranged and there are some approvals yet to come.

GILBERT: Twenty-five years since your first election to Parliament – I think it’s tomorrow, in fact. So that’s quite an anniversary, and yet you’re still very much engaged in the political processes of your Party. I want to ask you, just to wrap up, about someone you worked closely with for decades, but he’s been critical of you in recent times: former Prime Minister, Mr Rudd. If you were to win the Presidency, how would you deal with that sort of relationship, which has obviously got some issues with it right now?

SWAN: Well, we need everybody in the tent. I stand ready to do my very best to work with Kevin and every other member of the Labor Party to make sure that we win this next federal election and we have the very best policy platform to do so. So whatever differences we may have had in the past, as we go forward, I look forward to working with all of our Party members, including people that I have disagreed with in the past, to make sure that we win this election. Because there’s a lot on the line. This aggressive and extreme trickledown policy of Mr Turnbull is one that will change this country forever. It’s not too late for Australia to turn back and the Labor Party now has a very progressive policy position to deal with trickledown economics, to ensure that we grow fairly and we distribute the benefits of growth to all Australians, and we need everybody in the tent if we’re going to achieve that task. And I’ll certainly work with anyone, whatever differences I’ve had in the past with them.

GILBERT: Let bygones be bygones, basically?

SWAN: Yeah. And in terms of the 25th anniversary, it’s a reminder that time moves on. It doesn’t stop for any of us, even former federal Treasurers, so we’re going to celebrate that 25th anniversary tomorrow.

GILBERT: Good on you, enjoy it. Thanks for your time Mr Swan, appreciate it.