SKY NEWS – FIRST EDITION
THURSDAY, 23 MAY 2019
KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Joining us now is Labor MP Stephen Jones, thanks for being here Stephen Jones. Where is the Labor leadership race at? Jim Chalmers yet to confirm whether or not he will contest it.
STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW MINISTER FOR REGIONAL COMMUNICATIONS:Yeah. Look my good friend. Jim Chalmers will make his position known I expect some time today. Look I'll be very surprised if we're still talking about this, this time next week. I think Anthony has got significant support within the caucus and within the rank-and-file. I fully expect that he will be the Labor leader as Parliament resumes and I welcome that I think he's the guy who can unite the party, bring the policy platform together and ensure that we can get out there and do our best job of winning the next election.
LAURA JAYES, HOST: So are you saying Jim Chalmers won't contest?
JONES: I'll leave it to Jim to make his views known. I'm just saying I'll be surprised if we're still talking about this next week. I think Anthony has got very strong support within both the caucus and within the rank and file of the party. I think there is a well within the organisation for us to have this sorted as soon as possible and to move on.
GILBERT: It was put to me by one of your colleagues reminding me of the history and well, it's interesting you look back that over the last couple of decades not since 1993 has Labor - only once I should say since 1993 as Labour won a majority in the Parliament. That was 2007. And that was when Kevin Rudd ran as an economic conservative promising basically to be a younger version of John Howard that it wasn't to big a reform agenda. Are there some lessons to be learned on that front as well to be a bit more cautious?
JONES: Oh look I think there are some lessons and we'll spend the next couple of months going through those but we know that we've got to pick ourselves up dust ourselves off and ensure that from day one, we're holding the Morrison Government to account for the promises that it made to the Australian people but also being a viable opposition. We want to ensure that we're in there with the policy ideas and that we are competitive in the seats we need to win in at the next election. Labor wants to have a big agenda. And if you want to take a big agenda to an election, you've got to have a big leader who can carry that agenda and who is well trusted and popular amongst the Australian people and I think Anthony Albanese is that guy.
JAYES: When you look at your primary vote across the nation it's 34%. It's even worse in the regions. It seems that the electorate has rejected some of the more left policies within your party. Albanese is part of the left-wing faction. So why is he the best leader when elections are won in the centre?
JONES: Yeah look I don't think the electorate sees things in terms of left and right and I think you'll find in Anthony Albanese somebody who it is in his own words wants to put the language, the rhetoric of the class war behind us. He doesn't believe in it. He wants to work with business. He brings with him decades of experience in the infrastructure space dealing with some of the biggest companies not only in Australia, but in the world and he'll be taking that experience, those relationships into the policy formulation and the campaigning arena. Look we'll go through in a very cautious and judicious way looking at our policies, where they need to be recalibrated, but I do want to say something about that regional space because a lots been said about that. It's my own portfolio and look it is true that our primary vote is far too low we need to do whatever we can to ensure that we are lifting that primary vote over the next three years, but it's also a mistake to treat every regional seat in Australia as a homogeneous block. We have won regional seats including the one that I come from, we picked up a regional seat in the seat of Gilmore one that we didn't even win in the Ruddslide. We picked up regional seeds like Dunkley and Corangamite. We held the Hunter Valley and the Illawarra. It's true that we've got a problem in Central Queensland and we've got to deal with that problem. We've got a problem in Northern Tasmania, and we've got to deal with that problem. We've got to work with those communities with our members and with our potential candidates in those areas, but I'm confident that Anthony Albanese is the guy who can take the conversation up, take the policy forward. He's suggested a listening tour as the first act of his leadership and I think that would be a good step particularly in those Central Queensland and Northern Tasmanian areas that are vital to a win.
GILBERT: Given your very strong support for him and you believe his big character and leadership will the right mix for Labor, do you regret that your party didn't go to him earlier that you might have had a chance this time if he was leader.
JONES: Look, can I start by playing full credit to Bill Shorten? Let's not forget. This is a guy who saw off two elected Liberal leaders, two Prime Ministers. He saw off Tony Abbott, he saw off Malcolm Turnbull. He has Scott Morrison hanging on by his fingernails. So full credit to Bill Shorten who has done a fantastic job in reunifying the country. I've always been a big supporter of Anthony Albanese it because I think he's got the character and the wherewithal that Australians relate to. He has been the dominant parliamentary character of our generation. And when I think of the guy that Scott Morrison would least like to face both in the parliament in in the community over the next three years, hands down, it's Anthony Albanese.
JAYES: Is the left willing to give ground on some policies to allow Anthony Albanese to move to the centre.
JONES: I think you'll find some surprising views emanate from the entire Labor caucus.
JAYES: Like what? Give us a hint Stephen Jones.
JONES: Anthony has already said that he wants to do away with the class rhetoric. We won't be dropping our values. We won't be dropping our core Labor values that Labor people expect us to be pushing, but we will be looking at those parts of the agenda that were clearly anchoring, causing anger within the electorate and we'll be reviewing those and ensuring we're competitive at the next election, and I don't think we should be looking at this through the prism of left and right because I don't think that's what the Australian people want us to be doing. I think we'll be looking at this through the prism of good Labor values and what's in the national interest. We'll have a big agenda and a big leader to carry that agenda at the next election.
GILBERT; Labor frontbencher Stephen Jones. We appreciate your time. Thanks for that. Will talk to you soon.
JONES: Great to be with you.