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China, climate change and coal mines: dramatic changes in Anthony Albanese's stance on key issues

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Anthony Albanese believes China poses a massive threat to Australia’s security, which is a huge change from his view of the communist state in just three years.

It is just one of the many key issues on which he has dramatically changed his opinion in recent years.

In May 2019, Mr Albanese said his view on China had been formed by the actions of one of his Labor predecessors, Gough Whitlam, half a century ago.

Mr Albanese said the countries had a ‘friendly relationship and have … since the Whitlam government recognised China in 1972. That is part of Labor’s legacy.’ 

Anthony Albanese (left) with partner Jodie Haydon after speaking at the National Press Club on January 25, 2022 in Canberra

Anthony Albanese (left) with partner Jodie Haydon after speaking at the National Press Club on January 25, 2022 in Canberra

Three years on, and with the federal election just 39 days away, the Labor leader said ‘China has changed under its current leadership … China is a serious threat potentially to our future security.

‘Whoever is in government, there will be a difficult relationship with China going forward and that is because China has changed,’ he told News Corp.

The man who is hoping to lead Labor back into government for the first time since 2013 has also recalibrated his views on issues such as climate change and coal. 

In 2005 he said ‘climate change is the greatest threat to our future security,’ but now ranks it as being a threat on-par with China, nuclear war, cyber security and health pandemics.

‘All of these are major national security issues and a serious federal government needs to deal with all of them,’ he said.

Mr Albanese confirmed that two of the most contentious policies Labor took to the 2019 election – abolishing franking credit refunds and limiting negative gearing – were not coming back after he ditched them when he became leader. 

He also walked back his opposition to new coal mines in Australia. When asked about the issue in February 2018 he said ‘There’s not a market for it.’

Four years on he said he would not prevent new coal mines in Australia if he wins the election on May 21.

Anthony Albanese (right) shakes hands with China's then commerce minister Chen Deming (left) at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday, April 10, 2012. Mr Albanese now sees China as'a serious threat' to Australia's security

Anthony Albanese (right) shakes hands with China’s then commerce minister Chen Deming (left) at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday, April 10, 2012. Mr Albanese now sees China as ‘a serious threat’ to Australia’s security

Anthony Albanese said he would not prevent new coal mines in Australia. Pictured is a large truck driving through an open-cut coal mine in Singleton in the NSW Hunter Valley

Anthony Albanese said he would not prevent new coal mines in Australia. Pictured is a large truck driving through an open-cut coal mine in Singleton in the NSW Hunter Valley

Australia becoming a republic is something Mr Albanese has long felt passionate about, but though he is still a republican, he no longer sees it as a priority. 

In 1999, shortly before a referendum on the matter, he said it would be ’embarrassing’ if it was defeated. 

It was beaten by 55 per cent to 45 per cent, with the ACT being the only territory or state to back a republic. 

Now, 23 years on, he said ‘Maybe at some future point’ Australia would have its own head of state. 

Anthony Albanese (left) is pictured with his late mother Maryanne Therese at a birthday celebration

Anthony Albanese (left) is pictured with his late mother Maryanne Therese at a birthday celebration

Rather than the republic, Mr Albanese said his priority for constitutional change is recognising Indigenous Australians.  

He said Labor would consult with Indigenous people about a timetable and that he was hopeful it would be supported by the Coalition.

‘Also we want to reach across the aisle … and hopefully get support. To get constitutional change in this country, it’s hard if you’ve got (substantial) opposition.’

Labor’s official policy on the issue is that it will hold ‘a referendum to constitutionally enshrine a Voice to Parliament in the constitution as a matter of priority’. 

Anthony Albanese is pictured at a time when he was a young'democratic socialist'. He now says he holds'mainstream views'

Anthony Albanese is pictured at a time when he was a young ‘democratic socialist’. He now says he holds ‘mainstream views’

With Mr Albanese’s gaffe on Monday where he did not know Australia’s unemployment or cash rates, there will be a strong focus on the economy in the lead up to the election. 

But he is still not in a hurry to release Labor’s tax policy. 

On June 6, 2021, he said ‘We’ll make our announcements well before the election of all our tax announcements and all of our expenditure.’

Now, less than six weeks until polling day, he said ‘You’ll see it well before the election.’

Anthony Albanese is pictured when he was a young man with some very different views to those he now holds

Anthony Albanese is pictured when he was a young man with some very different views to those he now holds

Though he has embraced many changes of opinion in his 26 year parliamentary career, how he describes himself on the political spectrum might be one of the biggest. 

On May 6, 1996, two months after he was first elected in the inner Sydney seat of Grayndler, he said ‘Indeed, my politics as a democratic socialist have been developed from my experience in life.’

More than a quarter century later he now describes himself as being on the ‘centre left of politics. I think I have mainstream views.’

What are the key issues at this election?

COVID-19: Scott Morrison has been labelled ‘SloMo’ over delays in the vaccine rollout, and the ‘prime minister for NSW’ over his attitude towards the states’ handling of the pandemic. But will voters credit him for Australia’s internationally-low rate of severe illness and death? Or will voters hand Anthony Albanese the job of leading the post-pandemic health and economic recovery?

BUDGET AND ECONOMY: The jobless rate has remained low despite the pandemic and the economy is on a sound footing. But under-employment is high and the rate of casual and insecure work is of concern to many Australians. And government debt is at unprecedented levels with no prospect of being repaid any time soon. Inflation has many concerned, with an interest rate hike looming.

TAXES: Scott Morrison insists he will drive down taxes on workers and businesses and the coalition is best placed to keep taxes low over the long term. Labor’s immediate priority is dealing with multinational tax avoidance, but the coalition is seeking to convince voters a Labor budget would contain hidden nasties.

CLIMATE: The coalition and Labor are committed to net-zero emissions by 2050. Labor has a more ambitious medium-term target than the coalition. The issue has effectively been neutralised as a debating point, but a coalition campaign over Labor pushing up power prices can be expected. Independent candidates backed by Climate 200 are campaigning on doing more than either of the major parties.

BORDERS: The coalition says Labor’s soft stance on border protection will reopen the people smuggling trade and result in deaths at sea and a major cost blowout on detention centres. Labor says it supports boat turnbacks and offshore processing but will do so in a more humane way.

HEALTH: The coalition has boosted hospital funding for the states and territories. Labor says it will restore funding to the system and the coalition can’t be trusted with Medicare.

EDUCATION: The school funding debate seems to have settled. But Labor argues universities have been left to die by the coalition, especially as the international student market dried up during the pandemic.

NATIONAL SECURITY: The coalition says it is best placed to handle terrorism, China and other threats to national security and is more willing than Labor to enact laws to give greater powers to police and intelligence agencies. Labor says national security is a bipartisan priority, but wants to ensure there are proper checks and balances in any new powers.

INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS: The coalition is taking a hands-off approach when it comes to the Fair Work Commission’s decision-making, which now has more employer-focused personnel. It also warns of Labor being dictated to by the unions. Labor says the existing system needs reform as workers are not benefiting from economic growth, in terms of higher wages, and casuals are being exploited.

INTEGRITY: The government has long-promised a Commonwealth Integrity Commission but argues Labor stood in its way. Labor says a national integrity commission with teeth is needed. The debate has given impetus to independent candidates targeting Liberal seats.

WOMEN: Scott Morrison was forced into doing more to address women’s safety when Brittany Higgins went public with an allegation of being raped in a minister’s office, and Christian Porter defended an accusation of historic assault which he firmly denies. Labor argues it is best placed to deal with women’s safety and empowerment and is more committed than the coalition to running female candidates in winnable seats.

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