Albanese admits Coalition ‘stopped the boats’ and opposes detention time limit | Australia news


Anthony Albanese has conceded that the Coalition’s policies “have stopped the boats”, and rejected calls to put a time limit on offshore detention, in an appearance on Sky News on Tuesday evening.

The senior frontbencher suggested during the interview that Labor could make refugee policy more humanitarian in several respects but ruled out allowing refugees who came by boat to settle in Australia.

The interview – addressing one of the Labor right’s key concerns about putting a leftwing MP in charge of the party – is likely to be seen as a further signal he is prepared to lead the party after a speech in late June laying out his manifesto, including the need for bipartisanship and closer cooperation with business.

Albanese denied the speech was intended as such as signal but pressure on Bill Shorten’s leadership has intensified after a misstep on Labor’s policy on company tax and with byelections looming on 28 July in the opposition-held marginal seats of Longman and Braddon.

Early in the interview the journalist and host Sharri Markson suggested Albanese could be Labor leader after those byelections, an assumption he did not correct – although he denied plotting to replace Shorten in answer to a later question.

Asked to address concerns about his position on border protection, Albanese said that “circumstances had changed” from 2015 when he opposed boat turnbacks.

“The government’s policies have stopped the boats,” he said. “They’re not coming, so the circumstances of rejecting boat arrivals has been achieved.”

Albanese said that the previous Labor government was wrong to believe that Australia’s border policies were not a “pull factor” for asylum seekers, which is why it changed tack when Kevin Rudd regained the leadership and reinstated offshore detention.

Albanese said Labor in government would be “tough on people smugglers” without being “weak on humanity”.

Asked about human services spokeswoman Linda Burney’s call for a time limit on offshore detention, Albanese said he did not support a timeframe but he believed Australia could end “long-term indefinite detention” that has led to refugees taking their own lives and mental anguish.

He suggested making the program more humanitarian by increasing the refugee intake, working with the UNHCR, achieving faster third-party resettlement of refugees and offering permanent rather than temporary protection visas.

“The range of changes I’ve pointed out are there – but no change in terms of people who arrive by boat, they wouldn’t be settled in Australia,” he said.

Asked if he was planning a leadership coup in the event Shorten faltered at the byelections, Albanese replied: “Not at all.

“Firstly we intend to win the byelections, we’re campaigning very strongly.

“But we also aren’t focused on ourselves – what we’ve done since 2013, I think very effectively, is be a coherent opposition with each player doing their role in the team – led by Bill Shorten, Chris Bowen and the economic team, including myself as the [shadow] infrastructure minister.”

Albanese said he accepted the Labor party’s decision in 2013 – when votes in the Labor caucus overwhelmed Albanese’s lead with members to award the leadership to Shorten – and since then he had done his job to the best of his capacity “for the Labor cause”.

“You can only have one captain and that captain is Bill Shorten, I accepted that,” he said. “And I think what we need to do is work together as a team. I have a good relationship with Bill, I have a good relationship will all my colleagues.”

Albanese said there was a “good atmosphere” and “good vibe” in Labor compared with infighting in the Coalition between Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott over energy policy.



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