Meet Albo - The People’s Pollie
We catch up with Australian Labor Party politician Anthony Albanese, to talk about more than just politics.
TrueBlue Magazine - February/March 2019
Words by: Michelle Atkinson | Photography: Paul Henderson-Kelly
Anthony Albanese has been dubbed by many as a ‘people’s politician’ and it’s not just because he gets out there into regional, rural and outback Australia, meeting the locals and listening to their stories. It’s also not just because he’s a true blue Aussie who is the proud owner of multiple Akubras, who says things like “Fair Dinkum” and “Strewth.”
Albo, as he’s known by family, friends, colleagues and even the media, can laugh at himself (that’s no doubt one reason why The Project likes having him on board for appearances) but if you really boil it down, the Federal Member for Grayndler and the Shadow Minister for Transport & Infrastructure is known as a People’s Pollie because he is so passionate about the projects that are affecting Australians and their often remote communities on a daily basis.
“Nothing beats face-to-face engagement, especially in today’s world where so many of us are addicted to devices and it’s so easy to send a text or a video,” he says. “But dialogue and interaction on the ground is crucial to Australia’s development and to people’s lives. To me it’s not just about giving a speech when I am in a town such as Parkes or Outback Queensland, it’s about meeting people and listening to them. As a politician you talk a lot, but it’s more important to listen to what people need and want. And I really like meeting people and engaging with them. That is one of the great privileges of my role — I get paid for something that I love doing, and I don’t take that for granted.”
If the rumour mills have any truth in them, 2019 is bound to be a big year for Albo, with some people even saying he could be the next PM.
He shrugs at the suggestion, but also smiles. “I’m looking forward to this year, and I love a good election campaign,” he says. “It’s a huge challenge but I love the fact that people who aren’t normally into politics suddenly switch on during an election campaign — actually paying attention to what politicians are doing. I think Australia has enormous opportunities coming up, as we’re in the fastest growing region of the world in human history, and to take advantage of that is really exciting for everyone.”
There’s a long list of things that Albanese is proud of, but it’s the hands-on projects that affect everyday life for people in rural communities that he loves getting into. “I’m also a huge fan of public transport, and the last time we were in office, we invested more in public transport than all previous governments combined,” he says. “I loved working on some recent projects including the upgrading of the Artesian Spa Baths at Moree, and working on the funding and development of the community halls at Charleville and Cloncurry.”
One of Albanese’s favourite projects to work on was the Einasleigh River Bridge in Outback Queensland. “Previously, when there was flooding in this region (which happens often in the wet season) the towns of Normanton and Karumba were completely cut off. The creation of the bridge fixed this issue and it means people can get in or out despite hazardous weather conditions.”
He’s also worked closely with teams on the swimming pool at Mildura, and the impressive new tourism facilities on Kangaroo Island.
Regarding issues on a global scale, Albanese is just as passionate as he is vocal about climate change.
“The challenge of climate change is very real. It’s enormous, and Australia is particularly vulnerable to the ramifications. It’s an issue that requires action right now – not just from the government, but from people in their everyday lives. We all need to make an effort, and adaptation is critical for the survival of our agriculture industry, and all other industries for that matter. It’s an issue that cannot be resolved simply, but it needs attention now.”
Many people don’t know that Albanese grew up in a small family, with just himself and and an invalid mother on the pension. So it comes as no surprise to learn that he understands what it is like to struggle.
“At times we did it really tough,” he says. “I realise that most politicians are economically more secure than most of the people we represent, but knowing what it is like to struggle allows me to understand what others could be going through, and I can empathise. My mother was a really important person in my life and she never complained. She was still generous and she just got on with things, making the most of her situation.”
Albanese sees this resilience of the Australian spirit mirrored in those affected by the drought that has gripped Australia for more than a decade. “Seeing that resilience in those who have gone through, or who are still going through the drought, is remarkable,” he says. “They don’t complain. They pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and get on with it. The courage they have is incredible. People in my community and in our office were collecting donations to help those in need and it created such a positive environment. It’s also resulted in bringing us together as a nation, because we all have a common interest — that is, to help those in need. In true Australian style, in times of difficulty, we come together. Whether that is related to longer term issues such as the drought, or during a crisis, a cyclone or a fire, Australians generally reach out and support one another. That makes me proud to be an Australian and proud to be involved in so many projects that directly help others.”
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