Jul 7, 2020







SUBJECTS: Eden-Monaro by-election; Victorian coronavirus outbreak; Melbourne lockdown; state border closures; WA border closure; Clive Palmer’s High Court appeal; Christopher Pyne’s new book; Mathias Cormann leaving politics.


OLIVER PETERSON, HOST: Joining me live on the program is the Australian Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese. Good afternoon.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good afternoon, Ollie. Always good to talk with you again,


PETERSON: You promised us that you’d visit 10 times this year. I think you would be breaking that promise this year, Albo.


ALBANESE: It’s going to be a bit hard, although it is possible. But I could head to the border by car and just do, sort of, U-turns across the border. Perhaps in December, that’s about the only way I’m going to make it. So, let’s call it ‘virtual visits’ like I’m having now, I think, is what we are going to have to do. But I think that Mark McGowan certainly has done the right thing and he has come through this great challenge with flying colours. And I note his call upon the Prime Minister for the Government to stop this absurd backing of the High Court challenge by Clive Palmer to the quite correct decision by Premier McGowan and the WA Government to listen to the medical advice. And it’s served WA well.


PETERSON: It is interesting, though. The Commonwealth Government, it’s not really part of the High Court challenge, though, is it, Anthony Albanese? But it has to provide that advice. I know Mark McGowan would like to see this not even head to the High Court at all and just call it off altogether. But it’s not really the Federal Government up against the Western Australian Government, is it?


ALBANESE: Well, the Federal Government are backing it in. They are backing in Clive Palmer. That’s the problem here. And that has a fair bit of weight, obviously, in a High Court challenge about constitutional issues, what the national Government’s view is. And I think Mark McGowan yesterday saw that Scott Morrison was backing in the Liberal Premier of New South Wales who has been against border closures before she did one herself in the New South Wales and Victorian border, and that too is the right decision. We’ve got to just listen to the medical experts here. And I’ve been supportive of all of the state governments who have made these decisions. I think the precautionary principle applies here. And we know that around the world what we’re seeing in Victoria has been seen in other places where you’ve had things get better, but then with just a little bit of ill-discipline, things can get worse pretty quickly.


PETERSON: Is it a little bit muddled, though? You’ve got the situation now where, as you say, New South Wales will be shutting its border tonight to Victoria. Yet, we’re in a situation where Western Australia is shut off to the rest of the country. Now, it has been floated that we could open up to some of the other states and territories, notably South Australia and the NT. But Premier Mark McGowan argues that is unconstitutional. In the same breath then, how can Gladys Berejiklian shut off New South Wales just to Victoria?


ALBANESE: Well, there’s an argument there, of course. But I think this is a matter of just applying a bit of common sense. And it’s the right thing for Victoria to be making the decision that they have of essentially stopping activity and really putting quite severe constraints on while they get on top of this issue. And it’s the right thing for New South Wales. Just as it was the right thing for South Australia that has been cut off, Tasmania, of course, Western Australia and Queensland. Queensland has opened up recently. I just think we have to be cautious and we have to listen to the legal advice. No one wants these constraints to be on. I miss my visits to WA and chatting to you in the studio there. And it’s a difficult time to be a politician. It is all about meeting people and getting out and about and listening to their concerns. And as you know, I quite enjoy sitting in the studio there and listening to people ringing in and putting their views. Some of them good, some of them not so good to hear. Well, you’ve got to hear everyone’s views. And it was very difficult having the by-election over here in Eden-Monaro, which didn’t have the usual door-knocking and no handshaking, no town halls, no big debates. But you had to really talk to people as best you could and communicate through other means. I’m as tired of having Zoom meetings as everyone else but you’ve got to communicate in whatever way you can. But I look forward to life getting back to normal, but we can’t be impatient about it.


PETERSON: Could you see an opportunity whereby Victoria remains locked off to the rest of the country, but we get about the rest of our business, Anthony Albanese?


ALBANESE: Look, we just have to wait and see. I think one of the things about the last few days that we’ve learned is that it’s very difficult to predict and we should never get ahead of ourselves. I don’t think people saw this coming, frankly, a couple of weeks ago. But that’s why we’ve got to continue to be vigilant. It is good that the number of tests are coming up. Of course, WA is in a good situation as it doesn’t have the sort of border towns like Mildura and Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton and these places that are very much along either side of the New South Wales-Victorian border and there’s a lot of interaction. People can live in New South Wales and drop the kids off in Victoria to school. So, it is a difficult circumstance. But I think Mark McGowan is right. And I’m certainly calling upon the Federal Government to withdraw their support for this Clive Palmer High Court challenge. It is only to Western Australia and Queensland. Apparently, the other states that are locked down, that is okay by Clive. And that just shows how this is just political opportunism. And it’s not a time for that. This is a time to put aside partisan politics and to actually unite. Even though we’re separate in many ways, we’ve never been as together as we have been in recent times. And people by and large have overwhelmingly done the right thing.


PETERSON: You mentioned before, the by-election in Eden-Monaro. Kristy McBain, your candidate, you’ve claimed victory. Has the Liberal Party now conceded defeat?


ALBANESE: No. And that’s a decision for them and up to them to explain. Really, it’s very clear what the outcome is here. Kristy McBain went further ahead today, actually. But with the number of votes and the trends which are there in the postal votes, it’s very clear. I think it was clear on Saturday night, but it was certainly absolutely clear on Sunday. Which is why Kristy McBain and myself claimed what’s really an extraordinary against-the-odds victory. By and large, from 1972 right through to 2016, whoever held Eden-Monaro was in Government. So, I take that as a very positive sign, indeed. Particularly under the current circumstances with COVID-19.


PETERSON: Are you worried that your primary vote fell by three per cent?


ALBANESE: We are in a preferential system. And there were 14 candidates this time around. And it is extraordinary that with a sitting member, and in the end it’ll end up being much less than that, by the way, but with a sitting member like Mike Kelly, who had served his country in uniform and then served in the national Parliament as a minister, had won the seat off the Liberal Party not once but twice, won it in 2007, lost it in 2013, and then came back in 2016. He was well-known. He comes from multiple generations around the Bega way. His relatives added up to about one per cent of the seat. So, it’s quite an outstanding result for Kristy McBain and for Labor.


PETERSON: Some commentators suggested this as a test of your leadership. How do you review and reflect on the by-election?


ALBANESE: Look, that was a bit of nonsense. Frankly, this wasn’t about people who have power like myself and the Prime Minister. This was about people who didn’t have power. It was about the people who are impacted by the bushfires, people dealing with the drought before then, and people dealing with COVID-19, and people who feel as though they’ve been left behind. And it was an opportunity for them to voice their concern. And they did that by electing Kristy McBain. And she will be an outstanding representative. She has a big career ahead of her. It is a rural seat. It certainly isn’t a natural Labor seat. Far from it. And if we can win a seat like Eden-Monaro in the current circumstances, then I think it all goes well for us.


PETERSON: On a lighter note and to finish our conversation this afternoon, how is your old mate Christopher Pyne? Because he was on the radio station and he just released a new book. Have you had time to read it in between your travels?


ALBANESE: I haven’t actually. But I did ring him and wished him well with his book. He’s a character, Christopher. I think Parliament needs, and public life needs, a few characters in it. And I wish him will. And might I say with the announcement of someone else going on Sunday, Mathias Cormann’s decision to leave politics, can I say that he is also someone who I have respect for. And I wish him and his family all the best.


PETERSON: We will see you in WA sometime in the future, Anthony Albanese. We will talk to you soon.


ALBANESE: Well, hopefully sooner rather than later.