ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
ABC MELBOURNE DRIVE
THURSDAY, 19 MARCH 2020
SUBJECTS: Coronavirus; economic implications of coronavirus; Reserve Bank announcement.
RAF EPSTEIN, HOST: Anthony Albanese joins us. He is of course not only a Labor Member for the seat of Grayndler in Sydney, he’s the Leader of the Labour Party and the Opposition. Thanks for joining us.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good. Thanks for having me on the program, Raf.
EPSTEIN: Anthony Albanese. In your job, you’ve got to make us question the trustworthiness of the Prime Minister. Do you trust him on this stuff, on the coronavirus crisis?
ALBANESE: Certainly, what I do is have faith in the health experts, because the Prime Minister is not one of them and neither am I. But I do think that, and I’ve said this before, we do need to have trust in people in authority at a time like this. But the authorities also have to have trust in the people. They need to be very clear about why they are doing things when they do them. Now when the Reserve Bank makes a decision to change interest rates, they put out an explanation. And I think, really it would be working better and there’d be more confidence in the community if there were clear explanations for why the changes are being made on a day to day basis.
EPSTEIN: Do you think the Government is listening to the experts? There were a few answers from Paul Kelly that I’ve played before, I might get a chance to play them again, where he was effectively asked ‘You as the experts recommended, go harder on the 100 internal gatherings and the 500 external gatherings, and the Government pushed back.’ His answers are being interpreted as the Government was resisting that a bit. What do you think is happening?
ALBANESE: I hope they are listening to the experts. The Government has made the decision, the Prime Minister, not to include the Opposition in what he’s calling the national cabinet, but is really just phone hookups of COAG. That’s a good thing that that’s happening. But he has chosen to not include the Opposition. So I’m not privy to those discussions. What we are looking for is to try to be as supportive as possible when it comes to both health issues, but also the consequential economic ramifications of the health emergency that we’re going through. What I’ve said as well is that we don’t want to have an interview with you in October and November and be in a position whereby we’re saying we should have acted sooner.
EPSTEIN: Are you worried thats going to happen?
ALBANESE:There are circumstances where that has occurred already.
EPSTEIN: Can you tell us what they are?
ALBANESE: For example, the idea that on Friday we would say we should not have mass gatherings at sporting events on Monday, but it was okay over the weekend. We’ve seen today the consequences of that with regard to a rugby match that was conducted in Sydney. It was probably at Sydney University in my electorate, or one of the clubs playing in a final. And now everyone, not just the players, but the spectators who participated, have all been told to self-isolate now. The Prime Minister, when he made that announcement, said of course he was going to the football on the Saturday. I think that was very difficult to comprehend how that stacked up.
EPSTEIN: Were they taking this seriously enough last Friday?
ALBANESE: Well, look, it’s not up to me to pass judgment, just to say that people who looked at that I think, that was a confusing message. And I think we need to be very clear as people in leadership positions of putting out those messages very clearly. If it was okay to go to the football on Saturday, then why wasn’t it okay on Monday? And quite clearly it was the right decision to limit mass gatherings. But I think that’s an example that you asked for of a confused message. Quite clearly people are very anxious out there. That’s why we’re seeing this sort of behaviour in supermarkets and other activities that, quite frankly, doesn’t make any sense.
EPSTEIN: Are you saying that people are anxious because they are not hearing the Government’s messages?
ALBANESE: I’m not here trying to be difficult. I am reporting on a fact that people are anxious. And what we need to do, all of this, whether we’re in government or opposition or in the media, is be very clear about the messages that are coming through. Quite clearly, people don’t feel at the moment that they have confidence. There’s a whole range of reasons that we might want to want to analyse down the track about why that’s the case, I think. But what we need to do is to get on top of it, make sure that people do have that confidence. And as I said, governments need to trust people and explain very clearly why changes are being made. I support the changes that have just been announced, essentially closing off borders. It is still the case that people are arriving in international airports and this something I’ve raised with the Government, weren’t getting temperature tested.
EPSTEIN: Well they get a sheet of paper explaining what they should do and that’s it.
ALBANESE: That they tick. But surely, in places like Singapore, if you want to go into a supermarket or school you get temperature tested. Now, with today’s technology, that doesn’t mean putting a thermometer under your mouth.
ALBANESE: It means putting something up to your forehead, bang.
EPSTEIN: So are you proposing that that should be done just when people come back from airports or because in South Korea and Singapore and some parts of China, they’re testing the temperature of everyone who moves in and out of a building. What do you want to see?
ALBANESE: Well, I want to say as a minimum, as a minimum, it doesn’t make sense to me that we’re telling people they need to self-isolate for two weeks, but when they arrive, and, importantly, this is what people said to me at the airport in the domestic terminal on Tuesday morning and I related directly to the Government, that people were coming through, then getting on flights to regional destinations without being temperature tested for fever.
EPSTEIN: Although the experts have been saying to us the temperature check is not the best test. It’s not that reliable. You can spread the disease without having a temperature.
ALBANESE: I’m sure you can, but it’s one of the factors. That people have this disease do get a fever, but that’s one of the factors.
EPSTEIN: Okay, I want to try and get through a few things if I can. I really appreciate your time. But one thing we haven’t discussed is the, I think, quite mammoth economic consequence. I’ve been talking a lot about a report from Macquarie Wealth Management today, those bleeding lefties, who say that governments are belatedly recognising that the responses we use during the GFC are not going to be enough. So that’s Macquarie saying we’re going to need to do more than we did, than your Government did during the GFC. Do you think that’s right, they’ll have to do more than Wayne Swan did as Treasurer and Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister?
ALBANESE: Well, we’ve seen the extraordinary announcement this afternoon by the Reserve Bank, not just cutting the cash rate to 0.25, but also indicating that that would be kept for a considerable period of time to try and encourage certainty and an extraordinary bond purchase program, which will provide a facility for the banks to lend of $90 billion. That is a very significant injection indirectly by the Reserve Bank, they clearly have taken this very strong action. We are very supportive of that action.
EPSTEIN: Will the Government need to do more than the Labor Government did during the GFC?
ALBANESE: Well, we’ll wait and see, but clearly, the $17 billion was not enough last week. And what we need to do is to make sure that investments which are made today will actually save money in the long run. And one of the things that we did during the GFC, I’ve been criticised by some for it, but internationally it’s regarded as world’s best practice. And the best response was the $900 cash payments to citizens.
EPSTEIN: That’s coming, isn’t that? I mean, they’re doing it in America.
ALBANESE: It may well but the problem for the Government is that it’s caught on some of its own rhetoric. Having said absolute nonsense about programs like the Building the Education Revolution that created certainty for businesses out there, allowed tradies to survive and built that confidence.
EPSTEIN: No doubt. Can I just ask a few more quick ones, please, Anthony Albanese? I know your time is short as well. You’ve got a kid. I can’t remember how old, is that child at school?
ALBANESE: He’s 19.
EPSTEIN: Oh, okay.
ALBANESE: He’s second year uni, time moves on Raf!
EPSTEIN: It skipped past me. Okay. Have your household bought anything else extra? Have you been tempted to buy an extra pack of pasta? Or a bit of passata or something just to stock up? Have you been tempted?
ALBANESE: No, I haven’t. No, I haven’t. I have every confidence that there won’t be shortages. I tend to make sure that I have enough supplies. So I haven’t bought toilet paper, I’ve got to say, because they haven’t been available. But we’re doing okay for the essentials and I think that people need to exercise common sense. Another lesson out there that I like practically that people can take up, is there are a couple of little green grocers in the shopping centres that you don’t have to queue at. You can buy fresh fruit and veggies in my area and I’m sure it’s the same in the suburbs of Melbourne. You don’t have to go to Woolies and Coles. You can go to the local butchers. And, chances are my experience, as a shopper of a household of two plus the dog, has been to go to the local shops and you’ll be helping out small business as well.
EPSTEIN: Final request. I have been saying publicly and privately they need someone like Brendan Murphy, the Chief Medical Officer, to be broadcasting a five minute bulletin twice a day 7AM, 4PM as a must take for everyone from the news.com.au website through to this radio station, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. My fear is they’re relying on people like us to convey their message when they need to come over the top of the media and broadcast it far and wide. And repeatedly. Do you think they need something like that?
ALBANESE: Great idea, and no politicians.
EPSTEIN: Yeah, hundred percent.
ALBANESE: Just Brendan Murphy, just straight give the advice to people about what is happening so that they can explain the changes to decisions because I think otherwise people are relying upon a lot of misinformation out there. I said in my Statement to the Nation on Sunday night log on to health.gov.au and the other reliable information that I spoke about? The ABC.
EPSTEIN: Thank you very much. Thanks for your time.
ALBANESE: Thank you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.