Aug 14, 2020







SUBJECTS: Uni fee hikes; threat to regional universities; COVID; relationship with China; aged care Coronavirus crisis; Aged Care Royal Commission; South Sydney Rabbitohs.


STEVE MCMILLAN, HOST: The Education Minister, the Federal one, Dan Tehan’s overhaul of university students’ fee and then the Regional Education Minister Andrew Gee. I’m sort of mucking it up a bit. Well, that’s my opinion I’ve got the Opposition Leader in the Federal government, Anthony Albanese, on the line. Anthony, thanks very much for joining us. What’s your take on all this?


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, this is a schmozzle, but when you’ve got a National Party junior Minister attacking, his own Government’s plan, which has been orchestrated by the Liberal Party, it says a couple of things. It says, that clearly it’s been mucked up, particularly regional universities will really suffer, students will suffer, but communities will suffer as a downgrade of these universities, if they can’t attract students, if they’re struggling to get proper funding. The bottom line of all this is this is about less funding to universities. And to the National Party, I say maybe it’s time that they walked away from the Liberals. It’s pretty pathetic when you’ve got someone who’s actually a Minister in the portfolio for regional education coming out and slamming his own Government’s policies, before it’s even been introduced into the Parliament.


MCMILLAN: All right, for example, we’ve got the University of New England here. It’s the oldest regional uni in Australia. How would it affect these people here, because some of these things look like they’re going up by over 110 per cent?


ALBANESE: Well, that’s right. So if you’re a social work student at UNE there, you have an increase of 113 per cent in your degree, so that it’s more than doubled up to more than than $40,000. Now, when you think about social workers, you’re helping to protect kids, providing support to people when they need it when they’re vulnerable. These aren’t workers who earn a lot of money. So the idea that you would double the fees that they have to pay, will simply mean that a whole lot of people who might have undertaken the degree there moved to Armidale, been contributing to the local economy while they’re there, they’ll simply go do something else, because it won’t be a viable option for them. That will be bad for the universities, but will also be bad for those people who rely upon people to have those skills and to get that education and to then contribute to society. Education has got to be viewed as something that doesn’t just help the individual, it helps the society and if we’re going to be, a smarter Australia is what we need to be, particularly coming out of the pandemic, we need to plan for a recovery and attacking universities, it’s the last thing that we should be doing.


MCMILLAN: Yeah, well, I guess also the other thing you can look at with the Libs and the Nationals, they should be focused on giving Australians the training they need to get jobs, especially when we’re in the situation that we’re in and a million or more unemployed, 7.5 per cent unemployment around the place. Surely it’s not the time to be doing this?


ALBANESE: No, it’s it’s quite bizarre that the Liberal Government of Scott Morrison thinks this is the way to go. We’ve got over a million unemployed, the real figure is in double digits, somewhere north of 10 per cent. We heard reports from, the head of Treasury said it’s expected to stay high for four or five years at least, the unemployment rate. And young people we know are, particularly, are already suffering from wages that have been in decline, not keeping up with the cost of living for younger people. They’re suffering from insecure work, with casualisation. And now those who are trying to get on and aspire to a better income and a better life, by getting training, whether it’s universities or yesterday was national TAFE day, that’s also been cut by this Government. The prospects are dire indeed and it makes no sense at all. We’ve got a plan to come out of this pandemic stronger and to press the reset button. And one way that we do that is by investing in people and investing in their education and training, we don’t want to compete with countries to our north on a race to the bottom on wages and conditions, we’ll never win that race. We need to compete on the basis of how smart we are and how well trained our workforce is.


MCMILLAN: Speaking of countries to our North, China have put tariffs on barley, and a whole host of other things. It seems like whatever Australia does that China doesn’t like something else changes. What’s your take on China?


ALBANESE: We need to have a mature relationship with China. We need to recognise that we have differences with them, they’re not a democracy, and we need to call out those differences that we have, but we need to do it in a way that recognises the importance of the relationship. The problem that we have at the moment is we’ve got, in the Morrison Government, people in key portfolios like Trade, who can’t even pick up the phone to their counterparts in China, and the relationship really has broken down. And what we’ve seen is with regard to barley, of course, is that the US has an agricultural agreement with China, which it would appear, some of which is at our expense, and the United States are our allies, and we need to also be talking to them about ensuring that Australia isn’t disadvantaged by any agreements that it makes with countries like China.


MCMILLAN: All right, we’re talking to Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, and Anthony, aged care. It’s big in the news. There’s been a lot of people died through this pandemic in aged care. It started in Sydney and it’s now in Melbourne. There’s been a lot of talk and there’s also a Royal Commission into it as well. What’s your take on the aged care and what would you do differently as what been done?


ALBANESE: Well, the evidence before the Aged Care Royal Commission is that the Federal Government, which is responsible for aged care, just simply didn’t have a plan in place. And the evidence yesterday was that many of the deaths were certainly avoidable, and the issues were foreseeable. It’s extraordinary that even after events like Newmarch, where we saw so many deaths, the alarm bells were ringing, but no one in the Morrison Government was listening, they were complacent. And that’s not what Labor’s saying, that’s what the Royal Commission into Aged Care, that was established, of course, prior to the pandemic because of the problems that were there in the sector already. So we need to make sure that the aged care sector have enough skilled workforce, that have enough personal protective equipment and that they have in place the structures to ensure that older Australians are treated with the care and the dignity that they deserve.


MCMILLAN: All right, now in the NRL, it’s great to see that they’re playing, and of course the AFL but you’ve been a fan of the South Sydney Rabbitohs for quite some time. How are you travelling this year? I mean, they’re not in the top eight and they’re a bit scratchy in form. What do you think the outcome will be for your rabbits this year?


ALBANESE: We broke into the top eight last week.


MCMILLAN: Oh, fair enough.


ALBANESE: We’ve got the Cowboys this week, tomorrow up in Townsville, and that’s a game that we should win. And then we’ve got the arch rivals Manly next week, so if we can pick up a couple of wins there, then that will entrench us in in the top eight. We’ve been unlucky of course with injuries and we also had two big losses. To lose Sam Burgess, one of the best forwards that we’ve seen in the game in recent times and of course the great Greg Inglis, to lose both of those players is obviously going to take a lot of talent and firepower off your team. But the development of some of the younger ones coming through, along with people like Damien Cook and Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker, I think is a big plus for us, and of course Latrell Mitchell I think is just warming into the role of South Sydney fullback and he will be, I think a great asset for us for many years to come.


MCMILLAN: All right, finally, Mr. Albanese, have you got a favourite player?


ALBANESE: I have. I have a number of, Greg Inglis, GI was my favourite player and now I think a whole range of, I love watching Damien Cook, I think is such a gutsy player. He’s prepared to take them on in the middle and his defence is also absolutely superb, but I think Cameron Murray will really develop into a great player for Souths and for New South Wales, over many years as well.


MCMILLAN: All right, Mr. Albanese, thank you very much for your time, for joining us and taking the time out of your day to be on to 2AD. Thank you.


ALBANESE: Always happy to talk to people in Armidale.