May 7, 2020







SUBJECTS: Eden-Monaro by-election; coronavirus; life after COVID-19; NRL.


JAMES FENNESSY, HOST: We’re joined by the Leader of the Labor Party, Anthony Albanese. Anthony, thanks for your time.




FENNESSY: So, you’re in Merimbula this morning. What brings you to our beautiful part of the world?


ALBANESE: Well I’ve been here with Kristy McBain who is Labor’s candidate for the Eden-Monaro by-election. We visited Club Sapphire and were shown around there, through the site, of course, where there were a thousand people sleeping for eight nights during the bushfire crisis and talking to locals there about the impact of the bushfires and about the lack of support which has come in since then, and how we need to do better, basically, and provide increased support for the communities that have really suffered from a triple whammy. The drought, then bushfires, and then the coronavirus. Communities are really suffering. The club there, of course, has had to close because of the pandemic. And they are doing it tough. But importantly, local small business and individuals are really finding it difficult at this time. And this by-election is a chance to send a message to the Federal Government that they need extra support.


FENNESSY: You’re not wrong in the fact that there’s a lot of businesses and people doing it tough on the south coast and even further afield. Let’s talk about the Federal seat of Eden-Monaro. So, it’s been 100 years since a Government has taken a seat from the Opposition in a by-election. That plus the fact that Labor won this seat only 12 months ago, does that give you some confidence heading into the by-election? Or is it more since Mike Kelly has announced his retirement you are thinking this might be a challenge for Labor to hold on to the seat?


ALBANESE: Look, it will certainly be a balance. Mike Kelly was a very popular local member who the analysis from Antony Green suggests that he was worth three to four per cent. And so, that is a substantial difference that he made as the local member. But in Kristy McBain, we have a local champion who’s a part of this community. She is such a strong advocate. She is known in the community. She is respected. And I’m very hopeful that she’ll get a very good result. And I think that it contrasts with the other side that are too busy fighting for their own careers rather than fighting for the community.


FENNESSY: And just on that point you made previously, Anthony Albanese, down here on the south coast we know our former Mayor Kristy McBain quite well. She is lesser known in the northern parts of the Eden-Monaro like Yass, Queanbeyan and Cooma. That’s one challenge for her in this upcoming by-election. What do you think the main challenge for Kristy will be in stepping into Federal politics?


ALBANESE: Look, that is a challenge. But Kristy, of course, has been the deputy chair of the Regional Council body that contains all of those councils, including Yass and the Snowy and all of the councils around Queanbeyan and others as well. And what that represents is that she has been an advocate for their interests as well with state and Federal governments. She went to school, of course, in Eden. But then went to spend some time in Canberra going to university and then working in the local communities. The lawyer’s office that she worked for has an office in Canberra, but it also has one in Queanbeyan and one in Yass. So, she got to know that community during the period that she was there. She then moved back to the coast to the community where she finished high school and where she loves. Her parents are still here. And I think she will see herself and community will come to see her as well, the entire region.


FENNESSY: And you touched on it before, your thoughts on the rift between Deputy New South Wales Premier, John Barilaro, and New South Wales Transport Minister, Andrew Constance.


ALBANESE: Look, for them it has been about them. And that is the big difference there. I think Kristy McBain is concerned about the people, not concerned about these political games of people who already have senior jobs in the state government fighting each other and fighting their own party leaders which is really self-indulgent at a time where we still have people in this region living in tents and caravans who haven’t been able to get their homes and other issues dealt with. And this is a community that needs a local champion who is concerned about their interests rather than concerned about themselves. And I think that people will have a look at what’s going on the other side and just shake their heads.


FENNESSY: Anthony Albanese, your background is in economics. Just if we switch now to COVID-19, what are your thoughts on where we’re at the moment and how our economy will recover and how our communities will recover?


ALBANESE: Look, I certainly don’t agree with the Government’s position that we will have snap-back, that we will wake up one morning and things will be back to where they were. There will be a need for transition and there will be a need for ongoing government support during that transition. We need to get people back to work. That will require a gradual lifting of the restrictions which are there. But we will also require some creative solutions to enable people to be gotten into work such as in an obvious way, is to put people to work in a land management conservation program that would deliver jobs and economic activity to the region, whilst preparing and providing some resilience to the areas that have been impacted by the bushfires. So, measures like that, I think, needs to be looked at. We need arising out of the crisis, as well, to recognise the importance that regional economic development will play. I think there’s a lot of people who live in CBDs where there has been a lot of urban congestion who will look at this period and will see that people have been able to work from home, people have been able to work remotely. And I think the nature of work will change and that will provide, I believe, a great opportunity to move more people to the regions where you see there is greater emphasis on decentralisation and economic development.


FENNESSY: And, Anthony Albanese, when you were first elected, you said you would hold Scott Morrison to account. Some people have said you’re too critical of the Government. What’s your comment on that?


ALBANESE: What I worry about is representing people’s interest. And people deserve that strong representation. The Government does need to be held to account. We have supported the three stimulus packages that went through the Parliament. We have also make suggestions and improvements, some of which have been adopted by the Government. It is Labor that was talking about the need for wage subsidies when the Government dismissed it. And it was only when we saw those terrible queues outside the Centrelink offices that we hadn’t seen since the Great Depression, that the Government changed its position on wage subsidies. And thank goodness that they did. Otherwise, we would have seen an even greater devastation of our economy.


FENNESSY: Just on people’s interests as well, you’re a Rabbitohs fan. Quick thoughts on the NRL and their aim of returning on May 28?


ALBANESE: Well, I hope that they can return. We await the final health advice on that. But I think that the more life can return to normal the better, but we need to make sure that we don’t take risks. We don’t want an early lifting of restrictions which then requires them to be put back on in an even more draconian way. And no one wants these activities to stop. I look forward to watching, I hope on TV, Souths beat the Roosters when the competition gets back underway.


FENNESSY: Anthony Albanese, thank you for joining us. That is the Leader of the Opposition, head of the Labor Party, Anthony Albanese.