Aug 17, 2020







SUBJECTS: Aged care crisis; Labor’s energy policy; Ruby Princess; New Year’s Eve fireworks.


BEN FORDHAM, HOST: I think everyone’s been disturbed by what’s come out of the Aged Care Royal Commission. The industry failed the people it was designed to protect. And nowhere is that clearer than the response to the pandemic. The commissioners heard there were no specific plans to keep aged care residents safe. And once the virus was in, no one really knew how to handle it. This week, national cabinet is set to get the ball rolling on a rapid response plan for aged care in all states and territories. On Friday, the Prime Minister apologised for systems failures, saying he’s deeply sorry that aged care had fallen short. Anthony Albanese is the Opposition Leader. He joins us live on the line. Good morning to you.




FORDHAM: The PM says he’s deeply sorry that aged care fell short. Fair enough?


ALBANESE: This is just a tragedy. Too many families are saying goodbye to their loved ones over FaceTime, not able to even have the normal human experience that I had when my mother departed. And that must be just heart wrenching. And you have aged care workers put in a position whereby they’re the ones who are holding the hands of these elderly Australians who have contributed to make Australia the great country that we are as they pass. We need to do better than this. And after you had the issues in New South Wales in March and April with Newmarch House and other facilities, the bells were ringing, but no one was listening. It’s good that there’s a national response team being established now, but it should have happened much earlier, and it shouldn’t have taken the Aged Care Royal Commission to suggested it. It should have been the Government that was on top of this because we know from a report on Saturday that in phone hook-ups between national officials and state officials, the relevant people were pointing towards overseas experience which was when you have an infection, remove those people, get people out or separate those people who are infected and those who aren’t by using hospitals. That is best practice that occurred in Europe with much better results than we’re seeing here in Australia.


FORDHAM: The inquiry into the Ruby Princess cruise ship has cleared Border Force of any wrongdoing. Should Kristina Keneally, your spokesperson on Home Affairs, apologise because she accused the Federal Government of covering up to protect Border Force?


ALBANESE: No, certainly not. The fact is that the Federal Government does have responsibility for quarantine issues. And it was the Prime Minister himself who stood up at a press conference in March and said ships will not be allowed to dock in Australia. It was the Prime Minister’s own words. He said that Border Force were in charge. And there were federal officials on the Ruby princess on the very day that passengers were allowed to disembark. And we know the consequences. Dozens of deaths and a massive spread of the infection as people went from the Sydney Harbour docks and spread it right around the country.


FORDHAM: Can I just ask you about a report in today’s Australian that you are facing a party room revolt on the issue of energy, and this is after Bill Shorten sided with senior Labor MPs including Joel Fitzgibbon, Kim Carr and Matt Keogh, in declaring gas and lower energy prices are crucial to protect Australia’s manufacturing sector and jobs? There seems to be a gap between your position and the position or these other Labor MPs?


ALBANESE: That is just fiction, Ben. The fact is that what I’ve said is that we will actually have a look at the report which has been developed by Nev Power before we comment on it and before we give a blank check to the Government to build, for example, what the rumours are, is a pipeline from the west coast to the east coast. Now that isn’t anything new. You would have heard about it. It’s been around for more than a decade. It is a bit like the water flowing from the north right down to the Murray Darling. It’s talked about. It never goes anywhere. And the quotes that I had on Saturday were actually quoting, I emailed the market operator. The fact is that we are at the moment the world’s largest gas exporter. But we don’t have access to affordable gas right here. That’s something that Labor has been saying, for a long period of time. This Government has had 19 cracks at an energy policy without delivering one. And I wrote to the Prime Minister, you might recall now, two months ago, offering to sit down and develop a framework for an energy policy for Australia. He hasn’t even bothered to respond.


FORDHAM: There’s debate around this morning about New Year’s Eve fireworks and whether they should go ahead because of concerns about coronavirus. But equally, there are many people saying after the year we’ve had in 2020, we’re going to need to finish it with a bang. Where do you stand on the New Year’s Eve fireworks?


ALBANESE: I hope they do go ahead. I hope they do go ahead safely. It seems to me that it’s one of the great things about Sydney, this great city, is the fireworks on New Year’s Eve. We need to be cautious. We need to exercise all the constraints that we’re doing. But without forgetting about the future. And the future relies upon us promoting this great city, and this great country, for tourism. And if we can get Sydney Harbour as one of the first big events in the world, because of where we’re located, on the TV screens around the world and attract visitors so that when this virus is on top of, and it will be, we can return to normal. So, it seems to me that people watching fireworks, even if it’s on the TV, is not something that endangers anyone. There needs to be the appropriate controls put in place depending upon where we’re at in December. Let’s hope that we’re in a much better position than we are now.


FORDHAM: Fingers crossed. Thanks so much for your time.


ALBANESE: Thanks, Ben.


FORDHAM: Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, joining us to kick off the week this Monday morning.