Jan 20, 2021






SUBJECTS: Car accident; Labor leadership; Donald Trump’s last days as US President; Australia’s relationship with the US; Scott Morrison’s lack of condemnation towards Donald Trump and the insurrection; next Federal Election.


BEN FORDHAM, HOST: Well, this year could be make or break for Anthony Albanese. We’re less than 18 months out from the Federal Election and his polling isn’t all that flash. Already, the sharks are beginning to circle. We’ve even heard from a union leader from the CFMEU, Elizabeth Doidge, who says Tanya Plibersek would be a better option. Now, as I’ve said a number of times, I think the ALP would have rocks in its head to change jockeys right now. Albo survived a car crash over summer, will he survive the Labor Party room? We’ve got lots to talk about. Anthony Albanese, the Federal Opposition Leader, joins us live on the line. Albo, good morning to you.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, Ben. Good to be back. Good to be here, literally.


FORDHAM: I should just check on you. How are you going after the car smash? We saw it all over the news and you ended up in hospital?


ALBANESE: I sure did. No, I was very lucky. The car is a write-off, but I am not. When people have said that Labor leadership, crash or crash through, I didn’t mean to take it literally. But having a head-on with a Range Rover is not the ideal. But I feel better this morning, I’ve got to say. Every day when I wake up, I feel that little bit much better, a little bit less sore. I’m seeing a specialist at nine o’clock this morning to check on some things to make sure that there’s no long-term damage. I’m getting good health care. But I expect a full recovery. And it does make you reflect. I intend to make every single day count. I knew that 2021 might throw some challenges at me, but a Range Rover heading straight for me wasn’t what I expected. Now I’m absolutely determined to make the most of it.


FORDHAM: Let’s get down to business. It’s the last full day of Donald Trump’s presidency. I get the impression that you’re pleased to see the back of it?


ALBANESE: Well, I think that the way that he has exited that job has bought no credit to him. Fortunately, it has shown how resilient the institutions in the United States are. The fact that after the insurrection that occurred at the Capitol Building, the members of the Congress and the Senate gathered later that day to do their constitutional duty. I remain convinced that the United States has a great future, they are our most important partner. And I think in Joe Biden, they will have an outstanding President moving forward. One who will conduct foreign policy on a more certain basis, put it that way. And that, I think, will be a good thing because a strong US is important for the world.


FORDHAM: You’re making a speech today where you’re going to say that Scott Morrison should have called out Donald Trump over the Capitol Building being stormed. But Australian leaders don’t go bashing US leaders because of the strength of the alliance. I mean, you look back to so many examples over the years, whether it’s John Howard never having a crack at George Bush for launching a war over weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist or many other examples, it’s not the nature of the relationship that we do that kind of thing.


ALBANESE: This wasn’t business-as-usual. George Bush condemned it and called it out. And that’s not usual either.


FORDHAM: But he’s an American.


ALBANESE: And so did Boris Johnson. And so did Angela Merkel. And so did Emmanuel Macron. And so did the entire democratic world. Scott Morrison was the only leader of a democracy who seemed incapable of just saying the obvious, which is that Donald Trump played a role in inciting what were dreadful scenes on January 7, scenes that were shocking I’m sure to you as well as to me and I’m sure as well as to most people who value the US relationship, not as just between individual, but it’s a relationship built on our shared democratic values. And when those values are trashed, it shouldn’t be beyond the Australian Prime Minister to state the obvious.


FORDHAM: We don’t appreciate other countries sticking their nose in our business when something stuffs up here. So, why should we be doing it there?


ALBANESE: Well, the entire world did.


FORDHAM: But it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world does.


ALBANESE: Because this was about democratic values. And they’re more important than any individual. And the idea that we had, for a considerable period of time before the election, Donald Trump undermining the democratic processes during the election. One of the things that we have here, and if you compare it with, say the Clinton election or elections that we have, Bill Shorten’s response after the last Federal Election, he was disappointed, we all were. But we respect the outcome. That’s important in democracy. You support processes, you get on with things. And the failure of the Prime Minister to say anything at all that was critical of Donald Trump and the failure of him as well to call out people like Craig Kelly and others who backed some of the conspiracy theories that were going on about the election, that somehow Joe Biden’s election was not legitimate, that undermines the relationship with the United States when you have members of the Government Party saying that Joe Biden is not a legitimate President and saying as well that somehow the actions that we saw on January 7 weren’t really Donald Trump supporters, they were somehow left-wing infiltrators who pretended to be Donald Trump supporters, I mean, it’s just absurd.


FORDHAM: So, if Scott Morrison’s judgment is off, why is he doing so well in the polls and why are you, with respect, Anthony Albanese, doing so poorly?


ALBANESE: Well, with respect, Ben, which poll are we doing badly in? If you look at the published polls, Newspoll at the end of the year finished up with the Government on 51 and us on 49. That’s a lift in in our vote. It was a three-point lift in our primary vote. I’ve been in positive territory the whole way through. Prior to the pandemic, I was the preferred Prime Minister. During a pandemic, what you have as a flight to leadership. That’s occurred in every state, everywhere except for where the pandemic has been completely mishandled, such as the United States occurred. Where you see a lift in the polls is the sort of figures that Jacinda Ardern delivered for the Labour Party in New Zealand. We are very competitive. Our vote is up from where it was in the last election. And at the end of the year, where we’ve had a real focus on the Government, where people have wanted the Government to succeed because of the implications for their health and their job if it didn’t succeed, then I make this observation that we are in a pretty good position going into 2021.


FORDHAM: Okay. Joel Fitzgibbon, I know, would like to see you step aside and someone else have a go. We’ve had a member of the CFMEU, Elizabeth Doidge, say that Tanya Plibersek would be better to lead. I could ask you whether you are going to lead Labor to the next election, but I know the answer to that will be yes. So, let me finish up by asking you, can you beat Scott Morrison?


ALBANESE: Yes, I can. And Joel Fitzgibbon hasn’t said that. And the union official, who’s not even an elected union official, who you mentioned, I’m sure you hadn’t heard of before a couple of days ago. And nor had I. I don’t even know if she’s a member of the Labor Party. And you’re right to chuckle, Ben, because that relates to, as you’re aware, I took on John Setka as bringing the Labor Party into disrepute. I showed strong leadership when people were out of line within my Party and bringing the Party into disrepute. And that stands in stark contrast to what Scott Morrison has done to people like Craig Kelly, with his promotion of, frankly, quack ideas when it comes to dealing with coronavirus, when it comes to his promotion of conspiracy theories regarding the US election. And what Scott Morrison did was to intervene to save his preselection because his own Liberal Party members didn’t want him. I have shown strong leadership within my Party and I will show strong leadership for the nation over the coming year. We also resisted some of the views of some people in the movement on Twitter, etc, who wanted us to oppose everything that the Government did last year. We didn’t do that. We were constructive. We put the national interest first. And I make no apologies for that. And what we will have is a plan for the nation that builds back better, that makes a recovery that deals with some of the challenges that have been identified such as insecurity at work. And we’ll be promoting those, and we will present a real strong alternative at the next election. And I’m confident we can get there.


FORDHAM: It’s going to be a big year. I look forward to talking to you soon. Thanks so much for your time.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Ben.


FORDHAM: Anthony Albanese, the Labor Leader, who says he ain’t going nowhere.