Jul 10, 2020





FRIDAY, 10 JULY 2020


SUBJECTS: Launch of Labor’s ‘Don’t Cancel JobKeeper Too Early’ campaign; JobKeeper; COVID-19; Victorian coronavirus spike; Victorian lockdowns; Eden-Monaro by-election; South Sydney Rabbitohs.


JIM WILSON, HOST: Good afternoon, Anthony Albanese. It is great to have you on the program.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good afternoon, Jim. Congratulations on the first week in the new job.


WILSON: Thank you very much. It has been an interesting week. It has been a big news week and there is a lot happening. So, we appreciate your time. Well, this time last week, Anthony, you were preparing for the Eden-Monaro by-election. Labor has retained the seat. How significant is that win?


ALBANESE: Look, any win is significant, particularly in a by-election like Eden-Monaro. Eden-Monaro was held by the party of Government for 44 consecutive years. Wherever Eden-Monaro went, the Government went. So, it was obviously a very good sign for us that we were able to win such a by-election. We had an amazing candidate in Kristy McBain and a lot of the credit goes to her. She had a lot of credibility for standing by her community as the Mayor of Bega during the bushfires. But we also campaigned about the issue that we launched today, about JobKeeper and about people missing out, the concern that is there if it is just snapped back. And we campaigned on climate change. A range of positive issues. And I am quite proud of the fact that we had quite a positive campaign and that it was successful.


WILSON: Your primary vote was down almost 3.3 per cent. Any concerns on that front?


ALBANESE: Look, there were 14 candidates in the election this time around, and that makes a big difference. And just about every seat in the entire Parliament is decided by preferences. Very few people get 50 per cent plus one in our electoral system. So, we’re very pleased with the with the outcome. I’m sure that Kristy McBain, one of the things if people have a look at the outcome, where she was better-known around Bega and Merimbula and Eden, around her shire, she had extraordinary swings, double digit in some places. And I’m not surprised that from my observation, as well, people who get to meet her will like her, will respect and will vote for her.


WILSON: And she was impressive, wasn’t she? In the face of adversity?


ALBANESE: She was extraordinary. For a first-time candidate she’s the best. And I say this at a risk of offending some of my colleagues. But the truth is, she’s the best first-time candidate I’ve ever seen in the field. I thought she was good. That’s why I went out of my way to recruit her as a candidate. But she was just extraordinary. And she’s someone who was cool as a cucumber during the campaign in a lot of pressure. You don’t normally as a local candidate have national media focus on you. But when it’s a one-off by-election like this, there was a lot of focus. There was quite a negative campaign, as well. The Liberal Party produced corflutes and bunting for polling day about higher rates. And, of course, they know quite well that the rates are determined actually not by local government, but with the approval of the state Liberal Government that determines these things in partnership with local government where she was only one person. She was an independent on the council. And of course, the council in the current circumstances have a lot of rebuilding to do after the devastating bushfire. So, I’m convinced that she will not only hold the seat, but she’ll go on to hold it by bigger and bigger margins as time goes on.


WILSON: Let’s talk about coronavirus now. Broadly speaking, how do you think we’re doing in actually fighting the virus?


ALBANESE: Look, we’re doing better than most comparative countries. And that’s because of the effort of the Australian public, which is really pitching in. I’ve been involved in the last couple of days in a conference that is held every year between leaders in Australia and the United States. And I think, also, here people have tried to work cooperatively on the health issues. That is a good thing. It’s good that you have areas of civil society including the media, of course, helping to get the message out there about social distancing, about washing your hands, about doing what’s necessary to keep us safe. And that theme of, ‘We are all in this together’, is something that’s a great Australian ethos. I think whilst it’s been a very difficult time, we have seen the best of Australia as well. We’ve seen people delivering food to people who can’t get out themselves. We’re seeing that in Victoria at the moment. And that’s just a terrific thing. No one wanted this to happen. But we all have a responsibility to try and get through this as best as we can, of course, look after the health outcomes first, but then also, look after the economic consequences that have arisen from this crisis.


WILSON: We’re speaking to the Federal Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese. Now, Victoria remains very much in the spotlight. Bill Shorten’s been critical of Premier Daniel Andrews. He’s copped a lot of criticism for his handling of the crisis. What sort of job do you think he’s done?


ALBANESE: I think Daniel Andrew says done a very good job. These are difficult circumstances. And when you’re the premier of the state, you can’t be responsible for the actions of every individual. And clearly, there was a breakdown with these issues with regard to the security guards at the hotels where returning people were staying. And that clearly is a breakdown. He’s announced an inquiry. He has been, I think like other leaders, under enormous pressure and has had a focus on one thing and one thing only, which is keeping people safe.


WILSON: With respect, should that private firm still be running the hotel quarantine? I mean, it’s become a circus. I mean, should that private firm still be in charge?


ALBANESE: Well, I think there’s a question about contracting out in general. And what I’ve seen is that in Victoria the use of police and indeed the use of Defence Forces has really stepped up this week and that’s appropriate.


WILSON: What happens with JobKeeper and JobSeeker beyond the end of September? You had a bit to say today about the JobKeeper allowance. You say 3.3 million jobs are at risk if JobKeeper is taken away too early.


ALBANESE: Well, that’s right. And that’s the feedback which is there. I was with Jason Clare and Tony Burke today at Bankstown RSL. Now, it’s a club that’s on a new premise. They were serving 1,000 meals a day. They’re currently down to below 50 a day. They have 32 employees directly from the RSL. All of those have been retained because of JobKeeper. They’re all working reduced hours in order to stay in employment, working shifts across four days. And if you just immediately ripped all that out in September, before there is able to be a return of through traffic and a return of economic activity, then simply those people won’t be able to stay in employment. And clubs, and pubs, and restaurants, other places are saying the same thing. And when you look at the electorate of Blaxland around the Bankstown area, they have around about 30,000 workers affected by this. That’s contributing something like $45 million each and every fortnight. If you just take that money out of a local economy, it will have a devastating impact. And that’s my concern with the whole idea of snapback, that you can just flick the switch on this particular date, JobKeeper can be removed, JobSeeker can be removed and will snap back to what was there before. That’s just not realistic. And it doesn’t reflect the reality on the ground. And, of course, overwhelmingly the businesses that are getting JobKeeper are small business. There’s 900,000 businesses getting JobKeeper. And that’s an indication of how small the businesses are in terms of the nature, it was something like 90 per cent of the total, or 785,000 of those have income of less than $2 million. These are pretty small operations that are relying upon the wage subsidies to keep going.


WILSON: The Prime Minister had some strong words early this afternoon at his media conference in Canberra. He has accused Labor today of fear mongering and disgraceful behaviour that doesn’t reflect well on your leadership. What do you say to that?


ALBANESE: Well, Scott Morrison, he’s very quick to go to the personal when any issues are raised at all. What I’d say is this, that he needs to actually think these issues through. He opposed wage subsidies in the beginning. It was only Labor and the business community and unions and the community who said, ‘If we don’t have some form of wage subsidies, we’re going to have massive unemployment’. And we saw those unemployment queues on that Monday morning outside Centrelink, the like of which we haven’t seen since the Great Depression. And it’s not my term, it is his term, snapback. And he needs to explain why it is that the Government has received the report from Treasury in June, it is now July 10 and it’s still secret. Why can’t he provide the certainty that business and individuals want by telling Australians, bringing us into his confidence and letting us know what’s happening? He expects every Australian to do their bit, as we all do during this crisis, but it’s a two-way street. If he expects people to have confidence going forward, he’s got to have confidence in people by releasing this secret report and telling people what is going to happen in September. Is he going to stick to the original snapback plan or not?


WILSON: Anthony Albanese, I know you’ve had a very big day with that launch earlier at Bankstown. We appreciate your time here on Drive.


ALBANESE: I look forward to talking to you many times in the future.


WILSON: Good luck to your Bunnies too, mate, over the weekend.


ALBANESE: I’ll be out at Bankwest tonight.


WILSON: I thought you might be.


ALBANESE: I am looking forward to a bit of a local derby. I’ve got a soft spot for the Tigers, I’ve got to say. Balmain is in my electorate. So, I will have lots of mates cheering for the other guys tonight.


WILSON: You are being very diplomatic, as always. Good on you, Anthony. Appreciate your time.


ALBANESE: Thank you.