Feb 3, 2021






SUBJECTS: Craig Kelly; Government’s vaccine rollout strategy; misinformation; conspiracy theories; Labor Shadow Ministry reshuffle; industrial relations; Federal Election; NRL; South Sydney Rabbitohs.


JIM WILSON, HOST: On the line is Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese. Albo, welcome to Drive.




WILSON: Mate, the PM called Craig Kelly in for a dressing down. Is that enough?


ALBANESE: Well, it is about time. This has been going on for months. This bloke undermining the response to COVID, a response that requires all of us not to play politics, to look after each other, to make sure we listen to the scientists, we listen to the Chief Medical Officer when it comes to drugs, we listen to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the TGA. We should be proud of the fact that it’s a world-class body. Once it gives a tick to a drug, we can confidently take that drug and know that it’s going to keep us safe and make a contribution. And that’s why what we don’t want is politicians thinking they know better than scientists and the experts. But this bloke thinks he knows better when it comes to the rollout of protection. He has promoted hydroxychloroquine. He’s promoted other conspiracy theories on climate change. He defended those far-right extremists who stormed the US parliament where five people lost their life. One of them was a police officer. And this bloke is the Chair of the Parliament’s Joint Committee on Law Enforcement that oversees the Australian Federal Police. If the Prime Minister is fair dinkum, this bloke cannot stay in that position.


WILSON: Tanya Plibersek, your colleague, confronted Craig Kelly, and she’s got widespread support. Have you spoken to Tanya since the incident earlier today?


ALBANESE: I sure have. I spoke to her straight afterwards and I’ve spoken to her since. She was just doing an interview where he intruded on that, essentially. She of course got asked a question about him and answered in a responsible way. And he chose to insert himself into that. People will look at the footage themselves, with Craig Kelly wagging his finger at Tanya, who was being very reasonable, as she is. And I think that Craig Kelly, at the very least, owes Tanya Plibersek an unconditional apology.


WILSON: Did you ever consider, Albo, confronting Craig Kelly yourself?


ALBANESE: Well, we raised it in the Parliament today. This isn’t something that should be sorted out around the back of the school. This is something that should be sorted out by the Government. We’ve raised Craig Kelly’s behaviour. And I’ve spoken to him in the corridors about his conspiracy theories that he’s prepared to promote. Now, conspiracy theories on climate change might undermine public policy, conspiracy theories when it comes to the pandemic and vaccinations are just downright dangerous. And the problem here is that, of course, it endangers all of us as a society because we need people, when the vaccinations are being rolled out, to have confidence and to get vaccinated. It’s a real issue. This is a bloke who said that teenagers wearing masks was a form of child abuse. There are so many things that he has said that are just wrong and dangerous. And he got personally protected the last time around to protect his preselection. He didn’t have the numbers in his seat. To the credit of local Liberal Party members, they had walked away from him. They didn’t want him as their candidate. And Scott Morrison intervened to impose him on the locals. Well, if he is a candidate at the next election, the people of Hughes should do what the Prime Minister won’t and remove him.


WILSON: Okay. You reshuffled your Cabinet last week, a number of changes. Do you reckon you’ve got a winning team?


ALBANESE: I certainly do. I think it’s an incredibly strong team. Person for person, I’d back my team versus Scott Morrison’s team every day. It is a mix of experience, people who’ve served in the Cabinet and at high levels in the Government. I myself, of course, have been a former Deputy Prime Minister. It is people who know the way the Government works with newer people who’ve come in with capacity. We have an overwhelming overflow of talent, including people on our backbench as well. And I’m very confident that if we’re successful at the next election, we will be a Government that is worthy of the Australian people themselves.


WILSON: Can I ask why the Shadow Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, and Education Minister, Tanya Plibersek, are seven and nine respectively in your official seniority rankings? I mean surely the Shadow Treasurer should be higher than seven and Tanya Plibersek, who is an experienced campaigner and political heavyweight, should be higher than nine.


ALBANESE: Well, Jim Chalmers went up.


WILSON: But surely the Shadow Treasurer should be higher than number seven, shouldn’t he?


ALBANESE: He went up higher. He went up higher.


WILSON: But he should be higher than seven.


ALBANESE: Well, he went up higher than he was. You have people who are in the leadership group, then you have historically what happens is then there is the Leader of the House, and Jim Chalmers is the very next as Shadow Treasurer. And then I have given respect to the former Leader and Deputy Leader, Bill and Tanya, who are very next.


WILSON: Why did you take skills off Tanya Plibersek when she argued that universities and TAFE go hand in hand, and she’d like to keep education and skills?


ALBANESE: Well, she, of course, was consulted on the change. And one of the things that I did across the board was to make sure that shadow ministers shadowed ministers. The hint is in the title. And to make sure that people were matched up versus each other. So Richard Marles is the Deputy Leader moving into Jobs and Skills. That is what the department is. So when you have your shadow minister, it is far more efficient to have them shadowing one minister. In this case, he is shadowing Michaelia Cash, and shadowing the department which exists. So it’s simply that. And I indeed promoted Tanya by having the Status of Women committee added to her. She made that request and I was able to do that. Tanya is doing a fantastic job in education. But at the Federal level, the way that the departments are structured is that jobs is with skills and education, both school education and higher education, are together.


WILSON: It was obvious though, and I noted, that you didn’t mention Tanya Plibersek in that media conference last Thursday. Are you threatened by her as far as the leadership goes?


ALBANESE: Not at all. She’s been a friend of mine for a very long time, since before either of us were in Parliament. I met Tanya in Young Labor. And Tanya has enormous capacity. And I think she will make an outstanding Education Minister. She has served the Parliament before as a minister, of course. She joined the Cabinet towards the second term when we were in Government. But before then she was a junior minister but played an important role in housing. And I have inherited, indeed, some of Tanya’s old seat when the redistribution happened the last time around, Balmain and Rozelle. Tanya and I work very closely together. And she’s got an important role as part of the team.


WILSON: Let’s talk about these ads from the unions attacking the Government’s new industrial relations reforms. The ad shows a bus with the words ‘IR Omnibus Bill’ about to hit a group of workers, the bus being driven by Scott Morrison. Are these ads really appropriate?


ALBANESE: I haven’t seen the ad, to tell you the truth. I haven’t had a chance to watch television at the moment. That’s the nature of my job.


WILSON: Did anyone in your office know about it, about these ads, before they were released?


ALBANESE: Well, I didn’t. And I haven’t seen the ads. So I can’t comment on ads I haven’t seen. I can comment on the industrial relations policy that seeks to get rid of the legislation that’s before the Parliament that would get rid of the Better Off Overall Test. And what that would mean is pretty obvious. You get rid of something saying that workers have got to be better off overall, that will only happen if the Government wants them to be worse off. And that means things like penalty rates, that people rely upon, disappearing. And we won’t support legislation that gets rid of the Better Off Overall Test.


WILSON: Just on the text line, Brett says, ‘Jim, don’t be soft on Albo. Everything he says refers to the Liberals. He is such a negative person and won’t survive’. Will you be leading Labor to the next election?


ALBANESE: Absolutely, I will. And one of the things that I’ll be saying at the next election is that we’ve been constructive. We voted for every one of the packages of support. Indeed, many of them were our idea that the Government adopted. We think that’s a good thing. Areas like wage subsidies, increasing unemployment benefits through the JobSeeker program, mental health support. We’ve argued constructively to bring forward the vaccinations once the TGA made its approval and that has occurred as well. So we’ve been constructive. That stands in stark contrast to the Coalition during the Global Financial Crisis who just said, ‘No, no, no’.


WILSON: Well, you say you haven’t been watching the TV. But I’ll tell you what, I bet you’re counting down to the start of the NRL season and your beloved Bunnies. How are they going?


ALBANESE: I certainly am. I am very excited. Josh Mansour, a big bloke in the back three. And these days, you need that hit-up in those first couple of tackles, the way that footy is played. We had, of course, Jaxson Paulo did a great job, a good young fellow, towards the end of the season last year. And Alex Johnston is, I think, the best finisher in the game. And Latrell, let’s hope he stays fit. Who knows how far we would have gone last year if he hadn’t have had that unfortunate injury, because we averaged, I think, 35 points in our last eight or 10 games. It was good footy to watch. And Jai Arrow gives us a bit more grunt up front as well. I am always confident at the beginning of every season.


WILSON: February Premiers.


ALBANESE: I always think that we’re going to get there. But how good is Rugby League?


WILSON: The best.


ALBANESE: Just gets faster and faster. They get fitter and fitter. And I’ve got to say, I’m quite excited by the idea of Souths being 10 points down with 15 minutes to go and you have Cody Walker, Benji Marshall and Latrell Mitchell feeding off Cooky at dummy half in the last 10 minutes.


WILSON: I know you love the game. Bring on the NRL season. Thanks for your time this afternoon.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Jim. Always good to talk to you.