ANTHONY ALBANESE – TRANSCRIPT – RADIO INTERVIEW – 2SM AFTERNOONS WITH BRENT BULTITUDE – FRIDAY, 8 MAY 2020
ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
2SM AFTERNOONS WITH BRENT BULTITUDE
FRIDAY, 8 MAY 2020
SUBJECTS: Eden-Monaro by-election; COVID-19; Rabbitohs; NRL; National Cabinet; Australia’s relationship with China; temporary migration.
BRENT BULTITUDE, HOST: Good afternoon, Mr Albanese. How are you?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: G’day Brent. I am very well.
BULTITUDE: You and I have one thing in common.
ALBANESE: What is that?
BULTITUDE: We both support the Bunnies and have for a long, long time.
ALBANESE: That’s all you need, mate. If you are a Souths supporter, then you are by definition a good human being.
BULTITUDE: For a long time. For a long time.
ALBANESE: And you are resilient. It was a long 43-year wait.
BULTITUDE: And you like a good fight too.
BULTITUDE: Look, you must be rubbing your hands together with what is going on in the Eden-Monaro side of things in the last 48 hours? First it was going to be John Barilaro, then it wasn’t. Then it was going to be Andrew Constance, then it wasn’t. Labor will obviously be the big winner from this Coalition infighting?
ALBANESE: Well, don’t forget Jim Molan who was floated as well. And then he wasn’t running. And then Tony Abbott at one stage was raised by someone else, not by himself.
ALBANESE: Last night, the Coalition, I’m not sure if it was the Liberal Party or the National Party, were ringing around doing a phone poll with a new candidate, apart from the one who ran last time in the mix. So, it has been a bit of a debacle. But that is up to them, really. In the meantime, Kristy McBain isn’t focused on all that nonsense. She is focused on the needs of the people, for Eden-Monaro. They have had a tough time. They have had drought, and then they had the bushfires, and then the coronavirus. And they deserve a member who is interested in them, not interested in their own career.
BULTITUDE: How much damage do you think this, well obviously Andrew Constance has lost his job as Leader of the House today, although they are selling that in a different way, how much damage do you think this will do to both politicians?
ALBANESE: Well, that is up to the people to judge. I think it speaks for itself. I think people will look at it and shake their heads. I was with Kristy yesterday in Merimbula and in Cooma. And certainly, the feedback, people are interested in their own predicament that they’re dealing with. They want a local member who’s concerned about them. They know that Kristy has a record of doing just that as the Mayor of Bega Valley and as the Deputy Chair of the Region of Councils that look after the entire electorate of Eden-Monaro. They know that Kristy will fight for them. They know that the Coalition is too busy fighting each other to fight for them.
BULTITUDE: Every by-election is important, but this one with Eden-Monaro, how important is this for you?
ALBANESE: Look, it’s not about me. It’s about the people of Eden-Monaro. And I’ll continue to stand up for their interests. We’re going to have a difficult time coming out of the coronavirus. And it’s even more difficult for those communities that went through the bushfires. I was on the ground every day in affected communities during the summer. And what I saw was communities getting together, looking after each other. Where we were yesterday at Club Sapphire in Merimbula, a big club, the largest in the area. There were 1,000 people who spent eight nights there, sleeping on floors and bathrooms, sleeping on stairs, wherever they could get, all crammed in and looking after each other. And it is that community spirit which is one of the things that brings me into politics. And I know why Kristy wants to take the local commitment that she’s had into the national Parliament because she knows that in the lead-up to those fires, there were a lot of warnings that the Federal Government just didn’t do the preparation that was necessary. And then during the bushfires, of course, we know that they’ve dropped the ball, then as well. And in the recovery phase, there are people still living in tents. There are people who haven’t got any income support. There are small businesses that were hoping to reopen that have stayed closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. There are communities like Cooma that are worried going forward about the upcoming snow season when you would expect there to be increased economic activity. They’re worried because that community hasn’t had any infections at all. And they’re worried that might bring it into the community. So, this is a really difficult time for the people of Eden-Monaro. And that’s what I’m interested in. And I will continue to be an advocate, obviously, as the Labor Leader. But I want a local member there for Eden-Monaro who can carry on in the tradition that Mike Kelly did. He was a champion for the local community. He served his country in uniform in the Australian Defence Force overseas and then he served his local community in the Parliament.
BULTITUDE: Let’s talk about the coronavirus because it’s taken the bushfires unfortunately off the front pages. How concerned are you about a second wave of this coronavirus now we’re starting to open things up again?
ALBANESE: Look, we have to be very careful. We have to listen to the health experts. No one wants there to be restrictions there for a day longer than necessary. Because they know that it’s having an impact on our economy. A lot of people have lost their jobs, businesses staying closed. And, of course, the impact on people’s life from day to day. People want to be able to watch the footy and they want to be able to play sports and they want to be able to go to the local pub and associate with each other. We’re social beings. And at the moment, the only winners out of this crisis have been our pets because they’ve been walked more than anything else. There is a lot of quite good memes about dogs saying, ‘No, I’ve already been for four walks, I don’t want to go again. Leave me alone’. But people, a lot of people, are doing it really tough too. There’s people who rely upon going to the local club, associating, going to bingo, going and having that social interaction. A lot of people live by themselves. And there’s a lot of grandparents out there who will be just aching to give their little grandkids a cuddle, that they haven’t been able to do for months. So, all of those issues are important, but we don’t want to lift restrictions if it’s going to then have to be put back on down the track. So, we just have to listen to the health experts. We have to as restrictions are lifted there will be ongoing rules, in terms of restrictions on the number of people who can gather in a restaurant or in a public place. And it’s important that we don’t take our eye off the ball and become complacent. Because I want the restrictions to be lifted over time. But I want them to be lifted just once. Not lifted, put back on, lifted, put back on, lifted. That would be disastrous.
BULTITUDE: Do you think all these packages have been too much to save the nation?
ALBANESE: Look, I think that we needed to intervene. And I certainly supported the big wage subsidies. We argued for it. You needed to keep that link between employers and employees so that as we come out of the crisis, the economy can emerge stronger than it would have otherwise. So, I think the Government’s got to make sure that they get it right. There’s a great deal of concern about people who’ve missed out. There are people in the arts and entertainment sector, for example, one area where they essentially have been, I think, left behind. We’ve had reports today about one of the major hotels in Melbourne that have lost their JobKeeper on the day it was supposed to be paid, because they happened to be owned by an overseas, indirectly owned, by an overseas government. So, that doesn’t really affect the workers. The workers there that were expected to be paid now aren’t going to be and potentially they end up losing their jobs. But that to me doesn’t make sense. Just as the fraud that’s gone on in superannuation that has led the Government today to put a stop on people taking that money out is, I think, the Government not thinking it through and not putting in place proper mechanisms even though they were warned by the industry that this was a possibility.
BULTITUDE: The National Cabinet has met several times. It seems, I know it’s frustrating. And I take, you know, obviously talkback calls here. It’s frustrating for people out there when they hear the Prime Minister say we’re going to open up this in stage one, we’re going to do that, we’re going to do this, we’re going to that, particularly with Mother’s Day because it was the front-page article of the paper yesterday that it looked as though people were going to be able to go in groups of five or six or seven to see mum on Mother’s Day. And, of course, the Premier in New South Wales came out and quashed that. The Premier in Victoria has come out and said no. The National Cabinet, is there a need for a National Cabinet when they meet, and they decide this is what we’re going to do but then the Premiers go and do their own thing?
ALBANESE: Well, what we’ve really got is, of course, it’s not a Cabinet in any sense in terms of Cabinet processes. It’s really a discussion between state premiers and the Federal Government. That’s a good thing that is happening. But the decisions are still being made by State and Territory leaders. And they are, of course, making different decisions based upon their own circumstances. There have been different rules in place throughout this. Different rules for schools. You can play golf in New South Wales, but you can’t play golf in Victoria. There’s a whole lot of different rules in place. And I think that the calling it a National Cabinet, a Cabinet is binding. Once you make a decision, everyone in the Government is bound by it and you head in one direction. That’s not really the case here. We do have a federal structure. And states, for example, do run the school system. And it’s a good thing that they’re talking to each other. But sometimes I think it’s confusing because it’s been called a Cabinet process when it’s not really the way that it’s operating.
BULTITUDE: Could I ask you, do you think we’re approaching things properly with China? I mean, we don’t want to poke the dragon, do we?
ALBANESE: Well, China is very important for Australia’s economy. It’s important for jobs. And the relationship with China is an important economic one. They will grow to be the largest economy in the world. And that is not that far off now. And certainly, they are now the largest economy in our region. We need to be mature about that. And we need to be prepared to speak out in Australia’s national interest where there’s a case to do so. We’re democracy. We’re a proud democracy. And we shouldn’t be frightened of, for example, saying that there should be an investigation into the origins of this virus. That’s just common sense to me. And it shouldn’t cause any offence to China, no matter where it originated. If it originated in the US, we should have had an investigation into how it happened, as well, just as if it originated here, the same thing. So, we need to make sure that we don’t compromise our democracy and our capacity to speak out for Australian interests just because we have that important economic relationship. And we should do that in a way in which we make it clear that doesn’t mean that we are anything other than friends with every nation in the region, which is what I think we would all want. No one wants international conflict. But we should be able to have those discussions. And we have differences with a whole range of countries, including countries that are very friendly to us, including the United States, or the United Kingdom, or New Zealand. Countries that have a political system much closer to ours. Doesn’t mean that we can’t tell them when we think they’ve got it wrong.
BULTITUDE: Can I ask you about the article last week that appeared in the papers for Kristina Keneally’s article about, she said the Labor has called for Australia’s immigration program to be overhauled and curtailed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic saying Australian workers must get a fair go and a first go at jobs. Now, governments of all stripes in previous years have relied on high levels of immigration to boost population in order to fuel our economic growth. Are calls for change in migration numbers, can you see that being a bipartisan approach?
ALBANESE: Well, I think that there’s nothing new for unions or indeed for the Labor Party to be saying that when we’re talking about the significant increase that there has been in recent times in temporary migration, we need to where Australians, whether they be young people or people being retrained can be given the skills to take those jobs, then that should occur. We have long argued for labour market testing, that is if there is an Australian available for jobs for any new project, then they should have the opportunity to secure that work, rather than bring in temporary migration. That to me is a policy that we had when we were in Government as well. We introduced labour market testing for 457 visas. And we did that because we wanted to ensure that it was in Australia’s economic interests, obviously, to keep the wages and activity here. We have youth unemployment in many areas to be, is just far too high. But at the same time, of course, immigration has played a really important role in the Australian story. And migration has also created jobs. People, when they’re here, create jobs in terms of construction and economic activity. And it’s an important part of Australia’s story. But what Kristina was saying was that there should be a debate about temporary migration, particularly in the context in that obviously there’s not temporary migration occurring at the moment because of the restrictions that are there. And they’ll be there for the foreseeable future. It’ll be a while before we open up our international borders.
BULTITUDE: I’ve got to let you go because I’ve got a news bulletin that I’ve got to go to. And I’m darn sure you’ve got other things that you have to do. So, thank you for being generous with your time this afternoon. I do appreciate it. And all I can say to you is, Anthony Albanese, go the Bunnies.
ALBANESE: Absolutely. I’m always confident at this stage in the season. And I just hope that when rugby league does return, we take the Roosters out in the next round.
BULTITUDE: We will keep our fingers crossed.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much.
BULTITUDE: Thank you for your time. And let’s hope we can do this again soon.
ALBANESE: My pleasure.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.