Jan 11, 2021






SUBJECTS: Car accident; hospital care; the year ahead; Scott Morrison’s silence over Craig Kelly’s social media; vaccine rollout.


MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Them’s fighting words from the Federal Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, who I’m very happy to say joins us on the program. Happy 2021. Good morning to you, Albo.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning. I’m very, very pleased to be here.


PAUL: How are you feeling, first and foremost? Nasty incident that saw, apparently, a T-boning of your car in Marrickville on Friday. Was that right?


ALBANESE: Well no, it was a head-on collision with a Range Rover on the wrong side of the road and I was just very, very lucky to survive the accident. My car is an absolute write-off. And I received great care from, firstly the first responder on this occasion was a nurse who lived across the road who came and provided comfort and initial care, and then I just received magnificent support from the police, of course arrived very quickly, and then the paramedics were just terrific. They gave me medication on the spot before we left, they got me out of the car and I travelled by ambulance to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital where I spent 24 hours until Saturday. And just a huge shout out to our doctors, our nurses, our radiographers, orderlies, the cleaners of course have a particular difficult job because of COVID-19, the COVID marshals on site and I received great care. But the good thing about our system of Medicare-based public health is that the last time I was in emergency at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital was with my Mum, who was a single mum and a pensioner. And whether you’re Kerry Packer who of course ended up at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital when he was, I think at the time he was Australia’s richest man, whether you’re that or the alternative prime minister or a pensioner, you get the same level of just terrific care. And I just thank those who looked after me over that period.


PAUL: Well we’re glad that you’re OK. We know that there’s an investigation into this, so I don’t want to talk too much about it. But I saw some photographs and some vision of your car, the old Camry’s looking a little worse for wear. And the young fellow involved, I believed he was a 17-year-old, he’s OK as well.


ALBANESE: He is. And he’s been issued with a negligent driving [infringement]. I hope that he learns from the experience, and I’m sure he will, and really commits himself to become Australia’s safest driver in the future. It was a very scary incident for me. I thought it was the last thing I would see, to be frank. It was, to see a very large vehicle right in front of you, just there headed for you, is something that will take me a little while to get over, obviously, the shock of an incident like that. But I’m certain that it will take this young man time to get over as well. And it’s something that was just a horrific incident and just very, very fortunate that it didn’t involve a fatality, which would have obviously ended my life but changed his life as well.


PAUL: All right, well, I’m glad you’re okay Albo. And it’s a big year ahead. Do you think that the Prime Minister Scott Morrison might go to the polls this year?


ALBANESE: Look, he might. If he does, it will be because he thinks that things are going to get far worse. We only have three-year terms in Australia. And there really isn’t any excuse for going for less than three years. I think three years is too short. I think, I’m a supporter, as is the Labor Party, and we’ve tried a couple of times to get four-year terms. That’s what occurs in most states, including Queensland and New South Wales and Victoria. That makes sense. Most countries in the world have either four- or five-year terms. Three years is very short. To go two and a half will be, I think, if it occurs, Scott Morrison putting his hand up and saying we’ve got bad news just around the corner. So, the election is due in 2022. But we’ll be ready for any time from August 2021 from this year.


PAUL: So essentially, Labor are putting themselves on an election footing, if you like. Because it could be called this year. And I guess that’s why you’re upping the ante with a number of, well, very pointed social media comments made about the Prime Minister and made about certain senior members, including Craig Kelly. Scott Morrison’s refused to condemn Craig Kelly, who’s been spreading conspiracies about coronavirus vaccines and now, of course, the storming of Congress last week. You say the silence from Scott Morrison is unacceptable. I agree. Should any member of the Australian Parliament defend the attempted insurrection against democracy that we saw in the United States, Anthony?


ALBANESE: Well we know where mistruths lead. We’ve seen it in the United States. This idea that you can say whatever you want, that there aren’t any facts, that we’re in a post-truth world, is extremely dangerous. Extremely dangerous. And the fact that we saw last week an attempted insurrection against democracy which was encouraged, of course, by Donald Trump is, quite frankly, shocking. The United States is our most important ally. It’s a relationship that’s based upon our shared democratic values. And the fact that we saw thousands of people matching on the Capitol Building, ransacking the House of Representatives and the Senate, was just quite incredible. These were armed people. Five people lost their lives. But it could have been much, much worse. There could have been, literally, just catastrophic consequences. And I just think the fact that, when Scott Morrison is asked about this, he responds by talking about freedom of speech and hasn’t condemned Craig Kelly or George Christensen or any of the others who have promoted the idea that conspiracy theories, that these weren’t Donald Trump supporters, that they were infiltrated by outsiders and as part of some conspiracy.


PAUL: If I hear the word ‘Antifa’ one more time I’ll throw up. It doesn’t matter who they are, they were certainly law breakers. And look, the idea of social media shutting down the President of the United States or the outgoing President. What do you make of that? Is that an attack on freedom of speech, Anthony, do you think? Or was that fair enough?


ALBANESE: No, that’s about time. It’s about time that people weren’t given a platform to spread hatred, to spread lies, which has had consequences for people. It’s one of the problems. I gave a speech as one of my vision statements, way back in December 2019, about the rise of social media, about its contribution towards polarisation of the political debate, of undermining civil discourse in this country and around the world. Now we can have disagreements, and the Parliament is the way in which a civil society is able to debate out those disagreements. But it’s got to be based upon fact or else there isn’t a basis for discussion and therefore the potential for a resolution in our common interests. And that’s why this phenomenon that we’ve seen particularly played out in the United States, but it’s also here. We know the consequences, for example, of saying that COVID-19 is a conspiracy, that it’s not real, that it’s just like the flu, are the some 300,000 deaths in the United States, is the consequences in in Brazil where there you have a right wing demagogue leader who’s also contracted COVID after saying that there was there was nothing to see here. We recall, tragically, the Prime Minister of Britain, Boris Johnson, saying he was there shaking hands with people who’d contracted COVID-19. And then he, not surprisingly, then contracted this virus. It’s dangerous. It’s a threat to our health, to our economy, to our society, which needs to be taken seriously now. Here in Australia, political leaders from across the spectrum have listened to the science, listened to the health experts, and taken it seriously. But throughout it all, you’ve had Craig Kelly promoting these conspiracy theories. You have organisations like QAnon, which spreads all sorts of anti-Semitic racist rubbish, that is actually dangerous. And it’s got to be called out. I can’t understand how someone like Craig Kelly can be allowed to promote these theories, along with George Christensen and others, and remain a part of mainstream society. I mean, these people, Craig Kelly chairs an important body related to legal issues in in the national Parliament.


PAUL: Well they’re senior ministers and they’re senior members of the Morrison Government. And you’re right, Albo. There’s no place, I think, for them to be able to espouse. Look, I’m all for freedom of speech as well. But it needs to be tempered, as you say, with fact, and certainly with a little bit of understanding into, you know, how people react to these kinds of announcements or these kinds of statements made by very senior politicians. Just before I let you go, JobSeeker, JobKeeper. Labor ideas. A lot of people seem to lose sight of the fact that you and Labor and other members within your party were the ones who actually navigated, if you like, and came up with these ideas to try and steer our economy through the COVID-induced recession. So of course, the Morrison Government picked up on that, which is great. Now, you’ve been calling for weeks now for the vaccine rollout to begin as soon as possible after it’s approved. Now for weeks, the Prime Minister has basically turned around and called you dangerous. But we know the other day he brought forward the vaccine rollout to early March. And today it’s well, in fact, the other day, it’s been brought forward now to February. I mean, what do we make of all of this? When are we going to get this vaccine?


ALBANESE: Well, we’ll get it sooner as a result of the agitation and as a result of the Government finally conceding that this was just common sense. If the TGA, our independent body, approves a vaccine, then that means it’s ready to go. But what we have from this Government is that Scott Morrison called this dangerous, like he called the idea of wage subsidies dangerous, then he did it anyway. “Dangerous” seems to be Scott Morrison’s way of saying someone else’s had a good idea. His first response is hyperbole and then it’s followed by delayed action. And what we actually need is to be able to have a sensible discussion. No one in Labor was calling for any curtailing of the Therapeutic Goods Administration processes. That’s how we decide pharmaceuticals and drugs and their availability in this country. What we did say, though, was that once it’s approved, if you have confidence in that process, then it should be rolled out immediately. And as a result, it went from being late March to mid to early March to now, mid-February. That’s a good thing that that’s occurred. But I don’t understand what the logic ever was of saying we’re going to approve a vaccine and have it rolled out months later. I noticed that Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel received his second jab on TV over the weekend. Joe Biden, who will be President of the United States on January 20, has already received the jab. The Government indeed have raised the prospect of a few of us getting the jab publicly, so it improves confidence in it.


PAUL: Just on that. Will you get it, Anthony, when it’s available?


ALBANESE: Of course, I will.


PAUL: And will you ask the Prime Minister to do the same?


ALBANESE: Well, he has said that he will. And that’s a good thing. And I think the idea is that we’ll get it publicly as well so as to show that confidence from across the spectrum. And we need, quite clearly there are health consequences to this virus. But there’s also mental health consequences behind the lockdown and restrictions that are there that are more difficult for many people than for others, the economic consequences, we’ve had job losses, we’ve had a recession. So we know that these issues need to be dealt with.


PAUL: All right, Anthony, great to talk to you. I’m glad you’re feeling a little better and you’ve come through after that nasty accident on Friday. Look forward to our chats throughout 2021. In what could be a, well, an election year, and good luck.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Marcus. And thanks to the listeners and to all those who sent well wishes, I’ve got to say, from across the spectrum as well. My parliamentary colleagues across the board. I had some very nice messages and people checking in. I have to go back to the hospital today for some further examinations. But, in terms of serious consequences, I’m very glad to talk with you.


PAUL: Fighting fit.


ALBANESE: I’m not quite at that point yet. I’ve got to say. It’s taken a bit of a toll, but I’ll get there.


PAUL: We’ll chat soon. Thank you.