Apr 20, 2020







SUBJECTS: Coronavirus; current restriction measures due to coronavirus; schools re-opening for term two; Government app to track Coronavirus spread; Malcolm Turnbull’s memoir.


MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Anthony Albanese joins us now. Good morning, Anthony.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning. Good to talk with you again.


PAUL: Yes, you too. It has been a couple of weeks since we last touched base. And in this time, we have seen an increase in Coronavirus cases of less than one per cent per day, at least for a week now, showing a genuine flattening of the infection curve. That is good news?


ALBANESE: The good news in addition to that is the number of people who have been tested and are proven to be positive is very low as well. And that is a key to showing that there is a real flattening and indeed a lessening of the curve. At this point in time it is not such that we can be complacent because we have seen in other countries, particularly in Japan in recent times, it can go down but then go up if you are not careful and if the sort of support that we have seen from the Australian people, it is your listeners that are really making a huge difference by practicing the social distancing measures that were brought in.


PAUL: How much longer do you foresee these restrictions lasting for, Anthony?


ALBANESE: I think it is a good decision that was made last Thursday by the Federal and state governments that the restrictions would continue for four weeks at least at that point. That gave people a bit of certainty which I think is so important so that people know not just what they are doing today but what they are doing tomorrow. So, I think that is a realistic timeframe in which there will be a reassessment and I would hope some easing of restrictions. But that has to be upon the health advice. No one wants these restrictions to be in place. As someone whose job is to go and meet people and travel, I love doing that, I love the interaction and feedback, particularly for an Opposition, it is important to get ideas from people on the ground about what they think a future Labor Government should be doing as well as holding the Government of the day to account. It is very frustrating, but it is a necessary process. And I do say to those people who are continuing to do their work as usual, if you like, or in some circumstances they do it under more pressure, particularly our health workers I am thinking of, but people working in supermarkets, people keeping the trucks and busses and trains moving, they are doing a fantastic job.


PAUL: I notice in particular you have singled out teachers in some social media posts that you have put up recently. We know today roughly 100,000 students are expected to attend schools across Queensland and there are closures due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Has your position changed on this? I think the last time we had a discussion you weren’t keen for any students, really, from my memory to attend school at this point apart from, I guess, essential workers.


ALBANESE: And that occurred, of course, in terms of governments essentially in New South Wales and Queensland in particular shuts schools except for essential workers. And that was an important move. But schools have remained open for those workers and teachers who continue to go along to do their job. They’ve also interacted, I know the feedback I’ve had from people not just from my electorate but from around the country is teachers continue to engage with their students online, continuing to provide that support, and our teachers are so important. One of the things I hope that comes out of this experience is that people have had a bit of a chance to slow down, be it imposed, but they’ve had a chance to think about what’s really important. I think at this time, some of the things that we’ve taken for granted in terms of the work that people do, like cleaners, has been shown to be so valuable. And I don’t think we value them enough whether they be cleaners, or teachers, childcare workers, the people who drive the buses, all these people who’ve continued to front-up to work to really make a difference. Of course, we need to make sure that people, if they are in a vulnerable section like older workers, are kept away from that public interaction.


PAUL: Now this COVID-19 contact tracing app that’s been discussed and I guess flagged by the Federal Government, there needs to be for this thing to work and uptake of around 40 per cent. Do you have privacy concerns over this?


ALBANESE: Look, I would certainly have privacy concerns if it was to be made mandatory. I very strongly, as soon as the proposal was floated, as I indicated to the Government our opposition to any mandating. And I am pleased that the Government’s changed that position. We need to make sure that protections are put in place. Because if they’re not, people won’t take up the app, it’s as simple as that. So, I think the Government is working on those reassurances. They need to be clear about them if the intake is going to get up anywhere near 40 per cent in my view.


PAUL: I’ve seen some polls The Australian and others over the weekend just run a couple of, mind you they were social media polls, but still there were quite a few people who had voted on them. And it was getting pretty close to that 40 per cent. Now, we spoke to a tech expert, Trevor Long, on the program today and he answered a few questions for us about whether or not we should trust the app, whether the app will track our movements, whether the Government will keep a log of who we’ve been in contact with. Most of the answers have all been no. And you can, of course, delete the app after the end of the Coronavirus pandemic. And as you say, importantly it’s not mandatory. But look, if it does, I guess, help ease these restrictions maybe more people might take it up?


ALBANESE: Well, I think that work like you’ve just done is important, informing the public with the experts that this app will be short-term, that it can’t be abused at all, all it will be able to do is to be able to say that if I was standing next to Marcus Paul for a while and I became positive during that infection period, then you could be contacted, and we could trace that. Which is important, obviously, to restrict the disease.


PAUL: You would be okay though, Anthony Albanese. I have been tested and I am negative.


ALBANESE: That is very good.


PAUL: And I know we wouldn’t be able to shake hands but at least we could go elbow to Albo or something.


ALBANESE: I’m a tennis player and there’s rules that have been introduced that now instead of shaking hands, you touch the end of your racquets. There are ways in which we’re adapting as a society. But the good thing is, this has reminded us, if we needed reminding, that we’re all interdependent on each other, that we’re society, that we have to look after each other, we have obligations to each other, that we don’t exist in a bubble. So, as much as in some ways we are more isolated, in so many other ways we’ve never been so interconnected as we are today.


PAUL: All right. Just to wrap things up, are you rushing out to your local bookstore this morning to buy a memoir from a former Prime Minister?


ALBANESE: I actually had a look on the weekend, I have got to say. My local bookstore unfortunately is closed at the moment, the one I normally go to. But look, I think it will be an interesting read. I had a read of some of the excerpts. And certainly, the inside of Malcolm Turnbull into the character of people who he worked very closely with has been pretty interesting. And I think the fact that we’re seeing the ultimate leak from the Prime Minister’s office seems pretty extraordinary.


PAUL: You didn’t get a copy of that, did you?


ALBANESE: I did not. I am not on the Prime Minister’s office’s email list, obviously. But it seems to be a pretty childish thing to do and I am not surprised that it’s been taken seriously by the publishers.


PAUL: Well, I think it should be because it’s not necessarily about taking royalties away from Malcolm Turnbull, the former Prime Minister.


ALBANESE: I don’t think he’s worried about that.


PAUL: No, he’ll be okay. But I mentioned earlier on the program is that there are a lot of people employed in the publishing industry and this kind of piracy, this kind of leak, if you like, basically what’s happened is somebody allegedly, well not allegedly, he has admitted to it, within the Prime Minister’s office has sent around multiples of copies, an e-book, if you like, of Malcolm Turnbull’s memoirs and distributed it not only apparently to ministers, but also widely throughout the community to journalists and others. I mean, the problem is, Anthony Albanese, is this in my mind takes money out of the pockets of the average working people who work in the publishing industry.


ALBANESE: Absolutely. My local bookshop that I go to is Glebe Books. They have got two whole stores, one in Glebe and one in Dulwich Hill. They employ locals. I know the two women who work there, it is their job. And this would have been a book that will, you know, it’ll be pretty topical. It’ll sell quite well, I suspect. And it’s a job for them as well in retail as well as, of course, the people who make the book, the people who publish the book, the printers, and the truck drivers. All of that. And that’s why this act of bitterness really is quite extraordinary, frankly. I’m not shocked by much, but I’m surprised that someone in the Prime Minister’s office thought that they could do that as well and that no one would notice.


PAUL: Well, it was definitely noticed. I’d love to be a fly on the wall at any meetings between senior ministers including Mr Dutton, Mathias Cormann, the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and plenty of others who’ve been named and well almost shamed, I guess, if you believe what’s written in this book. It’s quite an incredible read. And there are calls, of course, now for the former Prime Minister to be expelled from the Liberal Party.


ALBANESE: It is quite absurd from some of the sort of extreme right-wingers in New South Wales. But the Australian people are entitled to know how it is that a democratically elected Prime Minister was removed from office. And we all remember the pictures of Scott Morrison standing in the Prime Minister’s courtyard saying he had the Prime Ministers back. Well, certainly the Prime Minister’s back didn’t survive that week.


PAUL: All right. Good to talk to you, Anthony. We will catch up soon. Thank you.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much.