Jul 27, 2020





MONDAY, 27 JULY 2020


SUBJECTS: Budget update; sports rorts; Black Lives Matter protests in Sydney.


MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Anthony Albanese is on the program. Morning, Albo. How are you?




PAUL: Are you in Sydney at the moment?


ALBANESE: I am talking to you from home. I’ll be in my electorate office in Marrickville. I have got meetings there in the morning. And then I’ve got meetings in the city office in the afternoon. So, we’re still getting things done and still working.


PAUL: Just expand, if you could, we know the announcements were made last week in this mini-Budget, if you like it. And it’s really not a good look for our economy going forward. There are some major concerns, although the Government has put more of the safety nets in place and that it’ll be a tiered system now for JobKeeper and JobSeeker. Do you think they go far enough, or obviously not?


ALBANESE: Well, we’ll have a look at the legislation. It’s good that there is a continuation. But there’s questions, I think, about some of the impact of the changes that have been proposed. So that, for example, businesses having to prove that their income has gone down on two quarters means that for some, what happens in places like Melbourne and happened in Sydney too, when people had restrictions lifted, they went and got out and about. So, for example, I know in Victoria, places that were visited by a whole lot of people who arrived there. So, their incomes went up in June, but they’ve gone straight back down again at the moment because of the reimposition of restrictions. And so, the concern there is that some might miss out. And that will add to those who have missed out from the very beginning like casual workers. We also think that there’s a concern about just a failure to look forward. That’s reflected in the fact that there’s still no increase in JobSeeker payments. The Government’s put its hand up and they admitted that $40 a day isn’t enough to live on. Well, they should give some certainty there, we believe.


PAUL: But is now the time, Anthony, to perhaps, given that we really don’t know where we’re going to be, given the pandemic is changing day in, day out, I mean, again over the weekend in Victoria, more cases of COVID-19, we’ve got more businesses that are affected, who knows what may happen in New South Wales, I hope we are not heading towards a shut down like they are in Victoria, I’m just wondering whether it’s at all possible to highlight what any future dole payment or JobSeeker payment could well be given we don’t really know where we’ll be in six months’ time?


ALBANESE: Well, we know that $40 a day isn’t enough and the Government’s put its hand up and they admitted that. But they haven’t committed to any increase. But they also haven’t committed to programs that would keep people off JobSeeker, that would create jobs. So, one of the things I’ve said is that we need JobCreator. We need to look at areas like public housing. We need to look at how we drive new industries and drive innovation in places like manufacturing. We know, for example, the coronavirus exposed some of the weaknesses, our vulnerability as an economy. We couldn’t produce enough personal protective equipment and ventilators at the beginning of this crisis. So, we know that we need to look at measures like that. And we know that we still don’t have an energy policy. I wrote to the Government now, more than a month ago, offering to sit down and to develop a bipartisan framework. Not the same policy. We are not asking for the same targets. But industry is crying out for certainty. What’s the framework to develop energy, new energy, in this country? And what we got from the Government was a rejection before they had even considered it at 8am that morning where they were straight out there saying, ‘no’. I think that the working together that we’ve seen during the coronavirus, I think people want to see more of that. And they want to see it in areas like energy policy, because we need that certainty to support jobs and manufacturing going forward. We’ve got no policy still to support measures like social housing is an obvious one, where there’s a need, there’s demand for it and it would create jobs and would make a difference in terms of boosting supply. But the Government is stubbornly refusing to engage in that.


PAUL: Yes, it’s very difficult.


ALBANESE: There’s no new industry policy either. And what we saw out of the Global Financial Crisis was that we supported major infrastructure projects. We supported the changes in the economy that came through our climate change initiatives. We supported an increase in education and skills. And from this Government, what we’re not getting is any sense of vision. And, of course, on the weekend, Josh Frydenberg, doubled down, praising Thatcher and Reagan as the models which inspire him. Well, that just saw a withdrawal of government services, massive privatisation, an increase in unemployment. And that’s not what we need at the moment.


PAUL: I touched on this earlier this morning in relation to what seems to be quite blatant pork-barrelling. It’s in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. The Berejiklian Government, for instance, has splashed the lion’s share of a $40 million sports grants program on its own Sydney seats, Liberal electorates, receiving 17 of the 22 grants. And I noticed you’ve touched on this sports rorts mark two, if you like. And you’ve written on social media, ‘Sports grants for female changing rooms, except they’re being used to build swimming pools all in Liberal electorates’. I mean, this is still going on, isn’t it?


ALBANESE: Look, it is a massive scandal. We saw $150 million announced to improve women’s participation in sport and what we got was $120 million of that fund spent on swimming pools with no guidelines, no tender processes, no application processes so that you would have had all those sporting groups out there saying quite justifiably, ‘this is a good thing because we’ve seen girls and women’s participation in sports like soccer, increase massively’. And you need separate change rooms, you need facilities that facilitate that. That’s a good thing. But whilst they were busy thinking about how they’d apply for these grants, the Government was just throwing the money at marginal electorates. All of the swimming pools are in targeted, Liberal marginal electorates. And then, those few grants that actually went to women’s sport and change rooms, they also were overwhelmingly in targeted seats as well. I’ve got news for the Government; there are people who play sport including women and girls in safe Labor seats and safe Liberal seats and safe National seats as well. Sport shouldn’t be about political margins. It should be about promoting sport for all the positives that come from team sports in particular for young people. They learn social skills, it is good for their health, it’s a terrific thing. But this is just red hot. And it seems the Berejiklian Government have been taking lessons from the national Government.


PAUL: All right, you didn’t miss there. I just want to talk about this issue before I let you go, Anthony. The BLM march is the Black Lives Matter protests. You and I would certainly agree that one of the great things about living in a free and democratic country like Australia is that we have the right to protest, the right to free speech and to speak our mind when it comes to issues that we’re very passionate about. But I would argue this is not the right time to have a mass gathering of upwards of thousands of people in Sydney tomorrow. I mean, the rain might spoil their parade anyway. But what are your thoughts on this? We know the Supreme Court of New South Wales has made a ruling that may well be appealed today by the organisers.


ALBANESE: Well, it’s not the right time. And it’s not the appropriate way to express opinion given all the circumstances. And I’d say to the organisers as well, that for people who are unable to visit older relatives in a nursing home, for people who have curtailed the way that they work and interact with family and friends, people making sacrifices out there, that such a protest should be aimed at winning support, not losing support. And I think any mass protests at the moment will not gain support for a cause. And this is an absolutely legitimate cause. The numbers in terms of incarceration of Indigenous Australians is a stain on our national soul. And it’s something that no government of any persuasion has been able to advance to an acceptable level. But it will lose support, and they need to consider that because it will be counterproductive if any mass protest goes ahead.


PAUL: All right. Good to have you on the program as always, Anthony. Thank you.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Marcus.