Feb 4, 2021






SUBJECTS: Craig Kelly; Government’s vaccine rollout strategy; misinformation; conspiracy theories; Labor’s policy agenda; JobSeeker.


MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Anthony, good morning to you, mate.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, Marcus. It’s good to be with you again.


PAUL: Great to talk to you. Yesterday, a lot was made of this so-called showdown or shirtfronting of Craig Kelly by Tanya Plibersek. You and Tanya go back a ways. I know the history between the two of you. You spoke to Tanya after this?


ALBANESE: I sure did. She was just determined to put a sensible position. Her mum lives in Craig Kelly’s electorate. So the idea that someone who’s the local member is spreading around, essentially, a message that COVID isn’t a major problem, that we don’t have to listen to the science, we don’t have to listen to the Chief Medical Officer, that some of the solutions that he’s proposed, such as hydroxychloroquine, have been dismissed by the scientists. And she’s quite rightly concerned that the problem here is if it is spread in the community, to not respond and look after each other, then that endangers the whole community.


PAUL: The Prime Minister called Mr Kelly into his office, probably at the 11th hour, finally, after a lot of pressure from yourself and others. And Mr Kelly now seems to have changed his tune somewhat. That’s good news.


ALBANESE: It is good news, if it lasts for more than five minutes. But we’ve been raising this for many, many months. And I’d say this, it also is the case that Craig Kelly is a member of the Parliament’s Science Committee. This is someone who doesn’t listen to the science when it comes to the pandemic, doesn’t listen to the science when it comes to climate change. He’s also the Chair of the Joint Committee, a very powerful one, on Law Enforcement. Now, it oversees issues such as the Australian Federal Police. All of us have been horrified by the scenes that we witnessed at the Capitol Building in the United States on January 6, their time. The idea that this person, who has essentially said that it was no big deal, dismissed it, one of the five people who were murdered there, had lost their life, was a police officer. I just think it’s entirely inappropriate that he continues to hold that position. And he should be dismissed by the Prime Minister from that position in particular, but also as a member of the Science Committee.


PAUL: It seems to be at odds, if you basically are not listening to all of the science in relation to a number of issues, whether it’s COVID-19, or climate change, really, we need to have all views considered when it comes to the science on climate change, and in particular, with dealing with the pandemic. And if you’re sort of going your own way, which is against your Chief Medical Officer on COVID alone, you could just imagine where he’s going to go with climate change as the election gets closer.


ALBANESE: Well, I’m all for free speech. But what shouldn’t come with that is the title that gives that speech more credibility. And Craig Kelly holding these parliamentary positions, which is sought after, which in terms of the Chair’s position, is a paid position that increases his salary, is of real concern. And if the Prime Minister’s fair dinkum as well, these posts that are still up on his site as of last night need to be taken down. We can’t have conspiracy theories being promoted by Members of Parliament. And Mark Butler, our Shadow Health spokesperson, has written to Facebook as well saying that, just as they have over some of Donald Trump’s posts, there needs to be a warning put that what is being promoted is just not accurate.


PAUL: Well, it’s misinformation. And that’s a big part of the problem. All right, well, look, I want to move on from that. And again, it might be a little curly, Anthony, but you’re used to it. You’ve been in this game for long enough. You expect it. Are you at all threatened by Tanya Plibersek?


ALBANESE: Not at all. She’s been a friend of mine for a very long period of time. And she will remain so.


PAUL: Some are saying that perhaps yesterday was some sort of, look, again, some Sky commentators and others, look, I’ll just say yesterday you were on 2GB in the afternoon, you spoke to Jim, nice bloke, all the rest of it, was lovely. And then the caller, I don’t know whether you heard them afterwards or not, but the callers ripped shreds off you. I don’t know why you go on Jim’s, to be honest, Albo, because you’ve got no fans there.


ALBANESE: I’m happy to talk to anyone. That is the important thing. And to put my views.


PAUL: True. But I would have loved for you to have been there and answered some of the questions that were being asked, because they basically threw you under the bus. And then that bloody Credlin came on afterwards and tore strips off you as well.


ALBANESE: Peta Credlin was Tony Abbott’s Chief of Staff.


PAUL: Yes.


ALBANESE: And whilst I actually, off-air, I can have a very pleasant conversation with Peta, she plays the role. This is someone who, after the election, they said that they lied, they made up stuff about our climate change policy and that she was she was proud of it. She boasted about that. And someone who, just last week, had to apologise for making misleading statements about Kevin Rudd. She had to, for legal reasons, to apologise on air on Sky. So, look, people know that’s no different from having on the Chair of Souths, who might be critical of the Roosters, or the Chair the Roosters being critical of Souths. I think people understand what that’s about.


PAUL: Absolutely. But basically, the thrust of it was that Tanya Plibersek, yesterday, put on a dress rehearsal for the leadership of the Labor Party. These people say that she’s the frontrunner for your job. It’s the last chance for somebody like Plibersek or Bill Shorten. And that they have you in their sights. So I’m just putting it out there. I believe it’s just total and utter rubbish, to be perfectly honest. But that’s just what they do.


ALBANESE: After the election, everyone had their opportunity to put themselves forward.


PAUL: Right.


ALBANESE: I was elected Leader of the Labor Party unopposed. That doesn’t happen too often.




ALBANESE: As you would be aware, Marcus. And that was an indication of the broad support that I have within the Labor Party. And I think that the challenge for us is to not talk about ourselves but to talk about our alternative plan for Government and to hold the Government of the day to account. Now, we’ve been doing that very effectively. And had there not been a full court press from Tanya yesterday, but prior to that for a long period of time from Chris Bowen in particular, from myself, from Richard Marles, from Kristina Keneally, from the whole range of our team, about Craig Kelly’s comments and the need to do something about it, then nothing would have happened. That has shown the fact that the Prime Minister, who on Monday at the National Press Club said that Craig Kelly was doing a great job and refused to distance himself from the comments. Within two days, he’s now had to do that. And that’s a credit to the way that my team have been holding the Government to account.


PAUL: All right, well, look, I don’t want to delve into this anymore. I’m going to leave it now. Because as far as I’m concerned, it’s all disunity that’s being created by LNP hacks like Peta Credlin and others who are out to, obviously, cause as much disharmony as they possibly can. It’s a little like the rubbish they all carried on with franking credits and all the scare campaigns that were run ahead of the last election. So Albo, I guess the main thing that people are telling me they want to hear from you is policy. When are we going to hear your alternate policies? A lot of your critics say, Anthony, that you are very good at being critical of the Prime Minister, you’ve always got ScoMo in your sights, and that’s what opposition leaders do. But the Labor faithful out there want to hear policy from you. What are your alternatives to what ScoMo and his mob are doing right now?


ALBANESE: Indeed, they do. And in 2021, one of the things that we did was concentrate on the pandemic. And we put forward constructive policy, including wage subsidies, the increase that was needed in unemployment benefits, the need for mental health support, the need for the vaccine to be rolled out once the TGA gave its approval. So all of those, many of which were adopted, we were constructive. But at the same time, we’ve started to roll out our alternatives. The move towards universal childcare. Labor is very proud that we created universal healthcare through Medicare, universal superannuation. What we need is universal childcare. Early childhood education. We know that would provide massive benefit for individuals and families by making it more affordable. And our plan will make 97 per cent of households will be better off for families. We know also, it’s good for businesses and good for the economy and good for children. Because more than 90 per cent of human brain development occurs in the first five years. So that we had in the Budget Reply. We also had a Future Made in Australia. So making sure that we build things here. Making sure that any government contracts, what we have is Australian apprentices and trainees included in any projects. Making sure that we have a national rail manufacturing plan. That we have an Australian Centre for Disease Control. Increased funding for public housing so that we deal with the crisis that we have in terms of a lack of social and affordable housing in this country. And next week, I’ll be making major announcements about more secure work. I’ll be up in Queensland, talking about those issues. I have a major speech next Wednesday. Before then, as well, I’ll be launching our jobs taskforce for the regions. We’ll be doing that in regional Queensland on Sunday and Monday. And we will continue to roll out policies between now and the next election so that everyone will see clearly what the suite of alternative policies that a Labor Government would implement to make the recovery even stronger. Because we can’t just return to what was there. The pandemic has revealed how strong our society is in looking after each other. But it’s also revealed a number of weaknesses that need to be fixed.


PAUL: Just one more thing. And I look forward to talking to you more on these new policies and these announcements next week, Anthony. But before I let you go and thank you for your time, there will be discussions about what the JobSeeker payment per day should be. I spoke yesterday to the unions. They tell us that they want it to effectively be what it sat at during the height of the pandemic, which is effectively twice the old rate of Newstart or the dole. Pauline Hanson has been on this program saying she believes a figure of around $75 a day is adequate. Others say around $80 a day. What is Labor’s policy on JobSeeker? Where would you like to see this figure sit at per day?


ALBANESE: Well, what we’ve said is that $40 a day isn’t enough. We want to see what the Government does and place pressure on the Government because we can’t change it until after the next election. If we’re successful, we will.


PAUL: What will we change it to though, Anthony? If you are successful, what will you change it to?


ALBANESE: We want to see what the Budget figures are in May before making definitive statements. We are going to be very responsible when it comes to Budget measures. And we’ll make sure that all the full costings are out there, which is why we need to see the numbers.


PAUL: But is it fair enough to say that, sorry to interrupt you, but is it fair enough to say, Anthony, that it will be above the $40 a day?


ALBANESE: Absolutely. It will be.


PAUL: You can’t give me a rough figure? I mean, you must have some kind of idea of where the Budget may sit? There’s not a figure to go by?


ALBANESE: I do, Marcus. And that’s why we will wait, though, for the Budget. We’ve had our discussions about what sort of level it should be at. And we’ve spoken with groups. I’ve spoken at ACOSS’ national conference. I’ve spoken with a range of people. And also our people were out there in electorates talking to people on the ground as well about the pressures that they’re under.


PAUL: But let me ask you, if I would suggest maybe $75 to $80 a day, would that be a figure that you could perhaps look at as being obtainable?


ALBANESE: Marcus, as much as I enjoy speaking on your program, today is not the day for the announcement. We’ll wait. We’ll wait for the Budget. And we hope that in the Budget, the Government has, or beforehand, they can’t afford to drop it down either at the end of March to $40 a day. That will produce real hardship if that occurs. And it’s also bad for the economy, by the way. Because if you increase Newstart or the unemployment benefits, every single dollar is spent in a local shop, a local chemist, a local business, and it circulates around the economy.


PAUL: All right. Always glad to have you on. Let’s talk again next week. I look forward to hearing more of these policy announcements. Please come to where you’ll be heard and won’t be bagged down afterwards. All right.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Marcus.