Nov 26, 2020







SUBJECTS: COVID, air travel, vaccinations, quarantine, US politics. 


DEE DEE DUNLEAVY, HOST: To be joined to discuss the news of the day by the Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese. Good afternoon to you.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon. Thanks for having me on the program.


DUNLEAVY: My pleasure entirely. There’s a few things we need to talk about. Probably, I think we should start with international air travel, it’s down by 90 per cent on the same time last year, billions and billions of dollars disappearing. And one of the things that the airline industry says is the big, is putting the brakes on any travel, is that hotel quarantine because it’s expensive, and nobody wants to sit in the hotel room for a couple of weeks. So, what do we do to encourage people to fly again? So how do we work hotel quarantine? Here in Victoria, the Premier Daniel Andrews said this morning, he’s going to make sure it’s done in hotels and not home quarantine. What are your thoughts? Big Picture on how we run it?


ALBANESE: Well, I think that we need to make sure that we keep in control of the process. I think that the lessons are there. So it’s not just a matter of hotel quarantine, but ensuring the people aren’t working multiple jobs or working in other jobs as well. Make sure that we keep people safe. There are of course, other options as well and they were recommended by Jane Halton who was asked to produce a report for the Government. The Government hasn’t responded to that. It’s now more than a month ago and one of the things that Ms Halton recommended was that the Federal Government take more responsibility for having a national approach to the quarantine issue. We’ve got something like 36,000 Australians now who are stranded overseas, and we need to get them home. It’s a major issue, I was with a gentleman this morning in Western Sydney, whose wife has been trying to get home from India since March 27 when her plane was cancelled and hasn’t been able to get home. It’s very distressing for people. And so quarantining is a difficult issue, but it’s one that we need to use to keep people safe.


DUNLEAVY: We’ve got a number of different approaches, South Australia at the moment after their outbreak and short lived lockdown last week, they’re planning to set up a dedicated COVID quarantine facility, they’re thinking perhaps an old hospital. Do you think that quarantine is best done in a separate facility like that away from the CBD or are you comfortable with being done in hotels?


ALBANESE: I’m comfortable with either. There have been various offers made for a long period of time. Of course, I was in Darwin a few weeks ago, there’s a facility there that still isn’t being properly utilised. We’ve had the West Australian premier offered to use Rottnest Island some time ago, and that hasn’t really been taken up. But we just need to make sure that we can have people come here and come here safely. Whether it be Australians returning home or of course, we would want to see come 2021 in particular, people being able to come here, such as overseas students, we know that it’s really hurt universities losing that income..


DUNLEAVY: Yeah. What did you think of the comments by Qantas boss, Alan Joyce, that the airline would want passengers to be vaccinated against COVID before traveling on international flights?


ALBANESE: Well, I didn’t regard them as being particularly remarkable. I travelled to South America a years ago, on a holiday, self-funded. And I had to show, when we entered the airport in South America, when it landed in Santiago, and then travelled around the country, we had to keep our immunization card and show that we’d had the appropriate immunizations had taken place. Vaccines don’t save lives, vaccinations do and we need to encourage as wide an uptake as possible. This will certainly do that. But I can understand Qantas and Mr. Joyce wanting to prioritize the safety of their customers and reduce the risk of transmission on flight because it’s not just a health issue, it obviously will be an economic issue as well. People will be reluctant to fly if the person sitting next to them hasn’t been vaccinated but they have.


DUNLEAVY: Well the Federal Government are working on a scheme, and they’re saying that you’ll possibly be able to skip hotel quarantine if you’ve had the vaccine and they say that will be an incentive for people to get the jab. Do you think that’s okay?


ALBANESE: I do, subject to the appropriate health advice, but that seems to be a pretty common sense proposition if we know that the vaccine is working, and people have had a vaccination, then people could put in place, it may well be that people might still need to self-isolate, just due to an abundance of caution, which is appropriate. But subject to that health advice, that’s a sort of direction we need to go in. I don’t think anyone wants to see any restrictions in place, beyond personal freedoms, beyond what is necessary, but Victoria has shown, of course, and a big shout out to your listeners for the work that they’ve done in keeping each other safe and keeping their families and their neighbours and their community safe, you’ve come through it incredibly well. And there was some criticism, of course, of Daniel Andrews and, and calls but they need to be opened up and individual liberties to be allowed, but the truth is that it’s been shown to be effective. And as a result, things are now opening up, I got to travel to Melbourne on a Monday on one of the first flights. And Victorians I think can be very proud of the effort that they’ve made.


DUNLEAVY: We’ll take your calls, the Labor leader is happy to hear from you, if you’ve got any questions or comments. Just one more question before we go to calls, that Alan Joyce also said he was considering making the vaccination essential for domestic flights? That seems to me a step too far.


ALBANESE: Well, I think he, I’d had a discussion with Alan rang me the other afternoon to talk through those issues. I don’t think they’re saying that they’ve got a final position on that, he’s floated that for discussion. I think with all of these things we need to take health advice. Certainly as it is now, before you get on a plane, you have your temperature taken. And you of course have to tick off and sign something saying, sometimes virtually online, saying that you haven’t been subject to any of the symptoms, and you haven’t been to particular places that are seen to add to vulnerabilities. So there are restrictions there right now. And health restrictions are important. I’d wait, don’t want to get ahead of ourselves here. Let’s wait and see where we’re at. We don’t actually have a vaccination yet, of course, but when we do have one, I want to see maximum take up of it. I want to see incentives in place for people to be vaccinated. And we already have, of course, this government’s introduced various restrictions in terms of things like income support, and access to various services being based upon children, for example, getting, being vaccinated. And we’ve supported that, we haven’t sought to play politics with that and to make it a partisan issue, because the truth is, that we’re living longer, and we’re living healthier lives than we used to and that’s because of medical advances. And we should be cautious about it, but we shouldn’t be those medical advances. And let’s hope we get a big one next year because no one wants 2020 to be repeated.


DUNLEAVY: Good heavens, no. Adam has a comment. Good afternoon Adam.


CALLER: Good afternoon. First thing was I totally agree on what should have been a national approach. But I think unfortunately, some very large and probably dangerous egos of various states got in the way of that. The other thing just on local Victoria or Melbourne testing. I was tested in hospital on Sunday night and I’m still waiting for a notification of what the result is.


ALBANESE: Yeah, that’s of concern Adam that it’s taken that long. It certainly shouldn’t take more than 48 hours to get a result. I’m obviously not in a position to provide an answer for why that is occurring but best practice is within 48 hours to get that. With regard to a national approach, the Federal Government, Scott Morrison, made a decision to hand over responsibility to the state, over issues like quarantine, which is actually in the Australian Constitution, is a Federal Government responsibility. So that was a decision made by the Federal Government. And they did that very early on in the process. And indeed, one of the areas where I have been concerned is the idea that we can’t get people back to Australia, Scott Morrison promised that people would be brought back by Christmas, and the figures getting longer not shorter, and we need to do much better. And that that clearly is the responsibility of the national government.


DUNLEAVY: Tony, your call for the Opposition Leader.


CALLER: G’day how are you Dee Dee? The thing that I don’t understand, we put them in the city, we’ve had an outbreak in Melbourne, we’ve had one in Adelaide, and we still haven’t learned. Leave them out, designated area, and you’ve got less chance of a virus outbreak, put them in an army barracks, put them somewhere we can contain the virus.


DUNLEVY: What are the negatives, Mr. Albanese of putting people in remote locations? Is it more expensive?


ALBANESE: No. And there aren’t really any negatives that I can see, it’s a matter of availability. And it’s been a matter of it not been taken up. The NT example is a good one, whereby you have a massive facility, it’s actually was built in part because of the impacts of big major construction project going ahead, offshore in terms of Darwin, and it’s been vacant, the facilities are just there. So I agree, they certainly should be used. We should be getting more people back, we should be using all the resources at our disposal. There’s never been as many vacant planes sitting parked in deserts around Central Australia and none and in other places. And there’s never been, as well, access to things like the, Royal Australian Airforce has a big VIP fleet that’s available for senior government members and others. We should be using that to get people back and then we should be using facilities to quarantine people efficiently and effectively. It must be said, there are examples, of course, that we all know about where hotel quarantining hasn’t been got right, but many other cases, of course, overwhelmingly, most of the facilities have seen people quarantined without any issues.


DUNLEAVY: Unlike what happened here in Victoria, unfortunately, with the most dire of consequences. The Federal Opposition Leader is with me, Anthony Albanese, he’ll take more of your calls in a moment and more things to discuss. We’ll get to that in just a tick it’s 21 minutes past one. Your questions for the Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese who’s joined us today to discuss the news of the day, Rob you’re first up, hi.


CALLER: Good afternoon Dee, Mr Albanese. I’m not sure whether this question has been broached to Mr. Joyce yet, but given they want passengers to be immunised, is there anything been addressed regarding their staff? I mean, is there going to be a no jab, no job policy, for example. And would you support something like that?


ALBANESE: Yes, there is going to be, my understanding is that they will certainly be ensuring that their staff get vaccinated. And, of course staff on international flights now, if they’re going to a range of countries, you have to have vaccinations. There’s nothing unusual about that, or extraordinary. I’ve travelled, I mentioned earlier on to South America for, to travel to a UN Conference, I went to Nairobi, Kenya, you had to have certain vaccinations in order to enter. I remember as a young man going to Southeast Asia, to Vietnam, you had to have, I think it was Black Plague, you had to have from memory, I remember is particularly painful one, for a considerable period of time, but you had to get it done. And that’s why we have those little yellow cards that that we travel with. So this Qantas staff would of course have to have all of that already. This will add one more.


DUNLEAVY: Question from Susan. Hi, Susan.


CALLER: Hi, Dee Dee, how you going?


DUNLEAVY: Good, thanks.


ALBANESE: Hi, Susan.


CALLER: Hi, Mr. Albanese. My question is, from what I’m reading about the vaccines that are being produced at the moment, they’re not going to stop people from getting the virus, they will hopefully lessen the symptoms. So why is there being such a big push to make people who are at no risk of dying from the virus have this vaccine?


ALBANESE: Well, in fact, the evidence is there that people of various ages can indeed die from the virus. That’s the truth and they can also be carriers of the virus, which then give them, which then convey the virus to others, who are in more vulnerable health positions. So certainly, the intention of the vaccination is to stop people getting the virus it’s not to just wind than the symptoms, it’s actually to stop people getting the virus. That’s the objective here.


DUNLEAVY: Mr. Albanese year into the final weeks of Parliament for the year and we could quite conceivably have a federal election late next year. I noticed that Daniel Andrews was asked the other day whether he’s eyeing a job in Canberra, he did say never. Are you quite comfortable that you’ll be leading the party into the next election?


ALBANESE: Absolutely. And we’ve, we’ve been through those processes in the past, and we’ve seen where it ends. That’s why we changed our rules to make sure that people could focus on the period of winning an election rather than being worried about what happens in between elections. And we have a plan that, obviously the COVID outbreak changed the way that politics is conducted in 2020, that’s the truth, and people have wanted a more constructive approach. People have wanted to put the national interest first.


DUNLEAVY: Change politics for the better?


ALBANESE: I think in terms of, I’d like to see, permanently, a more constructive approach towards politics. I said, when I became the Labor leader that I wanted to be known as the Labor leader rather than the Opposition Leader, and that if the Government got some things right, then we’d vote for it, and that we wouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. So, for example, all of the Government’s packages of providing economic support, through things like wage subsidies, we’ve supported, and indeed, with wage subsidies, we were advocating when the Government was still opposing them. We have expressed concern about people who missed out, casuals and people in the arts and entertainment sector and other areas, but we haven’t said, “nup, we’ll just vote against it”, which is what the Coalition did during the global financial crisis. And I think that will serve the country well, because part of, I think, the problems that the current government have, with lack of plans for economic reform, social reform, environmental policies, that they did under Tony Abbott oppose just about everything, but that meant that were defined by what they act against not what they were for. And I’ve started to outline more of Labor’s alternative offer to the Australian people, that includes childcare subsidies, that includes support for a future made in Australia, including manufacturing, and other reforms that we would advance, including taking climate change seriously. And I’m very confident that when the election comes around, we will be in a position to put forward a very clear and coherent alternative to the current Government.


DUNLEAVY: We’ve had an email from Dennis, and he asks, when there’s a new President elected it’s custom for the Prime Minister to call and congratulate them. Does the same happened with the, well I won’t call you the Opposition Leader since you like to be known as the Labor leader, but is it customary for the Leader of the Opposition to also call, have you called Joe Biden or is that not the done thing?


ALBANESE: It’s not the done thing, leaders tend to ring each other, but I’ve certainly sent, I’m close to a number of people in in the Democrats in the United States, I’ve certainly sent a congratulations message to him, as well as doing it publicly. I’ve met Joe Biden, on a number of occasions. I think he will be an outstanding US President. And I look forward to seeing the impact that he has, I think the US has been through a very difficult period we’ve seen…


DUNLEAVY: Are you concerned about his stamina though? There’s questions about him being, I mean, I know he’s around the same age as Donald Trump, but he doesn’t seem to have the same energy levels. Do you think he’s got the stamina that it takes?


ALBANESE: Oh, I think people shouldn’t classify how many tweets you put out as being about energy and stamina. Joe Biden ran a very effective campaign. He won the election resoundingly. I think in the end, it will be pretty, between somewhere between 6 and 7 million additional votes, and well over 300 votes in terms of the Electoral College, when you need 270 to win the election. So he ran a good campaign, he’s experienced, he’s been the Vice President of the United States, which is the capacity in which I’ve met him in the past, he has good people around him, people like John Kerry and John Podesta and others who’ve been appointed or will be appointed are very experienced in administrations of the Clinton or the Obama administrations. And our alliance with the United States is our most important friendship. And I think you’ll see, also, the United States play a role in multilateral institutions. You have sent a bit of a retreat under President Trump from global leadership from the United States, and it’s a good thing for the world that the US shows that leadership.


DUNLEAVY: Time will tell, thank you so much for your time today. I do appreciate it. Hopefully you can join us again sometime. Labor leader Anthony Albanese, there. Let’s check news headlines now.