Jan 18, 2021






SUBJECTS: Car accident; lessons learned about safe driving; Labor leadership.


NEIL MITCHELL, HOST: Anthony Albanese, good morning.




MITCHELL: Can you describe to me what you remember?


ALBANESE: Well, I was going up Hill Street, Marrickville, which, funnily enough, is a hill with a couple of bends in it. It is a pretty narrow street, like most streets in the inner suburbs of Sydney. And all of a sudden, I had a very large vehicle on my side of the road just heading straight for us. I thought that was interesting, your comments about driving. I think, somehow, when I was Transport Minister, I didn’t do it myself, the courses, but I often sat as a passenger in driver education as an example for the media. And something must have kicked in. It hit the side front of the vehicle, which then crumpled in. And then it’s gone all the way down the side, the front right wheel almost ended up at 180 degrees. So clearly, it bent the whole front of the car, which is a write-off, which is off at the wreckers now. And then I will never forget the bang, the noise. And I was pretty close to home and people in my street came down. I was talking to someone a few days after the event and they came down from two blocks away. They thought it was an explosion. And certainly, my friends who arrived on the scene to provide assistance saw the car before they saw me, and they thought the worst.


MITCHELL: So you weren’t driving?


ALBANESE: I was driving by myself just from my electorate office to home. And I was very lucky that a nurse, Ali, was one of the witnesses to the crash and came and provided me with comfort on the spot, made sure that I didn’t move until the paramedics got there, shooed other people away who were trying perhaps to provide assistance without her expertise. It just shows that nurses are never off-duty. And I was very, very grateful.


MITCHELL: What do you think you did was an instinctive driving reaction to lessen the impact?


ALBANESE: Well, I think I was going pretty slow because it’s up a hill and it is a bit of a bendy road. And I think I potentially sort of braked and moved, shifted a bit to the left. There wasn’t much room to move but that meant that the Range Rover, instead of hitting badge to badge, hit the front corner of the car, which meant that there was less impact. A Range Rover is a very heavy vehicle and it keeps going.


MITCHELL: Did you think, ‘I’m gone here’?


ALBANESE: I absolutely thought that. And I braced for it. And I’ll never forget three things. One, looking, just seeing this car heading for me. Two, the impact, and I obviously braced for the impact as well and the doctors have said that clearly that has assisted, whereas if I was T-boned you don’t see anything coming so your body doesn’t have a chance to brace and tighten up, if you like. And three, just after the event just being a bit in shock that I was still there and was still conscious. I felt a fair bit of pain, but I looked to see whether there was blood or there were bits of me that I had to look at. It was such a loud bang. I remember just thinking, ‘I’m okay, I can move’. One of the first things you do, of course, is to check that you can move your legs and arms because of spinal injuries.


MITCHELL: But you did think as it was happening, ‘this could kill me’?


ALBANESE: I absolutely thought it. I thought it would. And I’ve never had that feeling before. I have had accidents as a passenger before, particularly on a motorbike. But that was a different feeling. The two accidents I’ve had before I didn’t see coming.


MITCHELL: Did your life flash before your eyes?


ALBANESE: Absolutely. Time goes slowly. Obviously, the car was moving at a fair pace down the hill. And there would have been, you know, a split second, one or two seconds at most, before the collision and the impact. But it seems like time slows down.


MITCHELL: So what did you think about? And I know a lot of people have told me your life does in a sense flash before your eyes? What came to mind?


ALBANESE: That this is it. There wasn’t any time for great thoughts beyond that. It was so sudden.


MITCHELL: What injuries did you receive? And how are you going now?


ALBANESE: Well, I had injuries to my neck and back, they put me in a brace at the hospital to check for spinal damage. And so, there’s ongoing pain, I feel everything from my torso, my front, sort of after a day, under my ribs as well. One of the things that happens in an accident like that is that, as the specialists explain to me as well, is that your organs can expand with the jolt. They’ve been put in places they weren’t supposed to be so there’s swelling. And so that’s taken a bit of time to come through, I went back to the hospital. I was in hospital for 24 hours, I got wonderful treatment. And I went back on Wednesday to have an MRI. And that shows some damage adding to the wear and tear that you expect of someone in their 50s. But there is some things they’ve got to keep an eye on but probably it looks as though doesn’t require surgery, which is good. I will require ongoing physio and we need to keep an eye on a couple of other things as well in terms of my internals that they need to just keep an eye on so I have to go to a specialist. I went to my GP on Friday who explained in English what the MRI report said.


MITCHELL: Will it limit you at all?


ALBANESE: Look, it shouldn’t. And that’s remarkably good news. The truth is I’ve been incredibly lucky if you look at the vehicle. The people who took her away certainly thought that someone had been in a fatal accident. And I’ve just been very, very fortunate.


MITCHELL: What are the lessons here? What did you learn from? You made the point about driving and driving education and the instinctive way you react. You were in a pretty good car. that would have helped?


ALBANESE: As you know, Neil, I appointed you at one stage to a road safety advisory body. And it’s very clear, the paramedics said to me that one of the things that had happened, the new seatbelts essentially hug you so you don’t go forward as much as you would. And that was lucky. It was lucky that the car’s hit the side corner. So they’re designed to crumple. So they’re designed to take some of that impact. And if it was a car that was 10-years-old, I’m sure I wouldn’t be here today.


MITCHELL: Wasn’t there a message there that we’ve got to get more of the old bangers off the road and get people into better cars?


ALBANESE: I think there’s a few messages. That’s one. Secondly, that drivers have to, if they can, do a defensive driving course, get those skills of what to do if a car’s heading to you. Three, as well, the young man was involved in the accident, I hope there’s a lesson for him, he’s been an issue with negligent driving infringement.


MITCHELL: Was a phone involved?


ALBANESE: Well, the police will investigate the details. But the car shouldn’t have been on the wrong side of the road, that’s very clear. And certainly, I hope that young man becomes the safest driver ever. Because it could have ended my life but ruined his life as well. And he apologised instantly on the spot for it. And that is to his credit in terms of accepting that he’d done the wrong thing and was responsible. But I just hope that he, a 17-year-old man, a young man, I’ve got to say for parents out there as well, think about the car you’re giving your youngsters to drive. A Range Rover is a big vehicle, it has a lot of weight behind it. And by definition, if you’re a 17-year-old on your Ps, you’re not an experienced driver.


MITCHELL: And here’s an idea, we want people in better cars, will you as Prime Minister waive the luxury car tax?


ALBANESE: Well, I think that’s been an issue over the years. Of course, my car that I was in wasn’t a luxury car. It was a Toyota with the best safety features that are available today. So I think in terms of getting people into newer vehicles, the truth is that comparatively, compared with when I was first out looking for a car, cars are cheaper today like many products compared with the cost of living were years ago, but it did make an enormous difference. There’s no question about that. There’s another one on its way, hopefully, to me in a little while.


MITCHELL: I’m pleased that you’ve come through as well as. There is obviously a bit of work ahead. And this seems trivial by comparison, but I see that a CFMEU official wants you dumped as Leader. What’s your response to that?


ALBANESE: Well, I think people will see through that. I think it says more about them than it does about me. I took a stance about John Setka and bringing the Labor into disrepute. And I am surprised that The Australian sees that response as a reason for an article, but that’s a decision for them.


MITCHELL: So it is a bit of payback, is it?


ALBANESE: Well, I’ve never heard of the official, frankly, and I’ve never heard of the company that did the alleged poll. I just had a bit of a chuckle by myself frankly, and don’t take it all that seriously.


MITCHELL: Look after yourself, drive safely.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Neil.