Jan 13, 2021







SUBJECTS: Car accident; AstraZeneca vaccine concerns; vaccine rollout; Coon Cheese name change.


CHRIS SMITH, HOST: Anthony Albanese is recovering at home after a quite nasty car crash in Marrickville last Friday. Mr Albanese’s car was T-boned by a 17-year-old red P-plater driving a Range Rover. The Labor Leader spent a night in hospital in a fair bit of pain, mind you, with swelling around his internal organs as well. He’s on the line right now. Anthony, good morning to you.




SMITH: How are you feeling?


ALBANESE: Well, I’m glad to be here mate. It was quite an experience. It was a head on, actually, rather than a T-bone. And the young man concerned has been dealt with an infringement notice for negligent driving. But I was very lucky. It was a moment where, you hear stories about people saying their life flashed before their eyes, and I certainly thought the last thing I would see is a very large vehicle just there right in front of me. And I couldn’t do anything to completely avoid it. In the end it wrote off the vehicle, it’s a total write-off, but I’m very lucky that I’m not a write-off too. It was very close to essentially ending my life and to, of course, changing this young man’s life as well. And I hope that the experience turns him into the safest driver that Australia’s ever seen.


SMITH: So when he hit the car, and I’ve seen the damage on the side of the car, the damage on the side of the car was caused by the damage from the head-on collision?


ALBANESE: That’s right.


SMITH: Buckled the side of the car?


ALBANESE: Modern safety vehicles. It took the front off, the front corner off the car, and went then right down the side. The wheel ended up at almost a 180 degree. On the front of the vehicle there took the real bulk of the hit. And modern vehicles mean that they crumple. And they also, seatbelts can cling onto you, so they hold you in position as soon as there’s the impact. But I’ll never forget the noise of that impact. It was a very scary event. And, whilst I have some injuries, I’m basically going to be fighting fit soon enough. And I have to have another MRI today at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. But just a shout out to everyone from the first responders. The police and the paramedics were fantastic on the spot. And the off-duty nurse who attended to us was across the road, a witness to the accident. And then the staff at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, whether it be the doctors, the nurses, the orderlies, radiographers, they were all terrific. And I was already confident I could handle anything that 2021 might throw at me, but now I’m absolutely certain. And I think, coming through it out the other end, I’m just very grateful.


SMITH: You’re bulletproof, by the sound of it. If you can get through that, you can get through anything. So the steering wheel actually trapped you in your seat, did it?


ALBANESE: Yeah and the door of the vehicle, you know, was damaged. The whole front end. They told me that when they put the vehicle up on the truck to take it away, the windscreen, which had a crack in it from the top left corner right down, the left of it just fell in and other bits just fell off the car. So one of my team went to collect things from the car yesterday, before it went off to the wreckers, and the person at the smash repair place just said he was amazed that there wasn’t someone seriously hurt. So I’m just very lucky. It’s a reminder out there for people to drive safely. They can hurt themselves and others on the road. To actually make sure they are looking at the road too. If people know the street, Hill Street in Marrickville, it’s got a couple of bends in it. If you don’t bend, you end up on the wrong side of the road.


SMITH: Yes, exactly. Now there are calls today for the Federal Government to reassess the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Some doctors say it won’t achieve herd immunity and other options, such as Pfizer and Moderna, are more effective. Do you still think the rollout should be brought forward? Because if we’d started the rollout, say, four or five weeks ago, we would have been underway without knowing this important detail.


ALBANESE: Well, the rollout that’s first scheduled, of course, is the Pfizer vaccine that the TGA expected to approve in January. It has a higher success rate, if you’d like to put it in simple terms, at this stage than AstraZeneca variety. It’s one of the reasons why we’ve argued very clearly that we should be hedging our bets and should have six horses in the race rather than just a few. That’s international best practice.


SMITH: But don’t you think, in general, having a longer period of time to see what happens with the guinea pigs in the UK and the US is good for Australia?


ALBANESE: Look I have never argued, nor has anyone in Labor argued, that we should circumvent or short circuit the TGA process. We have a rigorous process in this country and the Therapeutic Goods Administration examine any pharmaceutical, any drug, for approval. It’s rigorous. Once it approves it, then, what we’ve said is, once it’s approved, why would you then wait two months for the rollout? The rollout occurred in the UK and the US within a week of the approval by the respective organisations. And we need to listen to the experts. We’re not trying to politicise this issue. The TGA is an independent body. Once it approves it, the vaccine should be rolled out. And we have also pointed towards the fact that Pfizer simply doesn’t have, we don’t have enough access to enough vaccines, to roll that out across the country. And that’s an issue as well. We need the most, the vaccine with the best efficacy rolled out and we need it rolled out as soon as it’s approved. Because the impact of this, Chris, is not, of course, just a health impact. There’s the mental health impact. There’s the economic impact as well. And that’s why we’ve argued strongly against the delayed rollout that was envisaged late March, and then it was brought forward to early March and then to February. And that’s something that shows that it was always possible for it to happen.


SMITH: Can I ask you about what Coon Cheese has done to their name? They’re changing it in July to Cheer Cheese because they’ve been under pressure since about 1999 because the name, which represents the owner’s surname from 85 years ago, is of course, you know, seen as, by those who seem offended, connected to American slavery. Does this stuff get out of control sometimes?


ALBANESE: Look, sometimes it can, Chris. I think that sometimes, I certainly don’t agree with, you know, rewriting history, for example, about things, issues of statues and what have you. In this case, frankly, I think it is a commercial decision by the company. And fair enough.


SMITH: But only because they got hammered. They got hammered and called out and publicly shamed and they copped the pile on. And when that happens, you get backed into a corner and it’s unfair.


ALBANESE: Look, certainly it was named after, apparently, some American cheese maker. Rather, it certainly isn’t named after any eulogising of a racist term. But the good news is the cheese will be the same, it’ll taste the same and I think everyone will know it’s the same product. And so I think it’s probably a commercial decision whereby the company has decided that it’s in their interest, they’ll sell more cheese, and good luck to them. It’s a good product. But certainly in terms of cheese, I think cheese, we have the best cheese in the world and we should be very proud of all of our products. I think this is something that will come and go and the next generations will refer to it, I think they’re calling it Cheer Cheese, aren’t they?


SMITH: Cheer.Yeah. Doesn’t sound very cheery to me. But anyway, I thank you very much for your time and good luck with your recuperation and today’s MRI.


ALBANESE: Thanks and thanks very much, Chris. “Souths tough” is what Russell Crowe sent me, a rather nice message over the weekend.


SMITH: Did he? Well you’ll have to tell the driver of the other vehicle they’ll have to go for Rabbitohs too, as a punishment or something.


ALBANESE: They should. I’d just put the Souths sticker on the back of the car too for 2021. So it’s gone. I need a new one.


SMITH: I’m sure there are plenty of donors for a new one. Thank you so much for your time.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Chris.