Sep 1, 2020







SUBJECTS: State borders; aged care crisis; Government’s inability to take responsibility; the so-called National Cabinet; June quarter National Accounts; virtual Parliament; South Sydney Rabbitohs.


NEIL BREEN, HOST: Good morning to you, Opposition Leader.




BREEN: I am very well, thank you. Very, very well. One of the big issues up here, Opposition Leader, is the border and how our Premier, our Labor Premier, has been handling it. We know the Prime Minister has had his say, getting quite angry at it at times. Where do you stand on borders being open?


ALBANESE: Look, I think that the premiers have to act on medical advice and Annastacia Palaszczuk is doing that. If you look at the outcome for Queenslanders, it is pretty good. There does need to be, of course, some common sense and some application of exemptions and those issues need to be dealt with. That should have been coordinated, frankly, by the so-called National Cabinet. I do wonder why it is that the Prime Minister pretends he has no say in the decisions in National Cabinet. And the other issue, of course, is our international borders. So many Aussies who are cannot get home. And that is directly a Federal Government responsibility. And that needs to be dealt with.


BREEN: One of the reasons is the states have been imposing numbers of who can come back. Queensland allows 75 people a day to come back.


ALBANESE: Well, to be frank, the states can’t impose this. I mean, this Prime Minister needs to accept responsibility for issues like our national borders, that is clearly a Federal Government responsibility. it is a bit like aged care is a Federal Government responsibility.


BREEN: The aged care situation has been, well, I should use a better term, but it’s been a cluster. It’s been terribly, terribly disappointing. And peak groups representing older Australians and aged care workers have calculated that billions in extra fundings are needed to fix it. How would Labor go about fixing it?


ALBANESE: Well, we came up with, at the National Press Club, an eight-point plan. Practical measures. Things like minimum staffing levels are needed. We need to have proper training. Those workers need to have personal protective equipment. We need to make sure there’s proper accountability and transparency in terms of the funding. At the moment, that’s just not there. And we need, I think, a bit of leadership from the Federal Government. We know that the Royal Commission that was established came up with an interim report last year, and it was titled ‘Neglect’. Now, that’s a bit of a hint as to where the Royal Commissioners thought the aged care system was; neglect. In one word, they summed up the state of aged care in Australia.


BREEN: Can I ask you to just go back to National Cabinet for a second? Do you think it’s become dysfunctional? And do you believe that it’s become dysfunctional along party lines because the Federal Government’s getting on well with Gladys Berejiklian and her Liberal Government, her Coalition Government, seems to be at war with Victoria in particular, Queensland in particular, the Labor premiers. Do you think it’s gone along party lines rather than national lines of us all fighting a pandemic together?


ALBANESE: Well, it’s not national, and it is not a cabinet. I think Scott Morrison chairs these meetings and the premiers tell each other what they’re going to do and then he goes out and has a press conference and announces it. I mean, for goodness sake, if the Prime Minister is saying that somehow the Australian Government don’t control Australian borders and who flies in and many, then that’s just absurd. And the border issues, of course, we have Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania all have their borders closed. But the Prime Minister is only critical, of course, of Queensland. In WA, he backed-up another Queenslander’s court case in taking the Western Australian Government to court.


BREEN: This is Clive Palmer.


ALBANESE: Clive Palmer and the Federal Government joined in on that pile-on on Mark McGowan’s Government in WA. But there’s no such rhetoric for South Australia or for Tasmania. And I think that has undermined the sense of unity that is around that room.


BREEN: Tomorrow we’ll probably all feel a bit undermined when we get the National Accounts. The June Quarter National Accounts will be released. And there’s predictions of a 7 per cent fall in GDP. So, we are in a recession, but we will officially be in a recession. How would Labor turn it around? What would Labor try and do?


ALBANESE: Well, we need a plan for jobs. And we put forward practical suggestion like social housing construction. We need public housing in this country. We know that that’s the case. We know there’s a massive shortage. We know that during the pandemic, we had put homeless people up in hotels. So, that’s one practical measure we could have. We need a national energy policy that drives investment that will ensure that not just that emissions come down, but most importantly, the power prices come down. And the Government has had 19 different ideas but no actual plan or policy. We need a plan to get the country going. One of the things I’ve said is that we’ve had JobSeeker and JobKeeper, what we need is JobCreator. We need to identify the areas where Australia needs to concentrate, where we have a comparative advantage in the region or where, in some areas, we have identified issues, like during the pandemic, do we have enough vials if we do get access to a vaccine? Are we able to manufacture them? At the moment there’s real shortages in many of those areas. And we need to look at what’s been identified as our vulnerabilities during this pandemic as a nation and get about making things here.


BREEN: Can you give our listeners, before I let you go, an insight into how the semi-virtual Federal Parliament’s been working where some people are on Zoom asking questions and others are in the House, has it worked okay?


ALBANESE: Look, it’s working really practically. And it means that for some people who it’s just impractical for them due to their family circumstances to quarantine for two weeks, either at home or in Canberra, have been able to participate. So, the way it works, essentially, is that notice, there is always a speakers list on bills, so there’s no surprise in that, and it’s lined up in advance when they will speak. We also give notice to the Speaker and to the people operating the equipment if someone’s going to ask, for example, if Richard Marles in Melbourne is going to ask the third question or Shayne Neumann in Ipswich is going to ask the fourth question, they get notice, so it’s lined up and they are on the screen and it’s operating as if they are there. There are a whole lot of businesses that had to adjust. And just as I am talking to you in Canberra, guess what? Technology has made the world a smaller place.


BREEN: It has. I’ve watched a bit of it. It’s actually worked okay. Okay, I did watch the Rabbitohs last Thursday.


ALBANESE: Mate, how good were they?


BREEN: Very good.


ALBANESE: How good were they?


BREEN: They were very good. Because I thought it was a race of four and by the time I finished, I expanded to a race of five.


ALBANESE: Well, I watched it when we had to stay in Canberra over the weekend. I watched it with fellow Bunnies supporters in my office. There are four of us in the Federal Parliament. And we were in a bit of shock. As South supporters, even when you are ahead 22-0 at half time, you’re a bit nervous.


BREEN: You should be. Okay, Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, good luck for the rest of the week in Parliament. Thanks for joining us on 4BC Breakfast. And good luck with the Rabbitohs. I think they are contenders.


ALBANESE: They are, indeed. It is a red and green year.