Jan 19, 2021






SUBJECTS: Car accident; Labor leadership; coronavirus hotspots; Federal Election; need for national responsibility during coronavirus pandemic; state borders; tennis; Australian Open; cricket.


NEIL BREEN, HOST: How are you, Opposition Leader?


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: I’m recovering slowly but I’m getting there.


BREEN: Yes, the accident. Let’s start with the car accident.


ALBANESE: Well, I got my car totalled in a head-on with a Range Rover.




ALBANESE: Just about 10 days ago, Friday before last. But I’m recovering. And there’s no long-term damage. It will just take me a little while to not feel a bit sore and to listen to the medical advice, I will need a little bit of ongoing treatment. But I was very, very lucky. My guardian angels were working overtime.


BREEN: So I read that you said after the accident that if it was 10 years ago or longer ago without modern safety and airbags and all these things you thought you might have been in big trouble.


ALBANESE: Well, the paramedics said that to me in the ambulance on the way. They said that essentially the new design of seatbelts that hug you into your chair minimise the jolting that occurs. I did have some whiplash, but it wasn’t what it would have been 10 years ago. The front corner of the car that took the collision, it had a crumple zone which is designed to take some of the pressure from a collision. And, frankly, if it was an older car, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have been speaking to you now. You would have been, I’m sure, I hope, saying nice things about me and my contribution to public life. But I’m still here, and I’ll be looking forward to Parliament resuming in a couple of weeks and to take up the challenge of holding the Government to account but also of putting forward an alternative proposition for a better recovery from the pandemic.


BREEN: You would have been knocked out by the story that was on page one of The Australian yesterday, but it was raised by the CFMEU and some polling that was bad for you and saying that Tanya Plibersek should be in charge. But Elizabeth Doidge, who was from the CFMEU, I’d never heard of her and I heard you on radio say yesterday that you never heard of her either?


ALBANESE: Nor had I.


BREEN: She landed on page one, though. Must have been a slow news day.


ALBANESE: That says more about The Australian than it does about anything else, I think. They make those decisions, they’ve got to justify why someone that no-one at The Australian would have heard of either make it to the page one. Look, it is from John Setka’s division of the CFMEU.


BREEN: He is not a great friend of yours. He’s a rival of yours.


ALBANESE: Well, he’s not a rival of mine, of course. He’s just someone who’s outside the movement now because he’s brought it into disrepute. And I called it out. And don’t apologise for that. And because of that, he obviously feels aggrieved. I suggest to him, he is someone who’s never taken responsibility for the consequences of his own actions, that the consequences of the way that he’s running the union has meant that the union at the moment, of course, is in danger of breaking up. And I think he should be concentrating on his members’ interests rather than spending members’ money for a poll. Frankly, I’ve never heard of the company either. But certainly, The Australian might like to have a look at their own Newspoll, which shows that our primary vote is up from the last election and two-party-preferred vote is up from the last election, and I’m in positive territory. So, I think Newspoll has a little bit more credibility than these things that are put out there in order to create trouble. But frankly, I just had a bit of a chuckle about it.


BREEN: And I’ll move on from that topic now. But in terms of fairness to you, in a follow-up in The Australian tonight, CFMEU Queensland Mining and Energy President, Steven Smyth, and the New South Wales Northern Mining and Energy President, Peter Jordan, backed to you to remain as Leader, so the CFMEU probably need to get their act straight as well about exactly what they’re saying and doing. Hey, can I ask you this question, Anthony Albanese? The Prime Minister’s in Australia, in Queensland today, he is going to be in Central Queensland doing it drought blitz for four days. Do you expect there to be a Federal Election this year?


ALBANESE: Look, there may well be. The reason would be because Scott Morrison would make a political decision that things are going to get worse be in 2022. That’s the only justification. We have a three-year term in Australia. They’re a bit short, in my view. Queensland, of course, has four-year terms. New South Wales has four years, Victoria has four years, the rest of the world has four or five. So to go to an election just over two years after we’ve had one will be a sign that the Prime Minister doesn’t have confidence in his own administration.


BREEN: I need to ask you this question, as well, because Sydney’s still classified as somewhat of a hotspot in Queensland, do you think you’re living in a hotspot?


ALBANESE: Well, I’m living in my own bubble, as they say about politicians sometimes. But with the medical advice I’ve had, I haven’t been moving around much in the last in the last couple of weeks.


BREEN: Of course, not.


ALBANESE: Certainly Queensland has taken a very cautious view and Annastacia Palaszczuk’s judgment, I think, has been shown to be right. She’s prioritised keeping Queenslanders safe, I understand that. I met her at the end of last year, I was able to travel to Queensland for a few days. And I look forward to getting up there as soon as possible once I have fully recovered.


BREEN: One thing we’ve got to watch out for, though, is our future. How long does this go on? Even when there’s a vaccine, which won’t necessarily stop us from getting the virus, it’ll protect us once we have it and stop us from dying. How long does it go on that we keep shutting borders and not trying to manage it in a different way?


ALBANESE: Well, I do think that there’s a national responsibility here. If I was convening meetings with premiers, I would be trying to get more national uniformity, more consistency. But Scott Morrison has a view about aged care, views about quarantining and getting Australians back from overseas, a view about state borders, which is that he hands over responsibility to someone else, and therefore, he can blame someone else. In this case, of course, the last time he was in Queensland, he travelled around and was very critical of the Palaszczuk Government and border controls. That didn’t work out very well for his team at the Queensland state election. But that’s a conscious decision that he’s made. Frankly, I would like to see, and I’ve said this for a long time now, more consistency. But whilst he hands over responsibility to the states, he can’t then be critical of the states for making their own decisions.


BREEN: Are you going to go to the Tennis in Melbourne?


ALBANESE: Mate, at the moment I am not heading to far from Marrickville. I am having a medical assessment tomorrow of whether I can go to Canberra in a few days’ time to do a bit of quarantining there in the lead-up to the Parliament sitting the week after next, which would then enable me to travel more broadly from Canberra. So I do enjoy the tennis, I’ve been in the past, particularly the early rounds at the Australian Open, they do it very well. You can get a day pass and just go around from court to court and get to see some of the players that you might not see on television. I fancy myself as a very ordinary tennis player, played at the Sydney Badge Comp, but I do my best. But I’ve got to say, across partisan lines, John Alexander being elected to Parliament has been good for my tennis game. He gives some pretty handy tips. Early on a Thursday morning, we have a few of us play. And he is a good bloke. I don’t think he is a great politician, but he is a good bloke.


BREEN: Because he plays for the other team.


ALBANESE: And a very handy tennis player. And he is actually very, very generous in terms of just a few simple little tips that have helped my game playing for the mighty Marrickville in the Sydney Badge Comp.


BREEN: Good on you. Well, enjoy watching the cricket while you work from home today, the cricket from the GABBA. I’ll be watching it today. I listened to the weather. It was good news about, well it appears to be good news, about the cyclone in Far North Queensland. And let’s hope there’s no rain at the GABBA today. There might be a little bit but there will still be a lot of play. Thanks for joining us. I can tell that you’re struggling a little bit with your health, but not your head. And thanks for joining us this morning, Opposition Leader.


ALBANESE: Pat Cummins to take five today.


BREEN: Okay. There’s the tip, Pat Cummins to take five, that’s made Steve, one of my offsiders here, happy.