Nov 19, 2020







SUBJECTS: State of Origin; growth in the regions; regional Australia; recovery from coronavirus pandemic; Labor being constructive during COVID-19 period.


MURRAY JONES, HOST: Good morning to Anthony Albanese. How are you this morning?




JONES: I gather you don’t have a hangover after last night. You didn’t have a lot to celebrate, Albo.


ALBANESE: We certainly didn’t. Queensland were far too good. That’s the truth of the matter. I think they dominated. Tedesco’s injury, obviously, New South Wales’ prospects, when you’ve got Isaah Yeo playing in the centre, Queensland were relentless in attacking that side. Poor old Josh Addo-Carr was running in and running out. I think he had a terrific game. But you think about the players that were going really well, and they by and large were wearing maroon jerseys.


JONES: They certainly were. And look, for the kids that were there, particularly for the Queensland kids, it was here, obviously, in Queensland, such a fantastic game. I reckon there’s a couple of kids that were inspired with what they saw last night, Albo.


ALBANESE: Absolutely. The thing about Origin is just its intensity. And I do think that Queensland were much better than a six points better team. But New South Wales showed a great deal of courage in terms of their defence, but they didn’t seem to have that much in attack. But Wayne Bennett, the super coach, for my team, of course, the mighty Rabbitohs. I take some solace in that.


JONES: That’s true.


ALBANESE: And the fact that Corey Allan and Jaydn Su’A will be much better off having played Origin. And Cody Walker, I was pleased to see him sitting up for the presentation. That looked like a really ugly knock. You don’t want to see anyone carried off on a mini-cab. That is always of concern. But it was a great game and Queensland deserved the win.


JONES: And my special guest a little bit later on this morning, Casey Barnes, he’s the guy that sang the national anthem, did a great job as well. So, we’re talking to all the stars. And I tell you what, for next year, I might ring you before each of the games and get all the bottom line. We’ve going to get to news we’re finished. No, we’re not. I do want to talk a little bit more about the other subject of the day. Let’s talk about what you’ve been doing over the last few days. I believe that you spent some time in Newcastle at one of the smelters there. But I guess this divide that we talked about at the beginning, and we’re seeing it right across the country and, of course, in other parts of the world as well. The division. And the last thing that we need to do is be divided. It is a time of unity. But how do we tackle this issue though, Albo?


ALBANESE: I think what we need to do is just talk about the issues openly. We also need to have strategies to develop jobs in regional communities. Later today, I’ll be flying into Ballina on the north coast of New South Wales and then heading to Murwillumbah, which is almost as far north as I’m allowed to go in current times. And I’m there with Justine Elliot tomorrow. I was in the Hunter earlier this week. I think it is critical that we develop jobs and industries in our regions. That we have population growth in our regions. It takes pressure off the capital cities. And that’s what I did, one of my vision statements in Coffs Harbour just a few months ago was about regional economic development. I’m a former Regional Development Minister. And I’m very passionate about it. That’s one of the reasons why we put so much money, when I was the Infrastructure Minister, into improvements in roads like the Bruce Highway, but also invested in regional community infrastructure and other projects in Far North Queensland including one that was very dear to Bob Katter’s heart was the Einasleigh River Bridge, where the towns of Normanton and Kurumba used to get cut off every time there was a flood. And we fixed it, basically. And it was fixed with an investment from the Commonwealth Government. And it’s made a permanent difference. And when it was put to me that this problem kept arising every few years and it would get washed away and then they build it back to the same standard, they get washed away again. It didn’t make any sense. And I think that was an example whereby if that was in Brisbane, or in Sydney, or Melbourne, it would have been fixed many years beforehand. And so, I think that those issues need understanding and they need investment. And I think that’s one way that we bring the country together. We do absolutely have common interests. And we want to avoid the sort of division that we’ve seen in the not-so United States of America that has played out in recent times.


JONES: Let’s talk about COVID-19. Obviously, it’s been a curse. We’ve been very, very lucky compared to a lot of places. But you are certainly hearing anecdotally from quite a few of the real estate agents around the region is that there’s actually been a real need and a want for people that being stuck, particularly in Melbourne, perhaps in lockdown, to get out and actually move and have a bit of a tree change and actually move to some of the regions. Are these the type of things that actually may assist moving forward, I guess, when you get more of that to and from between the regions and the cities?


ALBANESE: One of the reasons why we wanted fibre to every home and business, in terms of the National Broadband Network, was to assist that process. I was there for the rollout, there in Cairns, when I was the Communications Minister in 2013. And if you can have a business located in Cairns or Townsville that can have the same access to domestic and international markets as one located in George Street, Brisbane, then that gives a comparative advantage instead of a disadvantage, but with distance. Because the overheads are less, real estate is more affordable. And it also brings with it a wonderful lifestyle. One of the interesting things about the Government’s backflip on National Broadband Network and acknowledging, finally, that fibre is better than copper, and it’s the 21st century, is that was in response, I’m sure, in part to the demand for people who were working from home during the COVID crisis and found it was a pretty good experience because they could achieve as much productivity, and in some cases more, by eliminating travel times, eliminating those hours stuck in cars commuting to and from the outer suburbs of capital cities. And certainly, I think that is a big plus that if we use technology, if we use advances to promote the working from home and change work patterns, then that’s a good thing. It won’t suit everyone. And of course, we do miss out on that social interaction that can be important in an office building as well. And there are many jobs where you’ve got to be on site. It is pretty hard to engage in construction activity online. But you can certainly do the design and do a whole lot of the activity associated with it.


JONES: And I think that cross-pollination between the regions and the cities is one of the key things. You’re going to get to another meeting, so I got to let you go. But just before we go, one of the key things, and I think one of the reasons why the States is just so disunited at the moment, is the leadership. And I guess it’s an obligation of leadership despite differing views to bring people together. That’s the challenge for leaders moving forward, Albo.


ALBANESE: Well, that’s right. And we’ve been constructive during the COVID period. We’ve had a range of amendments. There are some ideas we have put forward like wage subsidies that lead to JobKeeper that had been adopted by the Government. That’s a good thing. There are other areas where we haven’t been successful in amending legislation. We’ve pointed out what we see as the flaws. But we haven’t said, ‘No, if our amendments aren’t accepted, then we’re going to vote against everything’, like the Coalition did during the Global Financial Crisis. We have said we’ll be constructive. I think that’s what people wanted from us during this pandemic. And what we need to do now is to have a debate about how we recover even stronger, not just try to return to what was there, but a range of the weaknesses in our economy have been identified, the casualisation of work, insecurity, the need to deal with things like childcare affordability, that was the centre of my Budget Reply. And we’ll continue to have those debates. But I hope we can have them in a constructive way.


JONES: That’s sort of the case. You are feeling a little blue this morning, but great to talk to. Some really positive things for the future, not just next year for the State of Origin, but I guess moving forward. Anthony Albanese, Leader of the Opposition, thank you so much for your time. I know you’ve got to go. And we’ll catch you soon. Cheers.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much.