Jan 13, 2021






SUBJECTS: Car accident; events taken place at the US Capitol Building; democracy; censorship; freedom of speech. 


MURRAY JONES, HOST: Good morning, Albo. How are you today?


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning. Well, I’m just pleased to be able to talk to you today.


JONES: Look, it really was a serious accident, even more serious than being tackled by one of the Cowboys players. But just tell me, just give us a bit of an idea of exactly what happened to you on Friday?


ALBANESE: Well, I was just going from my office to home, which isn’t terribly far, in Marrickville, when all of a sudden there was a Range Rover heading straight for me in one of the streets of Marrickville, Hill Street, named Hill Street for obvious reasons, a bit of a hill. He was coming down, and the street curves, and he was just there right in front of me. There’s nowhere to go on little Marrickville streets either. So, he collided head on with the front corner of my vehicle. I tried to manoeuvre it a little bit in the split second I had. But my life certainly flashed before my eyes. It was very lucky that it didn’t end my life and change his, this young man. My car is a write-off, taken to the wreckers already. Because of the significant collision I ended up in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital on Friday night, I was there for 24 hours. I was very lucky that there was a nurse who witnessed the accident and looked after me until the ambulance and the paramedics came and kept me still in the vehicle. And then off I went to hospital. And I hope to make a full recovery, I was just very lucky that there’s no broken bones there. I have to have an MRI back at the hospital later today again just to check on how my neck and etcetera have settled down. I’m a bit sore and battered, a bit like being tackled by Taumalolo. But otherwise, I should be okay. I thought I could deal with anything that 2021 served up to me but I wasn’t expecting this. I put out a tweet the other day, some people have advised me as a Labor Leader that you should crash or crash through, I hope this isn’t what they had in mind.


JONES: That’s certainly the case. But I tell you what, if you can make it through this, because it’s one hell of a way to start the year, things can only get better, Albo.


ALBANESE: Absolutely. Well, after 2020 was such a shocker for the whole country and the whole world, I was looking forward to a much better 2021. I was supposed to be in Canberra at this point in time, isolating in part so I could get up to Queensland after a couple of weeks in Canberra. But at the moment, I’m home and just trying to get better over the next few days. I’ll listen to the medical advice, which is what we tell everyone they should do. So I should follow that advice as well. But I just feel really, really fortunate to come through such a significant accident. They tell me, the people who arrived, some of whom are neighbours who I know, that they heard the crash a couple of blocks away.


JONES: Now I believe the 17-year-old, he was a P plater, but he was at least apologetic. And at the end of the day, I don’t think he quite recognised who you were. But I think he’s probably had a sobering couple of days ever since, do you think, Albo?


ALBANESE: I hope so. It is a reminder that we need to drive safely. We need to take care on the roads. We need to pay attention. If we don’t, we can do damage to ourselves and damage to others as well. Particularly if you’re in a Range Rover, which is like being hit by a tank. He was apologetic immediately on the spot. He’s been dealt with an infringement notice by the police for negligent driving. So there was no attempt to contest or what have you. He made a mistake. And he’ll pay a price for that. But let’s hope that experience leads him to be the safest driver who has ever driven on Australian roads. If that happens, then at least something positive will come out of it. And let’s hope as well that he tells all of his mates to drive safely.


JONES: I know you’re a bit tender so I’m not going to push you too hard, but can we just talk in general terms, I think obviously COVID-19, particularly when you hear what’s happening in Ireland, Dublin is just having a terrible time, COVID-19 is one of our biggest concerns, but I just want to touch on some of the things that are happening in the States and I guess the potential impact that it has here on Australia, in so many ways, because at the end of the day, there’s likely to be quite a shift in world powers and who basically is the most powerful country in the world, because unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be the USA for a while?


ALBANESE: Well, look, it’s a wake-up call about what happens in what some refer to as ‘the post-truth world’, when you have conspiracy theories out there being promoted, including, it must be said, by there’s a couple of Queenslanders on that wagon at the moment, including George Christensen. These things have consequences. You can’t just run around and stir people up by saying that the world is against them and that there’s these conspiracies. And our democracy is precious. And the events that we saw with an insurrection in the United States, something that you just wouldn’t have believed that it was possible, that sort of level of anger, hostility and violence that occurred, stirred up by and encouraged by the person who’s still the President of the United States, Donald Trump, needs to be called out for what it was. The stirring up began before the election. Democracy is precious. It can’t be taken for granted. We have to cop outcomes of democracy. You’ve just had an election in Queensland just a couple of months ago. And if you look at the concession speech of Deb Frecklington, which was very honourable, and the speech was accepting the outcome. That is how democracy should be conducted. And it’s a credit to both of those women, the way that they responded. But when you have the sort of theories and the statements, for example, that these weren’t Donald Trump supporters storming the Capitol Building, somehow, they were people pretending to be Donald Trump supporters, I mean for goodness’ sake, facts are facts, despite what Michael McCormack says. When we have something that is a fact, let’s actually recognise it. Otherwise, what you get is a complete polarisation of politics and people feeling like they don’t have a stake in the system. And we all have to be responsible about that. I wish Bill Shorten had have won the last election rather than Scott Morrison. He didn’t. You accept the result, you respect it. And then you try to do better next time.


JONES: We were talking about censorship, you kind of touched on that as well and, I guess, the problem when people believe lies as the truth. That basically undermines the whole foundation of anything moving forward. But what about this difference, when it comes to censorship, between disinformation and free speech? Where are we going to find that delineation?


ALBANESE: The truth is that the Parliament has dealt with, particularly in the post-911 world, but since then as well, there was a range of decisions under this Government that we’ve supported, that have been bipartisan measures, which in truth have curtailed freedoms. We monitor people who we regarded as a threat to our society. We keep an eye on people who are inciting violence. Why do we do that? Because we need to do that to keep the majority of people safe. We’ve deported people who are a threat to our safety. We live in a tumultuous world, where, unfortunately, some people on the extremes do want to cause harm to others with forms of extremism. And therefore, it seems to me quite extraordinary that anyone would question the fact that if you have an incitement of violence against society and democratic institutions being conducted online, then of course, we curtail that, just as we curtail it here in Australia. And we do it in a bipartisan way. We have a committee that examines these things. And we wish that wasn’t the case. But we need to do that in order to protect the safety of all of us. And that essentially is what it seems to me the decisions that have been made, for example, banning Donald Trump on Twitter, are there. In other cases, when people like Craig Kelly or George Christensen are spreading nonsense about hydroxychloroquine or climate change, they endanger our response to COVID-19, what we need to do is just call it out as political leaders. And the problem I see at the moment is that the political leadership of Scott Morrison, or Michael McCormack or Greg Hunt for that matter, won’t call-out directly some of this nonsense that’s being peddled, that COVID-19 isn’t real. And we’re seeing the consequences of that sort of approach in Brazil, in the United States, where people think this isn’t a major threat that needs to be dealt with. Then there are consequences, unfortunately. Here in Australia, what we’re seeing is that Australians themselves have responded magnificently, have listened to the health advice and listened to the science and have been prepared to take decisions like Queensland has in protecting its borders and therefore protect its population.


JONES: And onwards and upwards because at the end of the day, we’ve got some very concerning times ahead. I’m going to get in trouble for talking to you for too long and making you talk about too much philosophical stuff so I should let you go this morning. But I think an important discussion, especially at this real crossroad, as things really start to warm up overseas as well. Hopefully things sorted themselves out and there’s no real impact in Australia as well. Have a nice relaxing day. Be careful of Cowboy players, in case you see any today. But Anthony Albanese, thank you so much for your time this morning.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much. I was scheduled to be in Cairns on Sunday and Monday originally with the plan of this week but with controls that wasn’t possible and now with the accident, it has been put off further. But I hope to get up there soon. And can I just say that I received a couple of messages from people in Far North Queensland as well. And just thank you. Australians are very generous. And it’s been nice to see the very warm response and well wishes that I’ve had. Much appreciated


JONES: And I need to thank you too for the Christmas card. Mum was very, very jealous, I can assure you of that.


ALBANESE: Excellent.


JONES: Albo, great to talk to you. Have a wonderful day, nice and comfortable. And we look forward to catching up with you soon. Cheers.