ANTHONY ALBANESE – TRANSCRIPT – RADIO INTERVIEW – 4MK MACKAY WITH DAVE PERKINS – THURSDAY, 23 APRIL 2020
ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
4MK MACKAY WITH DAVE PERKINS
THURSDAY, 23 APRIL 2020
SUBJECTS: Coronavirus; Virgin Australia; support for Australian aviation industry during COVID-19; impact of coronavirus on regional Australia.
DAVE PERKINS, HOST: I think we all know, of course, now that Virgin has gone into voluntary administration. And the Australian Labor Party wants Prime Minister Scott Morrison to save the foreign-owned company through extending or guaranteeing lines of credit and taking an equity stake, so buying into the company. Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, appeared alongside Virgin workers appealing for Government action saying talk of market-based solutions at the moment is a triumph of ideology over common sense, he said. It’s about time that Scott Morrison put aside the ideological blinkers and gave the support that’s required. The Treasurer pointed to Channel 10 and Darrell Lea as companies that have successfully emerged from voluntary administration. He said the Government’s objective is to see long-term two commercially viable airlines operating domestically in Australia. Meanwhile, administrators are saying that investor interest in Virgin Australia is extraordinary and hope to chart a new path for the airline within months. So, this is a matter of months, not longer than that. So, on the back of that joining us on the program this morning is the Leader of the Federal Opposition, the Honourable Anthony Albanese. Good morning, Mr Albanese. How are you this morning?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, Dave. I am very well.
PERKINS: We hate talking about these sorts of things. But going into voluntary administration, we have Virgin at the moment. Your position on that?
ALBANESE: Well, my position is that the Government should have intervened to avoid this. We need to make sure that Australia maintains a second airline in Virgin Australia which plays a critical role. Recently, of course, when I flew into Mackay, I flew in and out on Virgin Australia. It’s a good product. There’s no doubt that if you went to just a single carrier around Australia, them it is the regions that would particularly suffer.
PERKINS: Mr Albanese, by assuming you were going to go to just one carrier, are we going too early? Because the administrator has come out yesterday and said staff will have the jobs. Those flights that are happening right now will continue to fly. Industry specialists are saying there is something like ten potential purchases, while others are saying that the airline could come out of this better than it was before, leaner and concentrating on domestic product. So, are we going too early talking about one airline?
ALBANESE: No. Not at all. There is a vital need to ensure that Australia has two airlines. What we have here, of course, the Government says that they’re going to leave it to the market. But the market has been shut down by a government policy decision. And the truth is that this is as a result or a direct Government decision, the correct decision to prioritise health and to restrict social interaction. I believe very firmly that the Government needs to keep their focus on this. What we don’t want to see is 16,000 jobs threatened. And if the wrong buyer comes in and purchases this airline what we’ll see is what has happened in the past with some of the equity companies who specialise essentially in asset building. So, they just hang on to the very profitable routes. The very profitable routes, of course, in Australian aviation are Sydney to Melbourne in particular, but Sydney to Brisbane as well. They are not so much the regional airports and that is a major issue.
PERKINS: The Government have come out and said, ‘Look, we have a private company here owned by very, very big investors’ Etihad or Singapore Airlines or Richard Branson’s got a bit of a share, but the other, that 40 per cent of this company is owned by Chinese companies. Why would you want to support that when they brought it on themselves?
ALBANESE: Well what I want to support is the workers. And I want to support the workers and I want to support the Australian national interest here.
PERKINS: Mr Albanese, when we come out of this Coronavirus situation, the exports from the resources industry are going to be critical in getting us back to where we need to be. So, we need to protect our workers so that the Coronavirus doesn’t shut down the mining and mining services industries. Now, each week we have around 20 aircrafts, a little bit more sometimes, flying into Murrumba airport containing essential workers for the mining companies. And the companies, of course, say that they are checked meticulously when they land in Murrumba. The mayor of the Isaac Regional Council, the Councillor, Anne Baker, has suggested that’s probably a little bit of a worry. She is suggesting that all workers should be housed out there, even with their families. And that if they do go away after a few months and come back, they do their 14 days isolation then resume again. But essentially the workforce is quarantined within the region. Your thoughts on that?
ALBANESE: Well, it seems like a very practical proposal from the mayor, I have got to say. And that is the sort of practical initiatives that we do need. We are living in a unique time. And we do have to ensure that we minimise the health risk while we minimise the economic impact. Something like that whereby people aren’t moving around, and they are just interacting with each other, if you ensure there is a group of people where there is no COVID-19 present, then there is no reason why the group can’t keep doing what they are doing into the future. The only risk is when someone interacts with people outside of that group. And so, it is a risk. It is an interesting proposal from the mayor, and a pretty practical one.
PERKINS: Mr Albanese, as always thanks for joining us on the program.
ALBANESE: Thank you for having me on the show.