ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
5AA BREAKFAST WITH DAVID PENBERTHY & WILL GOODINGS
TUESDAY, 20 OCTOBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Need for improvements in social housing; New Zealand travellers popping the travel bubble; Aussies stranded overseas; US presidential election; Australia’s relationship with the United States.
HOST: Federal Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, joins us. Albo, good morning to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: G’day. Where is the One Tribe song?
HOST: We need to get that back. We need to get that back. I think there might be some sort of intellectual property dispute with Christopher Pyne though. He might be harking up and claiming that he’s got 50 per cent dibs on it. It is going to be in the second volume of his book.
ALBANESE: Well, I’ll raise it with him. I’ve agreed to do his podcast in a moment of madness.
ALBANESE: That could go anywhere.
HOST: You’re putting the band back together.
ALBANESE: That’s right. But when interviewing each other, we are cutting out you guys, the middleman. Will and Dave have been benched.
HOST: In these troubled times, us media types need all the help we can get.
ALBANESE: I’ve always thought that about you, Dave.
HOST: Albo, great result. You were in Adelaide a couple of weeks ago, and one of the things you were talking about was the need for the Federal Government to do more on social housing. And you visited this bloke, Nathan Anderson who was living in a house that was basically falling apart. And as a result of the visit, it sounds like he’s got a new house?
ALBANESE: It’s a fantastic result for Nathan and his family. Nathan has a young son who has some health issues himself. They were living in conditions that, frankly, were just unbelievable in Australia in 2020. The mould in their bathroom was an absolute health hazard. It was the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’ve travelled to third world countries. They came, and they actually cut a hole out of the ceiling to test what was there, to see where the problem was, because water was clearly coming through a leak in the roof or from up above. And they just had left it there. The mould had grown and grown and grown and grown. There was stuff falling literally from the ceiling down, black mould, into the bath. It was completely unliveable. And he’d been living in those conditions with his family for seven months. I visited with Jason Clare and Mark Butler and Penny Wong with TV cameras. We did a press conference there about the need to support maintenance of social housing as a stimulus to create jobs for tradies but also make people like Nathan’s lives better. And guess what happened? The next day the inspectors came, and he got offered a new house where he’s now living within two hours. There’s 100,000 homes around Australia that need maintenance. 100,000 where we could be employing people and making a difference. We could really, in terms of stimulus, we know that there’s a lot of big announcements, but the thing about fixing up these properties is that you could have people on the job within a fortnight. And this bloke, he was such a decent humble fellow. He’d been through seven months of, I don’t know how he was there, frankly, I just don’t. And the fact that he’s got a new house is a fantastic result for him. But Jason Clare and I can’t visit 100,000 people to get these problems fixed. And the Federal Government, it is a missed opportunity, they still should revisit this and just put some money in, get some people employed and make some people’s lives better.
HOST: Great result locally. Big story yesterday that seemed to have people in political circles particularly energised, revolved around New Zealand nationals, and I think the language being used is, ‘popped’ the travel bubble by traveling to places that weren’t New South Wales or the Northern Territory. Five turned up here in South Australia. Got to say, we’ve been talking about it during the morning, we haven’t exactly been inundated with concern from our listeners. What concerns you about this?
ALBANESE: I think the real concern here is just the lack of information of what was going on here. You would have seen Scott Morrison up in Queensland last week saying, ‘Well, people can’t come here because they can only come to New South Wales and the Northern Territory’. And they made a big deal about what is, of course, a one-way bubble, people can’t go to New Zealand. Jacinda Ardern put in place some pretty strict restrictions, including banning people coming into New Zealand. And then all of a sudden people found out that there were a couple of dozen people who have gone to Victoria, people who have gone to WA, people who have gone to South Australia. It wasn’t quite the restricted bubble that the Federal Government announced. So, I think that was the issue, just a lack of transparency and information. Now, state governments are dealing with it. I don’t see it as the biggest issue, but it is, certainly in terms of our international borders, I will tell you what concerns me more, is the 29,000 stranded Aussies overseas and getting them back soon. And we’ve been raising this now for many months. And we are getting, every Federal MP, I’m sure Labor and Liberal, are getting so many representations from distraught family because people are just stranded overseas. And that is clearly the Federal Government that has responsibility for our international borders. And they need to be doing more about that.
HOST: Is there a stumbling block to that, though, in terms of the amount of health-related infrastructure or in this case, hotel infrastructure that’s available for them to quarantine when they get back? And if that’s the problem, should there be consideration given to a less onerous form of quarantine? Maybe a guarantee that these people can self-isolate at home rather than doing hotel quarantine?
ALBANESE: Well, I think in terms of taking health advice on that is a common-sense thing. But also, we’ve never had more capacity in terms of hotels. I was in Adelaide, as you know, in the studio there last week, I’ve got to say the hotel I was staying in was pretty empty, frankly. And there’s never been more capacity in hotels around Australia than there is at the moment. And there’s never been more spaces or more planes literally just parked, not doing anything. So, it seems to me that it should be very, very possible for the problem to be fixed. When you’ve got planes available, you’ve got hotel space available, you’ve got the place that I’ve been speaking about for months up in the Northern Territory that can accommodate 5,000 people I think it is, that’s an enormous facility. And we’ve been raising it for months. Chief Minister Gunner has been welcoming of people coming there. And finally, the Federal Government has started to move on that. The WA Government spoke about Rottnest Island being available some months ago as well. And just nothing’s happened. The problem is people are making bookings, the planes get cancelled, they then have to wait for their refund. It is like 10 grand. This is big dollars people are shelling out to try and get home. And common sense tells you that we need to look after these people.
HOST: Albo, we’re just a couple of weeks away from the US presidential election now. I’ve never heard the election talked about by Australians with such a degree of unease before. And I think even less goes to the outcome than the actual holding of it in the US for the first time, with Donald Trump saying he might reject the outcome, there are question marks over the validity of postal votes. There are so many questions. Are you uneasy about it at all?
ALBANESE: I’m concerned about some of the rhetoric that happens. The United States is our most important ally. And it’s an alliance between countries, not between individuals. But it is also an alliance about values, democratic values. And I’m very concerned that anyone would question whether they would accept the result. It is very important in our democracy, and I have had some wins and had some losses, you accept the result and you move on. That’s why our democracy, it might not be perfect, but it’s the best system there is. And to question postal votes, as well, in the US as if they are something new when they have been around for a very, very long period of time.
HOST: From memory, Albo, before you became the Leader of the Federal Opposition ahead of the 2016 election, I think you described Donald Trump as being ‘As crazy as a fruit bat’. I am wondering, do you still stand by that characterisation?
ALBANESE: No, I think you are completely verballing me there.
HOST: Am I?
ALBANESE: I think you are. No, I think that the decision for the US is a decision for them. But I do think that people who have democratic values, it’s important we speak out for them. And I think it is most unfortunate that the President has questioned the democratic process in the United States.
HOST: I certainly wasn’t trying to verbal you. I just had those words ringing in my ears from a Two Tribes segment. I’ll go back and check the record. I wasn’t trying to get into strife. But I think there was some sort of florid characterisation of him which a lot of people might privately agree with anyway.
ALBANESE: I don’t think that is right, David. But I think in terms of the outcome of the election, it is going to be fascinating. I’ve never met President Trump. He is, of course, a mate of Scott Morrison and that is a matter for them. I certainly think it was a concern, as well, that Scott Morrison attended what was virtually a campaign rally with all the Trump signs and flags and everything else in Ohio during his visit. I think that Australians need to stay out of a democratic process in another country, Australians in leadership. Joe Biden, I’ve met when he was the Vice President. Found him very impressive. But it’s a matter for the US people. We will wait and see very soon.
HOST: Good stuff. Anthony Albanese, thanks very much for joining us this morning.
ALBANESE: Thanks, guys.