Nov 25, 2020







SUBJECTS: Climate; energy; renewables; importance of the resources industry; Joel Fitzgibbon resigning from Shadow Cabinet; issues of casualisation, contracting out of workers and labour hire; Australia’s relationship with China; inquiry into COVID-19; Qantas ‘no jab no fly’ push; being Opposition Leader during a global pandemic; WA state borders.


OLIVER PETERSON, HOST: Joining me on the line is the Australian Labor Party Leader, Anthony Albanese. Welcome back to Perth Live.




PETERSON: Labor is being accused of sending mixed messages when it comes to energy and climate issues. We hear that Labor’s too focused on renewables at the expense of the resources industry. Is that fair?


ALBANESE: No, you can do both, of course. We have a very clear policy of net zero by 2050. We also acknowledge the fact that renewables are the cheapest form of new energy, and that’s where investments are going. It needs an investment framework, of course, for that. But we also acknowledge the importance of the resources sector of exporting of our natural resources that are particularly important for the Western Australian economy. But it’s also important in regions like the Hunter and in Queensland.


PETERSON: Is this why Joel Fitzgibbon decided to quit your Shadow Cabinet?


ALBANESE: No, he has announced very publicly that he made that decision that he would stay on the frontbench for 18 months. He did that. And now he has resigned, of course, for Ed Husic, who stepped back. And it was always the case that Joel Fitzgibbon, as he has said publicly, would resign after 18 months. And indeed, in recent months, we’ve been talking about the date which Joel would step down. I kept that confidential, of course. But Joel himself has said that was the case.


PETERSON: What more can Labor genuinely do to straddle the renewables versus the resources sector? Because, clearly, people in the mining sector, they’re worried about their jobs. And today, you see preliminary trade numbers by the ABS showing that iron ore exports account for third of all exports in October. So, $11 billion in iron ore exports, obviously, out of here in WA. Surely it is a sector that cannot be ignored.


ALBANESE: Of course, it can’t be. And it needs to be supported. And the workers who do that work need to be supported. One of the things that we’ve done is raise issues of casualisation, of contracting out, use of labour hire, so that in some mines in Queensland, for example, there’s a case, Mr Skene, whereby he was found by the Federal Court to be a permanent employee because he was working the same shifts at the same time for a year. And that court case is now under challenge through a separate case. And the Federal Government is backing the employer rather than the workers in the industry. Labor has spoken out about that issue. I’ll continue to do that. And we will continue to back workers in the sector. It is a vital sector for Australia. It has been in the past. It will be in the future. But also, in Western Australia, for example, we’re seeing a massive growth in renewables and a potential for considerable jobs growth. And that potential will only grow into the future.


PETERSON: Can we talk about China? Are you worried about the direction of the relationship between our two countries?


ALBANESE: I’m worried that Australian ministers don’t seem to be able to communicate with their Chinese counterparts. Now, that wasn’t the case under previous administrations from both sides of politics. And it is of real concern that the Federal Government don’t seem to have a strategy to deal with this relationship. Because China, we know, is the destination for almost half of our exports. No one argues, certainly no one in mainstream politics, argues that Australia shouldn’t be prepared to stand up for our democratic values for human rights. And we can continue to do that. But that hasn’t excluded in the past being able to have a respectful relationship with China and having an economic relationship with China.


PETERSON: Surely the Government is right to ask for an inquiry into COVID-19. Would you have done the same?


ALBANESE: Well, there’s nothing wrong with that at all. And of course, there had to be an inquiry into COVID-19. Where the Government’s got wrong is allowing some of its members to do things like Senator Abetz’ performance before a Senate Committee where he questioned the loyalty to Australia of people who were born in Australia, one of whom is a member of my electorate. And he was certainly offended to have that loyalty brought into question because he happened to be of Chinese ethnicity in terms of his parentage. And that sort of behaviour isn’t on. And some of the rhetoric that we’ve seen from Government backbenchers about China hasn’t been constructive and hasn’t added anything to the debate.


PETERSON: What do you make this push by Qantas to make the COVID vaccine mandatory for international travellers?


ALBANESE: Well, the fact is, I spoke with Qantas about this issue today. And the fact is to travel to a range of countries, I went to South America just a few years ago on a holiday with my family, and you had to have certain vaccinations in order to enter into South America. These are the sort of provisions that are nothing new. The same has been the case when I’ve travelled to Africa or into Asia. It’s common sense that people get vaccinated once a vaccine is available. And Qantas, I think, are just putting forward what is a common-sense view in order to protect everyone else on the plane. And also, I should imagine that other countries will impose the sort of restrictions that I can see Australia doing as well for entry here.


PETERSON: How hard has it been as Opposition Leader during a pandemic?


ALBANESE: Well, I’ve been determined to be constructive and to put the national interest first. And that meant that at times it’s been difficult to get coverage. But that’s okay. My job is to put the national interest first. And I’ve done that. At the same time, we’ve had breakthroughs like wage subsidies that wouldn’t have happened without Labor and unions and the business community all pushing for them. We have used the time wisely, as well, to develop our policy platforms. We will be having an online national conference before Easter next year. That will be a two-day conference to finalise our platform. We’ve put forward constructive ideas on childcare and a Future Made in Australia, value-adding and improving manufacturing here with my Budget Reply. And we will continue to put forward constructive ideas in the lead-up to the next election. I’m very confident that at the next election we can be successful by putting forward a constructive plan to grow jobs, but also to look after the environment and to treat people fairly.


PETERSON: And you will lead the Labor Party into that election and defeat Scott Morrison?


ALBANESE: I certainly will. And I’m very confident that we’ll be in a strong position to do so.


PETERSON: Mark McGowan has been criticised for his strict management of the COVID hard border. Queensland announcing today it will open from December 1 to New South Wales and Victoria. Should WA do the same?


ALBANESE: That is a decision for WA. One of the things that I’ve done during this pandemic is to be consistent and support the decisions that state governments have made on the basis of health advice. Mark McGowan’s doing a great job as Premier of WA. He’s taken advice and that has served WA well. And when South Australia made decisions last week, I wasn’t critical of that administration either. And I think that’s what we need during this time, not the Federal Government approach of people like Josh Frydenberg who has been critical of Labor Governments but weren’t critical at all when the South Australian Government imposed pretty strict restrictions last week.


PETERSON: Anthony Albanese, appreciate your time. You have a good afternoon.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Oly.