Sep 16, 2020







SUBJECTS: Australians stranded overseas; use of RAAF VIP jets to bring Australians home.


OLIVER PETERSON, HOST: The other big issue still bubbling away is how the country repatriates the growing list of Australians stuck overseas, bumped off flights, and who cannot find a way home. The Australian Labor Party Leader, Anthony Albanese, has some ideas. And he joins me on Perth Live. Good afternoon.


Good to talk to you again, Oli.


PETERSON: Do you still want to charter Air Force jets to fly the 25,000 or so Australians overseas back home?


ALBANESE: Well, why wouldn’t you? The fact is that we have a circumstance whereby there are planes that are available, there are hotel spaces that are available. And Premier McGowan today has said that Rottnest Island could be made available. But we need to get these Australians home. It’s unacceptable that a young mum with a one-year-old kid gets told by authorities, ‘Oh, just go stay in a homeless shelter because we can’t get you home and you haven’t got any money or accommodation to be able to stay in London’.


PETERSON: Yes. I think most of us all agree, Albo, that we’d like to show a bit more compassion and let Australians come home. But we also have the space at the moment on the commercial jets that are flying here into Perth or into Sydney or to Brisbane. There’s many empty seats, so why couldn’t we put a few more passengers on the planes if the states, as well, agreed to take a few more people into hotel quarantine?


ALBANESE: Well, all of the above, Oliver. I’m not against that. I think there are empty planes, be they Qantas planes that are sitting in deserts, or be they RAAF jets that have to fly around, people have to get their flying times up and have to get their training up. And the fact is that politicians aren’t traveling interstate at the moment. So, the planes that would normally be used by the Prime Minister and the Governor General, which is the big one, and the smaller ones that would be used by ministers, are sitting there available to be used. And it seems to me that common sense tells you we should use all assets at our disposal, whether they be private or public assets. We should be doing what we can to get people home.


PETERSON: But do we need the public assets? Do we need the RAAF jets? There’s plenty of planes, as you say, just sitting idle doing nothing, commercial jets.


ALBANESE: Well, why wouldn’t you also use the Air Force jets?


PETERSON: Who would pay for it?


ALBANESE: Well, the fact is that they are paid for, Oli. That’s the point. They’re sitting there. They’re sitting there idle at the moment. The staff are sitting there. They’ll be flying around empty if no one uses them because pilots and other staff have to keep their training hours out. They’re used at the moment, I assume, they’re being used by some Air Force or Navy or Army personnel. And there’s no reason why you wouldn’t use those assets. They’re good enough for the Prime Minister or others to fly to Europe or to fly to the United States. Why wouldn’t we use assets that are at our disposal? Because what’s happening, story after story of people booking on commercial flights and being bumped off, then they rebook, and then they get bumped off again. And they just can’t get home. And the Federal Government, Scott Morrison, seems to be not in charge of much at the moment. If you’re not in charge of the national borders, and you’re not in charge of quarantine, they are core Commonwealth Government responsibilities. And all I’m saying is a pretty clear message of; the Commonwealth need to fulfil their responsibilities. I noticed that today the Deputy Prime Minister has come out and said there will be an increase in the number of people coming from 4,000 to 6,000.




ALBANESE: So, if one press conference yesterday achieves an increase in 2,000 in numbers, maybe this interview will up it by another thousand.


PETERSON: Well, as you say, 2,000 more a week, WA to increase the number from 525 to 1025. Do you support Premier Mark McGowan’s calls to use detention centres like Christmas Island and Yongah Hill to quarantine returning Australians?


ALBANESE: We should be using all the facilities. And Mark McGowan is out there showing more leadership than the Prime Minister is on an issue that, frankly, is a national responsibility rather than a state one.


PETERSON: So, you’d be happy to use detention centres to quarantine returning Australians?


ALBANESE: Well, it’s been used already. Earlier on in the year, Christmas Island was, of course, used. And as were other facilities in the Northern Territory. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be using all assets at our disposal. These aren’t compulsory flights, People don’t have to get on them and come home and quarantine for a fortnight. What we know, though, is that a whole bunch of people are stranded overseas. They can’t get home. And Australia has a responsibility to support our citizens at a time like this.


PETERSON: The detention centres don’t have the same facilities as a hotel room. For example, there are shared bathrooms, shared facilities. Could it create a problem, Anthony Albanese? And we’re not talking about returning people from one particular origin, for example, Wuhan, or the Diamond Princess cruise ship of Japan. It could be people jumping onto a plane who’ve been in Europe, who’ve been in Africa, who’ve been in Asia. Is it going to create a logistical nightmare though? Is a detention centre really an option? Or is this just a news grab? Couldn’t we just boost the number of people in hotel quarantine? And yes, for the Government come to the party and provide even more ADF personnel.


ALBANESE: Well, mate, two points. One is that it’s been used. The Commonwealth Government used those facilities early this year. So, if it was a problem, then it was a problem then. Secondly, of course, there has never been a time in my lifetime where there has been more availability of aircraft, point one. And more availability of hotel space, point two. Given those conditions are there, it is inexplicable to me why 25,000 Australians have been literally left behind by this Government.


PETERSON: Is it ironic that the Labor Party would be supporting the use of detention centres for Australians when the Labor Party does not support the use of detention centres for people who might arrive in this country illegally?


ALBANESE: Well, that’s not true.


PETERSON: That’s not the Labor Party’s policy?


ALBANESE: No, that’s not true at all. Actually, it was Gerry Hand as the minister who introduced detention for people who weren’t all authorised. We don’t support indefinite detention. People should be processed accordingly. But the fact is that these facilities have been used by the Commonwealth. Why is it that this Government seems incapable of accepting its responsibilities and finding real solutions for people to come home?


PETERSON: Anthony Albanese, I appreciate your time as always. Hope you have a good afternoon.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Oli.