Sep 30, 2020







SUBJECTS: Federal Budget; Budget reply; economy; Morrison recession; JobKeeper; JobSeeker; wharf dispute.


SABRA LANE, HOST: Mr Albanese, welcome back to AM. In the speech, you’re labelling the economic downturn the Morrison recession. The World Bank’s not calling it that. Europe and the US aren’t calling it that. How’s that fair?


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, the fact is the economy was really struggling last year. We had wages stagnant. We had the Reserve Bank intervening on multiple occasions to lower interest rates to record low levels. We had business investment in decline. We had productivity going backwards. We entered the difficulty of the global pandemic from a position of weakness.


LANE: At a time when people are really frustrated with needless partisanship, why are you making this personal?


ALBANESE: Well, the fact is that Scott Morrison was the Treasurer who presided over a weakening of the economy and then the Prime Minister.


LANE: But the Morrison recession?


ALBANESE: Well, Scott Morrison is the Prime Minister. And this is a Government that spent a long time talking about Labor’s debt issues as if there wasn’t a Global Financial Crisis, it must be said, a debt that will be pretty close to one quarter of what it is now is what they inherited.


LANE: So, political payback?


ALBANESE: The fact is that Scott Morrison is the Prime Minister.


LANE: Your speech will be critical of the Government and repeat arguments that you’ve made already. But you’ll also highlight Labor’s preference for more money on infrastructure, social housing, training and job creation. Let’s focus on housing. If you were in Government, if you were Prime Minister today, how many public homes would Labor construct within the next 12 months?


ALBANESE: Well, we would do two things. One is we would construct sit downs with state and territory governments and bring forward projects that are on the drawing board for new social housing because we need that immediate fix. But the thing that would really be able to be ramped up quickly, and we know job creation this year, is maintenance of social housing. During the Global Financial Crisis, we had 20,000 additional social housing units, but we renovated and refurbished 80,000 dwellings. That made an enormous difference. It could put electricians, chippies, and other tradies to work immediately and could also be used to train apprentices at the same time.


LANE: But how many houses would you aim to build within 12 months?


ALBANESE: Well, what we would do is prioritise in the first period maintenance, but also new houses as well. We’d sit down with state and territory governments and bring forward those projects. But every dollar spent would also be, of course, increasing the capital value of something that is public ownership.


LANE: You won’t put details on that. Let’s try another. Labor says the scaling back of JobSeeker is premature.


ALBANESE: We will have details in our Budget reply to be fair, Sabra. We will have a range of details in our Budget reply.


LANE: Will you detail in your Budget reply how many properties you’ll aim to build in 12 months?


ALBANESE: There will be a figure in the Budget reply.


LANE: You’ve also been critical of the scaling back of JobSeeker, saying it’s kicking people while they’re down. What level should it be?


ALBANESE: Well, it shouldn’t have been reduced. We think that the Government got the level right. And we supported that level. What we haven’t supported is a reduction at a time where we’re not seeing a reduction in unemployment. The Government itself projected there’ll be 400,000 additional job losses between now and Christmas.


LANE: So, what level, what permanent level, would you like to see it set at?


ALBANESE: Well, we don’t argue that JobKeeper should be permanent. JobKeeper should be temporary.


LANE: JobSeeker?


ALBANESE: Well, JobSeeker, we’ve consistently argued that $40 a day is not enough to live on and that it should be increased and that the Government should provide that certainty.


LANE: But what should it be?


ALBANESE: We’re not the Government, Sabra. And I have been asked that many times, and I’ve given the same answer, which is that $40 a day isn’t enough to live on. The Government should be providing a permanent increase. Because the Government itself has conceded that $40 a day isn’t enough to live on when they doubled the rate during the pandemic.


LANE: The wharf dispute, the union says it’s now offering a peace deal before the Fair Work Commission, rolling over the current arrangement for 12 months with a two and a half per cent pay increase. What is your view of that?


ALBANESE: Well, my view is clearly that the Government ramped up the rhetorical position yesterday and that was clearly knowing that the conciliation was scheduled to be held today. I hope this dispute is settled. The union is offering to rollover the existing EBA with a 2.5 per cent increase. I want this resolved because now’s not the time to be having industrial disputes. But I am concerned about the Prime Minister refusing to rule out troops on the waterfront is over the top.


LANE: Mr Albanese, thanks for joining AM this morning.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much.