Jul 1, 2020







SUBJECTS: Eden-Monaro by-election; Labor’s commitment to reversing ABC cuts; regional newspaper closures; Defence; post-COVID Australia; state border closures; Victoria COVID outbreak; JobKeeper subsidy.


THOMAS ORITI, HOST: Anthony Albanese, I’m speaking to you on a day where the Federal Government’s made a major Defence spending announcement. Some strong words from the Government. The world experiencing uncertainty not seen since World War Two. Now, how does Australia walk a fine line between keeping China at bay but also retaining those important economic links?


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, we’ll go through the details of the announcement. But of course, Australia’s Defence should never be a partisan political issue. We should always put the national interest first and it has been Labor’s long-standing position to call for an increased focus on regional Defence. It’s one of the reasons why we supported, in Government, the submarine program because we thought the focus should be on the Indo-Pacific region. And today’s announcement is consistent with the 2016 Defence White Paper.


ORITI: So, it’s got your support and your view is this overhaul of the country’s military strategy is the way to go?


ALBANESE: We’ll look at the details, of course. But the general direction of focusing on our region is certainly something that we support.


ORITI: Can I ask you about coronavirus? There was concern about a second wave, we’re now seeing lockdowns in Melbourne. Did we ease off on those restrictions too early?


ALBANESE: Well, we’ve been taking the medical advice. I note that there’s been some criticism of states maintaining border controls. But they’ve done that on the basis of their respective medical advice in a majority of states it must be said. What it is, is a reminder that we need to stay vigilant both in terms of governments but, of course, this is an issue where the response has been from the bottom up. It is the Australian people who’ve been courageous, who’ve been disciplined. And we need to maintain that.


ORITI: There’s obviously a lot of uncertainty. But we, of course, still need to think about the road ahead with the economy. What’s your view about the JobKeeper subsidy? Is there a need to have it extended to prevent some Australians from being pushed into poverty?


ALBANESE: Well, the idea that you will have snapback on just one day and withdraw this subsidy across the board is completely unacceptable. That would have a devastating impact on the economy, and we’ve been saying that for some time. There’s already been too many Australians left behind. Casual employees, employees of specific companies like dnata, people in the arts and entertainment sector, those workers actually didn’t get any support from the announcement last week. And so, we need to make sure that we transition back towards more normal activity in an orderly way, one that doesn’t have a negative impact on jobs more so than if we’re sensible and apply a bit of common sense here. We know, childcare workers have already had their support withdrawn. And we know also that the Government has a plan, they’re just not telling people until after the Eden-Monaro by-election being held this Saturday.


ORITI: Yes and given that, you’ve flagged today ahead of that by-election that you’d restore $83.7 million in funding to the ABC. Now, we’ve spoken about the economic uncertainty ahead. Are you confident that something like that is possible, given the huge pressure that Australia’s economy is likely to be under in the coming years?


ALBANESE: It’s not only possible it’s necessary. ABC emergency coverage saved lives literally during the bushfires that we’ve just seen. Staff came off leave to ensure that Australians were kept informed and the fact that 250 staff face the sack as a direct result of these cuts shows the impact on the economy. This is the last time when there should be what are effectively cuts to Australia’s essential services made during this crisis. So, this Saturday, we’re saying very clearly, it’s a chance for the people of Eden-Monaro to send the Government a message of not cutting ABC jobs, regional news or emergency broadcasting.


ORITI: We did hear about, of course, the job losses at the ABC last week, but we also reported on the closure of many regional newspapers, mastheads around the country. I mean, looking beyond the ABC are you concerned about the rest of the media landscape in Australia at the moment?


ALBANESE: Absolutely, which is why it’s the last time that you should have cuts to the ABC when you’re seeing local newspapers shut up. It’s a tragedy that many of the mastheads that have been in place for almost all of the 20th century as well as this one, have disappeared in the in the past month. So, news reporting is absolutely essential, particularly in regional communities. We know during the bushfire season, what was happening often was that people who didn’t have access to other forms of communication, in terms of phone lines or mobile phone coverage, relied upon ABC News to tell them whether they should stay in their homes and fight or whether they should leave. It made a real difference to people’s lives.


ORITI: Anthony Albanese. Thanks very much for speaking to The World Today.


ALBANESE: Thanks for having me on the program.