Jan 21, 2021






SUBJECTS: Donald Trump as US President; Australia’s relationship with the US; Scott Morrison’s lack of condemnation towards Donald Trump and the insurrection; Labor leadership; next Federal Election.


SALLY SARA, HOST: Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, welcome back to RN Breakfast.




SARA: Mr Albanese, you’ve accused Scott Morrison of pandering to Donald Trump. What evidence do you have that it’s damaged the relationship between Australia and the US?


ALBANESE: Well, it is unfortunate that Scott Morrison didn’t look after the relationship appropriately. The attendance at a partisan political rally in Ohio during a one week visit to the United States, where he didn’t meet any senior Democrat leaders at all, stands in stark contrast to the way that the relationship normally works. When Defense Secretary Esper visited Australia, or Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, or indeed Vice President Pence, they met with senior members from both sides of the political spectrum. And that’s normally what occurs. I’ve certainly met with senior Republicans as well as Democrats when I visited the United States. But that didn’t happen. And then, of course, the failure of Scott Morrison to call out people who have engaged in the sort of conspiracy theories that led to the insurrection on January 7 at the Capitol building in the US, I think, is a failure of leadership. Other world leaders such as Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel and others who stand on the conservative spectrum, or his near neighbour, Mr Trudeau, all called out the actions that we saw, which were an assault on democracy.


SARA: Anthony Albanese, the President’s National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, says that Joe Biden is eager to develop a really strong relationship with Scott Morrison, he thinks the two leaders will get off to a strong start. Haven’t you misjudged the very nature of the alliance and the respect that there is in Washington for Australia as a trusted ally?


ALBANESE: Not at all. And indeed, in my speech, I quoted not just Jack Sullivan, but Kurt Campbell, who will also play a critical role in the Biden administration in the region. They have a perspective, which is reflected by Joe Biden’s perspective himself when he’s spoken about diplomacy being the first instrument of American power. And I expect that Australia’s relationship with the United States will continue to be very strong.


SARA: So, that doesn’t sound like a damaged relationship.


ALBANESE: It’s a relationship based upon values. And it is appropriate that Scott Morrison be called out for his failure to call out President Trump’s incitement of the insurrection. I’m not quite sure what it takes either for Scott Morrison to haul George Christensen and others into line who have continued to peddle the conspiracy theories that Joe Biden was not elected legitimately by the American people. I make no apologies for standing up unconditionally, unequivocally, as world leaders have, for the democratic values. The relationship with the United States is one which is based upon our shared values, our common interests. And I have said that the US alliance is our most important relationship.


SARA: But we don’t get to choose the President. So, a Prime Minister has to work with whoever’s in the Oval Office. If you were Prime Minister, and you were serving it up to Donald Trump, isn’t there a chance we could have lost the battle over steel tariffs and the refugee resettlement deal could have been dumped?


ALBANESE: But no one suggested any criticism of that, Sally. So, let’s not play Scott Morrison’s game of having a straw man so as to blow it down. What we have said is that the relationship is important. I’ve never been critical of Scott Morrison, for example, for meeting with President Trump, for having a respectful relationship. I think that Malcolm Turnbull did an excellent job on the refugee deal for getting on to the new President and ensuring that the deal that was struck with President Obama be continued. That’s important. I met with people like the Secretary of State Pompeo, and we had a long and respectful meeting with my leadership team. That’s important. The distinction that I’ve drawn here is that when the President at the time, just a couple of weeks ago, incited people to the insurrection that occurred at the Capitol building, those scenes that we saw that shocked all of us, then it shouldn’t have been beyond the wit for Scott Morrison to call out President Trump’s actions. We need to be the US ally that the United States needs, and what that means is that friends are prepared to call out issues where they need to be called out.


SARA: Let’s move forward. What chance do you give Joe Biden of healing the wounds and uniting the country?


ALBANESE: Well, look, America is a divided country. And the last four years have been characterised by a President who often made decisions based upon Twitter. We have seen a mishandling of the pandemic in the United States. And Joe Biden will have a difficult task ahead, but I know Joe Biden and I have met with Joe Biden. He is perhaps the most experienced President to take office with more than four decades in public life. He has an experienced team around him. I think that the rise of Kamala Harris to the vice presidency, a woman of colour, reflects modern America, as does Joe Biden’s cabinet, people like Pete Buttigieg, I’ve shared a platform with at the Australian American Leadership Dialogue. I think he will lead a very good government. It will take time, the challenges are there with the domestic economy, with the pandemic, it has to be the first priority. But he’s determined as well to restore America’s role in the world rather than the retreat from global leadership that we’ve seen in recent years. And that’s a good thing. That’s in Australia’s interests and it’s in the world’s interests to have a strong America.


SARA: Let’s finish up on home soil. With a primary vote languishing at around 36 per cent, how can you be sure that your job is safe?


ALBANESE: That’s a 3 per cent increase on the last election where we lost the election by under 2 per cent.


SARA: So, you’re confident of maintaining your position?


ALBANESE: Absolutely.


SARA: Do you think someone like Tanya Plibersek has a future as a Labor Leader in your place?


ALBANESE: Tanya Plibersek has the job that she wants, which is the Shadow Education Minister, and she’s doing a terrific job, as is the rest of my team.


SARA: Joel Fitzgibbon has said that the Party has gone backwards since the last election and the clock is ticking. Does he have an understanding of the situation?


ALBANESE: Well, he’s wrong, isn’t he? And he sits on the backbench. He’s just wrong. The fact is, we’ve gone forward since the last election, as all the figures show. And at the last election, we were very close. The Government has a very slim majority in the House of Representatives. The one time that was put to a test last year at the height of the pandemic, we won Eden-Monaro, which on its current boundaries, we would not have won at any time during the Hawke or Keating Governments. I’m very confident that this year, continuing to hold the Government to account whilst putting forward an alternative plan for a better and stronger recovery, the plans that we have put forward already for a Future Made in Australia, for our childcare reform, for assisting to improve the standard of living by making work more secure, by taking action on climate change, on all of these policies we will have a very strong alternative to the Government. And I’m very confident that we’ll be successful whenever the election is called.


SARA: Anthony Albanese, thank you for joining us again on RN Breakfast.


ALBANESE: Thanks, Sally.