ANTHONY ALBANESE – TRANSCRIPT – RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC SYDNEY DRIVE WITH RICHARD GLOVER – WEDNESDAY, 18 MARCH 2020
ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
ABC SYDNEY DRIVE WITH RICHARD GLOVER
WEDNESDAY, 18 MARCH 2020
SUBJECTS: Government’s second stimulus package for COVID-19; coronavirus; airlines affected by coronavirus; support for the work force during COVID-19 issue; casual workforce.
RICHARD GLOVER, HOST: Anthony Albanese is the Labor Leader. I think we have now got him on the line. Anthony, good afternoon.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: We do. How are you going?
GLOVER: So, what are your reaction to the Government’s announcements today?
ALBANESE: Look, we are supportive of the announcements that have been made today. We are determined to be constructive. This isn’t a time for politics. This is a time for the country to work together. We have put forward a number of ideas in my national address on Sunday, I stand by those. I think that one of principles that we need to really adopt is, if something is good today or next week, then it should be done today, if possible, or next week, if possible. So, we are calling for measures such as the units to be established to bring them forward, to enable people to be tested. Some of them won’t be rolled-out until May.
GLOVER: These are the fever clinics?
ALBANESE: Yes, that is right. And one of the things that we have said today, a practical suggestion is that we have the Australian Defence Force, we have mobile army surgical hospitals that we roll out at times of emergencies in cyclones or during the tsunami in Indonesia. Can we use them? Can we use everything at our disposal to make sure that people can get tested sooner if possible? Because we know that is one of the keys to limiting the number of people who contract this virus.
GLOVER: Do you think they got it right on schools? That seems to be the great debating point within the community.
ALBANESE: Look, I have got to go with the medical advice. And one of the things that we are not looking for here is for product differentiation. If the medical advice is that it is okay to keep schools open because of a number of consequences which would flow if you closed them in terms of health professionals, in terms of who can look after the kids, in terms of we don’t want grandma and pop looking after the kids at the moment, I don’t think, given what the evidence is that young people can contract the virus and not show any symptoms. I think that we just have to listen to the medical experts. And it seems that all of the states, as well as the Commonwealth Medical Officer, agree with this. So, I think that represents a sensible decision. These things are all on balance. But I think the key is listen to the science, listen to the medical experts. And then the politician’s job is to take their advice and implement it as efficiently as possible.
GLOVER: Anthony Albanese is here. I know you say that you don’t want product differentiation. I understand that. There are some equity issues that are pretty interesting here though, aren’t there? If you’ve got a full-time job and sick pay and sick leave and all that sort of stuff, maybe you own your own house, you’ve got enough money in the bank to go and buy the food that you need down at the local supermarket while it’s still on the shelves. All these things make it easier than it is for a lot of your fellow Australians?
ALBANESE: Absolutely. And that’s why we’ve continued to raise the issue of casual workers. They shouldn’t be put in a position of having to choose between basically putting food on the table for their families, paying their rent, doing the essentials of life, or doing the right thing and self-isolating or not going to work. And we need to acknowledge that. And the Government needs to step up. I think there will be a number of consequences flowing from the current period whereby we need to examine what we’re doing as a society. And I think the increased casualisation of work is one of them whereby people don’t have security of work. They don’t have holiday leave, they don’t have sick leave. And we are seeing those consequences played out at the moment. I think workers in particular industries, I know that there’s a bail-out package for the airlines that we support, but we need to examine what the impact of the downturn in airline travel will be on the workforce which is there. We need to look at the arts industry and creative workers. Concerts are being cancelled be they big ones like Bluesfest or smaller activities like the theatre, the Opera House I know has cancelled all of its concert until the end of May at least. That has an implication for the workforce that we really need to examine. And at this time as well, some of the panic buying that’s going on means that those people who can’t be in a position, either the elderly in terms of buying some product, or others who simply can’t get access to some of the essentials of life, people need to not hoard in terms of the products that they are buying. And at this time as well, people need to be tolerant of people who are working, whether they be health workers or people working in supermarkets deserve to be treated with respect. It’s not their fault that there are shortages on the shelf.
GLOVER: Your son’s one of them, isn’t he? 19-years-old, I think he is?
ALBANESE: He is. And he works at Woolworths. Woolworths are one of the companies that have done the right thing by casuals. He’s about to set off to work start his shift at four o’clock this afternoon. There are many, of course, he’s in demand for his casual shifts at the moment, because he’s able to work. But there have been incidents at stores right throughout the country. And Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, the major companies have all done the right thing by the casual employees. They’ve done the right thing by having increased opening hours for the elderly and the disabled people who might need that special assistance. And people should bear in mind that people who are working there, it’s pretty busy, and they’ve got a tough job. And people should just give them appropriate respect.
GLOVER: Has your boy told you about what he’s seen?
ALBANESE: He has. He has experienced people complaining and blaming him, asking him why there isn’t a particular product. He’s a 19-year-old student. He’s not responsible for running Woolworths, as much as maybe he might be one day.
GLOVER: He’ll get there, Anthony. That Brad can watch his back.
ALBANESE: He is a casual worker. He has worked his way through the end of high school. And I think it’s good that young people have casual jobs and it teaches them about society. But unfortunately, I think a few of the young people who are working in these supermarkets have seen a bit of a, shall we say, not the best side of Australia at the moment. And the tragedy is that we were so good during the bushfire crisis, Australians really helping out. And of course, it’s a very small minority who are perhaps engaging in behaviour that isn’t appropriate. But I think if people see it, they should call it out. It is just up to all of us at a time like this to be respectful. We’ll get through this. We’ll get through it together.
GLOVER: And I think you are so right. Anthony Albanese, someone said to me a really interesting thing the other day, you know, they were quite a middle-class person, I suppose. And they said that the shortages on the shelves reminded them of their own privilege in a way that they were going to the supermarket and for the first time in their lives not just sort of picking up the thing and throwing it in the trolley. It reminded them what poverty must be like.
ALBANESE: I think I said today at my press conference today, I grew up with just myself and my mother. She was a pensioner. And when pension day came through every fortnight, she was an invalid pensioner, we went to Grace Brothers Broadway as it was then, not there anymore, where I ended up working in the supermarket there. But every fortnight that was where you got a fortnight’s worth of groceries. And that had to last a fortnight. Whereas now I’m in a position, obviously, as a politician I don’t have to think about whether I buy something that’s $2 50 or $2.80. But a lot of people out there have to do that. And it is a reminder that we need to look after people who are vulnerable in this crisis whether it be making sure that people self-isolate who should, whether it be making sure that we avoid inappropriate contact if there’s any risk, with our elderly, of course, there are new arrangements that have been put in place which I think is sensible for limiting visits in aged care, or whether it be if we have got a neighbour who can’t get out and about, just ask them if there is something that you can get for them at the shop or can people be taken to the shops at a time where it is open in the morning and is not open to able-bodied people who can deal with the queues which are there. The other thing that I have found is that, I have got to say, on the way from my meeting today, I went to a smaller supermarket, I won’t give them an ad, but there’s a lot of community-based smaller supermarkets and greengrocers. There were no queues there at a place in Petersham. This is a time perhaps where we give support to those small businesses as well.
GLOVER: Okay, go and try the strip shops, the butchers, the greengrocers and all of that. Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for your time this afternoon.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Richard.