Jun 10, 2020







SUBJECTS: Eden-Monaro by-election; Government’s announcement of rolling back JobKeeper for early childhood educators; Josh Frydenberg’s $60 billion JobKeeper bungle; HomeBuilder announcement; NBN; NRL.


GORDON WATERS, HOST: Good morning, Anthony.




WATERS: Thank you for joining us on Braidwood FM this morning.


ALBANESE: Great to be on the program.


WATERS: A few things happening around the country and around our particular area, I guess. And I guess it is a hell of a time to be in politics at the moment, isn’t it?


ALBANESE: It is, indeed. And the community, of course, of Eden-Monaro and around your part of the world included, of course, was devastated from the bushfires earlier this year and then previous to that you had the drought, after that you had the pandemic. So, it has been a tough time for communities. And I spent time there with Mike Kelly earlier this year and then in recent times I have spent a lot of time with Kristy McBain, our candidate in the by-election.


WATERS: I guess that brings us to the by-election. And it is certainly sad to hear of Mike’s retirement due to those health reasons which has been very well publicised. Dr Kelly has been a good supporter of Braidwood FM over the years and I guess Kristy has got big shoes to fill, hasn’t she?


ALBANESE: She does but I am confident that she can do it. She is a magnificent representative. She was there each and every day for her community during the bushfires. She has the advantage of having been the Deputy Chair of the regional council body. So she has represented the entire electorate she has knowledge of. Actually, she is fundamentally a decent person who is committed to making a difference. And that is why she was an easy choice to be Labor’s candidate. It is difficult, the decision that Mike Kelly had to make was difficult, I know he wrestled with it. He loved his job and he loved his community.


WATERS: And he had a lot of personal support within the Eden-Monaro area. Do you think that will translate straight to Kristy?


ALBANESE: Well, look, I am certainly hoping that people support Kristy to carry on Mike’s legacy. I think she is certainly the right choice for Eden-Monaro. She is a stand-out candidate. Of course, on the other side of politics, we have seen a lot of squabbling over who the candidate would be, to say the least.


WATERS: Yes, there has certainly been a bit of turmoil within the different parties about that, hasn’t there?


ALBANESE: Yes. And I think it stands in stark contrast, really. Kristy is a local mum, she was educated at Eden High School. She is someone who has been on the council of Bega Valley for eight years, been the Mayor for four. She has helped run the plumbing business that her husband is a plumber in, coach of the local footy team. I think she’s an ideal candidate. And she is a very strong advocate. The one thing that worries me, of course, is it is difficult to get around for people to meet the candidates during the by-election because of the pandemic. But I have no doubt if people meet Kristy, they will vote for her.


WATERS: And as you said, a local business person, which I think is a great quality to having a person that lives and works in the area that they’re representing.


ALBANESE: Absolutely. And she has a couple of lovely kids. And they go to local schools, of course, and her parents are in the community. She’s really embedded in the Eden-Monaro area. And I’ve travelled with Kristy right around the electorate. And she’s, I think, she’ll do very well. And I hope that she is very successful on July 4, only a few weeks away. And people can vote from next week.


WATERS: And look, I know Eden-Monaro has a big percentage of pre-polling voters and I’m sure you know that’s not going to change. I’ll just drop in there too, also that Kristy has a double degree in law and communications from University of Canberra. So, she’s sort of a very well-rounded person, isn’t she?


ALBANESE: She certainly is. In terms of in the local area, the law firm that she worked for had offices in Queanbeyan and Yass, so she certainly is known throughout the electorate, she’s had experience. She’s just a great communicator and a very, very strong advocate for her community.


WATERS: And look, you mentioned it’s been hard to get around because of the COVID situation. And I guess that’s something that, you know, is very prominent at the moment. Just in general terms, how do you think the Government’s gone with the response to the pandemic and the financial support that they’ve put on offer and which they are now are about to stop in terms of the JobKeeper payment? And I guess one of the big issues, and we’ve heard you on our local news here, talking about the free childcare ending.


ALBANESE: Well, the problem with childcare, of course, is to just end it the way that they have, and breaking a promise, Scott Morrison said just days ago that it would last until September, people were entitled to make their plans on that basis. And then now here just this week that it will shut down from next week, the JobKeeper eligibility. And for childcare workers to be singled out to be cut off JobKeeper before everyone else seems a very strange decision to me and quite counterproductive. Ninety-five per cent of childcare workers are women, and just to cut them off, certainly the childcare sector was caught by surprise with the announcement on the Monday of a long weekend. And I think the Government did well by listening to the health experts. We had bipartisan support for the packages that went through the Parliament. And that was important that it wasn’t politics as usual during that period. We were very determined to be constructive. But I am concerned with the idea of snap-back, that the support that’s been there in the economy will just be withdrawn suddenly and that will produce a shock to the economy.


WATERS: It certainly will. And look, I know they’ve announced this transition payment instead, but I guess childcare providers need to, you know, meet criteria and it’s a drop in revenue for them. So, it is going to be interesting times for the childcare sector which has been heavily hit, like many other sectors. Anthony, how do you see the easing on the restrictions that we’re slowly moving into? Do you think that’s the right timing for these restrictions?


ALBANESE: I think we just have to listen to the health experts. I don’t want the restrictions to be there a day longer than necessary, because they are having an impact on the economy. I went to the pie shop there in Braidwood recently. They’ve done it tough. And it is very difficult for this shutdown that has had an impact on people’s jobs. And that’s why, in terms of the future, we need to make sure we’re very careful in that any stimulus measures are done properly as well. Because when it comes to jobs, I’m worried, for example, that the housing package that was announced won’t actually provide much support. I don’t there’s too many people around Braidwood and Bungendore are going to do $150,000 worth of renovations.


WATERS: No, that’s exactly right. And I guess being in a recession, as we’ve been told we are in, is now the time to be thinking of those things anyway. Sounds like we’ve lost Anthony. We have indeed. The modern joys of technology. I’ll see if I can get him back shortly. But he was talking about that housing package where the Government is giving $25,000 grants for home builds and renovations, but the criteria is that you’ve got to spend $150,000 in renovations. And as Anthony said, there wouldn’t be too many people around here that can afford or would want to do that at this particular time. I’ll just see if I can get him back on the line and just continue our chat. We have Anthony back on the line. Little bit of technology problem there. Thanks for getting back to us, Anthony. Are you there, Anthony?




WATERS: Thank you. Thanks for getting back to us. Before we dropped off, you were talking about the housing package and you were just saying how you think there wouldn’t be to many people around at this point in time who could afford that $150,000 renovation.


ALBANESE: Well, that’s right. And who gets a renovation for 150 grand? That is a major renovation, to say the least. There’s a lot of people out there that could have done with an upgrade in the kitchen or the bathroom or a smaller facility that won’t be eligible. And of course, by definition you have to be earning under $125,000 but be able to spend $150,000 on a renovation. It’s a badly constructed scheme almost like it is designed to not be used by anybody.


WATERS: I did hear reports that there’s been quite a few people take that up already, which is surprising. Do you think the Government missed the mark on that package?


ALBANESE: I certainly do. And I think there’s a range of measures that they could have done that would have been much more effective. And, for example, maintenance of social housing, putting money in there would have been a far more effective way to operate and would have made an immediate difference. And of course, you could have at the same time had an apprenticeship program that encouraged young people to get training or for older workers to get retrained.


WATERS: Absolutely. It just seems that they are targeting the wrong end of the market there. And as you say, there’s probably a dozen different ways of allocating that money to be better used. Just on money, what are your thoughts on the $60 billion over-budget of the financial assistance package?


ALBANESE: Well, this is the greatest accounting error in history. I’ve said that you could see an error like that from space. We’re talking 60,000,000,000. They didn’t seem to know that it was going on. It says a lot about the lack of oversight that was going on of the program, it wasn’t just 60 billion of course. They overestimated the support that was there by some three million Australians. And just like when it comes to the bushfire crisis, the biggest thing that came out through the inquiry was that only 4 per cent of residents actually received any income support or other support from the Government in terms of the bushfire recovery. Now, that is a very low figure. And what we know is that the Government did promise that support was available immediately. And that just hasn’t flowed through to local communities. It’s been caught up in bureaucracy.


WATERS: I think the other thing that a lot of people in this area have been commenting on is the donations to charities, and I believe that has topped about 282 million, but nearly half of it’s still sitting in the bank, people are wanting to know why.


ALBANESE: That’s right. And it’s wrong for both for the recipients who, of course, needed that support, but also for the people who donated money. They expected it to be delivered pretty quickly and timely to people who needed it. Australians are generous people and they pitched in during that time. We were all affected by the quite horrific scenes, of course, on our nightly news. Many of us, of course, not directly affected in Sydney where I live, but we all knew people in the local community there in the Eden-Monaro, or on the north coast, or around Gippsland, around South Australia were impacted directly. And it was a dreadful time. And we need to make sure that support flows when it’s needed.


WATERS: Certainly. And there are a lot of people outraged about the charities saying that they are hanging on to it for the long-term recovery but that gives little comfort to the people that did lose everything and were struggling to get by.


ALBANESE: Well, I was in the relief centres just a week ago, with Kristy McBain, at Cobargo and at Quaama, and they need support right now. There’s people still really struggling.


WATERS: And we’re coming into winter and particularly around our area here, the Braidwood, Bungendore, Queanbeyan areas that are starting to get very cold.


ALBANESE: It gets a bit chilly.


WATERS: It certainly does. And you know, people who are doing it tough to start with are just going to find it that little bit harder. I know we’re getting close to out of time. The restrictions, I see New Zealand opening up to live concerts and live gatherings. And I guess that’s something that all of us here are anticipating and waiting that we can actually get back to the footy.


ALBANESE: Absolutely. Well, New Zealand did very well. They made some tough decisions early. They shut their borders early. They really put on the restrictions and it’s paid a dividend for them in that they are now COVID-free, they have no active cases whatsoever. And hence, they’ve lifted all of the restrictions. And that’s a good thing. It is a great credit to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who’s a friend of mine. She’s an outstanding leader. And they’re getting to enjoy the footy and the concerts and going out to dinner unrestricted. I look forward to watching my Rabbitohs, I’m just hoping that they win a few games when the crowds can go back.


WATERS: They’re sort of not sitting too high on that ladder at the moment, are they, with that loss last Friday to the Storm. They did beat ….


ALBANESE: They beat Cronulla in round one. I think the Raiders came up against a pretty outstanding performance from the Knights on the weekend but I think the Raiders are going to have a cracker year.


WATERS: They started off really well, haven’t they? What were your thoughts when the footy was on telly, the fake cheering and the cardboard crowd, Anthony?


ALBANESE: Well, I think the fake cheering probably added something rather than silence. It’s sort of all a bit strange, but I’m pretty passionate about my footy. So, I had forgotten the fact of whether there were crowds there or not. I certainly enjoy the traditional games, South Sydney rivals are the Roosters, of course. And I always go to those game. I missed out, and we didn’t have a win, but I certainly would have been there if it was at all possible. But it wasn’t to be.


WATERS: I see there’s a crowd in Adelaide, I think, this weekend of up to 2,000 for the AFL game. Have we got any idea, your thoughts on when crowds will be back at the NRL?


ALBANESE: I think reasonably soon but we just have to listen to the health experts and follow their advice.


WATERS: And look just one final thing Anthony, during the quarantine lockdown did DJ Albo get some practice in spinning some discs?


ALBANESE: Well, what I did do was listen to a lot of music because I was stuck inside. I have a turntable here as well in Parliament House. And just last night I was listening to a fantastic album, Angie McMahon. She’s an Australian young woman artist whose album ‘Salt’ is quite superb, actually. And so, it has been a chance to catch up on a lot of music. But of course, there’s been no DJing because we haven’t been able to be out and about.


WATERS: You haven’t been setting yourself up in the living room and just giving the family a bit of entertainment, have you?


ALBANESE: No. I have been able to have more time, I think, at night. Particularly because one of the things about this job that normally happens is you’re out and about at night functions and school presentations. And none of that has happened. So, Netflix has got a bit of a working over and so too has listening to music.


WATERS: Can I just ask you one final thing, please. As former Minister for broadband and communications, the NBN has just rolled out here in Braidwood and we’ve got the fibre to the kerb here within the township, how’s your take on how the Government’s handled this NBN rollout?


ALBANESE: It’s a 21st century. In the 21st century, it should have been a fibre-based rollout rather than copper. And that during this pandemic, I think, people have seen how important it is uploading, not just downloading, uploading. And for that you need 21st century technology. So many parts of Australia are missing out on that. I think that was a mistake in that it of course hasn’t saved money. In the end, it’ll cost money because they’ll have to go and retrofit it at some stage. Fibre is the future and is indeed now. And to go back to copper, I think, was a real mistake.


WATERS: It really was all about cost savings wasn’t it? Because you said it hasn’t happened anyway.


ALBANESE: No, of course it was very short-sighted, and it was ideological. I think it was almost as if ‘well, Labor thinks this is good therefore we’ll do something different’.


WATERS: And look, with 5G, more 5G happening and the speeds of 5G, it does make you wonder whether the whole NBN exercise was certainly managed correctly.




WATERS: Anthony Albanese, Leader of the Australian Labor Party. We wish Kristy well in the upcoming by-election. And good luck keeping the Government to task and we hope to talk to you again soon.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Gordon. Always happy to chat.