Jan 4, 2021






SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s cuts to JobKeeper and JobSeeker; changes to the National Anthem.


LEITH FORREST, HOST: Anthony, thanks for your time. Happy New Year.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: G’day, good to be with you. And Happy New Year to you and your listeners.


FORREST: We’re looking forward to having you back on 5AA Breakfast, let the boys sort of have their summer break and get stuck into the big meaty issues of the day, of which one occurred today, because JobKeeper has officially dropped as we know it, disappears in March. But a $100 loss from today?


ALBANESE: Well, $100 for some, but for some $200, depending upon the circumstances. So, what that means is that thousands of businesses will lose that support as of today. And what it means is that literally tens of thousands of workers in Adelaide and South Australia will lose that support or have their support reduced. And we know that COVID and the crisis is far from over. I’m not allowed to visit Adelaide at the moment, that is an example of that. And the idea that you wind back support when it’s still needed, when so many businesses are still struggling, is, in my view, a mistake.


FORREST: So, no doubt it is going to be phased out at some stage, but you’re saying it’s the timing that not right.


ALBANESE: Of course, JobKeeper wage subsidies, was something that we called for. And then eventually the Government adopted it. We regarded it as not a permanent measure. But the reasons why it was put in place are still there today. Business is struggling. We want to make sure that workers can still keep that relationship with their employers. And JobKeeper has been critical for that. It’s been critical in keeping some 700,000 Australians in work. And while the circumstances are that the economy is so soft, and so many businesses are struggling, there’s not really an argument to take away that support.


FORREST: I was thinking too, Anthony, that it’s odd, and that it doesn’t really apply in SA because we’re a little bit freer, luckily, I guess than some of the other states around the country, but you’ve got eastern states where people are being urged to stay at home, do the right thing, Health is telling us to do that. They can’t afford to be going out yet. Yet, you’ve got the Government saying, ‘Go and find a job’.


ALBANESE: Well, that is right. In Sydney, people are being urged by all of the experts, if possible, to stay at home and certainly to wear masks if they do go outside if they’re on public transport or in buildings. And that was the case, certainly, in my office today, everyone wearing masks. And that’s because there was an outbreak there in the Commonwealth offices just a month ago. And it just seems to me to be sending very mixed messages, on the one hand be withdrawing support, but on the other hand be saying that the crisis is still there, which of course it is.


FORREST: Do you think it’ll be more difficult for some sectors than others? It seems from afar, hospitality, this is just really going to affect them the most.


ALBANESE: Absolutely. And some sectors have missed out on support completely, of course. Sectors like the arts and entertainment sector, the university sector, local government, have all not been given support. But those sectors, such as the hospitality sector, have been particularly impacted by this crisis. The sectors that are getting less support, such as hospitality, are those which are most in need. Not every business, of course, got JobKeeper, they had to comply in terms of a reduction in their revenue and their take. And if that reduction in revenue and takings is still there, then in my view, the support should still be there as well. Because the other factor, of course, is that if you take money out of the economy, whether it be the cuts to JobKeeper or the unemployment benefits through JobSeeker that took place on January 1, then what you do is you have less money circulating in the economy, less people employed. And it’s a bit of a vicious circle. And it seems to me that the Government is being potentially complacent here. That’s my real concern.


FORREST: And as we know, some people are living cheque to cheque. So, life is tough. Even some people are saying that’s only $100, but when you are doing it week by week, that is tough. I’m speaking to the Opposition Leader, the Federal Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese. What’s the solution then? Is it targeted support? Are you saying rather than a blanket cut across the board of the $100 or $200, can you just pick and choose as to who you take the money off?


ALBANESE: Well, the targeting is there in the system for businesses that are continuing to see a decline in their revenue and that haven’t had the return in activity, then they should be eligible for the same level of support because it makes no sense to have the same issues there that were the reason why the support was there in the first place but just withdraw it.


FORREST: So, the Government paying 1.6 million Aussies by JobKeeper in December, that’s down from 3.6. Appreciate your time this afternoon, Anthony. Thank you for that. Before I let you go, if I can, we started the show talking about the anthem decision that was made over the weekend and heard from Warren Mundine, who was for it, Anthony Mundine, who was against it. Have you got a thought? And have you got a position on the fact that we’re changing from, ‘young and free’ to ‘one and free’?


ALBANESE: I supported it as a common-sense change. But I think it misses the bigger issues that are confronting us as a nation, to be frank. Changing a five-letter word to a three-letter word at a time where we still don’t recognise our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in our National Constitution. And I’m disappointed that there’s been no progress on that. That’s really what will make a difference.


FORREST: Is that something you look to push in 2021?


ALBANESE: Absolutely. We will continue to push it. And if the Government doesn’t progress it, then we will progress it in our first term.


FORREST: I’ll let you go. Have you got a New Year’s resolution or a hope and wish? You are speaking to the people of Adelaide, what can we expect from Anthony Albanese in 2021?


ALBANESE: I just hope for Australia that we have a better year and a return to normality. And I think that all Australians have done it tough in 2020. But I think we can also be proud of the nation that we are. The values that we have, looking after each other has really shone through. And people have been prepared to make sacrifices not just to help themselves and their families and their neighbours, but people they don’t know, and they’ll never meet. And that’s a great thing.


FORREST: Appreciate your time this afternoon. Happy New Year. Can’t wait to hear back on FIVEaa Breakfast.


ALBANESE: Indeed. Happy New Year to you.


FORREST: Thanks so much. Anthony Albanese, the Federal Opposition Leader.