SUBJECTS: JobSeeker rate; COVID-19 vaccine rollout; Newspoll; mutual obligation; importance of vaccination; Alleged assault in Parliament House; review into workplace culture in Parliament House.
LEON BYNER, HOST: Anthony, good morning and thanks for coming on today.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning. Good to be with you, Leon.
BYNER: Likewise. Now, first of all, it's just been announced that the JobSeeker allowance will go up $50 a fortnight, which is somewhat less than what I think a lot were expecting. What's your take on that?
ALBANESE: Well, what we know is that $40 a day isn't enough to live on. And the Government have known that and conceded that when they introduced the supplementary payment during COVID. People trying to get by on that are doing it really tough. So we will examine the detail, of course. We have argued for some time, since I became the Labor Leader, that there needed to be a permanent increase in it.
BYNER: Is it enough?
ALBANESE: Well, we'll examine the detail. People, no doubt, will continue to struggle. The age pension, of course, is also an issue as well, some people have called for JobSeeker to be higher than that, and I don't think that would be appropriate. Look, we'll examine the full detail. I don't think there's actually been an announcement, it's more a leak. We'll examine what is actually happening. This is a Government with a record of cuts to the pension, the Government that introduced Robodebt, the Government that hasn't looked after people and has left people behind. So we'll examine the detail and respond accordingly.
BYNER: Now, are you disappointed that there wasn't a show of unity with the vaccination jab? Apparently, you and the Prime Minister were expected to get the jab together to try and build confidence, but the Prime Minister went on another time.
ALBANESE: That was proposed by the Government. I certainly agreed with that. I think that would have been a common sense suggestion by them. It's up to the Prime Minister to explain why that didn't happen. There were discussions, certainly, with my office, and with the Shadow Health Minister, going back to Chris Bowen and then Mark Butler. We agreed on Saturday that we would do it today together at 8:30AM along with Adam Bandt as well, the Leader of the Greens. And certainly, I think that would have been a good idea. It was suggested, I agreed it was a good idea. But I'm not going to worry about these things. That is a decision for Scott Morrison that he made for his own reasons.
BYNER: All right. The Newspoll result yesterday, I reckon you'd be a little disappointed with the personal popularity of 26 per cent. Why do you reckon you're struggling to cut through?
ALBANESE: Look, I think the Newspoll showed that our primary vote had increased and we're on 50-50. And the truth is that during a pandemic, during a national crisis, support for leaders or approval ratings have gone up. If you want to see what a bounce looks like, look at WA with Mark McGowan. That's just a fact of life that has occurred across the board in every jurisdiction in the country.
BYNER: But I think you're smart enough to know, Anthony, that the elections in our country more recently, state and federal, have been much more presidential. So personal popularity does matter.
ALBANESE: It does, but it is a matter of what the register is. People who are saying that they want their leaders to succeed because if they don't there'll be health consequences, there will be economic consequences, that's what they're saying. And that's what indicates when they look at what way they are going to vote though, our primary vote continues to be considerably higher now, four points higher than it was at the time of the last election. Our two-party-preferred vote is higher in all three polls. The worst situation we are in is 50-50. And the other two polls show us actually ahead, which is quite remarkable after a year in which we've had a pandemic.
BYNER: Now, the $50 per fortnight, $25 a week, is the figure. But what about the idea that there should be a linkage to stricter mutual obligation criteria? In other words, the recipients have got to show that they're doing more to get off the payment and have a job. Do you think that's fair enough?
ALBANESE: We'll look at the detail, Leon. With respect, I have been off getting the vaccination, so I haven't seen any of the Government's announcements. And you'd expect us to consider it properly, soberly, and to come up with an appropriate response. And we will do that.
BYNER: What's your message to supporters who are reticent? You've just had the vaccination and I think, I mean, in a sense you are between a rock and a hard place because it's either your jump the queue, or if you didn't, well, you should have set an example, but putting that aside, what is your advice to the people of Australia with regards to vaccination?
ALBANESE: That vaccines don't save lives, vaccinations do. People should get vaccinated in the interests of their own health, in the interests of their family, their neighbours, their community, and the country. Vaccinations are necessary and you need to get a high percentage in order for it to be effective. So do it for yourself, but do it for everyone else as well. And that's why I took the medical advice, essentially that all of the people in leadership positions should show their confidence in the system by being vaccinated early. That's why I did it. I weighed up the issue of being ahead of some essential workers and people who have a greater need. But the advice from the medical office was very clear, and I took that advice. That's why I got vaccinated. But people should do it. It's easy, doesn't take long. And do it for people you care about as well as yourself.
BYNER: One other important issue that's been out there is, I'm wondering what more you might expect from the Government on the alleged rape allegations?
ALBANESE: Well, I expect some transparency and some answers. It's not good enough that people in the Prime Minister's office knew and, allegedly, he found out last Monday. I think that Brittany Higgins has shown great bravery. She deserves a bit of honesty and transparency about what occurred to her. And I think that she was owed a duty of care at the time. That clearly wasn't given to her. She's made her feelings very clear. But also, what we need secondly, is reform, structural reform, in this building to make sure that measures examined, like the adequacy of existing procedures, we need a truly independent complaint process, we need training in this building that is fit for purpose and provided to people so that they know how to respond to it, and we need properly resourced support services to be available as well.
BYNER: Anthony, thank you for joining us today. That's the Federal Opposition Leader commenting on a whole range of issues.