Jun 25, 2020







SUBJECTS: Eden-Monaro by-election; Barton Highway upgrades; Yass hospital upgrades.


NIGE JOHNSON, HOST: Amongst other things on the show this morning, we promised you a very special guest who joins us right now on the phone. Kristen, would you like to welcome our special guest?


KRISTEN DAVIDSON, HOST: It is the Labor Leader of Australia, the Leader of Opposition, Anthony Albanese. Good morning.


JOHNSON: Albo, welcome to the show, sir.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: The little recording of the cheer there, it’s like the footy.


JOHNSON: No, that’s our live studio audience, Albo. We’ve got a bunch of them. I point at them and they cheer. And then we give them a Mars bar. It is a good system we’ve got going on here.


ALBANESE: Very disciplined.


JOHNSON: Indeed. And they make no noise until we point.


DAVIDSON: It’s amazing. They’re so well behaved. Mr. Albanese, there is probably one hot button for residents that are on the outskirts of Canberra, which in turn is then a bit of a hot button for Canberrans, and that is the upgrading of the Barton Highway. Obviously, this has been something that you guys have been talking about and it’s something that was brought up in Parliament only the other day.


JOHNSON: Have a listen to this one.



ALICIA PAYNE, MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Women from the Yass Valley are currently forced to travel an hour to Canberra or Goulburn to give birth. As a result, a number of women have been forced to give birth on the side of the Barton Highway. Does the Prime Minister agree that is unacceptable?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’m pleased to let the member know that’s why we’ve committed $150 million to upgrade the Barton Highway.


JOHNSON: Hey, there you go. That’s clearly not the answer that we are looking for.


DAVIDSON: So, you know, obviously two issues here and we would love to see the upgrading of the Barton Highway, finally, but also maternity services in Yass. Where do you sit on both of those issues?


ALBANESE: Well, firstly, can I say that I’ve been in Parliament for over 20 years and that was the funniest answer I’ve ever heard to a question during Question Time, however unintentional. Look, we support upgrading the Barton Highway, not for birthing lanes, but for cars. And we committed $250 million to it at the last election with Mike Kelly. We’ve confirmed that commitment with Kristy McBain. It’s vital. Three and a half thousand people travel from Yass and surrounds into Canberra every day for work. And it’s also a big freight route. So, I’ve travelled on that highway many times. There are big trucks. It can get a little bit scary when you’re in a little car with a big truck either side of you. And it does need full duplication. And we support that. We’re concerned that in the seven years this Government’s been there, they’ve done very little towards that. The by-election has meant they’ve put more signs up. But that’s about it. So, we think it should be upgraded. But, Yass also needs a maternity ward. Chris Bowen was there yesterday with Kristy committing to that. At the moment mums have to go either to Goulburn or to Canberra. And yesterday at the press conference there was one woman who actually gave birth in the back of her van. And that is unacceptable in 2020.


JOHNSON: Anthony, we are heading into the election, obviously, Kristy McBain is your lady for Eden-Monaro. And the question I want to ask you is, I get the sense that there is this vibe of one or the other, we either duplicate the Barton Highway or we update the Yass hospital to have proper maternity facilities.


ALBANESE: No, we need to do both.


JOHNSON: Thank you. Can we not do both?


ALBANESE: Of course, we can do both.


JOHNSON: Surely, we could buy one less Joint Strike Fighter or something for the Defence Department and spend that multi-billion dollars doing that? There’s got to be a way we can find the money. Surely, with a bit of creative accounting, can we do it?


ALBANESE: Absolutely we can do it. And we’re in a recession. We actually need job creation. Part of what we will need coming out of it, we’ve got 11.3 per cent unemployed, how about we use the need to create jobs to actually build infrastructure that has a lasting benefit? And the Barton Highway has got to be an absolute priority. The number of vehicles, particularly heavy vehicle from the on the highway, has grown enormously in the last five years. And that’s going to continue. It’s a pretty good lifestyle that you can have living in around Murrumbateman and working in Canberra. So, it is a regular route done. And it’s also such a lovely place to visit in terms of Yass for Canberra residents. You’ve got the best of lifestyles. And of course, the area is also agricultural production. So, you have vehicles with cattle and sheep going through large b-doubles. We need to fix it. But mums also need support.


JOHNSON: As a Canberra resident for the last 45 years, I’ve heard a lot of governments come through and say, ‘We will duplicate the Barton Highway’, as an election promise. And it has never happened on both sides of the fence. Are you telling me that this year a vote for a vote for Kristy McBain is a vote for fixing the highway and the hospital?


ALBANESE: Absolutely, it is. Kristy is absolutely committed to it. She’s been Deputy Head of the Region of Councils there. She’s worked closely with the mayor of Yass on this issue. And she’s absolutely committed to it. And she’s someone who gets things done. And she has been outstanding as the mayor of Bega and wants to take back capacity in to Canberra.


JOHNSON: Albo, I think I’m going to move to Murrumbateman before the by-election just so I can vote for Kristy.


ALBANESE: You should. She is worth it.