ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
SOUNDS OF THE MOUNTAINS
THURSDAY, 2 JULY 2020
SUBJECTS: Eden-Monaro by-election.
DAVID EISENHAUER, HOST: Mr Albanese joins us on the line. Good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning. Good to be with you again.
EISENHAUER: And thank you very much for finding the time to have a chat to us too. It is very much appreciated. A very busy job, being the Leader of the Opposition. And to find the time to talk to us here in the district of Tumut and Gundagai and Tumbarumba and surrounds is always a pleasure. We look forward to having a chat with you. There’s so many things to chat about when we talk to the members but particularly to yourself. And with such a passion for the regional areas.
ALBANESE: Absolutely. I’m very proud of the difference that I was able to make as Regional Development Minister, setting up Regional Development Australia, setting up a fund, the Regional Local Community Infrastructure Program, that made a difference and funded every single local government area to do community infrastructure projects. These were all very important. And I’m very proud of the records that I had as Regional Development Minister. And it is always great to get out and about in this great, vast land of ours that we call Australia. It’s a brilliant country. And I find that people in regional communities are down to earth. They tell you what they need. And I certainly have committed into doing what I can to decentralise Australia. There’s a lot of pressure on our major capital cities and we need to get that growth in regional communities. And that means getting economic activity and getting jobs.
EISENHAUER: One of those things, talking of jobs in the region, we have a by-election coming up. Of course, the election day is this Saturday. And Kristy McBain, we’ve caught up with Kristy a number of times on the station talking to her. One of the subjects is JobKeeper. What’s the Australian Labor Party’s stance on JobKeeper?
ALBANESE: Well, look, we’re very disappointed that the Government is planning to withdraw JobKeeper from all Australians, what they call a ‘snapback’ in September, but they are keeping that plan hidden until after the by-election. They’ve received the economic update from Treasury. But they’re not coming clean with the Australian people about what will happen. And we know that the impact on regional communities in particular will be devastating. So many small businesses are relying upon JobKeeper. And the idea that you just withdraw it in one hit is quite extraordinary. We know the unemployment rate is already at 11.3 per cent. Australia is in its first recession in 30 years. Three decades. And so, now is not the time to just have this brutal withdrawal and to return to market forces that the Government seems to think is okay. And they are setting it up, as well, to withdraw JobSeeker. The jobs simply aren’t out there. And people are really doing it tough. And this is a time where the Government needs to provide support. And that’s why this Saturday is a real opportunity to send a message to the Government, that they shouldn’t just withdraw JobKeeper in September, that they need a plan for economic recovery that looks after people in the region.
EISENHAUER: One thing we did speak to Kristy about was solutions, not opposition, in amongst this campaign for the Eden-Monaro by-election.
ALBANESE: Well, that is right. And Kristy McBain is concerned about solutions, not arguments. We’re seeing at the moment the Coalition candidates, between the National Party and the Liberals, argue between each other. John Barilaro, to his credit, has called out Scott Morrison’s cuts to the ABC and the duplicity in pretending that there aren’t cuts there. We know that a year ago he said after the May 2019 election that it was a good thing that Fiona Kotvojs wasn’t successful against Mike Kelly. And one is going to assume that he also has that view in this current by-election given that Kristy McBain is an outstanding candidate. She’s shown that she will stand up for the local community during the bushfire crisis. And when I visited orchardists in Batlow, when I visited Adelong and Tumut, Tumbarumba, when I went to the timber mill with Kristy McBain, she’s someone that can really relate to people and can take their concerns and look for solutions and outcomes rather than either just being compliant or looking for arguments. And that’s why I think she will make an outstanding representative if she is successful this Saturday.
EISENHAUER: There’s a lot of talk in the media particularly, of course, you mentioned John Barilaro there asking voters to preference Labor before Liberal. That’s an interesting twist in these final hours before Saturday.
ALBANESE: Well, I think the people who look at the quality of the candidates, who are concerned about their local community, will hopefully give Kristy McBain a number one vote. But if they can’t, give serious consideration to a number two vote for Kristy McBain if they’re voting for an independent, or they’re voting for the Nationals, or they’re voting for the Shooters. They don’t want to reward Scott Morrison who was complacent in the leadup to the bushfires. And the fact that we still have people not getting support. It’s taken a by-election to get any movement at all from this Government in terms of the recovery. And I give Kristy McBain credit for the fact she’s ran such a strong campaign that it’s forced the Government to act. So, she’s already getting runs on the board before she’s even been elected.
EISENHAUER: One of those runs is your recent announcement yesterday with Kristy in regards to returning the funding to the ABC.
ALBANESE: Well, that’s right. The idea that when you have massive unemployment, when you have regional newspapers shutting down around the country, when you have a need to provide information to people particularly in regional communities. During the bush fires, we saw that the ABC literally saved lives because of inadequate telecommunications, you had landlines cut, you had mobile phone coverage not available, and as I’ve driven around the electorate, from time to time it just cuts out and we know that that’s the case. The idea that you would cut ABC funding, again, on top of the previous cuts that have taken place under this Government, is just outrageous, frankly. The ABC saved lives during the bushfire crisis. There are 250 jobs that have been lost at the ABC, announced just last week as a direct result of these cuts, and Federal Labor will put that money back if we’re elected but we’re hoping as well, that the message that it sends with a strong vote for Kristy McBain on Saturday will force the Government to reassess and to put that money back in. And that’s why a vote for Kristy McBain on Saturday is a vote to support our ABC.
EISENHAUER: The Government says though, Mr Albanese, it’s a freeze, not a cut.
ALBANESE: Well, if it looks like a cut, acts like a cut and quacks like a cut, it’s a cut. And everyone knows that. And that’s why John Barilaro has really called out the duplicity of Scott Morrison. He’s been very strong, to his credit, in saying this is a cut. Everyone knows that it’s a cut. And the 250 people, who lost their jobs last week, certainly know that it’s a cut.
EISENHAUER: We talked with the media industry, and of course, the past Minister for Communications and, of course, we look at the community radio sector too and the work that we worked alongside the ABC during those fires, it was a team effort wasn’t it?
ALBANESE: Absolutely. And community radio plays such a critical role. It’s why, when I was the Minister for Communications, I was such a big supporter of community radio because it’s the way that local messages get out. You’re the voice that gets into Tumbarumba, and Adelong, and Tumut, and Batlow. And the community around there is so important. And that’s why we need to make sure that we support the ABC and support community radio.
EISENHAUER: So very important to keep those communication channels open. We know during those bushfires, Mr Albanese, that at the end of the day when mobile phone services had failed, when internet systems are down, radio, battery-powered radios, are about the only thing that people had access to. So, it’s a great talking point that no doubt will come a lot further when we talk about the cuts to the ABC funding. But one other thing, we must mention, while we’re talking to you is our forest industry. And your thoughts there?
ALBANESE: Well, we need to give support to the forest industry. One of the things that occurred because of the bushfires is that the raw materials are going to have to be sourced from much further away. And that’s an immediate concern. So, when we were at Tumbarumba at the mill with Kristy McBain, one of the things we spoke about is the need for support for freight and that’s an immediate need if that mill is going to be able to continue to employ the number of people it does, it’s the major source of direct and indirect employment around Tumbarumba and its vital industry. And it’s important that those jobs be supported at this time. And I know that Kristy McBain will continue to be a very strong voice for support for the forestry industry. I know that the Government has belatedly had something to say about forestry, that’s a good thing. But I give Kristy McBain credit for that. It’s because she’s been talking about these issues that the Government has been forced to act. And if Kristy McBain can be that effective from Opposition, imagine how good she’ll be as the local member.
EISENHAUER: Mr Albanese, it is always good to catch up. Anything you’d like to add while we’re chatting on the station today?
ALBANESE: All good. I just hope that whoever people are supporting, that they vote. It is an important principle of our democracy that people get out there and have their say, on Saturday. I, of course, am a strong supporter and advocate of a vote for Kristy McBain. But I respect people’s differences if they have a different point of view, they should still participate in the ballot. It’s an important time and I certainly hope that Kristy McBain is able to carry on with Mike Kelly’s legacy. He’s been an outstanding representative. It’s a pity that his health concerns meant that he couldn’t continue in that job. But I must say that in Kristy McBain, she’s just an outstanding candidate. She’s been very impressive. She has tried to have a debate with the Liberal candidate throughout this by-election and she, the other major candidate, unfortunately hasn’t been interested in having a debate, hasn’t been allowed to participate. Well, Kristy McBain won’t be hidden from anyone. She’s someone who is outspoken and will be a very strong advocate for the region.
EISENHAUER: Anthony Albanese, really appreciate your time joining us on the local station. Thank you very much for your time today.
ALBANESE: Great to talk with you. And I look forward to talking to you in the future.