Sep 16, 2020







SUBJECTS: Australians stranded overseas; use of RAAF VIP jets to bring Australians home; Government’s energy policy; climate change; net zero emissions by 2050; Betoota Advocate.


ISABELLA HIGGINS, HOST: We are joined now by Anthony Albanese to discuss what Labor wants to see happen here. Mr Albanese, thank you for joining us on Hack today.




HIGGINS: Good afternoon to you too. Now, the Government has said that they very much want to have states to continue to manage quarantine practices as they have done throughout this pandemic. But you would like to see more federal facilities like army barracks or detention centres open for quarantine?


ALBANESE: Look, there’s a range of facilities available. Early on in the pandemic, the facility outside of Darwin was used. It can house 3,000 people. We had today the Western Australian Premier, Mark McGowan, say that Rottnest Island could be made available. What we need is actually national leadership. There’s no shortage of planes that are available, be they commercial aircraft or be they the Royal Australian Airforce VIP fleet that could be made available easily, given that it’s not being used that much by the Prime Minister, the Governor General or other ministers. And there’s no shortage of hotel accommodation, as well, as we know, because international visitors aren’t coming. All that’s required here is a bit of national leadership. And that’s what is missing.


HIGGINS: Do you have any safety concerns about setting up a new system or a new facility this late into the pandemic?


ALBANESE: Well, they were used at the beginning of the process. Places like Rottnest Island could be used as the WA Premier has said. There are other facilities that could be used. The state premiers and chief ministers are saying that they would be looking for some Commonwealth support. But what we know is there’s 25,000 people stranded, not just people like the gentleman who was stranded there talking about the United States and his experience, but a young mum with a one-year-old who was told by officials in London to go find a homeless shelter to stay in with her young child. That is just absurd.


HIGGINS: How much do you think the Government can control this? Because even if hotel quarantine was lifted from 4,000 to 6,000, as the Government suggested, technically you get everyone home in about five weeks. But that’s all reliant on airlines, isn’t it? Is there much we can really do when we’ve got foreign-owned companies who are flying Aussies home?


ALBANESE: Well, we have something, an airline called Qantas. That is the Australian national airline that has airplanes parked in deserts. We have the Royal Australian Air Force that could be used as well, in terms of particularly for regional flights. There’s never been as much available aircraft capacity and there’s never been as many vacant hotel rooms in my lifetime as there are right now. And you have a Commonwealth Government that is pretending that it’s not in charge of borders and not in charge of quarantine, but they are clearly Commonwealth responsibilities. As a result of my intervention yesterday, you had the Deputy Prime Minister go from 4,000 to 6,000, an increase by 2,000, the number of arrivals that the Commonwealth said that it wanted. Maybe this interview will bump it up by another thousand.


HIGGINS: And on the text line, ‘I have no sympathy for these people. Scott Morrison said at the start of the year if you’re an Australian, I urge you to come home now’. Mr Albanese, do you think Australians want to see lots of money in tight times spent on chartering flights for Aussies overseas?


ALBANESE: Well, the Royal Australian Air Force is available. The planes are there.


HIGGINS: It will cost us money though, the public purse.


ALBANESE: Planes are there. The Air Force personnel are there. If they’re not being used, guess what? They actually fly around quite often in terms of training and because the pilots have to get their hours up. They fly around quite often vacant. So, there are a range of measures that can be done. And no one’s suggesting that it should be completely free of charge. But the sort of idea as well, the figures that were in your story of $110,000 for a family of five to return home to Australia is quite frankly absurd. And what we need to do is to acknowledge as well that a range of people were caught in circumstances which were not of their own making. They were people who were due to have children, there were people who just had children.


HIGGINS: I’m going to read one of them from the text line. Daisy says, ‘My dad was stuck in the UK. He works overseas and wouldn’t qualify for JobKeeper, so he had to choose between staying in the UK in March and coming home and not having any income at all’. Now, Mr Albanese, I’m just going to ask you a question on another topic. This week, the Government announced a new strategy to increase the production and supply of gas, opening new gas fields, pipelines, and possibly even a new gas power station. Is Labor supportive of this plan?


ALBANESE: Well, this their 20th plan. They will have another one in a month or two. This is the same location where the Government has been saying for years that Liddell should be kept open as a coal fired power plant. The fact is that what is lacking from this Government is a comprehensive energy policy, one that allows the market to operate. And the market tells us that the cheapest form of new energy is renewables. And what we have here is not just climate sceptics in the Government, but market sceptics as well. We’ll wait and see. Most of this was all, ‘if this happens and if this doesn’t happen, then something might happen down the track’. This really was an announcement in search of substance.


HIGGINS: Now, Mr Albanese, I don’t know if you’re a fan of Betoota Advocate. I’m going to read you one of the headlines.


ALBANESE: I am occasionally. Although it’s a worry because it could be anything.


HIGGINS: I know. And they do like to report on you. I’m going to read you a headline from one of their stories yesterday. ‘Albo, this is when you say more gas power plants is a bad idea says bushfire ravaged nation’. What’s your response to that?


ALBANESE: Well, I was very active during the bushfire crisis. There’s no doubt that we need to act on climate change. And there’s no doubt that the future is about us moving to zero net emissions by 2050, which is a policy that we have announced.


HIGGINS: And talking about that policy just there, is it true that there are no 2030 targets in Labor’s climate change policy at the moment?


ALBANESE: No. Because we haven’t released a climate change policy. What we have is a draft platform that establishes principles. And that has the 2050 zero net emissions target in it.


HIGGINS: At the 2018 election, I recall Bill Shorten pledge to reduce emissions by 45 per cent on the 2005 levels by 2030. That’s still a policy position of Labor?


ALBANESE: You’re wrong, actually. He said that in the 2019 election and at the 2016 election, because that was a policy based upon 2015. That was a 15-year target.


HIGGINS: And is it still a policy of the Labor Party?


ALBANESE: We don’t have a Tardis. We cannot go back to 2015 and have a 15-year target for 2030 by definition.


HIGGINS: All right. Mr Albanese, thank you very much for your time on Hack today.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much.