Sep 29, 2020







SUBJECTS: South Sydney Rabbitohs; rolling back of JobKeeper and JobSeeker; responsible lending restrictions; Federal Budget; people being left behind by the Morrison Government; regional jobs; National Cabinet; state leaders’ response during the coronavirus pandemic.


LEIGH RYAN, HOST: One of the happiest people in Australia is the diehard South Sydney supporter and Leader of the Federal Opposition, Anthony Albanese, who joins us on the phone. Good morning.




RYAN: You would be absolutely cheering after the match against the Roosters, the old arch nemesis?


ALBANESE: I haven’t stopped smiling. I think Cody Walker’s performance was amazing and the Alex Johnston tries, to get five tries including three in the last eight minutes, to win the top try scoring award was pretty terrific. And something I don’t reckon I have seen before when Corey Allen passed it Alex Johnston when he was well over the line rather than put it down just to give a mate a leg up, that’s something that you see in Under Eights or Under Tens or something. But it was a very good night. I just hope we hadn’t had a grand final earlier that the boys aren’t celebrating the win over the traditional rivals too much and that they got something left for this Sunday because Newcastle are very good side.


POPPY PENNY, HOST: I had a very good friend, Anthony Maroon, tell me to tip the Bunnies and I went against him. And if I tipped him, I would have won. Now, talk to us a little bit. This week we’ve seen the rollback of the JobKeeper and JobSeeker support payments. Can you talk to us a little bit about what that’s going to mean for Aussies?


ALBANESE: What it means is just less money in their pocket. And for a lot of Australians, they’ve relied upon that. And businesses, of course, have relied upon that as well, particularly small businesses. And at a time where unemployment is still very, very high, I don’t think we have seen it at peak yet, according to the Government’s own figures, I just don’t think it’s the right time to withdraw support and give people less money. Because when you take money out of the economy like tens of billions of dollars in the December quarter, then that’s less money that people have to spend. And then that has an impact, of course, on businesses as well. So, I think a lot of people, too, will be surprised that they’re getting less money, they don’t follow the day to day detail. And I think the shock that would have come in from JobKeeper’s reduction yesterday and the JobSeeker decreases as well, I just think the Government’s being too premature.


RYAN: The obvious question that you’ll always get if you are saying to extend support is where does that money come from? What’s your response to that?


ALBANESE: Well, the response is that, two things; one, the logic of why JobKeeper and JobSeeker were there in the first place hasn’t changed. Indeed, I think there’s a stronger argument for at the moment. And secondly, if you make the recession, under Scott Morrison, longer and deeper, then at the end of the day, you’ll end up having to pay more than you would if you get the policy settings right.


PENNY: Sticking with financial implications, we have also seen a rollback of responsible lending restrictions in the last week or so. What are the pros and cons of this as a move?


ALBANESE: Well, the pros are, and I understand them, is that you want money to be circulating around the economy. You want there to be availability of lending to small businesses, particularly those who might be doing it tough but want to continue to operate and to invest in particular. The downside is that those consumer protections were there for a reason. And you do have to get the balance right. And this Government, of course, has been pretty soft on the banks. They voted against the Royal Commission taking place 26 times in the Parliament before eventually we got there. And we know what was exposed during that Royal Commission of really shoddy practices. And the banks would be the first to put up their hand and confess to that as they have. Heads rolled throughout the banking sector because they weren’t getting it right, they weren’t looking after their customers. And I’m concerned that the removal of protections will see some people exploited. That’s a big concern. So, you do have to get the balance right. We’ll examine any of the changes very carefully with that in mind.


RYAN: We are chatting with the Leader of the Federal Opposition, Anthony Albanese, this morning. Anthony, of course, Budget this week, what do we expect to see from the Budget? And what would you like to see come out of the Budget?


ALBANESE: Well, what I want to see is people looked after. I want to see people who had been left behind given some support. We’ve seen the university sector, the arts and entertainment sectors, casual workers all left behind from JobKeeper and JobSeeker. And we can’t afford that. I want to see also a plan for economic recovery that needs to fill two things. One, we need immediate job creation. So, programs that we have proposed, like social housing, you could go in and have a massive program of fixing, forget about even new housing, although that would be good as well, but there’s a huge maintenance backlog. Why not employ people to fix that backlog? You could employ apprentices at the same time and make an enormous difference. Programs like that. We need that injection right now, job creation right now. Secondly, we need to set ourselves up for economic recovery. So, we need to identify how we create jobs of the future. Support for manufacturing is really important. We actually do need an energy policy in this country to drive that investment, particularly in clean energy. And we don’t have that. And we need to have a plan to give people the skills, whether they be young people entering the workforce or people retraining. How do we give people skills? I’m concerned that we’re not seeing the support for either TAFE or the university sector. In both areas we’re seeing support rolled back and cuts made. And that’s going to make it really tough. We need to train workers, whether it be tradies or whether it be research and development and support for our tertiary sector in the form of universities as well.


PENNY: You mentioned a jobs plan there, you want to see a plan to bring jobs back, particularly regionally. How would you like to see a jobs plan rolled out to affect regional Australia?


ALBANESE: Well, of course, regional Australia, I gave a speech just a little while ago, my seventh vision statement, was about jobs in the region. One way that the Government’s finally woken up, that maybe fibre broadband is a bit better than last century’s copper broadband. So, you change the capacity of regional businesses to compete. If you can be located in Wagga Wagga or Dubbo or Charleville for that matter and have the same access to domestic and international markets by having high-speed broadband, that changes the dynamic because your overheads are lower. We need to have a plan as well in terms of immediate jobs for issues like land care and for looking after areas that were impacted by the bushfires. We’ve had funds that have actually been unspent in that area. The last financial year the $200 million that was allocated for the emergency response fund, not a dollar was spent. That could have been spent supporting those areas and resilience, but also creating jobs. We need to provide incentives for business investment for small business in regional areas as well. That is an important way of creating jobs. And, of course, as, I think, we might have spoken before about my passion for high-speed rail, if you want to open up regional economies, high-speed rail from Brisbane to Sydney to Melbourne via Canberra and via those regions, including a station that would be envisaged near Wagga Wagga, would make an incredible difference to the communities and to their capacity to create jobs and locate businesses there.


RYAN: Anthony, before we let you go, there’s been a lot said about state leaders and their response to the coronavirus pandemic from the Federal Government. I just like to get your thoughts quickly on how you think that the states have handled their responses?


ALBANESE: I think the Prime Minister has tried to have it both ways. He chairs something called a National Cabinet that isn’t really a cabinet and doesn’t really operate nationally. But the Government has handed over, essentially, its responsibility for our international borders. We’re an island continent. But also, quarantining is responsibility, very clearly, of the Commonwealth. And I think the states have taken the advice of the health experts. It’s a tough job. So, I haven’t been critical of any of the state governments for making the decisions that they have. And we can see in Victoria, it is making an enormous difference right now.


RYAN: Anthony Albanese, it’s been a pleasure to catch up with you. I look forward to hearing more from you in the future. Thank you very much for joining us this morning, Federal Opposition Leader.


ALBANESE: Terrific. And go the Bunnies on Sunday.


RYAN: As long as they don’t play the Raiders, I will be on board.


PENNY: Or the Storm.


ALBANESE: That can’t be for a couple of weeks on. If if Souths go out, I, of course, have a very soft spot for the Raiders, spending the time I do in Canberra. So, we will wait and see how it all goes. I hope the chooks don’t win. We can all agree on that.


RYAN: We can all agree on that.