May 13, 2020






SUBJECTS: Australia beyond coronavirus; Eden-Monaro by-election; Government’s neglect of Barton Highway upgrades; bushfire crisis recovery.


JOEL BARKER, HOST: Thanks for your time today. I know you’ve got a lot going on at the moment. I will start with the coronavirus pandemic. Many Australians have been negatively affected by the pandemic, both economically and socially because of the restrictions. On Monday you spoke about not just surviving the pandemic, and not just snapping back to the way things were, but learning from it and moving forward. What lessons are there to be learned from the pandemic and both in an economic and social sense?


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, I think that there are many lessons to be learned, one of which is to actually listen to the experts and to listened to the science when it comes to the pandemic. And that is seeing us through. We need to listen to the science all of the time, not just some of the time. So, on issues like climate change we need to listen to science. I think we need also to recognise that it is the Australians getting together and having the concept of looking after each other, which has really seen us through as well. Australians have agreed to social distancing and observing that not through coercion, but through cooperation. And that concept of ‘we’re all in this together’ is one that we need to translate beyond this current crisis. And we will emerge as a stronger economy and a stronger society if we take the principles such as unions and employers working together in the common interests, if we take into account ongoing cooperation between different levels of government to achieve outcome rather than just produced arguments. If we invest, we’re going to need to invest in infrastructure. And today I have been with Kristy McBain on the Barton Highway at Murrumbateman on the way to Yass talking about the need to invest there. During the last campaign, myself and Mike Kelly stood at that very spot and committed $250 million to the upgrade. That’s a commitment that was more than double what the Coalition offered. And we’ve seen just $1.7 million a year spent on the highway since the change of government, it has been cut by more than two thirds the annual spending on that highway. But it really needs a significant upgrade because coming out of this crisis, we need to create jobs and we need to get the economy going again.


BARKER: Yes, that’s right. I was going to mention as well as talking about stimulating the economy, you mentioned one way to do that would be to revitalise the manufacturing sector by using cheap and clean energy, as well as commencing large infrastructure projects like the High Speed Rail. Would you say the two are linked in the sense that using cheaper, cleaner energy like solar or wind to start these sorts of large projects would be more beneficial than using the existing energy sources like coal or gas?


ALBANESE: Well, we know that it is the cheapest form. So, I visited at the end of last year, for example, the Rio Tinto aluminium refinery in Gladstone. It is probably Gladstone’s most important asset. They want to double the capacity by using solar energy. And one of the things that is seen as a theme in the speech as well is decentralisation and regional jobs. We can have an advanced manufacturing sector in this country using the fact that we have an abundance of clean energy resources, whether it be solar or wind, or newer resources in terms of their utilisation like hydrogen to drive that high value manufacture to create jobs in regional economy to aid decentralisation. And I think there is a huge opportunity for Australia, given we are in the fastest growing region of the world in human history, to be able to achieve that.


BARKER: Yes, good point. I’ll just bring it a bit more local now. You’ve recently endorsed the Bega Valley Shire Mayor, Kristy McBain, as Labor’s candidate for the upcoming Eden-Monaro by-election. Mike Kelly’s left some pretty big shoes to fill. And it’s a big call to go from Mayor of a rural shire to running for a Federal seat. What qualities do you feel that Kristy McBain can bring to the electorate of Eden-Monaro?


ALBANESE: Look, I’ve seen Kristy in action for almost a decade now. And she has stood out as a local representative with enormous talent, commitment and capacity to advocate for her community. And no less than the bushfires, of course, she was out there campaigning in the lead-up to the bushfires saying that we needed to heed the warnings which were being made, which the science and the experts were telling us were there. And she had that very strong commitment. And it shows. And she also has been the Deputy Chair of the region’s Councils that contains all of the Eden-Monaro electorate as well as the ACT and even right down to Gippsland. So, I have no doubt that Kristy can fill the shoes of Mike Kelly. Mike’s been an outstanding advocate for the community and it’s a big loss. And it’s a pity that he had to go through the health concerns which have arisen from his military service. But Kristy, I think, is an outstanding candidate. It was very clear to everyone that she should be the candidate. And that stands in stark contrast to the other side of politics who have been through their first choice, their second choice, and their third choice and they are down to their fourth or fifth for who they choose in a delayed fashion to be their candidate. Kristy’s concerned about the people of Eden-Monaro whereas our opponents seem to be concerned about themselves and their careers.


BARKER: Those fires that have ripped through the south coast were a big challenge for everyone.


ALBANESE: They were enormous. I was at Club Sapphire in Merimbula with Kristy last week, and there we had the CEO and the President of the club, a club where a thousand people spent eight nights including, they had people sleeping on treadmills, sleeping in the showers, sleeping everywhere, just to try and get by. And the leadership that Kristy showed her local community during that period was just outstanding. And they told me a story about Kristy and her husband Brad, who is a plumber, arriving there one of the days that there were some problems with the showers. So, out they went to the utes, collected the tools and fixed the showers. Just on the spot. It’s the sort of ‘can do’ attitude that Kristy brings to the seat. And I’m very proud that she is the candidate. And I look forward to working with her on the campaign. And I sincerely hope that she receives the support of the electorate. I am sure the electorate will grow, those who don’t know her, will grow to love her. Just like her local community clearly do.


BARKER: People really sort of came together to help each other out during the time. I just want to bring it a little bit more local now to the Barton Highway. You mentioned it before. It’s a pretty busy road. According to a 2017 review, anywhere from eight to twelve and a half thousand vehicles travel on it every day and duplication has been the topic of discussion for years here in Yass and in the surrounding area. You, in April of last year, the Labor Party committed to duplicating the highway. However, many Yass Valley residents remain sceptical because there’s been many promises. What is different this time around that the highway commuters and residents should take notice?


ALBANESE: Well, every single commitment I made as Infrastructure Minister was delivered. Every single one. Whether it be Majura Parkway, which has aided the residents of Cooma, whether it be the Bega Bypass. We committed, of course, to upgrades on the Barton Highway and spent more than three times what the current Government is spending each year. Projects like Gocup Road. We committed a range of projects when we doubled the roads budget, while I was the Infrastructure Minister. So, I have got a record of delivering. And a Government that I lead would deliver again, and we would deliver the full duplication. That was a major commitment that we made. And it is necessary. Of those twelve and a half thousand vehicles that use the road every day, about 1,000 of those are trucks. And we saw this morning on the road, with our own eyes again, I have travelled the road many times with Mike Kelly, and we saw those heavy vehicles and that’s why it needs to be delivered. And it should be an absolute priority. And it would be an absolute priority of a Government that I lead.


BARKER: It’s a busy road. It’s probably not quite as busy as it normally is with the restrictions and social restrictions, but it does get very busy particularly around peak hours.


ALBANESE: Absolutely. And it’s a major thoroughfare, the major thoroughfare, of course, between two important cities; our national capital and Yass.


BARKER: That’s right. Thank you very much for your time today on Yass FM. And thanks for joining us. Will you be coming into Yass or are you just passing through?


ALBANESE: Parliament is sitting today. So, we’ll be coming in next week. We’ll be down there early next week and going to Yass and Tumut and to other parts in the region. This will be an important by-election. It’s important that people have the opportunity to send a message to the Government that they need to do better, that their ignoring of projects like the Barton Highway isn’t good enough. And this is an opportunity at this by-election to send that message for the Government to lift its game.


BARKER: Absolutely. Thanks again for your time. Anything else you’d like to add?


ALBANESE: No. Thanks very much. Thank you very much for having me on the program.


BARKER: Appreciate your time. Thank you, Mr Albanese.