Jan 7, 2021







SUBJECTS: COVID-19 vaccine rollout; COVID-19 restrictions; quarantine measures; National Cabinet; need for a national approach to COVID-19; protests in Washington; Australia’s relationship with the United States; democracy.


JOURNALIST: Anthony Albanese, thanks for joining us.




JOURNALIST: Let’s just start with the vaccine rollout, if we can. You’re welcoming this vaccine being brought forward now to February from what was late March earlier in the week?


ALBANESE: Of course. We have been calling for this since the end of last year. We have called for it repeatedly. It makes no sense that the TGA could approve a vaccine in January and then it wouldn’t be available for rollout until late March. When we suggested this repeatedly, Scott Morrison for the last weeks has been saying that was a dangerous idea. Now it appears his definition of ‘dangerous’ is an idea that someone else has come up with, that he eventually reluctantly adopts.


JOURNALIST: But the Prime Minister and the Health Minister in their media conference today said that only recently had the Therapeutic Goods Administration say that this timeline outlined today could be achieved. Isn’t it fair that once that new information had come to hand that the Government shifts the timeline after that?


ALBANESE: There is no new information here. The TGA has been saying it would approve the vaccine in January. The only thing that’s new might be some polling or some focus groups that Scott Morrison has done. That seems to be the basis upon which he makes decisions. It’s certainly not providing the leadership that’s required. We need a vaccine. We need it rolled out as soon as possible. Common sense tells you that once the TGA approval comes through in January then it should be rolled out as soon as possible. It is good the Prime Minister has reluctantly agreed to this.


JOURNALIST: This, of course, the rollout schedule relies on multiple factors, including the delivery of the Pfizer vaccine from overseas as well as the importation of the AstraZeneca vaccine a little later. And the Government is saying this is the timeline, but we will rely on those companies coming through with their end of the deal. Do you have any concerns that this timeline of February could fall over in any way, shape or form?


ALBANESE: Look, the TGA we have confidence in. That’s why we have expressed our support for its independence. But the Government has put out a range of information, one, in being critical of Labor’s common-sense call for the rollout that they have now adopted, and just yesterday the Prime Minister was saying that Britain hadn’t undertaken batch testing for the rollout of vaccines. And, of course, Britain is doing that, something that their health organisation made very clear. And the Prime Minister had to retract those comments last night.


JOURNALIST: Just briefly, before we come to the United States issue, the National Cabinet is meeting urgently on Friday to discuss the UK variant of COVID-19. What extra measures do you say should be adopted at that meeting?


ALBANESE: There needs to actually be a national approach. At the moment the states, by and large, have been left in charge of activities, even things that are Federal responsibilities, such as quarantining. The Federal Government needs to show leadership, to respond to recommendations such as that made by Jane Halton about getting national quarantine facilities in place. We need to make sure there’s better and more consistent national coordination across the board, and we need to have more regular meetings. We shouldn’t have had a two-month gap with was what was envisaged as well with the meeting scheduled on February 4. And certainly, the Prime Minister who called off National Cabinet because he was campaigning in the Queensland state election for the LNP, he shouldn’t call off any future Cabinet meetings if he chooses to campaign in the WA state election as well. He needs to give that commitment, I think. And to work with the states, not to continue to do what he has done up to this point, which is to be critical of Labor states, but be silent when Coalition-held states are doing exactly the same thing on issues like state border controls.


JOURNALIST: Just lastly, what do you make of the scenes that we have seen out of Washington, DC today? The actions of the protesters and, of course, the actions of the outgoing US President Donald Trump?


ALBANESE: This wasn’t a protest, it was an insurrection. And it was an attack on our democracy. It is unfortunate that Donald Trump made comments which encouraged this activity and continues to say that the democratic processes in the United States were somehow not legitimate. The good news is that the United States democracy is strong. It will survive today’s activities and, indeed, the confirmation of the processes of democracy, including that required by the Constitution, will be undertaken by the Congress in the Senate today. So, this insurrection has not been successful. But it is important that people in positions of responsibility, whether they be the President of the United States, people in the media, stop with the conspiracy theories because it clearly has consequences for people. Democracy is precious. It needs to be given support. And the good news is that today, the United States’ democracy not only continues, but I believe will be strengthened as a result of the overwhelming response of the American people, regardless of who they supported in the election, regardless of whether they are Democrats or Republicans traditionally. I think they will recoil in horror at the scenes that we saw at the Capitol Building today.


JOURNALIST: Anthony Albanese, thanks for your time today.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much.