May 12, 2020





TUESDAY, 12 MAY 2020


SUBJECTS: Australia beyond coronavirus; JobSeeker/Newstart payments; sports rorts saga; Alan Jones retiring from radio.


LISA MILLAR, HOST: Anthony Albanese is one of the MPs there at Parliament House and he joins me now.




MILLAR: I am going to have to start with that breaking news out of Sydney. Alan Jones is retiring. He has not been a fan of yours at times over the years, or previous leaders. What’s your response?


ALBANESE: Look, Alan Jones, it’s fair to say that we’ve had the odd different opinion, but I certainly respect his contribution to the media over such a long period of time. For him to win the ratings as he has, for not years but a couple of decades, is an outstanding achievement. One of the things about Alan that I’ve had a bit to do with him is our South Sydney connection. I know that he raises a lot of money for charity and a lot of the things that he has done, no-one knows about it, he just quietly goes about making a contribution to many charities. And I’m sure he will continue to do that. I wish him well.


MILLAR: Thank you. Turning to what’s going on today, of course, the Treasurer is going to say that $320 billion that has been allocated to try to help people and fix the economy as we go through this crisis is it. There is no money tree. There is not going to be anything left. What do you say to that?


ALBANESE: Well, what I say is that some of the design of the Treasurer’s scheme has just been wrong. If you’re a mum with three kids who has been in a job for 11 months, you don’t get any support, but many students out there working their way through uni, working half a dozen hours a week, earning $100 have suddenly found themselves earning $750. There is a whole lot of people who have missed out. The entire arts and entertainment sector has been forgotten. The one million casual employees, visa holders, they have been left behind. What happens when you leave people behind is that it delays the recovery. That’s the whole basis of the JobKeeper program, keeping that relationship between employers and employees. And it is a pity that the Government has left so many people out of the scheme at the same time as others have benefited more than they should.


MILLAR: Are you comfortable with the assurances the PM has given on JobKeeper that it will be staying in place until September?


ALBANESE: Well, of course, the Government briefed out a story on Sunday night that they were going to finish it early and then they scotched that yesterday. We will wait and see. What businesses do need is some certainty. And businesses are saying that if it ends early, that would have real consequences for people joining the unemployment queues. And we know that it is far easier to keep people in a job than it is to get people who are unemployed into a new job. That’s the whole basis for the wage subsidy scheme. That’s why we called for it. It is good that the Government adopted it, pity there are flaws in the scheme. But we will continue to be constructive as we have been the whole way through this crisis.


MILLAR: So, you’re saying you don’t believe the Prime Minister, that you think that it could still be pulled early?


ALBANESE: Well, they changed their mind. Which story do you believe? Yesterday morning they had briefed out through Samantha Maiden that they were considering cutting it. We will wait and see. What we need is some consistency. The legislation that has been passed clearly says that it is in place for the six-month period. I also am very sceptical about the idea of snapback that the Prime Minister has also spoken about. The idea that it all just ends abruptly. So, one day there is a whole lot of support there, the next day there is nothing at all. With JobSeeker similarly, one day it doubled and the next day it is halved. That seems to me to be a very brutal way of running an economy. That will have real consequences unless the Government actually smooths out the transition. We obviously do need to shift away. These mechanisms won’t be in place forever, but the idea of snap-back is, I think, a false one. And that has raised a whole lot of concern out there from businesses who have raised it with me.


MILLAR: So, are you concerned at the speed then that some of the states are lifting restrictions?


ALBANESE: No, look, I think it’s appropriate that the states be left to take the advice that they have. This pandemic hasn’t had a uniformed impact. It has had a particular impact on New South Wales and Victoria, and therefore it is appropriate that the restrictions be in place for longer in those states. No-one wants these restrictions in place for one day more than necessary, both because of its impact on the economy, but also its impact just on how we deal with our daily lives. I miss watching the footy, too. I miss talking and being able to gather with my family and friends. I’m in a job. My job is to meet people, that’s the whole business of politics, is engagement with the electorate. And those restrictions are difficult, but they have been necessary to keep us safe and keep us healthy.


MILLAR: Just finally, the Opposition has clearly indicated it is going to go the Prime Minister on the sports rorts inquiry again. Given that we are still in crisis, is that a dilemma for you, this whole idea of political cooperation, we’re all in this together, are you saying we’re not now?


ALBANESE: No, what I’m saying very clearly is that we have put the national interest first. We haven’t played, if you compare the way that we’ve conducted ourselves with the, frankly, immature response of the Victorian Liberal Party to Dan Andrews’ Government, I think there is a stark contrast there. We have been constructive. We’ve looked for solutions rather than arguments. We have pointed out some of the weaknesses that have been there. Had we not argued for a wage subsidy, I think the economy would have been far worse. But that doesn’t mean that the Prime Minister can just get off scot-free from misleading the Parliament and the National Audit Office have said that he was the authority for the approval of the sports rorts grants. That, of course, not only allocated a whole lot of money on the basis of political decision-making, not on the basis of need, but really ripped-off those volunteers who spent hundreds of hours putting submissions in for a program that they thought was fair dinkum, when the fix was in. When it not only went through the PM and the PM’s office, it went through the Liberal Party’s campaign. And candidates, not just Members of Parliament, had that direct input. This is a massive scandal and the Prime Minister clearly has misled the Parliament.


MILLAR: So, all bets off on that. There is a lot to unpack there. I’m afraid, we have to leave it there. We are right out of time, but thanks for joining us this morning.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Lisa.