ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
ABC NEWS BREAKFAST
TUESDAY, 7 APRIL 2020
SUBJECTS: Coronavirus; Parliament sitting to pass JobKeeper legislation; constructive role of Labor during coronavirus; coronavirus modelling; transparency from authorities during coronavirus.
LISA MILLAR, HOST: Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, has been broadly supportive of the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and he joins us now. Good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, Lisa.
MILLAR: Just on this vote tomorrow, it now appears that Labor will support it. What’s made you satisfied? What’s put aside the issues that you had?
ALBANESE: Well, it’s just our approach on these issues, Lisa. We have been looking for solutions, not arguments. From the very beginning, we’ve never been looking for making the perfect, the enemy of the good. So, we still have issues and we hope to get further improvements in the legislation. What we’ve done is just exactly what we did on the first package where we were concerned about superannuation. We were concerned about some of the changes that were in there. But we weren’t about to play a role that was anything other than constructive. So, we’ll put forward our case, privately as we have, in the Parliament tomorrow if necessary, put forward some improvements that we think could be made to the legislation. But it is Labor, remember, that argued for a wage subsidy. It was dismissed by the Government. We’re pleased that they changed their mind and have recognised that it is absolutely critical that we keep that relationship between employers and employees during this difficult time.
MILLAR: Something has happened since Sunday when the ACTU boss, Sally McManus, voiced a lot of concern, especially about the 1.1 million casuals who were going to slip through the gaps here. So, what is this so-called deal between Christian Porter and Sally McManus that has been done that appears to now assure that this change will go through tomorrow?
ALBANESE: No, Lisa, let’s be very clear. The changes were always going to go through. And I said we would support the package one hour after it was announced. So, that was always our position. We remain concerned that 1.1 million casuals will miss out. We think that the legislation could be improved by making sure that they’re included, so that casuals, who could have expected to be in work, not people who just don’t have a relationship with work at all, don’t miss out.
MILLAR: But they are going to miss out because Christian Porter said that the line has been drawn.
ALBANESE: I understand that. And we’re against that. We were against the super changes. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to play a blocking role, Lisa. Because overall, the benefit of having wage subsidies is too important. So, we’ll continue to argue our case. We’ve done it privately and publicly. And I don’t know, but I’m sure that Sally McManus will have the same position. What the ACTU has been talking to the Government about is whether changes need to be made to the Fair Work Act. I understand that there’s been an agreement reached, a middle ground, if you like, where, perhaps, it’s that those changes might be made, but there might be an ongoing role for the commission. Perhaps it could be some middle ground. We’ll wait and see when that’s announced. We haven’t been a part of those negotiations. Let’s be very clear. The ACTU is not the Australian Labor Party. The ACTU have had separate negotiations with the Government, of which we haven’t been a party to those discussions.
MILLAR: Can I ask you about the modelling? Can I just confirm, also, what’s being released today? You haven’t seen it yet, have you?
ALBANESE: No. No, we haven’t, Lisa.
MILLAR: And you’ve been for it to come earlier. But has there been an argument that it’s not only complicated, but could add to the anxiety and panic? Do you agree with that at all?
ALBANESE: Look, certainly this is a judgement call. But the Government has now, clearly, agreed with what we’ve been saying for some time. That transparency is critical here. We want the public to trust authorities. We want them to obey the social distancing provisions which have been brought in, and which Australians, overwhelmingly, are doing with good will and it is making a difference those changes. But just as we want people to trust authorities, the authorities have got to trust the public as well. It’s a two-way relationship. And I think it will build trust and will encourage support for the measures that have been put in by bringing the public with those of us who have more information than others on the journey. We’re all in this together. People are entitled, I think, to know what is informing Government decisions, whether they be Federal or the state and territory governments.
MILLAR: You talk about transparency being critical. There seems to be growing disquiet that Parliament isn’t sitting again until August, and what kind of scrutiny will there be on all of this. What could be done, do you think?
ALBANESE: Well, Parliament could continue to sit. That’s the first thing, Lisa. Parliaments around the world are continuing to sit. And that’s important. We’re a democracy. And in a democracy, you don’t suspend it. It wasn’t suspended during the Spanish flu, or World War I or World War II. This is quite an extraordinary decision that the Government has made. And I think that Christian Porter, as the leader of the House, his dismissal that Government ministers have better things to do than sit in Parliament, was a bit breathtaking, frankly, for someone who holds that office. It can sit in a modified form, of course, as we are tomorrow. It’s showing that tomorrow will be effective, it will be constructive, it will be Parliament at its best. Partisan interests are put aside, certainly by us, and we’ll be acting in the national interest tomorrow. And I think that people can see that. It can build confidence. We expect our nurses, our teacher, our public transport worker, our cleaners, our supermarket workers, to go to work. And I think it’s not too much to ask that we do the same. We certainly will be advocating as well as a Senate Select Committee to oversee the position that is seeing this very large roll-out of Government funds. We want to make sure that that is used effectively and that there’s proper scrutiny of it. I believe that is best done through the entire Parliament, but the Government seems to be pretty intransigent on that issue. And I think that that is unfortunate. Frankly, I think that would do the country well to see the Parliament constructively, working together in the national interest.
MILLAR: Just finally and briefly if you don’t mind Mr Albanese, you’ve been critical of the Government previously for not going harder, faster, with its approach on the health side of things. Are you comfortable with where we’re at now? And also, perhaps the police response to a lot of the physical distancing, a lot of talk this morning about the $1,600 fine for the L-plater out driving with her mum?
ALBANESE: Well, I think by and large, we have got the balance right now. I was very concerned particularly that people were going through Sydney Airport with no checks at all, not even heat testing. I thought that was inadequate. And that was the case up until about ten days ago. And we know that most of the infections have come from people who have travelled overseas. So, I think we’re right to raise those issues. You look at the debacle of the Ruby Princess. Bipartisanship doesn’t imply silence. And our role is to raise issues, do it in a constructive way, look for solutions, rather than arguments and that’s what we’ve done.
MILLAR: Well, long may it continue, then. Anthony Albanese, thank you for your time this morning.
ALBANESE: Thank you very much, Lisa.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.