Sep 16, 2020






SUBJECTS: Australians stranded overseas; ALP platform; energy; gas; Government’s 19th energy policy.


MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: Federal Labor is adding pressure on Australia’s international border closures, calling for the military to bring stranded Australians home. We are joined now by the Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese. Mr Albanese, good morning.




ROWLAND: What would you like the RAAF to do here?


ALBANESE: Well, what we know is that the Prime Minister and the Governor-General both have access to a large jet that’s capable, it’s the very planes that travel to Europe, to the United States. There are also smaller planes that can travel to the region. And they’re sitting idle. By and large, the Prime Minister, the Governor-General, like other Australians, aren’t travelling interstate at moment. Those planes are idle, as well as, of course, the possibility of chartering Qantas jets. There isn’t a shortage of planes that are sitting idle at the moment. There also has never been more hotel space. What we have is a Prime Minister saying, ‘It is all too hard’. There is 25,000 Australians stranded. We know many of them are absolutely desperate to get home.


ROWLAND: Okay. You’d support the lifting of the 4,000 a week cap on arrivals?


ALBANESE: Of course. Common sense has to take place here. The Northern Territory yesterday, for example, pointed out that they have a facility that can fit up to 3,000 people, just outside of Darwin. It was used earlier on. Christmas Island was used earlier on. There are a whole range of Commonwealth facilities in addition to hotel space that Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory have all said they’re prepared to do more with some support from the Commonwealth. It appears to me that early on the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said ‘Oh, well, people were told they should come home. They haven’t come home. So, it’s bad luck for them.’ That fails to recognise the reality of the circumstances in which Australians find themselves in.


ROWLAND: There are no shortage of flights, as you say. Isn’t the issue the capacity of not so much the hotel systems, but the state and territory health systems to deal with the, what you’re arguing for, a big increase in the number of Australians returning home?


ALBANESE: Well, look, it’s the Commonwealth’s responsibility to look after our national borders, but it’s also the Commonwealth’s responsibility on quarantine. What we’ve had through this so-called National Cabinet, that isn’t national and no longer looks anything like a Cabinet, is the Prime Minister handing off these core responsibilities to the states and then being critical of the states. It seems to me that the only thing that’s lacking here is national leadership. Scott Morrison is in a position to do so. And that’s underlined by the fact that he does have access to RAAF aircraft. And in terms of those aircraft, of course, one of the things that will be that will be occurring is that the RAAF personnel have to get their hours up. They will be flying around empty.


ROWLAND: What are you proposing? How will the Federal Government run the quarantine? Federal health officials dealing with the arrivals in the hotel rooms? How would it work in practice?


ALBANESE: Well, the Federal Government look after quarantine and look after a range of facilities all of the time.


ROWLAND: But are the numbers there, I guess, is what I’m asking.


ALBANESE: They did so earlier on. The facility, for example, in Darwin, it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of the Commonwealth of Australia. We’re not talking about millions of people here. We’re talking about numbers of people, not all of them would, of course, want to come home. But we know that large numbers do. And we know that the circumstances whereby a young mum with a one-year-old gets told in London to ‘find a homeless shelter to stay in’ is simply unacceptable in 2020. The Commonwealth does have responsibility to Australian citizens. And at the moment, they have just thrown their hands up in the air and they’re saying, ’It is too hard.’


ROWLAND: The draft ALP platform, a preliminary version, was circulating yesterday. There was no reference to medium-term emissions reduction target under a Labor government. Will you take a medium-term, 2030/2035 emissions reduction target to the next election?


ALBANESE: Well, 2030 isn’t a medium-term target, Michael.


ROWLAND: I will reframe the question. Will you take a target that is set before 2050 to the next election?


ALBANESE: We will take a comprehensive plan to get to zero net emissions by 2050 to the next election. That will include a range of issues, both how we’ll get there, but also consistent with that end objective. We determined the 2030 target in 2015, Michael. Since then, there’s been two elections. By the next election, there would have been three and we would have been halfway through the period. It’s absurd frankly. It is an obsession.


ROWLAND: No targets before 2050?


ALBANESE: I’m not saying that at all, Michael. Not saying that at all. There will be an ALP National Conference. There is a process. We are working it through. Everyone knows what the end point is. But you need to know when you speak about medium-term targets, what’s your starting point, Michael? I will ask you that question?


ROWLAND: Well, I’m the one asking the questions here. What do you see as the starting point? What would you argue is the starting point?


ALBANESE: You need to know what if starting point is. Well, the starting point is when we come to office. That’s the starting point. So, you need to know where you’re at prior to the election. We will know where we’re at prior to the election. This Government yesterday released its 19th energy policy, Michael. We will wait and see how many more they come up with between now and the next election.


ROWLAND: Just on that, do you support a key proponent of that policy announced yesterday, that the Prime Minister saying if the private sector doesn’t step up, the Government would back the building of a gas generator in the Hunter Valley?


ALBANESE: Look, this Prime Minister makes a different position every week and every month on these policies.


ROWLAND: Do you support the position, though?


ALBANESE: Remember, they spent years saying that Liddell should be kept open. That was their position up till now. And the problem is that’s the only thing that’s held back investment. If you speak to AGL, speak to AEMO, Australian Energy Market Operator, what they will say, and I met with them earlier this week, what they will say is the thing that is holding back investment is an actual plan, a framework for policy. That’s what’s required. We wrote to the Prime Minister in June offering to sit down and work out that framework. Not to agree on targets, but you could agree on a framework, be it a NEG or a clean energy target, that would drive that investment. That’s what industry is crying out for.


ROWLAND: Just about out of time. Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, thank you for joining us on News Breakfast.


ALBANESE: Thank you very much, Michael.