Dec 23, 2020





SUBJECTS: Sydney Northern Beaches coronavirus outbreak; COVID-19 vaccine; new strain of COVID-19 in the UK; being Labor Leader; Australian Labor Party; economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.


MADELEINE MORRIS, HOST: Federal Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, is calling for COVID-19 vaccines to be available more quickly. He joins us now from Sydney’s Inner West. Mr Albanese, good morning.




MORRIS: So, the Federal Government’s timeline is March, the beginning of March rollout. What are your questions about that? What would you like to see happen?


ALBANESE: Well, the problem here is, Mads, that the Federal Government is saying that the TGA, the appropriate body which Labor supports and supports being able to do its work without interference, will make a decision with regard to the Pfizer vaccine in January, but the rollout won’t commence until March under the agreement that the Federal Government has. That makes no sense. If the approval is made in January, it should be rolled out in January as a matter of urgency. And also, there’s only been provision made for 10 million doses. Quite clearly, we’re going to need more than that. And so, we need more vaccines, more quickly.


MORRIS: When we spoke to the Federal Health Minister earlier in the week about this, he said that they felt very comfortable waiting to see what happened in the UK, waiting to see what happened in the US, learn some of those lessons. And indeed, we have seen a couple of, just a handful, but some nonetheless of severe allergic reactions to the vaccine. Isn’t part of this building up confidence in the vaccine and educating people before we actually get to that point of jabs in the arm?


ALBANESE: Well, I tell you what, if there was a vaccine available, there would be queues that are much longer than the queues that have been there to have COVID testing in places like the Northern Beaches and, indeed, in the Inner West, in recent days. This is having an impact on people’s lives, it’s having an impact on their mental health, all those people who are going to miss out on sitting down for Christmas lunch with the family. And if the TGA approves the vaccine in January, it just seems to me incredibly complacent for the Government to say, ‘No, we’ll just sit around for another couple of months before it’s available.’ Surely, we should be making it available as soon as possible. We had President-elect Biden take the vaccine on national TV in the United States just yesterday. So, we support very much the independence of the TGA and its processes. But it’s going through it. Once the TGA approves a vaccine, like any other drug, then what they’re saying, the professional body, is that it’s ready to go. Well, if it’s ready to go, let’s roll it out.


MORRIS: Can I just ask you about the process that’s gone through for actually ordering the vaccines because we heavily banked on the UQ vaccine, which as we know failed. The second one we had the most doses of was the AstraZeneca vaccine which, from what we understand, has less efficacy. Did we back the wrong horse, effectively, in our vaccine strategy? And if so, how would you have change that? How would you have done it differently?


ALBANESE: Well, we would have done what we said should happen last year which was we should have, it is not that we backed the wrong horse, we haven’t backed enough horses. The world’s best practice is to have six deals lined up. Australia at the moment has three. So, half world’s best practice.


MORRIS: I understand that we have five. I thought we had five, Mr Albanese?


ALBANESE: No, we had four. But UQ fell over. You know, great work being done. These things will happen. That’s why you need to make sure that you hedge your bets. And we were very slow. People started signing up to these deals in Europe and in other countries in March. We didn’t start signing up until September. And the Government needs to get a move-on here. They need to explain why it is that we it is that have to wait until March if the TGA approves the Pfizer vaccine in January.


MORRIS: Can I just ask you about this new strain, this new variant of COVID-19 that’s emanating out of the UK? Now, we have been told there are four confirmed cases, all in hotel quarantine, in Australia. Should Australia be following the lead of 50 other countries and be stopping flights from the UK because of this?


ALBANESE: Well, what we should be doing is taking the best possible medical advice. We have been very consistent in this, which is throughout the COVID period that we have had to deal with, Labor has said, ‘Listen to the best medical advice and take it. Err on the side of caution’ if you like. We backed all the state premiers, for example, when they made decisions, they have made tough decisions, but they have been decisions in the interests of their respective populations. And unlike the Government, we haven’t let the political determination make a difference, whether it’s a Labor Premier or a Liberal Premier.


MORRIS: Just to get an answer on that from you, if the medical advice is we don’t need to do that, you’re happy to follow that?


ALBANESE: That’s correct. We need to follow the medical advice. What you don’t want is politicians second-guessing medical advice.


MORRIS: Okay. Can I ask you one final question, Mr Albanese? Probably will be the last time we speak to you this year. There has been criticism of your leadership this year that you failed to cut through against the Government. Will you be seeing out the next year as Labor Leader?


ALBANESE: Absolutely, Mads. The issues that we have just been discussing, we have had a crisis this year in this country. This hasn’t been business-as-usual. I tell you how you cut through in some of the tabloids, Mads, you make outrageous claims and you attack the Government for its own sake. We have been constructive. I make no apologies for that. And that’s one of the reasons why we’re so competitive in the polls. The fact is that come the next election, one of the things that I’ll be campaigning on as the Leader of the Labor Party is, unlike the Coalition during the Global Financial Crisis, we have been responsible, we have put the national interest first, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re ready to govern. Whenever the election is called, we have an alternative plan to roll out. We want an economic recovery that actually works for Australians and actually doesn’t leave people behind and allows people to not just to build back to what was there, but to build an even stronger Australia, a fairer Australia, and one which doesn’t leave people behind.


MORRIS: Alright. Mr Albanese, we’ll have to leave it there. We’ll be keeping your fingers crossed for you in Sydney there for good news in the coming hours.


ALBANESE: Indeed. I think we’re all hoping for good news, but we’re all also, I think, incredibly proud of each other, the work that Sydneysiders have done, particularly those on the Northern Beaches, has been terrific.




ALBANESE: This has been an example of people really looking after each other. That’s the great Australian spirit. And a Merry Christmas to you and to all the listeners in that same spirit.


MORRIS: And to you, too. Anthony Albanese, thank you.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much.