Jul 3, 2020







SUBJECTS: Eden-Monaro by-election; foreign interference; bushfire recovery; Australian Labor Party.


JONATHAN KEARSLEY, JOURNALIST: Anthony Albanese, welcome to Eden-Monaro. Thank you very much for your time. You spent a lot of time in this area in the lead-up to the by-election. You really love campaigning, don’t you?


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: I love campaigning. It’s an opportunity to talk with people, to hear their concerns, to hear about their lives. And we live in a very diverse country, even the electorate of Eden-Monaro. Here we are in Bumbalong, which is very different from the coastal regions and different again from the Snowy or even different from the agricultural areas around Batlow and Adelong. So, this is a very diverse electorate. It’s a diverse country. But Australians are good people. And here we’ve been welcomed, a nice cup of tea and a bikkie from people who are doing it tough.


KEARSLEY: How much of a focus is what happened with the bushfires here in Eden-Monaro?


ALBANESE: Well, people feel like they’ve been left behind because they have. The fact that you still have debris that hasn’t been collected here in this small community, but that is echoed right around the electorate. The fact that too many small businesses haven’t got any support.


KEARSLEY: Malcolm Turnbull said the Super Saturday by-elections were a test of his leadership two years ago, do you see this as a test of your leadership?


ALBANESE: Well, I see it as being about the people of Eden-Monaro. During the bushfire crisis, I was on the ground in different parts of the country that was impacted in what were unprecedented fires. This was not business as usual, as the Government indicated in the months and weeks leading up to the absolute crisis and the catastrophic fires that we saw. I think that the recovery, as well, has been inadequate. And I’ve been just focused on the people of Eden-Monaro like I’m focused on the people right around the country.


KEARSLEY: Are you worried if things don’t go your way in those areas, that could have an impact on your leadership?


ALBANESE: No, I’m worried about the future of the country, that is my concern. And I want a country that comes through this crisis stronger. We had droughts, then we had bushfires, then COVID-19. We need to make sure that the economic recovery doesn’t just try to go back to what we’ve had but that we take this opportunity to think about how what is a great country can be even better into the future in terms of jobs, in terms of economic recovery, in terms of decentralisation and getting support in the regions.


KEARSLEY: On the economic recovery, how would you rate Scott Morrison’s performance as Prime Minister in the handling of this coronavirus pandemic?


ALBANESE: Look, I think that the Prime Minister and the premiers and chief ministers have worked together and been constructive. And they’ve worked together with the Federal Opposition as well. We supported all of the stimulus packages. We wanted to make sure that we didn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. But that isn’t without its problems. Superannuation, the fact that so many people will retire with less income than they would have because they’ve been forced to take their super out.


KEARSLEY: But if it doesn’t go well, do you worry that by next week there are questions from colleagues about your future?


ALBANESE: Look, we will continue to pursue the issue of people who need assistance and support on the ground. These are communities that are doing incredibly tough. And we know how many lives were lost during the bushfires. What we don’t have is an accurate figure of how many lives have been lost as a result of the bushfires since. But we know that communities have been impacted. Communities like Cobargo and Quaama have lost people in recent weeks. And we know that sends a big message that we need more support for these communities. Australians were incredibly generous during the bushfire crisis. They put their hands in their pockets. They provided that support for people who were doing it tough. We need that to continue for those communities. And Saturday is just a step. It’s a by-election that’s important.


KEARSLEY: How important is it?


ALBANESE: Well, it is an important by-election. All elections are important.


KEARSLEY: The last month or so there’s been issues within the Labor Party, branch stalking allegations in Victoria with Adem Somyurek, corruption allegations as well. There’s been an ASIO investigation into alleged foreign interference in the New South Wales Labor Party. How can voters trust you when you have these issues in your party?


ALBANESE: Well, there have been issues in the Liberal Party over a long period of time, of course.


KEARSLEY: But this is your party I’m talking about, Mr Albanese.


ALBANESE: Indeed. And there are real issues that have been dealt with and will be dealt with in the future. I’m someone who can be trusted because I’ve had a long period in public life. No one suggested that I haven’t done my best based upon the values that I hold. My values, I think, are very clear to Australians. At times there are individuals who’ve done the wrong thing in all political parties, whether it be the Liberal Party, the National Party was infiltrated by people who were young fascists.


KEARSLEY: But this is about your party at this time.


ALBANESE: And we have accepted the responses. And what we did was to act immediately. And I think people saw that strong action. We immediately removed Adem Somyurek from the Party. And we’ve dealt with issues as they’ve arisen. From time to time they do arise in political parties. What’s important is how you deal with it. I dealt with it strongly, along with Daniel Andrews.


KEARSLEY: How concerned are you about Chinese foreign interference in Australia?


ALBANESE: That’s an issue for the whole of Australian politics.


KEARSLEY: How significant of a risk is the Chinese Communist Party to Australia?


ALBANESE: From time to time, what we know is that foreign governments will try and interfere in Australian politics. Not just China. That’s why we passed and supported the foreign interference laws. We need to be vigilant and make sure that there is no outside interference in our politics. We’ll continue to take strong action as we have in the past.


KEARSLEY: You will be campaigning at the next election to be the next Australian Prime Minister. What concerns do you have about Chinese influence in the region?


ALBANESE: We need to recognise that China has changed the way that it is engaging in international politics. It’s more forward-leaning, and that requires a response. That’s why we’ve seen bipartisan support for foreign interference laws. That’s why Labor sought, and it was opposed by the Coalition by the way, to outlaw donations from foreign sources. That’s why we need to be vigilant and make sure that our politics are kept clean. That’s why, as well, Labor supports a National Integrity Commission. The Coalition Government promised it before the last election. We were talking about it way back in 2019. Two years later, they can’t be bothered introducing that legislation into the Parliament.


KEARSLEY: You’ve had plenty to say on the attack about Scott Morrison throughout the course of this pandemic, either in Parliament, outside or even prior to the pandemic. What do you like about him?


ALBANESE: He is someone who I think is a family man. I think that him and Jenny have a good relationship. She’s a nice woman. When Parliament was resumed, her and my son, Nathan, were chatting away and had a good discussion. And he has different values to me. But I respect anyone who wants to make a contribution of public life. You give up a lot to do that. He’s given up a lot in terms of his entry into public life. And I think that is deserving of respect.


KEARSLEY: Anthony Albanese, thanks very much for your time.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Jono.