Apr 7, 2020







SUBJECTS: Coronavirus; Parliament sitting to pass JobKeeper legislation; issues with JobKeeper payment; constructive role of Labor during coronavirus; coronavirus modelling; transparency from authorities during coronavirus; spending Easter at home; George Pell.


KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: We are now joined by the Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese. Anthony, thanks for your time. Let’s start with the big news of the day.




GILBERT: The High Court decision, quashing the convictions against Australia’s most senior Catholic. What are your thoughts, your reaction to that?


ALBANESE: Look, we have an independent judiciary from the political system. And that’s a good thing. The functions of the courts are to operate independently. They’ve made their determination. It will be a difficult day today, I think, for many of the victims of child sexual abuse that came out of the Royal Commission, of course, exposed across institutions, including religious institutions, but also institutions such as the Boy Scouts and others, when you have any decisions that relate to those issues, I think it’s always difficult. And I’m very proud of being a part of the Gillard Government and Julia Gillard’s courageous decision to establish the Royal Commission. But we respect decisions of the courts. And it’s not up to politicians to comment on them.


GILBERT: You’ve seen, let’s get back to the other story which is dominating our focus this week here at Parliament and that is the coronavirus response, the modelling that’s been released. It’s encouraging, isn’t it, that the curve looks like it’s flattening. Are you encouraged by it?


ALBANESE: Look, I am encouraged. We need to be vigilant, though, as the Chief Medical Officer and others have said. What we have seen in some other countries is that there can be up-turns again. And certainly, the concern which is there now is for transmission to have occurred, not so much from up to this point it’s been people coming from overseas, whether it be by plane or, of course, most infamously by cruise ship, coming to Australia and the disease spreading from there. Now it’s about community transmission, which is why we need to be vigilant and need to continue to work together all of us as a community to make sure that we beat this disease, and that we can return to normal as soon as possible.


GILBERT: And the message from the PM and the Chief Medical Officer, and I’m sure yourself as well, over Easter to just stay at home.


ALBANESE: Absolutely. Stay at home and wait for the Easter Bunny to come.


GILBERT: Exactly. There’ll be a bit of that at my place.


ALBANESE: I’m sure that they will visit you, Kieran.


GILBERT: In terms of the economic response, we’ve got the legislation this week. What’s your position on this? You’re going to put the amendments, we know that, your suggested changes. What do you make of what Andrew Clennell asked the Prime Minister about those businesses of a billion-dollar turnover? Because it’s a blunt instrument where you’ve got, say, a business of a billion-dollar turnover but a small profit where an $800 million turnover, massive profit gets the JobKeeper set-up. What’s your position on that? Should there be change?


ALBANESE: Well, Andrew Clennell is pointing out the anomaly which is there. And it’s an anomaly that arises from the fact that when we’re looking at the JobKeeper payments, we’re not looking at the individual worker and whether they need it and what their circumstances are. We’re looking at the employer. Now, because of that, that creates distortions so that people in exactly the same circumstance can receive different outcomes depending upon who they work for. And what’s more, it’s a bit even more problematic than what the comments I’ve heard Andrew make in the question he asked the PM. Because in part it could be determined by what the structure of the company is, that is if a company is structured so that they have a number of BAS payments, so, rather than as a single entity, then that can make them more likely to be eligible for the JobKeeper payment than a company that is a single entity and the way that they are organised financially. So, I think that there are a range of issues that need to be looked at. There are one million Australian casuals, a bit more than that, who won’t be eligible as the structure of the systems currently designed. And these are issues in which we say to the Government, that it should give consideration to it. That it is, after all, about people. It’s about the job keeper, if you like, the worker, not so much about the structure of the employer. And that is a concern that we have. It’s one that we’ve raised. We’ll be, of course, supporting the package go through. We won’t do anything to hold it up. But we will continue to suggest improvements to the Government and hope that the Government sees the common sense of what we’re putting forward just as they did the last time Parliament sat where they agreed to extend the supplementary payments to Austudy, Abstudy and Youth Allowance.


GILBERT: And will you have a chance to do that? When will you meet with them on that?


ALBANESE: Well, we have indicated, we met with the Government last Thursday, we raised each of the issues. And we just hope that they consider it. If not, we’ll certainly be raising issues in the Parliament. We have made it clear from, I think I spoke to you Kieran, just hours after it was released, and indicated our support for wage subsidies. And that’s why we’ll be supporting the package at the end of the day. But we do say that no one has, no individual or no political party, has a monopoly on common sense and on good policy. And they should be prepared to listen, I think, and be flexible. We will wait and see what happens. There’s been some changes worked out in the way that the Fair Work Act will apply. That’s been sorted through. So, the Government has shown a capacity to be flexible. I think they should be. Because we shouldn’t have workers treated differently depending upon just who their employer is.


GILBERT: Mr Albanese, as always, appreciate your time.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Kieran.