Apr 23, 2020







SUBJECTS: Police officers killed in Victoria; Coronavirus; economic implications of COVID-19; industrial relations; World Health Organization; wet markets.


LAURA JAYES, HOST: Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, joins me. Before we get to the issues of the day, Anthony Albanese, it’s so hard to know how to support police officers and families at this time. Four families are waking up today and their life will probably never be the same.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Certainly not, Laura. This is an extraordinary tragedy, the largest tragedy in the history of the Victorian police. It’s a reminder of the incredibly risky work that police officers do for all of us each and every day when they go to work, keeping us safe and the risks that they take. And our heart goes out to the family, the friends of these four police officers but also the entire police family. Every police officer today will be feeling this in their heart and their soul. Their families will be increasingly concerned particularly on a day like today. And it is one where we just shake our head at the extent of this tragedy. And we just recommit, I think, as a society to giving thanks to those who put themselves at risk in all of our interests.


JAYES: This comes at a time where we’re living amongst a global pandemic as well. And as Graham Ashton pointed out, so many people have wanted to pay tribute to these offices today, but they weren’t able to do so and will not be able to do so in the traditional sense. So, we ask that those tributes to be made online in a digital sense. So, just tragic circumstances all around. It seems to pale in comparison to what’s happened overnight as we turn our attention to what post-pandemic Australia might look like and how we might recover economically. But let’s press on. The Prime Minister today urging business and union to join forces on the other side of this and come up with a big reform agenda. Would you add your voice to that call this morning?


ALBANESE: Well, the Prime Minister needs to outline what that agenda is. And last week we saw industrial relations regulations changed without any reference or consultation with the trade union movement or with the Labor Party, or with the community. Regulations changed overnight by Christian Porter, which allow for an increase in power by employers by limiting the period of consultation for changes to awards to a 24-hour process so that individual workers and workers in particular workplaces would have a great deal of difficulty having proper advice and consultation on any proposed changes. So, I look at what people do not just what they say. I hope that some of the spirit that has been around during the recent period, whether it’s listening to science, whether it’s having respect for unions, I hope that does continue from this Government beyond the existing crisis, because that would be a good thing.


JAYES: What’s your starting point, though? Do you agree that it can’t just be business-as-usual on the other side, it was the Prime Minister asking business and union to join unions to join forces?


ALBANESE: Well, I absolutely agree. It shouldn’t be business-as-usual. We have reminded of how interdependent we are, Laura. We’ve been reminded that the job of reform is never done. We’ve got to remember that before this crisis occurred and before the bushfire crisis, we had a period whereby we had interest rates being decreased continually. You had wages not keeping up with the cost of living. You had consumer demand falling. You had productivity going backwards. You had the debt had doubled. So, you had all of the economic indicators were heading in the wrong direction, at the end of last year, and a Government that was complacent about the economy. So, we do need to look at ways in which we can increase wages. Ways in which we can improve security at work. That’s one of the reminders that we’ve had during this crisis, is that those people who’ve suffered most, those who are casual employees, those whose security of work is not there because of the changing nature of the workplace. So, it’s been a reminder there. It’s been a reminder that some of the contracting out that’s occurred for organisations like Centrelink meant that the public service just wasn’t in a position to do its job. That’s why we saw those enormous queues outside of Centrelink. It is a reminder that business and unions do have common interests that’s something, Laura, that’s been a theme of mine for a long period of time, as you know. And I’ve been criticised by some on the other side, and indeed, from time to time by some on my own side for saying that.


JAYES: There are common interests indeed. I guess, before I let you go this morning, I kind of want to get an idea of what your starting point is. Are you of the view that nothing should be taken off the table here? That there does need to be a big reform agenda when it comes to things like company tax cuts. You wouldn’t rule out support for that, given it was a package or part of a package of broader reforms?


ALBANESE: Well, not many companies will be paying tax over the over the next year, because of what’s been happening in the economy. There’ll be a major drop in company tax revenue is one of the things that we’re going to see. What I want is an economy that works for people, not people working for the economy. That’s the principle I bring to this. How do we actually come through this crisis in a way where people, it is working people that have got us through this, whether it be the nurses, the doctors, the teachers, the orderlies, the cleaners, the supermarket workers, the transport workers, they’ve got us through this crisis. And the Australian people in general, who have been so disciplined and so good about engaging in social distancing. And what we shouldn’t have is soon as we get through this crisis, let it rip for market forces approach whereby it’s working people who once again have to cop the brunt of any change. What we need is change in the interest of those people, not against their interest.


JAYES: And before I let you go. Just one last question. Wet markets have certainly been the subject of much talk here and around the world. David Littleproud on behalf of the Government has sought for those wet markets, particularly in China, to be phased out. Is that a good idea?


ALBANESE: Look, David Littleproud’s comments on this are spot on. He’s representing the Australian national interest, and on these issues, we need both to deal with the specifics of, what we’re talking about here to be clear isn’t all so-called wet market, the Sydney Fish Market is a wet market. What we’re talking about here is markets that are unregulated, that are engaging in some exotic species that are dangerous. There needs to be an assessment about how this has occurred. I certainly support the call for the World Health Organization to be given the power, similar to the way that weapons inspectors do to go into a country and to be able to examine what’s happening on the ground and make sure that the health of all of us is protected. Because in this interconnected world in which we live, a dangerous circumstance to the health in one community, we have been reminded by this crisis, is a health issue for all of us. And therefore, there needs to be a strong international response and body that are able to exercise some power on behalf of all of us.


JAYES: Well, it’s good to end on a note of bipartisanship there. Anthony Albanese, thanks for your time.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Laura.