Apr 9, 2020







SUBJECTS: Coronavirus; Parliament passing JobKeeper legislation; issues with JobKeeper payment; constructive role of Labor during coronavirus; need for transparency during coronavirus crisis; Ruby Princess debacle.


LAURA JAYES, HOST: Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese. Thanks so much for your time this morning.




JAYES: Do you accept, Anthony Albanese, that the Government has put ideology aside with this JobKeeper package and that it had to draw the line somewhere?


ALBANESE: Well, what I certainly accept, I think I said it in the Parliament yesterday, was that Australians can take some comfort that the Government was prepared to be so far out of its comfort zone and no doubt was very uncomfortable about the gap that was there between its rhetorical position historically and the actions that it took. We were strong supporters of a wage subsidy. We have been arguing for it for weeks. It is good that the Government was prepared to change its mind and listen to Labor, listen to unions, listen to the business community. If we didn’t keep that relationship between employers and their employees, there would have been quite catastrophic consequences for the Australian economy. It would have taken much longer for us to recover and for people to return to work.


JAYES: Can the states act in a way in which we have seen already, for example, New South Wales, putting in different measures that does support some of those people that have fallen through the cracks at a federal level? New South Wales, for example, has today done that with childcare. So, for those people that miss out, isn’t it time for the states to step up?


ALBANESE: Well, look, it’s a good thing that all levels of government step up. And it’s good that the New South Wales Government have done that. We’ve been very concerned that in the childcare package, particularly local government would miss out. Local government, I know, in in my electorate in Sydney run a substantial number of childcare centres. In addition to that, the churches run childcare centres, particularly, there’s a very good childcare centre run by the Greek Orthodox community that I opened along with the then Archbishop, his eminence Archbishop Stylianos many years ago. So, I know that those community-based childcare centres are important, and they were missing out. It’s good that the state government is stepping in. Other state governments, or the Federal Government need to as well. It’s one of the gaps that we identified. The other gaps that are there, of course, are the 1.1 million casual workers, whereby in terms of those casual workers, for many of them, they’re not really casual. It’s the nature of their work. In your industry, Laura, many of the people who will film and come to different locations and film and work, they are casuals, but they rely upon that work. There’s an expectation that work is ongoing. That’s how they pay their bills and their mortgage or their rent, that is how they put food on the table for their families.


JAYES: The Government has already spent around $300 billion. Would you encourage them to pull back now? Are you worried about the debt burden that kind of spending brings?


ALBANESE: Well, I certainly am worried about the debt. This Government, of course, had already doubled Australia’s debt before the bushfires and before the Coronavirus crisis. So, the debt had doubled. And now, of course, it has increased substantially. It will be in the order of a trillion dollars, I think, by the time we get through this. The Government used to talk about Labor’s debt. The truth is that it was a much smaller percentage of the GDP compared with what this Government has presided over before, let alone during this crisis. It is an issue because it does go on to other generations. But we also have to remember with a range of issues that when you make an investment, you have to look at what the cost of inaction is. And certainly, if the Government had just sat back and watched this unfold, there would have been quite catastrophic consequences for the economy. And the negative impact would have been much higher without action.


JAYES: The Ruby Princess has been a debacle and something that many people in New South Wales, as you’d know, are very angry about. Was Border Force right to allow the Ruby Princess to dock?






ALBANESE: Because quite clearly, they were informed that there were health issues on board. The Prime Minister had days earlier said that cruise ships wouldn’t be permitted to dock. And then they were given the go ahead.


JAYES: But Border Force didn’t let these passengers off. New South Wales Health did. There’s an important distinction there, isn’t there?


ALBANESE: Well, let’s be very clear. Since 1901, the Commonwealth Government has controlled our borders. That’s why it’s called Border Force. They’re responsible for migration. This has been a monumental stuff-up with real consequences. People have died here, Laura. And we certainly need to get beyond the buck-passing, whereby the state blames the Commonwealth, and they blame the state, and they blame the cruise ship operator. Really, at so many levels, this has been a diabolical circumstance that brings no credit to any of the agencies involved. Federal or state. And certainly, we need to get some straight answers, not revelations day by day.


JAYES: Well, there is a criminal investigation underway, I need to preface that. But just quickly before I let you go, what do you suggest Border Force should have done if it wasn’t to allow the Ruby Princess just to dock in Sydney Harbour? Do you suggest with all those sick people on board it should have been turned away to another port or just let these people languishing at sea?


ALBANESE: Look, I think that Border Force should have been more cognisant of the circumstances which were there. I was critical over a period of time that at Sydney Airport, for example, people were just strolling through, effectively, without any health checks in terms of not even temperature checks. Now that contrasts with what was happening in other countries that we were raising, whereby in order to get into a public building or school in Singapore each and every time, for example, you had a temperature check. And that was an indication of whether fever was there or not. It’s very clear that this has been mishandled. What we need is just some straight, honest answers here, Laura. And I think the public should expect that and expect that soon, frankly. We don’t want this to be deferred off and the excuse of, ‘Oh, there is an investigation that will report in 18 months’. People deserve better than that. People deserve a bit of transparency and a bit of honesty here.


JAYES: We will see. Anthony Albanese, thank you for your time.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much.