May 12, 2020




TUESDAY, 12 MAY 2020


SUBJECTS: Australia beyond coronavirus; JobSeeker/Newstart payments; sports rorts saga; Alan Jones retiring from radio.


PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining me live from Canberra now is the Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese. Good morning to you. So first of all, before we get to your vision speech from yesterday, I just want to ask you about the Treasurer today. So, he’s calling on states not to hide behind the doona. The costs per week, if they do, will level out to about $1.4 billion, and that’s just in New South Wales alone. Is that something, or would you advise the same thing?


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, what I wouldn’t do is use that sort of language, which, quite frankly, is pretty opportunistic. It is the national Government who have agreed through the processes that it’s up to states and territories, of course, to determine when they remove restrictions. No one wants these restrictions to be in place. No one wants this virus to have been there. But the fact is, people have lost their lives. People have lost loved ones. And at a time like this as well, they’ve lost it when they can’t receive the comfort of friends and family that would normally occur when we lose a member of our family. So, I don’t think it’s appropriate to just dismiss it as hiding under the doona is, I think, unfortunate language.


STEFANOVIC: But business has got to get back up, right?


ALBANESE: Of course, but no one wants these restrictions to have been in place. That’s just a given. But Victoria and New South Wales have, of course, had more infections than other states. So, it’s not surprising that they were the states that pushed for stronger restrictions, Gladys Berejiklian and Daniel Andrews, and they’re the states that have been the slowest in announcing the removal of those restrictions, that one flows from the other.


STEFANOVIC: The health authorities have said even yesterday and today that it’s true that a second wave could well be worse than the first. So, what would you be suggesting happens then? Do you shut down again? Or do you plough on?


ALBANESE: No, you avoid it happening. That’s the point, Peter. You avoid it happening by listening in the health experts and not lifting restrictions too early.


STEFANOVIC: But you can’t avoid it all. I mean, surely, you’re expecting another outbreak?


ALBANESE: Well, I’m not expecting a second pandemic that’s worse than the first. I’m not expecting that. I’m expecting that governments will put in place responsible positions that avoid that. That we continue to say to the public we need to keep social distancing measures in place, even as people return to work and return to school, and we gradually open up the economy. That’s why the messages which are being sent are so important. That’s why when, if you think back just a little while ago, when the Prime Minister announced a shutdown of activities of more than 500 people but said it was okay for everyone to go to the footy that weekend, but Monday it was going to stop, that sent such mixed messages. Now, in recent times, we have had more clarity of messages. But from time to time, the Federal Government with people like Dan Tehan’s famous outbreak just a week ago, where he then had to apologise a few hours later. That’s why that is someone wise. We need to be responsible here. And we need to not play politics with these issues. I think it is good that Daniel Andrews and Gladys Berejiklian have been on the same page because that has avoided, I think, or been a bit of a handbrake on the Federal Government’s willingness to play politics with these issues.


STEFANOVIC: JobKeeper, and JobSeeker for that matter, the rises end in September. The Treasurer, though, says money doesn’t grow on trees. But will you be pressuring the Government to maintain it?


ALBANESE: Well, what we’ve said is that the idea of snap-back, the idea that you’re on one day, day zero, everything’s in place, and then the very next day, it’s all completely removed, is a very bold thing to do in terms of the economic shock that would cause. That you need to actually have a transition, and also that you need to look at some of the structure of the scheme. We’ve been very constructive. We’ve put forward solutions rather than arguments. But it is a fact, Peter, that a mum with three kids who’s worked in a casual job for 11 months, receives nothing. Whereas a student, working half a dozen hours a week for pocket money, while they’re at uni, who has been in that casual job for a while, for more than 12 months, potentially will be getting $750 a week when previously they earned $150. So, some of the design of the program has had flaws, like the design of superannuation has left it open to the fraud that we’ve seen whereby people have had money taken from their accounts. There’s no doubt that many people won’t even know that that’s happened to them yet. And we’ll be certainly asking about the figures of how much fraud there has been on the superannuation issue over recent weeks.


STEFANOVIC: Just on your vision statement yesterday, this is the fifth that you’ve done since Leader. If we can narrow it down to one piece of reform that you would like to see achieved, which one would that be?


ALBANESE: Security at work. One of the things that has really been shown is that people are really insecure that the casualisation of the workforce, the contracting out, the labour hire companies have meant that people are more and more insecure in their work. And that the values that have seen us through this crisis, of fairness, of security, of looking after each other, are values that need to be in place for the recovery as well.


STEFANOVIC: Just Finally, Alan Jones. He’s stepped down from radio after some 35 years and you both come from different sides of the political spectrum, but what’s your thoughts on this news?


ALBANESE: Look, he’s had a remarkable career. I marched with Alan Jones to save South Sydney and get us back into the competition. He’s a complex character. He’s someone who, on a personal level, I’ve had a good relationship with even though we have very distinct political differences. And I’ve been very critical of some of the things that he has said from time to time. But it’s a remarkable career. And I always felt that when I was talking to Alan Jones, and some people said, ‘you shouldn’t talk to him’. I was talking with his listeners as well. And he managed to keep more listeners than any radio presenter in the country. He’s raised an enormous amount of money for charity over the years, much of it people don’t even know about the range of activities in which he provides support. And on a personal level, I think it makes sense hearing his comment about getting up at two every morning for 35 years is quite a sentence. So, I wish him well on a personal level. And I’m sure that he’ll enjoy the odd sleep in.


STEFANOVIC: And for his successor Ben Fordham. Have you got a message?


ALBANESE: Look, Ben Fordham, he’s someone who I used to have a regular slot on Ben’s show.


STEFANOVIC: Did you guys have a falling out?


ALBANESE: He’ll be very different. No, he made a decision. We had, myself and Christopher Pyne had a slot on his show and he made the decision to put Tony Abbott in, which I was quite happy with, because Tony Abbott, of course, spent most of that time bagging the LNP Government of Malcolm Turnbull. So, I was relaxed about that.


STEFANOVIC: All right. Well, good to get you on this morning. Thanks very much for telling us. That is the Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Peter.