ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
THURSDAY, 19 MARCH 2020
HOST: Let’s check in with the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese, to see what his thoughts on ScoMo’s message are. Good morning to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning.
HOST: Are you satisfied with the way the Government is handling the coronavirus crisis?
ALBANESE: Look, this is a difficult period. And we’re not looking for product differentiation. We are trying to be constructive, as I was during the bushfire crisis. I want the Government to get this right. But in order to do that, we need to have clear messaging. We want people to trust those in authority. But in order to do that, those in authority have to trust the people. They have to be clear about the messaging. I think one of the reasons why there is anxiety out there is that some of the messaging about handshakes, about how we have social interaction, I am speaking to you from outside this studio, they have changed from day to day. I am just of the view that we need to be very clear with people about where this is going to go.
HOST: Do you feel like the Prime Minister was not clear enough?
ALBANESE: Look, I think it is a difficult job. And it is not my job to give him reviews on his media conferences.
HOST: Do you support the measures that he has put in place?
ALBANESE: I do support the measures, absolutely. We will be supporting the economic stimulus plan next week. We haven’t seen the legislation yet. We might have improvements that we want to make to it. I think the key, whether it is health issues or the economic response to the downturn that’s occurring because of the health issues, the key is we don’t want to be in a circumstance whereby we look back and I am on this program in August and saying, ‘We should have acted earlier, we should have done some measures sooner’. I think that is absolutely critical. And in some of the measures, I think things like testing, we have been far too slow. We need to roll out these centres where people can get tested. We raised yesterday, why aren’t we using the Defence Force? We used them eventually in the bushfire crisis. It took some time for that to come on board. There are mashes, mobile army surgical hospitals that we use in times like up in Indonesia when there is a tsunami or in other times of crisis. We should be using all the assets at our disposal.
HOST: Mr Albanese, It must be very difficult being Opposition Leader in a time of crisis like this when you really can’t go point-scoring but it wouldn’t be a great look. But that said, clearly you have your own opinions of what you would do if you were the Prime Minister. Besides using the Defence Force, what other ideas would you install?
ALBANESE: I think measures include, I am somewhat concerned, and I have raised this with the Government, that when I flew to Bega on Tuesday and the people coming through international were still not testing them in terms of their heat. What occurs in other parts of the world is that people are getting tested by little machines, they don’t have to put a thermometer in the mouth these days, you can just put something up to the forehead that measures peoples’ temperature. That is an indication of whether they have a fever or not. Surely, I would have thought, at international airports, we should be doing that because what is happening is people arrive and then they get on domestic flights in the case of Tuesday, people getting on flights from the Philippines to go to Cooma and Merimbula and spreading throughout the country. We need, I think, to have practical measures like that. And anything we are going to do that we think is going to happen next week, we should either be doing them today or telling people that they are going to happen next week, so the preparations can be there, so that people don’t feel as though there are changes being made each day. I think that adds to peoples’ anxiety and it is understandable and people are responding. People need to be sensible about this as well. We want to spread kindness, not spread coronavirus I think is the key.
HOST: Albo, you have been terrific. I think the bipartisanship that the ALP has shown under your leadership is exceptional and it is just what the nation needs right now. It is the Labor Party’s job to look after workers. We are looking at a potentially catastrophic fall-out from the measures taken against this virus, with job losses in the aviation industry, the hospitality industry. What are you feeling is going to be the ultimate impact and will the economy be able to recover?
ALBANESE: This is having a huge impact. Whenever we speak about businesses, we need to speak about the workers as well. We raised, with the first package, our concern about casual workers. We remain concerned. This is a bit of a wake-up call, I think, for our nation. And one of the things that we need to do arising out of this, whether it is food security, whether it be access to manufacturing, we need to manufacture some of these health products ourselves, or whether it be the nature of the workforce. Casual workers don’t have security of employment, they don’t have sick leave, they don’t have holiday leave. And that is causing enormous anxiety. There would be people who work indirectly on your show who are contract workers. Now, if they are sick and they are not able to come to work, they don’t get paid. Now, we need to look after those people. And the Government has a role. Because if we have people going to work who shouldn’t be, that will help the spread of the virus. And we need also to make sure that we have packages so that people can survive during this period. The decision by the airlines, Virgin and Qantas, will have a devastating impact. It is a very sad day for them today. The companies are in difficult circumstances. But we need to make sure that the workers are looked after because none of this is what they have asked for. And my thoughts are really with them today. They will be doing it tough.
HOST: Absolutely. Albo, always a great pleasure speaking with you. Thanks for joining us. Wash your hands and stay safe.
ALBANESE: Good on you.