Mar 15, 2020






SUBJECTS: Address to the nation on coronavirus, coronavirus, health and economic impacts of coronavirus.


LISA WILKINSON, HOST: The Federal Opposition says that more needs to be done to support Australians who will struggle financially as the country grapples to contain coronavirus. Shortly, Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, will address the nation for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic and he joins us now. Anthony, a big development today following on from New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern’s announcement yesterday. Our Prime Minister has said that as of midnight tonight, all people into Australia will be ordered to self-isolate. Do you agree with that decision?


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: I do agree with that decision. I think it’s a sensible precaution to take. And what it means is that people will have to self-isolate for 14 days when they return from overseas, or when they visit from overseas. And that’s a sensible move. The Government needs to respond with a package of support, in my view, for the airlines. This will have an extraordinary impact. I spoke to the major airlines today. We’re talking about a more than 50 per cent decline in domestic activity. But the decline internationally is more than 80 per cent. And the airlines have put together a request from the Government. And I think the Government should consider that favourably.


PETER VAN ONSELEN, HOST: There’s a lot of talk about a wartime style cabinet, the idea of it to try and take politics out of this to some extent. War-time cabinets involved the Opposition. Are you and the Opposition part of whatever this thing is?


ALBANESE: No, we’re not. We haven’t been invited to participate. I think that’s unfortunate. The fact is what we’re seeing essentially is COAG phone hook-ups of the Prime Minister and the Premiers and state leaders once a week. That’s a good thing that that’s happening. But I would have thought that it would have been positive if the Prime Minister had reached out.


VAN ONSELEN: Is there at a dialogue going on behind the scenes between you and the Prime Minister around the back-room level?


ALBANESE: Well, I wrote to the Prime Minister on Friday.


VAN ONSELEN: I mean more phone conversations and a genuine exchange of ideas and thoughts?


ALBANESE: No, unfortunately, at this point, not really. But we’ve been supportive. And I’ve said we’ll be constructive wherever possible. We will provide support for any measures, whether they be the health measures. Primarily this is a health emergency which then has economic implications.


TOMMY LITTLE, HOST: Albo, I don’t mean this to sound too rude, but if you can’t get the ear of the Prime Minister at the moment, then why are you doing an address to the nation?


ALBANESE: We’re doing a response which is in accordance with precedent that has occurred in the past. The Prime Minister made a statement on Thursday. I’ll be putting forward our view which is a constructive statement that I’ll be making to the nation tonight.


LITTLE: But your view is one thing. What is the point?


ALBANESE: Well, the fact is that we have a say in these matters. The Prime Minister is not all-powerful and that’s why we’ve raised issues like the impact on casual workers, on sole traders, the need to respond there. We’ve raised the need for certainty. My concern here is that the public aren’t getting clear information.


SUSIE YOUSSEF, HOST: Albo, you’ve just mentioned this. The casual workforce, they’re basically facing economic disaster. You say you’ve got ideas. We want to know what do you think we should be doing to protect them?


ALBANESE: The very clear principle should be that no worker should be in a position whereby they have to choose whether to go to work or to have pay their rent, put food on the table for their families. That’s the situation many of them are in. You’ve got to remove that economic incentive to work when people shouldn’t be attending work. A number of companies have done the right thing here. Woolworths, Coles, Target have all said they’ll pay their casual employees. We’ve got to have, I think, Government support during this difficult time and recognise that in the long run, if we don’t do that, the costs to Government will be more because the health costs will be more.


WILKINSON: Anthony Albanese, we will have to leave it there. Thanks for joining us.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much.