4BC Breakfast with Neil Breen

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Monday, 24th January 2022

4BC Breakfast with Neil Breen

Discussing national security, failures of the Morrison Government during COVID-19 and more.

SUBJECTS: A better future for Queensland visit; WeChat; national security; failures of the Morrison Government during COVID-19; school reopening; kids’ vaccinations; Labor’s policy agenda; rapid antigen tests; Federal election.
 
NEIL BREEN, HOST: Big year for our next guest. He could get to the middle of the year and he could be the Prime Minister of Australia. Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, joins me on the line. Good morning to you Opposition Leader.
 
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, Neil. Good to be with you.
 
BREEN: You spent a fair bit of time in Queensland over the summer. I think you were the first person in when the border reopened and then you were back and spent some time in North Queensland. Polls are saying there are five seats in play you could pick up. Longman, Leichhardt, Dickson, Brisbane and Ryan. Do you think Queensland could swing it for you?
 
ALBANESE: I think Queensland will be a very important state, as it always is. But I'm very keen on representing the entire nation. I've got to say, it was a terrific road trip that we had, starting in Cairns, went all the way down the Maryborough, with 20 towns and cities in between, including towns like Rocky, Bundaberg, Mackay and Innisfail, Ingham. And we were received throughout our visit. It was an opportunity that you mightn't get during an election campaign to have 10 days on the ground. And we spoke with industry like Rio Tinto and the Downer EDI site there at Maryborough, but also farmers, cane growers, beef producers. We went to a banana farm. We went to Australia's largest prawn farm just outside of Proserpine. That was extraordinary in the scale, what they're producing there. And it was a great opportunity just to really mix with Queenslanders, to talk and to listen, most importantly.
 
BREEN: I think the key for you in Queensland, and we've spoken about this on the show before, Anthony Albanese, that is finding the balance between the blue-collar workers in the regions and the mining communities, all of them who need the support of the government to keep their jobs and their dreams alive, with the inner-city Labor voters, because a couple of those inner city seats are in play as well, particularly Brisbane. Is the Labor Party going to be able to satisfy both needs?
 
ALBANESE: Absolutely. Labor will stand for secure work, looking at issues like same job, same pay. We stand for regional economic development through our National Reconstruction, Fund that will support existing industries and new industries. Importantly as well, we've managed to land a climate policy and an energy policy that has the support of the Business Council of Australia, the National Farmers' Federation and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. That will create over 600,000 new jobs. And five out of every six of those will be in regional Australia. If we're smart about it, we can actually deal with challenges like climate change, whilst making sure that we actually have a growth. It is an opportunity to grow jobs in our economy. And that is very much a part of my message of a future made in Australia. Why is it the LNP governments, whenever they've been in office, flogged things off, including manufacturing from overseas? They think it's smart to buy trains overseas rather than manufacture them in regional towns like Maryborough. It makes no sense and ends up costing more because, inevitably, they are never fit for purpose. And Queenslanders understand that. And I was very much putting my message there about a future made in Australia which is something that Queenslanders support. I met with manufacturers, companies like Rio Tinto, for example, their Alumina refinery is a great example of the use of hydrogen to drive down their emissions as well as make them more efficient and more productive.
 
BREEN: Mr Albanese, do you use the WeChat to talk to the Chinese community of Australia?
 
ALBANESE: I do. My office does. Is that breaking news, Neil? I can't speak the Mandarin or Cantonese. So, I do have both recently, I do have a WeChat account. And I've seen the rather bizarre story today about the Prime Minister's account being hacked, it would seem, and changed, which is a real concern.
 
BREEN: Your opponents want you to not use WeChat because they think it's an unfair advantage because the Prime Minister's has been hacked. Earlier on the show, I had James Patterson, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security Chair. This is the challenge he put to you.
 
JAMES PATTERSON, LIBERAL SENATOR FOR VICTORIA: If Anthony Albanese and other politicians keep posting to WeChat, they're effectively allowing the Chinese Government to choose which Australian politicians can reach Chinese Australians. They're allowing the Chinese Government to decide on the election campaign coming up who can campaign to Chinese Australians and who can't. So, I'm calling on them.
 
BREEN: I will cut him off there, but you get the gist of it.
 
ALBANESE: Well, Scott Morrison had a WeChat account a long time before I did. And at the last election in Chisholm, of course, there was an AEC inquiry of some of the translations of posters that were used by the Liberal Party in the same colours and format as the AEC advice. And that was a real concern. Look, I'm more than happy to have a chat with Scott Morrison. I'll be seeing him this week because of the Australia Day commemorations in Canberra. And I'll have a chat with him directly, rather than a backbench MP. I am certainly of real concern about any national security implications by any interference, by any government, in the process. But I do not we haven't heard anything from the Prime Minister himself about these issues.
 
BREEN: So, if he asked you, you're prepared to talk to about it and promptly put WeChat away for a while, if you hear from him and not a backbencher?
 
ALBANESE: I'm more than happy to have a chat with Scott Morrison about these issues and also with our national security agencies. I do note that no one has contacted me from the Liberal Party. And if they were serious about it, then someone would have picked up the phone yesterday and not made that declaration that I've just heard was made for the first time on your radio station, as important as that is.
 
BREEN: It was more about China than it is about the Liberal Party.
 
ALBANESE: No, it's about national security is what it is, and whether there is interference. And national security should always be treated seriously. I treat it seriously and will never treat it as a political football. Which is why I'm more than happy to have a discussion, as always, with either our agencies or with the Prime Minister.
 
BREEN: Anthony Albanese, are you disappointed that Queensland schools aren't going back today as scheduled? It seems that the governments of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, other states, have bent over backwards. They've got their own supplies of RATs and they're going to test kids and teachers. In Queensland, we think that giving RATs to school kids is a waste of time. And instead, the unions have argued to get an extra week of holiday. Are you disappointed that kids aren't at school today?
 
ALBANESE: Well, I never want to see any restrictions other than those which are necessary. But this is the decision that's being made based upon when the peak will occur in Queensland infections. And it's predicted that the peak will occur at precisely the time when schools were due to go back. I also will not second guess any state government, Labor or Liberal. I was asked a similar thing in Launceston about the Tasmanian Liberal Government, some of their measures, whether they opened up too early. And I chose, as I have done the whole way through this pandemic, I have not been about playing the old game of, 'Because a government is a particular persuasion at the state level, to be critical of them'.
 
BREEN: There's an integrity story around today about the Palaszczuk Government. It campaigned on a platform of integrity when it came into government in 2015. It now appears as though none of them have even bothered to read a parliamentary report into the operations of the CCC. Does the Palaszczuk Government have an integrity issue?
 
ALBANESE: Not at all. Annastacia Palaszczuk has led Queensland well. And that's why she's been voted for as Premier on three separate occasions, a remarkable achievement. We have a revolving door in Canberra, as you know, Neil. And people don't seem to be able to, on both parties, there's been changes of leadership back at two regular intervals. And Annastacia Palaszczuk has very much my confidence. She has the confidence of her party, but most importantly, she has the confidence of Queenslanders.
 
BREEN: Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, thanks so much for your time today. We're going to talk to you a lot in the next few months, because Queensland, how good is Queensland?
 
ALBANESE: Queensland is fantastic. I back Queensland 365 days a year and 362 nights. There are three exceptions. But you would understand that, Neil.
 
BREEN: I do understand that. Thanks very much.
 
ENDS

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Electorate Office

334a Marrickville Road
MARRICKVILLE NSW 2204

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

Parliament House Office

PO Box 6022
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Phone: (02) 6277 4022
Fax: (02) 6277 8562

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

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