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Thursday, 8th April 2021

ABC Northern Tasmania Breakfast with Belinda King

SUBJECTS: Visit to Tasmania; Tasmanian state election; Vaccine rollout; Andrew Laming; Rebecca White and Tasmanian Labor. 

BELINDA KING, HOST: Clear air is a beautiful thing for political parties in an election campaign. Preselection battles and party infighting are not. I think it would be safe to say that Labor's state election campaign hasn't really gone smoothly thus far. The Party has backflipped on the endorsement of Dean Winter as a candidate. And yesterday, Ben McGregor, the Party President in Tasmania, resigned over inappropriate text messages he sent some years ago. Federal Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, is in Tasmania and he's on the Labor campaign trail. And he joins us in the studio this morning. Good morning. 

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning. Beautiful day here in Launnie.

KING: He is saying all the right things already. Welcome aboard.

ALBANESE: It is gorgeous. Much better than when I left Sydney. It was wet and miserable.

KING: Well, leave that weather up there, thank you very much. So let's start by asking if you think that state Labor has been caught short by the snap election being called?

ALBANESE: Not at all. I was with Rebecca White and Michelle O'Byrne and other candidates here in the seat of Bass last night. And they're ready to rock and roll. They're out there campaigning. They're knocking on doors. They've got corflutes up. They are ready to go. It's true, there's been a couple of hiccups with candidates. But that's been across the board. The Liberal Party had a bloke go to a rally in Melbourne that was against any action that's going on connected with COVID, a rally effectively against his own Government, and every government for that matter. And of course, they had the Speaker resign pretty spectacularly, trying to take Eric Abetz out on the way through. So I think on the Government side, it's been very messy. The question I have is, why is the Government going to an election a year early? Seems to me that's a bit of a vote of no confidence in being able to govern for a full term.

KING: Indeed. But let's stay with the Labor Party for the moment. What damage do you think the last week has done to Rebecca White's leadership?

ALBANESE: I think Rebecca White has been strengthened. She has shown herself to be someone who's capable of making tough decisions. She's done it. She's backed herself. That's a good thing. I've known Rebecca for a long time. I think she'll make a great Premier.

KING: I wanted to ask you about the candidate selection in Clark. The factions originally kept Dean Winter out of the preselection. Should that have been perhaps quietly addressed in-house ahead of time, instead of ending up being seen as public Party infighting and perhaps losing control of the factions?

ALBANESE: These things are always best addressed quietly. But the important thing is that they're addressed. I'm a member of the National Executive. And adding Dean Winter to the Franklin ticket makes sense to have a sixth candidate there. And Dean Winter is someone who's a very popular local mayor. And Rebecca White wanted him to be part of the team. And he will be. And I think he strengthens the team. The important thing here is, how do we maximise the opportunity for Rebecca White to become the Premier and for Labor to form a majority Government? And that has required action and that action has been taken.

KING: He most certainly is seen as one of Labor's best chances of winning a seat there. Should he have been endorsed from the start?

ALBANESE: The important thing is that he has been. I don't think anyone is going to worry in the next month what the process is. His name will be on the ballot paper. I hope he and others get elected. Because I'm just shocked at the idea that a state government would look at privatising essential services like TAFE. And that's really what this election is about. It actually isn't about who's who in the Labor Party or the Liberal Party. It's about the future for Tasmanians.

KING: And unfortunately, the current situation has perhaps pushed that message to the side a little.

ALBANESE: It will be front and centre each and every day. I'll be doing a press conference with Rebecca this morning at the beautiful Cataract Gorge. Last time I was there was for a big tourism dinner. The best function I've ever been to, I think.

KING: Was that the National Tourism Awards that was held down there?

ALBANESE: It was awesome. 

KING: Stinking hot too. 

ALBANESE: It was a beautiful night. Everyone was all in their glad rags. But it's a reminder of how important tourism is to Tassie. And the fact is support, for example, helping to subsidise trips across to Devonport and to the north and northwest, that runs out at the end of June, JobKeeper ran out a couple of weeks ago, JobSeeker was cut a week ago. The support is being withdrawn for the Tasmanian economy that will impact on jobs. And what we're seeing there is that real pressure will be put on. And perhaps that explains why Mr Gutwein has gone to an early election, because he knows that there's trouble around the corner and he hasn't been prepared to stand up to Canberra. We've seen other state premiers be prepared to stand up on issues of support for their state. And I think that Tasmania need someone like Rebecca White, who will stand up for Tasmanians.

KING: I'm going to digress a little here. You mentioned the Premier and the state premiers. It has been extraordinary in the last year to, I think, realise, everyone to realise, how much power does reside in the states, in the premiers. There's a bit of a reminder of the states actually having that power prior to Federation and still having that power.

ALBANESE: Well, states do have power. I think that in some ways, Scott Morrison, after his experience with the bushfires when he said he didn't hold a hose and wasn't responsible, took that attitude towards the so-called National Cabinet. I believe, very clearly, the Federal Government is responsible for quarantine. The Federal Government is responsible for who comes from overseas into Australian airports. They own the airports; they are just leased. They run immigration, they run customs. But Scott Morrison has made a decision that if he handed over power to the states, then he couldn't be blamed. And I guess we can see what happens when the feds are in charge with the vaccination rollout. Because it's been pretty appalling. We were promised four million vaccinations by the end of March. We haven't hit one million yet. We're still way, way short. And the Government this time ran out of premiers to blame so tried to blame the European Union earlier this week. And that only lasted 24 hours.

KING: I'm going to come back to the local scene for a moment with Ben McGregor stepping down yesterday as a Labor candidate for this election and Rebecca White stating that he is not a fit candidate to stand. Should he also step down as Labor President in Tasmania?

ALBANESE: That's a matter for the Tasmanian ALP. He's not a candidate at the state election. And they'll deal with that matter. I think the focus at the moment is on the Tasmanian state election, not who the President or the Vice President or whatever in the ALP.

KING: That would be a matter to stay with the states and not be referred up to the national body, such as the situation was with Dean Winter?

ALBANESE: Well, the National Executive has never ever dealt with who a state President or state Vice President or any of those matters.

KING: Do you think he should still have a role considering the text messages?

ALBANESE: I'm not across all of the details. I have got to tell you that it wasn't a big story in Marrickville yesterday. I'm aware that there were text messages which were regarded as inappropriate. He stood aside. He's been replaced as a candidate, matter closed.

KING: Is there a time limit on bad behaviour? On what we're seeing with the emergence of the Me-Too movement and what we're seeing recently federally where actions many decades ago have come to the fore? Is there a time limit on it, do you think?

ALBANESE: Let's contrast Rebecca White and her action with Scott Morrison and his inaction over Andrew Laming. This isn't long term ago. This is very recent. Harassing over a period of years his constituents, putting Facebook messages out offering rewards and prizes for people to track and to say who a state member is, where she is, and where she's travelling, taking photos of a woman at work, up her skirt showing her underwear. And this bloke is sitting in the Liberal National Party room. That's entirely inappropriate. And Scott Morrison doesn't have any credibility on these issues as long as this bloke is sitting in the Liberal Party room. I don't think he should be in Parliament. And I think that leaders define themselves in part by whether they are prepared to take tough action consistent with their principles. Rebecca White has done that. Scott Morrison has failed.

KING: It is six minutes to eight on ABC Northern Tasmania. We have Anthony Albanese with us this morning, Federal Opposition Leader. The last few days, the Liberals have been unveiling their health policies for the north, northwest, the south, while there have been that distractions for the Labor Party. How will Labor get the campaign back on track?

ALBANESE: By talking about the issues that matter to people. Health, education, service delivery. State governments play a critical role in people's lives. We've seen, in the state of Tasmania, a massive blow-out in health waiting lists. Now this mob, they might have changed premier, but they've been in Government for two terms. And health waiting lists for elective surgery have blown out considerably. I was talking to people last night at the politics in the pub function about the fact that you can't get bulk billing doctors here in Launceston. And one of the nurses I was talking to was talking about the impact that has on people, about how they basically can't afford to get basic health care. We have a proposal to privatise TAFE and education services here that will make it tougher for people to get the opportunity that comes through an apprenticeship, a trade, or training. So I think this is a Government that's going to an early election for a reason. Because they're not up to governing a full term. And I think that the Labor Party will hold them to account. And people will think to themselves before they go into the ballot box and fill in their ballot paper, why are they going early? Are things going to get better or worse under the Liberal Government?

KING: Four minutes to eight. I know we do have to let you go in a moment. But not without 60 seconds of pure torture. 60 seconds. I've got a series of rapid-fire question. Okay. And we need rapid fire answers. A minute to win it. Can you do it?

ALBANESE: Well, we will see.

KING: We will see. Describe yourself in one word.

ALBANESE: Honest.

KING: What's your go to karaoke song?

ALBANESE: Paradise by the Dashboard Light. 

KING: Really? What movie makes you cry? 

ALBANESE: Lots of them.

KING: What won't you leave home without?

ALBANESE: My phone.

KING: Define agony.

ALBANESE: Losing an election.

KING: You can only barrack for one team. Is it Collingwood or is it Essendon?

ALBANESE: No. Hawthorne.

KING: What's the one thing you can't say no to?

ALBANESE: An interview with the ABC.

KING: Who were you in a past life?

ALBANESE: Probably a convict.

KING: What's your dream job?

ALBANESE: My dream job? I'm running for it.

KING: How would you finish this sentence? I came, I saw - 

ALBANESE: I won.

KING: Anthony Albanese, Federal Opposition Leader.

ALBANESE: Did I win? I got through it. What do I get?

KING: Our undying thanks for coming in and joining us.

ALBANESE: Thanks. Great to be in the studio.

KING: Thank you very much for joining us and passing the thermometer test today. Cheers. Anthony Albanese in Tasmania at the moment and on the campaign trail.

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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