Triple M Night Shift With Luke Bona

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Interviews

Tuesday, 17th August 2021

Triple M Night Shift With Luke Bona

Discussing COVID outbreaks around Australia, Afghanistan and more.

SUBJECTS: Afghanistan; COVID outbreaks around Australia; lockdowns; vaccine rollout; need for national quarantine facilities; vaccine supply; Telstra’s $200 vaccine cash payment; Labor’s $300 vaccination cash incentive.

LUKE BONA, HOST: Anthony Albanese, welcome back to the Night Shift around Australia on the Triple M network.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good to be with you again. 

BONA: I'll tell you what, we'll talk about COVID, because your electorate in Camperdown is right in the heart of the white-hot zone, not the red zone, in Sydney. We'll talk about that in just a second and your proposal of a $300 incentive to get people vaccinated. I'm keen to hear about that. But let's talk about the hot issue today. And that is the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. And yesterday, the National Security Committee approved a military evacuation plan to rescue Australians that are left behind, plus Afghans who helped us along the way, translators and people who worked clerically and in other areas of support of the coalition forces that were in Afghanistan. Anthony Albanese, somebody has read this really, really badly. The Taliban has now taken over. Didn't they see this coming? I mean, what did people think would happen when we withdrew all our troops? Does anybody remember Saigon?

ALBANESE: Well, this is a tragedy unfolding before our eyes. We have many Australians who remain in Afghanistan who we need to remove safely. Of course, we need also to remove people who assisted Australians, those Afghans who provided support for our troops in Tarin Kowt and in Uruzgan Province. And we know that they will be very vulnerable to this brutal, sadistic, ideological regime of the Taliban. We've seen what they did before. There's no reason to think that they will have changed already in places they have run over. They've closed girls' schools, they've excluded women from universities. They are already engaging in their, quite frankly, incredibly backward ideology that they have. And so we have a moral obligation to assist those who assisted us. But it's more than that.

BONA: But didn't we have an exit plan, Anthony? Twenty years. We knew what the Taliban was about. And Al Qaeda. Twenty years we've been there. We obviously didn't have an exit plan.

ALBANESE: Well, quite clearly, the fact that the events have unfolded as they are shows that there have been real weaknesses in intelligence, real weaknesses in the strategy. We were told, of course, as soon as just a few days ago, that Kabul could be expected to be intact for 90 days. And we know that it didn't last 24 hours.

BONA: We were supposed to be training the Afghan army, 300,000 of them. Joe Biden said that the place will be right. There's only 70,000 Taliban, 300,000 Afghan fully trained and armed soldiers, the place will be okay. It went in a weekend.

ALBANESE: It's been quite astonishing, the way in which the resistance to the Taliban insurgents just dissolved. And that's what's occurred here. There hasn't been a great deal of fighting. The opposition just dissolved. And, of course, as the Taliban were able to take some of the smaller towns and cities, they of course, on the way, recruited, whether by force or voluntarily, more troops. And of course, they took over the armaments that had been left with the Afghan army.

BONA: Was it worth us being there - 41 Australians dead, and the place is just the way it was 20 years ago and it fell in one weekend? When you look back at it, was it worth the 20 years and the 41 Australian lives?

ALBANESE: I think, certainly, that is one for debate. But we've got to recognise that many women got to go to university, many young girls got a school education. There was a change that was occurring there in Afghanistan in terms of human rights being respected for the period of time in which the Taliban were out of office. And of course, part of the objective was to get Osama bin Laden and that part of the mission was certainly achieved. But the immediate concern that I have is getting Australians back home safely and looking after those people who looked after our Australian troops and who are vulnerable as well. There are many as well, Australian Afghans who have made Australia their home who are worried about their relatives there. And we really need to make sure that people are looked after. This is quite dire circumstance that have unfolded very quickly before our eyes.

BONA: It is absolutely tragic. And like Vietnam and like the fall of Saigon, where thousands of South Vietnamese who helped the Australians and the Americans were just left behind, and I fret for those women and children who have been left behind to face the Taliban. I really do. You have got to ask yourself - 20 years, 41 Australian lives, was it worth it? Can we turn our eyes to home right now? I get my second jab today. I get my second jab. 

ALBANESE: Good on you.

BONA: And I can't wait. It's been a long wait. I've got AstraZeneca, so I had to wait 12 weeks. God it has been a long 12 weeks. But I can't wait for nine o'clock this morning. 

ALBANESE: That is good news. 

BONA: Well, you've come up with a plan. You're saying if you win government, you would offer $300 to every person that gets vaccinated as a sort of an incentive. Would that be paid to those people who have already been vaccinated? Anthony Albanese is with us.

ALBANESE: Absolutely, it would. Both as an incentive but also as a reward for those people who've done the right thing. But also, at a time when we will need economic stimulus due to the impact the lockdowns have had on our economy and our jobs, it will also provide that stimulus. So it's a win-win. And I noticed that yesterday, Telstra are giving their staff $200 as an economic incentive to get vaccinated. Now, that's a good thing. And I applaud them for it. But this is a commonsense initiative. It's happening all around the world where there are economic incentives. And we know that incentives are offered to change behaviour. Now, you're not going to change some of the anti-vaxxers. But what you will do is for those people saying, 'Oh, yeah, I'll get vaccinated, but when I get around to it, is there a real need for urgency?' or those people who aren't sure, to provide a discussion point as well. To say, 'Hey, you know, Bobby, have you got your 300 bucks yet?' 'Oh, no, I haven't. How did you get that?' 'Well, this is what I did'. 

BONA: You would have thought though, that just getting vaccinated so that you don't get COVID, or if you do, it is a much milder version, would be incentive enough?

ALBANESE: Look, no one says that people who got the baby bonus had a baby just for the money. But guess what? Fertility rates went up.

BONA: So did the sale of widescreen TVs. 

ALBANESE: That's what happened. 

BONA: Anyway, Anthony Albanese is with us, Leader of the Opposition, here on the Night Shift on Triple M. How do you feel about mandatory vaccinations? We're seeing it start already. Health care workers, workers that work with the aged. We've seen what's happened at the canning factory at Shepparton at SPC. How do you feel about mandated compulsory vaccinations in order to keep your job?

ALBANESE: Well, one of the things that I'm saying is we need to talk about carrots, not just sticks. And that's what the $300 is about. A carrot to encourage people to get vaccinated. Now, there will be some restrictions on people's activity who aren't vaccinated. For example, there's no doubt that in order to get on an international plane, certainly, but I suspect also domestically, you will need to show that you're vaccinated. Now, that is something that will just happen. That's something that's happened for a long period of time, whether it be smallpox or the black plague or a range of things that people have had to show vaccinations for certificates, cholera, typhoid, to travel to a range of countries. I've certainly, in traveling to parts of South America or Asia, have had to show vaccination certificates as part of entry to a country. And so there's nothing unusual about that. So one of the things that is a problem at the moment though, of course, has been supply. That's been the big problem. And a problem that we need to address. We've had a million additional Pfizer vaccines come from Poland. That's a good thing. But that's a week's supply.

BONA: I wanted to ask you about that. Why Poland? The United States, our gold-plated biggest ally, sitting on 26 million which are about to expire. Why did we have to negotiate with Poland? Why didn't the United States say, 'Let's look after our mates down under who have stood by us all these years?'

ALBANESE: Well, why didn't Australia fix this from the beginning? You had the Australian Prime Minister only spoke to the head of Pfizer some weeks after Kevin Rudd had and that became public. You had Pfizer sit down with the Australian Government, more than a year ago now in July last year, and they did deals with 34 countries before we did. The truth is we didn't do enough deals with enough companies for enough supply of vaccines soon enough. 

BONA: But don't you think Joe Biden should have looked after us better?

ALBANESE: I think Australia should have done deals and should have had it in place. One of the things that I've said repeatedly is Australia should be approaching our friends in the United States and other countries. I mean, Israel had extra vaccines that they gave to South Korea in a deal. And the problem we had was we had a Prime Minister who said, 'It's not a race'. Remember that? Over and over again. That it was not a race. Well, it was a race. And we were running last in the developed world and not running in the top 80.

BONA: Is it a race we're losing? Your electorate of Camperdown in strict lockdown. Sydney’s in lockdown. Melbourne’s been extended. The Premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, on Sunday, virtually said 'I don't think we'll ever get to zero'. And I've asked the question, has the COVID-19 Delta strain genie come out of the bottle? And is it impossible to put it back? Is lockdown the answer, Anthony Albanese?

ALBANESE: Well, Melbourne, of course, had a Delta outbreak before this recent Sydney one. And it came from Adelaide. Again, another breach from hotel quarantine, the second job that the Prime Minister had that he didn't fix. And they got on top of it with a short, sharp lockdown. And then we had Sydney, which again came from the absurd circumstance of someone, a limo driver, unvaccinated, without a mask, taking someone from a foreign aircrew towards hotel quarantine, who caught the disease. And that's where all this started that has now spread around the country. Most of the country is in lockdown as we speak. The Northern Territory, Melbourne, of course, the whole of New South Wales, Canberra has extended its lockdown. This has been an absolute disaster. And when the outbreak started in Sydney, of course, we had no lockdown. We had a real complacency and a failure to act. And it has got to the circumstance whereby today again we had record numbers and tragically another eight deaths. This is having extreme consequences. And the Premier's reluctance to take action, cheered on by the Prime Minister who congratulated the New South Wales Government, well, that was just a mistake.

BONA: I mean, you look at how Annastacia Palaszczuk and Mark McGowan were absolutely hammered by the Federal Government because of their tough lockdown laws. And look at them now. 

ALBANESE: Absolutely. And they were right. 

BONA: They were right. And New South Wales, I spoke to Dr Chris Moy, the Vice President of the AMA yesterday, Anthony, and he said, 'I think New South Wales has missed the train by about six to eight weeks'.

ALBANESE: Look, it's just a tragedy. They were so complacent. You had all this stuff about New South Wales being the gold standard, in order for Scott Morrison to have a crack at Labor governments in Victoria and in Queensland and WA. And the truth is that South Australia, the South Australian Liberal Government, and in Tasmania, they have also been strict in their applications. And they're better off for it.

BONA: Alright. Listen, I know you haven't been back to your electorate for a long time. Would you like to send a message to the folk in Camperdown and southwest Sydney?

ALBANESE: The good people of the Inner West, I've been managing to stay connected with them on Zoom meetings and I've had meetings with small business, meetings with people through Facebook. We have advertised just to try and keep in touch. Speaking here from Canberra lockdown, if I was back in Sydney, of course, I couldn't meet people face-to-face. But just stay strong. If you can get vaccinated, get vaccinated. And make sure you look after each other and stay safe. We will get through this. There will be light at the end of the tunnel. 

BONA: It is a long tunnel, isn’t it?

ALBANESE: It is a long tunnel. But we need to. We have a plan to build back stronger as well.

BONA: Let's talk again. Let's talk more often. Shall we do that? 

ALBANESE: Absolutely. Thanks. Always great to chat with you. 

BONA: You're good to talk to. Thank you for that, Anthony Albanese. The Federal Leader of the Opposition here on the Night Shift on Triple M.

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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