Subjects: Albanese: Telling it Straight, Dolly Parton.
AMANDA: We know Anthony Albanese as the former Deputy Prime Minister, currently a shadow minister for the Australian Labor Party. Something we don’t know is that for the first 15 years of Anthony’s life he believed his father was dead. It turns out that wasn’t the case. And in Anthony’s new biography he talks about his remarkable search for his father and the relationship he has had with that man. Welcome to the show Anthony.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Great to be here.
JONESY: Wow. So how did you actually find out that your Dad was still alive?
ALBANESE: Well, my mother told me in what was a very traumatic thing for her to do. She was a young Catholic woman in Sydney, grew up in in Camperdown, and she went overseas, met my father, had a relationship, became pregnant to him, told him. He told her unfortunately that he was betrothed to someone from his town in Italy.
So she came back to Australia. And at that time, of course, there was enormous pressure on a young woman having a child out of wedlock. So she had this story around it that she’d got married, she wore a wedding ring, she adopted his name and I was supposed to be adopted out. She was going to say that she’d heard about her husband’s untimely death in a car accident and she’s lost the baby with the trauma. Now, she made a decision in hospital that she wasn’t going to give me up and that she would raise me as a single Mum.
And so I grew up just thinking that was a matter of fact. She told me when she thought I was old enough. But out of respect for her, I didn’t tell. There were very few people who knew and I didn’t search for him while she was alive.
JONESY: And so you found your Dad?
AMANDA: That wasn’t easy though was it?
ALBANESE: That was diabolically difficult because we didn’t have anything. There was nothing around the house about my father. So when Mum died, I had a photo – he was a steward on the Fair Sky, the cruise ship that Mum travelled to Europe on, which is where they met.
AMANDA: Did he know you had been born?
ALBANESE: Look, in the book, this is sort of outlined. I think quite clearly he did. But for understandable reasons – he had a family in Italy – we just didn’t really get on to that.
JONESY: People get so sensitive. When you bring up that you’ve got an illegitimate child, it’s like, you know, what?
ALBANESE: But it’s real. It’s hard to describe. It struck me immediately afterwards that there I was in a room in a small town in Italy in a room with three of the four closest blood relatives I had on the planet with the exception of my son, and we were meeting for the first time. And interestingly as well, the photo that I had that we had sent him, he had kept a copy of the exact same photo. So there was no – it was quite a wonderful moment.
JONESY: And is your Dad still alive?
ALBANESE: No, which is why it was incredibly lucky in terms of the timing that when I did search, that I did get to meet him. It’s very possible I could have found his details, found out who he was and he had gone.
JONESY: What was harder – finding your long lost father or approving Dolly Parton’s tour bus? Because that thing was a behemoth.
ALBANESE: It was around about the same time.
JONESY: So that was at the same time. So your role in that, Dolly Parton came to Australia with her tour bus …
ALBANESE: This might be a secret.
ALBANESE: But, but there are two buses that are identical. They are big buses.
AMANDA: For those big dresses.
ALBANESE: Yes that’s right. So they were on their way over here and she was going to cancel the tour potentially and I found out about this and the bureaucrats sometimes are just hopeless. They were like: “Oh no Minister, you can’t, there is no way this can be approved’’. I just said: “Well, I am approving it, give us the paperwork’’ and we did it and saved the tour.
JONESY: And then Dolly was always grateful. This is what she said at the time.
DOLLY PARTON: I wanted to also especially thank Anthony Albanese – is that how you say his name – the minister of transportation. He was so good to make sure that we got my buses here. I hear there was quite a lot of press about that. So I don’t know if he is there today. If he is, if he’ll come up here I will smear lip gloss all over him.
JONESY: Two big buses. Who would have thought it. Dolly Parton. Albanese: Telling it Straight, by Karen Middleton, is now out in all good book stores. Albo thank you.
ALBANESE: Thank you very much. Thanks for having us on. It’s been great.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.