SUBJECTS: Bushfires recovery process and charity organisations; Australia Day.
CHRIS SMITH, HOST: Anthony Albanese joins me on the line right now. Happy New Year to you, Anthony.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, Chris. Happy New Year to you mate.
SMITH: When did you last have a day off? Because it was a time there, about two weeks ago, when we saw you just about every day at a press conference.
ALBANESE: It’s a very long time ago, Chris. It was, well, I don’t know to tell you the truth, the answer to that. I think it has been certainly months since I’ve had a day off. I was on 2GB on Christmas Day, of course. From Bill Crews’ Exodus Foundation lunch, which was a wonderful way to spend Christmas Day helping feed homeless people and people who might just be lonely. It was a great day out there in Ashfield in my electorate. But, I’ll tell you what, there’s a lot of people out there in bushfire affected areas who haven’t had a minute of peace. So, I think the least that I could do was to do my best to spend time putting up constructive proposals, spend time with them, showing them that Australians really cared. And the sort of statements that you’ve just been talking about whereby some people have been living in tents for three months on the north coast of New South Wales. Some of those would be people that I visited those months ago around the Casino area. Rappville, of course, was damaged more than six months ago. And this has been a very difficult and tough summer for so many Australians.
SMITH: Are we being a bit tough on the Red Cross? You’ve seen the stories in the last 24 hours. Are we being a bit tough on them?
ALBANESE: I think, by and large, the Red Cross, I know, is a very good organisation made up of very committed people. And that is difficult, and I understand people’s frustration with some of the roll-out. They, of course, as a non-government agency, have to interact with Government agencies as well. And I am certainly hopeful that the clarification that the gentleman you were just speaking to was a pretty good interview, I’ve got to say.
SMITH: The Government has a charity commission. Is it time for stronger rules and legislation? Because what makes me dirty is that my money is probably part of the $65 million sitting in their bank and earning interest.
ALBANESE: Well, look, certainly that’s a reasonable proposition. You would need to look at the detail. One of the things that charities can do sometimes better than government agencies with a whole lot of rules and bureaucracy around them is deliver things quicker. And I know that organisations like Red Cross and the Salvos and St Vinnies and others do some incredible work in our community. And I wouldn’t want people to be, if you like, are discouraged from donating to charities because of any of these issues. Because I know that, by and large, our major charities provide a great service for our nation.
SMITH: Australia Day on Sunday, are you supportive of Australia Day remaining on January the 26th?
ALBANESE: Yes, I am. And I have said that many times before. There’s a rather strange article, it must be said, on behalf of some right-wing group I’ve never heard of in The Australian today. I think that one of the things we need to do is seek ways to unite Australia rather than engage in culture wars. And it’s really counterproductive. And I think that we do need to recognise that Australia Day for Indigenous Australians is a difficult day. Yes, modern Australia, is connected with the arrival of migrants, but that had an impact, a terrible impact, a devastating impact, indeed, on First Australians. And one of the things that I’ve found is that when I’ve attended Australia Day ceremonies, that is very much front and centre. It’s been an opportunity to educate people about dispossession and the consequences of it. And it’s given a focus on that day. I note the Australia Day ads this year that have been produced, I assume by the Australia Day Council, are very good in my view.
SMITH: There’s not an Australian flag in the ad though, Anthony.
ALBANESE: I haven’t seen that. I didn’t notice that. Of course, the Australian flag plays a prominent role on Australia Day. I myself this Australia Day will be speaking at the ceremony in the Blue Mountains. I wanted to go to one of the areas that have been impacted by the bushfires. And I think that during this difficult period, we have seen the best of our nation. We have seen Australians helping each other out. We have seen firefighters putting their lives on the line. And lives lost, at least 28 lives lost. We have seen such an awful impact on whole communities wiped out. And I wanted to, this Australia Day, go to a bushfire affected area. And, of course, the Blue Mountains was under threat from the first time fires coming from the north and the south at that community. And so, I’m looking forward to Sunday. I do think we need to recognise First Nations peoples in the Australian constitution. We need to recognise that Australian history didn’t begin when the First Fleet arrived. It goes back. And we should be proud of the fact that we have the oldest continuous civilisation on the planet.
SMITH: Certainly, absolutely. I’ve run out of time. We’ll talk again, no doubt in 2020, in maybe other formats. But, good to catch up this morning. All the very best.
ALBANESE: Great to talk with you, Chris.