Jan 4, 2020


SUBJECT: Bushfire crisis across Australia.

ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: Joining us now is Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese. Thanks for joining us this morning. You faced your own criticism for attending the cricket yesterday. Do you think that is a fair cop?

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: I attended for about an hour-and-a-half and I attended so that I would fulfil a commitment I had with a rival network to do an interview during the lunchbreak, which was actually about the bushfires.

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, what do you make then of the Prime Minister’s reception in Cobargo? Were people right to react that way, do you think?

ALBANESE: Well, Andrew Constance has had his say about that. I would rather talk about what is needed. It is not my job to give a critique of Scott Morrison. People will make their own assessments about what happened with the 20-year-old pregnant woman, Zoey down in Cobargo. Certainly, at times like this I think that we need to listen, and we need to pay people appropriate respect. That is absolutely essential. People are really doing it tough. They are suffering. They are traumatised. That young woman had lost her home and everything that she owned. She wasn’t actually asking for something for herself, she was asking something for the Rural Fire Service in terms of funding. That is really symptomatic of what we are seeing here. People are being selfless. People are thinking of others. They are all paying tribute to our brave and courageous firefighters.

STEFANOVIC: It was hard to watch though, wasn’t it? Do you concede it was hard to watch?

ALBANESE: It certainly it was. This is a woman who has been traumatised. I have met people over the past weeks and, indeed, months, who have been incredibly traumatised by what has occurred. One of the things that we will have to make sure that we do, is put in place appropriate mechanism for what will be needed in terms of counselling after this. Think about the experience of some of those young kids being evacuated from the beach. That is something that we need to keep a close eye on the mental health response after this is over. There is a need for a whole-of-governments as well as whole-of-civil-society response to this national emergency, which we are seeing unfolding.

LANGDON: You were saying there you don’t want to criticise the Prime Minister and how he is handling this. Say hypothetically you are the Prime Minister this morning, what would you be doing that our current PM isn’t right now?

ALBANESE: I would have had COAG meeting in November to put in place a national response. You could see this coming. The predictions in terms of the weather are still that we won’t see any serious rain for a while yet. And so, today I am going to South Australia. Tomorrow I will be in Victoria. Monday I will be back in NSW. This requires a national response. It still seems to me that with some of the state-by-state analysis that is going on, with states having to request responses over things like the support for our firefighters, economic compensation, that eventually was given by the Government. But states having to request rather than having a national scheme. These bushfires don’t recognise state boundaries. And nor should the response. Obviously, the state bodies are in a position to coordinate and drive this. But it does need, I think, in the future, we need to have a national emergency disaster body, given the nature of our country. And given the fact that all of the experts, the scientists telling us that these events are going to be more frequent and more extreme as a result of climate change into the future. That is the best-case scenario.

STEFANOVIC: I couldn’t agree you more in terms of a national approach if we are going to see more of these things over the next few years. Regardless of how often they happen we need to have a national approach and national investment into it. Albo, I just heard you called over the two-way system there at the airport. You better run for your plane. Thanks for your time today, we appreciate it.

ALBANESE: Thanks very much Karl and Ally.