Albo on vaccines, Hawkesbury mobile comms, and why you should look closely at who you vote for...
We had the opportunity to sit down – virtually of course – for an exclusive interview with Labor leader Anthony Albanese recently where he shared with the Post his views on Hawkesbury issues, including vaccines, poor mobile communications and why the next Federal election will shine a spotlight on our region.
The opposition leader - who could well be our next Prime Minister after the federal election – made the point he knows the Hawkesbury well and has visited many times, and even held a full Shadow Cabinet meeting in our region.
On poor mobile communications - the Labor leader has visited the Hawkesbury often, including during the last bushfires and floods, when he toured areas hard hit, including Bilpin and Mt Tomah. He said it was extraordinary mobile communications still hadn’t been sorted out.
“Many areas, like Mt Tomah and Bilpin, the Macdonald Valley, these areas and others in the Hawkesbury are still waiting for proper communications structure, and that is absolutely extraordinary,” he said.
“In the latest round of local blackspot funding, that saw only one location approved, it just doesn’t reflect the need that is there.
"And the fact there is still no phone service at some local fire brigades, I mean, that isn’t just a matter of convenience, it’s potentially a matter of life and death.”
Macquarie MP Susan Templeman and Labor leader Anthony Albanese in the Hawkesbury during the bushfires
Locals know all about these issues, so we asked Mr Albanese what he would do if he was Prime Minister, given telecommunications are a Federal issue.
“Hawkesbury’s communications issues should absolutely be prioritised, it’s something that should have happened a long time ago. We really need to do better.
"It just adds to peoples’ apprehension when there is a disaster and they can’t depend on the communications.
“It needs a comprehensive plan to fix the region, so you fix mobile phone blackspots which are there, so that you provide phone services at local fire brigades, and you upgrade local phone infrastructure where it’s needed.”
On COVID – Mr Albanese said that the initial roll out of vaccines had been botched by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his team and since then we’ve all been in a race to try and get vaccinated.
“The Prime Minister told us we were at the front of the queue [for vaccines] and we weren’t, we were running last in the developed world. The Prime Minister promised that people who were in the most vulnerable categories, including aged care residents, aged care workers, disability residents and their workers, would all be vaccinated by Easter. But even by August those numbers [unvaccinated] were still just terrible."
Mr Albanese echoes Macquarie MP Susan Templeman's call for the Hawkesbury to have its own vaccination hub.
“Absolutely. We should be taking vaccines to where people are. Drive throughs, vaccine hubs, and take it into the work places. We should have been using pharmacies earlier. The reason we didn’t is we didn’t have enough supply.”
On the federal election - At the next election – which hasn’t been called yet but has to be before May this coming year - Labor’s Susan Templeman will once again be fighting for her political life in one of the country’s most marginal seats.
Mr Albanese said everyone should have a close look at who their MP is.
“I can’t imagine a better representative than Susan Templeman,” he said.
“I’m a big fan of Ms Templeman and we have known each other for a very long time and she is such an amazing representative.
“She represents everyone in the community, she loves the community, she is someone who has been a tireless advocate during the bushfires, she was there, she didn’t take holidays, she was there on the ground helping people, as she was during the floods. She is someone who has fought for her electorate and will continue to do so.”
And if he does become PM, how will he make sure the Hawkesbury gets the attention it deserves?
“What I would do is to make sure the area gets its fair share and let me tell you, Susan would make sure too. She is such a tireless advocate for the Hawkesbury.
“I don’t know of a better local MP anywhere in Australia than Susan Templeman. The local community should be really proud of her and they should vote for her, even if it’s the first time they have voted Labor in their lives - this is the one that matters.”
We asked the Labor leader what strengths he brought to the position of Prime Minister compared to Scott Morrison.
“He brings spin, I bring substance. He brings announcements, I bring delivery. I’m concerned about making a difference, not about making a noise.
“For Scott Morrison it’s all insincere and he changes his position. What you’ll see from me is consistency, honesty and integrity, not spin.”
We have of course asked other political leaders if they’d like to sit down with us and have a chat about all things Hawkesbury and we look forward to bringing you those interviews in due course.
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