ANTHONY ALBANESE, AMANDA RISHWORTH & KRISTY MCBAIN – TRANSCRIPT – DOORSTOP INTERVIEW – QUEANBEYAN – MONDAY, 9 NOVEMBER 2020
ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
AMANDA RISHWORTH MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT
SHADOW MINISTER FOR YOUTH
MEMBER FOR KINGSTON
KRISTY MCBAIN MP
MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO
MONDAY, 9 NOVEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Labor’s childcare policy; NAIDOC week; US presidential election; Australia’s relationship with the US; democracy; democratic values; climate change; net zero emissions by 2050; foreign relations.
KRISTY MCBAIN, MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: Good morning. Can I welcome the Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, and our Shadow Minister, Amanda Rishworth, to Kindy Patch Kids in Queanbeyan. And can I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we stand on, the Ngunnawal People. And we just saw a beautiful welcome to country by local Kindy Patch kids here in Queanbeyan. Another fantastic centre in my electorate, which is exceeding in the national standards. An electorate where we obviously have a number of people entering the workforce and going back into the workforce. This centre is at 98 per cent capacity. And it shows that the need for childcare centres is great, not only here in Queanbeyan but right across the country. And we’ve got people, women and families wanting to enter the workforce, wanting to do the extra day, the fourth or fifth day, and not be penalised for it. And that is why Labor’s childcare plan is a plan that will actually allow all families to get back into the workforce if that is their aim. Having the choice is what the Labor Party is all about. Making sure it is an equitable choice, making sure that we are there for families as they need to enter the workforce and beyond. And I will ask Anthony Albanese to make a few words.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Kristy. And thanks for the welcome here at this fantastic early childhood centre. And I must say this week as well, of course, is NAIDOC week. And one of the things that has happened through generations is that now the young kids, two and three, doing the acknowledgement of country is something now that our young Australians just take for granted. And that is a very, very good thing. Can I say that early childhood education is so important, and that’s why it was the centre of my Budget Reply. It’s now more than a month since that Budget Reply. Scott Morrison has had a month to reconsider his opposition. His rhetoric that everything’s all okay and families don’t need more support, we know that that’s not true. What we know is that for many women out there working a fourth or fifth day a week means working it essentially for free, or sometimes it actually costing them money. We know that 97 per cent of families would benefit from our policy to remove the cap and to lift the subsidy to 90 per cent and then to improve the taper rate. We know it would make an enormous difference for families and for their budgets. And we know also from Senate Estimates, showed that the education department expects that childcare costs will increase by 5.3 per cent in the coming year. A 5.3 per cent increase in childcare costs at a time where inflation is negligible. What that means is that people’s living standards copping a further hit. So, this is a problem that will only get worse without action. And yet you have a Prime Minister who designed the current scheme, who pretends there are no issues. What we know is that early childhood education is good for children themselves firstly. The human brain has 90 per cent of its development in the first five years. And we saw some of that expression happening here at this early childhood education centre this morning. We know also that it’s good for families, but we know also it’s good for our economy. Our economy is being held back by the fact that women in particular can’t fully participate in the workforce, their careers are disrupted. And we know that this would be a productivity boosting measure. This is solid economic reform. The three ways that you can grow an economy, of course, participation, which this would help, productivity, which this would turbocharge, and also population, which our policy will provide families with the certainty to know that they could go forward with their first child or with further children in the knowledge that they would be given the economic support that they need. So many families, when I go around the country, say to me that it made enormous difference when their youngest hit primary school. All of a sudden, we had more disposable income. Why is that the case? That doesn’t make sense for our national economy. And that’s why our policy is a solid one. Good for the economy. Good for families. Good for children. After one month, it’s about time that the Prime Minister reconsidered his position.
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Well, thank you very much. I’d like to send a really big thank you to the educators and teachers here at Kindy Patch. We’ve seen some wonderful early education on show, these children learning and having a wonderful experience and getting prepared to go to school. Because as Anthony said, 90 per cent of the brain develops in the first five years. And so here at Kindy Patch, and early learning settings right around the country, we have children preparing, getting ready for school socialisation, as we heard here today, getting used to picking their own things out of their lunchbox. So, this is a really wonderful learning experience and something that the Government must support. But in addition to that, as Anthony’s outlined, our policy is about giving children the best start, but also supporting families get back into the workforce. And as I’ve been going around in the last month talking with families about the importance of this, I hear more and more stories of people saying one of two things; they’ve gone back to work for the full time knowing they’ll take the economic hit for five years or four years until their child reaches school, or they’ve said it’s financially just not worth our while for the second income earner to go back to work, usually the woman. So, this is the real lived experience of families and something that Labor’s childcare policy is designed to support those families. Designed to support them back. And as Kristy said, give them real choice, whether that is choosing to go back to work full time, they’re not going to lose money as a result.
Now in addition, I’ve been talking to many businesses that have endorsed this policy, businesses that have a great worker who takes maternity leave, but then when they want to go back to work is not able to come back full time because of the finances. And those businesses say that person wants to come back, then they want to have them back. Because that would improve the productivity of their business and improve the workings and everything else that go along with it. So, I’ve had businesses, families, they even had grandparents welcome this policy. Many grandparents see their children doing it tough. Many grandparents have to take on the extra work because they don’t want to see their children and their families worse off. So, many grandparents have said that this is a really sensible policy to support their children and their grandchildren. And of course, we’ve had economists backing it in. Right across the spectrum we’ve had people welcoming Labor’s childcare policy. The only people that are not welcoming it, the only people that are saying, ‘There’s nothing to see here, there’s no problems with the system’ is the Liberal Party and the National Party. The Morrison Government is the only group saying, ‘Everything’s fine. There’s no problem here. There’s no workforce disincentive’. Well, my suggestion to Scott Morrison and his team is get out and speak to real people. Get out and speak to families. Get out and speak to business. Get out and speak to grandparents and educators and teachers. Everyone will tell you there’s a problem with the system. Labor’s policy is designed to fix that policy problem. And we hope that the Government comes on board.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much happy to take questions
JOURNALIST: Do you now regret calling on the Prime Minister to phone Donald Trump to get him to concede?
ALBANESE: No, I didn’t suggest that, ever. What I suggested was that Scott Morrison needed to show in some way, that was one way he could have done it, demonstrate support for our democratic principles at a time when members of the Australian Government have been out there questioning the democratic process. If you question the democratic process in one country, you question it everywhere. And the fact is that there is a very clear outcome in the United States, its institutions have worked well, and the Prime Minister acknowledged that yesterday in saying that the United States President-elect Joe Biden was indeed the President-elect, prior to Donald Trump conceding. The fact is that the Prime Minister has had a very close relationship with Donald Trump. So, if the Prime Minister wants to argue about interference in US elections, he probably shouldn’t have attended the campaign rally, effectively, in Ohio just last year. Where quite clearly, there they were, with their ‘Make America Great Again’ hats, with their banners, there with our Prime Minister and President Trump. That was an inappropriate intervention during an election period by our Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: Just to read your words back to you there, you said, ‘You should be contacting President Trump and conveying Australia’s strong views’.
ALBANESE: Yes, he can do that in a number of ways. And he’s done that. And he can do that publicly. I have made statements and I’ve made it consistently. Why is it that this Prime Minister has not been called to account for members of his Government, the Liberal and National Party, questioning the process, and the former Australian Ambassador to the United States who went on radio and used specifically the example that in Washington, DC it was not credible that Joe Biden was receiving more than 90 per cent of the vote when in fact Democrat candidate have received more than 90 per cent of the vote, not just in this election, the one before, the one before that and the one before that. Now, perhaps Joe Hockey, when he was Ambassador, should have got out a bit more. There was a need for the Australian Government to indicate our support for democracy. That is something that is universal. Our alliance with the United States is our most important. And it is based upon our common values. And at the core of that is our support for democratic principles.
JOURNALIST: You’ve also been speaking about the potential of climate change being more front and centre in terms of what is happening internationally. But what is Labor’s 2030 policy? Not the 2050 plan, what are you taking to 2030?
ALBANESE: One of the things that should have happened in the media is they should have paid some attention to the fact that changes happen. A big change happened in the world last Wednesday. One of the things I have said consistently is that we will take our policy to the election consistent with net zero emissions by 2050. That’s now consistent with the United States, with Japan, with Korea, with Europe, with the United Kingdom, with New Zealand. Australia is now isolated amongst our major trading partners when it comes to those issues. And we adopted our policy in 2015 of a 15-year target. We didn’t get elected in 2016. We didn’t get elected in 2019. We are not the Government. There will be substantial changes including the fact that President Biden will convene a meeting next year of like-minded countries. Interestingly, John Podesta who will play a critical role in the democratic administration, has indicated that the US looks forward to working with its partners on climate change, like-minded countries, in that, he names the UK, he names New Zealand, he names Europe, he names Japan and Korea. He doesn’t name Australia. That is a big problem for us. And what we need to do is adopt positions that are consistent with the zero net emissions by 2050 and we will do that.
JOURNALIST: But there has to be a process to get there.
ALBANESE: There does indeed. And before the election, they will certainly know exactly our process of going up to net zero emissions but 2050. This Government has adopted 22 different policies. 22 different policies. We will make an announcement about the full detail of our policies at an appropriate time. There are various models that you can have. Zali Steggall is putting one before the Parliament today that doesn’t have an interim target in it, by the way. And the ABC, I note this morning, has been unquestioning about that. So, the fact is we will have a consistent policy leading up to. There are a range of mechanisms that you can have. We’ve also reached out to the Government, as you would be aware, two months ago now. I wrote to the Prime Minister suggesting that it would be appropriate to have a common frame, be it in NEG, clean energy target, there’s a range of mechanisms that you can have. But you need a clear energy policy framework. The Prime Minister didn’t bother to respond to that. And that indicates where they are at. Regarding a 2030 target, this Government doesn’t have one. I noticed this morning Simon Birmingham on Fran Kelly’s program didn’t get asked about Kyoto. They are not meeting targets, it is an accounting trick. That is not lowering admissions. And it is an accounting trick that Europe won’t accept, the UK won’t accept it, New Zealand won’t accept it and the United States. This Government has a big problem with its policy and capacity to meet its own target that it has set.
JOURNALIST: Will you support the Government’s foreign relations bill?
ALBANESE: Debate will continue on that. We are concerned about some of the Government’s hypocrisy on these issues. This is aimed clearly on playing politics once again. A part of their anti-Dan Andrews, anti-Victorian campaign, that we have seen on an ongoing basis in spite of Victoria’s tremendous success, it must be said, in combating a second wave and its recording of zero after zero. We’ve gone past the doughnuts and the bagels now. The fact is that Simon Birmingham welcomed that when it was done. The fact is, this Government signed an MOU with China about the BRI. And the fact is, this Government sat back and watched the Port of Darwin be sold to foreign interests, a critical piece of infrastructure. We will examine the detail. We think there are problems with this legislation. And we think that the Government needs to explain why it is that it is a major issue if some local council adopts a sister city relationship with a country somewhere overseas, but selling a major infrastructure asset in our most strategic port in the country isn’t a problem.
JOURNALIST: Shouldn’t the Federal Government control foreign relations and foreign deals?
ALBANESE: We have said, of course, that. But this Government, of course, has sat back and watched the Port of Darwin be sold. I was Infrastructure Shadow at the time and I had raised my concerns at the time. Of course, foreign policy should be in the hands of the national Government. We have said that. That bit isn’t controversial at all. That has been our consistent position.
JOURNALIST: Would you say on the fact of the Biden victory, there should be more courageous climate policy in Australia?
ALBANESE: I think that having a climate change policy would be a start. This Government doesn’t have one. It is not just that it doesn’t have a courageous one, it doesn’t have one. It doesn’t have policy. It has an accounting trick, that is what it has.
JOURNALIST: What would you say to your colleague Joel Fitzgibbon?
ALBANESE: I say Labor’s position is what I do. So, I will stop you even before that. I say Labor’s position. Labor’s position is very clear. Labor believes that climate change is real. Labor believes that climate change requires action and leadership from our national Government. Labor believes we can have not just a clean energy future, we can be a renewable energy superpower. And that good action on climate change will create jobs, it will reduce emissions and it will reduce energy prices.
JOURNALIST: What do you say about right faction of your party? Are you open to a pro-gas, pro-coal agenda and to changing Labor’s policy platform?
ALBANESE: That is just a silly question, frankly. You are paraphrasing. You are trying to assert something that just isn’t true, the premise of the question is wrong. The Labor Party, every member of the Labor Party supported net zero emissions by 2050 and supports action on climate change.
JOURNALIST: With respect, is there room in Labor’s platform to consider that there are some industries, coal and gas, which do have a future and there are some people in your party that want to see that continue alongside climate change policy?
ALBANESE: No-one argues in this country that the transition to a clean energy future means that things stop immediately and that you just turn off the lights. No-one argues that. No-one argues that’s the case. When it comes to gas, gas plays a critical role in manufacturing in things like plastics, fertiliser, in a whole range of areas. Indeed, energy is not a majority in terms of households. That is not where it goes. It is important for manufacturing. Look at the Liddell Power Station which is being shut down, contrary to what the Government said. The Government shouldn’t be allowed to get away with having argued for year after year after year. They are in their eighth year now, so for seven years, they argued Liddell should be extended. It was an outrage if Liddell was not kept going into the future with no end in sight. They know that wasn’t real. It just wasn’t real in terms of their rhetorical position. Now, Liddell will be replaced by a mix of renewables with battery storage and gas. That will be a good thing that is happening. AGL have a plan for that. The Government, at the same time, is going, and we voted in the Parliament on this issue, of funding a feasibility study for a new coal-fired power station at Collinsville in Queensland even though everyone knows that will not go ahead. It is millions of dollars given to the proponents with no record of running a major infrastructure project or a major energy project anywhere at all. Millions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds being given to that which would have, of course, a life of many decades. If anything exposes the hypocrisy and the political game playing that this Government engages in, it is that. I’ve said consistently, since well before I was environment spokesperson and climate change spokesperson more than a decade ago, that we need to listen to the science on climate change and we need to respond accordingly. One of the ways that we’ve got through this pandemic is we’ve listened to the science, listened to the experts and acted accordingly. We need to take that principle to the issue of climate change. But this Government is frozen in time while the world warms around it because it can’t stand up to the climate sceptics on their backbench. Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.