ANTHONY ALBANESE & CHRIS BOWEN – TRANSCRIPT – DOORSTOP INTERVIEW – PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA – TUESDAY, 6 OCTOBER 2020
ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
CHRIS BOWEN MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH
MEMBER FOR MCMAHON
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
TUESDAY, 6 OCTOBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Federal Budget; Budget reply; economy; Morrison recession; JobKeeper; JobSeeker; need for an Australian Centre for Disease Control; economic recovery; jobs; tax cuts; women.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Tonight, the Federal Government should announce support for an Australian Centre for Disease Control. If they don’t, a Labor Government will establish this. We are the only nation in the OECD that does not have a Centre for Disease Control. This is just a part of what modern governments do, making sure that they’re prepared not just for the next pandemic, but also prepared in terms of other disease issues and management. The fact is that this Government was grossly unprepared for this pandemic. The last time there was an exercise here in Australia, something that’s recommended by the World Health Organization that some other countries do, was back in 2008 under the Rudd Labor Government. An Australian Centre for Disease Control is prudent, it is necessary, and it should be established.
CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW HEALTH MINISTER: Thanks, Albo. The one thing we know is that there will be another pandemic. After Ebola, Zika, H1N1, SARS-COVID1 and SARS-COVID2. Pandemics do occur. And we need to be better prepared. As Albo said, we are the only OECD nation without a Centre for Disease Control. Now, a CDC is not a silver bullet. It’s not a panacea. It doesn’t solve all the problems. But it is world’s best practice. And if we’d had the CDC in Australia, maybe we wouldn’t have gone into this pandemic with only 20 million masks, no gloves, goggles or gowns in our stockpile. Maybe we would have had better plans. Maybe the pandemic preparedness exercise that Anthony referred to would war-game what to do with cruise ships on arrival. And we would have avoided the Ruby Princess disaster. A CDC would advise Government, state and federal. They would advise Federal Government on how to handle aged care. And maybe the terrible tragedies we have seen in aged care might have been averted. So, this is world’s best practice. And Australia should have world’s best practice. We would like to develop this in conjunction with COAG. But an Albanese Labor Government will implement a CDC and will do so because it’s the right thing for Australia’s health. And as Anthony said, it’s not just about pandemics. 90 per cent of Australian disease deaths are from chronic disease. And 38 per cent of those are preventable. This Government abolished the Australian Preventative Health Agency earlier this term. CDC would take up some of that role that this Government has abolished in a very backward step. We need to be concentrating more on disease prevention and more on disease control. The CDC is world’s best practice to do so. And I am very pleased that an Albanese Labor Government will implement that.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, just on the battle last year in Parliament over income tax cuts between Labor and the Government, you eventually supported all three stages. We are expecting Stage Two to be accelerated tonight. What is your response to that? And are we expected to get a similar battle this year?
ALBANESE: Well, it will be similar to what we did last year and consistent. Last year, we supported Stage One and Stage Two, including a bring -forward of Stage Two of the tax cuts. We argued that the economy was flatlining, that demand was soft, and wages were stagnant, that the economy needed stimulus. Our position is obviously that that’s been exacerbated this year. But we will act consistent with that. We were concerned about high-end tax cuts last year, in terms of Stage Three. We were placed in a position of being defined by what we’re for or what we’re against. And we were defined by what we were in favour of.
JOURNALIST: Are you for wage subsidies if they replaced JobKeeper?
ALBANESE: Well, we’ll wait and see what’s in the Budget, of course. But we have argued consistently the need for economic support for jobs.
JOURNALIST: And lifting the debt ceiling past $1 trillion?
ALBANESE: Well, this is a question for the Government. The Government’s got to explain why a debt burden of $200 billion is a crisis and a disaster, but a trillion dollars is no problem, nothing to see here. The Government needs to explain the contradiction and the fact that it for years has spoken economic nonsense. The Government also needs to explain why it was that during the Global Financial Crisis, they opposed all of the economic stimulus measures including infrastructure investment. They showed such opportunism and destructive action. The Labor Party, in opposition, has been constructive during this period. We have raised concerns about each of the packages and tried to improve them. But we haven’t stood in the way. Because we’ve put the national interest first, which is something that the Coalition didn’t do.
JOURNALIST: So, you won’t stand in the way of raising the debt ceiling?
ALBANESE: Well, actually, the legislation is being changed so that this Government walked away from having a debt ceiling, effectively. What happens now is that the Treasurer just notifies the appropriate authorities and that’s how the debt ceiling is raised.
JOURNALIST: The issue in terms of reducing assistance, (inaudible).
ALBANESE: It was just a big one. They just opposed the big measures.
JOURNALIST: You said all of them?
ALBANESE: They just opposed the big measures. I went on to say infrastructure was the big thing that they opposed. The fact is that this Government kept us here to very early in the morning, when they were the opposition, voting against the package. Tony Abbott behaved in a way whereby he had to be woken up to vote against our stimulus packages. The Government of today acted like a destructive opposition when they were there. I think it just stands in stark contrast. We have been responsible, we have been constructive, we will continue to do so. But we’ll also continue to argue, and we’ll examine the Budget tonight based upon two things. One is, are they addressing the short-term need to create jobs immediately? But secondly, also, is there any significant reform placed in tonight’s Budget so that the economy can emerge stronger than it was last year when it was really struggling and so that the economy and society can be fairer? That’s what Labor always does. Examine on the basis of fairness.
JOURNALIST: What do you think should be done for women in this Budget?
ALBANESE: Well, I’ll have some things to say about that, of course, on Thursday night. But it is a fact that in terms of genders, the impact of this recession has not been even. Women have been particularly adversely affected. And the Government needs to respond tonight to that. We can’t have a pink recession and a blue recovery. What we need to do is to make sure, in terms of fairness, that those issues are addressed.
JOURNALIST: There’ll be a youth wage subsidy of some description in the Budget. Would that be better directed at women, something like that?
ALBANESE: Well, I’ll give you the big tip, 50 per cent of young people are women or thereabouts. So, we’ll examine the detail of that, obviously. Thanks very much.