Jun 6, 2020








SUBJECTS: Government’s HomeBuilder scheme; US protests; social housing; protests during coronavirus; Eden-Monaro by-election; Central Coast; tourism; China telling their citizens not to travel to Australia; Australia’s relationship with China.


EMMA MCBRIDE, MEMBER FOR DOBELL: Good morning, everyone. I am Emma McBride, the Member for Dobell, and I am very pleased to welcome Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, back to the Coast this stunning June long weekend. I was talking to Anthony through the week about how hard-hit regions like ours, built on tourism, hospitality, retail, and construction, have been by COVID-19. This economic impact on the Coast has been severe. Communities like ours are really struggling. We need proper stimulus measures from the Government to kickstart the economy and get people back on their feet. I am really concerned that the Government’s latest stimulus package has not done that. Labor has been calling for six weeks for stimulus in the housing and construction sector. And what the Government has announced this week is not good enough. We know that communities and local people on the Coast will not be able to benefit from this. There are almost 11,000 tradies on the Central Coast and 2,500 small and family businesses working in this sector. This stimulus measure will not help those people back on their feet. It will not help to rebuild the Central Coast economy after we have been hit so hard by this pandemic. Who in the Central Coast has a lazy $150,000 sitting around and is thinking about renovating their bathroom? It is out of reach. It won’t help people. It won’t help households. And it won’t help our tradies and small businesses get back on their feet. Anthony is so concerned about the Coast. He is so concerned about regional and remote Australia. That is why he is here today. He is here today to listen to local people and to understand the impact of COVID-19 on our community, particularly the harsh economic impact that is hitting households right now. So, Anthony, thank you so much for coming to the Coast today. It is really good welcoming you back. I know you really care about our community. And I am so pleased that you are here to listen to local people and to learn more about their experiences and to hold the Government to account so they do better for regional Australia and for communities like ours on the Central Coast. Anthony?


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much. Well, thanks very much, Emma. It is a beautiful day here on the Central Coast, a wonderful part of New South Wales and Australia. And it’s been a great opportunity this morning to catch up with locals about some of the pressures that communities are under. We know now that we’re in a recession for the first time in three decades. That doesn’t mean something abstract. It means people being unemployed. It means hardship. But it also means that the Government and the private sector need to work together to promote economic growth, to promote job creation once again. And there was a big build-up for the Government. We had, for six weeks, said very clearly a five-point plan that we had to revitalise the housing industry because we know that this year instead of 160,000 new homes being built, there’ll only be 100,000. We know that there’s already been nationally a loss of some 140,000 apprentices and trainees on this Government’s watch, including 1,043 less apprentices here on the Central Coast since this Government came to office. So, we need action. But what we got this week was a big flop from this Government. What we got was a marketing slogan, rather than a plan to support jobs and to grow the economy. This marketing slogan, which perhaps explains why there was such a delay, if they stopped just testing programs to come up with new slick slogans, and instead looked at the detail of policy, you wouldn’t have those flaws. Now, I don’t know how many people in Bateau Bay, or Wyong, or Ourimbah have a lazy $150,000 set aside that they are able to get their planning done up to do up their bathroom or their kitchen or build renovations, get it through all the approvals process, have the contracts signed between now and December. I suspect it’ll be very few. And we will hold this Government to account for its big talk but small action. It is just like with the bushfire crisis, where there’s just four per cent of people have benefited from support from the Government. It’s like the mistakes that were there when we were told six million people were getting support from JobKeeper, but the real figure is only three million in that $60 billion bungle that was announced late on a Friday afternoon, two weeks ago. It’s like the flawed scheme when it came to Robodebt, where the Government is having to pay back $721 million. This Government is very good at big announcements. It’s not very good at the detail and actually looking after people. And in communities like here in the Central Coast, some pockets of which have unemployment rates of double digits particularly in young people, we need to address those issues. Happy to take questions. To me or Emma.


JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) for social housing?


ALBANESE: You’ve got to wonder why this Government refused to provide any support whatsoever, not a dollar, for new social housing or for renovating social housing. There also wasn’t a dollar for affordable housing for essential workers. We know there are over 400,000 Australians on waiting lists for social housing, and an obvious way to stimulate the economy, and a way in which you could do it while supporting apprentices and trainees as well, is to support new or renovated social housing. But not a single dollar. You’ve got to think that this Government’s gone back to its ideological position of opposing anything that has the word ‘public’ attached to it. But public housing is where I grew up. It provided a roof over the head of myself and my mum. It provided security for us. It’s absolutely vital at a time where we’ve being reminded that homeless people had to be put up in hotels because there was no social housing available for them to be housed during the coronavirus crisis, that we actually need to put this investment in. And the other difference is if we put investment into social housing in places like the Central Coast, it’s an investment that is retained in government ownership. So, it increases the assets of the Government. There’s nothing wrong with support for private housing. But why is it that that’s done at the exclusion of any public and social housing? And that’s why this scheme is just completely flawed, and why the Government needs to explain why it is that after such a big build-up, there’s so little result from the announcement that was made this week.


JOURNALIST: Unemployment and youth unemployment on the Central Coast and in Dobell in particular are already pretty high and some studies are showing that is only going to get worse with coronavirus. What are some practical solutions that Labor proposes?


ALBANESE: Well, a practical solution would be investment in housing that actually created jobs. There’ll be very little activity here on the coast as a result of this announcement this week. So, we could have building of new housing units. We could have renovation of the public housing which is here. We could have support for affordable housing for essential workers, for nurses, for police, for emergency service workers closer to where they work. One of the things we know on the Coast here is that so many people commute to work in Sydney. We need to look at job creation right here. And in construction, this is a lost opportunity. It’s a wasted opportunity. It’s bad policy. And it won’t result in an outcome which is appropriate, and one that we need, given that this Government has presided over the first recession in 30 years. Online?


JOURNALIST: Do you think that state premiers should follow New South Wales’ lead and stop protests done unlawfully? There is a pretty big risk of the spreading of COVID-19, isn’t there?


ALBANESE: Daniel Andrews in Victoria has made his position clear. Look, issues of Indigenous disadvantage are serious ones. We’re just through Reconciliation Week. I’m very conscious about the fact that we need to do far more to close the gap in terms of employment, in terms of education, in terms of health, in terms of life expectancy, in terms of infant mortality, in terms of incarceration rates. These figures show that Indigenous Australians are far more disadvantaged as a group than the rest of our society. And it diminishes us as a society that that is a fact. But there are a range of ways in which you can make your feelings known. And I do say that I support the right to protest but I also support making sure that we don’t have a second wave. We need to be very conscious of our health outcomes and the advice, staying 1.5 metres away as myself and Emma are here at this press conference.


JOURNALIST: Do you think that New South Wales Police should have gone to the Supreme Court to try and prohibit the protests planned for Sydney today?


ALBANESE: Look, that’s a matter for them. But I’ve made it very clear that any activity needs to be consistent with health advice. You don’t want people going to a protest and getting sick as a result of it. You don’t want then also for there to be an outbreak and for that to spread around. We’ve been successful in combating this health crisis because all Australians have followed the rules. All Australians are following the 1.5 metre distance. I don’t want any restrictions to be there for one day more than necessary. No one wants that because there’s an economic impact of it, including on employment. But we do need to follow the health advice.


JOURNALIST: Just in regard to Eden-Monaro, there is talk now that the National Party has buried the hatchet with John Barilaro having a press conference today. Do you buy it?


ALBANESE: Well, they’ve buried a few hatchets in each other, haven’t they? Anyone who’s been watching can see that. National versus National. The Nats are proudly saying around Eden-Monaro that they’re running a candidate to have a go at Michael McCormack and tell him that he was wrong for not backing in John Barilaro. And, of course, we have the Liberal Party fighting with Andrew Constance. We had Jim Molan was going to run and then not going to run. So, you’ve had National fighting National, Liberal fighting Liberal, National fighting Liberal, and all of them fighting each other. And what we’ve come up with was the fourth or fifth best candidate for the Coalition putting themselves forward. What we have on our side is our preferred candidate in Kristy McBain, who’s the outstanding candidate for this by-election, who is running to stand up for local people and isn’t interested in the political squabbles that have gone on the other side. Anymore? Thank you.


JOURNALIST: Can we get your reaction to China urging their citizens not to travel to Australia, citing an increasing racial discrimination and violence against Chinese-Asian people due to the coronavirus pandemic and what the long-term consequences of that kind of advice could be for Australia?


ALBANESE: Australia is a great country to visit. It is a great country to visit, particularly if you’re from any other country in the world that doesn’t have the sort of backdrop that I’m speaking to you here right now. And I’d encourage all Australians who are able to visit the Central Coast, to create jobs for the wonderful tourism facilities, which are here, places like the Coast are doing it tough in terms of employment, and they want domestic visitors. But we also know that this is an incredible destination for international visitors, because of the nature of our natural environment, the relatively sparse population and open space that’s here. To come to this lookout you drive up a wonderful piece of bush land. You have extraordinary beaches along here. And it’s June and the beaches are packed with swimmers and surfers, exercising social distancing but having a great time. And I’d say that to anyone who’s listening or watching, the Central Coast is a great place to visit and Australia is a great place to visit. And we even have search and rescue helicopters that keep people safe in this great country, which is the noise you can hear in the backdrop there. But the other thing is our natural environment is fantastic. Our beaches are fantastic. But our best asset is our people. And when you come to the Central Coast, I’ve had a cup of coffee this morning, people are friendly, they’re engaging. Australians treat everyone well. It is a great country to visit. And everyone is welcome here. Thanks very much.


JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that these latest statements from China will further damage the relationship with Australia?


ALBANESE: What I want is for everyone to know, regardless of where they are anywhere in the world, that Australia is a great place to visit. And I want to send out that positive message that it is a great place to visit. We have fantastic tourism facilities. We have a great natural environment. We have, you can’t see, the journos online, but there’s a lot of people here who look pretty friendly to me watching this press conference. That’s the nature of who Aussies are. We reach out. We’re friendly. We’re engaging. It’s a positive thing. And we need to just send out that positive message. Thanks very much.