ANTHONY ALBANESE, JIM CHALMERS & TERRI BUTLER – TRANSCRIPT – DOORSTOP INTERVIEW – BRISBANE – THURSDAY, 11 FEBRUARY 2021
ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
JIM CHALMERS MP
MEMBER FOR RANKIN
TERRI BUTLER MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER
MEMBER FOR GRIFFITH
THURSDAY, 11 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Visit to Queensland; Labor’s policy agenda; industrial relations; insecure work; Labor’s Secure Australian Jobs Plan; Cross River Rail; Government’s rorts; vaccine rollout.
MARK BAILEY, QUEENSLAND MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND MAIN ROADS: Look, it’s great to be here. It’s a real pleasure to welcome Anthony Albanese, or Albo, as everyone knows him as. Albo has had a long history backing in the Cross River Rail project. This project would be built if the LNP government at the time had agreed to the deal offered by the Deputy Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. And, unfortunately, we saw that lack of commitment in infrastructure manifest. So, it was left to a Labor Government to 100 per cent fund this Cross River Rail project, the Palaszczuk Labor Government getting it done with a peak of 3,000 workers on this project this year, because we got $0 from the Federal Government, no partnership from the Liberal Party for jobs here in southeast Queensland. He has been a huge advocate of this project for more than a decade. It’s a real pleasure to have Albo here. Not just here, but also right across Queensland this week where he’s been a great friend of this state. We saw huge increases in Bruce Highway funding when he was the Minister and also the Deputy Prime Minister. And it is a great pleasure to have you here, Albo. I believe Terri Butler will speak next. Terri?
TERRI BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER: Thanks, Minister. And thanks to everyone for being here at Cross River Rail in the electorate of Griffith, my electorate, wonderful place here on the inner south of Brisbane. I’m so excited to be back here at Cross River Rail, a site that the Palaszczuk Labor Government has been working on delivering so well. And it’s great to be here with Mark Bailey, who has been an excellent minister, continuing to live up for our state. And, of course, it’s wonderful to be here with Jim Chalmers and Anthony Albanese. Great to have Anthony back in my electorate again. He’s such a strong supporter of Queenslanders. And if you’re looking for someone who will stand up for jobs, Anthony Albanese and Labor are on your side. I also want to mention to you a story of the day that is really important because it goes to the question of Morrison Government waste. Today, the Productivity Commission has issued a scathing indictment on this Government’s capacity to deliver water infrastructure. In fact, they’ve singled out one project for criticism, Dungowan Dam, near Tamworth, that’s expected to deliver water at $60,000 a megalitre per year when actually the market price is $1341. That’s almost 45 times more than the going rate. The Morrison Government is absolutely hopeless when it comes to managing your money. And they’re absolutely prone to wasting your money. And I know that if we elect Anthony Albanese and a Labor Government in the future, we’re going to have a much better Government, one that stands up for Queenslanders, one that stands up for Australians and is on your side. So I’m just delighted to welcome Anthony. Let’s talk to him.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Terri. And this is the sixth day of my visit here in Queensland. And I’ve got a message for Queenslanders, which is that I’m on your side. Last night, I delivered a speech speaking about our plan for job security, our plan for better pay and fair conditions. It’s been well received by workers last night. And it comes from my experience going around, not just this state, but right around the country, listening to workers about their concerns about growing job insecurity. We have clear messages for the people of Queensland and for all workers, which is that our priority is jobs. Not just any job, but good jobs. Jobs that provide security. Security to get a home loan. Security to plan for your family. And this project here is a great example of one that ticks all the boxes. As Terri said, when I was Deputy Prime Minister, we had funding for this project in the Budget. It was ready to go. We had an MOU signed with the Queensland Government. But Campbell Newman and Tony Abbott, the Coalition Government both Queensland and federally, walked away from that plan. And the Coalition Government now led by Scott Morrison took the money that was in the Budget for this project and gave it to toll roads in New South Wales and Victoria. It ignored Queenslanders at the time. And now we see how vital this project is for everyone in southeast Queensland. This was the number one project identified by Infrastructure Australia for a very good reason in its 2012 priority list. And if it had been not stopped by the Coalition it would be opened today. But as it is, I congratulate the Palaszczuk Government for getting on with the job even though federally are not offering any support to people in the suburbs of Brisbane and indeed the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, that this will unlock the congestion. This project injects $4.1 million every day into Queensland’s economy. This project has employed 2,400 workers up to now. But what it will do is make a difference to Queensland’s economy on an ongoing basis. This Government has presided over a trillion dollars of debt that they don’t have legacy projects to show for it at the end of it all. This is a Government that doesn’t have a vision for the country and isn’t on the side of Queenslanders. And I look forward to returning here. If you want to underline how this Government isn’t on the side of Australians, but is on their own side, there have been two events in the last 24 hours. One, the revelations about Peter Dutton’s interference in the community safety programs. This is just extraordinary. You would think that community safety should be above party politics. But what we’ve seen, far from being a community safety program for Peter Dutton, it’s about the safety of Liberal and National Party MPs. It is outrageous that the independent analysis given to him has been overturned and pork barrelling when it comes to community safety. Surely, this should be above politics. And this is a clear breach of ministerial guidelines. As is Greg Hunt’s use of the Liberal Party logo when it comes to vaccines. And attacking the ABC for daring to ask the question about it is just extraordinary. It shows how out of touch Greg Hunt is that he doesn’t know that there’s a difference between taxpayers’ money and Liberal Party money. And that goes to a core difference between Labor and the Coalition. Labor is out there listening to people about what they need to secure their future. The Government and the Coalition is just about looking after itself.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks very much, Albo. And thanks to the team from Cross River Rail for having us here today. Projects like this one are absolutely central to making sure that the economy can be stronger after COVID-19 than it was before. These kinds of projects are absolutely crucial when it comes to creating secure, well-paid jobs for people here in Queensland. We want to commend Mark and the Premier and others for all of the work and investment and forethought that goes into a project like this and all of the benefits that it means for communities, including the one that I represent in the outer suburbs. We want to work closely with the state government of Queensland to make sure that we’re investing in those secure, well-paid jobs with fairer conditions. We want to work with the business community to make sure that we can address the very real challenges in the economy which existed before COVID, at risk of becoming even worse afterwards. We want to make sure that there’s the investment. We want to make sure that there is the skills and training. We want to make sure that we can address some of the defining challenges in the economy around insecure work and underemployment and stagnant wages, which have been historically stagnant under the life of this Government and not just because of the pandemic. We want to work with business on all of those issues. The Government’s industrial relations changes won’t address those very real challenges we have in the economy. If anything, they will make them worse. And that’s why we’re opposed to them. That’s why Australians do have that choice between more secure work with better pay and fairer conditions under the plan that Anthony Albanese and Tony Burke announced last night. They can choose between that or more cuts to pay, less secure work and more cuts to super, which is what the Coalition under Scott Morrison is offering. Now, the Morrison Government has a trillion dollars in debt riddled with rorts. If Cross River Rail was a cheeky little rort in a marginal Coalition seat, the Government would be throwing money at it. But instead it’s about real jobs in real communities and real benefits in places like Queensland and so it doesn’t get a look in. Trillion dollars in debt, riddled with rorts. They say there’s no blank cheque when it comes to projects like this, which support jobs in places like Brisbane and the surrounding southeast corner. But when it comes to those cheeky little rorts in marginal Coalition seats, there is a blank cheque. And we’ve seen that from Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison as well. I wanted to say about Anthony Albanese’s week in Queensland this week, the reason that Albo has been so well received, from the tropical far north all the way down to the southeast corner, is because when Anthony Albanese comes to Queensland, he’s focused on jobs and opportunities for Queenslanders. When Scott Morrison thinks about Queensland, he thinks about votes, he thinks about rorts and he thinks about taking pot-shots at a Premier who has done and is doing a remarkable job, not just protecting Queenslanders from the worst spread of the virus but also investing in the jobs and opportunities that we desperately need as we recover from the worst recession in almost a century.
ALBANESE: Thanks, Jim. Happy to take questions.
ALBANESE: What we said was that we would consult. That is what I announced last night. What we know is that these issues are being dealt with. For example, here in Queensland, from January 1, the Palaszczuk Government has implemented a plan for portability of long service leave entitlements for community and social workers. So we know that it can be done. And last night I announced that we would consult with business and with state governments about implementing such a plan. We know that it’s necessary. And we’ve had other examples as well of problems with, for example, sick leave not being a part of processes. And that’s caused problems in the aged care sector. That’s why in Victoria the Government has intervened to ensure that sick leave entitlements are there.
ALBANESE: I only gave one speech. It was last night.
ALBANESE: I only gave one speech. I gave it last night. I gave it for everyone. You had this absurd proposition, I noticed, from Christian Porter yesterday. Before I gave a speech, he allegedly had this nonsense costing. No wonder this Government got $60 billion wrong when it came to JobKeeper. I mean, this Government just makes up figures as if they get them out of a cereal box in the morning. They can’t be taken seriously. What should be taken seriously is the fact that workers are doing it tough. That casualisation in the workforce is an issue. That job security is an issue. That income security is an issue. Today I note that McDonald’s have made a submission to the inquiry about Christian Porter’s industrial relations bill. Now, they made that submission saying that when you look at whether a worker is better off overall, you should take into account whether they’ve had a chicken nugget or a French fry during their meal break. I mean, seriously? I used to work at Maccas. I used to and I know what it’s like to have a bit of food or a drink during your break. You need to do it. Particularly, I used to work out the back. It was hot, hard work. It’s a good thing that young people work in casual jobs like at McDonald’s. I encouraged my own son to get a casual job. He worked at Woolworths through school. It is a good thing. It teaches them discipline. But the idea that you take into account whether someone’s better off overall if they have the luxury of actually getting a bit of food and a soft drink during their break is just quite absurd. And it shows where this Government wants things to head. You only get rid of the Better Off Overall Test if you don’t want workers to be better off overall.
ALBANESE: I am not even taking it seriously. It’s just a joke. Has the ABC seen the costings? I suspect not.
ALBANESE: We have a plan for jobs. We have a plan for Queensland. We are here talking about good jobs, secure jobs, good pay, pay increases. People know that they’re struggling to keep up with the cost of living. They know that this Government is an arrogant Government that has taken Queenslanders for granted. We know that Scott Morrison only visited Queensland when there was a state election on to campaign against the Palaszczuk Government and to have fundraisers. You can spot where Scott Morrison is going because there’s a fundraiser, as there was in the Hunter Valley during his visit this week.
JOURNALIST: What sort of assurances can you give those people who might have voted for One Nation in the past?
ALBANESE: Well, we support workers wherever they’re in work. And we respect the job that they do. Labor is the party for working people. For 130 years, we have stood up for the rights of workers. We know that this Government, when it had a chance, the Coalition implemented WorkChoices. And as soon as they had an opportunity to make industrial relations changes, they said they were going to consult, they set up a process between business and unions, and then out of nowhere came getting rid of the Better Off Overall Test. My challenge to the Government is this, including to Christian Porter, show me where once last year before you introduced this legislation you said you needed to get rid of the Better Off Overall Test. They didn’t. It is what Coalition Governments do. At every opportunity, they have a go at workers. And that contrasts with Labor’s approach. My approach is always to consult, not just with unions, but consult with business. That was the whole Infrastructure Australia model that led to this project being prioritised. I did it in Government last time. I would do it again in a Government that I lead.
ALBANESE: We’ll work through those issues. I spoke last night and gave practical examples in Victoria, in Queensland, of what it means. And I’ll refer you to the speech.
Can I make one further comment just about the vaccines because I was asked about it off camera just before. The fact is that Australia was told by Scott Morrison that we’re ahead of the queue. The truth is that other countries got way ahead of us in signing deals with pharmaceutical companies to get access to vaccines. They started signing deals way back in March last year. We started six months later. World’s best practices is for six deals. We have half that. And we know that the good work done here, including by UQ and CSL, didn’t work its way through. And that’s why you needed to sign more deals. Now, what we find is the vaccine is being rolled out around the world, including in Panama and Oman. Australians are still waiting. The TGA has approved the Pfizer vaccine. We were told that the vaccine would be rolled out in mid-February. It’s now February 11. That’s mid-February. And the Government needs to explain why it is that they didn’t put in place the measures that Labor were calling for last year. Thanks very much.