FRIDAY, 20 NOVEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Plans for state government to merge four schools in Murwillumbah; importance of education; climate change; net zero by 2050; Gold Coast light rail to the Tweed; IGADF Afghanistan Inquiry; superannuation.
JUSTINE ELLIOT, MEMBER FOR RICHMOND: Well, it's great to be here today with Anthony Albanese, Federal Labor Leader. Also, Janelle Saffin, the state Member for Lismore. We also have the Tweed Shire Deputy Mayor, Reece Byrnes. And I'd really like to thank Anthony for coming along today to really support our community as we're fighting to stop the New South Wales Liberal National Government’s bad decision to close four schools, force them into one location, and then sell off those sites. This is a bad decision by a bad Government. What it will mean is worse educational outcomes for our children, and also job losses. We know there'll be job losses of 20 per cent for our teachers with these closures. So, our community is quite rightly outraged by this. I particularly like to thank Anthony for taking the time to come here to join our fight. It's so important for our community. And we really, really appreciate Anthony. And I welcome you to Murwillumbah.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Justine. It's great to be back here in Murwillumbah with yourself and with Janelle Saffin. Before I talk about the school, I do want to raise a couple of issues. Firstly, to speak about the release yesterday of the report into the abuse which occurred in Afghanistan by Australian Defence Force personnel. This was a very dark day in Australia's military history. We need to make sure that all of the recommendations of the Brereton review are implemented in full. I thank Angus Campbell, the Chief of the Defence Force, for his briefing that I and others in the leadership of Labor received on Wednesday about this comprehensive review. And he has made it very clear, very clear, that the Defence Force itself will all, each and every person, will be impacted by this. These crimes were committed by personnel wearing our uniform. But this doesn't represent who Australia is. What is important now is how we respond as well. And that's why the response must be complete, must be decisive, must implement all of the recommendations in full.
Can I say with regard to the Government's ongoing attacks on superannuation, this is a Government that has never supported universal superannuation. Universal superannuation that is such an important reform, providing for retirement incomes for Australians, as we have an ageing of the population. And they look for any excuse to break the promises as they have done in each of the previous two terms of this Coalition Government. The fact is, we have a legislated increase for universal superannuation to 12 per cent. The Coalition committed to not change that. But once again, they're laying the groundwork for another backflip. We have already seen during this pandemic working people provide $40 billion of economic stimulus by taking their own savings that they had put into superannuation for their retirement and having them spent because they didn't have other options. That will result in a loss of income down the track for young people of potentially $100,000 or more. We have 600,000 Australians who have been left with superannuation balances of zero. That will have an impact on the quality of their life in their retirement, but it will also have an impact on the future budget position of future governments down the track. And that's why this Government's ongoing attack on superannuation will be resisted by Labor. Make no mistake, Labor supports the existing 12 per cent superannuation that has been legislated and we'll fight any attempt to undermine it or change it. Because that will be bad for workers in their retirement, and it's also not in the national interest. Our superannuation system provides $3 trillion, which has been an important ballast for our national economy during difficult times. And the Federal Government just don't seem to see that with their ideological obsession with attacking superannuation.
Today it's been a pleasure to join the students and local community representatives, parents, P&Cs, to support their campaign to keep Murwillumbah's schools open. The idea that you can go from four schools down to one, and we can see the land that is present here at Murwillumbah East, is nothing more than a revenue grab from this Government. It will result in less teachers being employed, less localised delivery of education services. And we've heard today from the students, the parents and the community that they don't want it. There's been no proper consultation about these changes, because these changes simply don't stack up. And I stand with the community and with Justine Elliot and Janelle Saffin in opposing these changes.
JANELLE SAFFIN, STATE MEMBER FOR LISMORE: Thank you, Anthony, for joining us and joining the community to support their fight to keep the schools in Murwillumbah open. It's shameful and it's shocking that the New South Wales Liberal National Government could announce this, throw it onto the community, no consultation, and they've yet to give any educational justification for this decision. So, we know what's behind it. There's no educational rationale at all. And everyone here is united in working to keep the schools open. Justine and I are fighting on behalf of the community, representing the community, and your presence here today, Anthony, that gives us more hope and strength. And the community is more emboldened because of it. And the Minister as well, the National Liberal Minister, Sarah Mitchell, she owes an apology to our community. Because every time I asked her a question about when the redevelopment would take place here, Murwillumbah East Public School, she kept saying it would be 2021 finished by 2022. She has lied to the community. She signed off early on the proposal to close four schools. So, the decision of our whole community is halt, consult, talk to us, stop the closures. And that's what we're working to do. So, thank you. And a big thank you to the P&Cs, the teachers, the parents, the retired principals and to the students here. And I'll call upon them now to step up to the microphones.
ZOE, STUDENT OF MURWILLUMBAH EAST PUBLIC SCHOOL: I think this is a really upsetting decision. They have not asked anything. It was leaked in the news before our staff and teachers found out, which is absolutely disrespectful and devastating. It's not okay. Our teacher, his wife found out and called him before he'd actually been told. So, this Government has leaked it in the news and then told our staff. It's not okay.
ISAAC, STUDENT OF MURWILLUMBAH EAST PUBLIC SCHOOL: And at this school, we're not just a school, we're a community. Everyone knows each other. All the teachers know all the students. We're pretty much all friends here. And if this does go ahead, our community garden with loss of staff, and loss of people from the community, eventually people that were from the original merge, they'll eventually graduate from that mega school. And if they don't bring their Memorial Garden over, they'd be completely forgotten from that mega school.
ZOE, STUDENT OF MURWILLUMBAH EAST PUBLIC SCHOOL: Like Isaac said, we're not a school. We're a family.
ALBANESE: Can I thank Zoe and Isaac who are a credit to the parents, but also to the teachers. And Australia has a great future whenever I see young people like that being prepared to articulate their passionate views about their opportunities that they've been given through this school. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Can I just start, you mentioned the Afghanistan inquiry, do you think the reputation of the ADF is damaged?
ALBANESE: Well, it's certainly been damaged. That's the truth. These are devastating revelations. And the briefing that I had, I found quite shocking. I think Australians will find these revelations shocking, that they are being made. And we will be judged on how we respond. And that's important. What we can't do is change the past. But we can acknowledge it and deal with the past. But we can also ensure that we change culture. And part of changing culture is having an honest and open assessment of what has occurred here and making sure that it never happens again in the future. I do want to pay tribute to the whistleblowers and the people who spoke out. It's very brave to come forward. And these revelations have only been made possible because of those brave men and women who've been prepared to speak out.
JOURNALIST: Just to follow up, sorry, would you support compensation for the victims of the families?
ALBANESE: Well, certainly, that's one of the things that needs to be looked at here. And I think in terms of the response, we need to look at reparations. There has been damage occur here. And that needs to be a part of this process.
JOURNALIST: Just on the school, it is mainly a state issue, why do you think was important to get involved in this?
ALBANESE: Because this is about community. And this is about education. And Labor is the Party of education. I've been traveling around the country, where I can, speaking about early childhood education and its importance. But we regard school education as being the next step, the second step, and then looking at tertiary education, whether it's TAFE or whether it be university as being vital as well. And these cuts show something about the character of the Liberal National parties. Wherever you go, you never see them valuing education properly. And that's why when Justine invited me, I instantaneously agreed to come to talk with this community. I've had a history with this community, of course, as well. When I was Minister, we funded the Murwillumbah Community Centre here. And so, I am very conscious of the needs of this community. And I'm always happy to stand up with local communities.
JOURNALIST: If you don’t believe in a super-school as the next step for Murwillumbah education, what do you believe in?
ALBANESE: There has been no case made that there's anything wrong with any of these four schools which are here. My own son went through the education system. He went to an infant school, which went just to year two, he then went to local public school, up to year six, he then went to secondary school that went to year 10, and then had a combined school from two schools went into year 11 and 12 as part of Sydney Secondary College. It was regarded then by educationalists as having advantages by having that separation. The idea that some of the very young students who are here that you put year one on the same campus as year 12, when there's nothing wrong with the four schools that's been identified, simply seems to me an obvious ulterior motive of freeing up the land on three of the schools.
JOURNALIST: Have you got any evidence to support that? We have heard assurances from the Government that it is absolutely not the case.
ALBANESE: Well, what are they going to do with the land? What does the state governments say they're going do with this site here?
JOURNALIST: RFS are going to have new stations.
ALBANESE: They are going to have three new stations?
JOURNALIST: That is one of the proposals being tossed around.
ALBANESE: You've got three enormous sites. This one here, I'm told is eight acres. One of the high schools is 50. That's a lot of land. That's a lot of land. And they've already, the Teachers Federation have said, that this will result in job losses as well. And it's interesting that in the state government's propositions, they're speaking about the funding for the rebuild of the new high school, they aren’t speaking about any of the revenue measures that will be made for that or any of the savings that will come from that.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned the retirement income review. Do you think there's any circumstance that would justify the stopping of next year’s increase?
ALBANESE: No. What we've had very clearly is a period of wage stagnation under this Government. Wage stagnation that's been the worst that we've seen in the post-war period. We've never seen a prolonged period like this whereby wages simply haven't been rising. And that's been at a time where they've frozen the superannuation increase, not once, but twice already. So, the evidence is very clear that freezing the superannuation increase certainly hasn't led to increased wages. If it did, we would have that evidence already. Thanks. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask Justine a question?
JOURNALIST: Justine are there any numbers of the job losses due to these school closures?
ELLIOT: Well, what we've been told is there'll be a 20 per cent staffing loss for teaching staff. And that's devastating right across the community. We've heard those figures from the Teachers Federation, we've heard it from community members. So, those job losses, of course, impact the teachers and their families, but also our broader local economy, which relies on having people employed. So, not only will we see worse educational outcomes for our children, but we will see that 20 per cent in job losses for teaching staff.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, can I ask you another question on a different topic? Joel Fitzgibbon says that he has given a warning about Labor and its climate policies and that he is willing to take the next step. Do you see that as a threat to your leadership?
ALBANESE: Look, what I'm about is implementing Labor's policy. Labor has a policy of net zero emissions by 2050. Happens to be the same policy as every state and territory government in the country. The same policy as the Business Council of Australia, the National Farmers Federation, Australian Industry Group, and individual companies like BHP, like Santos, like Qantas, like the Commonwealth Bank. It also happens to be the same policy now with the incoming Biden administration of all of our major trading partners. It is the policy of the United States incoming administration, as well as the United Kingdom, Japan, Korea, Europe. The fact is that we need to deal with the challenge of climate change. And Labor understands that. I was up on the north coast here with Janelle and with Justine last year, around about this time. And we were dealing with the devastation that occurred around Ballina, around Casino, around the area, Tenterfield, the devastation that had occurred, the loss of life, the loss of flora and fauna, the economic devastation as well. And the fact is, climate change is a challenge. We need to take that on. The only political organisations in Australia that doesn't seem to accept that, given every site and territory government, regardless of who's in government accepts it, is the Morrison Government, which is frozen in time while the world warms around it. I'll continue to put forward positive policies. Because also good action on climate change is good for jobs, good for lowering emissions, and, as well, it lowers energy prices. That is what we know. And all of industry are saying that the uncertainty that's there from the failure of this Government to have an appropriate energy policy is actually holding back investment and therefore is leading to higher prices. Thanks.
JOURNALIST: We have seen a study going into whether we're going to have a light rail from the Gold Coast down into the Tweed. Is that something that you support?
ELLIOT: He funded it.
SAFFIN: He supports it.
ALBANESE: I supported Gold Coast light rail. We put $365 million into that project, which is how it began. And that project was always envisaged to have five stages to it. It was a good project. And we certainly initiated it, I must say, against the opposition of the Liberal and National Party, both state and federal, who were happy to come to the opening and the ribbon cutting. They're always there for the photo-op and never there for the hard work. We funded that project. It was absolutely vital in the success of the Commonwealth Games. And we funded, indeed, while I was the minister, we funded more in urban public transport in those six years than had been previously funded since Federation in the previous 107. So, my record on public transport is very clear. Thanks very much.