Oct 23, 2020









SUBJECTS: $12,000 spent on Cartier watches for AusPost executives; Labor’s Working Family Childcare Boost; Aussies stranded overseas; quarantine; National Cabinet; AFL Grand Final; NRL Grand Final; Susan Ryan.


KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE: Hello, everyone. We’re here at the Little Academy Childcare Centre in the Federal electorate of Reid. I’m Kristina Keneally, the duty Senator for Reid and Labor’s Deputy Leader in the Senate. It’s great to be here with Mary Brennan, the director of this centre, and her dedicated, hard-working staff and these delightful, beautiful children. And I want to thank the centre, the parents and the children, importantly, for sharing their morning with us. It’s been a great opportunity for Anthony Albanese, Labor’s Leader, and I, to talk to the community, talk to the childcare workers here and talk to the children, but particularly talk to the centre staff here and the parents about the importance of childcare, and particularly the importance of childcare to assist women to get back into the workforce.


We know that the childcare system, as it currently stands, provides a disincentive, barriers to women getting back into full-time work. And here in the Federal electorate of Reid, one out of every four mothers are in full-time work. Now first of all, that’s good for those families, they’ve got the economic income coming in, they’ve got the support they need. But we can do so much better. We can do so much better for families here in Reid. We can do so much better for families in Australia, to assist women to participate fully in the economy, to get back into the workforce if they choose to do so, to build up their super, to build up their careers and to provide necessary support for their families. We don’t want women going to work and losing money. That is just a disincentive to so many women. And at this time, we need women’s workforce participation to help our economy grow. I’m absolutely delighted to welcome and introduce to you all now Labor’s Leader in the House of Representatives and indeed our Federal Leader, and the champion of women’s economic participation due to his Budget in Reply speech on childcare, Anthony Albanese.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thank you very much Kristina. We have just gotten back from a week in Canberra. A week in Canberra that was dominated in terms of Senate Estimates by talking about Government waste, by talking about Government largesse and looking after their mates. This centre here should be a priority for Government expenditure, including every childcare centre in the country. What we know is that our childcare policy, Labor’s Working Family Childcare Boost, would assist 97 per cent of families. We know that the Government needs a plan for how the economy grows into the future. And we know that this plan would boost the three Ps. It would assist with workforce participation, it would boost productivity, and as well, of course, it would help with population by giving working families the security to know that they could have their first child or have an extra child and know that they could do that securely and get access to quality childcare. One of the things that Mary Brennan, who runs this centre, was talking with us about this morning was quality childcare and the impact that it has. This centre, like others, focus on early childhood learning. They pick up issues in terms of developmental issues and the capacity of children to grow and learn very early on. It doesn’t make sense that we have a system whereby once your child turned five, we all accept that they can go to a public school, that they can be looked after both in terms of their education and their care, and before then, though, they’re on their own. That doesn’t really make a lot of sense given that we know that 90 per cent of human brain capacity develops before the age of five. That’s why Labor’s policy is good for families, it’s good for children, but it’s also good for our economy. And that’s what we should be focused on. Instead, we have a Government that has dismissed this reform, that has $100 billion of new spending, including pots of money with more than $5.7 billion of discretionary funds without any National Integrity Commission, or without any process to make sure that money is spent wisely and that Australians benefit from that expenditure. This week has seen a real contrast with Labor wanting to talk about the future, wanting to talk about future growth and assisting families, wanting to help people who are doing it tough, and make sure that no one is left behind during this pandemic, and that no one’s held back during the recovery. And the Government, it is a Government that is so focused on itself. And the Australia Post debacle is a great example of that. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: On Australia Post, do you think it is appropriate that Christina Holgate has been made to step aside while the investigation commences?


ALBANESE: Well, what’s extraordinary here is that the board are let off scot-free by this Prime Minister. Christine Holgate gave evidence before the Senate yesterday. Without that evidence and without Labor’s questioning, none of this would have come to light. The extraordinary revelations that on Scott Morrison’s watch, people got delivered $3,000 Cartier watches to the value of $12,000, that’s on top of the enormous bonuses that had been given. And it’s also on top of, if we look at government-owned enterprises, the NBN has given over a million dollars of bonuses to its executives. This Government has an Australia Post board that is a Liberal swamp of failed Liberal politicians and Liberal-connected people. You have Mike Ronaldson, a former Senator and Member of the House of Representatives. You’ve got Tony Nutt, a former director of the Liberal Party in different states, and nationally. You’ve got Bruce McIver, former head of the Queensland LNP. You’ve got Deidre Willmott, former chief of staff to the Western Australian Liberal Premier. I’m not quite sure why South Australia missed out on getting a Liberal Party appointment to the Australia Post board. But perhaps it’s something for Minister Fletcher to contemplate with his next appointment. It is beyond belief that these senior Liberal functionaries are on the board and Paul Fletcher and Scott Morrison found out about this because of questions from Labor in Senate Estimates. 2018, this occurred. In the meantime, this Government, every single Liberal and National Party member, has voted for the cutback of services. So, at the same time as they’re handing out watches, worth $3,000 each made by Cartier to their executives for just doing their job, they’re cutting services and cutting back post or deliveries for everyday Australians, whether they live in our suburbs or in our regional towns. Now, we have raised that issue and Australia Post competence in the Parliament consistently all year. And this Government has defended the lot of it. And now we know where the priorities have been for this Government. And we also saw yesterday the confirmation of the confusion between taxpayers’ funds and the capacity to do what they like with them. When Christine Holgate said, ‘These weren’t taxpayers funds, this is a corporation’, it said it all about this Government and the way that it views taxpayers’ funds. The taxpayers’ funds that come from hard-working Australians who work each and every day, who are forced to pay additional costs, sometimes 80 or 90 or 100 per cent if a woman works a fourth or a fifth day, go to childcare costs. But that’s not a problem for this Government. That’s something they leave in place. The contrast couldn’t be clear.


JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).


ALBANESE: Well, no one’s heads have rolled over Western Sydney, have they? But no one who is actually responsible, in terms of the minister, I’ve been a Communications Minister. I’ve been one of the two shareholders of Australia Post. I know the way that the accountability system worked. Why is it that Paul Fletcher’s penalty is to stand up and say, ‘I knew nothing here, I didn’t know what was going on. I was shocked by the revelations’? We asked him the day before if he had confidence in the CEO and the board. He gave an obtuse answer. The fact is, he’s responsible for appointing them. Why did he say that the day before and then yesterday in Parliament, say that this was the first that he’d heard of it?


JOURNALIST: (Inaudible). Do you have concerns about privacy breaches happening on more than one occasion?


KENEALLY: Labor has so many concerns about these 32,000 stranded Australians. Let’s start with Scott Morrison’s promise that all the stranded Australians will be home by Christmas. What has happened since he made that promise? The number of stranded Australians has increased. Scott Morrison promised they’d all be home by Christmas. We find out from Senate Estimates maybe a couple thousand will be home by Christmas. 32,000 of our fellow citizens are stranded overseas and this Federal Government is doing nothing, except maybe breaching their privacy. I mean, come on. Quarantine is a Federal Government responsibility. Quarantine is a Federal Government responsibility. The Federal Government could be sending out airplanes. They could be increasing hotel capacity. They could be expanding out their own quarantine facilities. Now, they’ve started to do a little bit of that, but it is a drop in the bucket. It is a drop in the bucket. And in no way is that going to ensure that the 32,000 stranded Australians are going to be home by Christmas. Scott Morrison, all promise, no delivery. Always chasing the headline, never there for the hard work. And he is literally leaving our fellow citizens, our fellow Australians, behind during a global and deadly pandemic. Shame on him. Shame on DFAT for releasing, for the third time, the private emails of those 32,000 Australians. They deserve so much better from this Federal Government. They deserve so much better from Scott Morrison. Scott Morrison is just leaving them behind.


JOURNALIST: National Cabinet is going to discuss (inaudible) should be increased. Should the states be taking more people?


ALBANESE: Well, the first thing I’d say just about the National Cabinet, before Kristina comments on the specifics, is isn’t it good that they’re having a meeting? Their first one in five weeks. They couldn’t have one last week because Scott Morrison was too busy campaigning in a state election. Because Deb Frecklington doesn’t have the capacity to campaign by herself. Annastacia Palaszczuk doesn’t need anyone beside her to campaign for the interests of Queenslanders. But Deb Frecklington put up he hand last week and said, ‘This is too hard’. So, while Scott Morrison was attending fundraisers in Queensland last week, the National Cabinet, that he says is so important, was cancelled. You would think there was only one plane in the entire Royal Australian Air Force fleet. Because he was right next to Townsville, when he was in Cairns. Bit of a military presence in Townsville. He’s happy to jump on military equipment for photo-ops but wasn’t prepared to actually have the National Cabinet meet last week when it should have, because he’s been too busy putting politics first and the national interest second.


KENEALLY: Just briefly on the issue of a quarantine, quarantine is a Federal responsibility. It’s under our Constitution. Yet, the reality is, Scott Morrison is always looking for someone else to blame, shoved a lot of it onto the states. But as Mike Pezzullo, Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, told the COVID Committee and repeated again at Senate Estimates, he said the Commonwealth is willing to do, ‘whatever it takes to expand quarantine’. But he admits there’s no pot of money, there’s no plan. They haven’t done anything to do it. The reality is, it is down to the Commonwealth to control the borders. This is a guy, Scott Morrison got a big trophy to himself in his office that says, ‘I stopped the boats’. Soon, he’s going to have to put up one that says, ‘I stopped the planes’. Because he’s done nothing to ensure that 32,000 stranded Australians can get home before Christmas.


JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).


ALBANESE: The AFL Grand Final is between two Victorian teams, Geelong and Richmond. I think they both deserve a huge shout out. I mean, they’ve spent a long time away from family in the bubble in order to keep each other safe, but in order to keep the game going. And it’s been an extraordinary effort. I, because of my Deputy’s influence, Richard Marles, will be going for Geelong tomorrow night. And I’ll be watching on TV. But I wish both teams well. The NRL similarly, unfortunately, Kristina and I don’t have skin in the game here because of a little toe of Adam Reynolds hitting the line for his 40-20 kick last week. Can I suggest to Adam, Captain of South Sydney Rabbitohs, followed by both of us, that in future he wear black boots rather than yellow boots? I think it might not have been noticed had he had a more neutral colour on. But nonetheless, Penrith and Melbourne will be a great game. My heart says Penrith. I think it would be great for that community who love their rugby league. My head says Melbourne. But we’ll wait. And we’ll wait and see what happens. I’ll be watching on TV in Canberra. Parliament is sitting next week. So, I need to be there on Monday morning. And I’ll also be visiting another, this will come as a surprise, I know, but I’ll be visiting a childcare centre on Monday morning, very early with Kristy McBain and with Amanda Rishworth. And we intend to, each and every day, each and every day that we can, to be running out this policy. Because our youngest Australians deserved the best support. And if we’re going to compete in this century, the Asian century, we need to compete on the basis of how smart we are. And we need to begin at the beginning when it comes to education. And that is centres like this one right here.


Can I just say one further thing before we wind up, which is after this I’ll be travelling and very proud to represent the Australian Labor Party at Susan Ryan’s farewell. Susan Ryan leaves an enormous legacy. She was often the first, but one of her legacies is she was never the last. And there’s nothing unusual about standing next to a female Labor Senator who’s a senior player in our show. Most of Labor Senators are women, a majority. And they are represented very strongly on our frontbench. People like Kristina, Katy Gallagher, and, of course, Senator Penny Wong, our Leader. But Susan Ryan forged that path that others were able to follow through on. She made an enormous difference in terms of removing discrimination on the basis of gender. Before Susan Ryan and her legislation, it was possible to be sacked for falling pregnant. You needed to take a fellow in with you to get a loan from the bank to buy a house. Susan Ryan’s legacy is enormous. She’s a giant of our movement, a giant of the women’s movement as well. And she will be farewelled with honour and respect today. And I thank the Government for agreeing to have a state funeral. I know that the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, will be representing the Government at today’s funeral and that is a good thing. And I thank him for showing that respect as well. Thank you very much.