ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
LABOR CANDIDATE FOR EDEN-MONARO
SATURDAY, 4 JULY 2020
SUBJECTS: Eden-Monaro by-election.
ALBANESE: Well, good morning everyone. Today is a great exercise in democracy and we should never ever take it for granted. And I say to those people who haven’t voted yet – exercise your democratic right, regardless of who you’re going to vote for. But I of course am a strong advocate for a vote for Kristy McBain. Kristy McBain is someone that I’ve known now for eight years.
She impressed me the first time I met her down at Eden talking about the Port. She impressed me even more the way that she was with her community each and every day during the bushfire crisis, and ever since talking about the need for support for the community.
Throughout this campaign, Kristy McBain has shown herself to be a tireless advocate for the people of Eden Monaro. She’s articulate, she’s principled. She’s a warm, generous person. And she’s someone who will bring enormous capacity to the national parliament.
I’m very proud to have campaigned on behalf of the Australian Labor Party with Kristy McBain. I’ve actually had a couple of questions asked in the last 24 hours about how many times I’ve campaigned with Kristy McBain. My only regret is I haven’t campaigned every day because there have been other things on. Because every day that I’ve been standing next to Kristy McBain I’ve learned more about her community. More about her passion, more about her commitment.
She deserves to win this byelection because she’s the best candidate. She deserves to win this byelection because only she stood with the community each and every day in their time of need. She deserves to win this byelection because Kristy McBain is someone who will take their concerns, regardless of party allegiance, she will be a strong advocate. She will be a strong advocate within the Labor Party and within the parliament to make sure that this community’s needs not just get listened to but that solutions be found. Because Kristy is not interested in arguments, she’s interested in outcomes and it’s outcomes that this community needs.
Over to you Kristy.
KRISTY MCBAIN: Thank you, Anthony. Thank you for joining me today in Merimbula on the fourth of July where everyone will be able to finalise their voting this byelection. This byelection for me was about amplifying the voices of the region of Eden Monaro. We have been hit by the triple whammy of drought, bushfires, and then the economic impacts of COVID-19. We’ve got people and businesses and industries that are doing it really tough right across this electorate. Yesterday I was at Wandella which is west of Cobargo, with Graeme and Robyn. They lost their home in the bushfires six months on, they are living in a caravan on their property, and are going through the process of recovery and rebuild. Today is a chance to send the government a message that six months on from bushfire we shouldn’t still be waiting for assistance.
Today is a chance to send a message that businesses need help and they need a place for the future, we cannot wait until September for the future of JobKeeper to come out.
Today’s a chance to send a message that our regions matter – that our regions will not be left behind. I want to be that advocate in Canberra for these people because it’s a region I know. It’s a region I love. I grew up here, I went to school here, I’ve run a business here. It’s a region that I’m really passionate about, and one that I will put first, every time. I want to be their voice in Canberra because it is really important for the future of this entire region that we actually start planning for their future. Planning positively.
Our campaign has been overwhelmingly positive because we wanted to make sure that we didn’t heap negativity on a community that’s doing it tough already. It needs to be positive because people need a plan – a plan for jobs. A plan for the future of industries like tourism and hospitality, agriculture, forestry. We need plan to make sure that our kids can grow up and stay here into the future.
I’m really hoping at the end of the end of today, or tomorrow or next week, whenever it may be, that we’ll have an outcome, a positive outcome that will lead a path for the future of Eden Monaro. It’s so important now, it’s important because of the issues that we’ve been through. But it’s really important that we have somebody that’s not afraid to speak up, not afraid to speak up during a byelection, not afraid to speak up to their colleagues in a party room and won’t be afraid to speak up in Canberra. So I urge everybody to get out today. We need to send a message to this government that we will not be left behind any longer. So vote Labor today, and let’s make sure there are positive plans for our future. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese how much is this a test of your leadership and the Prime Minister’s?
ALBANESE: Well, this is about the people of Eden Monaro. I say this I’m here on the ground in this electorate. I was on the ground in bushfire affected communities over the Christmas and New Year period as well. I think this is really not about individuals in terms of powerful people, whether it be the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition. This is about people who don’t have power. This is about people who don’t have a voice. This is about the people of Eden Monaro. It’s about Robyn. There in Wandella, just near Cobargo, home, lost. Nothing done for six months. This is about the beef farmers that we’ve met who haven’t had support, the chook farmers struggling as well to get support. This is about people continuing to suffer from mental health issues six months after the fires. When I’ve been in Quaama and Cobargo with Kristy McBain and hearing about the little lives that have been lost, we know 34 lives were lost during the bush fire crisis. The truth is we don’t know what the figure of lives lost has been since the end of January. What we do know is that it continues to take a toll.
And what we do know is that this is an opportunity for the people who haven’t been heard, to speak up through the ballot box and say this government needs to do better.
This government can’t afford to leave people behind, not just in terms of the bushfire crisis, but during the pandemic as well. Those people who aren’t getting JobKeeper, aren’t getting JobSeeker, those businesses who are uncertain about what the future is beyond the end of September. A Government that was complacent after it won the election last year in May, and has had complacency at its heart ever since – thinks that it just will drift through this byelection.
A government as well that is a war with itself. We’ve seen this byelection campaign finish the way it began – with liberal fighting liberal, national fighting national, liberals fighting national, or vice versa. We’ve been very clear, on the day that Mike Kelly told me he’d be resigning from parliament I had two words to come into my mind straightaway. They were Kristy McBain as the person to represent this community. We selected Kristy unanimously the day after Mike Kelly resigned from parliament. She was the obvious candidate. She stood up for the community and fought for this community while the liberals and nationals have been fighting each other.
JOURNALIST: We understand the Prime Minister won’t be out and about in the electorate today. Do you draw any conclusions from that?
ALBANESE: Oh, that’s a decision for him and Prime Ministers are busy. I respect that. But what I would say is it’s been six months since he visited Cobargo. He never visited Merimbula or Narooma or the areas here that were devastated by the bushfires. I’d say to the Prime Minister regardless of the outcome, regardless of the outcome today, come to these communities. Sit down with people and talk to them. Go do what Kristy and I’ve been doing. Kristy each and every day and talk to them about these ongoing issues. Don’t just say it’s all ok.
Go to the relief centre in Quamma. Go to the relief centre in Cobargo. Talk to Danielle, sit down with her and talk to her about the needs of this community, because they are being left behind. And the national government has a responsibility to look after all of its citizens, not just some of them.
JOURNALIST: Kristy are you concerned the disinformation campaign against you has hurt you?
MCBAIN: Look, it’s obviously disappointing that there’s been the misinformation campaign. People will make their decision in the ballot box how they wish to vote. I hope that it has no bearing on the outcome. But it is a blight on our democracy to see such misinformation campaigns going out there.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it’s from any kind of political party?
MCBAIN: Look, I’ve been focusing on campaigning myself and trying to secure people’s number one preferences. I haven’t put too much thought into how the emails may affect people’s votes.
JOURNALIST: But were you personally taken aback? Or surprised?
MCBAIN: Look, I look I understood during this campaign that there would be certain attacks and negativity. For me, negativity is old school politics, as I said people in Eden Monaro actually need positive plans for their future. The disappointing part about those emails was the assertion made about bushfire victims. And more broadly, my family and those things I don’t think have a place in politics at all.
MCBAIN: I am buoyed by people around me. There are a lot of people out there that are really suffering at the moment and have been suffering for a long time. It’s not just COVID-19 that has impacted communities like this. We’ve had cumulative disasters and ongoing drought, which has had a substantial impact right across the region.
We’ve had the bushfire disaster, which has had a substantial impact right across the region. And then on top of that, it’s COVID-19. Now more than ever, people in Eden Monaro need a spotlight on them. We need to amplify the voices we are hearing. We need to tell the stories were hearing.
Two eftpos transactions in 2020, in its entirety, for one business in Thredbo. A tourist evacuation zone that was on the coastal fringes of the electorate for weeks on end. So there’s been no foot traffic, no tourists in our coastal regions for some time. So we’ve got businesses really struggling. We’ve got farmers that are struggling, we’ve got people really uncertain about their future with JobKeeper. What we need now more than ever is somebody that will stand up for them. So I will keep going until there are resolutions for people in a Eden Monaro because they need someone to keep fighting for them. And that’s what I’m going to do.
JOURNALIST: Inaudible (Barilaro)?
MCBAIN: I have as mayor of the Bega Valley worked with politicians from different parties at different levels of government because you need to, to get things done for your community. Bega Valley wasn’t drought declared in round one of the funding. So I worked with Mike Kelly, with Jim Molan, with John Barilaro, campaigning and all telling the same story so that come round two we were drought declared. It’s about working together to get outcomes for our community. I’ll continue to do that.
JOURNALIST: Inaudible (is there still anger at the PM in the electorate?)
MCBAIN: The Prime Minister came here on the first of January, literally hours after people had run out of their homes, having lost everything with only what they had on their back. I’d been there earlier that day. If the Prime Minister had reached out to me as the local representative I would have asked him not to come that day. Because I knew the shock and the frustration and anger that people go through after a bushfire. We’ve had three bushfires in two years. And when we talk about representing local people, it’s about understanding what’s happening around them. People were in deep shock. People were frustrated, people were angry. People didn’t know what was going to happen. So it wasn’t a great day to rock up with media in tow. It shouldn’t have happened. There has to be a better way to manage that.
JOURNALIST: And then what do you think? Should he come back?
MCBAIN: Look, we’ve seen people in Cobargo do separate interviews. Zoey is one of the young girls that refused to shake his hand. She’s actually done an interview saying” Come back, come back and have a chat to us.” When you’re leader, you are there to listen to people, to hear their frustrations. You’re there to try to talk to people. You don’t turn your back on them and you don’t walk away. Things get tough. So you have to be there, you have to talk to them, regardless of what the reception or the outcomes going to be, you’re there to listen.
JOURNALIST: Inaudible (Cobargo?)
MCBAIN: I think people today will be making their decisions based on who they think can best represent them in Canberra. And I hope over the last eight weeks, where we’ve done over 9000 kilometres and my time on Council both as a Councillor and has Mayor has proven to local communities right across this electorate that I will continue to stand up for them regardless of who’s in government.
JOURNALIST: Are people still angry from bushfire regions?
MCBAIN: Look, I’m sure that there are people still frustrated and angry about the process they’re going through. I mean, we’ve heard from beef farmers that are not eligible for subsidies. We’ve heard from some people that still haven’t had their property cleaned up. We’ve heard from people that aren’t eligible for JobKeeper. There is a sense of frustration in this community because of what we’ve been through and I think there has to be an understanding that we’ve got cumulative disasters that have impacted us.
ALBANESE: Well, look, we started this by-election behind. We got around about 51% in the election last May. And Mike Kelly, a sitting member going, Antony Green – the, the sort of Guru if you like, regarded by most people reckons that Mike Kelly was worth about 3%. So that means we started off on about 48% of the vote. And we know that we haven’t been able to doorknock, we haven’t been able to have to town hall meetings. The Liberal Party candidate has refused to engage in debate Kristy McBain. Now I can understand why. Because everyone that meets Kristy McBain will vote for her. Everyone who engages with her, will regard her as a passionate advocate and will provide, I think, a significant support from people who are not traditional labor voters. I have no doubt I’ve spoken to people in my time during the last eight weeks about that, but it has been a difficult campaign.
That’s why people are uncertain about the outcome. COVID-19, we don’t know what the impact will be. We don’t know what the impact will be on people who just won’t vote, who are conscious about turning up at the polling booth. So we don’t know about turnout. There are all these factors. People speak about once in 100 years, this is a once in a hundred year pandemic. What we do know is we have the best candidate. We have a series of positive policies that were put forward.
And the Liberal Party in particular, have been just all negative and their TV ads have been full of misinformation. Normally, you could get out there and counteract that a lot more easily. But we will continue up until six o’clock to campaign. Kristy will be here, I think, here in Merimbula, the public school where she went to. I am now off to off to Eden. It’s an exercise in democracy today. It’s an unusual one and it is a one off. It is circumstance that we haven’t seen before. And quite frankly, we all hope we never see again, we hope we get through this pandemic and that’s the end of it and that by the time we have the general election we’re back in terms of normal activity and being able to shake hands. I’ll say this. Before the pandemic. I’ve never had a problem getting people to shake my hand in this or in any other community. Thanks very much.
SATURDAY, 4 JULY 2020