ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
LABOR CANDIDATE FOR EDEN-MONARO
TUESDAY, 2 JUNE 2020
SUBJECTS: Labor’s commitment of $65 million to the Dunns Creek Road project; Eden-Monaro by-election; murder of George Floyd; US protests; parallels between Indigenous Australians and African Americans; Housing construction stimulus package; social housing; arts and entertainment sector missing out on help from this Government.
KRISTY MCBAIN, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR EDEN-MONARO: Good morning I’m Kristy McBain, Labor’s candidate in the Eden-Monaro by-election and thank you for joining us here today. I’m with Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, in Googong. And we’re here today to talk about the Dunns Creek Road project. The Labor Party will pledge $65 million towards the Dunn Creek Road project. We know that this is a project deeply needed by this growing community. The Queanbeyan region is the fastest growing region in New South Wales. And to get the full development of Googong and Jerrabomberra Valley, the Dunns Creek project has to come forward as a stimulus measure now. We’ve got communities here, 60 per cent of which commute daily to the ACT for work, for school, for sport. This project has to come forward as a matter of urgency. We know that John Barilaro supports the project. And we want to know why Scott Morrison doesn’t. This project is deeply needed in this community. And it’s for this reason that I’m standing for election in Eden-Monaro. Because communities like these can’t continue to be forgotten. We’ve got people here who are commuting daily, that 10 minutes, it would take 10 minutes off that drive to the ACT if this project came forward. And we know now more than ever, projects like this have to go forward. Regions cannot be forgotten. And we want to make sure that this region is one of the first to receive funding under a Labor Government because we know how vitally important this road extension project is to making commute times quicker, to making them safer, and to making sure that these residents in regional areas aren’t continually forgotten by this Liberal Government. Anthony?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Kristy. It’s great to be back here in Eden-Monaro with such a fantastic candidate who’s committed to making a difference to these growing communities. Queanbeyan is New South Wales’ fastest growing community. In this region we see here in Googong some 3,000 residents, but it will receive many thousands more, as is the growing community around Jerrabomberra. And what good infrastructure means is getting the infrastructure at the same time or preferably before you have housing and a need for that infrastructure. We’ve had the planning. The planning money is there. What we need to do is get on with construction. Now, we committed to it at the last election with Mike Kelly, the member for Eden-Monaro. What we say is the Federal Government should get on with building this road. Unless they do, Labor will get on with building this road under a Labor Government which I lead. Last time I was in Government as the minister, we doubled roads funding. And the greatest increase in roads funding came in regional communities such as this. Regional roads not only boost productivity and travel times, they save lives by making road travel safer. And this community, of which 60 per cent travel into the ACT for work, relies upon the road network each and every day for work, for recreational activities. And that’s why this project should be built. And it should be built now. Happy to take questions. Online?
JOURNALIST: Nour Haydar here from the ABC. Just on the issues in the United States, the scenes that we’re seeing there demonstrate what happens when structural racism and inequality is allowed to grow and fester for decades to centuries. There are parallels between the plight of black Americans and Indigenous Australians. Do you think this should prompt more urgent actions here to address deaths in custody and the other inequalities faced by Indigenous Australians?
ALBANESE: Of course, there should be a far greater concentration. I’m very disappointed that on issues including the issue of reconciliation, advancing it through constitutional recognition, seems to have been put off by this Government as being too hard. Labor has participated through Linda Burney, with Ken Wyatt, as an act of good faith. We need to recognise Indigenous Australians, our First Nations people, appropriately. But we also need practical reconciliation. It is a tragedy that on so many indicators, we’re not closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. It is of critical importance that we do so. And I’m certainly committed to doing that. I’m very proud to lead a team that has Patrick Dodson, Linda Burney and Malarndirri McCarthy, as our representatives. And our First Nations Caucus makes recommendations regularly to our full caucus and will inform Labor policy about both fundamental issues such as establishing a Voice from the Heart to Parliament, and as well from the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and as well, practical reconciliation as well. There are far too many Indigenous Australians who are incarcerated today as a percentage of the population. This is a tragedy and it’s one that must be addressed as an absolute national priority.
JOURNALIST: Our cameraman and reporter in the US have been caught up in these riots, in fact they were beaten by police while reporting outside the White House. They are okay, but what does it say about the situation in America right now that working media are no longer safe on the streets and at the hands of police and should our ambassador in the US take further action?
ALBANESE: Well, our ambassador should be certainly making representation on behalf of these Australians who effectively have been assaulted. That’s what it is. For doing their job. In a democratic society, the role of the media is critical. And it’s important that the media are able to report on events, including crises, such as we’re seeing in the United States, free from harassment. And the violence that has occurred towards members of the media, Australian media and domestic media as well, with tear gas being fired, with media being assaulted is completely unacceptable.
JOURNALIST: What is your response to the words and actions of Donald Trump this morning?
ALBANESE: I haven’t seen all of Donald Trump’s statements. I’ll leave it to Penny Wong, our Foreign Affairs spokesperson, to comment on that. But it’s very clear that the United States is a deeply divided society. And that is problematic. The United States historically has played such an important role in world leadership. And it is tragic the events that we’re seeing in the United States. I say that it’s important that leaders seek to unite, not divide. And that’s a critical factor in our democratic system.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Mr Trump has divided his country?
ALBANESE: Well, I think people will make their own judgments about the state of the United States at the moment. Very clearly, there are major issues there. And it is a tragedy what is occurring. And certainly, the disruption that’s occurring, the tragedy, of course, of the murder of George Floyd was devastating for anyone who watched that footage. It was traumatic. It was horrifying, frankly, that could occur during daytime, or anytime.
JOURNALIST: In regard to the housing construction stimulus package, how important is it that there is money for community and social housing?
ALBANESE: Well, it is absolutely essential. I can’t understand why, it would appear at this point that the Federal Government is ignoring support for social housing. Social housing is an investment that produces a return, of course, for Government. Because it’s an asset. Whether it be new investment in social housing, or whether it be upgrades and renovations of social housing. And it should not be forgotten as part of a comprehensive package which is needed. We also need to look at what Labor has called for, of affordable housing for essential workers. Our police, our nurses, our teachers. People who’ve kept the economy going during the COVID-19 crisis oftentimes can’t afford to live near to where they work. Superannuation funds have kicked in for investment in affordable housing. There’s a real opportunity to expand programs like that, working with superannuation funds, working with local government to increase the number of affordable housing units and homes available throughout communities. And I can’t understand why, from the reports that have been there so far, social housing is ignored. And I call upon the Federal Government, we’ve been calling for a housing assistance package for months now, Jason Clare and I did a press conference in Canberra about this many weeks ago. We also have been calling for support for the arts and entertainment sector for three months. These sectors are being ignored. In the meantime, the pipeline of projects for housing is about to drop off a cliff, with consequences for employment for tradies and for stimulating the economy, as well as, of course, the arts and entertainment sector are distraught at them being ignored by this Government. And the reports that are published today that Paul Fletcher in chairing a ministerial council couldn’t even produce a ministerial communique, because there couldn’t be agreement from the Commonwealth about the importance of the arts sector showed that this Arts Minister just doesn’t get it. And this Government just doesn’t get it as well. We have said from the beginning about this crisis that no one should be left behind. Well, what’s behind is the Federal Government. The Federal Government is reacting to calls that Labor has made for weeks and months for effective action to make sure that no one is left behind.
JOURNALIST: Just on that arts package, the Government has finally flagged that they are looking into that. What specific measures would you hope there would be in that package?
ALBANESE: Well, it is extraordinary that they’re looking into it after ignoring it and after rejecting the pleas from state premiers, from the sector, around the fact that people have missed out. The first is individuals should have been included in JobKeeper, recognising the nature of the industry, recognising that the chances are some of the people filming and recording this media conference are employed on the basis that would not allow them to receive JobKeeper. They’ve just missed out throughout the entire sector. As well, we need specific support for arts and production companies, whether they be live theatre, or whether they be other activities, including the festivals that are held in Eden-Monaro that have been put off. The fact is that the arts sector contributes $111 billion to our national economy each and every year. But more important than that, they deliver for the quality of life for all Australians. We rely upon them. And during the bushfire crisis that impacted this community, it was the arts and entertainment sector that fronted up, volunteered their talent, their time and their commitment to help out communities. In their time of need, they’ve been ignored and forgotten by this Government up to this point. And it’s extraordinary that we’re now in June and the Government is now considering options to support the art sector. Thank you.