May 7, 2020








SUBJECTS: Eden-Monaro by-election; coronavirus impacting by-election; Andrew Constance; bushfire crisis recovery; sending the Government a message; franking credits; negative gearing; fraudulent activity regarding Early Access to Superannuation Scheme.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks for joining me. It is fantastic to be here today at Club Sapphire with Kristy McBain, Labor’s candidate for the Eden-Monaro by-election. And thank you to Damien and Peter from Club Sapphire for welcoming us here this morning. This club was a centre of activity during the bushfire crisis. Up to 1,500 people here at any one time, by 1,000 people spending overnight in this club, people sleeping head to toe, people sleeping on gym equipment, taking any space that was available to protect themselves from the bushfires that ravished this community. It is a great exam of the tremendous work that the club’s movement does here in New South Wales, but right around the country. A movement inspired by people who are owned by the community who deliver for their local community, particularly in times of need. Of course, after the bushfire crisis, the club has been hit again by the coronavirus crisis, and we hope it can open in a restricted way as soon as possible. It is symbolic, really, of the hit that this community has had. A triple whammy. Droughts and then three bushfires over two years, and then the coronavirus crisis. Throughout that period, the person who has been with her local community is Kristy McBain. A champion advocate, someone who has worked tirelessly day in and day out for the local community. Kristy is putting herself forward to represent this electorate in the national Parliament because she wants to represent the people in our national Parliament. It stands in stark contrast to the other side that have shown over recent days that they are more interested in their own careers and squabbling and abusing each other than they are with representing the people of Eden-Monaro.


Scott Morrison and his team should not be rewarded for the neglect that was shown to this community and the ongoing issues that are still there with this community. There are people still living in tents and caravans who had lost their homes, and what they see from the other side, them squabbling from within the parties, within the National Party and within the Liberal Party and between those parties. Kristy McBain is just interested in one thing. Representing this community. Representing this community in still the recovery that is necessary from the bushfires. Representing this community when it comes to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Representing this community that have been left behind with some of the measures that have been put in place. The casual workers who aren’t getting the support that they need. The people in the arts and entertainment sector who aren’t getting the support that they need. The people who have been affected by the bushfires who aren’t getting the support that they need. I’m very proud to be here supporting Kristy McBain’s campaign. I believe she is an outstanding candidate and if she receives the trust of the people of Eden-Monaro, she will bring the same passion, commitment and capacity to representing the people of Eden-Monaro that she has brought to the position of being the Mayor of the Bega Valley Shire. And I would ask Kristy to say a few words.


KRISTY MCBAIN, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR EDEN-MONARO: Thank you, Anthony. And thank you for being here today in Merimbula. It really is fabulous you have taken the opportunity to come down. And as you said, Club Sapphire is just one touch point in our community. There are a number of licensed clubs involved in the evacuation process and became the evacuation centres. We had the Eden Fisherman’s Club, Club Sapphire, Merimbula RSL, Tura Beach Country Club, the Bermagui Country Club as well. The Tathra Country Club opened up their green space and allowed people to camp there. A number of football clubs involved. The Merimbula Diggers allowed their space to be opened up as well. The Bega Showground, the Eden Whalers Football Club and the list goes on. That’s what happens in disaster, communities come together. It is no different from here, than in Batlow or Braidwood or any other community in Eden-Monaro where communities come together in disaster. What I’m seeking to do, for the people of Eden-Monaro is to be a voice for the people, a voice in the Federal Parliament and make sure that their plight is heard and is known. I want to carry on the great work of Mike Kelly in being that local voice. And that’s why I have got Anthony Albanese here today. We will be in Merimbula and then Cooma to speak to people to hear their ongoing concerns, not only coming out of disasters such as drought and bushfire, but this current disaster, COVID-19, which has had a huge impact on regional communities in the Eden-Monaro.


ALBANESE: Thank you. We are happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: What do you make of the candidates’ behaviour over the last week or last few days in respect to Andrew Constance and John Barilaro?


ALBANESE: Well, I think people will make their own judgement. What I’m about is making sure that we present Kristy McBain as the candidate that she is, someone who is just interested in the community, not interested in herself, who is running to do something for them, the forgotten people of Eden-Monaro, not interested in the political games that we’ve seen from the other side.


JOURNALIST: You’ve said previously that you expect it to be tough for Labor to hold this seat in a by-election. Do you still believe that after this week’s other events?


ALBANESE: It certainly will be tough. This is a seat which, on the current
boundaries, Jim Snow would never have won during the Hawke and Keating Government period. It is a seat where by Mike Kelly we know represents three to four per cent difference from the New South Wales state-wide vote when he has been a candidate. But we firmly believe that in Kristy McBain we are putting forward a candidate who is in same tradition as Mike Kelly, someone who will work for her local community, someone who is a part of the local community, a graduate from Eden Marine High School, just down the road here. Someone who is raising her three children and looking after her beloved dog, a Collie I believe it is, here in the electorate. Kristy is a part of this electorate. And one of the things I found this morning in Merimbula just walking down the street was every single person we ran into stopped to say, ‘Good on you. Kristy is fantastic. Welcome’. They want a strong advocate who is interested in them. What the other side of politics has shown is that they are interested in each other over the past few days.


JOURNALIST: Do you think it’s got easier, given the recent events?


ALBANESE: Look, I think one of the things that I think is very clear is that we will not be complacent during this by-election. It will be very tough. These are circumstances, people speak about one in 100 years, well, it was 100 years since there was a pandemic of the scale that we are seeing now. The impact of that we just don’t know what the impact of that will be politically. But I would say this; people will, I think, have a look at the comments that have been made by candidates on the other side and potential candidates on the other side about their own political leaders. Whether that be the comments that Andrew Constance made about the lack of leadership during the bushfires, or whether it be the comments that John Barilaro continues to make on a day to day basis about his own party leadership. What we have on the Labor side is a very clear alternative. An alternative that stands for the sort of principles that we saw play out in this club over the bushfire crisis. The principles that are about a community looking after each other, where we worry about the elderly, the sick, those who need care. There were people evacuated to this site from nursing homes and volunteers stayed here for up to 48 hours straight looking after those people. That is the spirit that brought me into politics. That is the spirit that is bringing Kristy McBain to put herself forward as the candidate for Eden-Monaro. A society that is fair. A society where we look after each other. That is what Australians are doing during the coronavirus crisis. That is what I will be talking about when I give my fifth vision statement in Canberra on Monday about how we come out of this crisis, not with a turnback to what we’ve had previously, but looking forward of how we build a stronger Australia, a stronger society. One where we continue to take that spirit that we’re all in this together. And we take that principle to how we run our economy, how we run our society, how we create jobs, how we make sure that no one is left behind.


JOURNALIST: Do you expect Kristy McBain will be up against one or two Coalition candidates?


ALBANESE: That’s a matter for them. And we haven’t been interested in their squabbling. And that will continue. Whether they can cover it up for a period of the election, we’ll see. But I think we all know everyone has seen laid there out there on the front page of newspapers what they think of each other. And the fact is, that that’s just there. What we’ve done very clearly, Kristy McBain was unanimously endorsed as Labor’s candidate. She received strong support. Later today we’ll be having a meeting by Zoom with all the branch members throughout the electorate about the campaign and about how it’s organised. I have received nothing but positive feedback from people about Kristy’s candidature whether they be people who are party members or people from outside the party. It is no secret that Kristy campaigned and has been an independent mayor. She’s built up a support base that is well beyond just the traditional Labor base. People support her as an individual. I hope also that they support the individual Labor agenda. And I’d say to people who voted for Labor in the past for Mike Kelly, that you have a candidate who is in that tradition. But I say this as well, to people who may not have brought themselves to vote Labor in the past. Do it this time. Don’t allow the Government to come out of this by-election saying that they’ve done everything right. If you think that there’s improvement needed in the Government, send them a message. Send them a message that the complacency that was there before this bushfire crisis wasn’t good enough. That the support for small businesses and individuals that has happened in the recovery phase isn’t good enough. That the leaving of people behind who are casuals, who are in the arts sector isn’t good enough. This is an opportunity that if there’s an issue where you think the Government hasn’t got it absolutely right, send them a message. This time, vote Labor. Vote for Kristy McBain whenever the by-election is held.


JOURNALIST: Ms McBain, yesterday while talking about you, Andrew Constance said that you were quick to stick the boot into him while he was talking about the state of politics in this country. Do you have a comment to make on that?


MCBAIN: I have nothing but respect for Andrew Constance. I’ve worked with him over a number of years now as a councillor and as the mayor. There was never any intention to stick the boot into Andrew. His comments are his comments.


JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).


MCBAIN: Well, first of all, this is a by-election in 2020 for the Eden-Monaro. It’s not an election that was forged in 2019. And as everybody is aware, the policies of the Labor Party are under review. And that’s been loud and clear. It’s been loud and clear to the Labor Party and they are under review, but they’re not up for discussion in 2020 by-election.


JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).


ALBANESE: Well, I have made it very clear, David, that Labor’s franking credits policy is off the agenda. That we won’t be proceeding with the same policy that we took to the 2019 election. With regard to negative gearing and those issues, we made it clear as well that there will be no impact on any existing arrangements. We said that prior to the 2019 election. But that policy as well, is up for review. And we’ll make an announcement when it’s down the track. But we’ll be announcing positive policies. The policies that we have are ones that I have announced. If you look at the sort of policies we have, creating Jobs and Skills Australia, the policy we had of increasing Newstart, now called JobSeeker. And I’ll make that point that is this Government really going to wind back Newstart to $40 a day after they’ve acknowledged that wasn’t enough to live on. And the problem for this Government is that on so many of the issues that it’s preceded with, its narrative has been trashed by its own actions. Its narrative that told us that it was concerned about debt even though it had doubled the debt before this crisis, and told us that it wouldn’t increase Newstart, but it had to double the Newstart payments as part of JobSeeker. It was opposed to wage subsidies until it wasn’t. And then it introduced $130 billion program for wage subsidies because it was necessary. It has ignored the science of climate change for so often. And that will be a big issue in this by-election as well. Are we going to listen to the science on climate change just like we have listened to the science on the coronavirus? I say that science, it is a good thing that we listen to them on all of the issues that they put forward and that we listen to experts and show some respect for them. Are we going to continue to have the attacks on working people that we’ve seen through measures like the Ensuring Integrity Bill? The people who are seeing us through this crisis are the cleaners, the supermarket workers, the nurses, the aged care workers, the public transport drivers. The people who are continuing to work to keep this economy going. It’s about time this Government treated them with respect rather than continuing to attack their wages and conditions. Are we going to continue to see the contracting out of public services? One of the issues during the bushfire crises that people in this electorate know about is the gutting of Centrelink, and the contracting out of services meant there weren’t enough people on the ground to have individual caseworkers in place immediately to provide support. People I know were contacting us and when I was talking to Kristy and the other mayors, they didn’t have a point of contact to get support for small business or for individuals, in part because of the contracting out of the public service. These are all lessons that had been learned by the coronavirus crisis. They will be contestable. They’ll be part of a contest of ideas as we come out of this crisis. And I say that the Government has changed its rhetorical position on many of these issues. We’ll see whether they snap-back, to use Scott Morrison’s term, to what was there before and what they wanted to be there, or whether we actually move forward. That in part, that is what the next election will be about in 2021 or 2022. Whether we snap-back to what was there before, and to the continued attacks on working people, or whether we look forward to a better future. One where we take the spirit that has been shown by Australians during the coronavirus crisis. Take that spirit of cooperation, of looking after each other, of unions and business having common interests of making sure we have an economy that works for people, rather than people working for an economy. That’s what the next election will be about. And in part we’ll be laying some groundwork for that during this by-election.


JOURNALIST: On super, Federal Police are investigating fraudulent theft from superannuation accounts. Should the Early Access to Super Scheme be halted until any weaknesses in the system are eliminated?


ALBANESE: This should never have happened. We argued against it. We argued that it would diminish people’s savings upon retirement. That it would also damage the national economy by reducing the pool which is there, Superannuation has been a ballast for the national economy as well as being good for individual workers. The Government is ideological about opposing superannuation. They take every opportunity to put forward a proposal. So, it’s quite clear that they haven’t put in place appropriate safety mechanisms to ensure that there can’t be fraudulent activity when it comes to superannuation. They are so determined to reduce the pool of superannuation which individual workers hold that they’re prepared to come up with any mechanism to do it. This is just the latest. And certainly, it’s perfectly understandable that people under pressure, financial pressure, would take the option of accessing the superannuation. That’s understandable. And the Government knew that would be the case. But it will change the liquidity which superannuation funds have, which will have an impact on the sort of investments they can make in the future. We should be ensuring that superannuation is for people’s retirement. This alleged fraudulent activity has got to be investigated. The Government has to explain why it is that the mechanisms weren’t in place to protect people’s savings. Thank you.