ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
LABOR CANDIDATE FOR EDEN-MONARO
FRIDAY, 3 JULY 2020
SUBJECTS: Eden-Monaro by-election; bushfire recovery; Hong Kong; cuts to the ABC; John Barilaro; foreign interference; freedom of press.
KRISTY MCBAIN, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR EDEN-MONARO: Good morning and welcome to Narooma. I am joined today by Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese. I am Kristy McBain, Labor’s candidate in the Eden-Monaro by-election. We obviously have one day to go until everybody casts their votes in Eden-Monaro. Over the last few weeks I have travelled over 9,000 kilometres. My campaign and myself have made thousands of phone calls right across this electorate. We have spoken to businesses, to individuals, to a whole range of people, that are really concerned about their future. Tomorrow is a chance to send this Government a message, six months on from the bushfires and people are being left behind. Tomorrow is a chance to send a message to this Government that there are businesses worried about the future of JobKeeper. Tomorrow is a chance to send this Government a message that this region will not continue to be left behind. I am not somebody that is going to read from talking points. I am not somebody that is here to just toe the party line. I am somebody who will unapologetically put this community first. Because that is what they deserve after the trauma they have been through after the droughts, the bushfire, and now the economic effects of COVID-19. So, tomorrow is your chance to vote Labor and make sure that we send me, a strong local voice, to Canberra to amplify the voices and the concerns of a region that is doing it particularly tough. Anthony?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Kristy. And it’s been a great pleasure to be on the campaign trail with such an amazing advocate for her local community. Kristy is passionate about Eden-Monaro. She’s passionate about making a difference, and she has the talent and the capacity to do just that. People of this community saw that during the bushfire crisis with Kristy, who was on the ground each and every day. Kristy was warning about Government complacency in the lead-up to those bushfires. Kristy was there at their time of need. And you don’t have to take my word for it. You can listen to people like Jim Molan and others in the Liberal and National parties who are there praising Kristy McBain for her efforts during that period. She also has been there for the recovery, urging Government in action. From a Government that when the cameras left, the support left as well. I’ve been a regular visitor to these communities. Scott Morrison hasn’t been able during this by-election, to visit Cobargo, to visit the communities that were impacted by the bushfires directly. I’ve been engaged. And I know that tomorrow is an important opportunity to send that message to the Government that they need to do better. That it’s not acceptable that the Government is keeping secret its plans for JobKeeper, its plans for JobSeeker, its plans for the GST, until after the by-election this Saturday. Businesses and people need certainty. Labor has been constructive during this difficult period in the national Parliament and will continue to be so. But we also have made a difference. It’s Labor that argued strongly, along with business and unions, that we needed JobKeeper, that we needed wage subsidies. The Government resisted that for a while. It then put it in place but now there’s that uncertainty there. Kristy McBain will make a difference for this community. And I urge people to vote for Kristy McBain either today or tomorrow. I suspect that more than half the people who will vote in this election will do so before tomorrow, when you take postal votes and prepolls into account. Kristy McBain is a strong advocate. She’s someone who will speak up. She’s someone who will speak her mind within the Party and within the Parliament. And it’s what this community needs. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, many say this is Labor’s to lose. How much pressure do you feel as Leader to hold onto this seat?
ALBANESE: This is an important by-election. But we started behind. We started in circumstances whereby we just fell across the line at the election last year. And the COVID-19 issues have meant that it’s been difficult to campaign. And the loss of a very popular local member in Mike Kelly took immediately 3 per cent off our vote. So, that put us on 48 before we started. But in Kristy McBain we have someone who will carry on Mike’s legacy and indeed build on it. She’s someone who is the outstanding candidate in this by-election. There’s no doubt. We haven’t had to worry, as the Government has, hiding their candidate, not allowing them to take questions or press conferences, not allowing any debates. We have a candidate who were proud of who is the strongest candidate in this by-election.
JOURNALIST: You’ve spent a lot of time in this electorate in the last month or two, Anthony Albanese. A lot more time than the Prime Minister. Does that reflect that in a way it’s a lot more important for your future and your job as Party Leader than it is for him?
ALBANESE: Well, I’ve been welcomed into this electorate. I’ve never had a problem during the bushfires of shaking people’s hands and talking to them about their concerns. I’ve been welcomed here. And I have been welcomed back here because I was in bushfire-affected communities each and every day when they were going through that difficult period. This is an electorate which is diverse. You have your agricultural sections to the west of Canberra, in Batlow and Adelong, you have got a rural and commute community in Yass. You’ve got the Snowy, you’ve got the coastal regions. It’s a diverse community and you need to understand the concerns of each and every one of them. This morning, I had a long interview on Braidwood community radio. I love campaigning. I look forward to the next Federal campaign. Those of you who know me, and you do well, Tim, know that when a campaign is on I’m out there talking to people, engaging with people, listening to people’s concerns. And it’s been a real opportunity to hear those concerns about the broad range of issues that affect the Australian community. And I’ve enjoyed very much, the campaign. And part of that enjoyment is seeing a candidate who is as good a first-time candidate, or even better, at the risk of alienating some of the past candidates, I think she’s the best new candidate I’ve seen run in a federal or state campaign in my time in politics. She is absolutely ready to serve the people of Eden-Monaro. And it’s been a privilege to campaign next to Kristy McBain. And I want to take this opportunity as well to thank Brad and the family for what they’ve done, as well, during this campaign. It’s tough seeing their mum and partner traveling around the electorate. But they’ve been there every step of the way. And a big shout-out to them as well.
JOURNALIST: You say you’ve been welcomed in this electorate. Are you suggesting that the Prime Minister wouldn’t have been welcomed down into the towns that you’re visiting today?
ALBANESE: Well, he hasn’t visited Cobargo. He hasn’t visited Narooma. He hasn’t visited Merimbula. There was a very brief press conference in Eden at a business rather than out there in the community. And it’s up to the Prime Minister to explain why that’s the case.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister has experienced a surge in his personal approval rating during the pandemic. Are you concerned that will translate into Liberal votes?
ALBANESE: Well, have a look at the polls. And there isn’t a poll that has the LNP vote as high as it was at the last Federal election in any of the polls that have been published.
JOURNALIST: An Opposition Leader, tell me if I’m wrong, an Opposition Leader hasn’t had to give up an electorate at a by-election for 100 years. If you have to do that on Sunday, Anthony Albanese, won’t that reflect on your leadership?
ALBANESE: We’re focused on getting everybody in the box between now and 6PM tomorrow. But we’re focused on doing that not as the end in itself. We’re focused on the needs of the people of Eden-Monaro. We’re focused on the people who’ve been left behind by this Government. The people who were left behind during the bushfire crisis, the people who haven’t had access to JobKeeper or JobSeeker support. We’ve spoken to businesses here in Narooma. The ice-creamery that had a range of employees, most of whom weren’t eligible for JobKeeper. And the business owner there who owns three businesses in this community was devastated by that. We’re focused on people who’ve been left behind and making sure that they have someone to speak up for them. That’s what’s critical. This electorate doesn’t need someone to just sit there and give a tick to the Government. This electorate needs someone who will speak up for them. We have been focused on the needs of the people of Eden-Monaro and will continue to be so after polls close at six o’clock, when Parliament resumes in August, when the Budget comes down in October, throughout next year, we’ll be focused on the needs of the people here.
JOURNALIST: Be blunt for us, Anthony Albanese, you’re visiting bushfire towns, how well has the Federal Government catered for bushfire-affected towns in this region?
ALBANESE: Well, there’s people who have simply been left behind. Yesterday I was in Bumbalong, a very small community that haven’t got any of the debris removed because they haven’t fixed the causeway across the river. They’ve been crying out for help for months, and they haven’t got it. They’re in a state of despair. And that is reflected in many other communities that I’ve visited around, whether it’s Quaama, whether it is Cobargo, whether it is Merimbula, whether it is here. There are so many communities who feel as though they haven’t been given support. Communities, the orchardists in Batlow that we visited, that haven’t been given support. It shouldn’t have taken a by-election for the Government to announce increased aerial firefighting capacity. It shouldn’t have taken a by-election for the Government to announce in the last week that there was a need to provide support for forestry. That should have been a matter of course. But if there’s one thing that Kristy McBain has shown already, as someone who’s not even in Parliament, she’s already made a huge difference. She’s already made these issues, put them on the map, ensure that the Government has had to respond. It shouldn’t have taken a by-election for the Government to be in denial about the postal service cuts that will occur. It shouldn’t have taken a by-election for there to be a focus on ABC cuts. But Labor will restore them. It is a major issue because the ABC literally saved lives during the bushfire crisis. It’s an essential service and it should be given support.
MCBAIN: We know right across the Eden-Monaro region that ABC South East, ABC Canberra and ABC Riverina played such an essential role during this bushfire crisis with rolling coverage. Coverage that was up to date, accurate and not sensationalised. And we need to make sure that those cuts are restored to the ABC, especially in regional areas where so many people rely on the information given to them by the ABC.
JOURNALIST: Kristy McBain, your political read, if you would, do you expect if you win that you’ll be facing John Barilaro as a national candidate at the next election?
MCBAIN: I am focused 100 per cent on winning this election in 2020. I’m focused on winning this election in 2020. I have been campaigning long and hard now for a number of weeks. I’m asking people for their first preference vote in this election. I need to get over the line here so that I can amplify the voices of the people that matter right now. And that’s the people that are feeling left behind and forgotten in Eden-Monaro.
JOURNALIST: But how do you read the Barilaro preferences?
MCBAIN: I am not reading it at all. As I said, I am 100 per cent focused on this by-election. I know now more than ever, that people in regional areas need representation. They need somebody to stand up for them, they need somebody to have their back into the future. Because we have had a cumulative effect of a number of disasters. And whilst the conversation has moved on from drought, most of Eden-Monaro is still in drought. There are so many people out there struggling with the recovery and rebuild after the fires. And now the economic impacts of COVID has really hurt people in this area. There are a lot of people really frustrated and anxious about what their future is going to hold. They want answers. They want to know that someone’s listening to them. And they’re not getting that at the moment from this Government.
JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that recent attention on state Labor MPs in New South Wales and Victoria will have any impact on your chances tomorrow?
MCBAIN: We’ve done over 9,000 kilometres in this election so far. We’ve spoken to thousands of people on the phone. Not one person in Eden-Monaro has raised any of those issues because it does not have any impact on their daily lives. They are concerned about the future of JobKeeper and whether their business is going to be viable until December. They’re concerned about clean-up that hasn’t taken place, or if it has taken place, sometimes it hasn’t been the result they were after. They’re concerned that there’s no plan for the future. There’s no plan for jobs. There’s no plan for the future of forestry, agriculture, tourism and hospitality. And that’s why I’ve run an overwhelmingly positive campaign. Because people in this region do not need more negativity dumped down on them. They want opportunities. They want to know that somebody is there actually fighting for their future, not just reading from the talking points.
JOURNALIST: Now, Mike Kelly had a strong personal vote. Do you believe that you have that same level of support?
MCBAIN: Mike Kelly was an amazing advocate for this region. If I’m elected after Saturday, I’m going to have big shoes to fill, literally and figuratively. I will campaign very hard to make sure that personal vote flows my way, just like it did for Mike.
JOURNALIST: Should Australia provide a safe haven for Hong Kong residents, and if so, how should it?
ALBANESE: Look, Labor has been expressing serious concern about the events in Hong Kong, and Australia has responsibilities in the region. What we know is that the legislation that has been imposed is a breach of the handover agreement between Great Britain and the People’s Republic of China with regard to Hong Kong. It was supposed to be one country, two systems. The second system was democracy. The freedom of the press, freedom of association. And those principles are important. Might I say, for the ABC, freedom of the press is pretty important here too. And I’d say that the Attorney General has called-in that he has to sign off on any prosecution of journalists, the prosecution, potentially, of an ABC journalist for doing their job, for telling Australians what is in the public interest, is an outrage. Freedom of the press isn’t something that can be a matter of convenience.
JOURNALIST: New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister has raised concerns with a current New Zealand MP having a history of working with Chinese spies. How confident are you that intelligence that we share with New Zealand isn’t compromised?
ALBANESE: We have a constructive relationship between the intelligence agencies between Australia and New Zealand, and that will remain so.
JOURNALIST: Just on their freedom of press question, you’re saying that the Attorney General now must block any prosecution of an ABC journalist?
ALBANESE: Well, the Attorney General himself has said that he wants to have sign-off on any prosecution of journalists. He said that. And what the Attorney General should do today is explain why it is that this ABC journalists has been pursued, potentially, with the AFP providing a submission to the Director of Public Prosecutions over something that is currently up on the ABC website. There is not a breach of national security. That does not endanger the men and women who serve Australia in uniform, and it is information that is clearly in the public interest. The fact of these raids, whether on the News Limited journalist Annika Smethurst, or on the ABC, were, in my view, an attack on freedom of the press. Freedom of the press is something that we cannot take for granted. Our democracy is important. We are engaged here today in Narooma and tomorrow the people of Eden-Monaro will be engaged in a democratic process. We can’t take it for granted. And an essential component of our democracy is freedom with the press. And journalism is never a crime. Journalism which is responsible, which is what this is, there were no suggestion that people were endangered as a result of this information becoming public. And indeed, the Australian public really had a right to know what was being done in their name. Thanks very much.