Jun 11, 2020









SUBJECTS: Government cuts to Australia Post; Eden-Monaro by-election; state borders opening; post-COVID economic recovery; JobKeeper; childcare sector; protests during coronavirus.


KRISTY MCBAIN, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR EDEN-MONARO: Good morning and welcome to Queanbeyan this morning. I am Kristy McBain, Labor’s candidate in the Eden-Monaro by-election. We are here in Queanbeyan today with postal workers. Postal workers who are essential service people for our community. This Government is looking at cutting back postal services to our communities, reducing mail services and blowing out wait times from three days to seven days, reducing one in four postal jobs. We already wait longer for our mail in regional New South Wales than we do in the city. This will affect not only people in Queanbeyan but people from Cooma to Narooma. From Tathra to Tumut, from Braidwood to Batlow, and from Jindabyne to Wee Jasper. As regional communities, we already suffer a lack of services and we cannot let this Government cut postal services to our regional communities in our times of need. And while I am talking about governments, it is an absolute disgrace that this Government will not release the review of the JobKeeper program until after the Eden-Monaro by-election. At a time when voters should be able to understand whether there will be a cutback to JobKeeper, whether there will be a cutback to JobSeeker, whether there will be a cutback to vital support for small businesses. And it is not a snapback. It is a cutback. And with those cutbacks mean job losses. We cannot allow that release to come after the Eden-Monaro by-election. I call on the Government to make sure that they release that review prior to the Fourth of July so that voters in Eden-Monaro know exactly what support they will be getting from this Government. Anthony?


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Kristy. It’s great to be back in Queanbeyan with you with local posties Emma and Ray. The fact is that this Government has used this crisis to slip in regulations that will mean less services and less jobs for regional communities like this one. Our posties are essential workers. They are people we want to see every day, not twice a week. They are people who are relied upon. They are people who are respected. They are people who are trusted. They are people who, in this country, we say g’day to every morning when we see them, we get to know them. They’re a part of the community. And the fact that this Government has introduced regulations to change the obligations of Australia Post without any public debate whatsoever, is typical of a Government that lacks transparency and lacks integrity. That is why Labor, along with other non-government parties, will be supporting a disallowance motion in the Senate to strike these cuts out. These cuts are to jobs. These cuts are the services that are absolutely essential. And in particular, older Australians really rely upon their postal services. This is a diverse community. It’s one that relies upon, though, contact with each other and with other communities. And the fact that this community along with others Eden-Monaro, and right around the country will be impacted by this change is why this change should be rejected. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: We have seen through this crisis a lot of physical store sites close and return to their online centres. (Inaudible)?


ALBANESE: Well, one of the things that we see from the excuse from the Government says, ‘Oh, more people are using parcels now’. So, they don’t use that to think, ‘Hang on, this is a chance, maybe we need more jobs, not less’. They see this as an opportunity to actually cut jobs. Yes, more people are using parcel delivery or ordering online now. That should not be used as an excuse to cut back on Australia Post’s essential services. This is a Government that, of course, would like to privatise Australia Post because they’d like to privatise everything in sight. They don’t believe in anything to do with the public sector. And we see that time and time again. But this is a Government that should be using this period to think about how they create jobs. Instead, what they’re looking at is how jobs will be cut. Whether they be this issue today or whether it be childcare workers with their cuts to JobKeeper that they announced on Monday, on a public holiday.


JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) say that a second wave of coronavirus infections could arise from (inaudible). Is it wise to ease restrictions (inaudible)?


ALBANESE: We have to take the advice of health experts. It’s as simple as that. That’s what has seen Australia through this crisis better than most comparable nations. We just have to listen to that advice. But I notice also that the OECD has spoken about the risk of snap back. How snap back runs a risk of really restricting the growth in the economy and having a severe impact. The idea that you can just snap back to what was there, whether it be childcare, whether it be the removal of JobKeeper from other sectors, whether it be the withdrawal of JobSeeker back to its old amount of $40 a day. The OECD has warned that early withdrawal of economic support runs a severe risk of having a negative impact on the economy, on employment and on living standards in Australia.


JOURNALIST: They have also predicted though that Australians will stand better than other countries in our economic recovery. Is that something that the Government should consider?


ALBANESE: Well, the economic stimulus packages, there has been three of them in the Parliament. Labor has voted for all of them. But we’ve also warned about some of the mistakes that have been made. And of course, the major mistake announcements have been there every week. This week was the withdrawal of childcare earlier in the week. And it’s this issue in the last half of this week. The week before it was the $720 million cost of Robodebt, an illegal scheme imposed on more than 300,000 Australians. The week before that it was the $60 billion accounting error. This Government needs to get it right. They need to make sure that we have a transition rather than a snapback that will snap communities. And that is what the OECD have clearly outlined in the report that’s released today.


JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister has said yesterday about premiers to agree on opening their borders to aid the economic recovery. What is your stance on this?


ALBANESE: I don’t think restriction should be there for one day more than necessary. But it is the Prime Minister who has chaired a meeting that’s decided that it’s up to the states to go their own way. That’s a decision by the Prime Minister. He should accept some responsibility for the outcomes of meetings that he chairs and that he announces.


JOURNALIST: There are more protest plans this weekend. You have previously said that people should listen to the health advice. What is your advice to people who are planning to go to the protests?


ALBANESE: Listen to the health advice. Simple as that. We need to listen to the science and experts whether it be on coronavirus, whether it be on climate change. It’s always a good idea to listen to people who know more than you do. And medical experts know more than I do about the coronavirus crisis and the dangers which are there. So, quite clearly, large public gatherings provide a risk. They provide a risk to individuals’ health and a risk to community health. We need to not be complacent about coming out of this crisis. We’re not through it yet. And that’s why we need to be consistent. And I’ve always been consistent. I’ve never said things are going to shut down on Monday, but I’ll go to the footy tomorrow. I’ve been consistent the whole way through that we should listen to the health advice.


JOURNALIST: Just on those four MPs that went to the rallies, are there any results from their tests?


ALBANESE: Yes, Anika Wells and Graham Perrett have tested negative, not surprisingly. I would expect the other two will get, of course, Northern Territory representatives, the Northern Territory has been pretty clear for a while since they’ve had new infections, I would expect similar results, but we’ll await them. I think that they should come through later today.


JOURNALIST: Just lastly, on China. The Government has been doing more to try and soften the fractured relationship with China.


ALBANESE: Well, where is our Foreign Minister? Our Foreign Minister made a pretty celebrated appearance on Insiders and went back to wherever it is. I’m not sure our Foreign Minister hasn’t taken it too literally and isn’t based somewhere else, because I never see her. We need to ensure that we have relationships with countries in our region. And of course, that requires, as I have said, as John Howard has said, that requires a sophisticated relationship with China. And I’d suggest to the Foreign Minister, she might like to have a look at John Howard’s comments and follow his advice. Because on this, he certainly is, I think, pretty spot on the advice that he’s given the Government. Thanks.


JOURNALIST: What have you been noticing so far on the campaign?


MCBAIN: Look, we’ve been campaigning now for five and a half, six weeks. I’ve done thousands of kilometres across the Eden-Monaro. We’ve made thousands of phone calls to people. The concerns across the electorate are obviously bushfire recoveries first and foremost, for a lot of people that have been so badly impacted. Mobile phone black spots and internet connectivity is still a huge issue right across Eden-Monaro. I mean, you only have to go 30 kilometres out of the ACT where you already don’t get mobile phone connection. So, that’s a huge issue for people. And obviously, in COVID, people are rightly concerned about their jobs and their futures. And so many people across Eden-Monaro haven’t been eligible for JobKeeper. So many people have had to be put on JobSeeker. And we are talking about a snap back of JobKeeper, which is going to mean, obviously, people unable to survive on $40 a day. And we’ve already been hit by droughts, by bushfires and now COVID-19. And our regional communities are really suffering. So, making sure that they have a strong voice in Parliament to advocate for their needs is one of their big concerns and priorities.


JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)?


MCBAIN: Look, the issues for this campaign are going to be really local. We’ve got communities that are suffering greatly. Many of our farmers are still in drought. And that conversation seems to have moved on for so many other people, but we have people living daily with concerns of drought. We’ve got Phil in Toothdale who has sowed his paddocks $43,000 worth in the hope of rain. We’ve got the Monaro graziers who are no longer eligible for funding for their cooperative. So, there’s no planning. We’ve got the Bega Beef Co-op who have asked for some funding so that they can strategically plan for what their market will look like into the future. And there has been no engagement by this Government with local farmers about their pressing concerns. And they are still pressing. On top of that, we’ve obviously got bushfire, we’ve got people that still aren’t eligible for assistance five, six months on from fires now and they are now just getting advice of, ‘Sorry, you’re not eligible for the concessional loan that we told you were eligible for in January’. How are these people meant to get on and rebuild their lives when they are still waiting for the Government to assist them? So, there is a lot of pain, a lot of hurt in this electorate. And they want someone to listen. And that’s what I’ve been doing since the first of May.


JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)?


MCBAIN: Look, for me this campaign is about local people. I’m not interested in negative politics. I’m sick of the negative politics that I see from this Government, pitting neighbours against neighbours by saying that some farmers are eligible for assistance while their next-door neighbour who runs a different type of farm is ineligible. By saying, ‘Look, we’ll happily help our friends that voted for us. But for you people that didn’t vote for us, bad luck’. The home renovation package is a perfect example in regional communities where no-one is going to be doing $150,000 renovation. No one. A $30,000 kitchen renovation takes a lot of money and a lot of savings for people to get to. And we’re saying, ‘Sorry, that project isn’t important enough to keep our trainees in work’? This Government is pitting communities against communities rather than listening and helping. And regional Australia needs more help than ever now.


ALBANESE: We might just hear from some of the representatives of the postal workers.


REPRESENTATIVE OF LOCAL POSTAL WORKERS: We are just out here this morning to support our members and the local posties who are working themselves to the bone to make sure that the local community receive their product every day, on time. And they have worked all through this COVID restrictions to make sure that they get these products to you. And when they start to come out at the other end, they’re threatened with losing their job, having all their overtime stopped. And we tried to get a few members down here today, so they can have their say, and they’ve been threatened with disciplinary action if they come and speak to the media, if they have their photographs taken. But we have even got two managers down here today to make sure that your postal delivers are gagged, and they cannot speak to you. We’re here today because of Shane Murphy and the national office and all the hard work they’ve done. And we’ve now got support from Mr Albanese, probably your future Prime Minister. So, everyone get on board and support your posties. Thank you very much.


ALBANESE: Thank you.