ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
LABOR CANDIDATE FOR EDEN-MONARO
FRIDAY, 19 JUNE 2020
SUBJECTS: 100 days until JobKeeper stops; snapback; Eden-Monaro by-election; universities; bushfire Royal Commission; Victorian Labor; cyber security.
KRISTY MCBAIN, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR EDEN-MONARO: Good morning. I’m Kristy McBain, Labor’s candidate in the Eden-Monaro by-election. And I’m joined here today in Thredbo by Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese. And we’re here today talking to local business owners about JobKeeper. These businesses in Thredbo and surrounding areas have been significantly impacted not only by the COVID shutdown, but also by bushfires. Towns like Thredbo who have been evacuated numerous times, businesses that have not been able to open. We’ve heard today, two EFTPOS uses in 2020 altogether. These businesses have been largely frozen out of JobKeeper, ineligible workers because of the seasonal nature of work here. And it’s just not good enough. There is large uncertainty for businesses, for people that live here, and for those tourists that want to come here. What we need is a plan for the future, not short-term fixes. And JobKeeper ending in September creates uncertainty for businesses, it creates uncertainty for workers, and it creates uncertainty for the entire sector. We need a jobs plan. And we have released one. A proactive approach to highlighting the issues in Eden-Monaro and coming up with solutions to fix those. Anthony?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Kristy. It’s great to be in this great region of Australia. And it was good this morning to meet with small businesses, including Bill and Reg. As Kristy said, the idea that you can run a business with just two EFTPOS transactions for the first six months of 2020 just shows the pressure that small businesses are under. We also heard because of the bushfires and the impact that it had when of course Thredbo was evacuated earlier this year on January the 2nd, they can’t get insurance at the moment for the houses which are here. And some of that runs out in just a month or two’s time. So, they’ve been under pressure from the impact of bushfires and then the pandemic has hit. And that’s had a devastating effect on businesses here. Today is the countdown; 100 days until all Australians are frozen out of JobKeeper, according to this Government. And we know that Josh Frydenberg has been meeting this week about what other sections will follow childcare in being removed from the JobKeeper program. We know as well that the Prime Minister has said this week that JobSeeker is as good as JobKeeper. Well, that ignores the whole point of JobKeeper, to keep relations between employers and their workers to keep people in employment. We know the effective unemployment rate is 11.3 per cent today. But it’s going to get worse unless the Government develops a plan. But once again, the Government’s plan is all about politics. They are receiving a report in June, but they won’t tell Australians what’s in it. They won’t tell Australians until after they vote on July 4 in the Eden-Monaro by-election. Quite frankly, that’s not good enough. What they need to do is to provide certainty for businesses and certainty for workers. They need to come up with plans. Kristy McBain has her Jobs Plan for Eden-Monaro that she has released after consultation with the community. A plan to secure jobs. A plan to secure the economy’s future in this region of Australia. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, there seems to be indications that the Government is looking at winding back JobKeeper and restricting it to particular sections of the economy. (Inaudible).
ALBANESE: Well, we know that JobKeeper was delivered too late and it wasn’t comprehensive enough. The economy suffered from the fact that JobSeeker was introduced, therefore, encouraging people almost to say they’ll be okay if people are put off. And we saw those huge unemployment queues. And it was only once that happened that the Government actually agreed to wage subsidies. But already too many people are missing out. So, it already isn’t comprehensive. The idea that more people will miss out on top of the casual workers, and of course, they impact many people in this community. This electorate relies upon tourism and hospitality. The nature of that employment is that it’s casual, that it’s not permanent. It’s seasonal. And so, many seasonal workers have simply missed out on JobKeeper at the moment. And indeed, one of the people we spoke to this morning their partner has missed out on JobKeeper and JobSeeker. So, they’re getting no support whatsoever. Whole sectors, arts and entertainment, have missed out as well. And workers in places like dnata have missed out. So, there’s already too many people being left behind. My concern is that more people will be left behind. And that will mean that the recession is deeper and will last longer than it needs to.
JOURNALIST: Well, certainly Labor wants to see JobKeeper expanded. And also, talking to people in Eden-Monaro over the last couple of days, as you say, it is very seasonal, and they are basically hanging out until Christmas. Do you think that it should be extended in time as well due to the Christmas season?
ALBANESE: Well, we’ve said consistently, that they need to look after workers like the dnata workers is a classic example. They used to work for Qantas Catering. It’s not their fault that the company got sold with the approval of the Morrison Government to a foreign entity. They’re doing the same job they’ve always done, but they are not eligible for JobKeeper. We have pointed out that the arts and entertainment sector have missed out completely. That casual workers have missed out. And we also think the idea you will just have an abrupt end in 100 days would damage the economy.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, a couple of questions on universities. The Government wants to increase the cost of some degrees (inaudible). What do you think of that plan?
ALBANESE: Well, this is the Government of $100,000 university degrees. That’s been their philosophy. They don’t seem to understand that education benefits not just an individual, it benefits the nation. And we think that if someone studies hard and does well enough to be eligible to go to university, then a society like ours should be encouraging them to do so. This is also a Government that has ripped $3 billion from TAFE. So, if they talk about support for education programs that benefit the workforce, why have they cut $3 billion from TAFE? Why are there today 140,000 less apprentices and trainees than there were when this Government came to office? This Government seems to always be prepared to sit back and watch those people who frankly don’t need government support. They’ll always do okay, people who are wealthy enough to pay high fees. But what it will mean is discourage working people from going to universities. I’m proud that Labor’s tradition when it comes to education is pretty clear. The Hawke and Keating Governments increased Year 12 retention from three out of every 10 kids to eight out of 10 kids. And the Rudd and Gillard Government significantly expanded access to university education. And that makes a difference to the country.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it is necessary to reduce our reliance on international students?
ALBANESE: Well, the reason why universities have relied so much upon international students is because this Government has ripped funds from universities. That’s what’s driven the change to international students. I think that international students studying in Australia is a good thing. It’s a good thing for them to get access to that. It’s also a good thing for our international relationships. The world’s a smaller place these days. And certainly, when I was last in India, one of the things I did was launch the Australian Alumni Association, which has over half a million eligible people who’ve studied in Australia, gone back to India and are making a contribution. That’s a good thing. So, it’s a good thing for those international students. It’s a good thing for our relations. But Australian universities have been suffering under this Government over the last seven years.
JOURNALIST: Adem Somyurek has vowed to, and I quote, ‘Take down those who destroyed his career’, and is now threatening legal action. How damaging is this for the Labor Party? Is this a distraction?
ALBANESE: Well, I’ll tell you what; I’ve been in Eden-Monaro a lot over the last month. No one has raised any of those issues with me and it certainly isn’t raised today. What people are concerned about is jobs and the economy. I doubt whether you’d heard that gentleman’s name two weeks ago and it would have been a trivia question. And if anyone in the Federal Press Gallery could answer it, then they would have got a pretty good prize.
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you about bushfires? There is a bit of frustration about how the Royal Commission has been conducted. Do you feel like the terms of reference (inaudible)?
ALBANESE: Well, the fact is that this Government was complacent in the lead-up to the bushfires. They were warned on multiple occasions. All of the reports, all of the experts were saying that the season was going to be more intense than past bushfire events, that it was going to be catastrophic. And indeed, it was. Then in terms of the terms of reference, if the Commissioners require any spread or change to the terms of reference, they should request it. And the Government should adopt it. This is an important examination so that errors aren’t made so that we protect lives and we protect communities. Too many lives were lost over this season, too many homes were lost. The fact that it took the calling of the Eden-Monaro by-election for this Government to announce an increase in aerial firefighting services is quite outrageous. But maybe Kristy might want to add something there.
MCBAIN: Look, if I can. I’ve participated in the community roundtables of the Royal Commission as the Mayor of Bega Valley Shire, we’ve made submissions. And I can tell you that community members disregarded the terms of reference. They needed to get their information, their experience, their knowledge of what happened over Black Summer out to people, so it was not just them that were being traumatised by the story. They we’re getting it out to not only get it off their chest, but so that everybody around them knew what they’d been through. There are people that have been directly impacted by flames, there are people that have been indirectly impacted by the overall disaster. And what nobody wants to see again is that feeling of being alone and unhelped. We have far too many volunteers who were left by themselves to fight catastrophic bushfires across this country. And they do so because that’s what they love doing. But there should have been pre-planning by these Federal Government coming into the bushfire season. There was not enough help or support by the Federal Government. And when the support came, it was far too late for those people in the community.
JOURNALIST: So, there has been significant cyber (inaudible) governments and the private sector (inaudible). Were you offered a security briefing last night?
ALBANESE: My office got a call last night from the Prime Minister’s Office for a security briefing. Obviously, security briefings have to be in secure rooms. And there’s not one here in Thredbo, which is where I am. I was already down here, but my office is organising for senior members to receive that briefing this morning, and then I’ll receive a briefing as soon as possible.
JOURNALIST: Speaking generally, is it something that is concerning, cyber-attacks, are they increasing?
ALBANESE: Look, I will only speak in the general because it’s not appropriate to comment on national security issues without a proper briefing. But in general, cyber-attacks are a real issue. I have received, of course, significant briefings at regular intervals, including, I think, I’ve received a couple in the last month when I’ve been in Canberra. And what the evidence is, is that these attacks are expected to be more often. I have faith in our national security agency, so I can say that. And I think that Australians can feel secure in the fact that we have some remarkable people working around the clock and doing remarkable work to keep Australians safe. The Government and Labor are at one on this. This is not a partisan issue. And we will provide whatever support we can if asked to do so.
ALBANESE: No, he’s been appointed as Deputy Chair of the committee. Andrew Hastie has given him a glowing reference and the membership of that committee, of course, unlike other committees, is at the behest of the Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: Are there any Labor MPs from Victoria who are in Parliament at the moment that got there via branch stacking? And is anyone’s membership under review?
ALBANESE: Look, I have full confidence in the team in Canberra, and all the team. What I say is, on those issues, we’ve got Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin doing a review. They are two people whose integrity is without question. They’re two people who’ve made an enormous contribution to public life. I await their review and recommendations that they’ll make to the National Executive. I’m sure the National Executive will adopt whatever it is they recommend going forward because of the standing of these people. We acted swiftly. We acted clearly. We’re now getting on with the job. I’m not going to be distracted by that. I’m getting on with the job of the issues that actually matter which employment, the economy. We lost 830,000 jobs since March. That’s the issue that I’m concerned about. And I’ll tell you what, that is the issue Australians are concerned about as well.