May 19, 2020







TUESDAY, 19 MAY 2020


SUBJECTS: Australia beyond coronavirus; bushfire recovery; Tumbarumba timber mill; Eden-Monaro by-election; emissions reductions technologies; Australia-China relationship; trade; barley tariffs; Batlow house fire.


KRISTY MCBAIN, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR EDEN-MONARO: Hi guys. I am Kristy McBain, Labor’s candidate in the upcoming Eden-Monaro by-election. And I am joined here today by Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, at the Hyne Timber Mill at Tumbarumba. A timber mill that employs 230 people locally and thousands more indirectly right through the region. A timber mill that contributes $2 billion to the south-west slopes economy annually. A timber mill that has been hit by disaster through bushfires. A timber mill that needs assistance to make sure that regional economies can continue to thrive following on from the bushfire disaster but also COVID-19 lockdown. It is a timber mill in the Eden-Monaro that needs our assistance because regional economies cannot be left behind. We need to make sure that jobs stay in these local economies. Places like Tumbarumba, Tumut, Batlow, all impacted by bushfires and now being impacted by COVID-19. I want to make sure that I am a strong local voice in Canberra for places like this. Because we cannot let our regional economies fall behind or be forgotten. Anthony?


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Kristy. It is great to be here with the Labor candidate for Eden-Monaro, Kristy McBain. Kristy is a fighter. She’s someone who’s familiar with this community as the Deputy Chair of the Regional Council body that covers this area and indeed covers the entire Eden-Monaro electorate. And what Kristy’s passionate about is making sure the regional communities such as this one here at Tumbarumba don’t get forgotten. The fact is, the Government was complacent in the lead up to the bushfires. It was complacent at the beginning of those actions. And many people feel as though they’ve been forgotten once the bushfires stopped and the coronavirus crisis then emerged. But these communities have been hit with a triple whammy. They suffered from drought, then bushfires, and then the coronavirus. And they’re deserving of our support. This mill employs 230 people. But employs many more indirectly as well. There’s 150 truck drivers alone who depend upon this mill for the employment. So, it’s absolutely critical for this regional economy here. It is also critical for the whole economy. Because one in every four new homes built in New South Wales has timber supplied from this mill. It is a critical, critical piece of local infrastructure. And what they’ve said to myself and Kristy today is that they need support. In particular, if there’s one thing they need, it is support with freight. One of the things we saw today is the logs that are being milled are the ones that were damaged during the bushfires. They are increasingly, of course, there’s a higher cost because of the need for cleaning and to make sure that the timber supplied is of the sufficient quality. So, they need to go further and further afield. That means more costs. And so, they’re asking for some freight subsidy. We know that in terms of these communities, they haven’t asked for a lot. They were pretty self-sufficient. When the fires were coming through here, the community of Tumbarumba really is an example of how communities came together. The local IGA, because it was in darkness, people had to be seen doing shopping with a flashlight. When the RFS was struggling to get water to put out the fires, they got local excavators who went into the local creek, dug out a ready-made dam so that the water could be supplied for the RFS fighting the fires. These communities have shown they’re resilient. They’re remarkable. They’re deserving of our support at this time. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, you have argued against (inaudible). Isn’t Labor’s position that the Government needs to play a larger role out of the crisis than it did going into it in terms of financial assistance for Australians?


ALBANESE: Well, our position is pretty simple. Today’s, I think, the 19th of May. The idea that on the 19th of May, there are more than six million Australians getting support through the wage subsidies of $1,500 a fortnight, and then on May 20, that disappears for more than six million Australian workers. Think about the shock to the economy that snap-back would have if that is what the Government envisages. I don’t think that will happen. Which is why the Government needs to come out with a clear economic plan to transition away from these measures. And common sense tells you that’s the case. It’s extraordinary, frankly, that the Government is showing some complacency by the idea that snap-back envisages one day support there, next day, all gone. I don’t think that’s a realistic plan. The Government needs to do much better. And, frankly, I expected to hear a plan from Josh Frydenberg last Tuesday in the Parliament. But all we got was a speech out of the Seinfeld script, a speech about nothing. Where the only thing that people can remember is Josh Frydenberg is coughing.


JOURNALIST: Another on energy, if I may. Angus Taylor’s disbanded the remit of the Government’s $2 million climate solutions fund to finance emissions reductions technologies across the economy. Do you support private sector being subsidised by the fund?


ALBANESE: Angus, another day, another policy. We may wait for the next one, because it will come around next week. I have lost count at 17 or 18 different policies, none of which actually represented a plan. This is a Minister who has emissions going up and he’s pretending they are going down. He is pretending that renewable energy is expanding when we know that renewable energy investment for new projects is in decline. Angus Taylor should listen to the business community who are telling him what we need in this country is an energy policy, a climate change policy. And at the moment we don’t have one. He’s too busy involving himself in fake documents from mayors to worry about his day job. I think that this country needs a Minister for Energy who is capable of actually having a policy that lasts for more than a month.


JOURNALIST: Just on carbon capture storage specifically, do you support it being subsidised by this fund?


ALBANESE: What I support is the Government having an actual plan. We’ll look at the detail of the plan that’s been released today or is being released today. I don’t have a fax in the car, so I haven’t had the opportunity to go through all the details. We’ll respond appropriately. But this Government just comes up with different ideas when it comes to energy policy, day after day. I understand there’s some element of trading in this plan, something that previously has been rejected by the Government. So, we’ll look at the detail. What is very clear is that they’ll probably have another plan in a month by the time that Parliament comes back in June.


JOURNALIST: Are you concerned about the refusal to reopen borders and does it represent an attack on jobs, making, further damaging the tourism industry?


ALBANESE: Well, look, no-one wants any restriction to be in place for one day more than necessary. But state governments are making decisions based upon the health advice. I haven’t been critical of any of the state governments, be they New South Wales, where we are now, or any of the other states. They’ll make their decisions based upon the advice that they receive.


JOURNALIST: Amber Austin-Wright from Ten News. In regard to restrictions being eased and people going back to work, there’s talk that the free child care scheme could end within weeks. How tricky is that going to be, trying to wind back that successful child care scheme, when people are still out work?


ALBANESE: Well, the challenge for the Government is roll-out, and there are problems of the roll-out of packages with superannuation fraud taking place, whereby people have their personal accounts raided by others. And the Government didn’t seem to have a plan in place. There are problems with JobKeeper, with some people getting increased money, many times more their weekly salary than they used to earn, and others missing out completely. And there are problems if the Government just cuts the support for child care on a single day. That will present problems. They need to talk with the child care sector. The child care sector is already concerned the actual money which is being spent on child care, $1.6 billion, is less than the $2 billion budgeted for by the Government.


JOURNALIST: Just on that though, surely, it will leave a lot of parents in the lurch or people in the lurch. It’s a tricky balancing act, isn’t it?


ALBANESE: Child care is critical, and it’s an essential service. It’s essential for people being able to work and essential for our economy. The Government needs to recognise that and needs to put in a plan that provides support for child care centres but importantly provide support for workers who need to use that child care in order to go back to employment.


JOURNALIST: I just had a question just on China, if that’s okay?


ALBANESE: Sure. For me or Kristy?




ALBANESE: Yep. Hello? And then she went.


JOURNALIST: Maybe I will ask about China then.




JOURNALIST: What do you say to China’s decision on barley farmers and the escalation overnight? Simon Birmingham (inaudible) pursue alternative markets (inaudible).


ALBANESE: Well, look, I’ve said before, there’s nothing remarkable about suggesting that there should be an inquiry into the origins and the spreading that occurred with the coronavirus. We have a coronial inquiry into a single death in this country and that is a significant thing that we do and it is normal practice. There’s more than 300,000 people who have died due to this crisis globally and, of course, there should be an inquiry. With regard to trade, it would appear that this is unfair treatment of Australian barley farmers by China and the Government should be giving that consideration. And Labor would support taking action at the WTO, the World Trade Organisation, to hold China to account on this. The imposition of 80 per cent tariffs is an extraordinary decision. And we need to also, the Australian Government should be pursuing with the US what the circumstances are behind the agreement between China and the US for access to China for US agriculture, and whether that has disadvantaged Australia, and we should be pursuing that on behalf of our farmers.


JOURNALIST: Just regarding that manufacturing (inaudible). Do you support a slow break away from China?


ALBANESE: Well, we need resilience in this country. We need a strong recovery. But we also need to be resilient. And the fact that during the crisis, we weren’t sure about personal protective equipment being available, and we had to go into urgent production of ventilators. We need to be able to in this country, ensure that any future shock, be it due to military conflict, or trade issue, or be it even a cyber issue, a cyber event, we need to be resilient, and there needs to be a proper assessment of that. That’s why manufacturing is critical. That’s why we’re here today, myself and Kristy McBain, showing our support for manufacturing right here in the regions. And the other positive is that regional Australia should be the driving force for manufacturing in this country. It was a major theme of my vision statement last Monday. Labor outlined a plan for growing manufacturing and particularly growing manufacturing in regional Australia. The Government offered up nothing on Tuesday. And I understand Scott Morrison will be giving a speech sometime in the future about this. But we need to be planning for the recovery right now. Can I just make just make one further comment, if that is okay? Can I just say that we’re just up the road from Batlow where last night there was a significant tragedy, which all Australians’ hearts will go out to the mum and the sibling of young Aisha and Lailani, three-year-old twins who perished in that fire. And our sincere condolences and our sympathies. That community will be really grieving today.


JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).


ALBANESE: That community has been through so much in terms of the drought having an impact, and then the bushfires and then the coronavirus, and now this. A community like Batlow, that I’m very familiar with, is one whereby everyone knows everyone. There are generations who’ve been orchardists in Batlow and they will all know each other. They know this family. This family’s very connected to the area. And this will be very hard for that community. And they have the sympathy of all Australians today. Thanks.