Jun 13, 2020









SUBJECTS: Labor’s Jobs Plan for Eden-Monaro, Eden-Monaro by-election; international university students; relationship with China; impact of coronavirus on the higher education sector; protests during coronavirus; slavery in Australia; Eden-Monaro by-election preferences; Scott Morrison’s return to partisan politics. 

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks for joining me. I’m here today with the Labor’s candidate for Eden-Monaro, Kristy McBain. And first of all, I want to thank the Kangaroos for their hospitality here at the Leagues Club. It’s good to see that footy’s back and that junior footy is coming back as well, and that’s a very good thing for this community. Queanbeyan has a proud rugby league history and the Kangaroos are an important part of that. And country footy and regional footy has always played such a critical role, always punched above its weight in terms of rugby league whether it be New South Wales regional areas or indeed in Queensland.


We’re here today proudly to launch Kristy’s McBain’s Jobs Plan for Eden-Monaro. Too many Australians have been left behind by Scott Morrison. We know that this community has suffered from the triple whammy of drought, the bushfires and then the pandemic. So we know that this community in particular needs support. Yesterday in Parliament, we asked about whether, for example, communities that have been affected by bushfires could get some special consideration for rebuilding for the Government’s so called HomeBuilder program. That was dismissed of course. No answer from Scott Morrison. I think the problem here is one of complacency and one of not recognising the particular concerns of this community. Well, the Government’s stance stands in stark contrast to the actions of Kristy McBain. Who has been out traveling how many thousand kilometres?




ALBANESE: Seven thousand kilometres around this vast electorate, talking to people, engaging with them. As she has done, it must be said, in more than eight years in public office already as a Mayor and a councillor and the Deputy Chair of the regional local government body that covers the entire electorate. And what today’s plan is, is a comprehensive strategy to help support jobs, to help support skills and training to make sure that this economy that suffered so much, hey could have expected a little bit of recovery post the bushfires, but that hasn’t been possible due to the pandemic, gets the support that it needs. It’s a comprehensive plan: one for infrastructure, one for health, one for education and skills, one for ensuring that people aren’t left behind in this community. A community, as I’ve been traveling around, where many people have told me that they feel as though they’ve been forgotten. Well, the sectors that need support will receive that from a very strong advocate in Kristy McBain, who wants to be a voice for the local community where she lives, where she’s advocated for, where she’s represented in the past, the community that she is passionate about. As Kristy says about her kids, she wants her kids and others to stay in this community, not to have to go away to seek economic prosperity. So without further ado, Kristy.


MCBAIN: Thank you, Anthony. Thank you for being with me today in Queanbeyan at the Roos Club and thanks to the Roos for hosting us today. No community has suffered more from the triple whammy than Eden-Monaro, on the back of droughts, bushfire and coronavirus. What we need isn’t short term fixes, it’s a long-term plan for the economic recovery of the region. A recovery the focuses on the people. I’ve traveled extensively across this community and spoken to businesses, to workers, to local councils and what they’re asking for is help. The Local Jobs Plan that I’m launching today focuses on rebuilding our economy. It is about making sure that we fix local roads, like the Barton Highway duplication and building the Dunns Creek Road. It’s about fixing mobile phone black spots, including backup power supply to transmission towers, so they last longer during natural disasters. It’s about making sure that we’re planning for the future of the industry, whether that’s tourism, hospitality, farming, forestry, or renewables. It’s about extending JobKeeper to those short-term casual employees, specifically in the tourism and hospitality sectors. Even before coronavirus, our community was largely underemployed or unemployed, especially young people. We need additional funding to TAFE and training organisations. We need to work with that sector and business sectors, trade unions, local councils to make sure that we can turbocharge our jobs recovery.


As the Mayor of the Bega Valley I saw how important local leadership was during the bushfires, especially when national leadership was missing. I’ve stood with my community during the darkest days and I want to be their champion during this recovery, because the recovery is the thing that will matter the most. The recovery which needs to be locally led and employ locals first. So today, we have launched this Local Jobs Plan, and there’ll be more going into this Local Jobs Plan over the next few weeks, when we have further announcements that will be made as part of this election campaign. Thank you.

ALBANESE: Questions maybe to Kristy first about the plan, if there are any.


JOURNALIST: Yeah, you sort of mention some of the priority areas there. Can you maybe elaborate a little bit more, obviously bushfire recovery, there’s the snap back in September. What are some of the things beyond those two areas?


MCBAIN: Look, we have TAFE and training organisations in our area, but we’ve seen a cutback of TAFE funding. We’ve seen a cutback in apprenticeships and traineeships, incentives for businesses. Right now we need to be actually boosting the training and education sector. We know that we’ve got a range of people out of employment. Over 11,000 people across the Eden-Monaro have not been eligible for JobKeeper. We know that there’s probably people that are going to have to retrain and move into different careers. And if we don’t start that recovery in the Eden-Monaro, then we’re going to see a lot of regional economies start to fail right across this area, but also many others. So right now is the time to have conversations about how we can boost our training organisations, how we boost TAFEs, how we boost our university sector, especially in regional areas.


JOURNALIST: Do you agree that [inaudible] cut out in September for your community?


MCBAIN: There are many communities that are suffering at the moment on the back of COVID. Communities like Eden-Monaro, however, have been suffering for some time on the back of droughts, bushfire and coronavirus. We have tourism and hospitality sectors and businesses that haven’t had foot traffic since the turn of 2020. There are some regions that are substantially more impacted than others and a one size fits all approach is not going to work for a recovery of this nature. That’s why I’ve launched the Local Jobs Plan for Eden-Monaro, because this electorate needs assistance.


JOURNALIST: [inaudible] universities are ready for that yet?


ALBANESE: Look, we need international students. They’re an important part of the budgets of our universities. And we need to ensure that, like other restrictions, that they’re lifted as possible. So it’s a good thing for the Australian economy. I also believe it’s a good thing for our place in the world. It’s a good thing that international students come to Australia, spend time here, then go back home and make a contribution to their own nation. One of the things I found when I was a Minister in the National Government was meeting with, for example, the Singaporean Transport Minister, no more important job, apart from Prime Minister in Singapore than Transport. It’s a transport hub. He was educated at the time at Adelaide University. That meant he had an affinity with Australia. So, I think it’s a very good thing if we can fix this and fix this as soon as possible.


JOURNALIST: On the one hand we’re planning on them being back and on the other hand China are saying “don’t come here”, do you think that’s going to have an impact?


ALBANESE Well, quite clearly it will have an impact. And that’s why it’s a good thing that Simon Birmingham is saying that he will travel to China. We need to ensure that the economic relationship, which is important to Australia, is put on a better footing.


JOURNALIST: The sector has been very hard-hit by this crisis. What else could be done to help it, the higher education sector?


ALBANESE: Well, it would help if this Government hadn’t continually cut funds to universities. That would be a start. It would help if they actually had a comprehensive plan for our education system, that goes now from the cuts that will come in from next week into early childhood education. That’s where it starts. We all know that the most important years in the development of a human brain are the preschool years. That’s when it’s important that we give proper respect to that sector. And the childcare cuts that come in next week will have an impact right here in Eden-Monaro, but they’ll have an impact right around the country. It’s also important that we have appropriate funding and support for schools and TAFE, for universities. These are all critical sectors. We need to compete in what is the Asian Century on the basis of how smart we are. We don’t want to compete on the basis of a race to the bottom on wages. We want to compete on the basis of how smart we are. And I’ll have more to say about that at the National Press Club in a couple of weeks.


JOURNALIST: Has the Foreign Minister done enough to try and deescalate the situation with China?


ALBANESE: Well, has the Foreign Minister done enough? You could have stopped there. Because this is a Foreign Minister who’s invisible. This is a Foreign Minister who made an appearance on Insiders and made a statement without any pre-planning of that statement, it would appear. The Foreign Minister needs to be really much more engaged. And if you think about, I don’t agree with everything Julie Bishop did as Foreign Minister, but you think about the prominent role that she played as Australia’s representative around the world, and domestically as well, advocating international issues, and you  compare that with Marise Payne. I like Marise Payne, I’ve known her a long time. But it’s pretty hard to score tries if you’re not on the field. And I think she spends too much time on the bench.


JOURNALIST: What’s your message to people planning to protest today?


ALBANESE: Well, people shouldn’t protest. People should follow the health advice and the health advice is very clear from the Chief Medical Officer. There are a range of ways that people can express their views. They don’t have to gather in mass gatherings, against the health advice. And I’d say to people: you can protest in different ways, you can protest through, you can even put people together so they’re not in the same place. For those of us, and many Australians have had Zoom meetings, I had one with I don’t know how many hundred people the other day, put up their photo to show. That would be far better to express opinions over any issue at all. Our democracy is important, that people can have their say. There are a range of ways you can have your say without breaching the advice of the health experts.


JOURNALIST: Has Australia had a history of slavery? And what do you make of the Prime Minister’s comments when he was asked the same question this week?


ALBANESE: Well, Australia certainly has. And much of our history is one that we can’t be proud of. But we shouldn’t wipe it. We should learn from it. We should acknowledge it. And pretending that events didn’t happen doesn’t change that history. And I think that the Prime Minister’s comments were unfortunate the other morning. My understanding is that he’s apologised, and that’s appropriate.


JOURNALIST: The National Party have unveiled their preference plan for Eden-Monaro. Have you done the numbers and where will Labor’s preferences flow?


ALBANESE: Well, Labor’s preferences, of course, we don’t expect that Labor’s preferences will flow through to anybody. But our preferences are aimed at maximising the formality of the Labor vote. When you’ve got 14 candidates, the how-to-vote will be as simple as possible. It will go number two to the Greens Party candidate. It will then go from the top, just straight down the ticket, with the exception of, there’s one of the independents who I think has particularly obnoxious views on racial issues. So there’s a bit of a change whereby they will be put last. But apart from that, it just goes straight down the ticket to maximise the formality. And that stands, I think, in stark contrast to what’s happening on the other side, where the Liberals and the Nationals seem to be extending the feud. Because the Nationals, I think, are putting Labor far higher than the Liberals are. And that would appear to be and obviously if they were doing it just on the basis of a simple how-to-vote, then that wouldn’t be the case.


So, what we’ve had during this campaign is National fighting National, Liberal fighting Liberal, Liberals fighting Nationals, and Nationals fighting Liberals, and everyone fighting each other. In the meantime, Kristy McBain has been out talking to people, developing a jobs plan, developing a positive agenda. And that is what I think you’ll see continuing in this campaign. You’ll continue to see the so-called Coalition partners attacking each other. They really don’t like each other. And what they’re really saying is that they are cheering that if they don’t win themselves, I think they probably want Kristy McBain to win.


JOURNALIST: Are you worried about the potential attacks from the Libs and Nationals if you’re one, Labor, two, Greens, three, Fishers and Shooters?


ALBANESE: We’re just going straight down the ticket. I used to do for a job, I used to do the how-to-votes for all of every seat in the State. I actually used to do the National how-to-vote as well, sometime ago before I was in Parliament.  Labor will always maximise formality and the simplicity of a how-to-vote is the objective. Labor’s preferences won’t be counted, of course, as we know. Labor will finish, I hope, first on primary votes. But certainly, that’s my hope. We’re going to the Greens Party second because we are concerned that the last thing that this Parliament needs is another climate change denier in it. And the Liberal candidate is on the record, making various statements that question the science of climate change and question the impact. Well, the people of Eden-Monaro have seen, smelt, and felt the impact of climate change over the bushfire crisis.


JOURNALIST: Just on the rough and tumble, Marise Payne on bench, you and the Prime Minister were pretty robust in Question Time this week. There didn’t seem a lot of love lost between the two of you. Is the sort of partisan politics back as well in Canberra?


ALBANESE: I think what we’ve seen from the Prime Minister is, on the one hand a statement about everyone all together and collaboration, but if you actually look at what’s occurred in terms of collaboration we’re not seeing that. We’re seeing a return to partisan politics from this Prime Minister and a return to Liberal Party ideology. We are getting through this pandemic because the values that were adopted, the values of security, the values that recognised the role of government, the values of listening to science, were implemented. That’s a good thing. They’re Labor values, I’m happy with that. I think they’re the right values for the recovery as well.


What we’re seeing though from the Prime Minister is a retreat back to no action on climate change and not listening to the science. We’re seeing a withdrawal of the role of government and more people being left behind, including childcare workers and that decision will be implemented next week. We’re seeing more people will be left behind no doubt when the review of JobKeeper comes forward. Why is it that the Government is going to receive a review of JobKeeper in June and not release it until July? The Eden-Monaro by-election. More cuts are coming. More cuts, more people will be thrown off JobKeeper. The Government refuses to walk away from its hard snap back of JobKeeper in September. And we’re seeing a Prime Minister who is returning to that partisan role. The Prime Minister cancelled the weekly meetings that were held between the Government and the Opposition. We have been very constructive during this, we voted for every one of the stimulus packages. It’s the Prime Minister who is returning to form and I expect that will continue.


Thanks very much.