Nov 3, 2020









SUBJECTS: Labor’s Working Family Childcare Boost policy; importance of early childhood education; call-outs for natural disasters; bushfires; Australia’s relationship with China; Aussies stranded overseas; resignation of AusPost CEO; Morrison Government’s lack of integrity; HomeBuilder; terrorist attacks; Melbourne Cup; US election.


LUKE GOSLING OAM, MEMBER FOR SOLOMON: Thanks everyone for coming down to the Casuarina Family Childcare Centre. It’s a real institution here in Darwin. So, I just want to start by thanking Alice and the wonderful staff here. It is so good to spend time with these little kids, these precious young Territorians, who are really our future.


And that’s one of the reasons, one of the very many reasons that I’m so proud to be part of the Labor team, because we do take early childhood education so seriously. Because not only do we know that it’s the best time to invest in our young kids during these very early years, but it’s also an economic measure. So, it’s fantastic to be here with the Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, who will just go into that a little bit more, about our childcare plan. Not only is it good for families and kids, it’s going to be great for the economy. It’s also fantastic to have Richard Marles, our Deputy Leader, here with us today. And it’s a great example of how important and how seriously Federal Labor takes Darwin but also the Territory in general. And of course, here also with Senator Malarndirri McCarthy. And she’s been working hard down in Canberra, as we all have, to ask the questions of the Government about where is this vision for the future?




GOSLING: Malarndirri’s son went here to Casuarina as well. Alice has been looking after generations of Territorians. Thank you so much, Alice. I’ll hand over to Anthony. Thanks.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Luke. And it’s great to be here with yourself and Malarndirri, and of course, our Deputy Leader and Shadow Defence Minister, Richard Marles. We’ve been with the Navy this morning on a patrol vessel. And I do want to thank the Navy, and all the men and women in uniform who we met this morning, for their service and for what they do for the country. But we’ve gone from defence to childcare. And overnight, we’ve had yet another endorsement for Labor’s plan for cheaper childcare from no less than the International Monetary Fund, who’ve identified childcare and improving women’s workforce participation as one of the priorities for recovery from this recession, globally. And that’s why Labor, in our Budget, announced as an absolute priority, cheaper childcare. Our plan would lift the cap on the childcare subsidy. It would also lift that cap up to 90 per cent and improve the tapering of that so that 97 per cent of families would be better off. This is economic reform that is absolutely critical to improving women’s workforce participation, removing the disincentive to work on that fourth or fifth day, but also to improve productivity. And of course, as well, it will have an impact on population, because it will give families the security to have their first child or another child knowing what the economic circumstances are. One of the things I hear right around the country is families say, ‘Yes, we got such a relief when our child began primary school because we were better off as a result’. Why is it that families are put in the circumstance whereby they look forward to their child reaching the age of five, so that then they can fully participate in the workforce and get that support? It doesn’t make sense. Labor’s plan would deal not just with full-time childcare, but also out-of-school hours care. It would make an enormous difference to families, but also, it’s critical for economic reform, as identified by the IMF, which now join every Australian economist who’s examined these issues that has found that for every dollar invested you get back more than $2. This is an investment that really pays dividends. And it’s one that’s good for children. Because we know that the human brain development, 90 per cent of it occurs before the age of five. Good for children, good for families and good for our national economy. And I am very thankful to the Casuarina Childcare Centre that is engaged in early childhood learning that we’ve seen here today. I thank Bella, young Bella, for showing us around the centre here. Those sort of social interaction skills are part of what children learn through early learning. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: The Federal Government has legislation before Parliament to give you the power to issue compulsory call-outs through service to natural disasters like bushfires without a request from the states. Will Labor support this bill?


ALBANESE: Look, we think the idea that this is an issue is somewhat perplexing. When the bushfires occurred in Victoria, and not the most recent ones, of course, where the Defence Force played a role, but the time before as well, the Defence Force played a role on the weekend when we were in Government. They were there within two days. When I was in places like the Hawkesbury, when I was visiting bushfires each and every day over December and January, there were reservists on the ground assisting there. So, we think that, of course, these things should occur at times of national crisis. What Australians do is they all pitch in and they all turn up. And our Defence Force plays a critical role in that, both reservists and others.


JOURNALIST: Do you agree that they should face more forced deployments domestically?


ALBANESE: I don’t know that it’s necessary is what I’m saying. This is a Government in part looking to make up for the fact that it wasn’t prepared for the bushfire season. It simply wasn’t. We had recommendations more than a year ago. We had recommendations more than a year before the big fires, for example, for increased aerial firefighting capacity. And the Government did nothing about it. This Government sat back and famously had a Prime Minister who said that he didn’t hold a hose, that he didn’t have a role to play, that it was up to the states and territories to deal with these issues. Labor is always up for national leadership. And we think it was missing during the most recent season.


JOURNALIST: Those recommendations, are they from the Defence report?


ALBANESE: There has been report after report after report. What we actually need is action on the basis of these reports. This is a Government that’s always big on announcements. The problem is delivery. And what happened over the season was that they had a range of reports. We had the emergency services retired personnel, more than 20 of them, just begging for a meeting with the Prime Minister and the Government and not being able to receive one, you might recall, and not being listened to. We always need to listen to the experts, including the most recent Royal Commission. We need to implement the findings. But this is a Government that has an Emergency Response Fund of $4 billion, $200 million each and every year to be allocated from last financial year. That isn’t just about bushfires. Here in the Territory, it’s about an event such as cyclones, and we’re coming up to the cyclone season. And we had $200 million, not a dollar of which was spent last financial year. And not a dollar of which has been spent this year. What we need from this Government is less announcements and more delivery.


JOURNALIST: Taking you back to the childcare issue, why should a family earning more than half million dollars a year get welfare in the form of childcare?


ALBANESE: Well, it’s not welfare. That same family, when their child turns five, will be able to go to the school here and that child will receive an education. This isn’t welfare. It’s an economic reform measure. And someone on $500,000 will benefit from our packages, a family on net income will receive around about $2,000. Someone on $80,000 will receive $28,000. This is a proportionate response. But it’s one that recognises that childcare isn’t welfare. It’s early childhood learning. That’s what the IMF says. That’s what every economist says. This is about workforce participation of women. It is about driving productivity. And it’s about getting that return that will come to the Government from economic growth.


JOURNALIST: As a Labor Government, wouldn’t that $2,000 be better off in the pockets of a battler rather than someone who’s earning a certain amount of money?


ALBANESE: When that same family, if they get sick, they can go to a hospital and they can get the care that everyone gets. One of the things that I remember very well, Royal Prince Alfred hospital is my local hospital. When the late Kerry Packer had a heart attack, he was in the public emergency ward, the same ward where I’ve been as a kid for various reasons, for appendicitis or various other things that happened, the same ward that my son has been to, with the odd knock, being looked after. That’s the system that we have. When that same family has a child that turns up at school, they don’t get turned away either. And one of the things that universal access does, it increases the support for the delivery of that program. And we value early childhood education, because it boosts productivity. And as I said, it produces a return of $2 for every dollar that’s invested. That’s why we need a progressive taxation system, which is how you deliver those services, progressive income taxes and other measures which are there. Early childhood education shouldn’t be regarded as welfare.


JOURNALIST: The US Ambassador said this morning that Australia and the US will continue to challenge China regardless of the result the US election. Is that the same regardless of the result of the next Australian election as well? Will you continue to challenge China as the Morrison Government has?


ALBANESE: Well, Australia will continue to stand up for Australian values. That’s what we do on issues like human rights. We should also, though, recognise that we have an economic relationship with China that is very important. And the fact that you have a Federal Government that’s presided over a breaking down of that relationship, which is the destination for almost 50 per cent of our exports, is a problem for jobs and our economy here. And the Government should be having a constructive relationship and set about repairing that relationship whilst always never compromising on Australian human rights values and other issues that we hold dear.


JOURNALIST: There has been reports that some Australians are being charged close to $10,000 each for the next flight home from overseas to Darwin. Do you think that is too much for people to have to pay to get home?


ALBANESE: Of course, it is. And for many of them, they simply can’t afford it. Many Australians are stranded overseas, some 32,000. And this Government’s been incredibly complacent about it. I spoke to someone on Sunday night here who had quarantined at the facility here for a couple of weeks. They even complimented the food. This is a facility, in discussions I had just last night, that could accommodate many more people than are currently there safely. That’s what it has the capacity to do. And the Australian Government haven’t used any of their assets in terms of the VIP fleet that could be used to bring people home, particularly from our near neighbours, and including places like India, that see kids stranded overseas separated from their parents. They’ve gone overseas for a couple of months to spend time with their grandparents and to embed themselves in the culture of their parents and they haven’t been able to get home. This is a big issue. And the Australian Government and Scott Morrison, in a complacency that reminiscent of the complacency that they had in the lead-up to the bushfires, has sat back and has done very little, frankly.


JOURNALIST: I just wanted to segue to the Cartier watch scandal that we have seen play out. Do you think Christine Holgate should have resigned?


ALBANESE: Well, Christine Holgate will be sitting back, I’m sure, if ever she watches Question Time, and wonder why it is that she had to resign over a scandal of $20,000 being used for Cartier watches but ministers remain on the frontbench who bought land for $30 million that was worth $3 million. You had ministers that have presided over the Robodebt scandal, where you’ve seen almost a billion dollars, and potentially it might end up being more than a billion dollars, have to be repaid that was taken illegally from vulnerable Australians. And no one has paid a price for that. No one has paid a price for the Sports Rorts saga except for Bridget McKenzie, even though we know that the colour-coded sheets came and were exchanged between her office and the Prime Minister’s office. We see scandal after scandal under this Government, and no one paying a price.


JOURNALIST: Are you saying that she should have resigned?


ALBANESE: Well, Christine Holgate has paid a price. And there are a range of issues that Labor has raised about Australia Post, not just the Cartier watches, the reduction in services, the failure to support jobs, the delay in delivery of basic letters and correspondence to people in cities and regions, the issue regarding Pauline Hanson and the delivery of campaign material into the high-rise in Melbourne, into public housing, against the wishes of those people who were in charge of the security there. All of those things that up to the fact that I think that Christine Holgate had a range of issues to answer, not just the watches. But I just wish this Prime Minister would get as upset and as emotional about $30 million wasted as he did about $20,000. I wish he would hold himself, his own office and his ministers to the same level of accountability that Christine Holgate has been held.


JOURNALIST: And sorry to be pain, but you are saying, ‘Yes, she should have resigned’?


ALBANESE: I’m giving you the answer to a question, which is that a range of ministers should be held accountable. Perfectly reasonable that Christian Holgate be accountable for her actions that only got exposed because of Labor asking questions in Question Time. Why is it that there are 70 mates of the Government that have been appointed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal? Why is it that this Government has delivered over a million dollars of polling fees Crosby Textor that haven’t gone out to the general population, have gone into the Prime Minister’s office and have driven a $15 million advertising campaign that provides the public with no information whatsoever? I think it’s perfectly reasonable that Christine Holgate resign. What I say is that a whole lot of people should have resigned before her and the Prime Minister, I think she’ll be judged on the hypocrisy which is there.


JOURNALIST: Should the HomeBuilder scheme be extended beyond the cut-off date?


ALBANESE: Well, we think the HomeBuilder scheme should be extended, certainly for people who are bushfire victims, for example. But the big missing thing here is in social housing. We visited social housing here in Darwin yesterday. The Government had no package for social housing, either new additional stock or maintenance. And every economist surveyed in the lead-up to the Budget identified that, actually, as the first low-hanging fruit that’s available to create jobs for tradies immediately and to make a difference.


JOURNALIST: The events that have occurred in Vienna this morning, what’s your reaction?


ALBANESE: Sorry, I’ve been out on a patrol boat.


JOURNALIST: Two people have been shot dead in a suspected terror attack.


ALBANESE: Look, terrorism is still a threat. And we need to be vigilant. We know that the events, the tragic events, in France that have occurred mean that it’s a reminder to us that we need to be vigilant. We need to take security issues seriously. We need to have programs that help with de-radicalisation. This is a threat to our security. And it’s something that all governments need to be very conscious of. Thanks.


JOURNALIST: Two big events in the next 24 hours, the Melbourne Cup and the US election. Do you have a tip for either or both?


ALBANESE: My tip for the Melbourne Cup is Tiger Moth. I tipped the winner last year. But I don’t pretend to be an expert on the horses. But people, if they watch one race a year, it is the Melbourne Cup. The US elections, I had a tip last time that didn’t work out as expected. We’ll wait and see. That’s in the hands of the American people. But I say this, that democratic processes should be respected. Our partnership between the United States is an alliance between our peoples based upon our common democratic values. And I am concerned of any questioning that occurs about democratic values and democratic processes. They are precious. They should not be undermined by any leader. And I await the result tomorrow. I say that the result will obviously have implications for Australia. It will have implications for the world when it comes to the vital challenge of tackling climate change. Thanks very much.