ANTHONY ALBANESE & MIKE FREELANDER – TRANSCRIPT – DOORSTOP INTERVIEW – SYDNEY – THURSDAY, 17 SEPTEMBER 2020
ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
DR MIKE FREELANDER MP
MEMBER FOR MACARTHUR
THURSDAY, 17 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: JobKeeper; JobSeeker; Australians stranded overseas; energy policy; NDIS; cuts to universities; Australian Citizenship Day; citizenship tests; north-south rail line needed for Western Sydney; second Sydney airport; jobs.
DR MIKE FREELANDER, MEMBER FOR MACARTHUR: Hi, everyone. It is fantastic to have our Leader, Anthony Albanese, here today. We are very grateful for him coming out to the factory here and we are very pleased that Vic was able to give us a tour and show us the works that he is doing which really is the type of work that is keeping Australia going. It is also the lifeblood of Macarthur. Transport is our biggest employer. The hub here provides the materials, provides the workers, provides the drivers, and provides the industry that keeps it all going. What is important is providing lots of jobs. But we need more encouragement for jobs for the young. The young people that I looked after are now going to be leaving school and are really struggling to get a job. We here call it, ‘Newstart, no start’ because many young people are not going to be able to get a job unless there is a plan put in place for them. We have no national plan. And that is vitally important. So, thanks so much Anthony for coming along. And thanks Vic and his two sons and wife for welcoming us and showing us around the factory. So, thank you, Anthony.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Mike. And it is great to be here in Macarthur, particularly in this industrial precinct, this job creation hub. And I want to thank Vic and his family. This is a family business. This is the best of Australia, a family business employing others from the local community. Giving people skills that they can pass on and use to create economic activity. Here we have a classic case of the disjunction which is there between the jobs that are required and the issue of skills. This business employs 22 Australians. They have good quality jobs here that are highly paid and highly skilled. And yet they can’t get the skilled workers. This is an example of what we need to do, which is to match up the people who need work coming out of this crisis and giving them the skills so that they can attain that work. And yet here we have also, JobKeeper is able to be provided to 16 of those 22 employees. The other six misses out because of bureaucracy and because of the rules that have been put in place, which have led many Australians behind. And we know also that JobKeeper will be cut at the end of this month. So, less income, less support for businesses at a time when it’s needed. There are one million Australians who are unemployed today. There are 400,000 additional people who will be unemployed between now and Christmas. Now is not the time to be withdrawing that economic support by cutting JobKeeper and cutting JobSeeker. This is a short-term proposition from a Government that doesn’t have a plan for job creation. There’s nothing in the announcements that they have made in recent times which will create those short-term jobs that are so necessary.
Can I make another comment today as well, about the reports about the NDIS? We know that there have been some 8,000 complaints to the regulator, and only one fine issue. Whether it’s the NDIS or the aged care crisis, what we know is that the Morrison Government isn’t looking after vulnerable Australians. They have a hands-off approach to everything, whether it is looking after people in aged care, looking after people who are on the NDIS and making sure that a regulator actually undertakes the job for which they are given.
And we see the same with regard to the more than 25,000 Australians who are stranded overseas. Yesterday, we saw an announcement from the Deputy Prime Minister saying that they wanted to increase the number of people from 4,000 to 6,000. But again, they didn’t actually sit down and talk to the state premiers. They made this announcement and that was news to many of the state premiers. We know that the National Government is in charge of our national borders. We know also that they are in charge of quarantine. And it shouldn’t be beyond the capacity of our National Government to make sure that these Australians can be brought home. That is an essential part of the task, looking after Australians overseas who want to be reunited not just with their family, but with their nation. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: On the topic of flying caps, the Prime Minister wants the cap (inaudible). What do you make of that, without having agreement from the premiers?
ALBANESE: The Prime Minister always has a reason to say, ‘Look over there at someone else’. The fact is the Prime Minister is responsible. If the National Government is not responsible for Australians being able to enter Australia, I don’t know what they’re in charge of. They are also in charge of quarantine. And what the state premiers have said, Mark McGowan yesterday, speaking about Rottnest Island being made available, Queensland, Premier Palaszczuk, saying that she was prepared, of course, to have more. But they need Commonwealth support. This is a national leader who wants to take credit for anything that’s good and pass off responsibility for actually delivering any change to the states. The Prime Minister needs to accept his responsibility for fixing this. I note, only when Labor has stepped up our agitation is the reason why it’s gone from 4,000 to 6,000. I hope as a result of this press conference here in Minto that it goes up to 7,000 in the next hour. It is very possible, because this Government seems to be oblivious to the statements of people like the young woman in London, told to go and find a homeless shelter for herself and her one-year-old. The people who simply can’t get home at the moment who are stranded, the people who have been bumped off flights, the family of five, who were quoted over $100,000 for a one-way ticket to get those five people home. The Prime Minister has responsibility here. He also has access, of course, to his own aircraft that could have been being used over not just the past few days, but over weeks and months in order to solve these issues.
JOURNALIST: Labor premiers Annastacia Palaszczuk and Mark McGowan are among the two that haven’t said anything about these flight caps. Would you urge them to get on board?
ALBANESE: They’re not the issue here. The Federal Government is the issue. And Scott Morrison keeps trying to hand over the essential responsibility that he has for quarantine, that he has for our borders. This is a Government that used to, Scott Morrison’s got a little boat in his office, about how he controlled the borders when he was the minister. Where is Peter Dutton on these issues? It’s a bit like when people were coming into the country, going through airports with not even so much as a temperature check. The Government had a hands-off attitude. It is about time the Federal Government took its responsibility seriously and made sure that the support was there. There are federal responsibilities that they have. There’s a facility outside of Darwin that was used earlier this year, that can have 3,000 people. Mark McGowan has made it clear on issues like Rottnest Island. Annastacia Palaszczuk is someone who has been about protecting Queenslanders. What she’s had from the Commonwealth is just criticism from Scott Morrison. No engagement, not constructive dialogue. Scott Morrison chairs something that he calls the National Cabinet. It’s very clear, it’s not national and it’s not the Cabinet. It’s about time that he acted like a national leader that he should. What is not lacking here is hotel space. What is not lacking here is a capacity to bring people home. All it is lacking here is national leadership from the Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: You said some of those flights were $100,000, for other people it is $10,000, $20,000. Should the Government be subsidising the flights?
ALBANESE: Well, the Government should be having discussions as well with Qantas, with these airlines to stop price gauging for a start. The fact is that people are being bumped off flights in favour of people who can afford to pay tens of thousands of dollars to come home. Access to Australia shouldn’t be on the basis that you are rich enough to pay five figures to get on a plane. That should be something that Australians are entitled to return to their nation. And what we have from a Prime Minister is no leadership on these issues. I’ve been a transport minister. I know it was possible to pick up the phone to the head of Qantas, to the head of Virgin Australia, to the head of airlines, and get outcomes. That’s what we did when there were natural disasters, when we needed to get Aussies home from Bangkok after disasters. When we needed to get people home from the Middle East after there were issues. That happened on a regular basis. Why is it that this Prime Minister keeps wanting to hand-off responsibility to the states for managing these issues?
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) about thousands of job cuts to universities. Should the Government be doing more?
ALBANESE: Well, the Government is encouraging job cuts at universities. Their latest plan cuts another billion dollars out of universities and particularly takes money out of regional universities. I spoke about this in my regional vision statement just last week in Coffs Harbour. This is a Government that has excluded universities from JobKeeper and from support and then has cut funding to universities, encouraging those job losses, just like it’s cut funding to TAFE.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible). Do you back this idea?
JOURNALIST: The citizenship test is changing to a more values-based model idea on what aligns with being Australian. Do you think that is a good idea?
ALBANESE: I haven’t seen the details of that. But it is a good thing that today is, of course, our Citizenship Day. It’s a good thing that people want to become Australian citizens. One of the things that I do know from my electorate is that it’s becoming harder and harder to become a citizen. You have this huge backlog that’s occurred where people wait for a very long time before they can pledge their allegiance to Australia. It’s always a good thing when people pledge their allegiance to this country. This is a country, with the exception of First Nations peoples, all either migrants or descendants of migrants. We’re at a facility today with a family of Maltese heritage. I’m someone of Italian and Irish heritage. I’m not sure where Mike’s from, but Freelander?
FREELANDER: Dog’s breakfast.
ALBANESE: Dog’s breakfast from Mike, in the finest Australian tradition. The fact is that we’re a multicultural nation. It’s a good thing that people be encouraged to take up their Australian citizenship. And it’s a pity that this Government, through its cuts, have made that more difficult.
JOURNALIST: On energy policy, what is your response to the Government’s decision to allow ARENA to invest in more emissions technology (inaudible)?
ALBANESE: Look, it’s called the Australian Renewable Energy, just like the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. This Government has never liked ARENA or the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. They have tried to abolish it. And now they are trying to emasculate it. The fact is that this Government don’t support renewable even though what we know is that the cleanest and cheapest form of new energy in Australia is renewables.
JOURNALIST: Just going back on jobs, in this area, jobs are the biggest issues. (Inaudible). What is your plan by 2036 for us to get access to those jobs?
ALBANESE: This is short-sighted from this Government. We need rail lines that connect up, not just with St. Mary’s and the Northwest, we need rail that connects up with Macarthur and rail that connects up with the Southwest Sydney line. That is something that has been campaigned for very strongly by Mike Freelander and Anne Stanley. It’s something that makes sense. If the airport was not going there, it would still make sense to have a north-south rail line in outer Western Sydney, connecting up the northwest through Western Sydney to the southwest. That would make absolute sense. That’s how you turbocharge job creation and economic activity in this region. And Labor’s vision for the airport has always been about driving job creation here. I think the aerotropolis is a very exciting project. It is a project that I’ve been very supportive of for a long period of time. But it’s not about just a runway or runways. It’s about the economic activity and the creation of jobs around an airport that can happen. There are two critical ways that you can turbocharge job creation for any region. The first is a university. The second is an airport. History shows us that that’s the case. And it’s very short-sighted. And the Federal Government and the state government should be planning and building construction that connects up southwest Sydney to the airport. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: On jobs in Victoria, are you worried about the destruction of jobs down there through the lockdown?
ALBANESE: Look, I’m worried about the failure of this Government to have a jobs plan for the entire nation. I’ve put forward a practical eight-point economic plan for job creation. That’s one of the things we’re talking about today. The first point of that plan is to not cut now JobKeeper and JobSeeker. We need to support small business and provide them with support that helps their cash flow. We need to support local government in their community infrastructure projects. We need to make sure that there’s proper labour market programs that provide people with the skills that they need. We need a comprehensive jobs plan from the Federal Government in the Budget, something other than just cutting support, which is what we’re seeing here. This very factory here that employs 22 people will see a cut to JobKeeper for 16 of their employees this month. It will also see the six people they’ve missed out on JobKeeper due to the Government’s plans and the way that they’ve implemented JobKeeper and left people behind, we will see them still left behind. We should be looking at ways to provide further support, not making cuts. Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.