Aug 20, 2020









SUBJECTS: Aged care crisis; climate change; net zero emissions by 2050; aviation sector impacted by coronavirus; coronavirus vaccine.


SUSAN TEMPLEMAN, MEMBER FOR MACQUARIE: Hello and welcome to the Hawkesbury. I am Susan Templeman, the Member for Macquarie. And it is always lovely to have Anthony Albanese out to listen to the issues of the Hawkesbury residents. We have gathered people from not just the Hawkesbury but also the Blue Mountains today to talk about the challenges and some of the good things that they experienced with their loved ones in aged care. I think aged care is one of those issues that we have a real opportunity to address as a result of COVID. We already knew there were problems. We have known there have been problems in the economy. We have known there have been problems around gender equity. And we know there are problems in aged care. That is something that we are really required to act on as a result of the heightening of those issues because of COVID. So, it is fantastic to have Anthony out here. And Anthony, I will hand over to you.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Susan. It’s great to be in your electorate of Macquarie once again. And I particularly want to thank the relatives of aged care residents, who today shared their stories, good and not so good, about the experience that they’re having with their loved ones in aged care at this particularly difficult time. But we know, of course, that the problems in aged care didn’t begin with the pandemic. One of the locals today had a quote about how what a pandemic does is just like an x-ray, which shows things that are broken. And indeed, the aged care system is broken. We know that there are tragedies that have played out recently. If actions speak louder than words, then the Morrison Government is truly the quietest Australian. Because the Morrison Government has been like buck-dodgers, dodging responsibility for its control of regulation of the entire aged care sector. We know from today that Professor Gilbert gave a report to the Federal Government four months ago, which warned about workforce issues during the pandemic in response to the Dorothy Henderson Lodge, where six lives were lost. We know, as well, that there is a report into Newmarch House, which has been given to the Federal Government but not released. It is quite extraordinary that months after the Federal Government had received reports, sounding the alarm bells, they still haven’t listened. And we know from the Royal Commission, there is still no national plan for aged care. And that tomorrow, the Federal Government is raising, at the National Cabinet, the issue of national coordination. This is not good enough. And we raise these issues, not as just some academic exercise, but so that we get it right in the future. The Newmarch House and Dorothy Henderson Lodge events should have led to a change in behaviour. And a national plan should have been in place before the pandemic for an emergency circumstance. But we know that the Government continues to prevaricate, deny and defer responsibility for aged care. Scott Morrison needs to accept that responsibility, just as Gladys Berejiklian and Daniel Andrews have accepted responsibility for things that their governments are in charge of. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: There’s reports today that regulators made only 60 surprise visits to aged care homes in New South Wales since the start of the crisis. What is your reaction to that? Do you think the regulators are doing enough to keep people safe in aged care?


ALBANESE: One of the things we heard today from one of the relatives of residents is a circumstance of the regulator coming in to do an audit, advanced notice and there being the facility of which there were real concerns, and which failed the accreditation having a nice morning tea established, everything cleaned up in advance. And then when they sought to provide advice to the regulator, they were told that they’re not the complaints unit. Well, if the regulator and the people in charge of accreditation aren’t the complaints unit, where do people go? And that was one of the stories that we heard here today and from a facility not far from where we are right now, that has failed accreditation at the beginning of this year and is therefore not able to take new residents. So, we need to make sure that surprise visits expose some of the weakness in the system itself. Because every visit should be a surprise visit, not one on notice. And what we continually hear is a part of the problem is that there aren’t enough proper visits without notice so that people can see the level of care and the issues just as they are on the day-to-day basis.


JOURNALIST: Joel Fitzgibbon says the Labor Party is fully (inaudible) to balance between regional and city electorates. Is that a view that you also hold?


ALBANESE: Well, he doesn’t say that. He says sometimes, not in his lifetime, something might happen in the future. I’ll tell you what I’m concerned about. I’m concerned about today. I’m concerned about the relatives of the people I’ve met with this morning and aged care. I’m concerned about immediate issues. And I note on the issue of climate change, that it is not an issue of where people live. Because wherever people live, they’re impacted by climate change. And the fact that the National Farmers Federation have today adopted a position of net zero emissions by 2050, the same policy that I announced for the Labor Party, says that the National Farmers Federation is in step with Labor’s position, along with the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, along with major mining companies and organisations, along with the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Everyone except the Liberal and National Party who are out of step with mainstream opinion.


JOURNALIST: Joel Fitzgibbon also says that Labor can’t be all things to all people. Do you think you can win over all the people or win the sorts of voters the party doesn’t have?


ALBANESE: We can absolutely, by being true to our values. The Labor Party has changed over a period of time. There were once people in the Labor Party who supported the White Australia policy. It was one of our founding planks. We changed. The Labor Party used to support absolute protection and not opening up the economy, which the Hawke and Keating Governments did. The Labor Party, for a long time, like Australian society, didn’t support equality for women, or equality on the basis of people’s sexuality. The Labor Party is a modern party. Part of what any modern party with any self-respect will be about is dealing with the effects of climate change.


JOURNALIST: Do you think Mr Fitzgibbon, Jim Chalmers and Bill Shorten are campaigning against you?


ALBANESE: They themselves are strong supporters. The fact is that what I’m doing is getting on with the job of advocating for the immediate interests because of the circumstances of the pandemic. But I’m also looking beyond the immediate to the recovery of how we create jobs, in cities and in our regions. Of how we deal with the challenge of climate change. Of how we deal with preparedness for the next bushfire season so that we don’t have the sort of complacency that we saw impacted on this region, the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury, during last year. And were about also holding the Government to account. Putting forward an alternative agenda for the nation. One that is about jobs. One that’s about an economy that works for people, not the other way around. One that is about a social policy that acknowledges that we need to look after the most vulnerable and not leave people behind. But also, one in which we lift people up and which we provide people with opportunity to fulfil the aspirations that they have, not just for themselves, but for their kids, for their communities, for the nation. That’s what I’m about. And I’ll continue to campaign strongly on that basis.


JOURNALIST: Joel Fitzgibbon has been quite outspoken about policy issues with Labor. Is it time he was stood down from the frontbench?


ALBANESE: Look, the fact is that from time to time, in a democratic party, people will put forward their views. Joel has done that. But Joel plays an important role in areas like agriculture. Joel plays an important role in terms of representing the interests of the people of his electorate. And he continues to be an important part of the Labor team.


JOURNALIST: Qantas is describing that this year is the most challenging time in their long history. (Inaudible). Would a bail-out have been a good idea?


ALBANESE: Well, if you think aviation’s going well, then that’s not my view. And the reports today in terms of Qantas’ results, just reinforce that. This is a tough time. This is a tough time for airlines. It’s a tough time for airports, as well. It’s a tough time for the tourism sector. One of the things we’ve being reminded of during this pandemic is the role that the Government plays and can play in economic circumstances such as now, just like the Labor Government played an important role in the Global Financial Crisis. One of the things that you will see drawn as a great distinction between our Party and the Coalition is that when we were confronted with the Global Financial Crisis, we not only had to deal with it, we had to deal with it from a Coalition, that’s now in Government, that said it was inevitable we would go into recession, there was nothing we could do about that. And a Coalition that voted against our stimulus plan. We haven’t been destructive like they were. We’ve been constructive. We’ve put jobs first. And one of the issues with jobs is about airlines, the tourism industry and the argument that we need specific support tailored for specific industries.


JOURNALIST: What do you make of the reports that (inaudible) will be overturned in New South Wales?


ALBANESE: Well, I look forward to Gladys Berejiklian’s Government, if they do that, telling us where the nuclear power plants should be in New South Wales. And I’d be happy to campaign against those power plants when we get the locations. If they’re at all serious, if they’re at all fair dinkum, the Coalition cheer squad for nuclear power in New South Wales or nationally should do is identify where the power plants will be. Because even the Federal Minister, Minister Pitt, who thinks it’s a really good idea to have nuclear power in Australia, in Queensland, anywhere except for his seat. Well, he is in a seat with water, which is where power plants need to be located next to. I just think, once again, this is showing the divisions that are there between the Liberal and the National Party, within the Liberal Party, within the National Party, the sort of divisions that we saw played out in the Eden-Monaro by-election and the sort of divisions that we will see played out in the lead-up to the next federal election. Thanks very much.


JOURNALIST: What’s your reaction to the vaccine announcement?


ALBANESE: Well, I want to see a vaccine. And I want to see Australians get access to a vaccine. The Federal Government’s been behind other nations who have signed agreements. And I think the detail, you had the Prime Minister make a statement yesterday that was contradicted by the company itself, which said there wasn’t an agreement in place. I want to see agreement in place. And I want to see Australians get access to a vaccine. And I hope that vaccine becomes available sooner rather than later. Thanks very much.