Aug 15, 2020







SUBJECTS: National commemorative service for the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, Teddy Sheean, Ruby Princess Inquiry, Aged Care, Bushfires. 


ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks for joining me. Today I’m very honoured to be part of what is, by necessity, a restricted commemoration of the 75th anniversary of victory in the Pacific.


This is an important occasion and whilst there would normally be thousands of people here and that can’t happen today, people will be remembering in their own homes, in their own way.


People remembering the great sacrifice that a whole generation of brave and proud Australians made to ensure that we continue to live in security and to enjoy the quality of life in Australia that we have today.


Today I remember in particular, Teddy Sheean, our 101st recipient of the Victoria Cross, a great Australian, a great Tasmanian. There he was 18 years old, on the HMAS Armidale when it was attacked by Japanese fighter planes. Those planes strafing his comrades in the water. Teddy Sheean chose not to seek safety. He chose to go to the gun and to fire at those Japanese planes in order to secure the safety of more of his mates. 100 of whom perished on that day, way back in 1942.


That sort of bravery characterises the Australian spirit. The concept of mateship, the practical effect of looking after each other. And today is the day when we pay tribute to that generation and to generations since and before as well, who have worn the Australian uniform so that others of us can remain in a free, democratic and prosperous nation.


Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese thank you for your time here today on what is a very special day for Australian veterans. Can I just ask you though on the Ruby Princess, given what the Special Commission has found, was Labor wrong to attack Australian Border Force?


ALBANESE: Look what the inquiry has shown is that both governments have failed. The inquiry showed that indeed there were federal officials on the Ruby Princess that day. They show that both federal and state officials didn’t deliver what was necessary. And we know that indeed the Australian Government has had responsibility for border issues since 1901.


That’s something that this government likes to proclaim proudly, it can’t proclaim it just when it’s convenient. It needs to acknowledge its responsibility all of the time. This is a government failing. And indeed, I’m very concerned that federal officials were prevented from giving evidence before this Inquiry.


JOURNALIST: (inaudible – Ruby Princess)


ALBANESE:  The Commission of Inquiry outlines a range of failings from the federal government. And indeed the Commissioner has as well – given damning comments about the failure of the federal government to participate in this inquiry. What that means is that there are questions which are left unanswered, that will have to be pursued through other means.


JOURNALIST: Do you support calls by the Greens to have another federal level inquiry?


ALBANESE:  There’s no doubt that there will need to be proper examination at the appropriate time of all of these issues relating to the Commonwealth involvement in the response to the pandemic. That’s something that will need to happen. We will make appropriate announcements at an appropriate time. But there’s no doubt that the failure of the federal departmental officials to appear before that Inquiry leaves many questions unanswered.


JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister yesterday apologised, said sorry, for the failures in aged care during this pandemic. Do you think an apology is enough or do you still hold concerns that mistakes will be repeated?


ALBANESE:  Well there are grave concerns here. Let’s be clear about what we now know as well. That on June 10 there was a significant phone hook-up of officials and experts in this area. That at that time, it was requested – and this is after Newmarch House and after the events in New South Wales – it was requested, that the government look at the evidence from overseas, that saw people put in hospital care so as to separate aged care residents with infections, from those who did not.


The evidence was given and these issues were raised, and they were ignored by the government. The fact is that the New South Wales outbreaks in March and April, were a loud clarion call for action from the federal government and the federal government wasn’t listening.


And yesterday, Scott Morrison gave again, a classic example of trying to deflect issues to Melbourne, as he did repeatedly in that claim, but the fact is that the outbreak was first in New South Wales. This is a national issue. Aged care is a federal responsibility and the Commonwealth needs to accept its responsibility.


JOURNALIST: Did the virus get into aged care homes from the Melbourne quarantine outbreak though?


ALBANESE:  Well the virus was in New South Wales homes before then – before then – aged care and the virus affecting aged care residents was an issue way back in March.


And in discussions that were taking place practical suggestions were made that were ignored by the federal government, including the moving of residents who were infected into hospital care.


JOURNALIST: Do you believe when it comes to the quarantine issue, Linda Reynolds or Daniel Andrews?


ALBANESE:  I’m not going to get into those issues. The issue here is that the federal government have responsibility for aged care. All governments have to accept their responsibility here. The government is intent on deflecting those responsibilities. And the federal government needs to accept that it’s responsible for aged care.


JOURNALIST: We’ve repeatedly been told that there will be further outbreaks. Do you have any confidence that if there are outbreaks in other states that they won’t seep into aged care facilities as they have in both New South Wales and now Victoria?


ALBANESE:  Well the government hasn’t established any mechanism that would give confidence that there’s a national approach to ensuring that aged care residents are protected.


This is a generation who built Australia. This is a generation who we are celebrating and commemorating their efforts for our nation today. And it’s important that all of our Australians get the respect the care and the dignity that they deserve.


Thanks very much.


JOURNALIST: Sorry can I just ask one more question on bushfires?


ALBANESE: Sure but then I need to go.


JOURNALIST: There are reports today that the federal government repeated rejected requests to fund extra air support for fighting bushfires ahead of the deadly bushfire season. What do you make of that? And what does that tell us about  the expertise that was ignored?


ALBANESE: Well, there were recommendations for a long period of time to the government going back to 2018 – asking for increased aerial firefighting capacity. And what is absolutely extraordinary is that it took the Eden Monaro byelection to get an announcement from this government. This government was complacent when it came to dealing with the impending bushfire season. The warnings were. They refused to meet with experts and ignored their recommendations.