Mar 8, 2020







SUBJECTS: Importance of the ABC; Coronavirus; International Women’s Day; Scott Morrison’s lies; sports rorts saga.


KATE THWAITES, MEMBER FOR JAGAJAGA: Hi, I am Kate Thwaite. I am the Federal Member for JagaJaga. And we are here today to show our support for the ABC. Now more than ever we need to support an independent and vibrant ABC. Over this summer, during the bushfire crisis, the ABC were the ones who were there. There were journalists in every part, every region, every affected town. And they helped keep people safe. And for those of us who weren’t in those areas, they helped us know what was going on. But we are seeing attacks on independent journalism in this country. Just this week, we had AAP say that it is closing. With the loss of more journalists for all of us. And that means that we are relying on news from social media on disinformation, on misinformation. While all of this is happening, this Government is attacking the ABC. They are putting out ideological attacks. They are cutting their funding, which means we will lose more journalists. So, this is important to my community. And that is why we are all here to support our ABC. And it is important to Labor, which is why I am so glad that I am joined by my colleagues, Josh Burns, Vicki Ward, and of course, Anthony Albanese, to support the ABC.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Kate. And it is great to be back in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. It is good to be here, not just with Kate Thwaites, but with Josh Burns and with Vicki Ward, the local state MP for this area. And what we’re seeing today is a community activity in support of the ABC. Australians rely upon the national broadcaster. It is one of our great national assets. And that’s why Governments need to provide the support back to it that it gives to the community. What we saw this week in Senate Estimates is that it’s expected that the current cuts which are there to the ABC will mean they have to find $105 million a year by 2022. What that means is people losing their jobs. What that means is the ABC’s capacity to provide the level of service that they currently do will be restricted. And what it means also, of course, is that during periods of crisis, where the country relies upon the ABC, its resources will be stretched. During the bushfire crisis, what we saw was in many communities their phone lines went down. They didn’t have mobile coverage. The only thing that they could rely upon for information was their ABC. And that’s why it’s absolutely critical that the Government reverses these cuts. This week, we had another example of the Government’s doublespeak where they said there weren’t cuts, there just wasn’t increases. Well, the truth is, that we all know that those cuts are there. They’re being maintained by this Government in spite of the very clear commitment that it gave when it came to office seven years ago, that there would be no cuts to the ABC or SBS. And of course, with the demise of AAP, which plays a critical role as well getting that information out to people, the loss of more journalists, we really need to defend our ABC. And the fact that there is such a big turnout here in West Heidelberg shows the support that this community, just like other communities, whether they be in our cities, or our regions, or our rural communities have for our ABC. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Two Defence Force members have been confirmed to have coronavirus after a trip to Canberra on February 28th. Do you know if any Labor MPs or staff were on that flight? If so, were they in a zone where they could be exposed? And have they been tested?


ALBANESE: Well, no. Given you haven’t given me the detail of the flight, which one it was, it’s pretty hard for me to answer that question in terms of detail.


JOURNALIST: You don’t have any knowledge of the flight details?


ALBANESE: No. And it is the first I have heard of it. What we need to do is to make sure that Australians stay calm, wash their hands and have a considered response to this. We have a very good health system in this country. All the evidence is that overwhelmingly people who contract this virus will have mild symptoms. But we need to take the medical advice seriously. If there were these Defence personnel on a flight, it’s appropriate that other people who are on that flight be contacted and informed and get themselves checked out.


JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that your members and staff could have been exposed to the coronavirus with the travelling to and from Canberra over the past ten days or so?


ALBANESE: Look, what’s been happening is that people will be exposed to this virus. What we need to do is to not panic about that. What we need to do is to make sure that we have a considered and sensible response. I’ve met regularly with the Chief Medical Officer. That medical advice, it’s important that Australians get information out there and that they respond and receive any check-ups that are required. There is, of course, a hotline that they can ring and get appropriate advice over the phone. One of the things we need to do is to make sure that people are able to get the Medicare support from telehealth and that the Government needs to come to the party on that. Because that’s a sensible measure that would make a practical difference.


JOURNALIST: The Government has secured 54 million face masks. Should this provide health professionals with some peace of mind?


ALBANESE: Look, the advice that I have is that there are enough face masks available here in Australia. That has been the advice that I’ve got from the Chief Medical Officer in briefings that we’ve had. What we need to do is to make sure that Australians don’t panic. There’s no need for people to be fighting in supermarket aisles about toilet paper. What we need to do is to have a sensible response to this. Australians are, thank goodness for Medicare, able to have one of the best health care systems in the world. And that’s an important thing to remind people of.


JOURNALIST: And it is International Women’s Day today. Is Australia as a whole doing enough to promote the cause?


ALBANESE: Well, of course, at International Women’s Day today we have a game of cricket, the World Cup final, at the MCG and that’s a good celebration of International Women’s Day. That is one of the things that’s being celebrated here today in West Heidelberg, as well. But, it’s an important reminder that whilst there have been gains made, there’s still much more to be done. Women’s wages are still much lower than men’s wages across the board. We still have a circumstance whereby we have one woman, on average dies as a result of a partner or former partner every week. And that’s why today, Labor is renewing our call for a national summit on violence against women and children. It is the tragedy that occurred with Hannah Clarke and her three children, of course, really was a devastating incident in Brisbane. But unfortunately, it’s not a lone incident. And I believe that it would be appropriate that we have a national summit and that we hear from those service providers who support women and children at a time of crisis, to ensure that the services are there, to ensure that women have somewhere to go to escape violent relationships with their children. And we need to make sure that there’s a comprehensive plan. And on International Women’s Day, it’s an opportunity for the Government to actually come forward with some positive moves when it comes to this. It does require finance. But it also requires listening to the experts.


JOURNALIST: And just finally, on the previous week of political issues. Anything you sort of want to get out there?


ALBANESE: Well, this has been a week in Parliament whereby it’s been a reminder that this Government thinks it’s above being accountable to the Australian people. Whether it’s the issue of invitations to the White House that were blocked in terms of Freedom of Information requests on national security grounds. Whether it be the issue of the sports rorts saga, whereby Bridget McKenzie has said that she did not change the brief that was dated the 4th of April. But we know that there were changes made on the 11th of April, both in the morning and at lunchtime. And we need to know who did that. Because the Prime Minister has said repeatedly that it was the Minister who was the decision maker. Well, we know the Prime Minister’s up to his neck in this scandal. We know that Scott Morrison’s office intervened to change some of the places where the grants were going. Even after we were in caretaker mode. We need to know who is it that changed the additional nine grants that were given and the one grant that was taken off. The Minister says it wasn’t her. The Prime Minister refused to answer questions about it at a media conference. That’s not good enough. This Government needs to be accountable and not just dismiss issues, say that they’re the bubble, say that it’s just gossip. Which is what Scott Morrison’s form is. Scott Morrison is the Humphrey B. Bear of Australian politics. Because you get more answers out of Humphrey than you do out of Scott Morrison. And it’s about time that this Prime Minister recognise that he’s not above the Australian people because he won the election. He’s accountable to it. And that’s why he needs to answer simple questions with simple answers. We saw how it’s possible to do that when Angus Campbell, the head of the Defence Force, this week was asked a simple question. Did he ring the Prime Minister to express his displeasure at the abuse of using armed forces in an ad about the bushfire crisis that was made by Scott Morrison? He just answered yes. Scott Morrison continues to prevaricate and avoid answering simple questions with simple answers. Thanks.


JOURNALIST: Obviously there are a few people here today. And what does it say for grassroots support for media issues in Australia?


ALBANESE: Well, what it says in particular is that there’s great support out there for the ABC. That people recognise the role that it plays. People want media to be able to give them information. And today, perhaps more important than ever, whereby quite clearly, some people are getting information that’s simply wrong. There is no toilet paper shortage in this country. What we need is news that people can rely upon. That people trust. People do trust the ABC. And that’s why funding for the ABC is absolutely essential not just in times of crisis like the bushfire crisis, but also each and every day to inform Australians in an objective way. The ABC plays that important role. Thanks