Feb 17, 2021






SUBJECTS: TAFE and education; alleged assault in Parliament House; NSW Labor Party; coronavirus vaccine rollout; Richard Colbeck.


JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Labor will always be the Party that invests in education and in skills.


JOURNALIST: Members of the crossbench called for a completely independent review process for complaints of harassment.


ALBANESE: I noticed that. We did it yesterday. I do note that it didn’t get a run yesterday. But Labor called for an independent body yesterday. I raised that in a question to the Prime Minister, the first question asked in Question Time yesterday. Quite clearly we need an arm’s length independent body that is able to investigate and provide support to anyone in this building who has an issue with their safety. That needs to be independent. It’s not enough to have a government review into what happens within the Government. And it’s not enough either to have just a Liberal Party review that’s taking place as well. I say to the Liberal Party as well, we’ve had measures, as Labor, in place since 2018. I asked that they be updated when I became the Leader. That work has concluded. It goes to the ALP National Executive for adoption next Friday. And I want to pay tribute to Sharon Claydon and others in the organisational wing who’ve done an outstanding job on that.


JOURNALIST: There’s reports this morning that both Liberal and Labor senators knew of this alleged assault before it was reported. Are you aware or was any Labor senator aware of this?


ALBANESE: Those reports are that there was a submission by a whistleblower on a confidential basis to a Senate committee. Of course, it’s a breach of the law for any member of a parliamentary committee, in terms of a confidential submission, to make others aware of it. So I’m not aware of those details. I’m sure the Senate will be dealing with that later today.


JOURNALIST: Have you ever been aware of any issues like this in the Labor Party in your time at this place?


ALBANESE: The truth is that the issue of mistreatment of women, harassment, has been an issue in this building. And I don’t say that it is a partisan issue at all. It’s very clear that there are cultural problems here and that they need to be dealt with. I must say, I was shocked by the statements of the courageous Brittany Higgins that she made, though. It is just beyond belief that such an assault could take place in the office of the Defence Minister two years ago and there only be some form of a response after Brittany Higgins went public.


JOURNALIST: (Inaudible). Should she resign?


ALBANESE: I’m the Federal Labor Leader and I concentrate on these issues. Jodi McKay’s a good person. She’s doing a good job as the New South Wales Labor Leader.


JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).


ALBANESE: I support Jodi McKay. I think she’s a good person. I’m not aware of all of the details. But I know that in my dealings with Jodi McKay, she is a person of integrity. She showed that with her evidence before the ICAC hearing. She showed that throughout her political career. I think she has always been beyond reproach. Jodi McKay’s a constituent of mine and she’s a friend of mine.


JOURNALIST: (Inaudible). Is it plausible that he didn’t know about this before?


ALBANESE: Well, it doesn’t seem plausible to me. People will make their own judgment. But it doesn’t either sit with Brittany Higgins’ account, which is that she received contact from the principal adviser to the Prime Minister, both at the time and also towards the end of last year, there was contact made again according to Ms Higgins. One of the issues with women coming forward is the issue of whether they are believed or not. It’s a major issue. And a lot of women are placed in positions whereby they fear not being believed. I believe Ms Higgins.


JOURNALIST: Minister Colbeck says that giving vaccinations to aged care workers is still an open question. Do you think that should be compulsory, given the outbreaks in aged care?


ALBANESE: I think we need a new minister. I think we need a new minister with some idea of the way that the aged care system operates. People who work in aged care now have to, like a whole range of professions, have to have inoculations against the flu. Common sense should apply here. We need an Aged Care Minister with common sense. I’ve got an Aged Care Shadow in Clare O’Neil, who has just that.


JOURNALIST: Are you comfortable with what the Prime Minister told the Parliament yesterday that his office did not know?


ALBANESE: No. No, I am not.