Sep 18, 2020







SUBJECTS: Seventh anniversary of the Coalition Government being sworn in; Scott Morrison always being there for the photo-op but never the follow-up; Budget; JobKeeper; JobSeeker; stranded Aussies overseas; New York University receiving JobKeeper; travel restrictions; state borders; so-called ‘National Cabinet’.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks for joining me. Today is the seventh anniversary of the Coalition Government being sworn in. Seven years of lots of announcements but far less delivery. Lots of photo-ops but no follow-up. When you look at what has characterised this Coalition Government, now into its eighth year, no cruise ships during the pandemic, then we had the Ruby Princess. The bushfire recovery that they were going to deal with, but we have people still living in caravans. We had, of course, the last time the Coalition Government handed down the Budget, they had mugs that said, ‘Back in Black’. But we know that never occurred. This is a Government that is characterised by spin and marketing rather than substance and a vision for the nation.


I want to say also that this is a Government that is characterised by avoiding scrutiny. And the opposition have been advised that we will be kept out of the Budget lock-up for two hours more than has ever occurred in the past. Tradition has it, that the lock-up is available to the Opposition to scrutinise the Budget from 1:30pm. Now, the Government is advising that that time will be 3:30pm. Two hours less scrutiny. People only allowed into the Budget lock-up after Question Time has occurred. This is completely unacceptable. It is not beyond the capacity of the Government to deal with any health concerns. We know that might mean a larger room. It might mean spacing people out in terms of barriers or some form of protection there. But a bit of common sense tells you that a Government that has cancelled Parliament consistently, that said Parliament wouldn’t be able to sit for more than six months, that cancelled the Budget, now wants to cancel the scrutiny of the Budget. This is completely unacceptable from this Government.


And the third issue, again exposing their hypocrisy, is the scandal that is the fact that the New York University has been able to receive JobKeeper at the same time as Australian universities have been excluded. This is rolled gold hypocrisy. An American university worth billions of dollars qualifies for JobKeeper, but Australian universities who have seen some 11,000 workers sacked, were ineligible for JobKeeper. This is a Government that has been inconsistent. A Government that’s determined the withdraw support from the economy at the very time when it is needed. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: What would Labor do in this situation as far as the unis go?


ALBANESE: Well, we said clearly the universities should have been able to apply for JobKeeper. We argued that people shouldn’t have been left out and left behind. And that’s what’s happened. People left behind when it comes to JobKeeper and JobSeeker, 25,000 Australians literally being left behind overseas, unable to return because of a failure of the National Government to provide that national leadership.


JOURNALIST: Is it an ideological position that the Government is taking? What is the reason?


ALBANESE: Well, it’s up to the Government to explain how it is possible that New York University is eligible for JobKeeper, but the University of New England or Charles Sturt University, or Central Queensland University aren’t. It makes no sense whatsoever, the fact that this has occurred. But this is a Government which is always inconsistent, just like it has kept out casual workers, people from the arts and entertainment sector, dnata workers and others from JobKeeper.


JOURNALIST: Do you agree with mutual obligations being stepped up for people later this month for people on JobSeeker?


ALBANESE: Well, we’ll wait and see the details of the announcement. But the Government withdrew support, of course, the need for mutual obligation. And there needs to be a bit of common sense applied here. If people can’t get out there and apply for jobs, and certainly with travel restrictions on, that is the case for many people, particularly in Victoria, then common sense needs to apply.


JOURNALIST: Should JobSeeker be extended?


ALBANESE: JobSeeker clearly needs to be extended. And the Government needs to come up with the figure by which JobSeeker should be increased on a permanent basis. $40 a day is not enough for people to live on. That is something that Labor has said for a considerable period of time, since the time I became the Leader of the Labor Party. The Government has acknowledged that, which is why it introduced the supplement. Quite clearly, $40 wasn’t enough to live on at the time that decision was made. It won’t be enough to live on in 2021 either.


JOURNALIST: When should the Government make it clear what their plans are for JobSeeker in terms of extensions?


ALBANESE: It should be in the Budget. The permanent decision should be in the Budget. Otherwise, what they’re saying to people is that come December, you could just be back on $40 a day.


JOURNALIST: And how crucial is it that people get that certainty as soon as possible?


ALBANESE: Look, it’s critical that the certainty be provided. It is critical for individuals, but it’s also critical for the economy. Because what we know is that people who are on low incomes, every additional dollar that goes into their bank account gets spent. It gets spent creating economic activity, particularly in local communities and therefore creating jobs.


JOURNALIST: Just on Annastacia Palaszczuk today saying that people from the ACT can now travel into Queensland. Does it make sense to you that the ACT can be carved out because it hasn’t had a case in a certain amount of time, but certain parts of New South Wales, regional New South Wales, that have also been case free for months and weeks, aren’t allowed to travel?


ALBANESE: Well, these decisions are all based upon medical advice. And, of course, travel arrangements have been made, for example, in terms of the New South Wales north coast. There’s exemption provisions available. No one wants to see borders closed for one day more than necessary. But it’s also the case that we need to listen to the health advice. The Queensland Premier has been doing just that.


JOURNALIST: Sorry, have you spoken to Annastacia Palaszczuk about the concerns in regard to people not being able to get home to say goodbye to dying loved ones or just attend their funerals?


ALBANESE: I speak to all of the Premiers on a regular basis. What I’ve also done is continue to speak about the National Government for which I, as the federal Opposition Leader, have responsibility for, about the National Government’s failure to look after people, including the 25,000, at least, who are stranded overseas. The fact that they have an obligation to look after these issues. We have a Prime Minister who is chairing the so-called National Cabinet today, that’s not national and not a cabinet. And he’ll probably hold a press conference saying anything that’s positive arising out of it and saying any issues that are difficult are the responsibilities of the states. If the Federal Government is not responsible for a national border, I don’t know what it’s responsible for. And the Federal Government is responsible for quarantine also.


JOURNALIST: Do you think that state governments should have to pick up the tab for running hotel quarantine on top of the cost that travellers already pay in the fees?


ALBANESE: The Federal Government clearly have responsibilities for these issues. These are a Federal Government responsibility. Quarantine and our national borders are the responsibility of the Federal Government. And the Prime Minister needs to accept that responsibility rather than continuing to pretend that he just happens to be the bloke who chairs a phone hook-up every couple of weeks but he’s not accountable for any of the outcomes of those phone hook-ups.


JOURNALIST: You don’t think state governments should be paying the costs?


ALBANESE: I think that Federal Government has responsibility to, at the very least, be making a substantial financial contribution to the costs of this. The circumstance whereby you with a young mum with a one-year-old in London told to go and stay at a homeless shelter with her young baby is quite frankly absurd in 2020.


JOURNALIST: Do you not accept the states have a responsibility to up the quotas?


ALBANESE: It’s the Federal Government.


JOURNALIST: They have to go somewhere.


ALBANESE: The Federal Government’s responsible for our national borders. When you board a flight, in Europe, or in the United States, or in India, and you arrive at the airport, you don’t have a state passport. You have a passport that has the Australian crest and the Australian Coat of Arms on it. And it is your national entry. You then go through and meet someone from Border Force. Last time I looked, that was a national responsibility. This is a national responsibility. Some people may think it’s acceptable for the national leader of this country to pass off that responsibility to the states as if it’s nothing to do with him. I, as the alternative leader of Australia, not of a state, would not conduct myself in such a way.


JOURNALIST: It is the Labor states that are making this difficult. So, should he be forcing the states to take in more people?


ALBANESE: That’s just not true.


JOURNALIST: New South Wales has. Do you think the other states should?


ALBANESE: That’s just not true. South Australia and Tasmania, try and fly to Tasmania this afternoon and see how you go. That is just not true. That’s the Liberal Party’s rhetoric, that it is only Labor states, not Liberal states. And quite frankly, the media have a responsibility to report fairly what is actually happening here, which is that the national Prime Minister has responsibility for our international borders. That is very clear. If that’s not clear, I don’t know what Scott Morrison is responsible for. Thanks.