ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
SATURDAY, 12 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Passing of John Fahey; so-called National Cabinet; Morrison Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic; JobKeeper; JobSeeker; Afghan Peace Talks; Australia’s relationship with China; Aussies stranded overseas; state borders; national borders.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Australia continues to experience the difficulties of dealing with the pandemic. And it’s time that Scott Morrison stopped fighting with the states and started showing national leadership through the so-called National Cabinet that is proving itself to be not national and not a cabinet. What we need is a bit of common sense agreements. And the way that can be worked through, the only way that can be worked through, is through national coordination and through leadership from the Prime Minister. There are some things that could be done immediately to alleviate some of the economic hardship, which is there.
The first, of course, as Labor argued when Parliament sat, is to not cut JobKeeper and JobSeeker next month. The fact is, that whilst the economy continues to go down, whilst unemployment continues to rise, it’s not the time to withdraw support for the economy. The second is that we need to have measures that support small business by improving their cash flow. The third thing we can do is to invest in aged care and provide support for the care economy through the workforce, including childcare, including aged care. The fourth is that the Government could consider temporary financial support for community groups and charities that are providing support. Fifthly, we need to improve labour market programs to get people back into work. Sixthly, we could encourage local government to come forward with immediate community infrastructure projects that build amenity in our communities while creating jobs. Seventh, we could improve compliance with the code of conduct for commercial tenancies, which businesses tell me is still causing real issues around the community. And lastly, the eighth point in an eight-point plan, the Government could immediately implement, as the Government could announce, that they are going to reverse the decision to freeze the pension. Now’s not the time for withdrawing economic support in terms of JobKeeper and JobSeeker. And the freezing of the pension remains a real concern for all those who rely upon the pension to get by and who, for so many years, have relied upon that increase in the pension in order to get by and in order to pay their bills.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: I’m going to start with your reaction to the loss of John Fahey, a very important man in this state and federally as well.
ALBANESE: Look, I want to pay my respects to the former Premier and former Federal Finance Minister, John Fahey. John Fahey was a very decent Australian. He was humble, he rose to the top here in Australia’s largest state and was a senior minister in the Australian Government. John Fahey was someone of principle, someone who was always courteous, and someone who I had the pleasure of serving in the National Parliament with. He’s someone who had a diverse background. Played footy, of course, for Canterbury. He was someone who always treated people with respect. He, of course, played an important role in the Sydney Olympics being held here, the most important and successful Olympic Games ever held anywhere in the world. And that showcased this great city to the globe, benefitting our economy on an ongoing basis through that. So, I pay my respect to all of John’s family. My condolences to them and to all of his many close friends. He’s someone who will be dearly missed.
JOURNALIST: Any memories or dealings that you had, anything that springs to mind, that you two had?
ALBANESE: Look, when John came to the Federal Parliament, I had dealings with him when I worked for the Labor Party in New South Wales. And I, of course, worked for Bob Carr. John Fahey was someone who immediately he arrived in Parliament, he rose very quickly, of course, to be the Finance Minister. He was someone who dealt with you with respect, even though you were someone on the opposite side of politics. He was well-regarded by everyone. And I don’t think he had an enemy in the National Parliament. And that says a lot about his character. He was always very open to a discussion, including about rugby league. I’m, of course, a South Sydney tragic, and I’m always happy to talk about rugby league with anyone. And John Fahey, I think, had a very successful career in state and federal politics, but also, of course, had, I think, a very broad involvement in the community.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned that JobKeeper and JobSeeker shouldn’t be wound back yet. Where do you think the nation needs to be before these measures are wound back?
ALBANESE: Well, what we need to do is to not have circumstances whereby the Government is saying there will be an additional 400,000 people unemployed between now and Christmas. That’s not a time to be making these cuts. These cuts will take place, of course, after this month, and before Parliament sits again. And that withdrawal of economic support doesn’t make any sense, given the Government’s own logic when it implemented JobKeeper after a significant campaign for wage subsidies, and JobSeeker, it also required a considerable campaign. On JobSeeker, the Government is still not providing certainty for people of what the old Newstart Allowance will be. And, quite clearly, $40 a day isn’t enough. The Government’s acknowledged that. And it’s about time that the Government came up with its policy of what the rate should be.
JOURNALIST: How is the Government supposed to find the extra funds to keep funding that?
ALBANESE: Well, the same logic that saw the Government find the funds to have JobKeeper in place still apply for maintaining JobKeeper at its current rate. It’s about one, that money is circulating through the economy and creating jobs. But secondly, also making sure that employers and employees can keep that relationship with each other.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask about Afghanistan?
JOURNALIST: The Taliban Peace Talks, are you concerned that there’s a risk that all of the sacrifices that Australians have made over there will be undone in a way if power goes back to the Taliban?
ALBANESE: Well, I am concerned about particularly the potential release of the terrorist who murdered Australians who were serving in uniform. That, I think, is something that the Australian Government needs to make the strongest possible representation to the United States, our allies, and to others to make sure that doesn’t occur.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Morrison Government has (inaudible)?
ALBANESE: Well, I certainly hope that doesn’t occur. I’ve heard from the families of those Australian servicemen who were murdered in cold blood by someone that they thought was on their side. That is an act of treachery, an act of terrorism. That should not be rewarded.
JOURNALIST: The head of DFAT says Australia needs to do more to stand up to bullying from China. Do you think we’re doing enough?
ALBANESE: Look, I think that Australia must always serve our own national interest. Part of our national interest is good relations with our regional neighbours, including China. And it is of some concern that the whole relationship seems to have just broken down. And when you hear a trade minister say that they can’t get a return call from China, then that’s a real problem, given that China is the destination of much more of our exports than any other nation on the planet. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: On Aussies stranded overseas, how concerned are you about Australians that are still stranded overseas? And is the Government doing enough to get them home?
ALBANESE: Well, the Government isn’t doing enough to get them home. I’m very concerned. I have constituents contacting me here from my electorate, but I know from right around the country, that it is a massive concern, that there are thousands of Australians who are desperate to get home who simply can’t get home. And what’s worse is that the stories are multiple of Australians booking tickets, being told that they are on a flight, telling relatives that they will be out on that flight and expecting to be home and then having that cancelled. Then booking again and having it cancelled again. This is a case of despair for so many Australians. And the Australian Government has a responsibility to resolve these issues and to support Australians going home. These aren’t Australians who are asking for income support to get home. They’re happy to pay to get home. They just can’t get home. And that is a major problem. And Scott Morrison has a lot to say about borders. He joined Clive Palmer’s legal case against the Western Australian Government about borders. And yet the borders of Australia are up to stop Australians coming home. It’s not good enough. Thanks very much.