ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
SATURDAY, 7 MARCH 2020
SUBJECTS: Impact of coronavirus on small businesses, encouraging the visiting of communities; coronavirus; Scot Morrison’s lies; sports rorts saga.
LINDA BURNEY, MEMBER FOR BARTON: Well, good morning everyone. And thank you for coming out to Hurstville. I am here with Anthony Albanese, the Leader of the Labor Party, Jason Yatsen Li, Kevin Greene, who is the local mayor, and Jenny McAllister. We are here to show solidarity with the local businesses in Hurstville. Hurstville has a very, very high Chinese population. And our role today is to show support, to encourage people to come to Hurstville, and support businesses that are doing it very hard. I am not going to say anything more than that except to say that I am so pleased as the Local Member, the Member for Barton, to have Anthony, Jason, Kevin and Jenny here today to show our support and solidarity with the Chinese community and in particular, the businesses that are here today. I am going to ask Jason to say a few words.
JASON YATSEN LI, PRESIDENT OF THE CHINESE AUSTRALIAN FORUM: Thanks, Linda. We’re here today to support the local Hurstville business community. I think it’s really important to remember that these are not Chinese businesses, they’re not Asian businesses. These are Aussie businesses. The local Chinese restaurant has been part of local suburban Australian culture for generations. And we ask the community to support them as much as possible. Don’t be racist, come and support your local businesses. And wash your hands. Normal personal hygiene is a much better protection against the virus.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Jason. It’s great to be here with Linda, the local Member, and Senator McAllister, and also Kevin Greene from the council. We wanted to come today to show in a really practical way, our support for local small businesses. And also, to get the message out there that Australians don’t need to do anything extraordinary. If there’s a message that’s clear from the Chief Medical Officer, it is keep calm and wash your hands. It is that simple. People should be going about their everyday lives. There’s no need to panic-buy products like toilet paper and tissues. People need to be able to go about and support our economy. Because the fact is, this economy was tanking well before the bushfires and the coronavirus. The fact is that there were three interest rate decreases and three downgrades of our economic growth. Consumer demand was falling. Productivity was going backwards. The economy needed support much earlier. But one of the things that defines the Morrison Government is complacency. They were complacent about the bushfires. And they’ve been complacent about the slowing economy. They’ve been obsessed with the surplus, which they said Australia was already in well before the reality hit. So, what we need to do is to provide that support for businesses. We need the Government to not promote fear and concern. We need them to ensure that people can go about their everyday lives and people can support small businesses in communities like here in Hurstville. We’ve heard firsthand today of declines in activity at some of these restaurants, furniture shops and other businesses of between 50 and 80 per cent. That simply means if that continues over a prolonged period of time, we’ll see more and more businesses lose their capacity to be ongoing concerns. And that’s why we need to provide support for our economy. To have a Government that promotes confidence rather than engages in the complacent attitude that they’ve had that saw us have now four interest rate decreases, three of which were before bushfires and coronavirus. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, what should the Government specifically be doing to help support these businesses?
ALBANESE: Well, there are some practical measures that they could put in place. One is in terms of the messages that go out there. We need for there to be messages, even in terms of visuals, it would be good if Government ministers were out there talking to people rather than giving press conferences in rooms which don’t give the impression that it’s okay to be out there amongst the people. So, one of the things that we’ll be doing, not just today, but over the coming period, is giving that confidence out there to communities. I’ll be in Melbourne tomorrow, here in Hurstville today, showing the confidence that people should go about their everyday business. Secondly, as well, they should be talking to larger businesses about providing support for small business. We had some practical examples today, for example, of whether some of the suppliers could take a little bit of a haircut, for example, the delivery of food could take a bit of a haircut in order to provide support for some of these businesses. We need the banks to be cautious with regard to how they engage with these small businesses to make sure that they can be given support when they need it. But when you lose a small business from a community, that provides a real hit. And to then have to invest the capital and the funds to get a business going again, it’s much better if we can keep businesses alive, keep them functioning, keep them trading during this difficult period.
JOURNALIST: The AMA has suggested that if Australia had a centre for disease control, we would have been in a better position to handle this virus. What do you make of that?
ALBANESE: Well, I’ve said throughout this issue that we need to listen to the medical advice. And the Australian Medical Association, of course, the peak organisation for doctors in this country, is a body that should always be listened to when it comes to advice on health matters. I’ve spoken to people from the AMA. I have spoken to the Chief Medical Officer, who I think is an outstanding Australian, and is providing advice out there each and every day about how to get through this period.
JOURNALIST: Victoria Health has just revealed a Toorak doctor has potentially exposed his case of COVID to up to 70 patients and some people in an aged-care centre. What are your thoughts on that? And do you think our health system is equipped to deal with this outbreak?
ALBANESE: Look, I have every confidence in our health system. Our health system, thanks to Medicare, is equal or better than any health system throughout the world. And I have every confidence that we can come through this. All the evidence is that in most cases, there are very minor impacts of the coronavirus. Of course, that doesn’t mean we should be complacent about it. We should be making sure we do everything we can. If someone is, even if they’re in doubt, they should be tested, and early action taken in order to minimise the impact of this virus. Thank you.
Could I just make one more comment about the Prime Minister and his refusal to answer questions yesterday about the sport rorts saga. This is a Prime Minister who refuses to be accountable to the Australian people. Bridget McKenzie has said very clearly that she didn’t sign off or make any changes to the list that she says she prepared and signed on the 4th of April. The Australian people deserve to know exactly what has happened here. How it is that funding was given to organisations which the Minister, who the Prime Minister has consistently said was responsible for signing off on these grants, says she didn’t do it. So, who did? Was it the Prime Minister’s office? Someone in her office? Another minister? We need to know in a transparent way. One of the issues that is causing a lack of confidence in this country is that we have a Prime Minister who won’t be straight with the people. You get more answers out of Humphrey B. Bear than you get out of this Prime Minister. And the Prime Minister needs to come clean about the sports rorts scandal and exactly what happened. Thanks.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.