Dec 22, 2020







SUBJECTS: NSW Northern Beaches coronavirus outbreak; quarantine measures; stranded Aussies; aged care crisis.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Our thoughts today are very much with those families who are doing it tough. This outbreak on the Northern Beaches, which has now spread beyond it, is causing a great deal of distress for families, with the uncertainty particularly difficult in the period just before Christmas. The New South Wales Premier must respond to health advice and must ensure that health comes first before anything else. It’s very clear that, when that hasn’t happened, then things have gone wrong. Scott Morrison also has a responsibility to provide more national leadership. It’s not good enough for him to pass off that responsibility every time something gets difficult. He quite clearly is responsible for our national borders and he is responsible for national quarantine. And he had a report from Jane Halton that made practical suggestions about measures that should be put in place, including additional places that the Commonwealth could organise for quarantine.


The Morrison Government is also clearly responsible for issuing crew visas. For too long, Scott Morrison has passed off responsibility to the states, being prepared to take credit whenever something goes right but not being prepared to show the national leadership that is required. This outbreak is a wake-up call yet again that Scott Morrison needs to show leadership when it comes to these issues. For too long, Scott Morrison has passed responsibility for the states. He didn’t have a plan for quarantine control, in spite of Jane Halton’s report. He didn’t have a plan for aged care, in spite of the fact that we’ve had some 685 older Australians lose their life in nursing homes. He doesn’t have a plan either to get Australians home, some 40,000 are still stranded. Scott Morrison needs to show more responsibility. And it is beyond belief that not a single aged care home has been sanctioned, in spite of the tragedies that have occurred across the board. And it’s also, and I’ll finish with this, the idea that Richard Colbeck has maintained his position with Greg Hunt overseeing, as he always was, as the senior minister, is quite frankly beyond belief. I don’t know what you’ve got to do to lose your job under this Government. But it’s very clear that Richard Colbeck is a symbol of the fact that Scott Morrison doesn’t believe in accountability and doesn’t believe in taking responsibility either himself or any of his ministers. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Were you or anyone from your office or anyone from the Opposition offices at the Sydney CPO on Thursday the 17th of December from 10:30-10:50AM?


ALBANESE: I wasn’t. But I know that my Chief of Staff and my media advisor, who’s here now, were there. They have been tested. They have been found to be negative.


JOURNALIST: And have other people from Opposition offices also tested negative?


ALBANESE: Look, I’m not aware of everyone who was in the building. It’s a very big building. There are more than 20 floors in the building. Everyone in my office who was there has been tested and been found to be negative.


JOURNALIST: The Transport Minister, Michael McCormack, today said that Australia could join other nations in banning flights to Britain even though the Chief Medical Officer has said otherwise. Is there a lack of consistent messaging here that is adding to confusion?


ALBANESE: We need to listen to the medical advice. And what there is here is a lack of national leadership. We have the idea that the Government continues to say that it’s someone else’s responsibility to have control over which planes into Australia or not and getting Australians home is causing confusion. This Prime Minister said, of course, that he would have stranded Australians home by Christmas. We know that there’s at least 40,000 of them who won’t be home. And at least 8000 of those are vulnerable. And many thousands are those who were on the list to come home well prior to the Prime Minister making that commitment.


JOURNALIST: Are you comfortable with the Government’s decision not to ban flights from the UK?


ALBANESE: I think the Government should exercise an abundance of caution and needs to make sure that wherever there is medical advice that we err on the side of caution, would be my view. The problem here is that the Government seems to be so determined to not take responsibility for anything. They also seem to not want to make decisions and pass it off to someone else. I just wait for Michael McCormack or someone in the Government to blame Daniel Andrews over whether there are UK flights home or over the Northern Beaches outbreak.


JOURNALIST: The Government argues that Australia has adequate hotel quarantine places unlike other countries. Is that a fair assessment?


ALBANESE: Well, the Government should respond to Jane Halton’s review. Jane Halton provided advice about national leadership when it comes to quarantine procedures. And that advice hasn’t been taken up. She identified clear potential venues. There are other things that could have been done. We asked many, many months ago. We suggested using the RAAF VIP fleet, which is available, which at the moment, Scott Morrison’s not using his plane. I don’t know whether the Governor General is or not. These are aircraft that could have been used to bring Australians home. And we know that the only person who’s been able to be brought home on those aircraft is, of course, Mathias Cormann, after making multiple stops with costs to the taxpayer all around Europe lobbying for a job. I mean, Australians are entitled to question this Government’s priorities when so many Australians will be sitting around the family dinner table without their loved ones because they weren’t able to get home.


JOURNALIST: So, what action or decision would you want from the Government in terms of these quarantine measures?


ALBANESE: I want the Government to respond to Jane Halton’s review. I want the Government to exercise national leadership when it comes to quarantine control. I want the Government to provide the resources that the Victorian Government, for example, have said that they need from the Defence Force. I want the Government to actually do more than just make announcements and then pass off responsibility to someone else.


JOURNALIST: What is the assessment of why the Defence Minister has defended decisions to not fulfil that request from the Victorian Government? Is that unreasonable?


ALBANESE: Look, it’s completely inadequate. We hear consistently from this Government that it will respond to requests. And the real concern here is that, according to the Australian Constitution, quarantine is a national responsibility. They’ve passed off that responsibility, handballed it to the state like they have blamed the states over the numbers coming in from overseas. They are all national responsibilities. And it requires national leadership. And Scott Morrison isn’t providing that national leadership. Thank you.