ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
Subjects: Eden Monaro byelection, Minister Cormann, latest lockdown in Victoria (public housing).
ALBANESE: To quote Matt Johnson from “The The” this is the day when Kristy McBain’s life will really change. It will change for the better and she’ll change Australia for the better. I congratulate Kristy McBain on a fantastic victory in Eden Monaro. And I want to give a shout out to all those people, starting with her wonderful family, all those volunteers, those true believers who campaigned in what was an election unlike any ever seen in this country because of the pandemic.
People who made calls, people who donated money online, the two dollar donations that went into producing material and advertising. We were always going to be outspent and we were. But we campaigned strongly and in Kristy McBain we had an extraordinary advocate for the people of Eden Monaro.
It was an against the odds victory. We had the retirement of a sitting member who had served his nation in uniform and then served in the parliament with distinction. He was very popular and the takeaway of that just one year after he was elected in 2019 meant that those circumstances, combined with the pandemic, which is creating a political culture whereby we’re all hoping that governments succeed and it is not business as usual in this parliament.
The fact that we’ve had Labor and the Government combining to pass stimulus packages meant that it was a different political environment. She stood against, her main opponent, was a two times candidate, someone who had been in the field since 2018 effectively continuously. And still we saw the Government of course throw everything at it. As we would expect them to do.
Kristy McBain will be a champion for the people of Eden Monaro. She is passionate about her local community. She is articulate. She has an extraordinary capacity and she is someone who will look for solutions not look for arguments.
For all those people that voted for Kristy McBain she will make them proud. For those who didn’t when they see her in operation they will think about and consider giving her a vote at the general election. Because Kristy McBain is what Eden Monaro needs.
This is a community that has been through drought, it has been through bushfires and now it is going through a pandemic. They are doing it tough. Kristy McBain has empathy. But she has more than just empathy in an abstract sense. She is about making a difference to people’s lives. And to see Kristy McBain walk onto a farm, walk into a small business, talk with the community is to see someone who is incredibly connected to that community. And that strength and that warmth came through during the campaign.
Kristy McBain will stand up for the forgotten people of Eden Monaro. Those who have been left behind during the bushfire crisis and still require assistance. Those people living in temporary accommodation, in caravans. Those people living in vans with newborn babies. She will stand up for those people.
Kristy McBain will stand up for those that have been left behind by JobKeeper who haven’t got any assistance during the pandemic. Kristy McBain will also stand up when this Government implements its snapback – that it is talking about in September, but kept secret because of the byelection being held just yesterday.
There are 4822 businesses that are receiving JobKeeper support in Eden Monaro. They employ an estimated 18, 000 workers. The idea that all of the support can just be withdrawn in one day will create economic devastation in communities not just in Eden Monaro but including an impact on regional Australia.
I have been very proud to campaign over the last eight weeks side by side with Kristy McBain. It has been a great privilege. I love campaigning. I look forward to the big one in a little while. And I will campaign with the same energy and vigour that I brought to this job, and I brought to this parliament since the day I walked into it – on the second of March, on my birthday, in 1996.
I look forward to the big one. And I think that we said that the people of Eden Monaro should send the Government a message, they’ve done that. I just hope the Government receives it. They declared victory at half time last night. I am not quite sure what counts they were looking at. But the Government needs to listen to the suffering that is occurring on the ground in Eden Monaro. And Kristy McBain will make sure that those voices are heard.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese do you concede that you would not have won the election if it were not for preferences from the Shooters and the Nationals?
ALBANESE: We have an electoral system, that the Liberal Party would not have won without any preferences from anyone either. No one got 50% so that is just a matter of fact, In most seats in Australia, candidates do not receive 50% of the primary – I did last time by the way.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, this was a test of your leadership, can you guarantee you will lead Labor to the next election?
ALBANESE: Well given the talk is just among the people here and no one in my caucus room I don’t see it as an issue and never did. What this campaign was about was not people with power, the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Labor Party. This campaign was about people that don’t have power. Those people that we visited just outside Cobargo on Friday who are living in a caravan. They have been living there for six months. They still have debris on their property. This is about them. It is about people who cannot get assistance for their small businesses, who don’t know what is going to happen to them after September in terms of JobKeeper. This was about all of those issues – it was not about leadership, I made that point during the campaign. I haven’t changed my view. It wasn’t a matter of convenience.
JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison has high approval ratings at the moment (inaudible). What is your interpretation of what that meant on the ground?
ALBANESE: Well every leader, the Premier of Tasmania whose name escapes me, Gutwein, is on 94 per cent. Mark McGowan has the names and addresses of everyone who is not in his positive column because there’s about 30 or 40 people in the entire state of Western Australia. That’s the culture at the moment. I want people to succeed. We want to get through the pandemic. What we need to recognise though is that whilst people want that and we’ve been constructive in that, in terms of the issues going forward, I’ve said that was one of the reasons why it was a difficult circumstance for us. The circumstances of having a by-election was not something you would choose from the Opposition at this point in time. But we fought it, we fought it on the issues and people voted for us. At this point in time, the last time I looked at the AEC website, it was showing a slight swing to Labor. So we’ve very pleased with the result.
JOURNALIST: Can you explain the disconnect though between how people vote and how (inaudible). What was your impression?
ALBANESE: If you look at leaders though out the world, be it Conte in Italy, in France, in Germany, with a couple of exceptions and there are reasons that are explainable about that, leaders’ votes are going through the roof. Jacinda Ardern, when I visited her in New Zealand just at the end of last year, she was in a position where she was not favoured to win. She’s currently on 58 per cent of the primary vote and has a 2PP vote of well into the mid-60s and they’ve got an election coming up.
That hasn’t occurred here and it’s up to others, I’m not a commentator. My job is to put forward the interests of the people I seek to represent and what Kristy McBain did was put forward the interests of the people in Eden Monaro.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, you say that the voters used this by-election to send the Government a message, but they certainly didn’t use Labor to send that message. Your primary vote was down, so what message do you think they’re sending you about your platform and issues you represent?
ALBANESE: We have won a by-election against the odds after the Government, as you’d be aware, were briefing out earlier in the week that they were going to win this by-election. These are difficult circumstances. This is a seat, bear in mind, Eden Monaro is a seat that on the current boundaries is not won at any time during the Hawke and Keating Governments. This is a seat that has always been held by the Government as well. And some of the simplistic analysis about what happens in by-elections hasn’t taken into account – I asked you to think about when was the last time there was a by-election where a sitting member wasn’t re-standing which is what occurred in the last parliament in an actual marginal seat?
JOURNALIST: Does it worry you (inaudible)?
ALBANESE: Well there were 14 candidates in this election. When you have more candidates you have a drop. People know what they’re doing. People in Australia know that if they vote if they want to also send a message. For example, I assume the people who voted for Hemp didn’t think that Hemp were going to win the election. But they wanted to send a message about those issues and then indicate a preference after that. So in terms of Kristy McBain, what’s extraordinary here is that given the circumstances that we’ve achieved this result. It’s a very favourable result for us. And on August I think it will be the third or the fourth, whenever we sit here, Kristy McBain will be sworn in as the member for Eden Monaro. And I say this, because I’ve also had contact from people in the Coalition to pass on their congratulations to Kristy. Kristy McBain is someone who has respect across the board. She’s someone who, as the Mayor of Bega Shire of course, she was an Independent Mayor, worked with people across the political spectrum. She’ll continue to do that. She’ll be a very effective advocate and I think the parliament will be much stronger for having Kristy McBain as a representative.
JOURNALIST: What are your reflections on (inaudible) time in the parliament as a Government Minister?
ALBANESE: Mike Kelly?
JOURNALIST: Mathias Cormann.
ALBANESE: Mathias Cormann, thank you. Mathias Cormann is someone who I have respect for. Mathias Cormann is someone who I have had discussions, some of them public and some of them not so public, including negotiations over the stimulus package for example. I spoke with Mathias directly about the need for Austudy, Abstudy and Youth Allowance recipients to receive income support. I spoke to him about the family support whereby a range of people in those middle-income brackets were going to miss out. Mathias Cormann heard the message and to his credit set about arguing within the Government that they should accept our position and that happened. I have always found him decent to deal with and I wish him and his family nothing but the very best. People who put themselves forward in public life, particularly from Western Australia, they do it tough in terms of travel, in terms of time away from home. And I wish him all the best.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, you were brought up in public housing, the situation in Victoria where they’ve effectively locked down thousands of people in Flemington and North Melbourne. What’s your view on the handling of that by the Andrews Government?
ALBANESE: I did grow up in public housing and I must say my heart goes out to those people who at the moment would be feeling scared. I feel sorry that they’ve been in this position but Daniel Andrews, I believe is doing everything that he can to keep them safe. I say this to those people in public housing as well: that Australians care about you, we’re thinking about you, we want you to stay strong and stay safe. Listen to the government advice. This is a really tough period. People in public housing, even more so than when I grew up tend to be doing it tough. The nature of public housing because we don’t have enough of it is that people, in order to get access, are by definition in difficult circumstances. So I say to them stay strong, stay safe, thanks very much.
SUNDAY, 5 JULY 2020