ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
FRIDAY, 1 MAY 2020
SUBJECTS: Eden-Monaro by-election; coronavirus impacting by-election; Kristy McBain; clearer messaging needed on schools re-opening; bushfire recovery process; Australia’s relationship with China; climate change.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning. I am very pleased to be here with Kristy McBain. Graduate of Eden Marine High School. Mayor of Bega Shire. Local champion for her community. An outstanding local representative who is passionate about making a difference for the people of Eden-Monaro. Someone who has seen how important Federal Government can be, particularly during the not one, not two, but three bushfires that have impacted her local community over the last two years. Someone who understands that the people of Eden-Monaro have suffered from drought, then from bushfires, then from the coronavirus. Someone who is running to make a difference for them and represent their interest here in the national Parliament. I first met Kristy back in 2013. I’ve had contact with her over a period of time given my responsibilities as Labor’s representative both in Government and Opposition in areas such as in regional development and local government. I know that Kristy is passionate about jobs. I’ve dealt with her on issues such as the expansion of Eden port. Such as infrastructure for roads around the Bega Valley Shire. She is someone who is connected with local business. Someone who her, together with her husband who is a local business person is raising three kids who go to local schools, or did go to local schools, currently engaged in home-schooling. Kristy is an outstanding and articulate advocate. Through her position as the Deputy Chair, of the regional council organisations that goes from Goulburn all the way down to East Gippsland, Kristy has been an advocate for every local government area in the Eden-Monaro electorate. And I’m very pleased that Kristy has agreed to nominate for Labor preselection for Eden-Monaro. Nominations will close next Monday. But I am very confident that Kristy will receive the support of locals as well as the support of Labor people who she knows. She is a strong and articulate person. She is someone who has been on the ground when the people of Eden-Monaro have needed people to be present. And to be around and representing them. She is someone who will bring that passion, that capacity, the talent to advocate a strongly for these regional communities. It’s a vast electorate. And Mike Kelly, who I paid tribute to yesterday, leaves, of course, big shoes to fill. Mike Kelly has been an extraordinary local member and champion. That’s what Eden-Monaro needs. I have no doubt that Kristy McBain is not only the right person for Labor to be running in this by-election, she is the right person to represent the people of Eden-Monaro.
KRISTY MCBAIN: Thank you, Anthony. I want to thank Mike Kelly firstly who has been such a passionate and tireless local member for Eden-Monaro. They will certainly be big shoes to fill and I seek to get the endorsement of the Labor Party to continue on his very great local work. I did not set out seeking this position. But I want to take it on. I want to take it on for a couple of reasons. I am local. I am from the community. And I have worked for the community for a number of years now. Over the last six months it’s become abundantly clear to me and I am more resolute now than ever that leadership needs to happen, and it needs to happen at a local level. With the resignation of Mike Kelly, now is the time that Eden-Monaro has a reset button, a reset button and I think people want a change in politics. They want people to represent them at a local level and they want people they know, people they trust, and people they see every day. I want to be that voice of the people of Eden-Monaro because I don’t want my community to be left behind. And at the moment, my community is being left behind. They are being forgotten. And what we face right now is a significant and more significant than ever. As Anthony alluded to, my community specifically has had three bushfires in two years. The whole of Eden-Monaro is drought declared, or should be drought declared, but it’s not. But we are going through a drought and it’s still there. We are now in COVID-19. And with these three disasters happening concurrently, we do not and are not receiving the support that we need. So, I want to be here in this Parliament to provide a fierce voice for my community. And I want to do that on behalf of the Labor Party. And I hope to work towards a Labor Government.
ALBANESE: Thanks. Phil?
JOURNALIST: That was a strong endorsement of Ms McBain today. Are you anticipating anyone else will nominate? If they do, will National Executive step in and ensure Ms McBain get the nomination?
ALBANESE: We will have a National Executive process. That is the normal way. It’s what we did during the entire last term. We will have a candidate by Monday afternoon. I would expect, though, that Kristy will receive a strong support. Nominations close at 12 o’clock on Monday. People are entitled to put their names forward. But I think that it’s very clear to me who the best candidate is. And I want to be upfront about that. The best candidate for the people of Eden-Monaro is Kristy McBain. She has shown during recent times in particular but over a long period of time, she’s been on the Bega Valley Council since 2012. I’ve watched her and been in forums with her for a long period of time. And I’ve been with her in Eden, in Bega, in the local community, in Merimbula over that period of time. And Mike Kelly introduced me to Kristy many years ago now. And occasionally as you travel around the country, you notice when someone stands out as an advocate. And as you know, I am very passionate about local government. I think it’s critical. I support a direct relationship to local government. Because what I see from local government, and I see it around this region as well, is people who are absolutely committed. And that’s why I’ve always, I met a couple of months ago with all of the mayors and shire presidents, including Kristy, who came to Canberra, pleading that the $1 million per council that was given to assist with the bushfire recovery was, frankly, pathetic, was not good enough. Who came pleading for more support for their communities. And the region of councils goes from Goulburn all the way, it includes East Gippsland. So, it’s a big area. And it’s an area in which was the most affected area by the bushfire crisis. And when I met with those local representatives, they were despairing that they had been forgotten, effectively. Once the TV cameras moved away, you have businesses who aren’t getting support, you have people living in tents in weather that is getting colder and wetter. And living on their properties. You have people who haven’t been given the income support that they thought they would get. Councils who are struggling to fix the roads and fix the local infrastructure. You have all of these issues, which are there across the entire Eden-Monaro electorate. From Batlow, Cooma, Tumut, across to the coast, all severely impacted. And Kristy is a standout as a local representative. And that’s why I believe she will be not just a good candidate, but I believe would make an outstanding advocate here in the National Parliament.
JOURNALIST: Just on the electorate itself, there’s always been a kind of tussle between Queanbeyan and the rest. John Barilaro, who’s likely to run for the Nationals, won every booth in Queanbeyan at the state election. Do you think this will kind of be a north-and-south kind of tussle for the seat, to win votes? And can you give us a sense of the reception Scott Morrison can expect on the coast? He had a few interesting moments during the bushfires.
MCBAIN: Look, I’m really not interested in talking about other candidates. I’m here to talk about what I think I can do for the Eden-Monaro, and that’s be a strong voice and advocate for them. As Anthony just mentioned, we have people that are still living in tents and caravans on properties. People that haven’t been able to receive any meaningful support from the Government. People that are being left behind in this COVID crisis as well, you know. In our electorate alone, we have a huge number of seasonal and casual workers, and none of those have been picked up in any of the packages provided by the Government, either in the bushfire crisis or in the COVID crisis. So, I’m here to support my community, and I will do that to the best of my ability.
JOURNALIST: Two questions, if I may. One is, do you see your community-based potential campaign being a contrast to the big-picture one that the Federal Government no doubt will launch? And, secondly, just to clarify something, I understand that you were in Young Labor at university, but your Party membership lapsed, and you’ve had to re-join. Is that correct?
MCBAIN: First of all, this election is going to be a by-election. This election should be about the seat of Eden-Monaro, it shouldn’t be about anything else, apart from Eden-Monaro. This by-election will be a difference between potentially what the Government wants to run as a national campaign, but what I want to run is a local campaign. Because it’s about the local people that really matter in Eden-Monaro. I was a member of Young Labor at university and early in my career. My membership lapsed because at that time I was building a career, and as many people understand in your early 20s, you don’t have a lot of spare cash. So, I’ve re-joined the Labor Party. My values have always been aligned with that of the Labor Party, and that is that no person should be left behind, especially now after bushfires and COVID-19 crisis, and drought that we’re still going through. So, I’m here for my community.
JOURNALIST: COVID-19 will be a big issue at a local level, not just a national level. So, what’s your position at the moment on questions like, should businesses be reopening? Are conditions safe enough for school students to go back? Do you hear from families who want their children to go back to school? And what’s your position on whether they should go back to school?
MCBAIN: Look, I think that there’s been a lot of mixed messages around
that. Obviously, you have state and Federal health authorities that are giving advice on that. My community, however, has been hit by a number of disasters time after time, and I think there needs to be significant recognition that bushfire-affected communities need additional help in this crisis.
JOURNALIST: What is the mood towards the Federal Government in terms of bushfire recovery efforts?
MCBAIN: People want leadership. People want leadership. They want it on the ground and they want it with them. I was there with my community during the darkest days. We had 40 hours where there was no sunlight. They want to see you. They want to know that you’re there. They want you to be with them. And many people don’t care what the levels of government do, or who comes in where. They want to hear you. That was missing.
JOURNALIST: Was John Barilaro wrong to go on holiday when the bushfires were on?
MCBAIN: Again, I’m not commenting on any other potential candidates. I am here because I want to represent my community.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that the NRL should return on May 18? And if it does, is that contrary to advice to the rest of the country, when we’re told we can’t even shake hands, and yet you have players tackling each other, for example?
ALBANESE: Well, I think it will be a matter for listening to the health advice. And that’s what we need to do. No one wants there to be constraints for any longer than is necessary. But what we don’t want is a return prematurely that then leads to further sanctions and social distancing measures needing to be reimposed. So, do it once, in terms of the restrictions, do it right. Do it on the basis of medical advice, not on the basis of politics or political convenience.
JOURNALIST: Do you get many concerns from parents about schools going back or wanting schools to go back when their state governments don’t want schools to go back?
ALBANESE: Look, I think parents want what is best for their kids. Obviously, the question of, ‘Do parents want kids to go to school?’ which when you cut everything else away, of course parents want kids to go to school. My son is doing university online and doing pretty well at it, I have got to say. But if he was at school, he would be engaging in that. I do think though, that it is time that there be a single message. And the Prime Minister has said that it’s up to state and territory leaders what happens in their respective schools. How about that be the one message? Not two. And I think what parents really deserve is clarity. Not confusion. And that’s been one of the messages I’ve had during the Coronavirus crisis from the beginning. I haven’t sought to play politics. I have said to be clear about the messages. And I’ve given, for example, absolute credit to the Federal and state governments for two weeks ago saying that the measures that were in place would remain in place four weeks. That was a good thing in terms of providing certainty. How about that principle be applied consistently? Because it may well be that there’s been different messages on schools this morning that may well be there has different messages while we’ve been meeting. How about there just be one message?
JOURNALIST: When New South Wales says that schools can resume from May 11, but Victoria is slower, do you have a preference for one state positions over another?
ALBANESE: No. That is the system. The system is that the Prime Minister has said it is up to state and territory governments when that happens. It is important that national leaders give consistent messages, and that’s what I am saying. Not up to us to judge what is happening in one particular area or another. That just adds to confusion. How about we just have clarity?
JOURNALIST: On aged care centres, what is your position on nursing homes restricting visitors and what should happen if they continue to the despite the advice from the Prime Minister?
ALBANESE: Well, we raised this last night in the discussions that we had with the Government, between my leadership team and Scott Morrison’s team. There is concern about people being able to visit. And there was an agreement by the Commonwealth Government along with the state and territory leaders about visitation rights. That seems to me to be a common-sense position and it should be, it should be applied. And the aged care sector should be cooperating with that.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, Peter Dutton thinks that the Victorian Deputy Chief Medical Officer should resign over her comments on COVID-19 and Captain Cook. Do you believe that is necessary?
ALBANESE: I’m not getting into that. I think that people engaged in the health sector have a job to do at the moment protecting us on health issues. Peter Dutton is a job to do as well. He’s in charge of our borders. And maybe he should concentrate on what went wrong with Ruby Princess before he goes outside those parameters.
JOURNALIST: If I may, Mr Albanese, one on news of the day. Relating to the behaviour of Chinese officials in Australia, the ambassador is being described as menacing in his behaviour by one Liberal backbencher. There was the gate-crashing incident of the Consul-General in Melbourne. Are you disturbed by the activities and behaviours of Chinese officials serving in Australia? And then one on Eden-Monaro.
ALBANESE: Well, I didn’t hold the press conference. Greg Hunt did. So maybe ask the questions to Greg Hunt on that. I support Australia’s national interest being defended at all times. That’s my position.
JOURNALIST: And on Eden-Monaro, I know parties are reluctant to telegraph what resources they’re prepared to put into these contests, but it’s inescapable that all of you are trying to wage a campaign within 12 months of a general election in depressed local economic circumstanced.
ALBANESE: We do have three-year terms, my friend. We’re not through one yet.
JOURNALIST: But you’re lining up for a by-election in the shadows of a general one.
ALBANESE: Well, wait, hang on. We’re not a third of the way through this term yet.
JOURNALIST: The coffers have not yet refilled. So what resources can you guarantee, Kristy, assuming she’s the candidate, will be marshalled in pretty difficult economic circumstances rebuilding from the last election?
ALBANESE: You know the best resource that we have in this by-election campaign. She’s standing right there. Our candidate is our best resource. People know Kristy McBain throughout the electorate, not just in the Bega Valley Shire. They’ve seen her. She’s been out there, not just during a by-election campaign. When it really mattered, she was on the ground making a difference for her local community. They know that. They know her. They’ve seen her. They’ve met her. I’ve sat in round tables including earlier this year, just a while ago, with Kristy and local businesses with Mike Kelly. And every one of those businesses, diverse businesses, knew her, trusted her. Saw Kristy as the person who was their voice. She wants to take that voice into this Parliament. And I’m sure that if she receives the support of the people of Eden-Monaro, that I sincerely hope that she does, she will do that with great capacity and will be in line with the great contribution that Mike Kelly has made.
JOURNALIST: Talking about the disenchantment of people in areas of your electorate over the fires and so forth, do they tend to blame either tier of government? Is it aimed at the Federal Government or the state government? Can you differentiate on that?
MCBAIN: As I said before, I don’t think people on the ground care what levels of government they are. They are crying out for help. They’re desperate. I’ve got, as I said, people that are still in tents, people that are in caravans, we have winter coming. You know, there are a lot of people, as I said, that are seasonal casual workers that weren’t eligible for a great deal of the bushfire support and are not eligible under COVID-19. We’ve got new businesses that haven’t been established for more than 12 months that aren’t eligible for anything in any crisis. So, whilst I understand the COVID crisis has been here for the last month, six weeks, I’ve got businesses that have had no foot traffic since the turn of 2020. So, this is a situation where my community and the greater Eden-Monaro, who’ve all been impacted by bushfire and drought are struggling.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, do you also regard this is an electoral test for you as Leader?
ALBANESE: I regard this as a by-election where Kristy McBain will be an outstanding candidate for Eden-Monaro. In two and a bit years’ time, or maybe in 18 months’ time, there’ll be a test with 150 by-elections. I will be contesting every one of those 150 by-election, or 151 by-elections, and that will be the test. This will be very much about local issues. It’ll be about the people of Eden-Monaro, who I think when I’ve been on the ground there, during the bushfires, and I was on the ground during the bushfires Eden-Monaro, in Gilmore, in Paige, in Mayo, in Victoria, each and every day talking to people. They felt, particularly the people around the south coast and around the Snowy, they felt, the feedback that I had was that the support wasn’t there to the extent that they needed it. People saw that expressed. That’s not breaking news. You all have the footage that you may choose to show. So, in terms of the issues that are there, what the Coronavirus crisis has done is that at a time whereby people were already frustrated that they weren’t getting support, either as individuals, or as businesses, or as communities, they’ve had this crisis. And for example, the tourism funding that was allocated for the bushfire crisis was reallocated up to other parts of interstate away from the bushfire-affected regions. And that caused a great deal of frustration. These areas rely upon tourism. If you think about the areas of Eden-Monaro and what its industries are, you have agriculture that’s been impacted by the drought. You have tourism that’s been impacted by the bushfires and the drought and Coronavirus. You have the arts community as well. It’s a very creative community that’s been impacted as well. On each of those issues, I think the Government has been found wanting in terms of its support. Last one.
JOURNALIST: The dual crisis of the bushfires and the drought has been linked to climate change. Mike Kelly said yesterday that he thought that climate change was a big issue for this electorate, noting where John Barilaro stands on that. What is your position on climate change? And what action would you be pushing for as part of your campaign?
MCBAIN: Look, I think everybody trusts the science around Coronavirus and COVID-19. I don’t understand why people can’t trust the science on climate change. It’s real. It’s there. And you can see it on the ground in Eden-Monaro. So, I’m behind and totally understand that climate change is real. And we’ll be pushing to work with the Labor Party around climate change and making sure that industries are adaptable in my electorate.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much, everyone.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.