SUBJECT: Bushfire crisis across Australia; Adelaide Hills fires; response to Scott Morrison’s announcement of the mobilisation of Army Reserve.
JOURNALIST: How has this morning been? What have you been up to?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY:
ALBANESE: Well, I have been talking to people here in the Adelaide Hills about the devastation and the impact of the fires on this community. There are some short-term issues, we have seen the impact on people’s mental health. It has been quite traumatic for people to go through this terrible period, particularly since December 20. But also, the long-term economic impact that we have seen from the loss of grape growers and wineries losing, essentially, their product. And they will not have an income, some of them, for a period of years. So, there will be a need for industry assistance here as well. Talking today right here at Cudlee Creek to the volunteers, what they want is further capital support here. They want more equipment and more facilities here at what is a very small shed, essentially, they are operating out of. Doing their best for their local communities. They are putting in. I think that the Government needs to listen to the needs of these firefighters, and to put back into them.
JOURNALIST: Thousands of army reservists will be required to work on the fire ground for the first time in Australian history. Do you have concerns over this approach?
ALBANESE: Look, it is a good thing that we are using our Defence Forces. That is one of the reasons why I wrote to the Prime Minister saying that this should be discussed at a COAG meeting in November. Labor announced support for further aerial firefighting capacity during the election campaign, way back in March of 2019. Because we had met with various experts who said that this would be needed. It is a good thing that investment is now happening. It is one of the things that we put on the agenda for the November COAG meeting that we proposed in writing to the Prime Minister. And it is good that he is taking up Labor’s suggestion that we made at that time.
JOURNALIST: There are going to be some long-term health implications from weeks of toxic smoke, such as premature babies. Do you think the Government should be considering broader health measures?
ALBANESE: We need a whole-of-government response, looking at the health impacts of the toxic smoke which has been breathed in. There will be an impact years down the track, I am sure, because of the air quality issues which have affected so much of the entire nation. There will be impacts on mental health as well, which might be more difficult to see, but no less important. We need to invest in our health system and we need to invest in infrastructure. This is going to require an enormous effort from Government over a long period of time. We also need to do better in terms of planning and ensuring that all levels of government co-ordinate to maximise the capacity to deal with these issues in the future. Certainly, the health impacts will be seen for some time. The economic impacts, we heard from wineries and grape growers today, that some of them will not have an income for three or four years. That is simply not sustainable for them to survive and to be able to make that contribution which that industry does here in South Australia. It is absolutely critical for jobs and the economy of South Australia, not just directly but also the tourism bonus that comes through the activities in a region like the Adelaide Hills.
JOURNALIST: Thank you.
ALBANESE: Thank you very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.