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Thursday, 8th April 2021

Launceston Doorstop Interview

SUBJECTS: Visit to Tasmania; Vaccine rollout; Tasmanian state election; women's summit; Andrew Laming; protecting Australian jobs; Rebecca White and Tasmanian Labor. 

REBECCA WHITE, LEADER OF THE TASMANIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, welcome to Cataract Gorge. I'm delighted that Anthony Albanese, Leader of the Federal Labor Party, is here in Tasmania again. He's a frequent traveller to Tasmania and understands in-depth the issues that we confront here in our state and has a very big love, I'd say, for the community of Tasmania. We are working together to make sure that Tasmania can have a better future and also a fairer future, making sure that we address the issues that are confronting our state. The Liberal Party has let Tasmania down. We have some of the longest waiting lists for surgery that we've seen. The longest waiting list for housing that we've seen. And on average, people who are waiting for public housing need to wait a year. And regional unemployment is above 7 per cent. The Labor Party has a plan for jobs that will create 35,000 jobs in the first four years that we are elected, as well as investing in TAFE, making sure that it's not privatised, like the Liberals want to do, but actually rebuilding it, providing free courses in TAFE for students in areas where we've got skill shortages across the economy, and making sure that we work with our young people throughout their education so they can get a foot in the door to get a good job here in Tasmania. We will work for Tasmanians to rebuild the health system and make sure people can access the health care that they need, when they need it. And we're working for Tasmanians to put a roof over more people's heads because we know that without secure accommodation, people simply can't have a good life. I'm very pleased to have Anthony here in Tasmania with us today. And he will be back during the course of this campaign. And it's my pleasure to welcome him to speak with you because there's no one who knows better at a Federal level what Tasmania needs than Anthony.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Rebecca. And it's great to be back here at Cataract Gorge. The last time I was here on site was for the National Tourism dinner that was held at this spectacular venue. A reminder of how important tourism is to jobs. And jobs are at the centre of what this Tasmanian state election is about. It's also about the centre of what Australian Labor, whether it be here in Tasmania or nationally, is about. We announced just a week ago, at our national conference, our National Reconstruction Fund. We want to partner with Tasmanian businesses to make sure that we value-add that we grow manufacturing jobs, that we value-add in agriculture and food production, that we produce jobs whilst also boosting the economy here in Tasmania. But I'm surprised to be here at this time for an election. Because we know the election was due in 2022, not now. And the only reason why Premier Gutwein is going to an early election is because he doesn't have confidence in his capacity to govern for a full term. And it's not surprising, given he had two options. One is to either take the option that he has. Or the second is to stand up to Canberra in the interest of Tasmanians. We saw JobKeeper ripped away from Tasmanians just a couple of weeks ago and not replaced with any support. We saw JobSeeker reduced just a week ago. We know that a range of other support such as for the ferry to Devonport runs out at the end of June. All of that combined will mean a massive withdrawal of support, pulling the rug out from the Tasmanian economy and jobs. And yet, we have a Tasmanian Premier who hasn't been prepared to show leadership, to stand up to Canberra, and demand the support that Tasmanians deserve and need. Rebecca White will stand up for Tasmania. Rebecca White will support jobs here in Tasmania and has a plan for it. She has a plan for service delivery, including support for upgrading of TAFE, not selling it off so that people can't get the training and skills that they need. She has a plan to reduce hospital waiting lists and to provide support for health. I was surprised last night to talk to a nurse at the politics in the pub event in “Launnie”, that we had here, about the fact that you can't get a bulk billing doctor here in the north of Tasmania. That's something that federal and state governments should be working to address. Because that means that basic health services aren't being delivered by GPs. We know that in terms of the future of Tasmania, that we need a Government here that's prepared to deliver on essential services, prepared to deliver on affordable housing, prepared to deliver in health and education and training. Rebecca White is a strong leader. She leads a strong team here in Tasmania. And I believe she'll make a great Premier of Tasmania. And that's why I'm proud to support her campaign. 

I might just say some comments as well about the vaccination rollout. Because I think that is an issue of great concern to Australians. And I say simply this, Australians just want certainty about when they are going to be vaccinated. We have said for a long period of time now that what the Federal Government should be doing is making sure they don't put all their eggs in one basket, that they have a range of vaccines available. And international best practice is five or six. Here we know that there were just three deals done by the Federal Government. And we know that, unfortunately, the UQ arrangements that were being worked on didn't stack up, didn't come through. We know as well that the Federal Government, through Scott Morrison, promised very clearly that four million Australians would be vaccinated by the end of last month, by the end of March. And that was at the time, on January 7, Scott Morrison and Greg Hunt both said that they were under-promising and going to over-deliver. Well, they once again have over-promised and under-delivered. If there's something that characterises the Morrison Government, it's a failure to deliver on its promise. It's a Government that thinks that once it's made announcement, job done, they don't have to worry about delivery. Well, this is a serious issue. And Australians are worried about the fact that aged care residents are being left, being told that they were going to be vaccinated, their loved ones go along to the aged care home, and nothing happens, the delivery doesn't arrive. We know that GPs are crying out to know how many vaccines they will have available for their patients. And we know that they're being frustrated by being told that that's not going to occur. We know that essential workers aren't getting the vaccines that are needed. And we know that the Federal Government have run out of state governments to blame so this week, they tried to blame the European Union for a day, then the next day Scott Morrison said he didn't blame the European Union, 'Nothing to see here, they've done nothing wrong'. Today, I await the explanation. We need to stop this nonsense of Scott Morrison having a different answer every day. What we need is absolute certainty. Labor has been very constructive on all of the issues associated with the pandemic. But people deserve absolute certainty.

Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: With the link found between rare blood clotting and the AstraZeneca vaccine, are you worried this will deter people from getting vaccinated?

ALBANESE: Well, I'll make two comments there. The first is Labor does have faith in the Therapeutic Goods Administration and in its advice. And I think people can be confident that we have a world-class organisation which makes recommendations based upon the medical advice and does so independently of government. But the second issue is that the Federal Government should have secured more deals. There is no deal for Moderna. There is no deal for Johnson and Johnson. These are vaccines that are being rolled out around the world, in North America and in the United Kingdom. Moderna has been used extensively in North America. And we know that Scott Morrison said Australia was at the front of the queue. We're at the back. The last count I saw, we weren't in that top hundred of countries. We are behind Albania and Rwanda and just about every country in the world. It's not good enough that Australia has not been prepared. They've had a long time. They've had a year to be prepared. They said that we were at the front of the queue and that just wasn't true. 

JOURNALIST: Does the decision in the UK overnight affect your confidence about the AstraZeneca vaccine? 

ALBANESE: Well, we await the advice of the TGA. And I'm sure the TGA will look at all the international analysis that's taking place. We have confidence in the TGA. And I don't think politicians here should try and second-guess the TGA. But what we need to do is hear from the Government about what their plans are for access to vaccines that are being rolled out around the world. We've been talking about this now for a long period of time. Countries started doing deals with pharmaceutical companies last March. Last March. The Federal Government waited until September, then was always out there, Scott Morrison's always out there prepared to blow his trumpet about how well everything's going. It reminds me of a former Queensland Premier, 'She'll be right mate. Don't worry about that'. Well, Australians are worried. Australians deserve better than a 'She'll be right mate' approach. Because this isn't a matter of a marketing exercise, which Scott Morrison concentrates on. This is a matter of ensuring appropriate delivery and the health of Australians which has to be got right, because if we don't get that right, there will be an impact on the economy. 

JOURNALIST: We've learned an extra 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca have been shipped in secretly from Britain. Does the Government need to be more transparent around the number of doses we are receiving? 

ALBANESE: The Government does need to be transparent. State governments during this period, if you compare what Anastacia Palaszczuk has been doing, for example, standing up, being transparent each and every day. If you compare that with the Federal Government that hasn't been transparent about arrangements, that's been full of rhetoric such as, 'We are at the front of the queue, and everything's all going okay, and the four million doses will be delivered in March, you don't have to worry about anything'. But the problem is that confidence in the system will be undermined if promises don't match delivery. And with Scott Morrison, the promises never match the delivery. And that's why Scott Morrison, when it comes to being in charge of marketing, he's the guy, even though he didn't always keep his job when it came to marketing, but when it comes to substance, I think the Government really needs to be transparent here.

JOURNALIST: The Federal Government will hold a summit in July to inform their next plan to reduce violence against women. The current 12-year plan has clearly failed to curb violence against women. So what should the Government focus on? And who should it talk to for the next plan?

ALBANESE: Well, it would be good if they had some funding. That'd be a start. It'd be good if the Government actually prioritised these issues. And when I was a Cabinet Minister, when ministers brought forward submissions, they had in it, as part of that, the impact on women. This Government seems to have just had its first meeting where they gave consideration to the impact of government policies on women this week. They've been in office for eight long years. For eight long years they've failed. And I'll tell you something that Scott Morrison needs to recognise before Parliament comes back in May, which is that if this bloke, the Member for Bowman, Andrew Laming, is sitting in the Liberal Party room when Parliament resumes in May, he shouldn't be in Parliament. He is not fit to be in Parliament. And while Scott Morrison continues to protect him, having written an endorsement for him and his preselection before the 2019 election where many LNP members were belling the cat when it came to his behaviour locally, the fact is that if Scott Morrison continues to endorse Andrew Laming, then he will have no credibility when it comes to issues relating to women as well as the problem that is there with the fact that a reported sexual assault occurred 50 metres from the Prime Minister's office, and the Prime Minister, he would have us believe, in spite of the fact that at least three Cabinet Ministers, at least four members of the staff, members of staff of the Parliament, all knew to varying degrees about the detail of that reported sexual assault and his office received inquiries from the media on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and he didn't get told about it till the Monday. Give me a break. The Prime Minister needs to be transparent here. And the fact is that we need to do far better. And certainly, Federal Labor remains willing to participate in any forum that is held, including a summit in July. It's up to the Prime Minister whether he continues to not listen to a range of voices. But he should be primarily listening to women. He could have started by having him and his so-called Prime Minister for Women attend the Women's March that occurred just metres from the Parliament a few weeks ago.

JOURNALIST: Should the scope of that summit be broadened to take into account wider issues affecting women?

ALBANESE: Of course, it should be broadened. There's a whole range of issues impacting on women that need to be addressed. There is the scourge of violence against women and children that needs urgent action. There's the need to address the gender pay gap, which is now more than 14 per cent. There's a need to have proper reporting and transparency when it comes to those issues, as Labor has announced would be our policy. There's a need to make sure that the Fair Work Commission can consider gender issues and historical gender gap issues when it comes to the undervaluing of work that's primarily performed by women, as occurred in the Community Services Award in order to deal with that gender pay gap. There's a need for education of the population out there so that we respect each other. There's a need for all of these issues to be addressed. And there's a need to address some of the legal issues as well that lead to under-reporting of sexual assault and lead to a very low conviction rate when it comes to those issues as well. So there is a need to cooperate across different levels of government in order to address the whole range of issues which are there. And there's a need, as well, to deal with women's participation in the workforce so that childcare, for example, if men were the primary cares for children, I'll make you this tip, childcare costs would have been fixed a long, long time ago. The fact is that for many women, if they work a fourth or a fifth day, it actually costs them money to do so. That's why Labor's Childcare Boost plan will help 97 per cent of families by removing the cap, lifting the subsidy up to 90 per cent, and moving towards universal provision of affordable childcare. All of those issues should be on the table.

JOURNALIST: Do you concede that Labor in Tasmania hasn't started off the campaign well?

ALBANESE: I'm here with Rebecca White. And I think that what Tasmanians will be concerned about in coming weeks are issues that she is raising. Issues of jobs, issues of fairness, issues of the provision of services, making sure that Tasmania is able to go forward. I know there have been some issues here. But there are issues with the Liberal Party as well. No one in the Labor team has flown interstate to attend a far-right rally campaigning against any of the shutdowns that have been necessitated by the health crisis and saying that the pandemic is all the nonsense. That happened with the Liberal Party candidate. And Labor hasn't lost, as the Liberal Party have, a senior member of their team, with the Speaker resigning and going out and trying to take out Eric Abetz out on the way.

JOURNALIST: You would have to say that the state Labor campaign hasn't started off well.

ALBANESE: I think that the next four weeks will show that Labor has an absolute priority on jobs and on making a difference for Tasmanians. And I'll say this about the start of the Labor campaign, Rebecca White has shown that she has the courage and the leadership capacity to lead Tasmania. The first thing you have to do is to be able to lead your team and to make tough decisions. Rebecca White has shown that she's been prepared to do that. She's received the backing of me and the ALP National Executive to do that. And that's a good thing. She now has the team in place that she wants and that she needs. And I'm very proud to stand next to her today.

JOURNALIST: Did any unions threatened to withdraw support for your leadership when the National Executive intervened to install Dean Winter as the Labor candidate?

ALBANESE: No. 

JOURNALIST: They might not have had a candidate fly to a far-right rally, but they had a candidate hold his own press conference yesterday saying he's going to rally against the pokies policy. Was that appropriate? 

ALBANESE: From time to time, when you have a whole lot of candidates, you'll have everyone not always on the same page. But the Tasmanian Labor position is very clear. It's one that I support. It's the right policy for Tasmania, to make sure that jobs are maintained here and to make sure that the economy remains strong here.

JOURNALIST: What do your voters make of all the internal fighting amongst factions?

ALBANESE: I think there's a bit of noise. Voters will be focused on themselves. And what Rebecca White is focused on, I know, and what I'm focused on as well, is the needs of Tasmanians, whether they can afford to get a house, whether they can get access to social housing rather than wait more than a year, whether if they want a course at TAFE, they can get access to that and training. I'll tell you what a whole lot of Tasmanians are worried about. They're the ones who are waiting for elective surgery, waiting for the longest lists that have ever been in place here in Tasmania. Tasmanians are worried here about whether they can get access to a bulk billing doctor, whether they can afford to go and see their doctor is an issue here, whether schools are properly funded. They are worried about the impact that they've had with JobSeeker being reduced so that their income is reduced substantially that will mean less money circulating around the economy. They're worried those businesses that have lost JobKeeper just a couple of weeks ago, about whether they'll survive and whether they'll be able to keep their job. That's what Tasmanians have focused on. And Bec White and Labor, and myself, as the Federal Labor Leader, and talking with Federal candidates and members here, we're focused on the needs of Tasmanians. And that's what Tasmanians want. I will let others worry about some of the background noise which is there.

JOURNALIST: How do you govern the state if it is divided?

ALBANESE: They can absolutely govern the state and government it well. Rebecca White leads a united team. The Party has dealt with issues. There's nothing unusual about that. Both parties have changed some candidates. That's what happens historically in an election campaign. It happened, of course, last time in the Federal campaign as well here in Tasmania where they lost a Federal candidate during that election. Federal Labor didn't lose any candidates, the Liberal Party did. And the Liberal Party down here, if you want to see division, just ask Eric Abetz and Bridget Archer if they can find anything they agree on. If you can come back to me when you work out what one of those issues are, I'll be pleased to hear it. 

JOURNALIST: Have you been briefed on the setbacks that have occurred in Tas Labor's election campaign?

ALBANESE: I'm focused on the positives of Tasmanian Labor's campaign. And that's about jobs and TAFE. That's about the rollout of the vaccine. That's about jobs. That's what I'm focused on. And that's what I get briefed on. That is what the sole focus of this campaign will be. And I'll be back. I think we're going to the northwest next Friday or Saturday. And I'll be at the Tasmanian campaign launch as well, which I'm not sure if that's public so I don't want to be the one making the announcement of when that is. But I'm very proud to stand with my Tasmanian colleagues. I have a long association, as people here will know, with Tasmania. I think it's a great, beautiful state that has enormous potential to benefit from changes in the economy. But it'll only happen if a Government helps facilitate those changes, and a Government that provides services, a Government that is interested in jobs, a Government that's interested in how we value-add to the agriculture sector here, that we value-add when it comes to manufacturing jobs. And I want to work with Rebecca White in the future. Because I know that this great state, the last time we were in Government, we invested a hell of a lot in a range of road projects here in the north and northwest, in community infrastructure projects, in tourism projects. I got to walk as a tourist contributing to the Tasmanian economy. I got to do Three Capes last December. It's something I funded as the Minister. I came back and paid good dollars to the Tasmanian economy to have the privilege of doing that. That's an example of foresight, something that governments can do to make a difference to jobs and to the economy here. And I look forward to coming back and campaigning here in Tasmania for jobs. I look forward also to the Federal Government getting its act together and Scott Morrison having the same answer on vaccines for two days in a row. And if we do that, then that will be a front-page story. Thanks very much.

ENDS

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Electorate Office

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Electorate Office

334a Marrickville Road
MARRICKVILLE NSW 2204

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

Parliament House Office

PO Box 6022
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Phone: (02) 6277 4022
Fax: (02) 6277 8562

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which our offices stand and we pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. We acknowledge the sorrow of the Stolen Generations and the impacts of colonisation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We also recognise the resilience, strength and pride of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Authorised by Anthony Albanese. 334a Marrickville Rd, Marrickville NSW 2204.