Townsville Doorstop Interview

Share This

Interviews

Thursday, 10th June 2021

Townsville Doorstop Interview

with Senator Nita Green & Labor Candidate for the Senate Edwina Andrew

SUBJECTS: Visit to Townsville; State of Origin; Labor’s Senate candidate; Biloela family; Scott Morrison’s proposed changes to Medicare; importance of healthcare; Scott Morrison leaving Queenslanders behind; trade; Australia’s relationship with China; vaccine rollout.

NITA GREEN, LABOR SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: Well, thanks everyone for coming. It's great to be in Townsville. Special thank you for everyone for coming the day after Origin. Because I know that it was a big night for Townsville. It's safe to say that we were not happy with the result last night. So we're going to whisper that. But we were very, very proud to see Townsville shine. And I think the town is still buzzing today because we really did pull off something fantastic last night. I was here in Townsville the day that Federal Labor actually announced that they were going to back the Townsville Stadium back in 2016. And anyone that's had anything to do with Townsville, lived here throughout the years, have seen that stadium built over the last couple of years. To see that stadium completely full last night, it was really something to be proud of. And I was very grateful to be there and to experience what every single person in North Queensland was calling the ‘North Queensland State of Origin’. We love a good decider in Queensland. So I'm very confident that the Queensland Maroons will come back. I've got a bloke next to me today, Anthony Albanese, who might have a little bit of a different opinion about that. But he has promised not to rub the salt in the wound too much this morning because we've got some important things to talk about.

I am here with Anthony Albanese. And we are here today to announce a really fantastic candidate that we have for the Senate at the next election. I'll let Anthony introduce Edwina. But it's safe to say that we know that it's really important to have Senate representation for regional Queensland, something that I've taken very seriously and very passionately over the last two years since I've been elected. And I can't wait to have another regional Queenslander with me in the Senate, talking about how great North Queensland is, and holding the Government to account there. So thank you, Anthony Albanese, for being here today. Thank you to Edwina for joining the team. And I'll hand over to Albo.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Nita. And can I firstly give a big congratulations to this great city of Townsville on the event that took place here last night, to host an Origin game, the first ever held in a regional city, and none better than here in Townsville. I supported the game being played here because I know the benefit that will be given to Townsville long-term for employment and economic activity. The whole nation was looking north last night to Townsville. And it put on a great spectacle. And I think that the success of last night shows that there should be more big games played right here in Townsville at the magnificent stadium so close to the centre of the city here, which is why I was very passionate about supporting the construction of the stadium here. 

Can I make some comments firstly about Medicare? The fact is that Medicare costs continue to go up for Queenslanders. Visiting a GP has gone up by almost 40 per cent under this Government. And the 900 changes that the Government's making to the Medicare schedule are the biggest attack on Medicare in decades. This is about cuts. This is about increasing out-of-pocket costs for people having surgeries on hips, surgeries on hands. This will have an enormous impact on the system. And it comes in on July 1. There has been no proper notice. And, of course, what we know is that so many Australians put off surgery last year because of COVID. Because of that, they'll find that they'll get hit with a much bigger bill than they could have expected because of the chaos at the heart of this Government.

To make it very clear, Labor created Medicare. Medicare, we will always protect. Coalition governments always attack Medicare. Whether it be the abolition of Medibank when Fraser came to office, or when this Government came to office, of course, the first thing they did was put in a Medicare tax, a co-payment on visiting your local GP. It's not good enough. And that's one of the issues that we will continue to campaign on. And at a time of a pandemic, there is no worse time to be having attacks on our health system and increasing costs. We know that this Government has bungled the vaccination rollout and bungled quarantine. And we've now seen, as a result of the leak that began from an Adelaide hotel, go into Queensland and go into New South Wales, with more notification about sites that are potential problems as a result of the leak that came directly from hotel quarantine. 

And I say again, why is it that Scott Morrison won't support a standalone facility here in Queensland, such as that that’s been put forward near the Toowoomba Airport? The Government should be having standalone effective quarantine centres. Because hotels were built for tourists, not for medical quarantine.

Today, I'm very pleased to be launching Edwina Andrew as our candidate for the Senate. Edwina will be our second based in the north of Queensland, joining the fantastic job that Nita is doing based in Queensland and servicing Northern Queensland. Edwina went to primary school in Richmond. She's lived in Gladstone after completing her schooling and university right here in Townsville. Her children were born right here in Townsville. She is North Queensland through and through. She's someone who's passionate about making a difference in the community, which is why she's gone into community protection. She's someone who will represent this area in the national Parliament and help to hold the Government to account in opposition, nut most importantly, as part of a Labor Government, would be another voice for regional Queensland in our Senate, which is so important in representing regional communities. And I'd ask Edwina to say a few words.

EDWINA ANDREW, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR THE SENATE: Thank you, everyone. It's wonderful to be here. And I think I just would like to express my sadness about last night's results. But having said that, it was an amazing experience. And having that opportunity in Townsville is something that we need to do again. That was incredible. It was just such an atmosphere to be there and so proud to be a part of that.

Yes, I'm here to announce my candidacy for Senate. The reason that I would love to be the representation for the regions is that I have been here, I've lived over 40 years in regional Queensland. I'm passionate about the region. I have lived in very remote areas. I have worked in remote areas. And I'm so excited to actually be that voice and to be a part of the Senate where we hold the Government to account and to be that opportunity to provide that voice.

JOURNALIST: What are some things that you would sort of advocate for?

ANDREW: I think access to health, access to affordable housing. We know at the moment that the access to housing in anywhere in regional Queensland, remote Queensland, is just at its peak, with 0.02 vacancy rates in Mount Isa. You cannot get accommodation. We've seen accommodation advertised in Mount Isa at $300 a week for a single room donga with a moulded plastic shower. There's just no opportunity for anybody to actually find affordable housing, let alone to bring people out to the regions to be able to fill those staff vacancies as well.

JOURNALIST: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how that will help you? 

ANDREW: Sure. So I've worked in the community services sector for over 20 years now. I'm passionate about providing particularly in the child and family space. So I've worked in homelessness with youth services, working with families who are experiencing disadvantage, also providing opportunities for access to services, accommodation, etc. all across regional Queensland. I look after services all the way around regional Queensland, a couple of things in the southeast corner but not too many, we won't count those. And I have seen firsthand the disadvantage that people are experiencing because of the Morrison Government, because of the cuts to services, the regions really are experiencing a difficult time at the moment and we need somebody out there being the voice for them. 

JOURNALIST: And where do you live?

ANDREW: I live in Townsville. Yes, I've lived in Townsville for over 30 years. For a brief period just in the last four years I've been in Rockhampton. So it was great opportunity to get to know a bit more about Central Queensland. I spent time, as Anthony mentioned, in western Queensland. And I have worked all throughout all of regional Queensland.

JOURNALIST: If elected, will you be based in Townsville? 

ANDREW: Yes, I will continue to be based in Townsville. Townsville is my home and always will be.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

ANDREW: Absolutely, it does. Nita is doing a wonderful job. And I'm really excited to have this opportunity to work alongside Nita. But having a double voice will be amazing. But also having that opportunity to bring the knowledge that I have and the voice of the people in regional Queensland that I have worked alongside, those communities I've worked alongside, really, it's a great opportunity to be able to provide that.

JOURNALIST: Do you mind just talking about the Biloela family and what you make of the whole situation?

ALBANESE: Well, one of the first things I did when I became Labor Leader was go to Biloela. And I spoke to the community there. Nades worked at the meat processing place there. He was a good worker. He was a valued worker. This is a facility that imports temporary labour. He was someone who was based in Bilo. And, of course, with Priya, who was a volunteer, much loved in the local community as well. They were entrenched there. They had their two children there in Queensland. These young girls are Queenslanders. They should be brought home to Bilo. The idea that we're looking for other nations to take them is, quite frankly, breathtaking. This family are wanted in this regional community. They're a part of the regional community. And they're no threat to our sovereignty. Our sovereignty isn't diminished by looking after these young girls who were born here and their mom and dad. And the Government has discretion. The Government has used discretion over nannies in the past, over a range of people who are connected. These people are connected. They're connected with their community in Biloela. And they should be brought home there. The fact that this young girl has had to be medically evacuated to a hospital in Western Australia, I think it brings us no credit as a nation. Australia's better than that. And we should do better for this family.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

ALBANESE: The fact is that there's been issues around various eligibility that they have. They have expressed concern about that, which is why they sought protection. They were on visas here. Their visas expired. They got rounded up in the middle of the night like they were some big threat. These children, one of the girls has had to have her teeth removed because of ongoing damage of lack of nutrition. Detention is not a place for kids. And the fact is that they should be granted visas based upon the ministerial discretion that is there, based upon the fact that we actually need workers. We can't get temporary workers at the moment. We have one and they've been removed. So I think that, very clearly, this family should be brought home. I think that would be a good thing. They've been in detention too long. And as a humanitarian issue, it stands out. But I'll tell you another way that it stands out as well. If nothing else appeals, it’s the cost. We have this enormous cost of keeping this family in detention on Christmas Island. There have been tens of millions of dollars spent detaining this family. Think about the counter of what could be done, the sort of issues that Edwina is passionate about. You could have built refuges for women and children escaping domestic violence here in regional Queensland. You could have funded a range of services that are crying out for more support. You could have trained so many young apprentices for jobs where we have skill shortages. You could have done so much more with that money that would have made more sense than the way that this money has been spent detaining this family.

JOURNALIST: Just a question on Medicare. What do these changes by the Government mean for regional communities like here in Townsville? What would be the actual impact on the hip pocket of taxpayers?

ALBANESE: What they mean is substantial out-of-pocket costs. One of the concerns here is that doctors and private health insurers that I spoke to this week don't know what the cost will be. It is so confusing. There hasn't been proper information given out. What we know is that there will be increased costs. That there's increased uncertainty about the costs of basic procedures like hip replacement, like hand surgery. These are procedures that are necessary for people to be able to go about their lives. And this increase in hip pocket costs is of real concern. It's a part of the attack that this Government has whenever people aren't paying attention, on Medicare. It just goes to show that this Government doesn't really support superannuation, it doesn't really support Medicare. At its heart, this Government will undermine Medicare at each and every opportunity as Coalition governments always have.

JOURNALIST: On the Government's relationship with China, what would you have done differently? 

ALBANESE: Well, what I would do is continue to stand up for human rights. I'd continue to stand up for Australia's national interest. I would continue to stand up and speak out on issues like South China Sea, about what has occurred in Hong Kong, what has occurred with the Uyghurs. I'd continue to stand up for our national interests. But I'd also engage, consistent with the position of the Biden administration that speaks about competition without catastrophe and a return to diplomacy. And I would engage with our partners, including the United States in particular, but other partners in the region as well, to make sure that our national interests are protected. 

JOURNALIST: Labor says the Government has to do diplomacy right with China. What's the right way to do diplomacy?

ALBANESE: Well, the way that previous governments have done it for a long period of time, the way that the Howard Government did it, the Rudd Government did it, the Gillard Government did it, the Abbott Government did it. Over a long period of time, we've been able to manage that relationship more effectively. Now, the truth is that China has changed in terms of its position is much more forward-leaning in the region. And that requires, of course, a change. And we acknowledge that that's there. But also, we acknowledge that countries such as Japan, that's in the news today, continue to have relations with China. And given the history there, that obviously is a complex relationship. Here in Australia, we don't have any ministers who have relationships with their counterparts in China. And that's regrettable. We need to continue to work with our allies. I look forward to the outcome of the G7. I think it's very important that our democracies work together and stand up for each other. In particular, the relationship with the Quad is very important with the United States, Japan and India. And it’s something that Labor has been calling for. I'd say we need to strengthen our relationships with countries like India. The Varghese report has been left to languish, largely. We need to do much more in improving those regional relationships. 

JOURNALIST: What about in areas such as the South China Sea, Huawei, (inaudible)? 

ALBANESE: There's no disagreement between Labor and the Government when it comes to issues like South China Sea and Huawei. We should follow our national interests. South China Sea is an important seaway for Australian trade. And it's important that those sea lanes remain open and accessible. It's important that we follow international rulings that have been made there and the International Rule of Law. And it's a good thing on trade that the Government is saying that we should strengthen the ITO and other relationships as well. We believe those multilateral organisations are essential, whether it be the World Health Organization or other UN bodies, that it's important that they're strengthened and that they are able to do their job. I think it is good that the Government has stepped away from its previous position about ‘negative globalism’, of channeling a Donald Trump style form of international politics. What we need to do is to stand up for our national interest whilst, as a middle ranking power, ensure that our international institutions are strengthened and are able to do their job. 

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Prime Minister is right in warning that the risk of conflict is increasing? 

ALBANESE: I think it is clear that there is increased competition in the region. One of the things that's occurred is the strategic competition that's there between the United States and China in terms of globally. But we've lived through a range of issues in the past where we've had strategic competition between major powers. And we've managed to manage that. We need to continue to manage it. And conflict is not in anyone's interests, whether it be economic conflict or other forms as well. We have an interest in a stable global order. And Australia, as a great trading nation, certainly have an interest in that. It is the Coalition Government that concluded, of course, the free trade agreement with China. It is also Labor that stood up against this Government's proposal to have extradition arrangements between Australia and China. We were right to do so. We will continue to stand up for our national interest. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: There's an issue here locally about federal funding for our water pipeline. The state went over a GST disagreement. Do you know what's happening with this $195 million? Should the feds stump it up in some way? (Inaudible).

ALBANESE: No. It's got nothing to do with the GST. It's got something to do with a Government that always promises and never delivers. This Government's major promise for this area was $195 million for a water pipeline that they didn't stump up. This Government, when you look at its commitments right around the state of Queensland, they're big on promises, and they think job done and then don't worry about the delivery. When I was the Minister for Infrastructure, we promised and we delivered Townsville Ring Road stage two and three, the Port Access Road, Douglas Arterial, the upgrades to the Bruce Highway north and south. We promised it. We put the funding in the Budget. We came here. We delivered it. I was a visitor to Townsville as Infrastructure Minister half a dozen times every year because we were doing so much in this region. We funded $16 million to upgrade the CBD here in Townsville. Promised. It's now delivered, which is one of the things that's improved the central business district of this great regional city, this great regional capital, indeed, here in Townsville. This Government promises and doesn't deliver. The state Government stepped up because the Federal Government didn't deliver on its promise. They promised it a long time ago and haven't delivered a dollar. Not a dollar for this commitment. 

JOURNALIST: But the GST exemption, do you think the feds should have given that to the state? 

ALBANESE: It's just a nonsense. It's a nonsense argument in terms of the Federal Government should have delivered on their commitment. They said that they would. They didn't do it. They always find a distraction. The state Government had to step up and deliver on this project because of Federal Government failure. Just like it's the state Government that kept Queenslanders safe by ensuring the borders were shut when they needed to be. And Scott Morrison, along with then Deb Frecklington, argued consistently against the Palaszczuk Government keeping Queenslanders safe. 

GREEN: Just to be really clear about this funding, Phil Thompson told the Townsville Bulletin a few months ago that he had a new set of projects to use the money for but that the state was holding it up. That is absolutely not true. And we know that because two weeks ago in Senate Estimates, we asked the officials that are responsible for this money if they had seen the projects and if those projects had been approved. And they said that they hadn't been approved yet. So we know that Phil Thompson not only hasn't delivered on this funding, but now he's going out and lying about the funding as well. Phil Thompson is Morrison's mate in Canberra. He likes to pick fights right here in Townsville with the state MPs. He likes to go down to Canberra and use parliamentary privilege to have a fight with state MPs about state-based issues. But when it comes to the things that he has promised to deliver, he hasn't done it. He hasn't done it. He's been absolutely piss-weak on this. Because he promised it, he hasn't delivered it and now he's actually misleading people in Townsville about his own failures. And quite frankly, I think people in Townsville deserve a lot better. And that is why they should vote for people like Edwina and for me, and for Anthony Albanese at the next election, and get rid of this Government that keeps making promises but refusing to deliver them.

JOURNALIST: It's been well over 300 days since the Federal Government made that $195 million commitment. Is that too long?

GREEN: It's absolutely too long. The Government made this. He had billboards with this on. He had social media. He had leaflets going into people's letter boxes saying that he would deliver this funding. We know that funding is still there. It's in the Budget papers. But it keeps moving back. It got moved from last financial year to the next financial year. Is it going to be moved to the next financial year? I would have thought if it was the major commitment that you said that you were going to deliver at the last election, then it doesn't matter if Scott Morrison is your mate, you would go down and fight for this funding. But he doesn't do that. He doesn't do it when it comes to Medicare. He doesn't do it when it comes to housing. He doesn't do it when it comes to the things that really matter for people in Townsville. Phil Thompson is Scott Morrison's mate and not a friend of people in Townsville.

ALBANESE: Can I say also that Queensland received the lowest per head of population infrastructure funding in the last Budget of any state. The lowest. And there was $3.3 billion cut from infrastructure funding in the Budget last month. $3.3 billion over the forward estimates. This is a Government that constantly promise and don't deliver, which is why $7 billion less than what they have said they would spend in Budget since they came to office is actually what they've done. The gap that's there between what they promised on Budget night and what has been delivered is $7 billion.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

ALBANESE: Well, this Government should be getting the rollout of the vaccine right. And we should be ensuring that we go up the queue. We were told we'd be at the front of the queue and we're not in the top 100 of countries. And the fact is that this Government had two jobs this year. The rollout of the vaccine and to fix national quarantine. And they failed on both. And there are real consequences for that. Thanks.

ENDS

Sign up to get the latest news from Anthony

See the latest News
About Anthony
Meet AnthonyAnthony's Story

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

DisclaimerPrivacyTerms

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.