SUBJECTS: Bushfire crisis.
SUSAN TEMPLEMAN, MEMBER FOR MACQUARIE: Hi everybody. I’m Susan Templeman, the Federal Member from Macquarie. And we’re here in Bilpin. I’m very pleased to have Anthony Albanese here to help feed the volunteers who’ve been on shift all night and to prepare those who are going out for the day. It has been a really tough time up here. For weeks the fire has been coming and going from this area, and preparations have been happening to protect as many properties as possible. The crews, the men and women on our local RFS crews, and those who’ve come in to help them have done an incredible job and saved many, many properties. Sadly, we have had some losses. And of course, everyone is devastated by the deaths overnight of two firefighters. Every RFS member, their heart just goes out to the families. And I think that’s the sort of thought that goes through the heads of the families who are at home waiting for these guys to come home at the end of the day, is always knowing they’re doing something potentially dangerous. So, we’re really just here to say thank you to all the volunteers. And I want to extend that thanks to the paid staff from the RFS who are putting in huge amounts of time, the Parks and Wildlife guys who are here, the Fire and Rescue New South Wales and the SES. They have all meant that things have been hopefully not as bad as they might have been here in the upper part of the Hawkesbury on the Blue Mountain. So, I’ll hand over to Albo, but it really is, this is about a thank you to the amazing people who are doing this day after day and really need help to be able to sustain what they’re doing.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Susan. And a big thank you to you as well. You’ve been working with your local community, seven days a week. And making an enormous difference. And one of the things I’ve heard today firsthand from these firefighters is the representation that Susan has made about communications, about assistance, which her and her fantastic office have been making a difference here. I do want to express my condolences to the family, friends and crew of the two men who’ve been lost overnight. This is a tragedy. It is a tragedy that is deeply felt by all of the firefighters here that I’ve spoken with this morning. And no doubt all of the families, as well, of every firefighter knows that it’s a real risk. And we see the best of the spirit of Australia. We see people giving up their time, showing their courage, their resilience, putting their lives literally on the line for their community, but also for their state and their nation. I met a crew here earlier from the Central Coast, who I’d met earlier on up in Casino and Lismore about six weeks ago. People traveling around, I met Dave here, was helping at Tenterfield in September. He’s now a part of protecting his local community here. He’s exhausted. And that’s why our firefighters deserve our praise. They deserve our thanks. But they also deserve a bit more too. They deserve for Government and for all of us, businesses are certainly kicking in to do whatever we can to make sure that they can continue to do this because there’s no doubt that exhaustion is having an impact here in this local community. I also want to say that we have seen members of the Australian Defence Force, reservists, who are helping out here this morning. This is seeing Australia at its best. Australians pitching in to help their mates, to help their neighbours, to help their community, to help each other. And incredible generosity and bravery that we’re seeing from these firefighters. And it’s been an honour to be able to come here and just say thank you to them. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison’s just said he’ll be coming back to Australia, finishing up his holiday soon. Is it too little too late?
ALBANESE: Well look, it is a matter for the Prime Minister. He made the decision. And it’s a matter for his judgment when he goes on holiday. I think one of the issues has been the lack of information and transparency around this. But I will tell you what, I want to talk about the needs of firefighters not about Scott Morrison’s holiday. The need to make sure that the national response to the bushfires is everything that it can be. One of the things Scott Morrison said before he went on holidays was that people wanted to be here. And I tell you what, that was deeply felt he should really retract those comments that he made. Because it was raised with me on multiple occasions this morning. Those comments are inappropriate. These people don’t want to be out fighting fires, they’re doing it because of their commitment to their fellow Australians. And that needs to be acknowledged. And that’s why we need to do more to make sure that people aren’t out of pocket, that they’re not in a position of choosing whether to go out on another run, or whether to be able to have to go to work and provide for their family. That’s the choices that many have maid. Some people have paid leave arrangements, and we met a deputy principal of a school and others. But many don’t. And the other thing is self-employed people who are pitching in, whose businesses have stopped because they are making this commitment. We need to do much better at providing that support because this is not business as usual. These are extraordinary fires. They’ve been going for long. The one affecting this local community has been going for 100 days. And we really need to do much better, I think, in the future. But we need to do much better right now as well.
JOURNALIST: You brought several supplies along with you today. Can you tell me what exactly you brought?
ALBANESE: Well, I brought things that were requested. So, water, UP&GO, which the firies can take out with them on trips, muesli bars which I have discovered it’s very difficult to find muesli bars these days without yogurt or chocolate in them that won’t melt. So, I think it’s just very much a small contribution to make. Thank you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.