Feb 2, 2020

TRANSCRIPT – DOORSTOP INTERVIEW – MELBOURNE – SUNDAY, 2 FEBRUARY 2020

SUBJECTS: Bridget McKenzie sports rorts scandal; coronavirus.

JOSH BURNS, MEMBER FOR MACNAMARA: Well, welcome everyone to St Kilda. It is a magnificent day here on Fitzroy street, celebrating 25 years of the Pride March in St Kilda. St Kilda has always been a place where we celebrate each other, we celebrate differences, and we come together and enjoy. There is no better place in the world than right here in St Kilda. And joining me today is Richard Marles, the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, and of course, Anthony Albanese, our Labor Leader. And I will hand over to Anthony right now.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Josh. And it is great to be back in your electorate as the Labor Leader, with our Deputy, Richard Marles. And with our fellow Labor colleagues including the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews. It was fantastic to have a special guest on the Pride March today in Martina Navratilova, someone who has been a champion of human rights. Today’s march has been a celebration of diversity. And I’ve been marching in the Sydney Mardi Gras since the early 1980s with young Labor. And it’s great to now be in Melbourne as the Labor Leader, again, celebrating diversity, talking about how we as a community have to have respect for each and every individual for who they are, and that our community is stronger because of the diversity that exists in this great nation.

I did want to make some comments today about some of the issues that are relevant with Parliament coming back. Firstly, the issue of Bridget McKenzie and the sports rorts tawdry saga that has enveloped this Government that quite clearly involves the Office of the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. That the Audit Office found was an abuse of process and abuse of outcomes. What we have seen here is the Government use taxpayers’ funds as if they were its own funds. Bridget McKenzie simply cannot remain in office. We don’t need a report from Scott Morrison’s former chief of staff. We don’t need a report to know that there’s something wrong with someone giving funds to an organisation that they are a member of without declaring that. What we know is that across the board, community-based sporting organisations spent hundreds of hours of volunteers putting in applications in good faith in a process that they thought was a level playing field. And we know it was stacked. It was stacked in favour of political decision making. The Audit Office report is damning. Bridget McKenzie must go, and she must go today so that this Government can actually start to act like a Government.

Can I say that we saw as well this morning how dysfunctional this Government is. With Peter Dutton on morning TV, saying that people who are on the flight from Wuhan will be charged. And then Josh Frydenberg on another network saying they wouldn’t be charged. The two senior ministers, both members of the National Security Committee that were told met yesterday to make decisions about these matters, and we find out that they can’t even say the same thing at the same time. This Government is dysfunctional. Scott Morrison hasn’t got his act together, because he’s too distracted by playing politics with each and every issue. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

ALBANESE: Well, yes. Whatever the precedent is, certainly one of the things that we said from the very beginning was that no one should be excluded. Because of course, we judge healthcare in this country on the basis of need. If someone needs assistance, that’s the basis of Medicare. That’s Labor’s philosophy. If someone needs assistance, they get it. These are Australian citizens who need assistance.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

ALBANESE: Well, what we have here is a decision by the Government. Scott Morrison rang me yesterday to convey the decision of the National Security Committee. We obviously weren’t present at that NSC meeting. But I’d say that the Government needs to act on the best medical advice. That is what matters here. We don’t intend to play partisan politics with this issue. But the Government must act on advice. And if reasonable, that if in doubt, a cautionary process be taken when it comes to health issues.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible). Do you agree with Premier Palaszczuk?

ALBANESE: I agree totally with the actions of Premier Palaszczuk. She said on Friday that she wasn’t getting the information that she requested. I’ve raised this with the Prime Minister myself when I spoke to him yesterday and was assured that she had now been given the information that she required. It wasn’t too much to ask for the Premier to say that the national Government, which of course, we all know that you fill in those forms saying where you are staying, what your contact numbers are, that on the one hand, the Government is making quite elaborate procedures using Christmas Island for people to be kept, and on the other hand, not providing state governments with information about people who may be affected.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

ALBANESE: Well, the financial impact, we will wait to see. This is a big decision by the Government. A big decision that they’ve made, based upon advice. We weren’t at the NSC meeting yesterday, obviously. But Chris Bowen has been getting advice each and every day, being briefed as our Shadow Health Minister. My concern here is that we need to make sure that we have a serious response but also a measured response. We need also as a community to ensure that there is no vilification or division with Chinese Australians. There have been initial reports of some backlash. And we need to make sure that we remain harmonious, that we ensure that no one feels uncomfortable, and that we deal with this issue, because it is, of course, a global issue. The World Health Organisation has said that it’s very serious indeed. And it’s appropriate that there be a serious response from the Government.

JOURNALIST: So, are you concerned about the financial impact?

ALBANESE: Well, the financial impact, we will wait and see what it is. The Treasurer this morning, I note, didn’t seem to be aware or had made any assessment of what the impact would be. But the important thing here is the first measure is to deal with it as a health issue. And it has to be dealt with.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

ALBANESE: Well, it has to be dealt with as a health issue. And you can’t pretend that it’s not happening. And there will obviously be financial implications, including for the university sector, including for the tourist sector here in Australia.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

ALBANESE: Well, she should go today. This is a farce. Her own colleagues, when you run into them around this country as I have in recent times, all think she should go. She’s dragging the whole Government down. The only reason why she hasn’t gone is because there’s much deeper involvement by the Government, including the Prime Minister’s Office, in this sorry saga. Thanks.

ENDS