SUBJECTS: Cuts to penalty rates; RBA interest rate cut; Bill Shorten; Scott Morrison; Labor’s election review; vision statement; Tim Wilson; superannuation; The Coalition behaving like an opposition in exile on the Government benches.
TERRI BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER: G’day everyone. Thanks for coming here to Kangaroo Point, it’s wonderful to have you all on the south side. And it’s absolutely lovely to have Anthony Albanese here the Leader of the Labour Party, and of course the leader of the Opposition in this country. Anthony is so interested in standing up for people here in Queensland, and he and I have been doing a bit of listening this week to people’s issues as well. Of course today we’re here to talk about a really important issue for a lot of people here in my electorate of Griffith, and that’s penalty rates. Right here in Griffith about 3800 people have had their penalty rates cut. It’s an absolute disgrace. It’s equivalent to about $20 million and that’s $20 million it’s taken out of our local economy. When you go to places in my electorate and you see the shops; you see the vacancies; you talk to small businesses who are struggling, you can see the real impact that cutting people’s wages has had on our local economy. This is a really important issue for Australia and it’s something that I know that Anthony is really committed to dealing with.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Terri. And it’s great to be back in Brisbane, back in Queensland. Last week I visited Stanthorpe, I visited Warwick, Townsville, Cairns and Brisbane. And I intend to be a regular visitor to this great state of Queensland. Because we need to turn around Labor’s vote here in Queensland and do much better at the next election. So I intend to spend as much time as I can here in this great state. And today, I wanted to come and talk particularly about the impact of the cuts of penalty rates are having both in terms of reducing people’s real wages and also the impact that that’s having on the economy. We have a government that saw last week the third interest rate cut since the election. The Reserve Bank have said very clearly that one of the reasons why they are doing that is because of low consumer demand, and because of the wage stagnation which is there. They’ve called for government action and they’ve said that monetary policy can’t do all the heavy lifting. And yet they’re being ignored by this Government. This Government that’s happy to sit back while, in this electorate alone 3800 people have lost their penalty rates. The impact on the economy locally is some $20 million ripped out over just three years. That means less jobs. It also means that it’s so much tougher for people who are just trying to get by with rising costs of living. Wages aren’t keeping up with that. And the truth is, that now that interest rates are at 0.75 per cent, we know that there needs to be government leadership. Government leadership and a plan to grow the economy; government leadership and a plan to grow jobs and to deal with the skills crisis; and government leadership to deal with the wages issue that’s holding back our national economy as well as placing enormous pressure on families. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: What did you make of Bill Shorten’s intervention over weekend? Why do you think he took full responsibility for the election result?
ALBANESE: Well I think Bill’s comments were appropriate. He as the Leader is responsible for the election result to the extent that he’s the Leader of the team. I’ve said over and over again that we all accept collective responsibility as well. At the next election I will certainly be, as the Leader, campaigning to make sure that we do much better. We have to start right here in Queensland. We need to do better in Western Australia. We need to do better in our outer suburbs and in our regions. And I’m determined to put forward a positive agenda for Labor. I’m convinced that in the third term of this Government; by the time they get to the end of it people will be scratching their heads and saying what was the point of the Abbott-Morrison and Turnbull governments. Because they don’t have a plan for the economy; they don’t have a plan for the environment; they don’t have a plan for social justice. This is a government that tells pensioners that they should be grateful that they get a pension. This is a government that tells the unemployed that if they increase Newstart it will just mean more money for drug dealers. This is a government that shows contempt for so many of their fellow Australians. Scott Morrison engages in hubris each and every day, and he’s beginning to be held to account by you good people in the media because when he’s asked a difficult question, like: ‘is it the case that Brian Houston was invited to the US State Dinner’? He still won’t give an answer as to whether that occurred and why it was that the US Presidential Office vetoed that invitation. On so many issues Scott Morrison isn’t prepared to be accountable, and I think that will show over the next couple of years.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Mr Shorten’s leadership ambitions are over?
ALBANESE: Yes. And he certainly has said that he led the Labor Party to two elections. He now is working very strongly as a member of the Labor team, and that’s a good thing and I welcome his contribution. He’s got an important role to hold the Government to account on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and on issues like robo-debt. And he’s doing it.
JOURNALIST: He said that he misread the mood in Queensland and that Labor was seen as too green-left and anti-worker, How are you reading the mood differently in Queensland?
ALBANESE: What I’m doing is engaging with Queenslanders both in terms of formally, but also informally visiting the main streets of the towns and regions of this great state. Here in Brisbane this morning, talking to people at the Story Bridge Hotel, talking to people here at Kangaroo Point. I want to engage with Queenslanders and to go to them and ask them what their what their thoughts are, and I’ve had very positive feedback. They’re aware that this government is acting with great arrogance. They’re also aware that Labor is prepared to listen. We have the review that will be handed down; It’s no accident that Craig Emerson, a former Cabinet Minister from Queensland, is one of the two people leading that review along with Jay Weatherill. We want to engage with Queenslanders each and every day. I’ll be doing it; so will the strong Queensland based team that we have here led by people like Jim Chalmers and Terri Butler. But our entire team here is listening and giving that feedback to the Caucus and to the Shadow Cabinet.
JOURNALIST: Was Bill Shorten getting out on that front foot to defend his position ahead of that review that is going to be handed down from Mr Emerson and Mr Weatherill?
ALBANESE: Sorry, I wasn’t sure there was a question there?
JOURNALIST: Do you think he was getting out on the front foot ahead of the review that is being handed down?
ALBANESE: It is perfectly understandable that Bill Shorten has taken time to give consideration to what happened in the election. It was very difficult for him personally. He worked hard each and every day to elect a Labor government. He believes in the cause of Labor, and it was a very difficult outcome for him; particularly under the circumstances whereby every opinion poll was saying that he would be elected Prime Minister. So it was on a personal level, very disappointing and that’s understandable. He thought those issues through; he’s made a statement which is eminently reasonable, accepting responsibility for the defeat as the Leader of the Party at that time.
JOURNALIST: Has the Government done a direct prisoner swap with Iran?
ALBANESE: Well that’s up to the Government to respond on that issue, and I do note that there is still an Australian who is detained in Iran. It’s important that commentary bear that in mind. And I certainly won’t be saying anything that runs the risk of endangering the potential of securing her release, and her being brought back to Australia which would be a very good thing; along with the two Australians who are now back here.
JOURNALIST: Here In Brisbane we do have protesters that are planning some protests throughout the week, and there has been some indication they could be sending drones up by the airport. Do you think more needs to be done by governments to prevent protest action from escalating to that point?
ALBANESE: l think that people need to use a little bit of common sense, as well as obey the law. And common sense tells you that flying drone drones near airports is not only against the law, it endangers lives; potentially many of them. And I’m certain that the authorities will take appropriate action to ensure that that doesn’t occur. But people also in this country do have a right to peaceful protest, they don’t have a right to endanger the lives of others.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of Tim Wilson’s decision to March with the protesters in Hong Kong?
ALBANESE: Tim Wilson is always focused on Tim Wilson and I’m sure he’ll continue to be so.
JOURNALIST: Is it hypocritical, though, given he called for water cannons to be used on Melbourne protesters?
ALBANESE: If Tim Wilson could get a run standing in front of the water cannons he would, that’s Tim Wilson. I don’t give him a lot of thought, frankly, and nor do his colleagues. He was telling people in the run up to the election that he could be the Leader of the Opposition if Labor won the election in May. I think that Tim Wilson’s opinion of himself differs from that of his colleagues and certainly of me.
JOURNALIST: Back to the review. Do you have any expectations for that? Once it comes out, does that free you up to announce more policies?
ALBANESE: This is an important process of three years. I think that one of the issues that we had, frankly, and I’ve said this before in May. Between 2013 and 2019 we almost treated it like one term. In 2016, There wasn’t a reassessment of policies that we took to that election. And so we continued to build on six years of policies, what we’ve done at this time is recognise the scale of the defeat. Which was significant. Recognise we’ve lost three elections in a row and we need to do better. So, the review is being handled at arm’s length from me; I’ve obviously spoken to the reviewers and they’ve interviewed a range of my colleagues and people about the campaign. It will be given to the National Executive some time next month. And then I think it will be an opportunity to then draw a line in the sand, and to move forward. I’ve indicated that there’ll be a series of vision statements given between now and the May Budget next year. That will outline how Labor intends to move forward. We are reassessing our policies, but not our values, which are eternal. So the first of those will be on jobs and the future of work. And that will be delivered at the end of this month. There’ll be another one on the economy; the jobs in the future of work one will be delivered in Perth, in Western Australia. There’ll be other major statements on the range of policies going forward, between now and the May Budget and then we’ll set about 2020; adopting a range of policies, specific policies, that are costed going forward. We need to recognise that the election campaign is not won this year. In 2022. We need to be considered about how we move forward; make sure that we have the right policies that will see us be successful, because Australia needs a Labor government. This Government is treading water, they don’t have a plan for anything other than occupying the Treasury benches. Which is why when they’re asked a question, they refer back to Labor all the time. You can’t run a government by just being opposed to the Labor Party and they are acting more and more like an opposition in exile sitting on the Government benches.
JOURNALIST: Dr (inaudible) who helped design superannuation, said the rise in super should be delayed until 2030. Do you have any concerns about the rise of rate?
ALBANESE: We need to increase our superannuation to 12 per cent, it’s legislated. And Labour supports that. Superannuation is providing a very important foundation stone for the national economy. Industry Super in particular is producing the best returns, and what we see from the Government and some others. Is trying to undermine superannuation. They never supported it when Bob Hawke and Paul Keating advanced compulsory superannuation, it is one of the great labor reforms; they’ve sought to undermine it. They referred, of course, superannuation to the Royal Commission into the Financial Industry and guess what it found? It found that Industry Super Funds delivered better returns than any of the retail funds that were out there, so they found the opposite of what the Government was hoping to find. Because they’re obsessed with undermining Industry Super. Industry Super is very important and it is critical that the legislated change which is there, be continued. And the Government needs to rule out any changes to it. They have announced this inquiry into retirement savings, where they’ve got a whole lot of people on it who have form when it comes to showing their political bias in the past. And that’s why they’ve undermined that inquiry, unfortunately, through the very appointments. But this government can’t resist; I mean there’s barely a former LNP councillor on a regional council who hasn’t been appointed to the AAT; let alone former members of parliament. They think that government is their plaything. They have a born to rule mentality, and that is showing in the way that they’ve made, consistently, political appointments to organisations that should not be political. Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.