SUBJECTS: Trip to Queensland; Adani; jobs for Queenslanders; New Zealand volcanic eruption; reintroduction of the Religious Discrimination Bill; Bob Hawke; industrial relations.
MURRAY WATT, SHADOW MINISTER FOR NORTHERN AUSTRALIA: Well thanks everyone for coming along today. Very great pleasure to welcome Albo back to Queensland. Albo has been a very strong friend of Queensland over many decades in every role that he has had and of course now as the Leader of the Labor Party. So, we are very much looking forward to getting out on the road, particularly through Central Queensland and regional Queensland with our Federal colleagues to do some more listening into what Queenslanders want from Labor. The focus of this trip is going to be jobs. We know that jobs in Queensland is the number one issue. We know that Queenslanders are looking to their Government for jobs. So, we are really keen to hear more ideas from Queenslanders right across the state about what jobs for Queensland means and what we can do to get behind Queensland jobs. I’ll let Albo elaborate a little bit more on what we are going to get up to.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Murray. Can I first of all say that I have had discussions with the Prime Minister last night, and two discussions this morning about the tragic events that have occurred with the volcanic eruption in New Zealand. It is very clear that multiple Australians have been caught up in this and we pass on our thoughts and care for those involved. We thank New Zealand and its government, through Jacinda Ardern, for the work that is being done. There are at least 13 Australians hospitalised at the moment, and we certainly hope for their healthy recovery from what is a very devastating incident indeed.
Can I say about the visit to Queensland that I am very pleased to be here. Later in a short while, we will fly to Barcaldine where we will start the regional tour. Barcaldine, under the Tree of Knowledge, is where the Labor Party began. And this sends a message, of course, that this has been a Labor state for a very long period of time. Indeed, we have governed in Queensland for 20 of the last 25 years. So, there is no reason why Labor can’t get the support of Queenslanders at the election. And I’m certainly very keen to not to just talk with Queenslanders but listen to Queenslanders.
Scott Morrison says that Queenslanders and other Australians are quiet Australians Well, that’s not my experience. What he really means there is that he wants everyone else to keep quiet so that they can listen to him. Well, I’ll be listening to Queenslanders over the next week. And it’s an important visit. Can I say also on jobs, here in Brisbane, and indeed throughout Queensland that I very much support Premier Palaszczuk announcement that Queensland would bid for the 2032 Olympics. This is critical. This is going to provide potentially 130,000 jobs. It will create jobs in construction in the lead-up to the games if the bid is successful. But also, of course, significant tourism opportunities, not just while the Olympics would be held, but on an ongoing basis prior to the publicity that it would give to Queensland, this amazing tourist destination. Not just for southeast Queensland, but of course there would be events held in places like Townsville and regional centres as well. So, I call upon the Federal Government to commit to support this exciting proposal to have the Olympics here in Queensland.
JOURNALIST: How can you expect regional Queenslanders to take you seriously if you won’t to say, ‘I support Adani’ like Matt Canavan has challenged you to?
ALBANESE: Matt Canavan is a boy. And what I don’t do is when a boy makes a request, agree to him in a snap. This is childish from Matt Canavan. What I want to hear Matt Canavan say is to complete the sentence, ‘there will be a new coal-fired power station subsidised by the Government that I’m a minister in at x location.’ That’s what I want to hear from Matt Canavan. He talks a big game but he’s actually a Government Minister. It is about time that Matt Canavan did his day job. We know that he yelled at the Prime Minister and other Cabinet Ministers because he couldn’t get his way. He shouldn’t take out that frustration on making childish suggestions. What Matt Canavan should do is do his day job. Answer the questions. There’s an inquiry, as well, about nuclear power, including here in Queensland that’s being backed in by a number of the local members in seats we will be visiting. The question there is, where does the nuclear power plant go? Is it in Gladstone, Fraser Island, Bribie Island, where? Because we know it’s got to be located somewhere near water. These proposals are a part of a Government that is in its third term, that does not have an energy policy, that does not have a climate change policy, that’s travelled to Madrid to try and fiddle with the figures to try to meet the agreements that’s they signed up to. Well, it’s no wonder that the world is pushing back on that.
JOURNALIST: What can you offer regional Queensland where the Government can’t?
ALBANESE: What we can offer is jobs. We can provide support for new industries. One of the things that we supported during the campaign was hydrogen. It provides an enormous opportunity. The truth is we can be a clean energy superpower for the world whilst at the same time we are providing coal exports that produce income for Australia. We can provide advanced manufacturing jobs. We can provide jobs in tourism. We want to see Queenslanders who have, in the seats that were visiting, the unemployment rate is much higher than the national average. And what we’ve had from this Government in terms of even its infrastructure announcements, is infrastructure announcements, but way off the never-never. And that’s why we’re continuing to call for a bring-forward of some of those projects.
JOURNALIST: Leaving Matt Canavan and the Nationals out of the discussion, do you support or not support the Adani Coal Mine?
ALBANESE: The Adani Coal Mine is a private mine. It’s been approved. It is going ahead. It’s not a Government mine. It’s a mine that will, finance has been the issue with the Adani mine, but it’s had its environmental approvals. I support the jobs that will be created by any project, any project in Queensland or anywhere else for that matter. What Government needs to do is to set in place strict environmental guidelines. When those guidelines are approved, then you have projects which go ahead if they receive private sector support.
JOURNALIST: So, you would support for the opening-up of the Galilee Basin along those lines?
ALBANESE: Those decisions are not a matter for the Government. What is a matter for the Government is environmental guidelines, proposals are put in, they go through and then the private sector does it. The only person who is talking about public sector involvement, direct involvement, is Matt Canavan, who is talking about a direct Government involvement. Tony Abbott used to do it too. Occasionally the LNP members and others speak about this as well. And they are having Queenslanders on, because it’s the third term of this Government. For that entire length of time, they’ve been talking about a new coal-fired power station, and none has eventuated. Because it’s the private sector that make decisions. And the private sector making decisions that the risk and the economics don’t add up. And that’s why they’re investing in projects, like Kidston, like a range of projects in terms of renewables throughout Queensland. And that is, of course, creating jobs. But what we need to do is to look at ways in which we actually produce manufacturing here in Queensland. So, that there’s no reason whatsoever, in my view, why we shouldn’t be producing solar panels, why we shouldn’t be producing other advanced manufacturing here. Right here in Southeast Queensland at the moment, we’re producing electric vehicle charging stations and exporting them to Europe and the United States. That’s a very good thing. That’s additional jobs. That brings economic benefit to Queensland.
JOURNALIST: The reason that the Coalition is looking at a new coal-fired power station in the north is to support manufacturing and to have power and the baseload to support that.
ALBANESE: Where is it going to be?
JOURNALIST: How would you have the power to support increased manufacturing over there?
ALBANESE: Where’s it going to be? There’s nowhere where it’s going to be. It isn’t happening. They are in their third term. This Government needs to stop acting like they were elected last week. They’ve been there since 2013. They’ve been there longer than Labor was in Government last time round. This is their third term, third Prime Minister, third Deputy Prime Minister, multiple Treasurers, and they come up with these ideas, but there’s no basis for it. Let them say where it’s going to happen. Let them say where the nuclear power plants are going to be. Compare, for example, Whyalla and what’s happening in Whyalla if you want to look at manufacturing. Remember, the big battery in South Australia was referred to by Scott Morrison as being as relevant for power generation as the big banana in Coffs Harbour. Well guess what? The Federal Government in the last few weeks has put in a big amount of money again to expand that project. Look at what’s happening in Whyalla with the expansion of manufacturing there at a time when the Government said that Whyalla, or the Coalition said Whyalla would be wiped off the map. Let’s actually be smart about how we do things. But let’s also not just play politics with things that aren’t happening. Or if they are going to happen, come up with some substance for it. Where will the power plant be? How much will it cost? How will it be paid for? What’s the time frame in terms of manufacturing?
JOURNALIST: If you’re doing a regional Queensland tour focused on listening is this essentially hitting the reset button in Queensland for the Labor Party?
ALBANESE: We set the reset button on May 19th. And since I’ve been the Leader, we’ve had a review of what happened with the campaign. That’s now in the rear vision mirror. We’re looking forward. One of the things that my first vision statement was about jobs and the future of work. It very much focused on Queensland. And that’s what we need to do. I had been to Cairns, I have been to Mackay, I’ve been to Townsville. I’ve been to Stanthorpe and western Queensland. I’ve been up here many times since the election. I’ll continue to come here, both during this term and hopefully beyond this term, as well. Actually putting together plans and policies. Listening to Queenslanders is very important. And I think that Barcaldine is an appropriate place to begin, but we will also be going to Emerald. Rockhampton, right down the coast as far as Maryborough and the Sunshine Coast. It is, I think, important that we take the opportunity to listen wherever we go and to talk to Queenslanders. I like meeting Queenslanders even at Caxton Street on State of Origin night is a good place to meet lots of Queenslanders. And I’ll tell you what, Scott Morrison says they are quiet. That’s not my experience. So, I’ll be walking into pubs. I’ll be talking to people about the issues that concern them. And I’m sure they’ll tell me their views. And we’ll take all of them into account.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned Madrid earlier. Do you think the Government, considering the backlash on carry over credits in meeting emission targets, do you think that needs to be banned?
ALBANESE: Well, I think the Government’s position on climate change and energy is embarrassing. There are two things we need to do on climate change. The first is our domestic emissions. And the truth is that under this Government, they’ve been going up, they’ve been rising. And we have power prices that are rising as well. If we have a strong policy that provides investment certainty, which is what business is calling for, not only will we create jobs, we will reduce prices, and will reduce emissions. The second thing we need to do, though, is to be involved in global action. And the way that we do that is by strong international agreements. Because every international agreement is based upon domestic emissions by nation states. And we need to be in a position to argue for strong action, because we know that Australia particularly will suffer from the impact of climate change. But at the moment, Angus Taylor goes to a conference, forget about the fact that he misleads Parliament and the scandal of ‘Watergate’, and ‘Grasslandgate’, and the nonsense over the Sydney City Council Mayor, and the fact that he has been misleading Parliament since his first speech, where he spoke about Naomi Wolf that he must have dreamed about because she wasn’t there in 1991. This bloke goes and has to negotiate with other countries and the say, ‘What is your energy policy?’ And he says, ‘I know, we don’t have one. We got rid of the Labor energy policy, but we don’t have one.’ They’ve had about 16 variations. You had a Prime Minister, a Treasurer and Scott Morrison at the time, as well, supported the NEG and they walked away from it and knocked off an elected Prime Minister in order to do it. So, I am concerned that Australia has a lack of credibility when it comes to climate change action.
ALBANESE: Look, I think it’s unfortunate that on both occasions the exposure draft has been released without showing it at all to the Opposition. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. And certainly, in terms of Scott Morrison mentioned to me this morning when we were talking about New Zealand, that it would be released today. But I haven’t seen it.
ALBANESE: Well, I haven’t seen it. So, it’s not a great start.
JOURNALIST: And on the weekend there was a story about Bob Hawke and his daughter. Do you think this threatens to tarnish his legacy?
ALBANESE: I have no comment to make about it. I’m not aware of the specifics that happened. The allegation is things that happened a while ago. I will say that it’s my view, very strong view, that any sexual assault should be reported. And that is important. With regard to the specifics, I have no comment because I have no knowledge.
JOURNALIST: Just another topic that came up recently. Under your leadership, are you still open to consider (inaudible)?
ALBANESE: Look, we will consider measures that deal with a fair industrial relations system. At the moment the system isn’t working, we know that. Wages are expected, according to the Reserve Bank, low wage growth is the norm, as they have said. And this is an issue for the economy. It’s an issue that’s holding the economy back. It’s been identified as a major constraint by the Reserve Bank. So, we need an industrial relations system that encourages cooperation, that recognises that business and unions have common interests in boosting productivity. And the way that has happened in the past has certainly been by that agreement. And at the moment, productivity is actually going backwards. And that was a major theme of my second vision statement on the economy that I gave right here in Brisbane. Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.