SUBJECTS: Angus Taylor; Jacqui Lambie’s call for a review into the relationship between Australia and China; PISA results; reintroduction of the Ensuring Integrity Bill; Government’s lack of economic plan.
ALBANESE: Today is D-Day for Angus Taylor, for the documents to be produced to the Senate following the passage of a resolution by the Senate just yesterday. He has had month after month after month to just come clean about where this document came from. But we know now from Naomi Wolf that this is a bloke who walked into the Parliament being prepared to tell stories on day one, from his first speech where he suggested that she was a roomie down the corridor at university, when in fact she had left the United Kingdom many years earlier and was, at that point in time, living in New York. The fact is that this controversy is now brought in the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, brought in Christian Porter, the past controversies have brought in Josh Frydenberg over the grassland scandal. For the Government, this minister is Scott Morrison’s Angus Horribilis. He is someone who is a walking disaster area. The misleading of Parliament is a pretty serious thing. You can’t mislead Parliament deliberately and survive as a minister under the Westminster system. It’s an essential component of our democracy. Something that this Government doesn’t seem to understand as it tries to stonewall through to the end of the parliamentary year.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, what’s your response to Jacqui Lambie calling for a review into Australia’s relationship with China in the Senate yesterday?
ALBANESE: Well, Jacqui Lambie has strong views and they are always expressed with great strength. I think there is real concern that, again, a lack of accountability. How is it that Gladys Liu, for example, says that she didn’t know the gentleman who is photographed sitting next to her in her house, at events. And every day, there’s issues that seem to be raised about the Member for Chisholm. And the Government won’t let Gladys Liu make a statement to the Parliament about these issues. She should do so. And the fact is that we need to be diligent about ensuring that the Parliament looks after these issues. Our relationship with China is a very important one for us. And we need to be prepared to speak out on human rights at the same time. It is a very important economic relationship for Australia.
JOURNALIST: What did you make of the latest education results that have come out?
ALBANESE: Well, they are just a shocker. This is an F for fail for Australia when it comes to education. The fact that maths, English and science we’re going backwards in, we are falling so far behind our competitors. We live in a globalised world, we can’t afford to be going backwards by a year in basic education and maths. We are now three and a half years behind China when it comes to maths. This is a real issue, which will be of concern to families right around the country. And this Government, in its seventh year, say, ‘Oh, we’ll have a chat about it next week with ministers’. How about they actually have a program of reform? How about they actually not make the cuts to education that they have? It’s pretty simple that this Government hasn’t been fulfilling its responsibilities. They pretend they were elected yesterday. They’re in their seventh year, their third Prime Minister, and the third Deputy Prime Minister, and multiple Education Ministers. I’ve lost count. How about they actually have a plan for this country, rather than just more ‘plans to reintroduce the same legislation that lost last week, will bring it back next week’. That’s not a plan for the country. We have an ad man without a plan in charge of the country.
ALBANESE: Look, Minister Tehan needs to at least fess-up, in terms of some basic maths, which is, here’s basic maths figure for him; $14 billion they ripped out of education, particularly targeted at public schools, which is where most Australians send their kids. And the fact is, if you had that impact, if you have that cut, then it will have an impact. We also need to look at teacher training, teacher quality. We need to look at the curriculum. We need to look the whole suite of measures. What are the education reforms that have happened under this Government? If you’ve got any that you remember, ask me about them and I will respond. Because quite frankly, after seven years, it’s difficult to remember anything they have done in education except to make cuts.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the plan of the Government to reintroduce the Ensuring Integrity Bill today?
ALBANESE: Well, this is the Government that is committed to attacking workers’ organisations. They are absolutely obsessed by the same thing. This is a Government that needs an agenda for 2020. We’ve now got just a few weeks of this decade left. Their agenda for next year is that it’s the same as last years. I’d like the new stuff better than the old stuff. They have just got old stuff. That’s all they have got. Attacking unions. And it’s a two-stage process; you attack workers’ organisation, and then you attack working conditions. We have in this country wages that the Reserve Bank says low wage growth is the new normal. What’s the Government’s response to that? This Christmas, families will be struggling to get by because they’ve lost their penalty rates. That will have an impact on the toys and presents they buy for their kids. That’ll have an impact on how long they spend at the beach this summer in terms of holidays. And this Government’s response? ‘Don’t worry about that. It’s all okay, we’ll just go after unions again’.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Hanson will hold her line on this?
ALBANESE: Pauline Hanson speaks for herself. I know that. I’ve always known that. It would appear the Government forgot that last week. And I’ve got to say, it’s an interesting strategy that the Government have. They lost a vote in the Senate last week. Their response is to abuse, denigrate, and insult all those people who voted against them. Well, it’s an interesting strategy. It’s not one that I would have embarked upon. And it’s one that I think is difficult to see how that would turn around and change people’s minds.
JOURNALIST: Labor MP, Peter Khalil, says that extra funding for education isn’t necessarily the complete answer. What do you think of his comments? Would you agree with that?
ALBANESE: Well, of course it’s not just about funding. Funding is important, but it’s also about things like training and having a plan. What’s the Government’s plan? This Government doesn’t have a policy agenda. They haven’t had one this year. What we’ve done in Parliament so far this year, is to have the reintroduction of bills that were before the last Parliament. When they failed, they reintroduced the bills that were reintroduced in the post-election this year. They don’t have a strategy. People will be looking at this Government. And as we enter the period up to the next election, and they will say, ‘What is the point of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government?’
Because apart from having the same old bills attacking the rights of trade unions to exist, apart from that, I don’t know what their agenda is. They don’t have an economic plan. We have in this country, low wage growth. We have productivity that’s actually at 25-year lows. It might be worse, because records only go back 25 years. It’s actually going backwards. We have low consumer demand. We have retail spending back at 1990s levels. We have growth that has been downgraded three times. The Reserve Bank have cut interest rates three times. They don’t have an education plan going forwards. They’re going to start to talk to state ministers next week on health. They don’t have a plan for reform and dealing with the issues that we’re seeing with private health insurance numbers plummeting, with all of those issues. They don’t have an energy policy. They don’t have a policy to actually reduce emissions.
This is a Government that is failing. It’s failing because it’s obsessed with attacking Labor. It’s obsessed with hanging on to ministers. Scott Morrison, the end of the year here is his Angus Horribilis. That minister sitting there having clearly misled the Parliament, continuing to be defended. The fact is that this Government doesn’t have a plan to take the country forward. All they have is negative politics. Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.