SUBJECTS: Reclink community cup; Richard Marles’ comments on bipartisan consensus on China; Andrew Hastie; BCA’s call to axe ‘better off overall’ test
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good day. I’m here at the Reclink community cup here at Henson Park in my electorate. It is a game that is played every year, in ever capital city around the country to raise funds for Reclink. Reclink is a community-based organisation that provides assistance particularly to disadvantaged young people and also young people who are on the margins of society, whether they are involved in drugs or starting to get involved in crime. What it does is reach out to those people and seek to engage them back with the mainstream of Australian society. It’s a great charity and I’m very pleased to be here supporting them today. This is the eighth year this cup has been held at Henson Park in my electorate. It’s fantastic that the community come along and pitch in and have a bit of fun. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: On Richard Marles’ call for bipartisan consensus on China, how do you think that should work? Do you want to sit down with the Prime Minister on this issue?
ALBANESE: Well look, on China, the problem for the Government is that they are all over the shop. They are clearly divided. You have Andrew Hastie make quite extraordinary, immature and inappropriate comments comparing China, and the rise of China, to Nazi Germany. He’s being slapped down by people like Mathias Cormann in the Government. But he’s also being supported by Peter Dutton. And today Simon Birmingham was all over the shop and couldn’t really respond to the issue. Nor did Scott Morrison take the opportunity to distance himself from Andrew Hastie’s inopportune comments. I think the real issue though is that the Government has taken its eye off the ball of what is of concern to Australians. We have wage stagnation. We had the Reserve Bank Governor downgrading expectations of economic growth from two and three quarters to two and a half per cent just on Friday. You had him expecting there to be no boost in terms of employment numbers. And you have all of the economic figures that tell us how people are being impacted, productivity going backwards, per capita growth being negative, interest rates at one per cent. And you have a Government that is off on frolics about China and is also off on frolics where things like Tim Wilson’s comments saying that the Reserve Bank needed to do more to stimulate the economy. Well, it’s the Government that can bring forward infrastructure investment. It’s the Government that can stimulate the economy and I really think that is what Australians are concerned about.
REPORTER: So, you said that the Government is divided on China, do you think they are being xenophobic?
ALBANESE: I think it’s up to others to make judgments.
REPORTER: Well, what is your judgement?
ALBANESE: I gave an answer. It might not be the one that you liked, but I gave an answer. The fact is, that it’s the Government that are divided and that’s a problem. Because you have the Government saying different things and sending different messages to China, our major trading partner. At the same time, you have them with their eye off the ball when it comes to the economy and what’s happening in terms of living standards. What Australians know is that their power prices are going up. What they know is that they’re suffering from wages not keeping up with where they need to be. And they’re struggling to get by from day to day and week to week. And you have a Government, that because Scott Morrison’s been involved in a victory lap and not governing in his third term, you have these frolic statements on China, statements on nuclear power, statements on a whole range of issues being floated by Government backbenchers because the Government doesn’t have a sense of purpose in its third term.
REPORTER: Do you believe, as Mike Burgess said last week, that Australia’s way of life is under threat from foreign influence? If it is not China, then who is responsible?
ALBANESE: Well, I’ve stated what my views are, and they continue to be the same, which is that China is our major trading partner. We need to be responsible in our comments about China. We need to, of course, be conscious of the fact that China is not a democratic country. We have different values. I’ve just spent the last three days in Perth attending the Australian American Leadership Dialogue where we discussed our common interests that Australia and the United States have. China is a very different system, but we need to be measured in our comments. Thanks very much.
REPORTER: What’s your reaction to the BCA’s call for the axing of the ‘better off overall’ test to replace it with a test that requires groups of employees only to be better than the award minimum rather than the individual employee?
ALBANESE: Look, I haven’t seen their comments, but our industrial relations spokesperson Tony Burke will be happy to respond to IR issues. What we do know is that wages aren’t keeping up with where they need to be. And the BCA knows that. The Reserve Bank knows that. Every economist in Australia knows that. The trade union movement know it. The only people who don’t know it is the Federal Government under Scott Morrison. Thanks very much for your time.
REPORTER: Are you going to win today, Albo?
ALBANESE: Probably. The other side were training for about an hour and a half, so we are just going to go train now for a few minutes. Thank you.