SUBJECTS: Drought; IMF report on the growth of the Australian economy.
ALBANESE: I have the unveiling of Nova Peris’s portrait downstairs shortly, so just a couple of questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, (inaudible) strategy on the drought. When would you expect the Government to respond and release both that and the Coordinator General’s report?
ALBANESE: Well, the Government needs to actually develop its own drought strategy. And part of that should be releasing the Drought Coordinator’s report. They should also release any reports which have been handed to it by the Drought Envoy, Barnaby Joyce, who received extra resources to do so. This Government needs to have a drought strategy. At the moment they don’t have it. They say they’ve been waiting for the NFF to put in its submission but that really has been a delay at a time when the Government continues to use big figures which actually don’t add up when you look at the detail. Just like its dams announcement on Sunday, it didn’t last 48 hours before the gap between what it said was happening and the reality was exposed.
JOURNALISTS: Mr Albanese …
ALBANESE: Hang on the rule should be that people with the loudest voice who tend to be blokes don’t get to ask the questions first. Seriously. So, there you go.
JOURNALIST: Opposition Leader, Joel Fitzgibbon earlier said that the Prime Minister should convene a war room on the drought with you. Would you welcome that, and would you be prepared to work with the Coalition on this matter?
ALBANESE: Absolutely. The fact is that the issue of the drought should be above politics and I certainly would welcome participation in a bipartisan way in dealing with the trauma which people in regional Australia and our farmers are suffering from. It is a practical suggestion and the Government doesn’t seem to have been able to come up with a strategy itself. So, this is a practical way forward which we have suggested.
JOURNALIST: During the Financial Crisis, we saw Labor bringing in economic stimulus, mainly cash handouts. Do you think now with the IMF news, the situation is that dire that the Government needs to consider something like that?
ALBANESE: Look, during the Global Financial Crisis, Australia came through that better than any advanced economy. We were ranked first or second in the OECD. Today we are 20th in terms of fastest growing economies in the OECD. The IMF report is of real concern. It shows their prediction that in the current calendar year; growth has been downgraded by 0.4 per cent. That is four times the downgrade on the average of other industrialised economies, including the UK that is going through Brexit. Including Greece and other advanced economies. It shows that the Government is being complacent and they don’t have a plan for economic growth. During the GFC we received advice from Ken Henry. I well remember it. It has been documented in cabinet. He said ‘go early, go hard, go households’. This Government is going slowly, going soft and going nowhere when it comes to an economic plan. They need to develop an economic plan that grows the economy. They’ve been complacent. We argued, during the tax debate, that they should bring forward stage 2 of the tax cuts. They talk about infrastructure and yet they have projects like Linkfield Road in Brisbane that is due to commence in 2026/2027. It’s ready to go now. They talk about their drought fund but a dollar of that won’t flow, none of it will flow to farmers, but a dollar of that won’t flow for drought infrastructure until July of next year. The drought is happening right now. Local government roads would welcome funding to upgrade that infrastructure. There are a range of measures that they could bring forward which could create jobs, stimulate the economy and quite clearly the IMF report today just reinforces that is exactly what is needed. Thank you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.