SUBJECT: Response to the Prime Minister’s speech to the Lowy Institute.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, thanks for joining me. The Prime Minister gave a speech last night about Australia’s place in the world, but that was a distraction from what are the major domestic challenges facing our nation. The Government doesn’t have a plan for our economy. And this week we’ve seen interest rates reduced to 0.75 per cent – less than 1per cent. Something like a quarter of what they were at the height of the Global Financial Crisis. We see consumer demand falling; We see productivity going backwards; and we see wages simply not keeping up with the cost of living. Australians are under pressure and they want leadership from their Government on national issues. On international issues it’s absurd to suggest that somehow voluntary agreements that Australia signs up to are imposed by bureaucracies or international organisations such as the United Nations. Any agreement to which Australia is a party to, is one which we have voluntarily signed up to. And the Prime Minister, at a time when our emissions are rising year-on-year since 2014, and where they’re due to increase until 2020 every year; says that we need global action. Indeed, we do. And that’s why we need to act as part of the international community and not distract by pretending that somehow something’s being imposed from outside. Happy to take questions.
ALBANESE: There are a range of measures the Government can undertake. The Government is in a position to exert leverage over the big banks. There are a range of policy measures that would be supported across the Parliament, to impose sanctions against the banks if they don’t do the right thing. We also have the case that the Government could simply, instead of just advertising things to advance its political interests, how about they spend a bit of that advertising dollar on actually saying to the big four banks that they’re doing the wrong thing, and enhancing the reputation of those smaller financial institutions that have passed on the full amount. That’s a practical measure; one that would place real pressure on the banks.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the Prime Minister’s comments about China?
ALBANESE: Here we have a Prime Minister who’s saying that the United States and China – we don’t have to choose between the two. And indeed what we know is that the conflict between China and the United States on trade is having an impact on the national economy, and is causing global uncertainty. We’ve seen not just interest rates being decreased; which is having an impact on those people who rely upon their savings, it also is having an impact on the share market. And we saw a considerable loss on the share market because of that global uncertainty here in Australia. So, the Prime Minister has an interest in actually having less conflict between the United States and China. It’s up to him to explain why immediately after doing the rally in Ohio, that looked very much like a Trump campaign rally, he made statements about China from the United States. They are comments, in terms of diplomacy, that should be made in a way that advances the settlement of conflict between the United States and China; because that is in Australia’s interests. China is our most significant trading partner. The United States is of course our most important ally. What we need to do is make sure that Australia acts in our national interest. And the Prime Minister needs to ensure that all of his comments do that.
ALBANESE: They haven’t responded to many of the Royal Commission’s recommendations. This is a government that doesn’t have a plan for our economy. They have reviews about everything. They don’t have action. We know some of the things that are required, they were recommended by the Royal Commission, and the government should get on with legislating them. Thanks very much.