SUBJECTS: Election as Member for Grayndler; Tax cuts; AFP raids; Chinese vessels; Penalty rates.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Can I also begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their elders past and present. Can I thank the AEC Officials, both permanent and of course many volunteers that come forward and work on polling day and can I thank them for the professional way in which elections are conducted in this great country. We should not take our democracy for granted, it is precious. Can I thank also the other candidates, in particular the Greens Candidate Jim Casey and the Liberal Candidate Derek Henderson both contacted me to congratulate me on my election on election night.
I received a significant swing in this election, a primary vote swing of above 5 per cent and have been elected on primaries for the first time I think, certainly the first time for a long while. I’m particularly pleased that every single booth in the electorate I have won. That is certainly for the first time since the boundaries were changed some two elections ago.
It is indeed a great privilege to serve in the House of Representatives. The Inner West is a community that I’ve lived my entire life. In Camperdown, Newtown and Marrickville. And so I’m very proud to represent the community that I know and that I love.
There’s more people here today than at past election announcements and no doubt that’s because my elevation to the Leader of the Australian Labor Party and I’m indeed very honoured to have that role. You can’t have that role though unless you’re in the Parliament, in the House of Representatives. All politics is indeed local. For me now, that local consists not just of Grayndler but of all 151 divisions around Australia, and I’ve visited quite a few of them in the last week it must be said. I visited Longman, Petrie, Dickson, Brisbane, Dawson. Tomorrow I’ll be in Reid. I visited Braddon, Bass, Melbourne; all in the past week and I will continue to get about the nation to introduce myself for those people who don’t know me, to thank those people who did support Labor in the election, but also to talk to people who did not support us. We need to do better at the next election than to get the primary vote of one in three Australians and hence why I’ve been conducting a listening tour around the country.
Can I thank my Campaign Director, Audrey Marsh, and all of the many volunteers who worked on my campaign, many hundreds of them, both Labor Party members and non-Labor Party members who happen to want to support me as their local member. And we had many hundreds of people volunteering not just on election day but in the lead up.
Can I thank those also who worked and volunteered for other political parties as well. Our democracy relies upon a campaign and battle of ideas as well as personalities and those ideas are important, that they be put forward. This was a campaign that was conducted civilly between the candidates, with a couple of exceptions, for some of the non-candidates people were polite and respectful about the way that they conducted the campaign. And certainly all of the candidates were. And I thank them for that. I might leave it there but happy to take questions on this or other matters.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, why is the Government now considering reversing its opposition to stage two of the Government’s tax cuts?
ALBANESE: Sorry, Labor?
ALBANESE: We have had a discussion, a preliminary discussion. We’re not going to finalise that position until we have a look at exactly what the proposal is that the Government brings forward in its legislation. So, we have had a discussion, that was on the basis that we were supportive at the election of stage one of the tax cuts that were proposed to come into effect on the 1st of July and our disappointment is that Scott Morrison has broken a commitment to the Australian people that he gave during the election campaign. That’s disappointing, but what exacerbates it is that Scott Morrison, during the election campaign, knew that that commitment would not be met because the writs weren’t being returned in his request to the Governor General until June the 28. So, it is simply not possible for the Parliament to meet. What I had offered was for the Parliament to meet, to pass through both Houses, expeditiously, the tax cuts to come into effect on the first of July. Why are they important? They are important because we have seen from the Reserve Bank this week with a cut in interest rates the lack of confidence there is in this Government’s management of the economy. That is why monetary policy is doing all of the work at the moment. Clearly there is a need for the Government to examine how soft the economy is.
JOURNALIST: Would you agree that tax cuts, if they were brought forward to this Parliament as well?
ALBANESE: We haven’t seen any proposals beyond that which the Government has said they would do. As I have said, they have already broken that commitment.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you on another pay issue, if Federal MPs are getting a 2 per cent pay increase, how do you feel about the lowest paid workers in Australia effectively getting a pay cut with the cuts to penalty rates?
ALBANESE: We were opposed to the cut to penalty rates. Penalty rates are vital for people to put food on the table for their families. Penalty rates are critical for essentials of life; people rely on them to pay their bills and we don’t believe that penalty rates should be cut, which will happen on July one – yet again.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, the AFP says the Government is not involved in the raids on the ABC. What does Labor think about that?
ALBANESE: We live in a democracy and in a democracy it is the elected representatives who are responsible and accountable for what happens in that democracy. What we have here is an issue that is fundamental to democracy: freedom of the press. Mr Morrison and Mr Dutton have to say exactly what their position is on freedom of the press. At the moment they are silent about it. They pretend it has nothing to do with them and there is nothing to see here. I think that democracy is too important and freedom of the press is an essential component of our democracy and needs to be defended. I will defend it even if the Government won’t.
JOURNALIST: Do you see there should be any changes to the legislation regarding press freedom?
ALBANESE: Look, it would be a start if the Prime Minister of Australia acknowledged that there is an issue here. There is an issue here which is disturbing, there is an issue here. I have said that Annika Smethurst is a professional journalist who, to go back to basics, who told Australians that there were proposals being considered that would cause concern for all those worried about the privacy of Australian citizens. Now, Annika Smethurst reported that. I think it is a good thing that that was reported, frankly. Australians do have a right to know what is going on in a democracy. That is the role of the media. Now, Annika Smethurst, I am sure won’t give up her sources. Ben Fordham, won’t give up his sources. The ABC, won’t give up their sources. So what we have here is an issue that will be ongoing and the Government, the Prime Minister and the Minister can’t continue to say it is nothing to do with them.
JOURNALIST: This morning we have seen Chinese warships departing Sydney Harbour. Do you think there should have been more notification for the public when these types of vessels arrive in Australian ports?
ALBANESE: My view is that I have seen some conflict within the Liberal Party today about the visit of these Chinese naval vessels. I don’t believe that it serves the national interest for this to become a partisan political issue. However, I also think that it would be reasonable that there be public notification of the visit of any vessels into Sydney Harbour. I think that is normal process, quite often. That fact that the New South Wales Government of Gladys Berejiklian apparently weren’t informed requires some further explanation of just why it is that that didn’t happen.
JOURNALIST: What about Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who said that it was insensitive to have the timing of the visit on the same day as the Tiananmen Square massacre anniversary. What do you say to that?
ALBANESE: I will leave the internal Liberal Party conflict to the Liberal Party. I will stand back and watch them arguing with each other.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, just going back on the raids; are you concerned that journalists would face jail time?
ALBANESE: I am concerned. I support freedom of the press. I support the right of journalists to do their jobs. The police have a job to do, so do journalists have a job to do. The job of government is to set the framework within our democracy operates. At the moment, Scott Morrison as the Prime Minister is pretending that he has no role in the setting up of the framework that defends our democracy. I want someone in the Government to defend freedom of press. I am waiting. I have been waiting for days. It is about time someone did.