Subjects: Labor tourism policy; Labor cities policy; Coalition infighting; Labor unity.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks very much for coming. I’m very proud to be launching Labor’s tourism policy, but also our cities policy today here in Sydney outside the Museum of Contemporary Art, which was funded in part with a $13 million grant last time we were in Government. It’s a great example of whereby a contribution from Government can lead to ongoing economic activity, and enhance the liveability of a city, but also attract tourists – so good for everyone who lives in the city of Sydney, but also good for domestic and international visitors. Labor is taking tourism seriously. The first thing we will do is make sure that it is put in with the Department of Infrastructure and the Department of Transport. That’s where it should be. Because when we look at what drives tourism, it’s aviation and transport, people getting to Australia and getting around our vast continent. But it’s also infrastructure that makes a difference to improve the experience of tourists. We’ll make sure that Tourism Australia is able to fund domestic advertising, not just promote us internationally. And that’s in recognition of the fact that this city of Sydney, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania – they’re all competing not just against each other, they’re competing against international destinations like Bali, like Thailand, like Fiji. And therefore, there’s a case for promoting domestic tourism here through Tourism Australia. We also have, of course, comprehensive tourism plans right around the country. Whether it be in Western Australia for Rottnest Island, whether it be in Darwin, whether it be our billion dollars we’ve allocated for northern Australian tourism, or whether it be in Tasmania: the significant $120 million package, $50 million of that for MONA, $70 million of that for regional tourism in Tasmania.
Secondly today, we’re launching our cities policy. Labor is the party of urban policy. We’re the party that have always been serious. Whether it be the Whitlam Government, under the Department of Urban and Regional Development. Whether it be the Hawke Government with the Better Cities Program, or whether it be the work that we did under the regional Local Community Infrastructure Program, and the establishment of the Major Cities Unit last time we were in Government. We’ll have real city partnerships, not just one-off deals, but a real process of coordination across the three levels of government to drive urban policy. We’ll re-establish the Major Cities Unit. We’ll re-establish the Urban Policy Forum, so that we engage with the sector, whether they be architects, or landscapers, or planners, to make sure that our cities are as good as they can be. And city partnerships will really be at the centre of our cities policy – a long term arrangement all the way through. I’ll take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, so this election is coming down to hip pocket issues. Why should voters care that you’ve got this comprehensive tourism strategy?
ALBANESE: Because this is about driving economic policy. It’s about jobs. It’s about making sure that we value the industries of the future. Tourism now employs almost a million Australians directly, and as a direct result of our policy, that will be enhanced. We’re living in the part of the world that has the highest growth in human history in the Asian Indian Pacific region. And we have an opportunity therefore to take advantage of that. We need to make sure though that we move quickly, because this is a competitive market. And in today’s world, if you’re sitting in China or India and determining where you can go, you can very easily get access to the information and make choices. And that’s why this policy is so important.
JOURNALIST: We’ve just heard from a voter who is clearly frustrated by the WestConnex project in Sydney, and that goes to the heart of liveability in Sydney, in cities and congestion. I mean, what is your cities plan going to do to actually address the lived experience of people in cities?
ALBANESE: Well, one of the things that we’ll do with our cities plan is to make sure that we prioritise public transport. We understand that you can’t solve a city’s urban congestion problems with just toll roads. And that’s why in Sydney, for example, we’ll prioritise the Metro West project, which will not receive a single dollar if Scott Morrison is actually elected, for the first time by anyone other than his caucus, as Prime Minister on Saturday. We will contribute $3 million. We’ll also contribute to building the North-South rail line through Badgery’s Creek that will access, therefore, those high value jobs that will develop around Sydney’s second airport.
JOURNALIST: On to some of the issues of the day. The NSW Nationals have taken the extraordinary step of urging their members to vote below the line against their Coalition agreement, because of a counter-campaign that Senator Jim Molan is running, to try and get himself re-elected ahead of the third Nationals candidate on that combined ticket. I mean, is the Coalition in tatters?
ALBANESE: Well, this is a civil war that has been declared just days out from the Federal election this Saturday. We know that we’ve seen six years of chaos: three Prime Ministers, three Deputy Prime Ministers – a revolving door in ministerial officers. We know that the priority for the Government has been fighting each other, rather than fighting for the interests of the Australian people. And now we’re seeing it writ large just days before an election. We have the extraordinary circumstances whereby we have the Liberal Party, in big chunks, going out there campaigning for a below the line vote. That’s been called ‘sabotage’ by some people within the Tony Abbott camp, because they’re clearly undermining his capacity to get votes in Warringah, where he’s under siege from Zali Steggall, but also under siege from his own party. And now we know, because they are his allies that are doing this, that they’re also under siege from the National Party. And now we have the circumstances whereby the Liberal Party handing out two how to votes, the National Party handing out multiple how to votes. If they don’t even know what they themselves want people to vote for on Saturday, then how can the Australian people be expected to vote for them? It’s very clear that what they need is some time in Opposition – time in Opposition to get their act together, frankly. Because these are extraordinary circumstances, whereby Tony Abbott – his campaign is a complete debacle over there in Warringah, and now the National Party – no wonder they’re angry. They have the number three spot on the ticket, and you have Jim Molan, with the authority of some senior people in the Liberal Party, handing out a below the line vote deliberately trying to exclude any possibility of the National Party maintaining a position in the Senate from NSW. If you want unity and stability on Saturday, you have to vote Labor, and vote for Bill Shorten and his united team. We are putting forward a coherent argument for Government. On the other side, it’s just more chaos, more dysfunction. They hate each other, and they’re too busy fighting each other to fight for what really matters, which is the interests of Australians over jobs, over education, over health, and over infrastructure.
JOURNALIST: I mean, in fairness, it was just nine years ago that the same could have been said of the Labor Party. What’s changed?
ALBANESE: Look, there is no doubt, that Labor made some mistakes when we were in Government. But even at our worst, you didn’t have multiple how to votes being handed out on polling booths. You didn’t have this sort of infighting within the Liberal Party, within the National Party, and between the Liberal Party and the National Party. And that’s before you get to the deal with Clive Palmer that Australians still don’t know about. That’s before you get to the deal with the One Nation Party in Queensland, where Scott Morrison says they’re going to put One Nation last, but LNP members are defying the Prime Minister, and putting One Nation above Labor in those Queensland seats. So whether it’s the Liberal Party, the National Party, Clive Palmer, One Nation – what you know is that if somehow the Government gets elected on Saturday, it would just be a farce. And quite frankly, it’s becoming embarrassing it’s so bad – the infighting within the Coalition, and between the Coalition and its broad new Coalition partners: Clive Palmer and Pauline Hanson.
JOURNALIST: Has Labor done enough to convince voters that it is a united team?
ALBANESE: Well absolutely. We have – we’re going to this election with the same Leader of the Opposition we’ve had for six years, the same Deputy Leader, the same Shadow Treasurer, the same Shadow Infrastructure Minister, the same Shadow Health Minister, the same Senate Leader in Penny Wong. We have a united team that’s been focused on what we need to do to get good governance back in this country. Our opponents have been focused on just fighting each other. Thanks.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.