Jun 9, 2019

Transcript of Press Conference – Perth – Sunday, 9 June 2019

SUBJECTS: Listening Tour; AFP raids; Freedom of the press; Israel Folau; Ash Barty.

PATRICK GORMAN, MEMBER FOR PERTH: I’m Patrick Gorman, I’m the Federal Member for Perth. It is fabulous to be here with the WA Labor team and our Leader Anthony Albanese. Firstly of course and I know everyone behind me shares this sentiment. Thank you to the people of Western Australia for electing each of us to represent you in Parliament in Canberra. But of course the result wasn’t what we wanted it to be. Which is why we are here at the start of the WA leg of Anthony Albanese’s listening and learning tour to make sure we continue to listen to Western Australians. That we continue to hear what they want to say to us and we continue to do what they want from us in the Federal Parliament. But we also have a proud story to tell. We hear and we’ve just walked through part of the Perth City Link. A project that Anthony personally championed and made possible when he was last in government. It’s a great part of the Perth metropolitan area. I think it shows just how seriously Anthony takes the West and how he understands what Western Australians want from a Federal Labor team. With that I’ll pass over to Anthony.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much Patrick and it’s fantastic to be here with the great WA Labor team. We have in the reshuffle that’s occurred post-election, promoted Western Australians to where they should be; around the Shadow Cabinet table, around the Shadow Ministry table. In Sue Lines’ case to be Deputy President of the Senate and of course three assistant ministers from Western Australia. That means that when it comes to issues like trade and resources, West Australians will have a direct say in formulating Labor policy for the next election. When it comes to defence procurement, West Australians will have a direct say, when it comes to manufacturing and the environment, when it comes to the whole suite of policy portfolios West Australians will have a direct say.

But I also want to hear directly what West Australians have to say to me as the newly elected Labor leader. That’s why I’m conducting a telling it straight listening tour right around the nation over the next couple of weeks that’ll be completed. I’ve already been to regional Queensland, to Brisbane, to Melbourne, to regional Tasmania and of course to Western Sydney yesterday. But here in WA over the next three days, I’ll be meeting with the business community. I’ll be meeting with community groups I’ll be travelling on a train with Madeleine King here down to Brand this afternoon, talking to people about why it is that we didn’t go as well as we expected in the election campaign. We’ve received the support of just one in three Australians. Quite clearly we need to do better if we’re going to return to government after the next election which is our aim.

The fact is that I have a long relationship with this great state. I first came here in 1983 and spent Christmas and about six weeks here. Went across – spent Christmas Day on Rottnest Island, went around to Albany and to the southwest and throughout my period in political life, I’ve spent considerable periods of time in Port Hedland and Karratha, in Kununurra, in Kalgoorlie, in Esperance. One of the things that I have is that when I come to West Australia no matter where I am, I can point towards projects which we supported which will make a difference. Right here, Perth City Link, a transformative project for this great global city. $236 million dollars was the federal contribution, sinking the railway line, uniting the Perth CBD with the Northbridge precinct making an enormous difference in terms of the capacity of the rail network; but importantly improving the sustainability and liveability of this city. Through areas like Yagan Square and the private sector investment that has happened off the back of this visionary decision, working in partnership with the WA State Government. I’ll be meeting with Mark McGowan the Premier tomorrow, to talk about how we can further deepen that relationship.

And I’ll be talking to West Australians across the board about what is needed going forward. This is the first of many visits as the Federal Labor Leader. This is my fifth visit here this year so far. So I’m a regular visitor. I conduct and I’ll be doing it again tomorrow on 6PR, talkback radio listening and answering questions from people who ring in. I think it’s important that politicians who reside on the east coast actually spend time here listening to West Australians about the unique challenges which are here but also the unique opportunities that are here as well to further assist and grow the economy here and grow the national economy.

And can I conclude with this point. I’m very proud of the team that I have behind me. I think person for person they are an outstanding team. And just like the rest of my frontbench team and indeed backbench team, what we’ll have is person for person I think, a massive advantage when Parliament resumes over the Coalition that have seen a severe loss of talent. People like Michael Keenan and of course Julie Bishop lost from the WA team at the last election. So I’m very confident that we can move forward.

But I say this as well. Scott Morrison was elected on a platform of improving economic growth, improving jobs and improving living standards. What we’re seeing is actually economic growth that’s flatlining, pressure on household budgets, a dampening economy leading the Reserve Bank to reduce interest rates last week and a real lack of confidence in the economy. We see mortgage stress at record levels. We see increased insecurity at work and we see wages not keeping up with inflation. This economy needs, needs support other than just monetary policy by the Reserve Bank. And one of the things that this Government can do is to bring forward some of the infrastructure spending that they have said they would do over the next decade.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

ALBANESE: Sorry?

JOURNALIST: What have Australians told you so far about why you lost the election? Was it your policies or was it that Bill Shorten was too unmarketable?

ALBANESE: Look there’s a range of issues. Australians are pretty straight talking and they’ve told us that they didn’t believe that our entire package was worthy of support for many of them. Of course it is important to recognise that we did receive the support of almost half of Australia. So there are people here who’ve been elected and will continue to during this visit thank the Labor Party faithful for sticking with us, for campaigning with us. But clearly we didn’t do enough. Issues like franking credits were an issue at the election. I believe that there was a perception that Labor wasn’t working closely enough with the business community as well as with the workforce to advance our national economy and that’s something that I will be seeking to address. It’s something that I’ve done in practice for a long period of time.

JOURNALIST:  (inaudible) the Coalition’s income tax package, will Labor support the full package (inaudible)?

ALBANESE: Well we’ll wait and see what the Government actually comes up with. We’re very disappointed that Scott Morrison has already broken a commitment of bringing in the first tranche of the tax cuts that were due to come into effect on July 1. We indicated we were prepared for Parliament to sit, if only for a couple of hours to get that through in accordance with the Government’s commitment. Of course, what we know now is that Scott Morrison at the time he was making that commitment knew it wouldn’t be fulfilled because the return of the writs doesn’t occur until the 28th of June making that impossible. But we’ll examine it, we’ll have further discussion between the Shadow Ministry and our Caucus to determine a landing point on the second and third parts of that tax package.

Can I say though, given the softness in the economy, it is a triumph of hope over economic reality for the Government to say it knows what the economy will be like in 2024-25. What we need to do is actually have some stimulus right now which is why the tax cuts from July 1 should have been put in place and why the Government should bring forward some of the infrastructure investment that’s off in the never never. There are projects right here; great separations on roads, the Perth Metronet projects, dealing with commuter parking outside stations like Mandurah that could be brought forward right now and the Government should do that in partnership with the WA Government.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister’s indicated a preparedness to possibly review sections of the Crimes Act as it relates to leaking classified documents. Would Labor support an examination of those laws?

ALBANESE: Well we’re the ones that have been calling for the Government to respond to the issue of press freedom that’s arisen due to the raids on the ABC and Anika Smethurst, the News Ltd journalist just this week, and also the inquiries made to Ben Fordham on 2GB. We believe that media freedom is an essential component of our democracy. The Government dismissed that. Including Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier in the week. There was an attitude of nothing to see here. The Government also needs to explain though why it is that we had these extensive raids and on the other hand, a report that was on the front page of The Australian describing national security advice from ASIO that’s been described as a very serious issue by the Director General of ASIO wasn’t investigated and why it is that indeed the advice that the excuse for that is that they can’t, they can’t identify who the potential suspects will be. Well I’ll give people a big hint, who has gone to ground in the last few days and won’t give any interviews? Whose office won’t respond to the very reasonable questions of what did Peter Dutton or his office know about that leak because he went on Ray Hadley’s program on 2GB on the very day it was on the front page of The Australian and spoke about national security advice in a way that was entirely inappropriate, in a way that sought to influence the debate in the Parliament that was taking place about the medevac legislation.

JOURNALIST: So why don’t you think that has been investigated?

ALBANESE: Well it’s up to the Government to actually come out and appear somewhere before the media today. I mean Peter Dutton went missing yesterday, I had an impromptu debate with him on the Today Show on Channel 9 on Friday morning. And since then of course Friday after the TV news’ went to bed, the information came out that that inquiry had been discontinued because they couldn’t know who any suspects may be. Well I think we all know who sought to get political advantage from that particular leak.

JOURNALIST: Union boss John Setka said that men have fewer rights after campaigns by Rosie Batty. Are they acceptable comments?

ALBANESE: They’re totally unacceptable. If that is what he said, let’s be very clear. Rosie Batty, John Setka, I’m on Rosie Batty’s side. She’s a great Australian. She deserves the respect and thanks of every Australian and deserves better than to be criticised by anyone in our community.  Labor abhors violence against women full stop, exclamation mark.

JOURNALIST: So has Labor’s reputation been diminished by its affiliation?

ALBANESE: I’ve never met – I’ve never met the bloke. I’ve never had a conversation with him. So I don’t think this guy has any great significance in the party, I’ve never met him, I doubt whether anyone behind me has met him either.

JOURNALIST: Should he resign?

ALBANESE: Well look, that’s a matter for him. I can’t go into the detail of that. There are charges and issues before the courts. It’s not appropriate to try to influence behaviour that’s before the courts. What I can do, what I can do very clearly is say what I’ve said, which is I have no relationship with Mr Setka. He is a Victorian official of a union, apparently elected by the members. But there’s issues before the courts, but any comments not referring just to him, any comments that are made that seek to minimise the importance of the entire community taking action about violence against women are entirely inappropriate.

JOURNALIST: May I check on press freedoms – would you support a Parliamentary inquiry on that subject?

ALBANESE: Look, what we’ll do is examine these issues soberly. One of the things that I’ve said that will characterise my leadership of the party is that I’ll treat our internal processes with respect, and we’ll examine issues not based upon the 24 hour media cycle but based upon the time frame which is there. Now Parliament’s not coming back to July. There’s lots of time to consider – I’ve seen in today’s papers a range of proposals with regard to amendments that might be required for legislation. We’ll examine all of those issues but bear in mind I’m here as the Labor Leader not as the Leader of the Government. The Government needs to actually respond to these issues and the media need to hold the Government to account. And the media need to also acknowledge that we’re not in a position to determine legislation. The Government has an absolute majority in the House of Representatives. So whether it’s that issue or others the Government has to explain what it what its position is. But quite clearly, this week they’ve been all over the shop. They’ve been “nothing to see here” then expressing some concern, and today it would appear that their response is essentially to go missing.

JOURNALIST: But would you want to see removal from the Crimes Act that section that makes it an offence…

ALBANESE: I want to make sure …

JOURNALIST: … to be in receipt of classified documents?

ALBANESE: I want to make sure that legitimate journalism is not a crime and I want to make sure in terms of the principles which are there as well – there is already some defence due to Labor’s insertion of it, in Labor raising these issues – for issues that are in the public interest. Now with regard to Annika Smethurst’s case, was it in the public interest that Australians know that two government departments were engaged in a debate over whether they should be spying on matters that many Australians would regard as absolutely private? Now, is that legitimate that that being in the public discourse and disclosed? I actually think it is in the public interest because was it not for that, I as a Member of Parliament, my colleagues behind me, wouldn’t have known anything about this until that article was published.

JOURNALIST: How are you going to raise the profile of WA Labor Members considering the last election we didn’t have anyone fronting the media in that sense. We had a bus with Mark McGowan’s face on it …

ALBANESE: Well, I’m here and I was here during the last election campaign. I was here three times during the election campaign. So you could see my face out there having press conferences with all of the colleagues who are behind me. And I’ve consistently been here. I’ll continue to be here. Importantly as well we have Madeleine King as the Shadow Minister for Trade, a very senior position in Labor’s team. Matt Keogh as the Shadow Minister responsible assisting on defence. Henderson’s particularly important in terms of shipbuilding and jobs in the defence industry but also the specific portfolios on WA resources because we know that the WA resources sector is different from the resources sector on the East Coast and he’ll be working with Joel Fitzgibbon with regard to those issues.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) think it was unrepresented before though, if you’ve had this many I guess new additions to the ministry?

ALBANESE: We’ll we’ve had a good team. One of the things that’s happened though is that at the last election there was considerable turnover. The people behind us will all come through the ranks. They won’t stop at being Assistant Ministers or being backbenchers. I would have liked to have put all of them on the frontbench. You can’t do that in one quick move. But people like Anne Aly is already making a massive contribution, only been there for one term. Pat Gorman hasn’t been there for one term yet. Josh Wilson of course has been there for one term but has been through three elections during that period. So we have had significant turnover from WA in a in a short period of time. Matt Keogh has been a member for a short period of time as well. I remember campaigning at least a couple of times on his by-election campaign. So we have a fresh team from WA Labor. They’re a team that will be dynamic. Glenn Sterle’s done enormous work – no one knows the trucking sector in the national Parliament better than Glenn Sterle and he was my Parliamentary Secretary for road safety in the last term. I was very pleased to reappoint him to that position and he’ll be a great assistance to Catherine King the Shadow Infrastructure Minister.

JOURNALIST: So why don’t we see Anne – you listed a bunch of first term Members there (inaudible) so why don’t we see Anne Aly get an assistant role or a greater role, who has quite a large profile in …

ALBANESE: Well, now you’re being just, now you’re being just disingenuous. No, no now you’re being …

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) finish the question first …

ALBANESE: No. Well, if we know where it’s going …

JOURNALIST: Well is it because it’s too marginal of seat?

ALBANESE: No. No. Anne Aly will play a really important role. I’ll give you the big tip. I didn’t become a Shadow Minister until I’d been in Parliament for six years. Guess what? I’m now the Leader of the Labor Party. So, so we don’t have to have everyone as Shadow Ministers in the first few years. People participate in important roles in the caucus in terms of in Parliamentary Committees, as Members of Parliament. And every single one of the team behind me will play a very important role in Labor’s team. And that’s why they’re all here today to show the strength of our team.

JOURNALIST: Can you tell us Labor’s position on the Republic and is Labor for example in favour of a general plebiscite, should we have an Australian Head of State followed by a referendum on the exact model?

ALBANESE: Well, as I’ve said, we’ll examine all of the policies that we took to the election. We weren’t successful. So we’ll examine the specifics in detail, as a party, as a caucus, and we’ll work through those issues. We’re not in a position, frankly, to advance them in government so there’s lots of time. The next election is 2022. Does Labor support a Republic? Yes we do. We support an Australian Head of State. What we also recognise though is that there’s a need for bipartisanship in order to secure any constitutional change in this country. And we’re prepared to work with the Coalition Government on any issue that they want to bring forward, in particular the issue of a voice to Parliament and the recognition of First Nations people in our Constitution. Thanks very much.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask …

JOURNALIST: Did you see Ash Barty?

JOURNALIST: Israel Folau, was he unlawfully terminated? Is this case going to be really significant?

ALBANESE: Well that’s a matter between the ARU, and what was in the contract. It’s still the subject of ongoing dispute.

JOURNALIST: Did you see the Ash Barty match?

ALBANESE: I didn’t – I woke up and checked out the result. I must say because I was coming here early this morning I didn’t stay up – I did watch her semi-final victory and all congratulations to Ash Barty. All of Australia, very pleased and proud. Not only is she a great tennis player, she’s a great ambassador for Australia. Well done Ash.

ENDS