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3 weeks ago
Labor - Door stop interview
ANTHONY ALBANESE MP 

FIONA PHILLIPS, MEMBER FOR GILMORE: Hello everyone and welcome to Bomaderry, the Manildra Shoalhaven Starches plant, one of the most magnificent employers in our region. This is an area that I grew up in, and I'm proud to say that I've grown up with many of the workers in this plant, growing over time.

So I am delighted today to welcome Labor leader Anthony Albanese and Tony Burke, Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, to see this great plant. It is so important for our local area to have good local jobs. That's what I support as the Federal Member for Gilmore, and it is what I will fight for every single day. I'm really proud that Anthony and Tony are here today, talking with workers. Scott Morrison has gone missing in action, he was missing during the bushfires, missing during the floods, and the pandemic. I will stand here every single day, supporting local workers, supporting our communities through these hard times. And I'll hand over to Anthony.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thank you. Thank you very much Fiona. And it is great to be back here at Manildra. This is my third or fourth visit here over recent years. And it's a fantastic story. It's a great Australian story of what Australian businesses can do. This is a family-owned company. There are some 700 workers on site here today, producing goods not just for domestic consumption, but also for export. Some 70 per cent of the product here is exported overseas, particularly to the Americas. And this is a great success story. It shows what can be done here.

It is why we need a future made in Australia. We need to back Australian manufacturing and Australian jobs. That's why arising out of the pandemic, we need to build back stronger. Our National Reconstruction Fund will support existing industries, but also new industries to grow. And we'll fill those jobs by having fee-free TAFE, by having additional university places. This is a part of our agenda for growth into the future. An agenda that's about using clean energy. An agenda that's about building better infrastructure. One that's about fixing the National Broadband Network. One that's about investing in Australian manufacturing and in Australian jobs. One that's about investing in cheaper childcare, because we know that that will boost the economy as well, by boosting productivity and boosting workforce participation.

What we see in this electorate of all electorates here in Gilmore, it underlines one of the big differences between the current government and the approach of Labor. Fiona here has turned up for work every single day. She works her guts out to protect the interests of the people of Gilmore, and she did it before she was a local member. She stood, of course in the election before, she was elected in 2016 and just kept going the whole way through. In contrast, Scott Morrison went missing for the people of Gilmore. When Gilmore needed Scott Morrison, he went missing. When Scott Morrison needs Gilmore, he turns up. He only turns up in his own interests. He doesn't turn up in the interest of the people of Gilmore.

Can I also say with regard to the foreign policy debacle, which is what has occurred in the Solomon Islands, the security agreement between China and the Solomons is a massive failure of our foreign policy. Once again, Scott Morrison went missing. Last night he confirmed that he has known about this for a long time, we know at least since August last year, but as Julie Bishop said just yesterday, why wasn't the foreign minister or senior members of the government dispatched immediately to address these issues? Why is it that in the Pacific, where Australia has been the security partner of choice since the Second World War, Australia went missing by making cuts to the aid budget, by not standing up with the people of the Pacific when it came to action on climate change? And why is it that the government was so complacent and kept saying it was all under control before this occurred?

A little fact is that we are closer here today to the Solomon Islands than we are to Perth. That shows how strategic the Solomon Islands is for Australia. But Scott Morrison always goes missing when Australia really needs him. Tony Burke is going to make some comments as well.

TONY BURKE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS:The comments made late yesterday, just before the debate, by Michaelia Cash, resolved nothing. This government has had low wages as a deliberate design feature. In their own words, they made an election announcement, a premeditated election announcement, that they were bringing back the omnibus bill. They made that announcement, they chose to do that, they planned to do that.

What then happened was about a matter of minutes before the debate, about a couple of hours before the debate, Michaelia Cash says 'oh no we didn't mean that bit', even though Scott Morrison earlier in the day had confirmed that there were changes to the better-off-overall test. Be in no doubt, when they announced they were bringing back that legislation, they knew exactly what they were saying. And the comments we were talking about yesterday in that legislation are not the only pay cuts in it, they still haven't tried to rule out the fact that that legislation allows wages to be traded for non-monetary benefit.

So effectively, if you're a fast food worker, you can get a pay cut in return for them saying we're providing you with a hamburger at the end of your shift. If you work in a supermarket, they can say we're cutting your pay, and it'll all be okay, on the basis that you get a staff discount card. There are pay cuts riddled throughout that legislation, part timers losing overtime rates, part of that legislation too. It's all there in 111 pages of black-and-white pay cuts, the government made a deliberate decision to announce that that was an election commitment.

The fact that just before the debate, they said 'oh maybe not' means nothing. Before the last election. They never told us they were coming forward with those pay cuts.  If they get the chance to be in government again, the pay cuts will come back again. If you're one of the many Australians who's watched your wages flatline, and all you are asking for is for wages to get moving again, be guaranteed, Scott Morrison has gone missing for you his entire term of government, they have no interest in improving wages, and given the chance they'll cut them.

JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, if I can just ask about some comments last night. In 2015 you said that you couldn't ask someone to do something you couldn't see yourself doing yourself, regarding boat turnbacks. You said if people were on a boat and turning back families and children, you yourself couldn't turn that around. When did you change your mind? What was it specifically that made you change your mind given it sounds like quite a strong view you had in 2015?

ALBANESE: When I announced it, when I announced that at the time. Labor supports turning back the boats.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it was insensitive last night, the Prime Minister saying how blessed he and his wife were to have children who didn't suffer autism?

ALBANESE: I think every child is a blessing for parents.

JOURNALIST: When did you change your mind?

ALBANESE: I have answered that. I made a public statement at the time.

JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, if I can ask a question of your local candidate, Fiona Phillips.

ALBANESE: Sure, hang on. Just behind you.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Prime Minister is downplaying the prospect of the Chinese military base being built in the Solomons given we heard Barnaby Joyce say that it could become a little Cuba?

ALBANESE: Well, Barnaby Joyce's comments were quite extraordinary. He again, you'd think he had nothing to do with this. He is the Deputy Prime Minister of the country, and the Deputy Prime Minister of the country who was allowed to make a public comment, on one of the few occasions in this campaign, has said that this is like Cuba, likening it to the Cuban missile crisis that occurred on the doorstep of the United States.

We know that the Solomons is a strategic destination. We know during World War Two, some of the fiercest and most important battles for control of the Pacific occurred there. And we know that the United States very much relies upon Australia and sees Australia as playing that key role of partners in the Indo-Pacific. And that Australia, and Scott Morrison, has just gone missing. The United States is sending Kurt Campbell, its senior representative in this region. I've known Kurt a long period of time. He is a well respected figure. We sent a junior person across there for what is a really serious matter. And it's beyond my comprehension, that in spite of all of the speculation that has occurred, there's been no action. Marise Payne, on the Insiders program, said that basically, this was all under control. It's quite clear that it wasn't.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask a question of your candidate. Fiona Phillips, you're a signatory to a document in 2015 which says you fiercely opposed turning back the boats. What is your current position? Does it remain the same?

PHILLIPS: I absolutely 100 per cent support Labor's policy. Absolutely.

JOURNALIST: Why have you changed your mind when you were a fierce advocate for not turning back the boats recently?

PHILLIPS: There's been two national conferences since then. And as an MP, I absolutely support Labor's policy.

JOURNALIST: Can you articulate the reason why you changed your mind? We now understand Mr Albanese has. Why did you change your mind? And when did you change your mind?

ALBANESE: She has answered that.

JOURNALIST: She hasn't.

PHILLIPS: I, like any member, have been to national conferences and just like we should, we discuss items, and I support that position. Absolutely. And that's what I did in the 2016 election and in the 2019 election. So nothing has changed. I support Labor policy, I support regional offshore processing, and if required and safe to do so, boat turnbacks.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask how many of your other colleagues shared that position that you had back then?

ALBANESE: Everyone supports our position, the Labor Party's position is very clear. We support boat turnbacks. And what's extraordinary here is this is an example of the Prime Minister looking for divisions where there aren't any. And the truth is that turnbacks have worked. The truth is that the Labor Party have been very clear about supporting boat turnbacks. I support it. Every one of my team supports it, we'll implement it.

JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, how will your federal ICAC be in the landscape of state and territory bodies of a similar nature, for example, Peter Malinauskas in South Australia as opposition leader supported a model that is much weaker than Scott Morrison's, for example, one that you say is not good enough?

ALBANESE: We'll support our own model, and Mark Dreyfus has outlined the principles in our model, one that's allowed to have public hearings, one that has independent powers in investigation, one that can subpoena and take action in order to ensure that it produces outcomes. Look, we need to restore faith in our politics. And be very clear, Scott Morrison in 2018, announced before the last election, when he was Prime Minister, he stood up and did a press conference. He didn't have to do it. He stood up and said we're going to have a national integrity commission, as he called it. We would call it a national anti-corruption commission. He then did nothing until the 2019 election was called. The 2019 election was called and he said we will legislate a national integrity commission. We have gone three years, and he hasn't even introduced the legislation into parliament. And during this election campaign, he has made it very clear that there will be no national anti-corruption commission if he is re-elected. That is very clear. So it's a stark contrast. If you want a national anti-corruption commission, you have to vote for a Labor government, because it's only a Labor government that will get it done.

JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton has said that China won't waste any time expanding its presence in the Pacific in the wake of that deal with the Solomons. If you're elected next month, what will your Government do to address that?

ALBANESE: We'd actually not go missing. We'd turn up, where has Peter Dutton turned up? I'll tell you what the people of the Pacific know. They've all seen the video of talking about how funny it is that countries are going to go underwater. They've all seen it. And these are the people in that video, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton, who are negotiating with the Pacific. How do you think they feel? How do you think the people of Tuvalu, the leadership of Kiribati, the leadership of our Pacific Island neighbours feel about this? This government have gone missing, they had enough notice to engage and do something about this.

China is more aggressive. China is more forward leaning. We all accept that. The difference is how do you respond to it? Do you respond to it by trying to play domestic politics? Or do you respond to it in a strategic way, in a strategic way that makes a difference? And we've been warning about this for some time. We opposed the extradition treaties being signed between China and Australia, because they have a different view about the rule of law, and about human rights. And yet, the government condemned us and said we were undermining business opportunities by doing that. And I make this point as well, the government of which I was a part, and Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives, the Gillard government, did a deal and put US Marines in Darwin. This government sat back and went missing, while the port of Darwin was sold to a company with direct links to the Chinese Communist Party, clearly not in Australia's interest for that to happen. So in terms of national security, and taking these issues seriously, we will engage with our partners, we'll engage with the region, we'll take these issues seriously, because we have to.

JOURNALIST: Just a quick question on local matters. Gilmore has a huge homeless issue and lack of housing issue. What is Labor going to do about that?

ALBANESE: We'll have a Housing Australia Future Fund. Our Housing Australia Future Fund will have 20,000 additional social housing units, but it will also build affordable housing units for essential workers. Now of that 20,000, I know that domestic violence is an issue right around the country as well, we'll make sure that 4000 of those units, those dwellings, are available for women and children escaping domestic violence. In addition to that, we have additional funding for emergency housing, we have a specific fund as well for indigenous housing, for fixing up indigenous housing in areas as well.

JOURNALIST: But we've got people living on the streets day in, day out through floods and everything.

ALBANESE: Homelessness is a huge issue, particularly in our regions. And what we know is the biggest group where homelessness is growing is older women. It's older women who just can't find anywhere to rent. The Prime Minister told them they should just go buy a house. That's their solution.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you on NDIS. Senator Linda Reynolds has said that your plan for expert reviews will add time and bureaucracy. Can you guarantee that won't happen? And also, what did you make of Mr Morrison's comment last night regarding being blessed not to have had to dealt with those NDIS issues?

ALBANESE: Well on the latter, I was asked about that before, but I'm not a commentator. But I was asked about that before. I think that all children are a blessing for parents. And for the NDIS, we've outlined a policy that's about removing the distant bureaucracy that's occurring. We heard from the mother of young Ethan last night, the problems that are occurring in practice, people are having their plans cut, because a bureaucrat somewhere who isn't in touch with what their issues are, are making decisions. Elly who I spoke about last night as well, I saw one of the things that she tweeted last night as well. You know, her circumstance, quite frankly, we had some of you were at the press conference with Elly and Dougie. Dougie, I think was from Canberra. Just telling their stories about the impact. The NDIS is about our humanity. It's a proud Labor reform, and what's happening is that people are having programs cut, the idea that someone can be told that colostomy bags are no longer part of their plan, and when they ask, 'well, what am I supposed to do', they get told, 'well, can't you just reuse them?', even though they're very susceptible to infections, and the consequences of that are far more dire in terms of a potential hospitalisation, acute care, we need to make sure that we get this right. I'm very confident that Bill Shorten's plan that he's put forward, and that we have endorsed and we're going to this election on, is about putting people back at the centre of the NDIS. That's what it's about.

JOURNALIST: Is your promise to people in the NDIS that they’ll have cuts restored?

ALBANESE: If unfair cuts have been made, absolutely. People should get the care that they need. And some of these cuts, inevitably, there are changes made to people's plans that they worked through, but they need to be ones that actually improve the capacity to have a quality of life. Where there are cuts that have been made that make it worse for people's quality of life, that make them less employable, that make them less able to participate in society, that should not happen.

JOURNALIST: Just on religious freedom, you have said if you win in May, you will legislate the National Integrity Commission this year. Will you also do the Religious Discrimination Act this year and as part of that, will you abolish those exemptions in the Act that allows schools to discriminate against transgender and gay people, will that happen this year?

ALBANESE: We're not putting a timetable on all of our legislation. That's not what we're doing. That's not what we're doing. What we will do, and I've spoken to faith groups, to churches, and faith leaders, since the government, let's be very clear about what happened here, the government introduced legislation. It was amended, consistent with what the Prime Minister wrote to me and said should happen with the legislation. They then withdrew it. The government promised, like it did prior to the 2019 election, that they would get this done. Scott Morrison always goes missing. And he always blames someone else. And in this case, he's blaming members of his own party. I mean, we sat until I think about five o'clock in the morning, in order to get this legislation through, because the government hadn't prioritised it. They were too busy doing sports rorts, they were too busy with their pork and ride scheme on commuter car parks, when railway stations didn't exist, they were too busy on their other priorities. All of our policies will be a priority. And yes, this term. One of the things that I'm doing, be very clear about one of the big differences between me and Scott Morrison, I'm running in this campaign to be Australia's prime minister, to implement the policies that I'm taking to this election, whether it be the NBN, whether it be cheaper childcare, the establishment of the National Reconstruction Fund, a religious discrimination act, a national anti-corruption commission, this term. This term, and I'll be held to account, I'll be held to account for that. One of the things I won't do is what characterises this Prime Minister, which is he always goes missing, and he always blames someone else.

JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese you said last night that Labor does the big things, like Medicare and the NDIS – what’s your big thing?

ALBANESE: The age pension – that’s not bad too. My big thing is taking clean energy and using that to bring back manufacturing to this country, and to have Australia become a renewable energy superpower. That clean energy to drive jobs in advanced manufacturing, jobs that exist for domestic purposes, but also export. We see in the Sun Cable project, to give an example, of the opportunity that's there. The Sun Cable project will see Australian renewable energy, solar energy, powering Singapore, an extraordinary project. We have an incredible opportunity to make more things here, and in coming days, hopefully you'll be with us, we'll be visiting places where we want to make more things here.

JOURNALIST: On China, yesterday, the Prime Minister said that Labor was passive on China. [inaudible]

ALBANESE: The issue with Beijing will be problematic regardless of who is in government, because the stance of Beijing has changed. I've said that repeatedly. But my philosophy, and I'll finish with this, is consistent with the Biden administration I think have got it right, and Kurt Campbell, where he speaks about competition without catastrophe. So we have to recognise what's happening in the region, we have to recognise that China is more forward leaning, that they're seeking to increase their influence in the region. And we need to respond to that. We have to call out the behaviour of China in putting sanctions against Australian businesses, because that's sanctions against Australian jobs, and is entirely inappropriate. Thanks. Thanks very much. Thank you.

ENDS

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