Doorstop interview with Anthony Albanese and Kristy McBain

Monday, 24 May 2021




MONDAY, 24 MAY 2021

SUBJECTS: Labor’s Cheaper Child Care Plan; Federal Budget 2021; NSW Upper Hunter by-election; climate change; coal; Australian Labor Party; vaccine rollout; quarantine; borders.

KRISTY MCBAIN, MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: Good morning, everybody. And welcome to Campbell Street Children’s Centre in Queanbeyan. It is great to kick off another parliamentary sitting week in Queanbeyan. In the seat of Eden-Monaro, we know what it means to get families working. Child care centres right across this electorate have dealt with increases. That means increases to families. In the Queanbeyan region alone, child care costs have increased by 3.3 per cent. On the South Coast, 3.9 per cent. In Tumbarumba in the Snowy Valleys, 7.7 per cent child care increases. Now, we want to make sure that families can access child care. Because not only is it good for kids, it is good for working parents. It is good for participation. It is good to get people into the workforce. And right across Eden-Monaro, we know that we need to get more people into the workforce. We know Labor’s child care plan will make it cheaper for people to get back into the workforce. And that is why I am so proud to represent the Labor Party in Eden-Monaro. Because we need to get more families working. Amanda?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Thank you. And it is so wonderful to join Tanya and her wonderful team of educators. Because what we see here is what quality early education is all about. Now, last few weeks ago, the Liberal Party and National Party announced in the Budget that they were going to try to do something about child care. Of course, what they did was not deliver what working families need in this country. They did not deliver a comprehensive plan. Instead, they delivered a piecemeal approach that didn’t really invest in every family in this country to support them access early education. Compare that to Labor’s plan. Labor’s plan that helps 97 per cent of families in this country. Labor’s plan that doesn’t wait until you have to have a second or third child in care to get any benefit. Labor’s plan that helps every child get more support to access early education. Labor’s plan that has a long-term vision that provides structural reform to help people get into the workforce. Now, I want to actually address a myth that the Liberal Party’s been peddling around. And that myth is that Labor’s plan doesn’t help low- and middle-income families. Indeed, for every family with one child, which is 75 per cent of families in early education, Labor helps every single family up to a combined family income of $530,000. But of course, in addition to that, even if you have two children in early education and care, Labor’s plan is better off. You’re better off under Labor’s plan for middle- and low-income earners, even with two children. So you can see that despite all the bells and whistles, the spin that the Morrison Government’s been putting out around child care, their plan does not deliver. It doesn’t deliver in supporting families. It doesn’t deliver when it comes to early education and care. It doesn’t deliver when it comes to workforce participation. That is laid clear in the Budget papers where we don’t see a boost in workforce participation. We actually see it go backwards. So this election the Liberal Party and National Party don’t want us to talk about child care, but Labor has a better plan on the table. One that helps more families. And we will keep talking about this right up until the election.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Amanda. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Government handed down a Budget that envisages, over the next four years, low wages, low growth, low productivity and reduced workforce participation. They don’t actually have a plan for the future of this country. And they certainly don’t have a plan for the future of the little ones that we see here at this wonderful child care centre that Tanya has welcomed us to today. The fact is that our child care policy is about economic reform. It is about the three Ps, in terms of population, productivity and participation. They are the three things you can do to grow the economy. Labor’s plan is an economic reform plan moving towards universal provision of affordable child care, a plan that will assist 97 per cent of families, a plan in which just eight per cent of families under the Coalition’s plan will receive the sort of support that all families are receiving from our plan. Our plan has been out there now to lift the cap and to lift the subsidy for that 97 per cent of families. Now, when we announced our plan in my first Budget Reply, the Government said that there was no issue of child care affordability, they’d dealt with that, and that there was no economic benefit to the plan. They spoke about what is the cost going to be. And yet here, the Government outlined a plan with a cost of $1.7 billion over the forward estimates, which will boost the economy, according to the Treasury’s own media release, by $1.5 billion each and every year. I’ll give you the big tip. If a little bit of investment produces a return that is positive to the economy, more investment will produce a larger return. That’s why our plan is good for working families, it’s good for the economy, and importantly, given that over 90 per cent of human brain development occurs in the first five years, it’s good for children as well. This is reform that’s necessary. Now, does anyone think if Labor hadn’t have announced our cheaper child care plan in the first Budget Reply, the Government would have responded at all with any changes? Do they think that they would have removed the cap at all? The answer to that is no. Because the Government opposed removing the cap when we said that was a necessary reform to remove the structural impediment which is there for women to work a fourth or a fifth day. This is good policy that we’re putting forward. We’ll continue to put it forward each and every day between now and the next election and beyond. We’ll put it in place when we are in Government. And I’ll make this point. The Government made this announcement on a weekend when child care centres aren’t open. They haven’t been near a child care centre since because they’re embarrassed by their own policy. And as much as the so-called tour was done last week, selling the Budget, it was really about just solving the Government’s problems that it created for itself. So for example, nice pics with members of the Australian community from Indian backgrounds, trying to recover from the damage that’s been done with the standing of the Government with that community, just like the child care announcement was about the damage that’s been done by telling working families that there’s no issue with affordability when we’ve seen the child care costs that Kristy ran through of costs right here in the electorate of Eden-Monaro. But that’s matched right around the country. We have the fourth most expensive child care costs in the world in terms of out-of-pocket expenses. And it’s a system that was designed by Scott Morrison. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese does the Labor Party need to wake up to itself and accept its brand is in trouble after being walloped by voters in the Upper Hunter?

ALBANESE: Well, a couple of elections ago the Labor Party vote in Upper Hunter was 17 per cent. Seventeen. The National Party vote was 54. Fifty-four a couple of elections ago. They are the facts as to what happened. Labor’s vote in Muswellbrook on Saturday went up, not down. And so, whilst Labor would always want to win a by-election, Labor federally has been tested. She is right here, the Member for Eden-Monaro. At the height of the pandemic at this stage last year I was traveling around Eden-Monaro with Kristy McBain campaigning in a Federal by-election at a time where the pandemic was at its height. And Labor was successful in that by-election, which is why I’m here with the Labor Member for Eden-Monaro today.

JOURNALIST: Joel Fitzgibbon says voters don’t trust your messaging on supporting the coal industry. Is that on you?

ALBANESE: The biggest election commitment that the state Coalition gave during this by-election was $200 million to not build a coal mine in the electorate of Upper Hunter, the Shenhua coal mine. That was the biggest commitment that they gave in this election campaign.

JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to Joel Fitzgibbon about his comments? I mean, he said the loss for Labor is diabolical.


JOURNALIST: Are you expecting Joel Fitzgibbon to contest the next election for Labor?

ALBANESE: That is a matter for the people of the electorate of Hunter.

JOURNALIST: In a sentence, why should blue-collar workers vote Labor?

ALBANESE: Because Labor represents the interests of blue-collar workers. It is only Labor that’s been standing up for jobs. It’s only Labor that is standing up for an increase in real wages. It’s Labor that are out there campaigning for same job, same pay, and against casualisation, against labour hire companies abusing the rights of working people to drive down wages and conditions. It is Labor that’s doing that. What is the Coalition doing? They are joined in an action before the High Court, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money to defend businesses’ right to classify workers in coal mines not as permanent workers but as casuals in order to limit what they get in terms of their pay and conditions. That is the great divide. Labor is standing up for permanent work. We are standing up for the rights of workers. We respect the work that working people do wherever they do it. And it is only Labor that are going to the election with a policy that will stand up for working people, that will address security at work. The party of WorkChoices is an antiworker party. It is in their DNA. And at each and every opportunity, they stand up against the interests of working people.

JOURNALIST: How do you expect to win seats when your primary vote is as low as 20 per cent?

ALBANESE: Upper Hunter is a state by-election where the 20 per cent is higher than we got a couple of elections ago where the National Party got 54. Let me say this, if you want to allocate state results on Federal seats, I’d ask you to have a look at Western Australia and have a look at Queensland. Because if you do that, you will end up with a thumping majority of Labor people in the Federal Parliament. You will end up with just about every seat in WA, maybe except for Curtin, they might fall across the line. But we would win every other seat across the state. And in terms of Queensland, we certainly would win double figures of seats in Queensland. And they are the resources sector seats.

JOURNALIST: This is a resource sector seat as well. And you suffered a big swing. What are the lessons for Labor?

ALBANESE: In Muswellbrook, which is the area where coal miners live, we got, I think, an eight or a nine per cent swing to Labor in Muswellbrook.

JOURNALIST: So you don’t think you have a problem with coal voters voting for you?

ALBANESE: No. I think that if you look at the seats and the results in state seats, where there are mines like Rockhampton, Mackay, the seats throughout Queensland, you look at Gladstone, you look at those seats, outstanding results for the Labor Party. So let’s get a bit of perspective here, quite frankly. This is a seat that Labor has not held in the last nine decades at any time. At any time whatsoever. This is a seat whereby, frankly, a couple of elections ago we would have struggled to find people to hand out how to votes here, where our vote was lower than it was on Saturday and the National Party won on primaries. Perhaps a question for the National Party is why has the primary vote fallen by 24 per cent? It would have been impossible for Labor’s primary vote to fall by 24 per cent because we were only on 17 to begin with only a couple of elections ago.

JOURNALIST: Do you think opposing the gas plant hurt Labor in that by-election? Are you prepared to change your position and support that?

ALBANESE: We made that decision, which was the correct decision, based upon what every single expert in the energy sector says. We did that. And as I said, the biggest LNP commitment during this state election, where I remind you the Berejiklian Government have a policy of supporting renewables, they have a policy of net zero by 2050, they have a policy of paying compensation to not build a coal mine in the region, the Shenhua coal mine. That occurred just in recent times. So I think in terms of a step back, a little bit of perspective from people would be a good idea. I will say this, if Scott Morrison wants to argue that there are federal implications behind a by-election result in one seat in New South Wales, then he should apply that to Western Australia and to Queensland, which are the big two resource states in this country. The biggest two resource states in this country have seen Labor win seats in Queensland and become almost a one-party state in Western Australia. And my team will continue to work constructively, including with the resources sector. We have a full shadow ministry meeting scheduled in Port Hedland in the coming weeks. We continue to engage. We will continue to stand up for working people and their rights at work, unlike this Government which, as I said, is in court right now spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in order to undermine the wages and conditions that have been fought for for a long period of time by those working people.

JOURNALIST: What are your thoughts on so-called vaccine passports to allow people to travel? Do you think Australians should be able to travel domestically whether they have been vaccinated or not?

ALBANESE: I think Scott Morrison will try anything to try to hide debate about his failure when it comes to the rollout of the vaccine. That is what I think. One per cent of Australians have been fully vaccinated. They still haven’t met the target of four million that they said it would be vaccinated by the end of March. And when it comes to their messaging on vaccines, each and every day, it is 10:10am, so there will be another announcement, I’m sure, and more messaging before two o’clock. We have had Greg Hunt say, basically, don’t worry because there are other mRNA vaccines coming. We’ve had others say the next day, no, you need to get vaccinated straightaway. We have a Prime Minister who criticises state governments for having borders closed, but now wants passports for Australia is to travel across state boundaries. What are you going to do? Have passport police set up between Tweed Heads and the Gold Coast? I mean, for goodness sake. Albury-Wodonga will have a little booth at the border crossing there of the Murray River. This is a Government that comes up with thought bubbles. They have got two jobs. Rollout the vaccine and fix up quarantine. On both of them they have failed and they have failed dismally. Last one.

JOURNALIST: How soon should Australia reopen to the rest of the world?

ALBANESE: They have to fix up the vaccine and the quarantine. They have to fix up those things. And this Government have, quite frankly, botched both. They had two simple jobs. But they are so full of hubris. They were out there saying we were at the front of the queue. They were out there saying four million Australians would be vaccinated. They were out there saying all Australians who were stranded overseas would be home by Christmas. They have done nothing to set in place an appropriate national quarantine system. People know out there that when it comes to the vaccine, every Member of Parliament is receiving complaints from people who get told one thing and then it doesn’t happen. The fact that people with disabilities, as of a short time ago there were less than 1000 of the 26,000 who are in residential care had received their vaccines is an outrage. The fact that essential workers, including people who work at child care centres, in aged care centres, are being told, ‘We are not going to help you, just go see your local GP’ but GPs can’t get any certainty as to when they are going to receive vaccines and how many they are going to receive. The fact is that they had two jobs this year. They have failed on both. And ideas like the Prime Minister has floated, he will have a different idea tomorrow, so we will just wait for that and you can ask me about that then. Thank you.


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