Press Conference - South Bank Visit with Leader of Australian Labor Party

By The Hon Anthony Albanese MP and Terri Butler MP

06 February 2021

Topics covered include: Visit to Queensland, Federal Government responsibility for quarantine, upcoming industrial relations announcement, Better Off Overall Test, state borders, alternatives to hotel quarantine, Kate Jones, support for the tourism industry, Australian commanders gifted Swiss watches, net zero emissions by 2050, Nationals MPs, Labor leadership, New Acland mine.

TERRI BUTLER: Welcome everyone to beautiful Southbank, right here in Brisbane in Queensland. It's an absolutely wonderful place to come with a family. It's a great place to come and get some fantastic food. And it's a really wonderful place to welcome the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese. I'm Terri Butler. I'm the Federal member for this local area, the Federal member for Griffith. And I'm very, very pleased to be welcoming Anthony here, back to Queensland, a place that he visits so often because he cares so much about Queensland. I know that Scott Morrison is bad for Queensland, but I know that Anthony Albanese (inaudible). It’s so great to have you here to see firsthand what's happening in our beautiful state as we seek to recover from the pandemic. So thanks, Anthony. Welcome.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Terri. And it's been a pleasure to be with the current member for Griffith and her predecessor this morning, Kevin Rudd, as well as the Senator for Queensland, Murray Watt. Both Murray and Terri are important parts of our Labor team, leading in Canberra. But it's great to actually be in Queensland and I'll be here all week. This afternoon I'll be flying to Cairns, where we'll be talking to tourism operators tomorrow. We know that Far North Queensland is doing it tough when it comes to jobs. And the big focus of my visit, here, as I spoke with Premier Palaszczuk this morning, is jobs, the need to get jobs back to Queensland. And that requires some support from the national Government. But what we're seeing from Scott Morrison is that he's all smirk and mirrors. There's no substance when it comes to support. Including yesterday with the National Cabinet meeting, once again, refusing to accept the Commonwealth responsibility when it comes to quarantine. This is quite clearly in the Constitution, the Commonwealth responsibility, and they should be working constructively with the states on real solutions, working with Premier Palaszczuk and other state premiers to make sure that we keep Queenslanders, and indeed all Australians, safe. What we saw during the election campaign was Scott Morrison overreaching, Scott Morrison coming to Queensland to tell Queenslanders what was better for them. And they rejected that idea. They overwhelmingly voted for Annastacia Palaszczuk and her policies to keep Queenslanders safe, but also to create jobs and economic activity here in Queensland. And that will be a focus of my visit. On Wednesday, I'll be doing a major speech on industrial relations. And it's appropriate that that'd be done here in Queensland because we're about jobs. But we're also about jobs that are secure jobs that pay a decent income, jobs that protect people's working conditions. And this week in the national Parliament we focused on that. This is a Government that has legislation to get rid of the Better Off Overall Test before the Parliament. And guess what, if you get rid of the Better Off Overall Test, it's because you don't want people to be better off overall, as is provided for under the existing legislation. And yet the Government continues to pursue this. Labor will fight this unfair legislation. And we'll be talking with people about it this week here in Queensland. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) maybe to reign it in a little bit and not close borders so quickly?

ALBANESE: That argument was put by Scott Morrison during the Queensland election campaign. It didn't go down real well. The fact is, the first priority, you can't have jobs and economic activity unless people are kept safe. We know that that's the case. We're seeing shutdowns of economic activity when there are breakouts. And I think Premier Palaszczuk has got it right at every call. And it's a difficult issue, but she's dealt with it. The Commonwealth has handed over responsibility for these issues to the states and have been selectively critical, critical of Labor governments. There hasn’t been a single criticism from the Commonwealth Government of any Coalition government, which has also, of course, shut borders. Governments like South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania.

JOURNALIST: Do you think (inaudible) alternatives to hotel quarantine?

ALBANESE: The Federal Government has a responsibility to do this. It was recommended in Jane Halton’s's review. And I find it extraordinary that the Northern Territory government have called for and asked and welcomed increased numbers at Howard Springs. And yet the Federal Government has refused to actually oversee that process. Very clearly, the Federal Government has a responsibility. And common sense tells you that if you have quarantine at hotels in the CBDs, about capital cities and regional cities, then that represents a greater risk than if you have a common sense approach of trying to ensure that people are kept in more appropriate facilities, like Howard Springs, like other facilities that have been recommended by Jane Halton’s review, which recommended places like Exmouth as well.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) Have you met or are you planning to meet with Kate Jones?

ALBANESE: Well I’ve only been here an hour. So I haven't met Kate Jones this morning. But Kate Jones is a friend of mine and I think she's an outstanding Queenslander.

JOURNALIST: Do you think she’d be a good pick for the seat of Brisbane?

ALBANESE: I think that that's a matter for Kate Jones and for those processes. I think, frankly, from my experience working with Kate Jones very closely, Kate Jones is capable of doing anything that she sets her mind to but I have not had any discussions with her about those issues.

JOURNALIST: Some employers want struggling businesses to continue to be able to cut staff hours for example in tourism beyond March do you think that's reasonable?

ALBANESE: Look, I think the issue here that workers have, is that workers have already been doing it really tough. And the problem is that this Federal Government is going to withdraw support from sectors that are clearly in need of ongoing support. Take the tourism industry in Far North Queensland. The tourism industry in Cairns relies upon international visitors arriving at the airport, staying at the hotels, going on the excursions be they to the reef or to rafting or into the hinterland. And that's not happening. So the logic of why wage subsidies were put in place to keep a relationship between an employer and their employee so that when recovery occurs, there's not a greater cost of starting back from zero, are still there in Cairns. So whilst we have the issues with those international borders, and whilst particular sectors have been hit, then they're deserving of ongoing support.

JOURNALIST: So you're saying no they shouldn't be able to cut? You haven't answered the question.

ALBANESE: What I'm saying is that a lot of the motivation, I'm sure, from business is a concern that I've heard throughout the country about the strict cutback of wage subsidies, that Labor argued for that Scott Morrison first said, were dangerous before he adopted it. And now he's withdrawing support prematurely.

JOURNALIST: Former soldiers say that senior Australian commanders were regularly gifted swiss watches by an Afghan warlord. Is that appropriate and should the Defence Force come clean?

ALBANESE: When it comes to defence issues, I apologise, but that's the first I've heard of it. And one of the things that we need to make sure is above politics, is finding out the facts when it comes to our defence personnel. I'm not going to comment on hypotheticals when it comes to our defence servicemen and women. So I'm sure that our defence spokesperson Brendan O'Connor would be prepared to respond to that issue. (inaudible)

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

ALBANESE: I'll back net zero by 2050. What net zero means doesn't mean that there aren't any emissions, it's that it's net. It's after you take into account negative emissions. So things like carbon farming, for example, an initiative that we had in Government actually reduces emissions in the economy. Our position is very clear. And it's a position that's held by all of our major trading partners. It's importantly, a commitment made by President Biden in the United States. It's made by Japan, made by Korea, made by the European Union made by Boris Johnson. The outlier here is Scott Morrison, Scott Morrison who refuses to commit to net zero emissions by 2050. And I saw in in one newspaper today on the front page of that, that was ambitious that he was trying to get there. I mean, for goodness sake, the whole rest of the world is there. We're behind. We're in the naughty corner by ourselves. When it comes to action on climate change. It's embarrassing. Scott Morrison last year, announced that he'd be attending this summit in which countries throughout the world like Boris Johnson and others would talk about climate change. And he not only did he not get to speak, he wasn't invited. Because Australia at the moment, are pariahs, when it comes to climate change.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

ALBANESE: I'd say that there are a whole bunch of Nationals who are all over the shop, including Matt Canavan, who on issues here in Queensland, pretends he stands up for jobs. But wants tariffs imposed, tariffs imposed on iron ore into China, that would have a devastating impact and add to issues which are there not just for iron ore but for coal, the Nats are all over the shop, when it comes to these issues, they shouldn't be allowed to hold the entire country back. Because increasingly as well, what we will see and has been foreshadowed by President Biden has been foreshadowed in the European Union is that countries will have sanctions that aren't a part of the global effort.

JOURNALIST: What's your message to Labor MPs who are concerned about the direction of the Party and might be turning to Tanya Plibersek?

ALBANESE: My commitment is very clear. And it's a commitment of my entire team. Which is that we need to focus, we need to focus on holding the Government to account and putting forward alternatives each and every day. We in terms of if you look at oppositions throughout the country, we're in the best position. We're in a very strong position to advance in 2021. And whenever Scott Morrison calls the election, we'll be ready. Because one of the things I'll be saying to Queenslanders during this visit is we're on your side. We're on your side when it comes to jobs. We're on your side when it comes to opportunity for your children. We're on your side when it comes to supporting major infrastructure projects. We're on your side when it comes to taking action on climate change. Scott Morrison is on his own side. We saw this week with the debacle about Craig Kelly, the disunity that is there in the Coalition, Scott Morrison using taxpayers money as if it was Liberal Party money in sports rorts, in regional rorts, in all of these programs, funding Liberal Party pollsters to do research. It is a scandal after scandal when it comes to the Morrison Government and they are on their own side. And increasingly, Australians will know they have a very clear alternative at the next election. Labor which is on their side and a Coalition that just looks after they mates.

JOURNALIST: Some of your backbenchers have called for the approval of the New Acland mine, do agree with them?

ALBANESE: I agree that once any project is approved by the appropriate environmental standards, then it should go ahead. Thanks very much.