Doorstop Interview – Bankstown – Friday 10 July 2020



FRIDAY, 10 JULY 2020
SUBJECTS: Launch of Labor’s ‘Don’t Cancel JobKeeper Too Early’  campaign; JobKeeper; Bankstown RSL; Victorian coronavirus spike; Victorian lockdowns; state borders; Hong Kong; hotel quarantine; Eden-Monaro by-election.
JASON CLARE, MEMBER FOR BLAXLAND: Welcome to Bankstown RSL. This is a pretty special place. It is a new building, but this is an old club. Bankstown RSL is more than 90 years old. And under the flagpole of the old club, out near the bowling green, there were the remains of the ashes of four veterans. Blokes who loved this club so much that when they died, they didn’t want to be buried in a cemetery, they wanted to be buried at their club. They wanted to be where their mates had a drink. They wanted to be near their friends. And when this new club was built, something very special happened. Scott Dickson, the CEO, made sure that those remains were taken and put into the foundations of this club. It is what makes this place so very, very special. It is history, what it stands for and what it does for the veterans of this local community. Now, when the virus hit a couple of months ago, like other clubs, Bankstown RSL had to shut. They shut in March and wasn’t able to open again until June. And things still aren’t back to normal. If things were normal, this club would be able to have about 2,000 people here today. As you can see, there’s not 2,000 people here. They’ve got a maximum capacity of 500. And if things were normal, they would be serving more than 1,000 meals a day here. There are days here where only 40 or 50 meals are served. And today is probably going to be one of those days. There’s 32 people who work here, who rely on Bankstown RSL for their job to put food on the table for their kids, pay the rent and to pay the mortgage. And they’ve been doing a tough. But JobKeeper has been able to keep them here, keep them being paid, and keep them being able to look after their families. That’s why it’s important that JobKeeper doesn’t end in September. We were told that the economy was just going to ‘snap back’. It’s pretty obvious that’s not going to happen. It’s more like ‘snail back’. Unemployment is still going up. And if JobKeeper was to just end in September, then for a lot of people who work here, they would end up having to go across the road to Centrelink. We don’t want that to happen. We don’t want this club to fail. And we don’t want more people ending up on the queue outside Centrelink. Now, this is just one club. It is just one business. There are more than 30,000 people who work in my electorate alone who are relying on JobKeeper to help pay their rent and their mortgage and put food on the table for the kid. To tell us what this means nationwide, can I introduce the Leader of the Labor Party, Anthony Albanese.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Jason. And thanks also to Tony Burke, the local representatives. This is in Jason’s seat of Blaxland, where, as Jason has said, we’re talking about 30,000 people, but also talking about $45 million a fortnight being ripped out of this local community. Think about what that does for the local economy. Think about the flow-on impact it has for jobs. Scott Morrison’s plan for ‘snapback’ will snap jobs in this community. It will snap the spirit of this community. And the community simply can’t afford it, like communities right around the nation. The idea that come September, on one date, you will simply remove this support, is an idea that will devastate our economy. And that’s why the Government needs to listen. They listened to Labor, unions and the business community when they introduced wage subsidies, having opposed them. They need to listen now. Which is why today Labor is launching a campaign with online petitions, with an online kit, with full information of what this means for every local community, right around Australia. The fact is, that the community doing their bit by ensuring that they have social distancing, they’re washing their hands. People are acknowledging the spirit of ‘We’re all in this together’. But this also is a moment for leadership. It is a moment for leadership from Scott Morrison and the Government. And there is no excuse, given that they have received the report last month from Treasury on what was required going forward to September. They kept it quiet and secret. We understand that was because there was a by-election on Saturday. But last night, the Liberal candidate for Eden-Monaro finally conceded that they didn’t win that by-election and Kristy McBain will take up her place in the Parliament in August. The uncertainty is creating a great deal of anxiety in the community for small businesses such as the ones that operate in this club, for small businesses right throughout Australia. But also, for their employees. And that’s why the Government needs to be clear about what the plan is going forward, because that uncertainty itself is creating an economic impact in the community. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: What is your campaign going to entail?
ALBANESE: Well, what we’re doing is putting information out there in each local community about the impact that it would have. Bankstown is in the top 10 of postcodes in New South Wales for the impact that it would have. And what that shows is that communities like this, Sydney is number one, Liverpool is the second biggest in Sydney, and then Bankstown and now the areas like Bondi. It’s the areas where people gather, where the hospitality industry is big, where arts and entertainment are big, that will be particularly impacted. And we need to, I think, send a message to the Government that they need to get on with making an announcement. It is like they’ve disappeared at the moment on these issues. Scott Morrison needs to reappear. And he needs to say exactly what he has planned for September. Because at the moment, at the end of September, it all ‘snaps back’, which is his term. And that’s a term that would have a devastating impact on the economy.
JOURNALIST: What would be your alternative? Continuing the welfare indefinitely?
ALBANESE: We’re not talking about indefinite. What we are talking about, though, is analysing things as they actually are, rather than as we want them to be. This club here, we can see behind us, empty space. This is a brand-new facility that’s taken investment of the members and of this not-for-profit organisation, which RSLs are, to invest back into the community, to create jobs, to create a quality of life for people who are members and visitors to this club. You can’t pretend that it’s all okay. Because it’s not. The health impact we are seeing in Victoria has spiked in recent times, that continues to have an economic impact as well. So, the idea you can just ‘snap back’, what we need to do is have a transition and a strategy for jobs. A strategy to maintain jobs. But the Government also has to be clearer about what its plan is for economic growth and jobs into the future. Because at the moment, we’re not seeing out from this Government. And that is creating so much uncertainty and anxiety in the community.
JOURNALIST: The Government has missed the opportunity for (inaudible), are they expecting things to go back to how they were?
ALBANESE: Well, I think at the time the Government said that we would just ‘snap back’, Labor recognised that wasn’t possible. And when Parliament resumed, it is now many weeks since I gave Labor’s vision statement talking about the need to look forward, the need to look at the fact that during this pandemic we have been shown that there is a need for investment in terms of manufacturing and that there is a need in identifying where future job creation can occur as well as hanging onto, as much as possible, what was there before. We are not seeing that from the Government at the moment. What we have seen is a report that they have, that they have refused to provide, those economic updates. They can start off by just releasing what the report is. Why is it that at a time like this where the Government says, ‘We are all in this together’, the Government won’t be clear and provide that clarity for what information it is that they have?
JOURNALIST: Should Victorians that are in lockdown get more support, financially?
ALBANESE: Victorians are, of course, going through very difficult period. And I say this about Victoria. All of us, wherever we live around Australia, our thoughts are with our Victorian friends. Because it’s good news that of the towers, most of them except for one, have gone back to stage three restrictions. So, it’s more like what it was before, rather than the strict lockdown that was being enforced. That’s a good thing. But they will also be doing it tough. It shows that we cannot be complacent, we need to continue to be vigilant. But our thoughts do go out to everyone in Victoria. But unless we are vigilant, we know from overseas as well as Victoria, that you can have a second wave, you can have a spike in the number of infections, which is why we need to continue to be vigilant.
JOURNALIST: But financially do you think there is sufficient support already or do they need more help?
ALBANESE: The Victorian Government, if they have, if Daniel Andrews’ Government has any further requests, they should be seriously considered by the Government. But at the moment, the problem for Victorians is that they will be, at the moment, of course, many of them on JobKeeper. And we have the Victorian figures available. They will be on JobKeeper. And they will be thinking to themselves, not only can they now not be working because of the reimposed restrictions, but they expect to lose that income support come September. It’s another reason why the Government should release the report that they have, and what their plan is to deal with that report. I mean, how long does it take? How long can this secret plan stay there? It is now July 10. They received it in June. We know that they refused to release an economic update in the lead-up to the Eden-Monaro by-election. That wasn’t a legitimate excuse beforehand. But now it just becomes, quite frankly, absurd and untenable for the Government to keep that report secret.
JOURNALIST: Should Australia reduce its intake of returning Australians and should those coming back to the country be paying for their own quarantine hotel stays?
ALBANESE: We need to make sure we take the health advice. It is as simple as that. We have argued very strongly about that. I have raised concerns with the Government, my concern that people were coming into Sydney Airport, and other international airports but Sydney I observed, people coming in without so much as a temperature check. Why is it that the Government didn’t address that earlier given you can walk in here at Bankstown RSL and get your temperature checked automatically through a system without any physical contact whatsoever? It is not that hard to put in place proper mechanisms, but we should be listening to the medical advice. If the medical advice says that we need to slow down the entry into Australia, then that advice should be heeded.
JOURNALIST: And what about people paying for their own hotel quarantine costs?
ALBANESE: Well, that is a matter for state governments to address. I know there are different response. But certainly, I think that it is legitimate to say that people were told that they should be returning to Australia earlier.
JOURNALIST: On Hong Kong, should the Government’s visa extension program from Hong Kong citizens include a humanitarian intake also?
ALBANESE: What Penny Wong, our Foreign Affairs spokesperson, has said very clearly is that no-one should be deported from Australia who is currently here from Hong Kong. And there also needs to be clarity from the Government about issues such as family reunion and other humanitarian aspects of migration from Hong Kong. We are supportive of the measures that the Government has announced. But it needs to clarify a range of issues including family reunion and other access to Australia. And then it would be appropriate for Labor to assess that. But at the moment, it is unclear. And one of the things that people from Hong Kong want here is clarity.
JOURNALIST: And you touched on Eden-Monaro earlier. The Liberal candidate having just conceded, do you think that is ungracious to have held out for so long?
ALBANESE: That it is a matter for them. I haven’t seen Scott Morrison, or the Liberal Party concede yet. So, Fiona Kotvojs has at least conceded before the Party has. I do note that the media were reporting that it would be many weeks before an outcome was known. Can I say that it was very clear and certainly I indicated to media, I spoke to on Saturday night in Merimbula, that it was very clear that Kristy McBain had won the by-election.
JOURNALIST: Just lastly, how damaging is the New South Wales-Victorian border closures for those regional communities?
ALBANESE: Look, it is very tough. The twin cities of Albury and Wodonga in particular are major centres that I’m very familiar with. And frankly, the river crossing there is not that much more distinct then going across Sydney Harbour or the Cooks River here. They are related. And so, they are doing it tough. But I have been consistent, unlike, it might be said, some others in senior positions, I haven’t been critical of states who have made decisions based upon health advice to close their borders, whether they be the Liberal governments of South Australia or Tasmania, or the Labor governments of Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. I do think that some of the opportunistic comments criticising Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Government look exactly as they sounded at the time, just that, opportunistic.
Thanks very much.