Doorstop Interview – Sydney – Sunday 18 October 2020

SUBJECTS: Social housing, Morrison Government’s cuts to education and training, Airport land rorts, ICAC, Victorian COVID numbers, New Zealand travellers in Victoria, New Zealand & ACT elections.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Good morning everyone and welcome to my electorate of Sydney. This is a very special part of my electorate. And I’ve been here many, many times. Long before I was elected to Parliament, I used to visit a very young, young Labor leader in the house just down here and visit his mum in that house. And I think it’s so significant that we’re here today standing outside Anthony’s childhood home, because this is the place that tells you more about the Leader of the Labor Party than any other place we could go. And this is where he grew up, looking after his mum, whose health was very poor, she needed a lot of care. And as a young man, he took a lot of responsibility for that. He cared for her so beautifully, and so gently, I saw it over many, many years. And he lived here with his mum, the house that her parents had lived in before her and before Anthony. And in this place, he met the people around him, the community around him, and he saw what a difference government could make in people’s lives, giving them a roof over their heads, support when they needed it, if they were sick, or disabled or unemployed, investing in their education so that a kid from the housing commission could go to university and become the leader of the Labor Party. This place is symbolic of all of that.
And when we look a little bit more recently, you look just down next door here, you see this beautiful new common ground. It’s a facility for the homeless people that was built when Labor was last in government during the global financial crisis with money invested in building social housing and services for homeless people, which meets the immediate need that people have for accommodation, but also creates all those jobs in construction and materials, the investment that comes from that building. So Anthony, thank you for inviting me today and Jason, because I love visiting this place because it so symbolises what we can do if we want to. Invest in people, raise them up, give them jobs, give them hope. And now’s the time we need that more than ever.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much Tanya and it’s good to be here with a former housing minister, and a future housing minister in Jason Clare this morning. We’re standing right outside the house where I grew up. It’s the house that my mum was born in, and that she died 65 years later in. My grandparents moved into this house that was a city council house in 1931. When these properties were first built, and the Children’s Hospital was across the road, there was a big flats, just down the road, and was surrounded by an industrial community. And in this little island of humanity, there was a community. When my mum was in hospital, which was pretty regularly when I was quite young. I’d take turns to neighbours in cooking me a meal at night. We looked after each other. That sense of community that I grew up with, it’s a sense of community that we’ve seen on evidence during the pandemic, where Australians have been reminded that we are interdependent, and that we need to look after each other. To me they are Labor values. They were the ones that I was raised with.
And that’s why I was so disappointed by the Morrison Budget of just a week and a bit ago, seems like a long time ago, because it sank without trace. You have 100 billion dollars of new spending, a trillion dollars of debt, and nothing to show for it. You have circumstances whereby it was a real lost opportunity to invest in fixing up public housing throughout Australia. And indeed, in investing in new stock, that would have created jobs for tradies, it would have also, of course, increased an asset that’s owned by the public. So the fact is that this Government’s Budget, while spending so much money it has left so many people behind.
Over the next fortnight in Parliament, both in the House of Reps, and in the Senate, we’ll be holding them to account on what’s missing in this Budget. We’ll be holding them to account on social housing, we’ll be holding them to account on their HomeBuilder program, and the gap that is there between what they said would happen and what has actually happened. We’ll be holding them to account on how they forgot to include women in the Budget. We know that women have been disproportionately impacted adversely by this pandemic. But there was nothing in the Budget, nothing there for reform, such as Labor’s childcare proposals. It was a real missed opportunity.
And the other thing that we’ll be holding them to account on is the National Integrity Commission. Angus Taylor, we know had meetings around the Badgery’s Creek issue that has caused so much attention at the New South Wales ICAC. When you hear Angus Tayler, the alarm bells go off, whether it’s downloading documents, whether it’s issues around land, whether it’s this latest issue around Badgery’s Creek Airport. The fact is that this bloke, this bloke, doesn’t ever want to be held to account. And we’ll be raising those issues in Parliament again, this week. This will be an important fortnight, it will be an important fortnight because the Government, it’s not too late for them to get some things right. It’s not too late for them to invest in public housing. It’s not too late for them to look after all, those people they left behind in this Budget. But we’ll also be examining the issues which are there with regard to delivery Scott Morrison is big on announcements, not good on delivery. He announced a National Integrity Commission in 2018. But it’s not in sight. We know actually, that the legislation was prepared, but they’re not prepared to show it to the Australian people, let alone the Parliament. So the fact is that we do need a National Integrity Commission we have all received a reminder of why that’s the case this fortnight.
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: Thanks Albo. Talking about mums and little kids in public housing. I was in Windale near Newcastle two days ago. I met a young family, a young mum named Casie – she’s got three little kids. They live in government housing, actually live is not the right word. They pay rent to live there, but they can’t live there because the place is so bad. Because it’s full of mould and leaks and rot. It’s not safe for her or her little kids to live there. So she’s forced to live with her mum and still pay rent for a place that she can’t live in. If this was a politician’s office, it would have got fixed tomorrow. But the department in charge of it won’t set a date on when they’ll fix the place. It’s nothing short of a bloody disgrace. And at the same time, as all of this is happening, we’ve got tradies that are out of work. Thousands of tradies that have lost their jobs, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, concreters, the whole box and dice. We could be doing two things here. We can fix the home that Casie paying rent for, for her three little kids and put a roof over their head. And we could be creating work for tradies who desperately need it who are out of work now. It would be a win-win, a roof over the head of more Aussies as well as more work for Australian tradies. Albo we were here I think about six months ago, when the pandemic first struck. And we called then on the Government to put a freeze on evictions, a moratorium on evictions to stop people being thrown out on the street in the middle of a pandemic. And to their credit, the governments listened, the Federal Government, State Government listened, they put the freeze on it. It helped to stop more people getting the virus. Well, we’re back here again six months later now in the teeth of an economic crisis, where we’re in recession and where people need more work. And this is a common sense, simple idea that’ll work. It’ll create work in almost every suburb and every town right across the country, putting tradies to work fixing the homes of, government homes, homes that we own, the Australian people own them, and they’re being left to rot. If it was a politician’s office, it would be fixed tomorrow, but nothing’s happening here, we need action here. It’s a common sense way that’ll help to put tradies back to work.
ALBANESE: Happy to take questions,
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) 
ALBANESE: It’s much harder, this is the first generation that look as though they will be less well off than the generation which preceded them. One of the things that unites Australians is that we all want better for our kids than we had. That’s what drove my mum, to encourage me to get an education, to finish high school, as the first person in my family to do so, encourage me to go to university, encourage me to buy my own home. She used to say that “it’s dead rent and we would have owned this place many times over” for all the rent that my family had paid. The fact is young people at the moment, find it harder to own a home, find it more difficult with the costs of education, and are being left behind during this pandemic. So it is an absolute priority or should have been to really raise a range of issues in the Budget. But we have announcements for example, about apprenticeships, that Tanya might want to talk about as well and trainees. But there’s 140,000 fewer apprentices and trainees than they were when this Government was elected. And they are making university unaffordable, particularly for people from poorer backgrounds. They will be put off going to university.
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, I think this is a really important question – what’s happening with younger people in the recession. We’ve got about one in three young people want a job or more hours of work, you would think if they can’t get a job, the Government would help them get an education. But as Anthony said, they’ve cut billions from TAFE. There’s 140,000 fewer apprentices and trainees today than when the Liberals first came to office. Two years ago, they announced they’d be 300,000 extra apprentices and trainees we are still down on the number from two years ago. And when it comes to university, students will be paying up to 113 per cent extra for a university degree. So you’re talking about a four year humanities degree now costing $58,000. So you pay $58,000. And you go into a labour market, where you’re not certain of a job, you’re not certain of enough hours of work, housing is increasingly unaffordable. This generation is really, really copping it. And we’ve got a Government that has turned its back on young people. 
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)
ALBANESE: The scandal around this Badgery’s Creek land deal absolutely reinforces the need for a National Integrity Commission. There’s Federal Government involvement here. We know that Angus Taylor had meetings. We know bureaucrats did deals. And for everyone out there, struggling to buy their own home and to get ahead. The fact that the Commonwealth use taxpayers funds to pay $30 million plus GST for a block of land that was worth 3 million, and then lease it back to the same people for $1 million. Just needs examination. We need to get to the bottom of this, as well as the sports road scandal, the water buyback scandal, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation issue, all of these issues, and there’s another reason as well. In this Budget, the Government has set up a whole range of pots of money. Money that will be available for ministerial discretion. We don’t trust this Government to use that money wisely. And we put them on notice that in 2018, they said they supported a National Integrity Commission, when one is established, that needs to look at everything, at least from that date. 
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)
ALBANESE: Well, what’s beyond belief here is that these people arrived in Melbourne, without any knowledge of the Victorian Government. And Alan Tudge as the person who’s the acting Immigration Minister, and been acting it must be said, for a long, long period of time, didn’t know who they were, where they are from. You know, this is a Government that speaks about tracing, but couldn’t trace people who came through our national borders. That’s not good enough.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)
ALBANESE: I think Alan Tudge and the Federal Government need to take responsibility for our national borders. They need to take responsibility for aged care. This is a Government that won’t take responsibility for anything at all. They canceled the National Cabinet meeting yesterday, because apparently there’s only one Air Force plane in the whole of Australia, which is of some concern. 
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)
ALBANESE: Don’t be absurd, it’s absurd that Alan Tudge does not accept responsibility that the national Government have, for people coming through our international border from New Zealand into Australia.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Daniel Andrews is overreacting giving the low transmission rates in New Zealand?
ALBANESE: I think the people of Victoria have done an extraordinary job, an extraordinary job in lowering the numbers. If you look at what’s happening in Victoria, compared with what’s happening in Europe. At the moment, the number of new cases in France today is in the tens of thousands, it is tremendous that the Victorian numbers are down and every Australian should thank the Victorian people. And this shouldn’t be an issue of political argy bargy.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)
ALBANESE: Well, I think we should take the health advice, and I’m sure that the health advice would say that it’s okay. New Zealand has done extremely well.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that we should rethink the travel bubble give there’s one case of community transmission today?
ALBANESE: I don’t think one case means you rethink the whole arrangements that have been put in place. And I do want to take the opportunity given the question to seamlessly segue into congratulating Jacinda Ardern, Jacinda Ardern is someone I met when I addressed the New Zealand Labour Party caucus some years ago. At that time, people didn’t expect New Zealand Labour, the election before last, to be successful. I met her, I’ve met with her since in in New Zealand as well as in Australia. She is an outstanding leader. This is a great victory for New Zealand Labour, the highest vote that New Zealand Labour have had for more than half a century. It’s a tribute to her leadership, but also to the vision that she has. A vision that’s about taking action on climate change, about taking action on creating jobs and the economy. A forward thinking leader for a country that is indeed continuing to move forward. 
JOURNALIST: What lessons can Labor take from New Zealand?
ALBANESE: That you always need to prioritise the economy but also continue to have the vision that Labor has. A vision for the future, a vision that is about inclusiveness, a vision that it’s about creating opportunity, a vision that’s about dealing with environmental challenges, including climate change. Jacinda Ardern has shown great leadership, not the least of which is during the pandemic, but before then as well. Compare Jacinda Ardern’s leadership inclusiveness after the terrorist action that occurred in New Zealand. It was inclusive, it wasn’t seeking to divide. It was seeking to unite a nation. And she is a great leader. She’s a good friend, and I look forward to working with her in the future.
JOURNALIST: (Indaudible) 
ALBANESE: Well, wait and see we haven’t had the election yet. Don’t be so negative Jean. Just watch. The fact is that the Australian Labor Party had another good win last night as well, in terms of Andrew Barr, and the ACT, and I congratulate his Government after 19 years, it’s an incredible result to maintain government and maintain government with the Liberals actually losing seats and going backwards. A Liberal Party in the ACT that is right wing, that’s conservative. That opposed a whole lot of the social reforms of course, opposed the infrastructure development, including light rail in the ACT. And it’s a great tribute to Andrew Barr. And just like the last time I’ve looked, last time, there was an electoral test we won last night, the time before that was in the Northern Territory, Labor won. And the time before that was the Eden-Monaro by-election, which Labor won.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) 
ALBANESE: Well there is no doubt that there are issues around the pandemic, including Australians want governments to succeed because they don’t want people to get sick, and they don’t want people to lose their jobs. That’s just, that’s just a fact. And that’s the case across the board. But Australians also want a government that’s inclusive, and that has a vision for the future. Both Andrew Barr and Jacinda Ardern weren’t just speaking about trying to return to what was their snapback they were talking about how we build a better Australia than what was there. And that is what the theme of my budget reply was, and something that was missing from the Government’s approach on Tuesday night in their Budget.
JOURNALIST: Considering the number of cases in Victoria now are the same as New South Wales do you think the state should be opening more quickly than what is announced today particularly in terms of hospital and retail?
ALBANESE: Well, I will probably wait for his  announcement rather than comment on it before I’ve heard the announcement so that’s pretty reasonable I think that occurs. The Premier is making an announcement today. I note that the reports are there will be a further opening up, and that’s a good thing. But I can’t respond to something before it’s happened.
JOURNALIST: Do you think your message is cutting through?
ALBANESE: Absolutely. I’ve been in three childcare centers in the last week, in Adelaide, in Western Sydney, and in Canberra. And tell you what the message from working women who know that there’s a disincentive there for them to work a fourth or a fifth day that’s cutting through. And I’ll tell you what, if you want to know if our message is cutting through, have a look at the Government’s talking points that they helpfully sent to every journalist in the press gallery. It’s all talking about Labor, it’s talking about us. So this is immediately after the Budget. They are talking about Labor. I’m happy to set the agenda. And when we were also in Newcastle, talking about manufacturing jobs, talking about clean energy, talking about building trains here, not overseas and getting them fixed up here, talking about ensuring that our defence spending creates jobs here. All of those measures. All of those measures are ones that the Australian public can identify with. And my team is strong and united we will continue to go out and sell our childcare announcements, our future made in Australia announcements, our plan to make Australia a renewable energy superpower. That’s what we have in mind. We’ll continue to pursue that. We’ll do each and every day leading up to the election. And we’ll be adding more policies as we go along the road. 
Thank you.