Doorstop Interview – Cabramatta – Monday 7 June 2021


SUBJECTS: Visit to Cabramatta; domestic violence; lack of crisis accommodation; Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund; homelessness; vaccine rollout; need for national quarantine centres; Government’s proposed changes to Medicare.
CHRIS HAYES, CHIEF OPPOSITION WHIP & MEMBER FOR FOWLER: Well, welcome here to little Cabramatta, my electorate here, as we stand in probably the most multicultural community in the country. I am very proud of this community. And as you can see just by looking around, it’s very colourful, certainly very vibrant. We have, as I say, the most diverse community in the country. It is something we are very proud of here in Western Sydney. One thing we’re not terribly proud of however is the issue of domestic violence and the lack of crisis accommodation and homelessness generally. And that’s something that really is certainly playing out very much in this community here. And as a consequence, today, I have the Leader of Federal Labor, Anthony Albanese, and also Jason Clare, our Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness. Their involvement here is very, very significant for our community. On that, I think I’ll throw to Jason to talk about issues about housing here.
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: Well, thanks very much, Chris. It’s great to be here with you, mate. Chris Hayes is a great friend of mine and a great friend of the people of Cabramatta. I know that the people in this local community are very, very sad that Chris has announced his retirement from politics at the next election. You’re loved by the people of Cabramatta. And they’re going to miss you very much. It’s great to be here with Anthony Albanese as well as the Leader of the Australian Labor Party. Particularly great to be here in Cabramatta because this is where I was born and raised. I went to school here. Mum and dad still live here in the local community. So this feels like home. I was just talking to the team that run Bonnie Services here. They were set up only a couple of years after I was born. They’ve been helping mums and kids in this local community now for 46 years. They’ve been helping mums and kids fleeing domestic violence. I’m sure they helped a lot of the kids that I went to school with here in the local community all those years ago. And they’re still doing that work. And they’re busier than ever. Refuges here in Western Sydney, but refuges right across the country are flat out at the moment. Mums and kids are staying in refuges longer than ever before because there isn’t enough transitional housing and long-term social housing for them to move into. That’s why last year, 10,000 mums and kids fleeing domestic violence got turned away from refuges like Bonnie’s because there wasn’t a bed, because the inn was full. And that’s why this year in our Budget Reply speech, the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese, committed a future Labor Government to a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund to build 30,000 social and affordable housing properties, and 4,000 of them to be dedicated to helping mums and kids fleeing domestic violence. Now, in a couple of weeks, the Federal Government has their Women’s Safety Summit, a summit to come up with ideas to help mums and kids, to help women fleeing domestic violence amongst other things. If the Government’s serious about that, then they’ll commit to doing this. 4,000 homes, permanent homes, for mums and kids fleeing domestic violence. If they’re serious, they’ll match our commitment.
Just one other comment about homelessness generally. We know that there are more than 8,000 Aussies that sleep rough in Australia every night, in the street, in the park, in a car. We asked the Government on Friday how many homeless Aussies sleeping rough have been vaccinated so far. Their answer was, ‘I don’t know’. Can you believe that? The Government doesn’t know. When you think about vulnerable Australians, you think about people in aged care, you think about disabled Australians. But surely you should also think about Aussies that don’t even have a roof over their head, that are sleeping rough at night. What’s that old saying? That you judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. Well, by that standard, this Government is failing miserably. Albo?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Jason. And thanks, Chris, for the invitation to be with you today, here in Cabramatta, in Southwest Sydney. And it’s been good to also meet with Bonnie Support Services. This was the second women’s refuge built in Australia. It didn’t happen before the 1970s. But Bonnie Support Services have now grown to service the entire Liverpool and Fairfield areas, making a difference to women and children fleeing domestic violence, keeping people safe. But the Federal Government needs to do more. And that’s why we will build 30,000 purpose built social and affordable housing dwellings. That will make a difference to people’s lives. I know the difference that having a secure roof over my head with my mum growing up made to my life to be able to be in a position I’m in today. The fact that 10,000 women and children were turned away from emergency shelter last year is an indictment on our society. We need to do much better. And as a society, we need to be prepared to step up and provide the support and funding that’s needed. By funding more social and community housing, what we will do is make sure that there’s more emergency services available for when it’s needed. 4,000 of which we will reserve those public housing units for women and children fleeing domestic violence in the first five years. And we’ll do it by creating a fund, the Australian Future Housing Fund, to make investments to use that return to invest at no cost to the taxpayer. This is a policy that makes sense that will make a difference to people’s lives.
And can I comment today, as well, on the issue of Medicare rebates and the attack on Medicare that we’re seeing from the Federal Government. This isn’t a conservative Government. This is a reminder once again, if we needed it, that this is a Government that attacks our institutions. And there’s no more important institution than Medicare, which is the heart of our healthcare system. These attacks will mean that those people who are on queues waiting to get a hip replacement, waiting to get other essential surgeries, as well as people suffering from sports injuries and other incidents, aren’t unable to get the help that they need without massive out-of-pocket expenses to them. To make 900 changes to the Medicare rebate system is to attack the fundamentals in that system. This Government should come with a health warning. Because what we’ve seen is failure when it comes to the rollout of the vaccine. We’ve seen a failure when it comes to establishing national quarantine. And now we see a failure when it comes to attacking Medicare, the heart of our health system. A few years ago, when we raised the fact that the Coalition didn’t really support Medicare, they called it ‘Mediscare’. They said it wasn’t real. They profess to support Medicare as a system. And yet what we’re seeing with these 900 separate changes, with very little notice that will create chaos in the health system, the doctors are warning it will have a real impact on people’s health, is a Government that just doesn’t get it. A Government that attacks Medicare, that last week attacked, once again, our universal superannuation system, a Government that leaves people behind and leaves people alone. We need a Government that understands how important Medicare is at the heart of our healthcare system. These changes are about undermining Medicare. They are about undermining people’s health. And they should be rejected.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).
ALBANESE: Well, this is the Australian Medical Association belling the cat on this Government at a time of a health pandemic to, on top of not fixing vaccine and not dealing with national quarantine centres, for them to be attacking Medicare and meaning that there are massive out-of-pocket expenses for people who have surgery that they need as an attack on our health system from this Government. During a health pandemic. I can’t think of a worse time for a national Government to be attacking healthcare than during a health pandemic. But that is precisely what the Morrison Government has done with these 900 changes to Medicare that they’re imposing in just a few weeks’ time.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).
ALBANESE: Well, there hasn’t been any appropriate consultation. The Australian Medical Association know that. And Australians know that. They’ll be waking up today, people who’ve been on the queue, and what we know is that many of the surgeries that would have occurred during 2020, because of the pandemic, have been put off. Now, on top of that, what these changes mean is that they’ll get hit with a massive bill. This Government should come with a health warning that they are a risk to your health, and they are a risk to Medicare. This is a Government that is not on your side. That’s the message that people who need that essential healthcare will take from these changes.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible). Do you believe their concerns are valid?
ALBANESE: The doctors’ concerns are absolutely spot on. Because people have not been given appropriate warning of this. That during a health pandemic, there are these changes being made on top of the failure when it comes to the rollout of the vaccine and on top of national quarantine. And I note that this morning, Gladys Berejiklian has made some strong comment about New South Wales wanting an appropriate facility for a nationally run quarantine centre here in New South Wales, noting the pressure that’s been placed on our hotels, which are built for tourists, not built for health quarantine. And I join with the Premier of New South Wales in saying that Scott Morrison needs to get his act together. We have had more than a year’s notice of fixing up quarantine of fixing out the rollout of the vaccine. And we know from the meetings that were held in July last year with Pfizer, that this Government bungled those negotiations with Pfizer. We should have been in a position of implementing and manufacturing mRNA vaccines here right now in Australia. We should have been in a position of fixing quarantine right now rather than relying upon hotels. And we should oppose these changes which are all about undermining Medicare, the heart of our healthcare system here in Australia. Thanks.