Adelaide Doorstop 29/12/21

29 December 2021

SUBJECTS: Louise Miller-Frost running in Boothby; Emergency Response Fund; rapid antigen tests; booster shots; Omicron; Scott Morrison failing to deliver; isolation periods; national cabinet; agricultural visas; Scott Morrison on TikTok; Scott Morrison’s holiday plans; Port of Darwin lease; trillion dollars of debt; budget repair; defence spending, hospitality venues shutting in South Australia; independent candidates.




SUBJECTS: Louise Miller-Frost running in Boothby; Emergency Response Fund; rapid antigen tests; booster shots; Omicron; Scott Morrison failing to deliver; isolation periods; national cabinet; agricultural visas; Scott Morrison on TikTok; Scott Morrison’s holiday plans; Port of Darwin lease; trillion dollars of debt; budget repair; defence spending, hospitality venues shutting in South Australia; independent candidates.
LOUISE MILLER-FROST, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BOOTHBY: Thank you everyone for coming out today on this very hot day. I'd like to acknowledge that we meet on Kaurna lands and I'd like to welcome the ALP leader, Anthony Albanese, SA Senator Penny Wong, Mark Butler, Shadow Health Minister, and Jim Chalmers, the Shadow Treasurer. I'd also like to really thank our hosts here, the Belair CFS, who do a fantastic job keeping us all safe across this community. These are people who come out every week, week in week out, and train so that they're ready and they're prepared and they're available when we have a crisis, when we have an emergency. And they risk their lives to keep us safe and to enable us to live in this beautiful environment that we see around us. So really a lot of thanks to the CFS, both here at Belair and across the state. We know that climate change is worsening bushfires across Australia. The 2019 Black Summer bushfires, we heard from firefighters across Australia that this was the worst, fastest moving, most severe bushfires that they dealt with. And that's only unfortunately heading in one direction due to climate change. Two and a half years ago, the Morrison Government announced an emergency prevention fund, $4.7 billion. Two and a half years later, not one single project has been completed. Two and a half years. And this is money that's supposed to go to things like evacuation centres, flood levees, fire breaks, the sort of things that keep our country safe, keep our communities safe, prior to an emergency. And quite frankly, that's actually not good enough, but typical for this government. So we've had the announcement, we've not had the delivery. It will be once again, too little too late. Australians deserve better. An Albanese Labour Government will deliver on climate change. We will equip the communities to be prepared for emergencies prior to that happening. This is what we need. And I'd like to hand over Mr Albanese.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Louise, our fantastic candidate for Boothby. And it's great to be here at Belair, at the Belair station here of the Country Fire Service. And I want to say a big shout out to all the volunteers who have welcomed us here today. They give up their own time, they put themselves at risk, in order to support their community. And I saw that firsthand when I visited this region during the 2019-20 bushfire season. That was a wake-up call. It was a wake-up call that we needed to take climate change seriously. But it was one also that we needed to do everything we could to support those brave men and women who give up their own time to support their communities and to provide them with the best equipment with the best facilities and the best chance of minimising any damage of future bushfires. That's why Labor supported the establishment of the $4.7 billion Emergency Response Fund. But what we've seen is a very small portion of that spent. Indeed, less money spent from that fund than has been raised in interest payments to that $4.7 billion. An extraordinary figure. And what we also haven't seen is a single project completed. Today, talking to the volunteers, we've had some practical ideas including going out there and doing research based upon the experience that we have in services such as the one here at Belair that could be utilised. But we need to do much better. But once again, we saw from this Government during the bushfire crisis, of course, we saw an absence of leadership. And now today we're seeing an absence of leadership with the COVID crisis. It is absolutely extraordinary that the Federal Government are not providing any support for the purchasing of rapid antigen tests. We know that there are queues here in Adelaide of up to eight to 10 hours in order to get tested. In some parts of Australia, like the Central Coast and Newcastle, you can't get tested for love or money. It's just not possible. It is easier to get a ticket to the AFL Grand Final than it is to get a test in some parts of Australia. And what we're seeing is that people want to get tested because they want to keep their families and their neighbours and their community safe. They're not doing it for the fun of it. And when I entered South Australia today, I had to show that I had had a test yesterday and that it had tested negative. And that's a fair thing. Because we know that if there is someone who’s COVID positive sitting on a plane, then that is an issue for everyone on that plane, particularly the people seated around them. So Australians, once again, are doing the right thing. But Scott Morrison and his Government are once again showing a lack of leadership, consistently passing the back to state and territory governments. Why is it that there's no issue too big for Scott Morrison to show how small his vision for this country is. Scott Morrison refuses to step up. We have the New South Wales Government trying to purchase rapid antigen tests that will be available, wait for it, at the end of January, when we have a crisis right now. We have businesses that are unable to open, we have people that are waiting day after day after day to get the results of their tests. And we have some people who simply can't get tested so they're just staying isolated because there's some doubt over their health concerns. We need to do much better. Scott Morrison, as we end 2021, has been in government now for four years. Everything that he does is characterised by being too little, too late. It's characterised by failing to get ahead, saying of course it wasn't a race. Now he says, with the rapid antigen tests, that not only is it not a race, they’re not even on the field at all, they're leaving it completely to the state. So it's not a matter of delay, it's a matter of no action whatsoever. We need a government that's prepared to provide leadership. And I want Louise to be part of the team here in South Australia to provide that additional firepower in the Federal Parliament. Louise has an outstanding record of working for the non-government sector, caring for people who are vulnerable in our community. She has the passion to represent this local community in the Federal Parliament. And I want to see her elected as the next member for Boothby.
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGEING: Well, thank you, Anthony, and thank you, Louise. Can I also say thank you very much to the Belair CFS. I remember, as a young lad, I very much still have vivid memories, the siren across the road that used to sound at a bushfire being let off Ash Wednesday, and the extraordinary work that for decades the volunteers of the Belair CFS have performed to keep this and other communities safe from the threat of bushfire. But right now, today, Australia across the nation is facing yet another crisis, with case numbers in this fourth wave absolutely exploding to more than 15,000 today, hospitalisation numbers increasing very, very quickly as well, workers unable to go to work and businesses yet again brought to their knees with no support from the Federal Government. As Anthony said, people are waiting hours in queues to get a test, they're waiting days at home to get the results and they still have no clue whatsoever when they're going to be able to get a vital booster shot that we know is so important to protect against this new Omicron variant. There are two critical weapons in the fight against this fourth wave, a fight against this Omicron variant. The first is booster shots, a speedy effective rollout of boosters. And yet again, just as was the case with the first phase of the vaccine rollout, Australians are left by Scott Morrison right at the back of the queue. Four million Australians were supposed to have received their booster shot by this week, but only two million or so, so far, have received a booster shot, one of the slowest rates in the developed world. Still about a thousand aged care facilities out of 2500 have not received booster shots, exposing some of the most vulnerable members of our community to very serious illness and, as we tragically saw a few days ago, the possibility of death in New South Wales. Australians living with disability, because they were left so dangerously exposed in the initial phase of the vaccine rollout, still haven't got their booster shots and are feeling very dangerously exposed yet again. The second weapon though against this Omicron variant is rapid testing. We know that from around the world, where these tests are widespread, readily available and highly affordable to members of the community and small businesses across those countries. Yet here, yet again, Scott Morrison has left Australians dangerously exposed and right at the back of the queue. Over the course of the last couple of days, yet again, we've seen state governments having to fill a vacuum left by Scott Morrison, who has gone missing in the fight against this critical fourth wave. Rapid tests, apparently, according to the Department of Health, are not part of the Government's responsibility. They say Medicare doesn't fund rapid tests, even though Medicare clearly funds the PCR tests that are completely jammed by an absence of this other testing option. Scott Morrison can't continue to pretend this is all someone else's responsibility. How on earth can he not think that this is his job? Joe Biden has just secured 500 million rapid tests for his nation. Boris Johnson has secured tens and tens of millions of rapid tests for his nation. Scott Morrison has gone absolutely missing just when his country needs him to do his job. Labor calls on the Prime Minister to do two things. Firstly, to urgently secure a large national stockpile of rapid tests that can be used by businesses and members of the Australian community right now. And secondly, stop this ridiculous, never-ending consultation process that the Government says it’s undertaking about rapid tests and come clean with working families and with small business about how they are going to access these tests easily and affordably.
ALBANESE: Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: The ABC has spoken to the mother of a woman with disability who has COVID and says boosters were more than a month overdue at her daughter’s facility. What's your response to that?
ALBANESE: Well, it's appalling that the Government have let down people with disabilities. They've let down people in aged care facilities, they've let down all of their loved ones, who must be beside themselves at the circumstances whereby vulnerable people have missed out. We know that with the rollout of the vaccine, people with disabilities and people in aged care facilities, and indeed their workforce,  were supposed to be at the front of the queue and were supposed to be fully vaccinated by March last year. And we know that that didn't happen. We know that there are consequences of that. This Government, big at promising, bad at delivery. And they should have learnt the lessons. We are now more than two years into a crisis. It's called COVID-19 because it began at the end of 2019. Here we are about to enter 2022. And we still have a Government that's failing to deliver for the most vulnerable in our community. We still have a Government that will never take responsibility and always pass the buck.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) … boosters are readily available in both disability care and other channels?
ALBANESE: Well it's just, once again, this Government failing to accept responsibility. It is responsible as the funder and the regulator of aged care facilities. It funds the NDIS. It looks after people in disability care. It has responsibilities here for the rollout of the vaccine. And the vaccine not being delivered can't be passed off as it's the people themselves. Those people with disabilities, those people in aged care facilities, are not responsible for the fact that they haven't had access to the booster. It is the Government that have failed here in supply. They said it wasn't a race. It always was a race. And it was a race for the booster as well. And the reason why the Government, just last week I called for, along with Premier Marshall, along with the New South Wales Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, and other health ministers and premiers, called for a reduction in the time from the second shot to the booster shot to four months or to shorter, based upon the health advice. The Government dismissed that. Greg Hunt made some extraordinary comments and, less than 24 hours later, announced the very thing that he said was a very bad idea the afternoon before. And the reason why they have said it will be reduced to four months at the beginning of January but three months at the end of January, if you think that three months is the appropriate time, which the Government with that decision after ATAGI is saying, the only reason why it's not going straight to three months is about capacity constraints. It’s because they simply can't get the booster shots into people's arms.
JOURNALIST: Shorter iso periods are being considered in the US, I think it’s going from 10 days to five days. Is that worth considering here?
ALBANESE: Well, we await the health advice on that. But I might ask Mark to respond.
BUTLER: Look, you’re right, the isolation periods in the UK and the United States are being reviewed right now. They've been reviewed in the US after advice from the Centre for Disease Control, an agency we don't have here in Australia, but Anthony Albanese has called for the establishment of. We understand that the AHPPC, the committee of all of the chief health officers, was tasked some days ago with reviewing this. Obviously people want certainty here. They want clarity. They want leadership from their national Government instead of this hodgepodge of constantly changing isolation requirements and a complete absence of testing options.
JOURNALIST: National cabinet being called for tomorrow, is that a good sign? What do you expect?
ALBANESE: Well, the last time there was a national cabinet, there was a national meeting but no national leadership. What we can't have is another meeting whereby the Prime Minister listens to what is happening in all of the states and territories and takes no responsibility, provides no leadership. What we need here is national leadership. We need national leadership on the rollout of the booster. We need national leadership when it comes to the rapid antigen test. We need national leadership when it comes to the tests and the waits that are occurring with the various states. We need national leadership on all of those issues. We're not seeing it from this Government at the moment.
JOURNALIST: The Pharmacy Guild is calling for the state and territory leaders to do more in this situation. They're saying the Federal Government can only go so far. Should those leaders also be doing more?
ALBANESE: Well, state and territory governments have stepped up in the absence of Commonwealth leadership. But when we talk about purchasing of rapid antigen tests from overseas, it clearly is a Federal Government responsibility to put those measures in place. I don't see Joe Biden or Boris Johnson saying that ‘it's not my responsibility to ensure that those tests are available’. But I might ask Mark if he wants to add?
BUTLER: Well, pharmacists are understandably very frustrated about their inability to get access to good supplies of these rapid tests, because Scott Morrison didn't do his job and buy them when we knew that we'd need them over this summer period. You know, frankly, you're seeing state premiers up trying to deal with this fourth wave every single day. But in contrast to that, you see a Prime Minister and a Government that's gone missing in action during this crisis.
JOURNALIST: The Pharmacy Guild is also saying that there should be a national standard for things like when you need to quarantine, how long for, whether you’re a close contact and when you need to get tested. Should there be a national standard and do the states need to play a role in that?
BUTLER: Well, this is the job of national cabinet, surely. I mean, this is the sort of thing that Scott Morrison needs to lead on. Bring the states together, ensure that there are nationally consistent rules around isolation, around quarantine and all those sorts of things. But I'll say again, the critical job of Scott Morrison is to roll out a speedy effective booster program that will provide the protection that people need against this new variant and ensure that there is a ready, affordable supply of rapid tests. Without those two things, the fight against this fourth wave is going to be much, much more difficult.
JOURNALIST: Should the Federal Government be subsidising the rapid tests (inaudible)?
BUTLER: Well, what we've said is the first thing is we need the tests in the country. And we just don't have enough. Pharmacists across the country are reporting widespread shortages. Families, small businesses, are saying they can't get their hands on the test that they need to be able to continue going about their lives to go to work, to keep their businesses open. So the first thing Scott Morrison needs to do is what President Joe Biden has done, what Prime Minister Boris Johnson and leaders across the world have done, and ensure there's a national stockpile of these things so we can use them, we can continue to go about their lives. And Labor has said from the get-go, income cannot be a barrier to getting these tests when you need it. These must be affordable for all Australians.
JOURNALIST: On a different matter, the agricultural visa debacle continues. Farmers are up in arms. What is your response?
ALBANESE: Well, this is another example of the Government making a promise and an announcement but not bothering to deliver it. No action has been actually delivered on this. There are no agreements in place with the countries that were named by the Agriculture Minister. And once again, we see Minister Littleproud attempting to blame someone else. This Government has a pattern of behaviour. They make an announcement, then nothing happens, then they blame someone else. What they actually need is to deliver. And I'm not surprised that there is such frustration from farmers out there. And it’s another example of the Coalition Government being a coalition in name only. This is about the ongoing fight between the Liberals and the Nationals. They don't like each other in the Liberal Party. They don't like each other within the National Party, they’re split, of course. And the Liberals don't like the Nationals. And as a result, the Government just doesn't act. It just makes an announcement that has no follow up. All photo op, no follow up.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister’s expressed consternation about TikTok, the social platform, but has signed on himself, as it transpires. Have you given it some thought yourself?  
ALBANESE: I think the Prime Minister could do a TikTok about how he's delivering rapid antigen testing for Australia. He could do a TikTok about how there is actually a supply of boosters here. I want to see some positive announcements that actually reflect delivery from this Prime Minister. This is a Prime Minister, of course, who when he had to go in isolation, didn't take his economic policy advisor, didn't take his foreign policy advisor, didn't take his health advisor or health minister during the pandemic, he took his personal photographer. It's always about the photo op, it's always about the image with this Prime Minister. What we actually need is some substance. And that's what is lacking with this Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: Speaking of the Prime Minister, we haven’t seen him since last Wednesday. Is that good enough?
ALBANESE: Look, that's a matter for him. But we haven't seen him on the field in terms of leadership since he's Prime Minister. He's been Prime Minister now since 2018. Now, I've served as Deputy Prime Minister of this country. I've been Acting Prime Minister on two occasions. Scott Morrison has been the acting prime minister since 2018. Since 2018, he's acted in the position rather than shown leadership. He constantly hands things off to the states that are his responsibility, and then blames someone else.
JOURNALIST: If elected, would a Labor government tear up the Port of Darwin lease?
ALBANESE: Well, we wouldn't have sold it. I note Scott Morrison's comments of, probably not in recent days, but he has made comments about, well, it's nothing to do with the Federal Government. Of course an asset like the Port of Darwin, I believe, should have stayed in public hands. That's the issue here. It is a national security asset, the Port of Darwin. And I, at the time, as the Shadow Infrastructure Minister in Bill Shorten’s team, argued against the sale of the Port of Darwin.
JOURNALIST: Did he text you (inaudible)?
ALBANESE: No, no, he didn't. But who knows what he'll say? Who knows? Because last time around, of course, this is a guy who makes things up that are demonstrably untrue. And last time around he did that with when he said in Parliament that he texted me that he was going to Hawaii. That wasn't the case. It’s a matter for him what his holiday plans are. But I certainly haven't received any text messages in recent days.
JOURNALIST: The incumbent Liberal here in Boothby is retiring. Do you think this is a seat you can win?
ALBANESE: I think it absolutely is a seat that we can win. I think we have a fantastic candidate. And if Louise wants to comment on this after I finish, but I was just really honoured that people of the quality of Louise were prepared to put themselves forward in the key seats that we need to win. We need to win this seat because we need to change the government. Australia needs a government that will accept responsibility. Australia needs a government that will address the big challenges that our country has. This Government is asking for a second decade in office. They don't have any plan for the current term of office, let alone for the next term. And when you have a Prime Minister who just isn't governing. You know, everything's about campaigning. He announced a couple of months ago now that he was off on the campaign trail. Well, how about you just govern? How about you put in place measures like making sure that the booster shot rollout didn't have the same failures that the original rollout of the vaccine had? How about you put in place purpose-built quarantine? How about you ensure that testing facilities are available? And how about you ensure that there's more common interest around our nation, rather than attempting to divide? Louise?
MILLER-FROST: Thank you. So, two months ago, I was running Vinnies’ statewide service. I was delivering services through COVID to vulnerable people across the state. And I was also running a chain of 32 retail stores. So I know what small business has gone through for COVID. I increasingly saw a scandal-laden Government that wasn't delivering, talked about climate change, but didn't deliver. We've heard Barnaby Joyce say he didn't sign up to it. And I got to the stage where I thought, actually, if I care about this so much, then I'm going to stand up and do something about it. So that's why I'm here, because I want to be part of a government that delivers on climate change, that delivers on building back out of COVID so that we are safe and that our businesses are safe as well. And so that we have a royal commission, that aged care royal commission that's been implemented, so that we have respect for women in Parliament. So many things. The only way that that happens is with a Labor Government. We have to change the government in order to get action on climate change.
JOURNALIST: What do you think will be the first priority that you have for voters here?
MILLER-FROST: So I've been out talking to a lot of voters and what I'm hearing from them are really those sorts of issues. Climate change, federal ICAC. I'm having so many conversations with people about the scandals, the rorts, what they're seeing happening in Parliament. So those are the two very major things. And then COVID. And particularly in these last couple of weeks since South Australia's opened its borders at the behest of our Federal Government, people are scared, people are very scared. People are unsure where the hotspots are. There's no way of finding out where the hotspots are. People are isolating. Businesses are closing their doors because they didn't want to have their staff have to quarantine during Christmas. They're closing their doors because they don't feel they can provide a safe workplace for their staff and also for the clients that come in. That's just not good enough. Australians deserve better.
JOURNALIST: Are you concerned at all that Omicron could derail campaign plans and travel interstate?
ALBANESE: Well, of course, we live in uncertain times. I'm here in South Australia as soon as I could get here under the circumstances, which have been very difficult. Of course, South Australia opened up while Parliament was sitting, during that last sitting fortnight that was such a debacle for the Government. But I haven’t been able to get to Perth. I've been to Queensland twice and I'll be back in Queensland next week. So it is a difficulty. But the difficulty that I'm really concerned about isn't politicians getting around, it’s people being able to go to work. It's people in aged care facilities and their loved ones having confidence that they're being looked after, it’s people in disability care being looked after, it’s people getting that certainty of being able to get access to a booster, access to a test. That's the uncertainty that’s there. And the uncertainty that’s there from business as well. At the beginning of this pandemic, I remember there was a bit of a debate, you might recall, Scott Morrison saying he was going to go the footy. They were cancelling things on the Monday, he was going to the footy on the Saturday. And it was sending such a confused message out there. And the view that he was putting at that time was that it was all about the economy. One of the things that's very clear is that if we don't get the health response right, it then has a consequence for the economy. We're seeing that at the moment with, in New South Wales, my home state, over 11,000 positive cases in the last 24 hours, meaning that businesses that are allowed to open aren’t able to open, because they can't get staff because there have been outbreaks at their premises. So we're seeing a massive withdrawal of economic activity as a result of a failure when it comes to these health issues. So it's not either or. That's my priority is for the country to actually be able to return to normal. No one wants restrictions in place for one day more than necessary. But we need to get the health response right. Otherwise, there are consequences for our economy and for jobs.
JOURNALIST: Do you agree with Brad Hazzard that everyone will eventually get Omicron?
BUTLER: Well, no, that's not the health advice that we've received. And we want to see a Federal Government that's willing to take the fight up to Omicron. That's going to put in place a proper booster program that protects people as much as possible against this new variant, that's going to ensure that we have proper testing arrangements that allow people to get on with their lives as we grapple with this growing fourth wave. That's Labor's approach.
JOURNALIST: Just back to the Port of Darwin lease, would you tear up the contract?
PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY IN THE SENATE: Well, look, this review, I just want to be clear about a couple of facts here. The Port of Darwin was privatised into foreign hands on Scott Morrison's watch. Let's be really clear about that. Mr Albanese reminded us that he opposed it at the time. A lot of concerns were raised. We then sought a review. Guess who opposed review for a very long time? Scott Morrison. Now we finally have a review released just after we won the Ashes. Great thing that was, but you have to question the timing. We'll seek a full briefing on the review. One of the things I would like to know is what engagement with our allies has there been in relation to the privatisation into foreign hands of this asset? We will consider that briefing. We hope the Government will provide it soon, given they've been so unwilling to be transparent about this issue.
JOURNALIST: And just another question for you, Senator Wong. You’ve accused Peter Dutton of amping up the threat of war with China. If he decides to step in and overturn the lease, despite this defence review, would you support him?
WONG: Well, there's a lot of hypotheticals in that question. And I'll refer you back to my speech about what Mr Dutton said and I think it's pretty clear the sort of internal leadership agenda that he's playing, unfortunately. But we will look at, we’ll get fully briefed on the review, the review that Mr Morrison opposed. And we will look very carefully as to whether or not there's been any input from allies and partners.
ALBANESE: Thanks. I might just ask Jim Chalmers to make some comments about some of the economic issues that are around today.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks, Anthony, and thanks to the CFS for hosting us today. Australians can't afford another Morrison stuff-up on rapid tests or boosters. The biggest risk to the economy is another Morrison failure of leadership when it comes to ordering rapid tests or getting the booster program back on track. There is a pattern of behaviour here. We've seen this movie before. Scott Morrison fails to do his job, he blames everybody else for it, and ordinary Australians and small businesses pay a price in local communities like this one. We've seen this time and time again. Now Scott Morrison has racked up a trillion dollars in debt with not enough to show for it. He's racked up a trillion dollars in debt and still hasn't sorted rapid tests, still hasn't got the boosters right, still hasn't got wages moving. Now Josh Frydenberg wants to pretend that we've got all this debt at the moment because of COVID-19. This Government racked up most of the debt before we'd even heard of coronavirus. This is a Government which has been around for almost a decade now, delivered deficits in every year and now deficits as far as the eye can see, and not enough to show for that whatsoever. If a rapid test was a rort in a marginal seat, Scott Morrison would be into it like a rat up a drainpipe. But because it's about public health and looking after the economy and looking after the communities like this one, he's nowhere to be found. And so, once again, ordinary Australians are paying the price for Scott Morrison's failure to lead. The biggest risk to the economy as we enter 2022 is yet another Morrison stuff-up when it comes to boosters and when it comes to rapid tests.
JOURNALIST: Do you think rapid antigen tests should be made free?
CHALMERS: The cost of a rapid test should not be a barrier to someone receiving that test. We've been saying that for some time now. We don't want people excluded from doing the right thing by their own health and by the people around them for not being able to afford a test. Now there are different ways you can arrange that. And no doubt Mark and Anthony and others will have views about that. But nobody should be denied a test on the basis of how much money they have. That's how our entire health system is supposed to operate. We can't afford not to do these rapid tests. When you consider the potential damage to the economy of Scott Morrison's failures on rapid tests, then you need to see that cost in that context. We can't afford not to do rapid tests. The whole world is moving in that direction, as is our country. The difference between our country and other countries is we've got a failing and flailing Prime Minister who refuses to provide leadership when the country needs him most.
JOURNALIST: If the international community’s moving to the RATs, as you’ve pointed out, is that going to mean supply constraints for places like Australia?
CHALMERS: Clearly, I mean, one of the big issues we have right now is that Scott Morrison didn't sort enough rapid tests. And so, as the whole country moves to rapid testing, the one person who has gone missing here, when it comes to ordering these tests, is the Prime Minister. You know, we have seen this issue evolving for some time now. You know, we didn't just wake up today and realise that Australia needed more rapid tests, it's been an obvious development for some time now. Yet once again, just like the vaccine program that he stuffed up, just like the quarantine system that he stuffed up and tried to blame everybody else for it, we're seeing this movie once again. Now, Australians can't risk another three years of a buck-passing Prime Minister who refuses to provide leadership in these crucial areas. As Anthony said, we've got big challenges coming at us. As 2021 turns into 2022, we've got big challenges coming at us. And the least that Australians should be able to expect from their Prime Minister is he shows up and provides the rapid tests, sorts out the booster program and gets Australia back on track.
JOURNALIST: Mr Chalmers, if you become the next Treasurer, when would you turn your attention to budget repair?
CHALMERS: Well, we've got a trillion dollars in debt and not enough to show for it. And if this Government is defined by anything, it's defined by generational debt without a generational dividend. That's one of the big problems that a new government would inherit. And so clearly what we need to do is we need to recognise that right now there's uncertainty in the economy. And so we need to support people, support working families, secure jobs and a future made in Australia. And when the time comes for budget repair, we need to crack down on the government's rorts, which are riddled through the budget. We need to make sure multinational corporations are paying their fair share of tax. But most of all, we need to be making sure we're growing the economy the right way. And that's what we intend to do.
JOURNALIST: Do you have a time frame on that, though, when it comes to repair?
CHALMERS: We've said throughout that our budget position will reflect the economic need. And what that means is what's happening in the labour market, what's happening for ordinary working families right around Australia, our budget conditions will be designed to meet the economic conditions that we would inherit. That's the main test.
JOURNALIST: And just finally, in the mid-year economic report the Government has flagged more spending on defence. Is that the right approach, given the situation we’re in?
CHALMERS: Look, when it's possible, we try to be bipartisan about defence spending. And it's obviously, in the budget, defence is a big part of the national budget, as it should be, and we try not to quibble about that. Our issues with the defence budget is the Government stuffed around for years on the old failed submarines contract, which will cost the budget and the Australian people billions and billions of dollars. But on the main, we want to see a strong defence force. We will invest significantly and substantially in it in government. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: Just quickly, you’re probably aware that there’s hospitality venues shutting down in South Australia. What are your thoughts on that? (Inaudible)
ALBANESE: Well, I haven't been critical of any state government, Labor or Liberal, during this process. I'll leave that sort of political game playing to Scott Morrison. But what I'd say is that state governments have made decisions that they think are in the interests of their people and they've been cautious. But one of the circumstances that they've had to deal with is a failure of national leadership. And when it comes to the issues of money and financing, things like the rapid antigen test, I’ll make this point. The Federal Government in MYEFO had $16 billion dollars in decisions taken but not announced. I bet that that's not about Omicron and dealing with rapid antigen test. It’ll be more likely to be about the colour-coded spreadsheets and the rorts that have got on and the abuse, the funding for women's sporting teams given to clubs that don't actually have women teams as part of the club, the funding for regional communities that goes to North Sydney Pool, the sort of rorts that we've seen on commuter car parks with their pork and ride scheme where we have commuter car parks for people to catch a train into the city of Melbourne but where there's no actual train station. What we won't see is responsible spending from the Government. But they have $16 billion set aside in a nest egg for election commitments, no doubt. And we'll see that rolled out. We'll see it rolled out on the basis of people's political intentions and marginal seats. I’ll make this point as well is that no matter what electorate you're in here in South Australia, you pay the same rate of tax. It’s not a different rate of tax based upon the marginality of your seat.
JOURNALIST: My Albanese, the independent candidate for Boothby, Jo Dyer, ran for Labor pre-selection in 1999. Another independent inquiry in Kooyong, Monique Ryan, is a former Labor Party member. Is a vote for these independents really a vote for Labor?
ALBANESE: Well, Warren Mundine, the Prime Minister's handpicked candidate for Gilmore at the last election, where he moved from the North Shore, picked out from the North Shore of Sydney, put onto the south coast of New South Wales, he wasn't a member for a couple of months, he was the National President of the Australian Labor Party and a former ALP Senate candidate and a long-time member. He was Scott Morrison’s hand-picked guy. Now, what I say is that you should vote Labor if you want to change the government. If you want to change the government, vote for Louise in the electorate of Boothby. That's how you change it. There are two people running for prime minister. One of them doesn't look like he wants it. He wants the title, but he doesn't actually want the job. I want the title and the job. And that's why I'm running as the alternative Prime Minister. Thanks very much.