ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
JIM CHALMERS MP
JULIE COLLINS MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE
SENATOR MURRAY WATT
SHADOW MINISTER FOR DISASTER AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CAPRICORNIA
LABOR CANDIDATE FOR FLYNN
THURSDAY, 13 JANUARY 2022
SUBJECTS: Labor’s Beef Australia commitment; Failures of the Morrison Government during the COVID-19; Labor’s policy agenda; Federal election; Better Future for Queensland visit; Novak Djokovic; rapid antigen tests; Same Job-Same Pay and mining.
RUSSELL ROBERSTSON, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CAPRICORNIA: Thanks. I am Russell Robertson, Labor candidate for Capricornia. With me is the Shadow Agriculture spokesperson, Julie Collins. With me also is Senator Murray Watt, the local Member for Rockhampton, Barry O'Rourke, candidate for Flynn, Matt Burnett, and the Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Anthony Albanese. So, thanks, guys, for coming along. Also, Shadow Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, is with me as well. We're here to announce a great funding boost for Beef Australia and a commitment from the Labor Party. And myself and Matt have been working hard to deliver to this local region. So, we know how important beef is to Rocky. We are the beef capital. And we'd love to see these great events go ahead. That's with the assistance of the Australian Labor Party and a great commitment from Jim and Albo and Julie, to make sure that we can continue to deliver funding for this great event. The Beef Australia executive have proudly let us come through the Gracemere Saleyards here today. We've just had a look at some great Brangus. And we're excited for what this funding commitment can do to Beef Australia. I want to hand over now and let Matt have a few words as well.
MATT BURNETT, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR FLYNN: Thanks, Russell. It's fantastic to be here, of course, in Gracemere, for this fantastic announcement. Of course, thank you Albo and to Team Labor. We've got a swag of Labor members here today. Supporting Beef Australia is going to be an amazing announcement, which, of course, you'll hear shortly from Anthony Albanese. But for me today, it's all about the reef and the beef. It is not just how we got an amazing announcement here in Gracemere. But further on today, we'll head to Gladstone and will talk about the Great Barrier Reef and the $15 million announcement announced for our CMERC earlier this week. It's fantastic. So, thank you, Albo. Thank you, Julie. Thank you, Team Labor. And thank you to the Beef Australia team. We were here at Beef Australia last year with a team of mayors from across Central Queensland, hosting our Beef Corridors event. And today, they're going to see an investment that'll support beef and beef production right across Queensland, right across Australia. And thank you, Albo, for doing that for us. I will hand over to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much to Matt and Robbo. We have two extraordinary candidates here for Capricornia and for Flynn. They're just a part of this community. And they've been a part of these communities for generations, which is why they're passionate about jobs and economic growth right here in Central Queensland. This is a great part of Australia. It produces so much income. And of course, Rocky is the beef capital of Australia. This event, Beef Australia 2024, provides for such a strong base for this region. Beef Australia 2024 will no doubt be attended by more people than attended Beef Australia 2021. That was attended by 115,000 people. It contributed, just in activity from people coming to Rocky, it contributed some $90 million to the local economy. The Australian beef industry is worth more than $15 billion to our national economy. That's why it is so important. And I've got to say that at the moment, Australians have been given a big reminder of how important it is to have fresh food on the table. At the moment, of course, the fact is the food on our shelves has gone missing, just like the Government's leadership. I'm waiting for Scott Morrison to say that he doesn't drive a delivery truck. If there was a photo-op in it for this bloke, he'd be in there, in the truck behind the wheel, pretending that he does work. The problem for Scott Morrison is he's always there for the photo-op, for the clever shot with the high-vis. But he's actually not there when his own job is on the line. And it is his job to prepare for issues including the pandemic, to do his job. The Transport Workers' Union wrote to the Government in September and said they needed to prepare for supply chain issues, and they needed access to rapid antigen tests. The truth is now you can't get a RAT for love or money in so many places. Coles here at Rocky, the shelves are virtually empty. People can't get supplies of essential food. And it's a reminder today of how important beef is for us. This is a great industry. It's an industry that has a very long tradition in this country. The jobs that are created around Rockhampton, around Emerald, around this region, particularly in Queensland, but other parts of Australia, are very significant indeed. And Beef Australia 2024 is an economic opportunity. It's also a celebration of the contribution that the beef industry makes. And I really want to take the opportunity to thank our farmers. They do it tough in this country from time to time. We have droughts, we have floods, we have all sorts of natural disasters that make it difficult. But what they do keeps food on the table. What they do is such an essential service. And that's why Labor's very proud to commit to this funding that provides a certainty that's needed. The certainty to build the infrastructure so that Beef Australia 2024 is the best event yet. Thanks very much. Julie?
JULIE COLLINS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE: Thanks, Anthony. Can I thank Matt and Russell for their lobbying and their interest in Beef Australia? And can I thank Bryce and Beef Australia for having us here today, but also for having me earlier in the year to that great week in May where Australia's best produce was on display? Earlier last year, when I was able to be in Rocky and see firsthand just what an amazing event this is for Australia. It is an incredible event with producers from all over the country coming to Rockhampton to show off great Australian projects. The $6 million that Federal Labor is announcing today will be a great down payment for the investment and the jobs here in the greater Rockhampton region. We're talking about $6 million investment, some of which will be here as a lasting and legacy at the Rockhampton Showgrounds for locals. We want to invest in local jobs for local people in this local area. And as we've heard, over $90 million from that one event that occurred in May last year and will happen again in May 2024. It's great to be part of this announcement today. And again, I want to thank Russell and Matt for their support of this announcement and for getting us all up here today in Rockhampton and being able to talk about what a great event Beef Australia and Beef Week is.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks very much, Julie, and Bryce and your team for having us here today. Great communities like this need great local representatives. And that's what Robbo and Matt will be after the next election. The producers of regional Queensland have been there for Australians throughout this pandemic. And this announcement shows that Federal Labor will be there for them. If we want the national economy to recover strongly, then we need an even brighter future for the families and producers and growers of regional Queensland and regional Australia. Now, what we've seen here in the tremendous success of Beef Week in the past is we have an opportunity to showcase one of the most important parts of Australia's national economy. Central Queensland is central to a $15 billion beef industry. And Beef 2024 will be central to its ongoing success. And that's why we want to back it in. If we want to secure the economic recovery, then we have to support crucial industries like beef here in Central Queensland. Now, the Morrison Government talks a big game about regional economies. But what we've seen with these diabolical failures on rapid testing is that they're actually making it harder to get our food from farms to families, right around Australia. This is a Government which has claimed credit for a recovery time and time again, without actually doing their job to secure that recovery. The fact that they didn't even order rapid tests until this week, months after they were warned that rapid tests would be needed in big numbers, shows the cost of their failure to do their job. Now, we desperately need this economy to recover strongly. That means the economies of regional Queensland being an even bigger part of the story. That's why we're here today. And the contrast couldn't be clearer. A leader who shows up and saddles up for regional Queensland versus a Prime Minister who goes missing when Australians need the most.
ALBANESE: I'm now going to ask Bryce if he wants to make a few comments as well.
BRYCE CAMM, CHAIRMAN OF BEEF AUSTRALIA: Ladies and gentlemen, can I firstly on behalf of Beef Australia and our entire industry thank Anthony, Jim, Julie, your entire Team Labor. What a terrific announcement for confidence in our regions, and particularly in the Australian beef industry. $6 billion for Beef Australia 2024 is a significant announcement and an investment in our event coming back, bigger and better again in '24. I thank you for being here in our beef capital and your acknowledgement of Beef Australia as an event that's so significant for Rockhampton and the Capricorn Coast. But also, for your confidence in our farmers and our beef producers right around this country. It's an industry that's on fire at the moment, going so strong. And with this announcement, we will continue to grow. Thank you for it. And thank you for being with us.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Bryce. And we're happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: This is a huge announcement for Rocky. But what else can Central Queenslanders expect from a Labor Government?
ALBANESE: What we can expect from a Labor Government is backing Central Queensland and their skills, whether it's backing the individuals through 465,000 free TAFE places, 20,000 new university places, whether it's the National Reconstruction Fund that we’ll establish to support existing industries to become more efficient, or whether it's new industries as well. We want to work with our farmers, with our business community, with trade unions, with the community, to make sure that this economy grows. I'm the guy who set up Regional Development Australia as a Minister. I believe passionately in growth of jobs and regions such as the Rocky region. It is so important. And what I want to see is Matt and Robbo sitting in the Caucus making a contribution as well, being a voice for this community. Not being a voice, which currently exists, where the Nats are too busy fighting each other to stand up for their communities, but a voice for this community into Canberra to make sure that the national government truly represents the whole country.
JOURNALIST: Industry leaders are warning of a nationwide fuel shortage due to COVID. Have you heard these concerns from industry?
ALBANESE: Look, absolutely. This isn't anything new. This Government have failed when it comes to fuel security. This is a Government that, on its watch, half the refineries in this country have shut. When they made an announcement about fuel reserves, if you looked at the detail, the fuel reserves were to be located near the Gulf of Mexico in the United States. They don't seem to get it. They don't seem to get the need for a future made in Australia. It's one of the big three themes that we have as the Labor Party, putting forward our pitch to Queenslanders, saying we want better life for working families, we want more secure work, and we want a future made in Australia. We need to learn the lessons of the pandemic. And the lessons of the pandemic are, we need to stand on our own two feet, we need to back industry, we need to be less reliant upon international events, supply chain events that we've seen with the pandemic, but from future events such as cyber security or international conflict, leave us vulnerable again. That's why I announced, for example, as well, our shipping policy, putting the Australian flag on the back of Australian ships with Australian seafarers, dealing with issues like fuel security around our coasts. We’re very vulnerable, we’re dependent upon the goodwill of international players. And their interest is in maximising their profits. That's why this industry is so important. The beef industry here in Australia is a great example of a domestic industry that looks after Australians but also, of course, is a very important export industry for us as well.
JOURNALIST: Just on rapid tests, what happens if they don't become readily available to businesses and individuals in the next fortnight? And given supply is short, who do you think should have priority access?
ALBANESE: Well, it’s extraordinary. What I don't want to see is an Australian Government that somehow chooses between whether a teacher or a truck driver or an aged care worker or someone working in a health clinic in Rocky gets access to a rapid antigen test. The truth is that this Government were complacent. In spite of the fact that the Australian Medical Association and others were all warning from September we needed to prepare for this. Now just this week, the Government's had a tender process, $62 million of accessing rapid antigen tests. I’ll give you the big tip. They haven't necessarily got value for money because there's no tender process. There are Australian companies producing rapid antigen tests now, exporting them overseas because the Australian Government said they weren't interested in purchasing them. So, what we need to do is to make sure we deal with the supply issues and make sure that workers are able to go to work safely by actually getting access to these tests. And one of the ways that you do that is, as well, by making sure that they're free. Because the idea that someone who needs a test to go to work in an aged care facility can't do so safely because they can't access a RAT is a position that's untenable. And that's why it's reached the point whereby the former Premier of New South Wales, Mike Baird, who runs HammondCare, one of Australia's largest aged care providers, is talking about bringing in the Army to make beds in aged care facilities. How is it that Australia has got to this point? Enough is enough of this incompetence presided over by a Prime Minister who always says he doesn't hold a hose, or it's not a race for vaccines, there was never a race for rapid antigen tests, that was someone else's job, Australian visas, that's someone else's job. How about he just does his job and accepts responsibility.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, last time Labor was in Government, you were part of a Cabinet that shut down the live cattle export industry to Indonesia. What is your message to farmers, graziers, cattle producers across northern Australia why Labor can be trusted to act in their interest next time and not buckle to social media activists?
ALBANESE: My message to farmers is we're on your side. We're on your side when it comes to backing your industry. We have been here making this announcement today. But yesterday, we were with the head of Queensland Canegrowers, had a terrific meeting with Paul Schembri in Mackay, had a look at his farm met with other producers as well about the challenges of that industry. The day before, we were at Australia's largest prawn farm, run by Tassal, just outside of Proserpine, talking about their needs. Before that were Tully talking to a banana grower, the head of the banana growers’ association of Queensland. We want to work with industry. And my record as a Minister in a Government for six years is of creating Infrastructure Australia, creating Regional Development Australia, creating the Australian Council of Local Government. In each area, that was characterised by a cooperative frame, in the Hawke tradition. A cooperative frame whereby you get businesses and unions and community leaders around the table. You ask them, people on the ground, including through local government, what their needs are, and you get better outcomes. Better processes produce better outcomes. That's something I'm committed to. You don’t have to look at what I say, look at what I've done. Create, even in terms of the criticism of the LNP, Infrastructure Australia is still there, it's been undermined somewhat, but it's still there. Regional Development Australia, still there. Lasting legacies showing that we got it right and, if you implement those processes fully, you'll get even better outcomes.
JOURNALIST: How would you fix the current workplace supply shortages?
ALBANESE: What we need to do, and I might ask Jim to comment on this as well, but quite clearly, this Government can't continue to wait until a problem becomes a crisis before it acts. Clearly, part of the problem with the workplace shortages which are there is that people can't get access to tests. This Government, this Federal Government has sat back and watched while PCR tests have become less available, with a number of the private companies withdrawing from the number of places where people can go get tested. Australians have been magnificent during the last two years. They have done everything that was asked of them. They made sacrifices, they put up with constraints on their activity, they went out and got tested when they thought they needed to do so. And what they deserved was the second part of that bargain, that social contract, was that the Government would be there for them. So many times with this Government, including on funding of local projects, this Government says, if you can't do something for the LNP then you're on your own, they won't do anything for you. That's not our approach. Our approach is to support every community. But it's also to support workers. Workers need access to testing. They need it and they need to do it in a way in which the most efficient way to do it is to make it free. This Government, when they announced some testing for free for concession card holders, then went out afterwards and told pharmacists that they were on their own accessing the tests to be made available for concession card holders. It is just extraordinary the arrogance of this Government. And, as I said, I think Australians are getting to the point whereby they want a government that actually governs, and governs in their interests, not one that always says, ‘I don't hold a hose’, or ’It's not a race’ when it comes to access to the vaccines, or ‘I don't drive a delivery truck’. Enough of the photo-ops. This bloke needs to do his job.
CHALMERS: Australians are prepared to do their jobs. They just need the Prime Minister to do his. And if the Prime Minister wants people to go back to work, then he needs to take responsibility for the mess that he's made of rapid testing. The number one thing that Scott Morrison could do, if he wants people to go back to work, is to fix this absolute debacle of rapid testing. The fact that Scott Morrison has only now, this week, gotten around to ordering these rapid tests in big numbers shows just how costly this failure to take responsibility on his behalf has become. And we've got Hunger Games in our supermarkets and in our pharmacies because the Prime Minister has once again gone missing when Australian workers need him most.
JOURNALIST: How committed are you to saving coal jobs, or is the future of regional Queensland all about retraining?
ALBANESE: What you won't hear from this Government is anything about working conditions for coal miners, like Robbo. He works in the sector and has worked here for three generations. What you won't hear from the LNP ever is the issue of Same Job, Same Pay, the legislation that I have before the parliament. I'm about jobs, and I'm about respecting workers wherever they work. And in terms of making sure, as well, that their conditions are protected. I'm about making sure that those decisions, as I've said, consistently, will be determined by markets. And that's a decision that will be made in overseas boardrooms, but here as well, in terms of access to those jobs. I respect that work. And that will continue. Robbo’s done a fine job, and I want to see a coal miner in the Federal Parliament representing the interests of coal miners, because he understands, the meetings that I've had with miners have spoken to me about, Same Job, Same Pay and the impact it has on occupational health and safety as well, with casualisation of the workforce undermining that.
JOURNALIST: Just on some regional areas that have been hit by devastating floods. Some of them still haven't been classified for natural disaster assistance. What's your thoughts on that?
ALBANESE: I'll just ask Murray, who's the Shadow Minister for Emergency Management, to deal with that.
MURRAY WATT, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Thanks, Albo. Well, the fact that we still have communities in Australia that are waiting for assistance from this Government is exactly why, yesterday, Labor announced our plan for disaster readiness in which we will plan for disasters better, prepare for them better, and rebuild and recover better as well. As we said yesterday, we'll be making a big new investment in disaster mitigation and prevention, but at the same time, we’ll be speeding up disaster recovery payments and repairs, cutting red tape. I mean, every community I ever go into after a natural disaster has to wait forever to see those payments done, has to wait even longer for infrastructure to be rebuilt. Just before Christmas, I was with Susan Templeman down in the Hawkesbury, where there are communities there who are still waiting nearly a year on to have their basic road, access road, fixed. They have to drive through fire trails in the middle of the night to get out of their property. These are the kind of slow processes that we see from this Government. It's not that hard to fix it. It just requires a bit of cooperation with the states and territories rather than always looking to blame each other.
JOURNALIST: The Federal Government is considering asking people either on unemployment benefits, international students, and even older Australians to help fill workplace shortages. What do you think of that idea?
ALBANESE: Well, this is the same Federal Government that when you had people who were visitors here, sent them home. Remember that? Very early on, sent them home. They could have provided a workforce. They were here already. This is a Government that's always playing catch up. This is a Government that is never looking for what is needed, because it only ever responds when there's a crisis. And that is why Australia is doing it tough in so many areas. This is the Government who had just a week ago, in the midst of this crisis when Australians were struggling to get food at the supermarket, when aged care, was struggling to give people their booster shots, and there are hundreds of aged care facilities that still have don't have booster shots that are cut off from their loved ones, this is a Government that presided over booster shot appointments that have been deferred because there's no supply. A Government that at the beginning of this week, planned and said that, ‘Your child at school will be able to be immunised from this week’. And for many parents, who are anxious about the health of their kids going back to school, they're told you can't get an appointment until February. And what was the Prime Minister's response? He went to the cricket. He laughed about living with COVID and he laughed about taking wickets with COVID. Now, Australians taking wickets is always a good thing in the cricket. But I'll give him the big tip. Travis Head wasn't playing because he had COVID. We need to make sure that we look after people's health because that's a precondition for stronger economic outcomes. That's the big issue.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe inland rail should be extended all the way to Gladstone? And if so, do you think new thermal coal mines make that extension more viable?
ALBANESE: We support the feasibility study into the plan.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, given we're in Rockhampton, which is the birthplace of Rod Laver, if a tennis fan wants to go to Rod Laver next week, they have to show their vaccination status. If you want to sell an ice cream or a program, there as a young worker, you have to have proof of vaccination. Should Novak Djokovic be allowed to play on Centre Court, regardless of deportation or whatever, should he be allowed to play on Centre Court if he can’t prove his vaccination?
ALBANESE: Well, it's a fair point about what the requirements are to go to Rod Laver Arena, if you're a spectator or if you're a worker. What Australians today will be wondering is, ‘How long is the focus group taking in order for the Government to get the answer before it responds to this issue?’ Novak Djokovic was fully aware that the Australian Government's position was that you got a visa to this country on the basis that you're fully vaccinated. How is it that the visa was issued in the first place? That is something that has not been answered by this Government. That's something that has Australians shaking their heads. A whole lot of Australians, in order to do their day job, have to show that they're fully vaccinated. In aged care, in the health sector and in a range of sectors that is the case. How is it that this Government, with the largest sporting story in the world over recent months has been Novak Djokovic, nine time Australian Open champion going for his 21st Grand Slam title, the number one player in the world, this has been on the back page of every sports pages of every newspaper in the world for month after month after month. And here we have the Australian Open about to kick off in coming days. We have a visa granted, no explanation from the Government about how that happened. Once again, the Government not doing its job, blaming someone else. In this case pretending that a sporting organisation was issuing visas. It is responsible for Australia's visas. It said that the rules were clear. The rules were that you needed to be fully vaccinated, which is why Australians are shaking their head at yet another example of this Government's incompetence. This Government that had the Grand Slam of failures. It failed on tracing, failed on testing, failed on vaccines, and failed on purpose-built quarantine. And now, they added that Grand Slam. We now have the Novak Djokovic debacle which, quite frankly, is causing enormous international embarrassment.
Thanks very much.