WEDNESDAY, 13 MAY 2020
SUBJECTS: Eden-Monaro by-election; Government’s neglect of the Barton Highway; infrastructure projects in the Eden-Monaro; Australia’s relationship with China; COVID-19.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks for joining me. It’s terrific to be here this morning with Catherine King as Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and importantly for Kristy McBain, Labor’s candidate for the Eden-Monaro by-election. Kristy has been at campaigning each and every day in the interests of the people of Eden-Monaro while the other side of politics have been concerned about themselves and attacking each other National on National, Liberal on Liberal, National on Liberal, Liberal on National. While that circus has been going on, we haven’t worried about those issues because Labor has a candidate who has spent her working life standing up for people in this community. And it’s back here to the Barton Highway we come today on the road to Yass. I was here during the last election campaign with Mike Kelly, where we announced $250 million for upgrades to the Barton Highway. The Government, of course, announced $100 million, but they’ve spent just a trickle. This follows the fact that they have spent in their time in office $1.7 million a year. That compares with when I was the Minister, that figure was much greater than that at $5.4 million. More than three times the amount in terms of the commitment that we made to this highway. But with the growth in traffic over a period of time, it was clear to us that you needed the significant additional investment. What the Government did, of course, was make some announcement, in this case a figure of less than half of Labor’s commitment, but make sure it was all off on the never never like most of their commitments. This is a Government that we’ve seen didn’t have a plan for the economy before the bushfire crisis hit and before the coronavirus crisis hit. And yesterday from Josh Frydenberg, we had confirmed that they have no plan to come out of this crisis at all. No infrastructure investment foreshadowed. No plan, just snap-back. Snap-back to what was there. We can do much better. I want to have a plan that has a plan for the future, a plan that builds a stronger Australia, a fairer Australia, one in which we take the spirit of ‘We’re all in this together’ that we’ve seen during this crisis to a level whereby that just becomes the norm in this country. One in which Federal and state governments work together on a cooperative basis. One where infrastructure investment isn’t just something that happens, and I’m sure there’ll be some commitments from the other side during a by-election campaign. It’s something that happens on a regular basis on a committed basis. We did, when we were in Government, substantial investments across Eden-Monaro, projects like the Bega Bypass and the commitments that we’ve made here. We’ll continue to have that commitment to safer roads. Because we believe that safer roads are an absolute priority, both for productivity, but also for making sure that people can go home from work and that people can travel safely around an electorate such as this. I’d asked Kristy to make some comments.
KRISTY MCBAIN, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR EDEN-MONARO: Thank you, Anthony. Thank you for being here today. Eden-Monaro is made up of a series of regional communities. Regional communities that need the assistance of their representatives. What we’ve seen from the Morrison Government is this community being left in the slow lane. Twelve and a half thousand vehicles a day travel the Barton Highway, over 1,000 trucks. We need to make sure that our community get to and from workplaces, to and from sport, to and from schools safely. We’ve seen numerous accidents on this highway and we can’t afford to see anymore. We need investment and investment now. These regional communities are the lifeblood of the Eden-Monaro. They’re the lifeblood of Australia. That investment has to come forward and it’s only the Labor Party that’s actually fighting for regional communities. I want to be your representative in Canberra because I want to be that voice for this regional community in Eden-Monaro. I will ask Catherine King to say a few words.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Thanks very much. It’s so fantastic to be here with Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, and Kristy McBain who I think has just demonstrated what a fantastic voice she is for this region. The Barton Highway, twelve and a half thousand people traveling on this road to and from Yass each day, 1,000 trucks. This is a really important piece of infrastructure for the Eden-Monaro community. And the fact that Kristy’s here, making sure that as Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, I am reminded of the huge commitment that Labor made in the 2019 election, $250 million, and the absolute neglect that the Morrison Government has had on the people of this area. This road is one of the excellent examples of what we need to do for economic recovery in this country. There is a Corridor study of the Barton Highway for improvements to be made, and the Government needs to get on with the job instead of delaying projects, instead of not actually bringing money forward for this road. They need to actually build this road. They’ve done absolutely nothing in the year since they’ve been in office to actually build any projects along this road. It’s time they got on with it. And certainly, Kristy is one of the voices very strongly advocating to make sure that actually happens.
ALBANESE: Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: How confident are you for a victory in Eden-Monaro given the chaos we have seen from the Coalition last week?
ALBANESE: Well, look, we’ll leave complacency to the other side of politics. What we’re concerned about isn’t complacency from them politically because they are always focused on votes and politics. What they’re complacent about is the economy. They are complacent about jobs. They are complacent about infrastructure. They are complacent about social and economic reform. They are complacent about the environment. So, we believe, very clearly, that Kristy McBain is the best candidate. She’s the best candidate now, of course, while the chaos occurs on the other side. But she’ll be the best candidate afterwards because one of the things that we know is that their first-choice candidate dropped out. Their second-choice candidate dropped out. Their third-choice candidate didn’t get to the barrier. So, they’re now competing for who is their fourth or fifth choice candidate. That’s the truth. We were very clear that Kristy McBain was the outstanding person to represent this community. We’re confident that we have the record, as well, of talking and committing to infrastructure before elections, but actually doing it after elections as well with the infrastructure upgrades. I was the Infrastructure Minister who doubled the roads budget. So, people know whether it’s Gocup, whether it’s the Bega Bypass, whether it be improvements on roads right throughout the region, they know that was a commitment that we made and then followed through. The Majura Parkway has great benefit for the people of Cooma and the people of the Snowy. We make commitments and we delivered them. This Government hasn’t done that. This Government didn’t have a plan before the crisis, and it doesn’t have a plan afterwards. And we’ll be putting forward our positive vision. And I’d say this to the people of Eden-Monaro, if you think the Government has been perfect, then you’ll make that decision. If you think that the Government needs improvement, if you think they could have better prepared for the bushfires, if you think they could have dealt with the crisis while the bushfires were going better, if you think the recovery should have been better, then send them a message. Send the Coalition Government a message. Because they, quite frankly, are taking the people of Eden-Monaro for granted. That’s why they’re engaging in all this self-indulgent behaviour. Kristy McBain will never take the people of Eden-Monaro for granted.
JOURNALIST: What is your reaction to Josh Frydenberg testing negative for coronavirus after his coughing fit?
ALBANESE: Well, it’s a good thing. And I wish him well. We don’t want to see any person, whether we know them or not, to test positive for COVID-19. I sent Josh a message this morning that I was pleased, and he responded. I have a good personal relationship with Josh Frydenberg. And I hope that whatever caused the coughing fit, he needs to get it checked out. And, you know, we work in high pressure jobs, and he needs to listen to whatever medical advice he receives.
JOURNALIST: There has been an escalation between, trade tensions, between China and Australia how much pressure is on the Government to get these negotiations right between China and these four abattoirs?
ALBANESE: Well, I will say this, it would be pretty handy if we heard more from the Foreign Minister and less from people like George Christensen, you know, in who, one of his stop-offs in Australia, has commented on what’s occurring with China. The Foreign Minister and the Government need to take control of this and exercise a little bit of discipline in their ranks. Because that clearly is in Australia’s national interest.
JOURNALIST: Should more be done behind the scenes rather than playing it out through the media?
ALBANESE: Well, I note Julie Bishop’s comments. And they make sense and they echo comments that have been made by Penny Wong, our spokesperson. Look, Australia must always stand up for our national interests. And we don’t shy away from that. That is a bipartisan position. But we do need to make sure when it comes to diplomatic issues, that the groundwork is done and that we make sure we always focus on outcomes rather than arguments. And we want outcomes. The call for an inquiry into COVID-19 is just, I regard that as completely unremarkable, that when you have a major incident like that, you have an inquiry. When you have a single death under circumstances that we don’t know about here in Australia, we have something called a coronial inquiry. And therefore, when you have a disease that’s been responsible for all the deaths around the world, the economic chaos that resulted from the need to take action, then obviously there’s a need to have an inquiry, not on the basis of an academic exercise but so that we can avoid it ever happening again. Any questions online? Nope. Okay, thanks for joining us, whoever is there.
TRANSCRIPT – DOORSTOP INTERVIEW – MURRUMBATEMAN