SENATOR PENNY WONG
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
ED HUSIC MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY AND INNOVATION
LABOR CANDIDATE FOR SWAN
SUBJECTS: Anthony Albanese’s COVID diagnosis; Federal election; Labor’s policy agenda; manufacturing; Solomon Islands; Australia’s relationship with the Pacific; Australia’s relationship with China; polls; Labor’s plan for a Better Future.
ZANETA MASCARENHAS, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR SWAN: Hi, I'm Zaneta Mascarenhas. I'm Labor's candidate for Swan. I'm here with my talented colleagues. We've got Tania Lawrence, our federal candidate that Hasluck, and some of Labor's talented frontbench. We have Mark Butler, Ed Husic and Penny Wong. Thank you for coming down here today. Today, we're at Vossloh, which makes local railway components which has been incredible to see. We need more local manufacturing in Australia. I'm an engineer. I'm also the daughter of a metal worker. But you know what? You don't need to be an engineer to know that we need more local manufacturing here. We are in the middle of the pandemic. And Australians have seen the importance of local projects, local produce and local products. I'll now hand over to Penny.
PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY IN THE SENATE & SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: It's fantastic to be back here in Western Australia. Such a beautiful Western Australian day. I bring apologies from Anthony, who was supposed to be here, and obviously, has tested positive on a routine PCR. So, can't be here. He would have loved the discussion about the railway tracks, as everybody knows. To Don and Antonio and all of the workers here, thank you so much for showing us what you do. Such a wonderful example of what we can do here in Australia. And, of course, an Albanese Labor Government would focus greatly on making sure that we can make more things here in Australia. We've also seen news this morning that Premier Mark McGowan, I think, has tested positive. And can I send Mark our best wishes for a speedy recovery as well. Perhaps he and Anthony could online engage, do the online watching of movies together or something. Western Australia has powered the nation, powered the economy, for many years. And you power the economy through the pandemic. And now, your state does have the power to decide if Mr Morrison does get another term in power. Whether you think he should be given a new decade, a second decade, in office. I want to make it clear to all of you – Western Australia is key to this election. We understand that. We also understand how important Western Australia is to the Australian economy. And we also, everyone I speak to in Western Australia knows Scott Morrison's record when it comes to WA. He backed Clive Palmer in the High Court against Premier McGowan and your State Government. He said New South Wales was the gold standard and made some weird reference to cave people about Western Australians. But most of all, he fought against Premier Mark McGowan and your State Government, who were trying to keep Western Australians safe through the pandemic. Political attacks from a Prime Minister who simply goes missing. A Prime Minister who doesn't take responsibility. And from his interviews today and from his discussion today, we know Mr Morrison doesn't hold a hose. Apparently, he doesn't pick up the phone either. So now, more than ever, Western Australia needs a partner in Canberra. And that is what Western Australians would have if you elect an Albanese Labor Government. Now, we understand we're going to do a lot of work here. We understand how important it is to put candidates forward who represent the best of your state and Tania and Zaneta behind me are such fantastic candidates for the heats of Hasluck and Swan. And we are backing their campaign in a very strong way. Labor has a better plan, a better team, for a better future. And we look forward to speaking to you about it. I might throw to my good friend, Ed Husic, who will talk more about Made in Australia and Labor's plans for more secure jobs and to make more things here in Australia. Thank you very much.
ED HUSIC, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: Thank you, Penny. And it is great pleasure to be here. You have in Zaneta, a daughter of a metal worker, myself, as a son of a metal worker, knowing that places like this provide very important solid, long-term work for people. And here, where they're on the cusp of celebrating 50 years of operation, shows you that we need to be able to reinvigorate Australian manufacturing. Shockingly, we come dead last in the OECD on manufacturing self-sufficiency. And we know it is important that we do lift that figure. Manufacturing matters. And it does provide, not only importantly full-time work for people, about 80 per cent of jobs in manufacturing are full time jobs, provides huge opportunity for export, and it is such an important part of so many different sectors as well. But what we've had is a situation where a Government has been more interested, in terms of the Coalition Government, more interested in backing Clive Palmer than backing manufacturing. That needs to be borne in mind. And when you look at what manufacturing has needed in this country, all they get out of Scott Morrison is a slogan, is some sort of a campaign stunt. Their big flagship manufacturing program, announced in October 2020, $1.5 billion. Now, that money should have gone into hands of the industry that was coping with lockdowns and coping with huge economic pressure. And if you look from October 2020 to the middle of February, so through 2020, 2021 and early 2022, the amount of money that they pushed through the door from the $1.5 billion program was a shade under $300 million. But since then, Scott Morrison has pumped out the door $600 million between the middle of February this year to mid-March. So, he's not there for manufacturers when they need it to get back on their feet after lockdowns and the impact of COVID on the economy. Late on bushfires, late on vaccines, late on floods, late on manufacturing, but always on time to chase a vote for himself. And we need a leader that is going to be there for manufacturing all the time, not part of the time. And in terms of what Anthony Albanese and Labor is putting on the table, our National Reconstruction Fund, the Buy Australia plan, the rail manufacturing plan. All designed to link in together with the commitment on skills, 465,000 TAFE fee-free places, making sure that we have the skilled people, plus the backing of manufacturing, to ensure that we see the rejuvenation manufacturing. We can do better. We can get from dead last to ensure that manufacturing is restored to its rightful place in Australian industry. Labor has a plan to do it. All Scott Morrison has got is a manufacturing slogan.
WONG: Thank you, Ed. Happy to take questions.
WONG: Firstly, can I say, I hope that he gets better quickly. We anticipate him being back here again for the campaign launch on Sunday week. And we' very pleased to be coming to WA, to Perth, to launch the campaign. I think what you're going to see is more of our team. You'll see the people behind me, you'll see Jason, you'll see Jim Chalmers, Katy Gallagher, Kristina Keneally, and our Deputy, Richard Marles. You'll see more of our team. And we're very happy to match our team and our Leader up against Mr Morrison and his people.
WONG: Look, I think that people understand that this is the consequence of the borders opening and restrictions being eased. I'm sure, amongst your colleagues, you've seen more people come down with COVID. That's going to happen. We're still in the first half of the campaign. We're going into this week, we think, with good momentum. And I think that Anthony did just so well in the debate against Scott Morrison this week, showed the difference between the two men. A bloke who takes responsibility, a bloke who's authentic, a bloke who is focused on a better future. And somebody who just always blames other people, never takes responsibility and is just focused on keeping himself in power.
WONG: Look, I've been around a number of seats over these last few days. And we've all been campaigning. I think, out there, Australians are very focused on things that matter to them. Maybe much less focused on Mr Morrison's games and the division that he tries to cause wherever he is to distract attention from his own failures. But Australians are focused on cost of living. They're focused on the fact that, wherever you live in Australia, wages just aren't keeping up with the cost of living. People want to know about our policy on aged care and to make sure we give elderly Australians some dignity in their later years. They want to know about child care. They want to know about how we are going to strengthen Medicare. They care about these things. We're very grateful to be having the opportunity to come here to Perth and to talk about them.
JOURNALIST: At a press conference earlier today, the Prime Minister (inaudible). What do you make of that?
WONG: First, just on a very serious note, this is the worst foreign policy blunder in the Pacific since the end of World War Two. And Mr Morrison does need to take responsibility for it. It has occurred on his watch. And one of the problems with Mr Morrison is he always dashes to take credit, but he always has to be dragged to take responsibility. And we're seeing it again. This has occurred on his watch. He hasn't been up-front with people about what's actually happened. I've seen some ministers, including the Prime Minister, saying they were all over this, they knew what was happening. I've seen some ministers saying they didn't know. I've seen Mr Morrison saying previously how much he talks to Pacific leaders. And then I saw an answer today in a press conference where he said he didn't. As I said, we know he not only doesn't hold a hose, he doesn't pick up the phone. Well, he needed to pick up the phone. In fact, he needed to go. And they needed to act when they were first advised about this prospect.
JOURNALIST: He is saying that he did pick up the phone.
WONG: Well, it obviously was about as effective as we've seen.
WONG: Solomon Islands is a sovereign nation. And they do make their decisions. But this is about what we do. Our region is being reshaped, much of it because China is being much more assertive and much more aggressive. And we have to deal with that. If we're elected, we have to deal with that reality. The question is how you respond and how you take responsibility. How you take responsibility for securing the region in which Australia is. You do that, in great part, by making sure Australia remains a partner of choice. What has occurred here on Mr Morrison's watch is that we are no longer the first partner of choice for Solomon Islands. And that is detrimental to Australia. It means that the risks Australians face have increased. And the challenges we face have just got greater.
WONG: I can say to you very clearly what you should expect from Labor in this portfolio, as in so many others, there's certainly more energy and more focus. And you will also see more resources. And we will have more to say about that as the campaign progresses. I've made the point, however, if you want to talk about what the Government has done, what Mr Morrison has done, on average, you compare when we were last in Government to when the period they were in Government, 28 per cent annum lower development assistance to Solomon Islands. 28 per cent average annual reduction. Now, we've always understood development assistance is about making the region in which we live more secure.
WONG: It is.
WONG: One thing we wouldn't do is try and play domestic politics in the relationship with China. We see that every time Mr Morrison is in trouble. He does one of two things. He blames someone else, or he starts a fight. I think Australians are waking up to this, aren't they? That's why, as you walk around, he's not that popular. Australians understand what it looks like when somebody tries to duck or create a bit of a distraction. That's what he does. China has changed. China is more assertive. China is more aggressive. And whoever wins government will have to deal with the differences between Australia’s interests and China's interests. And I will say this to you. No matter what Scott Morrison says, be very clear, Anthony Albanese and Labor will never take a backwards step when it comes to Australia's interests. Anthony Albanese and Labor will always stand up for Australian interests and Australian values.
JOURNALIST: If elected, will your Government attempt to bring the relationship back with the Australian industries they trade with?
WONG: The first step in that is for China to desist and cease those trade and trade-like sanctions that they have imposed on Australian industries.
JOURNALIST: How will you seek to do that?
WONG: I make it really clear. That is the first step, for China to make the decision to honour its international obligations both in letter and in spirit as a member of the WTO and to remove those sanctions and trade-like sanctions.
WONG: There are a lot of polls. And we always get asked a lot of questions about a lot of polls during a campaign. I am always reluctant to comment on polls. But I would say this. I think Western Australians, like people in my home state of South Australia, they understand the risks of putting Scott Morrison in power for another three years. They know what this man is like. They know what he's like. And people are making up their mind about him. And they've got the opportunity, over the campaign, to finalise their views.
WONG: I think the point Richard was making is that we live in a world where there's a competition for influence. That's the point he's making. In that world, you can't sit back. But what you've seen from Mr Morrison, and Senator Payne, is that warning after warning, signpost after signpost, when it comes to Solomon Islands, has not been properly acted upon, hasn't been responded to in the most energetic, effective and agile way. This isn't a new risk. Australian governments have had to deal with this risk. But it is happening on Mr Morrison's watch. And instead of trying to create fights to distract attention, I think he should do the right thing and take responsibility.
WONG: Well, you are.
WONG: Look, that's a lot of crystal ball. We understand, as I said, how important Western Australia is to the national economy. We understand how important it's been to the national economy historically, but also through the pandemic. And we understand how important you are to the future of the country. So, you'll be seeing more of us. Thank you very much.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.