SENATOR PENNY WONG
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA
MARK BUTLER MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGEING
MEMBER FOR HINDMARSH
PETER MALINAUSKAS MP
SOUTH AUSTRALIAN LABOR LEADER
LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BOOTHBY
SUBJECTS: Louise Miller-Frost - Labor’s candidate for the seat of Boothby; Steven Marshall’s failure to address ramping; France’s anger over submarines deal; Moderna vaccine rollout; Mr Morrison’s failure to take action on Craig Kelly and Clive Palmer’s dangerous misinformation.
SENATOR PENNY WONG, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: I am really delighted to be here today, with Peter Malinauskas, the state leader, my friend and colleague Mark Butler, but most importantly, Louise Miller-Frost. And I am so happy that Louise has decided to step forward to run as Labor's candidate for Boothby. She will be well known to many South Australians. She's been a leader in our community for many years. She's currently, although not there right now, the CEO of St Vincent de Paul and has been involved in high profile events, including the CEO sleepout. She's been the head of Catherine House. She's worked for years for the South Australian community. Louise's commitment to our community is clear. She's an experienced advocate. And she understands firsthand what governments can do, the impact of government and its policies, a decent government can have on people's lives. So, thank you so much, Louise, for stepping forward. I know the people of Boothby at this election will have a Labor candidate who will stand up for their jobs, who will strongly advocate for real action on climate change, and to ensure that South Australians get the water in the River Murray plan that so far the Liberal Party have refused to deliver. I just want to end with this before I throw to Louise and give her the opportunity to speak with you; this is going to be a tough campaign. It's going to be a campaign in which lots of issues will get contested. It will be a campaign in this marginal seat in South Australia where the federal issues will get contested. There's one thing I want to say to the people of Boothby; a vote for the Liberal Party, is a vote for Barnaby Joyce. A vote for the Liberal Party in Boothby, is a vote for Barnaby Joyce. Happy to take questions later, but I'll hand over now and introduce you to Louise Miller-Frost.
LOUISE MILLER-FROST, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BOOTHBY: Thank you, Penny and thank you for coming here. My career has always been about making a difference to the community and to individuals. I worked in health for many years, I ran state-wide mental health services, I ran healthy ageing, Breastscreen SA, a whole range of services that made a difference in the community. I then worked in local government for many years. And again, it was about providing services such as swimming pools and libraries; the things that build a community and help people get ahead. I also provided services to small business, so I did economic development and small business support. So, I do understand the needs of the business community. And of course, as Penny mentioned, my most recent career has been in the not-for-profit sector, Catherine House and St Vincent de Paul Society, which of course provides services across Boothby. But also, I'm the co-chair of the Adelaide Zero Project. And I've been co-chair of the Anti-Poverty Week. What I've discovered through all of that career, across those sectors, is that while it's really important to make a difference to individuals, and to help people give them a hand up when things are tough, it's the systems that need change. It's the systems that tip people into crisis that actually need to be addressed. And that's why I'm here. That's why we need an Albanese Government to change the system, so that everybody has a fair go, and that we can build out of this COVID crisis. We can build out of our economic crisis, and we can build better for Australia. Increasingly, I've been very frustrated when I see what seems to be a leader who can't lead. He has to be dragged kicking and screaming to do his job. When we look at the bushfires, he had to be pulled back from Hawaii. When we look at climate change, he can't even say the words "net zero by 2050". Our trading partners are decarbonising, global finance is decarbonising, we actually have to get ahead of this. We have a fantastic opportunity in Australia to be world leaders in a decarbonised economy. We need a leader who can actually deliver that for us. So, I'm here for an Albanese Government, because we need a leader who can lead, who can be proactive and doesn't need to be dragged kicking and screaming. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the campaign will be based on Nicolle Flint's record or Scott Morrison's record?
MILLER-FROST: I think it's definitely a Morrison campaign. I mean, what he does affects all of us. And that's what we need to be addressing.
JOURNALIST: Are you worried that some of the issues at the Burnside City Council are going to be used against you?
MILLER-FROST: I am not associated with those issues. They happened either before or after my time there.
JOURNALIST: At the time you were the Executive. Weren't some of the problems then?
MILLER-FROST: I think you'll find that my record is clean, there.
JOURNALIST: In terms of, I guess, grassroots. As you said, it is obviously, it's the federal election, but what are the sort of the grassroots things in Boothby, that I guess you feel haven't been addressed in the past? I suppose in the time the Liberals (inaudible) but recently, what are the issues local people are saying, (inaudible)
MILLER-FROST: It's really hard to go past COVID, quite frankly. Because you know, we have a health system that is under pressure. We have a quarantine system that continually fails, every single outbreak we have across Australia is a failure of the quarantine system, and it's a failure of the Morrison Government, in not delivering that. We know that we have a distinct advantage as an island country, in terms of how we manage the COVID coming into our country. We squandered our vaccinations, we squandered our quarantine opportunity. So, I think that's actually the main thing and the economic impact that flows out of that affects all of us, every day.
JOURNALIST: What do you think your record with Vinnies and Catherine House, all that, your time with them says about your record in helping people who need a hand up?
MILLER-FROST: I'll go to Vinnies in particular. Vinnies is very much about a hand up not a handout. You absolutely have to help people when they're in crisis. There's no two ways about that. You need to keep people alive on the streets. But you need to give them a hand up, you need to give them a way to build back. Both Vinnies and Catherine House are very strong on giving people the opportunity to build back their lives.
WONG: Pete, did you want to...
PETER MALINAUSKAS, SA LABOR LEADER: Well, good morning. It's great to be here outside the Flinders Medical Centre with two outstanding Labor leaders in our country, with Penny and Mark. But I'm also incredibly excited about the prospect of Louise Miller-Frost being the member for Boothby after the next federal election. I think Louise's candidacy speaks to everything we want to see in our fabric of our society. We know that Louise's record in leadership roles, particularly in the not-for-profit sector is utterly aligned with Labor values. But I think the reason why I personally want to see Louise elected at the next federal election, particularly goes to the future of our nation and the future of our state. Now, more than ever before, our country is crying out for leadership, to make sure that the post COVID opportunity isn't squandered. And that we actually do build a better society, that doesn't leave people behind. I think South Australians desperately need a federal Labor Government. We've seen the federal Coalition Government really dud South Australia. Scott Morrison has dudded us on water. He's dudded us on the GST, and now we face the prospect of incredible uncertainty around the future of sovereign capability, with the defence projects down at Osborne. We don't know what the future looks like when it comes to submarine jobs. So, we need a federal Labor Government that's going to address each and every one of these issues. And a federal Labor Government that is going to make sure that South Australians aren't left behind in the nation, don't see future governments continue to dud South Australia, whether it be on the River Murray, or the GST, or putting jobs uncertainty at the centrepiece of what's happening down at Osborne. So, I am incredibly confident that Louise can win this seat. It's always been a challenge for Labor. But Louise has got the pedigree, the work ethic and the commitment to make sure that we can turn Boothby into a Labor seat at the next federal election and ensure that our country gets back on the right track.
JOURNALIST: Before you step away, Peter, to save jumping back and forward, on the local issue of the day, the Government has announced 30 new beds at the Repat. Do you think that'll cut it? Is that enough?
MALINAUSKAS: I think the fact that, you'd only have to look at what's occurred recently at the Flinders Medical Centre, to understand that South Australia's health system needs less talk from Steven Marshall and a lot more action. The state budget was now three, four months ago and Steven Marshall, at that point, promised that the ramping crisis was always going to be immediately fixed. And now we still see ramping at record levels. We see ambulance response times, the worst they have been in the history of our state and we haven't even got a case of COVID or any sign of the flu. So there needs to be less talk from Steven Marshall and more action. Here at the Flinders Medical Centre, a month ago, Steven Marshall said oh now he really means it and that ramping was going to be fixed because they opened up 30 new beds in the emergency department. What he didn't tell South Australians was that they were closing 30 other beds in wards here at the Flinders Medical Centre. So, enough talk from Steven Marshall - what we need is action. We've seen ramping at record levels. In fact, it's now four times worse than what it was when Labor was in government, from corresponding months. We've got the worst ambulance response times in the history of the country. We've got emergency department doctors and nurses crying out for more resources. And we haven't even got a case of COVID, let alone the flu. Now more than ever, getting our hospital system up to scratch is going to be critical, because it is intrinsically linked to the future welfare of our state, both economically but also socially, in terms of opening up for COVID. I mean, Steven Marshall is talking about opening up the borders, but the health system needs to be ready for that. And there's very little evidence of it. And that's why we need to start seeing some real action when it comes to our health system in South Australia.
JOURNALIST: They're going to say, you know, Labor closed the Repat and we put beds back (inaudible).
MALINAUSKAS: Well, what we've seen from Steven Marshall's Government during the course of the last three and a half years is cuts. They've made over 100 nurses redundant. They're cut funding to the Ambulance Service. And the consequence is there for everybody to see; ramping almost four times worse than what it was when Labor Government, our emergency departments are completely out of control, our Ambulance Service is on its knees, almost literally, with the worst response times we've seen in the history of the state.
JOURNALIST: Thank you, Senator.
JOURNALIST: Yes, what are you, I suppose, do you think the impact will be on the relationship with Australia with France retracting their Ambassador?
WONG: Well, I think we've seen overnight, very concerning developments in that bilateral relationship, which is an important relationship for Australia and for the region. I'd make a broader point here; Mr Morrison loves announcements. And he's so obsessed with announcements, he doesn't take responsibility for doing the whole job. We've seen that in COVID, he hasn't taken responsibility on vaccines or quarantine and you've seen that on subs. He hasn't taken responsibility when it comes to giving workers certainty. And he hasn't taken responsibility when it comes to preparing the groundwork with important partners, like France. I think it is, yet again, Mr Morrison focusing on announcements not on doing the whole job. And it's Australians and Australia, who suffers the costs.
JOURNALIST: Is it the right decision, strategically though, for Australia to make?
WONG: Well, we were briefed just before the announcement. And we've said, we understand the advice that's been given. But there are a lot of questions. And we've put some of those questions on the table. And I think the Government, Mr Morrison, needs to move beyond the announcement and actually do the whole job here. And the whole job here means giving workers certainty. The whole job meant making sure you've prepared our partner in France. And the whole job means making sure we understand really clearly what the strategic implications are.
JOURNALIST: Doesn't Australia need that type of hardware?
WONG: That's what we've said. We will take, and have taken, a mature, responsible national interest approach to these issues. And you saw that when Anthony spoke after the announcement, we've taken a very mature approach. It's a clear headed, sensible approach to this. And that's the approach we'll take.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the French might punish Australia now? Are you worried about trade? Should the Minister be going over there and (inaudible)?
WONG: Unlike the Morrison Government, my advice would be talk less and do more. Maybe talk less about the French reaction and maybe do a little more in the relationship. But I again say, it all comes back to Mr Morrison. He's obsessed with announcements, doesn't take responsibility for doing the whole job. Whether it's on COVID, or vaccines, submarines, or preparing our diplomatic partners.
JOURNALIST: What's your position on the potential need to lease submarines for the gap between the Collins class and the change over?
WONG: That's a very good question. That's a very good question. It's one of the questions that we have posed publicly, and the government hasn't responded to as yet. That question reminds us that this is actually the Coalition's third submarine plan. This is their third plan. So, the first plan, remember, was to build the subs in Japan. We only stopped that because the South Australian community, including the media, South Australian Labor, Peter and others, Mark as the local member, stood up and called for the jobs here. Then we had the French contract, which originally didn't have any requirement to make sure there was local content. Remember local content isn't just jobs today - which are important - it is also about making sure we've got the capabilities for the jobs of the future. It's about the know-how and technical capacity to be developed long-term. Now we have the third submarine plan from the Coalition, the decision on which is actually still 18 months away. And there are public reports that we won't even have a new submarine in the water till the end of the 2030s, so nearly 2040, so it's a very long time.
JOURNALIST: So, but would you be comfortable with leasing?
WONG: I think the issue of the capability gap that has arisen, any capability gap that arises as a consequence of Mr Morrison's changes of plans is something that the Government needs to step up on.
JOURNALIST: Are you concerned with what we might have to give the Americans and the UK in exchange for that nuclear technology?
WONG: And again, that's a reasonable question. These are some of the questions, after all the hoopla and fanfare of the last few days, that the nation deserves answers to. This is a very big decision. It's a momentous decision. It's a decision which does reflect advice about capability - we acknowledge that. But there are a lot of questions about the consequences of this decision and the path forward, that the Government needs to step up on.
JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton has said that, you know, peace and security comes at a cost. What do you think about that argument? Are we ok with...
WONG: What does he mean?
JOURNALIST: ...with a blank check for the cost of these...
WONG: I was the Finance Minister, I think, you know, those sorts of comments are often made by line Ministers. We've given bipartisan support to an increase in defence spending. We understand the importance of that. But I think the important thing here is for some of the strategic questions, which have been raised today, and many others, to be responded to by the Government, in the coming days, weeks and months.
JOURNALIST: I was going to ask one question. You get your turn as well. We're been told that the Moderna vaccines are being rolled out this week, we've been told later in the week for Adelaide, and the Government is obviously saying they are going to shore up supply across the board. Do you think that the Moderna rollout is going to be hit with the same dramas as the Pfizer and the AstraZeneca has had rolling out across the country?
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW HEALTH MINISTER: Well, we hope not. We welcome the fact that Australians will now have access to the Moderna vaccine, a state-of-the-art mRNA vaccine. I'd point out that in America and Canada, those citizens were having access back in December. Europeans got access to Moderna earlier this year. The UK got access to Moderna as early as April. It just is more evidence of just how slow Scott Morrison was to act in response to this COVID crisis. It explains why we've had the slowest vaccine rollout, in the OECD, in the developed world. So yes, we're thankful that supply has finally caught up with demand. But the fact that we have more people in lockdown, and fewer people fully vaccinated than any other developed country on the face of the planet is down to Scott Morrison's failures on vaccines.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) unsolicited text messages?
BUTLER: The misinformation being spread by people like Craig Kelly and Clive Palmer in the middle of a pandemic is a menace to public health and Scott Morrison has had no answer to it, at all. It's fallen to Labor to complain to Facebook about the information being spread by those people. It's fallen to Labor to complain to the Electoral Commission about that misinformation. And it is really Scott Morrison's responsibility to tell the Australian people what he intends to do about these menacing, this dangerous misinformation that's being spread through people's mobile phones.
JOURNALIST: But should the rules be changed...
BUTLER: As to legislation that the Centre Alliance, I think they're still called the Centre Alliance, has proposed that they will introduce in the Senate, we will obviously look at that when it's presented. We will take it through our processes. But Scott Morrison has to take some responsibility for the constant, dangerous misinformation being spread by Craig Kelly and Clive Palmer in the middle of a pandemic. And so far, he's done nothing to counter it.
JOURNALIST: What can he actually do, though, if they're doing this, if you know, if it's within the rules?
BUTLER: Well, I'll tell you, I complained to Facebook about the constant dangerous misinformation being put on Facebook by Craig Kelly. And as a result of that complaint, those messages were taken down from Facebook, Craig Kelly was suspended. If government acts, there can be consequences. And it is just so important, in the middle of a once in a century pandemic, that the public has access to proper, evidence-based information, not the rubbish being spread by Craig Kelly and Clive Palmer.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.