28 January 2021




SUBJECTS: Labor’s affordable childcare policy; importance of out-of-school-hours care; Shadow Cabinet reshuffle; climate change; COVID vaccine roll-out; importance of media organisations reaching the regions.


ALICIA PAYNE, MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Good morning, everyone. My name is Alicia Payne, the Member for Canberra. It is my great pleasure this morning to welcome our Leader, Anthony Albanese, to the electorate and to the Majura Park Primary holiday program run by the YWCA. We have just been having a fantastic game of pool noodle hockey, not sure what the final result was but both sides played very well. We are here today to talk about Labor’s plan to make child care more affordable for 97 per cent of Australian families. Now this is a plan that is good for families, good for the economy and good for our youngest Australians. Our plan will mean that as our economy recovers from the pandemic, people will not be stopped from returning to work because of the cost of child care. Here in Canberra we have the highest childcare fees in the country. And this is something that my constituents talk to me about a lot, the fact that the decision to go back to work, particularly for women, let’s face it, is often dominated by the high cost of child care. This will mean that more women can go back to the workforce not constrained by that choice. And it will make those conversations within families around the kitchen table a lot easier when that high expense is taken out of it. It's also great for our youngest Australians who benefit from the fantastic quality early childhood education and care that's offered including in this program here by the YWCA, which is a holiday program, which would be included in this scheme. So, it's my great pleasure to hand over to Anthony to talk more about childcare. Thank you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Alicia. And it is great to be here at Majura Park. And I want to thank the YWCA for hosting us here this morning. They do a great job, not just here in Canberra, but around the country. And what we know as we near the end of school holidays is that vacation care is so important for working families. And our childcare boost will assist those people not just in early childhood learning centres, it will help those people who access out-of-school-hours care. It will help those who access vacation care. The childcare subsidy is available for all those who have children under the age of 13. And so this is a subsidy that will apply across the board. And our proposal for cheaper childcare will assist parents, whether they be working parents working for a five-day week, removing that disincentive to work the fourth or fifth day which is in there. But it will also help those parents who access out-of-school-hours care. I know from personal experience it is so important. But it will also help here in vocational care. There are some 355,000 families who use out-of-school-hours services. Ninety-seven per cent of families will benefit from the policies that we have put forward. It's a policy of economic reform. It's about boosting productivity. It's about boosting workforce participation for women. It's also about assisting young people themselves. If we're going to invest in education, there's nowhere better than in the under-fives. Because the human brain development, 95 per cent of it occurs once children reach the age of five. So, we know that investment in those early years is absolutely critical. I want to conclude with two things. One is, thanks to my teammates in the pool noodle hockey this morning. I'm not sure that you're allowed to use your feet, but there was no penalty called when the goal was scored. And in terms of the people who work in centres like this, they deserve to be valued. And during the pandemic, of course, we know that has been particularly important. Happy to take questions on this issue. I will be holding another press conference later today to deal with issues relating to the reshuffle. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

ALBANESE: Well, I'll be talking about all of those issues later today. You'll have an opportunity to ask questions there. This morning I want to talk about our early childhood reforms. What this is was the centrepiece of our Budget Reply. I understand the impatience, all of those questions will be answered. I've been the climate change spokesperson. Can I say this? I regard it as an economic portfolio and therefore someone who has been the Treasurer of Australia is eminently qualified to fill that role.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

ALBANESE: No, absolutely. I'm absolutely committed to strong action on climate change. I've been committed for a very long period of time. This is an issue that I raised. I wrote the policy that Labor put in place from 2007 when we were in Government. I've been a climate change and environment spokesperson. What we need is strong action on climate change, which will be good for jobs, good for lowering emissions, and also good for lowering energy prices.

JOURNALIST: Who will you be replacing Mark Butler within the portfolio?

ALBANESE: I will be making an announcement at an appropriate time later today in Parliament House. You'll have every opportunity to ask every question. I am not going to comment on speculation that is there. What you'll have is a full announcement of our reshuffle.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

ALBANESE: Well, I've been asked that many times. I've given the same answer. I refer you to previous answers. We have a target of net zero emissions by 2050. I think that we should have an ambitious policy when it comes to climate change. I think we can be a renewable energy superpower. I think good climate change action is consistent with the growth of jobs, as well as transforming our economy. I think that Australia at the moment is isolated with the election of the Biden administration. And I think you'll see further changes from the Government during the year. And that impacts, of course, because we won't be in Government between now and the next few months. We will see what the Government's response is to the actions of the Biden administration and their demand that their international partners take stronger action on climate change.

JOURNALIST: The Party has been divided over the last 18 months over its climate and energy policy. Is it time to send a clear message to your constituents about how Labor's energy policy will work for both cities and regions?

ALBANESE: Well the fact is that, with a couple of exceptions, the Party isn't divided. The Labor Party is a party that believes in action on climate change. We put that into practice when we were in Government. We have a very consistent view across the board that climate change is real. The Party that's divided on climate change is the other side. We saw the National Party yesterday out there saying that there'd be new coal-fired power stations. No-one in the Labor Party, no-one, is arguing there'll be new coal-fired power stations. No-one in the Labor Party doesn't understand that renewables are our future.

JOURNALIST: On the COVID vaccine, would you support Olympic athletes (inaudible)?

ALBANESE: My concern, and I had a briefing, and I thank the Head of the Department of Health and the Acting Chief Medical Officer, I have been in a briefing this morning along with Chris Bowen, our Health Shadow Minister, we had an extensive briefing, some of which, when you have briefings like this on behalf of the Government, things that are private stay private, that's the nature of the things. But it was very constructive. Can I say this? That the priority has to be people who are vulnerable in our community rather than athletes. The priority has to be people in aged care, people who are susceptible and particularly vulnerable. That would be my priority, my first priority.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

ALBANESE: Well, the relevant officials are confident that it won't. I certainly hope that's the case. But one of the things that I raised and will continue to raise is the fact that world's best practice is for five or six vaccines. In Australia we have three. And I again reiterate a view that I've put, and Chris Bowen has put, that we need to be continuing to negotiate and try and get access to vaccines such as Moderna. This is absolutely critical. We can't afford to have all our eggs in too few baskets. We need to do that. And that's something that we've said publicly, and we've said privately as well.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

ALBANESE: We do need to address it. I value the work that you people as journalists do. There's a real challenge to keep journalism going. I met with, for example, the WIN TV executives down in the Illawarra at the end of the last year. I think it's a tragedy that my local paper has disappeared, that regional papers have disappeared. The idea that you wouldn't get specific news broadcasting, for example, in the regional communities is a real issue. And of course, the media organisations need advertising revenue in order to do so. We of course also support increased funding for the ABC and the restoration of their funding in recognition of the important role that they play. 

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

ALBANESE: Joel Fitzgibbon's comments are wrong. He's a backbencher. He's got a right as a backbencher to make comments. But they don't reflect the overwhelming view of people in the Labor Party. The overwhelming view of people in the Labor Party is that we need strong action on climate change. That strong action is good for jobs, it's good for lowering emissions, and it's also good for lowering energy prices. And what we've seen from this Government is more than 20 policies, none of which have been implemented, they don't seem to last too long. And what we have at the moment is a campaign within the Coalition to change that policy again, and to say that the public sector taxpayers should be subsidising coal-fired power stations. Because the markets have spoken. The markets are saying the cheapest form of new energy investment overwhelmingly is renewables   and that's where we expect it to go. Thanks very much.