TERRI BUTLER, MEMBER FOR GRIFFITH: I’ve also got Joe Kelly MP with me - the state member. Joe and I have been working together on this issue for many, many years. We want to see this level crossing fixed. This is a level crossing where there’s been 61 near misses for accidents. It is something that we have been fighting to fix for a long some time but the government is more interested than rorting its own infrastructure funds than it is in fixing genuine problems like this one. So it is fantastic to have Anthony here so I can once again show him first-hand this important infrastructure project that needs to be attended to by the government and I know that he has been a strong supporter of fixing infrastructure here in my electorate of Griffith for a very long time. So it is just wonderful to have you here Anthony.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks very much Terri. Terri has been campaigning to fix this level cross since 2014. And we know there have been 61 near misses over recent years at this very level crossing. This is an example of an infrastructure project that should be a priority. It should be a priority because of what it will do for safety but also what it will do for productivity and yet what we have is a federal government that established a $600 million fund that allegedly was for commuter car parks near railways stations, but actually funded some carparks where there were no railway stations. Forty-seven 47 projects were announced. Only two have been completed in their pork-and-ride scheme
The fact is that this Government have failed when it comes to infrastructure and they have failed on their most important task also this year. The most important task they had was to fix up the rollout of the vaccine and to fix national quarantine. They have failed on both and Australians are paying a price for that, and particularly the people now Greater Sydney and NSW with this extended lockdown.
Now I do want to comment on what Scott Morrison said yesterday because I found it remarkable in his press conference – a couple of his comments. One of the things he said was that Labor was hoping for the worst. The idea, the idea that anyone in this country, let alone the Prime Minister, can accuse other Australians of hoping that this pandemic is as bad as possible is just extraordinary and are comments that aren’t worthy of a Prime Minister. Scott Morison, when he is under pressure gets angry and he lashes out. He doesn’t act like a Prime Minister and he doesn’t show leadership and that is what we saw.
The other comments that he made, to quote him, he actually said: “A lot of Australians have been building up their balancer sheets over the course of the last 12 months which is giving them a bit of a buffer at the moment. It’s not big. I am not pretending it is big but that means they are in a position for short periods of time to be able to deal with this in a way they perhaps weren’t able to do before’’.
Now, a Prime Minister who says that people who are doing it tough have got a buffer in terms of their savings to get through this pandemic and to get through lockdowns just shows how out of touch he is. The fact is that it is casual workers, it is people who are losing their income, who are most likely to have no savings whatsoever, who are struggling as a result of this lockdown. And the Prime Minister is offering them no support. He is pointing toward National Accounts as if that makes a difference to an individual’s budget in terms of paying the rent, paying for food, looking after their family.
This Prime Minister needs to do more. This lockdown is Scott Morrison’s lockdown. It’s a direct result of his failure to roll out the vaccine effectively and to have national quarantine facilities and he has an obligation to help those Australians who will be doing it tough today. My heart goes out to them and I say to people in Greater Sydney and in New South Wales stay safe. Follow all the rules and guidelines. They are there to keep you safe. Make sure you look after each other. Happy to take questions.
ALBANESE: This of course is a pilot program. The problem here is though is that we don’t have appropriate national quarantine facilities. That’s the big picture here. The big picture here is circumstances whereby an individual can be driving foreign aircrew to quarantine without a mask and without being fully vaccinated and that is the thing that has led to this outbreak. And the consequences for people’s health, their physical health, the consequences for mental health of millions of people subject to this lockdown and the consequences for the economy is billions of dollars lost as a result of a failure. So let’s get the big picture right. Let’s concentrate on getting that right.
This government continually comes up with measures, trials, look-over-here moments. The fact is until we get the rollout of the vaccine right and until we get national quarantine right, we will continue to have lockdowns. Gladys Berejiklian was quite right yesterday when she said that without vaccination rates being higher, we simply can’t have a let-it-flow attitude towards this virus because the result will be mass hospitalisations. The result in terms of our health will be a circumstance whereby the system will just struggle to cope. What we need to do is understand is we need to get the health outcomes right is the key to then opening up our economy. It’s not either/or. You’ve got to get the health outcomes right in order to get the economic outcomes right.
JOURNALIST: The Government has indicated that (inaudible) South Australia will (inaudible)…. pilot program (inaudible).
ALBANESE: I think that the South Australian Government I am sure are following the health advice. One of the things that I have been concerned about during this pandemic is that politicians not try to give health advice. That’s is what is creating some confusion out there. We now have some confusion about the period between AstraZeneca vaccines, between what the health advice is and what the Prime Minister says. It would be a good idea if we let the health advice stay with the health experts.
JOURNALIST: Discussions are continuing over travel bubble between Japan and Singapore. Would you like to see these open up?
ALBANESE: The circumstance at the moment is a week ago we had 12 million Australians locked down. We still have five million at least locked down in the Greater Sydney area and those lockdowns have increased in terms of their severity. The idea that we are talking about bubbles - we are nowhere near there. If you are locked down at the moment you are not worried about a travel bubble to Singapore let me tell you. What you are worried about is your family and your friends.
Let’s get this right. Let’s get the basics right here and let’s not be distracted with look-over-here moments from this Government because unless we get it right, it’s no good coming to agreements that then get shut down as we have seen have to happen with New Zealand. We at the moment, people can’t travel around Australia let alone overseas. That is the circumstances that we are dealing with right now and they are the circumstances that are troubling Australians because that is having a health impact but it’s also having a significant impact on jobs and our economy and indeed is a real constraint to our way of life.
JOURNALIST: Inaudible question concerning vaccine availability.
ALBANESE: The circumstances here are we had a big splash yesterday morning in the newspaper and then we had a statement from Pfizer that contracted that big splash. I think we should be getting more vaccines as quickly as possible. I hope that occurs but the statement from Pfizer yesterday made it very clear that here weren’t additional vaccines and that they were sticking to the agreed schedule in terms of the delivery of those vaccines. What we need is less spin and more delivery from this government.
JOURNALIST: On the level crossings. Is there a commitment from Federal Labor to fund the level crossing here?
ALBANESE: We will fix level crossings. We will fix projects based on need and productivity. We will be making very specific commitments in the lead-up to the election but we have made a general commitment as well. Have a look at what we did when we were in government. We funded projects like Cross River Rail. Part of the funding for Cross River Rail was to increase the capacity and the safety of the entire rail network here in South East Queensland.
And let me say this – that project would have been completed had Labor been elected in 2013, had Campbell Newman and Tony Abbott not stopped that project. Now the Queensland Government is going it alone and Joe Kelly and others in the Queensland Government deserve great credit for that. It is not receiving any dollars from the Federal Government because is too obsessed with its pork-and-ride scheme and other pork barrelling exercises. It is obsessed by looking at the electoral map. What Labor will do is look at the circumstances of projects and a project that has had 61 near misses is worthy of federal funding. Thanks.