Doorstop Interview - Hobart

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
Prime Minister
Minister for Housing and Homelessness

JULIE COLLINS, MINISTER FOR HOUSING & HOMELESSNESS: Can I start by thanking Centacare Evolve Housing and St Joseph Homes for having us here at this site today. I'm Julie Collins. I'm the Federal Minister of Housing, the Federal Minister for Homelessness and the Federal Minister for Small Business. And it's great to be here with my colleagues, Senator Carol Brown and Senator Catryna Bilyk. And of course, to have and welcome back to Tasmania, our Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. This is Anthony's first visit back to Tassie post the election. And it's wonderful to be here today, to go and have a look at some of the housing that's been built here in this community. What we've heard today is this housing is not just about housing, it's about building people a home and it's about communities. It's about supporting young people in this community with apprenticeships. It's about getting people shelter. And it's terrific to be able to see firsthand what is happening here in this local community. I actually grew up and spent my first few years in this community in public housing. So, it means a lot to be able to be back here today as the Minister for Housing for Australia, particularly with a Government and a leader like Anthony Albanese that takes housing and homelessness so seriously. So seriously that it was put in the Cabinet. So seriously that we actually have a plan to deliver more affordable and social houses right across the country. And we're going to do it with a range of policies. Our Regional First Home Support Scheme, our Help to Buy scheme, our Housing Australia Future Fund, 30,000, affordable and social houses across the country in the first five years of the fund. We also, of course, want to deal with affordability and supply with a council. And then we want to work with everybody to get a national housing and homelessness plan. And what we're seeing here today really shows that it can be done when you've got tiers of government working together. Local government were critical in these projects. We need to work all together. Local government, state government, federal government, community housing providers, and also private builders. We need everybody on the same page so that we can deliver more homes for more Australians in need. I will hand over to the Prime Minister.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks very much, Julie. It is great to be back in Tassie. I've now been to every state and territory since the 21st of May election. So, in one month and one day, I've been to all eight states and territories combined. Because I want to be the Prime Minister for the whole country. I've been a regular visitor to Tasmania. And I will be a regular visitor to Tasmania, not just at election times. And we have an important job here that we're talking about today. Nothing's more important in determining people's opportunities in life than a secure roof over their head. I know it because I've lived it. I grew up in public housing. I had the security of that roof over my head, it was a council house, that then got transitioned into New South Wales Department of Housing. It was the home where my mother was born, and where she lived all of her 65 years. So, I am absolutely committed to making a difference. One of the things that we've seen over a period of time is that we had a Homelessness Minister who never mentioned homelessness. We had a Housing Minister who thought it was just all about private ownership. Private homeownership is important. It's important that people aspire into it. And it's important that the dream of owning your own home not be something that's put out of reach of younger generations, as it is at the moment. But it's also important that no one be left behind, that we have communities like this. And I want to congratulate St Joseph's Homes and the organisations associated with the Catholic community here, who have this vision. It's a vision that's not just about building construction. It's about building homes for people. It's about training people and giving people skills and opportunities through apprenticeship programmes while we're doing it. It's about connecting up as well with social services and connecting up with community-based infrastructure, including sporting fields, so that you have that real quality of life. Importantly, in this community, there'll be a mix of housing, social housing, but as well, private housing as well, so that we have communities that interact across different income levels. So, that makes a difference as well, particularly for young people in families growing up, wanting to aspire. And here, of course, the apprentices that we've met this morning, as a great example of a bricklayer and a carpenter. They are jobs that have been in demand for such a long period of time. We have a skills crisis in this country. We have a housing crisis. Labor has a plan to fix both. We have a plan for a Housing Australia Future Fund that will deliver 30,000 additional social and affordable housing units. Of those, 4,000 will be set aside for women and children escaping domestic violence. We'll have $100 million allocated for emergency housing. It's a tragedy that tonight, like every other night in Australia, women and kids escaping domestic violence will be turned away from shelters. They'll be turned away because there simply isn't a space so will have to sleep in their car, or in a park, or on a friend's couch, or worse still, return to a situation which is simply not safe. We are a wealthy country. We can do much better than we're doing at the moment. And that was what my theme was about during the election campaign. A better future. Not being satisfied with what was just there. But taking the opportunity, as we emerge from the pandemic, to imagine a better future and then set about creating it. Practical policies and programmes, working with organisations like the one here today, a non-government organisation, which understands the connection of what they're doing here is building a community, not just building structures. It's about people at the end of the day. And that's what my focus will be on. We can do much better in housing, but we can also be much better in skills development. We have a situation whereby, across the construction sector, across so many areas, we have essentially told visa holders to leave the country. New Zealand didn't do that and have emerged much better out of the pandemic as a result. We will have to deal with some migration issues but we have to prioritise training of young Australians and retraining mature-aged Australians into the jobs that will be available not just today, but into the future. We know that in the construction trades, there are shortages right across the board. This project here and the 21 apprentices who are working on these homes in this community and the people from this community as well is making a difference. There was some 1,300 people on the waiting list for social housing here in Tasmania in 2017. Last year, that grew to 4,500. There is a housing crisis here. We want to work with the State Government, local government and with non-government organisations to play our part in making a difference. And in Julie Collins, you will have a very strong advocates sitting around the cabinet table talking about these issues. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Adam Bandt has distanced himself from the Australian flag. To what extent, or otherwise, do you think that is helpful for reconciliation and the advancement of a Voice?

PRIME MINISTER: I saw that yesterday. And I am not a commentator. I will leave others to make comment. I will make this point. I'm always very proud to stand in front of the Australian flag. And I think anyone who is a member of the Australian Parliament should do so as well. I was quite surprised by the comments that were made. Reconciliation is about bringing people together on the journey that we need to undertake. It is undermined if people look for division rather than look for unity. Marion Scrymgour and a range of people I respect have made strong comments. I respect them. And I just say to Mr Bandt that he needs to think about the responses that have been made and reconsider his position and work to promote unity and work to promote reconciliation.

JOURNALIST: Having said that, you are a republican. So, when we do become a republic, would you be in favour of removing the Union Jack from the flag?

PRIME MINISTER: My priority for constitutional change during this term is recognising the great privilege that we have of living in and sharing a continent with the oldest continuous civilisation on the planet. We need to recognise First Nations people in the Constitution. It is our birth certificate, if you like. The truth is Australia didn't begin in 1788. We should be proud of the fact that our continuous culture goes back at least 65,000 years. I want to recognise that, to have a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament. That is not a third chamber, it would be something in the annals of good manners. Something I learnt through the upbringing I had from my mum and from the schools that I went to through my Catholic background as well. They taught me that good manners is about giving everyone respect. And what the Voice does is say that if an issue affects First Nations people, we should actually consult them. That is all it is. But it is proven to be too hard to get it done. I want to get it done. That is my focus.

JOURNALIST: We could see suspension on the east coast energy market lifted tomorrow, in regard to the energy crisis, how many years do you anticipate it will be before we see enough renewables to prevent the sort of price again?

PRIME MINISTER: We have had a decade of denial and delay. We can't fix that in 10 days. We have been an office for just one month and one day to be precise. What we are seeing already, when I have travelled is, when I was in Gladstone last week, Rio Tinto, Australia’s largest energy user, they are looking at powering their three plants in Gladstone with solar and wind with the firming capacity from gas. Making an enormous difference. They employ 4,500 people directly at those three plants. They employ tens of thousands of people indirectly as a result of that work. Potentially, some the aluminium frames that are going to these houses will have to come from there. The future is renewables. That is why you are seeing new energy being the investment funnelled that way. The market is spoken. What hasn't happened is the grid hasn't been fixed. And yesterday, you had the revelation that the great announcement that was made three years ago of $1 billion for additional capacity has resulted in precisely nothing. Zip. Zero. Just a media release. One of the things we know is that you don't get new energy or power supplies with a media release. That is all we got from the previous Government. $1 billion talked about and nothing happened. Here in Tasmania, the Marinus Link, how many times could they announced it was happening without anything being done? Without a hole being dug on land let alone beneath the sea for that power supply. This is a Government that is dealing with a complete failure of the former Government. And the astonishing statement from one of their former ministers and one of their senior people on the weekend, ‘Well Labor had nine years to prepare in opposition’. Seriously, these people need to have a look in the mirror and have a think about their failure and what they did and compare that with the response, the mature response, that Chris Bowen and the state and territory energy ministers have had in the last week. They had a meeting, came together, put together a plan.

JOURNALIST: Can you give a timeline?

PRIME MINISTER: What I can't do is give you a fantasy. Seriously, the Australian people aren’t idiots. They know the sort of nonsense we have seen in terms of a bit of paper, people can talk nonsense. That is what Angus Taylor did. He was the Minister for talking nonsense and nothing happening. He was the Minister for make sure that because he was talking nonsense, the investment didn't happen from business. What business are saying is that they want policy certainty in order to invest. That is what we are providing them. I signed the Nationally Determined Contribution of 43 per cent by 2030 last week in the Parliament. I signed it with, behind me, the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group, the Clean Energy Council, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Conservation Foundation. We are bringing people together to provide that investment certainty going forward. And what we need is a Government that is less interested in a glib headline that lasts for 24 hours and puts in place proper policy mechanisms that deal with the real challenges. It is time that the indulgence of the 24-hour media and political cycle ended. And it ended on the 21 May. I will lead a Government that actually makes a difference, doesn't just release a media release.

JOURNALIST: Congratulations, firstly, on your win.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Sabra. Good to be in Tasmania.

JOURNALIST: On Ukraine, have you decided to take a President Zelenskyy's offer to visit Ukraine on your next trip? And also, just on Marinus Link, so far, Tasmania looks like it will be up at half the cost and most of the benefit will go to the mainland. What will you be doing to ensure the project goes ahead and Tasmania is not on the hook for half of it?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the project, of course, on the latter question first, the project should go ahead. It's a good project. It's been talked about for a long period of time, but not enough has happened. Essentially, when I say not enough, I mean nothing's happened except lots of announcements. If you could get power from a media release, we wouldn't have any power shortages in this country. But unfortunately, that's not the case. Marinus Link is one of the projects that were identified by the Australian Energy Market Operator's Integrated Systems Plan. I announced, in my first Budget Reply, our support for that through the Rewiring the Nation program, with $20 billion that will provide the capital to make sure the investment can happen because that's the issue with renewables. The issue is, once you make the investment, that upfront capital investment, then the return comes in over a relatively short period of time. And then from then on you have cheaper power. That's what we're dealing with. That's why dealing with the energy crisis and dealing with climate change is an opportunity. But what you have to get around is that initial capital investment. That's why the Commonwealth being involved will lower the cost of capital, and we'll make sure as well that you don't get the issues of gold-plating that you had a decade or more ago when it came to some of the energy systems to fix transmission. This is what the Energy Security Board have spoken about. So, we'll deal with that, there will be a body that will look at all of the investment in a structured way as well to make sure that that Integrated Systems Plan is put in place. But Marinus was just one of the projects that were identified as a priority.

On the Ukraine, we will take advice from the national security agencies and from Defence and will respond to that advice as appropriate. Down the track, I will visit NATO and the NATO conference. I spoke to Jens Stoltenberg, the head of NATO, just yesterday. That will be an important conference, an important summit, because of what is happening in Ukraine. It is the first time that you will have the leaders of South Korea, of Japan, New Zealand and Australia have all been invited and we've all accepted the invitation to be NATO partners. Australia is the largest non-NATO contributor to the effort supporting the sovereignty of Ukraine and their struggle against the barbaric and illegal war being undertaken by Russia. So we'll deal with the other issues, though, as appropriate. And from time to time, as you'd be aware Sabra, those issues aren't released publicly.

JOURNALIST: Would you be aware of an ABC investigation that's uncovered hundreds of cases over decades, including this decade, of children in out of home care around Australia being raped and abused and the system not working. You were asked about this the other day.

PRIME MINISTER: I haven't actually.

JOURNALIST: I was going to say your Attorney General has expressed concern. So, presumably, you might want to speak to her about that.

PRIME MINISTER: My Attorney General's a him, and I haven't been asked about it.

JOURNALIST: I'm making a sexist assumption there. The National Children's Commissioner and children's commissioners from other states including Victoria have said the system is broken, it needs urgent federal leadership to fix this problem in other states. So, what action will your Government take to better protect vulnerable children?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we'll take appropriate advice. As you said, the Attorney General has been asked about this and will respond appropriately. Every child should be kept safe. Child abuse is a scourge. We know that the former government I was a part of initiated, under Prime Minister Gillard, the Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse. And that was a courageous decision that was criticised by many at the time, including many in the media. But it was the right decision and it made a positive difference to people's lives.

JOURNALIST: In 2012 you committed $50 million to development at Macquarie Point, how would you assess the level of action taken on that?

PRIME MINISTER: Appalling. We contributed $50 million to revamp Macquarie Point. It was an exciting proposal that was put forward at the time, it was one that I as Minister with responsibility for cities and urban policy embraced because what I saw Macquarie Point as doing is having the same potential that an area like Barangaroo has in Sydney or Southbank in Melbourne. This is a beautiful, beautiful city in a magnificent state - one that's defined every time you fly in here, it just takes your breath away. The fact that Macquarie Point, at the moment, is an eyesore - we can do so much better. And I find it astonishing. And this is something that I raised with the new Premier, to be fair I raised it with other Premiers in the past as well, I raised it with him last week. Our $50 million was meant to be, sometimes a Commonwealth contribution, what it can do, it's an initial capital injection; can then lead to the multiplier kicking in of state and, importantly, of private sector investment. And you look at MACq 01 down there, the hotel, which is fantastic. I've had the privilege of staying there a couple of times. This is an amazing sight. And it's astonishing that ten years later, I'm now the Prime Minister coming back having discussions about the $50 million and what happened. I mean, it's been sitting there, I assume earn earning interest, in the bank account of the Tasmanian state government. They need to get on with it.

JOURNALIST: Just in terms of the election result in Tasmania, it was wildly different to elsewhere, swings towards the Liberal Party. Why do you think that was and what are you going to do about it?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm not a commentator, I'll leave that to others.

JOURNALIST: But you are the leader of the Party federally and something needs to be done, surely?

PRIME MINISTER: I am. But I'm not a commentator.

JOURNALIST: So, what are you going to do about it?

PRIME MINISTER: Well if you stop asking questions, you'll get an answer. I'm trying to get there with the federal press gallery about the question and then an answer, but we'll get there. We'll get there across the country. What I'm doing is not focusing on politics. What I'm doing is focusing on good policy, because I believe that when Australians see a Government that's actually doing its job, it's not issuing media releases that don't lead to anything, that's actually making childcare cheaper as we said we would, that's investing in housing and creating the Housing Australia Future Fund because we said we would, that's creating Jobs and Skills Australia and dealing with the skills crisis because we said we would, that's dealing, when it comes to energy - can you imagine the other mob? They would have had four different policies in the last week. They would have had announcements and declarations that things were going to change. We didn't. We got together state and territory ministers. We supported AEMO to take the action in which they did. We acted in a way that ensured that there weren't blackouts, that we dealt with a crisis that was not of our creation, that was the former Government's creation and responsibility. But we dealt with it. I'm dealing with a range of issues in that way.

And I said during the election campaign that I had my eye on two dates. One was the 21st of May. There were a range of people who made comments 18 months ago that we couldn't win this election. I said that we had a plan, kick with the wind in the fourth quarter, outline our policies close to the election. We have a substantial reform plan. The plan, that I also said we had, was an eye on the election in 2025. An election in which we will go to the people saying that we have acted responsibly, that we haven't acted on a 24-hour political cycle basis every day, that our announcements actually lead to something happening. And we will go to the people, including here in Tasmania, with that record. In contrast, the Member for Bass didn’t seem to like her own Government's policies. There's been nothing learnt on climate change. At this election, you have an Opposition that is continuing to act in a way where, not only did they not accept any responsibility for what they didn't do over nine years, they're saying we should just keep not doing anything and oppose legislation. I'll lead a government that makes a difference to Tasmania. And that will, I believe, put us in good stead not just to hold a seat but Lyons where we are at the moment, where Brian is unfortunately not available for the same reason I wasn't available for one week during the election campaign; COVID hits people at times that aren't expected. But we have Julie Collins, I also have Carol Brown, who's a member of my frontbench, and Catryna who does a fantastic job in the Senate. And we will put forward strong advocacy here in Tasmania at the next election. I respect outcomes of elections though, and we'll deal with the members for Clark, Bass and Braddon with respect. You'll see a different way of operating politics with myself as the leader. You won't see the sort of contempt, frankly, that the former Government showed for democratic processes, including the Parliament. And I look forward to people seeing that reality when Parliament seats in July. Thanks very much.