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Transcript of doorstop interview: South Melbourne, Victoria: 24 November 2019: visit to South Melbourne Markets; Government having no plan for the economy; bushfires; call for COAG meeting; Wang Liqiang; China; Westpac

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SUBJECTS: Visit to South Melbourne Markets; Government having no plan for the

economy; bushfires; call for COAG meeting; Wang Liqiang; China; Westpac.

JOSH BURNS, MEMBER FOR MACNAMARA: Well, good morning everyone. We are here at

the South Melbourne Market where for 150 years people have been coming; to do their

shopping, to buy their food. It is a beautiful part of our local area and we are very proud of it.

And we are here today talking to retailers and talking to businesses. Because around the

country, retailers are doing it really tough. And unfortunately, the Government doesn’t have a

plan for retailers. They don’t have a plan to support struggling businesses. And they don’t have

a plan for our economy. So, it’s really important that we are here today. It’s a beautiful day. We

have had a great reception. And I am very pleased to be here with the Leader of the Labor

Party, Anthony Albanese, who I will hand over to say a few words.


much, Josh. It is great to be here in South Melbourne with Josh Burns, our Member for

Macnamara, the newly named seat here in this part of Melbourne. And it's been great talking to

retailers and talking to shoppers this morning about issues of concern to them. Just last Friday,

I released our second vision statement on the economy, a plan to grow the economy as well

as to talk about distribution of that wealth. A plan to grow wages. A plan to boost productivity.

What we need to do in this country is not be complacent. But ever since the May election, the

current Government have been complacent. They are on a victory lap. Well, we only have two

weeks of Parliament left. And the test for the Coalition is whether to every answer to every

question they just talked about Labor, or whether they actually present a plan going forward for

the nation.

The second issue that I want to raise in the lead up to Parliament, is that I wrote on Friday to

the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, about convening a special meeting of COAG to deal with

the ongoing need to have a national disaster strategy. It is very clear that whilst you can't say

that any individual event is just because of climate change, we know that the scientists told us

that the bushfire seasons would be longer and more intense, just like with other natural

disasters. What we need to do is to make sure that we have the best coordination in place, that

we have appropriate support for our rural fire services, appropriate support for our volunteers.

That we make sure that we have appropriate firefighting equipment, including aerial services

available at all times. Very clearly, this season means that it's a huge wake-up call for us to

ensure that our preparedness is the best possible. And what that needs is coordination across

the different levels of government. And that's why this is the first year in a decade in which

COAG has not met at least twice. Over coming weeks before the end of the year, the Prime

Minister should convene such a meeting. It is good that today there's a joint announcement

between the Federal Government and the New South Wales Government about providing

additional assistance. But, we should do that in a coordinated way rather than just ad hoc. And

Labor stand ready to be constructive and the deal with these issues on a bipartisan basis.

Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: What do you think of the Chinese spy, Wang Liqiang, wanting asylum? Do you

think he deserves our protection?

ALBANESE: Well, certainly he at least has a case. What that case needs to do is to be

examined. And I will be asking this week for a full briefing from appropriate authorities. But the

prima facie case is there that he certainly has a claim. And that should be considered in a way

that takes into account the merits of the case. Quite clearly, he has made a number of

statements. That would mean that he was under real pressure to say the least, if he were to

return. So, these issues should be examined. Australia is a country that supports human rights.

Australia is a country that supports freedom of expression, and one in which we stand up for

people who are persecuted, wherever they're from.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that Australia should be concerned about China’s (inaudible)?

ALBANESE: Well, Australia should make a decision based upon our values and our support

for human rights. That's the basis upon which we determine these matters. And they should be

determined on their merits.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

ALBANESE: Well, of course there should be tougher corporate law. This Government is

obsessed with attacking members of the trade union movement and has forgotten about what

is going on in corporate Australia. This is a disgrace. This is a scandal whereby literally millions

of breaches of the law have occurred. And as a result of that, what you have is money

laundering activities through one of our big banks, whereby it's connected up with illegal

activity. These laws are in place for a reason. And the fact that these revelations come after

the Banking Royal Commission, a Banking Royal Commission that Scott Morrison voted

against 26 times, shows that there's a need, actually, for the Government to get its head out of

the ideological sand that it is in and actually deal with the issues which Australians are

concerned about. And they should be rightly concerned about these breaches. And at the end

of the day, as well, that the CEO and the board need to take some responsibility here for what

has occurred on their watch.

JOURNALIST: What changes would you like to see made?

ALBANESE: Well, I want to see a Government that is actually prepared to speak up against

big business interests when they're breaching the law as keenly as they are prepared to attack

trade unions. The fact is, that they don't do that. There's a real hypocrisy in their attitude. They

need to not just implement the law but strengthen the law. And this is a huge wake up call. And

indeed, the CEO and the board need to accept responsibility for what's happened on their


JOURNALIST: Just finally, are you surprised that no (inaudible)?

ALBANESE: Well, it's extraordinary. Can you imagine the response of this Government if

there were literally millions of very serious breaches of the law by a trade union? The fact is

that the CEO and the board are responsible for this under the law, and they should accept

responsibility. There's been no proper explanation as to how this extraordinary breach of the

law has occurred. And they need to fess up. And then they need to take the appropriate action.