Doorstop – Melbourne | Prime Minister of Australia
MICHELLE ANANDA-RAJAH, MEMBER FOR HIGGINS: Well, good morning, everyone. It’s wonderful to be here to see brick and mortar. This is the great Australian dream and we are making it a reality. It’s wonderful to have PM here along with the Premier, Dan Andrews, and the Minister, Julie Collins, you won’t find three greater champions for social and affordable housing in this country. And the fact that they’re all here is a testament to the need for all tiers of government to work together. And to have this in my own electorate in Higgins is fantastic. Just yesterday, I was door knocking, just out there few metres away, and people were raising the issue of homelessness, they were raising the issue of the need for affordable housing, particularly for young families. The cure is supply, and this is something that Labor governments all around the country are committed to delivering. Thank you PM, off to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks very much, Michelle. It’s great to be back in your electorate of Higgins again, with my Housing Minister, Julie Collins, and with the Premier of Victoria, Dan Andrews. This is a fantastic project. The creation of 445 affordable and social homes, for families to live in this local community. So close to amenities, so close to facilities. It’s an example of what we want to achieve. It’s an example of increasing density, but doing it in a way that’s sensitive with the local environment and providing a real quality of life for the people who will move in here. There previously were 120 social housing dwellings on this site, they will be offered, the first opportunity to move back into this very location. And the model that’s been established by Victoria is an excellent one, a model that will see a lease to community housing providers, and then it going back into public hands after 40 years, making sure that maintenance is looked after as well. NHFIC is involved in this as well at the Commonwealth level, and NHFIC is doing an extraordinary job in increasing the amount of social and community housing which is out there. But we need to do more. We know the key is supply. And I’ve been working with State Premiers and Territory leaders as well about how we increase supply. And no one’s doing more than the Victorian Government to do that. And that will make an enormous difference. Because we know that that’s the key. And when National Cabinet meets tomorrow, this will be front and centre of our agenda. How do we deliver on the National Housing Accord? How do we increase social housing supply? I was here with Dan in June, when we announced a $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator. Now that will make an enormous difference. Projects like this will be eligible for that $2 billion of additional funding that we have provided. But we do need to do more. And one of the things we need to do is to pass the Housing Australia Future Fund. It’s stuck in the Senate, with the No-alition of the Liberals, the Nationals, the Greens and One Nation, all saying no to projects like this. Saying no to increasing social housing supply, when we know that it is so important. So I say to those people in the Senate, we need to get this done. It’s not enough to continue to defer the consideration of the Senate of the Housing Australia Future Fund as they’ve done on two occasions. They need to get on with passing that legislation. We know that that’s just one component of the other elements that we’ve put in place. The Social Housing Accelerator, the extension of the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement, the increased support for community housing the $2 billion, the build-to-rent incentives for the private sector to build private rental housing as well around the country. The increase in rental assistance, that we’ve had the largest increase in 30 years. All of these measures are combined to assist people to help lift the cost-of-living pressures which are there by increasing housing supply. You can’t fix this overnight and we had 10 years of neglect. In New South Wales there’s less social housing now, than there was 12 years ago, when the Coalition came to office, so we need to address that. And Labor governments are working together. And I must say as well that the Tasmanian Liberal Government is working with us as well through Premier Jeremy Rockliff, to deliver. Because we know that this is a challenge but we’re up for the challenge. And we want to work with state and territory governments and local government as well, to make sure that we can deliver on housing supply.
DANIEL ANDREWS, PREMIER OF VICTORIA: Thanks very much PM. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have a partner in Canberra who understands that housing is perhaps the biggest issue in our nation right now. We need more supply because more supply gives people choices and options and it puts downward pressure on prices. We know that for, for so many people, perhaps really all but a very small number of people, your rent, your mortgage, is your biggest fixed cost every single week, every single month. And if we don’t have more housing supply, then those costs of living pressures that are such a factor for so many of us, will continue to be a really big challenge. I want to thank all the Icon team here, this is about 320 people working on the site at the moment, it peaked at almost 400 just a few weeks ago. They’re part of thousands and thousands of jobs that have been created by getting on and building more affordable housing, more public housing. So it’s not just about tenancy, that’s critically important, giving people the safety and security, the certainty of somewhere to live at an affordable price. But it’s also fantastic for creating jobs, good jobs that are there, because there’s a pipeline of work. This is not one project every now and then. This is the big housing build, the biggest investment in affordable and social housing in our nation’s history. We’re proud to think, and so pleased to think, that now we have a partner in Canberra, not a Federal Government who doesn’t get it and doesn’t know where Victoria is, quite the opposite. A Prime Minister who understands how important housing is and is prepared to partner with us, as a state government, as we partner with tradies and businesses, tenants and local communities to make sure there’s more supply, more choice, more power for often some of the most vulnerable people in our Victorian community by getting a roof over their head and creating enormous numbers, thousands of jobs. There’s 620 people will live here, it’s a 90% increase in social housing, and a massive boost to affordable housing beyond that. To every worker, to everybody involved in this project, thank you. We’re very proud of you. And we’re grateful for the work that you’re doing. And I look forward to being back here toward the end of the year to mark completion, as we start to welcome back some of those who moved out while it was rebuilt and others that will be new to this area and new to this absolutely first-class housing offering that is affordable, and is being delivered by our government with a strong partnership from the Albanese Government. It’s so, so good to have a Federal Government that gets it and knows where Victoria is and are prepared, not just to be a majority, but to have a clear plan, a clear plan to get things done and nothing’s more important than social and affordable housing like this. I think now, we’re happy to take any questions you have.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how confident are you that the deal with the Premier Daniel Andrews and the State Premiers on the housing and rental support at National Cabinet?
PRIME MINISTER: I’m very confident that what I know is that every Premier and Chief Minister as well as the Commonwealth gets it. And we’re all on the same page. We all know that housing supply is the key. We all know as well that they have renters need more rights, but it can’t be done in a way that actually dampens housing supply. So I’m very confident that tomorrow when we meet, I’ll have my own cabinet meeting today, in Brisbane this afternoon and then National Cabinet. I’m looking forward to the meeting tomorrow.
JOURNALIST: You’ve ruled out rent freezes, which the Greens have been calling for, what is the next best thing that may get the party over the line in the Senate to support the future?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, they need to support social housing. It’s as simple as that. The Greens political party can’t say they want more social housing and then vote against it. That’s what they keep doing. And it’s time for the political games to end. This is a scheme that should have begun on July 1 and every day of delay is less social housing. So, I say to the Greens political party, the time for political games is over. But I also say to the Coalition, stop these games, this is, the Housing Australia Future Fund is supported by the Master Builders Association, the Housing Industry Association, Shelter, ACOSS. Every single group, community housing providers, are all saying that they’re ready to go. You have community housing providers who have approvals, DAs, all they’re waiting for is for this fund to be passed. And a lot of them did work in anticipation of this. This is a policy that I announced in the Budget reply in the days when Opposition’s had policies and had policies that were funded in the Budget replies, two years before the election. We have a clear mandate for it. The Senate should pass this legislation and should pass it when Parliament sits in September.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, are you expecting any relief for wages today when that data is released?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ll await, I think it’s always best not to pre-empt the data on the morning in which it’s released. And so I await those figures. What we know is that, and I spoke to the Australian Industry Group last night, what we know is that inflation is down compared to where it was, 0.8% compared with 2.1% in the last quarter, in which the Coalition held office in March 2022. What we know is that wages are rising. But we know as well that industrial disputes are decreasing, are decreasing. The exact opposite of what the Coalition said would occur. So we are concerned about cost of living, that’s our first priority. And that’s why we have not just our housing policy, but cheaper childcare Fee-Free TAFE, these measures that are all about putting downward pressure on inflation, while providing cost of living relief.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, National Cabinet will talk about proposals tomorrow to increase supply and affordability. What is one proposal you want all states and territories to agree on?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’m not going to pre-empt National Cabinet tomorrow, but I’ve had constructive discussions with all of the Premiers. And this is something that isn’t theoretical. Here it is, you’re standing on it. That’s what I want. Increased supply. That is what we need.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, in terms of calls for a public holidays for the Matildas if they do win the finals. What is your message to business in regards to this? Have you made a decision yet if they do win that final or will you announce it only if they do make that final?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ll have a discussion. If they win the final, I hope they do, the whole of Australia hopes they do. This is a phenomenon. This is something that’s beyond sport. What this is doing is inspiring a nation. And to those women and girls watching the Tillies, they’ve been joined by boys and men watching the Tillies as well. Twenty years ago, I reckon that there was no one going to the local pub here, and Michelle can tell me what the local pub is here, wearing a women’s soccer jersey. They would have been teased. Guess what? Now you have Australians of different ages, different genders, all cheering on the Matilda’s. And this will inspire young girls and young boys to play team sport. It’s a good thing for health but it’s also good for mental health and for development. When you play team sport, you learn how to win, you learn how to lose. You learn how to cooperate with your friends and your mates. You develop relationships you keep for the rest of your life. My son is 22 now, he played AFL, he played soccer, he played cricket. He’s friends who he played with he’s still mates with a few years on from that. It’s so important for development. And a few years ago, of course, the Matilda’s played Brazil up in Brisbane, the first game there were 2,000 fans there. The second game, they didn’t open the stadium, because they would have lost money to do so. On Wednesday night it will be packed. If the ground fitted 250,000, they’d fill 250,000 seats. There’ll be live sites, where are yours here? At AAMI, they’ll all be full. Right around the country we will be cheering and I’ve been to a lot of sporting fixtures, I have never been in a venue in which 50,000 people stopped breathing on 10 occasions the other night, when every spot kick was taken by a Matilda’s player. You could literally feel the stadium stop for that couple of seconds. This is awesome. In New South Wales, as said, Premier Minns has said that he will hold a public holiday if they win in and a ticker tape parade. I understand he’s in discussions with Football Australia. But regardless of all of that, the whole of Australia will be cheering Wednesday night and let’s hope we will be cheering on Sunday night as well.
JOURNALIST: So Premier, do you support a public holidays? Chris Minns is going to give New South Wales one.
PREMIER ANDREWS: Well as a matter for Premier Minns. I’m a bit of a, well, I’m a little bit careful here. I don’t want to jinx this. I am superstitious. And I think we’re all just going to sit back and cheer on and hopefully there’s a lot to celebrate on Sunday. But again, no, I’ve got no announcements to make about public holidays. We of course have the Grand Final Friday public holiday coming up soon. That’ll be a fantastic success, I’m sure as it always is. But I think we all should focus on not necessarily getting ahead of ourselves. I’m sure the Matilda’s aren’t, I’m sure all their support crew aren’t, they’ve got a couple of matches to win before we get to that Simon.
JOURNALIST: Premier, Lily D’Ambrosio’s branch of the Victorian Labor Party had 132 members prior to the branch stacking investigation and now has 13,100 per cent of those memberships were being paid in cash. We know that at least two of those members had their memberships renewed multiple times following their deaths, which implies that their signatures were forged on membership forms and money was paid on their behalf. Why shouldn’t Lily D’Ambrosio be investigated by IBAC like four other Ministers you referred to IBAC over similar allegations?
PREMIER ANDREWS: Well, Rachel, I would not draw any comparison whatsoever between what you put to me in relation to Lily and what we all witnessed on that 60 Minutes program and in The Age’s comprehensive coverage in the days thereafter.
JOURNALIST: Why not? Are you not concerned about dead people’s signatures being forged?
PREMIER ANDREWS: Well again, no, I’d invite you, go back and watch the 60 Minutes show, go back and read the quite detailed coverage that The Age provided in the days thereafter. Go back and read the resignation statements of those who resigned. And the statement in relation to the one Minister who did not resign, was in fact removed. And I don’t think there can be any fair comparison drawn. If you’ve got an allegation to make about any individual, then make it. If not –
JOURNALIST: I just have.
PREMIER ANDREWS: Well, no, you haven’t. If you’ve got an allegation to make against Lily D’Ambrosio or anybody else, then you can make that allegation. But there’s no allegation being made. And I don’t think it is fair, reasonable or accurate, to compare what we all sat and watched on the 60 Minutes program and in the newspaper reporting thereafter, with what you’ve just put to me. These are matters for, these matters for the State Secretary. And as for any integrity agency, integrity agencies do not need to be referred matters. And in fact, unbeknownst to us at the time, that integrity agency was in fact investigating these matters at the time that it was referred. If you’ve got an allegation to make in relation to the Minister’s Office, the Minister staff, the Minister’s conduct, then make it. If not, then it’s a matter for the integrity agencies to do as they see fit and the party to deal with these issues. We had an intervention in this State, we’ve had a comprehensive process of reform. We are a stronger party because of that. We are a better party body because of that. And what’s more, when it comes to the integrity of Lily D’Ambrosio and this assertion that she’s somehow not focused on her ministerial duties, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone more focused on their ministerial duties than Lily D’Ambrosio. She is a person of character and integrity. And unless and until you want to make an actual allegation about what she did, and when, as you see, as you would, as you would claim. And I don’t really know what we’re talking about here and there is simply no comparison, none whatsoever between what we all witnessed on that, that 60 Minutes program and some of the stuff that’s in your paper today.
JOURNALIST: Luke Donnellan didn’t resign, it wasn’t until IBAC was able to investigate and then found things –
PREMIER ANDREWS: No, he resigned.
JOURNALIST: That were sufficiently concerning, that his resignation was prompted during an IBAC hearing.
PREMIER ANDREWS: No, no one prompted his resignation, if you want to know the circumstances in which he resigned, then contrary –
JOURNALIST: He resigned during the IBAC hearing.
PREMIER ANDREWS: You just put it to me that he didn’t resign. Go and have a look –
JOURNALIST: So he didn’t resign in 2020?
PREMIER ANDREWS: Go and have a look at his resignation statement. Go and have a look at his resignation statement. And it goes through in some detail the reasons why he resigned, they were then as they are now, matters for him.
JOURNALIST: I phrased that badly Premier. What I meant was that he did not resign until an IBAC hearing was and it was more than a year between that matter being referred to IBAC and then him resigning. Don’t, aren’t these allegations on the service surface worth investigating? So that IBAC can establish whether or not Lily D’Ambrosio –
PREMIER ANDREWS: I don’t know what allegations have been made. Genuinely. What are you saying she’s done? What are you saying she’s done? When did she do it?
JOURNALIST: The allegations concern her branch.
PREMIER ANDREWS: It’s her branch is it? She owns the branch? The branches in the Scullin –
JOURNALIST: [inaudible] meet in her office.
PREMIER ANDREWS: No it does not.
PREMIER ANDREWS: Yeah well, we just have to, being accurate is very important. Being accurate is very important. It does not meet in her office. It is it is a branch, it is a branch of the Scullin FEA. At the time you’re referring to there were no state branches. There are now branches that are attached to state seats. So it’s factually wrong to describe this as her branch, like she owns the thing. Again, if you’ve got an allegation to make other than inference, then please, I would invite you to make it.
JOURNALIST: On that subject, why was her, why were branch meetings still taking place long after the ombudsman had investigated red shirts?
PREMIER ANDREWS: I have no idea, I’ve never been, I don’t know that I’ve been to her electorate office. I’m absolutely certain I’ve never been to the south branch. So I really, I really can’t comment.
JOURNALIST: [inaudible] why she was allowing meetings to continue to take place?
PREMIER ANDREWS: No, I’ve spoken to her though, I’ve spoken to her though. And if you, she is available to, she’s going through the doors today, as Parliament is sitting I’m sure she would be happy to answer any and all questions you want to ask her. But you’re here with me, which is fine. I’m here to talk about housing, like roofs over people’s heads. And, frankly, if you’ve got an allegation to make, then please make it and we can go from there. But I just I just want to pick up this point. Integrity agencies don’t need referrals. They’re not sitting up not sitting around every morning, having you know, coffee and toast waiting for a referral, they are able to do their job, and they do their job. As it’s been very well evidenced over a long period of time.
JOURNALIST: You’ve asserted that the allegations made against Lily D’Ambrosio’s branch are very different from those which were made against the branches –
PREMIER ANDREWS: That’s not an assertion, that’s a fact. Go and watch the 60 Minutes, with the greatest of respect, Rachel, go and watch –
JOURNALIST: Rather than telling me to go and watch 60 Minutes, what are the differences in your view?
PREMIER ANDREWS: Well, I’m sorry, if you’re offended that I’m respectfully requesting that you go and watch the 60 Minutes program because some things do fade from memory. Some things are not necessarily as acute as they were when we all sat there and watched the shocking, shocking conduct. And I’m not going to go through it all. Because it was some years ago now and if that is there for everyone to see –
JOURNALIST: How can you be so certain that it’s more shocking than forging the signatures of dead people?
PREMIER ANDREWS: Well who did who did that?
JOURNALIST: We don’t know, the evidence has been hidden, it’s very clear that it did happen.
PREMIER ANDREWS: Well did it? Who did that?
JOURNALIST: Can you explain how people can have re-registered –
PREMIER ANDREWS: No, that would be that would that would be a matter for the State Secretary of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party. That’s got nothing to do with me or the government of this state.
JOURNALIST: Are you concerned though by that allegation?
PREMIER ANDREWS: So again, if you want, well, is it an allegation, Simon? If you want to make, if you want to say that a person has done something, then please say that, just say it, and then we can go from there. But throwing in alleged facts and basically, you know, trying to describe a branch of the Australian Labor Party as being owned by a single person, like all colorful and everything, but ultimately, what are you alleging?
JOURNALIST: Are you confident that all elements of branches –
PREMIER ANDREWS: So you’re not alleging anything? So there’s silence there, so I’ve asked a question, I know you normally ask the questions, but you’ve had a good go this morning. I’m asking you, what are you alleging? And I’m getting silence. So on that basis, I’ll take that there is no allegation against the Minister. She’s a person of character, hard work. And if you want to make allegations then make them if not, then we’re just dealing with, I don’t know what we’re dealing with frankly. Simon, you had a follow up.
JOURNALIST: Are you confident that all instances of branch stacking that occurred within the Labor Party have been weeded out by the review of Jenny Macklin and Steve Bracks?
PREMIER ANDREWS: Well I’m confident that there was a there was a membership audit. There was a period which the party was administered and democracy was appropriately suspended because we could have no confidence in the integrity of any voting rolls. There has been massive reform, huge change, but with that needs to come a vigilance to make sure that the highest standards are maintained right across the party. And I know that the party, whether it be officers of the party or the Administrative Committee, take those responsibilities very, very seriously. And that’s the point I’m making, if you’ve got an allegation to make, make it. And we will move forward with that, not the government, it’s not a matter for the government, it’s a matter for the party. And they take that very, very seriously. And it’s my expectation that any officer of the party and I’ve been a party officer, take those sorts of issues very, very seriously.
JOURNALIST: That membership audit found that 90% of the members of that branch weren’t legitimate, only 13 of the 132 still exist. Don’t you want to know what how on earth that would be the case?
PREMIER ANDREWS: Well, there were a number of people who were no longer members, once that audit had been conducted, that audit was not conducted by me. And I don’t think too many Victorians would think kindly if the government was conducting audits into political parties, that’s a matter for political parties. And the Labor Party did that. I’m not sure whether other political parties have done a similar thing. But again, we’ve got a report, we are implementing all of the findings of that, there’s a power of work going on to do that. It is it is a very different Labor party today because of the strong and decisive action that I took, and the Prime Minister took and the National Executive took. And there is that sense of vigilance to make sure that those high standards are maintained and upheld in every part of our party. And I’m sure that that’s a national phenomenon, not just here in Victoria, everyone wants the rules to be followed. And that’s why if you’ve got an allegation to make about an individual having breached those rules, then you ought make it as opposed to collecting up a group of alleged facts and calling that some sort of an allegation. It’s not. If you’ve got it, make it.
JOURNALIST: Premier, just on another matter, do you have any sympathy for the protest being held today by property owners in the west over the [inaudible]?
PREMIER ANDREWS: I know many people in that part of Victoria, whether they be potato farmers or others that are part of that food bowl, and I have nothing but respect for the work that they do and the product that they produce. However, there is a process and our role in that is to conduct an EES process. We’re not the proponents of these projects. We are there to do an EES and that is a genuine process. It’s no rubber stamp. It’s a proper, genuine process. And it’s not a foregone conclusion, it will be done properly. I know it’s very disruptive. It’s a very emotional thing. It’s a very, it’s very meaningful thing to have people come onto your land and say they’re going to build a great big transmission easement through your farm. That is a very significant thing. No one’s diminishing that. But we provide an absolute commitment that we will have a proper EES process where people’s views will be heard. And we’ll try and reach a balanced outcome insofar as we are involved in that. But at the same time, we are going through an energy transition. And the transmission lines that are about five houses down from where I live, literally at the end of my street, that have for decades, carried baseload power from coal fired power stations in the Latrobe Valley. They are much less relevant and are going to be much less relevant in the future, then linking up renewable energy and getting it where it needs to go and not just in Melbourne, but every single community along the way. We’ve announced compensation, we’ve announced processes, I have absolute respect for those people, they are entitled to have a view and what we are more than entitled to do, what we are obliged to do is to treat them respectfully listen to them and run a property EES process and that’s exactly what we doing.
JOURNALIST: On the Infrastructure Review, is there a timeline on when that will be completed?
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. Yeah, Minister King is looking after that.