10.04am | November 09, 2021





SUBJECTS: Prevention of violence against women and children; Housing Australia Future Fund; NBN; climate action. 

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Good morning, I’m Michelle Rowland — the Federal Member for Greenway, and I'm here in Blacktown today, joined by my parliamentary colleagues, Jason Clare and Jenny McAllister. We have been consulting with a number of service providers here in the Blacktown area, specifically concerned with assisting women who are fleeing family violence situations, the support services that are available to them, and what needs to change.  

What is very clear, is that we need more support for these services from a bottom-up level. These are grassroots services who are doing amazing things. But what they do can only go so far, without adequate government support. These are people who are providing respite accommodation services, long term accommodation services, and all the counselling and other support that goes with it.  

Labor is very committed to assisting women and children fleeing these terrible situations. And some of the harrowing stories that we heard firsthand today just reinforced how important it is to get this issue addressed. And to get it right for the long-term benefit, of not only these women who are affected, but all our society, because family violence has a cost.  

The other issue I want to turn to, is that of the National Broadband Network. In no other policy area is this Government’s incompetence exposed on technology, but also it’s incoherence when it comes to economic management, as with the National Broadband Network. Today, we see reports that NBN Co. is reportedly seeking up to a billion dollars in extra funding to over-build the fixed wireless network.  

Now, we had a situation last year, where the Morrison Government passed it’s internet tax of $7 a month, which was supposed to cover the costs of upgrades and maintenance of the fixed wireless network in regional areas. Now, if the fixed wireless network is not up to scratch, then this Government needs to come out and say so clearly, without planting sneaky leaks. And without having the cover up that is going on at the moment about what it actually needs this extra money for. Because we know that the reason they said they needed this broadband tax implemented, was to cover those upgrades. So, if it wasn't for covering upgrades, and they now need up to an extra billion dollars, what was this tax for?  

This Government likes to talk a lot about favouring technology over taxes. Well, in this case, they've introduced a tax, they have been exposed as supporting the wrong technology when it comes to favouring it’s copper network, some eight years and $57 billion later, we still have a situation where the network is not up to scratch. And we've got executives at NBN Co., who - during a pandemic - have pocketed some $100 million dollars or more in bonuses.  

This is sheer incompetence. It is a slap in the face for Australians, including those in regional Australia in particular, who expect to have the right thing done by them when it comes to their communications needs. And none more so than during a pandemic, when people are relying more and more on connectivity as a basic human right.  

So, none more so in any other area of public policy, have we had this government incompetence on technology, but also its incoherence when it comes to economic management exposed, as we have seen with the National Broadband Network. They told us it would cost $29 billion dollars, it's now costing some $57 billion dollars, and apparently that's going to go up even more.  

I'll hand over to my colleague, Jenny McAllister, who will give us an update on her consultations and what we have been learning as a result of listening directly to people on the ground affected by family and violence against women. 

SENATOR JENNY MCALLISTER, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNITIES AND THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE: Thanks very much, Michelle. And it's a real pleasure to be here. Michelle's been asking for some time for us to get together with the terrific organisations in her electorate that support women escaping violence.  With the lifting of restrictions, it's wonderful to be able to be here and to talk with them.  

This morning, we've met with a couple of organisations. The first an organisation which assists women and children fleeing violence from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.  

It was a very special morning, because the organisation was able to arrange for us to meet with some of the women who have benefited from their services. They told us something quite profound. When a woman is leaving violence, it matters so much that the service that she goes to for support is staffed by people from her own culture. These women spoke about the simple things: being able to prepare a meal that's familiar, having your children speak with other people who speak their preferred language. They talked about the ability to recreate a sense of family at a time of great sadness and trauma. 

These women are immensely brave and the services that work with them deserve more support than they are receiving at the moment. With the National Plan under review, it's incredibly important that the Minister - Minister Ruston – starts thinking very carefully about how to support these local services that are providing culturally responsive support to women and children. 

One of the things that came up this morning and comes up all around the country, are the challenges in finding housing.

People often say, ‘Why doesn't she leave?’ 

Well, the answer is that it is very difficult to leave if there is nowhere to go. 

The government, Minister Ruston, has made it clear that she considers housing the responsibility of state governments. That is not the approach that Labour will take. This is an issue that is too important to be shoved between different levels of government. It's why I'm so proud to be here with my colleague, Jason Clare, and I'll ask Jason to speak to you now about some of the plans that Labor has to support the services that are helping women and children fleeing violence. 

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: Thanks Jenny. Thanks, Michelle, for inviting Jenny and myself to be out here in Blacktown today. We have a housing crisis in Australia right across the board. It's harder to buy a house today than ever before, it's harder to rent than ever before. And tragically, there are more homeless Australians today, than ever before.  

When people think of homelessness, many people often think of a stereotypical old bloke on a park bench with a brown paper bag with a bottle of grog in it.. But that couldn't be further from the truth.  

The biggest group of homeless Australians today, are women and their kids, and many of them fleeing domestic violence, and we got the privilege to meet some of those women today. Seeing them, talking to them, reminded me just how deep the trauma goes. These are women who often suffered in silence, suffered violence of all types, not for days, or weeks or months, but for years. And you could see it in the tears that ran down their face. And their empty mouths, when they opened them to tell their stories, it was too hard. 

It reminded me just how serious domestic and family violence is, and the trauma, the long-term trauma that it causes, for the women who suffer it, and their little kids who live through it. 

But in a sense, they're luckier than many other women because they're found refuge, we were there to see the safe place that they live in today. Tragically, for many women and kids, they get turned away from refuges like that. Last year 10,000 mums and kids were turned away from refugees, because there wasn't a bed. Because the inn was full. And so that means that they're forced to bundle the kids up and put them in the car and sleep in the car that night. Or worse still, go back to the house where the violence originally happened. 

Our refuges are full. The Blacktown Center for Women and Girls told us that today. They said they're busier than ever. As the lockdown has ended, more and more women are reaching out asking for help. And people are staying in refuges longer than ever before. And they told us one of the reasons for that is there isn't enough long-term accommodation for women and their kids to move into. So instead of staying in a refuge for a couple of days or a couple of weeks, they're staying there for months. Because the trauma can't be fixed in a day and there isn't the long-term accommodation that's safe and secure for them to move into. 

That's why we've said if we win the next election, we'll fix that. We will establish the Housing Australia Future Fund - that's a $10 billion fund - that will be invested and used to build social and affordable housing. 30,000 homes across the country in five years and at least four thousand of those homes would be for women and kids fleeing domestic violence and older women at risk of homelessness.  If w get elected and we're able to do that, that'd be the biggest investment in long term housing for women and kids fleeing domestic violence, ever. And it would make a serious difference for the women that we met here today, who are still suffering, who are still traumatised, who still need help. 

These are our mums, our aunties, our sisters, our daughters. They're the biggest group of homeless Australians in this country. And we're not doing enough at the moment to help them. 

The government says they're serious about women's safety and security. Well, if that's true, then they'll act here. They'll take up our position. And they'll make it a reality instead of shoving it off to the states and saying it's their job, they'll do it themselves, show a bit of leadership and make Australian women safer today. Thanks. 

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister's back from overseas and essentially beginning his campaign today - this could be for any one of you, why choose Labor? Why should we vote Labor? 

CLARE: Why would you trust this man to be in power for another three years, after everything that's happened over almost the last decade? If he's prepared to lie to his former boss, if he's prepared to lie to a President of another country, why don't you think that he wouldn't lie to you, and that he hasn't lied to you? After all of the rorts and the scandal and the waste, after almost a decade in power, misusing Australian taxpayers’ money, it's time for a change. And if Labor is elected, apart from establishing a Federal ICAC to crack down on those on those rorts and those scandals, apart from making childcare cheaper for families under pressure, here in Western Sydney, putting in place a Housing Australia Future Fund. That's going to help provide a safe place for women and kids fleeing domestic violence. They are three pretty good reasons for a start to vote Labor at the next election.  

Michelle will give you a couple of others. When you think about the NBN, it's ironic that this government is talking about solving climate change with technology when they're building a copper NBN. They have stuffed up the NBN. And only a Labor government with Michelle as Communications Minister is going to fix it and provide the type of service that Australians right across the country need, that's been evidenced by the lockdown, that technology working from home the capacity to have first class broadband is going to be essential in the future.  

Did you want touch on that? 

JOURNALIST: Michelle, why is it that, is the NBN policy enough to convince people? 

ROWLAND: I think it's a really crucial element of our platform. And people are thinking about the post COVID Or at least the post lockdown world now. We were exposed in so many ways as being inadequate as an economy and as a society, and nowhere more so than here in Western Sydney, where we were subjected to the toughest restrictions in all of New South Wales.  

We were exposed as being inadequate when it came to public hospitals and funding of health. Exposed when it came to PPE. And not having sufficient manufacturing, including manufacturing of vaccines and rolling that out soon enough. But also, in terms of children, studying from home, in terms of people working from home, the exposure there for a communication system that needed to work not only broadband, but also mobile services, that will be more important than ever, there's going to be a lot of things that don't go back to normal as it were anymore. People are still going to be doing things differently. Now you got to ask yourself, which kind of party is up for making sure that they are focused on the future and making the right decisions when it comes to technology?  

And just take that technology for a moment. We've got Scott Morrison telling us to trust him on technology. This is the bloke who is building a copper NBN who imposed a $7 a month broadband tax. And we don't even know yet what it's for, when NBN Co says they still need at least another billion dollars to upgrade its fixed line network in the regions.  

We’ve got Barnaby Joyce talking to us about the regions. What is this bloke doing for the regions? What is this bloke doing to ensure the connectivity of the constituents that he supposedly represents? There is absolutely no coherence when it comes to technology under this government, and no more so is that clearer than when it comes to the NBN.  

And lastly, I hear the Prime Minister talking about economic management, have a red hot go have a red hot go at $29 billion for an NBN that's gone up to $58 billion dollars, and still isn't working properly.  

JOURNALIST: He has said that the economy is something that his government can't perform particularly strongly on, it is going to be one of the key elements of his campaign.

Is that accurate? Is it strong enough?  

ROWLAND: The economy's always important, of course, but I think people will be looking to what he has actually promised and what he's delivered, whether it be in terms of car parks that were announced and not built, being it terms of parcels of land at the airport that was supposedly worth $30 million and passed off for a first song.  

This is a government that is really, it's getting old, and it's getting tired. They are recycling, they are recycling old ministers, they're keeping them in, even when they're under scandal. You know what Labor will do? Labor will make sure that not only do we have a National Integrity Commission, not only will we be focused on the future, on a manufacturing sector, particularly here in Western Sydney, but making sure that as we come out of COVID, and we learn to all the learn to deal with all these new normals, that we're well prepared for it in terms of health, in terms of education, in terms of communications, and clearly this government is failing.  

JOURNALIST: So, what are Labor's economic policies?  

ROWLAND: So, we support an economy where we are manufacturing things in Australia, we want to make sure that we have those foundations for infrastructure, not only including hard infrastructure, but also infrastructure, like the NBN. And we'll be announcing a broad suite of policies going forward. But indeed, a very important part of that is what we intend to do in the area of climate change, and in the area of ensuring that our economy transitions to a clean one, andwill be... we’ve made some of those announcements already in terms of renewables. And we'll continue to do so leading up to the election.  

JOURNALIST: You just touched on climate change. What is the plan for net zero by 2050?  

ROWLAND: Well, clearly, it's this government that is in power at the moment, but we have long supported zero, net zero by 2050. And we'll be making more announcements as we get closer to the election. 

We've just come out of Glasgow, which has got a bit of a way to play out. And I think as you look around the suburbs, hear in Blacktown people get it, people understand that their economy is changing. They understand the importance of renewables. And they understand that this is an area which is ripe for creating new jobs in this economy as well. That focus on jobs is something that we intend to prosecute further as the campaign rolls out. But it's always been front of mind for us not only those new jobs, but also preserving good jobs, making sure that they're secure. And that's been our focus each and every day making sure that people have a better quality of life. Quality of life is really the three words that are integral to suburban Sydney, and indeed, right across Australia. And that is only made better when you have those fundamentals right. Good education system, well-funded health system, a communications infrastructure that works for everyone.  

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister is in the Hunter Valley today, you mentioned the regions, what would you do in the regions to enhance climate change?  

ROWLAND: Well, I think there's two things there and I'll ask Jason to elaborate as well. I mean, the first thing is, we want to make sure that the jobs that we know will come out of a clean economy future are spread right across the regions, and there is no reason why that can't be the case.  

And secondly, again, again, coming back to communications, it's important to ensure that these areas, we know that the tyranny of distance has really been dissipated as a result of having good broadband and good communication services overall. We need to ensure that our regions are places that people want to be, and they're already attractive for a number of reasons. But we want to make sure that they continue to be places where people want to live, want to raise a family, and that there are good, secure, well-paying jobs in those areas. And indeed, that will only come about as a result of a managed transition to a new economy.  

And I think it's very clear when you listen to people in those areas, as know Jason has in his with his regional services hat on, people understand that the economy is changing. They understand that things need to be done differently. But Jason, did you want to add anything to that? 

CLARE: This is a jobs opportunity. There are tens of thousands of jobs that can be created, if we get this transition right. Labor has always known that. Chris Bowen, our spokesperson has made the point that this global challenge is a jobs opportunity, and many of those jobs will be in the regions. 

JOURNALIST: And a new hydrogen hub? 

CLARE: Well, I think he's talking about hydrogen today, isn't he? And there are opportunities to create thousands of jobs in green hydrogen, but not just in the Hunter. In many other regions across the country. But, intuitively the Labor Party gets it. But I think the Prime Minister and his party for a long, long time have thought climate change is what happens when you go to Hawaii for a holiday.  

They've been telling us for the best part of 10 years, that if you act here, then you're going to destroy businesses, and people are going to lose their jobs. Now they're suddenly doing a 180 and telling us that no, no, we're going to create businesses and we're going to create more jobs. Well, yeah, of course we are. We get it. We know it. I think what's happened here is the Prime Minister's seen the results of a few focus groups or a few polls that have told him that 80% of Australians get this, and they want the government to take action on climate change. So, he's got to pull up a glossy brochure and say the word plan half a dozen times or more, so he makes people think that he's doing something. But you got to do more than have a glossy brochure and promise things, you got to provide some detail, we will provide that detail. I'd like to see a little bit more detail from the Government. They've said they're doing some economic modelling here, not Treasury, but apparently McKinsey Angus Taylor's old company, well show us the economic modelling show us the detail that sits behind your plan.  

After all the rubbish we got told at the last election, that this was going to destroy the country, destroy businesses and destroy jobs, I think the least the Australian people deserve, is for this crooked government to come clean and release that economic modelling that they're still working on today.  

JOURNALIST: What details can Labor provide today about what your plan actually is? You've had a lot of time to come up with it.  

CLARE: We've already announced I think more policies than the government. We've announced the Rewiring The Nation Plan, which is critical. If you're going to build an energy system based on renewable energy, you need to be able to connect the renewable energy to the grid, so that people can use it. It doesn't exist in the form that it needs to at the moment. So we'll build that.  

We have said we'll make electric cars cheaper. There are, you know, the government likes to talk about tax, we want to cut tax on electric cars, they want to keep it up.  

We've said also that we want to build community batteries. Lots of people have got solar on their roof. But if you can store that in a community battery, then they can take more advantage of it. They don't need a battery in their own home.  

So, we've announced a couple of policies already. But as Chris Bowen said to David Spears on Insiders yesterday, show us the economic modelling, and will provide our detail and our roadmap to get to net zero by 2050, before the next election.  

JOURNALIST: Why start here today? Why, what brought you guys here today to speak to the women about these issues.  

CLARE: Well, the short answer to that is, Michelle Rowland. The Labor Party is blessed to have some local champions as Members of Parliament but it’s hard to beat Michelle. She grew up here she was the Deputy Mayor here in Blacktown, and I've had the privilege to know Michelle for more than 30 years. We're showing our age. 

And when I started talking to Jenny about this, Jenny said to me, you’ve got to talk to Michelle, ...because she's seeing this in Blacktown, in a way that other Members of Parliament aren’t, and that is, in a part of Australia like Western Sydney which is really multicultural, there are unique challenges, there are differences. 

I made the point, when we're at the Harman Foundation that, just like government is providing funding now for culturally and linguistically diverse communities, for their own aged care services, because you need to make sure that you're providing a service that people will want to live in, you need to do the same when it comes to refuges, where they understand the language where the people that run into the corridor that are breaking down and crying, they can speak in the same language and they can put their arm around each other and, and there's this intuitive sense of understanding. Where they can cook meals that they learned to cook, when they were little kids that their mothers and their grandmothers taught them. All of these things might seem small and insignificant to us here. But I can assure you, they're not. If you get it right, you can save lives. Because if a woman feels safe in a refuge, she doesn't leave it and go back to the violence.  

But that's not enough. And what we heard today is you got to do more than that. First, get the refuge model, right. Build more refuges, but also build the safe long-term place for women to go to. Otherwise, what's going to happen is more women are going to get turned away or more women are going to go back into violence. And you're going to read their stories on the front pages of the newspaper. I don't want to see that.  

One of the privileges of this job is that, you can make change for good. You can help. That's why we want to win the election because if we win the election, you can do that. I know that you, you know that the news is swamped and dominated by examples of politicians doing bad things. We saw more evidence of that last night on 60 minutes. The Australian people being taken for suckers. It tells us why we need an ICAC. If we had a Federal ICAC, Michael Sukkar wouldn't be a Minister today. But there are good politicians out there. Very few of them better than Michelle Rowland. And what we saw today, makes me assured that if we win the next election, we can do good things here to make more Australian women safe.  

JOURNALIST: Is communicating women's issues, is that going to be key to getting through many of the hurdles, obviously, election campaigns, speaking to women, communicating to women. 

CLARE: If you, if you want to be the government of Australia, you've got to talk to everybody, the young and the old, men and women, people who can trace their heritage back 60,000 years people who just arrived. Now, a big part of that is making sure that we talk to Australian women, more than 50% of the population. This year, we learned some pretty terrible things, not least that this government hid a scandal for more than two years, where a woman was allegedly raped, less than 50 meters from the Prime Minister's Office. And so, a lot of Australian women have lost trust in this government, and they've lost trust in this Prime Minister. They could fix that by putting their hand in their pocket and building the housing that women fleeing domestic violence need. We've been calling on them to do this since May. Remember, the commitment that we've made here, is not new. Anthony Albanese has made the announcement in the budget reply this year in May. It shouldn't take an election to fix this, but I think it is. 

JOURNALIST: What do you think of the Prime Minister's starting point, today (inaudible)... 

CLARE: Look, the Prime Minister is getting desperate. He knows he's behind in the polls. He knows that a lot of people don't trust him. More and more people are calling him a liar. And now he's desperate to try and win voters support back. But after almost a decade in power, I think the Australian people have worked this bloke out. He's not there for you, he's there for himself. 

Okay, thanks very much.