31 March 2021



SUBJECTS: Labor Party national conference; Andrew Laming.

MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Let's talk about this and other issues this morning with Labor's Kristina Keneally. Good morning, Kristina.

PAUL: How is the Labor function - if that's the right term to put it - going? This, it's all being done, most of it being done, of course, virtually, via the internet. Technology is a wonderful thing.

KENEALLY: It is Marcus and particularly during this time of COVID. What we've seen now in Brisbane, with their lockdown there, the snap lockdown, reminds us that you know COVID is still very much with us. And given that we don't have a vaccine yet rolled out across Australia. 

In fact, Marcus can I just for a moment note that the Prime Minister had promised that by today, the end of March, we'd have 4 million Australians vaccinated. He's going to miss that target by about three and a half million. In fact, very few people have actually got their full vaccine. Some people, about half a million people have got their first dose.

PAUL: Yeah, I touched on that this morning.

KENEALLY: Yeah and good on you, because you know, the fact that we don't have that we don't have that vaccine rolled out means that we can't really get our economy going again. We can't reopen the economy and get you know, cafes and restaurants and movie theatres and venues and tourism going again. 

But back to the conference, the fact that we've got this lockdown in Brisbane meant that our (Labor’s) National Party President, Wayne Swan couldn't come down to Sydney for it. He's participating virtually. And it just goes to show that, you know, we're lucky we have the technology that allows us to go ahead and have gatherings like our national conference, because it's not about the fact that we can have a conference but it's about the fact that we're discussing things like the National Reconstruction Fund, we're putting policies on the table to get the economy moving again to rebuild manufacturing and to create jobs for Australia.

PAUL: Alright, well today, Anthony Albanese’s expected to announce another policy, and that is to slash taxes on electric cars as part of a new suite of climate policies, which are aimed at lowering cost of living pressures. They say the Party will remove government charges on non-luxury electric vehicles, including import taxes, and fringe benefit tax to drive down the sticker price if you like, for people who want to drive electric cars.

KENEALLY: And you know, a lot of people do want to drive electric cars because they are cheaper. And you know, the reality is Australians have been living without a wage increase, without a pay rise now for years. The cost of living is going up and yet their pay packets aren't increasing. And we know that moving to electric vehicles is being done all around the world. And that move is both lowering the cost for consumers and it's good for the economy. 

But the other good thing about electric vehicles and making this shift is that, you know, here in Australia, we produce all the things that go into batteries. We produce and have the capability if we invest in it, to be able to not just provide the raw materials but indeed, be engaged in the manufacturing of component parts of electric vehicles.

Now we remember that this eight-year-old Liberal government chased the car industry out of Australia. You know what, the combination of the policies and proposals that Anthony Albanese is putting forward at our conference this week is about restarting our manufacturing, creating jobs, and building not just the jobs, but also the products for the future. 

And so this is really an exciting proposal, both the National Reconstruction Fund and the electric vehicles announcement that will be made today. Because we are about taking Australia into the future, we're building Australia's future, with Australians and with Australian jobs.

PAUL: Alright, a couple of things, though, that have been noted in the press this morning. The proposed plan lacks definitive positions on hot button issues, including support for coal fired power, the role of gas in the energy mix and measures to further boost renewable energy. That's, that's the take that I've got, there's a couple of things that aren't being discussed.

KENEALLY: Well in fact, I would invite people to look at the platform at the end of the conference, because it is very much thinking clear our commitments towards our commitment of a 2050 net zero emission target. And you know, I note that Scott Morrison and his Government won't make that commitment, despite the fact every state and territory, every major business group in Australia have done so, and many countries around the world. 

And you've got to have that kind of clear target to know where you're going. If you don't have a target, if you don't have a goal, you don't know how you're going to get there. And so when it comes to energy and climate, we're very clear. There is not going to be another coal fired power station built in Australia. The private sector has made that clear. It's not worth investing in. And what we need to do is ensure that we are using the most efficient and lowest emissions technology available to meet our energy supply. Gas definitely has a role to play in that and Anthony has been clear about that and Labor has been clear about that.

PAUL: Well, we'll speak to Albo on the program tomorrow about more of the announcements during this conference. Just on another issue, Kristina, there were questions asked to the Prime Minister, before he announced his new Cabinet - his new and improved female additions to the Cabinet. There's a little bit of a double standard going on in regard to Andrew Laming. I don't understand how this man is still able to remain in the Parliament. He'll earn around $210,000 until he decides to walk out of the joint and not contest the next election. Look, I understand how politics works, but if in New South Wales, Michael Johnsen's being forced out of the door, surely at the federal level, Andrew Laming needs to go as well.

KENEALLY: Andrew Laming should not be in Parliament. This is a man who has been trolling and threatening his own female constituents online. He has asked members of his community to track and troll a particular constituent. He has taken the photos of a woman - I even hesitate to describe it - but the term that's used is "upskirting" - taking photos of where her underwear is available, is visible. And now the Queensland Police have confirmed they've received a criminal complaint about that behaviour and it is a crime. 

And so it's extraordinary that the Prime Minister who says he now "gets it" when it comes to the, as he says, quote "the crap women live with." Well, "the crap women live with" Prime Minister includes being trolled and online threatened, stalked, harassed, and having indecent photos taken without your consent. As long as the Prime Minister continues to shelter Andrew Laming in his Liberal Party room, he shows the rest of us that he just doesn't get it when it comes to the quote, "crap."

PAUL: Well, it look, it does seem very hypocritical, and to have that man still within the party and still within the Parliament, given everything that's gone on in the last few weeks. And given the announcement...

KENEALLY: Marcus, can we just bell the cat here, can we just name the problem? The reason Scott Morrison will not act on Andrew Laming is because he is scared of losing his majority on the floor of the Parliament. This is a Prime Minister that is putting his own power and his own political survival ahead of the principle and the right thing to do. We have had minority governments before in Australia. He can he can manage. He should put his principle, as he told us he had, a principle about respecting women, he needs to demonstrate that and remove Andrew Laming from the party room. 

Quite frankly, Andrew Laming shouldn't be a Member of Parliament, and should he still be leave, when we return to the Parliament, Labor will consider all his options when it comes to whether or not he's provided a pair or an approved absence from the Parliament.

PAUL: That's something I asked your colleague, Andrew Leigh about yesterday. And I, and it's all very well to and I respect that people like you and Andrew come on the program, and you call it out for what it is, but then I get a lot of messages from people who support Labor and and listen to this program that then say, 'well, okay, if they really want to prove a point, don't provide the Prime Minister with a pair.' I mean, how many pairs have you given these people considering their running out of troops?

KENEALLY: They are running out of people, that is a fair observation. Let's make this point. Some of the pairs that have been provided have been for medical reasons, as you know, that goes both ways. And we have currently right now, Labor Members of Parliament who are on medical leave, either, one because she is on maternity leave, and another member who has been dealing with cancer treatment. 

PAUL: Yeah, but they are very different issues Kristina. 

KENEALLY: They are, but what I was going to go to is that Tony Burke, the leader of our Party in the House of Representatives, in terms of the Manager of Opposition Business, has made clear that you know, there is no automatic granting of a pair here. And we will consider all of our options, and we have options here, when it comes to the return of Parliament, which is not until May. So we have some time here.

PAUL: In other words, if Andrew doesn't go, if Andrew Laming doesn't go before May, it's highly likely that Labor will not grant a pair for him in the Parliament?

KENEALLY: Well, as Tony Burke has said, we're considering all our options and we have made, we have given no commitment.

PAUL: Alright, okay, thank you, Kristina. Appreciate it. Love our chats. We'll talk again next week. Thank you.

KENEALLY: I enjoy them too, Marcus, thank you so much.