SUBJECTS: Labor’s National Broadband Network announcement; Labor’s policy agenda; Federal election; lack of trust in Scott Morrison and his Government; protests in Melbourne; climate change; wages; industrial relations.

Thank you very much for being here. It's wonderful to welcome the Leader of the Opposition here, the Shadow Minister for Education, and the famous ex-student of this school, Michelle Rowland. So, we are glad to have you here. And we are really impressed that as a policy initiative, you've been listening as we've been lobbying governments, as all educationists have been lobbying all governments, to say it is a fundamental requirement for 21st century learning for all our communities, not just the students, it's the parents and the teachers who need access, and they need it through connectivity. So, we welcome that initiative. And we thank you for being here and sharing your ideas with us. I'd like now to hand over to Anthony Albanese. Thank you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Greg. And thanks for the work that you and others in the Catholic education sector do for some of our youngest Australians, including here in the Parramatta diocese. What we have today is a further announcement about the National Broadband Network and about the need to connect our people up with education services and health services. During the pandemic, it has been particularly the case that young people have had to learn from home. As a result, there's been some inequity there. Because not all young Australians have the same access to computers, to the internet, to services. And that's why families, particularly here in Western Sydney at Lalor Park, where we are today, have been doing it tough. In the absence of government support, there's been an extraordinary step up, including by the Catholic Education office here have provided some 13,000 devices and dongles for local students in the Parramatta region. That's fantastic. And it shows their commitment to making sure that no child is left behind when it comes to education. But we need to do far more.

What we're announcing today is support that some 30,000 families with no internet at home will be given support for a 12-month period if we are successful in coming to office. And then during that period, we will undertake further work and consultation about how we can make sure that no child is left behind going forward. This builds on our announcement yesterday of 1.5 million additional home and business connections to high-speed broadband for those who want it. We know that the National Broadband Network was about the 21st century, was about giving people access to fibre. It was about giving people access to the connections. It wasn't just about downloading videos. It was about education services. It was about health services. It was about small businesses being able to connect with markets, both domestic and global. And we know that part of the reason why we wanted all Australians to have that access, 93 per cent of homes to have the direct access to fibre, in our original plan before it was trashed by this Government, was that it was about equity. It was about overcoming the tyranny of distance between those who live in our regions and those who live in our CBDs. If you can have the same connections and access to markets in a regional community as you can in George Street, Sydney, then all of a sudden you have a competitive advantage for businesses to locate in our outer-suburban communities, in our regions. And that's why this plan, as well, is targeted at 660,000 people and businesses in our regional communities would benefit. Today, I'm fortunate to be joined by a former school captain here at this school in Michelle Rowland. And I'll ask her to make some comments. And also, by Labor's education spokesperson, Tanya Plibersek. I want to take the opportunity to congratulate Tanya on being the longest serving woman in the House of Representatives since Federation. It's a great achievement. We're very proud of Tanya and are proud of the contribution that she's made. But most importantly, look forward to the contribution that she will make as the Education Minister in this country. An Education Minister who values every child, and who recognises that investment in education is an investment in Australia's future. It's an investment that contributes not just to the individual, it contributes to the whole of society, which is a very different frame that we have on education. It's about creating opportunity, not about entrenching privilege, which is why today's announcement is consistent with our approach, which is that no child should be left behind.

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Thank you, Anthony. Bridging the digital divide is a key plank of the Labor mission. And that is why today's announcement is so important. ABS statistics at the beginning of the pandemic last year showed that there were some 55,000 families across Australia who, for whatever reason, did not have access to the internet at home. And that can be for any number of reasons. Affordability, any kind of challenges in people's lives to do with being able to get connected. And we know that there are some 30,000 families today who are probably still not connected to the internet. So, COVID exposed the depth of this digital divide. We had stories, and I'm sure many of them have been heard by teachers here at St Bernadette's, of people needing to park outside free wireless areas just to download the school structure for the day so their children could do remote learning. And that's simply not good enough. So, our proposal here today is to provide access to those families to the internet via the NBN. This will be done on a commercial basis with the NBN giving rebates to a designated service provider. And indeed, building on some of the efforts that the NBN and the carriers made during the pandemic. They in fact, at the NBN Co, had a designated fund for this purpose. We will reactivate that and make it better. And during that period, as Anthony said, we will look at transitional methods so that we ensure that in future, for whatever reason, no child is left behind. Access and equity are a key plank of the Labor mission. And this announcement today, whilst modest, will make a very important change to so many young people's lives.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Thank you. Kids and families found remote learning very difficult. It was hard to concentrate. It was hard when you had multiple kids trying to get onto the one device at home. But for some families, the real struggle was that they weren't connected to the internet at all. We saw the power of online learning when used well. So many children for the first time were looking at games and programs from around the world. And that was really supporting their learning. What we want to make sure of is that every child has that opportunity. Every Australian child should get a great education, with all of the richness that online learning, when done properly, can offer. Now, of course, we're going into a period where we hope kids will be back in the classroom permanently. But there's still homework. So many children now are doing so much of their homework and their learning online, that to think that there are thousands of children missing out on that opportunity is just not right. During lockdown, I had people in my own electorate, a little girl who took herself off to sit outside the closed public library because that was the only place that she could get free Wi-Fi. It was the only way she could complete the work that was set for her. She got moved along by the police because she didn't have the right to be sitting out there using the free Wi-Fi during lockdown. That shouldn't be happening in Australia today, that little kids are sitting outside public buildings hoping to get a bit of free Wi-Fi so they can do their schoolwork. So, I'm delighted to be here today with our Leader, Anthony Albanese, and our Communications Shadow Minister, Michelle Rowland, making this important announcement that will make online learning a little bit easier for thousands of children.

ALBANESE: Thank you. Happy to take questions on this, firstly.

JOURNALIST: How will the 30,000 families be sourced?

ROWLAND: We will be using data provided by state education departments for which schools, obviously, feed that into. They'll be assessed by NBN Co as being eligible. And NBN Co will engage with the retail service provider and enable that one-point connection for that affected family to ensure that they receive their internet.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

ROWLAND: Well, the 30,000 is a reliable estimate that we have based on ABS data. But what we would do is look at the outcomes, the take-up in particular, because as I said, the NBN Co and the carrier should be commended for their efforts that they did during the pandemic. But it was a relatively low take-up rate in that instance. So, I think there's great opportunity to build on that. And we should get a much clearer idea about how many families are affected today. Because bear in mind, those ABS statistics, of course, would have been old even at that time. And we know that schools and that the Catholic Education office here in Parramatta, for example, went to great efforts to ensure that children were put online and kept online. So, we'll make an assessment of that during that one-year transitional period. But our intention is always that everyone will have the same equality of access.

JOURNALIST: Protesters in Melbourne have this week carried signs advocating violence against politicians and wheeled out nooses. What's your response to this escalation? And are you worried about your safety and the safety of your colleagues?

ALBANESE: Well, I condemn it. There is no place in Australian public life for people threatening the lives of politicians or anyone else. What we've seen is the participation, as well, of at least one member of the House of Representatives, in Craig Kelly, and state members of the Liberal Party, along with other figures who participated in these demonstrations that have included explicit threats against the Premier of Victoria and against other people in public life. Here in Australia, we have a democratic process. We have civil discourse, whereby we should be able to engage in debate in a civil manner. And I condemn any of the violent images and threats which have been made. I also call upon Scott Morrison and other public leaders to show leadership and to call out this behaviour and to distance themselves from it. It is absolutely critical that this occurs, because we know that, tragically, the consequences of threats, we have seen politicians murdered in the United Kingdom, in the United States. We've seen threats against politicians here. It has absolutely no place in Australian public life.

JOURNALIST: Are you worried about your own safety at all?

ALBANESE: I will continue to engage with people. And I've got to say, I do want to thank Greg and his team here at St Bernadette's. It's fantastic to be back in a school, talking to students. One of the things that I've missed over the last couple of years is being out and about and engaging with people. Now, the Prime Minister, for reasons beyond my comprehension, has called the election campaign. And he's now in the pre-caretaker mode of that election campaign. So, it looks like we'll be out and about for some period of time. It appears that the Government has given up governing and has insisted on just campaigning. But I'll continue to be out there talking with people, listening, most importantly, to what people have to say. Because my team, including Michelle and Tanya who are with me today, we are preparing our alternative plans for the country. And to do that, you need to listen. You need to listen to the problems which are there. And then you need to put in place practical plans to do that. We had an announcement yesterday, we've got another one today, we'll have more to say on the weekend. We are determined to put forward a very clear alternative and not to be distracted by the sort of activity from what are elements and statements that have no place in public life. But it is up to the leaders of our country, including the Prime Minister, to condemn this behaviour. And that should happen today. The silence has been deafening.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister is borrowing a line from John Howard on the issue of, 'Who do you trust to keep the cost of living down?' What does that tell you that his campaign will be about?

ALBANESE: It tells you that he's given up governing. It tells you that he's given up on his non-record. This is a Government that have been in office now for almost nine years, that are asking for a second decade in office, that haven't implemented any significant economic reform, that have racked up a trillion dollars of debt, that in two budgets, spaced pretty close to each other, they engaged in $100 billion of new spending on each occasion without any major legacy. Labor, when we were in the Global Financial Crisis, put forward plans like the National Broadband Network, a plan to connect up Australia and to bring our communications into the 21st century. Part of that was a structural separation of Telstra to introduce competition back into the sector. We introduced paid parental leave. We rebuilt one third of the interstate rail freight network. We invested more in urban public transport than all previous governments combined in the previous 107 years. Ministers like Tanya Plibersek, as the Housing Minister, built or rebuilt some 80,000 public housing dwellings in this country. We ensured that there was a legacy. 

This Government has no legacy, a trillion dollars of debt, no plan going forward in terms of economic policy, social policy, on climate change, they are all over the shop. They signed up in Glasgow to a higher 2030 target in the communique, and then distanced themselves from their own statement within 24 hours. We have a Deputy Prime Minister who pretends that he's not part of the Morrison Government. We have a Liberal Party that fights itself, a National Party that fights itself, and a Liberal Party that fights the National Party. And we have total chaos from those opposite. It's no wonder that Scott Morrison has given up governing and he's running a scare campaign. The fact is that people can't trust Scott Morrison because he doesn't trust himself. Scott Morrison has said that he has no regard for what he has said yesterday, so why would you trust him today? On electric vehicles, he said it would end the weekend. Now, he wants to support electric vehicles. On batteries for renewable energy, he said they were as useful as the Big Prawn and the Big Banana. On renewable energy targets, he said they were nuts. On net zero by 2050, he said that it would ruin the economy before he then adopted it, kind of. More a vibe than a policy under this Government. 

This country needs a Government as strong and determined to look to the future as the people are themselves. We have an obligation as public office holders to look after the young people we've been with today in St Bernadette's. What that requires is a Government that's not scared of the present and terrified of the future. But that's what we have in Scott Morrison. So, we expect more scare campaigns. We expect more nonsense, just claims with no basis and fact. And just look at Scott Morrison's record of where he walks away from his own comments and pretends that he hasn't said things that he has said. So, get ready for more scare campaigns from a Prime Minister who doesn't want to have a positive vision. I say this - we need to have a plan to shape the future. Because unless we do, the future will shape us. And it will be less equitable, it will be less strong. We have a plan to build back stronger under Labor. And that's what I'm determined to lead.

JOURNALIST: You're asking people to vote for change in the next election. Are you concerned that after two years of a pandemic, people may be resistant to more change?

ALBANESE: Well, Labor supports safe change. We support change that is in the interest of people, that brings people with us. I think what people are sick of is divisiveness, is a Prime Minister who attacks some state premiers and defends others who are doing exactly the same thing. It is a Prime Minister, who on every issue, will look for how to wedge Labor. It's always about the politics with this Prime Minister, never about the substance. It is about the policy announcement, never about the delivery of those announcements. Always about the photo up, not the follow up. This is a Prime Minister, when he had to choose who stayed with him in the Lodge, an economic policy advisor, a foreign policy advisor, a health policy advisor, his priority was his personal photographer. That is always a priority with this Prime Minister. It is always about the spin. And I think that over time, people have seen through it with this Prime Minister. He speaks about, 'Who do you trust?' Who do you trust? This is a Prime Minister, who when he talks about forcing people and choice, this is a Prime Minister in the wake of the bushfire crisis went to Cobargo to force people to shake his hand. Labor supports choice. Labor supports giving people opportunity. We support a government being an enabler of action by individuals, by communities, by the private sector. This Government don't have a plan for that. What they have is a plan to force people into a range of behaviours, be it their attitude towards payments like pensions, that this Government and Scott Morrison has said is welfare. For Labor, being a pensioner isn't welfare. It's something that you've earned through your working life.

JOURNALIST: Will Labor's 2030 carbon emissions reduction target be more than 35 per cent?

ALBANESE: Look, we'll announce all of our plans going forward. We'll have more to say by the end of the year. We only received the Government's modelling less than a week ago, released late on a Friday with no press conference, with no details, no opportunity to scrutinise. But what we know is that far from adding up to 100, it adds up to 85. If the young students here that we've been talking with in St Bernadette's produce that as their homework, they'd get a fail from the fine teachers at the school. Because we all know that 85 isn't 100. And of that 85, some of it relies upon technology that hasn't been invented yet. We know that this is a Government that, in terms of 2030, signed up to the communique at Glasgow and then walked away from it and pretended that it didn't within 24 hours. 

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

ALBANESE: Well, what we've seen under this Government is real wages in decline. The figures that were released this week reinforce that. And the Government's own projections are that real wages will decline over the next four years. This is a Government that don't have a plan for secure work, don't have a plan to lift real wages. Labor does have a plan for secure work. We will put secure work into the Fair Work Act as an objective of the Act. We will properly define casualisation. We will address same job, same pay. We will address measures aimed towards the gender pay gap and closing that pay gap which is there. We'll have 10 days paid domestic and family violence leave. We will have same job, same pay provisions. We'll look at the ongoing contracting out that's occurring. We need a migration plan that is considered, that is in Australia's national interest. And Australia, of course, has always been a nation where migrants have come to make a better life for themselves and their families. And their contribution has been significant over a long period of time. What we need to avoid is the abuse that has occurred in some sectors whereby labour hire has been used to drive down wages and to drive down costs. This is a Government who, when we ask about minimum wages being paid, the former minister in the government said that it was complicated. It's not complicated to pay people the minimum wage. It's something that should occur. We need more jobs, but we also need more secure jobs. This Government have gone to court in the interests of employers who don't want to pay the same pay to two workers doing exactly the same job, working side by side. And we think that the use of cowboy labour hire firms has been a real problem and has helped to drive down those wages. Labour hire has a role to play. Temporary migration has a role to play. But it shouldn't be the starting point. The starting point should be support for permanent migration. Thanks very much.