Doorstop Interview - Woolworths Heathwood Distribution Centre


SUBJECTS: Woolworths Heathwood Distribution Centre; flood emergency on the east coast of Australia; Labor’s plan for aged care; national security; LAND 400; wages.

ANNASTACIA PALASZCZUK, PREMIER OF QUEENSLAND: Well, good morning, Queensland, we're going to hand over to Brad who's got a great announcement while we're here at Woolies today, huge investment, and lots of jobs for the local communities, one of the largest distribution centres in Queensland.

BRAD BANDUCCI, CEO OF WOOLWORTHS GROUP: Thank you Premier. It’s my great pleasure to be here today to open the Heathwood distribution centre. Resilience in supply chain is what it's all about at the moment, and so it's fabulous to have this facility as part of the group and really helping reinforce getting the right food and supply into our Queensland stores and also into northern New South Wales stores, and delighted to be joined by the premier of Queensland, Annastacia Palaszczuk to help us on the opening. So thank you, Premier, thank you for doing this, and over to you.

PALASZCZUK: Okay, thanks Brad. So this is $184 million investment, 200 construction jobs, we know how important it is to have families in employment. And it was great to meet with the many workers here today that come from right across the southeast to work at this key distribution centre, there'll be 300 ongoing jobs, and this distribution centre is three times the size of Suncorp Stadium. So it's pretty huge, it's pretty massive, and it's a huge vote of confidence in the Queensland economy. Now I might hand over to Albo to say a few words and then we'll have any questions about this facility and then we'll move on to other topics.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much Premier. And Thanks, Brett for having us here today. I should declare an interest, my son has worked for Woolworths for the last six years through school and now through university, and it's a great company. And I want to say this, Brad, at a time where we acknowledged today, the effort of Woolworths and other retailers getting us through the pandemic and dealing with the supply chain challenges which were there. I well remember going to the bushfires in northern New South Wales in 2019/20. I attended a facility there in Mullumbimby. And they were getting lots of food, volunteered for people who've lost their homes, but they weren't able to store the food. I rang a Woolworths board member and a fridge was delivered, a large fridge within 24 hours making a difference to people during that bushfire crisis. And it's the sort of commitment that we saw repeated as well during the floods, so it's great to be here today.

I will later on today be visiting Pat and Jack in the electorate of Lilley with Anika Wells as well. We'll be talking about the need to put a cap on administration fees for home care. Labor has a plan to deal with the aged care crisis, whether it be aged care residents or whether it be home care. We know the waiting lists have blown out under this Government. And we know that for many people, they're concerned about the costs of home care compared with the services that have been delivered. Well, we will make it transparent. We will ensure that all homecare providers have to provide details transparently of where the money is going each month, and make sure that the priority is for dealing services to people like Pat and Jack. They have been married for 70 years, and I look forward to meeting with them later today.

And before then, we'll be visiting Dohles Rocks Rd where we'll be committing $200 million to deliver the upgrade to eight lanes to the north between the north of Brisbane and the Moreton Bay region. This is our latest commitment to the Bruce Highway. I note that when I was the Minister for the Bruce Highway, I inherited a neglect $1.3 billion had been spent on the Bruce Highway under the Howard Government over 12 years. We invested $7.6 billion over our six years making an enormous difference. I look forward to working with the Palaszczuk Government to deliver better roads and better infrastructure for Queensland. And our commitment that we'll be making today is just one part of that commitment to improving productivity, reducing travel times, particularly during peak periods, but also improving road safety.

PALASZCZUK: Thanks. Just before taking questions, I just want to mention that in relation to our pop-up vaccination clinics that we had for children, over the weekend, we had over 2200 students, young children who went and got vaccinated. So can I say to the parents, thank you very much. We have 50 pop-up vaccination centres over the school holidays. So please, we really want to drive up those vaccination rates. So I think that would be fantastic if parents would give serious consideration to taking their young kids on an excursion to get their children vaccinated.

Finally, whilst I'm here, I just wanted to once again, mention, and I understand the New South Wales Premier is also talking about this, we really need to see money matched from the Federal Government when it comes to our flood response. Now, we've had that letter in with Scott Morrison now for several weeks, it's very important because people need to make decisions now about what they do long term, whether they stay in their homes, whether they raise the homes or whether they move to higher ground. So it's absolutely imperative that we get the decisions relating to this $771 million package as quickly as possible. Our 50 per cent is on the table. And we really need to see the Morrison Government step up and match it because people need to make decisions. And Milton and I were just on Saturday speaking to some flood impacted residents in Goodna, and they said ‘we need to know, we need to know as soon as possible’, because they have to work out where they are going to live. So we really need an answer about whether or not, and all the information’s there, I understand the New South Wales Premier’s making the same claims essentially, about giving the money so the states can ensure that people can rebuild their lives after the flood. So, okay, so we're happy to take any questions to clarify.

During these floods, I was able to go with the head of our reconstruction authority to Grantham. Now the people who moved from the lower parts of Grantham into the new estate: my advice is that none of those houses were impacted at all during the most recent floods. I think it's something you have to talk to the community about, some people had properties still in Grantham, they held on to those properties, whether it was for agricultural livestock, but they were able to move and I think you've got to give people that choice. So our position is about buying back properties, it's about raising them up higher. So this package is so important, so we really made a decision in relation to this. But in relation to Lismore, that's a matter for the community to be talking with their state Government and their local councils.

JOURNALIST: Will we be seeing you a lot with Mr Albanese during the federal campaign?

PALASZCZUK: Oh, well, depends on my time, and depends on his time. And don't forget that Albo’s got to travel right across the nation, and I'm very pleased to be able to join with Anthony here today.

JOURNALIST: What commitments will you be seeking from Mr Albanese heading into the election?

PALASZCZUK: Oh, well, there'll be a few.

JOURNALIST:  What are they? What have you got for us?

PALASZCZUK: Oh, I'm ready. Well, well, we'll be talking about that during the coming weeks.

JOURNALIST: What’s your experience, Premier, in dealing with Mr Morrison in National Cabinet? Do you necessarily share this view that he’s a bully?

PALASZCZUK: I'm not going to discuss national cabinet deliberations.

JOURNALIST: But it’s about your opinion of the Prime Minister, I mean, do you have, do you think that he's a bully?

PALASZCZUK: I am not commenting on those matters at all. I am here today to open a new facility and talking about workers. And I think at the end of the day, what Queenslanders want and what the nation wants is they want a vision for the future. And they want leadership and they want action. And the action can start by delivering the matching funds for flood impacted people across our state, across our community.

JOURNALIST: Albo, should the Prime Minister sign that stat dec that he said he would sign?

ALBANESE: We might deal with questions for the Premier first.

PALASZCZUK: Any other questions?

JOURNALIST: If Labor wins will you be asking a Federal Labor Government to cover quarantine costs for hotel quarantine and isolation?

PALASZCZUK: The hotels are being scaled right down. So we know that there's a plan for the Federal Government at the moment for Pinkenba. We still haven't seen where they're up to with Pinkenba. But you know we have offered, we actually now have a purpose-built quarantine facility, we had this debate during the State Parliament last week. I believe quarantine is a Federal Government responsibility. It's in the constitution. But let me say this, we have also offered the people of northern New South Wales if they wanted to utilise Wellcamp. The facility is there to help flood impacted people. You know, having these purpose-built facilities is basically safeguarding our future, it is ensuring that we have these facilities for anything that may be thrown at us into the future.

JOURNALIST: Premier, you’ve managed the Queensland economy based off that fine line at times in negotiating with mining companies in balancing the needs of the environment. What advice do you have to Mr Albanese in terms of the statements made by Federal Labor back in the last campaign, in terms of the perception that jobs may be jeopardised?

PALASZCZUK: I think Albo shares, Albo absolutely shares my commitment to jobs, okay. There is nothing more important than the dignity of work. And to be able to have a roof over a family's head, to be able to put food on the table. These are basic principles that my grandfather taught me, my father has always spoken to me about and it's something I firmly believe in. So every job in our economy is important. But we also too, have to look at what are the jobs that are coming for the future as well.

And we need to be prepared, we need to have a strong environment of skills, employment, to making sure that our universities, sorry, that our high schools are linking with the industries to make sure that our population is prepared for these jobs. So, you know, we're at a great crossroads at the moment in our economy. And we've got to make sure that we have the skills there for whatever job is thrown at us.

JOURNALIST: On that question, Labor's primary votes collapsed in the last election because of that perception that the party was against coal, what's changed?

ALBANESE: We need to do better in Queensland. And I put out a very concrete plan, including a plan for powering the nation, a plan that will provide certainty, whether it's for the mining sector, or whether it be for the energy sector. One that, fully costed, will create 640,000 new jobs, will result in $52 billion of private sector investment. And the good news is that five out of every six of those jobs will be in regional Australia. And as the most regional state in our commonwealth, Queensland stands to particularly benefit from our policy. It will result in energy prices coming down by $275 per household. And I've been a friend of the Premier for a long period of time, I worked with the Premier of Queensland when we were both infrastructure ministers for our respective governments. And we built together projects like the upgraded the Ipswich motorway, as well as important road and rail projects throughout Queensland. But I've also seen what premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has presided over as a bit of a template for the way forward for Federal Labor. And I'll mention just one: making things here. You look at Maryborough, and you go through that wonderful regional town and how it's been revitalised by the upgrade by actually making trains here in Australia. Imagine how strong that would be if that was a national approach. And here in Queensland as well, you look at a company like Tritium, producing the fastest EV charging stations in the world and exporting them to North America and to Europe. We’re a smart country and this is a smart state, and Queensland will benefit from our approach to jobs.

JOURNALIST: Will you be visiting coal mines in the upcoming campaign?

ALBANESE: I'll be visiting lots of places during the campaign. Lots of places, I'm here at a distribution centre, I've visited a coal mine or visited lots of other resources sectors, and I'll be out and about each and every day campaigning and I'll spend substantial time in Queensland, and I'll make this point. I don't just come to Queensland when there's a federal election campaign or to campaign against the Palaszczuk Government and do fundraisers like Scott Morrison did. I've been here consistently over, now two decades, making a difference, making commitments, seeing projects realised right throughout the entire state. One at a time, one at a time. 

JOURNALIST: Will you need to increase taxes to pay for your aged care policies?

ALBANESE: No we won’t, what we'll do is get rid of waste. That's one of the things that we'll be doing, getting rid of the waste, our tax policy, we've said repeatedly, the only tax measures that we're looking at is making multinationals pay their fair share, so that Australian businesses are disadvantaged in our economy. That's what we're looking at. In terms of, in terms of going forward, we have a plan that's been outlined, a plan for cheaper energy, a plan to build things here by having high value manufacturing powered by that, and a plan to skill up Australians through 465,000 fee-free TAFE places, and by having 20,000 additional University places. And I'll say this, this is a coalition actually saying we can afford to give older Australians decent food and decent care? Is that what they're saying? They established a Royal Commission into aged care, which is in crisis, which had a one-word summary of ‘neglect’. And now they're refusing to actually respond to the recommendations of their royal commission. I say this, I make no apologies for saying that our older Australians deserve to live with dignity and with respect. They deserve proper care.

JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, in relation to LAND 400, senior analysts from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute say with war in Ukraine, revealing perhaps the weaknesses of armoured vehicles that any incoming up should take a big breath and assess whether the, you know, the LAND 400 programme is still in line with national security priorities and needs. not that it should be scrapped, but it should be scaled back or kept the same. Would you consider assessing LAND 400?

ALBANESE: Well, what we have said is it will have in terms of defence, we'll have a defence forward posture review, it will be the first that we've had in a decade. But the other point we've made about all of our defence investments is it's got to produce something. It's no good saying oh we've spent $4 billion - which by the way, is much more than the two and a half billion dollars that we've committed to aged care in last week's budget reply - $4 billion that has produced nothing except a torn-up contract. What we need to do is to make sure, and people like Greg Sheridan have pointed this out consistently in The Australian, that the problem with this Government is that it hasn't produced an increase in our defence assets as a result of expenditure. And that is the issue. We need to actually get smarter, make sure that our investments produce an outcome and produce greater capacity.

Because what we have is a capability gap that is coming because of the failure of this government to actually deliver on its commitments. (inaudible journalist interruptions). We’ll do it in an orderly way. 

JOURNALIST: In the latest Newspoll, Labor has lost support which has mostly been picked up by the Greens. Are you losing ground with progressive voters in Australia’s capital cities?

ALBANESE: Look, I'm worried about the poll on polling day. I'll leave it to the commentators to comment on day-to-day but I'll tell you what I'm hearing here in Queensland, I've been here again for the last - I arrived on Saturday. Whether it's at formal events or going shopping in the mall, yesterday, is Queenslanders are telling me that this is a tired old government that's out of ideas and out of time. They want to change. So I want a government that actually has a plan for a better future. Not a plan that's divided. Not a government that is just arguing when you ask about this government, whether it's even the treasurer was at it again yesterday. There he is. In the week after the budget. It took until Wednesday morning, the morning after, for this government to talk about Labor, more Labor and more Labor.

JOURNALIST: What would you say to all Labor supporters everywhere? By way of encouragement, if you like, about your chances of winning certain seats in Queensland and if you had to talk to them about seats about which you’re confident, which ones would you nominate?

ALBANESE: I'll leave that to the commentators again. I'm pretty confident that this fella will win, Milton Dick. But I'm out there, I'm out there campaigning in seats across the board. Yesterday, I was in Lilley in Brisbane. After this I'll be in Dickson. I will be campaigning throughout Queensland, I as leader of the Labor Party have done four extensive road trips. The last one, at the beginning of January we drove from Cairns to Maryborough. We visited 20 towns and cities in 10 days, and what I would say is the feedback I have from Queenslanders is that they're up for a change.

JOURNALIST: Beyond the vibe, what's the internal polling?

ALBANESE: They're up for a change. Well, internal polling, you've just answered the question. It's internal. But in general, I make this point. Be aware of politicians who say, our internal polling, I’ve seen it before, our internal polling is very different from the external polling. Guess what, not rocket science here - Newspoll spends more on surveying people than the Labor Party does or the Liberal Party does. In general, it reflects pretty similar outcomes.

But we look forward to campaigning here in southeast Queensland. Our supporters are encouraged. Let me tell you yesterday, we had, I don't know how many hundred people there at the services club. It was a services club that was used for people who were evacuated during the floods. And it was a very different feel there yesterday, people have been very positive. Hang on, this woman here first.

JOURNALIST: Have you modelled how much it'll cost to pay for wage increases in non-government aged care?

ALBANESE: Well, what we know is that whoever is in government, our industrial relation system works this way. The Fair Work Commission hands down a finding. And then it's binding. It's not an option. So wherever, whatever the figure that they hand down, of course, will need to be funded. The difference here is, that Labor is saying that the Royal Commission said unless you increase the wages of aged care workers, people will continue to leave the industry and older Australians will be left, without workers to care for them. We heard in the Royal Commission, stories about older Australians lying on the floor, begging, needing help to be got up. Is that a circumstance which is sustainable? That is a major cost, that is a human cost.

And I find it astonishing that we're reducing humanity to this debate as a result of a Coalition that just shows itself to be heartless, that's presided over a system in crisis for almost a decade, that called a Royal Commission, and then when the Royal Commission says, aged care workers deserve more than $22 an hour, and if you don't pay them that you won't have enough workers to feed, and shower, and clean, and look after the health care of our older Australians, their response is this absurdity of pretending that things can just continue as they are. We make no apologies –

JOURNALIST: Unions want 25 per cent, what impact does that have on the budget?

ALBANESE: Well, what we have is a Fair Work Commission that's independent of government - independent of government - and government can make a decision of making a submission. That's what Labor did when we were last in office for the Social and Community Services Award. That resulted in people who are working as community service workers, a particularly feminised industry. And why is it that in Australia in 2022, that if you think about those occupations, which are less paid, they have two things in common, because we're talking about cleaners, aged care workers, childcare workers, they had this in common. One, they're primarily occupied by women, not exclusively, but they're largely feminised industries. And the second is, they’re heroes of the pandemic. This is a government that was prepared to say how well they were doing, well they deserve a bit more than our thanks, they deserve our respect, and they deserve better pay. Thank you.