March 19, 2022


SUBJECTS: Lion’s Appreciation Month; Cash payments the Liberals are talking about aren’t designed to get Australians through a difficult period, they're about getting the Morrison Government through an election; Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg have only just discovered the costs of living pressures on families because Australians start going to the polls in less than 50 days; Wishing Peter Malinauskas and the SA Labor team well; Scott Morrison treating Queenslanders like second class citizens; Passing of Kimberley Kitching; Statement from Penny Wong, Kristina Keneally and Katy Gallagher.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: I promised Di and Rob from the Lions Club that I'd mentioned at the start of this press conference that it is Lions Appreciation Month in March, so support your local Lions groups if you can.
There's a bit of Budget news around this morning that I wanted to cover off on. The cash payments that the Liberals are talking about today are not about getting Australians through a difficult period, they're about getting the Morrison Government through an election. 
Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg have only just discovered the costs of living pressures on families because Australians will start going to the polls less than 50 days from now. 
If Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg really cared about the costs of living pressures on Australian families, they wouldn't have spent the best part of a decade coming after people's take home pay. 
The costs of living pressures on Australian families didn't begin when Russia invaded Ukraine, they began when the Liberals and Nationals started attacking wages and job security for the best part of the last decade. 
No amount of cash payments on the eve of an election can make up for almost a decade of attacks on take home pay, and job security and Medicare. 
Australians won't be fooled by a government which has been in office now for almost a decade, all of a sudden pretending to care about the cost of living pressures that this Government has helped create, on their watch, by going after wages and job security for so long. 
This is all about getting the Government through an election, not about getting working families through a tough period.
These cash payments that are being talked about today are about one thing and one thing only: we are less than 50 days from people beginning to vote, and all of a sudden Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison want you to think that they understand and care about cost of living pressures. 
This Government is horrendously out of touch with the cost of living pressures on Australian families, they don't understand that they began well before the war in Ukraine, they don't understand that toxic combination of skyrocketing costs of living, falling real wages, and ordinary working families falling behind. If Australians want a government that genuinely cares about cost of living pressures, and wages, and Medicare, they need a new Labor Government led by Anthony Albanese. 
I'm here with Murray Watt as well today and I'll throw to him in a moment. Before I do, can I just say on behalf of federal Labor, we send our absolute best wishes to Peter Malinauskas and his incredible team in South Australia as they go to the polls today. Peter Malinauskas is a mate of mine but much more importantly than that he is an outstanding leader with a clear vision for the future and a really terrific team - people like Susan Close in Education, Chris Picton in Health, Stephen Mullighan in Treasury - we wish them all the very best today. He has run an outstanding campaign in South Australia. He deserves to win today but whether or not he does is now in the hands of the people of the great state of South Australia. We hope that they make the right decision today and they get themselves a new Labor Government under Peter Malinauskas. 
I'm going to throw to Murray now, I thank Murray for coming to the southern suburbs of Brisbane today to be here with us to talk about disaster recovery. I'll throw to him and then happy to take some questions.
MURRAY WATT, SHADOW MINISTER FOR DISASTER AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Thanks very much, Jim. It's terrific to be joining you here in your electorate. It's also been great to chat before we started with the local Lions and Girl Guides organisations, who were talking to me about the work that they did through the floods so recently, particularly just a little bit further south of here in Logan. That was one of the areas that copped some of the worst damage in South East Queenlsand. Talking to these groups was a reminder that so many people across Queensland and Northern New South Wales have really stepped-up both during the flood crisis and in the recovery as well. Unfortunately, the only group who've actually gone missing in this entire process is the Morrison Government and we continue to see that now. 
There's a couple of things in terms of the flood recovery that I wanted to talk about. The first is that Scott Morrison continues to treat Queenslanders like second class citizens when it comes to flood assistance. It has now been 10 days since Scott Morrison increased the rate of flood assistance to parts of Northern New South Wales and he extended it further a few days ago for the rest of Northern New South Wales as well. So we've now got a situation where just over the other side of the border, flood victims are receiving $3,000 per individual but when you stay on this side of the border in Queensland, people who have been just as badly affected are only receiving $1,000 per month. 
There is absolutely no explanation for this from Scott Morrison and there has not been a word of protest from any of Scott Morrison's Queensland federal LNP. Members. It's in stark contrast to a couple of the New South Wales Coalition Members who spoke up about their communities being excluded from these extra payments. They got a result by standing-up for their communities, taking it up to Scott Morrison, they actually got him to backdown and extend the higher rate of payment to their own communities as well. But we haven't heard boo from a single Queensland federal LNP Member about the fact that their communities are being left behind by their own Government. 
Now, I've seen that Scott Morrison is saying that he's going to be in Queensland on Monday. He should not show his face in Queensland until he is prepared to provide the same level of flood assistance to Queensland flood victims that he is doing for people over the border in New South Wales. We don't begrudge the extra assistance the people in New South Wales are getting - they need it - but so do people here in Queensland, so do people in Logan, in Brisbane, in Ipswich, and Gympie, and every other community that's been flooded as well. We shouldn't have to wait for Scott Morrison to turn up, put himself in front of TV cameras, before he gives Queenslanders what they deserve, and stops treating us like second class citizens. 
The other thing I just wanted to comment on briefly, was yesterday's announcement by the Government that they are finally going to unlock a nearly $5 billion Disaster Fund that has been sitting there unused for the last three years. As Jim said, we're now only 50 days away from the start of voting in this election, and it has taken an imminent election before we see Scott Morrison prepared to use these funds. This Fund was created three years ago with $4 billion in it, since that time he hasn't spent a cent on disaster recovery, he hasn't even started building a single disaster mitigation project let alone completing one. The only thing it has done is earn Scott Morrison's Government over $800 million in interest, so it's now nearly $5 billion. So it's been sitting there doing nothing for over 1,000 days but what do you know, 50 days before voting starts Scott Morrison’s decided it's time to unlock the funding. This is too little too late from Scott Morrison, he should have got moving a long time ago, he should have built the flood levees, he should have built the drainage systems that would have kept people safe through these recent floods.
CHALMERS: Over to you guys.
JOURNALIST: From Canberra, should your Leader call an inquiry into the Kimberley Kitching bullying allegations?
CHALMERS: I'd refer you to the statement that Penny Wong, and Kristina Keneally, and Katy Gallagher released yesterday refuting many of the allegations that have been made in the last little while in the media. I think that that statement was an important step. As I said yesterday, Penny Wong, and Kristina Keneally, and Katy Gallagher are people of immense decency, integrity, and kindness. I think we owe it to each other in the Labor family, and to the nation more broadly, to get around each other at this really difficult time, to properly mourn and grieve the loss of a really substantial and really terrific colleague in Kimberley Kitching, and to get around each other when times are tough. I think the overwhelming view of my colleagues in the Labor family is that we need to get around each other, we need to do the right thing by each other, and we need to make sure that we're supporting each other as we get through this difficult period. 
The three colleagues in the Senate that we've been talking about - Penny, Kristina, and Katy - they have made an immensely positive contribution to politics in this country, to making politics better rather than worse. We need to remember, even at difficult times like this - especially at difficult times like this - that we need to be looking after each other. I'm confident that that's the overwhelming view of our team. Murray works closely in the Senate with these colleagues, and so I might see if he wants to add briefly to those remarks.
WATT: Thanks, Jim. I absolutely echo the statements that Jim made both today and yesterday as well. I've had the great privilege of working with Penny Wong, Kristina Keneally, and Katy Gallagher, for nearly six years as a member of our Senate team. I've been involved in politics for about 30 years, and I would be happy to put the character, the integrity, and the kindness of those three outstanding women against any other person I've met in public life. And as Jim said, not only do they treat their colleagues with respect, and show leadership, but they've also played a key role in driving the efforts from federal Labor for culture change, both within our own party and within the parliament more broadly. So I think it's unfortunate that we continue to see allegations aired about these three women, especially at what is a very distressing time for anyone who knew or worked with Kimberley.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible). 
CHALMERS: I think that the overwhelming sense in our party is one of grief and mourning. Kimberley Kitching was a person of rare bravery and clarity. She was courageous when it came to human rights, she was compassionate when it came to health workers, she was fierce and fun. She is greatly missed by the people who loved her and she loved, and by her colleagues in the Labor family. Her funeral on Monday is an opportunity for people to mourn and grieve her loss. She was someone that we will miss a great deal.