Doorstop interview at Parliament House
Subject: Labor’s Australia Post hypocrisy; Immigration Detention
David Coleman: Well, good afternoon. I wanted to make some remarks today about the Government’s announcement on Australia Post. We’ll carefully review that announcement and respond in due course. What I wanted to particularly focus on today is the Government’s extraordinary hypocrisy on Australia Post. There’s a theme with this Government and it’s one thing before the election, something completely different after the election. Before the election, electricity prices were going to come down by $275 per family, they told us. After the election, not so much. Before the election, they said mortgages would be cheaper. After the election, not so much. And that applies absolutely to Australia Post as well. And I wonder if the Government thinks that Australians don’t have access to Facebook. And the Communications Minister being responsible for social media should be aware that millions of Australians can actually access Facebook. Because in Opposition, the Government, the now Government attacked our proposals to make sensible changes to the letter delivery business in Australia Post, which now in Government, they’re embracing. And so here is the post from Michelle Rowland, “Labor vows to oppose Australia Post cuts,” as they described them, which was about changes to the letter delivery business, very similar to what they’re saying they’re now going to do. And they felt so strongly about it that they actually went into the Parliament and moved a disallowance motion to stop the former Government from making changes to the Australia Post Letters business. So this is just the typical dodgy, one thing before the election, one thing after. But the Australian people aren’t stupid. They’re able to actually see what the Government said before the election. And this is part of a very, very consistent theme with this Government. We’ll be reviewing these changes very carefully and in particular looking at any impact on the regional and rural network of post offices. Those post offices are often the lifeblood of rural and regional towns, and we will fight any changes that would affect those regional and rural post offices. Happy to take any questions.
Journalist: Do you think that the Government should maintain letter delivery every day rather than every second day?
David Coleman: We will look at the Government’s proposal and when in government, we did make changes to the letter delivery business. It is important that Australia Post is fit for the modern environment, but that cannot be at the expense of rural and regional communities in particular. We’re going to very carefully review these changes. But what we know is this is just another example of dodgy hypocrisy, and the Government can’t be allowed to get away with that. To say one thing before the election about Australia Post, to criticise the Coalition and actually go into the Parliament and try and stop the Coalition Government from doing something and then basically try and do exactly the same thing in Government. People are over that. People are smarter than that. People are sick of that. And it is just another example of this dodgy, incompetent Government’s behaviour.
Journalist: Michelle Rowland specifically said this morning that there wouldn’t be any closures to Australia Post branches, particularly in rural and regional areas. So are you seeing anything that is going to be affecting regional towns? Or am I missing something?
David Coleman: We want to review that carefully. There are some changes described through the definition of regions and so on. And so, we are going to look at that very, very carefully. And that is a hugely important issue for the Coalition. So many of these great rural and regional towns of Australia are represented by members of the Coalition and so often those post offices are the centrepiece of those towns. It’s not just about the mail, it’s about other services, it’s about banking, it’s about the general store, it’s about so much. But often it’s the Australia Post aspect that makes those businesses viable. And it’s really, really important that those rural and regional towns are protected, and we will be examining this very closely.
Journalist: You said this before, that Australia Post does need to adapt to modern postal patterns, which essentially is more packages, less letters. So do you think that it’s fair enough for the Government to make these changes to reduce the postal days where letters are actually delivered?
David Coleman: Well, the Government needs to explain these changes and explain what impact it will have on communities, particularly rural and regional communities. It’s their proposal. It’s a similar proposal, as I said, to the exact proposal that they fought so hard against and which they described as something that they vowed to oppose in Opposition. I mean, this is just such incredible hypocrisy to say when you’re in Opposition, this is terrible. And then to say in Government, we’re going to do it. People are sick of that, and people are sick of that from this Government. And that’s what we think it’s particularly important to focus on today. But we’ll be reviewing the full proposal and responding in due course.
Journalist: Now, you used to be the Immigration Minister. Obviously, there’s been a huge focus on that portfolio this week and for the last month. What’s your take on what has happened with these laws? And in particular, at the moment it looks like we’re potentially going into territory where we’re going to be locking people up for crimes that they have not yet committed. What do you think about that? Is that dangerous territory to be piling into?
David Coleman: I think this is one of the worst examples of Ministerial incompetence in the history of this country. I have been here for ten years. I have not seen anything like this. It’s very obvious that Minister O’Neill and Minister Giles were completely and utterly unprepared for the frankly, very foreseeable consequences of this High Court decision. It is an absolute disgrace and how they can retain their roles in the Albanese Government is beyond me because it suggests that Prime Minister Albanese thinks they’re doing a really good job. They’re actually doing an appalling job. The mechanics of how it happened come down to one word, incompetence. And it’s the Coalition from Opposition that has led the Government’s response on that. We saw that even yesterday when the Coalition called on these laws to be passed through the Senate as a matter of urgency yesterday and then that occurred. So look, obviously our relevant Shadows will speak in detail on the legislation. But this is a disaster for this country, the way this has been handled. It is a shocking indictment on these Ministers. And I would challenge you to find anything quite like this in terms of Ministerial incompetence for a very, very long time.
Journalist: Just on the idea of preventative detention.
David Coleman: Well look, absolutely. We fully support the concept of preventative detention, and we were calling for it weeks ago. The Ministers at the time were saying, oh, it can’t happen, it’s all too hard. We were calling for a preventative detention regime some time ago. But the incompetence of this Government is writ large on this issue. They’re playing catch up. Effectively, the Opposition is leading in this legislative response, and it is a damning indictment on the Government.