Australian Government coat of arms

Prime Minister of Australia

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP

Joint Party Room

01 March 2016

Canberra

Prime Minister

E&OE

PRIME MINISTER:

Colleagues welcome as I said a moment ago, Barnaby is speaking to the ABARES Outlook Conference, the big agricultural economics conference of the year, so he’ll be a little late but Fiona Nash the Deputy Leader of the National Party is here.

And, here with me with Julie Bishop. Now my friends the challenge for Australia and the challenge for us as the Government is to ensure that we successfully transition from the mining construction boom to the new economy of the 21st century. That transition is the challenge and it is the most exciting opportunity and it depends upon the Government making the right calls.

It depends upon us encouraging innovation, investment, building infrastructure, opening markets, opening markets as we have done, as Andrew Robb has done, to the fastest growing markets in the world.

Those are the building blocks to that successful transition and we’ve set, we’ve been setting them in place, the big Free Trade Agreements. Our innovation agenda, encouraging investment in start-up companies, in new companies, encouraging and ensuring that our best researchers in our universities, our big research institutions collaborate with business and industry in a way frankly they’ve not done enough of. It has actually been a failure in years past.

Our primary researchers, some of the best scientists in the world, do not collaborate with business and industry to the extent that their counterparts do in Europe or the United States and we’re changing this. The Innovation and Science Agenda is all about that. We’re ensuring that children, our children, our grandchildren have the digital skills that understand coding, STEM, science, mathematics, in a way that will prepare them for the jobs of the 21st century. 

So we’re putting all of those blocks into place. We’re investing over $50 billion in infrastructure and we will do more. Our new approach to infrastructure, our new approach to cities will see us being a partner in the development of infrastructure in a way that will enable us to do more and as we heard so our powerfully from Paul Fletcher yesterday we’re actually fixing up the National Broadband Network. We’re building it. As many of you know, either you’re connected to it, or many of your constituents are now that’s what we’re doing.

So we’re setting all of those things in train. We know that these are the most exciting times. We know these are the most exciting opportunities. We’ve got to have the right policies to deliver them.

Now on the other hand we have the Labor Party who are stuck in the old politics, in the old Labor oppositionist politics, standing in the way of the new economy. What do they do? At a time when we need stronger confidence, stronger confidence, people prepared to borrow and have a go and invest in new businesses.

What do they do? Undermine the value of every home in Australia. Undermining the value of the single biggest asset class in Australia. That’s what they’re doing. There is no question.  That is their objective and at a time when we want people to invest and we want people to take risk and we want people to be fired up about these opportunities and invest in their farm, invest in their business, have a go, what Labor is doing is increasing by 50 per cent the tax on investments, the tax on capital gains. So they’re actually saying, they're saying at a time when we want investment, when we want more investment, they're going to put a greater tax on investment. It is extraordinary.

If you want people to do less of something, tax it some more. They clearly want house prices to be lower, undermining the confidence right across the economy.

This is the biggest asset of most Australian families and it is the biggest asset class.  They're undermining that and they're undermining investment.

They are standing in the way of this transition to a new economy and then you look at the construction sector, it employs a million Australians. In some parts of Australia it has essentially been a lawless zone.

That has been, that was clear, that was recognised. It was recognised under the Howard Government, it was recognised by Tony Abbott, establishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission, Labor abolished it.

And industrial disputation went up, lawlessness came back as the Heydon Royal Commission established beyond any doubt and so we are seeking to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission and what does Labor do? Labor says no, everything’s fine.

All those facts in the Royal Commission are irrelevant. They said they're all, they deny reality there and they say the CFMEU are all fine fellows and they you know they shouldn't be troubled by anyone seeking to enforce the law.

That is their position. They are standing in the way of our transition to the new economy and of course now you see in the Senate, institutional reform is important right across the board.

The Senate has not been representative of the will of the people because as we know voters have had their preferences determined by back room deals, by preference whisperers who have constructed these masses of parties, these micro parties, often with the same public officers, negotiating with themselves.

So people have voted for one party and their preference has ended up with a party whose objectives apparently are completely at odds with the one they thought they were voting for.

These group voting tickets have essentially been a secret, for all practical purposes, a secret transition or transformation of people's votes in a manner that the whisperers, the backdoor, backroom preference whisperers wanted.

So what do we do? We are proposing, we have seized that opportunity and we’ve said we will put the choice back in the hands of the people. You vote, you put your preferences where you wish. What we are doing is restoring power to the voters.

And this will mean that the Senate will represent, at any given time, the will of the electorate and then people say who will benefit from this? The voters will benefit from it. They will be the only beneficiaries of it.

Now the Labor Party supported these changes, as you know, in the unanimous Joint Standing Committee recommendation some time ago, Tony Smith so ably chaired.

And now for pure political purposes because they see a tactical advantage they are filibustering in the Senate and standing in the way of this reform.

Well we have to give credit to Gary Gray. Gary Gray at least has had the courage of his convictions and stood up in the Parliament and exposed the hypocrisy of his own Party.

So, my friends, we are committed to this successful transition from the mining construction boom led economy to the new economy of the 21st century.

Innovation, technology, investment, infrastructure, these are the keys, these are the keys to unlocking those opportunities, unlocking those open markets that our free trade agreements have delivered. Labor is standing in the way.

We have a strong case because what we offer Australians is a clear vision, a clear vision with every measure, every policy counting towards the achievement of the great jobs, the great opportunities of the 21st century.

These are the most exciting times to be alive. This is the most exciting time to be an Australian but we need the vision, the plans, the measures to take us there. We have them and Labor's answer is simply to stand in the way of that progress.

Thank you very much.

Ends