Australian Government coat of arms

Prime Minister of Australia

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP

Press Conference with the Minister for Employment, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash and Michelle Landry MP, Member for Capricornia

18 May 2017

Rockhampton, QLD

Prime Minister

Minister for Employment

Member for Capricornia

Subjects:

ParentsNext; Adani Mine; Federal Budget; Employment figures; Local Rockhampton issues; Queensland flood relief

E&OE

MICHELLE LANDRY MP:

It’s fantastic to be here, Prime Minister, I think you’ve been here about four times in the last 18 months?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, always good to be back.

MICHELLE LANDRY MP:

It’s a pleasure to have you here and to be able to tell you about the things that are happening in Central Queensland, and as I keep saying, we are the powerhouse of the nation here so it is great to have the Prime Minister here. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Michelle, it’s great to be here with you and you are such a persuasive advocate for your community, for Rockhampton. I have been here four times, I think, in the last 18 months but the concerns and the needs of this community are never far away from my thinking, because you are very a persuasive -  and if I may say so - a persistent advocate for Rockhampton. I remember the enthusiasm you showed when we flew over the side of the Rookwood Weir and again and again, you are always making the case for your electorate.

So we are here today with Colleen and Michaelia and your team. Colleen do you want to just say a few words about ParentsNext in a moment? Good.

This is a great example of an innovative approach to employment, to ensuring that Australians get the best chance of getting into a job and getting ahead. Of removing, as Colleen was saying earlier, the barriers to further engagement whether it’s in education, whether it’s in employment, whether it’s simply being better engaged in the community.

We’ve seen the great work that has been done by ParentsNext around Australia. So what we are doing now is expanding this program right across Australia, both with an intensive stream in 20 additional areas and also right around the country, because it has been so successful. Michaelia and Colleen will talk further about that.

Never forget that the best form of welfare is a job. What we need to ensure is that Australians, parents, have the service, the support that enables them to get into employment. It’s good for them, it’s good for their future and it’s great for their kids too. Because they can see that mum and dad are engaged with the workforce, they can see that they can be a real role-model for them.

So this is a very important program and one that has been very successful and of course we committed another $263 million into this program in the budget.

The budget after all is about ensuring that Australians have access to every opportunity that we can offer. Every opportunity we want Australians to be able to achieve.

The budget is a fair budget. It delivers and guarantees essential services.

Education, delivering on the Gonski reforms – delivering on them as opposed to corrupting them which is what Labor have done. Fair, transparent, needs-based funding. Guaranteeing Medicare. Funding the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which had been unfunded.

Then right across the board ensuring that there are the incentives for businesses – instant asset write-offs, reductions in company tax – incentives for businesses to invest and to employ. Because we need to find more opportunities for Australians of all ages to work, to realise their dreams, to get their businesses started. We’ve been discussing with some of the participants in this program, how it’s changed their lives for the better. They’re able to realise new opportunities, whether it is in employment, whether it is in education, whether it is going into business. So there is a whole range of great outcomes.

Now we’ve seen today in the latest jobs figures - and Michaelia will talk further about that - we’ve seen a reduction in unemployment, which is good. An increase in employment, it’s now at a record high. We’ve seen an increase over the last year of nearly 200,000 jobs. Full time, around 80,000.   Part time, 111,000 jobs over the past year.

So we have seen strong jobs growth but it has got to continue. We need to continue that cycle of investment, employment and opportunity, because all of that together with guaranteeing those essential services, makes for a fair budget and a budget that provides security.

Now I should say this is Small Business Week in Queensland. Of course, we are the party of small business. Small businesses are benefitting from our instant asset write-off. They’re benefiting from the reductions in company and business tax.

There are also businesses in McKay, Isaac, Rockhampton and Logan that will benefit today, from our announcement of category C funding following the floods which is $25,000 funded jointly between federal government and the state government for small businesses and not-for-profits that have been affected by the floods.

So that is another example, another part of the hundreds of millions of dollars that is going in to support the disaster recovery, support communities, families, businesses getting over the destruction and devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Debbie.

It is wonderful to be here. Colleen , congratulations. I know we’ll hear from you in a moment. But first I’ll ask the Minister to say some more about the program being expanded.

MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT:

Thank you.

Ladies and gentleman it is absolutely fantastic to join the Prime Minister and my very good friend Michelle here today along with Colleen Tribe at the Roseberry Community Services to make a formal announcement in relation to the additional 20 locations that we will be expanding the very successful ParentsNext program in terms of the intensive support.

This obviously follows the announcement in the budget, the budget by the Turnbull Government of an additional $263 million investment to ensure that ParentsNext is rolled out across Australia in the 51 employment regions. In relation to the great state of Queensland, it is fantastic that ParentsNext is already run in terms of Rockhampton and Logan. But it will now also to be able to occur in Townsville, Toowoomba, McKay and Cairns.

In terms of the success of this program, it’s only been in place for 12 months but we have spoken to a number of fantastic participants today who have told us how being part of the ParentsNext program has changed their lives. We’ve seen almost 12,700 people now go through the program with no less than 10,000 positive outcomes. Whether those outcomes are educational outcomes, whether they’re a job outcome, whether it’s just connecting with those community services that you need to be connected with – this is all about the Turnbull Government, our basic fundamental principle; the best form of welfare is a job.

But we also know that we need to have in place programs that ensure that those who do need to move back into the workforce are given the necessary support that they need.

As the Prime Minister has already stated, with the release of the employment figures today, the Government is pleased that we have seen a drop in the unemployment figures from 5.9 per cent to 5.7 per cent.

We have seen now record numbers of Australians in employment here – almost 12.1 million.

In terms of women in employment, again it is at a record high. And again as the Minister for Women I am so pleased that the ParentsNext program is going to empower more women to get the skills they need, to get into the workforce.

In terms of youth unemployment, yes there has been a drop in youth unemployment but the Government has always maintained that youth unemployment in Australia is too high. That is why in last year’s budget we committed $850 million to our program to get our youth off welfare and into a job.

Part of that investment was in excess of $760 million in our successful PaTH Program. This is all about getting our youth ready, giving them a go and getting them a job. The PaTh Program formally commenced on the 1st of April and I am very pleased to report that in just the first few weeks of this program we have over 100 youth now placed in internship programs and we have in excess of 1,400 youth who are now undertaking the employment skills training they so desperately need so they can get a foot in the door.

So very pleased to day with the drop in unemployment, the maintenance of the participation rate – but more than that, to yet again be here with the Prime Minister and Michelle further announcing our $263 million investment in our ParentsNext program and the roll out across Australia and in addition to 20 locations that will receive intensive support.

Thanks Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you Michaelia. Colleen come and tell us about ParentsNext and your own experience.

COLLEEN TRIBE:

I will. Thank you Prime Minister. Thanks Minister Cash and Michelle for coming here today. We’re really very pleased to host you here and thank you for the announcements of 20 new locations for ParentsNext.

So here at Roseberry Community Services in Rockhampton, we have been running the ParentsNext program for over 12 months. We’ve had in excess of 250 participants, lots of success stories. I’d like to talk about each and every one of them but there’s not enough time, so I would like to just hone in on one particular story. It’s about one person that came to us for ParentsNext, had little idea about what type of work they’d like to go into further into the future. One of the staff here directed this person to make, put his likes and interests in place. So he said that he liked to work with animals, he liked to work outdoors. So my staff guided this particular person to go and volunteer at the local heritage organisations. So now this person is working a couple of days a week voluntary at this location, so building up his skills, building up that confidence that’s needed to go down that path in the future and flourish.

So we love, here at Roseberry, we love the PatrentsNext program. It’s not about telling people what to do, it’s not about telling them what support they need. It’s about that personalized guidance to fulfil their goals to employment. We know the firsthand benefits of the program. We’ve seen it within the community, we’ve seen it with our parents, we’ve seen it with the children. You know, that confidence that’s being built is just one thing we see it, we’re gaining confidence, dignity and we really celebrate every small achievement because we know that’s going to lead to bigger and better achievements.

So once again, thank you very much Prime Minister and Minister Cash, and Michelle. I think it’s fantastic that the program is expanding well throughout the country and I know that it’s only going to make a difference, for everyone.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good. Thanks Colleen. Thank you very much. So, any questions?

JOURNALIST:

Some questions on Adani if that’s okay. It’s been reported today the state Government is handing out a royalties’ holiday. Have you heard those reports and what are your thoughts on that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Michelle may be able to say more about it, I haven’t seen that report myself. I met with the Premier this morning and we touched on Adani but I didn’t see that.

JOURNALIST:

The Climate Council has said the Galilee Basin alone will produce 1.3 times more than Australia in terms of pollution. Has all of that been considered?

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I just say something about this? The Galilee Basin project, the Carmichael project by Adani is vitally important for the economy, central Queensland or northern Queensland. It’s vitally important for jobs here. And you know, it’s easy for a group like that to criticise it but let’s face some facts here. India needs to quadruple its production of electricity over the next 15 years or so. Quadruple it, by four times. They are developing more renewables, solar and wind, hydro. In fact, Mr Adani himself owns the largest solar farm in India, the second largest in the world I believe. But they are going to use substantially more coal in the future as they expand their energy output, so that Indians can have access to the same electricity supply as we do.

As Prime Minister Modi brings Indian living standards up, they need more electricity. Yes, the percentage of coal in the overall mix will come down. But absolutely, they are going to need more coal. They have worked it out. I have met with their Minister, Piyush Goyal in Mumbai only recently. I’ve discussed it with the Prime Minister. They are going to need more coal. Now if we don’t sell it to them, someone else will. Let’s be quite clear about this. If Australia stopped exporting all coal to India, they would simply buy it from another market. They’d buy it from Indonesia or they’d buy it from South Africa or Colombia. So the argument that our export of coal from here is worsening the emissions profile of India, is just wrong. It is absolutely wrong. They are very keen to move to a lower emissions energy sector, but as they transition, with this enormous increase in energy production they’ve got to make, they will still be using, in absolute terms, more coal. So the criticism that you cited, I reject and I reject it based on the facts.

JOURNALIST:

Just a question about the royalties’ holiday. So the Queensland Government is proposing that Adani pay less royalties to the state Government, about $320 million less. Do you support that if it means the project goes ahead?

PRIME MINISTER:

That’s a matter for the state Government. Again, you’ve only just raised it with me. The matter of state royalties is a matter for the state Government.

JOURNALIST:

Just a separate topic, about the banks. If the banks do pass on the levy, what exactly can the ACCC do to stop them from passing it on? Are there any punitive measures?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Rodd Sims, the Chairman of the ACCC, addressed that this morning. The fact is that the scrutiny that the ACCC is giving to the banks – and I might say a number of independent commentators have made the same observation – will make it harder for them to try to pass on that cost to their customers. They don’t need to. They’re the most profitable banks in the word. They’ve got $33 billion collectively as after-tax profits. But the scrutiny of the ACCC will ensure that if they do seek to pass it on, they will have to justify it.

Because there has been a general view I think, about a lot of the banks claims for costs that they seek to pass on to their customers, perhaps not being as well founded as they ought to be. Nonetheless, the truth will out. As you’ve heard the ACCC has got extensive powers to make sure that there is full transparency.

JOURNALIST:

The Australian Banking Association CEO Anna Bligh confirmed some smaller banks have had robust discussion about the group’s opposition to the levy. Is the ABA representing all banks in opposing the levy?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s plain that a number of the banks, the smaller banks, support the levy. The larger banks are opposed to it for reasons of self-interest. Some of the smaller banks, particularly the regional banks are supportive of it, because they feel it levels the playing field.

JOURNALIST:

Just on another levy…

PRIME MINISTER:

We’re moving around a bit but okay, another levy?

JOURNALIST:

On the Rockhampton levy bank, if there is community support, will the Federal Government put money towards [inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

Again, I’ll defer to Michelle who is consulting her community.

MICHELLE LANDRY MP:

Yes. So I’ve spoken to the Prime Minister in depth about the Rockhampton levy bank. At the moment it is quite divisive. I’ve had a lot of people contacting my office about it, people who have not been contacted by Council, they have large blocks of land, they have large rural properties down at Port Curtis, they have not been contacted. They don’t know what’s happening. At this stage there’s a 25 metre levy bank going through the middle of their blocks and they don’t know if there’s compensation or them or not. I’ve been speaking to some engineers about what we could do and we’re still in the process of discussing, maybe that could be rejigged out there.

So we are also doing a survey of 3,600 people. We’re hoping that to be completed by the end of June and the Prime Minister is fully aware of all of this and we’ll see what happens with that.

JOURNALIST:

If there is majority support, will the money be put towards it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, if there is clear, strong support from the community, then we would certainly participate in supporting the construction of the levy. But it is very important that it comes with strong community support. This is what Michelle is seeking to do. I mean she doesn’t gauge the views of the people of Rockhampton from Brisbane, or Canberra, she’s here. She is a passionate citizen, resident of this community. So he is making sure she respects the people that she serves by consulting them. That’s exactly what she ought to do.

JOURNALIST:

Could you put a percentage figure on how much a majority support would constitute?

MICHELLE LANDRY MP:

I think we’ll just wait and see what happens with it. Previously we did a survey, we had 800 results come back and I think the figure as about 70 per cent against it. It’s got to be significant one way or the other. The feedback I’m getting is people are passionate about having something done with the airport. That is where the commerce of this city comes in.

As I’ve said I have spoken with engineers about Gladstone Road and those businesses along there. There could possibly be something that could be done along that area and some areas in town where they’ve got valves on the stormwater drains. That has worked really well. So I don’t want to rush into this because you know, the Mayor has come out, she is supportive of this obviously. Then the Premier comes here and you know, she supports it. But they don’t, she doesn’t know what she’s saying yes to. As well as Bill Shorten who comes into town, ums and ahhs, “yes, maybe, no I don’t know, what I am doing”. Then sends up one of his shadow ministers into town and says: “Oh yes we will put the money on the table”. It’s something that we do not want to jump into. I want to make sure the community moves forward with us on this. It’s very important. It will change the whole structure of this city, so I want what is best for the people of Rockhampton.

PRIME MINISTER:

The point is that we will support Michelle and Rockhampton in being more resilient in the face of floods. That is very important, as Michelle has said, that the right decisions are taken and that the people are consulted and the community is consulted. The way to do that is with a passionate, persuasive, local Member, a local advocate who knows the community, is part of this community and that’s how I will get and the Government will get the right advice.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, right so we what are we back onto now? Employment? Right okay.

JOURNALIST:

You mentioned the jobless rate has fallen slightly, but that was largely off the back of more part time jobs. Is confidence in the economy still soft?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t agree with the second part of your question. But the fact is we have seen growth in both fulltime and part time employment over the last twelve months. The employment figures do move around a lot, but we had strong growth in fulltime employment last month and I’ll ask Michaelia to go into some more detail on it. But it’s probably more informative to look at it over the space of a year where you see strong growth in both categories.

MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT:

If you look at the increase of full-time job creation over the last six months, the trend continues to be upwards. In relation to the trend over the last 12 months. In the last 12 months of Coalition Government, the economy has created approximately 192,000 jobs. If you compare that to the last 12 months of the former Labor Government, we are outstripping them in relation to jobs growth more than two jobs to one.

The economy under Labor created around 81,500 jobs. So the economy is creating jobs, we have seen a decrease in the unemployment rate. But I’m also pleased that the participation rate remains steady, because what that means is that Australians are out there and they’re motivated and they’re putting their hands up and saying we happy to participate in the workforce.

But it also goes more broadly, to the fundamental philosophy of this Government. This is a government that when it talks about jobs and growth, we ensure that we put in place the right policies so that the economy can grow and employers can create jobs, and that is exactly what our budget has done.

JOURNALIST:

Can we jump to the cattle industry please? Yesterday I saw the Northern Territory drop from a JBAS 7 to a JBAS 6 for their requirements for domestic imports. It’s obviously a big deal for our local graziers, all of Queensland its consumer-led, its consumer-driven, what’s your views on that at the moment?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you know Lucy and I are cattle producers, but I might defer to Michelle as the Local Member on that. We’re a fair way away from Queensland – we’re in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales.

MICHELLE LANDRY MP:

Look obviously our cattle sector is very, very strong here. We had last night the opening of Beef Australia which was very important for this area. Over the next 12 months, we’ve got a lot of Beef Roads opening up in this sector as well. But I think that it’s very important for us to support our cattle sector. We were talking last week or so about the cattle sector being our cattle that leave this country, being monitored all the way through and also how that is going to help our graziers here. So I think that you know, bright future here, we’ve got Beef Australia happening and whatever I can do to support our cattle sector I will be doing.

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I just say, I’ll just add to that Michelle. I mean really, you’ve seen here and you’ve seen right round Australia, the great improvement in our beef prices. This has been in large part, very large part, overwhelmingly, the consequence of those big export trade deals that we negotiated. The access, greater access to new markets and in particular China. That’s been a game-changer for the agricultural sector, across beef and many other categories as you know. What it’s done is provide a lot of resilience to regions of Australia that were set back by the downturn, the inevitable downturn, in the mining construction boom.

So having a resilient economy, a diverse economy, underpinned by further access to those big markets, the big north Asian markets that have opened up, has been very important for families on the land and producers and all of the people that support them and are part of the supply chain. One more.

JOURNALIST:

Thank you. What was in the budget to help central Queensland and in fact Queensland as a whole recover from cyclone Debbie and also become more resilient towards natural disasters in the future.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the disaster relief for Cyclone Debbie will run into hundreds of millions of dollars. As you know overall, the Commonwealth pays about three quarters of it. So I just announced some more today; allocated relief funding, that’s funded by the state.

Now over the last decade the Commonwealth has spent about $10.5 billion on natural disaster relief and reconstruction, of which 85 per cent has gone to Queensland. So Queensland is in the front line of natural disasters; floods and cyclones in particular. But the Commonwealth is always there backing Queenslanders. Whether it is the substantial funding, resources that I just spoke about or whether it’s the great work of the Australian Defence Force, who had the biggest pre-deployment in advance of tropical cyclone Debbie, ever, in advance of a natural disaster. So we stand with Queenslanders and our support is enormous.

Overall it was good to see, I think, in the areas that were first hit by the storm and I’m thinking in particular of Bowen and Proserpine, the way in which the post 85 structures stood up well. So the changes in building standards have been very important, clearly resilience, mitigation, is vital.

But of course flooding is another challenge. But that is as you know, that extended right through Queensland and of course down into northern New South Wales. So we will always be seeking to ensure that Queensland and other parts of Australia too, are supported and are resilient in the face of natural disaster.

We are after all - as the poet said - the land of drought and flooding rains and of course fires and cyclones as well.

Thank you all very much.

[ENDS]