Prime Minister: Thank you very much Nicolle and Chris and Freda, thank you so much for that lovely welcome. It is a pleasure to meet you. I look forward to seeing you again on many occasions on many return visits.
It's great to be back in Western Australia. It's great to be back here. I've been looking forward to it. I'm here in person. This is not a Zoom. This is not a video message. This is not a hologram. Here we all are together again. And I'm very pleased to be here with you all.
Can I thank you, Freda, for your Welcome to Country and also acknowledge the Whadjuk people in the Noongar nation and pay my respects to the elders past and present and emerging. And can I also acknowledge any servicemen and women who are with us here today or any veterans and say simply thank you for your service on behalf of a very grateful country.
To all my ministerial colleagues who are here, of course, our most senior Western Australian member in my team, the Attorney Michaelia Cash. Tremendous to be here with you Michaelia. And Melissa Price, great to have a Western Australian back in Cabinet as well, to join the many others that are there and you're doing a fantastic job in the Defence Industry portfolio and it's great to have you back around that Cabinet table. It's always good to have another Western Australian around the Cabinet table. And in my Cabinet, there are so many and long may that continue.
Can I also acknowledge the other members who are here today, I can see Celia Hammond is here and Assistant Minister Ben Morton is here and Nola Marino. Nola and I came into the Parliament together many years ago, she’s an outstanding Western Australian, a great farmer. Someone who has done a lot in her own life and brings a great reality and grit, I think it's fair to say Nola, to our Government. Because you keep it very real for us, as do all my colleagues out of Western Australia. Thank you very much for that and for joining me here today.
Thank you for your efforts. That's what I want to say Western Australia today. This is my first opportunity to come back for some time, particularly because of COVID. I simply just want to say thank you Western Australia. Your sacrifices, your work over the past year has been inspirational. They have lifted my spirits from afar.
It has been the most difficult year for Australia in three quarters of a century. These have not been ordinary times for Australians. Our shared efforts to get us to where we are today is a great national achievement and one in which Western Australia has played such a significant role.
The terror of COVID, and I don't mind describing it that way, because I remember vividly looking into the abyss, just over a year ago. The terror of COVID saw a death rate across the OECD over the course of the last year 34 times greater than that that has occurred here in Australia. Let's just think about what that means. Let's get very real about this. That means if that death rate was repeated here in Australia, there would have be 30,000 more deaths in this country because of COVID.
Our country, our nation stood together, came together, even though at times we had to remain apart physically to ensure that that didn't happen in this country. That was the challenge of our watch on this together, and we met that challenge together. Yesterday alone, worldwide, there were more than 8,500 deaths from COVID that we know of. The pandemic is still raging around the world.
Here in Australia, though, our lived experience is very different. On the economic front, nationally, employment is higher now, as Chris was reminding us, than when we entered the pandemic. And we have a growth rate in the last quarter, that was 3.1 percent. A remarkable achievement, again, considering a year ago where we were. Australia continues to lead the world out of the COVID-19 pandemic and out of the recession, the global recession that that pandemic caused.
Now, this did not happen by accident. It was not luck, it was not good fortune. In February last year, we moved as a nation and as a Government, quickly to close our borders to mainland China. I remember being criticised for it at the time. The single most important decision we took at that time in those earlier parts of the year. The same month based on our medical advice, Australia declared COVID to be a pandemic. Two weeks before the rest of the world came to that conclusion. At that time, every day mattered with the decisions that were taken.
March was also the month where many things, almost everything, changed for Australians. On the 1st of March, we recorded the first death from COVID, actually right here in Western Australia, a very sad and very terrible day. Since that time, Western Australia has only recorded, albeit each single one of these is a tragedy, particularly for the families involved, eight deaths out of a total of 951 cases. That really is a truly remarkable achievement and one of which Western Australians I think should be very proud.
And I do commend, quite happily and enthusiastically, the Western Australian government, my colleague, Premier McGowan, for their role in securing that outcome along with all Western Australians. And with the support also of the Federal Government, that I'll speak more of today.
Because as strong as that leadership has been here in Western Australian, it was not done in isolation. They did not act on their own, and nor should have they had to, we had to act together. We were all part of a national effort. We knew very early on that this wasn’t a battle like any other, and extraordinary actions that might normally have been taken in years happened in days. And by the end of March Australia was in lockdown.
We knew very early on that we had to move quickly on the economy with a mammoth fiscal response. Not something that comes naturally, can I tell you, to a former Treasurer who sat around a Cabinet table with Mathias Cormann. That's not something that we would normally do. But as John Howard reminded Josh Frydenberg and I, crises are no time for ideology. It required action and significant action.
And so working to principles that I set out actually at a Financial Review summit before these decisions were taken, we worked out how we were going to make these calls. It had to be proportionate. It had to be timely, it had to be stable. It had to be targeted. This was not a free for all. This was not a blank cheque. We had to be mindful, even in the scale of our response, of future generations. It had to be aligned across the very actions both of government, including the Reserve Bank as well, and the broader efforts of industry.
We had to use existing delivery mechanisms whenever possible. We saw how big the failures were on previous crises, devastating, and we learned from that and we used the existing channels to achieve it. And, importantly, measures had to be temporary and they had to be accompanied by our fiscal exit strategy because that's what responsible people do when it comes to managing the finances of the nation.
I appreciate, Chris and Nicolle, the very kind words about JobKeeper. I doubt I will ever see another programme that has impacted the lives and welfare of Australians more than that one. And I hope Australia is never in a position where we would have to do something like that. But when called upon, we did. It was a significant moment, but I’ve got to tell you, that wasn't the hardest part of that decision. The hardest part of the decision to put JobKeeper on was to say at the same time we will take it off and there will come a time when that will have to come off and we said when that it was. And then while we had to accept it was the nature of the pandemic, we stood by the hard decision to take it off. And others want us to continue it and they made their case, but what underpinned our response to the pandemic was that we while making decisions which were about lifting the economy and ensuring the economy can be business-led again.
And we were not going to let our responses over time crowd out the strong private economy which Western Australians know more about than most in this country, particularly in the business sector. We didn't want a subsidised economy into the future in this country. That's not what made Australia great and certainly not what has made Western Australia great. And so we did not want to do things that while helping Australia back up, held onto it as it then sought to break free and once again, being the business-led economy that it became.
So these principles were at the core of every decision, whether it was Josh and I or Mathias at the time, Michaelia, the entire team that we brought around our Cabinet table. Every decision was made in this way. And importantly, though, Australians approached this, I believe, as one. The National Cabinet was formed, a uniquely Australian innovation to go with a uniquely Australian Federation. We created a functionality in our Federation that we'd never seen before. It's certainly still not perfect and there's certainly disagreements, but I can tell you from direct personal experience that we have never seen our Federation work in the way that we've seen in the past year.
Federation challenges that other nations were unable to overcome. In Canada, in the United States, in Germany, federation nations. And when I would speak to these leaders, they would ask me about this and how we managed to bring that together. And I want to especially acknowledge Mark, Premier McGowan, for his involvement in and support of the National Cabinet over the past year. The National Cabinet had to make some of the most difficult decisions in some of the shortest time frames, at all hours of the night and day, particularly in those areas, about very personal things. Weddings, funerals, Australians being able to come back to the country. Things about everyday life that until then we had all taken for granted. And here we were deciding how long someone should be able to go to the hairdressers or to go barbers. It was a very surreal conversation, a very surreal conversation.
In that early part of 2020, we had worked extraordinarily hard to keep as much as we could open without endangering life and the health challenges that we faced, because we knew we had to save lives and livelihoods. And despite calls from some to simply just shut everything down, as they did in other places, they wanted to shut down car yards, industry, mining sectors. I remember the calls. We shut down only what we really had to. We kept as much open as we possibly could and found COVID-Safe ways to do that. And again, Mark was one of my key allies in keeping as much of Australia open when it came to business.
And I think that is because especially he, like I, understand in Western Australia, the most significant element in terms of keeping the mining sector open. I'd seen in other nations where they were shutting down their equivalent of heavy industry, and the impact it had on their economies and I decided not on my watch. And I was shared in that view particularly by the Western Australian Premier.
Now, these difficult decisions were made in a time also by companies themselves and I want to acknowledge all of those who have done that here today. Adopting world-class protocols to stay COVID-Safe, inventing them in fact, literally on the run. The result last year to the Western Australian mining and resources sector experienced record sales and employment, supporting not just tens of thousands of jobs, but also providing royalty that accounted for 29 percent of the WA state budget, helping found health and the economic support for all Western Australians. That's what keeping WA open within its borders achieved.
Elsewhere in the economy we face the most significant economic circumstances, of course, in our lifetime. And I said this time last year, we didn't just want to win the battle against COVID-19, but lose a broader battle when it comes to our economy. The Commonwealth Government’s initial response to COVID-19 pandemic has provided some $267 billion in supports to Australian businesses and families. Now, this is more than, put it this way- Everything the states and territories spent on both health and COVID economic responses, it's a big number, double it, go a bit further, that’s what the Commonwealth Government did to keep Australia moving over the course of this past year.
Now, that was our job, I don't make that point in any criticism of the state governments at all. They did their bit but it was our job to do that bit. It was our job to underwrite the Australian economy through this crisis. And so we stepped up and we gave the states and territories the ability to do the things they had to do. Where they had the principle responsible for managing the public health management in the state. But I can assure you, no decision could have been taken by any state or territory government in this country over the last 12 to 15 months, were it not for the underwriting that was provided by the Australian taxpayer, from coast to coast. It was a partnership. It was a critical national coming together.
Now, beyond that, the 2021 Budget provided further supports. So now well over half a trillion dollars in the support provided. Central to our strategy was JobKeeper, of course. A uniquely Australian, and I would say Liberal, innovation. A partnership with employers. It wasn't a wage subsidy that just came out of Services Australia. That was JobSeeker, that was the normal social security supports. We needed to find something completely different. As Josh and I saw those queues, we knew we had to do something different and the work had already begun.
We effectively nationalised the private payrolls of this country to deliver social security. And we did that with you. It was impossible without you. You had to go to your banks. You had to decide what you wanted to do and how many staff you wanted to keep on. And the great answer was you wanted them all. And so you went to your banks. And I thank the banks and together Government, the financial sector and employers kept millions of Australians in work at a time when the future was incredibly bleak. At least 700,000 jobs saved, absolutely, we know. And $7 billion supporting almost 100,000 Western Australian businesses and their employees right here in this state.
We worked with the unions to ensure flexibility in the IR system for JobKeeper businesses, working together keeping thousands of businesses afloat. Keeping our labour market and economy strong and resilient as it needed to be. We also provided $3.4 billion directly to Western Australian small and medium sized businesses and not for profits through our cash flow boost to keep them afloat. No an application process, no strings attached. We got the cash to them that kept them going. We backed businesses to succeed with temporary full expensing and temporary loss-carrying for the 99 per cent of businesses with a turnover of up to $5 billion. Combined, these two measures alone are estimated to have delivered over $31.6 billion in tax relief over the forward estimates and support $200 billion in investment.
What we've achieved in this country and this state is no accident. It didn't happen through any advantage or luck. We brought forward stage two of the personal income tax plan. Those tax cuts helped create an additional 50,000 jobs by the end of 2021-22, we believe, and boosted GDP by around $12.5 billion over two years. And more tax cuts are coming in stage three, made law after the last election. Under our personal income tax plan, over 1.2 million Western Australian taxpayers will pay less tax this year compared to 2017-18. We provided great support to individuals. The coronavirus supplement put over $20 billion in the hands additionally of Australians when they needed it most, including more than $2.2 billion to over 321,000 Western Australians.
Western Australia didn't do this alone. They did it with the support of the nation like every state and territory around this country. An additional $1.1 billion went directly to West Australian aged pensioners and veterans and other income support recipients, and eligible concession card holders through the four economic support payments of $2,000. Keeping that economy moving was vital. So we committed an additional $1.75 billion worth of transport infrastructure investment, through an already strong pipeline of priority projects.
And on that I'm going to ask people serve lunch, because I've got a lot to get through here. I've got a lot to share. So bring on the lunch: enjoy.
Our approach reflected the need to invest in projects that were ready to go or shovel-ready. We committed $96 million for these projects. And then set about boosting funding to WA councils by $190 million. And working with the WA government to deliver more than $430 million on road safety projects. These new investments combined with almost $900 million of additional accelerated projects announced at the end of 2019. Keeping regional and remote communities connected was also vital. We established new programs to maintain aviation networks, ensuring communities stayed in touch and had access to health care and education. These programmes keep workers connected too, essential workers involved in the mining sector and heavy industry. Getting across regional and remote Western Australia, which Melissa knows a lot about. These programs remain in place to help bolster the aviation industry. More than 5,300 flights have been underwritten by the Federal Government, to and within Western Australia. Keeping freight moving was essential. So direct funding to international freight routes to ensure Australian exporters could get their products overseas. Some 50,000 tonnes. This is pivotal as freight routes were seizing up, supply chains were seizing up, and that was effectively shutting off the international passenger network as well.
Here in Western Australia the international trade assistance mechanisms supported around 51,000 tonnes of exports from WA, including 17,000 tonnes of pork products, 12,000 tonnes of lamb and 12,000 tonnes of seafood. We kept the planes in the air. Our National COVID-19 Commission led by a great Western Australian. Someone I knew I would have to bring in to advise us on our economic response, so call on Western Australia. Thank you, Nev Power. He worked with the business community to overcome supply chain bottlenecks. To assist business to reopen safely. Working on our COVIDSafe plan. This was incredibly important, especially in Victoria. That was a very, very difficult time. And we needed someone and a series of people through the commission that we established with Nev that just got it. And could talk to the business and were often the link between business, communities and state governments in many cases to ensure these problems were better understood. HomeBuilder, another essential part, also strongly supported here in Western Australia. 17,000 homes being built here, will be, under that programme in Western Australia. Treasury estimates that 270 million in HomeBuilder grants as expected in Western Australia will support $3.2 billion worth of residential construction projects. If you're a builder, you're working in the residential building industry. Or if you're like Rob over at Bunnings, that will keep them busy and will keep people in jobs.
Michaelia Cash led a mighty work. When it comes to the VET sector we are terrified that the first people, the people who would be most impacted would be apprentices. We were over looking at some of those projects today. Wage subsides for existing apprentices supported 120,000 apprentices. Including over 9,500 here in Western Australia in 4,900 businesses. Small and medium sized businesses who would have to let that apprentice go because of COVID. Two, three years maybe of training over, they may never have come back. And what would have happened to them then? It was one of the first things we did, I said we're not going to lose our apprentices. And so we back them in. But we weren't satisfied with that. So we put in place a new subsidy. We thought we reckon we can get 100,000 thousand apprentices employed. Think it will take us 12 months. Michaelia did it in five. It was a tremendous result and we've extended the programme for a further seven months. We are now also working with the states and territories on around 30,000 free or low cost training places through the $1 billion dollars job training fund. In areas of skills that have been identified by the Nation Skills Commission. Workforce, I believe, is the biggest single challenge facing the Australian economy. You will hear me talk about it until you're sick of hearing me say it, about the importance of building the skills our workforce needs.
There are many challenges in our economy whether it's tax, energy, digital transformation, all are very important priorities. But if you ask me what is the single biggest challenge facing the Australian economy is we want to build and grow for the future and come out of COVID. Workforce, workforce, workforce, workforce. Training people with the right skills that you need to build your businesses to be competitive and then we back it up. We're backing it up with significant investments, and we'll continue to do so. Many families are relying on JobKeeper or JobSeeker, but it wasn't the full wage they had been receiving. So we allowed Australians access to their own superannuation. It's their money. And they did. And they accessed it and it helped. Some 280,000 Western Australians in fact.
The unprecedented economic support provided by government has meant that despite the worst economic crisis in a century, over 30 times as bad as the GFC, just think about that, think about the GFC, this was 30 times worse. Household disposable income during that period actually grew by 6.6 per cent in 2020. The government had the back of Australians through the biggest crisis of our lifetimes, and more specifically, we had the back of Western Australians. The Commonwealth's direct spend on Western Australia, eclipsed even the direct expenditure of their own state government. That is not a criticism, it was our job and we did it. That's more than a billion dollars that our Government put into Western Australia every month on top of what our normal commitments were, and that was throughout the course of this pandemic. And that's just the income support. It's what Western Australians were counting on me and my team to do. When you supported me so strongly at the last election that's what you were counting on me to do and my team as you returned us. And I believe we stepped up and it won't end there, it will continue.
Our economic recovery has been much stronger than anyone could have anticipated and better than almost any other country in the world. And while Australia's economy contracted by 2.5 per cent, this compares to falls of 3 per cent in New Zealand to 3.3 per cent in the US, to 4.9 per cent in Germany, 8.2 per cent in France and almost 10 per cent in the United Kingdom. The IMF recently upgraded their forecast growth for the Australian economy in 2021 to 4.5 per cent, up from 3 per cent as recently as October. Business confidence is up, it's at the highest levels we learned again oday in 11 years. Conditions, according to NAB, are at their highest ever on record and job vacancies, the highest level in 12 years. Like the NAB survey, that Westpac consumer sentiment figure jumped to their highest level since 2010, when the mining boom was in full swing.
But challenges remain, the world has not recovered yet and we still have a journey ahead of us. The skies are not yet clear, COVID has not gone away, and it continues to write its own rules. The rest of the world is only now starting to ease restrictions, barely, that we have had eased now for many months in this country. Australians, as we are here, in our homes, we go to restaurants, we go to sporting fixtures, we don't always walk away happy, at least half of us do, cultural events, I'll be at the Eagles game with Mathias Cormann on Friday night, I'm looking forward to that. I congratulate Mathias on his ascension to the OECD Secretary General, a magnificent Western Australian who's done a great job, and we were very pleased to support his candidacy. And I'm sure they'd be an at capacity crowd, something unimaginable in most of the other parts of the world today. Here in Australia our challenge is to make sure that we continue to keep Australia as open as possible so that life can return to normal as soon as it possibly can. Now vaccine programs are critical to protect against any further outbreaks, especially for the most vulnerable.
Almost 1.3 million Australians have been vaccinated so far, that includes 134,000 here in Western Australia. The pace of our rollout is stronger than at a similar stage when compared with rollouts in Canada, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, even France at the moment, and it's on par with places like Germany and Sweden and others. You wouldn't notice that if you picked up a newspaper anywhere in the country at the moment. That's not saying we don't have our problems, we do, and we have some challenges that we need to fix, but you know, we've got to keep perspective on this, where else would you rather be? Where else would you rather be than this country right now. Severe global vaccine shortages, of course, interrupted the early stages of our vaccine rollout. We were getting on top of those and then we were hit with the decision out of the Technical Advisory Group regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine.
But we took decisions early on, all this last year to ensure that we had vaccines produced here in Australia and decisions on which vaccines to select were based on the best medical advice available to us. We selected the vaccines from each of the three different types, we've all become vaccine experts, I think in the last 12 months, adenovirus, protein and mRNA, don't worry there won't be a test after this. But these were the three scientific strands in which the world was working down, and a year ago they hadn't even been invented. mRNA vaccines were science fiction in some respects, and here we were making decisions about which vaccine we are going to be moving forward. So we selected ones carefully in each of the areas, and now we still have three in each of those areas that we know are successful, we didn't put all our eggs in one basket.
The more recent medical advice from ATAGI on the AstraZeneca has had a profound impact. Mind you, today we are back up to 60,000 a day, that came up from around 40,000 the day before. We are watching those numbers very carefully. But there is a profound impact on the program we need to address and that requires us to engage in major reassessment, working with the states and territories on who gets which vaccine, when and how, particularly in the post Phase 1a and b round. Our immediate priority remains the vaccination of our most vulnerable, the most vulnerable in those phases 1a and b and we should be able to complete that by mid-year as planned and using the existing supplies of AstraZeneca for those over the age of 50 in most cases, and the Pfizer vaccines that we have available for that task. However we will still need to see the impact of any potential vaccine hesitancy from that ATAGI advice on overall take-up rates. Our next challenge will be to vaccinate the balance of the population. AstraZeneca was going to be our workhorse for this and it still will be for those over 50s, which there are millions of Australians of that age.
Our under 50s rollout will now need to be recalibrated and use the Pfizer supplies, which we doubled last week, last Friday, and we were able to secure, with Minister Greg Hunt, some 20 million extra doses. So we will now have 40 million. That goes together with our Novavax contracted vaccines. And that is still awaiting regulatory approval but is advancing well. These imports, of the original 20 million doses, have been steady and consistent and they are building up in the weeks and months ahead. And we will need weekly volumes increasing to support the program we are continuing to put in place in the weeks ahead that will take us also through third quarter.
But it's in the fourth quarter, where we are really going to have to ramp things up, which will be very different to what we originally anticipated. In the fourth quarter, we expect that surge of the additional 20 million Pfizer doses and the existing contracted Novavax, which is of a similar order and more. This will provide, assuming the supply chains hold enough of those vaccines to enable mass vaccination in the final quarter of this year. But our task now is to work with the states and territories to find the best method for mass vaccination and to be achieved in that fourth quarter, or earlier, if those doses become available sooner. And if we get that right, it should be possible. It should, assuming supply chains and vaccine hesitancy not getting beyond us. It should be possible to do that the balance of the population this year. But that will depend heavily on whether the states' mass vaccination programmes can achieve that in about a 12 week period. And that will be a big task. And that's why I haven't committed to a timetable. We need to work that out with the states and territories. And that's why I'm calling the National Cabinet it back to the operational tempo we had in the middle of the pandemic to ensure that we can work this problem together and put those things in place. It's highly contingent on those many other areas that are necessary, and in the short term, these uncertainties will prevent us putting a firm timetable in place.
Now given the critical importance of getting it right, that's why, as I've said, I've called them together, I'm confident that as a group, we will get the same outcome that we got when we worked together to deal with the challenges I've spoken so much about today, to get us back on track and restore confidence in the program. And as we do this, what matters is that we continue to keep our economy open, and build on the measures we need. Now, I know it's been a lengthy presentation, I haven't been here in a while. I’m making up for it.
There are some who argue that mining and resources aren't a key part of Australia's future - and I'm not one of them. And I doubt there's one here in this room today. My Government knows this. We know it. It doesn't need to be argued to us, we don't feel the need to demonstrate it. It's a known fact. You're preaching to the choir when it comes to my Government. And particularly its importance for the regions of Western Australia.
I'm heading north to the Pilbara tomorrow and looking forward to that. And my Government will continue to work closely with the sector, to realise the opportunities that are ahead for our resources sector. And that's why the resources, technology, and critical minerals processing is part of the six priority areas for our Modern Manufacturing Strategy. And I launched the Resources, Technology, and Critical Minerals Processing Roadmap making funding available to help manufacturers scale up production, commercial products and tap into global supply chains only recently. And the Roadmap couldn't be more aligned with Western Australia, which as well as being a world leader in mining and resources and increasingly the focal point for the development of critical minerals projects as well, and the opportunities that we know are considerable. Global demand for clean technology applications like high powered magnets and batteries will grow exponentially over the coming decades. And Western Australia's role will not just be extraction, but value-added processing as well. For example, Lynas, the world's largest rare earths producer outside of China, is building a downstream processing plant in Kalgoorlie. That plant will supply a new facility in Texas, to provide rare earths, essential for military and commercial applications. This is a gold standard example of the cooperation on critical supply chains that I discussed with my Quad counterparts from the United States, Japan and India just a few weeks ago. And we were talking about critical minerals, amongst other things, and supply chains that are needed to support those sectors in our economies that are vital to all our social wellbeing and security.
Mineral sands producer, Iluka, already are producing rare earths at its Eneabba - have I got that right? - is proceeding with a feasibility study project, for a full-scale refinery at that site. And I can say unequivocally, that we are building a sustainable critical minerals sector here in Australia, and in Western Australia.
Finally, I think I've done well to get this far in a speech as long as this, and for you all to still be in the room! But I thought I'd save the best till last, and Michaelia referred to it earlier today, as did [inaudible]. But when I first came to parliament, I used to flat some years later with Steve Irons, who is here today, we came to the parliament together. But I can tell you, he has been the Western Australian whisperer in my ear for the last 13 years or more, fourteen years now. And the issue he was raising with me, right from the get-go, was WA must have a fair deal on GST. Western Australians I know, can have assurance about this deal, because you're looking at the person who put it together. If Western Australians want to know who they can trust, to ensure this deal remains now and into the future, it was secured by the government.
I am meeting with the Premier this afternoon to go over a number of projects, particularly with regards to the devastating cyclone in the Mid West. But I will also be able to say to him once again, you have nothing to concern yourself with, when it comes to WA's GST deal. Nothing whatsoever. We put it in place together, and it will remain in place, together. So I look forward to being able to once again give him that assurance. So that's why I think Western Australians can be very confident about that. And when we did this, I wasn't one of those who made one case here in Western Australia and told you what you wanted to hear. On the Western Australian GST deal. And I thank the Chamber too for the great work they did on this. I told you the honest truth. I said I think this is a bit of a raw deal. But I think it's going to be really hard to fix this. I could have come here and told you how important it was. You all would have applauded. And I would have gone back to the Eastern States, when it all proved too hard. But that wasn't what we did. I argued the case, back in my home state. I argued the case, right up and down the East Coast. I didn't say something different in South Yarra or North Queensland, or in Adelaide or Hobart, to what I said right here. And that's why I think Western Australians can trust our Government, when it comes to this GST deal. It is in our marrow, it is in our bones, it is very much [inaudible] within the heart and soul of our Government.
So thank you all for your great patience in listening this afternoon. It has been a great challenge that we've dealt with over the course of the past year, we can all be very proud of what we've achieved. But let us not be complacent, let us not think this thing has gone away, it has not. We have many challenges still ahead of us. And I have every confidence that if we show the great unity of the country, the great purpose of the business community, the great compassion that we are as a society. One for each other. In Australia we can keep going from strength to strength. Thank you so much for your time.