Doorstop – Launceston City Deal MOU Signing

Transcript
29 Sep 2016
University of Tasmania
Prime Minister
E&OE

PRIME MINISTER:

Surrounded by so much creativity and imagination here. I’m delighted to be here with the Acting Premier, my Federal colleagues Angus Taylor, Senator’s Dunium and Bushby – we have been welcomed by Jeremy and his colleagues, the Treasurer, and also of course Vice-Chancellor Peter Rathjen and the Mayor, the Lord Mayor of Launceston. And we have been talking about the future of Tasmania's prosperity. We've been recognising that the key to the prosperity of Tasmania is innovation, education, investment and the jobs that come from that. We know that education attainment in Tasmania is less than it should be. We know that wages are lower on average than they should be and the key to addressing that, the key to ensuring that Tasmanians have great jobs in the future, great well-paying jobs, is to ensure that we're investing in education and in the cities that will bring that education, bring the university here in Launceston, into the heart of the city and drive that growth. This is about jobs and growth here in Tasmania.

We are delivering on our election promises. We are delivering on our commitment to invest $150 million - $130 million of it here in Launceston into the UTAS investment here. This is bringing the university into the heart of the city. And the Lord Mayor has done a fantastic job with his urban renewal project. He is bringing the humanity and the people back into the heart of Launceston, with his heart of the city project brilliantly designed, and we're pleased to be putting $7.5 million into that. So right across the board we are backing in the promises we made in the election. We're delivering on an exciting future for Tasmania that is driven by education, innovation, investment, great jobs, better paying jobs, all surrounded by this investment in STEM, science, technology, engineering, mathematics. These are the disciplines that power the modern economy and Tasmania will be leading on that. You've seen strong growth across the State - not as strong as it should be in the north. That is why we're here making these investments today.

ACTING PREMIER:

Thank you, Prime Minister. And welcome to Tasmania and your Minister, Angus. This is a great announcement today, the signing of the MOU. It's great for the City of Launceston, Northern Tasmania and indeed the entire State. Thank you for your contribution and your focus on innovation, STEM, and education. We are embarking on what is a significant reform agenda here in Tasmania when it comes to education. The funding promised and that will be delivered, which the State Government will contribute some $60 million here in Launceston, $75 million when you include Burnie into the university project, aligns beautifully with Tasmania's focus on education and, yes, Tasmania has some challenges when it comes to our educational attainment - our productivity. But the silver bullet to that is through that focus on education, and today's signing of the MOU and of course the focus on the university also is a demonstration of the very strong good will and collaboration between Federal and State government, Local government and of course the University of Tasmania.

PRIME MINISTER:

That’s great. Yes, please. Ask away.

JOURNALIST:

You’re singing the MOU today, when are we likely to start seeing work on the ground especially with UTAS?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the Vice-Chancellor is here. Come in here Vice-Chancellor. The Vice-Chancellor has been an inspiration, I might say. I can't tell you how much we admire the work that you are doing. The $150 million across the two campuses, $130 million here and $20 million in Burnie, that is designed to support the university's expansion here. The Vice-Chancellor will tell us his schedule, his timetable for doing that. But the MOU, the Memorandum of Understanding which sets up the platform for city deals across Tasmania, of course the first will be here in Launceston and it will be followed by others in Hobart and elsewhere, what it does is it brings together for the first time Federal, State and Local governments collaborating. All too often, as you heard me say earlier, we tended to pass like ships in the night. And there hasn't been a coordination. Now, we recognise that if we work together we can get the maximum benefit for the people of Tasmania indeed of every part of Australia from the dollars that we invest. Collaboration, imagination, investment, that is the key. Now Vice-Chancellor, what is happening next on this great project of yours?

VICE-CHANCELLOR:

So we think we've got the answer, which will help with the socio-economic revitalisation up here. Given that that is the case, we want to put it in place as fast as we can. We are currently staffing up here in the north and there will be some announcements on that shortly. We will go through the first phases of consultation by early next year and throw the project out for wider community consultation and we hope to have the planning finished in quarter one next year. Then, provided we can get support and planning permission from all the groups we will need that from, we will commence construction just as quickly as we can.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister is there a link to be made between South Australia’s blackout yesterday and the State’s reliance on renewable energy?

PRIME MINISTER:

Can we just have some more questions on this project here, on the MOU in Tasmania? And then we will come back to South Australia - that's a very important question though.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister when will this $150 million actually be available?

PRIME MINISTER:

It will be available over the period of the project and the schedule will depend on the timetable that the Vice-Chancellor just described.

JOURNALIST:

So if it’s ready next year, the funding will be there?

PRIME MINISTER:

It will be delivered over time in accordance with the contributions from the State Government. I can assure you our commitment to this is as enthusiastic as the Vice-Chancellor himself. Anything else on Tasmania?

JOURNALIST:

What about the $7.5 million for the City Heart project? When will that be available?

PRIME MINISTER:

That will be available as and when the Lord Mayor requires the funds.

JOURNALIST:

Any progress on Hobart [inaudible] Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have had reference to that today, but we haven't got a detailed proposal on that – or I haven't seen one - Angus, do you want to comment on that?

VICE-CHANCELLOR:

Perhaps I could say we are preparing a detailed proposal.

PRIME MINISTER:

It's in train. No doubt the Vice-Chancellor will propound it as passionately and persuasively as he has this one.

JOURNALIST:

During the election campaign you committed $1 million to Cradle Mountain for a feasibility study. How is that going and will you be providing any more funds?

PRIME MINISTER:

It will depend on the outcome of the study, but I ask, where is our Tasmanian Senators? How is the study coming along, Senator? Cradle Mountain’s feasibility study?

SENATOR BUSHBY:

I think that’s progressing.

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s progressing, very good. It’s underway but that will provide us with further information that may enable further investment. It will also inform all the other stakeholders as well.  

JOURNALIST:

When would you like that to be finished?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I like everything to be done quickly. It's got to be done comprehensively but I don't like dragging my feet.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, back to South Australia, did the State’s push into renewables bear any responsibility for the state-wide blackout?

PRIME MINISTER:

OK, thank you for that. I spoke to the Premier briefly yesterday afternoon and then spoke to the Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg and he of course has been taking the lead in the discussions with the State.

What we know so far is that there was an extreme weather event that damaged a number of transmission line assets, knocking over towers and lines. That was the immediate cause of the blackout. I want to pay tribute to the SES workers, the workers working for the energy utilities that are working so hard to restore services. As you know, most services have now been restored in South Australia and it is a tribute to the resilience, the courage, the hard work of those men and women that that has been done. So we should pay tribute to them working in very tough conditions, in a shocking storm.

Now, turning to the issue of renewables, there is no doubt that a heavy reliance on intermittent renewals by which in South Australia we're mostly talking about wind, there's also solar but intermittent renewables does place very different strains and pressures on a grid, than reliance on traditional base load power, whether it is fossil fuel or of course hydro, which of course as long as the water is in the dam is very reliable as well. So these intermittent renewables do pose real challenges.

Now I want to make this point - energy security should always be the key priority. If you are stuck in an elevator, if the lights won't go on, if your fridge is thawing out, everything in the fridge is thawing out because the power has gone, you are not going to be concerned about the particular source of that power - whether it is hydro, wind, solar, coal or gas. You want to know that the energy is secure. Now, that has to be the key priority.

Now, I regret to say that a number of the State Labor governments have over the years set priorities and renewable targets that are extremely aggressive, extremely unrealistic, and have paid little or no attention to energy security. This is not just focused on South Australia but the same observation can be made about Queensland or indeed Victoria. So I've asked the Energy Minister, my Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, to bring the State energy ministers together in what will be a precursor to my discussion with the Premiers to ensure that we move towards a national renewables target. The state-based targets, some of which are completely unrealistic – I mean Queensland, for example, has 50 per cent renewable target currently, renewables are about 4.5 per cent of their mix. So what's the pathway to achieve that? It is very hard to see it. It's a political or ideological statement.

So let's focus now and take this storm in South Australia, this incident in South Australia, as a real wake-up call. Let's end the ideology, focus on clear renewable targets. The Federal Government has one as you know - 23.5 per cent is our target. We have emission reduction targets we have agreed to in Paris. They are substantial. I have been thanked by world leaders, President Obama no less, for the contribution that we've made. We should focus on those and stop the political gamesmanship between the States. We've got to recognise that energy security is the key priority and targeting lower emissions is very important but it must be consistent with energy security.

JOURNALIST:

The MH17 investigation –

JOURNALIST:

The Climate Council claims renewables played a part in that blackout…

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm sorry - you asked about MH17?

JOURNALIST:

Oh, no, sorry - the Climate Council has said this is the storm SA needed to have for the Government to wake up and get serious about relying on fossil fuels. What is your response to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think I have just given it. Thank you.

JOURNALIST:

The MH17 investigation has found that the plane was shot down by a missile brought in from Russia through an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists. Will you take this up with Russia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, we have and we are, and I raised the matter with President Putin only a few weeks ago. The perpetrators, the criminals, the killers that did this should be brought to justice. So far, as you know Russia has used its veto on the Security Council to stop UN action. We will continue to press Russia to support the Security Council enabling that prosecution to take place. There is also the opportunity for the Netherlands to undertake a criminal prosecution itself. That is also being considered. But every single one of those victims - the Australians, the Malaysians, the citizens of the Netherlands - all of them, every single one of them, regardless of their age, their nationality, every single one of those murdered victims, killed by that missile, brought in from Russia, fired with the knowledge of Russia, every single one of them demands justice and we will be tireless in our efforts to ensure that justice is done.

JOURNALIST:

One of the State's largest industrials has questioned the need for a second Basslink cable. Is the Government still committed to it?

PRIME MINISTER:

It's certainly a matter that we, as you know, have work being done on it at the moment. I would ask the Acting Premier perhaps to address that?

ACTING PREMIER:

As you realise, the Federal Government have committed to a feasibility study. We're going through a process of inquiry now. We will await that outcome then.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Turnbull, are concerned about Stuart Robert’s dealings with the Sunland Group and people connected to it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Mr Robert has produced a statement today in response to the matters raised in the press and I would refer you to that.

JOURNALIST:

But do you believe he has done nothing wrong in that instance?

PRIME MINISTER:

He has set out the circumstances in which he made the speech in Parliament, as a local member. This is 2012. I think you will understand that speech has been on the public record, the donations that were made by a property developer have also been on the public record and disclosed. He set out all those facts and I would refer you to them.

JOURNALIST:

Can we ask about education funding just quickly Prime Minister? There is a report today that some private schools are receiving above the standard allocation of funding – is that a case that should be addressed as a priority?

PRIME MINISTER:

Senator Birmingham, my Education Minister is in the process of negotiating the next school funding arrangements for the States. As you know, David Gonski produced his report, the Labor Government under Julia Gillard then entered into 27 different deals with State governments, with non-government school systems and these are a contradictory mish-mash of arrangements with no consistency at all. And that is the problem. What Simon Birmingham has exposed is there has just been no consistency. Now what he is working with the States and the other school systems to achieve is an allocation of money that is based on need. That's very important. That is equitable as between States and government and non-government and so it's got to be needs-based, it's got to be equitable or fair, and it also has to deliver the outcomes that we need which is better performance. We have been spending a lot more on school education over the last decades. But, as you know, outcomes, attainments have actually been declining. We have been going backwards relative to our international peers. So we are spending more money and getting less outcomes, unsatisfactory performance. Now, that's got to be addressed and you've seen the policies we announced during the election, which are focused on ensuring that you have greater teacher quality and greater performance through the school system. So that is what we will be doing.

Thank you all very much indeed.

[ENDS]