Photo: AAP Image/Grant Wells
JOHN MULLEN, TOLL GROUP EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN: I would just like to welcome everybody here. This is a momentous occasion for the company, and I think also for Tasmania and Burnie. A real vote of confidence in the future of the economy here and trans-Tasman trade. Well we're really excited to be launching the ship and to have a very distinguished guests the Prime Minister, the Premier and many others with us this morning.
WILL HODGMAN, PREMIER OF TASMANIA: Morning. Thank you. Thanks John. I might now take the opportunity to welcome the Prime Minister to Burnie and to be here with state and federal colleagues and most importantly to acknowledge this extraordinary investment by Toll in Tasmania and indeed Australia's economy. Tasmania's economy is one of the best performing in the country. We've had the highest rate of export growth of any other state and we've seen five consecutive years of growth and last year we had a record year. So Tasmanian products are in demand and as a result we're seeing that demand met by great businesses such as Toll. This is an extraordinary investment in our state. It's a sign of great confidence, not only have Toll put these ships on the Bass Strait which services 99 per cent of our trade but they've also partnered with state and commonwealth governments to invest in the infrastructure here in Burnie to make this port capable of servicing larger ships more frequently.
I want to also take the opportunity to acknowledge the Coalition Government. The Federal Coalition Government led by Scott Morrison has been an extraordinary contributor to Tasmania's economic prosperity. And when you look at this port and travel and trade across Bass Strait, the Federal Government has done so much and it's largely been driven, not only by the Prime Minister but Scott Morrison as Treasurer, that saw additional investments into this port which were matched by state contributions and Toll as well, but also in ensuring that our rail network is revitalized, opening up links across our state and the freight equalisation scheme has turbo-charged to Tasmania's export industries. So this is very much another important partnership and it has been delivered through a Coalition Government working very closely with the Tasmanian Government to deliver what is one of the strongest performing economies in the country and it's our plan to keep it that way.
And just in conclusion again to acknowledge the extraordinary contribution of Toll. They're not only putting new ships on the Strait, investing in the port infrastructure, they're employing around 600 Tasmanians. And with our economy strong and more Tasmanians in employment we have a great partner in Toll that are not only meeting current demand but also have an eye on the future. So this is a true demonstration of a state that's powering ahead and this is a fantastic day for our state, for the nation and for Toll. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Will, it's great to be here with Will in the turnaround state that is Tasmania under Will Hodgman’s leadership. Will’s just going through I think the stunning performance of the Tasmanian economy under his leadership and what we're seeing today are the fruits of what happens when you run a strong economy. People want to come and invest in it and Toll made this decision two and a half years ago. They could see where that state was going. They could see where our national economy was going and they’ve come and they've invested and they've invested big. Not only in our shipping industry, they've invested in the primary resource producers of Tasmania. They've invested in our forestry industry here in Tasmania, they've invested in our ag industry, they've invested in the manufacturing industries of Tasmania because they have seen the strength and the turnaround that is occurring here as people are coming back to Tasmania making this their home. Where they're starting businesses and they're being successful in those businesses. We've got growth running above the national average here in Braddon as Gavin Pearce will know, the Liberal candidate here and Braddon. He will know that unemployment has come down from where we were first elected to over 9 per cent here in this seat to just a bit over 6 per cent today. And I'll tell you what, we stick with this national economic plan and the economic plan that Will has here for Tasmania and that number will keep coming down. Because it's going to happen because of these investments and continuing to back in our traditional industries here in Tasmania as well as those new industries that are occurring right here in Tasmania as well.
So again, it's just all about jobs. More jobs for Tasmanians which makes our economy stronger which means that we can guarantee essential services that Australians rely on, whether it's Medicare hospitals and schools. These are all the dividends of happens when you have a strong economy. OK, happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, is it ironic that you’re launching a boat today on a day when you’ve released a video about stopping more boats?
PRIME MINISTER: Well this is one boat I want to start, this one. And this is one boat that we have had a keen hand in supporting it starting because it's driving jobs and growth here down in Tasmania and right across the country. But the boats I can assure Australians I'm going to stop are the ones who are going to carry those who would seek to illegally enter Australia. The Labor Party made it quite clear that they're happy to trade votes in the House of Representatives to undermine our border protection. But I make this point as well. Why are we so strong about border protection? Well first of all it's to stop the deaths at sea occurring again. I remember it only too well. And secondly what the Labor Party has done in the Parliament bears no resemblance to the facts on the ground. There are 60 medical professionals on Nauru for 420 people. If you had that ratio of medical professionals to people here in Burnie… I mean, you wouldn't be able to move for the doctors and medical professionals. So the suggestion that there is not medical treatment being provided is a lie. And thirdly it's ensuring that always the Government is the one who can ensure the protection of our borders and it should never be traded away for cheap deals in the House of Representatives for politics in the bubble.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the video you’ve released has much impact on people not getting on the boats?
PRIME MINISTER: It did last time. I've cut one of these videos before when I was Immigration Minister and it's to send a very clear message. This Government, the one I lead, is in charge of the show. And you've tried to get past me before and you failed and you will fail again. Our Government will be doing everything within our powers - despite what the Labor Party have done to undermine our border protection regime - to ensure these boats don't come. That is why we have taken the recommendation of the Department of Home Affairs to reopen Christmas Island. That's what we've done. That was not our suggestion. That was the recommendation of the Department of Home Affairs that this is what was necessary to address what has occurred in the Parliament by the Labor Party voting to weaken our borders. So, the one thing standing between boats coming to Australia again and Australia, is my Government.
JOURNALIST: Can you tell us what developments there will be tomorrow on a disability Royal Commission?
PRIME MINISTER: Well tomorrow the motion that will come from the Senate will pass. It won’t be opposed by the Government and was not going to be opposed by the Government. I think this was one of another of the cruel lies that was put around last week. As Prime Minister I've never opposed such a Royal Commission. My priority has been to establish the Royal Commission into aged care which I have done and to conclude the Royal Commission into the banking and finance industry which I initiated which I commissioned, which is just recently completed. So these were my priorities. We need to do everything we can to support Australians with a disability. And I'm disappointed that on Thursday the Labor Party chose to play politics with this issue. There was no suggestion that the Government was not going to support that motion that afternoon in the House of Representatives and the motion was not going to even come to the House of Representatives that afternoon. And so to suggest other things I thought was disingenuous and dishonest.
JOURNALIST: Does this enquiry need the support from the states and the Premier might like to indicate whether Tasmania has what position that?
PRIME MINISTER: You raise an important issue about the specific terms of reference that would have to be established. Now, the Labor Party has been talking about this for two years and hasn't even produced a terms of reference. So they say they want a Royal Commission but they don't know what they want the Royal Commission to be into. So as usual, the Government will do the proper work of consultation, liaising with the States and Territories as appropriate, liaising with those advocates in the disability sector by working with those who work in that sector and rely on services in that, to ensure that we get the right way forward as to how we can address the issues that will support people with disability. So we will do that work. I will do it in a bipartisan way just as I have on the other Royal Commissions and we will just do the work and ensure that people with disability can get the support they need.
JOURNALIST: What steps has the Government already make towards a Royal Commission?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I've already had some discussion with advocates already. But when we are working through the issues of the Royal Commission into aged care there was already some work being done around those issues. As you know, we included young people with disability living in the residential aged care sector into that Royal Commission. See, when you have a Royal Commission, you've got to be quite specific what you talking about. You've got to give your Royal Commission very clear guidelines as to what you want them to do. Otherwise it is just a general conversation, which runs the risk of not landing at any quite targeted recommendations that you can act on. And so we want to make sure that anything further we do in this area is done with that well considered terms of reference and directions. To ensure that it can do its job.
JOURNALIST: Just back on border security, how much is the Government actually spending on these videos you’re transmitting?
PRIME MINISTER: Oh it's all included in the Operation Sovereign Borders budget. And these videos have always been a part of the strategic communications of Operation Sovereign Borders. It's part of what they do.
JOURNALIST: What evidence do you have that these videos are effective…
PRIME MINISTER: No boats turned up.
JOURNALIST: But do you have any evidence it’s effective aside from the boat turnbacks?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes I do and it's contained in our own intelligence reports which I obviously aren't going to go into. But you asked me ‘what is the evidence that the Government's border protection policies work?’ There have been no boats. And I remember before the 2013 election that they told me that turnbacks wouldn't work. And I told them they were wrong and I implemented them and they stopped the boats. I told them I could fix the offshore processing arrangements that Labor had put in place recklessly, in a way that was underfunded. And I fixed them and I ensured that the temporary protection visas, which is what denies people that come to Australia illegally, denies them a permanent visa which is what the Labor Party want to return to doing giving them permanent visas. They said I wouldn't be able to get that into the Parliament but we did. We implemented all of our policies. We closed 19 detention centres. Labor opened 17 because of their failures. And I regret the fact that we now have to reopen the Christmas Island detention centre, which will have a real significant cost. About half a billion dollars is the estimate at the present over the next two years. $1.4 billion over the next four years. Now that is not money I had to spend a week ago, but because of the actions of the Labor Party and Bill Shorten, we now have to reopen that detention centre when there are serious calls on the public purse, particularly up in North Queensland and indeed here in Tasmania. Will, we have been talking just today about how we’re going to be working together to put a recovery and reconstruction package together here to support tourism operators here in Tasmania post the fires. So these are the things that really need our attention. But because of what Labor has done to our borders in the Parliament for a cheap vote in the Senate, they are now seeing resources pulled away from those tasks. Now I'll ensure that they will still get the support they need. But honestly I cannot tell you how disappointed I am in the priorities of the Labor Party that put forward, overwhelming and undermining our border protection regime rather than prioritizing the need of North Queensland cattle grazing.
JOURNALIST: From Adelaide, federal Labor is promising to extend the lease of Adelaide Zoo for Wang Wang and Fu Ni pandas if they come to government, will your Government be doing the same thing?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I've been talking to Steven Marshall about this and we'll have more to say about this an appropriate time and as will he. But I'll simply say this - my priority at the moment, actually with all due respect to people in South Australia and pandas -is cattle lying dead upon properties in North Queensland. That's where my focus is right now. If the Labor Party wants to focus on pandas that's fine. I'm focused on dead cattle on the ground in north Queensland.
JOURNALIST: Will further Government support be available for fire affected areas in Tasmania?
PRIME MINISTER: At this stage we're still working up plans together and Will might want to speak to this as well. But after I was here with Richard last time we were down the Huon Valley and with Will and we were touring the area, we basically said right at the end of that visit ‘we're going to have to work together on how we can support the tourism industry’. And I say to Australians - get yourself to Tasmania. It's, you know, all the places you want to go, you can get to and you can enjoy. Whether it's a Wineglass Bay down at Coles Bay there which is I think actually one of the most, probably my favourite parts of Tasmania. Or it’s up in Cradle Mountain or the Walls of Jerusalem or down at Salamanca Place or wherever you want to go. It's all open the coffee is good, everybody's just as friendly. And the scenes and the sights there are a lifetime of memories.
JOURNALIST: There's been reports up to 300 people, refugees and asylum seekers, are seeking medical advice in detention centres. Are you able to clarify those numbers?
PRIME MINISTER: I'm aware of those reports and we're preparing to deal with that sort of a caseload and remembering people don’t have to be sick. They just have to be seeking some further assessment.
That's all it requires. And as the Attorney was I think explaining really, really well this morning. I mean, they can drive a truck through the supposed protections Labor said they put in place. All I know is last week Labor weakened our borders. What I'm doing today is to strengthen them but importantly what I'm doing here in Tasmania is to stand with the Premier and all of our team to acknowledge and recognise the great strength of the Tasmanian economy, and there's no greater indicator of that than when you get Toll Group turn up and invest the millions and tens and hundreds of millions of dollars that they are investing here in the future of the Tasmanian economy. But the plan that the Hodgman Government has for the Tasmanian economy which works hand in glove with our plan for a stronger economy, which will be supporting all Tasmanians. In particular as I know Gavin sees, all of those here in northern Tasmania and Braddon. Thanks very much.