Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference in Cooktown, Tuesday, January 22, 2019. Scott Morrison visited Cooktown to announce $5.5 million to support Cooktown's 2020 Festival. (AAP Image/Marc McCormack)

Doorstop, Cooktown Queensland

Media release
22 Jan 2019
Cooktown, Queensland
Prime Minister
Commemorating James Cook; A stronger economy and lower taxes; Hydrogen; Warren Mundine.
E&OE

Photo: AAP Image/Marc McCormack

WARREN ENTSCH, MEMBER FOR LEICHHARDT: Thank you very much indeed to everybody for being here today. It’s been quite an eventful day, we’ve just come from Reconciliation Rocks, as I say, locally through the James Cook Museum. It’s been great to be here with the Prime Minister and of course with our Communications Minister and of course Minister for the Arts who is responsible for this. I think it’s been a bit of an eye-opener for the Prime Minister who is a very, very keen Captain Cook tragic if you’d like to call it that, checking out the anchor and a whole lot of other interesting artefacts here and also listening to some of the stories here, which have been quite amazing. So it’s great to have the Prime Minister here to see this firsthand and he’d now like to say a few words.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much Warren, it’s great to be here with you and Mitch and as the Member for Cook it’s great to be here, not just as the Prime Minister. Warren and I have shared a passionate interest in these stories for a very, very long time and with the 250th anniversary of that historic voyage, it was a great opportunity to come here. I was particularly keen to come here before Australia Day this year, because in my own community back in the Sutherland Shire in Sydney, we have the annual meeting of two cultures ceremony on the 29th of April each year. It’s an opportunity to understand this story from both the view from the shore and the view from the sea; to understand what took place and to build understanding and learning. But importantly it’s a ceremony that actually brings Australians together. I think it brings Australians together. I think it demonstrates how this is achieved around these important historical events, how Australians of all backgrounds can come together, listen to these stories, learn from these stories. That is very true here as well in Cooktown, at Reconciliation Rocks and I want to thank those who were involved in the ceremony today, reminding us of what is possible and how communities in particular work together to keep these stories alive, to understand these stories and to convey the important lessons of the stories.

That is what we take from history. That’s what we have an opportunity to do in a few days' time. Not to walk away from our history, but to understand it, to embrace it, to recognise things that have happened both positively and otherwise.

It's so great here in Cooktown to see that spirit of reconciliation, that spirit of understanding, that spirit of appreciation and respect to be played out. I really want to acknowledge the Waymburr People here. Not only because they helped a bloke out when he turned up here almost 250 years ago and got him back on his ship and on his way, but for the spirit in which they have kept that story alive amongst their own people and to hear it relayed to me today by local Indigenous people, it was incredibly special. So Warren, I really thank you for the opportunity to come here and do that today.

So next year is that 250th anniversary and as you know, there are things we’re doing at Kurnell and equally I was keen to ensure that we’re doing things particularly here at Cooktown and Warren and I have been having the conversations. So today we’re announcing $5.5 million or thereabouts to invest in a number of important projects that are happening here. Upgrading the monument down where we were just at Reconciliation Rocks, the further development of the Botanical Gardens, the Dreaming Trail - not just an important local story, but a great tourist experience for people who come to this part of the word, the stories of that trail are just astonishing – and also, investing more in telling the stories of the Waymburr People.

That will be supported by a broader national program, which Mitch is going to talk a bit more about. That includes two parts of what is an important voyage; there is basically a re-enactment of the voyage along the east coast of Australia which is what I referred to this morning when I was on radio this morning, and then there’s the entire circumnavigation. It does two things; the re-enactment, as you go along the east coast as they call in on various ports along the way, is an opportunity to tell the story of that initial voyage. But it’s also to take the story of reconciliation, I think, around the entire country. It goes well beyond where James Cook went all those years ago, some 39 different places. Around $6.5 million is being invested through the National Maritime Museum to tell that story and for Australians right around the country, to engage with that story and to understand it's real meaning.

I believe it will be a voyage of bringing Australians together, that is why I'm keen to support it. I'm keen for it to be done very much in that spirit. There are a range of other programs that I will ask Mitch to talk to as the Minister, But finally, I want to say thank you again Warren, for bringing me here. It’s a very special place and I encourage Australians from all around the country to come here, to check it out and to listen to the Indigenous stories, to listen to the stories of this amazing town. It wasn't just known for what happened at the Endeavour River all those years ago; whether it is the history of the gold rush or any of those things, this is one of the places in Australia which tells a really special history. To take a moment to remember those fell in service of our country during the Great War, coming out of this small town here in regional Australia, is a great reminder of the great prices that have been paid for the wonderful country we are. But that’s why it’s important for us to come together, understand our stories tell them with confidence and appreciate their messages and their learnings. But Minister, Mitch, tell us more about what's happening next year.

SENATOR THE HON MITCH FIFIELD, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND THE ARTS: Thanks PM. The 250th anniversary is an opportunity for the nation to reflect on a legacy of exploration, of science and of reconciliation. Today with the PM and Warren, we are talking about an important part of that, which is the circumnavigation by the replica of Endeavour, which will start in Sydney in March 2020, go down to Hobart, then back up the east coast and around Australia. This will provide an opportunity for the whole nation to be a part of this time to reflect. Importantly, the Cook Endeavour replica will be looking at things from the point of view of those on the ship and those on the shore at the time that Cook arrived here. There are many other elements of the $48 million that the Commonwealth is putting on behalf of the community to the Cook events, the National Library of Australia, the National Maritime Museum and also the National Museum will have a range of exhibitions. They will be combining together to have a digital platform for the nation to access, to follow the events and the story of Cook and the story of our Indigenous people.

There’s also important reconciliation components to what is being done. There will be a contribution to AIATSIS to enable the repatriation of culturally significant objects from overseas. There will also be a series of fellowships at the National Museum for Indigenous cultural sector workers to get new experiences so they can be great at their craft. So there are a range of things that are being done, but it’s both national and it’s local and the institutions that are supporting this endeavour will be working closely with local communities. As the replica Endeavour goes around the nation, there will be a travelling exhibition which will be at those sites where the Endeavour is stopping. So, an opportunity for the whole nation to come together.

JONATHAN FISHER, CEO QUEENSLAND NATIONAL TRUST: Good morning and again, thank you very much Prime Minister, Minister, Peter Scott and Warren for honouring us with your presence today. The National Trust was fortunate enough to be able to step in and play a major part in the restoration of this convent building some 50 years ago. A lot has moved on since those 50 years and now we’re looking at the future. We’re looking at hoping to make sure this is as much as a museum which tells us about the impact of James Cook as it is a museum that talks about the future of Cooktown. We look forward to investing along with our community partners in this being a centre for the Bama, making sure that they have a voice, making sure that we’re promoting, as the Minister and Prime Minister were talking about. The many experiences you can do here, that you can walk on country that really taps into the mix of authentic cultural tourism and also ecotourism. We hope in the future, the young people of Cooktown will have the opportunity to work here in the museum during the day and maybe the following day take our visitors out on country and really experience firsthand what it’s like to be in one of the most unspoilt and most beautiful parts of the country, if not the world. So, we’re very proud to be part of this and we look forward to working in partnership with all levels of government.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. So, this is great for Australia. It’s great for tourism and if you think about all the places the Endeavour replica will go around Australia. It’s great for Cooktown. It’s great for Kurnell and it’s a real opportunity next year, we’re preparing for that and we’re putting the resources in place. We would welcome the support of the Queensland Government. In New South Wales, they have matched dollar for dollar what we have invested in New South Wales for that project. That hasn’t yet occurred yet in Queensland we would invite them and we’ll be inviting them again, the Queensland Government, to participate in supporting places like Cooktown or 1770 or other places and we look forward to receiving proposals like at 1770 where I know there is work being done there. We look forward to considering those proposals when they come forward.

So with that, why don’t we take questions on those issues. We can move to other issues of the day, happy to do that. I’ll have a bit to say before we do that and let’s start with any questions on why we’re here today.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’ve spoken a lot about working together for these celebrations. What do you have to say then to people who believe celebrating Captain Cook’s arrival welcomes feelings of discontent?

PRIME MINISTER: I think they’re missing the point, you don’t crabwalk away from your history, you open yourself to it, you understand it. You embrace it, you come together and understand it, which is what we see here. What was so beautiful about the ceremony we had today, is it told the story from both perspectives. I thought it captured a spirit of reconciliation which is what we want to go out right across Australia. That's what embracing your history and understanding your history - and not crab-walking away from it - does.

So we’re not going to make any pretences, we’re just going to be honest about it and have fair dinkum conversations about it. I think that makes Australia stronger. I’m about making Australia stronger, and you’re stronger when you can deal with your past and you can come together around your past and make it a platform to take you into the future.

JOURNALIST: Just a question on the economy.

PRIME MINISTER: Let's just stay on the local announcement and then move on to other issues.

JOURNALIST: Fred, the little old man you met, he had a pretty touching message to you about all being Australian. What did you say back to him?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I basically just thanked him for keeping the stories alive. I thanked him for the way the local community has just been so much part of what has happened here. This has been a community process here that has been going for some 60 years and it’s done in partnership. I think it’s a great model for the rest of the country, that’s why I thanked him for the spirit in which he engages.

JOURNALIST: Is the best way to celebrate Cook’s voyage with a circumnavigation tour, when he didn’t actually circumnavigate Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: As I explained in my opening remarks, yes it does retrace the steps, obviously, when we go up the east coast, which is what I was referring to this morning.  But you know, we’re one large country and it's important that the lessons and the stories that came out of that experience along the east coast of Australia, is shared with the rest of the country. That’s what the circumnavigation is, as the Minister has outlined. It’s important that we do take the story around the country. But at the same time, that process of sailing along the east coast will be quite special, I know it will be quite special in my community. On the 29th of April next year that will be a very special time in our community. Because for a long time, for those who probably haven't had as much engagement with this story as they have in my community or in Cooktown – and they can come in and can make all sorts criticisms of it, but they haven't been part of it yet and I invite them to open themselves up to the story – because James Cook was quite a remarkable person for his time. You know, those who want to engage in judgements of things that happened 250 years ago and ignore the context of the period, I think do history and themselves a disservice. If you look at Cook in his own time, in his own context, he really was quite a legendary figure. He was a scientist above and beyond everything else, wanting to understand, hungry to know and sure he made some mistakes, who doesn't, but he sought to understand and he sought to engage. I think that is something worth recognising.

JOURNALIST: The Mayor behind you has been sweating on this money for a long time, is this ready to spend or is it an election promise?

PRIME MINISTER: No, it’s ready to spend, it’s absolutely committed. It’s already there. Peter, are you happy mate?

MAYOR: Well done mate, [inaudible].

[Laughter]

PRIME MINISTER: Well it’s great and thank you for working with us, because this was a proposal that came out of the community. This is not something that bureaucrats in Canberra dreamed up and said; “This is what Cooktown can have.” No, the complete opposite, just like in my own community in terms of what we are doing down in Kurnell. That has come out of the community and that’s why we’re backing it in. We’re backing it in and it’s coming from the grassroots up. So, I think people want to move to other issues so let me make a comment on those first.

The Treasurer today has been, I think, sounding a very important warning about the global economy that we’re entering as we go into this year. I served as Treasurer for three years and I know the global economy we’re entering this year is going be a lot tougher than the one we certainly entered this time last year. But we have seen these tough times as a government before and we’ve ensured continuous growth. Not just continuous, but growth at the top of the leader board of developed economies around the world in the face of the biggest shock to the Australian economy that – arguably – we’ve ever seen, other than the Great Depression; when we worked through the end of the mining investment boom that pulled $80 billion out of the Australian economy. That particularly impacted places like far north Queensland, north Queensland, central Queensland, in resources communities. This had a massive impact and that’s why I am so pleased today that we can stand here in north Queensland – we’re in Warren’s electorate - where the youth unemployment rate has fallen from 28 per cent down to 15.6 per cent. So what Josh is saying today, I totally back him in. We are going into a tougher environment and now, more than ever, you must be able to know how to get the economic settings right to protect people’s jobs, their livelihoods and to be able to invest in hospitals and schools.

Now, Labor has not demonstrated those skills in the past. Their plans to put $200 billion of higher taxes on the Australian economy - that’s what they’re offering at the next election - that will throw a big wet blanket on the Australian economy at the time you can least afford it.

The decisions that are made about the economy over the next couple of years and the decision the Australian people will make at the next election about where they want their economy to go, that will determine the economy you will live in for the next decade. When Kevin Rudd was elected in 2007, we spent the last five years cleaning up the mess that Labor made over their six years of government.

JOURNALIST: As the economy stands today Prime Minister, is it able to withstand [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: With the right economic management - as we have already demonstrated in government - the Australian economy can continue to prosper. But with $200 billion of extra taxes on the Australian economy - and taxes that will undermine consumer confidence like Labor's negative gearing changes, abolishing it as we know it, increasing capital gains tax, hitting self-funded and other retirees with their retirees tax - these taxes will slow the Australian economy. It will weaken the Australian economy. That's why it's a very negative and dangerous plan, particularly as we are going into these difficult environments.

The other point I'd make about the economy is this: Down in Gladstone, Bill Shorten is down there talking about new plants. That's fine. But don't close down the existing one. The Boyne aluminium smelter will be history, history, if Labor's reckless targets on energy are implemented. A 45 per cent emissions reduction target, which is what Labor has said they will not only introduce, but they will make law, that will wipe out 1,000 jobs alone at the Boyne Island aluminium smelter. How do I know? I was there last year and the workers told me that themselves.

So he can spend $3 million and he can say that he's going to loan money to some proposal which as yet is only in formative stages. That is no compensation for wiping out 1,000 jobs in a viable, competitive, go-ahead industry that is already existing in Gladstone and providing livelihoods for so many families.

JOURNALIST: Just sticking with Labor's announcement of money for hydrogen research, do you back the idea and would your Party have anything to say on the issue?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I'm fine with the issue of hydrogen research, that's not the issue. The truth is, there's only $3 million worth of new money, but they cannot direct the CEFC as to where they loan money, that’s actually an independent organisation. So I think to go along and play that 3-card trick with the people of Gladstone is quite disingenuous, particularly when he's going to rip 1,000 jobs out of the Boyne Island aluminium smelter and undermine the livelihoods of so many Australians.

So, I don't have any problem with the project, but you don't have to choose between the two. You don’t have to shut the industries like the aluminium industry, whether it's at  Boyne aluminium smelter or it's down in Victoria. You don't have to do that. That's why we think his plan is a reckless plan for our economy.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of news that Malcolm Turnbull’s former infrastructure adviser has plans to run as an independent against Tony Abbott?

PRIME MINISTER: It's a free country.

JOURNALIST: Did you instruct members of the New South Wales Liberal executive to vote for Warren Mundine in preselection?

PRIME MINISTER: When l have more to say about our candidate in Gilmore, I will say it then.

JOURNALIST: Do you support Warren Mundine?

PRIME MINISTER: I think Warren Mundine is a top bloke. Entschy knows Warren Mundine really well, don't you mate?

WARREN ENTSCH, MEMBER FOR LEICHHARDT: I do I think he’s great. Great name too, by the way.

PRIME MINISTER: I think Warren Mundine has got a lot to offer and has already been offering quite a bit. I've been a friend of Warren for some time, I think he's a great bloke.

Sorry, I can't hear you there's three at once. Now there’s two at once.

JOURNALIST: Would you want another woman in the seat of Gilmore?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, Ann Sudmalis has done a great job and I want to see more female candidates and that's why I'm pleased to see the great, strong field that's already emerging where Kelly O'Dwyer is not going to contest the next election, I'm absolutely confident we'll see another great female candidate come up there. Remembering the last person to actually enter our Parliament I think it was, here in Queensland, was Amanda Stoker and she’s fantastic. So I want to see more Amanda Stokers, I want to see more of these great young women and women with life experience coming into our Parliament. I'm going to be working hard as the leader of the Liberal Party to achieve that in the future. As we go into this election, those processes were largely set and pretty much completed. There's some more candidates, particularly in the seats that will be hotly contested and in existing seats, but it's certainly my intention to ensure that we have the plans in place with me as Liberal leader, to ensure we have even greater female representation in the future.

JOURNALIST: If James Cook were alive today, who would he be voting for?

[Laughter]

WARREN ENTSCH, MEMBER FOR LEICHHARDT: There's only one man, the member for Cook!

PRIME MINISTER: There you go - well put, Warren!

[Laughter]

Look, I admire what - this is why being here is so important to me and Warren. You know, I love Australia's history, I love all of Australia's history. In the first speech, in my maiden speech I gave in the Parliament, I talked about Cook. I talked about the importance of this 250th anniversary. So, you know, I've had a long-held view about this. I think it is so important for the reconciliation journey of this country to get our heads around this and to end this process of having a divisive view of our history. We just need to come around it, understand it, get together on it just like you've seen here at Cooktown. I want to thank the people at Cooktown, the Indigenous people, the community who are here, who are telling this story honestly and in a way that I think speaks volumes to other Australians.

JOURNALIST: Back to the election, how much of a threat are independents in this election?

PRIME MINISTER: Well independents turn up at every election. But what I know is, they always promise a lot and can never really deliver at the end of the day.

You want a strong economy? That's what I want. Because I want to fund lung cancer medicines like I announced on the weekend. I want to fund the $60 million - which we are - for the Cairns Hospital. I want to ensure that we can continue to support our school education right around the country, which we're funding at record levels. We can fund all the essential services Australians rely on, without hitting them with higher taxes. Because we know how to run a strong economy and bring the Budget into surplus, which will be done for the first time in April of this year, before the next election. Australians will be able to see very clearly which party, which leader, knows how to manage money and has a clear direction as to how we're going to keep our economy strong, to keep Australians in their jobs, to keep services and support going into our hospitals and our schools. That's why we believe in a strong economy because it keeps Australians together and strong and having the services that they need.

So I want to thank everyone, particularly Peter, thanks for having us here in your neck of the woods. I'm looking forward to the rest of the day, Warren. I want to thank, particularly, the National Trust here for the work that you're doing in telling the stories in this wonderful place. I'd encourage all Australians who may be watching this or hearing this in some way or shape or form, get yourself to Cooktown. Get yourself here, do yourself a favour.

JOURNALIST: My friends in Canberra also want to know if you’re in Queensland because you’re worried about marginal seats?

PRIME MINISTER: They worry too much in Canberra, they should stop worrying.

WARREN ENTSCH, MEMBER FOR LEICHHARDT: Can I say, when Scott Morrison became Prime Minister, the first place he visited after being elected was Cairns. We sat down and we had dinner on the waterfront and he says to me: "Entschy, something on my bucket list, I've got to go, will you take me to Cooktown?” And I said; "Have I got a deal for you! Of course I'll take you to Cooktown, but I've got Peter Scott's shopping list in me back pocket and you need to tick that off, then I'll take you up here.

PRIME MINISTER: And we’ve delivered. One last fun fact on Captain Cook, little-known fact. If you look inside and look at the quote from James Cook - I don't think you believe me about this - Tony Horwitz wrote [inaudible] and he retraced a lot of Cook’s voyages. He told the story of the contemporary islands and the places that Cook visited. He was here in Cooktown in the pub and in that book, he opens it up by saying that actually, James Cook was the inspiration for James T. Kirk in Star Trek. That's fair dinkum. Look at the words said by Cook and you can see; "Going where no-one has gone before,” all those sorts of things.

So there are many things to commemorate about James Cook, but he was an enlightened individual at a time that needed a bit of light. I think a lot of his light and the experiences he had with the local Indigenous people here in Cooktown, can shed a lot of light on how we can bring Australians together today.