PRIME MINISTER: Well ladies and gentleman, it’s great to be here in one of the world’s great tropical cities, Darwin. It’s great to be here in Northern Australia. It’s great to be here in one of Australia’s great cities, Darwin. It’s great to be here with the Chief Minister, the Mayor and the Leader of the Opposition, CLP candidates and Luke, the local Member. It’s great to be here together and particularly with Alan Tudge, the Minister, to be here to announce what is a very big deal for Darwin. It’s a very big deal for the Territory and it’s a very big deal for Australia. It’s a deal that brings together all three levels of government to focus on the future of our most important cities. A city that has been all sorts of history over a long period of time, which we’ll be marking in a very special way a little later today with a visit with Prime Minister Abe. But here, what we’re looking at is the future of this city, to be a leading light for other tropical cities around the world.
What we’re announcing today is a Cities Deal which will see around half a billion dollars invested in its’ future over the next ten years. The Commonwealth, together with the Territorian Government as well as the City Council, coming together to invest in projects which will enliven this city. Now, from the Commonwealth’s point of view, that involves just over $100 million of investments, principally when it comes to Charles Darwin University to create a vertical campus right here in the middle of the city of Darwin, which will bring some 1,100 students into the middle of the city, increasing the vibrancy of the city and bringing future Territorians to Darwin where they will come and they will study and they will live. The plan is that they will hopefully stay and embrace the wonderful tropical city life of what is Darwin. This is a project that will see a great boost, not only in construction works that will take place, but a long-term viable, sustaining, driving force in the heart of the city of Darwin.
Now, on top of that, there will be some important works that we’ve funded, just under $5 million that is looking at the tropical city management process here in Darwin. The greening of the city, its’ temperature management, these are challenges which are being faced by tropical cities all around the world. Now I have just come from the East Asia Summit in Singapore and the issue of managing these types of issues in tropical cities is one of the biggest challenges being faced by countries in our region today. Whether it’s in Malaysia or Singapore or Indonesia or Vietnam or other places, one of the key initiatives, the new cities initiative that we are part of in the region, is taking the expertise that we have developed here in Australia and exporting that to the world in terms of how you manage and plan and develop cities in tropical locations. So with the CSIRO we’ll be working here to manage an urban city lab which will be looking at those tropical city management design issues and project issues. I think that’s going to be real boost, not just for the city of Darwin to be one of the lead tropical cities in the world, but on top of that it will ensure important export business for services and technology that will further boost the Australian economy.
In addition to that, we’ve got Stokes Hill land area just behind us, which will be made available to go through a process to ensure that it can be put to best possible use, particularly working together closely with the Larrakia People for whom this is a very important piece of land in the Northern Territory. We work consultatively with them and with the Territory Government to ensure that’s put to its best and most appropriate use. But also as Nigel Scullion has been championing, this deal has a jobs guarantee for Indigenous Australians. A jobs guarantee, to ensure that Indigenous people are employed on the projects that go into this deal and it also includes $2 million to support the Larrakia People and their economic development here in the Territory.
So, this is a deal that will make our economy stronger. This is a deal that will make the Territory stronger and it’s a deal that I think will improve the living standards and livelihoods of people who live in Darwin. Not just today, but the many more that we hope will come and live in this tropical city of the future here in Darwin. I want to thank again Michael Gunner the Chief Minister here, I want to thank Kon the Mayor, I particularly want to thank Alan Tudge who has brought this to a conclusion today with our partners. As the Minister responsible, I think he’s done an extraordinary job, not just here but many of the other deals we have been able to announce in recent times, so well done Alan. And I’m going to pass on to the Chief Minister and congratulate him again on the win.
HON MICHAEL GUNNER, NORTHERN TERRITORY CHIEF MINISTER: Thank you, Prime Minister. This is an exciting day. Today, the Australian Government, the Territory Government, Darwin City Council are investing in Darwin as the capital of Northern Australia. This is an investment that will drive the creation of local jobs here in Darwin and in the Territory. We will now see more students, more international students call Darwin home.
We’re now going to see a greener, more tropical Darwin. We’ve already started that investment with the creation of extra parkland in the heart of our CBD and the start of Cavenagh Street shade trial and this will be driven by that CSIRO living lab. We see Darwin as not near Asia but in Asia. We see Darwin as a driver of economic activity and we want, we have a vision for Darwin to service our northern neighbours, the wider region. We see our competition as Singapore, not Sydney. That’s what we want to do and this investment drives and supports that vision. I thank the Prime Minister, I thank the Lord Mayor, I thank the Vice-Chancellor, the Minister Alan Tudge, everybody who’s helped deliver this vision, the Larrakia people who have bought into this vision for Darwin. This is a very exciting day as we celebrate today the first gas of INPEX and that major project, I think it’s perfectly fitting that we celebrate this, another major investment into Darwin, the place that we call home and that we love. Thank you very much.
LORD MAYOR KON VATSKALIS: Well, it is a tropical city as you can see. But this is the deal that will change Darwin. We’re not going to be a city in Australia, far away from everywhere. We’re going to be the centre between Australia and Asia. This deal between the Federal Government and the Territory Government and the Darwin City Council is very important for Darwin. They’re putting $100 million investment, we’re putting one of the biggest and the only available block in the middle of the city for the university to be placed there. $25 million worth of land that if it was not there, you couldn’t put a university in the middle of the city. A university that will change the face of the city, not only the students but the businesses around that are there now or that will develop to support the university. Greening the city, finding solutions for this hot city that is getting hotter. Greening the city, putting public art in the streets, in our parks. It is not “we may think about it,” but now, “it will happen”. It will change Darwin as we know it. Thank you.
MINISTER ALAN TUDGE: Well, thanks, Prime Minister. We’ve now signed a number of City Deals around the country and each one has a different theme. The most recent one, the Geelong City Deal, is very much about stimulating the tourism economy. The Western Sydney City Deal is about creating a new city almost, built around the Western Sydney Airport. This one is about really developing the heart and soul of Darwin itself to grow it, to make it more liveable and to activate the city centre.
As the Prime Minister said, the central investment from the Commonwealth’s perspective is to build a brand new university campus right in the heart of the city and that means you’ll have 11,000 students there on a daily basis, spilling out into the streets, purchasing food at the local cafes and restaurants and enjoying life in Darwin and hopefully making it their home forever. It also provides a tremendous opportunity though for international students. I know the Vice-Chancellor is particularly keen on that university because the Northern Territory only gets about 0.2 per cent of all international students, despite having about one per cent of the population here. There’s real opportunity for international student growth into this city and that brings people, but it also brings money, because every international student, on average, brings about $44,000 into the local economy, half in fees, the other half in expenditure. So, there’s huge economic potential here as well from this deal.
Can I just thank the Chief Minister and the Mayor and the Mayor and also the Vice-Chancellor for working so cooperatively together to land this particular deal, but it’s amazing what you can achieve when the three levels of government work cooperatively, honestly, thrash things out together and land something really significant which will shape our city here for the next decade. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER: Let’s take some questions on the City Deal and as I’ve said before, if there are some other matters, we can deal with those separately.
JOURNALIST: What evidence is there that bring university students to the city centre will revitalises the economy?
PRIME MINISTER: I’ve seen this firsthand in my own city in Liverpool, Western Sydney University went and put a very large vertical campus there and that is now the biggest training centre for nurses in New South Wales. It has completely transformed the City of Liverpool and interestingly, because Alan just referred to it, one of the reasons the campus was put there in Liverpool was because of the investments we’d made in the City Deal around the Western Sydney Airport. It all makes sense and so these investments create momentum. They are catalysts and to bring 1,100 people into the centre of Darwin, 1,100 in terms of the students, then this will ensure that we are rapidly increasing the money that is churning around in the Darwin economy. So that’s what we’ve seen in Liverpool in Sydney, we’ve seen it in other places around the country and this will be a significant investment.
JOURNALIST: It’s less money than the money provided for Townsville and for the Launceston. Why is there $100 million for Darwin more than for other cities?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, every City Deal is different and every City Deal deals with the projects. I mean, it’s not a league table of investment, what it is it’s a project-based approach. What are the right projects to actually get the city moving in the right direction? The selection of projects that is being done here - we’re doing a series of projects, the Territory Government is investing in projects like the Arts Centre and others - and it’s the combination of those projects which is what matters. Then the Government stepped up with the funding required to make it happen.
Now, I should stress that on top of what we’ve put in, in terms of our investment in direct funding, there is also the opportunity for further support to be provided through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund so there is additional opportunity for us to be involved here and that will be a function of those projects as they’re further developed.
JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull, when he came to Tennant Creek a couple of months ago, proposed a regional deal for the Barkly Region. Where are things at with that?
PRIME MINISTER: I’ll be having a bit more to say about that at lunchtime.
JOURNALIST: Why did you block access to your letter offering the GST top-up, which refers to fracking –
PRIME MINISTER: Why don’t we just stay, we’ll stay on the City Deal and we can deal with other political issues later. Are there other questions to the Chief Minister and the Lord Mayor or Alan on the issue of the City Deal?
JOURNALIST: What projects are you expecting will be good for regenerating the city Stokes Hill Wharf site?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, this has to be consultative process on the Stokes Hill site and I’m not going to pre-empt that and that consultation. Particularly that consultation has to be undertaken with the Larrakia people. But I’ll let the Chief Minister speak on that.
CHIEF MINISTER GUNNER: There are two projects that have been identified as possible for that site amongst others. One is obviously the Larrakia cultural centre and there’s investment through the City Deal for doing a business case around that. We’ve also flagged around the corner from there, the potential for a water park to be on that site as well. So there’s a couple of projects that may be for that site, that’s not to rule out potential for others to be there as well. Obviously, what we’ve done through the City Deal is agree to work together about clearing those old fuel tanks there and rehabilitating the site and working on that.
JOURNALIST: Just another question for the Prime Minister. Will the Federal Government commit any funding to revitalise Kakadu?
PRIME MINISTER: We’re currently working through that issue. Nigel Scullion, the Senator is working with the Territory Government and I know Gary has written to us as well about some issues with Kakadu. But coming out of the tourism industry, I probably know better than most from the southern states how important Kakadu is to the Northern Territory tourism industry. So we’re aware of the issues there and I’ve been working closely with the Territory Government. Today, we’re here talking about Darwin and once we’re in a position to say more about those matters, then I will.
JOURNALIST: Why did you block access to your letter of offering the GST to the Territory?
PRIME MINISTER: Are we done with the City Deal, because there will be different people standing at the microphone if we’re going to talk about politics.
Well, I’m glad to see everybody is excited about the City Deal. We’re excited about the City Deal as is Gary as is Kathy and of course, as is Jacinta, great to have you here. So, why don’t we thank you very much and of course the Vice-Chancellor.
JOURNALIST: Later today, you’ll meet with Shinzo Abe. How does it feel to be the first Prime Minister to meet with the Japanese Prime Minister since WWII?
PRIME MINISTER: Here in Darwin? Well, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss this with Shinzo Abe during the recent Summit I’ve just been attending in Singapore and he’s looking forward to being in Darwin. This is going to be a very significant day for Darwin with his visit, not just because of the marking of the fact that the first shipment of gas to come out of the INPEX project which has been an enormous investment, the single largest investment ever by Japan in Australia. But it will be, I think, a very sombre time, particularly for Australians all around the country, wherever they are, whether they’re in Darwin or they’re in other parts of the country and they were here at the time of the raids, or had family members who were killed, over 230 during those raids.
I think this is an important time of healing. It’s an important time of reconciliation and for some, I know that will always be difficult, who were directly touched by those events. But what I do know is that the humility of Prime Minister Abe’s attendance here today and the way he has approached similar issues in other parts of the world, says a great deal, not only about his character as a leader and his vision as a leader, but it says a lot about the relationship between Japan and Australia. We share so much in common in this part of the world and we have a very similar outlook on how issues need to be managed in this part of the world. I’ll be looking forward to discussing those with him further today. Obviously, those of you who were up with me in Singapore know that those formal discussions have already commenced and we’ll have a lot more today. I’m very much looking forward to welcoming him here today and I think it will be an important visit, not just for Darwin, but for Australia.
JOURNALIST: PM, could you speak to the strategic implications of what you and Prime Minister Abe will be signing today, with the view to the region, with a view to the tensions between China and the US which we saw writ large in Singapore?
PRIME MINISTER: We both have a very similar outlook when it comes to managing our relationships with two important partners. Japan has a very important strategic partnership with the United States, as do we. They also have a very significant trade relationship with China and a broader relationship, as do we. So I think in getting together and talking about the many tense issues that exist in managing both of those relationships, I think it’s a very positive way of taking all of our relationships forward. We’re basically dealing with the same set of issues. So to round that out, whether it’s on defence issues, whether it’s on trade issues, we are working very closely together and identifying more and more ways to do that.
The Defence and Foreign Ministers met in Sydney recently and that further implemented a whole range of more cooperative activity in terms of joint activities and exercises and that’s been continuing. We’re very keen to see how that can be progressed to the future and we’ll have more to discuss on that topic today. But the trade issues around RCEP and the potential additional participants in the TPP which Prime Minister Abe was instrumental in ensuring that that deal came together along with our former Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull and the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key. So Prime Minister Abe I know, sort of carries a great deal of ownership of that arrangement and his intention as is ours is to see others join that relationship in the future.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] right to be concerned that Chinese investment could affect Australian democracy, openness and transparency, perhaps in this country but maybe also in the region?
PRIME MINISTER: No, I don’t share that view.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you expect this will be an awkward or uncomfortable visit of the Japanese leader, having had the chance to speak with him?
PRIME MINISTER: No, I don’t. Because he has undertaken similar visits around the world in similar locations with similar history and he approaches this with an authenticity and a humility which comes very naturally to him. I think that will greatly assist in putting at ease some of the very deep feelings that are around this issue, so I think he’s demonstrated very well and in a very positive way at how these visits can actually take the issue forward, provide a moment of reflection and healing and continue to reinforce the relationship in very positive terms.
JOURNALIST: Why did you block access to, basically, your never offering GST top-up to the Northern Territory, that refer to the lifting of the moratorium? Because the Australia Institute has basically alleged –
PRIME MINISTER: The Australia Institute? Oh, the Australia Institute, that well-known, independent think-tank. Okay.
JOURNALIST: They are an environmental think-tank.
PRIME MINISTER: They’re a left-wing think-tank, so let’s not say they don’t have any partisan bias. Okay, next.
JOURNALIST: Okay, is that why you refused access?
PRIME MINISTER: No.
JOURNALIST: So if I applied, would you give me the letter?
PRIME MINISTER: No. The GST issue in the Northern Territory and the decision of the Northern Territory Government in relation to gas were unrelated. I’ve said that, the Northern Territory Government said that. They’ve made their decision, we made our decision. I applaud their decision, I did at the time.
More than $250 million has been put in top-ups to the Northern Territory Government and that’s to ensure that they can meet their obligations here to essential services in the Territory. This has been a significant investment by our Government. We understand the needs of Territorians and that’s why we were so quick to provide that support and that will be backed up by another $69 million. So the Northern Territory Government for that, $500 million for remote Indigenous housing over the next five years. This is another part of the important partnership so our Government is investing heavily, heavily in the Territory because of the unique challenges that are faced here. I mean, we’ve talked about the $100 million and more going into the City Deal today. But that comes on top of $100 million we’ve already put into road infrastructure and congestion management projects here in Darwin already. So, we’re doing a lot of investment here in the North.
JOURNALIST: Is it appropriate to invite Japanese families to grieve in Darwin in the same place the Australians gathered will?
PRIME MINISTER: We’ll continue to work sensibly through those issues.
JOURNALIST: Mr Morrison, you said that the NSC will have a role in reviewing the Israel embassy shift, whether they’re doing it or not. Will they take into account the views of Dr Mahathir about raising the terrorist risk?
PRIME MINISTER: Australia sets foreign policy in Australia, nobody else.
JOURNALIST: And what did you make of Josh Frydenberg’s comments on radio this morning? He’s saying that Dr Mahathir comments should be taken with a grain of salt.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, Dr Mahathir I had the opportunity to meet with yesterday. He raised these issues, I must say, quite courteously, at the end of the meeting. That was not only expected, he raised them and I think what Josh said today was basically a bit of filling in the history of his record on various issues over time. I think those issues are well-known and his contributions to the public record on these topics are well-known, they go back a long way through many, many Prime Ministers, going back to Paul Keating as we remember.
So look, Australia decides foreign policy in Australia and we also decide what questions we’re going to ask ourselves. I do not resile one inch from the fact that I think that this is an issue that the Australian Government should be able to consider. What I’ve done is put in place a proper process to ensure that we can consider it carefully and make a decision. I’ve said that will be done before Christmas and that’s what will be done and I’ve relayed that to our partners in the region. But make no mistake, I’m not going to have our policy dictated by those outside the country. I respect their views, I listen to their views and have in the last few days, but Australia determines Australian foreign policy. And it seems Bill Shorten doesn’t seem to quite understand that.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, AGL has just announced that they’re going to offer a safety net for customers, what is your response?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I welcome the fact that AGL is going to be dropping the electricity prices on the basis of the discussions that Angus Taylor has had directly as part of our policy to put the heat on the big electricity companies to reduce electricity prices.
Angus Taylor is the Minister for reducing electricity prices, just like Tudgey is the Minister for busting congestion. And he’s getting results. So, for all of the nay-sayers, for all of those who like to mock the big stick like the Labor Party does, well, it’s getting results. And that’s what Australians measure these things by.
Our policies are getting results. Our economic policies are getting results. Unemployment at five per cent. Real wage growth in the most recent quarter. Female participation in the labour force at record levels. Youth unemployment falling, the strongest record of youth jobs performance in Australia’s economic history in the last financial year. Our economic plan which involves trade, infrastructure, getting taxes down, backing small business, this is getting results. And our policy on getting electricity prices – as demonstrated by AGL’s decision today – is also getting results. So, we’re getting on with it. The Liberal National Government is getting on with it as we have been for the last five years and we’re getting results.
JOURNALIST: The new military arrangements with Japan, the upgrade in our military relationship with Japan. What’s your best guess on when that might actually have some Scott Morrison ink on it, like the NT deal, when will it be finished?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, there’ll be further discussions on that today, Tim. There are still some issues we’re working through on that and I look forward to having more discussions on that today.
But that said, the tempo and the amount of engagement that we’re having is already lifted and outside of that particular agreement – that was agreed in the last meeting of Defence and Foreign Ministers, the Two Plus Two in Sydney just a little while ago. So the tempo and the level of interaction has already increased and that agreement will obviously add to that. But you need to have arrangements right. Australia will ensure that we have the arrangement which best protects and services the needs of Australia’s Defence force personnel in any such arrangement.
There are more than 5,000 Australians serving here in our Defence Forces in and around Darwin and the Territory and they do a fantastic job. We're putting $8 billion into upgrading the defence infrastructure here in and around Darwin. That is a huge investment over the next ten years. So the investment here, the investment in the Defence Forces, the investment in remote Indigenous housing and the investment in small businesses here, you can take these opportunities. That's our plan. It’s a plan that that is going to produce a stronger economy here in Darwin, here in the Territory and across the country.
So it’s great to be here today. I commend everybody for their involvement in this project today. I'm very much looking forward to the engagements with Prime Minister Abe today and welcoming him today and having that time of commemoration, but also recognising the investment that has been made in INPEX which has had an enormous impact here in the Territory and how we can continue to grow and develop that economic and broader partnership.
Thank you very much.