Photo: AAP Image/Richard Wainwright
PRIME MINISTER: Well thanks very much Jim, it’s great to be here with you and it’s great to be here with all of my colleagues from Western Australia for who this has been a passion project. Particularly, obviously I want to acknowledge Mathias Cormann, the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Minister for Finance. Of course Julie Bishop, 20 years today Julie, congratulations, from the first time she was first elected to represent Western Australia in particular in the federal Parliament and what a stunning career she’s had and it continues as we go towards the next election.
Before I talk a bit about this project, I just wanted to say a couple of things about Indonesia. You would have heard the Foreign Minister, Marise Payne already announce that the Commonwealth Government, the Australian Government, is planning to provide a further $5 million worth of support and assistance to assist the relief effort in Indonesia in Sulawesi. Those planned arrangements include medical teams, medical equipment and as well as providing the support of defence assets as required. That will be coordinated all through the Indonesian Government. All Australians, all Australians, stand with our Indonesian friends and neighbours as they’re going through what I can only imagine is the most horrific of times, as they work through this. There are many challenges ahead and the Australian Government stands with our friends in Indonesia to do what is necessary to support them in a time of need.
But here we are today in Henderson, a $3.6 billion program to build the 12 OPVs. This is 1,000 jobs. We've met with many of the trainees and the apprentices here. We're cutting Illawarra steel out of Port Kembla. As you've seen here today, Australian steel going into Australian ships, creating Australian jobs. This is what our defence industry plan is delivering.
Earlier this week on Monday, I was up at Northlink; $800 million of investment into important road infrastructure, busting congestion, connecting markets to our produce and freight. This is what our Government is doing. We're investing in the infrastructure. We're investing in the defence capability and all of that is driving our economy forward. The Western Australian recovery is underway. That economic recovery is underway and what's happening here at Henderson will provide an important boost to that.
As the ships are built here, as the trainees are made here, the jobs of the future are created and the capability is built. This entire complex has been a vision now for many years and you can see it taking shape. That enabled what we're now able to do here with the OPV. So our commitment to the defence industry build here is very, very significant. I want to commend all of my Western Australian colleagues for the really strong advocacy they've made that Henderson in particular had a big role to play in the naval ship-building program.
Now this is the biggest investment in our defence capability across all the platforms we're working, whether it’s Land 400, which is having a huge impact particularly up in Queensland, or the subs which are happening out of South Australia or around the country, what you can see here is the defence supply chain at work.
So you know, steel out of Port Kembla. Cutting here, work being done in other parts of the country. These are the supply chains that will be generating jobs all around the country and a strong economy is the result of that. A strong economy that guarantees the essential services that Australians rely on. This is what produces the money to support Medicare. To support aged care. To support affordable medicines. That is the result of a Government that knows how to drive a strong economy and this investment right here, that's what it's doing.
So we're really pleased to be here for this important occasion, cutting steel on the OPVs. Ten will be built here and we're really looking forward to that programme rolling out into the years ahead. It's a big investment in Western Australia's future and capability. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, five of the State's treasurers just had a joint press conference –
PRIME MINISTER: Why don’t we stay on defence first, then I’m happy to move to other issues.
JOURNALIST: The State Government 12 months ago set up an office called Defence West, to lobby members in Canberra, have you had much to do with Defence West? Have you been in contact with…
PRIME MINISTER: Not at this stage, but I mean our programmes for ensuring a big defence industry here in Western Australia are pretty obvious. You're standing in the middle of them. We'll continue to make those investments and we're very happy to work hand-in-glove with the Western Australian Government on ensuring that we're realising all the opportunities for jobs and economic growth that come out of these investments. I mean, this is about building our capability. The biggest boost to our capability since the Second World War. We're hitting our targets on the defence spend ahead of what we promised at the 2013 election and we'll work closely with every State Government - WA, Queensland, South Australia, right around the country, Victoria - to realise the economic opportunities and jobs that come from these investments. That includes Australian steel.
Okay, that seems to be the end of questions on what is a very big, $3.6 billion project. Let’s get to politics.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister five of the state treasurers including the Treasurer of New South Wales have just called a joint press conference to say that you want to enshrine in legislation that no state will be left worse off as part of the GST legislation. Why not just legislate it and include that?
PRIME MINISTER: I've already done that. We've got $1 billion a year, indexed forever, to ensure that no state and territory will. In fact, they'll all be better off and that's what they'll have as a result of the GST plan that I outlined as Treasurer and we will implement in Government through legislation.
The only person standing in the way of WA getting their fair deal, their fair share of the GST, is Bill Shorten. The legislation will be coming into Parliament in a fortnight's time and there will be the opportunity for Bill Shorten to do what he said he would do; that is stand on a unity ticket with myself and Mark McGowan and make sure that that plan is delivered.
Our plan on the independent work that has been done by the Productivity Commission, shows that all states and territories are better off.
It’s time we did this. It’s time we stopped arguing about it. I'm going to get it done, our Government is going to get it done and we want Bill Shorten to be on that unity ticket to ensure that is achieved when we come back to Parliament in a few weeks’ time.
JOURNALIST: Have you got five Premiers that aren’t confident of that?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, they'll talk their book, they always do. They’re always asking for even more money, the Premiers and the Treasurers, I'm pretty used to that. I've sat around that table for many years.
Our Government isn’t in the habit of writing blank cheques to anybody. What we're in the habit of doing, is setting out clear, well-researched plans which demonstrate, demonstrate clearly that every single state and territory is better off under this plan. In fact, New South Wales actually wanted us to go further, go even further in terms of what would have been the better outcome in states like Western Australia. But we’ve arrived on what I think is a fair deal.
Look I'm used to states and territories trying to talk up for more money out of the Commonwealth. I suppose that’s their job. It's my job to protect Australian taxpayers and ensure that we deliver on our plan to ensure that every single state and territory is better off. That's what the independent analysis by the Productivity Commission demonstrates. In fact, research and information provided to us by the states themselves, demonstrates and backs that up.
So it's time to stop arguing about it. It's time to get it done. We’re doing it, I believe in it, that's why we've got to the position we’re in now and that’s why we’re going to deliver it.
It's time, Bill, to come on board. Stop crab-walking. Stop looking for excuses not to do it and join the unity ticket with Premier McGowan and I to make sure this gets done.
JOURNALIST: You’ve said before Prime Minister that you don't need the agreement of the states, you can get the package done?
PRIME MINISTER: True.
JOURNALIST: You don't necessarily need the legislation either, so will you commit to delivering this GST package ahead of the next federal election?
PRIME MINISTER: I'm going to do that through the legislation. I believe the legislation is going to be passed.
JOURNALIST: But without legislation?
PRIME MINISTER: I mean we can do that directly, through a direction of the Treasurer, but why they the legislation is important is that it locks it into legislation forever. So I think that West Australians deserve that certainty. I think all states and territories deserve the certainty of what we're delivering.
So let me just be very clear what we're legislating; we're legislating the additional investment of over $7 billion over the next eight years and in perpetuity. Which means that every single year, forever, there's more than $1 billion going into the GST pool from outside the GST, which means that every state and territory is better off as a result.
That's what will go into the legislation. Every Government at a Commonwealth level, will be legislated to provide that additional support. We're legislating the change to the formula. The change to the formula that Bill Shorten said wasn't needed. He just wanted to put a band-aid on it and chuck a few extra sly dollars to Western Australia, hoping that would keep you happy. No, we're legislating to change the formula forever. We're legislating to put in place the 70 and the 75 per cent floor, forever. Now, that's what I believe in. That's what our Government believes in. We'll find out if Bill Shorten believes in it, in two weeks.
JOURNALIST: But regardless of that, West Australians are sick of this debate and they’re obviously sick of waiting. So if you can't get the legislation through, do you guarantee…
PRIME MINISTER: We can do that. We can do that, but it's better to do it by legislation. It's better to do it by legislation because that guarantees it.
I mean, you can't trust Bill Shorten on this. Why would you leave it to a future government, ten years from now, five years from now, 20 years from now, to go and change the rules on Western Australia again? This guarantees the deal for Western Australians, forever.
JOURNALIST: Just double checking, so if you don't do it with legislation, you’ll just do it with the stroke of a pen before an election?
PRIME MINISTER: I will take the legislation to the election. I will take the legislation to the election. I will take our direction to the election, because if there's any change of Government in the future, any direction provided by a Treasurer can be overturned. So that's why I think it's important that we do the legislation. So you know, there's the opportunity. We passed strawberry laws in 24 hours, in 24 hours when there was bipartisan support. So this can be done very quickly and this can all end. This ten years of this debate can all end. We've taken the leadership and we've put the plan out. The legislation is there. Get on board, Bill.
JOURNALIST: Prior to campaigning on it though, will you just instruct the Treasurer to make the change?
PRIME MINISTER: That instruction wouldn't happen until next year anyway or it wouldn’t happen for several years, because the changes to the formula kick in three years from now. That's when the directions take place, so there might be some misunderstanding about how the process works.
That's why the legislation is so important; it locks it in today. It locks it in right now. Why would Bill Shorten not want to lock in a deal he said he supported?
JOURNALIST: But you said previously on your last trip here – I think on 6PR – that even without agreement of the States and before they had even committed to the legislation, that you would be able to get on and do it?
PRIME MINISTER: Well you can, but that can be unpicked. So why wouldn't you want to do something that was more certain? That's what I want to do.
The reason I've been prepared to bring in the legislation is Bill Shorten said that he was going to support legislation. He's crab-walking away from that now. So I hope that he comes back to the promise that he made Western Australians.
I made a promise to Western Australians, I said that I was going to fix this and I've kept my promise to Western Australians. I've kept my promise to the country on this. I said that I would find a way through and I've found a way through. We as a Government have found a way through that leaves everybody better off. There will never be a better deal than this for everybody.
So over-negotiating things is a bad way forward. Honouring what is a very fair proposal and getting it legislated and moving on, is what I think the Australian people expect us to do. That's what we'll do.
JOURNALIST: Do you really want to go campaigning next year on a fairer distribution of the GST for Western Australia? In Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania? When you’ve got the Premiers saying that we don't really trust you because there's no guarantees?
PRIME MINISTER: There is a guarantee. There’s $1 billion a year for a guarantee. Who would like a $1 billion guarantee on anything? I'm prepared to put our Government's money on the line with our guarantee and back it up with real hard dollars and legislate it. That's what I'm doing.
JOURNALIST: It’d make interesting campaigning though?
PRIME MINISTER: I’m putting in and I’ll legislate it, because Queensland is better off, Tasmania is better off, New South Wales is better off, South Australia is better off, the Territory is better off and the ACT is better off. Everybody is better off.
So it's time to get on board. Stop the arguing, stop the posturing, stop the politics, vote for the plan because everybody's better off.
JOURNALIST: So why not just put that in legislation and make that clear?
PRIME MINISTER: That's what is in legislation. Read the legislation mate, that's what is there.
JOURNALIST: On another issue, images have emerged of US and Chinese warships coming within 40 meters, is this brinkmanship dangerous?
PRIME MINISTER: We've got to manage these issues carefully and as I said this morning on radio, Australia will continue to conduct itself around these issues in a very modest and very constructive way, working closely with our friends in the region and our friends more broadly.
I mean, Australia I think has always - as Julie well knows - played a very constructive role in all of these affairs. We'll continue to do that in a very sober, a very mature and a very measured way. In a way that would seek to deescalate any issues, rather than escalate.
JOURNALIST: Just on aged care, the Royal Commission is going forward obviously but it's still some time away and revelations keep coming out about poor treatment in residential aged care facilities. What can be done, now, to give families of residents reassurance?
PRIME MINISTER: We're investing $1 billion extra every year in aged care. We've increased the number of in-home place for aged care. We've introduced legislation when we were last in the Parliament, to protect the safety of people living in residential aged care facilities. We’ve got the Safety Commissioner for Aged Care - and Ken is here, he can make comment on this - that's before us as well to appoint that commissioner. So they're all the things that we're doing right now.
JOURNALIST: So are you confident enough is being done?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we also need a Royal Commission. I'll be announcing the terms of reference and the Commissioners very soon.
So we're acting on all fronts I think, when it comes to aged care. Aged care, yesterday, as you know, is getting $100 million extra for the Commonwealth Home Support program. That’s at the real entry level of support for senior Australians as they're ageing, so they can have the choice and have the independence and have the dignity of living in their own home for longer.
So we're acting on all fronts, we’re investing more and we're dealing honestly with the problems that have occurred and the truth of what's been happening in that sector and dealing with that truth. Some of that truth will be pretty hard I think, for many of us to confront. But we have to. We have to deal with it with the plans that we take forward.
The Royal Commission won't just be looking at the abuses that have occurred in the system, but it will be looking to ensure a stronger system over the next 30 years and looking at the challenge that we have in residential aged care to ensure that as our population ages, as the people are going into residential care at a more acute level of need, that their services will be up to the job.
So there's a lot of work to do in this area and our Government is doing that work.
JOURNALIST: The Banking Royal Commission. Are you worried about that there could be a massive class action against the banks?
PRIME MINISTER: That's a matter for the banks. That's our legal system and people should take whatever remedies and things that are available to them.
But it was our Government that has set up the Australian Financial Complaints Authority and this is important. The Australian Financial Complaints Authority allows people who have a grievance with their banks or the financial services sector to actually have their issues dealt with without having to lawyer up all the time. This is very important; that people get access to having their complaints and issues with the financial sector remedied. I think that this has been one of the big problems in the sector. People have been frustrated and have basically had their complaints or issues not resolved, because they've had to work through a very costly legal system. Now our Australian Financial Complaints Authority, which was set up by Kelly O'Dwyer when she was the Minister, deals with that problem and I think that it provides a better avenue for people to get the sort of justice and the sort of resolution to issues, that they would expect.
But you know, I support the Royal Commission. I support the independence of the Royal Commission. I don’t think that people should be playing politics with the Royal Commission. I was very disappointed yesterday that it seems the only reason that Bill Shorten ever wanted a Royal Commission into the banking industry, was to play politics with it, to try to use it for his own political advantage.
I don't think that you should be using people's misery for political advantage.
JOURNALIST: On the tsunami, the 54 doctors from Australia, where are they coming from and are they civilian or military?
PRIME MINISTER: Sorry I couldn’t quite hear.
JOURNALIST: The doctors that are going to help out, are they civilian or military?
PRIME MINISTER: Well there's a balance of support that will come through. We'll have more to say about that because we’re planning to do this and we're working closely with the Indonesian authorities. It's their country and so we work closely with them about how that support is delivered. The Foreign Affairs Minister and the Defence Minister will have more to say about that as those plans progress.
JOURNALIST: Just quickly on your planned R&D tax incentives?
PRIME MINISTER: Yep?
JOURNALIST: The State Government Minister here Alannah McTiernan has called for renewable energy companies like Carnegie Clean Energy to be exempt from that. Is that something that you would consider?
PRIME MINISTER: Well we're always open to good suggestions, I want to see more research and development investment in Australia and in the lithium industry as well. We've been talking to some of the lithium operators and miners here over the last couple of days. We had a resources roundtable yesterday.
In Western Australia, you account for more than half of Australia's resource exports every year. We're putting through some overdue changes I think, into the R&D system. There's been some abuse in research and development, which has meant that some companies have been getting tax concessions which would have been better targeted to those who were making a higher-intensity investment. But where there are anomalies in this, we'll work it through with the industries.
So look, we’re open to be working with all of these sectors to make sure that the changes, all of the positive changes we're making, to make sure that the rip-offs and the rorts that sometimes occured in that system in the past, are stamped out. But the incentives are targeted at those making fair dinkum investments in research and development.
REPORTER: So to be clear, you're open-minded to an exemption?
PRIME MINISTER: I'm a very open-mined fellow, I'm very open-minded, I’m always interested in good ideas and when people have good ideas, I'm always interested in them. When people are trying to shake the Commonwealth down for extra money, well you know, Mathias and I have always shown a pretty acute view about that.
I'm just really pleased to be here in WA over the last few days. I'm always inspired by the passion in the West and obviously that was a bit ramped up by the West Coast win on the weekend which would have added to the flavour of the last few days. But I think there's been a real shot in the arm for Western Australia. I think that the economy is really starting to come back. There's a lot more work to be done, but our investments here, our investments in major infrastructure projects, our investments in the services that Australians rely on, we're working very positively and constructively with the State Government here, to get things done. We may be from different sides of the political fence, but we've been able to come to the middle on a number of issues, the GST being one of them. On that issue, Bill, you've got two weeks. Show up and vote for the bill.