Happy New Year. We wish everyone a safe, Happy New Year and above all safe in the water.
The announcement we’ve made is part of an ongoing commitment. $3 million to ensure the Surf Life Saving Australia and the Royal Life Saving Society, AUSTSWIM can continue their great work in keeping Australians safe, just as Bridget said on the beaches, certain beaches and also in our inland water ways and dams and rivers and creeks where too many people get into trouble and drown.
Nearly 300 people drowned last year in Australian waters ways – that’s 300 too many.
The work that is being done by these great volunteer organisations that is keeping us safe and the $3 million, we are delighted to be able to provide with another year of substantial financial support.
Prime Minister, immigration is going up in Australia, what are you doing with the Surf Life Saving funding to help people from migrant backgrounds who may not know about the dangers of the water?
We were just talking about that a moment ago. That’s been an issue forever by the way. I remember as a young lifesaver here, you know, helping people who have recently come to Australia and weren’t used to the different environment, swimming environment here. It is a big issue for rock fishermen. But all of these programs are focused on ensuring that people learn how to swim. AUSTSWIM is doing a fantastic job in that regard, but we've got to make sure that whenever there is a vulnerability in any community group, you know, lack of knowledge, lack of swimming expertise, lack of awareness, that that's addressed and that's what part of this money is going towards.
Prime Minister, several of your cabinet ministers in Victoria have expressed concerns about African crime in Melbourne. Is this something that is concerning you? Is there anything the Federal Government can do to intervene?
Yes, well, the answer to that is yes, and I’ll ask Greg and Bridget to add to this. But we are very - as you know, I've talked about this before - we are very concerned at the growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria and in particular in Melbourne.
This is a failure of the Andrews Labor Government.
It is very important to understand that police is the role of the state government, or the territory government, and they provide that, you know, that's their responsibility.
Now the Australian Federal Police is a small and specialised police force that obviously deals with matters of particular federal responsibility, including terrorism. We also provide a considerable intelligence and technological support to state police forces in respect of gangs.
But this is a failure of the Andrews Government. Victoria Police is a huge organisation. Much larger than the Federal Police. It needs the direction, it’s got the capacity to do the job but what is lacking is the political leadership and the determination on the part of Premier Andrews to ensure that the great policemen and women of Victoria have the leadership, the direction, and the confidence of the government to get on with the job and tackle this gang problem on the streets of Melbourne and, indeed, throughout other parts of the state.
Do you want to add to that, Greg?
THE HON. GREG HUNT MP – MINISTER FOR HEALTH:
Yes, sure. Gang crime in Victoria is clearly out of control. We know that African gang crime in some areas in particular is clearly out of control and the failure is not the police, but the Premier. The Victorian Government, under Premier Andrews, has dropped the ball on allowing the police to take a strong, clear role. The solution is very clear - it's Matthew Guy's plan and that is tough on drug crime, tough on gang crime, call it out for what it is, and tough sentencing laws and giving the Victorian police the resources they need to do the job.
Do you want to add to that Bridget?
SENATOR THE HON. BRIDGET MCKENZIE – MINISTER FOR SPORT:
The only thing I wanted to add to the comments of the PM and Greg was law and order in my home state of Victoria is a key issue. We've seen lawlessness in our youth detention centres in regional Victoria over recent years. Daniel Andrews has dropped the ball on this and it is time that he actually stepped up to the plate and kept Victorians safe.
Prime Minister, what did Mr Downer tell you about the revelations that have been revealed in the last couple of days? When did he tell you and who else did he tell?
Well, look, thank you for the question about Alexander Downer. I am not going to comment. The government won't be making any additional comments on a matter that relates to an ongoing investigation in the US. So, we've got nothing further to add to that.
On a related issue, are you concerned that the Trump Administration still hasn't appointed an ambassador to Australia?
No, the Chargé d'Affaires, James Carouso, is doing a fantastic job and in due course an ambassador will be appointed. There are often, in the American system, it is often there are delays in appointing ambassadors when a new administration comes in. But it is not a matter of concern. The relationship is in excellent shape and the connections between Australia and the United States are so diverse, numerous, so strong, and indeed, our relationship through the State Department is excellent as well. So, it's not a matter of concern.
Have you spoken to the Trump Administration about the revelations that have just come out? Have you spoken to anyone in the administration, the US Administration about this given what’s been-
No, I haven't, no.
Are you worried it will damage your relationship with Trump?
No, not at all.
Prime Minister, Paul Keating has described your commitment to the Australian republic as a chameleon act, is he right?
No, he's completely wrong. Paul's remarks today were, I thought, they were barely coherent. Look, this is the bottom line - we gave the republic a great shot in '99. There was a referendum. Sadly we lost. I voted ‘yes’, I campaigned for ‘yes’, I led the republican movement.
I said then that I believed the next opportunity would be for this to become an issue that Australians would see as a frontline issue to address would be after the end of the Queen's reign. I remain of that view. Now, others may take a different view, but that's the view I have. I think when you look at opinion polls, for whatever they're worth, they would suggest that view is a fair one.
I don't know what's prompted Paul to come out swinging at everyone. He seems to be critical of every prime minister and former prime minister apart from himself. And it’s good, I must say it’s good, it must be good for Paul to feel that he is without fault or blemish but in the real world - we gave it a red-hot go in '99. I expect it will become an issue again after the end of the Queen's reign, but I don't think it will become a frontline issue before then. That is my objective view. It's one I've held for a long time, for well over a decade - well, since '99. That's now nearly 20 years.
Mr Turnbull, the Queen is in her 90s, so presumably, her reign could end in your prime ministership. If it did end in your prime ministership, would you put a referendum to the public?
We all say "Long Live The Queen" and we say that with great sincerity and with love.
But if you're asking me how you would go about it in the event of the issue becoming live again, I think the first thing you would need to do is have an honest, open discussion about how a president would be elected. That's what you need to have. Whether the president would be chosen by Parliament, you know, in a bipartisan, two-thirds majority as proposed in '99 or directly elected. That is the rock on which the referendum founded in '99. You've got to have that discussion and it may be that a plebiscite, maybe even a postal survey, given the success of the marriage postal survey, could be one way to deal with that. But I think that needs to be, that issue need to be debated and resolved.
Then, of course, the fundamental question, you've got to put up an amendment to the Constitution which proposes a president to replace the Queen as head of state and you know, then it's up to the Australian people to decide.
But it's very important to recognise this is not a change that Parliament can make. This is a question for the Australian people and Australians have shown themselves to be very conservative when it comes to constitutional change. But there is no point pretending that there is an appetite for change when there isn't one at the moment. That is my sincere belief as a very long-standing supporter of having an Australian as our head of state, rather than the King or Queen of the UK. That’s my view.
Mr Turnbull, do you have any updates or any thoughts about the seaplane accident?
No, I haven't got any updates that I can share with you. As you know, there were six people in the aircraft - five passengers and a pilot. It is a tragic accident and our hearts go out to the families of those whose lives were lost in this accident.
Again, I talked earlier there about my father. My dad was killed in a light plane accident, not a seaplane accident. These are tragic circumstances. It's hard. We don't know yet what caused it but it's just a tragedy. Again, we grieve for those who've lost their lives, and again, our thoughts and prayers are with their families as they come to terms with this terrible loss.
Prime Minister, on the road toll, just one last one, the road toll is up 5 per cent here in New South Wales. 100 plus nationally. What is your reaction to a horror year on the roads?
Yeah, it is. This is another, you know, we've seen some terrible accidents, including, you know, accidents where families have been killed in car crashes.
Look, one death on the roads is one too many. This will be an issue of great attention for state - again, this is almost entirely an issue for state governments but we can play a role in working with states through the COAG process to see how we can improve driver training, safety, licensing across Australia to keep Australians safer on the roads.
But again, at this time of year, which should be a time of happiness and love and families getting together, to see so many families being ripped apart by these shocking accidents is a tragedy.
Again, our hearts go out to all of those who've been, their families who've lost loved ones in road accidents, those who are injured, and of course, as we know those who are battling for life now. Our prayers are with them as well.
So, I think that's about it. Thank you all very much. Have a very Happy New Year. All the best.