Image: AAP Image/Simon Dallinger
MINISTER LEY: Welcome to Albury, Prime Minister. We’ve had a terrific look at our beautiful CBD and the rain has stopped and the sun has come out, and you and I have been talking about the importance of a Prime Ministership for regional Australia. That makes me very excited indeed. Because great people, great things, great ideas, great infrastructure and a great future comes from our regions. So a very warm welcome from the people of Albury.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much Sussan, and it’s great to have you back in the Executive team of Government, not just because of your skills and your talent but also representing a Liberal here from rural and regional Australia. We have been talking about regional Australia. You heard me talk a lot about – it’s important to keep our economy strong to guarantee the essential services Australians rely on. That’s as true in the regional areas of Australia as it is anywhere else in the major capital cities. One of the things that Sussan and I have been talking about particularly over the last couple of weeks, is you might have heard about the city deals, but what we need is regional deals in places like Albury-Wodonga. This is a community, this is a town, this is a city that is really performing strongly and we need to make sure it has the infrastructure and services and the coordination between all the tiers of government, not just at state and local level and federal, but between two state governments as well. And I think there is a really great opportunity here to actually, as they already have in things like health, to combine how we do things across the border and see this region become even stronger. I do want to be a Prime Minister for regional Australia, even though I’m a boy from the Sydney suburbs. I'm also someone who is passionate about things well beyond the cities. So that means me listening a lot, taking a lot of advice from Sussan and my other colleagues in the Liberal Party, of course also the National Party, and making sure that we are delivering the infrastructure and the services that create the strong economy here that enables the services that everyone relies on here to continue to be delivered in such a successful way.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, it has been a year since Malcolm Turnbull visited the border. He met with local businesses and manufacturers here about skyrocketing power prices. What is your Government doing to fix that because manufacturers are still saying they are struggling?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, since then, the ACCC has produced a report to me, then as Treasurer, which I commissioned under Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister, and they have come back with I think a very strong plan which we have adopted and we’ve taken even further. First of all, I have a Minister for getting electricity prices down, Angus Taylor, who also comes out of regional New South Wales and his job is to put in place the safety net on price. To put the big stick in to keep the big electricity companies in check, and thirdly to provide an environment where you can get more investment in new, fair dinkum power generation. What I mean by fair dinkum? Stuff that works when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. That is the reliable power that we need in our system. Now we are already starting to see a change, whether it is on electricity prices or on gas prices. We’ve had a very significant fall in the wholesale prices of gas since we use the big stick with the gas companies to get the gas supply into our system here in the Eastern States. So that’s the approach we’re taking, Angus Taylor will be coming back with further additions to this plan. But we are a Government that is absolutely focused on getting people's power prices down. Cheaper power is good for business, cheaper power is good for people's household budgets.
QUESTION: You spoke earlier about drought, can you expand on that?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, the work that has been pulled together by Major General Stephen Day is very important. There are hundreds of things that need to be done, some of them large but most them are relatively minor things, but they all need to get done and they all need to get coordinated and Major General Day is the person we have tasked with doing that. Barnaby Joyce is, I would describe as our chief intelligence officer when it comes to this. He is out there listening. And people, I know, trust Barnaby, and they are sharing their experiences and their stories and their suggestions with him, and that is an invaluable resource for us. He is a bit like our own Macca, from Australia All Over. He is out there all over Australia in the drought affected areas and he is listening and he is reporting back with his insights as well. It is everything from feed and getting it to where it needs to get to, that’s a state responsibility. I have spoken to the New South Wales Premier and the Queensland Premier, for that matter, and we have all got a keen focus on these drought challenges. But getting everybody working together, for us though it’s about particularly the people that are involved, the towns, the fact that people – kids – can keep going to school, and stay in school. It’s about the sort of shops and other businesses we walk around here today, that those local economies continue to have the business. So I want to thank all Australians, just like the kids up the road here who are raising money for drought affected farmers in the towns, make sure you are giving donations in cash to registered organisations. That’s the best way to help everybody, the voucher systems that have been running means the money stays in the towns, and when the money stays in the towns, the jobs stay in the towns.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, the highly anticipated Wagga Wagga by-election is happening this weekend.
PRIME MINISTER: It is.
QUESTION: What is your message to voters as they head to the polls?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I would, that is a state election and I am not one to interfere in state elections. But what I know is this, and that is Gladys Berejiklian leads a State Government that is getting things done in New South Wales, that has continued like its predecessors to turn around when New South Wales had been for all those years under Labor. They are getting on with the infrastructure, with the investment, the proactive position she has taken when it comes to the drought, working with her Federal colleagues, working on the ground, working with her National Party colleagues, it is a very focused government that is getting things done. I have known Gladys, as Sussan has, for a long time, she is very focused, she is very hard-working and I know the circumstances of that by-election. But how New South Wales continues to be run is really the issue here and how that is supporting regional areas. So I’d encourage them to support the Liberals this weekend. Because the Berejiklian government is doing the right thing by regional New South Wales.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, you were talking about the creation of the Liberal Party earlier on today.
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah.
QUESTION: In the wake of the past few weeks, would you say that the Liberal Party is the same Liberal Party that Robert Menzies envisioned back in 1944, here in Albury?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I believe it is absolutely, and that is why I came here today to say. I mean, when you go through those tumultuous times like Robert Menzies went through 74 years ago, he was able to bring together a whole range of disparate groups. And what he said to them was, he said, when you take up your membership of this new party, as it was then, the Liberal Party, you leave behind, you leave behind the things and the problems at the door and you join up with the new team. That is what is happening, we are bringing our team together. It was a very difficult period for the party a few weeks ago but we are coming back quickly together, we are focused on Australians and their challenges, we are not focused on ourselves. Australians have had a gutful of politicians focusing and talking about themselves. They want us 100 per cent focused on them and that is where I am at, that is where Sussan is at, that’s where the new generation of Liberal leadership, that is where our head is at. We have had great leadership over many years, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop, we thank them for their service to our country. This next generation is getting on with the job and moving forward for Australia.
QUESTION: You spoke a lot about love during your speech, is that the message now to your party, to love one another?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I think that’s always a good message, it doesn't matter if it’s in a political party, in the schoolyard, at the footy club, in the local church, or wherever you are. I mean it. I love Australia, we all love Australia. It is not hard to get people to agree with that. But what it really means is if you love Australia, you love all Australians.
QUESTION: Last week… [INAUDIBLE]… there was a motion passed there calling for you to come and visit them, to see firsthand their plight. Do you have a message to them?
PRIME MINISTER: I’d very much like to do that Sussan, and it has been a pretty busy two weeks, we are going back into Parliament for the next fortnight, but I know Sussan is very across that and I would take that opportunity where I could to do that. Did you want to make any comment on that issue?
MINISTER LEY: A passionate commitment from our Government to agriculture and regional Australia generally has been heard, it’s been heard by the people here, it’s been heard by the people in Deniliquin, and PM, I have said to them, I would love to get you there, but maybe Major General Stephen Day, and they love Barnaby so he is always welcome so we will fight the fight and we’ll keep in touch.
PRIME MINISTER: When it comes to dealing with the drought, we listen, we plan and then we act. That is how my Government will deal with all the problems that we face, whether it is the drought, whether it’s power prices, whether it’s challenges in health or education, you have got to do the listening and you have got to do your planning and then you’ve got to act. That is how you get results. Thank you, everybody.