Photo: AAP Image
PRIME MINISTER: Well this morning, welcome to the Shire. I’m here with Jeff Hardy and the Clontarf boys who I’ve been associated with for a long time. But I’m also today wearing Jersey Day. When we lost Nathan Gremmo a few years back in 2015 his parents started this process of Jersey Day to remind everybody about organ donation. Now I wasn’t going to propose to wear this when I’m with the Indonesian President tomorrow, when I’m up in Indonesia, so I thought it would be a good opportunity, a reminder, a day early. Tomorrow is Jersey Day but even more importantly, organ donation saves lives and I think that’s something for all Australians to remember.
Today, though, I’m with Jeff Hardy and the boys here at Clontarf, and I’m at Endeavour High School which James Kozlowski, the principal here. They are the top… they won the top secondary school division here in New South Wales for this year. I want to congratulate James and all the teaching staff here and all mums and dads and the boys and girls who have done such a great job to make Endeavour such a great school. A sports selective high school here in Southern Sydney. But what’s really special about this school also is the Clontarf Academy.
The Clontarf Academy, which operates all around the country for young Indigenous boys, gets them into school, gets them onto a forward path where they can have confidence about their future. I’ve been involved with Clontarf for many years with Gerard Neesham and Ross Kelly, who formed this many, many years ago in Western Australia. It started off all about AFL, now it’s come to the east coast and it has got NRL. Who better than Jeff Hardy, the St. George great, to be running the program here since it was first established many years ago. These boys have a bright future. They’re young Indigenous boys with a bright future. When you meet them they look in your eye they tell you what their name is and they have a sense of purpose about them because they’ve got people here that believe in them and their future. That’s how you turn this thing around.
When I’ve seen these boys go from when they first come in here and when they leave, they finish year twelve, they’ve got 100 per cent attendance records, they’ve come from all sorts of rural parts of New South Wales and they’re out there working, they’re at university, they’re changing their communities, they’re completely changing their lives. It’s a really positive story. So, Jeffo, do you want to talk about the program a bit and what you’ve been able to achieve here? Just don’t mention the Dragons.
JEFF HARDY: [Laughs] No firstly congratulations to you Scott, and I want to say thank you for…
PRIME MINISTER: Come in, mate.
JEFF HARDY: Thank you. Thanks for coming down. Thanks for your support. It’s been fantastic since we started the program here, and across Australia. We are very proud of what we’re doing and your support is awesome and fantastic. To see the boys come through and get up early and come to training in the morning and to lead a healthy lifestyle but to come to school then finish school and go onto employment is what we are all about. We’re doing great things, and all our staff are doing great things across the country. And we want to continue to do so with your support. Thanks.
PRIME MINISTER: Well the Commonwealth Government, we’ve put about $80 million into this program since 2014. The last Budget we put $17 million, which was part of that $80 million. It’s also done in partnership with the State Government, and I want to thank Gladys Berejiklian for the great support that her government gives to Clontarf here in New South Wales, and Dominic Perrottet, my former treasury colleague here in New South Wales. They’re in investing in it, we’re investing in it, and the private sector is investing in it as well. It’s a three way partnership which is putting these boys on the right track. But with that, happy to take any questions.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, the sketch on the ABC show, Tonightly, on your religion. What’s your response to that?
PRIME MINISTER: Oh look, the ABC can by numpties every now and then but my faith teaches me to love each other and to turn the other cheek.
QUESTION: Do you think politicians should be judged on their personal beliefs?
PRIME MINISTER: Look, it’s the same answer. I’m the Prime Minister and I work for all Australians every day. I’m on their side. I’m about brining Australians together not about creating differences and pushing them apart.
QUESTION: Did you watch the sketch?
PRIME MINISTER: No.
QUESTION: From what we saw yesterday, are the wounds in your party too hard to heal?
PRIME MINISTER: No, they’re not. Sure, last week was a very bitter and bruising week…
QUESTION: I’m talking about yesterday and the bullying claims that seem to have come out in the last 24 hours.
PRIME MINISTER: Look, I’ve been reaching out, as have my colleagues, senior colleagues. It is a process of healing. It is a process of binding this together. I want to thank my colleagues, in particular Kelly O’Dwyer, the Minister for Women, who has done a great job, I think, in bringing everyone together. I want to thank Nola Marino also. I mean, we’re a team and sometimes your teams go through difficult phases. I want to thank Julia for all the great work she’s done and the great work she’s going to continue to do. She’s remaining in the Parliament. She’s serving her community and we’re going to go forward together.
QUESTION: Have you spoken to Julia about these bullying claims and has she named names?
PRIME MINISTER: I’ve been talking to Julia for days and days. My first concern for Julia is her own welfare and her own support. I’m a friend of hers as is Kelly and a lot of other colleagues. You know, we’re just getting around our colleagues. People are coming together. People know what their job is. People know why they’re in Parliament – that’s to serve the Australian people. That’s what their job is; first and foremost job is to serve their constituents, serve the Australian people, and do that as part of a unified Government where I’m setting the standard for these things, up here. That’s what I expect of all of my colleagues.
QUESTION: In most other workplaces there would be some kind of investigation when bullying…
PRIME MINISTER: We’re dealing with the issues and I’m doing that with my colleagues.
QUESTION: Has the Whip, Nola Marino, had a formal complaint made to her?
PRIME MINISTER: The Whip has not raised those issues with me. We’re dealing with the issue as a team and setting a very high standard about what I expect as Prime Minister. There is absolutely no suggestion at all that any of these sorts of things have been done in my name or under my authority and I certainly wouldn’t accept it. I have no truck with bullying, whether it’s in this school here or in any workplace. I have no truck with intimidation. I have no truck with any of that sort of stuff. I mean, we are going to bring Australians together. Whether it’s the boys here who have come down from all around rural New South Wales. From the tip of the country to the very west to down in Tassie, we are going to bring this country together to focus on the challenges that we have in front of us. I’m not going to do things that will force people apart.
QUESTION: Do you think Malcolm Turnbull should be flying to New York this weekend? Should he stay back and…
PRIME MINISTER: I wish Malcolm all the best. Malcolm has served his country throughout his entire life whether it’s been in the business community, whether it’s been in public life. I think very few people understand the extent, or are aware, I should say, of the generosity that Malcolm and his family have shown in his community and across Australia. That generosity has extended to his time in public service, as a Member of Parliament, as a Minister, and as a very great Prime Minister. I was proud to serve in his Government, as I was to serve in Tony Abbott’s Government and now it is a privilege that my colleagues now stand and serve with me.
QUESTION: Prime Minister is the NEG dead?
PRIME MINISTER: Angus Taylor is giving an important speech today. As you know, I’ve split out the energy and environment portfolios. Any changes to policy will be done through the normal process, through the Cabinet. Angus Taylor will be bringing forward some recommendations in due course, but the key point he’s making today, is Angus Taylor’s job is to be the Minister for getting electricity prices down. Just like it is Alan Tudge’s job to be the Minister for congestion busting in our cities. Now Angus is setting out some pretty important things today. Firstly, there’s a safety net on price to ensure that the big energy companies don’t rip you off on your power bill. That there’s a big stick to keep them in line to make sure they play by the rules. And that we are putting in place the right environment for people to invest in the private sector, others to invest, in reliable energy supply - despatchable energy. We need more of that in the system so you keep the lights on and you get the prices down. That’s the job I’ve given Angus. He’s an incredibly capable fellow. I have big expectations of him. That’s alright because the country has big expectations of him, of all of us. I know he’ll deliver.
QUESTION: Do you think… are emissions no longer on the table? Are we no longer worried about emissions?
PRIME MINISTER: No, I have a Minister for the Environment, Melissa Price, and it’s her job to continue to pursue our policies in relation to climate and to pursue the policies we have to address our emissions commitment that was given under the Abbott Government.
QUESTION: What will be different with your energy policy compared to Malcolm Turnbull?
PRIME MINISTER: I was part of the formation of policy as Treasurer with the former Prime Minister. I think what you’ll see as a continuing emphasis on the issue of reliability of power, of investment in new generation of power, and making sure we’ve got the right set of conditions to encourage that. That’s the direction Malcolm was always moving in, whether it’s what his ground-breaking work on Snowy Hydro 2.0. That initiative is a legacy of Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister and I think he’ll be known as the Prime Minister that initiated and saw the establishment of Snowy 2.0, but frankly, also the Prime Minister that really got Sydney’s Western Sydney Airport really moving and really getting it going. He has a list of achievements that are very long, and I probably know them better than most because I worked with him every day to help him achieve them. But we’ve been in Government since 2013 and together we’ve created, together with the business community and all around Australia, more than a million jobs. 95,500 young people got a job in the last financial year. Boys like this are going out into an economy. There are six boys here who are in year 12 this year. They’ve got a 100 per cent attendance records I’m told, these boys. And they’re going to go out, and they’re going to get a job in an economy where 95,500 young people got a job last year. Best result in 30 years, as I said, since before Taylor Swift was born. When they get out there, I know they’ll be really successful and they’ll shake off any challenges I’m sure.
QUESTION: What about the economy? What do you think about the Westpac rate rise?
PRIME MINISTER: Westpac has to explain that to their customers. They have to justify in this environment, when people are really feeling it, why they believe they need to clip that ticket a little harder when people in Australia and their customers are, I think, doing it tough. So that’s for Westpac to explain, not for me. That’s their decision and others will make their own decisions. But if you don’t like what Westpac has done, go to another bank, because competition is the key to a more competitive and stronger and more accountable banking system. They can make those decisions but they’re accountable for those decisions and I think customers will make up their own minds as they should.
QUESTION: Will Chelsea Manning be issued a visa?
PRIME MINISTER: I’ll discuss that with the Minister for Immigration. They’re matters that are decided specifically by the Minister for Immigration. I used to be a Minister for Immigration and the powers for those things rest specifically with that Minister. So it’s actually not my specific responsibility to do that. As Prime Minister, of course you oversee the whole policy area but I know the legislation very well, this is a personal decision for the Minister for Immigration. I’m sure these things will always be consulted on with me, but it’s like when I was Treasurer, the Treasurer has the final say on foreign investment decisions. Those investment decisions don’t go to Cabinet so it’s important that I respect the law in terms of how these decisions are made. But what I’m about it bringing Australians together. I want to keep Australians together. I want to keep our economy strong, and I want to keep Australians safe. That’s how we’ll create an even stronger Australia.
QUESTION: Can I just ask one on Indonesia?
QUESTION: You did mention that?
PRIME MINISTER: I did mention that. We can go to Indonesia quickly, of course.
QUESTION: I just want to ask, farmers really want a free trade agreement, what do you feel about that?
PRIME MINISTER: I’m going up there today with the President of the National Farmers Federation and we’re going up there to pursue our trade discussions with President Widodo. And I had a good chat with him the other day, on the weekend. I’ve been having a chat with a number of our key allies and friends around the world. I really thank all of them for their kind wishes and also the kind words they’ve had for the previous Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. But we’re a Government that believes in trade because trade creates jobs. It creates jobs in rural and regional towns all around the country and it creates jobs here in the cities as well. So we are a pro-trade Government. We think trade, and we know trade, creates jobs for young people and people right across the economy. So we’ll always be believing that trade will generate positive results for our economy. It’s how we keep the economy strong, it’s how we’ve been a prosperous country. Australia can compete, Australia is resilient, Australia can compete with the best of the world. So it’s my job to make sure we’ve got the best set of conditions for them to go out there and have a go. I know that when they have a go under our government they’ll get a fair go.