ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Welcome to Balmain. I'm just across the road from the Unity Hall Hotel. That's the first place that an ALP branch ever met way back in 1891. And at the election next Saturday, on 25 March, you have the opportunity to return Balmain to the Labor fold. We have a fantastic candidate here in Philippa Scott and the only way that you can be certain that you can make a change of government is by having Philippa Scott as the member for Balmain and Jo Haylen as the future Transport Minister, and so happens to be my local member as well. I want people to give serious consideration in this electorate to giving their number one vote to the Labor candidate. I know the difference that it makes to my Government the fact that we have a majority on the floor of the House of Representatives. And I want Chris Minns, who will be a fantastic Labor Premier, to have a majority on the floor of the Legislative Assembly in order to secure the certainty and the confidence that New South Wales needs going forward. And New South Wales does need a Labor government. We need to stop the privatisation of water, we need to stop selling off all of our assets, and we need a government that will work with the Federal Government to deliver services in New South Wales. I have a good relationship with the Premier, Dominic Perrottet, as I do with all of the premiers. But the problem is that we can see a government that Dominic leads that literally has, I think there's seven people running who are ministers who aren't even contesting this election. There comes a time where a government reaches the end of its life. And this government in New South Wales is showing all of those signs. Chris Minns has a great team behind him and I want Philippa Scott to be the member for Balmain. And I'll be working in the next week, including handing out here next Saturday, to do everything I can to make sure that Balmain returns to the Labor fold.
JOURNALIST: You've been in Kiama with Chris Minns, you're here with him today. Chris Minns and Dominic Perrottet both said this election will be won in Western Sydney. Can we expect you out there in those crucial seats out there?
PRIME MINISTER: You can and I'll be in Western Sydney at the end of next week. I've been out and about. I've worked with state governments and that's what I do. My Government's a mature government that works with elected governments right around the country. But I do want Chris Minns to win because the signs are there that it's a tired government that's seeing senior ministers leave the Perrottet Government one after the other. And Chris Minns will lead a very good government. I've been in Oatley, I've been in South Coast, I've been in Kiama, I'm here in Balmain, I've been in Marrickville. I'll continue to be around. I will be in Western Sydney next Friday campaigning for a Minns Labor Government.
JOURNALIST: Are you hoping for a clean sweep of Labor state governments across the country come Saturday?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, of course that's not possible this Saturday. There is a Tasmania Liberal government.
JOURNALIST: The mainland?
PRIME MINISTER: I represent the whole country, both the north island and the south island. And the south island I work with constructively as well. I do have a constructive relationship with Premier Perrottet. But I do want a government that isn't going to privatise essential assets. I live in New South Wales. I don't want to see Sydney Water privatised
JOURNALIST: To clarify, you're going to be handing out here on election day, is that right? This has been a Greens-held seat for quite a while. Do you hope that Labor can take this seat back from the Greens?
PRIME MINISTER: I do. And I pay tribute today to Jamie Parker as the retiring Member for Balmain. Jamie Parker has been a very strong worker. He's worked hard. I have a constructive relationship with Jamie. But he's retiring. This is an opportunity to return the seat of Balmain to where it should be, a Labor seat. This is where the first Labor Party branch meeting was held, ever, or Labor League, as it was called in those days, at the Unity Hall upstairs about 20 metres from where I'm standing. And I want Balmain to have a Labor member because the Labor member in a Labor government will be able to have influence. We've seen issues like Callan Park that has drifted on and on and on as a local issue. We need to make sure that there's a strong representative. Philippa Scott will be that strong representative.
JOURNALIST: You're becoming something of a regular on the campaign trail. Dominic Perrottet hasn't campaigned with, we haven't seen Peter Dutton once. Does Mr Minns need your star power in order to form a government?
PRIME MINISTER: Not at all. What I find remarkable is that you have a Liberal Federal Leader for whom New South Wales is a no-go zone. I encouraged Dominic Perrottet to campaign next to Peter Dutton because what we've seen, though, is that Peter Dutton wasn't even at the campaign launch of Dominic Perrottet and hasn't been seen with Dominic Perrottet since last October. The truth is that the Liberal Party are a dysfunctional party. They're riven by division. They're not fighting for the people of New South Wales because they're too busy fighting each other. And the fact that Peter Dutton wasn't seen hasn't been seen for now almost six months anywhere near Dominic Perrottet says a lot about Peter Dutton, but it also says a lot about the dysfunction that's there in the Liberal Party. The Labor Party is united. I campaign around Australia. I had Labor leaders right around Australia campaigning with me in the lead up to the election last May. I'm a true believer in the Labor Party, so it should come as no surprise that I'm here campaigning and I'm campaigning in one of my local seats. This is my Federal Electorate and I want my Federal Electorate to have Labor members.
JOURNALIST: One of the biggest issues in the last week of this state election campaign has been Premier Dominic Perrottet's New South Wales Kids Future Fund, essentially superannuation for kids. I know you've been overseas so I'm not sure if you've had an opportunity to comment on that policy. It sounds like it's more or less a Labor policy. Do you back that idea?
PRIME MINISTER: No, I don't. It's certainly not a progressive idea, from what I've seen of it. The biggest beneficiaries would be those people with parents, like I am, who are able to make a contribution. It just reinforces inequality rather than addresses what is needed. A Labor policy would be giving support to the most disadvantaged and the most vulnerable. I grew up not far from here in in public housing. There's a lot of public housing in this seat of Balmain. The fact is that those parents don't have a lazy thousand dollars to put into an account to benefit way down the track.
JOURNALIST: Members of the Referendum Working Group say they're frustrated with the wording, the wording is still being tinkered with just months from the vote. The draft wording has been out for close to a year. Why are changes still being put forward?
PRIME MINISTER: We are working constructively through the issues. We'll introduce legislation into the Parliament in the last sitting week of March. We've said that for a long period of time. We'll do that. There will then be a Parliamentary committee process of in which input will be able to be made by yourself, as a citizen, or by anyone else. We will be seeking input, as well, from Members of Parliament. And then the legislation will be voted on in June. And then the referendum will be no sooner than two months and 33 days, and within six months, is the time frame is of when it has to happen. So some time between September and December. I'll give the big tip, exclusive today, it won't be on grand final day, AFL or NRL, weekend. So that means it's October to December.
JOURNALIST: My name is Olga, I'm representing the Ukrainian-Australian community. First of all, I wanted to thank you for your truly historic visit. You are the first Prime Minister to visit Ukraine, you saw the atrocities yourself. My brother is on the front line in Bakhmut at the moment as well. And what I wanted to ask you, we are very grateful for all the help Australia has provided like a military aid. However, if we look at the percentage of GDP it's one of the lowest in the whole world. I know it's very far away, but as you understand, and everyone understands, we're not just defending Ukraine, we're defending the whole democratic world and freedom for everyone. So my question is, and also since October, there was no significant military aid provided to Ukraine either. My question is, does the Government plan to have more systematic approach to delivering weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, rather than ad hoc supply? Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much. And I pay tribute to your brother and to the other Ukrainian citizens who are fighting for all of us. They are fighting for the international rule of law, they are fighting for sovereignty of nations to be respected. That's why Australia has an obligation to provide assistance and we are doing that. We are the largest non-NATO contributors in the world. We have Bushmasters, which are being built there in Bendigo, which will continue to go to Ukraine. We're providing other support, both military and also training in the United Kingdom, as we speak. I've spoken to some of the armed forces who are providing that training and I think they are doing a remarkable job. And the people of Ukraine deserve our utmost respect. The barbaric, illegal invasion of Ukraine is something that Australia has opposed unequivocally. We'll continue to do what we can, when we can, to provide assistance.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, will Australia be getting 220 Tomahawk missiles from the US as part of AUKUS?
PRIME MINISTER: We will release our Defence Strategic Review sometime in April. What I've said is that Australia is investing in our capability, but we're also investing in our relationships. So we're looking at the Defence Strategic Review. What it’s done is take a step back with Sir Angus Houston and Stephen Smith and looked at what are the assets that Australia needs to defend ourselves and where should those assets be located. What is the best value for money going forward as well. That's why all of the experts have looked at and considered the issue about submarines. As an island continent, submarines are a vital piece of our defence framework. And the truth is that nuclear submarines are far superior than conventional submarines. They're faster, they’re quieter, they can stay under for longer. In addition to that, we've already made some announcements about our capacity in terms of drones, in terms of other issues, and we'll have more to say about our weaponry going forward. That’s just one element to it and it’s very important. The other thing that Australia has been doing, led by Penny Wong, who I think will go down as Australia's greatest Foreign Minister when history looks back. When you look at her achievements in less than one year as foreign minister, our relationship with France has been repaired, our relationship with the United States has never been stronger, our relationship in ASEAN has never been stronger, our relationship in the Pacific, we’ve put back together the Pacific Islands Forum, working with countries. I was the first foreign leader to address the Papua New Guinea Parliament in January of this year. The visit that I had to India was extremely successful. In May, we'll be hosting US President Biden, Prime Minister Kishida, and Prime Minister Modi here in Australia for the Quad Leaders' meeting. Australia, when you look at what we are doing, we are not just investing in our capabilities, we are investing in our relationships and that is constructive because we want peace and security and stability in our region.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just on AUKUS. Why do submarines need vertical launch shoots to fire cruise missiles does that turn them into an offensive thing rather than a defence capability?
PRIME MINISTER: Submarines are an important part, a central part, of our defence strategic position and we will release in April our Defence Strategic Review. It will be released in obviously a secure form but we are very confident that we have got this right. Thanks very much.