Doorstop Interview - Sydney, NSW

14 Sep 2022
Prime Minister
Queen Elizabeth II Place; Housing; Star Casino; Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral; Industrial Relations; Stuart Ayres; Public Health Orders; National Cabinet

PRIME MINISTER ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning. I'm very pleased to be here in historic Macquarie Street this morning with the Premier of New South Wales, Dominic Perrottet, and the local state MP, Alex Greenwich. And we're here to announce that where we are standing, we will be Queen Elizabeth II place. The building behind us will be knocked over so that there's an appropriate thoroughfare from the CBD right through to the parks and gardens that makes Sydney such a magnificent Harbour City. I went to school just next door here at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, so I'm very familiar with this part of Sydney. We need to make the most of the parkland which is here, in the Domain, moving down to the Botanic Gardens and down to the harbour foreshore. This is a visionary project and I congratulate the Premier on coming up with this idea consistent with his approach towards some of the buildings in this city. It's got to be said and that is important: this is a great global city and we need to make the most of it. This plan will do that. But it also is a plan which will commemorate the life of Queen Elizabeth the Second who we are honouring, by naming this Queen Elizabeth II Place. I will travel tomorrow night to London, along with the ten Australians, along with the Governor-General to give homage to the life of Queen Elizabeth II. Regardless of where people stand on other issues, Queen Elizabeth the Second is someone who's admired someone who's respected for a life of service to the United Kingdom, to the Commonwealth and to the world and the naming of this place in her honour is an appropriate and fitting tribute.

PREMIER DOMINIC PERROTTET: Thanks, Prime Minister. It's great to be with yourself and Alex Greenwich, the local member today to make this very important announcement that this great historic precinct just behind us here will be forever known as Queen Elizabeth Place. As we know Queen Elizabeth II served the people of New South Wales for over 70 years with absolute distinction. And during this period of time, as we mourn, as we remember her great service to the people of our state, the name of this place is Queen Elizabeth II Place will ensure generations to come, young Australians, will always know the dedication, the passion and the service that she carried out for the great people of New South Wales and Australia. Macquarie Street isn't just important for the people of New South Wales, it is important for our country. This great historical precinct, we've worked to revitalize it: starting down at the Mitchell Library all the way through to the Registrar General's building here. By knocking down this annexure, which should never have been built in the first place back in the 1970s, we will have this great plaza opened up for the people of New South Wales to enjoy and appreciate, but most importantly, to remember the service and dedication of Queen Elizabeth to the great people of New South Wales. In addition, we will be working very closely with the local council – more than local council, the City of Sydney – to put up a monument dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II as well. It's important as a country, if we want to know where we're going as a state and as a country, we need to have a great appreciation of where we’ve come from and Queen Elizabeth II’s service to the great people of New South Wales will now be remembered here forever.

ALEX GREENWICH, MEMBER FOR SYDNEY: Good morning, I'd really like to thank the Premier for inviting me here today and the Prime Minister for joining us for what is a significant and historic announcement of the creation of this really important new public space to honour Queen Elizabeth II. This will be a site where people will gather, reflect and it will be an essential connectivity between Macquarie Street and the Domain. So as we continue to revitalise the Sydney CBD after the lockdowns and the pandemic, it is so great to see the New South Wales government investing in the city, activating the city. This place will be something all Sydneysiders will be extremely proud of, and we will really be able to reflect on the legacy and contributions of Queen Elizabeth when they are here.

JOURNALIST: Will the space be about gathering? Or will you be able to get a coffee here, or people can sit and have a drink in the afternoon?  

PREMIER PERROTTET: It's going to be a great open space. The first thing is to build the connection between the urban part of Sydney and the greenery of the Domain. Part of this Macquarie Street revitalization – we went down this path a few years ago, was to really enhance the connection. What's occurred over decades has been buildings like this one. That's next to go, by the way, the courts there. Because in the sixties and seventies they just built these things and they have really brutalized the great historic Macquarie Street. So the answer to the question is yes, this won't just be a place for reflection, it will be a plaza for our people and it will be open space. We see, over in some of the other areas like where the Sydney Hospital is, cafes and the like. So this is a place where people can gather and also connect with each other through both the urban side and the garden side of the city.

JOURNALIST: Should the Register of General Services be moved somewhere else?

PREMIER PERROTTET: Yes. Obviously, at the moment with the with the current space in the Registrar General's Building, we have removed the land or property information out. We've been using that for orchestra, for people to come together in that building. We are working towards this being an area for museums. We're working very closely with the Museum of Sydney and looking at ways in which we can use these buildings for the public. These building should not be closed for public servants. These are great historic buildings that should be opened up and appreciated by the people of New South Wales and around the country for tourists to come. I want people to stay longer when they come to Sydney. And we have a great opportunity, not just in the investments we made with the council in relation with the Great Walk on the Harbour side through Sydney, but also linking from the Opera House all the way up to Macquarie Street. I want to extend that as well out to the great Australian Museum. This is a great part of Sydney and a great part of Australia. We need to open it up so that people can appreciate it, not close it to public servants.

JOURNALIST: When does the wrecking ball?

PREMIER PERROTTET: By the end of the year. It’s going to be a great day. It won’t be a public holiday, but it will be a great day of celebration.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

PREMIER PERROTTET:  You can do both. And we're investing in record amounts of social and affordable housing across the state. There's no doubt we should we can be doing more. I think one of the aspects that really struck me during the floods in Lismore was the huge shortage of housing in the Northern Rivers. We are working tirelessly to address those issues and we will be investing record amounts in social and affordable housing. I was down with Minister Rob Stokes, very recently at Central Station with the Central Station redevelopment. And what we spoke about there was, once again, maintaining beauty through that historical redevelopment of the Central Precinct. But a core part of that was the provision of social and affordable housing, and student housing. So that is a real focus for this government, not just across the state, particularly in Sydney.

JOURNALIST: Andrew Wilkie made calls for a national regulator for casinos. Is this something you'd support?

PREMIER PERROTTET: I'm not sure that's necessary. We are taking steps in relation to an independent commission here in New South Wales and a regulator. What we've seen here in our state – the performance of staff has been absolutely horrendous. They've got 14 days to respond to that report. And if they don't comply, they're likely to close. So it's important to have strong conditions and strong regulators in place, that's what we have in New South Wales. I very much welcome the findings and the work that they've done that has highlighted these issues. There is no place for anybody in any organisation, including casinos, to not be compliant with the regulations that are in place

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, is it appropriate for Ben Robert-Smith to be going to the Queen's funeral given the civil courts are only a couple months away from potentially finding him [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: These are decisions that were made objectively. The Palace has invited all Victoria Cross recipients and that’s the basis of the invitation.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, an industrial dispute is still raging on here in New South Wales. What did you make of your Employee Relations Minister weighing into that debate? Did he overstep the mark by writing to the Fair Work Commission?

PRIME MINISTER: He didn’t. Minister Burke wrote to the Fair Work Commission, as he has on four separate occasions, to indicate what will likely be policy changes. That's appropriate. There's been no intervention. It’s a dispute between New South Wales Government and the RTBU. I would certainly encourage all parties to come to a resolution

JOURNALIST:  Prime Minister, where do you come down on it though? The local business chamber says that the current industrial action we're seeing is entrenching work from home culture.

PRIME MINISTER: I’ve got a big job, and I'll do my job. That is what I'm focused on.

JOURNALIST: Premier, your Industrial Relations Minister… [inaudible]

PREMIER PERROTTET: The Fair Work Commission should be independent to do its job. The concerns that I have particularly raised have been in relation to donations and public sector unions. Now, the actions today by the RTBU – I want to say, firstly, I'm happy in the sense that my concern is the public and I want people to be able to get to work, kids to be able to get to school, and the industrial action which is has hurt that is not acceptable. I've made that very clear. Now, today they've come out and said they're going to turn off the Opal machines. The they are turning them off – and I want to thank the people of New South Wales, because they opened them up and 90% of commuters were still tapping on and off. And that just shows that the people of New South Wales just want to get on with it, and that's what I expect of the union. We are working through those issues with the Fair Work Commission. We have worked with them for a number of years in respect to the resolution of these disputes. And when it comes to issues of pay, we also appreciate that for difficult time for everybody across the state, everybody across the country with higher interest rates and higher inflation. But here in New South Wales, when it comes to public sector pay, we lead the nation. We have always paid above private sector wages. That is a strong track record, and I'd ask the unions to work constructively with the government, appreciate the pressures that we're all under, not just the government, but people across our state.

JOURNALIST: The review found that Stuart Ayres didn’t breach the Ministerial Code of Conduct. Are you going to return him?

PREMIER PERROTTET: What the Cabinet puts in place is what the Cabinet puts in place.

JOURNALIST: Do you plan to…

PREMIER PERROTTET: I have no plan at this stage. The Cabinet is serving the people of New South Wales

JOURNALIST: Will you be doing a cabinet reshuffle ahead of the election where Stuart Ayres might find himself back?

PREMIER PERROTTET: I haven’t made decisions in relation to that. That's not my focus

JOURNALST: And did you say, did you tell him that you believe that he had been infallibly exonerated?


JOURNALIST: On COVID isolation, when will it be time to treat Australians like adults? They can decide when they're sick, they stay at home, and when they are well, they can go to work.

PREMIER PERROTTET: As soon as possible. I've made it very clear, my view is we need to move to a system, moving away from public health orders and ultimately moving to a position of respect. We can't have state government public health orders in place for perpetuity. What we need to do is move to a system where if you are sick you stay at home, and if you are well you go to work, go to school, and you go about your life. It doesn't make any sense, there's one area that we have public health orders in place, for other areas where you are sick there are no public health orders in place and you can go to work. So there's no doubt, we've moved through this period of time for two years. There has always been changes. I think what is very positive now through the National Cabinet is a greater focus on a nationally consistent approach. There are always different views from different Premiers at different points of time, I accept that. But I think the camaraderie of working together and sharing information is incredibly positive. I've made my views very clear every step of the way, even when I was Treasurer to being in this position today, that we need to move away from public health orders. You can't do that overnight, and I accept that. But directionally that's where we need to go. I welcome the changes we made going from seven days of isolation to five days of isolation. I'll continue to work with my other counterparts in other jurisdictions in relation to the removal of public health orders. And we will discuss those issues.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can we get your thoughts, when will it be time to treat Australians like adults and allow them to make decisions about their own health?

PRIME MINISTER: My thoughts as well as my actions, are with my responsibility as Prime Minister to bring together the states and territories. I was critical, previously, of the fact that the National Cabinet would meet, you would then have the Prime Minister give an announcement, then the New South Wales Premier say what New South Wales is doing, Victoria say what Victoria was doing, WA say what WA was doing. What I've sought to do is to bring together the Premiers and Chief Ministers from across the political spectrum, from across our states and territories, to have a common national position. And I must say that all of them have been cooperative. It's a very collegiate atmosphere. We have another meeting this morning. I'll give a press conference after that to announce what decisions are made in a transparent manner. But can I say this: that we do need, in my view, that national consistency. These decisions are, of course, up to the states and territories. But I see my job as about facilitating that discussion. And can I say that it has been very positive over the last three months, and I think it was the right decision to go from seven days to five days. But we'll have another discussion this morning.

JOURNALIST: Will you extend pandemic leave payments beyond September 30?

PRIME MINISTER: We will have a discussion this morning. And we will come to, what I want to be, a collective decision as one. And we will make that announcement and I'll see you in a few hours with that announcement.