LUKE HOWARTH, MEMBER FOR PETRIE:
Good morning everyone. I'm Luke Howarth, federal Member for Petrie. It's wonderful to have the Prime Minister of course here today as well as the Minister for Employment and Innovation Senator Michaelia Cash. We're here of course at Kennedy’s Timbers which Michael and Penny Kennedy run.
They’re a local business. The sort of business that is employing Australians not just here in Petrie and in Queensland, but right across Australia. We’ve seen record jobs growth in businesses this size under $50 million turnover since the Government has cut company tax.
And I want to personally thank all the team at Kennedy’s Timbers for the work that they do in this electorate. They employed a young man Mark who was unemployed for some time and he came to one of my job seeker bootcamps and Michael put him on and he's now been working here for two and a half years. We’ve just had a great chat with him. So thank you so much Michael for what you do and all the team here at Kennedy’s and thank you Prime Minister and Senator Cash for being here.
Great. Thanks, Luke, Michaelia, Michael and Penny. Thank you for hosting us here at Kennedy's Timber. This is a great example of a hardworking Australian family business, the type of business that benefits from the incentives that we provide with lower taxes for business, enabling a proprietor like Michael to invest more and to grow. His business is growing. And it’s a fascinating one - taking old timber out of old bridges, wharves and warehousing and giving it a new life.
For someone that is fascinated by and passionate about trees and timber, like me Michael, we've been having a great discussion all morning.
Now the big news is this. When the Liberal National Government was elected in September 2013, Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised that we would create a million jobs in five years, a million jobs in Australia. It seemed pretty ambitious at that time.
Well, we've seen phenomenal growth in jobs. Last year alone - 2017 - we had the largest number of jobs created in Australia in our history - 415,000. And that jobs growth has continued. This month we've seen strong jobs growth as well, over 22,000 jobs. Right now we can say that as of April, 1,013,600 jobs have been created in Australia. So the million jobs number has been reached and it's been reached early. So that's a great credit.
Michael, politicians often take the credit for things but you know something, the credit belongs to businesses, thousands of them, like Michael's. Good on you.
Michael, you hired one new employee in April?
We did. We had five this year, we had a new one, Cherry, who came to us. So she could be the millionth person. Could very well be!
Or the or the 1,013,600th!
There she is!
Good on you, Cherry! You could be the one millionth employee. Millionth new job created in Australia. What that means is there are a million more Australians in jobs, that's a million more Australians that have got the opportunity to realise their dreams, it is a million more Australians, by the way, that are paying tax.
That's one of the reasons why the Government's revenues are stronger. It is one of the reasons why we have the lowest number of people of working age on welfare in 25 years. That's a very, very big achievement. That gives stronger budget outcomes, that means we can guarantee essential services, spend more on infrastructure, on hospitals, on education, on national security.
It means we can bring the Budget back into balance a year earlier 2019-20, we’ll see the Budget come back into balance and then move into stronger surpluses in the years ahead.
It is one of the reasons why net debt is peaking this year.
We are turning the corner on debt. The Government is living within its means. It means we won't be throwing an ever bigger mountain of debt and deficit onto the shoulders of our children and grandchildren.
And of course it enables us to provide tax relief to hardworking Australian families so they can keep more of the money they earn.
We have seen over 10 million Australian taxpayers will get tax relief from next year because of the Budget and over four million of them will get $530 back after their tax return is filed for next financial year.
So you can imagine they're families on middle incomes. You can imagine a family with Mum and Dad working, say, one on $65,000, another one on $75,000, or numbers like that they're going to be $1,060 better off. So that is real, affordable tax relief.
The important thing is we are doing this without the assault on people's savings and the assault on business, that Labor is promising - I should say they're threatening. Labor is going to go after the savings of our grandparents - they are. They're going to go after all of those franked dividends, tax - you know, cash paid from the tax office in respect of franking credits that is so important to so many retirees who've got their modest portfolios with blue chip Australian shares, they're going to go after that. $5 billion a year, $5 billion a year coming out of your grandparents' savings. That's where it's going to hit.
I was with a couple of older Australians, self-funded retirees in Queanbeyan last week, and there was one lady in her eighties who was telling me it is going to cost her and her husband 28% of their income. That's who Bill Shorten is targeting.
And he’s targeting businesses like Michael's. He is going to put Michael’s tax up. He’s going to put tax up on higher income earners, he’s going to put tax up on property, he’s going to put tax up on trusts. Over $200 billion of new taxes.
Now what we say is we need to have a strong economy. That's what enables the jobs growth and that means we've got to have businesses that can invest and employ, just like Michael's business does here.
So congratulations, Cherry, and to all of the team here at Kennedy's Timber. I'll now ask Michaelia to say some more about the jobs figures.
THE HON. MICHAELIA CASH, MINISTER FOR JOBS AND INNOVATION:
Well Prime Minister, it is an absolute delight to join you and of course Luke Howarth, the Member for Petrie, but in particular Michael from Kennedy's Timber today, to actually talk about the one million jobs that have been created by businesses just like Michael’s.
Michael’s is the perfect example of a business that needs policies that enable him to prosper and grow and that's what you get under a Coalition government. Michael, you started out around 20 years ago in Queensland and you have now grown to be a business that has offices across Australia, including in Sydney and in Melbourne. You've obviously been able to increase the number of people you employ.
That is what this Government is all about. As the Prime Minister said, in September 2013, when we were elected to office, former Prime Minister Abbott made a commitment to the
Australian people that the Coalition Government, within five years, would ensure that the economy created one million jobs.
Well, today, under Mr Turnbull, Prime Minister Turnbull, we have delivered on that commitment. The economy has created in excess of one million jobs. But that does not happen by
accident. It happens because a Coalition Government puts in place deliberate policies to ensure that business, businesses like Kennedy's Timber, are able to prosper and grow.
We have a number of records in Australia. Full-time employment in Australia is now at a record high. There has never been a time in our history when there are more Australians in full-time employment.
In terms of employment growth, it remains well above the decade average of 1.6%. As the Prime Minister was saying, 2017 was the strongest year ever for jobs growth in Australia. In excess of 400,000 jobs were created by the economy, by businesses like Kennedy's Timber.
But the glaring comparison is the final 12 months of the former Labor Government where the economy created around 89,000 jobs. In terms of those 400,000 jobs created under Prime Minister Turnbull, the economy created in excess of 300,000 full-time jobs.
Again, the comparison, the stark comparison, with the former Labor Government whereby, under the former Labor Government in the last 12 months, the economy actually shed in excess of 17,000 jobs.
So, the policy positions could not be more clear. We said we would be a job-creating government. We said we'd create a million jobs. We have now delivered on that commitment to the Australian people. However, as the Prime Minister has acknowledged, we now need to create the environment in which businesses like Kennedy Timbers can go on and create the next million jobs for Australians and that is what we are focused on. Thank you, Prime Minister.
Thank you. You know, we've got - we're here in the electorate of Petrie, in Luke's electorate, but I think about 20 of your team here actually live in Longman?
And the people of Longman are going to have a choice soon in the by-election and they'll have the opportunity to cast their judgment on the rolled gold guarantees that Bill Shorten has given, whether it's about Susan Lamb's citizenship, or whether it's about tax.
He's had just about every position on tax, being in favour of cutting company tax when he was in government, and now he wants to put it up.
They'll have the opportunity to vote and give their opinion on the strength of the economy and the need to have strong, Liberal National Government to deliver that economic leadership that is delivering the strong growth in jobs that we've seen, last year, 2017, alone - 415,000 jobs created, strongest jobs growth in our country’s history. I'll be delighted to take some questions including and Michael will field some questions on timber, the benefits of eastern and southern versus northern spotted gum.
The northern spotted gum is a better one because it’s from Queensland.
This is Corymbia Maculata.
Corymbia Maculata as opposed to Eucalyptus Maculata.
Prime Minister you mentioned the Longman by-election, you probably shouldn’t have been surprised that there is one with what you’ve said about Susan Lamb's citizenship. Is it embarrassing you don't have a candidate here with you to be campaigning with?
Well the LNP has a preselection process underway and they’ll be making their selection, I understand on Tuesday. They've obviously called for nominations and the nominations have been received and the preselectors will make their choice on Tuesday and I'm sure it will be a very wise one.
Will you do a preference deal with One Nation.
We are not doing any deals with One Nation. Nothing has changed since I spoke about that some time ago.
Can I make this point about citizenship though and, you know, you've raised it. It is a fair point.
What the High Court said in October last year was crystal clear. They said that if you are a dual citizen at the time you nominate you are ineligible. They said very clear.
Bill Shorten then stood up and gave a rolled gold guarantee that his members were all eligible to sit in the Parliament even though the High Court had made it very plain that at least four of them were not.
Susan Lamb filled in a form and said she wasn't a citizen of another country. Well she's just renounced her British citizenship, so how did that work.
The fact is Susan Lamb knew that she was not eligible to sit in the Australian Parliament from when she nominated because she was a dual citizen, and she certainly knew – as clear as clear could be – in October last year when the High Court spoke in the Canavan case. She should have resigned then.
But she sat there, and with Bill Shorten's encouragement obviously, and they've sat there with her colleagues drawing a parliamentary salary, spending parliamentary entitlements all the time when she knew that she was not eligible to be there.
Why did Labor do it? They did it because they thought they could get away with it. For the same reason they've gone after retirees' savings, because they think they can get away with it. We're determined to ensure that they don't.
Can you give a rolled gold guarantee that Jason Falinski isn’t an Australian-Polish dual citizen?
Well, I can tell you that Jason Falinski is a citizen of Australia, and he is a citizen of Australia only for all the reasons he set out in his citizenship register.
He has made it very clear and I can tell you, we're not going to be taking lectures on citizenship from Bill Shorten, the giver of rolled gold guarantees.
What did our members do? Just contrast and compare, every election is a choice. What did our members do? When Barnaby Joyce found, to his surprise, he was a citizen of New Zealand by descent, he went to the High Court. Referred himself to the High Court. When they gave the judgement and said he was ineligible, he resigned immediately, went to a by-election and won.
When John Alexander realised that he couldn’t demonstrate that he was not a UK citizen. He’d always been brought up to believe he wasn’t, when he couldn’t get the documentation to prove that, he didn't bother the courts, he resigned and went to a by-election.
What did Labor do? Did they respect the Constitution? Did they do the right thing by the Australian people? No.
Even when the High Court made it clear, as they did in October last year, Shorten stood up the following month, in November, and that's when he gave the rolled gold guarantee, in his words, that all of these people who've now resigned were eligible to sit in the Parliament, and they weren't. He knew they weren't but, again, he thought he could get away with it, just like he thinks he can get away with going after the savings of older Australians.
Will you have a referendum into the Constitution?
The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters chaired by Senator Linda Reynolds has delivered a report on Section 44 and I want to thank her and the committee for their work. I encourage everyone to read it.
Look, we don't have time to deal with a referendum between now and the next election, let alone the by-election. So we have to, and the Australian people expect us, to deal with the Constitution as it stands, comply with the Constitution as it stands, and as the High Court interprets it.
That’s the important thing. What the High Court has said is get your act together before you nominate. If you're a dual citizen, make sure you renounce your foreign citizenship before you nominate. A lot of Australians will say there's all sorts of things they've got to get their act together on, whether it's filing tax returns or making claims at Centrelink, and they expect politicians to do that as well.
I think Australians expect us to make sure that our paperwork is in order before we nominate. I just want to go back and make it very clear that you've got these Labor members who knew, including Susan Lamb, who knew that they were ineligible to be in the Parliament. And yet, they sat in the Parliament knowing that. It was only when that latest High Court decision came out that they realised they could no longer get away with it.
John Setka from the CFMEU has told Sky News that unions need to break laws simply because they are stacked against them. Do you agree with that?
Can I tell you, absolutely not. It just underlines the way in which the Labor Party is parting company from the rule of law that is the fundamental foundation of our democracy.
The law applies to everybody. To everyone. Laws can be changed by parliaments, democratically elected.
Unions and unionists do not have some sort of privilege – as Sally McManus and John Setka would like to claim – to go around breaking the law without consequences. The law must be obeyed and we've done everything to improve the industrial law that we're able to do, and can I tell you, I'll ask the Minister to add to this, we will be continuously vigilant in ensuring that the Parliament provides the legislative tools for our agencies - whether it's the Registered Organisations Commission or whether it is the ABCC or Fair Work Australia - to ensure that the law is enforced. Did you want to add to that?
I will. Look, absolutely. As the Prime Minister said, the law applies to everybody. Each person here, each Australian listening to this, we all have to comply with the laws of the land.
Why is it that the CFMEU think they are above the law? Mr Setka proudly has broken the law and been charged in excess of 59 times - assault, jail time for contempt. Hardly a poster boy for law-abiding behaviour.
The Government will always abide by the law. The Government will always ensure that everybody else does. But, in particular, the irony of both Sally McManus and John Setka's position is, it is Labor's laws they are complaining about. The laws that the ACTU, themselves, had a hand in drafting.
The law applies to each one of us. None of us have an exemption.
Is it a bit embarrassing though that this was a significant prosecution in terms of the Royal Commission that has now fallen through?
Absolutely not. Absolutely not. It is a matter for the Victorian Police. Look at the behaviour that was uncovered by the Royal Commission. Disgraceful behaviour, law-breaking behaviour. The unions, the CFMEU itself has been fined, now I think they’re up to $14 million. $14 million of their members' money has gone because courts have fined them for breaking the law that each one of us has to abide by.
In relation to that particular dispute, the Grocon dispute, the union actually had to pay money to both Grocon and to Boral. It is absolutely not - not - allowable to break the laws, and the CFMEU need to wake up to that. As does Bill Shorten, because, let's face it, Mr Setka is Mr Shorten's biggest backer.
Will there ever be a referendum at this time in terms of this?
Look, I've addressed the question earlier. Just to recap, the answer is, no. We certainly don't have enough time between now and the next federal election, which is roughly a year away, or let alone the by-elections.
In terms of the longer term, I have to say to you, as someone who is not without experience in attempting to change the Constitution, that I very much doubt whether Australians would support a change to the Constitution to allow people with dual nationality to sit in the parliament.
I think even the JSCEM report we referred to earlier expresses some doubts about that as well.
What we have to do is focus on the Constitution as it is written - that's the law of the land - as it is interpreted by the High Court, and we have to make sure that everybody complies with it. What that means in practical terms is before you nominate for Parliament, make sure you are not a citizen of another country.
So you can only be a citizen of Australia. In other words, get your act together before you nominate, and, you know, in all of these cases, these Labor members, they all knew they were citizens of the UK when they nominated.
So this was not a case of suddenly discovering some bit of family history. They knew they were citizens of the UK. There is no problem with renouncing your British citizenship as Susan Lamb has belatedly discovered, right? This is a citizenship a little while ago she said she didn't have.
So what people have to do is simply get their act together, get their paperwork done in time before they nominate. It's very straightforward. You know, Australians expect politicians to set a high standard and they look to us and they say, "We have to fill in our forms", whether it is for tax, or Centrelink, or childcare, whatever it is, "We have to get all the details and information together. So should you, people who want to be Members of Parliament." That's the test.
There'll be changes made, I see Mathias Cormann has spoken about that today, there’ll be changes made to make sure people make greater disclosure on these citizenship matters at the time they nominate for Parliament, you know, to make sure that everyone who nominates for Parliament is in compliance with the Constitution so far as that's possible.
Should Ann Sudmalis be re-endorsed?
Ann Sudmalis has my strongest support. She is a phenomenal member for Gilmore. She does a great job. In fact I was just with her down in Nowra on the banks of the Shoalhaven River where she secured Federal Government support to build the Bridge across the Shoalhaven at Nowra which is one of the highest priority infrastructure projects.
She is a persistent, persuasive and relentless advocate for her community, no question about that.
Can you guarantee that she won't lose a preselection battle?
Well, the Liberal Party is a democratic, grassroots, political organisation and so the preselection of candidates is in the hands of the members.
It's like the gentleman at the outset asked me about the preselection for Longman. The LNP candidate for Longman will be determined on Tuesday night by the electoral college made up for the most part of LNP members in the electorate of Longman. We are a democratic grassroots party. Can I just say about Ann Sudmalis, again, she is an outstanding member, she has delivered and is delivering for her community. She is a powerful, persuasive and persistent advocate for Gilmore in the Federal Parliament. Thank you all very much.