Photo: AAP Image/Dan Peled
MEMBER FOR FAIRFAX, TED O’BRIEN: A very big welcome to the Prime Minister of Australia. You know, when you’re on a road trip throughout Queensland you can only stop at one place for a pie and a punt, and the Prime Minister has decided to stop at the Sunny Coast. And why not. It’s the lifestyle capital of Australia, we’re delighted to have the PM here in town today. So a big welcome PM. The Prime Minister likes to say that if you’re prepared to have a go in Australia, you’ll get a go, and there is no more prime example of a company that is having a go than Beefy’s Pies here in Kunda Park in Maroochydore. When you have over 20,000 pies travelling the Bruce Highway every week, our $10 billion Bruce Highway package makes a difference. When you have 160 employees and 10 shops, our company tax cuts make a difference. When you have a company with big growth aspirations, not just in Australia but beyond, our free trade agreements and the concessional loan for the Sunshine Coast International Airport makes a difference.
So Beefy’s Pies is a prime example where you have a company that is prepared to have a go and is getting a go. And that is very much thanks to this Government, our Government that gets the economy right. And as the Treasurer, it is thanks to Scott Morrison that we have the means by which we can help and medium businesses and as our Prime Minister, our Government will continue to help companies, particularly family businesses like this 20 year old business managed by the Hobbs, Beefy’s Pies. So with that, a very big welcome and thanks to coming to town, Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much. Thank you very much Ted and Mark, [inaudible] and Shirley and I know Ron isn’t feeling quite that well today so he’ll be home watching the Cup. By the way, Youngstar, that’s who I’m backing today and after young Olivia who was lost some years ago I think that it’d just be a marvellous outcome, a really great Melbourne Cup moment if we saw Youngstar, Winx’s stablemate, get home today. If she can get there I think would really make Australians roar and I’ll certainly be putting my money on her today.
But we’re here because we’re not just backing Youngstar today, we’re backing small and family businesses all around the country, our Government. And that has been the theme over our last five years. As Ted has just said, those who are having a go should get a go. That’s what fairness in Australia means. If you have a go, you get a go and that’s what Beefy’s pies have been doing for many years now. They’ve been providing jobs for hundreds and hundreds of Queenslanders here on the Sunshine Coast and they’ve been working hard. I mean, the thing about family businesses, they don’t just run business like this. Over the course of their business’ life they’ve been to more 21sts, weddings, christenings, that you can care to name. Because their staff are like family. This is one unit, workers and employees and staff and the employers and the owners of the company all working together as one team.
And you know, that’s how Australia’s economy is going to continue to grow. By ensuring we all work together. You’ve heard me say many times now, we’re building an even stronger Australia by making our economy stronger, by keeping Australians safe, by keeping Australians together. I don’t want to see an industrial landscape in this country which throws back to the 1970s with strikes and call outs which is suffocating our economy. What I want to see is what we see here at Beefy’s Pies and small and family businesses right across the country. People who have worked here for 20 years, people who have worked here for 7 years. People who have worked here under apprenticeships here. The number of young people who have come through and got their trade in a small and family business like this. That’s the future of the Australian economy. Not an economy where workers are pitted against employers, where we actually work together as a team and as a unit. And that’s what the Liberal and National Parties will always stand for, and that’s why we stand by small and family businesses that protect their businesses by ensuring they look after their workers and they work closely with their workers and together they share in the prosperity that we see in small and family sized businesses all around the country. And they’re very important to regional Australia, small and family businesses. People here want to live here, they want to work here. And that’s what Beefy’s Pies has been making a reality for so many Queenslanders on the Sunny Coast here for a very long time.
But what we also know about the Sunny Coast is that it’s going to be home to more and more families in the future. And that’s why we’re investing in the infrastructure on the Bruce Highway, on the Beerburrum to Nambour rail line, around $400 million. We’re investing in the infrastructure which is going to support the growth of the Sunny Coast, so when families and more of them come to this whole area, then they’ll have the services that are needed and they’ll be able to get to where the jobs are and increasingly, those jobs are going to be right here on the Sunny Coast for those Australians who are making this their home.
Now, we’ve also got us backing small and family businesses by doing important things like getting their taxes down, by ensuring we get their electricity prices down and we take on the big energy companies and have the regulations in place to make sure that they do the right thing by companies here like Beefy’s Pies so they can make sure their business goes ahead. So whether it’s investing in infrastructure, getting their taxes down, getting their electricity prices down, reducing their paperwork so they can spend more time growing their business. That is how companies like Beefy’s Pies will continue to make our economy stronger.
Now, a couple of other issues I might just touch on. I’m very pleased to see, and we knew this was in train, that the Foreign Minister will be on her way to China tomorrow. That follows the Trade Minister being there as we speak. We’re getting on with business with China, that’s what our Government is doing. That means that business is important to Australia’s future. It’s creating the jobs, it’s creating the success for our economy, which means we can pay for hospitals, and schools and roads and all of the essentials that Australians rely on. Medicare, affordable medicines, we’re getting on with business with China. That’s what our Government is doing, and we’re doing it in a constructive way.
But also around the grounds today, we’ve got our Health Minister Greg Hunt. While I’m up here in Queensland, he’s out on his annual Walk for Autism down there in Victoria, and the Education Minister Dan Tehan, he’s out there concluding the rounds of school funding agreements. And yesterday, he was able to land the first of those with South Australia and we look forward to other states following suit very soon. So our Government is getting on with it, we’re just getting on with it. Here in Queensland, I’m listening, most importantly I’m hearing, and that means we’re doing. Whether it’s investing in the Bruce Highway, whether it’s backing small and family businesses. That’s what we’re about, we’re just getting on with it. Happy to take questions. You’re going to have to speak up.
JOURNALIST: Since you bought up the Foreign Minister’s visit to China, I wanted to ask you about that. How significant is that [inaudible]?
PRIME MINISTER: I think it’s a very positive indication of the practical way we’re going about our relationship and our comprehensive strategic partnership with China. I think it shows that things are very much on track and I’m looking forward to meeting with my counterparts Li Keqiang and President Xi when I go to the East Asia Summit and APEC in the next few weeks. It’s a very positive relationship, we’re getting on with business in China.
But they're the not the only ones getting on with business with. The Finance Minister has been up in Indonesia over the course of the past week or so. And yesterday, we had Sri Mulyani, the Indonesian Finance Minister in Australia as a guest of Government here which is something we initiated when I was Treasurer and she met with Treasurer Frydenberg yesterday. So all of these relationships are very important. The Defence Minister today is meeting with defence industry firms. Our investment in restoring our defence forces to the capability after the previous government allowed defence spending to fall to where it was prior to the Second World War, it was a national disgrace. They didn't commission one naval ship. Now, we've turned all of that around in the last five years and Minister Pyne is in Sydney today and he is focusing on the defence industry relationships, as is Steven Ciobo, who has primary carriage for that very big investment program.
JOURNALIST: You mention APEC, are you... we're hearing that you'll be meeting Mike Pence and the Russian President and the Chinese President on the cruise ship of APEC. Can you tell us about that?
PRIME MINISTER: We'll have more to say about the programme of meetings in due course. I’m not going into that today. But these will be important meetings for us to highlight a couple of things. First of all, that Australia is a Pacific nation. I mean, this is where we live, and APEC being held, I think, in Papua New Guinea, our closest neighbour, I think is very important for Papua New Guinea and we've been very pleased to support them in their preparations. I met with Prime Minister O'Neil last week and got a further update on the meeting and the preparations. But also, as we said we announced our involvement their facility up at the Lombrum Base in Manus, which is an important strategic investment for us in partnership with PNG. So we'll be catching up with all those leaders and those countries that also share our part of the world and we'll be encouraging them all to take an increased interest in the Pacific and the Indo-Pacific and throughout the APEC region.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about the Sunshine Coast?
PRIME MINISTER: Please.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned the Bruce Highway a couple of times. Shouldn’t we be getting cars off the roads and backing fast rail?
PRIME MINISTER: Well what we're doing is we have a business case program already under way on the Sunshine Coast, looking at faster rail up here. On top of that, we've got the rail investment, around $400 million, that I already talked about on the Beerburrum to Nambour rail link. So it's not a choice of roads or rail. It's a choice which includes all of these options, and our Government has demonstrated our willingness to do that over the last five years. I mean, yesterday I was announcing down on the Gold Coast stage three of the Gold Coast Light Rail, and up here, we're looking at the additional rail options as well as those we've already committed to. And the reason for that is the Sunshine Coast is going to be home to thousands of new families.
You know, we've seen this in cities around Australia where areas that were once a bit outside the major capital city in Brisbane, and they become places where families move to, to get affordable housing and start their lives together. And over time, those cities develop their own momentum and they develop their own gravitas as economies and we will see that here on the Sunshine Coast. But for that to be realised, we have got to be investing in the roads, and we are. 80 per cent of those roadworks you were seeing from the Caloundra Road up to the Sunshine motorway. 80 per cent of the money is coming from the Commonwealth Government. So we're going to continue to invest in the congestion busting infrastructure that is going to provide a real future for families here on the Sunshine Coast and small businesses.
JOURNALIST: Have you ruled out the possibility of splitting the election in two?
PRIME MINISTER: Sorry I can’t hear you.
JOURNALIST: Have you ruled out the possibility of splitting the election in two and if so…
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah we've got no plans for that. That's just more Canberra bubble chatter.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that if you did split the election, the voters would punish you for that?
PRIME MINISTER: I think it's Canberra bubble chatter.
JOURNALIST: So you can rule it out?
PRIME MINISTER: I’ve said, we’ve got no plans to do it.
JOURNALIST: We had a shark attack overnight. Do we need a shark cull?
PRIME MINISTER: They're matters that I’ll leave for the state government. The Commonwealth has responsibilities for what it is responsible for and I think that the state government will be looking closely at those issues as you expect them to, and I'll leave it for their judgement.
JOURNALIST: You’re from Tourism Australia...
PRIME MINISTER: No, I'm the Prime Minister. That's my job today and that's my job tomorrow and I'll leave it to the state government to make those careful decisions and take the advice they need to to ensure that Australians are kept safe and visitors are kept safe.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] 80/20 rather than 50/50?
PRIME MINISTER: We're still waiting. We are still waiting for the state government to step up on the Pine River to Caloundra Road where we put in 80 per cent of the money in already. So look, the state government needs to start turning up on major infrastructure projects for the Sunshine Coast. Every single time we commit, they say, “Oh, we want more and more and more.” Well, we're investing in the growth of the Sunshine Coast and ensuring that the infrastructure can be provided to support that growth. But it's primarily the state government's responsibility.
You know, in New South Wales, they're just cracking on with it. They're getting on with it. We have got great partnerships with the New South Wales state government and the roads are getting built, the railways are getting built, the light rail is getting built and that's fantastic. We'd love to see the same thing here in Queensland. We're delivering 80-20 on key sections of the Bruce Highway, and it's just time for the state government to stop making excuses and stump up with the roads and the rail.
JOURNALIST: China got pretty angry with us under Malcolm Turnbull. Is the Morrison Government taking a softer approach to that relationship?
PRIME MINISTER: We're just getting on business with business with China, that's what our Government is doing.
JOURNALIST: Does it bother you that Victoria is striking deals with China?
PRIME MINISTER: I was surprised that the Victorian Government went into that arrangement without any discussions with the Commonwealth Government at all. Or taking what would seem any advice from the Commonwealth Government on what is a matter of international relations. And they're the responsibilities of the Commonwealth Government and I would have hoped that the Victorian Government would have taken a more cooperative approach to that process. They know full well our policy on those issues and I thought that that was not a very cooperative or helpful way to do things on such issues.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’re on the bus tour. Why are you flying?
PRIME MINISTER: Well the bus is going all the way up to Rockie and that’s where it was always planning to go. I mean, it’s a big state and I need to cover as much of it in four days as I can. So we were never planning to take the bus to Townsville, we’d always planned to take that last leg up to Townsville by plane because that was the most effective way to get there and to spend the most time there with people on the ground. I mean, these visits aren’t about sitting on a bus. They’re about actually engaging with small businesses and our supporters and the people of Queensland and listening to them.
JOURNALIST: Then why have the bus?
PRIME MINISTER: Because it gets me from A to B.
JOURNALIST: Will you be taking the bus to Rockhampton from here?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes. The bus will be going to Rockhampton from here. That’s right.
JOURNALIST: With you on it?
PRIME MINISTER: I’ve got to get there earlier than the bus tonight.
JOURNALIST: So you will be flying to Rockhampton?
PRIME MINISTER: I’ll get into Rockhampton tonight and I’ve got a programme tonight in Rockhampton and the bus can’t get me there quick enough so I’ve got to fly.
JOURNALIST: So you’ll be flying to Rockhampton and the bus will catch up with you and then you’ll fly onto Townsville?
PRIME MINISTER: I’ll be flying onto Townsville. And your point is what?
JOURNALIST: I’m just interested in the point of the bus if you’re not on it.
PRIME MINISTER: I am on it, I just got off it.
JOURNALIST: But not onto Rockhampton or Townsville?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah well it’s a practical thing. I want to spend as much time on the ground with Queenslanders, and when I can be on the bus and go from place to place on the bus, that’s great. But I’m not going to sacrifice time with Queenslanders, listening to them and hearing them and talking to them about what’s important to them just to satisfy the media’s interest in the timetable for the bus.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, did you discuss the possibility of splitting the election at all with MPs?
PRIME MINISTER: The Government said we’ve got no plans to do it, it’s not on the agenda. It’s just not on the agenda so I’ll leave it up to the bubble to speculate about it. I’m not speculating about it. I’m interested in what Queenslanders are interested in, and that’s their roads, that’s their infrastructure, that’s the support that only we can provide for Medicare and affordable medicines because only our Government, the Liberal National Government, can deliver the strong economy that pays for all these things. You know, at this next election, there is a choice. You can trust a Government that can pay for Medicare because we’re running a stronger economy or you can believe the lies of the Labor Party which says they’re just going to heap more taxes on Australians because they don’t know how to control their spending. You put another $200 billion of higher taxes on small businesses, which is what their plan is, on mums and dads investing for their future in real estate, on retirees who simply own shares in listed companies and a living off the dividend imputation credit rebates that they get which is their absolute fair right to. If you take $5 billion out of the economy on a retirees tax, what do you think that’s going to do to the economy?
Labor will take a tax sledgehammer to our economy. A weaker economy will not be able to pay for Medicare and it won’t be able to pay for affordable medicines in the same way that our Government has and will continue to. Because only with a stronger economy can you pay for these things. What is at risk to Australians, what is at risk to Queenslanders, is an economic recipe put together by the Labor Party which will mean a weaker economy. And a weaker economy is not good for hospitals, it’s not good for schools, it’s not good for Medicare, it’s not good for affordable medicines, it's not good for pensions. The thing that is good for all of those things is a stronger economy and that’s what we’re focused on.
JOURNALIST: How much did you put on Youngstar?
PRIME MINISTER: I’ll make that bet when I get to the course this afternoon.
JOURNALIST: On the nose or each way?
PRIME MINISTER: I’m putting on the nose, absolutely. Youngstar to win. Cheers.