Doorstop - Macquarie Park, NSW

29 Jun 2020
Prime Minister

JOHN ALEXANDER MP, MEMBER FOR BENNELONG: Premier Gladys Berejiklian, whose parents are constituents of mine, Minister Constance and other dignitaries. And Alex, whenever I meet Alex he was born in the year I played Davis Cup. This is a very, very important issue, infrastructure. In Bennelong, we have five of the 10 most congested roads in New South Wales. So this pinch point programme is really targeted. So thank you very much for your initiative in this area and I will hand it over to our Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, JA, and it's great to be here with the Premier and, of course, the Transport Minister. Also great to have Alex Hawke here and Dave Sharma, local members, together with John Alexander, congestion busting, making roads safer, working with local governments to get important infrastructure projects moving. This time last week, the Premier and I were standing at the near-completion of NorthConnex. And here we are today, standing together again with the next round of really practical infrastructure transport projects, which not only are going to make a big difference to getting people home sooner and safer and getting to work sooner and safer to make a city like Sydney which needs this congestion busting infrastructure for it to function. But also today, the Deputy Prime Minister is out in Yass and he's talking about the road safety projects we're investing as part of $451 million, supported by even more than that by the state government, over $560 million working together in partnership to bring forward much needed transport infrastructure projects which are necessary to boost our economy, come out and through of this COVID-19 recession. 

These projects are part of $1.5 billion worth of works that we're putting right around the country, all states and territories working as part of a team with state and territory governments. The National Cabinet has been absolutely vital in how we've been addressing and managing the health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. But it has been equally beneficial in the partnership we're forming and we're working together on to ensure we're doing the right things to bring Australia through this COVID recession and out the other side. And that's all about jobs. These projects we're talking about here today, some 5,500 jobs which will come directly by getting these projects underway. So it's the most basic of projects at local government levels across the state, going through to important road safety projects and dealing with congestion pinch points like we're here now. You can hear the traffic around us and that is the noise of a city that is returning to normal and it's the noise of a city that needs continued investment in important transport infrastructure to ensure that we emerge more strongly from the COVID-19 recession. And I want to thank, again, Premier Berejiklian for her partnership on the economics, on the transport infrastructure, on the health management that has been so vital. New South Wales has been in the most difficult of situations in facing the COVID-19 pandemic. Were it not for New South Wales stepping up where the majority of international visitors, Australians returning to Australia, coming back and being looked after here in New South Wales and the quarantine so successfully managed here in New South Wales, then if it were not for them stepping up and also meeting those costs, as Victoria have as well, Victoria and New South Wales have had to deal with the majority, overwhelming majority of returning Australians. And that means they've been under the most pressure and I want to commend Premier Berejiklian and all of her team for the wonderful leadership that they've shown in staying on top of this and it's great to have her here with me today as we embark on yet another important economic infrastructure partnership. Thank you, Gladys.

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN MP, PREMIER OF NSW: Thank you, PM. It's great to be here announcing this joint funding, because now more than ever before, whether you're a citizen of New South Wales or more broadly, you care about the national interest. It's about the federal and state governments working together to really have a building-led recovery for COVID. And for us in New South Wales, building our way through COVID is certainly one of the key planks of our economic recovery and I want to thank the Prime Minister and his colleagues for working with us in relieving in the process these many pinch points in our urban communities, but also regional road upgrades and road safety in the regions. Key areas of funding. The fact that we can bring these projects forward not only ensures this vital infrastructure is delivered, but also creates, as the Prime Minister said, thousands and thousands of jobs. And as you know, whether it's the Governor of the Reserve Bank or whether it's leading economists around the nation, everybody is urging us to look at bringing forward smaller and medium-sized projects, in particular, in very localised ways. It can really give that jobs boost. And so not only will our communities have that much needed relief, whether it's reducing travel times or increasing safety, but also we know that jobs boost is so vital given the precarious position that we're in, especially in New South Wales, where in April alone we lost more than 220,000 jobs and we know come the end of September, we need to be prepared and make sure many of our people who haven't previously been able to find work in the intervening period do have those options. And certainly infrastructure is one of those key areas. So I thank the Prime Minister. I want to thank Minister Constance from a New South Wales level for overseeing the process. And certainly the $569 million we're contributing towards this package is money well spent and it's part of our $3 billion acceleration programme in New South Wales. We're investing more than $100 billion in infrastructure over the next four years, bringing forward $3 billion worth. And certainly this additional funding from the Federal Government means we can move even more quickly, we can bring things forward and we can provide relief in more areas across the state.

THE HON. ANDREW CONSTANCE MP, NSW MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT: Well, look, I mean, it's a great day, and particularly this is the best way to create jobs quick. Small projects are the ones which you can get jobs on the ground straight away. Pleasingly with today's announcement, a lot of money is going into the regions, where obviously we've been through drought, fires and now COVID recession. And importantly, with 258 projects in the bush, 11 major projects here in the city, this is a great way to get jobs on the ground, get those boots working quickly so that families can get through this recession as quickly as possible. Thanks.

PRIME MINISTER: So today's all about our JobMaker plan. Our JobMaker plan has infrastructure at the heart of it, along with everything from workplace relations, industrial nations, skills training, all of these issues to drive our economy forward. Happy to take questions. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’ve spoken about the need for tax reform out the back of this crisis. Will you consider taking to the next election either an increase in the GST or a broadening of the base of the GST in order to get rid of and decrease other taxes or is that something you would rule out?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what I'm focused on at the moment is the decisions the Government has to make in relation to JobSeeker and JobKeeper and they’re important decisions as we move to the next phase post September. And I've got to say, Andrew, that's where my attention is right now. 

JOURNALIST: So it’s something you might consider down the track?

PRIME MINISTER: No, Andrew, I'm not going to let you put words in my mouth. I've said what I've said. You know, we're focused on the questions that Australians are most interested in at the moment. And that is, frankly, the next phase beyond JobSeeker and JobKeeper. There is still a lot of work to do there and that's what we're focused on now. 

JOURNALIST: Were you concerned…

PRIME MINISTER: No, it's not a one on one today, Andrew, there's many other journalists here. I'm happy to give you another one later.

JOURNALIST: Do you see JobSeeker aiding those people who are going to lose JobKeeper when that ends?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, again, we're focused on the next phase post the end of September. There are many businesses, thankfully, which are now seeing an improvement in their turnovers from the big fall off they had from the introduction of all the restrictions and it's good to see a lot more activity. It's good to see some businesses doing better. But there are other businesses that will be at a much reduced level of turnover and I've spoken about those businesses in the past week or so in particular. The aviation sector, the tourism sector, particularly in rural and regional areas which have been most affected by the international travel bans, the entertainment sector, the conferences and events sector. There are a lot of businesses that will still be impacted by these restrictions and that's, obviously, what the Government has to take into account. But you're right to highlight that, you know, there are many moving parts in this. This is not a simple issue. There is the JobSeeker programme, there's the JobKeeper programme, there's the apprenticeships programme, there's the business cashflow support. As a Government, we're putting support through into the loans and guarantees and support that's supporting and aiding and working alongside the work of the Reserve Bank. I mean, our fiscal support of the economy is unprecedented. When you're burning through cash at a rate of almost $11 billion a month on JobKeeper, then obviously that's not something you can continue in that form forever and that's why the Government is being very careful in the considerations we're having. We're not rushing to any decisions. We are working carefully through all the various elements.

JOURNALIST: Do you have increased concerns about China’s influence in Kiribati over the past week with the reelection of a pro-Beijing Prime Minister and do you agree with a former intelligence chief for the US Navy, specifically he says that failing to aggressively counter China’s actions in the Pacific will lead to… it’s just a matter of time before PLA warships are in the Pacific region.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Pacific are our family. We have the Pacific Step Up, which our Government has been implementing now for many years, and that is going through new phases now. I mean, I speak regularly to Pacific leaders and Alex Hawke is the Minister for the Pacific, he’s with me here today, and he is in constant contact with our Pacific family. We have our Vuvale Partnership with Fiji. We have, are in the position right now, where we're finalising further loan arrangements for Papua New Guinea. We're doing this because they're part of our region. They're part of our family, and we're trusted by our family in the Pacific to be stepping up with them. We're stepping up with them at the moment in relation to their response to COVID-19. Fortunately, so far, we have not seen major breakouts within the Pacific nations. We were very concerned that that would take hold in Pacific nations, particularly in Papua New Guinea. Now, so far, that has not occurred. And we've been redirecting a lot of our aid to focus on COVID programmes throughout the Pacific. But not just there, also in Southeast Asia and places like Indonesia as well and I speak to those leaders often. So our focus on the Pacific is there because it's part of our family. It's part of our region. And I don't think there's any doubt about our support and commitment to that sector and the United States and other countries who have an interest in the region fully appreciate and understand that and we work with them all. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, when will the Brereton Report [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's a matter that's going to the Chief of Defence and I have no intention of involving myself in what is an independent process. There are very serious allegations that are part of that process and it will run its course and once that report is in the hands of Defence, then that is the next stage at which these matters will be considered. But I think it would be very unwise for me to make any commentary on those independent matters under review.

JOURNALIST: China state media says Australia is engaging in an intensified espionage offensive against China. Is there any truth in this?

PRIME MINISTER: I wouldn't be relying on Chinese state media for your sources for questions. 

JOURNALIST: If you were to extend JobKeeper, Prime Minister, would you be able to do it, could you do it, sector by sector? Or would it be based on the turnover, a big increase in the turnover?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Andrew, you're getting ahead of the positions that the Government has taken and when the Government has fully considered all these issues, then we’ll be making announcements. Today, we're not making those announcements. So it is not appropriate for me to sort of go into speculative questions that you're putting to me today. 

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned Annastacia Palaszczuk might not reopen the borders? She won’t even let the Richmond footy club up there this morning. How on earth could she then open the border by July 10? It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, she made her statement about July 10 previously and the people who would be the biggest losers from that border not opening up are the people of Queensland. The people of Queensland need their economy to refire and to resurge. There are Queenslanders who aren't in jobs which need their borders open. And I've been very consistent in advocating to all the premiers and chief ministers, regardless of what side of politics they come from, that it's important to get these borders open. I welcome the decision by the Tasmanian Premier, Peter Gutwein. I welcome the decision by the South Australian Premier, Steven Marshall. And while we have a serious outbreak in Victoria, I'll be speaking to the Premier again later today, we will put every resource that we need to deal with that outbreak in Victoria. Victoria has our full support, as I know it has the Premier's full support here in New South Wales. The thing about the National Cabinet is it's a place to work together and support each other. And were it not for the great support that each of the states are getting from each other, I think we would be finding this a much harder task than it is. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there are 75 new cases again in Victoria. How concerning is that though? What do you mean when you say that every resource is being given to them? What else could be given to them to help?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is of a serious concern and the increasing number of cases that we're seeing Victoria, while of grave concern, is not surprising given the nature of the outbreak we're seeing there at the moment. I intend to get further information on that later today and speak to the Premier about whatever additional resources the Premier may need. Then I'm sure we'll be able to fulfil those requests. At this point, no additional support has been asked for from the Victorian Premier. We are already providing significant support, as the other states are, whether in testing or additional resources to assist with tracing of contacts. The ADF is very involved in Victoria. 

This is a serious outbreak, but it's one every effort and coordination and planning and resources being put towards. I mean, we have seven states and territories at the moment in Australia where there is either no or virtually no community transmission, including here in New South Wales, which is a great credit to the New South Wales government. And what that means is resources that are available in other states can also be deployed to assist with the outbreak in Victoria. And we discussed that, as Gladys knows last Friday, about how we can marshal those resources across states and territories and get them to where they're needed in Victoria right now. So Premier Andrews has the full support of myself and every premier and chief minister in the country to deal with this outbreak. It is a difficult situation and we're not on top of it yet. But every effort is being put in place to make sure we are. We've got time for one more. I don’t think we’ve had a question over here.

JOURNALIST: Hi. With what’s happened with Shaoquett Moselmane, are you concerned or are there concerns about the infiltration of any other political offices?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the raid on the home of the New South Wales Labor Upper House MP is a very serious issue for ASIO and the AFP. We introduced our foreign interference laws because we didn't want Australia's political system or any other part of the country to be interfered with. And we just didn't put in the laws, we backed it up with the resources and the taskforces to investigate and where they're able to form a case to prosecute. And so I think it is very, very concerning that there has been this investigation launched by that taskforce into what someone who has been a very, very long standing and relatively senior person within the New South Wales ALP. That is troubling. I'm sure it's very troubling to the Premier as well, who's been kept up to date of these issues. But this is an issue that the Federal Government will not shy away from. It's very important to our integrity as a country and our security as a nation. We take it very seriously.

JOURNALIST: Given that, Prime Minister, should political candidates be subject to security vetting by the agencies before they are allowed to go into Parliament?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we have a very robust system of investigating these matters, as has just been demonstrated. And this is a threat that our Government has been increasingly aware of and has been ramping up for many, many years and so it's I think that is the appropriate way to deal with it. There are many laws in this country and it's important that people who are putting themselves forward for public office don't find themselves foul of those laws or act contrary to those laws.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] the Federal Court’s decision to overturn, to award compensation over the Gillard government’s ban on live exports?

PRIME MINISTER: We're still considering that matter. But what's important is to note that those live cattle exporters were dealt with egregiously by the Gillard government and they deserve the support of ensuring that their injury and their hurt and their loss is addressed and I have every intention of making sure that is done. 

JOURNALIST: What’s caused your concern about misinformation on social media and are you worried it could interfere with the Eden-Monaro byelection or future elections?

PRIME MINISTER: The disinformation, sorry?

JOURNALIST: Ah, your concerns that you’ve raised today about disinformation on social media? Or fake news on social media?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm not sure what you're referring to. 

JOURNALIST: Is it time for suburban shutdowns, for suburbs to be shut down in Melbourne?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the premier in Victoria has flagged that that is an option and that they are matters that I'll discuss with the Premier. It's ultimately up to the Premier of Victoria what further steps are taken along those lines. But I can assure all Australians that the Premier and I are very adamant that we do what is necessary to contain this outbreak. Now, Victoria will lead that approach and they will be the final arbiter of what steps they take. But we can leave no stone unturned and no resource left unapplied to this task. And we, I certainly will be considering all options and supporting the Premier in any such strong options that are necessary. Thanks very much, everyone. I've got to go to Canberra. Okay, cheers.