Doorstop - Marrickville

14 Oct 2022
Prime Minister
Australian manufacturing; National Reconstruction Fund; Paid Parental Leave; Australian Federal Police; Warragamba Dam; Flooding in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania; Gas; Rugby League

ED HUSIC, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY AND SCIENCE: Thank you for joining us here today, because here at Pallion, like in communities in different parts of the country, we know that manufacturing makes a difference, creating great firms, generating terrific jobs and adding huge economic value to the nation. We know that after the pandemic we need to be able to find ways to make things that we need at the time that we need them. We learned the lessons, and that's why Labor took to the election a very strong commitment that we would make sure that Australia is a nation that makes things, that manufacturing would be revitalised. It's important for us in terms of our national interest, not just economic, but also what it does to contribute to the social fabric of communities across the country, because healthy economies also work out in terms of translating to healthy communities. So you'll see in the coming weeks, our intention is this year to bring in our $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, of which $1 billion will be set aside which will allow us to value-add in resources, to do the type of things you are seeing here where you’ve got companies that are trying to perform that value-add in resources. Very important. Build up capability though our Buy Australian plan and reforms to government procurement, putting that capability to work opening up government contracts, particularly for small and medium enterprises, to be able to grow the footprint of Australian industry, strengthen it in terms of its health and its broader contribution. So it is something of great pride to be able to see manufacturers like this here in Marrickville. I’ve got to tell you, I don't think there could be a greater champion of manufacturing today than the local Member for Grayndler, but importantly, the Prime Minister who is leading the charge for this in terms of our government. And, Prime Minister, it's been a great pleasure to be able to visit this. And I can see, obviously, the pride that Pallion and others bring you and generate in you, and we need to do more of it.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well thanks very much, Ed, and thanks for coming to Marrickville today. I have been to this facility on a number of occasions, and every time I'm here I'm struck by the pride of those people who work here. There's something about manufacturing that is greater than the sums that we talk about. When we talk about money, we talk about $42 million of value being produced every hour behind us. But there's something beyond monetising that, and that is the pride that people feel when they actually produce something, when they produce a product. When the people who work here, the 300, watch the Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday in November, they will know that the Melbourne Cup is produced here. When they watch the Australian Open in January, they will know that the trophies were produced here. When they look at pieces of jewellery produced by major Australian jewellers, companies that you think about like Paspaley, or just down the road here in Leichhardt, Cerrone’s, they produce wonderful, world-class jewellery – in my view, the world's best – with gold and silver that is refined and produced right here. And that's why what we talk about when we talk about ‘A Future Made in Australia’ is something beyond just growing our economy. It is something about making Australia proud of what we can do. Because what we have and other countries can't have, is the skills, knowledge and ingenuity of our people. And when I am here I'm just always struck by that. That's why, during the election campaign in May, I had one of our four themes that we talked about for three years being ‘A Future Made in Australia’. Because I don't think it's good enough that we told the car industry to leave, that we said we're not good enough to make things here in Australia, that somehow we just become a quarry. We need to do better than that. We need to, wherever possible, value-add, create jobs, create value. Because that's how our economy can grow. I'm passionate about Australia's future. We can have not just a future made in Australia, we can be a renewable energy superpower. We can be an expanded economy that is the most successful in the world if we seize the opportunities which are right there before us. But in order to do that, we need to back our businesses like Pallion here. This is a family-created business. This came from nothing. And it's grown to be one of the world's greatest companies in this area and certainly Australia's finest in this area. I'm very proud to represent this local community, but I'm also very proud to be the Prime Minister of Australia, to lead Australia at a time where really we're at a crossroads. We can be more successful if we're optimistic, if we seize those opportunities which are there. I'm determined to do so. I have an Industry and Science Minister who knows more about robotics, artificial intelligence and what's happening with new technology than anyone in our national Parliament. And that's why I gave him the job, to make sure that we take the opportunities that have always been created by Australians. We've always been good at science and breakthroughs. What we haven't always been good at is commercialising those opportunities, turning them into high-value jobs, turning them into economic growth. I'm determined that Australia will do that in the future and that we'll seize these opportunities. And I thank so much Andrew and his team for the very warm welcome here in Marrickville today.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on paid parental leave: there is a proposal before you to extend to 26 weeks of paid parental leave. What stage in the policy process is that? And what can you tell us to put flesh on the bones?

PRIME MINISTER: We'll have a budget in a couple of weeks and we'll be making final announcements about a whole range of measures there. I said during the election campaign that we were keen to do more in a range of areas. Paid parental leave is something that was also raised at the Jobs and Skills Summit.

JOURNALIST: Does it show how important paid parental leave is? And will you act on it?

PRIME MINISTER: We'll make announcements when we make them. But we've said consistently paid parental leave is something that Labor has championed. It's something that we've said we would like to do more. When you look at the OECD, we're towards the bottom in terms of the support that's given. One of the things about paid parental leave that we need to do, just like we need to do with childcare, is to increase women's workforce participation, to make sure that they can stay in the workforce, to build productivity for companies as well as by boosting their living standards. And we know that people having families is good for the economy as well as being good for individuals. And so Labor will always do what we can to provide more support, but I'll have more to say about that over the coming period.

JOURNALIST: On the Colombia hack, how much of the AFP’s operations have been disrupted by the leak of these 35 operations? And secondly, are you concerned for the safety of officers?

PRIME MINISTER: We obviously don't talk about AFP operations, and that is as you would expect.

JOURNALIST: What's your response to the hack?

PRIME MINISTER: We don't talk about AFP operations, and that is the appropriate response that I would give. It's up to the AFP, we’ll discuss whatever is appropriate on operational matters.

JOURNALIST: Just back on paid parental leave, can you put a number figure on how important females are to our economy?

PRIME MINISTER: What we know is that if you were looking at how to improve our economic performance, then giving proper value to the gap that is there between the potential contribution of women to the economy and what could occur with appropriate policy mechanisms is low-hanging fruit. We need to maximise women's economic participation in the interests of family budgets, but also in the interest of our national economy.

JOURNALIST: On Warragamba Dam, has the Premier spoken to you about funding to raise the Warragamba Dam wall? Ben Fordham this morning was saying that the Federal Government will not provide funding.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, he hasn't spoken to me about it.

JOURNALIST: What is your view on the project? You so far have not stated your view on this project.

PRIME MINISTER: The Premier has not raised this issue with me.

JOURNALIST: But my question is, what's your view on raising the wall?

PRIME MINISTER: Well the Premier has not raised this issue with me.

JOURNALIST: I’m not asking about the Premier though, I’m asking your view on the wall.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, if you ask the same question, you won't get a different answer. The Premier has not raised this issue with me. We consider infrastructure projects on their merits, with proper business cases, with proper processes, consideration of Infrastructure Australia, that's how we deal with these things.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, should the Federal Government help with buybacks in flood affected areas?

PRIME MINISTER: We have had, I have had discussions with the Premier about these issues. We are in discussions with the Premier of New South Wales, but I’ll say this on the issue of floods at the moment, because there are floods occurring in New South Wales, in Victoria and in Northern Tasmania. This is a difficult time. And I have had discussions with Premier Perrottet over a period of time in New South Wales. We made a number of ADF helicopters available last weekend. Three was what I said during a previous press conference, in the end there was a request for a fourth, but they weren't deemed necessary in the end. I had a discussion with Premier Andrews this morning about the floods in Victoria and there will be requests coming for support there. My understanding is that there's likely to be a request for Tasmania. The Federal Government stands ready to provide support and assistance. There are already ADF personnel on the ground in Victoria providing that support and assistance. I will make this comment as well – I'd encourage people in those communities that are flood-affected to listen to the advice which is there, to respond to that advice appropriately. Don't drive through flood-affected areas. Don't take a risk. We know that there can be very bad consequences if that occurs, if the warnings are ignored. This is a difficult time. My heart goes out to those communities who are affected at this time, and the Federal Government stands ready to provide whatever assistance is requested in accordance with our responsibilities from New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

JOURNALIST: Back to the AFP, they've commented extensively on this, they’re concerned that this is a possible breach of operational security. As Prime Minister, why can't you comment on this and why won’t you?

PRIME MINISTER: Because the AFP comment on operational matters, that's why. Because I take these national security issues seriously.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just to be clear on Warragamba, does the Commonwealth have any in-principle objection to contributing funding towards the raising of the wall at Warragamba Dam?

PRIME MINISTER: We haven't received any request, we haven't received any details.

JOURNALIST: But if you received one, would you look at it favourably potentially?

PRIME MINISTER: You're asking for a blank sheet of paper to say whether we agree with it or not. And that's not what we do.

JOURNALIST: I’m actually asking about the principle involved. Does the Commonwealth in-principle object to funding or part funding the –

PRIME MINISTER: The Commonwealth has not received a request. We receive requests for a range of funding for infrastructure projects. This is one we haven't had. Occasionally before state elections, these issues have been raised in the past and they haven't eventuated. We have not received a business case. We would consider any proposals from state governments, but what we don't do is make decisions based upon the abstract. We make decisions based upon specific proposals which are costed, after environmental processes and procedures go through, that’s when we make a decision.

JOURNALIST: Sorry to interrupt you but you stood next to the Premier, talking to flood victims. I was there with you, you were out in Windsor in Western Sydney earlier on this year. Questions were put to him by very aggrieved, pained citizens. All of them were activated by the notion of Warragamba Dam. Does it surprise you that you haven't receive any formal request for that?

PRIME MINISTER: That's a matter for the Premier.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the gas contracts that manufacturers are now re-negotiating are doubling and tripling in price in some contexts. Some manufacturers are saying that this is unsustainable and they're struggling and they may struggle to keep their doors open. How will the code of conduct actually affect their negotiating strategy right now and help them pay the gap between the cost of electricity, the cost of gas to continue to function?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'll ask the Minister to respond to this as well. But can I say this, that the Government has been dealing with two issues. One is the supply of gas, and the second is, of course, the price of gas, which has an impact on employment and on business. On supply, we're very pleased with the response which has been delivered, where the shortfall was seen to be just under 50 and we delivered more than 100 on top of what the anticipated shortfall might be. On price, that's putting real pressure on, and we want to see prices delivered that is appropriate, that doesn't see businesses put under undue pressure. And that is something that the entire Government has been working on, whether it be myself as Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the Industry Minister or the Resources Minister, Madeleine King.

MINISTER HUSIC: Thanks, Prime Minister. We were naturally, as probably the country was, concerned by the ACCC report that suggested we would have a shortfall of 56 petajoules of gas in the coming year. And the important thing that the Resources Minister, Madeleine King did was, through the Heads of Agreement, get that additional form of supply. Not having that supply, we know what happens when there's a lot of demand and not enough supply, prices go through the roof. And so that Heads of Agreement was very important in not only delivering that supply to sidestep that issue of prices going up, but importantly, setting that limit that said we will not be exposed to prices higher than export prices. That's step one. Step two now is that we've got to make sure that prices are competitive and that they are delivering lower input costs for manufacturers. Because at the heart of your question is something that I am very concerned about, that if we have unsustainably high gas prices, either in contract or in the spot market, that will put big pressure on manufacturers. It's why I've said a number of times, we need to be able to see those input costs come down. The Government has been elected off the back of the Australian people wanting and being very supportive of the fact that we have made the revitalisation of manufacturing a national priority. The Prime Minister has led the charge on that. We are all tasked now to deliver on that. And we will effectively have this massive load of lead in our saddlebags if we do not have the gas producers deliver lower prices and we need to work that through. So the code of conduct is one mechanism where we will look at what options can exist to ensure that we deliver fairer prices. We understand that the gas producers have to cover their costs of production. They have to receive a reasonable rate of return, but not in a way that sees them do very well and pressure on another part of the economy in terms of manufacturers. And so the Prime Minister knows I can be as stubborn as a mule and from time to time he gives me perspective, but on this we are very focused on working as a team to deliver the best outcome that's right for the country, right for manufacturers and ensures that gas producers can cover their cost of production and meet a reasonable rate of return.

JOURNALIST: On the AFP, have you been briefed?


JOURNALIST: Secondly, on the Rabbitohs, you had an interesting exchange with Perrottet yesterday. Where do you think the Rabbitohs should play in Sydney? Should they play at Allianz?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we had a bit of light banter, that was what happened yesterday, before a cricket match that was held in good spirit. And I very much enjoyed yesterday, and I welcomed people to Kirribilli to raise money for Ronald McDonald House, and it was a terrific morning, and I congratulate those people in the media who participated in that. I thank Don for coming along and for bowling such a terrible first ball that I whacked for four to begin my team's innings, even though we weren't successful at the end of the day, as part of Fitzy’s team. On Souths, I have a view that I've communicated pretty regularly. I, like anyone else who goes to a purpose-built rectangular stadium that is fit for purpose for rugby league, would prefer to watch a game there: be it at AAMI Park, Suncorp, Parramatta Stadium or at Allianz than the very large stadium at Stadium Australia, which has changed names a number of times, the Olympic Stadium there at Homebush. Look, it's fantastic for the Grand Final. I enjoyed the Grand Final there very much. But if you're there with 15,000 people, it does not have the same experience as a ground like AAMI Park is fantastic in Melbourne, or Suncorp or Allianz.

JOURNALIST: Should the long term home of the Bunnies be at Allianz?

PRIME MINISTER: Of course they should be. And that just is common sense. When the public have put in such a large amount of money of taxpayers’ funds that have gone into that stadium, it should be maximised in its use. I also have a view about suburban stadiums being really important as well, including Leichhardt and Shark Park and Brookvale. These local stadiums can be really important for local communities. Nothing beats watching the footy from the hill at Leichhardt Oval, or at Henson Park, for that matter, just down the road here. And I encourage people to get along to the Beer, Footy and Food Festival when it's held at Henson Park. Nothing beats that on a Saturday afternoon.