Doorstop - Parkhurst, QLD

14 Oct 2020
Prime Minister

THE HON. MICHELLE LANDRY, MEMBER FOR CAPRICORNIA: Well, it's wonderful to be at SMW today with the Prime Minister and also our LNP candidates here. We've got Tracy Newitt, Tony Hopkins and Adrian de Groot. And I must thank Jack and his team. It's been wonderful to go through and meet all these amazing apprentices and the workers that are here. And industries like this are the backbone in Capricornia, but also the backbone of this nation. And the Prime Minister's been up here talking to us about the Budget and there are some very, very good measures in the Budget. It's something that always jumps out at me is the instant asset write off. So we previously had a $150,000 limit on that now and now the sky's the limit, basically. So businesses like this can purchase machinery, vehicles, coffee shops can buy things. They can buy new vehicles, machinery. It's just a great way for small, medium-sized businesses to move ahead. So we've been talking to a lot of businesses also over at Hastings yesterday about the apprentices they have over there. And the Coalition Government is very focused on getting more people, particularly the under 35s, into the workforce. So we will continue to sell that message. It's a great message and it's a way to move our nation forward. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much, Michelle. Well, Jack, thank you and to all your team here for allowing us to come here today and see this amazing place in action. And Michelle and the whole LNP team here in central Queensland, I want to thank you for the great work you're doing. It's great to be here in Rockhampton. It's great to be here where we'll be putting in a new stadium. Thanks to all of those who advocated so strongly, but particularly, as always to you, Michelle, a great advocate for Rockhampton and central Queensland. The Rookwood Weir Beef Week, our support for Beef Week. I mean, Michelle has been such a tireless advocate for this region and I know her LNP team here from Keppel all the way through to Rocky, Tony and Tracy. We wish you all the best for a few weeks time from here. 

I want to send out a special shout out, though, before we begin, Michelle, to Beryl. She's down in Brisbane. Her daughter Natalie works here. She's a boilermaker. She's finished her apprenticeship and she loves working here and I know you've had a tough week down there, Beryl, she's told me, and you've been in hospital. And Natalie sends all the best and she really just wanted to send her best wishes. Natalie, who has autism here, and she's got an apprenticeship, she's finished it. She's got a trade, she's working here, and she's doing a fantastic job. Like Curtis, who's also on a similar programme, and he's training right now. There are so many apprentices that have come through this incredible business. And as you can see from the size of the machinery they deal with, Jack, it's a huge business in more ways than one, dealing with huge challenges. And I met Pete over here in the workshop over here. He's just come back from the mines. He's 60. He's coming back and sharing his experience from out in those mines with the young people here who are training up. They'll go out in those mines, too, and they'll learn a lot from him and what they need to do on the tools here to make sure everything's done safely. 

Well, in Australia today, we're more confident. We're more confident because of the Budget. The figures that have come out today shows that there are more optimists than pessimists in Australia about our economy and that is a key turning point and that is exactly what our Budget has been designed to do. When the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, gave the Budget address a week ago, he stood up and he gave the nation confidence in our future that we are going to come out of this COVID-19 recession, that we have the economic plan to bring us out of this COVID-19 recession. And we're seeing that in businesses here, whether it's in central Queensland or around the country. Our plan has been about giving people the confidence to bring decisions forward. As Michelle just said, the immediate expensing of all capital equipment, all the machinery you see around there, all the upgrades that need to be done, all the new technology, all the new equipment, all the new vehicles, all of this immediately expensed. The ability to write off COVID losses in this year against previous tax paid, all giving businesses the confidence to go out and invest and hire. Our JobMaker hiring credit, I was talking to local businesses about that this morning. Our initiative for apprenticeships, our initiatives for training under JobTrainer,  all designed to get people moving again, to get people into jobs, ensuring they have the skills to be part of the great Australian recovery from this COVID-19 recession. 

Another part of our plan has been to bring forward those tax cuts. Every worker on this site got a tax cut last Friday, and I can tell you, every worker also gets a tax cut from our stage three tax cuts as well that we legislated after the last election. Everyone earning over $45,000 will pay less tax. Those under $45,000 got the tax cuts now, they got them first. But to be only having to pay a maximum of 30 cents in the dollar for the vast majority of workers in this country, 94 per cent of workers paying no more than 30 cents in the dollar. That's our tax plan. I took it to the last election. Australians backed me on it and we legislated in the Parliament. Now, the Labor Party want to pull the rug from under that. There's no surprise in that. They've had 18 months to work out what their position was on tax. The tax policies they took to the last election were rejected by the Australian people. The hit on retirees. The hit on mum and dads investors. The hit on workers and who they would make pay higher taxes. They're still holding onto it, 18 months. If you can't work out 18 months after an election or thereabouts that they were dud policies, you never will, and you'll never be able to believe anything they say on taxes going forward. 

But we're focused on the positive. We're focused on giving Australians the opportunity to move ahead, particularly here in central Queensland. And Michelle, I want to thank you for your great advocacy and your great leadership within the Coalition as well. I know Michael McCormack will be coming through as well. It's a great Coalition partnership, getting a lot done for Australia. But today I'm particularly pleased to see that the Budget that the Treasurer handed down has been the Budget Australia needs, and it's given them the confidence and the confidence that will lead to them hiring more people, greater job certainty and a much more optimistic spirit about where we're heading in the future. Happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: Obviously it is just a few weeks out from the Queensland state election, a little bit of I guess good timing to come to Queensland. I guess why are you here in Queensland touring now?

PRIME MINISTER: To explain what the Budget means for central Queensland. I mean, here we made the announcement in the Budget that we're putting $23 million into the Rockhampton Stadium and that's not just an important piece of sporting infrastructure, it's an important piece of community infrastructure. It's cultural infrastructure, tourism infrastructure, and that will be important to the region for the jobs alone that it creates when it comes to building that stadium on top of last year's Budget, which saw so much invested in central Queensland. From the ring road to all the many other projects that have been important to our future here in central Queensland. So after every Budget, I take the opportunity to get out and talk to people on the ground about how they see the Budget, answer questions about how the Budget works. I was talking to businesses here this morning when they heard us say we're putting in additional supports to employ more Australians, we were able to talk this morning and answer questions about the job hiring credit that applies to everyone under the age of 35. And let me tell you why. In this country, since we hit the pit of the COVID recession, for workers under the age of 35, they got hit the hardest. Employment for those under 35 fell by 6.2 per cent. Now, for the rest of those over the age of 35, it fell by 1.7 per cent. Their hours reduced by about 8.5 per cent just to a little over 2.3 per cent compared to those over 35. The youth unemployment rate in this country is twice what it is for the rest of the country. And I know and I want to congratulate you, Jack, on this. You know, like I do and Michelle knows and the team knows that you want young Australians to start out their working life in jobs. Jack gets them here on the end of a broom when they're at school. And when they leave school, they come here and they go into a traineeship or an apprenticeship. They understand how important the job is. I want young Australians to understand that. I want them to leave school and go into jobs and be job ready and be job hungry. If you start your working life on the dole, then you're more likely to stay on it. And that's why it's so important this recession, that we get young people back into work. I don't want them wasting a life on welfare. I don't want them to be dependent on that if they can avoid it. There are many in our community who sadly have to rely on that and need our help and that safety net will always be there for them. But for those who can get into a job, I want them to, and it's so important to get that right from the beginning.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you visited Hastings Deering yesterday and did they mention to you that they, along with hundreds of homes and businesses and schools, would be the beneficiaries of the South Rockhampton flood levy project that Rocky Council is struggling to get money from the government to build to flood proof south Rockhampton?

PRIME MINISTER: That's not a topic we discussed yesterday or was raised with me, but Michelle, do you want to talk about that?

THE HON. MICHELLE LANDRY, MEMBER FOR CAPRICORNIA: I can talk about that. So Rockhampton Regional Council made the decision yesterday that there was $50 million sitting in basically in limbo because they do need about another $110 million to get the Rockhampton levee bank up and going. So the decision was made to use those funds to actually get some projects going out at the airport to actually get the economy going further, more quickly. So what we have said to them and I have spoken to the Deputy Prime Minister's office about this, is that after the election, the three levels of government sit down and discuss it. Because, you know, the Premier made a $45 million commitment yesterday down at Bundaberg. She certainly hasn't made that in Rockhampton. So it is very important. It is something that is certainly still on my radar, but it's something that we need to discuss and see how the costs can get pulled down. Because the original cost of that was $60 million, it went up to $120 million, and now it's sitting at about $190 million. So there's a lot of extra add ons that the state government have put into that. So, you know, we're keen to have a frank discussion about this after the election.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, new data has emerged showing rising childcare costs are crippling families in regional and rural Queensland, specifically, for example, out in the Central Highlands. It's one of the highest costs that families go through. There was no announcement in your Budget [inaudible]. Do you have any future plans in regards to help struggling parents with that? 

PRIME MINISTER: Parents pay tax and all parents got tax cuts. It's not just workers that get a tax cut. It's workers’ families who get tax cuts to ensure that they can deal with not just cost pressures in the areas you've mentioned, but in so many other areas. It's important to ensure that Australians keep more of what they earn. And our focus has always been able to ensure Australians can do that. But it's also why we provide $9.2 billion worth of support, particularly to low to middle income families. Childcare is an important need that Australian families have. We know that. That's why we invest $9.2 billion. That's why we changed the way childcare works in this country and after we did that, childcare costs across the country, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, actually fell by over 3 per cent. And on top of that, female workforce participation rose to record levels. And the gender pay gap fell to record lows. And so we understand the importance of childcare. But we also understand the need to be fair and means test these benefits. These are important payments to support low and middle income families. And we've targeted those rebates, those support payments that are there to help low and middle income families with their childcare costs. And we'll keep doing that. We actually increased the payments to those on low or middle incomes before the COVID-19 recession. And that's why we saw more women get into jobs. That's why we saw labour force participation rise to record levels. That's why we saw the gender pay gap reduced to record lows. And what I'm excited about on the other side of this COVID-19 recession is that we see Australians get more confident and that they know Australian, the Australian government has their back. You know, there's only one assumption I make in this Budget, and it's an assumption about the hardworking nature of Australians and the commitment of Australian businesses to have a go and put people on and train them and train young people like Curtis and Natalie here, like we see in this amazing business. That's the assumption I make, and I think it's a pretty good assumption. 

JOURNALIST: I have a question about tax cuts-


JOURNALIST: Given the debate around stage three tax cuts, what salary does the government consider to be high income? Can you give us a figure?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don't consider someone to be earning just over $45,000 to be on a high income. I don't. And that's why we're giving people on those incomes a tax cut as part of stage 3. I don't know what the Labor Party thinks a high income is, but I can tell you we're standing here in Rockhampton and I remember when Bill Shorten went to the last election, he went up to Gladstone and he talked to people up there and he wouldn't tell them the truth, that he was going to not go ahead with the tax cuts that we took to that election. In fact, he just front out lied to them. And, you know, he was talking about people who work in the heavy industry sectors of this country. And for a period of time, many of these workers they’ll go out and work on the mines. It's hard work, you’re away from your families. It's fly in and it’s fly out. And you do earn a bit more when you're doing that. But I tell you what, you put a bit of it away, too. And I don't think they should be penalised and treated like they’re some merchant banker in Sydney. They're not, they're hardworking people working out on mines and difficult parts of the country. I think they deserve a tax cut. I think they deserve to take more of what they earn. I think businesses who work hard and do well should be able to keep more of what they earn so they can employ more people, take on more apprentices. You know, the best businesses in this country, I mean, this business started out from the most, humblest of beginnings. And look what it is now because they decided to have a go. And you've got to put incentive back into the scheme. And that's why Australians are more confident with our Budget.

JOURNALIST: Labor has suggested it would repeal stage three of income tax cuts, why not bring them forward?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we've brought forward stage two at this point. We've legislated stage three. I mean, Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party are just reheating what Bill Shorten took to the last election. And so, once again, they're saying they want to put up taxes. And what we know is every time the Labor Party says they want to spend more, you also know they're going to want to tax you more. It's been 18 months or thereabouts since the last election and they still can't bring themselves to admit that it was a mistake to attack the savings of self-funded retirees with their retirees tax. They still can't say that there'd be so many people- I remember here, Michelle, at the last election. You know, there are more people who own an investment property here in this city than in my electorate in Sydney? And that's because they’re people who are working hard here, putting away a dollar for themselves and providing for their own future. Now Labor at the last election wanted to tax them more too, they wanted to tax retirees more. They wanted to tax workers more. And 18 months and they still can't work out that that was a dud deal for Australians. And, you know, if they can't work it out by now, you can't trust them at the next election.

JOURNALIST: Just on GKI, I saw you were at Yeppoon last night with Capricorn Enterprises, Mary Caroll- 


JOURNALIST: Did she mention the vital importance of the federal government coming to the table with some money to revitalise Great Keppel Island, with undersea power and water, help with the breakwater, the airstrip, to bring 1,500 tourists and flood this region - 1,500 jobs and flood this region with tourists?

PRIME MINISTER: I'll let Michelle add further to my answer. But, you know, this is why this election on the 31st of October is so important. We're really keen to get on do things and have been despite, you know, a lot of delays in trying to push the state government to get moving on everything from Rookwood Weir, which has been you know, a frustrating process. Now, thankfully, I got to say, largely due to Michelle's persistence and doggedness, that project is going to start later this year. It should have started a lot sooner than that. But I'm looking forward, I hope to get the opportunity to work with a Frecklington LNP government here in Queensland, which means we can just get on with so many more things. We need a state government that can take the initiative on the very issues you're talking about. These are state government things that need to get sorted. And we're happy to sort of get involved where we can as we have on so many projects. I mean, the stadium is a good example. Rookwood Weir is another, Beef Week is another. I mean, we understand, as Michelle does, the importance of these initiatives. But you've got to have a partner who gets it. And it's been really pushing it uphill on so many of these projects. And when it comes to Great Keppel, I mean, so much, if not all of that has to do with decisions that state governments have to make. And that's why whether it's Adrian or Tracey, or Tony here, you'll have people who, you know, can be part of the future of Rockhampton and the broader central Queensland districts. Michelle did you want to add anything to that?

THE HON. MICHELLE LANDRY, MEMBER FOR CAPRICORNIA: Yes, yes thank you. So with regards to Great Keppel Island, we've had a lot of negotiations with obviously Capricorn Enterprise and also the developers there. But it would be actually good to get the truth out of the state government with this. As we know, at the last state election, $25 million was promised for the underground power and water. That was never going to be enough. I have never, ever seen a proper business case on this. You know, the Member for Keppel is very good at saying straight after the election, oh where’s the federal government's money? Well, you know, you need to show us the business case for that. Now, she's pulled their money for the underground power and water, is going to build pathways and a jetty that's not approved and all the rest of it. So we're still no further on with that. So Adrian, behind me here as the candidate for Keppel has committed $25 million as well. And once the election is, state election is over and, you know, God willing that we get an LNP government in here, we will sit down with the stakeholders and talk about this sensibly. And from what I'm hearing, the contract that has been given to Altum by the state government is unsignable. Some of the conditions in it are very, very vague. They're not good for them. And so I think that we need to look at this sensibly. You know I've had the conversations with the deputy prime minister, they've spoken to them, Simon Birmingham’s office, Keith Pitt, to talk about this. And it's something, you know I live at Yeppoon so I want it to go ahead. But it's got to be done sensibly and not with hysterics that we see from the member for Keppel.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister. More than one million Australians have sought mental health treatment since the start of the pandemic, does this statistic concern you? And should the government do more to help Victorians specifically?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that statistic does concern me, and that's why we have done more. That's why we've we're spending $5.6 billion dollars a year on mental health. And one of my most regular phone calls to people in Melbourne is to Patrick McGorry, who is well known together with the Howard government at the time for founding HeadSpace. We’ve opened new centres, we’ve made telehealth available for mental health, we’ve increased support to kids helpline to beyondblue to Lifeline and in particular to Headspace, 15 clinics have been opened. Ruth Vine, who is the deputy chief medical officer for the Commonwealth, she was appointed specifically to focus on mental health. The telehealth initiatives alone, hundreds of millions of dollars, I've been committed to ensuring that people can gain access to that mental health support by telehealth. And I want to commend the work that Greg Hunt has done as health minister. I mean, there has been an absolute open door, whether it's been Pat or anyone else who's come forward and said, we need this support, we need that support, not just in Victoria, but acutely in Victoria, but around the country. We've been able to do that. And we have seen those services used. We've seen very significant increases, particularly amongst the Victorians who have been accessing those additional services. And I'm pleased that we're able to get those services in place. And I can tell you, every single time they've been in contact with me or Greg, we've taken those requests and we've actioned them. 

I remember one morning I spoke to Pat McGorry and by the end of the day, the money was on its way. And so those who work in providing support in the mental health area know that my ears couldn't be larger to their concerns and our actions couldn't be greater. And whatever help is needed there we have been quick to provide it and we will continue to provide it. And that's just for now. I mean, there are a number of further decisions that will have to be made here. I appointed the first national suicide prevention advisor to the Prime Minister. Christine will deliver her final report to me later this year. We have the Productivity Commission report on mental health, which we will soon be releasing, and we'll be able to release that with responses. There's the Victorian Royal Commission into mental health. I was, we weren’t talking about this today but I was talking to Premier Andrews early this morning from here. And he and I have had many discussions about the need to work together to respond to that royal commission. Victorians are doing it incredibly tough and Melburnians the toughest of them all. And I know because I get the feedback, you know, you see me here in Queensland today or in South Australia or in the ACT or in Sydney. And you're saying, look, I'd like to go to Bunnings, too. I'd like to be able to go out and spend time with my family. And I want you to be able to have that opportunity. We all do, but we know you're under incredible pressure and that's why we've delivered that mental health support. And we'll continue to. The support we've delivered for mental health, I have no doubt, has saved lives in Melbourne. I have absolutely no doubt about it. And we are going to keep saving lives.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] a big problem here has been workforce casualisation, miners are asking the federal government to withdraw from the high court case, what’s your comment on that?

PRIME MINISTER: One of the key issues that we put on the table when I brought the unions together with the employers as part of the JobMaker programme to look at the ways that we could make it easier for people to get into work, was the issue of casualisation. And it is an important issue. And I know in the mining industry and the mining services industry, I know it's an important issue and we've listened to that. And we need to get certainty. We need to get resolution here. And both the case itself and the work that is being done by the Attorney-General, and Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter, has made some really good progress. So I think we're getting close to some good solutions there. The level of casualisation across the workforce, it is actually not true to say that it's increased. It's about the same as has been for a long time. But that doesn't mean it's not an important issue. It is an important issue. People should have security in their employment, particularly, particularly when they're basically acting as a full time employee. Casuals will always have a role in the workforce, always have. But when they're fair dinkum casuals and when people are fair dinkum full time employed, the system needs to reflect that. And that's what the Attorney-General has been working with the unions and with the employers to achieve, so we’ve got a little bit more of a distance to travel on that. 

But I want to assure all of those, particularly up in, regional Queensland, where I know this is a big issue. George Christensen, as well as Michelle and Phil Thompson and the whole team and Kenny Wyatt in particular, and of course, Warren Entsch right up the top end have all consistently been raising this with me and the Treasurer and the Attorney-General, that's why we actually put this process in place, to get agreement between employers and the employees advocates, the unions to get some certainty into this space. 

But the certainty I welcome today, though, is that these confidence levels in the survey that was released today, a record bounce, that's what this country needed. It needed a Budget that was going to give Australians confidence, whether here in Rockhampton or down in Richmond in Victoria or wherever it happens to be in the country. And Josh Frydenberg has delivered that Budget. It has been the shot in the arm that Australians need. Now, we've just got to get on with it. And when we get back to parliament, we've already passed the tax cuts we'll put through the rest of the legislation. And I think Australians have a very simple message from today is let the government get on with the Budget, let them pass the Budget, let them get that support out there where it's needed. Let's get on with it. They're certainly doing it here, certainly doing it here at SMW, Jack and I want to thank you again for being able to join you here at- and I wish you all the best and again, get well soon Beryl. Cheers. Thank you.