MELISSA MCINTOSH, LIBERAL CANDIDATE FOR LINDSAY: Hi, I’m Melissa McIntosh, the Liberal candidate for Lindsay. We’re here on the beautiful Nepean River in Penrith at the Nepean Rowing Club. Thank you for joining us on this beautiful Autumn day.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, it’s fantastic to have you here for a special announcement this morning. Our Environment Minister, Melissa Price, was here last week, so it’s an absolute joy to welcome you back to this very important river – it’s the heart of our city. To Marise Payne who is our Senator for Western Sydney, who knows and loves this location so much. And to my colleagues Sarah Richards, who’s a Liberal candidate for Macquarie. Thank you to our rowing team, our elite women’s rowing team who use this river every day and they’re the ones that told us about the weeds on the river. This is a place that we all love – from families, kids in sport, to our elite rowers. We all use and love this place.
I’d like to invite the Prime Minister to make a special announcement about the environment. For us in Western Sydney, it’s all about quality of life. Please, Prime Minister, come and make this announcement.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Melissa and colleagues who we’re here with today. To Australia’s women’s rowing team, great to be here and spare a few moments with you this morning. Before I make that announcement, can I just say to all of those who have been experiencing the terrible bushfires in Victoria, our thoughts are with you. I’ve been receiving regular reports over the weekend and the good news overnight is that things did settle down quite a bit. I was talking to Russell Broadbent this morning, our local member down there, and Jason Wood last night. Things have improved but there will be some real losses that will be discovered over the next couple of days in terms of property and homes and just know, the state and federal governments are working closely together. I want to thank all those firefighters. Out here in Western Sydney, we know about that as well and we know the work that is done by the Rural Fire Service right across this state and right across the country. 850 firefighters fighting what was a very ferocious blaze there down in Victoria. I’m pleased to hear that the news is better today, but for some the news will be very bad as they are able to get back into their properties and understand what the damage has been in some specific cases.
Yesterday was Clean Up Australia Day and we were reminded of the great work of Ian Kiernan who we lost last year, and it was a great reminder of the incredible power of local communities working to protect their local environment. Our local environment, whether it’s here along the Nepean River or down along the Hawkesbury or up in the Blue Mountains or down in the beautiful Sutherland Shire where my electorate is, it is the quality of our local environment that makes it such a special place to live. Whether you’re an elite sportsperson like our women’s Olympic rowers here today or you’re just having a dip in the lake or in the river or wherever you happen to be, the quality of your local environment is incredibly important. And what better custodians are there of our local environment than our local community organisations who are out there volunteering all the time to make sure they keep the special way that it is. And that’s why today when Melissa Price, our Environment Minister came forward with I think an outstanding initiative to back in the local environment group, the local community groups with $22 million - $150,000 for every single electorate around the country – to back in local organisations that are undertaking important works. Whether it’s weeds management, whether it’s looking after coastal dunes, whether it’s cleaning up, or any of the local environment projects that are so important.
Here in Western Sydney here particularly, on the Nepean, there are issues around weeds management around the river which I know can be a great frustration to the rowers here when their blades get caught and that tends to interrupt your flow when you’re out there training for Australia. Whether it’s that or you’re just taking a swim in the river, you want the local environment to be the best it can and the Communities Environment Program that we’re announcing today does just that. It addresses those local issues, the projects are identified by the local communities. It’s our government backing in local communities to look after their environment and they have the right answers, they have the right projects, and it’s for us to back those projects. This is very much a locally driven initiative so Melissa, I want to thank you for bringing that together. I know Members of Parliament all around the country, our candidates all around the country, will have a very quick and early list of projects which they know should be supported for next year and we look forward to backing in those projects next year. I’m going to hand over the Melissa who’s going to talk a bit more about the program and then we’ll here from Sarah and Marise, who’s doing a wonderful job as Foreign Affairs Minister. You try and match her passion for Western Sydney and you’ll come up short. She’s been working here for a long time and is very familiar with what these projects mean to the local community. So, Melissa.
THE HON MELISSA PRICE MP, MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: Thanks, PM. It’s wonderful to be back in Lindsay – the second time in the last four days, I think. It’s wonderful to be here. We’ve had a pretty good last seven days with respect to the environment. We’ve announced our $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package only last Monday. We know that we’ll be able to meet our international obligations – that’s what our plan is all about, so I’m very proud of that plan. Today, we’re talking more about cleaner and greener environments and it is wonderful to be here on the Nepean River. I know it looks beautiful but I know there are also some weed problems and I look forward to working with Melissa to be able to find some funding to ensure that we can actually clean up this river once and for good, to be able to help our elite rowers who are here today. Shout out to the lady from Esperance.
This new program is all about identifying local projects, local MPs working with local groups – whether it’s the local Scouts group, whether it’s the local Girl Guides, whether it’s the local council, whether it’s that not-for-profit which ,more often than not, doesn’t actually get the funding. But they are the local community groups that know what’s needed with their environment. I’m very proud of the program. We have a Stronger Communities Program which is quite similar – it works on infrastructure projects in the community – so our local members will know how this works. I’m encouraging our local Members of Parliament to get out there starting talk about what are those local projects. They will probably know what those projects are, so I’m encouraging those scouts groups and also those smaller, not-for-profit groups to start talking to your local members. It really is a wonderful day for the environment. Thanks very much.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, Melissa. Sarah, tell us a bit about what it means for the Hawkesbury and the mountains.
SARAH RICHARDS, LIBERAL CANDIDATE FOR MACQUARIE: Thank you. I’m Sarah Richards, the Liberal candidate for Macquarie, which is the electorate just next door. It is my pleasure to be here today with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and the Environment Minister as well as Melissa McIntosh, our fantastic candidate for Lindsay to make this announcement today.
The river behind us actually flows into my electorate and becomes the Hawkesbury River. Environmental issues are extremely important in my electorate of Macquarie, being the Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains. So what this announcement does today, it means local community groups who have the local knowledge can get real local environmental solutions on the ground that deliver real results for our community. It’s a privilege to be able to announce this and I know that all the electorates across Australia will be able to benefit from the money that these actual groups can actually apply for and get funding for so we can see benefits in our community. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Sarah. Marise.
SENATOR THE HON MARISE PAYNE, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I always say there’s no better place to start my day than in Penrith where I live. Thank you very much, Prime Minister, for organising that for me this morning. It’s a long way from where I was last week. Wonderful to be here on the banks of the Nepean this morning, with may I say, Prime Minister, two of your female Cabinet members and two fabulous female candidates. They are delivering a very strong message about Scott Morrison’s commitment to ensuring that women in the Liberal Party are heading in exactly the right direction and we are very proud to represent you and be part of your team.
Ladies and gentleman here on the banks of the Nepean, in the shadow of the rowers, and I’m not sure where Greg’s gone – over there – shadow of the rowers, the Nepean Rowing Club over here. This is an iconic part of Australia. When I was a kid, my family used to bring me here for the regatta – the GPS regattas – and you couldn’t move on the banks of the Nepean in those days. For the Sydney 2000 Olympics, we built the Regatta Centre. But it hasn’t changed the importance of the life and the health of the Nepean River. So knowing that we’re going to be able to make a contribution today with the program that Melissa Price has announced is really important. I live just slightly south of here in the Mulgoa Valley in Lindsay. In Lindsay, the Mulgoa Valley Landcare Group, our conservation volunteers, the Cumberland Plain preservation groups are all the sorts of key, grassroots, community-based organisations that I think are going to jump at this program, Melissa. And they are going to be all over the opportunities it presents to preserve our communities across Western Sydney. Whether it’s South Creek or Cabramatta Creek. Whether it’s the Blue Mountains and whether it’s further north in Sarah Richard’s area of Macquarie. The difference that community organisations make is the difference that we can make in Western Sydney. Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today, Prime Minister. Thank you all for joining us. It’s fantastic to see our elite rowers here. We know how hard you work, we know how important this waterway is to you but most importantly, we know what you do for Australia. We’re immensely proud to be here with you this morning. Thank you very much.
PRIME MINISTER: Let’s take some questions now on this project and program specifically as normal. And Melissa is here to answer questions on those as well. And as usual we’ll move to other topics of the day.
Well, it sounds like we’re moving to other topics. I’m so pleased that we’ve been so comprehensive in spelling out the real benefits of this program and I do mark again the memory of Ian Kiernan and the wonderful job that he did. We had a bit to say obviously about that last year when we lost him, but I think these types of programs wouldn’t have occurred were it not for his leadership and alerting us to the importance of local community grassroots organisations looking after our environment. This is really, I think, a tribute to him.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can I ask you about the Indonesian Free Trade Agreement?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes.
JOURNALIST: Do you have any concerns that it won’t pass Parliament?
PRIME MINISTER: I do welcome the fact today that it is being signed today, the Indonesian Free Trade Agreement. The Minister for Trade, Simon Birmingham, is up there in Indonesia to do that. That was always the arrangement that the trade ministers would conclude that arrangement when the President and I first discussed this matter soon after I became Prime Minister, so we are both very pleased to see that now coming to fruition. It is the normal process for it to pass through our respective Parliaments and legislatures. The Liberal Party is voting for it, the National Party is voting for it. The Labor Party has often baulked on these arrangements in the past, so that would be the only risk to it as far as I can see, if the Labor Party were to play politics with it. I see no reason why they would want to choose to do that, that would only harm Australia’s economic interests if they did. But it’s just another in a string of achievements where our government has been expanding the borders of our trade and what that means is local jobs at the end of the day. Whether it’s what we’ve done through the China Free Trade Agreement, Japan, Korea and now Indonesia, the TPP-11. All of these have been leadership initiatives from our government to ensure that small, medium and family size businesses can get access to markets that they never would have got before. It’s been great for all of those businesses and this agreement will be great for them too.
JOURNALIST: Labor has expressed some concerns that clauses though within the agreement would see private companies being able to bring court action against the Australian Government.
PRIME MINISTER: Labor never acts in the interest of the Australian economy. That’s why I keep saying Labor will make our economy weaker, not stronger. And Labor wants to put more than $200 billion worth of higher taxes on the economy. That will make our economy weaker, not stronger. And you know if you make the economy weaker, then you can’t support programs like this I’ve announced today. You can’t support the 2,000 affordable medicines that we’ve been on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. As we know when Labor were last in power, they had to stop listing important, affordable medicines on the PBS because they couldn’t manage the budget. So Labor, they don’t get the economy. They can’t manage money and they don’t have the right instincts for managing our economy and that’s why on agreements like this they do baulk because they just don’t get it when it comes to managing the economy.
JOURNALIST: But their concern is specifically about a clause which would open the Australian Government up…
PRIME MINISTER: No, I think I’ve addressed that. Labor just don’t know how to manage the economy and they don’t know how to manage money and so it never surprises me when they do things that would harm our economy.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, over the weekend it was announced two of your Cabinet Ministers would be resigning.
PRIME MINISTER: They’re retiring at the next election.
JOURNALIST: Retiring. There’s now speculation that Craig Laundy will also be leaving. Have you spoken to him about whether that’s his intention?
PRIME MINISTER: I’ve been in contact with Craig since last August when I became Prime Minister and those matters will be addressed when we’re in a position to do that.
JOURNALIST: Following on from that, Prime Minister, has Kevin Andrews indicated any intention to retire?
PRIME MINISITER: No.
JOURNALIST: You’ve said that seven women will be in Cabinet…
PRIME MINISTER: Seven women are now in the Cabinet. Linda Reynolds was sworn in on Saturday and there are seven women now in Cabinet. That is the highest number of women ever in a Federal Cabinet in Australia. That is something a Liberal-National Government has delivered and it’s something that I would certainly continue should we be successful on the other side of the election.
JOURNALIST: Are you saying then that there would be quotas for Cabinet?
PRIME MINISTER: No, I’m just saying that I have no problem filling seven slots for women in my Cabinet and potentially more because I’ve got so many great women to choose from.
JOURNALIST: You mention that Linda Reynolds was appointed on merit after an extraordinary career, but why’s it taken her so long to rise to Cabinet then?
PRIME MINISITER: She only joined the Parliament in 2013 and she has served I think a very important apprenticeship on the backbench. I promoted her at the first opportunity when I became Prime Minister as Assistant Minister, particularly looking after emergency services. She has done such an outstanding job in that portfolio. You get to test the mettle of people when you put them in a job like that and her mettle was tested absolutely. The comfort and focus that she’s brought to dealing with the disasters, whether it’s been in Tasmania or chatting to one of the rowers down from the Huon Valley or up in North Queensland, and she continues to hold those portfolio responsibilities in Cabinet for emergency management and disaster recovery in North Queensland. Linda Reynolds, I think, has been warmly received as an outstanding appointment and she’s there because she’s the right person for the job.
JOURNALIST: So you don’t agree that the Liberal Party should consider quotas as Alex Hawke said?
PRIME MINISTER: No, I’m saying we’ve got a record number of women in the Cabinet and we’ve got so many outstanding female candidates running at this election. I’m surrounded by Sarah and Melissa here, but there’s been, I think, 19 female members selected as candidates or coming into Senate positions. Wendy Askew is going to join us when we come back to the Parliament in a months’ time. She’s taking David Bushby’s place out at of Tasmanian Senate team. We have women leading three of our tickets in the Senate and here in the New South Wales, in Western Australia and in South Australia. And so I’m positive about the direction we’re taking, we’ve got further distance to go. But my team understand my commitment to this issue. At the end of the day, it’s all about results and I’m known for getting results.
JOURNALIST: Speaking of women, Julie Bishop has claimed she could’ve beaten Bill Shorten if she had been made leader of the Liberal Party. Do you agree with her assessment?
PRIME MINISTER: I thank Julie for her outstanding service to our country, to our Party, and I wish her all the best in her retirement.
JOURNALIST: Is that a no?
PRIME MINISTER: No, I’m just thanking Julie for her position and what she’s done for our Party and I wish her well in her post-politics career.
JOURNALIST: There’s been some commentary around the New Zealand High Commissioner appointment. Why shouldn’t Patricia Forsythe’s appointment be seen as a plum job for a mate?
SENATOR THE HON MARISE PAYNE, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: From time to time, I think governments historically of all political colours have made key appointments in postings around the world. I’ve worked with many of them over time including, of course, Kim Beasley as our excellent ambassador to Washington. If you have a highly qualified, distinguished leader who’s available for an appointment such as this and if the opportunity presents itself, then I think then it’s an appropriate appointment. And certainly, Patricia Forsythe fulfils those standards. I am interested, though, that the Labor Party has decided to take this approach. Apparently, thought it only applies to one side, I know the list they’ve carefully given to the Sydney Morning Herald doesn’t happen to include Craig Knowles, a former Labor Party state minister who was appointed as the Consul-General in Auckland by our government in January last year. They’ve left him off. I know that my good mate Roger Price, the former Labor member for Chifley, succeeded in a spectacular fashion as our Consul-General in Chicago for some years and gave great service to his country following his long, distinguished parliamentary career here in Western Sydney. It is something that occurs from time to time when they opportunity is appropriate and when the person fits the bill. In this case, I think Mrs Forsythe will be an excellent High Commissioner. We’ve recently welcomed Dame Annette King, of course, to Australia as New Zealand’s High Commissioner here. She had distinguished service as a Labor Member of Parliament in New Zealand and so, it is not unusual and if the candidate is as outstanding as Mrs Forsythe, then I think it’s appropriate.
PRIME MINISTER: I’ll just make a comment on that as well. I know Patricia Forsythe well as well and I think she is an outstanding appointment. When Marise recommended her to me, I didn’t hesitate. And you make the right point about Dame Annette King. When you’re having someone represent your government, New Zealand is one of those very close and very important relationships and Annette Kind is very close to Jacinda Ardern. That’s a good thing because you’re dealing with Annette you know that there is a very close connection to the Prime Minister and I think that adds further weight to the nature of the representation that New Zealand is providing here to Australia. We are reciprocating that and I think that will provide I think for an excellent dialogue and engagement with New Zealand. It was something I felt very strongly about and to have another female appointed to a very prestigious post in our diplomatic service, I think, again, just counters the things that are put about… and I’ll also say this – what is it with Labor when they’re going around drawing up hit lists for about who’s about to get jobs? What are they going to do, start going over the gardeners list about who they think is acceptable? I mean, so arrogant have they become, that they are already talking about the people they want to sack when they get into power. That seems to be the only thing that drives them – getting hold of power to wield it. Whether it’s against small and family businesses with their higher taxes or, you know, who’s next with Labor? That’s the thing – they just want to get into power to wield power on behalf of, talking about mates, their union mates, in particular their militant union mates like John Setka. These guys have become very arrogant. I mean, I’m still waiting to know who is going to be their Home Affairs Minister? Who is going to be the Labor Minister, if they’re elected, that is responsible for keeping our borders strong? Who is going to be the Defence Minister because apparently Richard Marles might be the Home Affairs Minister. In my team, you know who the Defence Minister is, you know who the Foreign Minister is, you know who the Treasurer is, you know who the Deputy Prime Minister is. It’s a very clear and stable team. With Labor, we don’t know who is running these important positions and it’s about time Bill Shorten ended the speculation around this. Tell us who’s going to keep the border secure, Bill. Because at the moment, you don’t seem to know and the Australian people don’t know.
JOURNALIST: Can we just talk about foreign affairs really quickly on North Korea? The US and South Korea have both announced they’ll be drawing down their military exercises. What’s your reaction to that?
SENATOR THE HON MARISE PAYNE, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: I think last week’s Summit in Hanoi, which I must say was particularly well hosted by Vietnam – they put a great deal of effort into what was an extremely important meeting – it continues the path in the right direction. These are very complex matters. We know that. They were never going to be resolved overnight and I commend both the President of the United States and Kim Jong-un for the engagement they have had during these sessions. In terms of engagement, there have been long discussions in relation to military exercises and decisions, those decisions were made on a case by case basis. Australia has a good reputation in terms of our participation in those activities over time. But most importantly, I think it’s really very, it’s crucial to recognise the complexity of this issue and the fact it will take time to resolve.
PRIME MINISTER: I’ll only add to that that I welcome the initiatives by President Trump to make progress on this issue. It’s very difficult and his determination to keep pressing forward, there will be frustrations, but I really commend his heartfelt commitment to try and make some progress in this area and, likewise, I commend the Vietnamese Government on their hosting of the program.
We’re going to have to wrap it up in a sec.
JOURNALIST: Just one last question. When Parliament resumes, will you seek to fix the medevac bills or are you committed to spending more than a billion dollars to the reopening of Christmas Island?
PRIME MINISTER: There is no form of the medevac bill which makes our borders stronger. The only thing that I would ever seek to do is repeal it in its entirety and the Australian people will have the opportunity to talk about that at the next election.
Now, we’re going to have to go because something also very exciting is happening today and that is, we are naming the Western Sydney Airport the Western Sydney Lady Nancy-Bird Walton Airport here in Western Sydney. She is Australia’s first aviation pioneer and I think that to have our twin airports here in Sydney, the Western Sydney Airport and the Sydney Airport, one named after our greatest ever male aviation pioneer and our other named after our greatest female aviation pioneer, I think, is a real tribute to this city in terms of what it produced and in terms of our aviation pioneers in this country. But Western Sydney airport, the Nancy-Bird Walton Airport, is going to be an enormous economic boom for Western Sydney. Western Sydney has always taken every opportunity economically that has come their way and this one is an absolute big one. They are embracing it and getting behind it and the jobs that will come – almost 30,000 just in the early phases – this is going to be a tremendous thing for Western Sydney and we look forward to joining Premier Berejiklian out there on the road today. Great to be there with Gladys – she is doing an extraordinary job as New South Wales Premier and we’ll be working very strongly to support her re-election in a few weeks’ time.
Thank you very much.