Doorstop - Portsmith, QLD

15 Oct 2020
Prime Minister

The Hon. Warren Entsch MP, Member for Leichhardt: Here this morning at CSF industries here with the Prime Minister. Just showing him around and I guess it's great to have him back here at our beautiful city. Couple of things that I wanted to highlight to him. One was looking at our manufacturing, and our industry here a lot of people don't realise this and I know we're very competitive with Townsville, but we've actually got more blue collar manufacturing jobs here in Cairns than what we have in Townsville, lot of people find that quite surprising, and it's businesses like the one we're standing in here now, CSF industries that contributes to that. Through the Budget, the Budget that we've just had we've certainly seen a very significant increase in incentive for employment of apprentices and also an opportunity for businesses to be able to continue to upgrade their equipment, to become more competitive and again, we see some of this amazing equipment here that's being installed into this business. The other thing from my perspective, which is very exciting, is that another $200 odd million dollars has been released, bringing forward to see the continued work on the Bruce Highway upgrade, which is very, very important to our city. But with those few words I’d now like to invite our Prime Minister here, to say something. Thank you.

Prime Minister: Thank you, Warren. And thank you to you, Mel, and to you, Sean, and all of your family for having us here today at CSF steel fabricators here in Cairns and a business that was established back in 1979 with a ute and a welding machine and look where it is today. And I'm really pleased, Warren, that you sort of made the point. I mean, oftentimes, I don’t know how many times we've been here together mate, and even going back to times before I was in politics and up here, you know, supporting the tourism industry. And we know a lot about the tourism economy of North Queensland, but not as much is known around the country of the industrial beating heart of North Queensland here, here in Cairns. To see the innovation, as we just saw,  demonstrated, just over the way there with their new loading vehicles and what's happening inside this, this workshop where young people are getting trained, young people are getting jobs. And in Queensland, in fact, right here in North Queensland, in Warren’s electorate, some 7,000 businesses have been supported by JobKeeper, 7,000 businesses. And there are just so many thousands of people living here and in and around Cairns who have benefited from that program, keeping them attached to their businesses. And CSF has been one of those, one of those businesses who's been able to access JobKeeper to keep their skills and their people together so they can't, so they don't miss a beat because we're coming out of this COVID-19 recession.

Our Budget is a recovery plan to come out of the COVID-19 recession. And there are so many measures that are going to that. I just want to go through a couple of them as they apply to businesses here and North Queensland more generally. Of course, Warren’s already told you that the more than $200 million dollars for the Bruce Highway here and Warren’s the mailman, you know, he just keeps delivering up here for North Queensland and he’s been doing for a long, long time. And he doesn't lose pace. I tell you what, sometimes I think the older that you get, the quicker you get Warren, around these things because you're pretty masterful at it. I got to say, and that's to the great benefit of North Queensland and I think that's tremendous. But beyond that, I mentioned the important investment that is being made through investment allowances in many of the businesses that I've visited, particularly this week, being able to write off immediately, to immediately expense new equipment and like the new machinery that we saw in this plant. More of that being invested in here means that these businesses can remain competitive and stay on the cutting edge so they can keep people in work. Our Budget plan has three components. The first has been to ensure that we cushion the blow. And here at CSF and right across North Queensland, we have been cushioning the blow, whether it's through the COVID supplement for those who found themselves out of work or the JobKeeper payment, which has kept people in work and attached to their employers, or indeed the cash flow allowances and supports that we've put in place.

The second, though, is about ensuring that we recover by getting people to bring forward decisions. Now, that’s bring forward hiring decisions, through our JobMaker hiring credit, bringing forward decisions to invest through the immediate expensing initiatives. But for so many businesses here in North Queensland, whether they're manufacturing businesses like this or they’re tourism and hospitality businesses or agribusinesses, or and we'll be visiting other businesses here today. The ability to carry back your losses. This is a North Queensland initiative I think, it really has application here, because here in North Queensland, particularly here in Cairns and particularly in the tourism and hospitality industry, there will be so many operators who won't make money this year. They'll go backwards this year, through no fault of their own. They didn't shut down the tourism economy. That had to be done for health reasons. And up here, the blow has been felt probably arguably more so than anywhere else in the country other than right now what's happening down in Victoria. And so that loss carry back means that the COVID losses they had this year, they'll be able to offset that against the money they were making before they came into the recession. They won’t have to wait three or five years to get back on their feet when they'll be able to use those losses to reduce their tax burden, they can do it right now. They get money back from the tax that they paid in previous years in this tax year as a result of their tax return this year. Now, that's going to mean much needed cash flow boost support for these businesses to help them get through. A really important measure.

The third phase, of course, is building back for the future, and that is to ensure that we are investing in manufacturing businesses with a manufacturing plan that gets people back into jobs not just today, but for the future to ensure that we're investing in lower costs, more affordable lower emissions energy here in Australia, to support manufacturing and I've got to say Deb Frecklington’s plan on that for lower cost energy for manufacturers in Queensland is a great plan. We're investing in the water infrastructure, the road infrastructure. We're lowering taxes. Everyone here in this workshop would have got a tax cut last Friday, as a result of what we passed through into law last Friday straight after the Budget. And so that's really important. Because building back for the future is what you need to get the jobs back and keep the jobs back and keep them growing. Now, the unemployment figures, the employment figures have come out today. And what they show is that, bar for what we've seen in Victoria, we would have continued to grow the number of jobs in Australia. We've already had a very strong bounce back over the last few months. I mean, in the last two months alone, more than 170,000 jobs all around the country, bar Victoria, have come back into the economy. Now, sadly, 70,000, just over that, jobs have been lost in Victoria, and up here in Cairns they know what it feels like to lose jobs in a downturn. And down in Victoria, I know they're feeling it incredibly hard. Yesterday in Victoria, we learnt of the mental health impact of what the shutdown is required. Today, we're seeing what the economic cost of that shutdown is, 70,000 jobs lost in Victoria in the last two months. That's why we've got to get Victoria open safely again so people can open their businesses again. People can get back to work again and people can get on with building back that Victorian economy. And we're going to be standing with them to do that, just like we're standing with the people of North Queensland here, which Warren has represented so ably for so long. So the Budget is about that plan. It is about businesses like CSF. It is about the tourism and hospitality sector and the agribusinesses that make up the North Queensland economy. It's about cushioning that blow. It's about recovering what was lost and it's about building for the future.

Happy to take some questions.

Journalist: Prime Minister are you expecting more Australians to return home in a matter of days and weeks?

Prime Minister: Yes.

Journalist: And how many will be going to Howard Springs and what preparations are underway for people to be received there?

Prime Minister: There have been extensive preparations undertaken on that, on that matter, and we're in the final stages of concluding those arrangements. We've been working now for some months as we've been getting more and more Australians home, particularly those in vulnerable situations. And just under, that's probably ticked over by that now, about a quarter of those who have been identified as vulnerable when I first made announcements on this several weeks ago, we've already got back. And that's been great. But, you know, I'm a bit disappointed at one level because, you know, we were keen when we had those extra slots opened up for people to come back and quarantine, that Cairns could have played a role in that. And I know Warren was pushing for that. You know, there are empty hotel rooms here in Cairns that could have been used for that quarantine. And look, you'd have to ask the Premier as to why she said no to it being done here in Cairns. But that's where the decision was made. There was one big no for Cairns when it came to how the quarantine would be done. It was all going to be contained down there in South East Queensland, down there in Brisbane, and there’s capacity here. But the Queensland Government decided not to do that and that's their decision. I respect that. But obviously, that would have, I think, given a lot of support to the hoteliers and the accommodation providers here in Cairns. And I can also tell you that as of tomorrow, Kiwis will be having holidays in New South Wales. They'll be having holidays in the ACT and they'll be having holidays in the Northern Territory. I'll tell you what, there's no North Queensland in New Zealand. And, and they'll want to have holidays up here Warren. I have no doubt, I know that the Japanese and the Chinese markets have been very important up here in Cairns for a very long time. But you're also, but so has been the Kiwi market. And importantly, so is the New South Wales and Victorian market. They're both really important for tourism and hospitality. And the only reason the Kiwis aren’t coming to North Queensland is the Queensland Government insists on a two week quarantine for visitors who would come from New Zealand. And if, we all know that while they've had a far more significant economic downturn in New Zealand, their health performance has been very good. Extremely good.

Journalist: Prime Minister, [inaudible] sorry, the state governments insisted it’s waiting for more funding to support the health response for establishing that [inaudible] can you say that any-

Prime Minister: Sorry?

Journalist: The state government’s insisting it’s awaiting a Commonwealth contribution to put further health support,

Prime Minister: Health support for what?

Journalist: The health response if we end up getting COVID [inaudible] quarantine bubble?

Prime Minister: That’s nonsense. That's complete nonsense. I mean, our agreement with the Queensland Government is we pay 50 per cent of everything, that was announced in the first few weeks of the COVID-19 recession. That's just a complete excuse. It's a cop out. I'm quite surprised by that, it’s the first I've heard of that.

Journalist: New statistics overnight show that-

Prime Minister: They might want to contact me rather than putting it through journalists, at press conferences. Maybe we could actually have a conversation about it.

Journalist: Prime Minister you mentioned jobs, the latest jobs figures show that 30,000 jobs lost in September, does that sound an alarm that JobSeeker and JobKeeper should be extended beyond the timeframes that are currently in place?

Prime Minister: Well including here in Queensland, the number of jobs has been increasing around the rest of the country. As I said in the last two months, we've had 170,000 extra jobs that have come in outside of Victoria. We've had 70,000 job losses in Victoria. So I think the real story of today's jobs numbers is the economic impact and the job loss impact of the shutdown in Victoria. That's what those job numbers say today, if we hadn't had that second Victorian wave, then there'd be 70,000 more people in work.

Journalist: Prime Minister, given the border, you were just talking about the border and quarantine, from your perspective do you think Queensland should open its borders given how good we’re going?

Prime Minister: Look, I’ve been very clear about this. That is a decision for the Queensland Government. And I respect their decisions, but these decisions should be based on health advice and credible health advice, that is very transparent. And so that's for the Premier to explain to the people of Queensland why people from New South Wales can't be spending money in North Queensland. That's for her to explain. That's not for me to explain. But it's important that those border arrangements have been in place, particularly when the Victorian second wave hit. New South Wales has border arrangements with Victoria and that's been important. But, you know, the borders should only be in place for as long as they have to because the borders come at a cost. Yes, they can provide some support on the management of the health side of the COVID pandemic. But to be fair to the Queensland Government, they've got a good public health system in order to respond to the COVID-19 tracing. Their tracing mechanism here in Queensland is much better than the one that was in Victoria. And so I think, you know, that should weigh into the decisions about how you manage these issues. But I said from the outset of this pandemic, it was going to hit us in two ways. It was going to hit us from a health point of view and it was going to hit us economically. And sensible governments work both of those issues at the same time. Because people losing jobs, not a good thing. People's health being affected, not a good thing. So you've got to work both of them together and that's why I do look to New South Wales, that really has I think, led the way by doing both.

Journalist: The WA Chief Health Officer says he has given guidance to Premier McGowan to say further exemptions should be considered, such as quarantining from states that have no community transmission. Thoughts on that advice? Should WA be opening up now?

Prime Minister: Well, again, it's a matter for Premier McGowan. I am not here to give advice or instructions to Premiers. I mean, the way the Federation works is we've got to both respect what we're responsible for and I've sought to do that throughout this pandemic. The Federal Government doesn't come in and tell the states what to do on their areas of responsibility and neither does that happen in reverse. Now, in Western Australia, the impacts of the borders have been very different to here in Queensland. The impact of the border restrictions here in Queensland have been far more severe than what has happened in Western Australia. But my point about borders is this. They should be there for health reasons and not for a day longer than necessary. Boasting about borders for politics is not health policy. Having borders for health reasons is health policy and should only be justified on those grounds and it shouldn't be done in a double standards way. It should be done fairly and it should be done compassionately and I've made many private representations on those issues over the last few months.

Journalist: New figures overnight reveal that three quarters of the COVID deaths in Australia have been in nursing homes, the second highest proportion behind Canada. What are your concerns around those figures?


Prime Minister: Look, this is because the success in our hospital system, I mean, the people most vulnerable to COVID-19 are the elderly. And so those results are what you would necessarily assume that those most vulnerable are going to be the most affected and that's what we've seen in Australia. And I think to make the comparison when you've had in Australia relatively a much better performance on the health front when it comes to those who have sadly lost their lives to COVID-19, and every single one of those losses is a terrible tragedy for them and their families. But the truth is, in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany and all of those places, they have had thousands upon thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people indeed who passed away as a result of COVID-19. The fact that as a country we've been able to limit those deaths, the fact that our IC units haven't been overrun, that there hasn't been a respirator shortage and that we'd be able to treat and support people with a strong health system is I think, a credit to Australia.  It's a credit to all those working on the front line and our health system and the states and territories, which together with the Commonwealth, share in the burden of the cost of that I think has ensured that Australia has one of the best health and economic responses to the COVID-19 recession and pandemic of any country in the world.

Last one.

Journalist: [Inaudible] opening up travel between Australia and parts of China where COVID is under control and in similar ways…

Prime Minister: Thanks for that question. There are a number of countries where we're looking at to see what we can do and probably next year. We're not going to rush into this because we've got to get the systems right. I already discussed this with both the current and former Prime Minister of Japan. I’ve also discussed it with the President of South Korea. They are two countries that have done particularly well and I know for both of those markets, that would be very important in North Queensland. So that, together with Singapore, are my current priorities in how we would pursue that. New Zealand, as I said, that starts tomorrow. I'm just disappointed that North Queensland is going to miss out because of the decisions of the Queensland Government. But they are very important. But it's also an opportunity to look at how we can get safely the international students coming back. That's really important. I know Warren's been red hot on that. We've got trials running in the Northern Territory now, as well as in South Australia and that in South Australia involves students coming back through Singapore. So we're always thinking of the next decision when it comes to COVID-19. The next health decision, as we've demonstrated with things like the massive support we’ve put into mental health care, particularly in Victoria where they're doing it so tough. So I'm hoping to see a positive response this weekend to see Victoria able to ease up and take that terrible burden, economic and mental health burden, off Melburnians, off Victorians this weekend. But whether it's responding there or moving forward on the next economic opportunity, that's what we've been seeking to do. And this year's Budget, Warren, you've seen a lot of budgets, I don't think you've quite seen one responded too like this in a long time. It's the Budget that Australia needs. It's the Budget that North Queensland needs. And we're going to continue working with people up here in North Queensland to ensure that our supports continue to be there to help them get through. Thanks very much.