Doorstop - Rooty Hill, NSW

25 Jun 2020
Prime Minister

RICHARD ERRINGTON, CEO WEST HQ: Firstly, on Behalf of West HQ and our Sydney Coliseum Theatre, I would like to welcome you here today which is a very special day for ourselves as a theatre here in Western Sydney. I’d also like to welcome Minister Fletcher. I’d like to welcome back our Prime Minister, Prime Minister Morrison. Guy Sebastian, I hope it’s his first of many performances here and Dan Rosen also from ARIA. We’re very grateful for having you here and I would like to hand over please to our Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. Well, it is great to be back here at West HQ and also to have Melissa McIntosh the Member Lindsay here with us as well. I was here in December with Jenny, catching one of my favourite acts, Tina Arena, who was one of the first concerts performed here and this is a magnificent venue and it’s a credit to everyone at West HQ for what they have been able to achieve here on the old Rooty Hill site - it’s still the Rooty Hill RSL - but the vision and the foresight that was led by their board and what they've been able to develop here I think is incredibly exciting. To have a venue of this standing, this capability, and I think Guy was giving them a good check out today and it really is a sign of an international standard. And to have the world's greatest acts, including our own, amongst those being our come here and perform I think is just tremendous for Western Sydney, Melissa, and we're very excited about its future. This venue was not built for six months. It was built for 50 years and it will see great acts return. It will see great crowds fill these seats behind us and that's principally why we're here today.

Before I go to that, I want to say a couple of things. Firstly, about the heartbreaking announcements today by Qantas. 6,000 employees who have been working with Qantas for a long time will no longer have a place at Qantas because of the impacts of the COVID-19 recession. Many of those will be in my own electorate in Cook in southern Sydney, as they will be in many parts of our city. And this will be a hard few months. These are hard days, Australia. They're very hard days. And our strength and our togetherness is tested on almost a daily basis and Australians continue to prove themselves strong. But we're going to really need to call on that strength in the months ahead and certainly to all of the Qantas family who will be hurting badly today, I extend my deepest, my deepest regrets about what has had to be announced today. The thing about Qantas employees is they're passionate about the company they work for and the business they're in. And they understand, ultimately, that when you can't put planes in the air, then the business can't make money and I know that they will understand that, but it won't make it any easier. And so I had a very good discussion last night with Alan Joyce, as he referred to today, and we'll certainly be continuing to do everything we currently are doing, whether it's in Qantas or indeed in Virgin and other parts of the aviation sector. But as I've said many times, there will be parts of our economy that will feel the effects of the COVID recession for much longer, and that is true here in the entertainment industry and the media and the arts sector as well. So I reach out to those Qantas employees, not just those who obviously will be no longer with the company. We'll be there to support them through the many other programmes and to assist them as they look for new opportunities in other parts of the economy as the Australian economy builds back.

And we had the news obviously today with the IMF pointing out once again that relatively speaking that Australia, even though we have these terrible job losses, is making its way better than almost any other developed economy in the world. And that's where the hope comes from, because the hope says that we're on our way back and as hard as these days are, there are better days ahead. And we're here to talk about better days ahead for the entertainment and the media and the arts sector. We've already acted and the sector has already significantly benefited from programmes like JobKeeper and for those who are unable or who weren't 90 per cent of employers in the sector, Paul worked in businesses that were eligible for JobKeeper arrangements, subject to the turnover and other tests that were there. That's been an enormous support to the sector until now and in the consultations we've had as recently as last week, which Dan and Guy joined us for that has been an important part of keeping people in this sector and we met some of them here today. The capability of our entertainment business is significant, as you can see on display here, not just the physical venues, but the people who make the show, whether it's on stage or off stage. It's incredibly important.

One of the things we've been focusing on in this sector is understanding the business of entertainment, the business of performing arts and whether it's Guy or others, they're great performers. They're incredible talents. We all know that. But they're great businesspeople and they take big risks. They run businesses that employ people and they feel the responsibility of that like any other business leader in Australia today. And this sector has had their businesses taken away from them overnight. Businesses like staging that we were just talking to before have had to adapt and that's the process they've been going through. But what we're announcing today is having done the initial support to help people through, to cushion that blow, to keep the sector together, to provide support to other parts of the sector that is providing relief. Now it's about the way back. Now it's about ensuring that we can get the show back on the road and the workers back into the jobs. The thing I love about this sector is the passion about this sector. When Mark Vincent was on the call the other day, he just said, “I just want to sing again, PM”. And I want him to sing again too, and so does my mum, by the way. And he's passionate about getting back on the stage, but he's also passionate, as Guy and Dan and all the other industry leaders we spoke to, they're passionate about getting the shows back on because they know what that's going to mean. 

So today we're announcing $250 million of additional support into the sector, which is all about getting the show back on the road and the workers back in the jobs, doing what they love doing and that has several components to it. There is a $35 million component which goes to support arts businesses and organisations which are at risk of going into insolvency. There is a further combined package of concessional loans which will be done through the banks, 100 per cent guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government, some $90 million and some $75 million in direct grants to support getting productions back up and running. This is about building back. This is not just about providing ongoing support. This is about getting the show back up and running. And there is technical issues that need to be dealt with, and this falls more into the screen side, but it's also been raised in performing outside, about getting key person insurance and things of that nature, which is essential to actually getting the productions running again. And so these are issues that have been raised by the sector. We've listened carefully to the issues that they’ve raised. They've written to us about these things. Paul, I want to commend you for the great work you've done in listening. There's been a lot of listening going on and the key thing that I think has been important for us to really get a full appreciation of is the serious business of entertainment and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that are here and we want to keep that capability together. Those jobs will come back into those businesses when the show starts again and we need to keep them, we need to keep the show together when it comes to the people who make that up. The highly technical skills that go into this, the commercial experience of putting productions together and drawing for every production are completely often different new team of different businesses and people who come together. And so keeping that team together is incredibly important and that's what this support is about today. We've been careful about it, we’ve thought long and hard about it, we've listened to people. I have personally consulted, as Paul has to many, as has Josh Frydenberg, and I think what we've come up today reflects, I think, a very strong response, strong response that I am, I hope, that we'll give all those in the sector, particularly those who put their houses on the line to put shows on, a great vote of confidence from our Government that we believe in what they're doing and we can't wait for them to sing and perform again and I'm looking forward to coming back here and checking out your show, Guy. 

I’ll hand over to Paul.

THE HON. PAUL FLETCHER MP, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS, CYBER SAFETY AND THE ARTS: Well, thank you very much, Prime Minister, it's great to be here with you at the Sydney Coliseum Theatre with Richard Errington, with Melissa McIntosh, with Guy Sebastian and Dan Rosen. Also, Adrian Collette, Chief Executive of the Australia Council. And we're here because we want to get the shows back on the road. The arts, entertainment and screen sector is about the roadies who carry the gear for the band. It's about the backstage crew. It's about the sound of light and guys, and it's been fascinating to hear about some of the skills that they use today. It's about the front of house people. It's about the ushers. It's about box office. It’s about security guards. It's about all the people who work in the sector and, of course, it's also about people working in hospitality. Because when you go and see a show, very often you go to a restaurant, you go to a bar to have a drink. It's about travel and tourism, because very often when you get to see a show, you might travel, book a night in a hotel. So it's not only about the jobs in the entertainment sector and the arts sector, but in the adjacent sectors as well. It's about the fact that Aussies love to go and see Australians performing and we know that over 80 per cent of Australians go to a cultural or an arts event every year and Australians want to see their much-loved performers out there on the road performing again. 

Now, what we know is that this sector has been hit very hard by the COVID-19 downturn and the social distancing. So we're seeing venues closed, performances cancelled, artists losing their gigs. We've been providing the support through to the sector and across the economy, as the Prime Minister has talked about. What this package is about today, this $250 million of support, is about the way forward. We've got to work out how we get the venues open and we're already seeing that. Museums and galleries starting to open, we've got protocols in place. We've got protocols for the TV and film sector, developed by the Film School with industry wide cooperation. And the Prime Minister will be taking to National Cabinet a proposal in relation to developing a path forward for live performance. What we also need to do is support the investment to get shows, get festivals, get events, get productions happening because it costs money to book a venue, to hire a cast and crew, to market the show, and you've got to do all of that before the revenue comes in. And what we know is the promoters, the producers, the arts companies have chewed through a lot of money just keeping going over this period with no revenue. That's why we're coming in with support. As the Prime Minister has said, $75 million in rise grants to restore investment to sustain and expand. That's about being there to provide capital to support promoters, producers, arts companies. Supported by $90 million of concessional loans, concessional and interest rate concessional, and how long it takes before you have to start repaying. $35 million to support these systemically important organisations in the arts sector and of course, $50 million, the Temporary Interruption Fund administered by Screen Australia to support film and television production and deal with this problem of insurance against COVID-19 having been halted which means you can't get the finance put together for film and TV productions. This is going to come in and support that. 

So, Prime Minister, can I thank you for your very strong support of the sector, your commitment to seeing the roadies get back to work, the ushers get back to work, the front of house people, the backstage crew and of course, the artists and performers. But the sector is so much bigger than that. This is about jobs. It's about a path out. It's about backing the sector, the Morrison Government backing Australia's arts sector, entertainment sector, film and TV sector. It’s about Australians being able to see the performance they love out there back on the road, back on stage. It's about boosting confidence. That's why we're so pleased to be able to make this announcement today.

And I'm now going to ask Guy Sebastian to make some remarks.

GUY SEBASTIAN: Well, firstly, I would like to thank you guys, especially to you, Prime Minister, for listening. You mentioned that you guys were listening and you really were and that was evident the other day when we jumped on that Zoom call and you really did hear us out and you heard all the challenges that we are facing and you've responded so quickly. And on a personal level, you know, I've got my bass player Adam here who would gig eight times a week and that really has dried up, to nothing. And it's people like him, it's like all the people that you mentioned, people who are doing the rigging, who were driving trucks, there is a whole ecosystem under an artist like myself and so many others that it takes to put on a show. But also, I think importantly, there's a huge lag of time, you know, I'm putting on a tour myself, but there's a six to 12 month planning period for me to be putting on a tour and standing on a stage like this. And so it's great that you guys are, you know, filling that gap with this aid and it's going to really aid us to be able to fill this gap and not have the industry fall off a cliff. Because I really do believe if we didn't have this, there would be so many highly skilled people that would go to other places and other sectors and we would lose them and it would be so incredibly hard to rebuild this wonderful arts culture that we have here. So thank you so much and thanks for hearing us. On behalf of myself as an artist, but also people like Adam, who's here today, we really appreciate it, you know, we appreciate that you haven't forgotten us and we were thought of.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, Guy. Dan?

DAN ROSEN, CEO ARIA: Thanks Prime Minister and Minister Fletcher. I just want to echo the statements of Guy Sebastian. I think the number one thing here is that the Government has taken the time to understand the sector and recognise there are 645,000 people who work across creative industries. It generates $112 billion dollars to the national economy. It's big business made of lots of small businesses. Behind Guy Sebastian, is a great entrepreneur and small businessman. He hires hundreds of people to keep his show on the road and that's what we want to do. Get the shows back on the road in the pubs and clubs, venues and theatres all around Australia. When Guy comes through a regional town, it means people get back out, they get in their local pub, they get in their clubs, they're putting money into the local economy. We know regional cultural tourism generates $33 billion around the country. So it's hugely important we do this. I want to thank again the Prime Minister and Minister Fletcher and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg for listening, for hearing and coming up with a targeted strategy that will get us through the next 12 months and come out of this bigger and better to entertain people all around Australia.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Dan. Let's take questions on the package first and then I'm sure you want to raise other questions, as usual, and then we're happy for Guy and Dan and others to wait in the wings when we come to that point. So happy to take questions on the package.

JOURNALIST: So there’s 645,000 jobs in this sector. How many of those workers will be supported by this package?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what this package is about is creating the new shows, the new productions, the new performances. Now, the vast majority of people who are working in this sector and businesses, as we heard, effectively their revenue has gone to zero. They haven’t gone down by 30 per cent or 50 per cent. They've gone down by 95 to 100 per cent and the only thing that gets those jobs stood up again is the production starting again. And so whether it's Harry Potter down in Melbourne or Hamilton coming or any of these sorts of big productions, I mean, the scale of these enterprises is large. And so we will see, you know, tens, hundreds of thousands of people as the industry gets back up on its feet, both through these programmes and the multipliers that come from these productions going and getting running again. One of the things we learnt as we listen to the sector is that these shows are typically put on out of people's own capital. They often will not even go to the bank to secure any loans against the production itself. So they've been running down their own capital. They've been pulling off their own superannuation to pay their staff on top of what they've been getting through JobKeeper and that means their capital is largely shot. And so the lesson for us was we had to fill the capital pool again for them and we've done that in two ways. We've done it through direct grants, effectively equity, and without taking an ownership stake. That's just a direct grant to boost their equity. But on top of that, the concessional loans. Now, this is actually quite a similar practise we've used in flood relief. I remember when I was up in North Queensland - and Guy, you can put Cloncurry on your tour list too, I know they'd be keen to see you - up there when those terrible floods went through North Queensland. We put together a package of grants for restocking and loans to support the restocking, secured against the stock. And the combination of those two things has actually helped them significantly up there and it was my learnings from that, talking to Paul, listening to what he said, and it was eerie that there was, I mean, obviously two very different issues and I'm not seeking to draw any equivalence between the two. But the response was quite similar. They needed capital and they needed finance and they needed that to be done in an unsecured way so that, you know, they didn't have to put their house on the line for it. And so I think it's quite important that that's how we've pulled these measures together and we hope that it supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, just not now, because this once the sector gets going again, I mean, it's momentum. It's momentum that will just build and we'll see all of those people coming back into work.

JOURNALIST: So when you say hundreds of thousands, do you want to see 50 per cent of the creative sector industry sector back in jobs? You know, what’s your target?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the challenge we've got right now, which is the other point the sector made to us, is there's these challenges of capital and getting the shows up and running again. But there's also the issues of the certainty that they need to plan around the restrictions. And that's why, again, tomorrow I'll be raising this with the premiers and the chief ministers. Being able to tell Guy when you can fill a stadium - a stadium, there you go - or where, you know, fill a theatre like this or a venue, when that can happen and how many. I mean, at the moment, you know, in outside venues, you know, around sporting they're going to 25 per cent of that capacity. But if, you know, Richard, if you had to run a production here on 25 per cent full of this venue, that would be very difficult to make that pay. And so getting some certainty about when venues can operate at different levels of restrictions is frankly, almost, if not more important than even what we've done today. So when you combine the certainty of what they can plan for so they can actually go forward, access these grants and these loans to actually plan for that and then have the confidence that when the show's ready to go, it can actually go on, then it all works again. And this is one of the challenges of the COVID recession. It's unlike others because it hasn't been caused by an economic event. I mean, the same is true with the devastating news at Qantas. That has been caused by a global pandemic. That is what has caused these terrible job losses and the changes that Qantas have had to put in place to respond to that. This is... we have to deal with the opening up again and get certainty about those issues and that will see the jobs come back.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, is there a sense of frustration on a federal level? Talking about planning and what Guy was saying and how long it takes to plan these big events that the premiers are on board? It seems that they seem to be a little bit rogue. You'd have to accept there has still got to be a level of assurance from these industries going forward that they feel they probably can't plan these things.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's certainly the feedback we've had and we'll have another very constructive meeting of the National Cabinet tomorrow. And look, I think in the main, there's been an enormous commitment by the premiers and chief ministers. I mean, we're working well through our three step plan. We said that would be completed in July and we're largely on track for that. There are a few challenges in Melbourne at the moment. But as we said, there will be outbreaks, there will be changes. And what can't happen is we can't go, stop, go, stop, go. We can't flick the light on and off and on and off and on and off and on and off. That would be very difficult for the artists, the producers who are bringing together productions, to have that uncertainty hanging over them. So what I'm saying is we're moving ahead. We're going ahead. We’ve built the protections to deal with outbreaks. Whether that involves, as when I spoke to Premier Andrews the other night and he sought that support from the ADF and it was provided immediately, I got straight onto the phone to General Campbell and we threw the plan into action. If that's what it takes then that's what we'll do, because that's what's going to keep people in jobs. We can respond to these outbreaks. We can deal with it. We are dealing with the coronavirus, the COVID-19 better than almost any country in the world and that's got to give us confidence to be able to move ahead, whether it's in this sector or any of the other sectors. But there will be sectors that will be hard hit for longer. And that's what today is about.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Alan Joyce said in his phone call with you last night he asked for an extension of JobKeeper for the aviation sector. Is that something you’re considering and if not, will you commit to further financial assistance for the tourism industry?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we are working through those issues right now. They are very complex. What I said, as Alan faithfully repeated today, was that we know that there are sectors that will continue to be held down by the COVID recession because of the restrictions that are in place, such as in this sector or in the global aviation sector, which has been decimated. And what Qantas has been able to do, despite the global impact in the aviation sector, has been quite extraordinary, despite what is just the awful news today. And so I was very clear last night that we know that those sectors that continue to be significantly affected will need continued support and so we are just working through the best way to target and deliver that support. As he said today, whether it's through JobKeeper or other measures, what matters is actually an understanding that that's the problem. We know that's the challenge. We know that's the challenge in the entertainment industry and they will similarly be affected long after that. In many other sectors, though, we're seeing a return. We're seeing businesses open again and they're in a much stronger position. So we know that there needs to be targeted support. We're working on how that targeted support can be best delivered and that's why I'll be returning back to Canberra again today to spend quite a few more hours in a room with Josh Frydenberg and Mathias Cormann and my other colleagues, as we have been doing all week on this very issue.

JOURNALIST: Given those struggles, is it appropriate or even legal for states to keep their borders closed to domestic tourism or tourists, or to pick and choose which states are allowed in?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's never been the decision of National Cabinet to have internal state borders. It's just never been the decision of our grouping of National Cabinet. They are unilateral decisions that have been taken by premiers. But my message to all of us who form that National Cabinet, now a time, I think, very much to support each other. Victoria's got a challenge at the moment and I want to thank the support that has been provided to Victoria by Gladys Berejiklian in New South Wales and Steven Marshall also in South Australia and I know also Peter Gutwein has reached out and I have no doubt that Anna and Mark have also been lending moral support to that as well. You know, we're working quite well together as a team. Sure, there are few times when state rivalries sort of poke up and I know that can be frustrating to people and we've got to just keep the focus on keeping the economy opening and getting people back into jobs. We've got to live alongside COVID. It's not going anywhere and we now have to look forward and we've got the systems and protections in place, as we're demonstrating even now with the outbreak in Victoria and I think we've just got to keep all that in perspective and we've got to keep forging ahead and do that together.

JOURNALIST: Will the organisations that are predominantly funded by the states be able to access this funding you’ve announced today?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we should have mentioned before is about $100 million - and I'll ask Paul to comment on this - there's $100 million already coming in from the states into the entertainment sector. So this $250 million is on top of that. I should also stress that that $250 million we've committed today is for the next 12 months. Not over four years. It's right here, right now getting it out the door to support those productions in the next 12 months, which is quite unlike some of the packages you've seen in other countries which go over four years. This is going in in the next 12 months to really get things going.

But, Paul, you might want to comment on the states?

THE HON. PAUL FLETCHER MP, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS, CYBER SAFETY AND THE ARTS: Thanks, Prime Minister. So funding for the arts and entertainment sector, there is a set of shared responsibilities between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments. We're certainly keen to work with the state and territory governments. I've already had the chance to speak with a couple of state and territory arts ministers and I'll be speaking with the others. But we also have a clear set of arrangements in terms of particular companies that are supported in a mixed way by state and by Commonwealth and we'll look to work with the states and territories. I make the point also that much of this funding is going to go to organisers of festivals, of events, things where traditionally or historically government’s not been involved, but we're getting in there in an unprecedented way because of these unprecedented circumstances to provide support, to provide additional capital, to back the organisations that are wanting to put together events and to give that shot of confidence so that, as we've heard from Guy and others, there's a lead time. It takes months to plan to get the tour in place, and it also takes the confidence to inject your own money in it. What we're now saying is we're going to put Commonwealth money in there and if the states and territories want to come to the party on that as well, that's great. And already we've seen over $150 million of it being announced in total across the different states and territories. But this is about building that support as we make our way out of COVID-19 so that there's additional support in terms of that capital.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister talked about businesses losing 100 per cent of their income and people even putting their own personal assets on the line. What kind of arts organisation in reality is going to be in a position to take out a loan right now?

THE HON. PAUL FLETCHER MP, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS, CYBER SAFETY AND THE ARTS: Well, we think the lines will have a pretty significant place. Bear in mind, highly concessional interest rate, delayed repayment- 

PRIME MINISTER: 100 per cent guaranteed.

THE HON. PAUL FLETCHER MP, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS, CYBER SAFETY AND THE ARTS: 100 per cent Commonwealth Government guarantee. So what we think this will mean is for a range of entertainment sector promoters, producers, it might be some of the traditional arts companies, but it will also be people who've never really sought assistance from government before. But we're in unprecedented circumstances. And so when at the moment, often the only option is whatever capital resources you have to yourself. This now means a set of options for people putting together an event, a show, a festival, a production, that weren't there before. So we think with the combination of those grants which do not have to be repaid, plus highly concessional loans, we think this is going to be a very significant injection of support in a way that hasn't been there before and it's designed to get those new shows, those new events up and going.

JOURNALIST: Just a quick question back to the borders. So people from Melbourne have been advised not to travel interstate but we’ve got no way to enforce that in New South Wales. If the Premier of New South Wales did decide to close the border to Victoria, would you support that decision?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's a hypothetical proposition which the Premier this morning, as far as I understand, has said that that's not what she's proposing to do. So that's purely speculative. I understand that many Australians would have been very frustrated by the way that the social distancing rules were disregarded and double standards seemed to be put in place recently with the rallies and so on. And I can understand why people might think, well, if they can do it, why can't we just do whatever we want? I get that, but we can't afford to do that. What we have to keep doing is exercising that good common sense because exercising good common sense just doesn't look after you and your own family's health but it looks after the jobs of people who work right here. We've got to think about the bigger impact here. It's not just about us individually. It's about in the COVID recession and in the COVID pandemic we've got to think about everyone else around us because what we do impacts all of them. And this is why over the course of this crisis, it has been my daily mission to bring as many people as I can together to solve problems and to focus on going forward,. Whether that's the National Cabinet, whether it was last week getting on the Zoom call and the many other engagements we've had trying to pull people together. Today, unions and employers are sitting down to work out how they can keep jobs and create jobs as part of the response to COVID and the longer term plan to lift growth in this country. And there's a good opportunity there for us, as the IMF has demonstrated in the report they've released overnight. You go through the list of all the countries and I could only find one on the chart I saw this morning whose forecasts actually improved from April to May. Even South Korea, whose projected downturn this year is less than Australia's, their situation is deteriorating since the position in April. So there is reason, despite the hard days we have right now, there is reason to have hope and what today is about is building back that hope that producers, that performers can reignite those plans they had in their heads and know that they can go out and have a crack again. And there are a lot of businesses doing that right now. They're seeing things open up. They're seeing people come back. They're seeing spending starting to lift, and they're having to make courageous decisions at the moment, opening their doors, putting people on more hours. These are brave people doing this, everyday Australians. I'm so proud of them and we've got to keep going together and we've got to keep going forward.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Dyson Heydon just quickly, the allegations against him are extremely serious. Do you feel there is a broader issue here? Do you feel that victims in the law fraternities may be scared to come forward up against powerful people like Mr Heydon and do you think that a thorough investigation is needed here? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, of course. Of course. 

JOURNALIST: I mean like a broad inquiry, perhaps.

PRIME MINISTER: Look, if it happens in the legal profession, if it happens in politics, if it happens in the entertainment industry, if it happens in the media, if it happens anywhere. People have to have the confidence and the assurance that they can bring these matters forward, and they should. When my girls go to work, I want them to go to work in a safe environment where they are valued and respected for their talents and their abilities in whatever field they hope to pursue and I would just be devastated if they ever found themselves in a situation like that. And, of course, I'd want to protect them from it in any way I could. And so that is up to all of us, frankly. It is. It's up to all of us that we stand out against these things where it happens and we call it out where it happens and there are proper processes that have to be followed, of course. And so they should be followed.

JOURNALIST: Will you look at an inquiry though, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I mean, in the legal profession, I'll leave it to those who work in the profession as to what they believe is necessary. But I think it would be a mistake to think this just happens in the legal profession where there are people who have great power. We know that it happens in every industry. It happens in every walk of life. And wherever it happens, it's not on and it's appalling. And we've all got a responsibility to do what we can to prevent it.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there’s been a public backlash in regards to the ABC’s decision to axe the 7.45am bulletin, particularly in regional areas, are you surprised by that? And do you think ABC management should reconsider?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’ll let Paul speak to this. The ABC have made decisions regarding their operations. The ABC’s funding is increasing every year. What they decide to do within that, there are a lot of difficult decisions being made in the media industry at the moment. In commercial broadcasters and commercial news organisations, you'd be, as I'm sure many in the media conference here would be very well aware of the terrible cuts there have been to jobs and operations across the news media industry across Australia. And, you know, that's people are feeling the pain pretty hard across the media sector at the moment, just like they are here in the entertainment industry. But the ABC are making calls about how they best run their operations. That's what they’re charged to do. But Paul might want to comment on that.

THE HON. PAUL FLETCHER MP, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS, CYBER SAFETY AND THE ARTS: Well, thanks, Prime Minister. The ABC Board and management has statutory independence. They've got a budget of over a billion dollars a year. That's over a three year period, we’re in the first year of a three year funding period. Funding is rising every year in that three year period. And it's for board and management to determine how they allocate their resources to best meet their charter. They released a five year strategic plan yesterday. Australians, I think, will rightly expect that that money is invested wisely and that there's a clear strategic plan as to how the money is expended. But these are decisions for ABC Board and management. Can I say that ABC, the ABC in its five year strategic plan, has committed to 75 per cent of jobs being outside of Ultimo, its headquarters. I think that's a good thing. Sydney is not Australia and Ultimo is not Sydney. The ABC needs to be responsive to the needs of all Australians. It's funded by all Australians. It's there to serve all Australians. So I certainly welcome that element of what was announced.

JOURNALIST: Would you please explain how the ABC's funding is rising? It’s currently under an indexation freeze.

THE HON. PAUL FLETCHER MP, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS, CYBER SAFETY AND THE ARTS: If you look at the numbers in the budget papers, the ABC's funding is rising. It's all laid out in the budget papers. 

JOURNALIST: Can you tell me the numbers?


PRIME MINISTER: It’s over a billion dollars. 

THE HON. PAUL FLETCHER MP, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS, CYBER SAFETY AND THE ARTS: It's well over a billion dollars. And it rises each year. We're in 2019/20. In 2020/21 there's more money in 2021/22 there's more money again. It's all laid out in the budget papers. Those are the facts.

JOURNALIST: Can you guarantee there will no further cuts to the ABC?

PRIME MINISTER: There are no cuts. 

JOURNALIST: No further cuts. 

PRIME MINISTER: There are no further cuts because there are no cuts. ABC’s funding is increasing every year. The ABC would be the only media company, organisation in Australia today whose revenue, their funding, is increasing. It would be the only one in the country. We're seeing regional mastheads by commercial newspapers abolished and we're seeing people lose jobs right across and the regional support for the ABC has never been stronger. And it's getting even stronger because we're trying to get the ABC out of Ultimo and into the rest of the country. So I think that's a good change. I think what Ita is doing in trying to get the ABC even more focused on regional Australia and get their heads out of Ultimo and get it into the rest of the country, I think is tremendous. But I've got to say, if you're working in the media industry, if you're a journalist today, the safest place for you to be is actually at the ABC, because your revenue is guaranteed in that industry by the Government. For journalists working in so many other media companies, they are doing it really tough. And I think we need to keep that in perspective. Anyway, time for last one.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, I think this is probably the most important question. Would you like to hear Guy Sebastian do an impromptu concert?

PRIME MINISTER: I won't put Guy on the spot.

JOURNALIST: You’ve got the power, though.

PRIME MINISTER: I am looking forward, because it’s actually even more important - as pleasant as I'm sure that would be for all of us - I'm looking forward to coming, whether it's here, which I think the chances of that are improving every minute or elsewhere when Guy comes and runs his tour, runs his performances, whether they're here or out there in regional Australia or anywhere else. That's the day I'm looking forward to. And that's the day we're building to by the announcements that we've made today. So I want to thank West HQ for having us here today. This is an exciting place. It's full of vision in terms of where the industry is going and full of belief and passion. It's one of the great things about the arts and entertainment industry is they are just so passionate about what they do. But what we, I think, are highlighting today is they’re passionate business people. Guy loves to sing, but he likes to create jobs, too. And that's what he does. That's what Mark Vincent does. That's what Tina Area… Ok, there's my playlist. You've got it. But, you know, that's what they do. And they are making a big contribution to our country and I'm looking forward to the contribution that they're going to make. So thanks for joining us here today and I appreciate you, Dan, for joining us as well and I’m looking forward to a stronger road ahead. Thank you.