GAVIN PEARCE, LIBERAL CANDIATE FOR BRADDON: Good morning all and welcome to Somerset on the north west coast of Tasmania on this humid day where we can almost hear the trees growing. We are here today at the Forico nursery right in the heartland of Braddon on the North West Coast of Tasmania, I’d like to, on behalf of all present today and all present in Braddon today, alongside of Senator Richard Colbeck, Minister Sarah Courtney, our nominated candidate for the Senate, Claire Chandler, in welcoming the Prime Minister to today’s facility and to have a bit of a tour of what is happening here in Forico.
I’m also joined today by some of the heavy hitters in the industry, people like Shawn Britton up the back there who runs one probably one of the best operations anywhere in the world right here in Smithton. Welcome Shawn.
I’m sure that the PM will glean from you a lot of your knowledge you’ve picked up along the way.
Bryan Hayes the CEO, welcome Brian and good to see your presence here this morning.
Andrew Jackson, chief technical officer. Andrew Moore, been showing us around has done a fantastic job, PM, this morning.
Sean Britton, along with Craig Jones, and some of the forestry heavy hitters like I said before, like Ross Hampton, ACTA, chairman, altogether we’d like to join together – please give a big welcome for the Prime Minister in this very pertinent place, right here in the centre of Braddon.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Gavin. It’s great to have you here. I’m here because of jobs. The forestry industry carries about 70,000 jobs; 20 billion dollar industry. I’m interested in growing more trees and growing more jobs. It’s a simple as that. And what we are here to announce today is all about how we are going to continue to foster the growth and sustainable development of this industry. Not just for a little while, but for a long while.
The Tasmanian economy, the north-western and northern economy of Tasmania, the economy of Australia depends on the success of this industry. And as a government, my government, we’re not going to allow that industry to not have the opportunity to further develop and further grow and create more and more livelihoods for Australians – whether it’s here in Tasmania and everywhere else right across Australia. And so it has been a great opportunity this morning to come and see right at the start of the supply chain here this morning. And how it all begins. And to see how this sector has developed a technology and a capacity to support a growing and thriving and sustainable industry.
Today we’re here to announce the specifics of our regional forestry hubs. I’m going to ask Richard Colbeck to go into more detail about how this works but we are seed funding $12.5 million to support these hubs right across Australia and for their initial 3 to 4 year operation. The hubs we announcing today are of course here in the North and North West of Tasmania, North East of New South Wales, the green triangle as it's known in South Australia and Victoria, as well as in South West Western Australia. They are the first four pilot hubs that are being established and we've put $12.5 million in for establishment of that initial operation. A further five hubs will be established in 2020. That's in Gippsland, in Victoria, the south-west slopes of New South Wales, the Central West of New South Wales, South East Queensland, and in North Queensland. What these hubs are about is ensuring that government is working together with industry to clear things out of the way that stops those industries from progressing and developing and creating more jobs. It is pretty straight forward, just working together to ensure that the industry that has a plan for its future, a sustainable plan for its future can get on with it create those jobs and provide a prosperity and way of life and living for Australians all around the country. So we're very pleased to be doing It is all part of a much broader forest industry plan that I really want to commend Richard Colbeck for championing. He has done extraordinary work, not just recently on these issues, but over a very long time in his public life and his role in the Australian Senate and within the Liberal and National Parties as part of our Coalition for a long time, so this really is a coming together of many, many years of Richard has put into pulling this plan together and a mark of Richard's work is how closely he works with community and how closely he works with industry because he understands, as I do, that for this to work, you’ve got to have all of these three working together. It doesn't matter whether that's here in the Tasmanian forestry industry or indeed where I was yesterday with the North Queensland cattle industry which my thoughts are very much with at this time, and I'm sure all Australians are, but we can cover that off on in questions if you like. Richard, come and share with us your vision here because really is what you've been driving, and this is an exciting day for the Tasmanian forestry industry but more broadly for the Australian forestry industry. It has the future, a plan and the backing of a government who gets it and believes in it, thank you.
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND WATER RESOURCES SENATOR THE HON RICHARD COLBECK: Thanks, PM. When we launched our national forest plan in September last year, we had a number of actions in it. And this is one of the first of those actions which is the announcement of our initial forestry hubs. We are announcing four initial trial hubs today and a further five in other parts of Australia, and the whole concept behind that was one that came from industry actually in the first instance, so thank you, Ross, for that, which was to identify areas which are forestry areas within Australia. Those that had existing infrastructure, those that had sawmills, existing timber industries that were working hard, and see what we could do to build those industries in those regions. The forest plan that we launched seeks to plant a billion new trees by 2030. That is a huge task. And we need to make sure that the regulatory frameworks, the logistical frameworks and the employment and labour available in local communities for us to achieve that, and it will have a significant impact and this is about growing a stronger Australian economy and the jobs that go along with that, which are very important. So, PM, thank you for the announcement of those first four pilot hubs. We would be happy to talk to any state, territory or community about expanding this process because we know that at this point in time it hasn't covered all forest communities, and we will continue to work with them for the development of this industry plan and so this is clear action off the back of the launch of the plan last September.
While I'm here, I also want to launch the National State of the Forest Report. The State of the Forest Report says that we have 132 million hectares of forest across Australia. We have around 2 million hectares of plantation. The concern in the plantation sector is that that estate has reduced by about 44,000 hectares over the period from the last forest report, and so if we are going to meet a projected quadrupling of the demand for forest and forest products globally by 2050, we need to put more trees in the ground and we need to start doing it right now and that's the focus of our national forest plan. A stronger forest community contributing to a stronger national economy. So any of you who want to talk further about either the forest plan or the State of the Forest Report, we can talk about that with questions later. Thank you.
TASMANIAN MINISTER FOR BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION AND RESOURCES THE HON SARAH COURTNEY MP: The Tasmanian Government welcomes today's announcement from the Australian Government. We know that forestry is an important part of the Tasmanian economy and today's announcement clearly recognises the competitive advantages we have across north and north western Tasmania. This region has access to ports, has access to labour, it has access to trees, and we want to see forestry employing more Tasmanians. We know already forestry in Tasmania employs directly and indirectly around 5,700 people, many of those in regional areas. It also directly contributes around $700 million to our economy, so the Tasmanian Government is very welcoming of today's announcement which will further consolidate our reputation of being a grower of trees of choice and be able to showcase the forestry industry in Tasmania and ensure that it continues to have a sustainable future.
ROSS HAMPTON, CEO AUSTRALIAN FOREST PRODUCTS ASSOCIATION: Just a couple of quick words, PM, Sarah, Senator Colbeck. PM, this is about jobs, it is indeed, but it is also about the ultimate renewable. The great thing about today's announcement from our position is that it ticks all the boxes - regional jobs, but also helps our carbon accounts in this country and it’s also going to ensure the development of the right trees in the right places. We have been working with the Government on this for a number of years because we knew that in order to meet those targets that Senator Colbeck laid out to try to be at least try to be self-sufficient in our soft wood, for example, for our housing frames for our own homes that we had to start to grow the estate, but it had to be done in a way that was manageable by the community, that was sustainable.
So the right places is where forestry is already very well accepted and where we can work with communities, particularly farmer groups, to make sure we grow in a sustained and careful way. There are three elements really needed to grow forestry in this country and that's the right places, we can tick that box today, but the right trees at the right scale is still where we have work to do. So we are really looking forward to going forward with the Government and those involved on the ground in these places that have been identified to try to work out what the mechanisms are that are going to allow us to help the government meet that huge call, terrific goal, of another billion trees for Australia to meet its needs.
PRIME MINISTER: I'm happy to take questions, Tasmania's forestry workers, I think, are in no doubt and should be in no doubt about my government’s support for them and their future. Not just today, but for their kids as well. This is an intergenerational industry, particularly here in Tasmania. I think Tasmanian forestry workers learnt that very well from John Howard or those years ago, and we are right there in exactly the same way, we will continue to back those forestry workers. Yes, I want to see new industries grow in Australia, of course do. I want to see the medical and technology sectors grow. It's exciting and it's great. But our traditional sectors, in forestry, in agriculture, in mining, in all of these places that generate so many jobs and support the livelihoods of regional communities in particular, all over the country, I’m there and backing them in as well. That's part of our national economic plan that Richard was talking about. We’ve generated 1.2 million jobs already as a government over the last five and a half years. Over the next five years, my pledge is to create another one and a quarter million jobs. One of the ways we are going to do that is ensuring industries like the forestry sector have a big future. Let’s take some questions on what we announced today, particularly with the others who are joining me here. Happy, as always, to move onto other issues, and then we might excuse those who don’t have a direct involvement to leave us.
JOURNALIST: Is this an election promise or is the money going to be spent now?
PRIME MINISTER: It’s in, done, it’s not a promise, it is a decision of the government. It’s in place and it is happening.
JOURNALIST: Where will the hub exactly be located?
PRIME MINISTER: I'm going to let Richard explain how this works. It's not so much a physical hub as…
ASSISTANT MINISTER COLBECK: So this is an identification of a region that is strong in forestry, we recognise there might need to be some work on boundaries that might need to be done in conjunction with local communities, the industry and state governments. We are not being prescriptive in that sense but we are working with industry, state governments and communities to define the sorts of things. This is the commencement of that process. We start when we launched the plan, in September last year. That's why we started with four pilots so that we can work our way through the process and make the process for the following areas and regions of Australia, and I said we haven't identified them all. So that we can then smoothly work through the rest. It's about making sure, as Ross quite rightly said, if we grow the right trees at the right scale in the right places. With have set ourselves an objective of one billion trees by 2030, that’s a lot of trees that is about 400,000 hectares, we have seen previously, and we are sensitive to the fact that when you see land conversion, it creates issues in the community. We're sensitive to make sure we manage that properly. That’s why we are going through that process.
JOURNALIST: Do we have land available to be converted or spare land that can be put under trees?
ASSISTANT MINISTER COLBECK: I think there is, I think there is a lot of it. We will also be working very closely with the farming community, in fact, this process has engaged the National Farmers Federation, all the way through its development. We see enormous opportunity as part of the development of the plan and growing the trees, to work with farmers in agriforestry, and in fact at a forestry meeting yesterday in Melbourne, that was one of the key things that we talked about. There are some inhibitors in the current framework around the growing of trees on farms, one of the things we said in the plan we would do, is to review those, we are doing that and looking to take those regulatory hurdles out of the way. If we are going to meet that projected quadrupling of demand by 2050, that's only 30 years, it's shorter than the life cycle of some plantation trees. We are going to have to start putting trees in the ground now. Getting the regulatory inhibitors out of the way, is going to be really important in doing that.
JOURNALIST: The hub in the north west, is it going to be an office, is it going to be dispersed public servants assigned to work on this issue? What is it going to be?
ASSISTANT MINISTER COLBECK: It's a recognition of a region, it will include work on looking at infrastructure needs, working closely with state governments, local councils and communities, what are the infrastructure needs, what are the employment needs that are required, making sure that we put the resources into actually managing those things that facilitate the growing of trees. We don't necessarily a bureaucratic infrastructure.
PRIME MINISTER: It’s not a desk, it's not an office, it’s not a building.
ASSISTANT MINISTER COLBECK: Shawn Britton, Forico, these guys can do all that. But what we need to do is make sure that the inhibitors that exist around the country to growing trees, to meet the growing demand for trees, and timber products, can be met. For example just up the hill here at Highclere, we are looking at the development of a new cross laminated timber plant. That is a new technology that will take up demand for timber that has previously gone in to other things. We need to be able to meet that demand. You've got down in the Derwent Valley, where Norske have just in recent times, in fact the day we launched the National Forest Plan, fermented the first batch of product called Cyrene. That is a replacement for petrochemical products to go into a whole range of downstream things like pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. All of these sorts of things are starting to come online, creating new demand for timber and timber-based products. We need to make sure that we have the resource to meet that demand.
PRIME MINISTER: So it’s a hub for the growth of trees and jobs. That’s what it is, in a concentrated area. And these hubs all around the country provide hubs of prosperity in all of these regional communities and combined together, they will lift the overall contribution of the forestry industry to Australia's national economy.
JOURNALIST: I assume there will still be some restrictions on turning prime agricultural land into plantations, however?
ASSISTANT MINISTER COLBECK: So farmers will be left to make their own decisions about what they grow on their own lands. That's I think a really foundation principal. But we’re not going back, for example, to the days of MIS. We are very cautious to make sure that’s not where we go. Bearing in mind that the MIS rules still exist, they haven't gone away. So we’re not and don't have to create a new MIS system. What we’re doing is looking to work with landholders, and to grow trees, and from conversations that I had with forestry ministers yesterday, I am certain that there are very creative ways that we can encourage farmers, for example, to put windbreaks on the land which won’t reduce the productivity. In fact it will increase their productivity and it'll give them another revenue stream.
PRIME MINISTER: We just saw some of those trees over there.
ASSISTANT MINISTER COLBECK: That’s exactly right Prime Minister, we just saw some of those trees. So they can get a revenue stream out of growing trees for timber, they can get a revenue stream out of growing trees for carbon and when you bundle those things, they actually have a rationale to plant trees where they don't have trees now and I've seen properties where up to 20 per cent of the property has been put back into trees with zero reduction in productivity from an agricultural perspective. These are the things that we can do. As part of that process, that billion trees will contribute up to 18 million tonnes of CO2 storage as part of that process. So we're ticking a lot of boxes here from an industry perspective, from a jobs perspective, from an environmental perspective and working closely with communities including the farming community so that we can give them another revenue stream for their properties but also create jobs in local communities.
JOURNALIST: And Richard, do you know what Labor’s policy is for the north-west in forestry and do you expect it to be different to yours?
ASSISTANT MINISTER COLBECK: I don’t think anybody knows what Labor’s policy in respect of forestry nationally is. They been very quiet. In fact, my opposite number Joel Fitzgibbon has made almost zero comment on forestry, except to deny that the policy that Tony Burke pushed through their National Conference which is to go back to the disastrous sham Forestry Deal that they proposed here and devastated Tasmania's forestry industry a few years ago. Which along with the Hodgman Government, I am pleased to say, we have said is dead, that has been put to bed. Because we are about growing a sustainable industry and ensuring that this industry has the resources it needs to create jobs in local communities and continue to make a significant contribution to the Australian economy.
PRIME MINISTER: I can tell you the Labor Party won’t be determining what their policies are on forestry. That'll be determined by the left-wing and the activists and the Greens and everyone else. They won’t be deciding what their policy is. They will have their chain pulled by everybody else, and we’re seeing this across so many policy areas today. Bill Shorten is not in charge of his own economic policy. He is being pushed to and fro on his national security policy, for that matter. Who knows what the Labor Party policy will be. All I know is that Bill Shorten won’t be the one deciding what it is.
JOURNALIST: And Prime Minister, why have you decided to come to Somerset today and why do you believe the forestry industry is so important to the north-west?
PRIME MINISTER: What I just said a few minutes ago, I want to make it very clear to Australia that whether it's the forestry industry, whether it's the agricultural sector, or it’s the resources sector, that my Government is very focused on seeing all of these sectors go forward in a sustainable and prosperous way. Richard has done an outstanding job on the forestry plan and these hubs, as he said at the first instalments of that plan.
We have a very clear view about how this sector will continue to grow, working in partnership with community and with industry. So it is an important part of my national economic plan. I've talked in that plan about taking all industries forward. Not just the brash, exciting ones with people wandering around in skivvies and all the rest of it. That’s great, good for them, and they're doing a great job for Australia too - just don't ask me to wear the skivvy. But I want to see the forestry industry grow, I want to see the agriculture sector grow. And particularly in part of the country like in North Queensland at the moment, where they have been devastated by these terrible floods and we will be there with them every step of the way to get them back on their feet to see the great prosperity in Australia's north that the cattle industry has always provided and will again. So that’s why I’m here. Whether it’s in North Queensland, in Tasmania, in Western Australia, in all the areas which Richard and I have worked on to have these hubs, it is about seeing that occur.
JOURNALIST: Can we move on to other questions?
PRIME MINISTER: If there are no other questions on those topics, I’m... I should stress I've nothing against skivvies, OK?
The skivvy industry is important as well.
JOURNALIST: The Wiggles, the Wiggles.
PRIME MINISTER: Exactly, they did wonders for skivvies.
JOURNALIST: Sorry Senator, have you got any comment about training?
ASSISTANT MINISTER COLBECK: Well look, obviously as the forest industry in Tasmania has recovered, one of the things we’ve seen is a demand for people, which is fantastic. We had a really tough time here about five or six years ago, and it is good to see the industry come back. We will work closely with industry as part of the hub development process, as I said earlier, around making sure they have the right people with the right skills to be able to assist the industry to grow. We’re going to have to do some new things, as we move into more agroforestry, for example, we’re going to have to have probably more defined skills around how trees are a) put in the ground, managed and then harvested. And I can say through the conversations I have been having with industry through the Forest Industry Advisory Council, they’re actually doing some homework for me at the moment and coming back with some potential models on how that works. So we’re not looking to try and dictate in this space, we know that there will be new developments. In fact, if you look at how trees like this used to be planted to how it's done now, it's completely changed in its process. So we'll be working closely with industry to do that, and if you consider where we were here in Burnie just a few weeks ago where we have a new welding training plant where it is all done with technology, they’re not physically doing welds, they have got equipment there that uses gaming technology to simulate welding. Gav’s not a bad welder by the way, he passed his test. There's all of those sorts of new things that come on, and we have to be sensitive to that, and we need to working with industry to facilitate that.
PRIME MINISTER: Great. OK, we might move to others, thank you to other guests who have been with us today, and partners, thank you very much. Happy to take other matters.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, LNP support has dropped 3 points in Queensland according to the latest News Corp poll. Is that consistent with your tracking?
PRIME MINISTER: Look, I'll allow others to commentate on these things. I’m just focused on a stronger economy, keeping Australians safe and secure, and keeping Australians together. And I’ll continue to make that case, that's why I’m here in Tasmania. That’s why I was in North Queensland yesterday, it’s why I’ll be here again tomorrow. I’m focused on the things that make Australia stronger, and my opponents are going to do things that make Australia weaker. And I will continue to make the case from now until next election, and Australians will make their own decision then. But we’ve seen just this past week just how prepared Bill Shorten and Labor have been to make Australia weaker, for some cheap political exercise in the Parliament. I mean, they’ll do it again this week. They’ll come down there, they’ll chuck their toys around and they’ll carry on and say it means this and that and everything. They’ll play their juvenile games in the Australian Parliament. What I’m going to be focused on in this week is some of the things I've already raised with you. We’ve got a serious… I can’t tell you how serious this issue is up in North Queensland, and that has my focus. Last week in Parliament, we were focused on the Closing the Gap Report and the announcements we were making to boost educational support for young indigenous Australians all around the country. That's what we were doing last week. We were protecting our borders last week. What the Labor Party was doing last week was just showing how they’ll trade anything away, and if they’re given the opportunity, they will make Australia weaker. Our economy weaker, our national security weaker. They can’t be trusted.
JOURNALIST: Are such comments just baiting people smugglers?
PRIME MINISTER: No.
JOURNALIST: If the Government supports the motion to support a Royal Commission into the abuse in the disability sector, is that about sparing the Government from another humiliating defeat on the floor?
PRIME MINISTER: No. We were prepared to allow that motion to go through on Thursday afternoon. The simple fact was the motion wasn't coming back to the House of Representatives on Thursday afternoon. Were it coming back, it would have passed through the House and on Monday when it comes it will also pass through the House. The Government will make any ultimate decisions about Royal Commissions, that's who makes decisions about Royal Commissions, but even today I've been in contact with disability advocates about this issue.
My first priority was to initiate the Royal Commission into the aged care sector, which I have done. At no time have I ever said that I didn't think there wasn't a need for a Royal Commission in the disability sector. I just had the priority of dealing with winding up one Royal Commission which I had initiated, initiating another when it came to aged care and that is under way now, and that now leaves us in a position to how we might consider dealing with this other challenging issue. But I would simply say this - I'm not going to play politics with disabilities and I thought the way that issue was used on Thursday afternoon was very disappointing, as I expressed in the House. I'm going to be focused on dealing with the needs of disabled Australians and their families. I’m not going to be playing politics with it and I would encourage others who are participating in this space not to do that either.
JOURNALIST: So will you pre-empt a vote and announce a Royal Commission?
PRIME MINISTER: The motion will go through on Monday and the Government will continue to work through the issues associated with how we address that issue.
JOURNALIST: I understand you're going to Hobart next week. Will you finally announce this deal?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah we will be announcing the Hobart City Deal then, when we have the opportunity. We've been able to come, I think, to a final position on all of that. It's just a matter of logistics now. We have made great progress on that and I want to particularly thank Will Hodgman and the great he’s been doing there. But today my focus is on the north, very much on the north of Tasmania and tomorrow and there’ll be the opportunity to have a focus on the south another day.
JOURNALIST: Will you move asylum seekers currently on Manus and Nauru to Christmas Island?
PRIME MINISTER: We will comply with the law of the land and I want to make something very clear about Christmas Island. It was the recommendation of the Department of Home Affairs that Christmas Island be reopened. Now, I have seen some comments by Shane Neumann, the Shadow Minister - who many of you won't know - but what he said was outrageous. He said this was reckless - this was the recommendation from the Department of Home Affairs. We have simply acted on the recommendation of that Department. Now, it should come as no surprise to him because prior to him voting for this Bill to weaken Australia's borders he was not only briefed on this, but the advice that was provided to us by Home Affairs had been declassified. And so he was well aware that if the Labor Party voted to weaken Australia's borders, as they did this past week in the Parliament, then we would have to reopen the Christmas Island detention centre. That will cost us, in the next couple of years, we estimate, half a billion dollars and $1.4 billion over the next four years.
Now, I can't describe to you the fury that is within me that I have to now go spend money on opening a centre that I didn't need to open a week ago, when the farmers and communities of North Queensland are crying out for our support. Now, if you want to know how much the Labor Party cares about what’s going on in North Queensland, look what they did in the Parliament this week, forcing us to reopen the Christmas Island detention centre because they voted to weaken our borders. I have not seen such an act of reckless disregard for the advice that was received by the Government, by Bill Shorten. He knew what the recommendations were. He knew what the advice from our security agencies were, and he disregarded it and pressed ahead anyway. It was an act of weakness that I have seen from few people in our Parliament. Very few, and certainly not many leaders. And he counted himself not a leader this past week because he simply doesn't have the ticker, the mettle, to hold to the strong border protection arrangements that we have. Look, we saw it today. I mean, the Fairfax - even the Fairfax press - reported this today. The people smugglers know they won't get through me and Peter Dutton, they know our resolve. They won't try it on with us. Because they know what they'll meet. But they certainly know they're going to have a crack at Bill Shorten if he ever becomes Prime Minister and they are preparing to do that as we speak. Now, that's not me saying it. That's them saying it. That's people smugglers going all the way back up the chain to Pakistan. We have got other people who are ready to put boats again out of Indonesia talking openly about it. They know my resolve. They know my Government's resolve. But they know that Bill Shorten is weak as when it comes to border protection and you don't have to take my word for it. Look at how he voted in the Parliament this week.
JOURNALIST: Could the Government's actions in Parliament last week, including the extended Question Time, could that feed into the public’s perception of the dysfunctional Canberra bubble?
PRIME MINISTER: No, it proves the Canberra bubble is exactly that. The Canberra bubble is obsessed with itself and what happens inside the Canberra bubble. You know, the rest of the Australians are interested in having strong borders. That's what I'm focused on. The rest of the country is concerned about what's happening with the future of our agriculture, forestry and resources industries. That's what they care about because that's where their jobs are. That's what I'm focused on. I'm not focused on the Canberra bubble. They can carry on and do all they like over the next week. And they'll claim it means this, that and any other thing. They look like a bunch of juvenile high school debaters the way they're carrying on in the Parliament at the moment. I'm going to focus on what the country needs me to focus on, which are these very important issues of our economic security and our national security. That's what has my absolute focus. I’m not going to get distracted by Bill Shorten's juvenile games in the Parliament.
JOURNALIST: If you're worried about extra boats and more boats coming, won't your turn back the boats policy sort that out before they arrive?
PRIME MINISTER: Well what I can tell you is this. We have increased the strength, resource and capability again of Operation Sovereign Borders following the decision of the Parliament earlier this week. We have already done that. We have also, as you know, acted on the advice of the Department of Home Affairs to commence reopening the Christmas Island detention centre. So that's what we're doing to deal with that decision. So any boat that does try to come here you can thank Bill Shorten for that.
If we're able to ensure that they don't get here you can thank this Government for that, because people know our resolve on this. They know where we stand. I drew a very clear red line. I didn't care if we lost the vote. Bill Shorten was more interested in winning a vote in the Canberra bubble than he was in telling the rest of Australia that he would stand up for border security. That's the key. That's the key. He's more interested in the politics of the Canberra bubble than he is in the national security of this country, and I do not say that lightly. But this is a bloke who wants to chair the National Security Committee of Cabinet, and if he could be blown over that easily, that quickly, against the clear advice of his own security agencies that if he were Prime Minister he would sit around that table with him. Now I know this. I have served on the National Security Committee of Cabinet for pretty much the last five years so I know what gets discussed there and I know what is required of the person who chairs that committee. You can't trust Bill Shorten to do that.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, sorry I have got a question from our Brisbane office.
PRIME MINISTER: Sure.
JOURNALIST: There are calls for Canberra to appoint a minister for loneliness to address what's called an emerging public health crisis. Is this a proposal you'd seriously consider?
PRIME MINISTER: Well what we need to continue to do is ensure we get the resources that are needed to support mental health across the country. Just late last year, we put an extra $52 million, I think it was, into headspace, particularly to support young people who are facing mental health challenges and a key part of that funding was to deliver assistance into remote and regional areas. But particularly remote areas through telly presence-type support you can do with mental health. It's another key area that we have been focused on with the drought and now with the floods. I put $3 million extra into support specifically in Queensland last week to support additional mental health services to support those regions suffering from national disaster. So our Government will always place a very, very high priority on the mental health of Australians, and particularly when they're confronting nature's worst or economic challenges. That can hit any part of the country at any time. I'm pleased that today I'm in Tasmania on a very positive note to announce what we're announcing here but it was only a week or two ago, a couple of weeks ago, I was here with the Premier and with Richard down the Huon Valley where we were dealing with something very different and very serious. So these issues have a very high priority for me. We have a Minister for Health in Greg Hunt who is absolutely focused on the very issue you're talking about.
I'll tell you another thing we did this week. We had the first meeting of the Small Business Mental Health Advisory Council, an advisory committee that we brought through together as part of our small business package because we understand that small businesses face a lot of challenges. Yes, we have reduced their taxes, yes we’re increasing their access to finance and yes we're absolutely ensuring they're getting paid more quickly, not just by governments at a Commonwealth level, but at a state level and large companies. We have done more for small businesses than any other government in memory. But the other thing they raised with us was the mental health of small business owners. I was at that the meeting during the course of this week, another thing I was doing in the Parliament this week while the Labor Party were playing silly games. We were talking about how we can further support and strengthen the resources and services that are available to small business people who have many serious mental health issues. It comes on because of the stress of running the business. It can come from being sideswiped by any number of events.
So we take mental health incredibly seriously, and I would hope that would always be a bipartisan initiative. That's certainly the way I'll always approach it. But with that it's been good to be here with you Gavin and everyone else and I want to thank you for the opportunity to come and share this announcement and well done again, Richard. This is a very important day for the forestry industry not just here in Tasmania but right across the country. Thank you very much.