Photo: AAP Image/Peter Rae
PRIME MINISTER: Well I want to thank you all for coming here today and Glen and Tech2, thank you for welcoming us to this fabulous business here. Twenty years strong, twenty years strong just recently, congratulations on everything you’ve been able to achieve.
It’s good business to employ veterans. It’s good for businesses, it’s good for veterans, it’s good for our economy, it’s good for our community. That’s what Tech2 understands and that’s what all the companies today understand who are signing up to our new commitment to ensure that we can see more veterans make that transition from their life of service, to their civilian life and their role ongoing in the Australian economy. I want to thank all the companies today that have come along and signed up here. I want to particularly thank you George for your leadership in bringing this initiative together. But here today we have Boeing, we have Westpac, we have JP Morgan, we have CanPLAY, we have a range of businesses here who are taking on this commitment and working with us.
The veterans employment commitment is part of the compact that I began speaking about last weekend. It’s this compact where Australia has a tremendous, tremendous culture of respect for our servicemen and women and our veterans. It is our culture of respect, to say thank you for your service. But it has to be more practical than that. That’s why on the weekend we announced the new initiative of the veterans card. The veterans card which provides an accredited process for companies large and small, all around the country to say thank you for your service to veterans in any walk of life, in any form of business and for that to be a constant recognition. That builds and continues to nurture the culture of respect. What we’re doing today is adding to that by the veterans’ employment initiative and you can go to veteransemployment.gov.au.
What this process is about, from the measures I announced in this year’s Budget, is to give the support to companies to register, to be able to proudly proclaim - like Tech2 is, who employ 120 ex-servicemen and women throughout their company today out of an employee roll of about 500, now one in five employees or more here at Tech2 are ex-servicemen and women - for them to be able to proudly say; “We employ veterans. We support our servicemen and women.” I think that is a very proud thing for any Australian company or any company that is operating here in Australia to be able to say. In talking to the employees here today, what I have heard from them - like with Shannon who is here - the tremendous value-add that is put into these businesses. The culture, the training, the discipline, the ability to deal with difficult situations, the adaptiveness. All of these things are adding serious value to the businesses.
Now, it’s a transition when you go from a life of service, whether it’s on the HMAS Adelaide or other forms of service in the military, the Defence forces and the Army, the Navy and the Air Force and coming into a commercial civilian environment. There is a bit of a pathway there. But the more veterans that are able to do that, the more businesses support those veterans in that transition, the more veterans there will be in those companies who can help their fellow veterans make that adjustment. It’s very different from, you know, being up at Lavarack one day, up in Townsville and then turning up to Tech2 the next fortnight and that’s an adjustment. This program is all about assisting our veterans to make that adjustment.
Now, Trooper Mark Donaldson is here today, he knows all about being very innovative and adaptive and he has made a tremendous transition from his exemplary service in our armed forces into the civilian and commercial life that he is now engaged in. And they are the role models, they are the exemplars for our veterans going forward.
So our men and women who join up, who spend years in service, can then know that on the other side of their service, they will be able to go forward. They will be able to start small businesses, as we learned today. They’ll be able to go out there and employ fellow veterans and they’ll be able to make their way.
That’s how we keep our Defence forces strong; by ensuring that they know when they’re finished with their service they’ll be able to continue their success in their civilian life. Our veterans, our servicemen and women, make many sacrifices, particularly being away from their families. And when they finally make the decisions to move on from the Defence forces, they want to get on with those lives like the rest of us are able to every single day.
So I want to commend you, Darren, on the tremendous work you’ve done in pulling this programme together, and Glen and to all the other businesses who’ve signed up today and made that commitment. I know you’ll be joined by thousands of business all around the country. So I’m very pleased that we are putting veterans first and we’re ensuring that we’re dealing with not only memorialising those who have fallen but we are serving those who are living. Darren?
MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS, THE HON DARREN CHESTER MP: Well thank you Prime Minister, I’m glad I didn’t prepare a speech because you have said it all. Thank you so much and a couple of other thank you to you George Frazis for the team at the Industry Advisory Council. Your work has been fantastic, we really appreciate that. To you Glen for inviting us out here to Tech2 today and also to your staff, many of whom have served and I want to say thank you for your service. In that same vein can I recognise Mark Donaldson VC for your service but also for the great work you’re doing now Mark in promoting a very positive message among the veteran community that there is life after the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force. That this is the next stage of your life where you can achieve great things. I think it’s a very important message Mark and I thank you for doing that.
There’s only two points I want to make. When it comes to the issue of veterans’ employment, there is a challenge for Government to make sure we’re doing the right thing by our serving men and women during that transition phase. That we look after them during their Defence force service, we provide them the skills, the training opportunities, so that one day they can transition successfully into civilian life. On the other side of the equation, we have to make sure the corporate community, the business community, understands the transferability of those skills. So there is an educational process for us to do there as well, and that’s what is so important about this veterans commitment and the companies who have signed here today. You’re recognising the opportunity for your business, that is going to be good for your business, to look at the ADF ex-serving personnel and find roles for them within your business. So the challenge for us as a Government is to make sure the ADF personnel are well prepared, but challenge also on the civilian and the corporate side to make sure you’re a welcoming organisation and you recognise how those skills will transfer.
So it is a great occasion, I thank you again George for the work you have already done. But perhaps more importantly, thank you for the work you’re going to do on our behalf in continuing to sell that message that hiring a veteran is good for your business and there’s great opportunities for the Australian corporate sector to work with the ADF on making sure that transition, that transfer of skills moves through as positively as possible. So thank you very much and I introduce George.
GEORGE FRAZIS, CEO CONSUMER BANK DIVISIONS WESTPAC: Thank you Minister and can I start by thanking you Prime Minister for your passion and not only the passion but the concrete actions in terms of helping veterans. If you look at the recent research between Linkedin and Westpac, of the 12 capabilities that organisations are looking for, veterans rate above average on all 12 capabilities. An absolute spike on things like leadership, change management and strategy. So as an ex-Royal Australia Air Force engineer, I know the challenges veterans have in terms of the transition. But I also know the huge value they can provide to organisations big or small. From my perspective this is a win-win-win. It’s a win for veterans, they get meaningful careers. It’s a win for the organization, having access to this huge pool of talent. And it’s a win for our nation because we’re giving back to those servicemen and women who have sacrificed so much for our standards of living and our freedoms. I encourage all organisations to sign up, every little bit helps. Basically, together we can make a meaningful difference to the lives of veterans and their families.
I have to say, Glen, congratulations for being among the first to sign up to the agreement, so well done Glen.
GLEN POWYS, FOUNDER AND MANAGING DIRECTOR, TECH2: We’re honoured to have done so and thank you for your service.
PRIME MINISTER: Good on you Glen, thanks George, well done. Thanks, congratulations. Now why don’t we take some questions on the initiative and obviously there’s been a number of initiatives and announcements this week in terms veterans, including not only the service that we’re providing to veterans themselves but it was obviously a big day yesterday down in Canberra around the War Memorial as well. All of this fits together, so happy to take questions on that and we can deal with politics after.
JOURNALIST: Have you got any veterans on your team?
PRIME MINISTER: On my team? No I don’t believe I have directly, but we obviously have a lot of people right across the public service and right across the Government staff themselves. I have the great advantage of having Angus Campbell as my Chief of Defence Force giving me regular advice, as well as having Greg Moriarty who is the Chief of the Ministry of Defence, who has also served. So there’s no shortage of servicemen and women and veterans’ advice that comes to the Prime Minister in my daily engagements.
But you know I look right across at my team, my parliamentary team, whether it’s the member for Canning or Stu Robby up there in Queensland, of course Jim Molan, a retired Major General. I mean our ranks are strong when it comes to those who have served our country.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister how concerned are you about the hacking of Defence contractor Austal?
PRIME MINISTER: Let’s just stay with the veterans announcement first and we then we’ll move to other matters. Questions for the companies perhaps?
Well, I’m pleased to see you’re as excited and passionate about supporting veterans as I am. Because I am massively passionate about this, we have to do the right thing by our veterans. I’ll ask my own question then, when it comes to what we’re doing to support veterans otherwise. One of the things we’re very proud about, is over the last five years, we’ve cut the processing times for veterans claims in the Department of Veterans Affairs from 120 days down to 33 days. Every single veteran in this country, regardless of whether they’ve served one day or decades, get access to free mental health for life. That’s an important commitment. We’ve indexed Defence force pensions with an additional commitment of $1.4 billion to make sure they’re getting a fair go. Supporting veterans is a huge priority of my Government, our Government, and has been since we were first elected in 2013 and we will not rest on this. We will keep going because we want to honour their sacrifice and we want to honour their services.
Okay, with that said, I’ll say to George and Glen, fellas, thank you, thank you very much for being here today. We appreciate everything you’re doing. Okay happy to take some political questions.
JOURNALIST: On Austal, how extensive was that breach there?
PRIME MINISTER: The matters have been referred to the AFP and the Cyber Security Centre. Those matters are now being assessed. I think it’s a reminder of why it has been so important to continue to invest so strongly in Australia's cyber security. That is not a 100 per cent foolproof guarantee that breaches cannot occur and Mr MacGibbon will be preparing and leading the Government's response to these issues. We are still working through to determine the precise facts about these things, but it’s a constant reminder about the need for vigilance. That's why our Government has been so committed to bolstering our commitment in that area.
JOURNALIST: Is the leak contained to that company?
PRIME MINISTER: I won't be going into those matters. I think you would be surprised if I did.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister do you think science teachers should incorporate Aboriginal culture into their lessons?
PRIME MINISTER: I think it's great that science teachers want to enliven students about science and I think they should be using every resource available to get our kids passionate and interested in science. If that involves using the stories from Indigenous culture to help them engage kids with science and help them understand science, I'm for whatever tool they need to help kids better understand science. Science teachers are teaching science and they will draw examples from all walks of life. To the extent that that involves drawing examples from Indigenous culture and Indigenous practice more specifically - I mean, for example, examining the physics of whether it's a spear or a boomerang in older times - that helps kids understand science and how good is that?
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Victorian MP Chris Crewther, is he, is it your understanding that he is at risk of falling foul of section 44?
PRIME MINISTER: No I don’t believe that. No I'm not concerned about that. Look, these stories they come and they go and I frankly think the Australian people are completely over all of that.
JOURNALIST: Have you talked to him about it?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes, I have.
JOURNALIST: Will you refer Chris Crewther?
PRIME MINISTER: The Australian people are completely over it and I have no concerns over that matter.
JOURNALIST: If he is in breach of section 44?
PRIME MINISTER: I have no concerns on the matter.
JOURNALIST: A by-election Dunkley would be a problem.
PRIME MINISTER: I have no concerns on the matter.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what do you make of Labor’s plan to scrap Work for the Dole?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'm not surprised. Labor is about taking people out of work and putting them on welfare. So why would they be supportive of Work for the Dole?
What we’ve done as a Government is we’ve got people off welfare and into work. We have a record level of employment, not only in a given year for all Australians - over 400,000 Australians getting a job in just one year - we also have the record for the strongest year of youth employment in 2017/18, over 100,000 young people getting a job.
Now, that's what our policies are delivering and Work for the Dole is part of that. It’s always been part of that. It has always been part of our compact, our commitment, our agreement I think, with Australians; that in return where people are in the position where they are taking Newstart, then in the appropriate circumstances, there’s an opportunity for them to give back and to participate. There are extensions of that program which Labor also oppose, in the youth PaTH project. Remember, that was the project which was ensuring that we got young people who had been unemployed for quite some period of time, that we got them the training to mean that they could walk into a business - a business just like this one - actually walk in and participate through an internship program where they would continue to get an elevated Newstart payment, during that period of effectively orientation and training. Then they could go onto an actual job where they could got a youth wage subsidy of up to $10,000 over a 6 month period and then move onto an actual job. So this is Work for the Dole that is actually leading to real jobs and there’s almost 30,000 young people who have got a job through that program. Labor opposed that program tooth and nail, tooth and nail.
So we're for jobs.
Labor is just for welfare.
I heard the other day they were thinking of increasing the Newstart payment. Well, I've got to tell you, if I thought I had the money to do that, I reckon I would be doing it for pensioners first.
JOURNALIST: What’s your relationship like with Malcolm Turnbull? There’s talk in the papers of a spat. Have you had a conversation with him in the last 24 hours, is it going okay?
PRIME MINISTER: I dealt with all those issues yesterday. Okay, thank you.