Image of PM Scott Morrison walking into the Prime Minister's courtyard at Parliament House to deliver a press conference

Press Conference, Canberra

26 Aug 2018
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister

Photo: AAP Image

Prime Minister: Good afternoon everyone, thank you for coming together. Over the course of the last few days, after the rather significant events of the past week it has been my task, together with the Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party Josh Frydenberg, and the new Treasurer, and the Deputy Leader of the National Party, Bridget McKenzie, to restore stability to the Government. We have moved quickly to do that and focus on the most urgent of those tasks. But in addition to that, we begin the work of this new team that we will be taking forward as a Coalition team of Liberal and National Parties to the next election.

Before I do that, though, there has been significant events today in relation to the passing of Senator John McCain. I remember when I met Senator John McCain when he visited our Parliament, and the impact that he had on so many people here on that occasion. You knew you are in the presence of a truly great man. He embodied everything that we respect and value and love about our American friends. They are like family and his loss today is like the loss of a family member to us as Australians. When I spoke to President Trump the other day, I told the story about a fellow called Leslie “Bull” Allen. He was an Australian who fought at Mount Tambu near Salamaua, up on the northern part of Papua New Guinea. He pulled 12 American soldiers off the hill that day and for that he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour. An Australian, from Queensland. Such is the bond between our nations. And so on this day we share in our sympathies for our American friends and we show our great respect to them.

Returning now to matters domestic, this new Liberal-National team is a next-generation team. It is a team that I have brought together working with my senior colleagues today to ensure that we have the stability necessary, but in addition to that, we begin the work of healing that is needed after these most recent events. That we tackle the big challenges that are before us with some new ideas and a fresh emphasis, while restoring some of the emphasis of the times past where the Liberal and National Parties have focused on these types of challenges. I said the other day that my plan is for an even stronger Australia. It will focus on keeping our economy strong, keeping Australians safe, and keeping Australians together. And that is the task that I have set for this team as I've gone through the process of inviting them to be part of this.

I will run through the key elements of the new Ministry, but before I do that, I want to thank those that have been serving, in particular Julie Bishop, who I would have very much welcomed her continuing role in the Ministry, but totally understand and respect the decision that she has made. She will make more comments about her own position in the weeks ahead. Julie has made an extraordinary contribution to Australian public life and I have consulted her also as I have gone through the process of forming this new team. She will be a passionate campaigner in every sense of the word, as she always has been for the Liberal Party into the future. I'm sure many of us, in particular my female colleagues, who will continue to look to her as a mentor and a great supporter and encourager in our joint efforts. But others such as Jane Prentice, who is not contesting for the Liberal Party at the next election, Craig Laundy, for personal reasons has advised me that he did not wish to be considered for today's Ministry team, and so has John McVeigh. They have provided incredible energy in a short time in their service to our Ministry and to our Government. I'm sure and I have no doubt that they will return to important positions serving our country and our Party in the future.

I want to turn now to key elements of the package that we have here today. First of all, in terms of stability, you will continue to see some key faces in the key roles that Australians know and trust. Of course, in addition to myself and Michael McCormack as Deputy Prime Minister, Mathias Cormann, who will continue in the role of Finance and Leader of Government in the Senate. Christopher Pyne will continue his responsibilities in Defence in a new role in the strategic end of the portfolio. He will be supported, though, by Steven Ciobo in the role of Minister for Defence Industry. Nigel Scullion will continue in the role of Minister for Indigenous Affairs and, importantly, Peter Dutton will continue in the role of Minister for Home Affairs. Though I do stress that we are going to make a change in the way that we combine the components of that portfolio. The Home Affairs initiative is a very strong one to ensure that we coordinate right across all agencies to keep Australians safe. But I will be appointing as a new appointment David Coleman to the position of Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, and Multicultural Affairs. David has a keen understanding of the many different backgrounds and many different issues that need to be managed to ensure that Australians who have come from so many different backgrounds get that fair go I spoke of only just last week after the change that we experienced. Moving through the list, Mitch Fifield will continue in the role of Communications and the Arts, Greg Hunt will continue in the role of Health. Matt Canavan, of course, in Resources and Northern Australia, David Littleproud in Agriculture and Water Resources.

These are all key portfolios where I believe that we have had excellent performance and there is a need for continued stability. But there are also big challenges that we are facing and the very capable members of the team that have been performing in other roles, I am keen to see take on some new challenges. They include Marise Payne who will be taking on the role left vacant by Julie Bishop. Marise has been part of the many engagements, particularly with our key allies, as the Minister for Defence previously, and has participated with Julie Bishop in the Two-Plus-Two and other engagements we have, and is well known in all of these relationships. So there’ll be a strong continuity in passing that role to Senator Payne. I should note that is was Julie Bishop’s strong recommendation that she should take on that role, and Julie having served so well in that role, I thought was well placed to consider who could take it on, following in her footsteps. Kelly O'Dwyer will move from the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services portfolio and she will move into the portfolio of Jobs, Industrial Relations, and while retaining the role of Minister for Women. This is an area where I know the Liberals and Nationals across Australia have always had a keen interest and it is always a key part of ensuring that our economy is strong. That we get the relationships right in our workplaces and that we look forward to the future of work and how that can be accommodated in workplaces all across the nation. Restoring an Industrial Relations portfolio into the ministry line-up is an important signal of how important we think it is to future productivity. Productivity is about ensuring that Australians can earn more from what they do. That is what we are interested in. We are interested in seeing Australians earn more and ensure that they can keep more of what they earn.

In the critical area of education that will now be taken up by Dan Tehan, while the former Minister for Education, Simon Birmingham, will take up Trade, Tourism, and Investment. In terms of education, there are some clear issues we are still seeking to resolve, and I can assure you that with Dan we will pick up the work that was being done by Senator Birmingham to ensure that we can move quickly to resolve any concerns that have been raised and I look forward to working closely with him as we seek to address those issues. I've already mentioned Steven Ciobo taking on the role of Defence Industry, and I congratulate Paul Fletcher for being taken up into Cabinet. He has served incredibly well as a Minister for Urban Infrastructure, and whether it was initiating the work that we have done on Western Sydney Airport under the new structures or ensuring that we are dealing with congestion in our cities right across the country, working with our states.

The other new faces in the Cabinet are Melissa Price from Western Australia. She moves into the Cabinet and takes on the role of Minister for Environment. She is joined by Karen Andrews taking on the role of Minister for Industry, Science, and Technology. These are important areas both for our economy and for the quality of life and the quality of the land which we love so much in terms of its environment. Melissa and Karen will bring an important focus and I commend them and congratulate them on appointment. But of all the issues, the one that I think is concerning Australians most where we’re bringing in a new face and new ideas into the challenge, is in the area of getting electricity prices down. The Minister for getting electricity prices down, also to be known as the Minister for Energy, will Angus Taylor. Angus Taylor has an incredible background working outside of this place and inside this place to solve complex and difficult problems. He will pick up the work that is being done by the now Treasurer and other ministers that have formed the package of initiatives that will be bringing electricity prices down for Australia. And so I look forward to working with Angus in that role, as I know, the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, also looks forward to working with him. This is such a critical issue and we are going to bring Angus's passion, enthusiasm, focus, and experience to the task, so we can add to the measures that we have already announced. It is great to see Michaelia Cash also continuing in the Ministry, but with a new portfolio. She will be focusing on Small and Family Businesses, Skills, and Vocational Education. There is not a business in the country that I don't expect that Michaelia Cash won't visit over the next six months or so. She will be there laying out very clearly how this Government, since we were first elected back in 2013, has done more for small business than any government in generations. I know Michaelia Cash will bring a great deal of enthusiasm to that task.

I want to thank also Michael Keenan. He has performed admirably in so many different roles and he will continue to in the role of Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation. Stuart Robert will take on the role of Assistant Treasurer. Alan Tudge will take on one of the larger challenges that I know is burning in the minds and the conversations of Australians, and that is the issue of population and infrastructure. He will be the Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure, and Population. Alan Tudge is the Minister for congestion busting. He will be able to draw on the resources that we have made available in our most recent budget. Ken Wyatt will continue in his current role where he has performed very very well and is well received by senior Australians. His task as set out in his portfolio is the Minister for Senior Australians, speaking up for them, understanding their quality of life challenges, and their cost of living pressures in addition to service delivery such as aged care. He will continue in the role of Minister of Indigenous Health. Alex Hawke will take on the role of Special Minister of State.

In the Assistant Minister ranks, there are a lot of new faces. While Senator the Honourable Anne Ruston will take on a new challenge in International Development and the Pacific, Richard Colbeck returns to the Executive in the area of Assistant Minister for Water and Agriculture. The Honourable Zed Seselja will remain in the role, or should I say go into the role of Assistant Minister for Treasury and Finance, which is a big combination of portfolios for the Assistant Minister. Sussan Ley returns to the Executive, and will be working closely with Minister McCormack, the Deputy Prime Minister, in the area of Regional Development and Territories. David Fawcett has been an unrecognised talent in this place in the executive ranks for a long time. There are a few people in this place who have as deep an understanding of defence issues as Senator Fawcett. As a former pilot himself in the Air
Force he is someone who I think has a great deal to offer my team. Steve Irons and Andrew Broad join the Executive, as does Scotty Buchholz. Sarah Henderson and Michelle Landry join the team, and they are all part of a group of Australians in my team that are focused 100 per cent on creating an even stronger Australia. I commend all of them. We do have an increased number of women in our team, which I know that the Minister for Women will be very pleased to see. We want these new perspectives. We want this fresh energy. There are big challenges that we have. The Government's ability is being restored and we are getting on with the job and tomorrow, Monday, when you go to work, we will be going to work, too.

QUESTION: There has been speculation about the fate of Tony Abbott, and whether he should be returned to Cabinet. John Howard suggested someone like that. What are your thoughts on why that should not have happened?

PRIME MINISTER: Well let me make another announcement, because I’ll also address the issue of Barnaby Joyce. On the area of drought, which I have advised is a key first priority for me, and we went through those briefings yesterday and I'll be out visiting drought affected areas in western Queensland tomorrow. We have experience. We have an ability for our members who have served in leadership roles in the past to be drawn on and engage Australians on some of these big challenges. I'm pleased that Barnaby Joyce has agreed to take on the role of Special Envoy for Drought Assistance and Recovery. These roles, I think, provide an opportunity for those who have served at senior levels in the past can continue to make a very constructive contribution. I look forward to continuing to engage with Mr Abbott on how he can play a role in those areas, but I fully respect his right to look at these issues as he sees fit.

QUESTION: And Mr Abbott?

PRIME MINISTER: Well that is my point. I will continue to work with him on the role that he can play if he wishes to in a similar capacity to that which the former leader of the National Party, Barnaby Joyce, has played.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, you have separated energy and the environment, they were one portfolio. Is that effectively it insofar as emissions reductions being associated with the energy policy? Are they now two separate things? Have you dropped the NEG for good?

PRIME MINISTER: Any changes to the Government’s policy settings will go through the normal process. I will consult with my colleagues on those, particularly the ministers who have announced today who will be responsible for these things. The challenge that we have in energy is to get the reliability, the dispatchable power. The challenge is to ensure that the market works to drive the prices down, that the big companies that are setting these prices stay inside the lines. I'm looking for more and new and more innovative ways for Angus Taylor to bring a greater opportunity to bring those prices down and I'm sure he’ll be doing that. But it is reliability, it is price, it’s keeping the lights on, and it’s getting the prices down.

QUESTION: Are you confident that this is an election winning team?


QUESTION: Mr Morrison, you changed it so the Home Affairs Ministry is separate – or inside the Home Affairs Ministry is the Immigration Portfolio. Have you made that decision because you think that immigration needs to have less of a national security focus, and also with your new Population Minister, does that mean that you will expect a population policy to be rolled out soon?

PRIME MINISTER: A couple of issues. The Home Affairs model that we have adopted here in Australia is based on the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, there is a Minister of Home Affairs, and that Minister for Home Affairs from the UK will be here this week for a series of meetings up in Queensland on the Gold Coast. Within that Home Affairs structure, there is a Minister of Immigration as well. These issues fall within the Home Affairs family of portfolio responsibilities. Immigration, of course, forms part of national security policy, but it also has always played an important role in economic and social policy, and I've had quite a bit of experience with this myself. We need a strong focus on our immigration program so it brings the skills and it brings the harmony and the unity that we want from that program. We are the most successful immigration country on earth. And we have worked hard to achieve that record, and I want to keep a strong focus on immigration policy within the Home Affairs portfolio. And Minister Dutton as the Minister for Home Affairs will be focusing on everything from cyber security to law enforcement, border protection, security agencies, and he will have his focus more principally on those security tasks.

QUESTION: With the Royal Commission into the banking sector will be giving its preliminary report in a month, you’re going to have your two brand-new ministers in areas directly responsible for what will come out of that. Will you be taking your role because of your experience Treasury into whatever comes out policy wise in response to the RC?

PRIME MINISTER: Well the people who are performing in these roles already have a great deal of experience in them. Of course the Treasurer, as well as the Assistant Treasurer, are well versed on these topics. My own role as Treasurer in the past will mean that as Prime Minister I will have the opportunity to deal with whatever might come forward from the Royal Commission, both in the interim report, and subsequently what comes out next year. The Government has already been taking measures on this for years. Many, many years. Everything from our executive accountability regimes, the levy, the work that we have done to improve competition in the banking sector, and more initiatives to come. These ministers will continue to roll out these changes that will make our banking system more competitive, more accountable, more innovative to meet the needs of customers. So I think that we are more than well equipped to continue to respond to the challenges we’re seeing in that sector. It is incredibly important but I have no doubt about the ministers' capacity to both absorb the information quickly and ensure that we are providing the appropriate responses. Just let me come back to population, the question before. Population is driven by many different forces, immigration is one of those. Immigration policy does impact on population policy. What I am seeking to do with congestion busting Minister in Alan Tudge is to ensure we having the appropriate services and infrastructure response to what we’re seeing with population, that we understand where our population is heading. That information gets drawn down from the intergenerational reports as they are done from time to time. But this provides for a Minister to have a more constant watch on what the population pressures are in Australia and how we need to be responding to that. And that is why I have linked that portfolio with Urban Infrastructure in particular where the population pressures are greatest.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, how long do you think it will take to solve the issue of school funding, the issue with the Catholic sector?

PRIME MINISTER: Well we’ll sit down once we’ve sworn in the new Ministry on Tuesday, and Minister Tehan I know will be getting quick to work on that. There’s already been great progress made by Minister Birmingham. There will be a handover. The former Prime Minister was also making a lot of progress on this and I'll be picking that up once I have dealt with the most immediate issues we’ve been talking about with drought. I’m sure and I hope we’ll be able to get to a resolution before not too long.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, Nick Greiner has suggested that the Liberal Party’s leadership election process should be changed. Do you think there is any merit and looking at that given what’s…


QUESTION: Nick Greiner has suggested that the Liberal Party’s leadership election process should be changed given the instability. Do you think there is any merit and looking at that in the future?

PRIME MINISTER: These are things that members of our party room will discuss from time to time. In the course of the discussions over the last few days, there were members who did raise those issues with me. But what has to change in this place and what Australians expect of us in this place is a change in the culture and the behaviour and I said in the party room on Friday that issues of bitterness and these things that arise from these events - that has to go. Australians expect us to focus on them, rightly. I said the other day we are on your side. We share the values of Australians. That is what drives our policies. And that must drive our behaviour, also. Regulating for culture is never effective and, as a team, a new-generation team, we are about changing that and addressing and learning from the things that have caused us problems most recently. And I'm very optimistic about that. This is a passionate team looking forward, ambitious, and hungry for the next election, to demonstrate how, as a government, we will continue to offer what Australians need. And that is an economy that produces and guarantees services they rely on. That keeps Australians safe. The keeps
Australians together. That is what the Australian people looking for. The Labor Party does not share our values and they don't share those values with the Australian people. We don’t believe it is the right thing to do for someone to be put down so that another can be raised. Of course in a ministry such as this, sadly that is often the case. That is the practicalities of arithmetic. My point though is that our team has a set of values that resonates with the Australian people, and it is our job to ensure that we reflect those, not just in our policies and in our communication, but indeed in our behaviour.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, there is little room in your frontbench for people that your predecessor described as the insurgents. You’ve been asked about Tony Abbott but there are more out there who were responsible for the turmoil that we saw last week. Are you confident that they, because they weren’t in the ministry before, and that is why they were causing trouble, that they won't still cause trouble because they’ve been left out again?

PRIME MINISTER: What we are doing today in pulling this team together is providing for stability, which is what Australians expect of their government. But it does begin that process of healing. I’m not going to pretend to you that those things are fixed quickly. But I do believe that this provides the opportunity, having reached out, having ruled a line, in ensuring that the events of the past week go no further than that, and I'm confident that they won't. In any exercise like this, I suppose my challenge as a Prime Minister, as has been the case with the Prime Minister prior to me, there is a surplus of those obvious and able and willing to serve with great capacity. My entire parliamentary team of colleagues are all capable of serving in this team. The choices that you have to make are difficult and are disappointing for some - for others they are a moment of great opportunity for them to demonstrate what they have to offer. Balancing up new faces, new challenges for some who have proven themselves so well. Drawing in those at the more junior levels of the Ministry and the outer Ministry that will give them the experience that will see them become very strong ministers in the future. I mean, this is not just about a new generation. This is also about generation building and seeing the talent come in and nurtured. It respects and honours that those, particularly in Barnaby’s case, who has taken on this role of drought, the great capacity he has to really listen and convey messages and communicate and help us console and put our arms around people who are being affected by drought. And he will be working closely, of course, with all the ministers, but of course, also, Major General Day, who has the task we spoke of yesterday to co-ordinate a national drought response.

QUESTION: On tax cuts, is your position still the same as when you stood out here with Malcolm Turnbull? Off the agenda for now but perhaps in the future?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes this will be one of things that will be brought forward through a new Cabinet process. Those large business tax cuts won't be going forward, I won’t be calling for those to continue. That policy remains in place, that decision has been taken. But we will be forming a new, exciting, tax policy, for small and medium-sized businesses, which I know that Senator Cash will be able to explain right around the country. They’re the engine room of growth. I know that this team can deliver the economy we need, the safety we need and the togetherness we very much need. Thank you very much.