Press Conference, Darwin

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
Prime Minister

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's fantastic to be here today and I begin by acknowledging the Traditional owners of the land on which we meet. I respect their elders past, present and emerging and recommit, on behalf of my Government, to the implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. I'm joined today by the Chief Minister. We're both pretty new at our respective jobs, but we've both been around for a while and are good friends and I look forward to working with Tash, including at the first meeting of the National Cabinet that we will hold in Canberra. First of all, dinner at the Lodge on Thursday night, next week, and then a meeting to be held on, on Friday. There is much work to be done on Federal–State relations and streamlining the way that our nation works. I'm joined also by my colleague, in this case with his hat on, the Minister for Science and Industry, Ed Husic. But importantly as well, the newly appointed Assistant Minister, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, who wasn't able to be sworn in due to that dreadful thing that a few of us have got and a few of you have got in recent times. But I look forward to the Senator's contribution. Luke Gosling, the local MP here but importantly a new MP as well, Marion Scrymgour, who is a great addition to our national Parliament, a former Deputy Chief Minister here in the Northern Territory, an experienced advocate for the communities, particularly communities in the great, vast electorate that she represents of Lingiari. Australia's contribution to the space industry does date back to the 1950s. As a nation we have to build on that legacy and it's terrific to be here in Darwin today to declare Equatorial Launch Australia and NASA are go for launch right here in the Northern Territory. The Australian Government has granted regulatory approval for ELA to host three scientific suborbital sounding rocket launches on behalf of NASA between 26 June and 12 July at the Arnhem Space Centre and after we have questions, Russell Shaw from ELA will make a statement too and will take any technical questions that are beyond the pay grade of the politicians who are represented here. So if you have that detailed scientific questions, that's why we've brought Russell along here today. These, these three launches are important, they're for universities to do scientific research. These rockets will go some 250 kilometres north into, well up into the sky to collect data on the physics of the sun and its relationship with the earth. They were signed off, this activity by the Deputy Prime Minister after we came into office. The environmental approvals have mainly been done by the Northern Territory and a lot of work is being done as well with the Gumatj Corporation there around the Nhulunby area to ensure that there is economic benefit for the traditional owners as well on a lasting basis. This is a really exciting project. This is about not just the rocket launches itself, but it's about sending a message to younger Australians, and indeed Australians of any age who might be looking at retraining for future careers, of how important science is. We want the next generation to really look at STEM as part of Australia's future and that's why this is an important project. I look forward to the success of this project. The idea that, that NASA is directly involved here in Australia should be something of pride for all Australians, and I'd ask Natasha to, the Chief Minister, to make some comments and then my Science Minister, Ed Husic, before we take some questions.

NATASHA FYLES, NORTHERN TERRITORY CHIEF MINISTER: Thank you, and it's wonderful to have our newly elected Prime Minister here in the Northern Territory showing to Territorians that he cares about more than the East Coast here in the Territory and also our strong representation from my federal parliamentary colleagues and I to acknowledge the Larrakia people and pay my respects. It was simply amazing to be in East Arnhem Land last week looking at NASA infrastructure on Territory soil. I acknowledge the Gumatj and the work that they have done with ELA to get this project off the ground. We have backed it since its inception and it is showing that the Northern Territory is a key part of the future, particularly for investors in this new frontier. So it's an exciting project. The Northern Territory Government is committed to developing and diversifying the Territory economy. We can't wait for launch in just a few weeks’ time and I would like to thank everybody that's been involved in the development of this important project. Thank you.

ED HUSIC MP, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY AND SCIENCE: Thanks, Chief Minister and Prime Minister. This is a big deal for the country because what it signals to the rest of the world is important, but more importantly, what it signals to us. One of the things that we want to do under an Albanese Labor Government is reinvigorate faith in Australian know-how. Sometimes the tall poppy syndrome gets the best of us, we don't think we can do certain things or let's not get ahead of ourselves. But it's really important that the brains and capability that we have onshore, not only is it recognised by people offshore, in this case NASA, to have that faith in what we're able to do. But for Australians to do it because we need to put that to work in basically rebuilding capability in this country as to what we can do. It's important for jobs. It's important for the economy. But if used right, some of the understanding can help improve the quality of life of communities. That's why all this is a big deal. And for people who might think one launch, why does it matter this much and why are you talking it up? When you look at all the spin-offs that happen out of space activity, not only in terms of the skills and the capability that gets built up here, but importantly too this will be the work that's being done in universities, help push human understanding and knowledge a little bit further and improve what we understand the way that the world around us works. So, very valuable and it's being done right here in the Northern Territory. And we also just want to not only recognise NASA being able to come here and to do their first launch, we've had a long association with NASA, but for them to do the first launch is huge. And the fact that ELA, Russell and if you can pass back on to everyone at your firm, the ability to make this happen is a big deal and thank you for again, locals, with their know-how making this all occur.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank very much, happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Liberals are being led by Peter Dutton, you just reaffirmed there your commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart. But how confident are you that you will be able to strike a bipartisan deal on a Voice to Parliament?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'm very hopeful that that will occur. I take the appointment of Julian Leeser as a very positive sign, I've got to say. Julian Leeser is someone who has been a supporter of the Uluru Statement. I want to work to bring people together, and what we know is that this will be just like the apology to the Stolen Generations. When it happens, people will wonder why it hadn't happened earlier. And that's what I want to do. This is just simply good manners in order to ask First Nations people what their view is when issues affect them, whether it be their education, their health. This is, that sometimes it's put as if this is just symbolic and there's a difference between practical reconciliation and symbolism. The two are connected. If you don't give respect to people, then you won't be able to close the gap in health, in education, in housing, in life expectancy, in all of these issues in which we need to do that practical work. And I am up for reaching out and embracing as many people as possible, but I'm absolutely committed to advancing this as well. Before the last election, the government had, I believe, the mandate to advance this in the last term and essentially it didn't happen. It is now time for it to occur.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) to China, they have said there will be serious consequences if Australian aircraft are over what they say is their territory. The said it was the Paracel Islands where this event took place near. Are you concerned that there'll be escalation in terms of any incidents between Australia and China, given they're, they're ramping up the rhetoric here?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, this incident occurred in international airspace. Full stop.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister on the Darwin Port, you're back in Darwin, you're the Prime Minister now. What can you tell us about the Defence review of the Darwin Port lease that was conducted last year that the previous Prime Minister didn't reveal? And what is your Government going to do about the lease?

PRIME MINISTER: What I've said is what I said prior to the election and I will do what I said I would do on this and every other issue, which is we'll have a review of the circumstances of the Port. The Chief Minister is, is conscious of the fact that we will do that and we'll do that in an orderly way.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on interest rates, yesterday you didn't get the opportunity, you didn't get the opportunity yesterday to reflect on the interest rate hike that took place. What is your Government going to do in the short term to try and ease cost of living pain?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I answered the same number of questions yesterday as the Shadow Treasurer did after he gave, at his press conference yesterday. So on, on interest rates, we know that this will be a blow for families. This was foreshadowed well before the election by the, the RBA and we know that this is not unexpected. But that doesn't mean that it won't hurt people. We know that people are suffering from a cost of living crisis with everything going up except for their wages. We have a plan to alleviate cost of living pressures by taking measures on child care, by taking measures on electricity prices, which will have an impact, not immediately, it takes time to flow that through, but also by our position on, on wages, which is to have a plan to lift wages that's why I'll have an Employment Summit coming through. We need to recognise things as they are, and the Treasurer Jim Chalmers did an excellent job yesterday of outlining those pressures which are there. My Government understands the pressure that working families are under and we'll be doing what we can to alleviate those pressures.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister (inaudible) compared it to the Federal Government Foreign Veto Laws to cancel (inaudible) and Australian entities and Chinese State owned companies (inaudible) and if it's found to be in the national interest?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes. Well, we supported the change in the Foreign Relations Bill. They went through with our support and hence, we believe that the Federal Government should be in charge of our foreign relations. That's why we supported that legislation, we'll always take the advice of DFAT on any issues which arise.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister you talked about your Government's plans to alleviate cost of living pressures, probably medium term. What immediate relief is the Government considering? Is this a live option to actually help households with the crisis they're facing now?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we have procedures in place in terms of the Cabinet will be meeting every week. We'll be meeting tomorrow and we'll be meeting next week and will consider cost of living issues front and centre. Every time that we meet we will, though, we've been in Government now for just a little bit over two weeks. These pressures have built up over nine years. And this, the former government had a policy of deliberately keeping wages low at a time when the cost of living and the price of everything was going up. My Government does not have that policy. My Government has a policy of doing what we can to assist cost of living pressures. At the same time, we're conscious of the fact that we've been left with a trillion dollars in debt with not much to show for it.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister how uncomfortable is it for you as a new leader promising an expedited push towards renewable energy when you're in a situation now where you may have to fall back on greater coal fired production of electricity to solve the crisis?

PRIME MINISTER: Not at all. One of the problems that has occurred here is a failure of investment because the former government had 22 energy policies and didn't land one. So you haven't had the orderly investment that is needed. The other things that you haven't had is you don't have a grid that's fit for purpose in the 21st century. That's why in my first budget reply, we had two big measures, two big ones. Childcare, that got a lot of focus. But rewiring the nation to fix the energy grid based upon the Australian energy market operator's integrated systems plan. We didn't make this up. This is what the experts, including the head of Energy Security for the former federal government, Kerry Schott, was recommending to the government and nothing happened. Nothing happened for nine years. And this is a direct consequence of that. There are international factors, but it's also the factor of a failure of the former government to actually have an energy policy. If you had a grid that was fit for purpose, where renewables were being plugged into the grid, just as households know that if you've got solar panels on your roof and lowering your power bills, if that was across the economy for households and businesses with a grid that was fit for purpose, you would have, you would have a real alleviation on the pressures that are in place right now.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned, you mentioned that Cabinet's going to be considering the cost of living issues as a means. Does that mean that the cost of living relief, initial cost of living relief could be delivered before the October budget? We're seeing mistakes made, for instance, on things like vouchers for electricity prices to help get over this winter period before we get to October.

PRIME MINISTER: It means that we'll consider it in the context of the fact that the former government has left us with a trillion dollars of debt. There are measures, some measures are in place, to alleviate some cost of living pressures, and they're short term. That's what the former government put in place with our support in terms of the budget measures. So there are some things in place now, but we will, of course, always consider what can be done. But there is a fiscal context here. We will be economically responsible as a government. We've made clear what our policies are, and we've also made it clear what we won't to consider considering going forward.

JOURNALIST: Considering the way the grid is now though, are you open to using coal to make up for the gas shortfalls in supply and demand problems now?

PRIME MINISTER: Coal is a part of our mix right now.

JOURNALIST: One question for the Chief Minister and then follow to you. What are the projects we saw, companies rather we saw in Indonesia, the Sun Cable project, the $30 billion, massively ambitious. The company would look pretty favourably on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, or the EFIC, for example, reducing the sovereign risk of that project can be a huge boon to the NT, would you like to see the federal government actually get involved and remove or reduce that sovereign risk?

NORTHERN TERRITORY CHIEF MINISTER: It's a unique opportunity to work with a Federal Labor Government that believes in climate change, believes we need to shift across to renewables. We have enormous opportunity here in the Northern Territory. I think COVID put us on the radar with the Howard Springs facility, but the rest of Australia is waking up. We have natural resources, we have solar, we have NASA and so it's an exciting time. So I look forward to working with the incoming Commonwealth Government that Sun Cable project is huge and every Australian should go and Google it after they watch the news tonight and see the investment in the Northern Territory and the fact that we will have a cable linking Australia to Singapore and this is an exciting opportunity for us to have our renewables going offshore, giving us economic opportunity. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: I'll make this this point as well about the Sun Cable project. One, it is the largest by a long way. Overwhelmingly the largest solar project in the world on the planet, and that is very exciting for us. The other thing is I have had discussions with Mike Cannon-Brookes and others connected with Sun Cable about how we maximise Australian input there. So areas like the production of the cable itself, this is a manufacturing boom that we have potentially here in Australia. It's what, when I spoke about a feature made in Australia during the campaign, it's exactly that. We have, there isn't a solar panel in the world that doesn't have Australian IP involved. Whether it's ANU or UNSW, we need to maximise Australian input.

JOURNALIST: Your Attorney-General today has suggested that a federal anti-corruption body under your Government would hold most of its hearings in private. Would you have any personal expectation about the approach to this, for example, do you think politicians should have hearings held in public for that transparency.

PRIME MINISTER: We'll work those issues through and they will be dealt with in the legislation that we bring forward. Every body, every single body that exists around the country has private hearings now, including the ICAC. And there are rules around those hearings whereby people who've appeared before them have to comply with non-disclosure. That is the way that they operate.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Biloela family is going back from Perth to Biloela today.

PRIME MINISTER: Isn't that good? Do you feel good about that? I do. Every Australian should.

JOURNALIST: So what about other people who may be in the country looking to resettle? Would you consider visas for other family or other people in those particular situations as well?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, the Bilo family were loved and wanted by their local community. This guy, Nades, worked at the local meatworks. We import people to work in meatworks because we can't find enough workers. And here we grab this family in the middle of the night, took them down to Melbourne, then took them to Christmas Island, then they've ended up in Perth, after the, these little girls who were born in Australia got not just mental health issues but physical health issues as well. I'm very proud we've brought this family home. I'm very proud. And the community will be as well. And we shouldn't. No, no, no people should be treated in that way and I must say this as well. The cost the cost to the Australian taxpayers is in the double figures of millions of dollars for this. I'll just take questions from locals I think.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister's voter turnout here in the Northern Territory is very low, particularly in Marion Scrymgour's seat of Lingiari. I think it's the lowest in the country at something like 66 per cent of eligible voters. So what will you do about it? Do you think there should be a review by the Australian Electoral Commission and will your Government commit further resources to ensure that those voting rates can rise?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, if you'll excuse the pun, it's not rocket science to know what happened here. They ripped resources out of the Electoral Commission. There was a deliberate policy of the former government to restrict people voting in the Territory. They tried to abolish the seat and we fought very hard to get two seats in the Territory. They restricted the numbers of people who were working for the Australian Electoral Commission to get people on the roll. This was straight out of the right-wing Republican playbook. It was an outrage what occurred and then there was a lack of resources to enable people to vote. We have one vote, one value in this country. It's an important principle of our democracy and the fact that 66 per cent of people voted, it means that one in three people in the electorate of Lingiari didn't get to vote. That was a part of the former government's design. It wasn't by accident and they should be held to account for it. My Government will look at what we can do to make sure that every Australian, every Australian, no matter where they live, no matter who they are, has equal right to be on the role and equal right to vote. And yes, we will be reviewing it with the AEC. I don't know if Marion wants to say something.


JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just back on energy, there's coalition of groups this morning, the Australian Industry Group, the NFF, Property Council, is calling on the Government to accelerate, as in go faster, the energy transition to renewables, hydrogen. So does the Government need to go faster that you've forecasted going?

PRIME MINISTER: We need you to do exactly what we said we would do, exactly what we said we would do, which is to have a plan to ensure that we move to 82 per cent renewables by 2030 as part of the national energy market. 43 per cent reduction, but we'll put in place those measures. We need to as soon as possible to make sure that we fix transmission, is the, the low hanging fruit is, is critical and we'll do what we can to do that.

JOURNALIST: Donald Trump famously told your predecessor Scott Morrison that our countries would go to Mars together. Does today's launch date make that one step closer?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm not going to be that ambitious, but a very good question. One I wasn't anticipating, I've got to say. We though, today in itself I think is significant, the fact of three rockets collecting scientific information from NASA will be launched from near Nhulunbuy and come back to earth with that data will, will be a really exciting thing for Australia and particularly exciting for the Northern Territory.