Press Conference - Luddenham, NSW

19 Nov 2021
Luddenham, NSW
Prime Minister

PETER JENSEN, WESTERN SYDNEY AIRPORT, ABORIGINAL ENGAGEMENT MANAGER: Welcome everybody here today, it's an absolute honour to do the first welcome at Western Sydney Airport. My name is Peter Jensen and I'm the Aboriginal Engagement Manager here at Western Sydney Airport. When coming on to country, it's custom to let the old people know that we've arrived, to pay our respects and to move on. I'd like to acknowledge the Darag people. I'd like to acknowledge the possum and the flying fox. The spiritual custodians on the land that we meet today. I'd like to acknowledge all elders past and present. I'd like to acknowledge all Aboriginal people here today and all of my non-Aboriginal brothers and sisters. Thank you very much. Without any further ado, I’d like to invite Melissa McIntosh, Member for Lindsay.

MRS MELISSA MCINTOSH MP, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR LINDSAY: Hi I'm Melissa McIntosh, the Member for Lindsay. Welcome to Western Sydney and to our new international airport. Western Sydney is a powerhouse and this is what it's all about. Creating opportunities and jobs. In Western Sydney we make stuff and we build things and we're building the future right here. And it's really exciting to see because we're creating the jobs of the future for people right here. Three hundred thousand people commute out of western every day for a job. Western Sydney Airport and everything around it will ensure that our local kids have those opportunities for the future, have that optimism, that hope to have jobs close to home. Whether it's in advanced manufacturing, whether it's in agribusiness, or whether it is, very excitingly, in the space industry. So I'm really pleased to invite and to welcome the Prime Minister here today, the Premier, Dominic Perrottet, my colleague, my parliamentary colleague and the Minister, Paul Fletcher and other parliamentary colleagues. And I'd like to welcome Western Sydney Airport and Simon Hickey to say a few words, thank you everyone.

MR SIMON HICKEY, WESTERN SYDNEY AIRPORT, CEO: Thanks Melissa. Good morning. We're here today to mark the start of construction of what will be Australia's best airport terminal. This terminal will take Western Sydney to the world and will bring the world to Western Sydney. This will be an iconic building that Western Sydney will be proud of. We've designed it around efficiency, productivity, customer experience. And that means that you get to your work on time or you get home to your loved ones sooner. This airport is centred around jobs and opportunities, and I'm pleased to say we're on track to open the airport and start flights in 2026. I'd like to hand over to the Prime Minister of Australia to say a few words.

PRIME MINISTER: Well thank you Simon and Melissa. And thank you, P.J. for the welcome. It's great to be here with Premier Perrottet and my colleagues. It's particularly great to be here with all of those who are working here to create the future, not just of Western Sydney, but Australia's future right here in Western Sydney. The Australian economy is taking off. That's what's happening as we come out of this pandemic. We can't take our economic recovery for granted. We have to secure that economic recovery. Australians have pushed through in this pandemic. Australians have kept up their side of the deal. We have had the lowest, one of the lowest, fatality rates through COVID of almost any country in the world. We have had one of the strongest economic performances through the pandemic of any developed advanced economy in the world. And we are now, and I particularly want to congratulate those in New South Wales and Victoria and the ACT, we have one of the highest vaccination rates of any country in the world. Now Australians have pushed through to achieve this, and now what we have to do is secure that economic recovery. That's what's at stake. And the way you do it is by what you're seeing take place behind me right here. This didn't happen overnight. This took a Liberal-Nationals Government to be able to make the case here in Western Sydney for why that airport was necessary. To take the decisions that ensured that the Commonwealth Government could step in and make this a reality. We didn't talk about it. We did it. This project is now already 25 per cent complete, and today we marked the start of the construction of what will be the best terminal anywhere in the country. And that is come as a result of a great partnership. A partnership between the federal Liberals and Nationals and the state Liberals and Nationals working closely together to secure Australia's economic future, and to secure the success of Western Sydney. Here in Western Sydney, the Commonwealth Government alone, over $14 billion being invested not just in building this airport, but working with the state government to ensure we're building the infrastructure that surrounds this airport that creates the aerotropolis, that actually creates even more jobs. Eleven thousand jobs alone here on this project. And the other great partnership we've had is with the workforce and with the companies that are building this project. Eleven thousand jobs, as I've said. Fifty per cent of them from Western Sydney alone. Thirty per cent of them, of people upgrading their skills in training, in apprenticeships, actually building the workforce of tomorrow. So we're not just building an airport here. We are building a workforce that will continue to build Australia for decades to come. That's why this is a transformational project. This project is changing Australia to make it stronger. It's changing Western Sydney to see that it can realise its potential. We've always believed in this project and we've backed that belief in by doing what we need to do to ensure its success. Now what is important, what is important, is we continue to do that and work with our partners here on the ground, with that workforce, with our partners in the New South Wales Government, to realise that. Just let me make one other comment before I ask the Premier to make a few remarks as well. The New South Wales Government has been such a wonderful partner on this project, but I welcome the fact that just like here in New South Wales, in Victoria, they are walking into some new freedoms today. And I want to congratulate the people of Victoria for pushing through, for getting vaccinated, for keeping their side of the deal and ensuring that now they are walking into the fact that this Christmas, they can all get round the same table. On the Boxing Day test they'll be filling the G and on New Year's Eve, just like they will be here in New South Wales Premier, they'll be celebrating going into a 2022 that is going to secure Australia's economic recovery under the sound economic management that our government is well known for. And with that, I'm very happy to welcome my good friend Dom Perrottet, Premier of New South Wales, thanks for your partnership Dom.

THE HON. DOMINIC PERROTTET MP, PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES: Thanks, Prime Minister, it's great to be here. I mean how good is this? This project is going to take Western Sydney to the world. And I'm pleased to be here with the Prime Minister and this partnership, Minister Fletcher, local members, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary for the aerotropolis Shayne Mallard. But this is a transformative project. This is all about vision. They were talking about during this airport when I was a kid. To now see it actually happen before our very eyes is going to transform Western Sydney, transform our state and transform our country. This is, this is what good governments do. I'm here again with the Prime Minister. We're almost doing a press conference every week as we announce this partnership, building infrastructure that's going to transform people's lives. We were out at the WestConnex just recently. These are projects that take a while to be delivered, but when they come, they will ensure that people will be able to get home with their families faster, will be able to travel overseas from Western Sydney. It's going to be amazing that in 2026, when people come to Australia for the first time, many of them will land here. Their first experience in Western Sydney. What a great thing that will be. The Prime Minister spoke very clearly about, not only are these projects important once they're completed, but that have been driving our economic recovery and jobs growth during this time. Many of the people working on this project come from Western Sydney. Our $108 billion infrastructure investment over the next four years will drive jobs growth and economic growth, adding half a percentage point to our economic growth. But on this site alone, 1,000 people working at the moment, up to 3,000 as we continue to move through this period of time. So, I met [inaudible], he's a project manager down there, before this project he was working on Wynyard. We've had all these, all these infrastructure projects across our state are taking us to the next level. And projects like this don't just set us up for today, but set us up for generations to come, so our kids and their kids have better opportunity and prosperity than we have ourselves. And you can't do that without vision. This partnership with the Commonwealth Government, billions and billions of dollars of investment at both a Commonwealth level and a State level, is going to ensure that as Sydney grows, it grows well. When Sydney goes well, the country goes well. This partnership will make our state a greater place than it is today, and we're getting on with the job of building a brighter future, not just for us, but for generations to come.

THE HON. PAUL FLETCHER MP, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS, URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE, CITIES AND THE ARTS: Well it's great to be here at Western Sydney International, Nancy-Bird Walton Airport, with the Prime Minister, with the Premier, Melissa McIntosh, with Chief Executive Simon Hickey to mark the commencement of construction on the terminal. This terminal is a bold, confident, visionary building. This will be a major public building in Western Sydney and it's been designed to respect and celebrate the confidence and the aspirations of Western Sydney. As the Prime Minister and the Premier have said, the airport is the centrepiece of an extraordinary commitment to infrastructure, jointly between the Commonwealth and New South Wales Liberal and National Governments. We've got the metro Western Sydney Airport, almost $11 billion. The M12 to the airport, $2 billion. The Northern Road, $1.6 billion. And of course, the City Deal. The integrated approach to planning, to investment, to jobs attraction, to backing Western Sydney. Liberal and National Governments, Commonwealth and State working together to back Western Sydney. If Western Sydney were a standalone city, it would be Australia's fourth largest city, third largest economy. And it has a very bright future. Liberal and National Governments, Commonwealth and New South Wales, working together to back Western Sydney. For too long Labor took Western Sydney for granted. Our Liberal-National Governments are backing the potential and the future for Western Sydney.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you very much, Paul. And can I thank you for your work on this project together with everyone at the Western Sydney Airport companies. Paul and I have been, you know, passionate about this project for a very long time, going back to before we even entered parliament, in the various roles that we had before then. And for us to see this coming to fruition here in Western Sydney is a real joy, a real joy, so well done Paul. And it's great to be here with you today, doing this in particular. Happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: On the train, Prime Minister, is the metro going to be here day one? I know that was the plan, is that still the plan?

PRIME MINISTER: I might ask Paul to comment on that. But as you know, we're putting over $14 billion, $5 billion of that is actually going into the building of this airport. The balance is actually going into the infrastructure that is around this airport. But I'll ask Paul to speak more about that.

THE HON. PAUL FLETCHER MP, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS, URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE, CITIES AND THE ARTS: Yes, absolutely. The metro Western Sydney Airport, a 50/50 funded Commonwealth and New South Wales Government. It will run from St Mary's down to the aerotropolis to the south of the airport. And yes, on track to be delivered when the airport opens.

JOURNALIST: Can you open it, can you build and run a train in five years’ time? The metro's take years, like decades, to build.

THE HON. PAUL FLETCHER MP, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS, URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE, CITIES AND THE ARTS: Well a huge amount of work going on between the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments, very detailed planning work underway and we're on track to get that metro delivered. On track to get the M12 delivered. Of course, the Northern Road, many of you would have driven here along the Northern Road, that's one of the projects we committed to as part of this. And you can see for yourself, we are delivering projects.

JOURNALIST: Did the pandemic construction shut down cause delays on this project and has it affected the budget?

THE HON. PAUL FLETCHER MP, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS, URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE, CITIES AND THE ARTS: I'll ask Simon Hickey to add to that, but there was roughly a period of about three weeks. But apart from that, we've been able to get activity back underway and we're getting on with delivering the project. I'll ask Simon just to add to that.

MR SIMON HICKEY, WESTERN SYDNEY AIRPORT, CEO: Thanks very much for that. Yeah, we were we were shut down for a period of time due to COVID, and obviously COVID has played a significant issue in everybody's lives. But we've been able to continue this project that we're on track and ready to open in 2026. First planes will be taking off and landing here on time and we're on budget.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. And yesterday, I thanked the manufacturing workers of Australia for keeping Australia going through COVID. I'll thank the mining workers, whether they're up in the Hunter Valley or over there in Western Australia, or up in Queensland and central Queensland. But a big shout out to our, our infrastructure construction workers. The women and men who have kept Australia building through the pandemic. Kept our economy going. But making sure that we kept pushing through on these major projects and the fact that the Western Sydney International Airport, the Nancy-Bird Walton Airport, is on target to meet its 26 opening day, I think is a tremendous testimony to their great efforts, their great skill and their great determination. So thank you to all those workers.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews has accused you of engaging in a double standards in chasing the votes of extremists. What's your response to that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I was very clear yesterday in denunciating any violence, threats or intimidation that is a plight against anyone, and we have absolutely no truck with that one whatsoever. I couldn't have been clearer about denunciating the violence and the threats and the intimidation. They have no place in Australia's public policy debate whatsoever, whatsoever. I have consistently said, all the way through, that there is a deal with Australians, and that deal with Australians we said, and particular as we saw here in New South Wales Dom, we said come forward and get vaccinated. Victorians did that, in the ACT they've done that, and in Queensland and Western Australia, we are increasingly seeing that. And I said when we get vaccinated, when we hit those marks that have been set by the scientific experts at 80 per cent, that's when Australians expect governments to step back and for them to step forward, and that is my government's view. I'm going to keep the deal with Australians. I've been saying this consistently ever since I put the National Plan together and got all of the states and territories to agree to it, and we're going to keep going with that Plan. Australians have earned that. They've kept their part of the deal. I assure you that I intend to keep mine.

JOURNALIST: On that note, why did you express sympathy for the protesters even when some called for Dan Andrews to be killed?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, as I said, I completely and totally and continue to denunciate any violence, any threat, any intimidation and any suggestion that I have not done that is completely false. I have been completely clear on that issue, what I'm also very clear about is our National Plan. What I'm also very clear about is it's important that governments keep their side of the deal. Australians have kept theirs.

JOURNALIST: Do you have sympathy for those demonstrators?

PRIME MINISTER: I don't have sympathy for violence. I don't have sympathy for intimidation or threats whatsoever. And on those issues then, of course not, I've encouraged people not to participate in that, including those who would number themselves amongst Liberal Party ranks. I've said absolutely, they shouldn't be participating in any violence, and any suggestion that I would is patently absurd.

JOURNALIST: Is it fair to say though that you have sympathy for the cause?

PRIME MINISTER: I have sympathy for Australians who have had a gutful of governments telling them what to do over the last two years, and I think they have been very clear in keeping their side of the deal, and they've kept their side of the deal in getting vaccinated and enabling us, particularly here in New South Wales and in Victoria, where I welcome, absolutely welcome the restoration of the freedoms that have been put there today for Victorians. I think that's fantastic. That's what should be happening. Australians have done their part. It's now time for them to be able to step forward with their lives and for governments to step back out of their lives. That's what Liberals believe. That's what Nationals believe. I know the Labor Party has a different view about that, and they will seek to attack us on these issues. That's fine, that's politics.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, not everyone has done their part because there are anti-vaxxers who are, for whatever reason, ideological, medical, religious, are not getting vaccinated.


JOURNALIST: And they're putting gallows in front of the Victorian State Parliament.

PRIME MINISTER: And that's appalling.

JOURNALIST: But you have sympathy for their frustration but not sympathy for their actions, is that what you're saying?

PRIME MINISTER: I think you're making an assumption that the frustration that Australians feel is only limited to a small group of people who have engaged in violence and threats and intimidation and have worked against the vaccination program. I have no, I have no sympathy with that agenda, but for the broader view of Australians who have done the right thing and got vaccinated and want to come together again and want their lives back and they want governments to stop telling them what to do and have governments step back and then step forward into their own future. That's the cause I have sympathy with.

JOURNALIST: Those Australians have also had a gutful of the anti-vaxxers. Have you had a gutful of it?

PRIME MINISTER: I am the Prime Minister that actually recommended that we should introduce mandatory vaccines for aged care workers. And I got to tell you, it took me some months, some months, as you’ll recall, for all the state governments to back me in on that and put in those mandatory vaccines for aged care workers. For many months I was the one who was saying, go out there and get the AstraZeneca vaccine. I wasn't the one talking down the AstraZeneca vaccine. Others were doing that. I was standing up for our vaccination program, and Australia today has one of the highest rates of vaccination anywhere in the world. But we didn't have to do it by bribing people. We didn't have to do it by saying, we're going to pay you to do it. And our position on mandatory vaccines extended only to those who are working in the health sector, particularly those working with the most vulnerable of Australians, in aged care, in disability, working in emergency wards. That's where we said the mandatory vaccines should be in place. We said in the rest of the economy that it should be up for businesses to decide, it's their business, they can decide these issues. We don't think government should be telling them who should come in and out of their businesses.

JOURNALIST: Are you then having it both ways by acknowledging that people are angry about restrictions when it was the National Cabinet that imposed many of them?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I've said very clearly that over the course of the pandemic that these restrictions have been regrettably necessary and I was the advocate of those. But we have now got to the point where Australian economy is opening up again because of the hard work of Australians in ensuring that they went forward and did what we asked them to do. And that was to push through the lockdowns and they were tough. I have no doubt, and the Premier may wish to comment on this as well.


PRIME MINISTER: These were not issues. These were not issues that Liberal governments in particular wanted to rush towards, but they were necessary. But there comes a time where government has to step back. You can't hold onto these things forever. These restrictions in places that still have not reached 80 per cent, they remain necessary. But governments have to say when they're going to step back out of people's lives, when are they going to stop telling them what they can do in their businesses. When are they going to stop telling them, you know, what they can do and where they can go. That was necessary for a time, but time has moved on. The circumstances have changed. Australia now has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, and Australians have earned, through their own sacrifices, through their own actions, for governments to start stepping back so they can step forward.

JOURNALIST: In that case then, if states like New South Wales and Victoria still have some restrictions on the unvaccinated, but we have the highest vaccination rates in the country. Do you support still restricting the unvaccinated for some time?

PRIME MINISTER: What I particularly welcome here in New South Wales, and I welcome it also in Victoria, is that they're setting dates for when government steps back. I think that's fair and reasonable. They have to make decisions in accordance with their public health interest. But they've got to be able to, as they have done here in New South Wales, given business, given Australians the clear signal that this is not something they want to continue doing and this has to come to an end, and governments have to step back and governments have to start letting go of all of these controls on people's lives. And I know, particularly the Labor Party likes interfering in people's lives. They like putting up people's taxes. They like governments controlling with more regulation. I get all that. That's what they do. That's not what we like to do. And so there's a difference of view on that.

JOURNALIST: Premier, can I just ask you, just on schools, it's getting unsustainable, opening, closing, opening, closing because of close contact. That's got to change. Victoria has gone further than that.

THE HON. DOMINIC PERROTTET MP, PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES: Yeah, we're looking at it, and my expectation is that it will be discussed at our COVID Economic Recovery Committee meeting next week. There have been challenges, in the main though, the majority of schools, the vast majority of schools, thousands of them have remained open. We led the way getting kids back in the classroom. We want to make it as easy as possible and streamline it so that in circumstances, if there is a positive case, because there will be positive cases in schools, but we don't want to close them for a substantial period of time. I don't want kids sitting at home. I want them in the classroom. That's good for them. It's also good for parents.

JOURNALIST: Premier, Victoria's taken away all density limits for hospitality, even though they have more cases than us. Why haven’y we done the same here?

THE HON. DOMINIC PERROTTET MP, PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES: Oh it's not about, we can compare this and compare that, ultimately, we've always been here in New South Wales about leading the way to open up our state. The reality is there are very little restrictions, but very little difference between two square metres and no limit. Ultimately, as the Prime Minister just said, I don't like restrictions as much as anyone else. I want to get government out of the way. We primarily believe in freedom that is a core tenet of Liberal Party philosophy, and we had to put restrictions in to keep our people safe. Everyone has done an amazing job, particularly in New South Wales in going out and getting vaccinated and now we can open up. We've led the way on bringing back schools, I'm not going to get compared to Victoria when they've been, had more days in lockdown than probably anywhere else in the world. What we've done in New South Wales, is got the balance right at various times, we haven't always got it right. It's difficult to make some of these decisions, but we'll continue to lead, particularly on Chris's question in relation to schools. We're looking at that. We want to make that as easy as possible and we want to get government out of the way and by December 15, in this state, almost every single restriction will be lifted.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, are you concerned about the disappearance of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai?

PRIME MINISTER: So I couldn't quite hear you.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned about the disappearance of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, look, I've seen some reports on that and so I can't make any further comment on the basis that I haven't received any sort of additional briefings from our agencies on these matters, so I don't think it would be helpful to add any commentary on that when I am not familiar with all the details. Those reports, of course anyone in that situation based superficially on the reports that we've seen that would be a cause for concern.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, three candidates are set to challenge Andrew Constance for Liberal preselection in the marginal seat of Gilmore, who will you back and will you intervene in the preselections contest?

PRIME MINISTER: I am absolutely committed, as we go to this next election, to ensure that we secure Australia's economic recovery. I'll be ensuring we've got the best candidates coming forward to represent that to the people right across the country and particularly here in New South Wales. What we're demonstrating here in New South Wales, what is happening right behind us, and this is where I might finish on this today. For many, many years, Labor talked up the need for this airport, in particular the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese. He talked about it. He talked about it. He talked about it. He was the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport for six years and didn't even dig a hole when it came to the Western Sydney Airport. It took a Liberal National government working with our colleagues in the state government, a Liberal National state government, to make this airport a reality. This is the proof that we get on with things, that when we commit to things, we do them. We build them. And we're not just building infrastructure here, as I said, we're building a workforce. You know, we've got more than three hundred thousand Australians now in training and apprenticeships across this country. That's a 30 per cent increase on last year, and they're working on projects like this. They're working in the mines, they're working in manufacturing industries, they're working up at the Tomago Smelter in the Hunter. They're working right across this country and they're getting the skills in an economy that's growing, that's building, that's opening off, opening up and is taking off. And so our absolute focus of all of my team, my candidates at the next election, my incumbent members from North Queensland across to the west to the tip of Tasmania, we are focused on one very important job and that is to secure Australia's economic recovery. You cannot take it for granted, and we certainly never do that as Liberals and Nationals, whether a federal level or at a state level. And the proof of that is the work going on behind me. Thanks very much everyone for your attention.