Press Conference - Melbourne

20 Jun 2022
Prime Minister

DANIEL ANDREWS, PREMIER OF VICTORIA: It's great to be at The Alfred with the Prime Minister, my good friend and a real partner when it comes to health services, And Friday's National Cabinet meeting showed that very clearly for all Victorians to see. And it is great to have someone who might be from Sydney, but he governs for the entirety of our nation. And that's a really important thing. So, welcome Albo. It's very good to see you here. Today's about better research, better treatment, changing lives, saving lives. That's what this Paula Fox Centre for Melanoma and Cancer is all about. The generosity of the Fox family, the generosity of others, and a partnership between the Commonwealth Government and our State Government. So, it's with a real sense of confidence and a real sense of excitement that we mark this partnership. And it won't be too long before we're back here to celebrate a brand new building that'll be all about care and love and support. Research, clinical trials, the best of science for the best outcomes for everybody who needs it, and, of course, those who care for them. Just finally, before I ask the Prime Minister to add to my comments, I would say to you it's also important whenever you're in a healthcare environment like this, to acknowledge the staff who have been through a very, very challenging two and a half years. No day in health is easy, but the staff here at The Alfred and right across our system do an amazing job. And when I say staff, I mean each and every member of the team. They are the best of us and we're very, very proud of them. And it's why we're supporting them with not just more funding, but with that absolute resolve to keep on doing as much as we can to make the challenges they face just that little bit easier. Again, as I said, it's great to have the Prime Minister in Melbourne. And I'm going to hand you over to him.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks very much, Premier. And it is good indeed, very good to be here on my first visit to Victoria as the Prime Minister, but I look forward to working with you and your Government for many years to come, making sure that we make a difference to people's lives. And that's what this centre will do. This centre will put patients at the core of the response to melanoma, which is known as Australia's cancer. Unfortunately, some 15,000 Australians will develop cancer from a melanoma this year. Of those, one in ten will not survive. What we know is the chances of survival are improved the earlier the detection occurs and this centre, which will have a wellness centre, will have research, will have clinical trials, is world's best practice. And it's a great tribute to the Victorian State Government that this is proceeding, but also a great tribute to those who have kicked in to make sure this will happen. This is an example of federal and state collaboration, but also an example of the generosity of the benefactors, particularly Paula Fox and the Fox family, the Forest family and others who have contributed significant donations to make sure that this vision can become a reality with patients at the centre and making sure as well for those staff who look after people, that they also are able to engage in a way in which they know that their efforts are producing the maximum results in terms of care. And that's why this is a fantastic announcement to be associated with today. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just on hospital funding, one of the things that the Premier consistently talks about are aged care patients and NDIS patients who are using up hospital beds. I guess what will the Federal Government do to alleviate that pressure and why is that still a concern in the state public health system?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Premier's right. One of the pressures that is on emergency departments is people fronting up to hospitals because of other failures in the healthcare system. One of those is in aged care, that the Federal Government has primary responsibility for. That's one of the reasons why our five-point plan for aged care had 24/7 nurses at the front of it. If you are an elderly resident of an aged care facility and you have a health issue, but there's no nurse or health professional on site, often you'll be put in an ambulance and taken to an emergency department at greater cost to the healthcare system than if there was someone on site who may well be able to take what is a small or medium health issue, not an acute healthcare issue, and deal with it on site in real time. It's one of the issues that we need to examine in terms of the healthcare system. Similarly, a lot of people in terms of with disabilities find themselves in a hospital because they haven't got the care that they need, either in their home or through an appropriate service. It's one of the reasons why as well we will have 50 urgent care clinics dealing with immediate issues so that if you're at a sporting event and your son or daughter falls over, breaks an arm, you can go somewhere, get that care immediately with your Medicare card and take pressure off emergency departments. The really constructive discussion that we had on Thursday night and Friday morning was our common position, which is that we need to deal with federal-state relations, not in a way that seeks to pass the buck from one section or the other. But how can it work more efficiently with patients at the centre? How can we achieve better outcomes? We will have another discussion in a few months’ time about how we do that. For many of these issues the solutions are obvious. And that's why Premier Andrews has identified, for example, aged care, but he's not the first person to do so with respect. It's been known for some period of time and yet when we raised 24/7 nurses in my Budget Reply, all we got from the former Government was that it's all too hard. Well, it's too important to ignore and my Government won't ignore it. It doesn't mean we can solve all the problems overnight, but we can work constructively. And that's what I will do with every Premier and Chief Minister.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister and Premier. There are health system issues, particularly across regional Australia and regional Victoria, particularly in the Northeast region of Victoria. Locals in Albury-Wodonga are pleading for a new hospital to be built. Now, given that all sorts of health services such as The Alfred are keen on new facilities, will both of you look to build a new hospital on the border there? And what could the Commonwealth and the Victorian Government contribute?

PRIME MINISTER: I'll tell you what, from my experience the biggest issue coming to me in terms of regional health and the crisis that's there is with regard to GP access. There are real issues on the ground in our regions and that's something that's got to be addressed. It's got to be addressed in terms of those people graduating from medical schools who are much more likely to go into specialist services rather than to go into being a GP. It's one of the reasons why during the election campaign we had a commitment in a range of areas to improving the number of GPs and where they're located as well. And in addition, at one of the removals to give one example of a recent change, for reasons beyond my comprehension, the former Government withdrew support for Telehealth, for mental health service delivery in rural and regional areas. And that's something, another way that we can take pressure off the healthcare system. There'll always be more demands for infrastructure than can be met in one budget. But we, of course, are looking at a comprehensive way in which we can deal with these things cooperatively.

ANDREWS: We are very pleased to and proud, in fact, all the tradespeople, architects, all the people, builders out there who have been delivering hundreds of projects right across Regional Victoria. Our Regional Health Infrastructure Fund, which we've provided a very big top up to in this year's Budget, has funded the best part of 400 projects over our time in office, and there are many significant capital projects beyond that, many hundreds of millions of dollars. I'm not here to make any announcements about regional health, but I'll just put this to you, Simon. There are some people who, come election time, they run around making all sorts of promises, but their record really tells the story that everyone needs to know and that everyone, frankly, hasn't forgotten. When they get a chance, they cut, they close, and they privatise. It's what they always do. And regional patients, I don't think will be lectured by that type of person when it comes to investing in health care. We don't privatise. We don't cut, and we certainly don't close regional health services. And that is, of course, what did happen. That's just the history of our state. It's not a partisan point, and perhaps they'd have more credibility if they simply accept that that's what they did when they had their chance. But I'm not here today to make any announcements about that part of regional health or any part of regional health. We're today here talking about regional patients, though, because the remote diagnosis, the outreach care that will be available not just to regional Victorians but to regional Australians as a result of the partnership between our Government, the Federal Government and some very generous Australians, will be directly relevant to regional Victorians. But you can rest assure we'll have more to say about health, and particularly regional health, in the weeks and months to come.

JOURNALIST: Can we ask the Prime Minister about energy just so we can, because I'm sure we have some limited time.

ANDREWS: And I think I've answered your questions.


JOURNALIST: Do you think the Energy Security Board, what do you think of them saying that coal and gas should be included in the capacity mechanism?

PRIME MINISTER: What the Energy Security Board have said is that they're mode neutral in terms of what goes forward, and that will be left up to states depending upon their particular circumstances. The Energy Security Board Chair has an Op-Ed that I encourage people to read today in the Fin Review that outlines exactly what the proposal is going forward. But they're also going through a consultation process. It's about making sure that the security, if you like, it's an insurance scheme into the energy system. And that seems to me to be a bit of common sense.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, this state is going to deal with Yallourn, as an example, to make sure that it's open until mid-2028, do you forsee other states or would you encourage other states to commit to similar deals with coal-fired power stations?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, states will make their own decisions and what I will do as Prime Minister is consult and work collaboratively with State and Territory Governments.

JOURNALIST: Do you believe coal has any place in the baseload power, assuring...

PRIME MINISTER: I've answered your question.

JOURNALIST: After Energy Ministers met a couple of weeks ago and talked about fast-tracking the capacity mechanism, that was obviously a real priority for them. The Energy Security Board's document still says that it can't be ready until the middle of 2025. What's your timeline on this? Do you think it can be brought forward a year beyond that? Because at the moment their timeline hasn't shifted.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we will work towards making sure that these issues are dealt with in a timely manner and that energy security is improved in the shortest time possible. But let me say this. We have had almost a decade of delay and denial. We had 22 policy announcements and none delivered when it came to energy. And for the first time, for the first time in a decade, Australia now has an energy policy. What has been the big constraint is a Government that has been at war with itself, the Liberal Party with other members of the Liberal Party, including, if Josh Frydenberg's proposal had have the NEG, had have been approved, and it was approved by the Liberal Party Caucus twice, not once but twice. But then they decided rather than have an energy policy, they'd knock off Malcolm Turnbull. That's what happened here. And so the National Energy Guarantee disappeared off the platform and wasn't replaced by anything. And I note that you've had one former senior minister say inexplicably on the weekend, well Labor has had nine years in opposition to prepare for being the Government and they should have solved this problem in the, I remind people, less than one month that we've been in office. The truth is we want to put in place measures as soon as possible. We will work through with the Energy Ministers, and I contrast the work that Chris Bowen done sitting down with Energy Ministers from State and Territories across the political spectrum and getting an outcome, an outcome that was never achieved in a decade under the former government.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister have you spoken to President Biden on Julian Assange and what's the Australian Government's position on the extradition order?

PRIME MINISTER: I've made clear what my position is publicly. I made it clear last year. I stand by, I stand by my comments that I made then. But I'll make this point as well, that, you know, there are some people who think that if you put things in capital letters on Twitter and put an exclamation mark, then that somehow makes it more important. It doesn't. I intend to lead a government that engages diplomatically and appropriately with our partners.

JOURNALIST: The Children's Commissioner says that Australia's child protection system is broken and needs urgent attention. What's your Government doing to address these issues?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, our Ministers were sworn in literally days ago, days ago, less than a couple of weeks ago, so less than two weeks ago. So we will deal with the range of issues that we're confronting. One of the things that we find, frankly, is that we inherit $1 trillion of debt. We inherit crises in a range of areas because of neglect, in some cases wilful neglect, in other cases, just incompetence. And in other areas, because the former Government was one that concentrated on the 24-hour political and media cycle, we had issues that should have been small, get bigger and bigger and bigger because they were too interested in playing politics, introducing legislation for how we play a trick, and how we get some division on the other side of politics. It's not what my Government is doing and it's not how we will govern.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what message is your Government hoping to send to people smugglers and the Sri Lankan Government during the Home Affairs Minister's current visit to Sri Lanka?

PRIME MINISTER: That people who arrive by boat will not be settled here. Very clearly, our system is in place of Operation Sovereign Borders. People smugglers seek to trade in misery. They seek to mislead, often run by criminal syndicates. And that is why it is so misleading to behave in that way. We will be strong on borders without being weak on humanity. But we will be strong when it comes to our borders. We will do as Australia has done for a long period of time. We will look after our international obligations to do the right thing. But the right thing is not having a free-for-all whereby people who turn up will be settled. We understand that there are issues in Sri Lanka and that the wrong messages are being given by people smugglers. Our message will be very clear.

JOURNALIST: Premier, can I just come back to you on energy quickly if that's okay?


JOURNALIST: Just on the capacity mechanism, the Energy Security Board obviously said that technology neutrality is a really important principle in the way they've designed it and then also being clear that they will design it in a way that doesn't belong to market gas and coal any longer than it needs to. Given those principles, why would Victoria not want to include them in the mechanism?

ANDREWS: Well, the key point here is that the I think one of the reasons why there's a generation origin neutrality today is the fact that it's a bit more agnostic than it might otherwise have been is a recognition that every state and territory that's in the national energy market is in a different place and has a different mix. I just had a question from Santo about the fact that we've, you know, kept of coal-fired power station going now being accused of not necessarily having a real world view. Let's be clear about this. The future is about renewables, whether it is wind or solar or battery storage, particularly when it can firm up and turn into baseload synchronous energy, renewable energy. Offshore wind is also critically important. That's why I've announced recently Australia's first and only targets for offshore generation over the next 15, 20 years. The notion of us, everything I've just said to you is not new. Our position has consistently been that the priority should be given to and preference should be given to renewable energy. At the same time, though, I'm the first to acknowledge and indeed our Government has acted in recognition of the fact that coal and to a lesser extent gas at the moment, right now and even on the timeframe that you put to the PM a moment ago out to 25, coal and gas are still part of our mix. Are they part of our future? I can tell you I have these companies coming to me all the time. They can't get finance for maintenance. We can't have them run to the exits, though, and leave us without the baseload we need. But the time has come to stop talking about transition and to get on and make it, and that's why to have a partner in Canberra who knows that climate change is real, knows the cheapest and best and most reliable form of new energy is renewable energy, is so refreshing and so critically important. Tom, if I can finish with this. I wasn't at the meeting, of course, but I've had a pretty good briefing from our energy minister, Lily D'Ambrosio, night and day compared to however many meetings she had to be subjected to with Angus Taylor as the Minister. Night and day, Chris Brown in one meeting has done more to secure our energy future than the previous Government did in nine years.

JOURNALIST: Melbourne is hosting the FINA Championships at the end of this year.


JOURNALIST: Can we get yours and the Prime Minister's reaction to FINA's decision overnight?

ANDREWS: You can get mine. The Prime Minister will answer the question if you put it to him. The key point here is, and I've had a lot to say about this issue in a broader context, and I'll direct you to those comments, I don't really feel the need to add to them today. All I'd say is this, when it comes to elite sport, professional sport, then governing bodies will govern. That's the way it's always been and I don't have a problem with that. I've been asked questions about schoolyards and things of that nature and I think I've made myself very clear to all of you, I would hope I had. PM if you wanted to add anything?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. I'll conclude with this because I'm due somewhere else with two points. One, on that question, I agree with the Premier. This is one of the reasons why this issue shouldn't have been, there shouldn't have been an attempt to make this a political issue during the last Federal election campaign. Guidelines are very clear that it's up to sporting bodies. They will make their decisions based upon their assessments, and that is appropriate. We shouldn't use vulnerable people, put them in a situation where by one side or any side of politics tries to seek a political advantage over that.

On energy, I conclude with this as well. I thank the Premier for his comments that I certainly agree with. The real tragedy here is that the Australian Energy Market Operator identified through its integrated systems plan, what the transmission solutions were. they identified them, they've been on their website for years. That was the basis of our Rewiring the Nation plan that we developed as well after consultation of course and listening to what the Energy Security Board were saying. Have we fixed transmission then this wouldn't have been an issue over recent weeks. But we had instead a Federal Government that was completely in denial. State Governments, State and Territory Governments are dealing with the challenges before it. And I note this that one of the things that happened last Friday was an endorsement by every State and Territory Government of our plan, our plan for 43 per cent by 2030. Our plan to embrace the future and shape it. Because if you don't shape the future, you're shaped by it. And that's a failure of the former Government that we've seen played out in recent weeks, we can do better, we will do better and will do better in partnership. Thanks very much.