Q&A, Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

10 Nov 2021
Prime Minister

MR PAUL GUERRA, CEO, VICTORIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY: Thank you, Prime Minister. We’ve got time for some audience questions, which I know you’re open to as well, so start thinking about what those questions might be. But, I might kick it off, Prime Minister. Can-do capitalism and a highly vaccinated population that we will be, and almost are in Victoria. In fact, I look at that across the rest of the country as well. Those two together, with the innovation that you talked about, all the way back to Sir John Monash. We've got people from Monash University here today. How do we use that, in your opinion, to Victoria's advantage, and perhaps the rest of Australia's advantage as well?

PRIME MINISTER: One of the biggest challenges I think we're facing at the moment is we've got to get regulation out of the way of our economy. When I was speaking to the clean tech entrepreneurs and financiers in Glasgow, I said, ‘What can we do?’ They didn’t ask for subsidies. There was no sort of, sort of rent-seeking fiesta, well at least at that occasion. It was simply, can you please ensure that when we develop these technologies and we seek to establish manufacturing and we seek to do all these things, that we're not going to get tied up in all of these approval processes that put costs onto these things that don't have to be there. And this is one of the important things we did, I mean, National Cabinet has got a pretty bad rap from some, but it, what many people wouldn’t have seen is a lot of the things that have changed underneath the surface. 

You know, one of the key things that has chaired is the group that Josh chairs - The Council on Federal Financial Relations - which has been around a while, but plugs into this new National Cabinet structure, and their job, and Josh has a tough job, convincing states and territories to streamline and deregulate, because we can do that at a federal level, but as you know, at the Victorian Chamber - if I was talking to other chambers they’d have a similar view - much of the and most of the regulation that businesses face is actually at a state and local level. We have to do our job and ASIC and APRA and in super and financial institutions and so on. That’s our bailiwick. And the EPBC Act, which we're seeking to reform at the moment and getting no help from the Labor Party who tend to like telling people what to do with their lives. But it's, what's important is that we break through that. And you're right, we are primed and ready to go in this country. We’re set up, but we've got to make sure that governments in Australia remember that we are a can do capitalist country, not a don’t do Governments country.

MR PAUL GUERRA, CEO, VICTORIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY: That's the theme that we're going to continue it on, now we’re going to push, because it resonates so much in the room. Have we got any questions from out there? We’ve got one on down, one down here. Table eight. Pascale Quester from Swinburne’s got her hand up.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, thank you for being here today. You’ll be pleased to know that despite my French accent, I'm not going to ask anything about submarines.

PRIME MINISTER: The answer will still be the same.

QUESTION: So my question relates to the message that you have for young people and students today as they kind of face Australia's future coming out of the pandemic. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Get excited, be positive, be optimistic. Alan Tudge knows this. I’ve been chatting to the students at Wesley. I really feel for those kids who, particularly been through eleven, Year 11 and Year 12 the last two years. I mean, they’ve had what are often two of the, you know, hopefully for most young people in Australia, two of the best years of their lives. And they’ve had them taken away from them by this pandemic. And that's a terrible thing that they've had to endure, but they’ve pushed through. I think they’ll be a resilient generation like, unlike others, because of what they've had to get through, and parents of of kids in those years I’m sure will appreciate that, and well done to you as well helping your kids get through. 

What we've pumped into mental health support, particularly for young people right over the country, is very much about recognising that, and I think the services, particularly headspace - I mentioned Pat before - has been quite extraordinary in, I think, seeing people through. Australia’s had a very strong focus on mental health during the pandemic. I’d say we’ve been a world leader in that space, to get us through the pandemic. But having come through that, I really just want young people to feel excited. 

You know, when I was at COP26, I sat there and I listened to people, one after the other, talking about the problem, but not enough people talking about the solution, and being optimistic about it. And when I sat around the G20 table, particularly looking directly at like-minded, market-based, capitalist, liberal democracy countries. And Australia’s saying, this is how we've always done this, as countries. I don't know why we want to borrow from from other countries that have a, have a more interventionist approach from governments. I mean, we've had to do our fair share of that, but I think we have to realise and recognise, you know, what we sprung from. Alan’s trying to do that in our education curriculum and make sure our young people understand what makes this country tick and what makes it vibrant. You know, I go to all these events and honestly, Australians are always, aren’t they Alan, the most optimistic people in the room. Alan Finkel knows that too. They go, you Australians, you are hopelessly optimistic. And I go, yes, because we see the world differently and we look at things like climate change and go, we can deal with that. We're not going to be beaten by it, we're not going to get depressed about it. We're going to fix it, because that's what you do in Australia. You don’t whinge and whine about it. You just get on with it and you get through the challenge. And I think that's one of the reasons why Australians have pushed through this pandemic so much better than other countries. Yeah, it's tough. It's been awful, particularly here in Melbourne. It's been just awful. But here you all are, here you all are. We’re going to roar back. That's my message to the young people. We’re going to roar back in this country, and we’re going to roar back with them.

MR PAUL GUERRA, CEO, VICTORIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY: Finding solutions to problems is one of the aspects that business is very, very good at. And as the young kids come through …

PRIME MINISTER: They’re better at it than governments.

MR PAUL GUERRA, CEO, VICTORIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY: Yeah, that's why we like it. I'm going to come to table 18. Richard, I think you've got one.

QUESTION: [Inaudible], a small to medium-sized enterprise here in Melbourne. The skilled immigration, when will we get some staff to help with this recovery? We need people and we just can't get them. I mean, I can take ten today if they were available. Can you make a comment on that, please.

PRIME MINISTER: I want to get them back as soon as possible, and [inaudible] I believe we’ll have, certainly skilled migration happening, well, it will be, it’s happening already now. But Singapore opens up on the 21st of November. I think we’ll move fairly quickly beyond that into Korea and Japan, and before the end of the year I hope we're opening up even more. We've just got to get through these next couple of weeks. And, you know, Australians have been through a lot. They don't want to see it get the wobbles now in terms of how we're managing the safely reopening process. And I think it's going really well. I commend both the Victorian and New South Wales Governments for what they've done in abolishing, you know, quarantine for those coming from overseas who’ve had two dose vaccinations. I mean, vaccination was the key part of the answer. So, people have been vaccinated, so that has to be honoured. And I think, you know, the experience that is being lived out now is a positive one in both states. I think both states have, I give credit where it's due in terms of planning for the impact on hospitals. That has been a key focus of the National Cabinet for many, many, many months now, preparing for this moment, and the plans are working. And I think that should be encouragement to other states that will remain locked up for a bit longer. And we hope that will end as soon as possible. Because once you get 80 per cent, as the Doherty Institute shows, well, you can, you can move on, you can move on. And, so, I think we'll see that here in Victoria and New South Wales very soon, is my, is my short answer to that question. I wish it would be true for the rest of the country. And I think other parts of the country, which will be suffering the same skill shortages that you already are here, will need to see those borders open for their own economic performance. And otherwise it will cause more harm, having things locked up, than opening them up.

MR PAUL GUERRA, CEO, VICTORIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY: Thanks Tim. And I know Minister Tudge, sitting with Duncan and Pascale today, would’ve, the reflection back on international students as they start to come back in, with international students ...

PRIME MINISTER: Students will be back, I think, before the end of the year, particularly here in Victoria.

MR PAUL GUERRA, CEO, VICTORIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY: That’s great to hear. That is very good news and, of course, it flows to the tourism side as well, and I’ve got members out there …

PRIME MINISTER: Touch wood, everything continuing to go as it is.

MR PAUL GUERRA, CEO, VICTORIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY: I know time is precious, so I'm just going to finish with one, then we'll take you back down into the audience, perhaps finish off with a coffee and meet with a couple of people. But speaking of coffee, the next couple of days in Melbourne, what's in store?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what I'm just really enjoying doing, cause like all of you, we've been, we've been kept at home or kept in the office. If I’d had to do another 14-day quarantine after coming back, it would have been my fifth in the last year, and I'm probably the most quarantined Prime Minister anywhere in the world. They were all pleased to know when I was over there that I wasn't going to have to quarantine this time. So, it was good to be there, but it's great to be back. And I think Australians know that there's nothing I love more than just getting out and about and amongst amongst the country - whether it's out in the far reaches of northern Queensland or, you know, the great streets of Melbourne. And that’s why it’s just a real thrill for us all to be, you know, we, I think we've really rediscovered, if there's one big lesson we take out of these awful times, it’s just to never take those liberties and freedoms ever for granted again. 

We had a period of prosperity in this country, unmatched anywhere in the world. And if there was one thing that, if there was only, if there's another side to that coin, it was that we could possibly get a bit complacent about how important that was. We cannot take our economy for granted. We cannot take the freedoms we have for granted. The most simple of things - whether that's the freedom of our our political structure here in Australia and our democracy, which many other countries in the world don't enjoy, the way our economy works, and the important economic decisions and decisions we’ll have to make in, next year and into the future. The pandemic has taught us not to take our economy and our freedoms for granted. And, so, the choices we make about that and the importance of the leadership that is needed to to protect our country to ensure that our economy is secured and our recovery is secured, I think is the big reminder for me, and I'm looking forward to sharing that with Australians all around the country and connecting again.

MR PAUL GUERRA, CEO, VICTORIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY: Great way to finish, great to have you back in Melbourne, great to have you back in Victoria. We hope it's not too long before you come back again. Thank you.