Speech, Launceston Chamber of Commerce

10 Apr 2019
Launceston, Tasmania
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER. Well thank you very much Tim and thank you all for coming here today. Can I start by acknowledging the traditional owners and elders past, present and emerging. Can I also take the opportunity to acknowledge any servicemen and women who are here in the room today and any veterans - Gavin is here - I want to thank you for your service. What you do for our nation is something that we’ll be forever in your debt for. Can I acknowledge my very good friend who is here with us today Greg Hunt, our Health Minister, an absolutely fine Health Minister and Greg and I have been working together for many, many years. It’s a partnership I enjoy thoroughly, because we both share a passion for the topic I'm going to be talking about today; that is if you produce a strong economy, you manage your Budget well, then you can invest in changing the lives of Australians by guaranteeing funding for the essential services they rely on. We've been in that partnership for years now, formerly as a Treasurer and as Health Minister and now as Prime Minister, ensuring that we're driving the economy forward to enable Greg to be doing the extraordinary job he's been doing, guaranteeing these vital health services all around the country. To our new parliamentary colleagues, Senator Wendy Askew it's great to be here with you today and last night as well and to Bridget Archer our Liberal candidate right here in Bass, we were together yesterday and last night down at Sporties. Johnsy if you’re watching mate, you smashed me in pool last night, I had no chance against you. It was wonderful to be sharing a bit of the time up last night at the Launceston Aquatic Center where I saw the South Esk swimming club and all of the young kids, members in squad training - they were awarded the Best National Swimming Club in the country in 2015, right here at Launie. That's tremendous.

So it's been good to spend a bit of time here Bridget, in this wonderful electorate of Bass and to Gavin Pearce who is here, our candidate for Braddon and Jess Whelan who was also here today, our candidate for Lyons and Tanya Denison and Clare Chandler our Senate candidates here in Tasmania. Part of a great Senate team which is being led here in Tasmania. To Albert Van Zetten, the Mayor of Launceston and of course Tim Holder thank you for having us here today and for your comments about the positivity that is here in the north of Tasmania, the positivity that is here in Launceston.

I've been coming here for a long time and I can't recall a time frankly, when there has been such an air of expectation about what's happening here in Launceston. It's a credit to the local business community with whom I'm pleased to be sharing the morning today. The air of expectation, the investment, seeing the vision - and I agree Tim, the regional deal here in Launceston and in northern Tasmania has provided I think, a real catalyst, it has actually demonstrated that when we all work together local, state, federal government, the business community, well, stuff happens. And stuff is happening here in Launceston, stuff is happening here in northern Tasmania.

The partnership between the Hodgman Government and my Government is actually forging the way ahead and businesses can see that. They're backing it in through their own investments.

Unemployment has fallen from 8.2 to 6.5 per cent here in Tasmania. In the last year of the Labor government, 1,000 people left Tasmania. In the most recent figures 6,000 people came here. That's why I call Tasmania the turnaround state. What the Hodgman Government has done, working together with our Government federally has been to chart out, I think, the right path, which everyone is getting on and they all know is heading in the right direction, to where we all want to go.

Jobs for our kids. Education and health services for our families and our communities. Support for those with disabilities. Support for those who are in aged care facilities. Taking the dividend of a strong economy and investing it back into stronger communities. A visitation record of 1.3 million visitors here to Tasmania, an all-time record.

You know many years ago when I was involved in the tourism industry, that was the total number of international visitors that came to Australia, to Australia. Now that's how many we have come to Tasmania. It’s a credit to Tasmania, but I think it's a recognition of the strong growth that we've seen in our tourist industries. Here in northern Tasmania, whether it's the tourist industry or whether it's the forestry industry, whether it's the civil construction industry, whether it's the medical instruments or medical technology industries, whether it's the new, bright, shiny industries or it's the traditional ones which we know carry the load in terms of keeping people in work and supporting people's incomes, we are supporting all industries across Australia to go forward.

The NBN is now 99 percent complete here in Tasmania. When we came to government it was barely off the drawing board, now it’s  99 percent complete.

Forty seven mobile blackspot stations, $2.7 billion invested already in roads across Tasmania. Of course the Midland Highway $400 million, the Tasmanian Roads Package again another $400 million. The Bridgewater Bridge replacement, all big projects for Tasmania that benefit the entire Tasmanian economy, as the tentacles of these big civil construction investments reach out into the supply chain across Tasmania and create that activity that generates jobs.

On our Defence industry plan, I can never go past Penguin Composites which I've visited and which Gavin will know all about there - up in Penguin, one of my favourite places - a business that started out making kayaks, out of just the sheer passion of the owner and there's some pretty good kayaking around that way – and is now making the bonnets of armored vehicles for our Defence forces. That's been done in Penguin here in northern Tasmania. So at the cutting-edge of chemical technologies, through to the traditional industries that have always been the mainstay of northern Tasmania, it's an exciting story. There's $313 million for roads over the next decade in Tasmania that we've announced in the Budget. $130 million to the Hobart to Sorrell Corridor, $80 million for the Birralee Main Road, Murchison Highway, Old Surrey Road and Massey green Drive and Strahan Road. This is right across Tasmania, as I say, reaching out and supporting the economy all around the state.

And of course Battery the Nation. Now pardon the pun, but this does light me up, 100 per cent. I know it lights Will up as well, every time Will and I get together and we talk about Battery the Nation, we can just see its potential and we're just so anxious to get to the next stage. So the Tassie Government is investing in the Battery of the Nation side of the project, we're working on the Marinus Link side of the project with $56 million already committed to get through the planning stages and hook the Australian mainland up to the great opportunities that are here through the hydro vision that was born here in Tasmania, so many decades ago.

It's a tremendous Tasmanian story, the hydro projects here in Tasmania and to know now, that the foresight of those who were there generations ago, will now be able to be solving significantly the energy challenges of the Australian nation going forward. All born out of their vision and Battery of the Nation is a project with similar vision that Will has been leading and we are absolute joined-at-the hip partners to. 3,800 direct and indirect jobs alone, in terms of how we're proceeding with the Marinus Link project and yesterday I announced with Gavin, the $17 million Tasmanian Skills package, which is ensuring that Tasmania can be upgrading the skills of those who are already working in the sector or others coming in, to be able to fulfil this vision. As you say we've got the challenges of getting the workers into these big projects. I mean as we've been rolling out our infrastructure program now over many years, we are now - it's a good problem to have I suppose - that such is the level of investment that we're making in public infrastructure all around the country, that we're beginning to hit our head on the ceiling in terms of the capacity and the time that we have to actually get these projects done.

But I can tell you, when $80 billion dollars was taken out of the Australian economy on the other side of the mining investment boom, well, we stepped right up. We stepped right in and that is why we're now in our 28th year of consecutive economic growth. Because we had a plan. We had a plan to deal with it, a plan to deal with it nationally and also a plan to deal with it locally.

The City Deal in Launceston $260 million to UTAS to relocate its main campus. $19.4 million to rejuvenate the historic CBD here and $95 million for the health of the Tamar Estuary. Investing in services that Tasmanians can rely on, $6.5 billion more for Tasmanian schools over the next decade, a per-student funding increase of 60.6 per cent to 2029.

Let no one tell you, let no one to lie to you, that our Government has not been investing in the essential services that Tasmanians rely on. We have, they’re the facts, they are the figures.

A strong economy, we believe, is built on the efforts and hard work of Australians. It is built on the hard work and investment and entrepreneurship of small and family businesses. Which is by and large the Tasmanian economy, overwhelming so, more so than probably any part of the country when you think about it, as a state. That's why we've done what we have, on reducing taxes, extending the instant asset write-off. Investing in things like the Defence industry and other major programmes and infrastructure and so on, to continue to drive the economy forward.

But you know, the economy is not a certificate you put on your wall and say; “Oh, how clever are we as a nation, we're in 28 years of growth”. That's wonderful, but what does it mean? Why do we do it?  And why do I talk about the economy so often as I move around the country?

Because this is the best country in the world to live, but our future depends on ensuring that we keep our economy strong. Why? That’s what pays for hospitals, that’s what pays for Medicare. That's what pays for affordable medicines. That's what pays for the City Deal. That's what pays the way and guarantees the funding, not higher taxes.

Higher taxes just slow the economy down.

Over the last six months or so I've taken up, to keep myself somewhat fit, swimming laps. Now if anyone said to me; “You know, you’d go a lot faster if you put a weight belt on,” what do you think I’d say to them? It's hard enough. But that's what $200 billion of higher taxes will do to our economy. It will slow us down. It'll slow you down.

Whether it's the policies which say, to pay someone else more, you've got to sack someone else to do it - which is the policy of the Labor Party. I don't think any Australian wants to get paid more in this country, as a result of their workmate having to get sacked. I don't think that's a fair policy. I don't think that's an Australian policy. I think that is a scorched earth policy, not seeing the vision of the growth of the Australian economy. That we can run one as has been run here in northern Tasmania, which lifts everybody up. Where everybody can do better and that's why our tax policies are designed to ensure everybody can keep more of what they earn. That we don't try and penalize some, push some down, in order to pretend to be raising others up.

Our values, our beliefs are all about seeing the entire economy go forward. That's why it's great to be here. It's great to be here and seeing the optimism and the positivity here in northern Tasmania. It's exciting, it's energizing and that's what we want to see continue.

We can't turn back now. It has taken us 12 years to get the economy back to where it was when John Howard and Peter Costello left office and Labor took over. It has taken us 12 years.

You vote Labor once, you pay for it for a decade.

It's taken us more than 10 years to get employment as a share of the working age population in this country back and above the levels that were achieved back in 2007. It's taken us over 10 years to achieve that.

We are on the right track and I can tell you, here in northern Tasmania you’re on the right track. So we want to keep that going. Why? Because I want to invest in health services around this country. I want to improve the lives of Tasmanians, Australians all, as they seek and get access to the services that a modern, sophisticated, generous society can provide. Already, funding for Tasmanian public hospitals is up from $425 million a year, to $525 million. There are record bulk-billing rates in Tasmania and here in Bass alone, since we came to office, bulk-billing rates are up here, the number of people receiving bulk-billing services has increased by 4.8 per cent, almost 5 per cent. 73 per cent bulk-billed services here in the electorate of Bass. 404,654 bulk-billed services here in Bass. That 76,748 more than when we came to office. Not surprising, we’ve increased the funding for Medicare by 27 per cent since we came to Government. I remember at the last election - particularly here in Tasmania - the Labor Party lied to the people of Tasmania. They said we're going to sell Medicare. It was a preposterous lie.

We strengthened it.  Under our Government, because of a strong economy and strong Budget management, with a Budget that goes back into surplus next year for the first time in 12 years - that's how you strengthen Medicare.

You don't raise taxes. You invest in it and you run a strong economy.

Today, I'm pleased to announce that we're investing $91.9 million to strengthen the health system here in Tasmania. That includes $20 million for hospital services and infrastructure, cutting the elective surgery waiting lists. An extra 6,000 surgeries and endoscopies to be provided here in Tasmania. $34.7 million for elective surgery and TazReach primary care support to reduce the time Tasmanian patients wait for elective surgery and support Tasmanians in rural and regional locations, particularly with outreach specialist services, through the TazReach program. Upgrades to the birthing suite at Launceston Hospital – yes, population growth by more homegrown Tasmanians and more Tasmanians coming home - and more Australians from the mainland deciding to make Tasmania their home.

I met a young couple last night over at Sporties and they were telling me they’re working in the civil construction industry here in Launceston. They moved here from Melbourne. So Tasmanians are coming home. Tasmanians are staying and more Australians are choosing to become Tasmanians. I think that's exciting.

A second linear accelerator machine at Burnie for breast cancer patients which will save them $1500 for MRIs and PET scans. $4.4 million for cancer infrastructure, more MRI units with Medicare-subsidized scans for cancer, stroke and heart conditions. Greg and I will talk more about this today when we make these announcements again. Two extra diagnostic mammography units, one in Hobart and one here in Launceston. No more waiting to know whether it's benign, or cancerous.

We've all sat through I suspect, either with a friend or a family member or God forbid even yourself and you've been waiting, and you've been waiting, and it's soul destroying. This investment will remove that wait, that's the practical side of this. Yes it's money and yes it's machines, but what are we investing in? Removing that anxiety and heartache that comes from not getting access to those services as quickly as you need. $24 million dollars for mental health here in Tasmania and that includes an adult mental health center here in Launceston. A centre to treat eating disorders - I know of no parent for whom eating disorders is not one of their worst nightmares, it scares the hell out of me as a parent, scares the absolute hell out of me. We all have to keep investing in the health of our children and the mental health and well-being of our children from the earliest of ages and that's why as proud that in this Budget $461 million - Greg and I are on our mission an absolute mission to tackle youth suicide and youth mental health challenges in this country - $461 million, the biggest package we've ever seen to combat youth suicide. There's no community in this country that is not affected by this. Whether it's up in Grafton with Dr Pat McGorry when not long after Greg became Health Minister there had been a youth suicide cluster. Just that phrase. Everyone in the community was at a loss and Greg and Dr McGorry - who I know well and Greg knows well - went up there and we put a Headspace in. And there has not been, to our knowledge, a further case since that occurred.

So - 30 new Headspace centres are going in around the country, as a result of $461 million we're investing in youth mental health. It’s going to make a big difference. This is going to save young people's lives, young people's lives.

$7 million for drug and alcohol support, funding for a 10 bed facility in Burnie and an eight bed residential accommodation service in Circular Head. $12.4 million for Preventative Health Research at the University of Tasmania. $92 million investing in the health care - and you know who made it happen? You did, you did.

This is why I love small and family businesses; you love what you do. You wouldn't do it if you didn't want to. You'd go work for someone else. You know, you take a wage but when you run a small business you know, you don't take a wage. You get paid last and you pay your employees first and what's left over, is what's there for you and your family. So you do it because you love it. There are so many small family businesses that are tremendously successful and we celebrate them, as we should. But when I talk to small family businesses and I ask them about their businesses and what they love about it, they often talk to me about the weddings that being to for their staff. Or the christenings, or the way they talk about that young apprentice they took on and what they're doing now, running their own show as a carpenter or something like that.

It's the role that the business, particularly in regional communities, has in enriching the life of their fellow Australians.

Your success is the country's success.

The Government is a shareholder in your business, I don’t know if you think about it like that. The better you do, the better we do. That's why we want you to succeed. That's why we've cut small and family business taxes. That's why we're cutting taxes for all Australians, because we want Australians to keep more of what they earn. Because the better they do, the better we all do. And when that happens I can come here and say; “$92 million dollars for health services here in Tasmania”. You've made this happen, we are the Government, we're channeling it we're setting the right priorities. We're getting the direction right and creating the atmosphere for you succeed and the environment for you to succeed. But the reason we can do this, is because of the strong economy you’re building and that we are building together.

That's what is at stake at this next election.

You will not build a stronger economy with higher taxes.

You will not build a stronger economy, where the harder you work, the more you get punished with tax.

You will not build a stronger economy if you try to tie up businesses with reckless emissions targets, things that drive up the price of everything.

You won't get a stronger economy from that and that means you won't get stronger health services.

Our health plan works across four key areas; access to these medical services - and I've talked about bulk-billing and regional access in the plan today - medicines and treatments, our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the physical and mental health of our country. Affordable medicines is one of our greatest achievements I think, as a Government, with over 2,000 affordable medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme which take courses of treatment – so $9 billion for example, on 130 specific cancer drugs - courses that cost hundreds of thousands and I have met the sufferers who have paid that to get access to these medicines - who now can access it for $40.50 or $6.50 for a concession holder. I think there's no greater statement of the strength of our community, our society, our nation and our economy, when we can say we can do that.

Our Government has continued to invest and list all of the medicines recommended and that didn't happen under the previous government. Why? Because they ran out of money.

If you can't manage your Budget you can't manage the health system, as Greg so often says. You can have all the virtue and good intentions you like, but if the wallet is empty you can't pay for anything.

That's why economic management and budget management is so critical. You get that. You’re business people and that's how we run the Budget; like you would. Making sure you get your costs under control. Making sure your revenue streams are sustainable. You can't have sustainable revenue streams as a Government, if you're taxing the economy out of existence. That's why we’ve kept taxes under control as much as we’ve kept expenditure under control.

In hospitals will increase the investment, in research and capability the work of the Medical Research Future Fund is changing the landscape for health care and treatment in this country. It’s something that has been another great achievement $20 billion dollars in that fund $500 million over 10 years for the Australian Genomic mission. $164 million in the Budget for clinical trials for rare cancers, rare disease and unmet needs. $80 million where I was with Greg at the Peter MacCallum Centre of Excellence on cellular immunotherapy. When I was there with Greg, I met a couple from Tassie, getting treatment right there in that facility. It's a facility for all Australians. $100 million dollars for the comprehensive Children's Cancer Centre in Sydney and a ten year medical research plan which backs Australia's 23,000 medical researchers, creating jobs and ensuring we can quickly take life-saving discoveries from the laboratory to the hospital,, to your family to save their lives, to improve the quality of their lives, to change their lives.

It is all about a strong economy at the end of the day.

That’s not a message from an economist, it's a message from patients who need health care. The best script I can write as Prime Minister to secure the health care of Australians, is a budget surplus. The best script that I can write as Prime Minister to guarantee life-saving medicines are available and affordable, is to continue to back you and small and family businesses all around the country, so our economy continues to support these incredibly important services that all Australians rely on.

So when the Labor Party or commentators say; “this election is about health”, sure, sure, yeah it is, but only a stronger economy is going to deliver that.

That's really what is at the heart of what I'm trying to say today. We have the plans to continue to invest in the health care of Tasmanians, in the north of Tasmania and right across the country, in remote Indigenous communities, to our biggest cities. The way we will do that is not through higher taxes as Josh said in the Budget fairly regularly. Yeah he did, because our plan is to grow the economy without increasing taxes, because we know by increasing taxes you slow the economy down and that puts everything else at risk.

So here in northern Tasmania we're positive, we're excited. It's not just of the Battery of the Nation that will charge up the rest of the country coming out of Tasmania, it's the entrepreneurial spirit and go-getting nature of Tasmanians, which they're really starting to see. The rest of Australia is starting to notice it, whether it's in the performance of the housing market or performance of the economy, the great leadership that Will has been providing right here in Tasmania and we're a great partnership.

We've come so far. You've come so far. Now is not the time to turn back. Now is the time to keep on with that plan that will continue to deliver the economy that you rely on, your community relies on, the country relies on.

I want to thank all of you for your hard work, investment and effort that is driving our country forward.

Thank you very much.