Well good afternoon everyone and welcome to this wonderful new facility that the Prime Minister has just opened for the Australian Federal Police. This is part of our vision for the Australian Federal Police where it is a high-performing law enforcement law agency, one of the best performing law enforcement agencies in the world and importantly within the Australian law enforcement landscape, the police force that has specialist capability.
We've invested $106 million in this new facility and it will be a global benchmark for forensic science. In this building behind you, you will find world leading experts dealing with sorts of criminal and national security challenges that we require the AFP to do in the national interest. It is a great facility - it’s taken two and a half years to construct. I was here two and a half years ago turning the first sod and it's wonderful to be back here as Minister for the opening. I congratulate the Australian Federal Police on completion of this new facility on time, on budget. I'm looking forward to seeing the sorts of capability that will come from this new building. I'm very pleased that the Prime Minister was prepared to launch it today and I would like to hand over to you.
Well thank you very much Michael, and great work. This is a great new facility and of course it gives additional capabilities to the Australian Federal Police. As I said when I officially opened the building, the Australian Federal Police and their counterparts and our national security organisations are the best in the world.
We are kept safe in times that are dangerous with serious threats, with enemies of many kinds. We are kept safe by the men and women of the AFP, the other police and security and intelligence services of Australia. And we thank them for their tireless dedication to our national security.
I was pleased also to be here to see that the AFP is at the cutting edge of technology and innovation, and I know you accompanied us on that tour. I'm sorry there was some points where the information was very classified and you couldn't join us but can I assure you this building contains some of the keenest minds, some of the most innovative minds employed by the Commonwealth of Australia. They are doing great work and they are literally at the cutting edge.
You've seen also that the design of the building is one that enhances collaboration and innovation, so it is a good example of using the built environment to support the type of agile, collaborative working style that ensures that you move to your solutions in an innovative way, in an agile way, faster than you would in a more conventional environment. So well done to everybody involved with this building.
This is a critical part of our national security effort but I also want to talk also about our economic security today because we saw yesterday the rate cut from the Reserve Bank.
Let me say that the critical thing that we have to remember at all times is that if we want to ensure we remain a strong economy with strong growth, and our growth is strong relative to others, we are growing, our economy is growing faster than any of the G7 countries, with strong economic growth, 225,000 jobs created in the last year, that - despite considerable uncertainty in the global economic environment, despite real headwinds.
Now everything that we took to the election, every policy of ours, every part of our budget is designed and calculated to promote investment. If you get move investment, if you get stronger confidence and confidence remains strong, then you will get more jobs.
Now we are going through a period of economic transition from a huge mining construction boom. Now this was always going to happen. Once you had that boom undertaken, once you had those gigantic projects being built, tens of billions of dollars being invested, once those projects were built, there would be a downturn in business investment and that is exactly what has happened. It was highly predictable.
And the question for governments and the questions that economists speculated about is will Australia have a hard or a soft landing? Will the economy be able to adjust? And it has. It has adjusted and we have maintained strong economic growth and jobs growth despite that enormous shock to our economy from the big spike in investment, mining construction investment and its inevitable tailing off.
Now the way you do that, the way you ensure that continues is to make sure that every lever of government policy is pulling in the direction of investment. That's why we have the big trade export deals, the big deals, the big free trade deals. That's why the Trade Minister Steve Ciobo is working on more deals, talking about new trade deals with Indonesia for example, and other countries - constantly opening up new markets for our exporters.
That's why we took to the election and set out in the Budget business tax cuts. Why? Because if you reduce the tax on businesses, the return on their investment increases, therefore they will invest more, therefore you will get more employment.
Of course you've seen our commitment to investment in defence industry. Christopher Pyne is leading that defence industry investment charge and he is doing that at the Cabinet level, working with Marise Payne the Defence Minister to ensure that out of that massive investment we build a substantial sovereign defence industry here in Australia. With all of the jobs and spill-over benefits that delivers.
Dare I remind you all, here in this place where there is so much innovation, nothing is more important than at every element of our national life, every part of our business life, every part of our Government's work, we are more innovative. Because the economies, the businesses, the agencies, the security agencies that succeed in the 21st Century are those that move fast, that are innovative, that are adaptive, that are agile. So every element of our policies promote investment and promote jobs by doing that.
Now, we heard from Mr Bowen this morning as he was endeavouring to talk down the Australian economy, trying to spread a message of doom and gloom on the radio and he talked about the Reserve Bank being concerned about levels of investment. You know what? There is nothing in the Labor Party's policy, either in the lead-up to the election or now which promotes investment. Absolutely nothing.
Labor's policies consist of a series of measures that will discourage investment. They want to increase the tax on investment, they want to increase the barriers to investment and that will only result inevitably in less investment and less jobs. So if Mr Bowen believes Australia needs more investment, he has got to do some homework and come up with policies that will actually promote it.
Interest rates are now as low as they have been in your lifetime. Isn't that a sign that the Reserve Bank is very worried about the Australian economy and aren't the commercial banks frustrating its purpose by not passing that cut on in full?
Well let me deal with the commercial banks first. The commercial banks should pass on the full rate cut. They should pass it all on. They should do that and if they are not prepared to do it - as appears to be the case - then their chief executives should explain very clearly to the Australian people and their customers why they have not done so. They should be fully accountable and it is up to them. They are big institutions. They operate with a very substantial social licence and they owe it to the Australian people and their customers to explain fully and comprehensively why they have not passed on the full rate cut and they must do so.
Now, dealing with the interest rate cut, the second part of your question Chris. The Reserve Bank Governor's statement speaks for itself. Can I just observe that most people in the market would have expected the Reserve Bank to cut rates sooner - this has been very well anticipated. We have to remember that Australia is part of a big integrated global economy. Interest rates in comparable economies are either very, very low or barely above zero or in some cases negative. So Australia's interest rates are still relatively high compared to other comparable countries. But the fact is we are in a global, low-inflation environment and therefore the Reserve Bank, responding to its mandate and keeping an eye on its inflation target, cuts rates.
Prime Minister, should the banks pass on their cuts on all of their products, not just on mortgages?
Well, the banks should pass on the cut in interest rates because it reduces their cost of funds and therefore they should pass them on.
To all products?
I'm saying they should pass them on. Look it's not my job to manage the banks or tell them how to manage different products because they've all got different risk profiles and so forth. But it is absolutely clear that they have made a conscious decision not to pass on the full extent of the rate cut and they should have done that.
Prime Minister, just on the Census, people are worried about the security of information in the upcoming Census. Can you explain how their privacy will be protected if they complete the Census?
The ABS, the Australian Bureau of Statistics in undertaking the Census, always protects people's privacy and the security of their personal details is absolute. That is protected by law and by practice so that is a given. Can I say on that the Minister for Small Business, Michael McCormack and the head of the ABS and indeed the Census will be speaking to the media later today about this. I've just been talking to Mr McCormack and I’ve spoken to the Treasurer also about some issues relating to the census today.
Prime Minister given the way the banks did act, very quickly almost all together yesterday afternoon, is there a perception of collusion at all?
Look, I won't comment on that. I just say that it is critical to my mind and I think the mind of most Australians that the banks should pass on the full extent of the rate cut. Now, the Government does not run the banks. We don't own those banks, we don't manage their affairs - that's up to them. But if they are not prepared to pass on the full extent of the rate cut, they owe the Australian people a full explanation. They can't just say, "Oh, it's none of your business. Please don't tell us how to run our business." They have got to, given the social licence under which they operate, they should explain fully and clearly why they have not passed on the full extent of the rate cut which I believe, and I believe the overwhelming majority of Australians believe, they should have done.
Prime Minister, do you agree with the head of the airlines pilots union who says Australia cannot afford to stop looking for MH370 and shouldn't worry about the cost or embarrassing Malaysia because of the fresh evidence we’ve seen or theory of a theory of a rogue pilot bring the aircraft to its end?
Well, it is a tragedy and a mystery made more tragic because we do not know where the plane finally crashed and where the poor souls on that plane perished. However, the search, as you know, has been very substantial. It has covered an enormous section of the ocean and the seabed. There has been an agreement reached between the countries involved and the search will be coming to an end when it is completed. Look, nothing will, nothing can ease the pain of those who lost their loved ones in that terrible crash and it is, as I said, made more tragic because of the fact that we do not know where the plane and its passengers finally crashed in the ocean. Sorry, just one more.
If I can just ask this Prime Minister - there seems to be a hardening of hearts around the debate of constitutional recognition. Within your own side of politics there seems to be questions in Western Australia of whether there will be a motion to vote against constitutional recognition. On the other side of politics, the Opposition Leader continues to talk about a treaty. Are you worried that the middle ground on this debate is being lost and that Australians won't support something that at the moment they don't understand?
Look, I'm not inexperienced in the business of endeavouring to change the Constitution, as you know. The Australian Constitution is very hard to change. Since 1946, the only successful referendums have been ones that were uncontroversial and had little or no opposition. So it is very hard. The Government is committed to the recognition of our First Australians, Indigenous Australians in the Constitution. We have an advisory group, a referendum council, as you know, that is working to conclude on what proposals, precisely what proposals would be put to the people. That group, that council is bipartisan, appointed by myself and Mr Shorten – I’ll be meeting with him tomorrow, Mr Shorten, that is, and I earnestly seek to achieve the recognition of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution. But there are some important steps that need to be achieved. Firstly, there needs to be agreement coming from that council as to what language they would proposed to put into the Constitution and then we have to be satisfied, as I believe as all of us are in the Parliament, people of goodwill be satisfied that that language is language that meets the purpose and of course is capable of winning support in the referendum.
It is a very, very difficult business. Changing our Constitution has proved very challenging and we shouldn't underestimate the difficulty, but we are committed to doing it, but we have to make the first step is to see the proposed language, proposed amendments from the council.
Is it still truly bipartisan? Is it truly bipartisan given that there are the divides within your own party in Western Australia and within Labor?
Look, the Government is committed to this. It was a commitment in fact that John Howard took to the election in 2007 and has remained part of our policy ever since.
Thank you all very much.