Press Conference - Sydney

Transcript
19 Dec 2017
Sydney
Prime Minister
Ministerial arrangements; Climate change review
E&OE
Government

PRIME MINISTER:  Well good afternoon. The new ministry I’m announcing today reflects the priorities of my Government; growing the economy, creating jobs, keeping Australians safe. It reflects the values of the Coalition, with new and reinvigorated portfolios, designed to encourage enterprise - particularly small businesses, family businesses, innovative businesses - and of course, protecting vulnerable families, supporting them.

It's a ministry that showcases the depth of the Liberal and National team, with well-earned promotions for talented individuals, a number of young and upcoming MPs bringing new skills and energy to the frontbench.

Most significantly, we've created two major new portfolios designed to fulfil two critically important roles for any government; job creation, economic growth and national security, keeping Australians safe.

And we've entrusted those portfolios with two of our most capable and respected ministers. Peter Dutton will, as you know, become the Minister for Home Affairs, for the first time, bringing together our nation's security, border and intelligence agencies under one department. Bringing domestic national security under one department, modelled - as you know - on the UK Home Office.

Senator Michaelia Cash will become the Minister for Jobs and Innovation, charged with harnessing all of the policies of Government to create more jobs and job opportunities for Australians. She will be a key part of our economic team, working to deliver on our commitment of more jobs, more investment, stronger economic growth.

That's our priority for 2018; more investment, more jobs, better jobs, more money in the pockets of hardworking Australian families and businesses.

We're obviously delighted to welcome Barnaby Joyce back to Cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister - he made a dramatic return you may recall, in the last sitting week - and as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. A vital portfolio as the Government rolls out its record $75 billion infrastructure program. Barnaby will continue to be responsible for our dams policy. He's very committed to ensuring that we do more in terms of water storage – that’ll be part of his Infrastructure portfolio. He will ensure that projects are delivered on time and on budget and that every community, from the cities to the regions, is getting its share of a program designed to improve people's lives.

His contribution to the Cabinet and the Coalition is fundamental as the leader of the Nationals and DPM.

Christian Porter will become Attorney-General, a role he's previously held in the Western Australian State Government.

Mathias Cormann, Finance Minister, will take on the additional role of Special Minister of State. Mathias' expanded portfolio is testament to his outstanding performance as a Cabinet Minister and he is ideally qualified for this important work, given his work on historic reforms to politicians' entitlements and foreign donations.

Kelly O'Dwyer will take on the additional role of Minister for Women, which was previously held by Senator Cash.

Now I'm pleased to welcome five new members to the Cabinet.

Deputy Nationals Leader Bridget McKenzie joins the Cabinet as Minister for Sport, Rural Health and Regional Communications. Bridget has long campaigned for better services for regional communities.

Michael Keenan, who's spent four years as Minister for Justice and done an outstanding job, will join Cabinet as Minister for Human Services and Minister assisting me for Digital Transformation. An essential role in ensuring all Australians get the services they expect when dealing with the Government, particularly as more and more services shift online.

Dan Tehan, who has done an outstanding job as Minister for Veterans' Affairs, will join Cabinet in the critical role of Minister for Social Services, taking over from Christian Porter. He’ll work closely with the newly created role of Assistant Minister for Children and Families, which will be filled by David Gillespie, as well of course, with Jane Prentice, who has been doing and will continue to do an outstanding job as Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services.

John McVeigh, who has previously served as a minister in the Queensland LNP State Government, will join Cabinet as the Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government.

David Littleproud will become the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources and he will bring to that role two decades of experience in agribusiness before he went into Parliament.

Now, the new Cabinet will not include some familiar faces.

Firstly, Senator Arthur Sinodinos, who has written to me this week to tell me his medical treatment is taking longer than anticipated and he is unlikely to be able to return from leave until the middle of next year. In those circumstances, he's asked that he not be included in the new ministry.

Now, Arthur is one of our generation's most accomplished and experienced public servants and his contributions to the Cabinet have been sorely missed since his illness was first diagnosed. We wish him all the best in his recovery and we look forward to Arthur regaining full health and returning to a senior ministerial or other government role in the future.

Secondly, Senator George Brandis after 17 years of distinguished service in the Senate, has signaled his plans to stand down. George has been an absolute stalwart of the Government in the Senate, particularly in the past couple of years, given the challenges of negotiating with a large crossbench.

Senator Brandis' legacy as Attorney-General will be remembered for many things - it's been a time of extraordinary achievement and activity - but perhaps two things in particular. First, it was on his watch as Attorney - and in no small measure thanks to his eloquent advocacy over many years - that Australia legislated for marriage equality.

Secondly, as the minister responsible for domestic national security legislation since 2013, he's undertaken the most comprehensive reforms of our national security laws to keep Australians safe. Most importantly, the foreign interference and transparency bills I introduced into the Parliament on the last sitting day, which are the most sweeping reforms ever made to keep us safe from hostile foreign interference, are his handiwork and will be an important part of his legacy.

I hope, however, that George's public service to our nation is not over. Early in the new year, I intend to recommend to the Governor-General that he be appointed as Australia's new High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. I know George will excel at that role. It is a very, very important time in the history of the United Kingdom and there is a lot at stake for Australia in our relations with the UK. George will bring to that role extraordinary experience and a familiarity with and trust of leading figures in the Government and elsewhere in Whitehall. He's superbly qualified to do that job.

Now, George's position as Leader of the Senate will be filled by Senator Cormann, who has also been integral in steering the Government's agenda through the Senate. His determination and his wise counsel are invaluable.

Now, I obviously consult closely with the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Nationals on the make-up of the ministry. I want to take this opportunity to thank Darren Chester for his very significant contributions to the Cabinet as the outgoing Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. I know that we will all continue to call on his wisdom and experience.

Changes in the outer ministry reflect the Government's focus on business enterprise, national security and families.

Craig Laundy is promoted to the role of Minister for Small and Family Business, Workplaces and Deregulation. Craig has spent 20 years in private business before joining Parliament. He brings unique insight into the challenges faced by small and medium businesses and family businesses. He has an understanding of enterprise and entrepreneurship that few can equal. He will also take direct responsibility for Workplace Relations and will work closely with Senator Cash in her new role to ensure the Government is doing everything possible to give companies the confidence they need to invest and create jobs and to give Australians the confidence they can get the skills and opportunities they need to find a job, or get a better one.

Michaela, Craig and Zed Seselja as the new Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation, will work together to make sure we harness the jobs of the future through new industries and small businesses so Australians can adapt and thrive in this era of innovation and technological change.

As Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton will be supported by two ministers; Angus Taylor, as Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security and Alan Tudge, as Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs.

He will also continue to have the assistance of Alex Hawke as Assistant Minister for Home Affairs. The Department of Home Affairs will keep Australians safer by ensuring full coordination between ASIO, the AFP, Australian Border Force, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and AUSTRAC. It will also contribute enormously to nation-building through its focus on our immigration program.

Now, Paul Fletcher will take on an expanded role as Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities, charged with ensuring the Government's infrastructure program meets its objectives of reducing congestion and improving the livability of our cities. He will also continue the delivery of City Deals with state and local governments around the country.

After serving as Minister for Small Business since last year, Michael McCormack will become the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Defence Personnel and will assist me in the final year, this coming final year, of the Anzac Centenary.

Melissa Price joins the Ministry as Assistant Minister for the Environment. She will work closely with the Minister for Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg and is tasked with developing and implementing the Government's policies on issues as broad as climate change, Landcare and the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. Melissa is an accomplished lawyer and represents the single biggest electorate in the country, Durack in Western Australia, which is I might note, 40,000 times the size of my electorate of Wentworth.

In the new role of Assistant Minister for Children and Families, Dr David Gillespie will work with the Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan, to ensure children get the best start in life and families get the support they need.

Damian Drum, currently the Chief Nationals Whip, will join the ministry as Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister.

David Coleman, who has come to the Parliament after a long career in business and has performed admirably as Chair of the House Economics Committee, is also elevated to the ministry as Assistant Minister for Finance, while Luke Hartsuyker moves to the role of Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment.

I want to thank Keith Pitt for his service in the Assistant Trade Minister role to date.

This is a Ministry rich with diverse experience and energy and it reflects our very, very talented party room.

Sadly, there is always more ministerial talent than there are places in the ministry, but that is a testament to the diversity and the experience of the Liberal and National parties and their representatives in Canberra.

So, we have a lot of work to do in the new year, particularly for those ministers mastering new portfolios. I know that every member of the ministry is ready for the challenge.

I congratulate them all. They're committed to delivering, for all Australians, more and better-paying jobs, more prosperity and more security.

A safer and more prosperous Australia. That is our goal in 2018, focusing on national security, economic management, jobs and growth - once a slogan, now an outcome, over a thousand jobs a day this year.

We want to keep powering along to ensure Australians do even better in 2018, that we get that real growth in wages that we're looking forward to, which is driven of course, by stronger economic growth.

Any questions?

JOURNALIST:  Prime Minister, why has Darren Chester been dropped?

PRIME MINISTER:  Well, as you know, the composition of the ministry has to take into account matters of geography as well. Plainly - Barnaby Joyce will no doubt be able to answer this directly – but plainly, the Nationals have a very large component of their party room comes from Queensland. Barnaby was keen to see that reflected in their representatives in the Cabinet.

Look, I have to say Darren has been an outstanding minister. I regret that this has resulted in him no longer being a member of the ministry. But as I said earlier, he is a very wise colleague, an experienced colleague and a good friend and we look forward to his support in the future.

JOURNALIST:  A bit like a quota system?

PRIME MINISTER:  Well, it's not an exact science, David. But clearly, you have to take into account, in appointing a ministry and from the Nationals' point of view, selecting their members of the ministry, you have to take into account geography. You know, it's a big country and we've got to take into account wide representation.

JOURNALIST:  A key change here is from George Brandis to Christian Porter. What new direction do you hope that Porter will bring to this job and will take the job in that perhaps Brandis hasn't?

PRIME MINISTER:  Well Sharri, George has been an outstanding Attorney-General. George is, above all, a really good lawyer, as indeed is Christian.

The Attorney-General's role has changed now, because the responsibility for - in that Attorney-General's Department, for example, for the AFP and ASIO, is moving to the Department of Home Affairs. So it, as I announced earlier in the year, very much a first law officer's role. It always has been of course, but it's very focused on that.

And also very focused on integrity and so that's why a number of agencies, like INSLM the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, are moving into the Attorney-General's Department.

But I’ve worked very closely with Christian, he is an outstanding lawyer. George is also an outstanding lawyer but you know, I'm confident I'll be getting very good legal advice and support from Christian.

JOURNALIST:  Just back on Darren Chester, what about the suggestion that it wasn't just about the Victorian-Queensland matter and Barnaby Joyce, the Deputy Prime Minister wasn't particularly thrilled with Mr Chester defying his wishes in their recent contest for the deputy leadership. Is that true?

PRIME MINISTER:  My understanding of this is that this is very much a function of geography. If you look at the number of Queenslanders in the National party room, you can see the need to have more representation of Queensland among the National ministers in the Cabinet.

JOURNALIST:  Why is workplace relations not in Cabinet?

PRIME MINISTER:  Well it is in Cabinet David, because Michaelia as the senior minister is responsible for all of those areas.

But in terms of line responsibility, day-to-day responsibility, it's going to be dealt with by Craig.

JOURNALIST:  Michaelia Cash is still responsible for...?

PRIME MINISTER:  Sure, she's the senior minister. So, it’s like Peter Dutton is the Minister for Home Affairs, and so he is ultimately responsible for everything in his portfolio, but large parts of it are delegated to ministers and, indeed, to an assistant minister.

Workplace relations is obviously a key part of productivity and our economic agenda, but in terms of direct responsibility for it, it will be dealt with by Craig.

JOURNALIST:  Putting Newspoll aside, how do you plan to sell your message better next year? Was the need to do so one of the factors behind your thinking for this reshuffle?

PRIME MINISTER:  Well, you can see that the focus of the reshuffle is on those two big priorities; economic growth and jobs, and national security.

The Home Affairs Department, of course, we'd announced some time ago, but you can see the talent that we're bringing into that. Alan Tudge, one of our most talented ministers, has been in the ministry for some time now, doing a great job. Angus Taylor coming in from the ranks of the assistant ministers. This is a really high powered national security portfolio. It’s a big portfolio and I want to stress that.

Of course, on the economic front, you know, the objective is to focus on creating more jobs.

I did say that was the goal, nearly a year ago and I spoke at the Press Club, we're generating employment at over a thousand jobs a day and we want to keep that up. We want to keep pushing on down on that unemployment rate, and, of course, that will lead to higher wages too. What will deliver higher wages growth, well, more demand for labour. That's where you need that economic growth that is putting pressure on the labour market to drive better wages and more opportunities.

At one level, it's very simple. But it's easier said than done and we made this our target of just focusing on investment, employment, productivity, deregulation; everything we can do to encourage businesses, large and small, but particularly small, because they're the most dynamic.

Everything we can do to encourage them to invest an extra dollar, hire an extra worker, you know, get out there and compete, people that want to get started in business to have a go, to believe they've got the confidence to have a go.

That's why it's so important that business confidence is so high. You've got to maintain that. This is the agenda for 2018.

We've had a lot of difficult issues to deal with this year. You know, and we’ve dealt with them - you know, the marriage issue, you know, energy. You know, we've got a great energy policy that's been put together so well by Josh, and it's out there getting wide acceptance. Obviously, at least the citizenship barnacle is at least off our side of the boat. I think it's still on the Labor side of the boat.

But what we're now focusing on resolutely and solely is on keeping Australians safe and ensuring their prosperity. The two agendas go hand in hand.

JOURNALIST:  What makes someone like David Littleproud qualified for the frontbench, as a first-termer?

PRIME MINISTER:  Well, he is a very capable, he's a very capable man. I mean he's had 20 years' experience in agribusiness. He really does understand agriculture very well, both at a practical level and at a financial level. So no, he's certainly well-qualified.

But can I say to you, there are many more people qualified for the ministry in my party room than there are places in the ministry. That's why these exercises, when you do get people who retire or aren't able to be included in the ministry, and you've got new people coming in, they're always very difficult times. Because there are - you know, for every person you choose to go in, there's another number of colleagues who are equally well-qualified.

So, they’re always tough choices. But you'd rather have the problem of having too much talent to choose from than too little.

JOURNALIST:  Just back on the geography issue, you've got to balance geography, but still no Tasmanians?

PRIME MINISTER:  Yeah, that's true. And that is, I guess, a function of the small team from Tasmania in the Parliament, at least on our side of the Parliament at the moment.

But I can assure you that Tasmania is foremost in my thinking, and in fact, particularly in Josh Frydenberg's, particularly with the work we're doing on energy and with hydro-Tasmania.

JOURNALIST:  And just on energy and the climate review released today, when will emissions stop rising?

PRIME MINISTER:  I can't give you the precise forecast for that. What you will see - you've got a couple of things working together - on the one hand you’ve got population growth, which tends to push for,  produce more emissions, because the larger population will, all other things being equal, have higher emissions than a lower one.

At the same time, you've got the process of de-carbonisation in the energy sector, you've got the growth of renewables now, storage, although it's going to take some time to build the big storage facilities. You know, Snowy Hydro 2 is going to be a work of a number of years to get that complete.

But you're seeing a transition in the energy sector, you're also seeing big improvements in energy efficiency. So our emissions per capita keep on coming down. In fact, our Paris target is, on a per-capita basis, one of the highest in the OECD. You've got to remember a lot of the countries we compare ourselves with have got either flat population growth or, in fact, are going in reverse.

So, we've got strong population growth, strong economic growth, but we are reducing emissions over time and will continue to do that. But the big swing factors are those, energy efficiency, reducing emissions and of course, that transition in the energy sector.

That's why the National Energy Guarantee is so important; because you've got to be able to keep energy affordable and reliable at the same time as you meet your emissions reductions. Otherwise you end up, you know, in the mess that say South Australia found itself in.

JOURNALIST:  You were just speaking about wages, the MYEFO figures yesterday showed that this was the one area that is really stagnant, businesses haven’t had the confidence to give their workers a pay rise since before the Global Financial Crisis which has affected household consumption from time to time on that side of growth figures. Do you have a message for businesses to give workers a pay rise, go ahead and do it next year?

PRIME MINISTER:  Well I’d certainly encourage them to, but businesses Sharri are obviously always, you know, obviously planning, trying to make a profit and family businesses and small and medium businesses, their profits they make are overwhelmingly invested back into the business. You know, they don't have access to the public equity markets, debt markets like big listed companies.

But what will drive higher wage growth is more demand for Labor, and you're starting to see shortages of Labor in particular areas, and what will follow from that is higher wages.

Phil Lowe, the Governor of the Reserve Bank, gave a good speech about this the other day, and just underlined the importance of stronger economic growth.

That's why - I know I can be very repetitive about this - but that is why jobs and growth depend on investment. That's why Labor's approach, which is so anti-business, anti-investment, you know, imagine at a time when we're seeing strong jobs growth, we're seeing over a thousand jobs a day, we're seeing more investment by business, you've got the Labor Party wanting to jack taxes up on companies and businesses.

The very companies that have got the confidence now to invest more and employ more, Labor wants to hit with higher taxes and they want to hit personal income tax with increases as well.

You've got to make sure you do everything you can to encourage private businesses to invest more. That's why we have this whole jobs and innovation portfolio that Michaelia is heading with Craig Laundy, you know, to drive that.

Every part of my Government, you know, Scott Morrison, everybody, Mathias, all of us are working together to ensure we get that growth. That's what the infrastructure agenda is all about. That's what Barnaby's focus is going to be, making sure those projects are built; the Inland Rail is built, Western Sydney Airport is built, the big water projects are built.

You do that, you get that drive, that impetus, that momentum that gives you the investment and the employment. You've got to have just a laser-like focus on it.

I mean, I am determined to ensure that as we keep Australians safe, as we maintain our commitment to national security, we also secure their prosperity. That depends on investment, business confidence, and employment.

So, thank you all very much. Thank you.