SUBJECTS: Congestion busting infrastructure; Labor’s economy wrecking emissions reduction target; One Nation.
THE HON DAVID COLEMAN MP, MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION, CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURAL AFFAIRS: Well good morning everyone, welcome to Hurstville. It’s great to be here with the Prime Minister who is a regular visitor to our area. He was just here a few weeks ago for our Lunar New Year Festival and has visited many times over the years in his different capacities in the Government.
I’m really pleased to have the PM in Hurstville today particularly to make this important announcement about infrastructure in Hurstville. Now, Hurstville is the beating heart of the St George district. Hundreds and hundreds of small businesses, literally thousands of people are employed in this area. So many small businesses that have been successfully created by people who have immigrated to our nation over the years. And the big issue, or one of the big issues in Hurstville of course is car parking. It’s really hard to get parking in Hurstville and this has been an issue for some years and it’s something that I have been raising within the Government and seeking to get federal support for. So it’s really terrific that as part of the Government’s broader urban congestion fund that the PM is committing $7. 5 million towards a carpark here in Hurstville. That’s going to make a big difference to people in the Banks electorate and indeed people all around the St George area who come to Hurstville for shopping, to dine out at one of the dozens of great restaurants and for commuting as well.
Really pleased to have the PM back here in Hurstville for this important local announcement today.
PRIME MINISTER: Well thank you very much David and it’s great to be with my neighbour here in Sydney in Hurstville, a place I know extremely well going back a very long time. What I’m here today to talk about is a number of things. Last week, David and I together with Alan Tudge, outlined our serious plan to manage population growth across Australia. Now, we know living here in Sydney, as they do in Melbourne and parts of South East Queensland, in particular, the real pressures that have come with managing population growth and the impact that it can have on Australians' quality of life. Getting home sooner, safer, spending time with family. If you're a tradie, you spend more time sometimes in traffic jams than you do on site and this needs to change and this needs to be properly managed and it needs a serious plan that deals with everything. A sensible and responsible balanced migration program that meets Australia's economic needs as well as our need to manage our growth. It needs a serious infrastructure plan that we've been rolling out now for years, $75 billion rolling infrastructure plan and a key component of that plan was the urban congestion-busting fund that I announced in last year's Budget, of which we are making announcements here today. It's about better coordination between state and local governments, together with the Commonwealth Government, to ensure that we're planning together for population growth, whether that's important health services or education services. And last year, as we went into COAG, we were able to get an agreement from all the states and territories, and I particularly want to thank Gladys Berejiklian for her strong support, as we built together that coalition of both sides of politics, at state and federal levels, to ensure that we were getting a coordinated approach to planning and population management. And of course fourthly, it's about investing in the social cohesion of our cities and our communities, something I particularly want to commend David for, as Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs. We invested some $80 million-plus, $90 million, thereabouts, in new social cohesion measures to bring people together. So we grow together, we don't grow apart as our population continues to move forward.
So today I'm announcing $253.5 million out of the congestion-busting fund for projects here in New South Wales, and that includes $7.5 million for the commuter carparking, the park and ride arrangements here in Hurstville. As David said, getting people onto public transport, getting people off the roads - well, to do that, they've got to be able to get to and park at a train station and that's just not true here in Hurstville, but we're also making announcements in Gosford, for Panania as well and in Woy Woy, all critical commuter suburbs, where people want to take that option of the train and to work together with the state government and how they're improving rail services here in New South Wales, to ensure that that becomes the best choice available for people. And so that $7.5 million we'll spend here in Hurstville I think will benefit many, many Australians and families living around southern Sydney.
Now, on top of that, we are announcing a series of projects, of road projects which includes $95 million for the Horsley drive in south-west Sydney, a widening of the King Georges Road in southern Sydney, which David and I are both very familiar with and that's a $50 million project we're doing with the state government. That's our contribution. Works on Homebush Bay drive of some $50 million. The Blaxland Road at Balaclava Road Eastwood, $4.5 million being put into that. Down my neck of the woods in the Shire, there's Princes Highway, at Waratah Street just near the car yards. These are projects that involve right-turn lanes, they involve dealing with pinch points that actually clog our cities.
This is surgical-like attention to our road network, working with the state government to deal with these real pinch points that cause such frustration for people getting around our city. Our city has enjoyed significant growth here in Sydney, but that growth comes with pressures and it comes with challenges that need to be managed. And so what we're announcing here today are real, practical initiatives that bust congestion, that get families home sooner and safer, that get them to work sooner and safer, and ensure that they can get on site, they can get to where their small businesses need them to be, rather than sitting in traffic jams around our growing city.
So that's what the plan is about. It's not just about a carpark here in Hurstville. It's about a national plan to manage our population growth, which I know Australians are looking for leadership on and we're delivering on it. I'm happy to take questions. Why don't we deal with what we're announcing today and the broader $253 million and there'll be plenty of time to address other matters, which I'm happy to address.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, clearly though just how far does this money extend? Like, how much would you get done for the projects there for $250 million? That’s $5.5 million per lane for one kilometre in NSW.
PRIME MINISTER: I think you misunderstand the program. $7.5 million matched by the state government here builds a carpark. Same thing in Woy Woy, same thing in Gosford, same thing over in Panania. If you go down to a small project, only $4 million, which deals with a pinch point in Kirrawee on the Princes Highway at Waratah Avenue, that deals with a significant choke point on our roads. So a quarter of a billion dollars being invested in choke points in our road networks in Sydney, identified by our local members and local communities. I think that goes a long way and it's real money. It's not a promise. It's in the Budget, it’s actually in the Budget. It was in last year's Budget when we announced the overall fund and those funds have been allocated to these projects so they go ahead.
JOURNALIST: Is the state going to match the Federal Government on most of these projects, is that your understanding?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes.
JOURNALIST: How many extra car spaces will this bring in?
THE HON DAVID COLEMAN MP, MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION, CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURAL AFFAIRS: That'll be worked through with the state government. They're matching the funding. And we'll announce further details in due course but it's a big deal for Hurstville because we very much need more parking.
JOURNALIST: The state government focused a lot on transport infrastructure in their election campaign and commuter carparks are actually a local issue that won them a lot of votes. Is this sort of a strategy that you think is a vote winner, focusing on transport infrastructure?
PRIME MINISTER: Well what it does is it helps people get to work and get home. That's what it does. That's what it is about. We've been announcing these projects around the country now for some time. We've got similar projects, which are running in Victoria as well, which we announced some time ago, quite a while ago, and so it's important that this infrastructure is put in place. I mean... but I stress again the point about managing population growth. Managing population growth is not just about your migration program. It's about all of these things. It's about choke points on roads. It's about commuter carparking stations. It's about, you know, satellite cities like Geelong or Newcastle or Wollongong and how people can have faster connections into the major cities in each of those states. That's how you manage population growth. We've got a serious and comprehensive plan to manage population growth in our cities, to protect the quality of life of Australians, whether they're living in Sydney or whether they're living in Melbourne or they're living in South East Queensland in Brisbane or, indeed, in Perth or the other cities that will face these congestion problems into the future.
JOURNALIST: The Federal Government dealing with roundabouts...
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. I make no apologies for our government focusing on the things that Australians want us to focus on. I think that's a good plan.
JOURNALIST: As we know, the Australian Government is encouraging young immigrants to work in regional areas such as South Australia and Western Australia.
PRIME MINISTER: Yes.
JOURNALIST: Please let us know the plan of how to allocate skilled migrants, how they could find a job opportunity and support in that regional area?
PRIME MINISTER: You're right to highlight that part of our population management plan is the process to ensure that we are giving greater incentive and greater support for people who are coming to Australia to take up the opportunities that exist outside our big cities, and that doesn't just mean regional areas of the country. It means cities like Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart. In Tasmania, their population is growing now and their economy is strong and there are real opportunities there and we want to provide the opportunity for people who are coming to Australia to see those as real opportunities. There is 47,000 job vacancies in regional Australia. So the opportunities are there and people will go to where the work is and where the services are and we've been able to ensure that there are more visa places in regional areas for skilled visas but on top of that, we're giving more of a say to the states and territories, including here in New South Wales, about how many of those visas they wish to pursue. So states now will go from having less than one-fifth of a say over the program, to say, over almost a third of the program. That's what I mean about state and federal governments working together on our migration program. In the past these two things have been disconnected. We all remember here in this city when Bob Carr famously said Sydney is full. How did that help anyone? They basically stopped building infrastructure and people kept rolling in and Sydneysiders have been living with the consequences of Labor's failed approach to migration and population planning for the decades since. So we're working together with state and territory governments to manage our population and managing the intake of new migrants to the country and encouraging them to take up places, and not just new skilled migrants. It's students as well. Students will get an extra year of work rights if they're studying in regional locations around the country. Eddy?
JOURNALIST: How can it be justified for an MP to spend so much time overseas in a...
PRIME MINISTER: I'm happy to come to those questions but any more questions on urban congestion or parking stations or...
JOURNALIST: … from these skilled migrants who are moving to the regional areas that they can’t find a job there, what has the government done, or will be doing, to help increase these opportunities?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the state component of the program actually has those incentives built into it. So in South Australia, for example, they have programs to support migrants also finding jobs and settling in South Australia, in Adelaide. In Darwin, in the Northern Territory, they have similar programs. In Tasmania, they have similar programs and there is the normal processes that go around with job placement services that assist with connecting people with work in these areas. Now, you know, we're very familiar with the fact that people know about the economic opportunities in Sydney and Melbourne in particular. But we also know that there's a lot of pressure on our cities and we are going to continue to ensure that there is a positive migration program to Australia, but we're going to ensure that the benefits of that are spread more broadly across the country. OK. So we've got one more here and then one over here.
JOURNALIST: Will the subclasses for the new visas be identified?
THE HON DAVID COLEMAN MP, MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION, CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURAL AFFAIRS: Yes. So basically it will be the two new regional visas. There's the employer-sponsored, which is basically you need an employer to sponsor you to come to regional Australia. 9,000 spots within that program. And then there's what's known as the state and territory-sponsored which is 14,000 spots under the regional program and there's a strong pipeline of demand both from the states and from employers for those two programs. Basically, what will happen is people will be able to come to regional Australia, work anywhere within regional Australia over a three year period, and then have the opportunity to get permanent residency at the end of that three years. And we think that's really important because, as the PM said, the needs are very different in different parts of Australia. In South Australia, there's a great need for more skilled immigration to help grow that economy, and a lot of gaps in the economy down there. So what this is about is about better balancing the immigration program to be reflective of the different needs around the country.
PRIME MINISTER: We should stress there's no changes to the amount of visas that will be available under the families program. That is maintained. We had a question from this gentleman.
JOURNALIST: I'd like to know if a visa or [inaudible]
PRIME MINISTER: The ultimate incentive that has been working now for many years, when it comes to our regional-based migration programs, is people will need to be there in order to gain permanent residency. And so that is the positive incentive. And that is the great sort of prize to which new migrants are working towards is permanent residency and so this would just basically be a proof of compliance requirement on the individual. If they don't stay outside of the big cities during that period, they won't qualify for permanent residency. These are programs that already have their compliance arrangements. But we are putting in place improved hubs in the regional areas and outside the big cities to better facilitate the migration application process and connect people better to some of the opportunities that exist in the regions. We’re not expecting people to go where there are no jobs. As David just said, we’re expecting people to take up opportunities where there are states that are rebounding strongly economically. South Australia us a great example of that. So is Tasmania, and there are great opportunities there and we want to ensure that our migration program backs in those states that are looking to grow like that , while working closely with states like New South Wales and Victoria and Queensland, where they're looking for a more managed approach to migration.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, One Nation - this is about survival for you, isn’t it? It’s about you getting One Nation preferences in order to survive, that’s what it’s about.
PRIME MINISTER: What I said yesterday is people shouldn't vote for One Nation. They should vote for the Liberal Party. I'm in the business of attracting the primary votes of Australians. And what I've been saying to One Nation voters - and I want to be very clear here - when I make comments about One Nation, I'm not making comments about One Nation voters. They're two very different things. Of course what we saw yesterday - and frankly, being drunk is no excuse for trading away Australia's gun laws to foreign bidders - that's the conduct of One Nation officials. What I'm talking about is directly to those who have either voted One Nation in the past, or are considering voting One Nation in the future, that across all of these smaller parties, these minor parties, you won't find those answers there. You won't find a serious program to manage our population growth in the minor parties or in One Nation or any of the others. You won't find it. You won't find answers to Australia's water challenges in these parties either. These are not parties of government. They're parties of grievance. And what we're about is actually responding to, listening to, and meeting these concerns, which are very legitimate, that have been raised by people who are considering voting for these other minor parties. So my message to them is very simple - don't vote One Nation. Don't vote One Nation. Don't vote for any of the other minor parties or the independents. Vote for the party that can actually deliver on the things that you're interested in and don't allow the Labor Party, in cahoots with the Greens, to put the Australian economy on a negative path for the next decade. Because last time the country changed to Labor in 2007, we've been paying for it ever since. It has taken us over 10 years to get the Budget back into surplus. It has taken us over 10 years to get the percentage of people employed in this country back to, and above, the levels that were left by the Howard government. You vote Labor once, you pay for it for more than a decade. That is the history of politics and government in this country.
JOURNALIST: Have Ashby and Dickson actually broken laws? Will you be referring them to the AFP?
PRIME MINISTER: I would expect the law enforcement authorities to take all and every action available to them to pursue any possible criminal offence or unlawful offence. That's what I would expect. That's their job, so I'd expect them to do that. The evidence that has been reported is all out there in the public domain.
JOURNALIST: Should there be a reference?
PRIME MINISTER: I assume they're doing their job, which I expect them to do every day. If there's an unlawful act, I would expect the AFP or other relevant law enforcement authority to take that action and for them to face the full force of the law.
JOURNALIST: Sorry I asked a question earlier and I want to get to it. How can it be justified for an MP in a marginal seat to spend so much time overseas?
PRIME MINISTER: All I can say is George hasn't spent a day in the Philippines since I've been Prime Minister. Not a day.
JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to him about it?
PRIME MINISTER: I endeavoured it contact him actually yesterday but we were both travelling at the time - in Australia I should stress - and I've spoken to the leader of the National Party about it and he's making comments about this as well. But I can tell you it hasn't happened on my watch.
JOURNALIST: It's not a good look. Is it just coincidence that he hasn't been overseas since you became Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER: Well all I'm saying is he hasn't and I expect members to be in their electorates doing their job.
JOURNALIST: What briefings have you had from the AFP on their inquiries into his travel?
PRIME MINISTER: I don't know what you're suggesting.
JOURNALIST: Apparently the AFP has enquired into his travel. Have you had any briefings?
PRIME MINISTER: Again, I don't comment on whether AFP briefings exist or don't exist. I think that would be a very reckless thing for a Prime Minister to do in any situation.
JOURNALIST: Do you know what he was doing?
PRIME MINISTER: It's his private business. I don't go into his private business.
JOURNALIST: No crimes have been committed?
PRIME MINISTER: He wasn't travelling there officially, as my understanding was, and so what he does in his private time is a matter for him.
JOURNALIST: It’s not a good look though is it?
PRIME MINISTER: I’ve covered the issue.
JOURNALIST: On the NDIS, s there going to be more money in this year’s Budget for the NDIS?
PRIME MINISTER: The NDIS is fully, 100 per cent funded and every demand, every need that the NDIS has is fully funded in the Budget.
JOURNALIST: There are service providers who say they're having trouble with funding, that they’re being crippled by cost. What do you say to them?
PRIME MINISTER: That the NDIS is fully, 100 per cent funded for now and into the future as it always has been. The board's meeting, as I understand, NDIS board is meeting and they're considering a number of matters that the Social Services Minister has been supportive of the issues they’re dealing with currently and he'll have more to say in the near future about some of those issues reported in the Australian today. But all I can say is the NDIS, I have a passion for, I think people understand the reason for my passion. I don't think there are many Australians who don't have some direct or personal connection with an Australian who lives with a disability. I'm looking forward making the announcement about the establishment of the Disability Royal Commission. This is something I have taken on fully, not in a half-hearted way. The Labor Party thought they could do a Royal Commission on disability without the states for $27 million. That is just ridiculous, that just shows there's no serious policy on the issue. If you were serious, you'd do what we're announcing in the not too distant future. We've been consulting with states and territories on this and you'll get a real Royal Commission from me when it comes to people with disabilities and that's what we'll continue to focus on.
PRIME MINISTER: What we announced yesterday was responding to the ACCC report. They recommended that there be an underwriting, which I stress is not an investment. It is not an investment of taxpayers' money in any form of energy power generation. The projects we announced yesterday were predominantly gas and hydro projects. There was one upgrade to an existing coal project up in Vales Point and I think people understand that we need to ensure that our existing baseload generation capacity is not lost and that we're able to maintain it for as long as possible, as the further transition in the energy sector takes place. But what we announced yesterday was around 4,000 megawatts of additional reliable generation capacity in Australia that we'd be facilitating, making possible. Now that's, you know, depending on what level of capacity it's running at, that's at least around about two Liddell power stations that we're putting with reliable energy into the eastern energy markets, the national energy market. And on top of that there are investments we've already made in Snowy 2.0, the biggest project other than one other in the Northern Hemisphere in the world today, and the MarinusLink interconnector between Tasmania and Victoria is going to tap the mainland into a very big battery which is the hydropower of Tasmania. They have capacity there to go to about 4,000 or 6,000 megawatts in addition to what they're doing now.
JOURNALIST: What about a yes or no on coal-fired power?
PRIME MINISTER: I announced what the project was. It's an assessment as to whether there'd be an underwriting. That's the next stage of the process the ACCC recommended. In North Queensland what we're dealing with is a very different situation. In North Queensland and Central Queensland, we have to deal with the challenge of supporting big industries up there, in particular the Boyne Island aluminium smelter. So what we're doing is a project to ensure that their reliable energy needs are catered for into the future, so their jobs are secure. Now, the Labor Party has a 45 per cent emissions reduction target. Bill Shorten cannot explain to anyone in this country even the most basic answers to questions on his target. Will he use carry-over credits? Will he not? Will he use taxpayers' money to buy foreign carbon credits to meet his objective? What will be the implications for the agricultural sector? What does it mean for the Boyne Island aluminium smelter? Well, I can answer that one for him. At 45 per cent, and even if he carries over the credits, that's 1,000 jobs. And you know who told me that? The people who work at the Boyne Island aluminium smelter just outside of Gladstone. So Bill Shorten's 45 per cent emissions reduction target - it's reckless. It's going to cost Australians $9,000 a year. It's going to put up the price of their power. It's going to put up the price, reports say, of their petrol. It's going to put up the price of agricultural products in this country, as he hits them with his emissions tax from farm to petrol station to power station, all around the country. That's why the real risk at this election is not of any other minor party. The real risk at this election is that Bill Shorten and the Labor Party would form a government and put our economy on the wrong track. You know, when you face the sort of difficult conditions ahead, you don't hand the economic wheel over to someone who doesn't know how to drive, and that’s Bill Shorten and the Labor Party. Thanks very much.