Prime Minister – Transcript – Press Conference – Hunter Valley, NSW

Liberal Party of Australia

NELL MCGILL, LIBERAL CANDIDATE FOR SHORTLAND: Hi, I’m Nell McGill, Liberal Candidate for Shortland. It’s fantastic to be here today at The Melt, Australia’s first fully integrated prototyping lab. We’ve met this morning with Trent Bagnall, who is the Managing Partner of The Melt and seeing some really exciting stuff going on here. I’m here today with Minister Stuart Robert, the Minister for Workforce, Small and Family Business, Skills and the Acting Minister for Education and Youth. And of course, welcoming back to Shortland, the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison. It’s just fantastic – another announcement for the Hunter region. This Government loves the Hunter region. The announcement today is yet another commitment to jobs here in the future, and it’s also a ringing endorsement of the work that the University of Newcastle is doing with local businesses here in the Hunter. I’ll hand over now to the Prime Minister for details about the announcement.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much, Nell, and thank you for all the great work you’re doing up here campaigning the Hunter region together with Brooke Vitnell, of course, and as we move down the Central Coast and our entire team. Can I also welcome Stuart Robert, can I also welcome the Vice Chancellors of the University of New South Wales and the University of Newcastle for today’s important announcement. A strong economy needs the collaboration and partnerships of our university sector, our scientific community, and our entrepreneurs, our businesses, who can make it all happen. And a key part of our economic plan is to ensure that we achieve that collaboration and it supports, in particular, advanced manufacturing in this country so that we make things here in this country. Our advanced manufacturing sector is growing and it’s performing strongly and it will continue to grow. And that’s why today I’m launching our plan for modern manufacturing. A plan for modern manufacturing, which sits together with the work we’re doing in the university sector to ensure that they are playing a key role in seeing our manufacturing sector, particularly here in places, regional locations like Hunter and the Central Coast and right across the country in regional locations. You can see the growth of jobs and investment and good wages for those who can find a great living in regional parts of the country. But also that as we continue to make things in Australia and in advanced manufacturing, which is high yield, which we mean, which means Australia earns more and more and more, that enables us to support a stronger economy right across Australia.

Today, an important part of those six key areas that we set out as our priorities for advanced manufacturing and resources, technology, critical minerals in food and beverage, in medical, in recycling and clean energy, in defence and space. We’ve already announced two trailblazers university partnerships, one in Western Australia, focussing on resources. Another one in South Australia, university is led by the University of Adelaide, which is focussing on our defence industry. Here today, we are announcing $50 million for the Australian Trailblazer for Recycling and Clean Energy to be led by the University of New South Wales and the University of Newcastle together in partnership. The Recycling and Clean Energy Trailblazer has already attracted $220 million. So in addition to what we’re putting of $50 million of co-investment from university and the industry, the University of Newcastle and New South Wales University will work with 27 industry partners, that includes 23 small and medium-sized enterprises, companies like those you see right here – to develop world-leading technology in solar, hydrogen storage and green metals and rapidly deploy new technologies. Now, the University of New South Wales estimates it will support some 1,600 jobs over the next four years. But I believe the income it will generate, the opportunities it will demonstrate for Australia, the reputation that Australia will continue to gain from the advances in technology, made not just in universities but been done in partnership with entrepreneurs, research entrepreneurs like we’ve met here. This is what drives an economy forward. This is what drives wages to increase, advanced manufacturing applied to technology with some of the smartest minds, our scientific institutions, all working together. So the sum of the parts is even greater when you put it together. And this is what the Trailblazer Program is all designed to achieve. We’re also announcing today $69 million to establish a new sovereign manufacturing automation for Composites Cooperative Research Centre, and that will be based at the University of New South Wales. And to transform Australia’s establishment composite technologies capability into world-class, highly-automated, digitally-enabled network of designers, manufacturers and service providers. This is a Government, in our Government, that is investing in the things that ensures the Australian economy can grow. And it’s investing in the people, it’s investing in their ideas, it’s investing in their collaboration and their partnerships, because that’s what turns things around. That’s what creates the opportunity. Australia is coming out of this pandemic stronger than all of the advanced economies in the world in the G7. We have stronger economic growth, we have an outstanding world class health system, an outstanding world class education system. And what we’re building in the collaboration here between our universities and our companies will enable them to really take advantage of the economic opportunities that Australia has in the years ahead, and that one of the biggest beneficiaries of that will be regional Australia, regions like right here in the Hunter. You can see it all around here, it’s already happening and this will accelerate and create even more opportunities in the future. That’s how you go about getting wages up in this country, by getting unemployment down and ensuring that businesses can perform strongly. That’s how you support wages growth into the future that is sustainable and that reinforces the strength of our economy.

Now what we saw from Anthony Albanese yesterday was reckless, was incredibly reckless. We all want to see wages go up. And indeed the Reserve Bank Governor has made it very clear that we are seeing wages starting to go up. But the way you engage in economic policy is not in the loose way we saw from Anthony Albanese yesterday. Anthony Albanese is a loose unit on the economy. We saw that right at the start of the campaign. He didn’t know what unemployment was. He didn’t know what the cash rate was. He said his policies are costed, but they’re not costed. And when it comes to what he said yesterday, ill-thought through, not understanding the potential consequences of what he was saying. I mean, yesterday in what he said yesterday, it’s like throwing fuel on the fire of rising interest rates and rising costs of living. He’s had a lot to say about cost of living. He’s got no solutions or policy to put downward pressure on it. And what he did yesterday would only exacerbate it. It would only make the problem worse. Anthony Albanese’s intervention yesterday and his thoughtlessness on this, would actually make inflation worse, it would make interest rates rise even higher, it would threaten the strong growth we’ve had in employment and ultimately it would force small businesses potentially out of business altogether. See, you know, as a Prime Minister or indeed as a Treasurer, you can’t just go around making stuff up and thoughtlessly think that people can respect you when you just make these sorts of careless comments on the economy. But there’s another part of this that really worries me. Anthony Albanese says that he wants wages to go up by 5.1 per cent and he thinks that Australians don’t know what the impact of that would be on their interest rates, on unemployment or on inflation in the cost of living. He thinks Australians don’t get the link between these things. He thinks he can just say what he likes and you can have your cake and eat it. And that is not how you run sensible, sound, responsible economic policy. What Prime Ministers and Treasurers say about the economy has real world effects around your kitchen table. And a Prime Minister who would think – if Anthony Albanese was in that job, is he could just go around wildly speculating with thoughtless contributions on wages. What that could lead to is rising inflationary expectations and that feeds through to what you pay in the supermarket, what you pay elsewhere in the economy, and it can even impact on your job. What he said yesterday puts a chain reaction in place. Dominoes fall that lead to higher interest rates and higher costs of living. And if he doesn’t understand that, that says tells you everything you need to know about what he doesn’t understand about the Australian economy. If he does understand it, he’s playing you for a mug. He thinks he can run around at this election saying you can increase people’s wages and at the same time see cost of living pressures fall and pressure on interest rates to remain down. Well, it just doesn’t work like that, Anthony. You either don’t know what you’re talking about and you’re not up to the job or you’re taking the Australian people for a ride and I’ve called you out. Now, Stuart’s going to say a couple of things about policy and happy to take questions.

MINISTER ROBERT: Yeah, thanks, Prime Minister. It’s great to be here announcing the third of our Trailblazer University partnerships with industry. This one here in in Shortland is great to be with Nell. There’s six of course Trailblazer Universities all up. This is all part of our $2.3 billion Commercialisation Strategy. The great thing about the Trailblazer Universities, for $50 million investment by the Commonwealth taxpayers money, we’re seeing over four times more investment by industry and that is a force multiplier in what we’re doing. And it’s wonderful to see the University of New South Wales and the University of Newcastle leaning into recycling and clean energy. And it’s wonderful to see the goal of this Trailblazer Program, one of them, to be commercialising is a world first 3D printing of solar panels at a large commercial standard. Remember, University of New South Wales led the way in the 80s. So much of the IP in modern photovoltaic panels comes from the University of New South Wales and I’m so thrilled to see New South Wales and Newcastle coming back, world-leading into solar panels. The $2.3 billion Commercialisation Strategy, of course, not only includes $362 million for those six Trailblazers, there’s 180 industry PhDs and 800 research fellows to get world leading PhDs from universities collaborating with industry just like we are seeing here at Melt. There’s $1.6 billion over ten years to see programs commercialised through those difficult technical risk level areas, the valleys of death, and the TRL, to see a lot more of great ideas out of university to become commercialised. This entire program is about shaking up commercialisation in Australia. Taking our world leading research and ensuring it’s applied and used. And it is heavily linked to our modern manufacturing initiatives that the Prime Minister has just launched in terms of our Modern Manufacturing Strategy. Each of the Trailblazer approaches look heavily and directly into those modern manufacturing approach, to ensure that the entire Morrison Government Strategy on Commercialisation is aligned and is solid and distinct and connects that research through to industry. It is a great Trailblazer initiative in recycling and clean energy and I’m so looking forward to see what’s going to happen over the next few years. Thanks, Prime Minister.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, if you don’t support a wage increase of 5.1 per cent, you are okay, are you comfortable with some of Australia’s lowest paid workers essentially getting a real wage cut?

PRIME MINISTER: The Fair Work Commission is the appropriate body to look at all of the economic implications for where they set the minimum wage. I mean, if we wanted politicians to make this up, then that’s what we would have done and that’s not wise. In the same way the Reserve Bank goes and works out what interest rates should be and looks at all the various information and all the implications for the decisions they have to make. This is a very similar process. It provides certainty, it provides stability in the management of our economy. It’s not a place where you’ll see the sort of thought bubbles we saw from Anthony Albanese yesterday, and they will think through, because this is the end game of what Anthony Albanese says. So he’ll say oh here’s 5.1 per cent increase in your wages, but then here’s the interest rates you’ve got to pay, and here’s the cost of living that it causes. So he pretends to give with one hand and then he sees interest rates and cost of living rises take it all back from you. That’s –

JOURNALIST: So you’re comfortable with some of Australia’s lowest paid workers get a real wage cut?

PRIME MINISTER: … what you need. What I’m saying is you need to balance all of these things very carefully. That’s what responsible economic management is. These are complex issues. What is the point of allowing someone to be put in a position where they’re paying more and more, even more, as a result of the inflationary impacts of what he was saying yesterday, let alone the impacts on interest rates, which already have great pressure on them. This would only see interest rates raise, rose even higher. Is there any wonder that when Labor gets into power that we see a deterioration around these things because they just don’t think about it. There is a reason why, you know, Anthony Albanese was never given a financial portfolio by –

JOURNALIST: (inaudible).

PRIME MINISTER: I haven’t finished – hasn’t been given a financial portfolio by any of the Labor leaders in the past. It’s because they knew he couldn’t be trusted with money. He’s like someone working in a small business who they won’t let near the till and the Australian people shouldn’t let him near the till.

JOURNALIST: If, if you say that 5.1 per cent for the minimum wage is a crazy pay rise that you think is a terrible idea, given that the Government has said that obviously it wants to see people earn more, what would be a more sensible minimum pay rise? And please don’t say, you know, the Fair Work Commission decides this or businesses determine wages. We’ve heard that from you before. You’re attacking Albanese for what he’s saying. What is your alternative, sensible solution then that you propose if 5.1 per cent is too high?

PRIME MINISTER: An independent process that carefully calibrates and considers all the things in the economy that is sustainable.

JOURNALIST: Surely you have thoughts on this though if you’re attacking Anthony Albanese for what he’s saying.

PRIME MINISTER: No, I’m attacking him for being thoughtless. I’m attacking him for not having a clue about the economy and not understanding how the economy works, and not respecting the process of an independent setting of minimum wage conditions in this country. And I’ll tell you why that’s important.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister (inaudible).

PRIME MINISTER: Hang on. Just hang on. I’ll tell you why that’s important. Small businesses, businesses around the country have to make decisions about how they invest, how many people they employ. They don’t want these things set by some erratic statement of a politician. They want this stuff to be carefully considered. And Mr Albanese showed yesterday that he has a complete loose unit on this stuff. He just runs off. He just runs off at the mouth. I mean it’s like he just unzips his head and just lets everything fall on the table. That is no way to run the economy because that only leads if you vote Labor to having a leader who can make interest rates worse, who can make inflation worse.

JOURNALIST: But Prime Minister, today, you’re quoted as saying that it’s economic vandalism.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I didn’t say that.

JOURNALIST: Yeah so, I want to confirm that. Do you think it’s vandalism –

PRIME MINISTER: I never used those words. I didn’t.

JOURNALIST: … to ask for a pay rise. So you’re not calling him a vandal?

PRIME MINISTER: I didn’t. I mean that that is a misquote in the paper.

JOURNALIST: Okay.

PRIME MINISTER: So that they were not my words and –

JOURNALIST: What’s wrong with asking for a pay rise?

PRIME MINISTER: There’s nothing wrong with asking for a pay rise. There’s nothing wrong with that, but obviously it has, and the Reserve Bank Governor has said very clearly that’s what we are seeing in our economy. And the reason we’re seeing that is because unemployment is coming down and businesses are growing and becoming stronger. Now that’s where pay rises come from. They come from businesses doing well, not being shut down by reckless policy, by a Labor Party that would see not only your interest rates go up more than they might otherwise do or your cost of living go up even more, getting into a vicious spiral, going up and up and up. I mean, what is he next proposing? If it goes to six, they have to go by six. And then when that pushes it up to seven, they have to go by seven. That’s how we ended up with 18 per cent interest rates in this country under Labor. That’s, that’s what causes the worst of all outcomes, which is a crash in the economy. That is not responsible.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, would you want people on the minimum wage to get a real wage rise? Why wouldn’t you want –

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister. Prime Minister. But Prime Minister, the RBA has said that real wages are not going to increase until 2023, with unemployment unemployment reaching almost full employment in that time, and as you say, businesses only just starting to offer a rage [wage] rises. What is Australians supposed to do in the next 18 months when the RBA is saying their real wage won’t increase in that time? How do they pay for things?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, they don’t, they won’t be able to pay for things if inflation goes even higher and interest rates go even higher. And that is why what Anthony Albanese is speculating on –

JOURNALIST: But if you’re not going to do what he’s doing –

PRIME MINISTER: … and running off at the mouth on –

JOURNALIST: If you’re going to let –

PRIME MINISTER: … would only make that situation, Clare, worse.

JOURNALIST: If you only let businesses and unemployment drive this –

PRIME MINISTER: It would only make it worse. Labor would make the very issues you’re highlighting worse under what they are proposing.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on on that inflation part of it. Inflation of 6 per cent [inaudible] December 2022. Is it correct to say then that you, any workers will not see a real wage increase until that inflation number comes down? And would your Government do anything to try and look at trying to ease those global factors that keep saying are causing Australia’s kind of higher inflation level, particularly around supply chains?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, there, yes, is the short answer when it comes to supply chains and are. But there are two things driving those inflation numbers at the moment. One is, of course, what’s happening with the there’s a range of of immediate factors. Let’s call them that. There is the war in the Ukraine. There is the shutdown in China because of COVID. And also, we will continue to see, particularly this quarter and perhaps the next quarter, the impact of the floods in Australia and what that means for fruit and vegetable prices, and we’ve seen that when there’s been cyclones and various other disasters in parts of the country in the past. That will put pressure on prices. And they are things that occur well outside Australia’s control. The structural factors that are driving inflation are about those supply chain pressures that we’re seeing, which is a lag and a direct consequence of the pandemic. And that’s why what we’re talking about here, advanced manufacturing linking up supply chains in Australia, critical supply chain work, whether it be in the critical minerals and rare earths sector or other sectors and defence industry and so on, that’s what actually helps ensure that those supply chains are moving more effectively. Now, we have the Supply Chain Initiative, which we’ve been running now for about the last 18 months, which has been announced in two Budgets now, if I recall. And on top of that, it’s ensuring that we keep getting people into jobs. Keep that pressure in the system, which leads to sustainable wage rises supported by businesses that stay in business. I mean, this is one of the most difficult times with the pressures that are on the global economy and hence the Australian economy, that we have seen in a very long time. And how we manage that must be sensitive, must be responsible, must be disciplined. Now what we saw yesterday from Mr Anthony Albanese, what we saw yesterday from Mr Albanese was loose. It was ill-considered. It showed a lack of understanding of the relationship between wages and inflation and interest rates. If you want your interest rates to be skyrocketing as a result of what Anthony Albanese is suggesting, well, he’s your guy. But what I’m saying is Anthony Albanese will make it worse.

JOURNALIST: What percentage will you be comfortable with then, given all of the factors that you’ve just mentioned? Or is it just no dice on on on a real wage rise?

PRIME MINISTER: It’s a figure that I’ve always been comfortable with, and that is what is calmly determined, sensibly, by the independent process that looks at all of these factors.

JOURNALIST: Will your Government even make a submission to Fair Work?

PRIME MINISTER: That’s what discipline is. That’s what financial discipline works.

JOURNALIST: Will your Government even make a submission to Fair Work?

JOURNALIST: No, we, we, as you know, we’ve al-

JOURNALIST: Will you even make a submission to suggest any increase when you go to Fair Work?

PRIME MINISTER: No. As you know, that’s never been our Government’s policy –

JOURNALIST: So you won’t even make a submission?

PRIME MINISTER: … and nor was it the previous Government’s policy, as you recall –

JOURNALIST: If Fair Work comes up with 5.1, does that mean they’re wrong?

PRIME MINISTER: … Because what – sorry?

JOURNALIST: If Fair Work comes up with 5.1, does that mean they’re wrong?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’m not speculating about what Fair Work is going to say. Anthony Albanese is the one who was recklessly making comments in this area and he doesn’t seem to understand. So, you know, when you’ve been a Treasurer for three years and a Prime Minister for four years, you understand that careless speculation can lead to real world impacts in the economy. You don’t get, you don’t get the latitude to be loose like Mr Albanese was yesterday, and that shows that he’s not up to the job. The job is bigger than him, he doesn’t understand the economy and if that’s not true, he’s seeking to take you for a ride.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, if you win Government, but Josh Frydenberg loses his seat. Who will be the next Treasurer?

PRIME MINISTER: That is not something I’m speculating on because I know Josh will be returned.

JOURNALIST: But isn’t it hypocritical that you attack Labor for not confirming who the Defence Minister will be, yet if the polls are accurate, Josh Frydenberg won’t be Treasurer.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, you know my view about the polls and Josh Frydenberg will be my Treasurer. I still don’t know who Anthony Albanese’s Defence Minister’s going to be. I don’t know who his Home Affairs Minister’s is going to be and we are in the middle –

JOURNALIST: And we don’t know who your next Treasurer could be.

PRIME MINISTER: Yes. It’s Josh Frydenberg.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, why haven’t you disendorsed the Candidate for Lilley, Vivian Lobo?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, those matters are still working. Sorry, in, did you say the Candidate for Labor?

JOURNALIST: Lilley.

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry, I thought you said the Candidate for Labor. I would say that has nothing to do with me. Those matters are working their way through with the relevant authorities there and people are cooperating fully with those matters and I would expect them to do that. But ultimately, and I’ll leave you on this, this is a choice, as I say, every single day. And it’s the responsible choice. The responsible choice at a time of great upheaval globally with our economy, with international security, the responsible choice –

JOURNALIST: On national security, the [inaudible] Minister –

PRIME MINISTER: … is for the Liberals and the Nationals – I’m, I’m, I’m just finish, I’m just finishing up.

JOURNALIST: Just that national security is really important.

PRIME MINISTER: The Liberals and Nationals is the responsible choice when it comes to the economy and national security. With Labor you just don’t know what’s going to pop into Anthony Albanese’s head any day and what he’s going to blurt out and what that will mean for your interest rates, for your cost of living and indeed Australia’s national security. Thanks very much everyone.

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