Prime Minister – Transcript – Press Conference – Bredalbane, TAS

Liberal Party of Australia

SUSIE BOWER, LIBERAL CANDIDATE FOR LYONS: Look, it’s wonderful to be back, have the Prime Minister back here in Lyons. We’ve turned the weather on. So it was a bit fresh this morning, but we’ve certainly made up for it now. I’d really like to thank you Phil, from Island Paver Block, Pave, I’ll start that again, sorry. I’d really like to thank Phil from Island Block and Pavers for giving us a tour today and showing us some of his new machinery that he’s been able to actually increase his production here. And of course, the only reason that this business is doing so well is because we have a Morrison Liberal strong economy. So we are very thankful for the Freight Equalisation Scheme that is part of this Government’s strong policy and it’s great to see this business thriving. So without further ado, I would like to introduce our Prime Minister, the Honourable Scott Morrison.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. Well, thank you very much, Susie, and thank you to you also Phil and to all the team here at Island Block and Paving. This is an exciting business been running for over 30 years and about 30 per cent of what they make here goes to the mainland using that Freight Equalisation Scheme, which is something that our Government has always been very steadfast on to ensure that Tasmania continues to be able to connect up to the rest of the country and provide great opportunities for businesses like this. And this is a really innovative business. They are using recycled glass to make bricks that go in your home. And I have a patent on that technology. And as you know, one of our key areas for our advanced manufacturing plant, our modern manufacturing initiative is recycling. And we are seeing Australian companies invest in recycling technology to ensure that we’re able to address our own needs because it’s our waste, it’s our responsibility. But I’m excited to see the innovation we’re seeing in companies right here in Tassie that is taking up those opportunities in the recycling industry for some of the most obvious products that Australians use each and every day. And it’s part of our economic plan. The building blocks of our economic plan are to ensure that we keep taxes low, to ensure that we’re investing in the skills and the infrastructure that Australia’s economy needs to grow into the future to ensure that we have reliable, affordable energy to support businesses, to ensure that we are enabling businesses to use the technology and the digital technology in particular, that enables them to be competitive, and to make sure we make things here in Australia like we are here at Island Block and Paving. Managing a strong economy is what I’ve said right from the outset of this campaign, is what this election is all about. And Australians have an important choice to make this weekend. As a Government we’ve seen unemployment fall from 5.7 per cent down to 4 per cent. When Labor was last in power, it increased from 4.4 per cent to 5.7 per cent. Now there’s only one difference between what was happening when Labor was last in power and when we are. And that is the global downturn in the economy that we have had to deal with, was 30 times worse than the Global Financial Crisis that Labor dealt with when they were in power. Seven out of the last 8 years we have seen the minimum wage rise higher than inflation, when Labor was in power, 3 out of only those of those 6 years, did that occur, and as a result, we’re seeing more people in work. As we looked out into the pandemic, we thought that we would see unemployment go to 15 per cent and here we are today with unemployment at 4 per cent and likely to fall in the future as the Reserve Bank has has forecast. We have unemployment for young people in this country down to 8.3 per cent. That’s the lowest level we’ve seen for around about 15 years or thereabouts. Young people getting in the work, changing how they go forward in the future. But an important part about a strong economy is to ensure that we manage money. Now we’ve been very upfront and open with Australians about what our policies cost. We’ve set them out. We’ve submitted them to the independent costing agency throughout the campaign. Each and every time we release a policy it’s always there on the website. But in contrast, we’ve seen Labor running away and Mr Albanese running away from scrutiny when it comes to just how much his policies cost. We’re so late in the campaign now, and even today he wanted to run to the other end of the country, away from his own travelling media pack so he wouldn’t have to face questions. Now I’m pleased the media were able to pressure him back into facing that scrutiny today. But managing money is central to how you run a strong economy. And our Government has retained a AAA credit rating, one of only nine countries to do so through the course of this pandemic. Managing money is important because we know from Labor that if when they can’t manage money, they always come after yours and they come after it with higher taxes. There is a hole in Labor’s bucket when it comes to their economic management. There’s a hole in their bucket when it comes to how they manage money and what that means is higher taxes in the future. Labor are abolishing the tax speed limit that we put in place. They are removing the constraints that we imposed on our Budget that don’t let taxes rise beyond what we believe is a sensible level of maximum taxes that an economy can support. We’re ensuring that we keep the constraints on responsible spending. Mr Albanese wants to abolish those. The Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers is running around saying higher deficits, a billion dollars there, a billion dollars here. You know, it’s no big deal. That’s what Labor’s Shadow Treasurer has said just this week and Labor not being able to manage money is a real risk to Australians. It’s a real risk to your bottom line. You know, we’ve all got to manage our budgets effectively. We’ve all got to live within our means as best as we possibly can. And governments are no different to that. And that’s why as a Government, we’ve put in place strict disciplines to ensure that we keep taxes low and that we also keep spending under control. The other thing we’re doing is ensuring that Australians can use their own resources. Here we are at a company that makes bricks and pavers that go into new homes and only under a Liberal National Government will Australians be able to access their own money in their own superannuation to ensure that they can get their start in the housing market and right here in Tasmania, it’s been one of the hottest housing markets anywhere in the country, particularly down in Hobart. And we want young people and people of all ages who don’t own a home to be able to own a home. And only by voting Liberal National this Saturday, Susie Bower here in the seat of Lyons, and Bridget Archer up there in in in Bass, and of course, Gav Pearce over there in Braddon, where I was last night. These are the candidates, by voting for them here in Tasmania, that you can ensure that you can get access to all your own super because Labor will never, ever let you access your money in your own superannuation for that. We’re preserving your retirement balance and giving you the chance and the headstart that you need using your own money, your own money.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you have a Coalition ad running on all platforms saying it won’t be easy under Albanese. The Opposition Leader says you’re making fun of his name and the migrants have been poked fun at for having unusual names all their lives. What do you say to those who’ve been offended?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don’t accept Anthony’s accusation. I mean, at the last election, we had a campaign that said the Bill you can’t afford with Labor. I mean, Mr Albanese, frankly, has spent the last three years and most recently he made attacks on Zed Seselja’s name. So frankly, he’s being a bit of a hypocrite. I mean, you know, in politics if you can’t stump up and he’s quite happy to dish out criticism and abuse of me as he has done over the last three years, I’m big enough to take that. But if Mr Albanese is is is that precious, if he’s that precious and he can’t hack a campaign, then how on earth is he going to handle running this country?

JOURNALIST: What do you say to migrants that have been offended?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don’t accept that.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, thank you. There’s a 2.7 per cent gap between real wages and inflation. This is the largest on, highest gap on record. It sounds like your cost of living plan isn’t working.

PRIME MINISTER: The challenge for real wages is inflation. That’s the challenge. Wages themselves, as you know, yesterday inched up a bit further to 2.4 per cent. That’s above the 10-year average for wage growth.

JOURNALIST: It was less than, less than expected as well.

PRIME MINISTER: No, that was market expectations, 2.4 per cent. That was market expectations yesterday. And so that edged up over the 10 year average. The challenge for real wages is inflation. Okay? The inflation pressures that are coming from all around the world. In the UK, inflation has gone to 9 per cent. In Australia, it’s 5.1 per cent. In the United States, it’s 8.5 per cent. In New Zealand, it’s almost 7 per cent. These are global pressures, putting upward pressure on inflation and on interest rates. And so you’re right to highlight that inflation pressures and pressures on interest rates are central issues in this election campaign. And so the issue is this. Who do Australians think is going to be better able to shield Australia from those very significant pressures? A Government that has maintained a AAA credit rating through the course of the pandemic and brought unemployment down to the equal lowest level in 48 years, or a Labor Party led by Mr Albanese, who’s never done a Budget, didn’t even know what the unemployment rate and cash rate was a few weeks ago. And today, today, on a completely separate issue, doesn’t even know whether the borders are open or closed. This guy doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going. I mean, if you don’t even know whether your borders are open, you don’t know what unemployment is, you don’t know what the cash rate is. You’ve never done a Budget. Who are you going to trust to manage Australia’s finances?

JOURNALIST: Can Australians trust you to fix the cost of living crisis?

PRIME MINISTER: And he won’t even understand what his own costings are for his own policies. That is a huge risk for Australians. Australians have achieved a great deal over the last few years, an incredible amount. Businesses like the one with here right today, invested $2.5 million on new plant and equipment in the last 12 months, backed in by the instant asset write-off accelerated depreciation that our Government put in place to back businesses just like this. That’s how you grow your economy. That’s how you support higher wages. That’s how you support Australians deal with the cost of living pressures, by strong economic management, by managing money well, and all I know from Labor is every time they say it’ll be okay, we won’t really do anything that will hurt you, and then they come in, they blow the Budget, they put up taxes and you always end up paying for it.

JOURNALIST: You speak of the low unemployment rate, but why should that be any comfort to Australians when their wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living?

PRIME MINISTER: So just let me understand your question.

JOURNALIST: So –

PRIME MINISTER: No, no, no. I was going to repeat it. You’re saying what is the comfort of a low unemployment rate?

JOURNALIST: To the average Australian, when their wages are not keeping up with the cost of living and politicians are talking about the low unemployment rate –

PRIME MINISTER: Look, I’m sorry, but –

JOURNALIST: … how does that, how do people relate that to their own situations?

PRIME MINISTER: How does getting Australians in jobs and have confidence that when they leave school they can get a job or when they do their training as an apprentice there’s a job for them there full-time, and an unemployment rate, which means that when banks look at the economy –

JOURNALIST: But do you think people struggling with the cost of living right now are comforted?

PRIME MINISTER: … they’re confident to lend people money because the unemployment rate is so low and that in, and, and –

JOURNALIST: Someone who can’t pay their grocery bill next week think that that is of any comfort to them right now?

PRIME MINISTER: People being in jobs is the most important thing that economy needs. If you don’t have a job, you don’t have choices. You don’t have choices as a young person.

JOURNALIST: But you also need to be able to afford the cost of living.

PRIME MINISTER: Young people’s unemployment in this country today is 8.3 per cent. Now that was double that during the course of the pandemic. And a young person, if they’re not in a job by their early 20s, has a much higher likelihood of spending their entire life on welfare. So no, I think getting unemployment down is incredibly important. It is actually the most important job, the most important job a Federal Government has in managing the economy – is to get people into jobs. Now, it wasn’t just me who said that. It was actually the Shadow Treasurer who said that. And he said that the biggest test of this, our Government’s management of the economy in the pandemic, is what happens to unemployment. Now unemployment is at an equal 48 year low. Now, the issue in terms of people being able to afford things, there are two issues there. First of all, by turning the Budget around by over $100 billion in the last 12 months – the biggest Budget recovery in 70 years, a product of our economic plan – means that we can extend that tax relief. We can provide the income support to those on pensions. And we’ve been able to halve the petrol tax. We’re extending the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. We’re freezing the deeming rates. We’re extending the arrangements for self-funded retirees on minimum drawdowns. All of this is helping people meet those daily costs of living. The big challenge is inflation, and the inflation challenges that Australia faces are no different to any of the other countries in the world. But if you’re sitting there looking at it today and you go, would I rather be in the UK where inflation is 9 per cent? Would I rather be in the United States where it’s 8.5 per cent? Would I rather be in New Zealand where it’s 7 per cent and interest rates have gone up 125 basis points? Or would I rather be in Australia where unemployment is 4 per cent, where inflation is at 5.1 per cent, where youth unemployment is at 8.3, and where we’ve seen particularly the number of hours worked increase? We’ve seen underemployment fall under our government from 7.4 to 6.3 per cent. This is a record of economic management which is making our economy strong because only through a strong economy can you have a stronger future.

JOURNALIST: And there’s no doubt unemployment is important, but do you think people find comfort is what I’m saying?

PRIME MINISTER: I’m over here. We’re over here.

JOURNALIST: Just to go back to Stella and Fiona’s questions. You kind of bulldozed through and not really answered there, to use your term. Do you think that Australians deserve a wage rise? 67 per cent in the most recent poll said.

PRIME MINISTER: I do.

JOURNALIST: So what are you going to do about it then, PM?

PRIME MINISTER: That’s how you get wage rises. You get unemployment down and you ensure that businesses can invest for growth so they can pay their workers higher wages. See, there’s no manager, there’s no –

JOURNALIST: What about a Fair Work Commission submission though, Prime Minister? That’s a concrete [inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER: We, well, unlike the Labor Party, we made a Fair Work submission.

JOURNALIST: You’d argued for the importance of low paid work though. If you believe that Australians deserve a pay rise, why did you put that submission in, even as the inflation rate was soaring?

PRIME MINISTER: Our Fair Work submission did what Government submissions always do, simply provides the factual information that Fair Work Australia needs to make decisions about wages. And you know, when we approach these issues, we’re careful about these things because we understand the economy has many moving parts and I commend the Fair Work Commission. I’ve seen some of the reports of the issues they’re focussing on at the moment and looking to potentially separate out those who are on the minimum wage and the more than 120 awards that are actually linked to the minimum wage. Now, Mr Albanese didn’t seem to understand this when he made comments on this before. He didn’t seem to understand that the minimum wage applies to about 2 per cent of Australians in the workforce, but there’s another 23 per cent of the workforce that are actually tied to that minimum wage. And so when he was just making stuff up and making comments on the run, he had no understanding of what the following implications would be for higher inflation and higher interest rates. This is why we let the Fair Work Commission work through all of that and come up with the right decision, which under our Government has met on 7 out of 8 occasions, wage minimum wage has risen higher than inflation. Now, under the Labor Party, it was only 3 out of 6. So the Labor Party talk a big game on this, but when it comes to the actual record, it’s not matched. I’m for higher wages and I’m for higher wages by ensuring that we get unemployment down and we’re supporting businesses as we come out of this pandemic, being able to invest and grow so they can support their workers with higher wages.

JOURNALIST: Just on an entirely separate issue, two-part question. Firstly, the New South Wales Parliament is debating today laws that would legalise voluntary assisted dying. Do you have a personal view on that legislation? And secondly, the ACT and the NT is still prevented from making laws in this, in this space because of a Federal ban that dates back 25 years. If elected, Labor has committed to prioritising debate to be able to repeal that Bill. Would you follow that lead?

PRIME MINISTER: That’s not our policy and I’ll leave those other matters to the New South Wales Parliament. Jen.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Prime Minister, you’ve ruled out, you’ve ruled out extending the fuel excise, but if you are the cut to the fuel excise, but if you are re-elected, will you consider reducing it even further given petrol prices have already gone beyond $2? So beyond the 22 cents that you’ve cut?

PRIME MINISTER: What we’ve always done, particularly through the pandemic, is we haven’t got ahead of ourselves. Okay, the Budget was about six weeks ago, a bit longer than that. And in that Budget we committed to a six-month period which took us through (inaudible) halving the petrol excise. It’s May. That doesn’t conclude until the end of September. There’s a lot of time between now and then and the international forces that are impacting on on the world barrel price and on fuel prices have a long way to run out over that period of time. So I think speculating on what that situation is going to be many, many months from now is a bit of a fool’s errand. It is not something that we’ve done before because we’ve focussed on looking at the data, what the impact is, what –

JOURNALIST: But you can’t change it in the meantime?

PRIME MINISTER: No, no, no, there’s no change to the fuel excise over that six months. We’ve halved it. We’ve halved it. And that is and it’s a significant cost, but it’s one we committed to and we’re only able to do because of the $100 billion turnaround in the Budget in the last 12 months. Now, had we listened to the Labor Party who had always as the armchair critic, after the fact, had we listened to the Labor Party during the pandemic, we would have spent $81 billion more. Now that’s almost three times what it costs to run Medicare every year. And if we had done that, like extending JobKeeper when we know we shouldn’t have, that it was time to get in and it was time to get out, paying $6 billion to people to have a vaccine that they’d already had, I mean, these were the these were the poorly thought through ideas that the Labor Party had. If we had done that, then that would have put upward pressure on inflation and it actually would have denied us the opportunity to cut the petrol excise in half. See, that’s what good financial management does. You look at the data, you make sensible decisions, you think it through. Mr Albanese just runs off at the mouth on these issues. When you’ve never done a Budget, you have no idea about the implications of what you’re saying for otherwise, of how it impacts on the economy. There are so many moving parts in the economy. Now, Mr Albanese he just hasn’t done that before and that is a big risk with what we’re facing in terms of the economic and indeed national security challenges around the world today.

JOURNALIST: Last week, Prime Minister, you described your, well you conceded, that your self-described bulldozer style had alienated voters, but yesterday you seemed to suggest that it was also a sign of strength. So I’m wondering, what is it and what is it, which is it, I should say? And what is it about your leadership style that you’re actually promising to change?

PRIME MINISTER: You do need strength in this job, and that will continue. Of course, that will continue. But the times it is our intention will be changing and the times will give us an opportunity to be more inclusive about how we take our economic plan forward. When you’re in the middle of the pandemic, you have just got to make decisions. You have to make decisions and you have to push through. And that has been very necessary. And that’s something I’ve always had the ability to do. And as a result, Australia is in a much stronger position now than so many other advanced countries in the world today. But what I’m looking forward to is being able to move into a new period where we can be more engaging and inclusive and bringing more people with us. Because I hope, given the way our economic plan is working, it’ll give us more opportunities to do that. So that’s exactly what I’m saying. We’re going into a gear change as a Government because the times are going to enable us to do that, and that’s what governments have to do.

JOURNALIST: Then will you support domestic violence leave?

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry?

JOURNALIST: Will you support domestic violence leave?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we will consider all of those matters in a proper way, and we have supported that in terms of unpaid leave, and we’ve legislated for that.

JOURNALIST: Soon after the 2019 election, you went to Honiara.

PRIME MINISTER: Correct,.

JOURNALIST: If you win, will you go again? And for example, after the Japan visit next week?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don’t think I’d be able to go next week, but it would be my intention not only to visit there, but many of the other Pacific countries that I had hoped to visit during the last three years, which COVID prevented me from visiting. We had planned visits to Samoa as well and I look forward to seeing Prime Minister Fiame in Samoa as well. There are a few rain checks that we’ve had during the course of the pandemic. There were plans for us to visit Vietnam again and places like that, which I think is really important for our relationships in the ASEAN region. Most of what the diplomacy we had to do in the last three years was on the phone. But over that period of time, I made over 100 direct contacts and calls with Pacific leaders over the course of the last three years. And so, yes, I would look forward to doing that, and I look forward to having an opportunity to do that.

JOURNALIST: Any changes of substance now that you’re not being a bulldozer?

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry?

JOURNALIST: You say you want to become a more empathetic leader if you’re re-elected. Under your Government, talks with the states and territories to change the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 have stalled. What is your position on that and what would you do if if you’re re-elected to try and make it so that ten year olds are detained in prison?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’d work closely with the Attorney-General and the States and Territories. These are their responsibilities ultimately, because they’re state laws. And as a Federalist, I respect state laws and state powers. I always have. They have responsibilities, I have responsibilities, and where they overlap, we work together as we have sought to do over the course of this pandemic. It’s a sensitive issue, and it’s not one that you make policy on the run on.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, it is the fed, it is the Federal Government’s fault or actions that they took 25 years ago as to why the ACT and the Northern Territory might be the only jurisdictions in this country that will not have voluntary assisted dying. Removing that ban is not about the Territories suddenly having voluntary assisted dying, it’s about their right to choose. Why won’t the Coalition Government commit to doing that? Or do you think that Territorians are second-class citizens?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there are differences between territories and states and that is under our Constitution and we’re not proposing any changes to that.

JOURNALIST: PM, we all pay the same taxes.

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, I know, I know, many residents of the ACT joining me here today in Tasmania. Territories, states have different have different authorities that are vested in them and I’m not proposing any changes to those arrangements. But any questions from Tasmania other than the ACT, perhaps?

JOURNALIST: Great. Thank you. You said you’d be more empathetic. You’ve just bulldozed through multiple questions about cost of living and what comfort should be there for people. Where is the empathy? And secondly, for those who are seeing prices rise, where should they be cutting their personal spending?

PRIME MINISTER: I want wages to rise and everything I do every day is designed to achieve ensuring Australians get paid more. I’ve, and with Jenny on many occasions, have sat with people in their worst of times, in their best of times, and this drives me every single day to ensure that Australians can improve the quality of their life and the standards of their living. It’s why we fought so hard to ensure 2,900 new and amended listings were put on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. So people who are struggling with terrible conditions like cystic fibrosis and spinal muscular atrophy and all of these, if you don’t manage money, you can’t put these medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Last time Labor was in power, they didn’t manage money, they lost control of the borders and they had to not put medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. So the empathy in particular I’ve been able to demonstrate is the empathy that comes with action. And when you understand the pressures that Australians face, you do take action. And the most important action a Prime Minister and indeed a Treasurer and a Government can take, is to ensure that our economy is strong and to ensure that our finances are well managed. Because when you can’t do that, Australians lose out. Labor cut our defence forces. Labor couldn’t list medicines. Lost, Labor lost control of our borders, last time they were let into Government. They promised there’d be a safe option. They weren’t. It took us six years to repair the Budget after what they did to it when they were in Government. And as a Government, we’ve dealt with far more difficult economic challenges – a global recession, 30 times worse than the Global Financial Crisis. And we’ve got economic employment outcomes 50 per cent better than what they experienced. And that’s why this election is so important, because you are going to decide who is going to be in control of the purse strings over the next three years. Are we going to have a Labor Party and a Labor Leader that doesn’t know their way around the economy and is a complete loose unit? Or is it going to be a Government who understands how the economy works, has put in place Budgets that have actually made our economy stronger. That is the choice Australians are going to get to make. They’re also going to decide on Saturday whether they can get access to their own superannuation to buy their own home. Now when I’m listening to Australians who want to buy their own home and listening carefully to the challenges that they’re facing, they want to be able to get access to their own superannuation and their own money and they want a Government who treats it like their own money, not as if it’s their own. That’s why we’re always for lower taxes. We’re for lower taxes, because we know that it’s your money and we want you to keep more of your own money. Jen.

JOURNALIST: Have you spoke to Luca? Is he okay? What happened?

PRIME MINISTER: I did speak to Luca last night and I spoke to his Mum, Ally, and Luca’s in great shape, and he probably came off a little better than I did last night because I hit the ground with quite a thud. But he’s a great sport and he’s a great kid. He shared with me all of his great sporting highlights as a young soccer player in Tassie. He told me, he got three hat tricks with goals, and he’s looking forward to, he’s looking forward to his next outing. And he’s got a story to tell his mates today. And I suspect a yarn he’ll be able to spin for many, many years to come. Thanks very much, everyone. Thank you.

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