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Transcript of join press conference with Steven Marshall MP: Adelaide: Visit to South Australia; Holden; Fair Work Commission; SPC Ardmona; ABC; Schapelle Corby; second Sydney airport



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PRIME MINISTEROF AUSTRALIA

THE HON TONY ABBOTT

JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE WITH STEVEN MARSHALL MP, ADELAIDE Wednesday, 5 February 2014 Adelaide Prime Minister Subjects:

Visit to South Australia; Holden; Fair Work Commission; SPC Ardmona; ABC; Schapelle Corby; second Sydney airport. E&OE PRIME MINISTER: It’s great to be here in Adelaide and it’s great to be in South Australia. I’m pleased to be with Steven Marshall. Steven is doing an excellent job leading the parliamentary Liberal Party here in the great state of South Australia. I am very much looking forward to working with a South Australian government that is pro-business, that wants to reduce taxes, that wants to reduce regulation and that wants to liberate the people of South Australian to realise their destiny. I’m a frequent visitor to this state. I love Adelaide. It’s a beautiful, beautiful city. There are a lot of talented and creative people here in South Australia and they need - at both the national and at the state level -governments that trust them and will back them and will try to take the burdens off their back so that they can get on with doing well what they want to do, and I’m confident that Steven Marshall will lead that kind of a government should he win the state election that’s now due in 39 days’ time. So, it’s great to be here with Steven and, as I said, I look forward to working with a state government that wants to work with the Commonwealth rather simply fight with us. STEVEN MARSHALL: Thank you very much, Prime Minister. It’s a great pleasure to have you here in South Australia this morning. I presented to the Prime Minister our action agenda to try and rebuild our economy here in South Australia. Of course, the government is out there talking about the decision that Holden made in December of last year to exit the South Australian market in 2017. We presented a three part action agenda: first of all, addressing the fact that we’re already in the midst of a dangerous jobs crisis here in South Australia - 1,200 jobs lost in December; 27,000 fulltime jobs lost in South Australia over the last seven months - so, yes, the decision for Holden to leave is very disappointing for us, but a far greater issue here in South Australia at the moment. We specifically talked about the things that we would do, the reforms that we would make we were elected in March this year because we think it’s important to present the Commonwealth with, you know, a very enthusiastic range of reforms that we would implement, but of course we also turned our attention this morning to areas where we believed that the Commonwealth and South Australia could work in a cooperative way. Now this hasn’t been the methodology that Jay Weatherill and Labor have applied. They’ve flown to Canberra and called a press conference attacking the Coalition, attacking the Federal Government at every opportunity - not taking any responsibility for South Australia’s plight themselves, but trying to shift responsibility to somebody else. We say that we’ve got to take responsibility here in South Australia. We’ve got to make reforms here in South Australia to strengthen our own economy. There were areas that we discussed four of them I’m happy to very briefly outline this morning and others will remain confidential at this stage. But the four key areas were defence spending, infrastructure spending, a differential status for migration to South Australia and a more cooperative working relationship between Austrade and the South Australian Government to access foreign markets. I can say that we had very productive discussions, both last night and this morning with the Prime Minister. We’ve had a range of federal ministers visiting South Australia in recent times who have also been very receptive to the plans, the action agenda that we have to try and rebuild our economy here in South Australia.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, has the Premier made any attempt to speak to you about Holden on this visit? PRIME MINISTER: I have had discussions with the Premier about Holden and I can understand why everyone in South Australia is very disappointed with the decision that was made by Holden head office to pull out of manufacturing here in Australia in a few years’ time. The important thing now, though, is to go forward and to build on the strengths of this great state and there are lots of success stories here in South Australia and I think all of us would want today to focus on the success stories and the potential, rather than dwell too much on the problems. I helped to open the new premises of the Bank of Adelaide this morning - a tremendous vote of confidence in South Australia, provided you’ve got a regulatory framework which is positive and welcoming and that’s what I want to try to create. QUESTION: Did you meet with the Premier at all today, or will you be meeting with him? PRIME MINISTER: I’ve had meetings with the Premier over Holden. I’ve had correspondence with the Premier over various issues. I’ve had phone calls with the Premier. I haven’t actually met with him today. I thought he would probably come to the opening of the Adelaide Bank, but for some reason he chose not to come and, look, that’s his business. Whether he turns up at the opening of a major building - a $150 million investment in Adelaide - that’s his business. But look, there will be other trips to Adelaide. QUESTION: Prime Minister, are you actually going to commit to any of the proposals that Mr Marshall has put to you? For instance, the measures on migration he was speaking about? PRIME MINISTER: I am instinctively very sympathetic towards the position that Steven has put. I’m very sympathetic to the idea of trying to get more people into this country and in particular this state who are going to work and pay taxes from day one. People who come to this country to join our team, to work and pay taxes from day one, they are at the heart of the Australian dream and they aren’t stealing our jobs they are building our country and generations of people have come to this country from all around the world to make a new life for themselves and their family, to work and pay taxes from day one. I honour them and I want to see more people like that in this country and in this state. QUESTION: Do you think that penalty rates should be reduced? PRIME MINISTER: I think that these matters are properly the preserve of the Fair Work Commission and that’s always been our position and that always will be our position. QUESTION: Why didn’t you go to the election and let voters know beforehand that you might be changing the rules, or attempting to change the rules, after you got into power? PRIME MINISTER: But that’s not correct. This is a matter for the Fair Work Commission. Wage rates, penalty rates, all of the conditions of employment under awards are a matter for the Fair Work Commission. That’s the case now, that was the case before the election and that will continue to be the case. QUESTION: But you’re leaning on them, Prime Minister. You’re leaning on the Fair Work Commission to perhaps go in a direction that, whilst you mightn’t admit to it, that’s the underlying nature of what you’re doing. PRIME MINISTER: Not true. We think that these matters should all quite properly be determined by the independent umpire and that’s as it should be. QUESTION: And what do you hope the Fair Work Commission concludes and if there are changes, how can you continue to say that Workchoices is dead, buried and cremated? PRIME MINISTER: It’s interesting, I don’t know if you’ve been watching Paul Howes at the Press Club, but he was basically encouraging his colleagues to let the past be the past and I guess that’s not a bad message for everyone, not just for Labor frontbenchers, to let the past be the past where that’s concerned. But the point I make is that I want to maximise Australian jobs. I want to maximise Australians’ pay and I want us to be amongst the best paid workers in the world, but to be the best paid workers in the world we’ve got to be amongst the most productive workers in the world and that’s what I want our system to encourage: highly productive, highly paid workers, in successful, competitive businesses. QUESTION:

Do you think that the current levels are sustainable? PRIME MINISTER: Current levels? QUESTION: Wage levels, yes. PRIME MINISTER: I think that there’s no reason why Australian wages can’t increase, but we’ve got to make sure that Australian productivity is increasing as well and that’s always the challenge. The more productive the business, the more profitable the business, the higher the pay will be and that’s what I want to see: I want to see very highly paid, very productive Australian workers in highly profitable and competitive Australian businesses. QUESTION: Sharman Stone has accused you again of lying over SPC. What’s your response to her accusations? PRIME MINISTER: I absolutely understand that local members are going to fight for their electorate. That’s as it should be. I absolutely understand every local member fighting hard for his or her electorate. Now, I also understand when a local member has been bitterly disappointed by a particular decision, that there’ll be some reaction. I absolutely understand that. The decision we made last week, it was a tough decision, but it was a necessary decision. I’ve got to say it was a defining decision and it’s not one that the Government will revisit. QUESTION: Do you accept that some of the things that you said may not have been correct now? PRIME MINISTER: No, I stand by what was said by me and I stand by what was said by ministers. QUESTION: The Premier is seeking some $330 million from the Commonwealth Government for his post-Holden jobs plan. Are you prepared to spend that quantum of money on that plan or if not, that exact plan, a quantum of money similar on reinventing the state economy? PRIME MINISTER: We’re going to spend a lot of money in South Australia over the next few years. We’ve committed to $500 million to the Darlington upgrade. We have committed to working with the state government to fully upgrade the North-South Road to an expressway standard within a decade. Obviously, there are some major Defence contracts, many of which will end up being realised here in South Australia. So, there’s going to be an enormous amount of Commonwealth spending in South Australia. In respect of the package for Holden, or the package that we’ve put forward to help cope with the ultimate departure of Holden, well, we’ve committed $60 million. That’s a larger package than the former government put forward in respect of Ford and put forward in respect of Mitsubishi. So, we think that’s a perfectly reasonable amount of money. QUESTION: When do you anticipate a final judgement from the Federal Government on this stimulus economic transformation plan obviously that we’re hearing here today? When will this be concluded? When will there be a firm plan? PRIME MINISTER: We want to finalise the work that we’re doing in respect of South Australia and Victoria by the end of the month and there will be announcements made shortly after that. QUESTION: Mr Marshall on that point, can we ask you whether you think that’s a perfectly reasonable amount of money, because you have previously said that that’s not enough; that the Federal Government would need to contribute more? STEVEN MARSHALL: No, in fact I said at the initial press conference that I thought it was a great initial offering from the Prime Minister, but there were other projects that we were talking about and they were projects that we were discussing today, and as the Prime Minister has pointed out, several of those very large projects for South Australia, in particular the upgrade of the North-South Corridor and of course the Defence spending which has been cut by Labor over an extended period of time. South Australia really suffered under $25 billion worth of Federal Government - Labor Government - Defence contract cuts. That’s really been hurting South Australia. We need to see some of that work coming back to South Australia otherwise we’re going to have real problems trying to deal with the slowdown in our economy. QUESTION: Prime Minister, the ABC has expressed regret over the asylum seeker story. Do you think that should be the end of the matter? Julie Bishop’s calling for an apology. PRIME MINISTER:

Well, look, I wonder why sorry seems to be the hardest word for them but look, I’ll leave it up to them. My concern, as a citizen of our country, is to try to ensure that our national broadcaster is fair, is balanced, is accurate and plainly even Media Watch concluded that the ABC was none of those things in respect of that particular story. What the ABC seemed to do with that particular story was rush to believe accusations that have little, if any, foundation in fact; accusations which were broadcast in ways that were extremely damaging to the professionalism of our Naval personnel and I just found myself very disappointed, as I think many Australians did, with that story. QUESTION: Do you stand by commitments not to cut the ABC and SBS? PRIME MINISTER: I stand by all the commitments that we made prior to the election and that was certainly one of them. QUESTION: Does that include a commitment not to change penalty rates? PRIME MINISTER: Well, as I said, penalty rates are very important to people. They’re very, very important to people. If you’re a low paid worker, one of the things that you often love to do is work late nights, weekends, because it does substantially increase your income. These are matters for the Fair Work Commission and that’s the way it should be. QUESTION: Prime Minister, what’s your reaction to the Indonesian Government’s news of considering Schapelle Corby’s parole in three days? What’s your reaction to that? PRIME MINISTER: My reaction to that is that this is ultimately a matter for the Indonesian justice system. Obviously, the Indonesian justice system is a little different to ours, but it’s theirs and Australians who go to Indonesia are inevitably going to be subject to their justice system, just as Indonesians who come to this country are subject to our justice system. Generally speaking, the less said about consular cases the better, so let’s see what the system produces. QUESTION: Was she given a fair go? Has she been given a fair go? PRIME MINISTER: I’m not going to get into the business of casting judgment on the justice systems of our friends and neighbours. QUESTION: Prime Minister, can you confirm that Warren Truss has recommended approval be given to the Badgerys Creek airport? PRIME MINISTER: That’s a very good question and I’m going to take that and that will be the last question that I take if that’s alright. What I’ve said - what the Government has said - is that the whole question of Sydney’s second airport has been for too long in limbo. I can remember that this issue has been debated up hill and down dale since 1973. Well, forty years is long enough for this matter to be considered and a decision must be made and it will be made by this Government, early in our first term. But I do have to warn you that it’s not imminent and the timeframes that I saw being speculated on in the media this morning you should not necessarily accept. But we will make a decision, because that’s what the public expect: the public elect a government to make decisions, not to put them off. The public elected this Government to ensure that Australia really is open for business, really does have the infrastructure that we need if we are to continue to be a dynamic, creative, first-world economy and that’s my determination: to build a stronger economy so that everyone can get ahead and a very important part of that is giving us the infrastructure of the 21st century. Thank you so much