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Transcript of doorstop interview: Lavarack Barracks, Townsville, QLD: 26 July 2016: ADF; Four Corners; Royal Commission into NT youth detention; City Deal for Townsville



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PRIME MINISTER

THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP

TRANSCRIPT

26 July 2016

Doorstop

Lavarack Barracks - Townsville

E&OE…

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you very much. It’s wonderful to be here with Ewen, here at Lavarack Barracks inspired by the professionalism, the courage, the dedication of the men and women of the 3rd Brigade just like all the men and women of the ADF.

As I said to the troops a moment ago, we live in dangerous times. The threat of global terrorism is evolving and becoming more challenging. The work that they do to keep Australia safe around the world is of vital importance in that battle.

It's great also to be here in Townsville with Ewen. His count is coming to - it is being finalised. Ewen, we wish you the very best as it comes down to counting the last votes. You are a fantastic representative of this community.

We're here, as you know, to talk with the city Government, the mayor, and civic leaders about our City Plan for Townsville, our City Deal for Townsville. This is the first of our City Deals and a very important part of the way we're going to integrate federal, state and local government and the private sector in ensuring that we deliver the best outcomes for cities - large cities, regional cities and of course capital cities as well. Townsville is the first and we're looking forward - I'm here with Angus Taylor, my Assistant Minister on Cities and Digital Transformation, to talk about that as well of course with Queensland Senator James McGrath my Assistant Minister.

Can I say also the importance of the big investment from Singapore in these facilities here is going to be over a billion dollars between $2.25 billion between here and Shoalwater Bay is a massive investment in infrastructure, military infrastructure in North Queensland and is going to play an important part in ensuring strong growth in jobs, supporting the local businesses here and in the future.

Finally I want to make some further observations about the shocking events we saw portrayed - images of those events, on Four Corners last night. The abuse of young people in the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in the Northern Territory back in 2014 has shocked and appalled the whole nation. I have announced that we will establish, in cooperation with the Northern Territory Government, a Royal Commission to inquire into those events to inquire into the system of youth detention, the management of youth detention centres in the Northern Territory. That has followed discussions last night and this morning with the Attorney-General Senator Brandis, with the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Scullion and of course the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Adam Giles.

We're determined to get to the bottom of this. We're determined to examine the extent to which there has been a culture of abuse and indeed whether there has been a culture of cover up, because there have been inquiries into this centre before and these events portrayed on Four Corners last night did not emerge. So why was this abuse, this mistreatment, unrevealed for so long?

That's the action we're taking. We're moving quickly and decisively. We will announce a distinguished Australian to be the Royal Commissioner shortly when we announce the terms of reference.

I expect there to be - our goal is for there to be, a directions hearing next month and for the Commission to hear evidence in the course of September, October, November. We're going to get on with this, we're going to get to the bottom of it quickly and with the aim of producing a report setting out all of the facts early next year.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister before the election you made a fair bit of commitments in Townsville including the Townsville Eastern Access Rail Corridor and the feasibility studies into Hell’s Gate dam. How are they progressing?

PRIME MINISTER:

All of our election commitments will be honoured. We have won the election, we're back in Government and we are committed to all of the promises that we made, we will honour.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Turnbull, do you believe that it is credible for the Northern Territory Chief Minister to claim he was unaware of all of the instances of abuse revealed in last night's Four Corners? Isn't it clear that he and his Government did know about it and just let it slide?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Don Dale centre, as I understand it, has been the subject of controversy for some time. There have been complaints about it for some time. I haven't seen what the Chief Minister has said but I know that he was shocked by the report on Four Corners. I know that because I spoke to him about it directly early this morning in fact. The real challenge now is to get to the bottom of what has happened. We need to know what has happened, why it happened, why it was able to happen, what is the culture that enabled it to occur, what lessons we learn from it and how we can ensure it never ever happens again.

JOURNALIST:

Do you have confidence in the Chief Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have confidence in the Chief Minister, I have - but he is - he needs the confidence of the people of the Northern Territory. I am not going to engage in a critique of one state minister or territory minister after another. I have discussed this matter with Adam Giles. I discussed it with him last night in fact and early this morning and he is as committed as I am to there being a rigorous inquiry and investigation and that inquiry, that Royal Commission, may well throw up evidence about the extent to which the Government was aware of these events or not.

JOURNALIST:

If so many Ministers have known for a long time, why did it take the Four Corners report to call for a Royal Commission?

PRIME MINISTER:

That is why we need to have an inquiry. These events at the Don Dale Centre were certainly not known to me prior to the Four Corners program. They were not widely known - they were not known to Australians or widely known and we have to - we thank Four Corners for bringing these matters to public awareness, but what I have done as Prime Minister is respond quickly, decisively and taken the action that we need to take as indeed the President of the Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs has said we need to do. We need to investigate it and get to the bottom of it.

JOURNALIST:

The reports of children being gassed were revealed in the media in September last year. How can you say that you weren't aware of them or Australians weren't aware of them?

PRIME MINISTER:

The events at the Don Dale Centre that were set out on Four Corners came as a shock and appalled Australians and we are dealing with it with a Royal Commission. We have acted immediately and decisively and we will get to the bottom of what has happened there at Don Dale Centre. We will investigate what has happened in the youth detention system in the Northern Territory. That is the critical thing to do. We're taking action right now. Getting on with the job that Australians expect us to do to get to the bottom of it.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Turnbull regarding Kevin Rudd if I may was he fit to be Prime Minister? If not, why support his tilt to head the UN?

PRIME MINISTER:

Kevin Rudd was elected Prime Minister by the Australian people. He was the - let me tell you, I know this from experience - to be Prime Minister of Australia you need to be a Member of the House of Representatives and you need to have the confidence of a majority of Members of the House of Representatives. Kevin Rudd had those, that's why he was Prime Minister, that's why he was Prime Minister and why I'm Prime Minister.

JOURNALIST:

Does he have your confidence to lead the UN?

PRIME MINISTER:

The question about Australia nominating him to be Secretary General of the UN will be considered as I have said many times by the Cabinet. When the Cabinet meets we will consider that matter and we will make a decision.

JOURNALIST:

If Cathy O'Toole is elected, will you be able to work with her to drive the City Deal?

PRIME MINISTER:

I can assure you that my Government is committed to delivering a City Deal for Townsville. I can't speak for anybody else. We're hoping that Ewen will be re-elected as Member for Herbert so I'm not going to speculate on an alternative scenario, but we'll also be working with the state government.

What we're putting forward is a new, constructive approach to cities for the first time. The Federal Government taking a genuine role as a partner as opposed to funding this project and that project in a rather ad hoc way - which has been the way it's been done in the past. What we are doing with our City Deals is sitting down with state government, local government and with the major stakeholders in the private sector including university, for example, and saying right, how can we work together, how can we ensure that all of our funding, all of our services works together to deliver the outcomes we need of strong growth in jobs, economic growth, affordable housing, liveability, ensuring that our cities are liveable and sustainable.

See there has been a lot of money spent in cities, a lot of it is - and all with good intent. I'm not making any criticism. But often it is very uncoordinated. So this is a question of coordination and ensuring that in times when budgets are tight everywhere, we get more outcome, more bang for the buck, for the taxpayers' buck. Whether it's the local government buck, the state government buck, the federal government buck. That's what we've got to do. That’s what we're seeking to achieve. I'm confident that here in Townsville we'll be able to do that and I just want to say - pay my compliments to Ewen, who as the member for Herbert, has been a great advocate for this city, a great advocate for ensuring the Commonwealth works constructively with State and Local Government.

Thanks very much.

Ends