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Transcript of doorstop interview: Charleville: 6 June 2018: drought; economy; tax relief; ACCC charges; State of Origin



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UNCLASSIFIED

THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP PRIME MINISTER

TRANSCRIPT

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Doorstop with the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Hon. David Littleproud MP, and Member for Warrego, Ann Leahy MP Charleville, QLD

Subjects: Drought; Economy; Tax relief; ACCC charges; State of Origin

E&OE…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, David, Ann, thank you for being such great hosts here in Charleville. Again, we’re hearing a lot of stories and experiences about the drought. These are record dry times. In fact the Mayor of Thargomindah, “Tractor” Ferguson said to us that he’s hand-feeding his bees, that’s how dry it is.

We recognise that. But we’re also seeing a lot of different approaches, a lot of resilience. We’ve just been having a discussion with the Council, the Murweh Council here and also with AgForce, talking about the real success that comes out of the exclusion fencing. David and Ann, that has been a very big success and we can see the basis for providing more support there in the future. That’s enabling people to bring sheep back into the district. How significant is that?

MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND WATER RESOURCES, THE HON. DAVID LITTLEPROUD MP:

Well PM, when you bring sheep, you bring shearers. Invariably shearers are very good at leaving their money in town. At the pubs, the servos, the restaurants. That's what flows through the economy and it starts to build slowly, and gradually. But it also puts money back into farmers’ pockets, because we’ve got the trade agreements in place. We’re getting record wool prices, but also but also sheep meat. We’ve got out here, 180 people employed in an abattoir that’s not only processing goats but also sheep. So the reality is, if we can get those dog fences up, it broadens the economic base, but it puts money back not only in the farmer’s pockets, but also those small businesses, because of the labour-intensive nature of sheep.

PRIME MINISTER:

Ann, this was predominantly a sheep area?

MEMBER FOR WARREGO, THE HON. ANN LEAHY MP:

This was, you know 20 years ago, there were a lot of sheep in this area, there were shearing teams here. What we’re seeing now with the advent of cluster fencing and the subsidies which have come from your Government which we are extremely grateful for, we’re actually seeing small stock, sheep and goats, back into this country. That is helping our community.

PRIME MINISTER:

That's great. Well, we’ve got to see that stronger economic growth. Of course, Mother Nature can be very cruel. We are the land of droughts and flooding rains, as the poet said. This is a very long drought here. But across the country, we’re seeing strong economic growth. Our National Economic Plan is supporting that. Everything our Government is doing is designed to encourage Australians to invest, to employ, to get ahead. Right across the country we’re seeing strong economic growth. On the ground, record jobs growth last year, 415,000 jobs created. We will be seeing the national accounts later today and we hope those numbers, the statistics bear out what we’re seeing on the ground, of stronger economic growth and more jobs.

JOURNALIST:

Just on the drought first Prime Minister, Former Nationals leader John Anderson has warned you not to politicise the current drought situation by linking it to climate change. Is that sound advice, have you overstepped the mark?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't think John heard what I said, actually.

JOURNALIST:

Well what did you say?

PRIME MINISTER:

The point I’ve made is that we are the land of droughts and flooding rains, as the poet wrote. And our climate has always been variable. That's part of the reality in Australia, but there’s also no doubt - across the east coast, certainly in New South Wales and indeed in Western Australia where it is very marked - you are seeing more variable rainfall and you are seeing a hotter or warm or drier climate. And we’re going through that period. People argue about the extent of it or the causes of it. But the reality is, if you talk to people in the bush, particularly people who’ve got many decades, sometimes more than a century of rainfall records and weather records, they will bear out the truth of what I’ve just said.

JOURNALIST:

Just on the GDP figures out today, as you’ve flagged - they’re expected to be good for the Australian economy. But are we ever going to see wages growth?

PRIME MINISTER:

You will see, as I often say, the laws of supply and demand have not been suspended. If you get stronger economic growth - which we have seen and we’ll see what the national accounts say shortly - if you have stronger economic growth, you get more jobs. You will get more demand for labour and that will in turn result in stronger wages growth.

JOURNALIST:

The final phase of the tax cuts benefit men 2.6 times more than women which Labor says is unfair. What’s your response to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Sorry, just ask that question again, I couldn’t hear it.

JOURNALIST:

The final phase of the tax cuts benefit men 2.6 times more than women. Labor says -

PRIME MINISTER:

No look, I don't agree with that. The tax cuts apply in terms of personal income tax reform, it's a phenomenal reform. You know, it’s the most comprehensive reform of personal income tax in a generation. It's going to result in Australians - 94 per cent of Australians - not having to pay more than 32.5 cents in any extra dollar they earn. So, from $41,000, by 2024 when the reform is complete - by 2024 - the marginal tax rate goes to 32.5 cents in the dollar. It stays there until $200,000. I’ll tell you another thing; it's also very fair. Because in fact, even though the 45 cents threshold is going to be pushed up to $200,000 from $180,000, you will have, actually, a larger share of the personal income tax take overall, being paid by people in that 45 cent bracket.

So the proposition that it's unfair to people on lower incomes and middle incomes that Labor has made, that is a complete lie. An absolute lie.

JOURNALIST:

The PBO has the overall benefit of phase three going 2.6 times more to men, do you disagree with those figures?

PRIME MINISTER:

The point is - the reality is that it will go to middle income Australians, and it goes right across the board. Everybody benefits from it.

We have an economy, a nation that is built on aspiration and enterprise. You want people to get ahead. Now, how many times have we heard over the years - people say bracket creep is a real disincentive for people getting ahead? For getting another job, for taking a promotion, for working overtime? You've eliminated bracket creep all the way up to $200,000.

It's a phenomenal reform and that is why we hope the Senate will support it. We’re encouraging all the Senators to do so.

JOURNALIST:

Just on the ACCC criminal cartel charges that we’ve seen laid over the past couple of days. Have these events shocked, surprised you? What will it mean for the wider finance industry?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I will just say this. I don't want to comment on a particular court case for obvious reasons. But it is - we have seen wrongdoing in the financial services sector. And we have seen that in a number of inquiries. We have seen that in the recent proposed settlement between AUSTRAC and the CBA.

Two points. We have seen the wrong thing has been done. Clients have not been put first. We are determined to ensure this misconduct through the financial services sector is not repeated. We have changed the law and improved the regulation and given greater resources to the regulators to ensure it is not repeated. Remember, that these cases show the regulators are on the job. These are cases that have been identified and dealt with by our regulators.

But secondly, we will ensure that those who have done the wrong thing are held to account through the legal system.

JOURNALIST:

Just on this three-day trip to drought stricken communities, what’s the number one thing that you have taken away?

PRIME MINISTER:

The resilience, the enterprise, the courage of Australian farmers. They produce the food and fibre that we depend on. They’ve had to deal with a very variable climate. Very long drought in this part of the country. It's a tough climate.

But they continue to innovate and they continue to have courage and a self-belief and a determination to get on with it.

It's our job to provide them with the support in every way and that’s of course what we are doing. We have to listen to them. David and Anne, do you want to add to that?

MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND WATER RESOURCES, THE HON. DAVID LITTLEPROUD MP:

Yeah, look PM, I think whether it's in New South Wales where we were earlier in the week or up here, the story is the same. There is that resilience, but there is also that ambition to continue on. Agriculture has a great story, and it’s just a matter of adding rain. We have done the hard work, the heavy lifting with the trade agreements that are now putting money back in farmers’ pockets. But not just farmers’ pockets, these small communities that support them. And that’s what we’ve done.

I'm not just the Minister for Agriculture, I’m also there to have a responsibility to those regional communities. Those that I've lived in, to make sure we put money back into those communities and by doing that - supporting them through tough times. And there will be tough times in any business. The reality is we're putting a framework around them with resilience, to get through the tough times, to get through for when it does rain - to take advantage of the hard work we have been able to prosecute through the trade agreements and many others. And the tax cuts.

Those types of things all go back into farmers’ pockets. So we’ve got some work to do, but we’ve listened. But we’ve also made sure, that we’ve invested $20 million extra in rural councils.

So it’s not just the trade agreements, but it’s the people on the ground. Understanding the emotional and financial connection and how they can build that resilience and take their business to the next level. We will be making further announcements but we need to go away now and bring the states on that journey as well.

This is not just the Federal Government’s responsibility. This is all our responsibility. We have to work collaboratively. I will work with my ministerial colleagues to make sure we get a framework right, to review what we've done, the good work that we've done. Over $1 billion that we have spent, to keep farmers and communities alive during tough times, to review how we can do that better and build on it, to make sure we have a stronger agriculture sector that goes from a $50 billion export industry to a $60, to $70, to $80 billion industry.

PRIME MINISTER:

Ann, you are the Member for Warrego, the last word…

MEMBER FOR WARREGO, THE HON. ANN LEAHY MP:

Well look, the last word. Agriculture has been here for over - hundreds of years. It will be here in the future for hundreds of years and we have worked through droughts like the 1902 drought, the 1965 drought, and we have great young people who want to be part of this. Really exciting.

And we have said, we have the price of the markets, look at wool - markets being developed and grown by the Federal Government. It does give a great future for agriculture. I really appreciate the support that the federal Coalition Government is giving to this region. I'd like to see a greater effort from the state Labor Government in Queensland.

JOURNALIST:

And one final question on State of Origin tonight. You are in Queensland at the moment, but I do notice you are wearing blue - is this a deliberate…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I am leaving town.

[Laughter]

We are going to Boulia which is in Queensland and then to Brisbane.

But at the risk of falling out with my friends here, go the Blues.

[Laughter]

MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND WATER RESOURCES, THE HON. DAVID LITTLEPROUD MP:

We’ll do our talking on the field.

[Laughter]

[ENDS]

Press Office of the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister, Canberra