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Transcript of press conference: Hobart: 3 October 2011: National Broadband Network; Skills Week; Intergovernmental Agreement; Benjamin Chuck

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Subjects: National Broadband Network; Skills Week; Intergovernmental Agreement; Benjamin Chuck

PM: It’s great to be here in Hobart, I’m joined by Julie Collins our Federal Member for Franklin. I’m here in Hobart today to attend Community Cabinet later this afternoon at Kingston High School and I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity with a number of my Ministerial team to talk directly to local community members about what is on their mind.

Twelve of the Ministerial team are here, they are moving throughout Tasmania talking to people during the course of today and then we will be available for one on one discussions as well as the community meeting later tonight, so very much looking forward to that.

But right now I want to talk about three important things that all add up to jobs, jobs here in Tasmania. First I’m here to announce with my Parliamentary colleague Julie Collins that we will commence the rollout of the third stage of the National Broadband Network here in Tasmania. At every stage of the National Broadband Network it’s been Tassie that’s led the way. Tassie has always been at the front of this transformational change for the Australian economy and this transformation as to how we will deliver education and health services in the future. It’s Tassie that’s been showing the mainland what you can do with the National Broadband Network.

Phase one has been rolled out, phase two is being rolled out and I will see part of that rollout later this afternoon in Kingston. And I can announce that phase three will be started. And stage three, phase three will create up to 800 new jobs and it will extend the National Broadband Network to a further 90,000 homes and businesses here in Tasmania.

So that’s an announcement about jobs. Not only jobs in the construction of the National Broadband Network but jobs because of the difference to the Tasmania economy the National Broadband Network can make. Any study

that you look at about the benefits of broadband will tell you that it improves productivity. That means it enables businesses to compete better and that equals jobs, jobs right here in Tasmania, literally bringing the global economy to your door through the National Broadband Network.

And I’m very pleased this morning I’ve been able to chat to some of the young people here today who are working their way through their apprenticeships because the National Broadband Network is creating many jobs for kids who are studying the kind of apprentices that we’ve talked about here today.

Second and also on the theme of jobs, the Tasmanian economy needs strengthening for the future. I want to see for this state a dynamic and diversified economy. We want to make sure that the Tasmanian economy

rests on a broad base, that it’s not reliant simply on one industry but it has the resilience that comes with diversification. And so I can announce that from tomorrow an $8 million innovation fund will be open for Tasmanian

businesses. This is part of the stream of money flowing through the intergovernmental agreement relating to forestry. This $8 million will be dispersed through an application process for Tasmanian businesses. What it will mean is people can put forward their policies and plans about how they want to see their business innovate, diversify and grow. We’ve had experience with this kind of approach before particularly we had experience in Burnie where a comparable fund was made available after the loss of some manufacturing jobs in that area, and as a result of that funding flowing to businesses, partnering with their instincts for innovation and diversification, the fund resulted in 350 new jobs being created and $35 million of new investment for the region. Now with this $8 million fund, we want to bring the benefits of that innovation opportunity throughout Tasmania and that fund will be open from tomorrow.

And third, also on the theme of jobs, I’m here at the Skills Institute to celebrate the start of Skills Week, and I’m very pleased I’ve been able as I’ve walked around today to talk to Jason Bryan who is here with us who won the 2010 Apprentice of the Year Award, a great honour for him personally, also a great

honour for Tasmania. And that honour was bestowed on him because of the excellence that he has brought to the study of his apprenticeship. I’m pleased we have invested $100 million in skills and training in Tasmania in the last 12 months and that we are seeing 12,000 apprentices in training. In order to have the kind of economic strength that we want here in Tasmania for the future we do need to people with the skills that the diversified new economy of

the future will need, so I’m very happy to be here at the Skills Institute celebrating the opening of Skills Week.

So, happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: With regard to this innovation fund you said that applications would be open tomorrow, when will the money start to flow?

PM: Applications will close in mid-December and then there will be a process of assessment for funds to flow after that.

JOURNALIST: Is this on top of the $276 million or part of the -

PM: No, it’s part of the funds flowing through the intergovernmental agreement and we’ve got to remember the purpose of the intergovernmental agreement in part was to drive a new approach to economic and regional development in Tasmania. The economy here has had its strengths, its long

term strengths and forestry has been one of them, but it’s an economy that is narrowly based and for the economy of Tasmania to have the kind of strength and resilience, prosperity and opportunity we want for the future, we want to

broaden the base of the Tasmanian economy and this $8 million is part of doing that.

JOURNALIST: Are you confident the IGA will be implemented in its entirety given the opposition from Upper House Members who are crucial to getting the legislation through?

PM: Yes I am confident, I am confident it will be implemented. And to Upper House Members in the Tasmanian Parliament I would say, why would they say no to the ability to assist people in this state as it undergoes this transformation? Now I understand that the transformation in the forestry sector has caused a lot of pain and a lot of anxiety for a lot of Tasmanians, I do genuinely understand that. Market conditions have changed. And we’ve got two choices, we can either let people fend for themselves - employees who lose their jobs, contractors who go out of business and just let this state’s economy go through without the benefits of a vibrant forestry industry, or we can work together, ensure there’s a sustainable forestry industry for the future, support workers losing their jobs, support contractors and support strengthening the Tasmanian economy. I want people in Tassie to have jobs. I want the young kids I’ve met today to have jobs. That means we need to act and strengthen the local economy, I don’t believe it would be a responsible course for anyone in the Tasmanian Upper House to stand in the face of that.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that the Legislative Council last week supported a motion opposing the IGA?

PM: Well it’s one thing to vote for a motion, it’s another thing to put your hand up to deny this economy the resources it needs for change. And let’s be very clear here, when it comes to considering the relevant legislation which will be (inaudible) after the verification process being undertaken by Professor West, when Tasmanian Upper House Members are finally voting, the proposition they will be voting on is do they want support to help strengthen the Tasmanian economy; real dollars, real support or not?

JOURNALIST: There have been concerns about how long it’s taken contractors to be able to access the money, why has there been that delay?

PM: I can understand that people are feeling pressure including contractors. We are working with the State Government and working to resolve this issue and have the assistance available to contractors as soon as possible. We have put a proposal to the Tasmanian Government and when they respond we will be working to put this issue to finality as soon as we possibly can.

JOURNALIST: One of the concerns we’ve heard from the Upper House is about the (inaudible) are you sure that that is the case (inaudible)?

PM: Well all of those processes and issues were a question for the State Government. But what I can say to Upper House Members is as a Federal Government we want to support economic diversification here. This process

started when people who had been at absolute loggerheads in the forestry industry, people from different sides of the debate, environmentalists and

industry, finally came together because they knew things were changing. And they knew that that change could just rip through unmanaged and hurt people or there could be a process to manage it. Well we’ve worked with those parties and State Government to have a process to manage it and also a process to strengthen the Tasmanian economy here.

This is a great state with fantastic natural advantages, its tourism industry, it’s held its head up in sections of manufacturing, the NBN is going to bring improvements and diversification but we want to do more so that there are jobs and prosperity in this state for the future, that’s what this regional development process is about.

JOURNALIST: Is there an option for the Commonwealth to legislate if the Legislative Council refuses?

PM: Well it’s their job, you know, the State Government, State Parliament is here to do the right job for the Tasmanian people and it’s up to Members in the Tasmanian Parliament including those in the Upper House to be held to

account for how they vote.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, now that the football seasons are over, the codes have indicated that they will begin to step up pressure on pokies reform. What would you say to them at this point in the debate?

PM: What I would say to anyone who’s got a view about the pokies debate is I believe Australians are rightly concerned about problem gambling. Too many people have got a story whether it’s a family member or a friend or a work colleague, someone they know, someone they’ve heard of who has really damaged their life through pokies addiction, who’s lost their home, lost their marriage, their family as a result of this addiction so I think many Australians are rightly concerned about pokies addiction.

At the same time many Australians enjoy a night out, have a flutter, go home, don’t spend a dollar more than they intended to and it’s just part of a night’s entertainment. Well I want to make sure they get the benefit of that night’s entertainment, that nothing stops them having a great night out while doing what we can to assist people who are at risk of getting an addition to the pokies and literally gambling their lives away. We’re going to work to get this right and the door is open for people who have got views about how we can get this right so we’re enabling gaming to have its proper place in people’s entertainment choices but we are dealing with problem gambling given the incredible harm it can do.

JOURNALIST: So Andrew Wilkie’s bottom line remains your bottom line, that there must be mandatory pre-commitment for high volume machines?

PM: Well I think we’ve got to remember where this debate started, in the last Parliament even before Mr Wilkie was a Member of Parliament, the Government was concerned about problem gambling, so concerned that we asked the Productivity Commission to advice what we could do on problem gambling and the Productivity Commission came back with its report.

We have worked since with Mr Wilkie and of course more broadly to get this right and we’ll continue to do that work. So to anybody who’s got concerns on any side of the discussion here, the door is open for them to put their views. But we are determined to do something about problem gambling because it’s so costly. As Prime Minister I hear those stories right around the country but to be frank I didn’t need to leave my home in Altona to hear those stories, where I come from in Melbourne’s West, we’ve got some huge gaming venues and I know people who have literally gambled away their life, their hope, their future. We don’t want to see that in Australia, we can do better than that and we will do better than that.

JOURNALIST: Where in Tasmania will the NBN be rolled out now?

PM: I can give you those details - the NBN is coming next to - let me just get the right sheet for the suburbs. Sorry, one second. It is going to Burnie, Devonport, Launceston and further sections of Hobart.

JOURNALIST: From the innovation fund, will displaced forest workers be given priority for the innovation funding or is that open to everyone?

PM: The innovation funding is for businesses so it’s businesses that make the application and what will be assessed here is the ability of the businesses concerned to innovate and change to attract investment and to create jobs. So the news for people who have worked in forestry out of the innovation fund is because it’s focus is on strengthening the economy, diversifying the economy and creating jobs, the aim is to create more job opportunities for people to move to in Tasmania.

JOURNALIST: Will they be jobs forest workers can because a lot of them have seen Tassie’s going in a tourism direction but they don’t know anything about tourism.

PM: Well this will be about diversifying the economy so no one should make the assumption this will only be about one industry or one occupation or one way of working. The whole aim here is to make sure that Government funds are leveraging private investment to create jobs in a way that changes and strengthens the Tasmanian economy, so that won’t be one type of job for one type of worker.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) crash, the report’s being released soon, why has that taken so long?

PM: I am concerned about the length of time that it has taken to release this report. I’ve made my concerns very clear to people. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak to the father of Benjamin Chuck, I talked to him last night. He was very clearly concerned by the amount of time that it has taken

and now the families are being worked with and being talked to by Army so that they are aware of the contents of the report which will be released soon.

Thank you very much.