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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Launceston: 25 July 2013: Tasmanian Jobs and Growth Plan; Tasmanian Tourism Fund; Better Schools Plan; NBN; asylum seekers; foreign aid

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Subjects: Tasmanian Jobs and Growth Plan; Tasmanian Tourism Fund; Better Schools Plan; NBN; Asylum seekers; Foreign aid

PM: It’s great to be back in Tasmania here with the Premier and here with Catherine King, the Minister for Regional Development and obviously Geoff Lyons, our local member, as well as all of our Tasmanian Federal Labor team. Welcome also the Deputy Premier.

This is an important day for Tasmania because we regard Tasmania as a core part of the Australian family. On top of all that, I really like the place.

I come down here a lot. I've been over there climbing Cradle Mountain. I've been to Launceston so many times over the years, to the north west and to Hobart, over to Freycinet.

This is the beautiful part of Australia.

What we're here today to talk about is jobs and growth. Now if we don't have a strong economy across Australia, frankly, everything else falls away.

Unless we have strong economic growth and strong jobs growth, everything else falls away.

I believe that we have a fundamental national responsibility to sustain the long-term strength of the Tasmanian economy.

This is part of the Australian national family.

There are challenges here, always the product of a degree of isolation from the mainland economy, I understand that, but therefore we've got to make an extra effort to make sure that the economy and jobs remain strong in this part of Australia.

That's why I am delighted to be here in Tassie today to be with the Premier in delivering our $100 million Tasmanian Jobs and Growth Plan.

This is a key initiative for Tasmania.

It will go to support a whole range of projects across the State.

In particular I would draw attention to the fact that we are, right across Tasmania, out there supporting some 31 separate projects.

Also, state wide, we are investing in a $10 million Industry and Innovation Fund and beyond that again $4.5 million for a Tasmanian Tourism Fund.

These are really important initiatives.

And as I look out here across the river to the north bank, great part of Launceston. When I was last here only a few months ago, I remember sitting down I think with the mayor and other locals saying this is one of the

developments we want to see going.

So if I could just illustrate one of the projects that we are investing with the Launceston City Council, a North Bank precinct development of $3 million.

That's the practical stuff we're doing right across the state of Tasmania.

Tassie is part of Australia's economic future.

Therefore, our job is to keep this economy strong and to grow the jobs of the future.

Our record in Tasmania overall is also a strong one.

I was looking at some of the figures this morning and what we are doing right across the state is strong and good work.

When I look at the investments that we have made in the education system here, it’s extraordinary.

We have as an Australian Government invested in some 59 new school libraries, 120 multipurpose facilities, 30 science and language centres, some 19 or 20,000 computers in schools, 13 Trades Training Centres benefiting 36 schools and then the Better Schools Plan.

The Better Schools Plan will be a huge shot in the arm for Tasmanian schools in the future.

I'm pleased that Tasmania, New South Wales, South Australia, the independent school system, the Catholic school system have all signed on.

But what does it mean here on the ground for Tassie?

It means that with this agreement there will be an additional $382 million invested into the schools of Tasmania, in the state system.

That is a huge investment.

Therefore it's going to enable us to make sure that we have better schools, better teaching, and on top of that, better education outcomes for our kids.

I would say to any Tassie mum and dad this: if you are a bit worried about your one at school, in primary school, falling behind at bit in maths or science and you want to make sure they are going to get some extra special time with teachers or tutors to bring them back up to up to scratch, that's what this plan is for.

If you've got a kid who is doing really well and might be being held back a bit by the others in the class, this is to provide extra resources to make sure that that kid can go to the height of their potential.

It’s all about better schools, better teaching, better education outcomes.

Of course we have spoken down here a lot about our investments in health and hospitals in the past and they are strong.

Also in infrastructure, the National Broadband Network is literally rewriting the future of the Tasmanian economy by overcoming the tyranny of distance.

That's what it’s about for the future.

Now that's what we're doing for Tasmania.

It is a very strong plan.

Building schools, building health and hospital services, building the infrastructure which this state needs, including the National Broadband Network.

We are in the building game.

Unfortunately Mr Abbott is in the tearing down game. That's what he seems to be best at.

I would simply say this, and I understand Mr Abbott is in Tasmania today, to Mr Abbott, with his proposal to change the allocation of GST across the states, he will effectively crash the Tasmanian economy and destroy jobs.

I cannot be clearer than that.

When he goes over to the west and says to Colin Barnett ‘we're going to re-do your GST plan to give more money to Western Australia,’ what he's not being upfront with people here in Tasmania in saying is that means crashing the amount of money which Tasmania gets from the GST.

The calculation is this: if you took Mr Abbott's plan at face value it would mean a $600 million cut to grants to Tasmania.

This is huge in a state this size.

Therefore, what have we got?

A strong plan for Tasmanian growth and jobs, we are investing in 31 projects across Tasmania, all about creating local jobs and local business opportunities.

We are building state's infrastructure in schools and in hospitals and in health, and in the infrastructure of tomorrow in the National Broadband Network.

We are building the state up but what we have from the alternative Prime Minister of Australia, is frankly an admission that he would crash the Tasmanian economy.

Not good for Tasmania, not good for families, not good for growth, and certainly not good for jobs.

PREMIER GIDDINGS: Thank you Prime Minister and a warm welcome to Tasmania. We're very pleased to have you here.

As you can see, the Australian Government has been working very closely with the Tasmanian Government on some critical reforms for this state.

I enjoyed working with you, as Health Minister, on delivering the national health reforms that we see now delivering results here in Tasmania.

But we also, as you've said, talked about the Better Schools Plan and we're very pleased to support the Australian Government in what they're trying to achieve in helping us to improve the outcomes for students no matter where they go to school here in this state.

And we're very pleased with the support we've had from the Australian Government in helping us to restructure our forest industry.

A restructure which has naturally been very painful for many people within the community but a restructure we couldn't avoid, one that we had to work through,

and one that we are trying to assist local communities to be able to grow new jobs and have hope.

What you're delivering here today with the $100 million economic and jobs plan is absolutely critical to this state.

There are a number of projects that will help regional Tasmania in the north west, in the south and here in the north of the state as well.

Important projects that help to grow new jobs in industries that we know have a strong future, the dairy industry, the aquaculture industry, tourism, which has been the heart of the Tasmanian economy for many, many decades.

We are very proud of what we've been able to achieve with you and we thank you and your Minister Catherine King as well for the work that you’ve done with us in being able to help Tasmania restructure.

I would also agree with you very strongly that we are quite concerned about what a Tony Abbott led government could deliver for this state.

He has made it very clear that he does not support the Better Schools Plan.

He has made it very clear he does not support the NBN roll-out as is being delivered right here and now in this state.

And he's also made it very clear that he would not support the work that we're doing in this area of forestry and most importantly the biggest risk of all, is that he would pull out of the GST Grants Commission process we have, which would risk in excess of $600 million to our state.

And with a budget of $5 billion, you're quite right, that would devastate the state of Tasmania.

We are yet to get any reassurances from Mr Abbott that he will not actually go down this pathway as we have yet to get any assurances from Malcolm Turnbull in relation to the NBN either.

We welcome you, we wish you all the best and thank you very much for what you've been able to work with us and deliver for Tasmania.

PM: Thanks very much Premier. I would like to ask the Minister Catherine King. Catherine is from a regional city in Australia. She's from Ballarat.

The reason she's Minister for Regional Development is that she understands intrinsically what it is like not being in one of the major capital cities of mainland

Australia and therefore, she has a passion for the regions and that's why I've got her in this job.

MINISTER KING: Thanks very much Prime Minister.

First, in terms of the Tasmanian Jobs and Growth Plan, I want to thank the Tasmanian Government and my federal parliamentary colleagues, fantastic members who represent this beautiful part of the world.

The Jobs and Growth Plan is based on the Tasmanian Government's economic development plan and each of the regional councils’ economic development plans and we've had extensive consultation over the past two years.

I think this is the 15th or 16th time since August 2011 a Regional Australia Minister from the Australian Government has been here to talk and now finally deliver the $100 million Jobs and Growth Plan.

It is a very good plan that spread across each of the areas, supporting business, building on Tasmania's advantages and sustaining and supporting local communities.

The plan also makes sure that there are projects delivered across the north, the south and the north west.

Again, I want to thank very much the economic diversification taskforce who has been working very closely with the state government and the Tasmanian Government on delivering this package.

PM: I reinforce my thanks to this fantastic Tasmanian team.

We've got, of course, Geoff here is the local member, behind me I have a great array of Tassie talent. And I’d particularly like to in Tasmania, congratulate you Julie as our Tasmanian Cabinet Minister and I'm very proud to have her in our Federal Cabinet team.

So if you've got complaints about what the Federal Government has to do, she's the one.

MINISTER COLLINS: Thank you, Kevin.

PM: In terms of the delivery to Tasmania, she's also the one. She's raising the voice of Tasmania around the Cabinet table.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, this $100 million, is this new money or already existing money that's just been re-branded?

PM: What we've worked on very carefully, and I'll ask Catherine to add to this, is making clear which additional projects across the state we are funding by name.

This has been an exhaustive process which we've gone through with our team, the Tasmanian Government and through the Minister's department.

And so we have been very careful and very cautious about not making this announcement about the allocation until we have had all that nutted out.

For example in Geoff's case, I know very much from my previous briefing here, how important this North Bank development here is in Launceston but we wanted to make sure we had all the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted and we’re here today to deliver.

MINISTER KING: This is money that was contingent on intergovernmental agreement on forestries.

So yes, it is new money and new projects announced today.

JOURNALIST: You talked about education being good for Tasmania.

One of our major problems is students and young people leaving the state as soon as they finish school.

What will your government do to ensure those people, once they've got an education, stay in the state?

PM: The first thing we have got to make sure with our schools is that our schools maintain world-class standards.

Our schools are not just in a national competition, they're in a global competition.

And if I look at our major economies across our own Asia-Pacific region, Singapore, Korea, those in major cities in China like Shanghai, these kids are powering ahead in terms of maths, science, as well as literacy.

And so what we're on about first and foremost is to raise the standards of all of our schools.

You can't do that by just whistling into the air and hoping that something will happen.

It requires bricks and mortar and requires investing in our teachers.

So that's the first thing.

You've got to have the skills to qualify for good jobs and that's provided through the school system, university system, but also the training system.

I'm very proud of the fact that we have, in fact, built across Tasmania 13 Trade Training Centres across Tasmanian schools.

These are world-class facilities to make sure kids pursuing their trades are also getting the best.

So having kids' skills ready is one thing, having them jobs ready is another thing and making sure there are jobs is the third.

So what we will be working with the Tasmanian Government on is on projects like this to make sure that when Tasmania kids leave the school system, with the best skills possible, that we can help them find a job or make them job ready.

I'm on about jobs. I'm on about growth. This package is about jobs and about growth.

I’d just make one clear point again.

If Mr Abbott is Prime Minister, you'll have three huge torpedos aimed at Tasmania: number one, ripping $600 million out of your GST; number two, pulling the plug on the National Broadband Network for Tasmania; and number three, refusing to back a $380 million investment in your school system.

Three big torpedos aimed at Tasmania with ‘T Abbott’ written on the side of each.

JOURNALIST: How many jobs do you expect this plan to create?

MINISTER KING: Each of the different projects have different aspects of job creation to them.

So there's some in the building and construction phase, then there are jobs right the way across each of the different sectors that we have concentrated on in the package.

For example, we were very mindful that in terms of displaced workers from the forestry industry, that we made sure that there was funding for a range of different programs to look at immediate and short-term jobs for those workers.

But what this package really is about is both providing support and transition for those workers but also increasing the opportunities and the new jobs into the future.

There's work in there in advanced manufacturing, there are projects in there in terms of viticulture and aquaculture, as well as other agricultural areas as well.

So the jobs growth, each individual project has got estimates of jobs that will be associated with them but we've been very mindful that this is about short, medium and very much the long-term future of jobs in Tasmania.

PM: If we look at Australia's current economic challenge, we have big changes occurring.

We had the end of the China resources boom, we have something of a credit crunch within the Chinese economy and a very sluggish global economic recovery.

That's the challenge we face.

Therefore the real question for all of us as members of the Australian family is what's our strategy in response?

Our strategy is we must now diversify the Australian economy, not have all our eggs in one basket - the mining sector, the minerals sector, the resources sector, the energy sector - and grow new jobs in new industries.

Including in new forms of manufacturing, new services industries, agribusiness, the construction services industry, the health services industry, as well as the education services industry, the financial services industries.

We do that building the competitiveness of our economy by global standards, which is why our skills and our schools have to be world-class, our infrastructure like the high-speed broadband network have to be world-class and also that our energy prices are competitive across the world as well.

So you put all that together, that's the big picture we're operating within.

What we've got to make sure is every part of the big story of Australia, including the Tasmanian chapter, is firing as well.

That is why we are making these investments.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, headlines this morning have written off your solution on asylum seekers saying it’s in tatters, it’s sinking.

It is over before it began?

PM: The first thing I would say is that the government's strategy 100 per cent clear.

That is that any people smuggling trying to bring to someone to Australia by boat will not be allowed to settle in Australia.

That's our policy, that's our strategy.

Secondly, Mr Abbott's alternative strategy is this: a three-word slogan. Stop the boats. Everyone would like to add three words for Mr Abbott. How will you stop the boats? Make it a six word slogan.

Then he's got a new three word slogan today, I think it's called operation something or other. Operation sovereign border or something.

So we've now got two three-word slogans: stop the boats, operation sovereign something or other.

You know the business of national security is a hard and tough business for any government of Australia.

The business of border security is a hard and tough business for any government of Australia.

What I notice is this: number one, Mr Abbott doesn't have an alternative, he has a three-word slogan.

Number two, he does not want the government's Regional Resettlement Arrangement to work so he's deliberately sending out a message to muddy the communications with people smugglers around the world because for political reasons he’d much rather the government's strategy did not work.

Because it is not in his personal political interests.

But here's number three, really important: I look very carefully at the statement issued by the High Commissioner of Papua New Guinea yesterday in Canberra.

Mr Abbott demonstrates that he is not capable of working with our regional partners, whether it is in South-East Asia or in the Pacific, to produce a regional agreement to deal with what is a regional and global problem called people smuggling.

Therefore, I think it is pretty clear, you’ve got three words slogans, a bloke who actually doesn't want the Regional Resettlement Arrangement to work and he's sending out mixed messages to people smugglers around the world because he doesn't want this strategy to succeed because that's not in his political interests.

On top of that, he can't work with our neighbours and that is very clear from the statements which have been made in recent days.

This is tough business.

I last said last Friday this was going to be a challenge for the long-haul, said very clearly that there would be bumps in the road, there will be, but I challenge anybody to come up with an effective alternative strategy given how big the challenge is for us and for all countries in the world.

JOURNALIST: How much extra foreign aid will PNG get next year?

PM: We'll make that very clear in terms of the economic and financial statement that will be made in due course by the Treasurer.

We are already significant development assistance partners with Papua New Guinea, strong programs.

Again I return to Abbott's false statement only two day ago where he said falsely, I would say as a deliberate lie, that we are providing unaccounted for cash payments to Papua New Guinea.

That's just wrong.

He knows it’s wrong.

He knows it’s untrue.

He's simply making that statement in order to curry political votes in this country, when in fact each of our programs with PNG is the subject of a detailed intergovernmental agreement to deliver the right outcome.

Our policy is clear: if you are a people smuggler and you are bringing a person by boat to Australia, that person will not be settled in Australia.

Clear, hard-line policy, there’s going to be challenges with the implementation but that's our clear-cut message.

JOURNALIST: What about Malcolm Fraser's call for a Royal Commission into allegations of torture and possible rape on Manus Island, doesn't that demonstrate that maybe your policy is in tatters?

PM: What I would challenge anyone to answer the question is how do you reduce the number of people drowning at sea? How do you do that?

If the numbers coming by boat because of changes in our international circumstances are going to go up and up and up, it follows that the numbers drowning at sea will go up and up as well.

From hundreds each year, into the thousands each year.

So my challenge to anybody is what is the alternative strategy other than to send a clear-cut message to people smugglers that if you seek to bring someone to Australia by boat, they will not be settled in Australia?

Hardline message, necessary message, that's our policy as opposed to a three line slogan from Mr Abbott and no-one else being able to answer the question about how do you reduce drownings at sea.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] how will you ensure those sort of concerns don’t happen in PNG?

PM: Well the bottom line is this, that this is a hard area of government policy.

If it was easy then frankly we would all walk away and it would all sort itself out by tomorrow lunchtime.

It’s not like that.

It’s hard work, it’s difficult work and as I said last Friday with other ministers and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea when announcing this you this strategic direction.

There are going to be difficulties along the way, bumps in the road, we know that.

But I would much rather level with the Australian people about all those challenges, while sending a clear-cut message to the nation and to people smugglers around the world that if you think you can bring people by boat to Australia, then those people will not be settled in Australia.

That's our hardline message and we're going to have lots of challenges on the way through but this is the only way in which we get to a position over time of reducing those coming to Australia so we see a reduction in the number of those drowning.

The other humanitarian question is this, so that once again Australia can begin settling refugees in this country through our expanded quota of 20,000 places a year, from some of the world's worst hell holes, around the country.

Last point I’d make before we close up - because I've got to see the mayor and have a chat with the Premier about one or two other things here - is that I'm passionately committed to Tasmania's economic future.

I believe that this state can have a first class future.

One of the drivers of it will be the investment fund for innovation we've set up, turbocharged by the National Broadband Network.

What's that going to mean in practice?

You can enjoy this fantastic lifestyle of living in Tasmania, be linked to the rest of the world with world-class broadband and being able to grow the businesses of tomorrow from living here in Launceston, from living over in Devonport, from living down in Hobart, from living in any of the great regional centres of Tasmania.

And the second one is this, I'm a passionate believer in the future of the Tasmania tourism industry.

It is a beautiful state and frankly with broadband necessary for travellers from around the world, so they can be linked into their developments back home with their own businesses, if we don't have that on hand, people aren't going to come.

It is part of the future of the Tasmanian tourism industry and that's what we're doing as well through this new addition of the Tasmania Tourism Fund.

Building the new industries of the future, creating a strong economy for the future, building jobs off the back of those new innovations, as well as tourism, and other innovations in areas like manufacturing and agriculture and agribusiness, we can power this economy ahead.

Jobs and growth are our motto. That's what we're sticking to. Thanks for your time.