Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Cairns: 19 June 2015: Our north, our future: a vision for developing North Australia; the Government's $5.5 billion Growing Jobs and Small Business package; Free Trade Agreement with China; constitutional recognition for the first Australians; new measures to strengthen Australian citizenship; Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption; yellow crazy ants



Download PDFDownload PDF

1

www.pm.gov.au

PRIME MINISTER

19 June 2015

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MP

JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH THE HON. WARREN ENTSCH MP, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR LEICHHARDT, CAIRNS

Subjects: Our North, Our Future: A Vision for Developing North Australia; the Government’s $5.5 billion Growing Jobs and Small Business package; Free Trade Agreement with China; constitutional recognition for the first Australians; new measures to strengthen Australian citizenship; Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption; yellow crazy ants.

E&OE……………………….……………………………………………………………

WARREN ENTSCH:

I would like to thank the Prime Minister for taking the time to be here today. We had the policy announcement yesterday in relation to the release of the Northern Australia White Paper but today in Cairns we have successfully launched the White Paper for Northern Australia. So, five years in the incubation now it is a reality, it is now part of Government funding for policy with a significant amount of new money attached to that. If I can just thank Brett Macey and his team at Total Food Networks for his time allowing us to be here today - we really appreciate that. I would now like to turn to our Prime Minister.

Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER:

Warren, it's terrific to be here in Cairns again. It's good to be here at Total Food Network and I too would like to thank Brett Macey and all the team here for making Warren and myself so welcome.

This is a big day for Northern Australia but frankly it's been a pretty big week for our country. On Monday, we passed the small business budget boost through the Parliament. On Tuesday, we secured Senate agreement to pass the Government's fairer and more sustainable pension reforms. On Wednesday, we signed the free trade agreement with China. Yesterday, we had the policy announcements for the Northern Australia White Paper and today we have the formal launch here in Cairns.

This is all about setting up Australia for the long term.

2

www.pm.gov.au

It's all about building a stronger Australia - and that's what this Government is doing. Every day, we're getting on with the job of building a stronger Australia.

Those of you who were at the breakfast an hour or so back would have noticed not just the palpable enthusiasm of the people in the room for the Northern Australia White Paper, but the tremendous enthusiasm of senior members of this Government for developing Northern Australia.

We want to build on the strengths of our great north, not just for the benefit of people living north of the tropic of Capricorn, but for the benefit of all Australians because if the north does well our country does well. That's my message: if the north does well, our country does well. Already, some 50 per cent of our total exports originate in Northern Australia. There is so much potential in Northern Australia because of its proximity to the extraordinary economic growth of our region, also because Australia is the only developed country with a large tropical land mass, so that gives us tremendous additional potential when it comes to working with people in the tropics which, let's face it, the population centre of the world is in the tropics. Australia's position as the only developed nation with a large tropical land mass gives us tremendous potential to work with so many of the world's people and nations.

QUESTION:

Is there anything that has happened here today that might influence how this plan goes? I noted you were chatting to a builder from Rockhampton, I mean, is there anything you have picked up this morning?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, what I've picked up this morning is the extraordinary enthusiasm of all my Northern Australian colleagues to make this work. We had a very large number of my colleagues make the trip to Cairns; we had Melissa Price from Western Australia, we had Natasha Griggs from Darwin, we had Ken O'Dowd from Gladstone, we had Michelle Landry from Rockhampton, we had George Christensen from Mackay, we had Ewen Jones from Townsville, we had Senators Canavan and Macdonald. We had Gary Gray from the Labor Party and it was good to have Gary Gray here because he's certainly been a great advocate for Northern Australia. We had Curtis Pitt, the Treasurer of the Queensland Government and I've got to say people like Warren Entsch, as chair of the Parliamentary Committee, and Ian Macdonald as chair of the Coalition Committee, will make sure that this gets done.

Warren and Ian are first-class badgers when it comes to ensuring that ministers and officials don't just talk the talk, they actually walk the walk and make it happen. That's why I'm so incredibly confident that we won't just spend $1.2 billion over the next 4 years - useful though that will be - but we will make the ongoing changes that really will put Northern Australia at the centre of our development and our prosperity for the future.

QUESTION:

Warren said you must feel like Santa Claus today with your bag of goodies. Do you feel like Father Christmas?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I'm determined to do the right thing by all Australians and the great thing about developing the north is that every Australian benefits because of the potential of Northern Australia to be at the heart of our prosperity in the years and decades to come.

3

www.pm.gov.au

QUESTION:

This is a long term plan that we are talking about. What can locals like Debbie and our farmers see over the next two years; that first bracket that you have ear-marked?

PRIME MINISTER:

It's a short-term plan, it's a medium-term plan, it's a long-term plan and as Warren was pointing out at breakfast today, if you go to the back of the White Paper you see a whole lot of time lines for different things to be achieved within a particular period of time. For instance, by the end of the year we will have the report of the Northern Australia insurance task force which is very important if we are going to get the costs of living in places like Darwin and Cairns and Townsville down. So, there are a whole lot of things that are happening very quickly and then there are a whole lot of things that will take more time. Warren also pointed out the money that the Government is investing in the Cape York development road and that's money that's being spent now. So, a lot happening now, but a lot to come, and Warren Entsch and Ian Macdonald will certainly keep the Government honest where this is concerned.

QUESTION:

Have you had a falling out with Noel Pearson? Yesterday he was scathing, saying that you are the biggest obstacle to constitutional reform.

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, Noel and I go back a long, long way - a long, long way. I've spent a lot of time over the years in Cape York - much of it in Noel's company. Now, Noel wants to see recognition happen. He wants it to happen soon. I want it to happen as soon as possible but it's best to get this right rather than to rush it and I'm looking forward to further discussions with Noel just as I'm looking forward to further discussions with a whole range of indigenous leaders and as I suspect, most of you know, on the 6th of next month I will be sitting down with some of the most significant indigenous leaders of our country to talk through how far we can go which will both properly acknowledge indigenous people in our constitution and in our national life while at the same time unifying our country, because constitutional recognition of indigenous people needs to be a unifying moment for our country - not a divisive one.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, are you prepared to fight a High Court challenge on your citizenship laws or will you change them to comply with the constitution?

PRIME MINISTER:

I want to make it crystal clear what we're trying to do here. We don't want terrorists coming to our country and the tragedy is that there’s well over 100 Australians who have gone to fight with terrorist armies in the Middle East. The Government wants to keep them out. I regret to say the Labor Party wants to bring them back, as the Shadow Attorney-General made clear yesterday. There's a real challenge for Bill Shorten here. Does he agree with Mark Dreyfus that Australians who are terrorists should be brought back to this country? My view is that if you leave this country to fight with terrorist armies, you are betraying our country, you are effectively guilty of the modern form of treason. We don't want you back. If you're a dual citizen, we'll strip your citizenship so you can't come back.

4

www.pm.gov.au

QUESTION:

You know Mark Dreyfus has clarified his comments and says that he wants those people who have fought abroad to come back so that they can be charged under legislation in Australia. Is this a politicisation and a misinterpretation of his comments?

PRIME MINISTER:

What happens if they get off? That's the problem. What happens if…

QUESTION:

But will they under your legislation?

PRIME MINISTER:

We all know that there are evidentiary issues with prosecutions of people for offences abroad. I mean, how many terrorists does the Opposition want to bring back to our country to give evidence? I mean this is a very serious question for the Opposition. Not only does he want to bring terrorists back to stand trial, but it seems he also wants to bring terrorists back to give evidence. Now, I don't want terrorists in our country - full stop. And if someone leaves our country to join a terrorist army abroad, I don't want them back. The Government doesn't want them back. We don't want any of them back, but if you're a dual citizen we will stop you coming back by taking away your Australian passport.

QUESTION:

Malcolm Turnbull says there is no point passing legislation if it doesn’t apply with the Constitution. I mean, are you listening to your colleagues?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are very confident, based on the advice we've had from a range of sources, that this legislation can avoid serious constitutional risk, but again, I want to stress the fundamental point here: this is about protecting the people of Australia. This is about ensuring that if you leave our country to fight with a terrorist army abroad, as far as is possible, you don't come back because there is no place for terrorists who hate our country, who have betrayed our country, who have effectively committed treason against us. There is no place for people who want to do Australians harm because of who we are in this country.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, in your legislation, will there be any mechanism that decisions can be challenged in the courts or that there can be appeals?

PRIME MINISTER:

We’ve already made it absolutely crystal clear all along that we won’t do two things: we won’t make people stateless and we won't exclude the courts because any decision that the Minister might make will be subject to judicial review.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, back to the White Paper, please. All of the initiatives that have been announced in the White Paper, how exactly will they operate on the ground to reduce cost of living for Cairns region residents and Far North Queensland residents who are doing it tough?

5

www.pm.gov.au

PRIME MINISTER:

There's a whole lot of ways that we're going to help. As I said a moment ago, the insurance task force will be reporting by the end of the year because it does cost, in some instances, five or more times the cost of down south to ensure your property here in Cairns and other parts of Northern Australia. So, we've certainly got to do something to get the cost of insurance down in Northern Australia. We do want to invest in a stronger economy here because the stronger the economy the more the jobs, the higher the wages, the better for everyone. That's what we are on about: building a strong and prosperous economy right around our country but particularly in Northern Australia because that, in the end, is what is best for all our people.

QUESTION:

Will Bill Shorten be able to remain Labor leader after the Royal Commission? Do you think he will be found guilty of putting his Party into disrepute?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I don't want to comment on specific matters that may or may not come before the Royal Commission, but obviously, the Leader of the Opposition does have some serious explaining to do. What seems to have happened - and it seems to be a pattern of conduct on the part of a number of unions, particularly Mr Shorten’s old union, the Australian Workers’ Union - is that workers have been ripped off so that union bosses can benefit.

Now, I’m all in favour of arrangements between workers and managers that maximise the ability of business to get on an do jobs and succeed and employ people and pay people well - I’m all in favour of those sorts of arrangements. What I’m not in favour of is anything which is dishonest, anything which rips off workers to benefit union bosses and it seems that this particular union - and perhaps many others - have had a whole lot of ghost members, a whole lot of ghost members that have been funded off the books of the unions because of dodgy deals between management and union bosses.

It almost seems like some of these unions have been guilty of identity theft: taking people, putting them on their books who never knew that their identities were being used in this way to pad the numbers so that unions were given more power inside the Labor Party. It all looks like a very squalid power grabbing exercise by union officials inside the Labor Party and it’s not just Mr Shorten who is in trouble here, it’s the whole labour movement which is in difficulties here because power inside the Labor Party seems to have been more important to these people than the actual benefits to workers.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, with the exception of funding for indigenous ranger groups, biosecurity funding doesn’t seem to be too forthcoming in the White Paper. Up here we’re chasing funding for yellow crazy ants to tackle that problem. Is there any of that in the pipeline or can you promise anything today?

WARREN ENTSCH:

Can I say on yellow crazy ants, I’m actually meeting with some of the people involved in it in the next couple of weeks and we’re still waiting on the Wet Tropics Management Authority to put forward a proposal and a costing on that proposal so that we can consider it. At the moment, there is nothing that has been put forward to us. We’re keen to have a look at it, but we can’t do that until we actually get the proposal from those people involved.

6

www.pm.gov.au

PRIME MINISTER:

Ok, just on that general subject of biosecurity, look obviously, the biosecurity challenges of Northern Australia are particularly acute. We did have quite a bit to say about biosecurity in the Northern Australia White Paper and we’ll have more to say about biosecurity in the agricultural white paper which will be coming out within the next few weeks - just as we’ll have more to say about water storages in the agricultural white paper that will be coming out in the next few weeks.

Both of these white papers are about a comprehensive, holistic look at the challenges facing Northern Australia on the one hand and for our agricultural sector on the other hand. They are of a piece with this Government’s overall plan which is to build a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia.

What you saw this week was various pieces of that plan - the fair and more sustainable pensions plan, the boost for small business plan, the freer and more comprehensive trade plan, and now the Northern Australia development plan - you saw various pieces of our overall plan slot into place, because this is a Government which is getting on with the job of delivering for you, the people of Australia.

[ends]