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Transcript of doorstop: Welshpool WA: 9 August 2018: GST; Emma Husar; By-elections; Great Barrier Reef; Jarrod Lyle; National Energy Guarantee; AGL

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Thursday, 9 August 2018

Doorstop with the Minister for Jobs and Innovation, Senator the Hon. Michaelia Cash and the Member for Swan, Mr Steve Irons MP Welshpool WA

SUBJECTS: GST; Emma Husar; By-elections; Great Barrier Reef; Jarrod Lyle; National Energy Guarantee; AGL.



Well, it’s great to be here, it’s great to be with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Science Michaelia Cash, a great colleague and we’re at Thermo King West, which is a great business in my electorate of Swan. Steve Da Rui owns the business, a great family business that employs 23 people and they’re putting on staff at the moment as well. They’re also employing apprentices, which is fantastic.

This morning we’ve been at the Kent Street High School, and we’ve been there for Science Week. We spoke to the students there and we saw the amazing work they’re doing which is going to engage them and give them the skills to get into work life after they leave school. The Prime Minister actually got involved in a couple of the experiments and had a good chat, we had a great morning out at the Science Fair.

But we’ve done a tour here today at the facility. It’s great to have the Prime Minister back in Western Australia, in Swan, particularly after he has dealt with the GST. The Coalition Government has dealt with the GST and it’s one of the landmark decisions which will help Western Australia over the next coming decades, evening out, putting a floor in to go to 75 cents.

Prime Minister welcome back to Swan.


Thanks Steve.


I would now like to introduce the Prime Minister to take over.


Well thanks Steve, and thank you Steve and thanks Michaelia. Here in Western Australia we have made an enormous change to the GST.

We have delivered a fair deal for Western Australia on the GST, as we said we would. We have ensured that every state and territory is better off. So it is a deal, an arrangement that passes the test in Bunbury and Bundaberg and in Burnie, right around the country.

We have been able to do that because of the strong economy. A strong economy delivers the revenues that enable us to bring the Budget back into balance a year earlier. It enables us to spend record amounts of money on health, on education, on national security, on infrastructure, including Metronet here in Perth, as you know. It enables us to do all of that, because we’ve got the strongest jobs growth in our country's history.

Last year, 2017, the strongest jobs growth in our country's history.

GDP growing at 3.1 per cent and we are bringing down personal income tax.

Over a million Western Australians will pay less personal income tax this financial year and by 2024/25, right across the country, 94 per cent of Australians will not pay more than 32.5 cents on any extra dollar they earn. A massive personal income tax reform.

At the same time, we brought down company tax and business taxes for small and medium family-owned businesses, like Steve Da Rui’s business here. This is a good case of a business that is going to pay less tax. We have cut the tax for businesses with turnovers up to $50 million. That enables Steve to invest more in his business. That’s why he is able to hire more people, bring on apprentices. He is taking advantage of our mentoring program and I’ll ask Michaelia to talk more about that as the Minister for Jobs and Innovation. But you know, what we’re able to do, is provide the support for hardworking Australian business people like Steve and his team here.

They're investing and they are employing. That’s why we are seeing stronger economic growth. That’s why we’re seeing a fair deal for WA on the GST, we are able to afford to do that, to make sure that every state and territory is better off.

It’s why we’re able to see the strongest jobs growth in the country's history.

Do you know, we have the lowest percentage of Australians of working age on welfare in 25 years? Isn’t that great? That means more Australians than ever are in a job, are employed. So it’s a great opportunity to be here and see in this business what our support for a stronger economy delivers; new jobs, new investment, stronger revenues, more investment in the essential services.

The only way you can guarantee essential services is with strong government revenues. The only way you can have them, is with a stronger economy.

I’ll now ask Michaelia to talk about the way in which she and her portfolio are working to ensure that we get more jobs, more innovation. You know, Steve talked about the Kent Street Senior High School. What you saw there was a great example of the young scientists, geologists, technologists, computer

programmers of the future, inspired by charismatic teaching, supported by our programs that are backing STEM in school. It all comes together to deliver a stronger economy.


Thank you, Prime Minister. It’s always great to have you here in the west and to my good friend and colleague Steve Irons to be in your electorate today. Particularly with you Steve, the owner of Thermo King West. Ladies and gentleman, we are at a Western Australian business that is growing and is contributing to the in excess of one million jobs that have been created since we were elected to office in September 2013.

Steve you were a recipient of a $20,000 grant under our Entrepreneurs program. What that has done is allowed Steve to have a business mentor come in every week for a year, to work with him to get the processes right for the business. In doing that, Steve is now seeing his business grow. He’s currently got 23 employees, they’re looking to take on an additional employee and they’ve already put two apprentices through their program and they’ve just taken on another two apprentices.

This is the type of business that we as a Coalition Government, the Turnbull Government, will back every step of the way.

We do that because we want to see more Australians in jobs. As I have said, in excess of a million jobs created since we were elected to office. As the Prime Minister said; 2017, record job creation figures, in excess of 400,000 jobs were created by businesses like Steve’s. Three quarters of those jobs were full-time jobs. So the policies we are putting in place, in particular our tax cuts for small and medium businesses - the premises here today were only built in the last 12 months. Steve was able to utilise the tax cut that was given to him by Malcolm Turnbull and the Turnbull Government and invest in this fantastic premise.

We will never shy away from backing businesses like Steve's. Because when we as a government back businesses like Steve, he is able to grow, prosper and create more jobs for Australians, which is what we as a Government are all about.


Thanks Michaelia. Steve, come and talk to us about the way in which the Federal Government’s programs have helped you build your business.


With the enterprise part of the business, we’ve been able to develop not only our apprentices, but also our senior technicians. We’ve been able to mentor them every week. The processes that were in place weren’t too good at the time. We’ve come back now 12 months later and it’s completely changed. We have a better structure. We’ve been able, like you said, put apprentices on and we have been able to teach them from day one the proper way of doing things.

We’ve invested in that because we know the economy is going to grow and get better in the future. That’s why we need to be ready for it when it does start to pick up. If we didn't and then all of a sudden the economy picks up and we were languishing behind, we would’ve had a problem trying to keep up with the times.

Our business has grown over the years because we focused on our customers. We made sure that we look after our customers and continue to grow with our customers and work with them on what their needs are. We also work with our staff and our team here. We help them to grow with new technology and things like that. We build these premises especially for the business, it is purpose-built, 12 months ago as you were saying. It has been a completely different outlook on one, our customer base and two, even our morale has increased significantly.

It’s been a great thing for my family business. You know, it is a family business, but this team of mine is my family too. It’s great and I want to keep improving on that, keep increasing on that and making this place even bigger and better.


Fantastic, good on you Steve, great work. Well, do we have some questions?


Is this GST package just about saving a few key seats and saving your Government at the next election?


It’s ensuring that Western Australia gets a fair deal. I pointed out in 2016 that the arrangements, the way that the GST formula was working, was not fair. It didn't pass the pub test. I didn't think it passed the pub test anywhere, in Bunbury or in Bundaberg or in Burnie.

We had to work out a solution that obviously ensured, was fair everywhere. What we have is a good outcome. It ensures that every state and territory is better off.

But of course here in Western Australia between now and 2026/27, Western Australia will be $4.7 billion better off. It is a massive improvement in the public finances of Western Australia.


There is no agreement on it yet though, in the sense that the states, do you think -


No, there is. It is agreed, it’s underway. The Treasurer will continue to consult with the states but I have to say - in fact, I think I can say categorically - that I have never seen any initiative with respect to the GST that has had wider support or more unanimous support than this one.


Emma Husar, she’s hanging around but she’s not going to recontest. You’ve had a few words to say about what she [inaudible]?


Look, Bill Shorten needs to tell us, he needs to be fair dinkum and tell us what he knew and when he knew it. His claim that he knew nothing about these complaints of harassment and bullying in Emma Husar's office is just not believable.

Anthony Albanese charitably threw him under the bus again today I noticed, on Melbourne radio. It sounds like everybody in the Labor Party leadership knew about it, except for Bill Shorten, if you believe Bill Shorten.

So he’s got to tell us exactly what he knew and when. He’s also got to explain how he as a former union member - who claims to always put the interests of the worker first, looking after workers and ensuring they’re protected in the workplace - what he did to ensure those workers were protected?

Because the allegations, the claims that have been made are very, very troubling and a turnover of 20 people in two years, in an office of four, is a lot. You would think that would be a fair signal that something was amiss.


Do you think the decision to skip the Perth by-election has alienated voters in that seat, Liberal voters in that seat in the future?


The two seats, Perth and Fremantle, are safe Labor seats. The reality is that the WA division made a decision not to contest those federal by-elections and instead focus their resources on the state by-election in Darling Range, which they won with a swing to the Liberal Party of over nine per cent.

Now that was their decision but there will be a federal election in the first half of next year and there will be a Liberal candidate in all of those seats, in every seat in Western Australia. We will be calling on Western Australians to vote for the Liberal Party because they know that they can trust my Government to deliver a fair deal on the GST and deliver the policies that will drive a stronger economy and ensure that they, their children and grandchildren have jobs.

You can't trust Bill Shorten on the GST, or anything else.

To this stage, what do the Labor members from Western Australia say about this new fair deal for Western Australia on the GST? Nothing. Bill Shorten hasn't given any indication as to whether he supports it or not.


Prime Minister do you have full confidence in Michaelia Cash?


Of course.


Given the AFP have said that a member of her staff probably committed a criminal offence?


Well I don't accept the premise of your question, but the answer is that Michaelia is doing an outstanding job and she has my full confidence.


Has she been interviewed by the AFP?


As much as I’d love to answer that question, I’m unable to because the AFP have an ongoing investigation. Can we just remember, it’s 12 months ago that the allegations were first raised that Mr Shorten when he was the head of the AWU, utilised union funds, $100,000 to GetUp! and money to his own campaign. What’s actually in question here and what the AWU are actually challenging is the decision of the ROC to investigate whether or not these donations were actually authorised. That is actually what is at the heart of this. If they were, why doesn’t Bill Shorten or the AWU just produce the relevant documents?


We were asking about the investigation by the AFP and whether they, you won’t say whether they’ve interviewed you.


I’ve always said I’m not under investigation. My office is not under investigation. I cant answer further questions because of the current AFP investigation.


If you’re not under investigation that would suggest you haven’t been interviewed by the AFP.


That’s a summation you can make, but at the end of the day, this is about Bill Shorten and whether or not the donations made by him were actually authorized.


Can I ask you, the founder of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation has described the grant of $444 million to such a small organisation as unthinkable?


Well I noted that. But it’s the largest single investment in the health of the Great Barrier Reef. It has been widely welcomed. It went through a full Cabinet process. It was in the Budget. It was in the appropriation bills that the Parliament has passed, so it has been legislated. What it will do is ensure that we get this substantial amount of money into maintaining the health of the Reef, in particular in ensuring that you don't get sediments and various other materials washing onto the Reef from farms. And of course it puts a huge amount of money into the starfish, into eradicating the Crown of Thorns starfish.

So it has been widely welcomed. It is a very, very thorough process and it is one that I think Australians who care about the Great Barrier Reef - and I think almost all Australians do - should welcome it.


Prime Minister, the Victorian Government today said they are going to ban Sky News from public transport networks over an interview that was never shown on public transport and was promptly apologised for. Are you concerned about censorship?


Well I tell you, the Victorian Government … Look, we’re the party of free speech, right? Free speech, I think that should be the template that we look at all of these debates through. We are a democracy, we are governed by the rule of law. One of our great rights is of free speech and debate.

But I’ll tell you what the real issue the Victorian Government should be focused on; ensuring that Victorians pay less for electricity. Right now, Victoria has the second highest electricity prices in the country. Victoria should support the National Energy Guarantee, because that will deliver lower electricity prices for Victorians and everyone in the National Electricity Market. It will deliver those prices, those lower prices. That’s not based on my opinion or Josh Frydenberg's opinion, that is the judgement of the Energy Security Board. You would have heard its Chairman Kerry Schott speaking about it this morning.

The time has come to get on with it. We need certainty for businesses to invest in electricity generation in the NEM and now is the time for Daniel Andrews and his government to step up and stand up for lower electricity prices for Victorians.

Or is he going to just play politics and condemn Victorians to higher and higher electricity prices?


Jarrod Lyle passed away last night.


Steve and I will both say a little bit about that. Jarrod Lyle, a great Australian sportsman, a great golfer, but what a hero. He overcame a dreadful disease, he overcame cancer, he continued to play, he became a champion. Finally, he couldn't fight anymore. But he battled courageously right up to the end. He will be sorely missed, he is a real example of courage.

I just want to say, I think with all Australians, we mourn him, we admire him and we send our love and heartfelt sympathy to his family. Steve I know wants to add to that.


I’d just like to echo the Prime Minister's words. Jarrod Lyle embodied Australian sport and his attitude towards sport and his attitude towards fighting the disease he had. It’s great to see the Coalition Government is releasing more drugs all the time to fight cancers around Australia.

Jarrod, the tributes for him from all over Australia and all around the world and we see that DeChambeau has just donated his winnings to the Lyle family, I congratulate DeChambeau for doing that.

Part of the golfing fraternity is, they spend a lot of time raising money for charities. They embody the community spirit that goes with their sport. Jarrod has been a pillar of that type of attitude during his whole career and the whole time he has fought against his cancer. I think he should be held up as an icon of the sport and as a good Australian as well.


Prime Minister are you comfortable with the profits that AGL have reported, given that so many Australians are struggling with electricity prices?


We’re doing everything we can to ensure that the big energy retailers get their customers onto the right deals. We required them to contact their customers and tell them if they were not on the best deal on offer. Thousands of Australians have actually taken the opportunity and been able to reduce their electricity bills by hundreds of dollars, quite large amounts in many cases.

We’re doing everything we can to bring down electricity prices. In terms of the east coast states and the National Electricity Market, we have been able to already turn the corner on retail prices. They’re coming down. We have taken action on gas, it may seem as a surprise to you in Western Australia but extraordinarily - where you’ve got plenty of gas - but on the east coast we actually had a shortage of gas because the Labor Party had allowed the export of gas from Queensland without any regard to the supply of the domestic market. I had to take very strong action, in fact raising the threat of regulating or indeed banning, licensing the exports of gas from Australia in order to get more gas into the east coast market. I have to say, the industry did respond to that. We have seen the wholesale cost of generation come down. We are starting to see retail costs come down.

But we’ll keep at it, it’s a complex business.

The National Energy Guarantee is absolutely critical, it’s a key part of it. But in addition to that, we’re also putting downward pressure on the cost of poles and wires. You will have seen recent decisions by the regulator to ensure that the people who own the poles and wires, the transmission and distribution networks, are not going to be able to charge as much for its use.

So at every level, every lever that is available to us to reduce energy prices, we are using. We will keep at it and that is our commitment.


Given that profit announcement, do you think that the company is obliged to put some of that money into keeping Liddell open?


Well we have asked the company to keep Liddell open until at least 2025, by which stage Snowy Hydro 2.0 will be in operation. But I can assure you that what we have put in place with AEMO, the Australian Energy Market Operator is the mechanism that will ensure there is dispatchable power through the National Electricity Market, including in New South Wales.

I should also add that we are very attracted to recommendation four of the ACCC, which as you know recommends the Government providing a ‘put’, effectively an offtake of last resort for the tail risk of new energy generation projects. That’s got a lot of merit and I’m sure that we will be implementing that subject to proper consultation and design.