The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP
Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
The Hon. Darren Chester MP
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport
The Hon. Dean Nalder MLA
West Australian Minister for Transport
PRIME MINISTER: Ladies and gentlemen, this is such a great day for improving Perth's infrastructure - its connectivity to the world and its connectivity within the city - very important for Western Australia and Australia to seize those great opportunities of the 21st century.
Now, very happy to take your questions but can we, let's focus on the announcement first, the subject of the announcement first, and then I'm sure if you have some other questions we're happy to deal with them too.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can I just confirm when Premier Barnett committed to stage 2 of the Perth [inaudible] project?
PRIME MINISTER: I will ask Mathias, or Dean can deal with that.
MINISTER FOR FINANCE: I received a letter from the State Government last week asking for the additional federal support. That federal support has been forthcoming and that announcement was made today.
PRIME MINISTER: Very good.
JOURNALIST: How soon are you hoping to see that project get under way?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, as soon as possible. We're providing financial support for it, as you know, but the carriage of the construction of the project of course is in the hands of the State Government and we have the Minister here. Step forward Minister.
WEST AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT: We obviously want to commence as quickly as possible. We have due processes that are under way. People are aware of the environmental processes on Roe 8 and obviously we need to finalise that situation as quickly as possible and then we wish to start construction as soon as possible thereafter.
JOURNALIST: Do you think contracts will be signed before the State Election?
WEST AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT: Look, I don't want to try and speculate anything at this point in time. We just want to move through as quickly as possible and follow the appropriate and due process.
JOURNALIST: Will the freight link and Roe 8 be built at the same time, or will it be one after the other?
WEST AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT: Again, we will determine that as we go, but we're wanting to work through the processes and obviously we need to work in with the construction companies that are involved in this process to determine how that should proceed but our desire is to get construction moving as quickly as possible.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, are you concerned at all given that this section of the road hasn't been ticked off by the EPA yet?
PRIME MINISTER: Well again, all of those processes are in hand by the State Government. Dean, do you want to address that point again?
WEST AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT: Sorry, can you just make that question again?
JOURNALIST: I asked if you were concerned at all given that the section of the road hasn't been ticked off by the EPA yet, given that it is federal funding.
WEST AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT: The question on Roe 8 was not around the project itself - it was around the process, elements of the process by EPA. We are going through two-step process here. One is recommencing the environmentals themselves and whilst we also question the findings from the Supreme Court.
JOURNALIST: Is the tunnel the best option because there are some things on trucks that can't go through tunnels?
WEST AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT: Look, very minority load that can't go through the tunnels and obviously, you know, explosives and so forth will not be able to go through the tunnel. But that only accounts for a small minority.
Again, this tunnel is not just about the trucks – 86 per cent of the benefit is actually for normal vehicle movement. If you have look at Roe 8, and the modelling shows that by 2021 over 76,000 vehicles a day will be using Roe 8 - only 6,500 of those are trucks. So, there is a huge benefit for the broader community that will be felt through all the surrounding roads and the highways that surround that area.
JOURNALIST: There has there been opposition to the project. How are you hoping people will react to the tunnel option?
WEST AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT: We've undertaken an enormous amount of work on this project and we now have explanations.
As I have said before, this will save lives. This will dramatically reduce congestion. This will create 2,500 direct jobs. And, we know that this will greatly improve the amenity of surrounding suburbs and we have had independent work done on that that has been endorsed and supported by REWA and the Property Council.
We will share this with the whole community in coming days and weeks so the community can understand exactly what we are doing and why we're doing it. I think you will find that everybody will support - we will have to question if anybody says that this should not occur for Western Australia.
JOURNALIST: Will this involve the resumption of houses and if so how many?
WEST AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT: So obviously, by tunnelling, we reduce the impact on houses and we will save some $400million in acquisition costs of property which will in turn be put in to the increased costs of the tunnel.
There will be a few houses down towards High Street and Sterling Highway, but the majority of those are already state owned. There may be a couple more but it is in the minority.
We haven’t finalised the exact route with the different tenderers. So, we need to finalise that before we can be specific. Our process at the moment is that the Federal Government, we need to receive financial support from the Federal Government. We are very pleased that the Federal Government have come on board and committed.
We are committed to a tunnel solution, but we now need to work through those processes so that we can get going on this as quickly as possible.
JOURNALIST: Will it be a dozen or just a handful?
WEST AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT: No, no, no, I can’t commit to a number but I would say well less than 10. It’s a small number if we need to resume some.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can I ask you about Rio Tinto?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes you can.
JOURNALIST: You might be aware that Rio Tinto has doubled the time that it is going to pay contractors - many of those contractors are small businesses. We have got an economy that is on the downturn at the moment in WA that is causing a lot of problems. What’s your message to Sam Walsh?
PRIME MINISTER: Can I say to you, I met yesterday in Karratha, with many of those small businesses, with the Member for Durack, Melissa Price. This was one of several issues that they raised with us. Josh Frydenberg, the Natural Resources Minister and Minister for Northern Australia was with us as well. And, I will raise that concern, as I undertook I would, with Rio Tinto. And, I also raised concerns of these small local contractors with the leaders of the big LNG companies that I met with, with Colin Barnett and Josh Frydenberg last night. So we will faithfully take on, raise those issues with them.
JOURNALIST: One of the main complaints is, or the person who is bringing these complaints forward is Brendan Grylls. Can I get your views on the prospect, Darren Chester as well, of the prospect of him joining the Federal Parliament, particularly in a Double D?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, indeed, perhaps I should - Darren may, as a National Party member of the Federal Cabinet and Parliament, may wish to comment on that - but it’s really, it’s up to Mr Grylls and his Party to decide, you know, whether he runs for the Senate, and of course it’s up to the people of Western Australia to decide whether to elect him. Darren, do you? Perhaps I’ll ask Darren to say a few words on that.
MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE & TRANSPORT: Well thanks, PM. Well, Brendan Grylls is a great friend of mine, he’s great friend of Western Australia. He has been an outstanding advocate for Regional Western Australia over many years and he has had some significant political success in terms of policy development, particularly through all different regions which has been extraordinarily well received right throughout regional Western Australia.
Now, whether or not Brendan decides to pursue a career in Canberra is entirely up to him. I’ve had no conversations with Brendan about that - he is certainly welcome to put his name forward. He is a talented politician, who has a great deal to offer Australian public life.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you think Mr Bowen was disingenuous when he is pushing on with this negative gearing proposal and new homes, when he has been warned about the impact on the economy?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes. Mr Bowen has some very serious questions to answer.
It appears that he was given a report by BIS Shrapnel - one of Australia’s leading real estate, economic, consulting firms - last year, in the middle of last year apparently, which confirmed that a banning of negative gearing would drive down property values, so it would drive down the value of every Australian home, and it would drive up rents. A very unsatisfactory outcome I think we would all agree.
Now, Mr Bowen had that advice it had been, apparently it had apparently been commissioned by an accounting firm in Melbourne for the purpose of giving to the Labor Party to inform their policy process.
The question for Mr Bowen is - did he share that advice with the shadow cabinet? Did he tell Mr Shorten about it? Did they know that they had economic modelling from a leading consulting firm, which said that going down the road they were obviously contemplating at the time, would be disastrous? He has got to answer that question.
And then some weeks ago when the report came in to the public domain, long after it had been in the possession of the Labor Party, Mr Bowen rubbished it and gave every impression that he had never heard of it, and criticised it for not actually assessing Labor’s actual policy. Well, of course, it couldn’t do that because it had been written six or nine months before, in order to inform Labor and its policy formation. So, yes, he does have a lot of questions to answer, I thought his performance and his answers this morning were very slippery indeed.
JOURNALIST: But what value should be attached to this company’s report, when the same company said of the 1985/86 measures by Keating that house prices would decrease when they didn't?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, there are some - if I can just say that Keating abandoned his negative gearing policy very quickly and he abandoned it for the very reason that Mr Bowen should abandon his - which is that if you take a third of the buyers out of the residential property market, there is only going to be one consequence - values will drop. Plainly - that’s obvious. What the accounting, the economics firm BIS Shrapnel has done, has modelled and demonstrated that with a great deal of thoroughness.
In fact, of course, Labor’s policy is much worse than that considered by BIS Shrapnel because it seeks to prohibit negative gearing in respect of every asset class, except for new residential housing. So commercial property, shares, businesses, it is a sweeping restriction on economic freedom and of course it increases capital gains tax by 50 per cent.
I mean let's be quite clear - and this is common sense - if you want people to do less of something, you increase the tax on it - if you want them to do more on something, you lower tax. That is why we are providing tax incentives for people to invest in start-up companies because we want to see a more innovative, more technologically advanced, we want to see a more entrepreneurial Australia. So we're providing tax incentives for people to invest. What Labor is doing is increasing the tax on investment. Now, the only consequence of that will be less investment.
Now, our case is very straight forward. We believe Australia needs more enterprise, more investment, more jobs, stronger economic growth. Bill Shorten's policies, Chris Bowen's policies are absolutely calculated to put us into reverse. And that, coupled with a $50 million black hole, that he has not outlined how he can fill. What is it going to be? Higher taxes? More borrowing? Higher taxes on an economy that he is proposing to put the brakes on?
JOURNALIST: Is Clive Palmer a fit and proper person to remain in politics? And will you comment on last night’s Four Corners program?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I don't want to say to comment on the Four Corners program. I've made some criticisms of Mr Palmer and his management of the Queensland Nickel situation in the past. But I would say, assuming he renominates, I think the electors of Fairfax will cast a very stern judgement on him.
JOURNALIST: ASIC's Greg Medcraft…
PRIME MINISTER: Sorry if you just start again.
JOURNALIST: Sorry, ASIC’s Greg Medcraft says Budget cuts have hindered the regulator's ability to monitor banks. Will ASIC have that funding restored?
PRIME MINISTER: We have given our regulators greater tools to deal with wrong doing right across the business sector.
If you look at what we have done in terms of multinational tax avoidance, you know a big issue. Everybody, as I said last night at the conference here in Perth, all businesses, large and small, have to pay their fair share of tax in accordance with the law and we will do everything within our power to ensure that they do.
So, last year when we changed the laws to give the Taxation Commissioner greater power to deal with multinational tax avoidance, what did Labor do? They voted against it. Scott Morrison did very well to get the Greens to support it so he could get it through the Senate. So, we are giving our regulators and our tax collectors greater powers and we will continue to do that.
But I want to point out however, the hypocrisy of the Labor Party in this area. The most flagrant defiance of the law in our country at the moment the most systematic defiance of the law is by the CFMEU and other, some other construction unions, but particularly the CFMEU.
There are over 100 officials of the CFMEU before the courts on over 1,000 breaches of industrial law. This is, we're at a point now, where two-thirds or more of all industrial disputes are in the construction sector. It is adding to the cost of every project - every hospital, every school, every mine, every LNG train, every piece of infrastructure, every apartment building - costs are being added to it unreasonably, unwarrantedly, unlawfully by this industrial lawlessness.
Now there is an answer. It was the answer we had under the Howard Government. A strong cop on the beat - the Australian Building and Construction Commission. And we want to reinstate that. We believe it's vital. It is a vital element in ensuring our economic growth, our continued development in the 21st century economy. That is why Parliament is coming back on the 18th of April so that the Senate can deal with that Bill and we urge them to pass it. If they don’t pass it, then we will have a double dissolution, there will be an election on the 2nd of July and the Australian people will decide whether they want the law to prevail, whether they want the rule of law to return to the construction industry.