Transcripts → 2019


Joint Press Conference - Swan Congestion Announcement

Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance and the Public Service
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia

Andrew Hastie MP
Federal Member for Canning

The Hon. Scott Morrison MP
Prime Minister
Federal Member for Cook

The Hon. Steve Irons MP
Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister
Federal Member for Swan


Date: Friday, 8 March 2019

Congestion busting, WA EPA, Malcolm Turnbull, Christmas Island, 2030 emissions targets, ACTU protests, Election trends

THE HON STEVE IRONS MP: Well good morning everyone, we’re down in Swan in my electorate and it’s great to have my West Australian colleagues here along with the Prime Minister of Australia. And it’s always good to have him in Swan, particularly when he is announcing congestion busting funding, particularly for the area you will see behind here is Abernathy Road - just a bit of a compliment there. Anyway, it’s great to have him here with my colleagues and for him to do this announcement. So I’d like to welcome to the microphone, Scott where are you? Come forward and tell us about this great congestion busting funding.

PRIME MINISTER: Well thanks very much Steve. It’s great to be here in Western Australia today, as I have been for the last couple of days and to be announcing our congestion-busting package here in and around Perth. Some $95 million, just slightly over that, to focus on some key projects. Now, our congestion-busting fund is all about ensuring that Australians can get home sooner, safer. They can get to work sooner, safer. Those who are working out on our roads every day, tradies and others, spend more time on site than they do sitting in traffic jams. It is also about understanding and planning for the future. Andrew Hastie is here today. One of the projects we’re announcing is a new train station down his way, is about ensuring a new growth area is getting the link-up to the rail network which is incredibly important. 

So all of these projects that we’ve been announcing around the country are about responding to the pressures of population growth across our cities all across the country. But they've all been identified quite strategically and surgically by our local Members. Our local Members understand the projects that need to be addressed, whether it's the traffic hot-spots, the unsafe intersection, the need for the right turn lane here or the widenings of roads which we're talking about particularly here today. That's what the project is designed to do. And those needs are as important here in Perth as they are in any other part of the country, where we have seen new development and opportunities that have to be seized by putting this infrastructure in place. The four projects we’re announcing today is the $50 million to rollout the next section of the widening of the Kwinana and Mitchell freeways, $20 million towards extending Lloyd Street in Hazelmere to ease congestion caused by limited freight access, I was out there with Ken the other day and seeing that project firsthand. Here in Steve's electorate in Swan we’ve got $13.25 million to upgrade a three kilometre stretch on Abernathy Road. Further down south from here as I said with Andrew we’ve got $10 million towards construction of the Lakelands Station on the Mandurah rail line and there's $2.5 million to bust congestion at the Shorehaven Boulevard/Marmion Avenue intersection at Alkimos to improve peak traffic times. 

Now these are all very practical projects that will make a very real difference, partnering together with the state government. I’m meeting with the Premier later today to discuss a number of issues and I’m sure this will be one. But I’ll tell you, one of the things it will enable the state government to help support these projects and we're happy to be involved in these projects in our announcements today is $1.3 billion in extra revenue will be coming to the state of Western Australia next year alone because of the GST fairness deal I was able to land as Treasurer, legislate as Prime Minister and now ensure is honoured with the cheques turning up to make sure the state government is in a position which they’ve never been in before as a state government to be assured of the fair GST share that enables them to invest in the services and projects that are critically important to the future of Western Australia. 

The other thing I wanted to mention today is that we're investing up to just under $100 million here and we're investing over a billion dollars in this initiative all around the country. Our priorities are about busting congestion, growing our economy, defending Australia through building our defence capability. I was out at Henderson earlier this week driving our economy forward with lower taxes. These are our priorities.

It is International Women's Day today. Earlier this week I announced just over $320 million in the biggest-ever plan, the Fourth National Action Plan to combat domestic violence. And so these are our priorities as the Government. It was revealed today the Labor Party wants to actually increase the refugee and humanitarian intake that will cost Australians $6.2 billion over the next 10 years. So they're going to tax retirees, they’re going to tax retirees through their retirees tax to pay for increased refugee intake in Australia. Now, we have a very credible and very worthy program for refugee and humanitarian intake here in Australia, over 18,000 we take every single year. Since we were first elected to Government, more than 7,000 women and children that have come under the Women At Risk Program that we were able to expand because we were able to get our borders under control. So we have a credible and reputable program here in welcoming people through the front door. But when it comes to setting priorities, we're not going to increase that intake because we want to invest those funds in projects like the one we're seeing here to ensure that we continue our record health and education spending and we're certainly not going to tax Australians higher through things like the retiree tax which is basically from robbing senior Australians, their hard-earned investment and what they've provided for in their retirement so they wouldn't have to lean on other Australians at that time. So I’m going to hand over to Mathias, his Department has costed that initiative in particular, but to make further comment.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Thank you very much Prime Minister. It is great to have the Prime Minister here in Western Australia, making this announcement today. This announcement of $100 million towards further congestion-busting infrastructure here across Perth builds on about $4 billion worth of Federal infrastructure investments that we have made here into Western Australia over the last two years. Including $2.3 billion in federal funding to support the rollout of the METRONET project here across Perth. It is also particularly good to have Scott Morrison here in Western Australia as our Prime Minister because Scott Morrison is and was the architect of the GST fix for WA. He is the architect of a plan that has delivered and will continue to deliver a fairer and better share of GST revenue here into Western Australia, which will make a positive difference to the people and the families here in Western Australia for many, many years to come. 

In relation to the Labor policy to further increase what is already a very generous refugee intake here in Australia. Australia on a per capita basis, has the second most generous level of refugee intake anywhere in the world, only second to Canada. Bill Shorten's decision to increase that further by taking the Government-funded places from 17,750 to 27,000 will cost about $6.2 billion over the decade from 2019-20. Do not be fooled by any suggestions that somehow the costs will be half. In making that false assertion, Labor is relying on costings that are three years old, when only one year over a four-year estimates period was actually part of that particular initiative, when the full four years of that particular proposal would now hit the Budget bottom line and another three years of that particular proposal would hit our medium term costings. $6.2 billion in higher expenditure to boost what is already a very generous refugee intake into Australia. But at the same time, Bill Shorten is standing in the way of a $3.9 billion Drought Future Fund, designed to help drought-stricken communities across Australia drought-proof their communities. Bill Shorten’s priorities are wrong. He should change his particular approach to this. He should get out of the way when it comes to legislating the Drought Future Fund and he should reconsider all his other high spending and high taxing proposals as well.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Mathias. Now Andrew, come and tell us about your station. I mean, I know we're a bit out of Canning today. But this is part of the congestion-busting project and your electorate has been one of those really fast-growing areas of Western Australia. A lot of families, a lot of communities. Tell me what the new station will mean?

ANDREW HASTIE MP: So it's 10 million for the Lakelands Train Station. As you know, my seat is outer metro/regional. You’ve got a heart for those seats. and high growth, a lot of congestion, a lot of seniors living in the Lakelands catchment and surrounds, a lot of working families. So this will mean that people can walk to the station, get on a train, and head up to the city. So economic and social mobility means they don’t have to drive south to Mandurah to then go north to the city and it’s a big life-changer for a lot of young people in my electorate, so thank you, PM.

PRIME MINISTER: Well it is basic infrastructure for what a growing city needs and Perth is a growing city and it’s got a huge future, a big future. Happy to take questions on congestion-busting then we can move to any other topics you would like to cover.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you were a little late to the press conference this morning, did you get a small taste of Perth congestion?

PRIME MINISTER: I thought I was pretty close to time, to be honest but, anyway, thanks for noticing. It's… look, Perth has been a growing city for a long time. I've been coming here for decades. I've seen its rapid transformation, I’ve seen its great prosperity, I’ve seen it going through more difficult times recently on the other side of the mining investment boom. But the thing I love about Western Australia is you're always about wanting to grow more, you’re always wanting to seize those opportunities. And what we’re here to do today is back in that culture, that attitude here in Western Australia. I don't want to see Western Australians held back by not having a train station or not having a widened road or not having the GST, which is their fair share. That's why, I think, Western Australians can trust me as a Prime Minister because they've put me to the test on these issues and I've been able to deliver. I think that shows good faith for a pro-growth, pro-infrastructure plan for the development of Western Australia, in particular, Perth's future.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister just on a different issue, the WA EPA has made a decision that all major projects here are to be carbon neutral. Can we get your reaction to that and should the McGowan government have nipped this in the bud before it was even announced?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it has been let to run a little while, I certainly acknowledge. I understand the Premier has made some comments about that today. I'm sure, having heard Paul Everingham today from the Mines and Energy Chamber, looking for greater certainty on that issue. But I’ll tell you what I'm more worried about - this is actually what Bill Shorten wants to do across the entire country. Mark McGowan may well see sense on this issue but I can assure you that Bill Shorten won't. What Bill Shorten is seeking to do with his own environmental agency is to writ large what the threat has been here with these types of changes that have been mooted in the last few days. And they want to wed it up to a 45 per cent emissions reduction target which will see wage earners in this country over the next 10 years stand to lose every single year $9,000 a year. So I don’t understand how Bill Shorten can on one hand say he wants to improve people’s wages and then on the other hand, he’s got an emissions reductions target which will rip $9,000 out of their pockets based on the independent assessments that has been done on his emissions reduction target. So what we see from Labor is they never learn. They said they weren’t going to introduce tax but did. And it took our Government, upon election, as we promised, to get rid of it. 

Bill Shorten has now got carbon taxes on steroids awaiting the Australian people. To go with the retirees' tax, the housing taxes, the taxes on savings on your superannuation, your taxes on small businesses, and now we have the even bizarre situation where he wants to take Australia's workplace and industrial relations system back to a time of conflict and division. You know, we don't become a more prosperous people, you don't grow a stronger economy by setting Australians against each other in the workplace. And the union movement are laying the markers, they are laying the ground to tell Bill Shorten what he must do if he were to become Prime Minister. We’ve already seen he's a complete pushover when it comes to border protection policy. So you can only understand what he would do in the face of union pressure in he were to be Prime Minister. It would not be good for jobs. Small and family businesses would have to be deciding who to let go under a Shorten Government. That is not good for anybody's wage when you lose the whole thing.

JOURNALIST: Is Malcolm Turnbull right? Is he more popular than you and should the Party have dumped him?

PRIME MINISTER: I'll leave the history to the historians and those who like to talk about history because I'm interested in the future of Australia. What we've been doing as a Government for the last five and a half years is building that stronger economy to guarantee the essential services Australians rely on. We've been investing in making Australia a safer country, safer not just on our borders, safer not just by the biggest recapitalisation of our defence forces since the Second World War, safer for women as we've invested the biggest package on combating domestic violence in the country, safer for young kids online and safer from bullying investments that we've been making. We have a plan to continue this all into the future. Stronger, safer, together - Australia will be a more prosperous country. That's good for all Australians. So that's where we're heading. I'll let the historians squabble over the past.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: I can't quite hear you?

JOURNALIST: You indicated earlier this week that you expected the Christmas Island detention centre to be operating at a fairly high capacity for several years. In four years’ time, the people who are there will have been in detention for 10 years in total. Is that acceptable and what is the long-term plan for this project?

PRIME MINISTER: The estimates we've got for the reopening of Christmas Island are based on the worst-case scenario of how many people we might see come there. As you know, the advice that was given to us is by making it really clear that people who might be seeking to take advantage of Labor's weakening of the border protection regime through Shorten's law on undermining regional processing, that making it very clear if you seek to game that system and use the loopholes, you won't be coming to mainland Australia. You'll be seeing the inside of a hardened detention facility on Christmas Island. Now I suspect that will have some impact on dissuading those who want to game the system from seeking to game the system. And I certainly hope that’s the outcome and that’s the meaning behind what I’ve said. That I would hope to see the centre doesn't get that sort of patronage. But if it did, then it's able to deal with that. If people are seeking to game the system and then not return to where they should return to after they've received any assessment that is deemed necessary, well, they'll remain there by their own choice.

JOURNALIST: Back to Malcolm Turnbull's comments, are they helpful this close to the election?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm not really distracted by them at all. See, I'm focused on what I need to do for the future of the country. I don't get distracted by all the bubble noise on these things. I know others do. I know it's terribly interesting to all of those who write inside the bubble. Australians don't live in the bubble. Australians live out here where you want your roads upgrades, where you want jobs, where you want to ensure small and family businesses have a future. These are the things that are outside the bubble. I'll leave what belongs in the bubble, in the bubble.

JOURNALIST: The EPA says it felt that it had to intervene, the EPA said it felt it had to intervene because the Federal Government had failed to do what it called ‘the heavy lifting’ on climate policy. Is that fair?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I think that completely rubbish. I mean, we will meet our carbon abatement targets for 2030 as we have set out in our plan and the commitments that we've made. I've actually set it out from today all the way to 2030. Whether it's the Climate Solutions Fund, whether it’s Snowy 2.0, whether it’s the energy efficiency measures, the Battery of the Nation, Marinus Link, the technology improvements. I can give you a tonne by tonne description of how we meet our 26 per cent emissions reductions targets. The question I have for Bill Shorten is it's been almost two weeks and he has still not done the same. So the question to Bill Shorten is: How do you achieve your 45 per cent emissions reductions targets? What are the measures? What are the impacts on the industries? How many aluminium smelters are going to be closed down, whether it's in Victoria or North Queensland? What is going to happen to our major power stations? Are they going to be shutdown? See, I've been transparent with Australians about our climate policy. They know exactly what our targets are and exactly how we’re going to meet them. Bill Shorten has answered none of these questions. He has a 45 per cent emissions reduction target. On best case for him that means he needs to abate more than three times the amounts of carbon emissions than under our policy. So how are you going to do it Bill? Who are you lying to? The industries you’re going to close? Or those who may support that sort of a target and you’re never going to meet it. He can't be trusted whether it's on the GST or on the climate.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, remind us who signed Australia up to the Paris Agreement?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the original target was set under the Abbott Government and it was signed under the Turnbull Government.

JOURNALIST: So Mr Abbott has backtracked on that issue, he says that we don’t need to withdraw from Paris Climate because there is a new Prime Minister. So can we trust politicians when they change their minds so often?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, our policy hasn't changed. Our policy has been exactly the same since we came to Government. It hasn't changed at all. As Prime Minister, I have continued the policy of the 26 per cent emissions reduction target. I sat in the Cabinet that set it. I sat in the Cabinet that signed it. And as Prime Minister, I have the plan to achieve it.

JOURNALIST: Just on industrial relations, the ACTU is planning an anti-Coalition day of protest next month. What do you say about that and do you think it’s time for business to campaign in this upcoming election campaign, to add their voice to this debate?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'll leave that to them. What I know is the union movement under Sally McManus - who has no respect for the rule of law in this country - that's not my accusation. That's her own confession. She is now taking Australia to a conflict footing that we have not seen in this country for decades, for absolute decades. Now, I don't think you make Australia stronger by the type of militant conflict-based approaches of a union movement that has been emboldened by the weakness of Bill Shorten. When Bob Hawke was the Prime Minister, when he was the leader of the Labor Party, he could largely control the unions. The unions will run Bill Shorten. Bob Hawke ran the unions but the unions will run Bill Shorten. And they're marking out their ground, and they’re rolling up their sleeves, and they’ve got all their shouts and slogans all ready to go and they'll be marking it out for a period of industrial conflict in this country. Bill Shorten will roll over just like he did on our borders. That's a great threat to Australians' jobs, to the future prosperity of Australia, and to the services that they rely on, whether it's Medicare, hospitals or schools that depend on the strength of the economy. Never forget, it was the Labor Party that could not list affordable medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme because they couldn't manage money. 

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: I couldn't hear, Michael?

JOURNALIST: During your visit here, you mentioned the 2007 election a few times when Western Australians largely bucked the trend and...

PRIME MINISTER: Well, they absolutely bucked the trend. Steve was elected in the 2007 election and two seats were won here in Australia. So we actually took seats off the Labor Party in 2007. 


PRIME MINISTER: No, it was two actually. It was Cowan and Swan.

JOURNALIST: I stand corrected. Anyway, the point being, are you banking on a similar sentiment this time around?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm backing Western Australians to be themselves. Western Australians are passionate about their opportunities and their future. They're not going to back $200 billion in taxes that will put lead in the saddlebags of their economy. They're not going to back Bill Shorten wanting to take the savings and incomes of retirees in this country to pay for an increased refugee take well above what is necessary in this country. Taxing retirees to take more refugees. That's Bill Shorten's policy. I think that tells you everything you want to know about his priorities. Western Australians want to see their state go ahead. Western Australians don't want to be held back. Under me, as Prime Minister, with my great Western Australian team, they are not being held back. They are being released. They've got their fair share of GST. We're investing in the infrastructure. We are building the ships that are supporting their naval industry here out at Henderson. We are driving their economy forward. We are expanding export deals which open up the opportunities for Western Australian businesses, particularly the mining and resources industry - an industry that Labor has previously tried to shut down with their higher taxes and now they want to shut down with their reckless emission reduction targets. So I'm backing Western Australians to be themselves and support the leadership they've come to expect from me and my Western Australian colleagues. Thanks very much.