Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance and the Public Service
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
The Hon. Prime Minister MP
Federal Member for Cook
Date: Thursday, 28 March 2019
STEVE IRONS MP: Good morning we're at the Oats Street railway crossing in my electorate of Swan and the Prime Minister is back in Western Australia again and back in my electorate of Swan so, we're here to hear about the congestion busting announcement of $1.6 billion, so Prime Minister, over to you.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much Steve. It's great to be here with all of my colleagues from far and wide around Western Australia and it is an important and big day for Western Australia. Next week's Budget there'll be $1.6 billion worth of projects announced here for Western Australia that are doing things to really improve the lives of Western Australians. Whether it's right where we are here and we've got about five minutes before the bells ring again on this level crossing and these level crossings are things that infuriate people as they try to get around the city. And over $200 million being invested in getting rid of those level crossings alone here in Steve's electorate. And that's an important part about congestion busting projects, so people get home sooner and safer and people can get work.
But as far down as Bunbury and Albany and as well down in the electorate of Canning, where we've also invested in major projects, we have the big trucks on the road. These are big projects that ensure the continued growth of the Western Australian economy. This is an economy that is on its way back, that is powering back and that's its future. For its for its future to be secure, we need these significant infrastructure investments which are a key part of our national economic plan to create a stronger economy so we can deliver on the essential services, like a stronger Medicare. I mean, we have the highest rate of bulk billing today in Medicare in our history. Why is that being made possible? Because our Government has been managing a Budget and delivering a stronger economy. When you're delivering a stronger economy, you can make the investments like the ones we're talking about here today in the Budget next week. $1.6 billion to upgrade further major projects right here in Western Australia.
So it's an exciting day from that point of view for Western Australia. It's a good day for the national economy as well. Because when the Western Australian economy is surging ahead, so does the Australian national economy surge ahead and we're looking forward to that great contribution of the Western Australian economy in the years ahead so we will be able deliver on our one and a quarter million jobs pledge to all Australians and we want to see so many of those jobs created right here in Western Australia. I'm going to ask Mathias to go through some of the projects, because as always, as Finance Minister - and he and I did quite a few Budgets together - but Mathias has been working closely with the Western Australian State Government here to deliver on these packages. Now, whether it's here in Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, wherever I might be. I am going to work with every state government to deliver on these projects and I want to commend Mathias for the work that he's done working with our local members here, Andrew Hastie particularly in the electorate of Canning on the projects we’re announcing today as well as Steve Irons. Because when you work together with the state government, you just get this stuff done. So well done again Mathias on making sure that we can bring the two levels of government here together to deliver on these important projects for Western Australia and our national economy.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Thank you very much Prime Minister. It is great to have our Prime Minister Scott Morrison back here in the West and we welcome him here together with my WA Liberal Party colleagues. Today we are announcing another $1.6 billion federal investment into key infrastructure across Perth and across Western Australia. It is an investment in key congestion busting infrastructure, economy growing infrastructure, infrastructure to create more jobs, but most importantly infrastructure to help ensure that people across Perth and Western Australia can get home faster and safer at the end of the days work. Now another $1.6 billion federal investment announced today, which comes on top of $4.8 billion in additional federal investment into WA infrastructure over the last two years and nearly $10 billion in additional federal investment since we were elected to Government in September 2013. The Prime Minister is quite right, we have been working together with the State Government here in Western Australia, both the previous Liberal-National Government, but also this current McGowan Labor State Government, to ensure that we deliver the best possible outcome for the people here in Western Australia. That is what people expect us to do. Whether it is investing in level crossing removals, $207.5 million to remove level crossings here, which force people to wait instead of being able to get home or whether it is investing in regional infrastructure. Albany Ring Road, Karratha Tom Price Road, Bunbury Outer Ring Road, you name it, the Tonkin Highway expansion project. These are all important projects, which will bust congestion, which will help grow our economy, create more jobs and most importantly help families around Australia get home safely and faster. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. Let's take some questions on the particular announcements and obviously happy to take questions on other matters as well after that.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, your announcement about One Nation this morning…
PRIME MINISTER: Let’s deal with infrastructure first, happy to come back to those.
JOURNALIST: Is this just a reflection you’ve got several seats in WA that you’re worried about holding on to?
PRIME MINISTER: It's a reflection of the fact that Western Australia needs this investment in infrastructure and that's what we're doing. Let me take you through them, one at a time. $535 million under the Roads of Strategic Importance Initiative. That's in addition to $220 million already announced. A further $348.5 million towards three key projects on the Tonkin Highway, taking up government's total commitment to $929 million to these projects. That will complete the Tonkin Highway interchanges, the Tonkin Highway gap and the Tonkin Highway Stage 3 extension. $207.5 million for the removal of these level crossings here, three of them as Steve has pointed out. We have $140 million for constructions of stage 2 and 3 of the Albany ring road. A further $122 million to construct the remaining stages of the Bunbury outer ring road, bringing our total Government's commitment this project to $682 million. $115 million for the Fremantle traffic bridge at Swan River crossing and a further $10 million towards intersection improvements at the Thomas Road and Nicholson Road under the urban congestion funds and this builds on $96 million towards five congestion busting projects that I announced here in Perth on the 8th of March. So that's why we're investing it - because the economy needs it.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Let me just say, your suggestion implies that this is the first time that we have done this. We have actually done this every single year. WA Liberal Members and Senators work together with their local communities to identify the priority projects that need Federal Government support and every single year we have fought for a fair share for WA to ensure we got the Federal Government investment into key infrastructure that we needed here, the same way as WA Liberal Members and Senators fought very hard to ensure that Western Australia got a fair share of the GST, which Scott Morrison as Treasurer delivered and which we legislated through the Parliament. We are not Johnny come latelies here. We have done this year in year out. We have fought hard for Western Australia year in year out and that is what we will do after the election if the people of Western Australia give us their confidence again.
PRIME MINISTER: Other questions on the projects today? Well, I’m glad I’ve comprehensively covered the interest. I know you’re excited, Nick, I know you're excited as a Western Australian. You're excited.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, does your decision on One Nation preferences make any difference if it's disregarded by the Queensland LNP as some have indicated?
PRIME MINISTER: Well it might be disregarded by the Queensland LNP. The Liberal Party and the Liberal Party members and seats that are in the LNP framework in Queensland. This is the position that the Liberal Party will be following. What the National Party does is a matter for them. These aren't decisions taken by governments, the distribution of preferences. They’re decisions taken by political parties and the National Party and the Liberal Party, we're separate parties. And so we will make our decisions independently of each other on these issues. The Liberal Party and those seats under the LNP framework in Queensland, which are the domain of the Liberal Party, this is the position that will be adopted in those seats.
JOURNALIST: Your tough stance this morning declaring Australia's gun laws are sacrosanct though was the reasoning for this decision. Should the government not be united on that, would you expect your Coalition partner to be united with you on that?
PRIME MINISTER: Again, I'm not going to make decisions for the Nationals. They will make their own decisions. They are they are an independent political party. And political parties make the decisions about preferences, not governments. But I would say, talking about gun laws, let's not forget it was the Labor Party that did a deal in New South Wales just last weekend with the Shooters Party. So, read into that what you will
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there are a lot… I suppose youth unemployment in this state. It's in double digits particularly between the day before 24 years old. A lot of people do want a job. What's your message for young voters and are there any commitments in this election for young voters?
PRIME MINISTER: My message to young people in Western Australia who want work is to vote Liberal. That's my message to them, because our government has the track record of delivering jobs. And the Western Australian economy has been under the pump. It's gone through a very difficult time, but the Western Australian economy is on the way back and jobs will not be created in Western Australia by a Labor Party that wants to drag the economy down with $200 billion dollars in higher taxes that will only make it harder for small business to employ people. I mean, the Labor Party is pursuing an industrial relations policy at the moment which is going to force small and family businesses to sack workers to pay others. And the biggest victims of Labor's policy will be young people. They’ll be the casualties. The ones who want extra hours, the ones that want their first job. These young people will be the first victims of Labor's recklessness when it comes to economic management. So young people wanting jobs in Western Australia - the Liberal Party is the answer to your question.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you made some comments earlier about a Budget surplus for 2018-19.
PRIME MINISTER: 2019-20.
JOURNALIST: 2019-20 sorry. So there won’t be a Budget surplus in 2018-19?
PRIME MINISTER: The Budget is next week. All the financial details will be revealed in the Budget. I'm saying very clearly as I have now for the months and months that this will be the first Budget surplus handed down next week by Josh Frydenberg, with the great assistance of the Finance Minister since the Liberals were last in power in 2007-08. So it's have been a 12 year wait to get the Budget back into balance. You vote Labor once, you pay for it for a decade. And now is not the time, having achieved that, to hand over the wheel of economic management to the Labor Party and Bill Shorten when it comes the economy who don't know how to drive.
JOURNALIST: Is that budget forecast surplus?
PRIME MINISTER: I’m talking about the Budget surplus we will hand down the 2019-20 on the 2nd of April which is next Tuesday.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Sorry, when you just talk about forecasts, let me just say, contrary to the Labor Party, where every final Budget outcome that they delivered was worse than their forecast, if you look at our performance, the actual Budget outcome, the final Budget outcome, both in 2017-18 and 2016-17 was materially better than forecast. Last year by more than $19 billion better than forecast. When we deliver a Budget people can actually trust that we know what we are doing, whereas the Labor Party always hoped for the best and delivered the worst.
PRIME MINISTER: And that's why the Triple A credit rating previously had been under so much risk because Labor's estimates of their budget and their forecasts proved to be so hopelessly wrong. I mean, Western Australians would have a good idea of this. Wayne Swan put in the budget an iron ore price of $150 a tonne. And he assumed it forever. I mean, that was just sheer recklessness. He then went and spent the money that was never there and then got surprised that he delivered a massive deficit. So that's how the Labor Party runs budgets. How we run budgets, and particularly how I as a Treasurer ran budgets, was to over perform every single time.
JOURNALIST: Is that surplus tangibly real if it's a forecast? How can you guarantee it?
PRIME MINISTER: Because on every single Budget I delivered, on the final budget outcome, I bettered it. That's our record, because Australians know that the Liberals know how to manage money and they know the Labor Party don't know how to manage money and our form in government and Labor's form in government speaks very plainly.
JOURNALIST: Does this mean you’ve got more money to spend on election promises, including perhaps tax cuts?
PRIME MINISTER: Every opportunity I get I want Australians to be able to keep more of what they earn. That's always been my view and it's not just been an opinion, it's been legislation. In the budgets that I've handed down, we handed down the biggest reforms to our tax system that we've seen since the GST. I mean, $144 billion worth of tax relief legislated for all taxpayers, not just some. See, the Labor Party thinks to make some better off, you’ve got to make some worse off. That’s the Labor Party economic plan, the politics of envy. Our Budget will be a Budget of aspiration, Budget for people who are going to be going to continue to work hard and I want them to be able to keep more of their hard earned.
JOURNALIST: Will the debt be significantly higher because of the new accounting standards, including the operational [inaudible]?
PRIME MINISTER: All of the financial metrics will be set out in the Budget and that's next Tuesday. It's not too many more sleeps and I'm sure you'll be able to wait.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’ve come here promising a fair bit of money today obviously. Will this be it for major WA projects or will there be more during the election campaign?
PRIME MINISTER: It's not a promise, I should say. This is $1.6 billion. That is in the Budget. So it is in the Budget. It's not perhaps it will be done - this is in the Budget
MATHIAS CORMANN: And without increasing taxes.
PRIME MINISTER: That is a very good point Mathias. Every time you see Bill Shorten's lips moving about spending money, understand that he's also increasing taxes at the same time. That's how Bill Shorten's plan works. Tax, spend. Tax, spend. That's Bill Shorten's plan. That's not our plan. Our plan is lower tax, drive the economy forward. That's how you guarantee essential services like Medicare. What's the proof of that? Medicare bulk billing is at the highest level on record because of the strong economic management of our government.
JOURNALIST: Will there be more to come here in WA though?
PRIME MINISTER: Well there's a whole election campaign to come and beyond the Budget and I'll look forward to coming back from Western Australia on many occasions.
JOURNALIST: Pauline Hanson's press conference is [inaudible].
PRIME MINISTER: I have just announced, in a bipartisan way, and I think our fight against domestic violence must be bipartisan. And I believe it is. And I always seek to ensure that we pursue it in a very bipartisan way. We've put $328 million into the Fourth National Action Plan to combat domestic violence, that is the single biggest package of funding ever for combating domestic violence. It is true, and I agree absolutely with the statement that violence against women begins with disrespect against women, something Malcolm Turnbull used to say. And I absolutely agree with that. And that's why it's so important that we build a culture of respect for women and children in our community. And that's what our domestic violence package is designed to deliver. And that's what we'll continue to live up to. But I would really hope that matters like that would remain matters of a bipartisan commitment and not the subject of politicking.
JOURNALIST: Pauline Hanson's press conference today has been delayed an hour and counting. Does she need to front up to the Australian people about her Port Arthur comments and explain them.
PRIME MINISTER: Well I'm going to leave all of that to the leader of One Nation. That's what I'm going to do. Our Party has made its decision and when John Howard introduced those gun laws, as I said this morning, that was an act of absolute bravery. And it was done in partnership with the Nationals and Tim Fisher was also an incredibly brave politician. And they did it in lockstep. And we remain today in lockstep on the issue of gun laws. These laws have protected Australian lives. I think Australian know where the Liberal Party and the Nationals stand when it comes to gun laws. Our stand has been consistent ever since John Howard introduced those laws and we will never entertain anything or anyone that would seek to undermine those laws. Thank you all very much.