Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
The Hon. Scott Morrison MP
Date: Friday, 25 February 2022
Prime Minister: I'm very pleased to be here today in the fastest growing state, fastest growing state economy in Australia today with Premier Marshall. And to be joined by Dr Rachel Swift and Amy Grantham, candidates here at the next federal election. Thanks to everyone here for hosting us here today. And of course, Minister Price, the Minister for the Defence, Industry, Science and Technology, and Simon Birmingham, the Minister for Finance and Senator for South Australia.
Before I get to the important announcements we have to make today, I would like to make some statements regarding the situation in Ukraine. We continue to be extremely concerned with the terrible violence that we have seen inflicted on the people of Ukraine by Russia, unwarranted, unprovoked. Today, Australia will be imposing further sanctions on oligarchs whose economic weight is of strategic significance to Moscow. And over 300 members of the Russian Duma, their parliament, who voted to authorise the use of Russian troops in Ukraine to illegally invade Ukraine. We are also working with the United States to align with their further sanctions overnight on key Belarussian individuals and entities complicit in the aggression. So we are extending those sanctions to Belarus. These sanctions are being prepared in close coordination with our allies and partners. This has been done to demonstrate very forcefully that we are all working together to shut Russia out as a result of their violence, and there are unlawful actions, which are unprovoked. We have already announced two rounds of sanctions targeting culpable and prominent Russian individuals, banks and companies, and we have also seen overnight the latest measures announced by our key partners, including the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as very strong statements from Japan and South Korea. I also welcome the statements from Indonesia. As I have made clear all along, we will work along with our partners for a rolling wave of sanctions and continuing to ratchet up that pressure on Russia. We understand the concern that the threat of sanctions did not lead to them not going ahead. That was not our expectation. Russia has been planning these acts of violence for some considerable period of time, but there must be a cost. There must be a price and it must be imposed by the global community. Now I want to make a few more comments about that in a second. I also want to confirm that we have been working with NATO to ensure that we can provide non-lethal military equipment and medical supplies to support the people of Ukraine. That is the most effective way for us to do that. We are a long way from Ukraine, and the most effective way is to be doing that through our NATO partners to ensure that we can support that commitment, we are providing financial support as well as a commitment through that NATO channel. And I know that people here in Australia, some 40,000 Australians of Ukrainian descent, will welcome that action. We cannot go into too much detail about all those sorts of issues, and the other supports we're providing to NATO and our partners in their efforts and supporting Ukraine, but you can rest assured that we are working very closely with those partners and allies to support them in their time of need. We have people embedded in a range of different roles and they are doing an excellent job. We still have not not had any confirmed reports of cyber-attacks here in Australia. But at the same time, we advise everyone to remain on high alert. And I want to come back to this issue of the need for the world, the global community, to impose these sanctions and to condemn in the strongest possible terms what is occurring in Ukraine. And I particularly have been concerned at the lack of a strong response from China.
Overnight, it was uploaded, the reporter is in the South China Morning Post today, at a time when the world was seeking to put additional sanctions on Russia, they have eased restrictions on trade of Russian wheat into China. So at a time when Australia, together with the United Kingdom, together with the United States and Europe and Japan, are acting to cut off Russia, the Chinese Government is following through on easing trade restrictions with Russia, and that is simply unacceptable. China seeks to play a positive role in world affairs. They say they seek peace and I welcome those sentiments and I welcome their comments, which talk about trying to get to a position where these violent acts can cease. But that said, you don't go and throw a lifeline to Russia in the middle of a period when they're invading another country. That is simply unacceptable from the reports that we have seen, and I would urge all nations to say this is not a time to be easing trade restrictions with Russia, we should all be doing the exact opposite. And I would call on everyone here in Australia, as well as overseas, to note this and urge all nations to join the sanctions against Russia.
Now I've also said this, you might have seen a Tweet I put out earlier today, in relation to international sporting events that are scheduled to be held in Russia this year. The F1 should not be held. It should not be held in Russia. The men's volleyball international tournament should not be held there. I commend those Australians who are saying they won't participate in anything that is occurring in Russia this year. International sporting bodies, and I note a number of them and international sporting activities, are already joining that call, and I welcome it very much. But this is the way you impose a cost on Russia that is invading its neighbour. I'm also concerned that there is some suggestion in the comments that have been made by the Chinese Government that there is some sort of security pretext for the invasion that is taking place. There is none. Ukraine presents no threat to Russia. They are the victim of hostile, aggressive and unlawful actions and should be called out as such, particularly by very large global powers who should not be sending them a lifeline.
But let's turn to more positive events, where we are here today. And I'm very thrilled to be here, particularly with Premier Marshall to make further announcements today of $65 million in funding for the fast tracking of Australia's access to space measure. Where we are standing, in this amazing Lot 14 Precinct, this is the great vision of Premier Marshall. None of this would have happened without Premier Marshall. In fact, the great turnaround of South Australia over these last four years has been extraordinary. I remember coming, as the Treasurer, I remember South Australians telling me how people were leaving the state and businesses were having to go elsewhere, but the partnership that Premier Marshall has formed with our Government has led, because of his unrelenting energy and advocacy, to us establishing the National Space Centre here, right here in Lot 14, the anchor tenant, if you like, which has drawn together cyber industry, space industries and is creating amazing opportunities for young talented people who are coming here and working here, moving to South Australia, from other states and indeed from overseas. This is the place to be if you want to be in the space sector and the space sector, as you know, is one of our key industry sectors that we are focusing on as part of our sovereign manufacturing capability. That program already has generated around $1 billion of investment that has already gone in across those six sectors. I'm talking about once every dollar the Commonwealth Government has put in, we've been able to get another $2 in the investments that have already been made. So we've got over $300 million already invested right across those six key sectors that has leveraged another $670 million and the fund itself is $1.5 billion. So imagine just how much more we're going to be able to boost sovereign manufacturing capability through the great success of this initiative. Boosting sovereign manufacturing capability is part of our Government's national economic plan to see a surge out of the pandemic. It is one of the reasons, it is the principal reason, that Australia has one of the strongest advanced economies in the world coming out of this pandemic. And it is occurring because we have had a strong plan, a strong plan that has meant manufacturing things, making things here in Australia. To the specifics, which Minister Price will go into, is $32.5 million for the procurement of the provision of space flights, to ensure that Australian companies who are involved in the space industry can get that firsthand experience as flight qualification to be participating in those missions. We are co-investing $32.3 million to support the development of up to three new or existing complementary space launch sites across Australia, and it's also about putting Australians into space, working with NASA and other international partners to get an Australian back into space. So we are launch nation with what we're doing here to invest in these launch facilities. We are a Space Nation when it comes to ensuring that Australians will have their equipment, which is being developed right here in South Australia up in space. And we are an astronaut nation in getting Australians back into space as part of these initiatives. So very exciting.
I'm going to ask Premier Marshall now to talk about what this means for South Australia. In doing so, what Premier Marshall has been able to do here in South Australia in his time as Premier has turned this state around. South Australia is now contributing to the national economic growth of this country. And that is occurring because of the entrepreneurial premiership of Steven Marshall. This has to be bedded in, this has to be locked in. This is not a time for South Australia to turn back to where they were before. In order for these incredible gains to be realised into the future, the return of the Marshall Government here in South Australia is an absolute necessity to continue to see that optimism and that positivity, that the most optimistic and positive person in Australian politics has been able to bring. With that, I'll bring you Mr Smiles.
Steven Marshall: Thank you very much, Prime Minister. It's fantastic to have you, and of course, Melissa Price, the Minister for Defence, Industry, Science and Innovation here on Lot 14 for this exciting announcement today. We are very grateful to have you here. Before I make comments regarding your announcement today, can I just commend the Prime Minister for his strong response to the deteriorating and dangerous situation that is occurring in Ukraine. Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian community here in Australia, more specifically in South Australia. Immediately after this press conference, the Prime Minister and I will be heading, with Senator Birmingham, down to meet leaders in the Ukrainian community.
But today's announcement is absolutely fantastic for Australia, but more specifically for South Australia – the space state. This is absolutely great news for business, for jobs, and it shows that not even the sky is the limit in creating and opening up opportunities for our children and our grandchildren. Make no mistake, this next election in South Australia is all about creating a stronger future, having a strong recovery out of COVID, and cementing in those great opportunities for our next generation. Now, we are in a space station in Australia, but this wouldn't have happened without great cooperation with the federal government. It wasn't that long ago that we were the only OECD country without a space agency. It was the coalition that decided that we would have a space agency. And it was Prime Minister Morrison who announced that the space agency headquarters would be right here on Lot 14 in the centre of our CBD, Adelaide. And since then, we've also been able to attract investment from the federal government to establish Australia's mission control here and Space Discovery Centre. It's been a true partnership. We now have 1,600 people employed in the space sector in South Australia. And today's announcements will make sure that we have thousands more into the future and this will create great opportunities for students that are currently at school, it will attract people back to South Australia and I think it will be bringing people in from overseas. You see, before, for people that wanted to go and get involved in the space agency, they needed to move overseas. It wasn't the space agency in Australia of any scale. Now, with these investments from the federal government, there are just so many opportunities for our next generation and we are very proud in South Australia with what has occurred. We're now building satellites in the CBD on Lot 14. This morning, the Prime Minister, the Minister and myself, took a look at what's happening at Inovor and over at Neumann Space. They're building satellites for the Department of Defence and the CSIRO. They're also building our own satellite here for South Australia with two fantastic payloads one Internet of Things, one for Earth observation. That will enthuse a next generation of students who are interested in what we can do in space, taking that data. We're here at Myriota at the moment, a fantastic company, which has raised tens and tens and tens of millions of dollars and brought it here to Adelaide to develop innovative products which are transforming lives, improving productivity, opening up new opportunities for the next generation. So it's fair to say we are very enthused about space. You would have heard recently that we've announced that we will be establishing Australia's space manufacturing park down on the Adelaide Airport Precinct. We've committed to another 15,000 square metres down there, on top of the 5,000 square metres in the [inaudible] building. There is just so much opportunity. Today's announcement is great for business, it's great for jobs and shows that not even the sky's the limit in opening up new opportunities for our children and our grandchildren. It's now my pleasure to introduce Melissa Price to tell us a little bit more about today's announcement.
Melissa Price: Thank you Premier, great to be here. I think it's fair to say, that from the comments from our Prime Minister and the Premier, that there's never been a better time or more time for us to be focusing on the development of our space industry. The Morrison government is very ambitious for our space industry. We've already invested $850 million and today we're talking about continuing with that investment. Just like we've done with our defence industry here in South Australia, we're determine that we're going to grow our capability more and more and in fact, once we fill up lot 14, and I'm not sure that's not very far away Premier, we'll then have to think about what Lot 15 looks like. Because we are on the move. We are going to space.
Today's announcement focuses on two areas. The first area is making sure that if you're an innovator, you're just leaving uni or indeed you're someone already here in Lot 14, and you want to get your technology into space, you want to test it out. That's a very expensive exercise. We've been hearing about that today. So what we’re going to do, obviously with our Australian Space Agency, we're going to work hard to make sure that we help to invest in, effectively a ticket to ride. So that's the first part of the announcement. The second half relates to launch site. So if you like, the airports for space missions, and that will be incredibly important for us, we're co-investing, we've developed three space ports around Australia. And you can imagine in regional areas that will be very important. And this is going to make us globally competitive. This is going to ensure that Australia gets the attention of the overseas market, and I'm sure there's plenty of people here in Lot 14 that are thinking about how they're going to be involved in the next launch of their fabulous product. Thank you.
Journalist: Prime Minister, can I please ask, the Ukrainian President says 137 people have died in the invasion, and his country has been left alone to fight Russia. Sanctions from the West have focused on the financial sector. Is there more that can be done?
Prime Minister: Well, I've already mentioned in particular the other support we're providing through NATO directly to assist in the operations that are being undertaken there. The other important one is the denying access to Swift, which is the international payment system. We would support that very, very strongly. That should be done, that's not something Australia can do unilaterally as something that particularly needs the involvement of the United States because of the US currency that is supporting that system, and I note that Prime Minister Johnson has made similar remarks. And Australian would strongly support denying Russia access to Swift, the international payment system. And because this is all about ensuring they get cut off and that is the price that is paid. But for that to occur it has to occur with countries all around the world. And so I would call on other nations, particularly on those who are involved in Swift, to join that call to deny Russia access to that payment system.
Journalist: Prime Minister why do you think it is we're seeing hesitation from other countries who have locked into to that system. Are you sensing hesitation from Europe and other countries?
Prime Minister: Well I would urge Europe to join in these calls and do this. There is no doubt that we need Europe involved in seeking to stop people who are coercing and bullying others including ourselves. Australia has often found that you will often have to bear some cost yourself for doing so. But when issues are as they are, when you have a bullying, threatening, violence act being undertaken on an innocent state in the Ukraine then these things are necessary to do, so I would urge people to to lose that resistance. This is very important that they do this. I mean, the suggestion that there is some security pretext by Russia for this invasion, which has been suggested by the Chinese Government, is completely unacceptable. That is not the case. There is no pretext for Russia to violently invade Ukraine. There is not some concession that Ukraine should have been making. There was no threat that Ukraine was making against Russia. So this suggestion that somehow it takes two to cause this. No it only took one and the world should be shutting that one out in Russia.
Journalist: You said that you'd match the US sanctions overnight. Would you consider sending troops in from Australia as part of the AUKUS pact?
Prime Minister: Well there's no suggestion that the United States is sending troops in.
Journalist: If it gets to a point?
Prime Minister: But it's not getting to that point. The US have made that very clear.
Journalist: But the US is sending in troops to Germany.
Prime Minister: This would be done under NATO.
Journalist: What about military medics, would you consider that?
Prime Minister: We're going to work closely with NATO as to how we best provide support, and that is being worked through every single day. And so there will be no hesitation if there are ways Australia can assist those efforts, whether it's medical packs or other things like this. Then we stand ready to do that.
Journalist: Prime Minister, you’ve been strong on these calls for China to condemn this, do you think that Joe Biden should be doing the same?
Prime Minister: I'm talking about what Australia thinks should happen and I'm being really clear, and I think other Australians should be doing the same thing when it comes to calling this out. I mean, while the world's focus is very much on what's understandably occurring in Europe, my focus is always very focused on keeping Australia safe and ensuring there's a clear understanding about what's occurring in our region. And it is concerning that the largest country in our region has suggested there's some security pretext for Russia to have invaded Ukraine. And as I said, the South China Morning Post reports, the uploading of that protocol at a time when the Western world is actually imposing sanctions on Russia, the Chinese Government is easing trade restrictions on Russia. So that is inexplicable, and I think it is important to call this out. I've never hesitated in calling these things out. I've been criticised for calling it out. But on this, at present time, I've been a bit of a solo voice, but I can tell you my voice will not be silenced on this. This is of great concern to Australia, that these acts are not being called out with the same voice when it comes to those in our region, and this needs to be understood
Journalist: Is there a limit to which Australia will be lockstep with the US, if there is a military solution. Are you committing Australia to join that, if that's what the request?
Prime Minister: There's no suggestion of that.
Journalist: No, I understand there's no suggestion at this point, but in the past we have. Are you willing to go that far if that's what’s requested?
Prime Minister: It is very unhelpful in the middle of a global conflict like this for people will be running around speculating about things that are not under consideration, are not on the table, and just unlikely in any event to occur. So I wouldn't want to put any Australians through the concern or anxiety about that being a prospect. There's no prospect of that appearing as a decision the Australian government would have to make, so I don't think it's helpful to create that speculation when there is no such speculation.
Journalist: Russia says that Europe could pay $3000 for 1000 cubic metres of natural gas. We've got a fair bit of that. Would we be willing to transport gas to Europe to help?
Prime Minister: No, I've seen those reports and we worked through that with Treasury and the Department of Industry. The way our gas mechanism works is we need to ensure the gas supply in Australia is provided for or people will be four times what they currently are for gas. The fact that we were able to put in place a memorandum of understanding with our gas suppliers means that gas prices in Australia are 75 per cent lower than they would otherwise been. And I can ensure Australians that I won't be doing something that would further impact on the economic issues because of this global conflict. And of course we will see global conflict, we will see what we believe will be a short term impact on fuel prices. But the Minister for Energy has already made some remarks about how we're taking action on that. Last question, this is a very important issue, but you may wish to ask also some questions about space and the announcements we've made today.
Journalist: Still on the Ukraine, though, Joe Biden has called Putin a tyrant, Boris Johnson calls him a dictator. What do you call him?
Prime Minister: I call him a thug.
Journalist: China and Russia earlier this month signed a 5000 Euro statement in part [inaudible] made a warning about the expansion of NATO. Do you fear that what we're seeing in Ukraine is the beginning of a change in the world order?
Prime Minister: I've been warning about this for years. This is not a new point that I've been making about the alignment of authoritarian and autocratic regimes in our world. I've been saying this for years. Others have said I've been alarmist. Others have said I've been speaking out of turn. I've been calling this out for years, and that's why our government has taken the strong actions that we have, whether it's been the formation of AUKUS. And have Admiral Mead and the team who are in Adelaide right now actioning what we've agreed to do as part of AUKUS. AUKUS was the most significant defence security agreement reached since ANZUS, and that was put in place by me and our government to keep Australians safe. The elevation of the QUAD to a leader's level dialogue, which isn't just dealing with security issues, but importantly is dealing with economic security issues, supply chain issues, humanitarian support and economic development within the Indo-Pacific region and being a positive, very positive force within the region to ensure that countries can have greater confidence in their economic and their political sovereignty. It's very important to the Indo-Pacific. So I have long held that view and I have been the advocate of that view in every single international forum I can get to. I was the one who went to the G7 and threw the 14 points down the table about how Australia was being coerced by China, by the Chinese government. And so I share your assessment but it's one that I've been advocating for greater understanding of for some time.
Journalist: Prime Minister Beijing says diplomatic channels are open and it’s prepared to meet Australia half way. What is the government going to do and do you consider that a genuine olive branch?
Prime Minister: Well, diplomatic channels are not underway when ministers and political leaders are not prepared to meet with ministers and political leaders here in Australia. That's just a simple fact. And in terms of meeting halfway, there are 14 points, I don't agree with changing any them. So happy to have the dialogue. Happy to have the ministerial and political level dialogue. But those 14 points are not for negotiating. I'm happy to take a question or two on space.
Journalist: Just on local political issues. You're here during election campaign. Earlier this week, the state government committed $25 million to rebuilding the Adelaide Aquatic Centre, but it's contingent on matched federal funds. Have you committed or will you commit those funds?
Prime Minister: I'll let the Finance Minister speak on these issues.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks PM. We've certainly received advocacy from the Premier, from the state member for Adelaide, from the Lord Mayor in terms of briefings about that project, like any such project we will consider the merits of it through the usual grant and assessment processes, and of course we will work closely as we have constructively with the Marshall government if re-elected in relation to delivery of critical infrastructure projects.
Journalist: So you won't commit to the funding before the election?
Simon Birmingham: Tom, we'll work through our normal processes. The state government’s made their policy position clear and their support for the aquatic centre clear.
Journalist: Can I ask Prime Minister on sport, what would be achieved by banning Russia from international sport? And should that be extend to their participation to international sport?
Prime Minister: I have no objection to those issues whatsoever and I think we should be taking every step we can to ensure Russia pays a price in the international community for their violent and aggressive acts in relation to their action against Ukraine. So, bring forward suggestions is my view. And whether it's the F1 Grand Prix or any of the other events that I've spoken about. It's important that these world bodies understand fully what's going on and we've already seen that decision with the UEFA Cup being made, I applaud it, well done. The rest of the world should be cutting off. Now we don't have any beef with the people of Russia and I particularly want to commend the brave Russian citizens who have actually stood up in protest against the violent actions of their government. That's incredible courage. And I want to send a message of support to Australians of all Russian heritage here, just as I have to Australians of Ukrainian heritage. They will be saddened and devastated by these events, as any other Australian. And I want to thank them for their support and for their great contribution to our country. But I'm actually going to have to start moving.
Journalist: Can I have one question on the Ukraine?
Prime Minister: Sure.
Journalist: Will the government consider providing more detail about what visas Ukrainian Australians can access to bring their relatives here? SBS has spoken to people who are really worried about their families, who are confused about visa options and [inaudible].
Prime Minister: Well, Minister Hawke met with the Ukrainian community leaders yesterday. On these issues, there are two components. The first component is that all those who have standing applications for visas, now that could be family reunion visas, skill visas, student visas, any number of visas to come to Australia. I'm advised we have 430 of those and they have been put to the top of the pile for priority resolution and we will seek, in all the normal circumstances, to grant those visas. The only visas that wouldn't be possible are for security reasons or things of that nature, which is understandable. And that means we can fast track the awarding of those visas as quickly as we possibly can. Which would enable those Ukrainian citizens to come to Australia. I made this point to the Prime Minister the other night when we spoke. There are a range of different visas, it's not just humanitarian visas, that they may seek and we have ample room within our program to accommodate those. But Ukrainian citizens also would be seeking to make applications for skilled visas and many other types of visas, student visas, and they are very welcome to do so. And should they do so, they will have the same priority that's being given to those ones that are currently on foot. And we need those skills. And so if sadly, Ukrainian citizens have to leave their country, well they will find a great home here in Australia, where so many others have come before them and made a tremendous contribution to Australia. But right now I'm going to meet a number of them who are proud South Australians. Thank you.