Press Conference - Mortdale, NSW

  • Transcript, E&OE
05 April 2022

The Hon. David Coleman MP, Federal Member For Banks: Well, good morning and welcome to Mortdale here in the Banks electorate to the BP service station here on Boundary Road, and it's great to be here to, to highlight the very significant impact that the Budget has had on petrol prices here in our local communities, we can see in the price here at BP today. It's great to be here with the Prime Minister, with the Foreign Minister and with Jenny Ware, the, the Liberal candidate for Hughes. I've known Jenny for a long time and she is a, a tremendous candidate, a person of great capacity, experience and intellect and it's terrific to have her as part of the team, and here in Mortdale as we visit BP this morning to have a look at petrol prices and this extremely important cost of living issue here in the local community. And on that I will hand over now to the Prime Minister. 

Prime Minister: Thank you very much. Well thank you, David, it's terrific to be here with you again. Of course, Jenny, it's great to have you on the team. And together with Jenny and David and I, we represent the Liberal team down here in Southern Sydney, so it's great to have you on that Southern Sydney team, Jenny, as well as our broader national Liberal team. And it's wonderful also to have Senator Payne here, Marise Payne is with us here today. Marise will be heading over to, to meet with NATO tonight and, there are some very important meetings, and I'll ask her to say a bit about that before we go to questions. 

We are here today at a place I used to fill up my car pretty regularly, actually, because Jenny used to live up the hill here. We just got married down the road, and, and so I'm thrilled that here, right here in Mortdale, the benefits of what we've done to cut fuel taxes, to give people cost of living relief right now, as a result of this budget, is being felt right here at the bowser, and to, to see those prices getting down to what we see here, 166.9, and we're seeing that right across the country, just seeing 20 to 30 cent falls already all around the country in what's happening with fuel prices. Now, this didn't happen by accident. This has happened because in the last 12 months, the economic plan that we have put in place has seen a $100 billion turnaround in the budget position. And that is because we've got more people off welfare and into work. It's happened because we've kept discipline about how we were spending. Yes, we've had to invest to support the Australian economy, but we've known when to get in and support, just like we're doing again now, and we also know when that support has to be rounded out. 

And as we've come through this pandemic, what we know is, is our opponents, the Labor Party, would have spent an extra $81 billion during the pandemic. Now we knew when we had to see some of the measures we had before that helped our economy come through. But the Labor Party wanted to keep on spending and spending and spending. And what that would have meant is that we would not have been in a position to harness the gains that we have been able to put in place through how we've come through this pandemic, with the strongest economic rebound we've seen in Australia in 70 years and provide that cost of living relief right now. It would also have put our AAA credit rating at risk, which was reaffirmed on Budget night by S&P because of the balance that we had in our budget, which would put upward pressure on interest rates. Under our government, keeping our AAA credit rating, keeping expenditure balanced and in control to get our economy through the pandemic, that puts downward pressure on interest rates and it puts downward pressure on inflation, and that's been recognised by our credit rating agencies. And so it's, I'm very pleased to see already what we thought might even take a bit longer than this, that we're seeing that cost of living relief flow through to Australian families, for individuals as they're going off to work, getting around the city and ensuring that they can get that cost of living relief now. Cost of living relief that's been provided by good economic management, strong budget management. That's what we're known for and that's what we'll continue to deliver our economic plan. Now I'll ask the Foreign Minister to make a few remarks about heading off to NATO later today. 

Senator the Hon. Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Thanks PM, and great to be here in the St. George area again and fabulous to be here with David Coleman and Jenny Ware, in particular. Because I'm in Mortdale, I have to say that like many of the community here, every week, I am willing the mighty Dragons on and on, it's a challenge but we are there behind the mighty Dragons, so let me start with that. Can I say, though, Prime Minister, that I am leaving this evening, as you have, as you have advised for a meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers and close partners in Brussels in relation to Russia's actions in Ukraine. The coordination that this meeting will strengthen and enable is core to the global response to Russia's unlawful, egregious and unprovoked actions. They are a wholesale breach of international law, a wholesale breach of the UN Charter. So the work that we have been doing in applying sanctions, including over 500 people identities in the last month, the support that we have provided for humanitarian aid, and that is being delivered through trusted partners on the ground in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries, and through Australian aid organisations and the military support that we have provided is key to our coordination with our international partners. I look forward to meeting with the key members of NATO and those counterparts in the coming days in Brussels to reaffirm Australia's support and to reinforce our engagement in this key international cooperation. Thanks PM. 

Prime Minister: Thanks a lot. 

Journalist: Prime Minister, I guess you've come full circle on this petrol price business, because two months ago at the Press Club, you couldn't even name the price. 

Prime Minister: Well, what we were talking about a few months ago, when we were looking at excise issues that weren't going to make any real difference to petrol prices by making some marginal changes. And what has happened over months now, as we've, as we've seen the invasion of Ukraine take hold and we've seen the impact of that on petrol prices, and they were getting up over $2.20, up to $2.30, and now we see them at these levels because of the intervention that we've made. You see, our response when it comes to things like this is we don't make knee-jerk responses to issues. We think carefully about the design of our changes. That's what we did on JobKeeper. We made sure we got that right. We saved 700,000 jobs and many lives, I am quite certain. Many businesses were able to get through the pandemic because of the strong economic management that we provided, and we were able to maintain our AAA credit rating at the same time. And that's what's ensured that we've been able to realise the biggest economic comeback this country has seen in 70 years. We've gone through this very difficult economic time that was 30 times worse than the Global Financial Crisis back when Labor was last in government. But yet we got an employment outcome that was 50 per cent better. And I think that says a lot about the contrasting approaches of Labor and the Liberals and Nationals, that when we're dealing with a crisis, we get the design right, we get the interventions right. We maintain Australia's financial and economic security and we get better economic outcomes. Under Labor, when they faced the crisis, and this one has been 30 times worse, we actually saw unemployment rise over their government from 4.2 per cent to 5.7 per cent. Now going through an economic crisis 30 times worse, we have seen unemployment fall from 5.7 per cent when we came to government, now down to just four per cent and it's heading further down. That is the contrast of economic management between the Liberals and the Nationals and Labor and the Greens. 

Journalist: You found the $2.6 billion for this measure. Why couldn't you find the 60 million or so for the Lismore flood victims and the NSW government were under the impression that you were going to go halves in this $112 million Back Home grants yesterday, they had to announce it by themselves. Why didn't you agree to go halves in relation to that? 

Prime Minister: The Commonwealth Government has already invested $2.1 billion in the New South Wales flood response and directly a billion dollars has already been paid directly. Now that billion dollars that we've put in directly, that is 100 per cent funded by the Commonwealth Government, and there are many other measures also, including $50 million to support anchor businesses in the Northern Rivers area, which is 100 per cent funded by the Commonwealth Government. So when you come together to respond to a flood crisis, and this is normal procedure, there are some things that the Commonwealth pays for 100 per cent. There are some things that the state government pays for, and there are some things where we share the costs and all up, our commitment into New South Wales for the flood response is $2.1 billion and a billion of that is already in the pockets of those who've needed it most. 

Journalist: I think if you're taking credit for petrol prices coming down will you take responsibility, if they go up between now and Election Day? 

Prime Minister: Well what I can simply say is that we have provided 22 cents a litre relief on fuel tax. That's come off to ensure that people can have lower prices. Prices will still move around. But what I do know is they'll be 22 cents a litre less than what they would otherwise be. And that's what the ACCC is there for, to police these things to make sure that these tax cuts for motorists are in place and pass through, and they have penalties and powers to ensure that people follow through. But, I must admit, I'm very pleased with the way that the fuel industry has responded. We have seen them move quickly and we have seen them pass this on much quicker than we had anticipated. And so I thank them for that. They want to give their motorists a good deal. They want to be able to pass on those cost of living relief. And they're doing that. And people can see that we have delivered that right here at the bowser and right here in Mortdale. 

Journalist: This is one of the cheapest BP service stations in all of Sydney. Is that why you've selected this particular BP?

Prime Minister: But if you look at the prices around here, you'll find they're at very similar levels, I've seen very similar levels down in Melbourne where I was yesterday. I'm still out in regional areas when I was up in northern Tasmania on the weekend. It'll take a little while for it to come through there. They're still just a bit over $2 where I was, about $2.03, $2.04. But we expect to see that come down in regional areas. The way that fuel has moved around the country and when they pay their excise is different. But here in the metropolitan areas, I'm very pleased with the way, whether it's BP or AMPOL or others have moved quickly to pass on those savings that they can pass on those savings because of the economic management we put in place, which meant that we've had a $100 billion turnaround in the last 12 months. And if we'd listened to Labor, if we'd done what Labor said they wanted to do, then we would have been $81 billion out of pocket and we would not have been able to respond because Labor always knows how to start spending, but they never know how to stop. And that's the problem, and they never design it right. They never get it right. We saw that last time during the Global Financial Crisis, when we saw failed programmes all over the place. So it's just not enough to be well intentioned. You've got to get it right, as we have. 

Journalist: Prime Minister, I'm being told there was a handshake agreement between you and Dominic Perrottet where you pay half of the Back Home grants, that's not the case? 

Prime Minister: No, and I've written to the Premier again, stressing that we are very happy to share in the costs of that program for the 1-in-500-year flood event. That's what we undertook to do. 

Journalist: Why have they announced $112 million, is the issue that it's outside Lismore, some of this assistance? 

Prime Minister: We've said we would go to those places that are impacted by the one in 500 year flood event, because the types of program that they're pursuing, are program that are done by state governments. There are some things state governments do 100 per cent. There are some things Commonwealth Governments do 100 per cent, as I said, where $2.1 billion in support, which actually is far in excess of what the state government has responded to the floods with, and a billion dollars of what we've committed is already in people's pockets. But we were very clear that on that particular program, we were prepared to meet half the cost of those places impacted by the one in 500 year flood event. Now, people on the ground wouldn't see any different. The program would still run, and we'd settle up those costs, as we do for all of these things, at the end. And our offer remains that we would meet those one in 500 year flood cost for those impacted properties. 

Journalist: All right. Well, Catherine Cusack, you'd be aware of her comments. She's called you a bully, but she's also said you're looking after Paige but not Richmond. What do you say to that? 

Prime Minister: Well, it's just simply untrue, because of the $7,000 or thereabouts which households have been receiving in additional disaster payments, extend across all the seven LGAs, including the one she lives in. And I said at the time that we listed those first three LGAs first, because they were the most obvious ones, and that was the advice of our agencies. And then I said we'd be assessing further, which we did, and we extended it to the other four. So it's just wrong in fact. 

Journalist: Prime Minister, I don't know if this is the question best for you or perhaps the Foreign Minister, but can I get an update on Western Sydney father Chau Van Kham who is detained in Vietnam? 

Senator the Hon. Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs: You're correct. Chau Van Kham is detained in Vietnam. We have been making very senior representations to the Vietnamese authorities, including in-person on my part to the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and the Home Affairs Minister when I was in Hanoi at the end of last year. I raised it again with the Foreign Minister in a call last week, and have discussed it on a number of occasions with the Ambassador. Our concern in relation to Mr Chau Van Kham,  respecting the Vietnamese legal system, and we do, our concern, though, is his age. He is in his 70s, he is unwell, and we have sought an appropriate consideration of his circumstances, given those facts and to have him allowed to return to Australia. And we will continue to press that.

Journalist: Have you got any update on when that may happen? Obviously, it's been almost more than three years now, his family is still very distressed at what's happening. And you're right, he's 72 years old now, he's very unwell from what we hear. Is there any idea of when that might happen? 

Senator the Hon. Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Ultimately, that is a matter for the Vietnamese authorities. But we have sought reconsideration of his circumstances, given his age and his health and sought their support in having him returned to Australia. 

Journalist: Prime Minister, you talk about being the government of good economic management, you like to talk about your roles on ERC and NSC.  How does that gel with your decision as Treasurer to agree to the French subs project, and you can see that's likely to cost Australian $5.5 billion for nothing? 

Prime Minister: No, I don't agree that's what it will cost for nothing. That's not the case. There is much that we've acquired through that process. But one of the things that has changed remarkably since 2016 was the strategic environment in which the submarines that we were looking to acquire would have to operate in. And that changed completely. And the opportunity for Australia to acquire nuclear powered submarines at the time of that decision was not present. It wasn't present. Australia needed the nuclear powered submarines. That's what we need to keep Australia strong and to keep Australia safe. And I was not going to allow Australia to forego that opportunity when we'd worked hard to secure it. And that the submarines that we were going to buy, were not going to be able to meet the task that we needed them to perform to keep Australia safe. So the Plan B I had was better than Plan A. And the plan that we have now is going to keep Australia stronger and it's going to keep Australians safer. And it means that going through that transition is part of that transaction cost of doing that. But what we have learnt, the skills that have been acquired, all of these things go to our capacity to now go on with an even better project. And you know, there are hard decisions, Andrew. You were over there with me at the time, the Carbis Bay. You were there when I, I met with the with the Prime Minister of the UK and I was there with the President of the United States. And you were aware of how significant that meeting of the three of us was, perhaps not at the time, that became clear to you later. But that opportunity for Australia is the most significant defence agreement this country has entered into since ANZUS 70 years ago. And so, there are difficult decisions and you've got to be strong to make those decisions. You've got to be prepared to wear the flak that comes from those who will criticise you for making those decisions, whether they be good friends in other countries or they be indeed others, who will be critical of those decisions now. All I know is it was exactly the right decision to make for Australia. It took courage to make it. It actually took a lot of foresight and a lot of hard work to put Australia in the position to be able to do it. No other prime minister has been able to secure the technology from the United States to deliver nuclear powered submarines to keep Australians safe. And that was a decision in the national interest and the decision I'm very pleased that we're able to make under my government. 

Journalist: Just on isolation rules. So Daniel Andrews has said his state follows the AHPPC advice. And you'd be aware that advice on Friday said don't lift the isolation rules yet. So what do you say to that? 

Prime Minister: Well, I've always been a fan of these isolation rules being eased, but they are decisions for premiers and they'll weigh those up in their own areas. I know the impact it has on the economy of people not being able to go to work, or the impact that goes with caring for children and the disruption that it has. And you know, premiers like prime ministers have to make decisions that weigh up all of those factors and I'd be encouraging them to do just that. 

Journalist: But your CHO, as well, would be, would be supportive of that?

Prime Minister: Well, you know, in my Government, I make the decisions and my Cabinet makes the decisions - we don't subcontract that out to others. Thanks very much, everyone.  

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