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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript - 23881

Joint Press Conference, Brisbane

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 12/10/2014

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23881

Subject(s): G20 volunteer launch

Location: Brisbane

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, it’s good to be here in Brisbane with the Premier and with the local Member Teresa Gambaro to help kick-off the volunteer element of the upcoming G20.

The G20, which will be held in the middle of November here in Brisbane, brings together the leaders of the world's 20 largest and most representative economies. The G20 meeting here in Brisbane will be the biggest ever gathering of international leaders on Australian shores.

It's important that we showcase our country. It's important that we make this a great opportunity to build growth and jobs – to build prosperity. That's what this G20 is all about. It's all about trying to ensure that right around the world, governments are pursuing policies that will promote growth and jobs, because growth and jobs in any country is good for growth and jobs in every country in an increasingly interconnected world.

So, it's terrific that the G20 is happening here in Brisbane. It will be an opportunity to showcase our country, our State, our city, and to have these volunteers here helping to guide around, to provide information for the visiting leaders, their staff, the visiting media, the visiting officials, is really important.

There will be about 600 volunteers. They're terrific people who are in the great Australian spirit of rolling up your sleeves and getting things done. In that great Australian tradition of giving a welcome to visitors and newcomers to our country.

I'm really proud of them.

And the fact that 600Queenslanders are prepared to give up a few weeks of their life to make this great occasion a success shows the heart of our country. It shows Australians at their best, and I'm really pleased to be here with the Premier and the local Member this morning to say thank you to Australians who are helping Australia to put its best face forward to the world.

PREMIER NEWMAN:

Thanks very much, Prime Minister. Ladies and gentleman, look, I just echo what the Prime Minister has said for Queensland. The G20 is in a word about jobs. That's what we're going after. We're going after investment and economic opportunities for Queensland as we see our state and the city of Brisbane on the world stage. In relation to the volunteers; three-and-a-half years ago, people saw scenes around the world of Brisbane and Queensland at another time – a time of great tragedy and challenge to the State. But what they really saw, and I know many people I've met from overseas who've commented on this, is that they saw volunteers. Volunteers out cleaning up, lending a hand, getting the mud off the street, cleaning up people's homes, putting things back together. This time again with G20, they will see the volunteers at work, lending a hand, giving advice, giving directions, showing people around our city, and that's an exciting and positive thing.

I thank all the 600 or so men and women who are volunteering their time. I thank them for that and their families for their forbearance and support to this great world event in our city and our State.

PRIME MINISTER:

Teresa, do you wish to add something?

TERESA GAMBARO:

It's a great pleasure to you have here PM and also Premier. Brisbane will be the centre of the world in a few weeks. I'm absolutely delighted as the federal Member to have met many of the wonderful volunteers who have come along, given up two weeks of their life and will do an absolutely sterling job and they will remember it long into the future, and I just want to take the opportunity to thank all of the wonderful volunteers and add to the words of the Prime Minister and the Premier. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you so much. OK. Do we have any questions today?

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, are you happy Vladimir Putin will be attending?

PRIME MINISTER:

There are many aspects of Russia's foreign policy that I'm not happy with. Obviously we had the MH17 atrocity earlier this year where 38 Australians were murdered by Russian-backed rebels using Russian-supplied equipment so there's much to deplore in Russia's foreign policy. There's much to deplore in Russia's blatant aggression towards a smaller, weaker neighbour. But the G20 is an international gathering that operates by consensus. It's not Australia's right to say yes or no to individual members of the G20. Russia is a member of the G20 and as such, we're obliged to accept the Russian leader in this country.

I think it will be pretty crystal clear that we think that Russia needs to fully cooperate in the investigation into the MH17atrocity. That's my expectation, that's Australia's expectation. I think it's the world's expectation of Russia that there will be full cooperation with the investigation and there will be a willingness to hand over to police for trial anyone who Russia might have access to who turns out to have played a part in the downing of that aircraft.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, some Australians will be upset and angry when they see you shaking his hand. What is your message to those Australians who see that handshake and how do you counteract that emotion?

PRIME MINISTER:

I absolutely take that point. Now, I feel angry about what has been done to innocent Australians what was done to 298 innocent people. It was an atrocity, an absolute atrocity, and sadly, the atrocity took place because Russia has been fishing in these troubled waters, and without the things that have been done, this would never have happened.

I don't believe for a moment that President Putin wanted that plane brought down. But obviously Russian policy has brought about a situation that caused this atrocity to take place.

So, as I said, what I will be wanting from the Russian President is an assurance from him that he and Russia will do everything they can to ensure that now, at least, justice is done.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, there's reports that al-Qaeda could link with ISIL. Would that be a nightmare for Australia and its coalition partners?

PRIME MINISTER:

The situation in the Middle East is very serious. I've often said that the Middle East is a witch’s brew of danger and difficulty and complexity. We're there on an essentially humanitarian mission – to protect the people of Iraq from the murderous rage of ISIL.

Now, anything that gives this death cult extra strength is obviously tragic for the people of Iraq and disastrous for the people of the region and the wider world. That's why it's important that we and our allies do everything we can to disrupt and degrade this appalling, appalling movement and that's what we're doing. We're flying combat air patrols most days over Iraq. Our Special Forces stand ready to assist the Iraqi security forces once the paperwork, the legalities, are in place, and we're working on that as quickly as we can.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, Mr Hockey said today that on your behalf, he mentioned to the world finance leaders your proposal for an infrastructure fund – a hub. Can you explain how that would work and what that would mean to Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Ok, well, what we're trying to do with the G20 is get every country to put in place economic policies that will boost economic growth two per cent more than would otherwise be the case over the next five years. And in Australia, what we're trying to do is get lower taxes, less regulation, freer trade, more fiscal responsibility and better infrastructure. Better infrastructure is at the heart of our plan for a strong and prosperous economy, for a safe and secure Australia.

Now, there is a massive infrastructure gap, not just here, but right around the world. Whether you're a left of centre government or a right of centre government, you have an interest in building infrastructure. Because of the fiscal difficulties that all countries labour under at the moment, it's going to be important to get more private sector money into infrastructure if we're going to have the roads, the ports, the railways, the dams, the power stations, all the things that we need. And this Sydney hub is a way of drawing together infrastructure financing, best practice from around the world.

So, if a country is considering a public private partnership, for instance, to build a dam in Africa, they can come to Sydney and find out all they need to know about how it's being done elsewhere and learn the lessons that they might need to learn to do it well in their country. It's a way of ensuring that the learnings and the insights of this particular G20 are continued in the months and years to come.

QUESTION:

A new ACOSS report says that current welfare arrangements are inadequate. Does that give you cause to pause and reconsider the changes that you're already looking at?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, it doesn't. It makes me more determined to push on with the changes that we have in mind. We want our welfare system to be sustainable for the long term. One of the reasons why we want to see a greater participation in our economy, including by older people, is because as things stand right now, by 2050, we'll have only three workers for every retiree. If we can keep older people in the work force, if we can get more women into the work force, we have the prospect of having four workers for every retiree.

Now, that's still worse than the current situation where we've got five workers for every retiree but it's a lot better than what would otherwise be the case. If we want a sustainable welfare system, we've got to have a stronger economy and a stronger economy means higher productivity, higher participation and that, in the end, is what our Budget measures are all about.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible] who go home and night and have to deal with so much homework because kids have to learn about such a range of issues?

PRIME MINISTER:

I want the best possible school system. I want it to be a back-to-basics school system where we do the essentials very well. I want all of our young people to come out of school with the ability to read, to write, to count, to think and I want them to know enough about Australia and the world to have a reasonable understanding of the events around them. That's what I want. I don't think it's too much to ask and I think that the more focused on getting the basics right our education systems are, the better we will all be, the easier it will be for our youngsters to get jobs and the stronger and more prosperous our society will be in the years and decades to come.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible] and Premier, do you support changes to the curriculum and how quickly would you be able to pare it back, I suppose?

PREMIER NEWMAN:

Well, thanks very much. In relation to education, we are currently working on a 30-year plan for our State and just a couple of weeks ago, in my own electorate, we had an education summit, we brought together teachers, principals, unions, parents and members of the community, academia, to come together with the MPs to talk about the future of education in Queensland. Now, we're responsible and the Prime Minister often makes this point, we're responsible for the running of State schools in Queensland. We have adopted a national curriculum. But that is something that we are prepared to change and modify to adapt to Queensland's needs. But what I want to say very much is I totally support what the PM just said. We're about the building blocks, the basic core skills. So literacy and numeracy is incredibly important, and I like what the Prime Minister just said as well about the capacity to think. We want to create well-rounded members of a liberal democracy in this nation. People who've got the core skills and who can think freely. That's the most important thing. People who can understand where to go and find information and make up their own mind about issues. That's what we need to create. The final point I make is that the Prime Minister's government have given this calendar year $131 million dollars of extra funding to Queensland schools. Next year it goes to $180 million. That money is going directly to schools under theGreat Results Guarantee programme which sees school principals and teaching staff work out how they will institute a programme to get those core skills embedded and we're making a guarantee to parents in Queensland that every child will meet the minimum national standards for literacy and numeracy. So, I hope that explains where our focus is.

QUESTION:

Mr Newman, can you just let us know your opinion of Vladimir Putin coming to G20?

PREMIER NEWMAN:

Well, my views are well known. I haven't changed. I understand what the Prime Minister has said. It is a matter for the G20 and it's a consensus issue. I think him being here means that he will be rubbing shoulders with international leaders and our Prime Minister and I'm sure they will all convey the anger that Australia and indeed other civilised nations have in what happened only a few months ago to our citizens. Indeed citizens of other countries. So, it was a terrible tragedy, and it was a crime, and I know that people around that G20 table will be making it perfectly clear to him. That is an opportunity that I think will be taken.

QUESTION:

Should we be putting more money into the Ebola outbreak? And should we be sending more Australian doctors and nurses over to that region?

PRIME MINISTER:

We aren't going to send Australian doctors and nurses into harm's way without being absolutely confident that all of the risks are being properly managed. At the moment, we cannot be confident that that is the case. That's why there are no plans to send Australian doctors and nurses, to order Australian doctors and nurses to go to West Africa.

There are dozens of Australian doctors and nurses there already working with non-government organisations such as Medicins Sans Frontieres. I really admire the selfless humanitarianism that they are showing but there is a world of difference between praising the selflessness of volunteers who are going over there and ordering Australian personnel to go into a situation without the kind of risk minimisation strategies that any responsible Australian Government would have to put in place.

Now, the National Security Committee of the Cabinet has considered the Ebola outbreak on a number of occasions. We are very confident that all States have effective measures in place to deal with any Ebola cases that we might get here in Australia. We are carefully screening people coming into this country who have been in West Africa and that will continue. We are considering plans for what to do should there be an outbreak in this country or in our region but I do want to stress it would be irresponsible of the Australian Government to order our personnel into harm's way without all appropriate precautions being in place, and at this time, they simply aren't and they can't be.

QUESTION:

There's quite a nasty racist rant that's happened in Brisbane on a train, it's gone viral on video on-line. Have you seen it and what do you think of it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I haven't seen it. The Premier has briefed me about it and I absolutely deplore it. I think it's un-Australian. Just as I think it's un-Australian to defend a death cult, I think it's un-Australian to abuse people in a public place just because you don't like the way they look. Or you don't like the way they dress. Or you make assumptions about what they believe. That's completely un-Australian and it just shouldn't happen. My understanding is that the Queensland Police are investigating and they'll take very strong action against it.

QUESTION:

The Treasurer has again linked Labor support for Iraq to the Budget. Is he [inaudible] bipartisan approach?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm not going to make any assumptions about comments that may or may not have been made overnight. But I appreciate Labor's constructive support for the Government on national security issues. I have said many times, let me say it again, it is good that the Government and the Opposition should stand shoulder to shoulder together on questions of national security. Now, I'd like more bipartisanship on questions of economic security, when it comes to sorting out the Budget mess, which Labor created and is now refusing to address; refusing to help fix. I'd like that. But look, I appreciate that we don't have the same tradition of bipartisanship on economic issues that we've mostly had on national security issues, and while I can appeal to Mr Shorten to say look, come on, it's not good enough just to criticise, you've got to give us some solutions here, while I can and do do that, I'm grateful for the support that they've given us on national security.

QUESTION:

What are you going to do in terms of China's pending tariff on coal especially since it will have a dramatic impact on, I guess, Australia's economy? Question for you and the Premier.

PRIME MINISTER:

This really is the last one. We support freer trade and we want tariffs to go down not up and we would like to see other countries putting tariffs down – not up. And we support freer trade in every forum and we advance freer trade in every way we can, bilaterally, multilaterally. We advance freer trade. We would prefer that this didn't happen. The fact that it seems to be happening makes it more important than ever that we get a good outcome to the free trade negotiations that have been going on between Australia and China now for many, many years. They started under the Howard Government, they went nowhere under the Rudd and Gillard Governments. They've been accelerated under this government and I am very, very much hoping that we can bring them to a successful conclusion before or at the G20 meeting in November.

PREMIER NEWMAN:

Ladies and gentlemen, I am concerned about this decision by China. And when I meet with Chinese officials and I regularly do meet with senior representatives of the People's Republic of China, I will be conveying our concern. The disappointing thing is that Queensland coal is a clean coal by world standards. It is very good quality. And this, in some ways, is going to have other impacts on China as well. It will obviously make the coal more expensive for the customers that we have in China but also it may potentially be coal that leads to increased emissions of other nasties. So, that's my point.

Can I just go, finalising this, because that was the last question, could I just go back to the issue about the security guard? I just want to make one thing very clear. This happened a week to 10 days ago, as we understand it. I've personally spoken to Joe. He is the security guard who was abused in that way. I have conveyed two things to him personally. Firstly, I thought he showed admirable restraint. I think he, from what I could see, responded very professionally in what was a very difficult situation and I have thanked him for his great job as part of the Queensland Rail team. Secondly, I have conveyed to him my absolute disgust at what he was subjected to. I've told him how totally unacceptable it was. And I have said that whether or not he makes a complaint is up to him but I have assured him that on behalf of him and indeed the entire Queensland Rail team that we will be going after the individual or perhaps other individuals responsible for this racist attack. It' s not on. It's unacceptable. We won't allow our staff or our contractors to be exposed to that sort of unacceptable behaviour. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks so much, thank you.

[ends]

Transcript - 23881