PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript - 24085

Press Conference, Parliament House, Canberra

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: 21/12/2014

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 24085

Subjects: Changes to the Ministry; National Security Hotline.

E&OE……………………….……………………………………………………………

PRIME MINISTER:

Good afternoon. Today I am announcing a significant reshuffle, which will reset and refocus the Government for the coming year. It will put jobs and families at the heart of our political agenda for 2015. This is a Ministry for jobs and families and it’s a sign that this is a Government which wants the economy and the budget to be front and centre in the coming year. In the end nothing is achieved without a strong economy. I’ve said all along that this Government’s whole mission is to build a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia and this new Ministry which I announce today will help to make that absolutely true in the coming year.

I want to go through the changes if I may. Scott Morrison will be promoted to be Minister for Social Services. I can think of no finer advocate than Scott Morrison; not only is he a splendid advocate but he is the master of difficult policy and administration as he’s abundantly demonstrated in all but stopping the boats over the last 15 months. The Ministry for Social Services is essentially a Ministry for economic participation and it’s very important to have a Minister of Scott’s drive and competence in this role because this is about trying to ensure that Australians are having a go. If you want to get a fair go you’ve got to give a fair go and that’s what this Ministry is all about. It’s about getting a fair go and encouraging people to give a fair go – a very important part of the Government’s political agenda in 2015 – and Scott as Minister for Social Services will be the Minister responsible for crafting the holistic families package which is going to be such an important part of our political and economic agenda in the first half of next year, which as you know will involve a better targeted paid parental leave scheme and increased and improved childcare.

Peter Dutton will become the new Minister for Immigration and Border Security. Peter is a tough no nonsense individual and he is very well placed to ensure that our borders remain secure and that the boats stay stopped.

Sussan Ley is being promoted into Cabinet as the Minister for Health and the Minister for Sport. She’s done excellent work as the Assistant Minister for Education. She’s handled the parliament with great aplomb. She’s had a very diverse life, Sussan, before entering parliament. She’s been an air traffic controller, a farmer, as well as having a career with the Australian Tax Office and I’m very pleased to have Sussan in the Cabinet team.

Josh Frydenberg becomes the new Assistant Treasurer. Josh is one of the Government’s most prolific and effective media performers and again his presence in this role is a sign of my determination, the Government’s determination to make the economy front and centre in 2015. Josh as you all know has done an excellent job as my Parliamentary Secretary in cutting at least $2 billion a year from business red tape costs.

The Education portfolio will become the portfolio of education and training. There will be some added programmes that move from industry into that portfolio. Industry will become the portfolio of Industry and Science. I’m delighted that Simon Birmingham will become the Assistant Minister for Education and Training and he will have particular responsibility for the Government’s training agenda because we must have skilled workers if our economy is to keep growing.

Ian Macfarlane will be assisted by Karen Andrews as Parliamentary Secretary. She’s chairing the Parliamentary Friends of Science Committee. She was an engineer before coming into the parliament and I know she will help to emphasise the Government’s determination to put science at the heart of industry policy.

I should record my gratitude to Senator David Johnston who’s standing down as Minister for Defence and will leave the Ministry. David has done a fine job as Defence Minister. He’s copped a bit of flack, unfairly. He has done a fine job. I particularly commend him on his work in defence procurement. I also congratulate him for the way he has supervised our very extensive military deployments in the last few months; first to Europe as part of the MH-17 response and then to Iraq where our armed forces are continuing to do very good work on a daily basis.

Kevin Andrews will become the Minister for Defence. Kevin is one of the Government’s most experienced Ministers and he will be a very safe pair of hands in this vital portfolio.

I want to thank Senator Brett Mason for his work as Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, particularly his work to establish the New Colombo Plan, which is going to be such an important contribution to Australia and our region in the months and years and decades ahead. I’m confident that both Senator Johnston and Senator Mason will continue to serve the Government in various capacities in the months and years ahead.

Steve Ciobo will become the new Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He will have a dual appointment as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade and Investment as well and I think he is well placed to build on the Government’s mighty achievement over the last 12 months of finalising these three vital free trade agreements.

Bob Baldwin will shift from industry to become Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment.

There are three new appointments to the frontbench as Parliamentary Secretary: Christian Porter will become Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. As you know he’s a former treasurer and Attorney-General in the West Australian government. He was a great addition to this parliament and he will be a great addition to the ministerial team. Kelly O’Dwyer will become Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer in recognition of her work as Chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics and as I said earlier Karen Andrews will become Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry and Science.

This is a good team. It’s a strong team. It’s a balanced team. I’m proud of all my colleagues but I’m particularly proud to be able to make these announcements this afternoon.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister if Senator Johnston has copped flack unfairly and done a fine job, why is he going?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, no one goes on forever. I thought that I should take the opportunity provided by the resignation of Senator Sinodinos to have a slightly wider reshuffle. It does provide me with the opportunity to refresh and reset the Government and that’s exactly what I’ve done. Just because someone leaves the Government doesn’t mean that he or she has done a poor job. Arthur did an excellent job as Assistant Treasurer. I deeply regret the fact that the continuing investigation in New South Wales has meant that he’s had to leave the Ministry at this time. Johnno did a fine job as Defence Minister and Brett Mason has done a good job in his role. So they’ve all done a good job and one way or another all of them will continue to serve our country and our Government in the months and years ahead.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott for some time your office has been indicating that if there had to be a reshuffle at this time of year it would be very minimal, when did you take the decision that it should be more comprehensive?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look Michelle, the opportunity presented itself to have a slightly wider reshuffle than I had thought might be possible and so I’ve made the most of that opportunity. It’s not a huge reshuffle, nothing like it, nevertheless it is an important opportunity to reset and refocus the Government to make the economic debate front and centre next year, to put Scott Morrison into an absolutely critical domestic portfolio because it’s important that we are totally focused on more jobs and a better deal for families and that’s what this Ministry will bring about.

QUESTION:

You’ve described Scott Morrison as no whimp, why is he the right man for social security and Social Services and is this the team that you’re going to take to the next election or are you expecting more changes?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s a very strong team, it’s a very strong team, it’s a very good team and I’d be happy to go with this team to the election. I don’t know what the future holds but I’d be very happy to take this team to the election because it’s good and strong. I am a great believer in what used to be called ‘mutual obligation’ about reciprocal responsibility if you like. The responsibility that our society has to vulnerable people and the responsibility that all of us to have to each other, a great believer in these things and the whole point of our social security system is to support the vulnerable and to encourage those who can have a go to do precisely that. If you want to get a fair go, you’ve got to give a fair go. Government policy should always be designed to protect the vulnerable while encouraging people to make the most of themselves and that’s exactly what Scott will be doing in this particular role which he has likened to being the minister for economic participation because that’s what we are trying to encourage. We are trying to encourage people to be as full participants as possible in the full life of our country, social participants, cultural participants, economic participants.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister do you think you’ll be able to get all of your budget measures passed in the first sitting of the Parliament next year and personally do you think you’ll be able to claw back your opinion poll ratings to win the next election?

PRIME MINISTER:

This is a Government with a plan. We have a plan for a stronger budget to create a stronger economy. We’re the only political movement in this country that has a plan. If you look at our opponents, all they have is a complaint and I think people are sick of complaints, they want to see solutions and the only solution on offer is this Government’s. Now as we’ve done with the Budget measures that have gone through the parliament, we are prepared to sit down and negotiate. We are prepared to change where we think that the community debate has indicated a better way forward. What we can’t do is ever give up on the absolutely vital task of ensuring that government lives within its means and the problem with the former government was that they were guilty of intergenerational theft on a grand scale, they were guilty of intergenerational theft on a grand scale and they were robbing our children and grandchildren to sustain our standard of living today. Now, fair enough in one sense we all want the best possible today but we can’t do it at the expense of ripping off tomorrow and that’s what the former government did. Now it was never going to be easy to get the budget back under control but that was what we were elected to do. I accept that we’ve had a difficult time in the Senate. We never thought it was going to be easy. We never thought it was going to be easy and we just push on, step by difficult step because to give up on the task of budget repair would be to betray future generations, it would be to abandon our duty and we are never ever going to do that.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister you’ve mentioned the resetting and the refocus for Government through this change to the Cabinet, to what extent does this represent a change to your approach as Prime Minister and your style as leader of the team?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’ll leave others to make their own judgments, to come to their own conclusions. I mean every day I do the best I can and sometimes people applaud and sometimes they don’t. Every day I do the best I can and everyday people like yourselves sit in judgment and that’s the way it is, that’s the way it was and that’s the way it always will be. So you watch me and you’ll see things unfold as I think best.

QUESTION:

Some of your problems this year have emanated from the budget. Now beneath the budget is the ERC, your razor gang. Now I noticed that Peter Dutton is going on to NSC, can you tell us who is going to be on ERC and who is coming in and out of those two crucial committees?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Peter Dutton is going from being the Health Minister as you know to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection so he will leave the Expenditure Review Committee and he will go on to the National Security Committee because typically we have a senior spending portfolio minister on the Expenditure Review Committee and historically we’ve always had the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection on the National Security Committee. The new spending minister if you like coming onto the Expenditure Review Committee will of course be Scott Morrison and I’m very confident that he will bring a strong sense of economic responsibility and social compassion to that role.

QUESTION:

Sussan Ley?

PRIME MINISTER:

Sussan won’t be on the ERC, she will continue to be on the Government Communications Committee and Josh of course will be on ERC.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister Kevin Andrews wasn’t able to prosecute the case for some of your toughest measures in the budget, with the submarines to come on board, the joint strike fighters have a long history, why is he an appropriate Defence Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

Because he’s a very experienced, highly competent Minister, he’s a very safe pair of hands and I have a lot of respect for Kevin, I’ve worked with him very closely for a long, long time now and it’s a good team in defence, a very good team in defence, it’s a good ministerial team, it’s a good official team, it’s a good uniformed team and I suppose as the Prime Minister I’m the team captain and obviously I’m confident that we can do a very good job because this is an absolutely vital area of national policy.

QUESTION:

So is that a signal that you’ll be taking the lead on defence issues over Mr Andrews?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Prime Minister is always front and centre when it comes to everything to do with national security but I have a lot of respect for Kevin Andrews. Kevin is a very, very safe pair of hands and he’ll do an excellent job in this difficult and vital portfolio.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister do you admit that your team’s been lacking female players and do you think they’ll really help with your popularity?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s not about me, I hasten to add, it really isn’t about me. I’m pleased that there’s now a second woman in the Cabinet. I’m pleased two of the new Parli Secs are female but in the end all of our appointments are on merit, all of our appointments are on merit and as time goes by and the number of women in the Parliament increases I’m confident that there will be more and more women in the Ministry.

QUESTION:

What’s your reaction to reports that a call was made to the National Security Hotline about Man Haron Monis before the siege?

PRIME MINISTER:

Ok. I’ll come back to that but before I do are there any further questions about the Ministry?

QUESTION:

….when you first announced your Cabinet that there weren’t more women in it. It’s now been increased from one to two, is that enough in your mind?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m sure that in the years ahead there’ll be more because I’ve got an extremely talented parliamentary team. There are talented men, there are talented women and as time goes by people of talent will be coming through and today’s reshuffle indicates that nothing is set in concrete forever. I am determined to ensure that this is a Government which is doing the best possible job in the circumstances in which we find ourselves for the people of Australia.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister does the shift of Scott Morrison, as you called him the Minister for Economic Participation and the promotion of Josh Frydenberg, is that acknowledgement that your economic team has lacked a bit of grunt?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, it’s not and Joe and I are the closest possible economic partnership, we are the closest possible economic partnership. I take full responsibility along with Joe for all of the economic decisions and for all of the economic marketing if you like of the Government. I suppose what you could say is that having done so much to realise the commitments that we made to the people at the election, we now want to focus even more on the one commitment that we made, that is yet to be substantially completed. I mean again, if I may go back to the election, what did we promise to do? To stop the boats, to abolish the carbon tax, to build the roads of the 21st century and to get the budget back under control. Well the boats have all but stopped, the carbon tax has gone, saving the Australian people $550 a year per household, the roads are underway – notwithstanding the problems with the East West Link in Victoria – but the task of budget repair, it’s well begun but there’s still a long, long way to go and the problem under the former government is that they made permanent spending commitments on the basis of temporary revenue increases – the revenue was temporary, the spending was permanent, that’s why we said before the election that the former government had booby-trapped the budget. We’ve seen with the various budget updates, including most recently MYEFO a continuing deterioration in the revenue projections, that means it’s more important than ever that we make the economy and the budget front and centre and this is an even stronger team to do that in the weeks and months ahead.

QUESTION:

Does that mean that welfare reform under Scott Morrison will continue?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh yes of course Dennis. I mean look this is an ongoing programme. You might remember Dennis back in my own days as Employment Minister, I was very, very committed way back then to try to ensure that everyone who could be active in the economy was active in the economy. I’ve said time and time again that fit working age people should be working, preferably for a wage but if not for the dole and you might remember just a week ago, we had Kevin Andrews announce a very important change to the disability pension. In future you won’t be able to get on the disability support pension without seeing a government doctor – this is a very, very important change and changes of this type are ongoing, they’re ongoing because in order to give the best and strongest possible support to the vulnerable, we’ve also got to ensure that people who can make an economic contribution are doing so.

QUESTION:

That said have you allowed or given Scott Morrison greater latitude when it comes to existing policies, for example there is a certain lack of enthusiasm amongst your party for example on the six month dole wait. Will you, have you asked him to look fresh at those topics?

PRIME MINISTER:

Obviously Scott is now very much at the heart of negotiations with the Labor Party and the Senate crossbench on the remaining social service budget measures and there are some very important ones, such as the change to pension indexation that will take place after the next election, such as the earn or learn policy and Scott will be talking to other parties and other Senators to try to ensure that we get the best possible result, the best possible result and let’s see where those discussions go. My philosophy has always been that you get what you can today and you get what remains to be got tomorrow. So let’s see what we can do in the Senate in coming weeks and let’s see what then remains to be done in the 2015 budget and beyond but the task of budget repair is critical, it’s continuing, it has to be an absolutely indefatigable approach that we adopt to this.

QUESTION:

He’s also seen as a harsh face of this Government, to what extent have you emphasised to him that this portfolio also needs a strong dash of compassion?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, he is a very tough and competent political operator but he’s also an extremely decent human being. He and Jen have two young kids of their own. He knows what it’s like to struggle with a mortgage. He knows what it’s like to be looking for childcare, for schools, for health services and all the rest of it. He is a very decent human being and what we need is the right blend in these areas, we need good judgment in these areas and that’s exactly what you’ll get from Scott Morrison.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister you’ve always said that Ian Macfarlane was a science minister, he didn’t need it in his title. Why have you changed your mind?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it seems that sometimes it helps if you do put these things in the titles. So I’ve decided to state in words what I thought was always obvious but so that it’s obvious for everyone, he’s now the Minister for Industry and Science – I guess he does and that will give him the opportunity to come to Canberra early this week to talk to his colleagues about the things that we will be focused on in the coming year.

QUESTION:

….Cabinet meeting of the new Ministry in the next few weeks?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, all of the new Ministers and Ministers with different responsibilities have been encouraged by me to immerse themselves in those new responsibilities over the holiday period. Obviously everyone does have to take some kind of a holiday but at the same time if you’ve got new responsibilities you need to immerse yourself in them; that’s exactly what they’ll do and well before the end of January I’d expect them to be all up to speed and that’s when normal Cabinet Government will resume.

QUESTION:

Could I just get your reaction to that call to the National Security Hotline before the siege?

PRIME MINISTER:

Sure. The advice I have is that the call in question was followed up and that the information that was provided didn’t expose any threats of direct violence by the Martin Place murderer. So it was followed up. It really was followed up but it didn’t reveal any imminent attack by this individual. That’s all I can say at this stage. What I want to assure you of is that the Joint Commonwealth State investigation is designed to look at all of the circumstances surrounding this atrocity, all of the circumstances surrounding this terrible brush with terrorism that we’ve experienced, to make sure that as far as is humanly possible it does not happen again. The commitment that I give to you is that I will do everything humanly possible to keep you safe and that means learning the right lessons from this atrocity. But I do assure people that the call to the National Security Hotline was followed up and the judgment was made that the material in question did not indicate an imminent threat – that’s where we’re at.

QUESTION:

…military personnel should be involved in scenarios like that and do you think that may be part of the inquiry?

PRIME MINISTER:

There are a range of inquires underway – there’s the joint commonwealth state inquiry into the lessons that should be learnt from this, there’s the coronial inquiry into everything that happened inside the building that led to the deaths, there’s a police critical incident inquiry which will look at that, plus the whole range of conduct by the New South Wales Police over this whole appalling episode. But I do want to say again that I have nothing but admiration for the work of the New South Wales Police and yes, it is tragic that two beautiful, innocent people were killed but let’s be under no illusion, the person responsible for this is the terrorist and I have great confidence in the competence, the professionalism, the courage and the commitment of the New South Wales Police and while we do have to await these inquiries I am sure that they will be vindicated. As for the involvement of the military, there are standard procedures for military callout in circumstances where state agencies believe they need military assistance but there was no suggestion that the New South Wales Police were incapable of managing the situation and I think events demonstrated that they were capable of managing the situation.

Thanks so much.

[ends]

Transcript - 24085