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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript - 24432

Joint Press Conference, Cairns

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: 08/05/2015

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 24432

Subjects: Launch of the Northern Australia Alliance; launch of the Infrastructure Australia Northern Australia Audit; White Paper on Developing Northern Australia; upgrade of the Hann Highway; New $100 million Northern Beef Roads Fund; drought assistance package; National Ice Taskforce; Budget 2015; jobs and families; Renewable Energy Target.

E&OE……………………….……………………………………………………………

WARREN ENTSCH MP:

Thank you all very much indeed for being here and, Prime Minister, thanks for being here today for the launch of this wonderful collaborative arrangement that you’ve just announced. This is exactly the type of initiative that we are wanting to see in Northern Australia. Rather than regions within Northern Australia competing against each other, but rather have a collaborative arrangement right across the whole spectrum and it’s fantastic to see that we are able to launch that here today. I welcome you back to Cairns, of course. You’re a regular visitor here, the number one ticket holder for Cairns Surf Lifesavers which you’re very proud of, but thank you very much, indeed, and of course continuing to give an update on the Northern Australia initiative.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you so much, Warren. It is great to be here in Cairns, the tourist capital of Australia, and it’s great to be able to welcome this new Northern Australia Alliance which is uniting business groups in Cairns, in Darwin and across the Northern Territory and in Broome and in Northern Western Australia.

The great thing about this alliance is that it's a sign that people across Northern Australia are thinking of the potential of the whole region and not simply of their own particular city or district, and this is the kind of go-ahead thinking which characterises Northern Australia. Northern Australia is absolutely critical to the success of our nation as a whole. That's why the development of Northern Australia is not just a task for people living in Darwin and Cairns and Townsville and Broome and Mackay and Rocky, it's a task for every single Australian, because the better that Northern Australia goes, the better that our country will go.

As well as presiding or acting as midwife, if you like, at the birth of the Northern Australia Alliance, I'm also launching today this Infrastructure Australia Northern Australia Audit. I'm confirming that the white paper will be released in June and building on the announcement that I made in Rockhampton this morning, I can confirm that as part of the white paper, there will be a significant upgrade of the Hann Highway, which is one of the very important routes here in Northern Queensland, an important route if northern development is to become a reality. That builds on the $100 million that I announced earlier today in Rockhampton for a national beef road system here in Northern Australia.

The beef industry, as we know, is one of the most significant industries in Northern Australia. Certainly, Northern Australia is where the vast majority of our export beef comes from. Transport is about 35 per cent of the cost of production. With beef in Northern Australia, it's important to get our transport costs down and that's why this $100 million investment in the beef roads of Northern Australia, coupled with the Hann Highway upgrade, is work that I know all the people of Northern Australia will benefit from.

It's great to be with Warren Entsch. Warren has been an apostle of northern development, along with Senator Ian Macdonald. Warren has been chairing the Parliamentary Committee on Northern Australia. The white paper will be very significantly shaped and driven by Warren's report. I know there are a lot of exciting things in the pipeline here – a lot of exciting plans.

The Northern Australia White Paper is not just going to be a document for next month and next year, but it's going to be a document that outlines a plan for Northern Australia for decades to come, because the people who live here, the people who would like to live here, the people who work here and the people who would like to work here and, in particular, would like to invest here, need to know that the national government has a long-term commitment to northern development and that's certainly what we do have.

QUESTION:

Can you tell me how much will be spent on the Hann Highway upgrade?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm not going to go into that detail now, but because of the importance of the Hann Highway to this region, I thought it was important to indicate that an important part of the white paper will be a national government commitment to the Hann Highway upgrade.

QUESTION:

Will funding for the Hann Highway be committed in the next Federal Budget?

PRIME MINISTER:

It will be part of the white paper and the white paper will be released next month.

QUESTION:

Given you've just been talking about Rockhampton and beef, apparently the Weather Bureau says that we're heading into an El Niño for long droughts. Is that going to affect farmers and is Australia in the position to cope with such a long drought?

PRIME MINISTER:

It's a very fair question that you put to me and I was in Longreach about a year ago and the drought was bad then and it's got worse since then. There's a drought belt stretching from Longreach, through Western Queensland, Western New South Wales past Walgett down into Southern New South Wales. It's been very badly hit. Some of those areas are suffering a one-in-a-hundred year drought, and the thing about drought is that it's the crisis that creeps up on you. You've got a cyclone, you've got a flood, you've got a fire, the emergency services are there the very next day or even the very next hour, but with a drought what happens is that people just stop coming and that's the way towns and regions slowly die. So, it is very important that we have a more comprehensive approach to the drought problem, particularly in Western Queensland and New South Wales right now, and I'll have more to say in the next few days.

QUESTION:

Is that something we can expect to see in the Budget?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think you can certainly see announcements by Budget night, yes.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, Ken Lay was on the Today show this morning talking about the ice epidemic. How widespread is it, and will there also be funding to tackle what is a growing problem in the country?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is a very significant problem and it's a growing problem. All of the statistics show that ice use is increasing. In some places, I deeply regret to say it's exploding. This is a scourge unlike any previous drug scourge. The thing about ice is that it's more addictive than heroin, it's more addictive than LSD, it’s more addictive than marijuana. Not only is it more addictive, but it does worse things to you, because if you are on ice, you're prone to violence. It's a very, very anti-social drug. All illicit drugs are dangerous and damaging, but this is a drug which destroys lives, it smashes families, it damages communities and that's why it's so important that we take strong national action against it.

Ken Lay, as you know, is chairing a taskforce that is going to be looking at all of the various responses to ice with the aim of trying to ensure that we learn what best practice is and urgently implement it and I can announce that over the weekend a national campaign to alert people to the dangers of ice use will begin.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, back on the white paper, we've been waiting for it for quite a while, why the delay? And the $1.7 billion that is allocated for it, where is that coming from? Has that been budgeted for in the next Budget?

PRIME MINISTER:

I want to assure you that money has been allocated and it will be certainly included in the figures that the Treasurer releases on Budget night. But the point I want to make is that we are absolutely committed to it. It will be released next month. Yes, it's a couple of months later than we would have liked, but there was a change of government here in Queensland and because it is important that we have the full understanding and, wherever possible, cooperation of the state and territory governments, that's meant that it's a couple of months later than we would have liked. But the important thing with all of these documents is to get them out as quickly as you can, but it's the quality of the documents, it's the effectiveness of the policy that really matters and I'm confident that people will be very happy with this when they see it next month.

QUESTION:

[inaudible] childcare plan for disadvantaged children relies on savings being passed through the Senate?

PRIME MINISTER:

We've been saying all along that new spending in this Budget has to be offset and I believe that there are sensible savings that can be made that will enable the very exciting new jobs and families’ package which Scott Morrison is announcing on Budget night and some elements today. There's sensible savings that can fund this. In the end, what we want to do is invest in a better future for everyone and childcare investments are economic investments as well as social investments, because if we can give more Australian families more choice about working, we don't just help their family life, we don't just contribute to their personal development, but we are actually contributing to the economic success, the future prosperity of our nation.

QUESTION:

On Scott Morrison, what is his exact role in this Budget? He seems to have taken over as a sort of quasi-treasurer and given Joe Hockey’s absence, is he grooming him for the role?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, obviously there are some very significant initiatives in this Budget that are in Scott's portfolio, but it's the Treasurer who will be delivering the Budget on Tuesday night, as you'd expect. It's the Treasurer, the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister who'll be spearheading our Budget campaign right around Australia. It's a team effort and Scott is a very important part of the team. So, I'm very happy with the way things are coming together. I'm really proud of the way all my colleagues from Joe down have worked together to produce what I think is the right Budget for these times. It's a Budget for jobs, for growth, for opportunity. It's a Budget that will be measured, responsible and, above all, fair.

The challenge to the Labor Party is to drop this mindless opposition that we've seen from them since the last election and actually for once be constructive. If you don't like what this Government is proposing, tell us what your alternatives are. After all, they said it was going to be the “year of ideas” – well, we haven't seen too many ideas from them so far. This Budget will be chock-full of sensible, solid policies for the betterment of our country and I just hope that the Opposition have got it in their heart to come up with a few ideas of their own.

QUESTION:

On the RET, has Cabinet approved the decision to go down to 33,000 and met Labor’s target or request and what do you think that will say about negotiations in the Senate?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the Labor Party walked away from discussions for some weeks and it's only earlier this week that the Labor Party indicated that they were prepared to come to the table. I think the important thing is that we protect jobs and we keep downward pressure on power prices. They're the important things: protect jobs and keep downward pressure on power prices and that's what we're determined to do – we are absolutely determined to protect jobs and to keep downward pressure on power prices. We all support renewable energy. We really support renewable energy and I'm pleased that so many Australians now have solar panels on their roofs, because that's a practical thing that Australian people can do for their environment and in many cases to lower their power bills, but in the end, everything we do, including the Renewable Energy Target, has got to be about protecting jobs and keeping power prices down and that, I hope, is the agreement that can now be made between the Government and the Opposition.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript - 24432