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Address to the National Press Club

30th June 2016  |  Comments  | 

E&OE:

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you Chris so much. Well, here we are, at the end of a long campaign. We are here meeting on the land of the Ngunnawal people and I want to acknowledge them, their custodianship and their elders past and present as we bring to an end this campaign and we hand the determination of the great decision here in this election, the great choice, to the people whose it is – the Australian people, because they will now have their say about the next three years.

These past eight weeks have reinforced for me that the Australian people, now more than ever, are focused overwhelmingly on the economic realities confronting Australia.

One strong sentiment I have picked up from so many visits to so many electorates right across the country, is this: Australians want the government they elect to get on with the job of ensuring that we have a strong economy that can set us up for the future; in uncertain times globally, they are looking for a greater sense of common purpose.

I believe they want our Parliament to offload the ideology, to end the juvenile theatrics and the gotcha moments, to drop the personality politics.

They want our focus to be on the issues that matter to them, an end to division for division’s sake.

Australians are entitled to expect that of their Parliament.

In these uncertain times, we need to stick together. Stick to our economic plan, grow our economy, create more jobs and build a better future for all Australians.

At this election, my Coalition team is presenting a clear economic plan to secure Australia’s future.

From day one, if re-elected, we will be working harder than ever to deliver our national economic plan - driving investment, jobs and growth, firing up our high-tech innovation sector, ensuring as many of our defence dollars are spent here in Australia, investing in advanced manufacturing, opening up thousands more export opportunities for farmers, tourism and service industries in the giant markets of Asia. Providing tax incentives for tens of thousands of small family enterprises to grow, to innovate, to invest and to employ more Australians and ensuring that the Budget is managed responsibly and prudently so that we can guarantee funding, well into the future, for hospitals, schools, Medicare, roads and all the other vital services and infrastructure.

From day one, my Government will be seeking passage of legislation to deliver middle income tax cuts to over 2.5 million Australian taxpayers and enterprise tax cuts to 870,000 incorporated small businesses with turnovers below $10 million.

Those businesses currently employ 3.44 million Australians and our tax cuts will encourage them to grow, providing more jobs for all Australians.

From day one, if re-elected, the Coalition will be presenting legislation to amend the Fair Work Act so we can stop the takeover of the Country Fire Authority in Victoria - protecting 60,000 volunteer firefighters from a power grab orchestrated by the United Firefighters Union and the Andrews Labor government in Victoria.

And we will convene a joint sitting to approve the two vital economic reforms that were double dissolution triggers for this election - the reinstatement of the Australian Building and Construction Commission to restore the rule of law to the construction industry; and the Registered Organisations Bill to hold union officials and employer organisations accountable to the same standards of probity and transparency as apply to company directors.

From day one, my Coalition team will be doing everything in our power to safeguard Australians and Australian business from the risk of any external shock flowing from Britain’s vote to withdraw from the European Union.

The aftermath of the Brexit vote is only one of a range of factors driving uncertainty and apprehension in a fragile global economy. It is the duty of the Australian Government to keep this volatility on global markets under close and constant scrutiny – we have to be swift and sure-footed to pre-empt any negative effects that could affect investment, growth and jobs here at home.

Now I have taken action this week with the Treasurer, who is here today, with the Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, to ensure the new government, whomever is elected, will have the best informed analysis and advice from our Council of Financial Regulators – the Reserve Bank, the Treasury, APRA and ASIC – on any measures we may need to take, to limit the impact on our economic interests.

If re-elected I will meet at the very earliest opportunity with the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, so we can work closely together as we navigate our respective trade negotiations with Europe and with Britain.

Australians expect strong and decisive economic leadership.

They expect political leaders to have the experience to manage the risks sensibly and shrewdly -frame a plan of action and get it done.

This is vital to confidence and confidence is the key to economic security. 

I believe Australians share my excitement at the great opportunities ahead. From the farmers, winegrowers and orchardists of Tasmania now selling their clean, green produce into major world markets. Like Josef Chromy, a local winemaker in the Tamar Valley who, thanks to our export trade deals, is now able to access new customers across Asia, Europe and North American markets; or Grove Juice in Brisbane which, thanks to our Japan Free Trade Agreement, is now able to produce an additional 70 thousand bottles of fresh Australian orange juice.

To those advanced designers and manufacturers across the country that are making the most of our defence industry investment, such as Daronmont in Adelaide, Quickstep in Geelong or Austal in Western Australia, which is Australia’s largest defence exporter.

To the small businesses like the advanced manufacturer Omni Tanker in Western Sydney or Daisy’s Garden Supply in Victoria - that because of our enterprise tax cuts will be in a position to invest in and expand their businesses and hire more staff.

To the IT entrepreneurs, like Wayne Gerard, the co-founder of RedEye in Brisbane, at the frontier of the digital economy, or businesses like Carbon Revolution in Geelong who are bringing to life our National Innovation and Science Agenda.

Now Australia has done well to record 3.1 per cent growth in the year to March, better than any of the G7 economies and well above the OECD average.

But that in itself reminds us that we are in a low-growth global economy and we need to have a weather eye out for significant headwinds.

Given that uncertainty, my strong sense is that what Australians are looking for most from this election, is a step up in political culture - strong, decisive, resolute leadership, yet with a focus on what unites rather than divides. 

That is the leadership my team and I offer to the Australian people.

During the campaign, you have heard me emphasise the critical importance of Australians electing a strong Coalition majority Government.

Open markets, globalisation, the speed of technological advancement is changing our world at a scale and a pace unprecedented in human experience.

In this dynamic global economy, our opportunities as Australians have never been greater, nor our horizons wider.

But to succeed in the 21st century is not a given: we as Australians have to make our own luck, we have to make the transition to an economy that is more diverse, more innovative, smarter, more productive – an economy that wins and keeps on winning.

Australia’s 24 million people - all of us - all Australians, they are our greatest asset.

The talent, ingenuity and enterprise of hard-working Australians has delivered great success to this nation.

For that success story to continue in the decades ahead, we have to make important choices and that’s why I am asking my fellow Australians, at this election, to support our Coalition’s National Economic Plan for a Strong New Economy.

A stronger economy provides the jobs and the growth that allows people to plan their lives with greater confidence and certainty.

It provides the economic benefits to pay the mortgage, buy a car, put the kids through school, pay for a holiday.

A stronger economy guarantees funding for vital social services.

Now economic security is a concept known to every family as it maps out the household budget; by every mum and dad worried about their job, worried about the next pay cheque, worried about the next contract.

My vision is to set Australia up for decades to come as a high wage, first world economy of the 21st century with a generous social welfare safety net.

That means a thriving business sector, where small family enterprises are encouraged to think big. Our Enterprise Tax Plan does just that.

It means Australia is competing with the world’s best in the high tech industries and the jobs of the future.

I want to see our farmers and our service industries flourishing like never before, with millions of new customers in the markets of Asia to our north, where half of the world’s middle class will soon reside.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of small businesses now exporting increased by 12.9 per cent in the last financial year alone.

They are taking advantage of our export trade deals with China, Korea, Japan and Singapore, which provide premium access for Australian business to the leading economies in our part of the world.

And it will only be disciplined financial management and a strong economy that can deliver the growth in revenues to guarantee funding for health and education and all the other services Australians want and expect from government.

If you want a strong Medicare and we do, if you want well-funded schools and world-class roads and hospitals and infrastructure and we do - you need a strong economy to pay for it.

Our plan gives Australians and Australian families economic security in an uncertain world.

Now our opponents at this election cannot offer that reassurance – they do not have an economic plan.

Labor’s one and only strategy is to tiptoe back into government in a chaotic alliance with Greens, minor parties and independents.

In an uncertain world, Labor offers only greater uncertainty.

They have nothing to say about jobs, growth or our economic future.

Instead they talk about higher taxes, more spending, higher deficits, more debt.

They have been making commitments they cannot pay for and cannot deliver.

That explains the shambles around their budget costings. Over this campaign, it has been a sorry tale of Labor budget backflips and policy reversals. 

The first was on foreign aid, where they previously had said our policy approach was one they “certainly couldn’t continue with”.

Then they backflipped on the $4.5 billion Schoolkids Bonus, which they had previously said was “a demonstration of Labor's commitment to education.”

And then there’s the changes to the pension asset test - another backflip.

They were the same changes that Bill Shorten only opposed very recently in his book, saying that “when Labor formulates retirement policy...we look beyond the headlines and cheap politics.” 

Then in the shadow of our Coalition campaign rally and away from the critical eye of all of you here in the Canberra Press Gallery, Labor finally unveiled their Budget costings.

In that document, Labor not only revealed they have no plan for jobs and growth.  They acknowledged that their fiscal strategy is to drag the Budget further into red ink by $16.5 billion over the next four years. 

In fact, Labor’s bottom line will be worse than the Coalition over the next seven years. Put another way, by the election in 2022, Labor would still not have enough savings to pay for the promises they’ve made in this election.

Labor would be borrowing over $11 million more than the Government each and every day over the next four years.

Their budget bottom line over the medium term relies on over $100 billion in additional taxes, with tax revenue approaching 26 per cent of GDP – this would take Labor to the highest tax-to-GDP ratio in this country since at least 1970.

Labor’s fiscal strategy is predicated on no further tax relief for a decade or more. By 2027, under that scenario, an additional 750,000 Australians will be paying the top marginal tax rate of 49 per cent - a $19 billion tax grab guaranteed to stifle the incentives to work. 

Hard-working Australians will be appalled and the closer you look, the more destructive it becomes.

A negative gearing and capital gains tax policy which aims to hit Australians with $37 billion of tax increases - one of the largest tax increases in recent history.  Yet Labor refuses to reveal what impact it believes this massive tax hike will have on housing prices, rents, investment, housing supply, confidence, or the wider economy.  

A superannuation policy which extraordinarily banks all of the revenue that the Government’s policies will raise - but which - adopts none of the Government’s policies.  The refusal by Labor to identify the policy measures to support these savings defies all of the rules and rigours of public finance. For all we know, Labor could adopt the Greens’ superannuation policies.  Sixteen million Australians planning for retirement are left with not a clue about how Labor would change the superannuation system.  How is this acceptable? 

A hospitals policy which provides or promises an additional $2 billion over 11 years - when Labor has for the last two years, been promising an additional $57 billion in spending. They have failed to fund over 96 per cent of the so-called hospital cuts they solemnly swore they would restore and were advertising on television about last night. What a Labor hoax.

And a childcare policy that increases funding over the first two years and then cuts it over the next two.

In contrast, my Coalition team takes a methodical approach to Budget repair. Living within our means is fundamental to the Coalition’s national economic plan.

For every new dollar we spend, we make sure we find another dollar at least, through savings, elsewhere in the Budget.

The Treasurer, Scott Morrison, brought down our Budget on May 3 which showed net improvements to the Budget of $1.7 billion.

We began submitting campaign costings on 17 June. They are publicly available for all to examine and question.

The end result of our announcements over the campaign is an improvement in the Budget bottom line each and every year, totalling $1.1 billion.

In the Budget we announced as you know, the most comprehensive changes to the taxation of superannuation in a decade.

Now not all of these policies have been popular, but they make the system fairer and more flexible.

We had the courage to put them in the Budget and take them to an election. 

We will not be making any further changes to superannuation in the next term of Government if we are re-elected.  Mr Shorten cannot match that claim.

Our superannuation goes to the heart of economic security.

Mr Shorten and Labor are now a policy vacuum on this vital issue, playing political games with the retirement plans of millions of Australians.

Like his Budget black hole this demonstrates no economic leadership at all.

Labor’s recklessness is utterly ill-suited to the demands of our times.

They are in denial about the state of the Budget and the risks in the global economy.

As leading economists have confirmed, if elected, Labor’s fiscal profligacy and ill-discipline could put  our AAA credit rating at risk.

Bill Shorten has no economic plan to deal with the challenges of securing our future in the 21st century.

His priority at the election is purely political.

As he says himself, he wants to run Australia like a trade union. 

How else to explain his incredibly ideological war against business.

How else to explain his dishonest campaign to frighten frail and elderly people into thinking their health services are at risk.

Medicare is guaranteed under the Coalition and Bill Shorten knows it.

He has been mocked in this very room for spreading these falsehoods.

He diminishes only himself, but he persists with these lies in the hope that he can deceive enough Australians to think that government services never at risk are under threat.

Australians are well and truly over this tactic of setting out deliberately and dishonestly to fuel fear and division.

The only long-term threat to our universal health care system is the risk of governments adopting tax and spend policies that stifle economic growth, damage business confidence, discourage investment and employment.

Only a stronger economy can deliver the growth in revenues we need to pay, in the longer term, for the services that we want.

And only the Coalition has the plan to drive that growth.

Only the Coalition has a plan to support investment and create jobs.

Only the Coalition’s spending commitments are fully funded, with a sustainable path to surplus.

Only the Coalition will protect our borders and keep Australians safe.

And only the Coalition can form strong, stable majority Government.

It is worth remembering that Australia has not had a strong majority Government returned to office at an election going back to 2007.

And that is why this election is a critical choice for Australians.

Leave it to independents and preferences to decide and Australians will find themselves, this time next week, with no clarity about their future.                

It is a roll of the dice that could well result in Bill Shorten as Prime Minister, with unions, Greens and independents pulling the strings.

This threat is real. So when it comes to the minor parties - be they Lambie, Xenophon, Lazarus or Hanson - Australians need to consider very carefully the impact on practical policy outcomes and the workability of the Parliament.

I say to Australians again; if you don’t know the leader of a minor party, or if that is all you know - the identity of the minor party’s leader, but you don’t know their candidates - and you don’t really know their policies, then don’t vote for them.

Australians won’t want to end up next week with a result they didn’t see coming So I say again, a vote for Labor, Greens or an independent in one of the 20 key battleground seats across the country, is, in effect, a vote for the chaos of a hung parliament; a budget black hole; big Labor taxes; less jobs; more boats.

We can have the sort of chaotic government we see in today’s Queensland, with a minority Labor Government trapped in policy paralysis.

Or there is the alternative model of a stable, confident administration under Premier Mike Baird in NSW, where a strong economy and strong Budget position is funding new roads and rail and better health and education.  

So that is why I am urging Australians to vote for their local Liberal or National candidate in the House and in the Senate and to return a stable Coalition majority Government so we can stick to the plan that is delivering jobs and growth and securing our economic future.

Now obviously, there is not the time here to name them all, but can I mention just two local candidates who exemplify the dedication and the energy we ask of our elected representatives.

Ned Mannoun, in the southwest Sydney seat of Werriwa and Julia Banks, our candidate for the seat of Chisholm, in Melbourne’s east, have both campaigned so well. They are in with a chance of claiming two long-held Labor electorates.

Both are part of our great story as an immigrant nation. Both come with direct practical experience in business. Both bring real passion and commitment to the communities they serve.

So today, as I urge all Australians to vote for their local Liberal and National candidates in the House and in the Senate, I give a special shout out to Ned Mannoun in Werriwa and Julia Banks in Chisholm, two outstanding candidates.

Now, my Coalition team is determined that we show strong economic leadership and bring all our experience to the task of building a strong new economy.

Our role as leaders is to address the real priorities in people’s lives – secure incomes, sustainable health and education systems, a safe society and more and better jobs for their children.

Every element of our Coalition economic plan is directed at delivering the stronger economy so vital for Australians to achieve these aspirations.

Together, Australians have the talents and the capacity to make the successful transition to a stronger new economy. Together, as a nation, we have the resourcefulness, the resilience to get the job done.

And I believe Australians, overwhelmingly, would think it is not before time that our Parliament began to work with a greater unity of purpose towards that goal.

So get the next three years right, stick together, stick to our economic plan and we can all look forward with confidence and optimism to an Australia where our very best years are still ahead of us.

[Applause]

CHRIS UHLMANN:

So we have a very full dance card of questions from our working journalists. Dare I say that sharp questions and sharp answers might mean that we get through a fair number of them. The first one is from The Australian.

DAVID CROWE:

Thank you, Chris. Prime Minister, David Crowe from The Australian. Thanks very much for your speech. Very interested in your discussion about a step-up in political culture. You have made stability a key theme in this final week of the campaign, but I wonder can you really expect Australian voters to forget history here? Because we have seen Tony Abbott, Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd all toppled. I wonder what personal qualities you have that make you confident that you will be spared from the same fate and I wonder what are the lessons of that history that gives Australian voters an assurance that we won’t see a repeat of that history?

PRIME MINISTER:

David, thank you. We bring a united, a strong, stable majority Coalition Government to the election and we ask Australians to return us to Government. We come to this election with a national economic plan that was brought together in the Budget. It was all brought together, all costed, all analysed, considered objectively by the secretaries of Finance and Treasury and given a tick. So Australians know exactly what we are proposing. They know everything about our national economic plan and my team, my Coalition team, is totally united and committed to that.

If the Australian people return us on Saturday, they know that from Sunday we will be back at work delivering on that economic plan, because we have great work to do ahead of us. These are exciting times, but they need strong, united, stable Coalition majority Government. They need that leadership to succeed and we can deliver it, as we are delivering it today.

CHRIS UHLMANN:

SBS.

CATHERINE MCGRATH:

Thank you, Chris. Catherine McGrath from SBS television. You spoke about the mood of the country being for more political unity of purpose. I would like to draw that together with perhaps a call for unscripted and spin-free comments from politicians. I think a lot of voters would like it as well. You had a shout-out to Julia and Ned - two multicultural candidates. We can shout-out to the other multicultural candidates. Australia is a very different place to what it was when you entered Parliament, to when you were young. Much of the message of this campaign has been about multicultural Australia but in some ways it is a message about that community - not to that community. Now, could you give a heart-felt and deep response to beyond the election, if you are elected, do you think there needs to be a greater effort by you as a political leader and other political leaders to really communicate with this important group of Australian society?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are the most successful multicultural nation in the world and barely a day goes past when I don't rejoice in that and publicly rejoice in that. The foundation of that is mutual respect and barely a day goes past when I don't talk about that too.

We are enriched by the diversity, the cultural diversity of our neighbours. We are all stronger. Our 24 million Australians - magnificent in our diversity, remarkable in our success as a multicultural nation - they are our greatest assets, not the rocks under the ground. But you know, for them to thrive, for them to have the opportunities they deserve, to be able to realise their dreams, they need that strong economic growth. They need a government that recognises the time and the tenor of the times in which we live and recognises, yes, there are opportunities unprecedented. There are opportunities unimagined a very short time ago. There are technologies in daily use that we barely dreamed of a generation ago.

But all of that requires leadership. It requires a plan because this is a world of opportunity, but also of competition. It is a world of great opportunity, but also of great risk.

So, that is why the choice is so clear. Right across our nation, the choice on Saturday is clear - my team, a stable Coalition majority Government, with a clear national economic plan that will enable Australians in all of their diversity to realise their dreams.

On the other hand, the chaos, the uncertainty, the debt, the deficit, the higher taxes slowing investment, deterring employment, depriving Australians of those opportunities – that is the choice. It’s a clear one.

That is why I am saying to Australians, on Saturday and right up to Saturday for stability, for direction, for leadership, for growth, the choice is to vote for Liberal and National candidates in the House and in the Senate.

CHRIS UHLMANN:

The Australian Financial Review.

PHIL COOREY:

Hi Mr Turnbull - Phil Coorey from the Financial Review. Your Budget strategy is essentially based around cutting spending and generating growth. Can I ask you for an assurance this side of the election, should you win, that if things don't go to plan in terms of the Budget that you will rule out in the next term revisiting any increase in the overall tax burden through measures you have ruled out so far, like looking again at negative gearing, capital gains or even the GST, with a view to taking them to 2019 or any other net increase the tax burden to prop up revenue?

PRIME MINISTER:

Phil, major as you know, I pointed out in my speech that we have kept the tax–to-GDP ratio. We are moving that down, as you know and Scott Morrison and Mathias have done a terrific job doing that.

Our commitment is to lower taxes. Because look, it is not rocket science. It is not complex economics. If you want more investment - and who doesn't - if you want more jobs - and who doesn't - you need to have more investment and you get more investment by providing incentives.

The best incentive is to lower the tax burden on investment. Now that is what we are doing, It is a very well-understood approach. It used to have bipartisan support. It even used to have Mr Shorten's support as we know. A few years ago Mr Bowen wrote a book about it. Paul Keating did it twice. So this is not a Liberal-National monopoly on wisdom here at all.

Now what we are doing is providing the incentives for investment by reducing taxes on businesses.

What Labor is doing, extraordinarily in these times of uncertainty, in these times of rapid economic change in the world, in these times when there are so many risks, they are increasing taxes on investment. Increasing taxes on investment can have only one result; you get less investment and we cannot afford that.

CHRIS UHLMANN:

Network Seven.

MARK RILEY:

Mark Riley - Prime Minister, excuse me – I’ll just get out of here - we are in close quarters here, we are very good friends - from the Seven Network. Prime Minister you are seeking a very specific mandate at this election, obviously the ABCC and the Registered Organisations Act. But your economic plan you talk about today is silent on other matters within industrial relations. In 2009 as Opposition Leader you said that you wouldn't pull any surprises on IR if you were elected. I wonder if you will renew that promise today, seeing that you are not seeking that mandate?

PRIME MINISTER:

Absolutely. Our platform, our economic plan, includes a great deal on industrial relations obviously. The restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission alone is an enormous and important change. The construction industry employs a million Australians. If we are able to restore the rule of law to the construction sector, there will be more construction, more affordable construction and there will be many more construction jobs. What is going on at the moment is in defiance of the law. There are over 100 officials of the CFMEU, as you know, before the courts on more than 1,000 breaches of the law and industrial agreements. But Mr Shorten the Labor Party, as you know, have fought tooth and nail to oppose it, as have the Greens. That is why we are having the double dissolution election. It is not because I like eight week campaigns, I can assure you.

That is why we are having it. So that and registered organisations are big changes. We will amend the Fair Work Act to protect the volunteer firefighters of Victoria and other volunteers, similarly situated from that type of union takeover. Again an example of how the Labor Party has become dominated by unions, in effect giving them directives to take on - in this case - 60,000 volunteer firefighters, people whose contribution to the safety and security of that state should be celebrated, applauded and honoured, rather than being trampled at to behest of a trade union.

Of course as you know, we are committed to continuing to defend the owner-drivers in the trucking industry. We shouldn't forget that due to a deal that Mr Shorten in fact did, when he was a minister in the Gillard government, the deal he did with the Transport Workers Union to set up the RSRT was designed to disadvantage owner-drivers, so that trade unionists working for large trucking companies, employees of large trucking companies, would be advantaged. That tribunal, that Labor set up, as you know, had 35,000 mum and dad owner-driver businesses off the roads with no income. Now we were able by the skin of our teeth to get that tribunal abolished, not long before the Parliament was dissolved. Labor wants to bring that back, so we are determined to continue to protect the owner drivers, the volunteers and we are determined to restore the rule of law to the construction industry.

CHRIS UHLMANN:

Just on those mum and dad small businesses though. Many of those people like that run small businesses that are in retail and hospitality and for them penalty rates on a Saturday and a Sunday are a big thing. The Labor Party has expressed a view on this, at least, about its view on penalty rates on Sunday. Why is it, how can you can rationalise, that a penalty rate on a Sunday should be higher than a penalty rate on a Saturday. Do you agree with that and do you think there should be some change to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Chris as you know, our position is that is a matter that should be determined by Fair Work Australia.

CHRIS UHLMANN:

You have no view of that?

PRIME MINISTER:

That is a matter to be determined by the independent umpire or, as is often the case, determined between employers and employees. As you know, many of the enterprise agreements have made changes - a number that Mr Shorten, in fact, negotiated himself - made changes to penalty rates. But it is not a matter for government to make changes to penalty rates. We have an independent umpire that supports it and despite all of the placards saying the contrary, our position on that is the same as Mr Shorten’s, which is to respect the decisions of Fair Work Australia.

CHRIS UHLMANN:

Network Ten.

CATALINA FLOREZ:

Thank you, Catalina Florez for Network Ten, Prime Minister. You know better than many, the ups and downs of leadership, having lost it in 2009 and then taken it back recently. You’ve said you will lead the party until 2019, but isn't the reality that that’s only a promise your Party can make. How important is a win - and a win decisively - on Saturday to your future as leader?

PRIME MINISTER:

Catalina a win for the Coalition on Saturday is critically important for the future of 24 million Australians. It’s critically important for their children and their grandchildren. It’s critically important for the generations that are yet unborn. We are setting Australia up for success in these, the most exciting times, in human history. They are the most exiting times. They are exciting because of the pace of change and the extraordinary opportunities, but there are plenty of perils and pitfalls. There are plenty of headwinds, there are plenty of risks. That is why you need strong economic leadership, strong majority government, strong Coalition leadership with an economic plan.

So what this election is about is not me, nor anyone in the political process. It is about millions of Australians - mums and dads, senior Australians, it’s about kids, it is about their future and their security. That is what we are fighting for. We’re seeking to ensure that our future, as a nation and the future of 24 million Australians will be supported by a strong economy. What we are not doing is what our opponents are doing, taking that all for granted. Labor seems to think that you can just hide under the doona and pretend the world is as you would like to it to be, as opposed to what it is.

We have to recognise this. We are in a time of rapid economic change, enormous opportunity, plenty of headwinds. You cannot deal with that unless you have strong leadership, strong government and a clear economic plan. So what we have done is examine what we need to have in our plan to take advantage of those opportunities, ensure that we are resilient to deal with the challenges and headwinds and we have done that. As you know, I have set that out, we have set that out in our Budget, brought it all together in the Budget. There it is. The Australian people know exactly what they are voting for - strong Coalition majority Government, a clear economic plan, every element of which will deliver and support stronger economic growth and as a result more and better jobs.


CHRIS UHLMANN:

The Herald Sun.

ANNIKA SMETHURST:

Annika Smethurst, the Herald Sun Prime Minister. There were reports that Fair Work Commission boss Iain Ross got involved with the independent process of the CFA EBA. How comfortable do you feel with a senior public servant getting involved with this, given it’s meant to be an independent process.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you I’ve seen the report in your newspaper and I don't have enough of the details to express a view on those circumstances. But I will repeat what I said earlier; if we are returned to Government, we will, as we have described, amend the Fair Work Act to ensure that those volunteers who have been so disrespected, appallingly, by the Victorian Labor government will be protected and that their enterprise agreement cannot contain clauses that undermine their autonomy as volunteers. Michaelia Cash, as you know, has set out the details of that and that is a vital order of business for us as soon as the Parliament resumes after the election, assuming of course the Australian people choose to return us to Government.

CHRIS UHLMANN:

Buzzfeed.

MARK DI STEFFANO:

Thanks Chris. Prime Minister Mark Di Steffano from Buzzfeed. Last week your Treasurer said that if the gay marriage plebiscite went down, that would be the end of the matter. Do you believe that? Do you believe marriage equality in Australia is at the whims of that plebiscite? Or is it inevitable? Or sorry, will you be embarrassed to be the only leader of an English-speaking Western democracy to not have gay marriage in the country when you yourself, actually support it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you. There will be, assuming we are returned to Government, a plebiscite on this issue. The Australian people will have their say by a simple majority vote. If the Australian people vote in favour of legalising same-sex marriage, then it will be carried through the Parliament very briskly. It will, as I said yesterday, sail through the Parliament. There aren’t many certainties in politics, but that is one of them.

So it will be a decision for the Australian people. The decision on Saturday is not about gay marriage. The decision on Saturday is that clear choice between a strong, stable Coalition Government, majority Government with an economic plan that will deliver - and is delivering now across Australia - the economic growth that we need to secure our future. The question of gay marriage or same-sex marriage will be determined if we are re-elected by a plebiscite held as soon as possible. Every Australian, every single one of us, will have the same vote. They will have one vote each and that will be the determining factor in that debate.

CHRIS UHLMANN:

News.com.au.

MALCOLM FARR:

Malcolm Farr from news.com.au, Prime Minister, thanks for your address. You have championed the economic path of innovation and high-tech. What about those industries that might look old-fashioned when compared to that, but are strategically important, particularly in the world, as you define it, as being volatile and uncertain. As a Prime Minister, what sort of risk-management measures would you consider for a country that relies on others for refined petroleum, relies on others for vehicles, might be down to one steel plant, is seeing all sorts of resource refineries close down?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Malcolm innovation is important in every industry, every single sector. You know, there is nothing more traditional or longstanding than the industry of agriculture and can I tell you, Australian farmers are at the cutting-edge of innovation. They really are. I have visited, some of you came with me, when we visited an orchardist who used computer-controlled drones to keep the flying foxes away from his fruit and send them off elsewhere. He has reduced his losses, I believe, from more than 30% to around 5%. Innovation. Sensors, remote-controlled sensors, all of these things are transforming agriculture.

A company I like to mention in Adelaide, Philmac; 85-year-old manufacturing business making plumbing components. Again that is a pretty old-fashioned business. We have been making plumbing components since the days of the Romans. Yet they have developed the best parts, the best designed parts, in the world and are growing. A manufacturing business in a very traditional sector and they are growing because of innovation. So wherever you look.

Just the other day I was with Des Watkins of Watkins Steel. Again, a steel fabrication company, that’s a pretty traditional business. He is using technology that he's developed this cad-cam technology there which is - he says - unequalled anywhere in the world. He said the transformation in his business from when he was a teenager, he was learning welding and his teenage children, he's teaching them computer programming.

So innovation is important in every sector and it‘s one of the important elements of leadership that the Government provides and that I can provide and do provide as Prime Minister, which is to remind Australians and remind Australian businesses in particular, that we have always got to be ready to look at things anew. Don't assume that you can do things next week or let alone next year, the way you did them last week or last year. You will find there is a resurgence of innovation culturally, practically right across Australian industry. These are very exciting times, believe me. There has never has been a more exciting time to be an Australian businessman or woman because you know that your future lies in being fast and agile and innovative.

CHRIS UHLMANN:

It would get pretty exciting, Prime Minister, if our trade routes are cut off because I think the point Malcolm was going to, was that we have 50 days supply of oil. We don't innovate that here. How do you deal with that risk,  given particularly that China now is militarising islands in the South China Sea?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we secure our security - energy security is covered by our own resources here and of course, by diversity of supply.

CHRIS ULHMANN:

Tim Shaw.

TIM SHAW:

Prime Minister, Tim Shaw from Talking Canberra 2CC. Talkback radio callers are pretty brutal. They understand paying off the mortgage. They remember when Howard and Costello left $20 billion in the bank and no debt. Jack your grandson is well-known to us now. Some of our callers are interested to know how old will Jack be before the mortgage is repaid?

PRIME MINISTER:

[Laughter]

Well that is a good question. Can I tell you the most important thing is that within a few years, one year past the forward estimates, the Budget according to our Budget and our forecasts, the Budget will be back into balance. Of course what happens then is that debt has peaked and starts to reduce. Of course once debt starts to reduce in the context of a growing economy, debt as a percentage of GDP gets smaller and smaller. This is the most important thing. The Australian, as you know the Australian Government will always have debt because there needs to be a bond market. The real issue is net debt. That is what I am talking about.

But what we need to do is to ensure that we stop adding to that debt and start reducing it, but, above all, that we grow the economy. I know I say this often, but I say it often because it is absolutely critical to our future and to the future of every Australian family. Unless you have strong economic growth all of the other things we seek to achieve are at risk. Unless you have strong economic growth you won't have the tax revenues to support our health system, our school system, our roads and infrastructure and railways. We won't have that. So we need that strong economic growth.

The other thing that we need it for, is to ensure that our children and grandchildren and ourselves for that matter, have the opportunities. Not just the opportunity to get a job, that is critically important, but what if you want to break out on your own? What if you want to set up your own business? What if you want to borrow some money, take a risk and break out on your own? A bit of entrepreneurship? All of that is made possible if you have strong economic growth. I mentioned Tasmania earlier but that is a very interesting example of a state which has done it hard economically for a long time. There is - and you sense this when you are there - you can see it in the various measures of consumer confidence and business confidence, there is a real sense of optimism in Tasmania and that is driven because of the economic leadership that we have provided by opening up those big markets.

When Lucy and I had dinner with President Xi and his wife in Beijing recently we talked a great deal about the President's visit to Tasmania and a great deal about his interest and China's interest in doing more with Australia, more visitors, more tourism, more trade. Now think about this; those free trade agreements, particularly the China Australia Free Trade agreement were opposed by the Labor Party. The trade union movement, you will all remember, some extremely nasty advertisements that were run by the unions attacking the China Australia Free Trade Agreement. Believe me that agreement, of course negotiated by our former colleague Andrew Robb, that agreement is creating jobs right across Australia. It’s one of the reasons farmers are getting better prices. It is one of the reasons tourism operators are getting more visitors.

So what we have done is taken a series of actions. Making sure that we spend as much of our defence dollar in Australia in advanced manufacturing and high-tech here so that you don't have to go and work overseas if you want to work in the cutting-edge of technology. The jobs are here. The jobs of the future are here. What we have done is open up those big markets and we are providing incentives to those businesses that are taking advantage of that. 

Of course overarching all of it is a culture of innovation, science and technology because we know that is the key. So making sure that our school kids are getting the digital skills they need to equip them for the 21st century. Believe me we have thought so carefully about this plan. We have looked at the world as it is. We have examined our strengths, the opportunities and the challenges we face and we have put together a plan that sets us up for the future. It is the key delivering that plan is the key to our economic security in the years ahead, but we need Australians' votes, we need Australians to support our Liberal and National candidates in the House and the Senate to have the opportunity to form that strong majority Government to deliver on that plan.

CHRIS ULHMANN:

Fairfax.

MARK KENNY:

Mark Kenny from Fairfax Media. Thanks for your address Prime Minister. I want to talk about, you mentioned Tasmania and said it was an interesting state, I want to talk about another interesting state in this election. According to the polls we see that South Australians in record numbers seem to be at least flirting with the idea of abandoning the major parties in large numbers and going to the Nick Xenophon Team NXT. Do you see any common themes, given Nick Xenophon's I suppose more protectionist stance on some things than certainly your Government, do you see any common themes between Brexit and what I am calling Nexit in SA? What is your appeal to South Australia ahead of that election, given that $50 billion worth of submarines doesn't seem to have done all that much?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well thank you Mark. A vote for Nick Xenophon or any independent candidate in this election is potentially a vote for the chaos of a hung parliament. It is potentially a vote that will result in a minority government and all of the uncertainty that attends it.

We know what Labor is proposing. They are proposing as I have said in my opening remarks, more deficits, more debt and higher taxes. Now that is bad enough. But then what happens in that scenario, what would happen after the Greens have come in and said ‘Bill you haven't got a superannuation policy, how about ours?’ We have heard from Senator Hanson-Young what that would look like. What about Nick Xenophon's demands? You talked about Senator Xenophon and his attitudes to free trade. The wine industry in South Australia is enjoying a renaissance of a kind it hasn't had in a very long time because of those big open markets, because of those free trade deals. You see what we know is that the elements in our economic plan, every single one of them, will deliver stronger growth, more opportunities and therefore more employment. They will result in more investment.

Look people can argue about how much more investment, how many jobs, what happens if the international headwinds are stronger than you imagined. There is plenty of uncertainty out there in the world, we recognise that. Scott and I understand that. We understand this is a very volatile global environment. That is why every lever we are pulling has got to be pulling in the direction of promoting investment and promoting trade and promoting employment. Those who seek to stand against that like Labor and many of the independents and the Greens, are putting Australia at an enormous disadvantage if they were ever to get to the position of being able to determine our future because believe me these are exciting times. These are times of great opportunity but they are volatile times. There is plenty of uncertainty around. You have got to approach that with a plan. You can't just pretend the world is some sort of tranquil environment where everything is going to be the same in six months as it was yesterday. It is not. There is plenty of uncertainty around.

So that is why we have the plan and that is why the critical choice on Saturday is to vote for a Liberal or National candidate because that is the only  way to ensure that your vote counts towards a stable Coalition majority Government and the delivery of our economic plan.

CHRIS ULHMANN:

Two last questions. The first to Sky News.

DAVID SPEERS:

David Spears from Sky News Prime Minister. Can I just move away from the mechanics of the plebiscite on same-sex marriage and invite you to explain why you think same-sex marriage should be made legal in Australia. Will you play a leadership role in the campaign during the plebiscite and what’s the case you will make?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Lucy and I have been married for more than 36 years and we believe that we have no doubt that if gay couples, same-sex couples were able to describe or formalise their relationship as a marriage, we have no doubt that would not undermine or affect in any way adverse way our relationship, our marriage. The truth of the matter is that the key to marriage is commitment. The threats to marriage, the threat to marriage is obviously lack of commitment, cruelty, lack of commitment, desertion, all of those things.

So for our part and I know I can speak on behalf of Lucy and myself here we will be voting yes in the plebiscite. We completely respect the views of those who will vote no but our view is that we welcome couples making a strong commitment and we are very pleased to support that being described and from a legal point of view as a marriage.

CHRIS ULHMANN:

Forewarned is forearmed Prime Minister. The sting was in the tail of the last question last time. It is the same question as 7.30.

SABRA LANE:

Prime Minister Sabra Lane from 7.30. Thank you very much for your speech. I will recite another quote if you like – ‘I'll be leading the Government to the election in 2019 if I am returned as Prime Minister. You can note that down.’  How can you give that guarantee given your own history in removing a first-term Prime Minister that nobody predicted in 2013?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Sabra I am making that commitment and that prediction and only time will tell, but you can note it down, again.

[Applause]

CHRIS ULHMANN:

That is where we will make an end for the National Press Club for this election campaign. There are still two days to go.

Ends

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