Friday, 24 August 2018
It may surprise you on a day like this, but I remain very optimistic and positive about our nation's future.
I want to thank the Australian people for the support they've given me and my Government over the last nearly three years. We've been able to achieve as a progressive Government, as a progressive Liberal Coalition Government, enormous reforms and very, very substantial achievements.
You know, the foundation of everything you do in Government is a strong economy and we have delivered - as we promised - jobs and growth. You may have heard that before. We've got record jobs growth in Australia last year. We have strong economic growth, 3.1%, as you know, higher than any of the G7 economies.
That has enabled us to do so much more. Despite the minority position in the Senate and the one-seat majority in the House of Representatives, we've been able to deliver substantial taxation reforms. Much more than many of you, probably any of you, thought possible.
Substantial personal income tax reforms, the biggest in more than 20 years.
Tax reductions for small and medium businesses, overwhelmingly Australian, family-owned businesses.
We have also been able to get on with the job of important historic infrastructure. I'm very proud that we are underway with Snowy Hydro 2.0, I know sometimes my opponents in the Labor Party say that I'm not committed to renewables. Well I tell you, we're building and we're going to build the biggest single renewable project in Australia since Snowy Hydro 1.0. So that is a substantial commitment. Plus we're getting on and building the Western Sydney Airport, the Inland Rail and we’ll build a railway from Melbourne out to Tullamarine. So many other big infrastructure projects and we've been able to do it, because of strong economic growth.
We've also taken a different approach, I have been a reforming Liberal Prime Minister. Of course one of the many difficult political challenges that we face, particularly in the Coalition, has been the issue of marriage equality. Now, we have delivered that. Same-sex marriage is legal. We went through a postal vote, as you know, which was hugely successful. Again, much more successful than many thought and we have delivered that historic reform, a very substantial one.
We have also established a National Redress Scheme for the Victims of Child Sexual Abuse. We have provided record support for mental health services and indeed for health services right across the board, whether it is hospitals, Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. None of those things could have been done without the strong economy that we've delivered.
Childcare reforms also have been once-in-a-generation reforms.
But I have taken a different approach as a Federal leader, as a federal Government, to the way we engage with cities. As you know, historically, federal governments played a limited role, a sort of an ad hoc role, with cities. Very often you had federal governments, state government and local government, often moving in roughly the same direction, but being like ships in the night. The City Deals program has been a real innovation. A very, very welcome reform and working very well, enabling for the first time to see federal government money systematically going into work in partnership with communities, so that you agree on what your vision is and then get on and do it.
I want to say also that keeping Australians safe is obviously the single most importantly priority of Government. I have had outstanding Ministers in that area, particularly Marise Payne the Defence Minister and the Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne. We have embarked on the largest investment in our defence capabilities ever, in peacetime. Of course it's not simply a matter of ensuring that our men and women in the ADF have the capabilities, both to give them the force they need and to ensure that they are safe in all of the circumstances they're engaging in. But it also is part of an agenda to ensure that defence industry, these advanced industries, provide the lead, the opportunities, to build the Australian economy. It is all part of our economic plan.
Clearly as Prime Minister I've had a great deal to do in terms of our international agenda. We've been able to secure, again, a reform or an achievement that many people thought was impossible, which was the Trans-Pacific Partnership. When Donald Trump pulled out of that everyone thought it was dead. I was mocked, as you know, by some for keeping at it. But we managed to secure the TPP-11, the Trans-Pacific Partnership continued. The fact that it has continued, not only creates export opportunities for Australians, but it also provides a foundation for a trade deal for the US to re-enter at some point in the future and for others to do as well.
We have also of course, I was able to secure and then maintain the resettlement deal with the United States for refugees on Manus and Nauru. That was a challenging exercise, to maintain that, but of course hundreds of refugees are now being resettled without providing the incentive for the people smugglers to get back into business again and maintaining that strong border protection has been critically important.
I was also able to ensure that when the US put tariffs on steel and aluminium on countries right around the world, Australia was exempted from that. Again, a great example of the way in which I have sought always to stand up for Australian jobs, Australian workers and our industries.
We’ve been able to ensure that we could bring back the rule of law in the building sector with the Australian Building and Construction Commission. That was obviously one of the double dissolution triggers, but again many thought that was impossible. But we were able to achieve it.
So I think it has been a challenging time to be Prime Minister, but I'm very proud of our record.
I'm very proud of my Government and my Ministers' record in achievement. I want to thank them. I want to thing all my colleagues. I want to thank my staff, but above all I want to thank my wife Lucy for her love and support. I want to thank our children, Alex and his wife Yvonne and our daughter Daisy and her husband James.
It isn't easy being either married to or the child of a politician, let alone a Prime Minister. Often children get attention from the media and others that they frankly, don't deserve, in terms of people wanting to sort of have a crack at their father, by going after them. So it's been tough on them at times, but I want to thank them for their solidarity and loyalty and love. Our grandchildren of course are a great joy. I look forward to spending some more time with them and with Lucy.
But finally, I want to thank the Australian people for everything they have done for me. It has been such a privilege to be the leader of this great nation.
I love Australia. I love Australians. We are the most successful multicultural society in the world, and I have always defended that and advanced that as one of our greatest assets. We must never allow the politics of race or division or of setting Australians against each other, to become part of our political culture.
We have so much going for us in this country. We have to be proud of it and cherish it.
Now, I suppose I should say something about the events of the last week or so. Look, I think you all know what's happened. There was a determined insurgency from a number of people both in the Party Room and backed by voices, powerful voices in the media really to if not bring down the Government, certainly bring down my Prime Ministership. It was extraordinary. It was described as madness by many and I think it's difficult to describe it in any other way.
In the Party Room meeting today I was impressed by how many of my colleagues spoke or voted for loyalty above disloyalty. How the insurgents were not rewarded by electing Mr Dutton, for example, but instead my successor - who I wish the very best, of course - Scott Morrison, a very loyal and effective Treasurer. I want to thank him of course for his great work, but above all I want to thank Julie Bishop. She is a very dear friend. We've been friends for over 30 years. We sometimes wonder whether we should remind people of that, but nonetheless, she's a very dear friend. She's been an extraordinary Foreign Minister, I would say our finest Foreign Minister. She has been a loyal deputy and just a great colleague and friend. So I thank Julie very much. As you know, she's stood down as the deputy and she's succeeded by Josh Frydenberg. Again, I wish Josh all the best, he's been a very loyal and capable minister.
So, that is what I have to say to you today, I'm happy to take some questions. Hang on, hang on you can't all talk at once. I'm going to, given that I'm about to no longer be the Prime Minister, I'm going to ask Laura Tingle to ask me a question.
You talk about bullying yesterday and you talked about the insurgency today. One of the frustrations that voters have had with your Prime Ministership is the sense that you conceded too regularly to the conservatives and to the right. Do you regret doing that given that they came for you anyway? And what is your view of what is going to happen to climate policy and energy policy now?
Okay, well Laura, what I have done always is to try to keep the Party together. That has meant that from time to time I have had to compromise and make concessions. Really it's something I learned from my first time as leader, that you have to work so hard to keep the show together. That's the bottom line. But, you look at what we've achieved, it's a very long list.
In terms of energy policy and climate policy, I think the truth is that the Coalition finds it very hard to get agreement on anything to do with emissions. That’s the truth. I mean the National Energy Guarantee was or is, a vitally piece of economic reform. It remains the Government's policy, of course. But with a one-seat majority in the House, unless you can command all or almost all your votes, you can't get it passed. I want to thank Josh for the work that he's done on that.
But if I can say this; the emissions policy, emissions issues and climate policy issues have the same problem within the Coalition of bitterly entrenched views that are actually sort of more ideological views, than views based as I say, in engineering and economics. It's a bit like same-sex marriage used to be. Almost an insoluble problem. Now, we were able to sort that out, that was a very significant achievement in my time as Prime Minister. I’m actually I think the first Prime Minister to support legalising same-sex marriage, but most importantly, was able to get it done.
As for what the future holds in terms of energy policy, again you'll have to talk to Scott about that. But clearly there's a great foundation in the announcements we have already made, arising out of the ACCCC report. The next person I'm going to invite to ask me a question is Mr Coorey.
The Party is very split over this, it’s exposed quite a division down the middle. What's your message on unity, do you think the party can unify?
Well Phil it’s obvious. Australians will be just dumbstruck and so appalled by the conduct of the last week. You know, to imagine that a Government would be rocked by this sort of disloyalty and deliberate, you know, insurgency is the best way to describe it, deliberate, destructive action, at a time when there are differences on policy, but frankly, all of them were resolvable, able to be resolved with a little bit of goodwill. Of course, a month ago, as I said yesterday, we were a little behind in the national polls and a little bit ahead in our own polls. So I think many Australians will just be shaking their heads in disbelief at what's been done.
And unity, Prime Minister?
Well unity Phil, disunity is death in Australian politics, as everyone says. It's perfectly obvious. But the people who chose - Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott and others - who chose to deliberately attack the Government from within, they did so because they wanted to bring the Government down. They wanted to bring my Prime Ministership down. While the consequence is that I'm no longer PM, of course, instead of Mr Dutton being Prime Minister, we’ll no doubt in due course we'll have Mr Morrison. Murpharoo?
Prime Minister, I have so many questions.
You have plenty of time to ask them in the future.
But I have to ask this one for news purposes, this is what we need to know. You did tell us yesterday that you intended to exit the Parliament?
When do you intend to exit the Parliament, is it now or at the next election?
Oh no, I'll be leaving the Parliament in, not before too long. As I have always said, I've been very clear about that. It's not a secret. Now I'm just going to go to Chris Uhlmann, is he here? No, alright what about you, KG ?
Mr Turnbull, do you have any regrets as you look back at the three years of being PM?
Oh I’m sure if I have time to reflect on them, I'm sure I'll think of a few. But at the moment I'm really just focused on taking a very positive approach to all of these issues. I think again, I've got great optimism for Australia. I'm proud of the achievements of the Government.
You know, I talk about my team and my office, you know Clive and Sally and Boldy and the whole team. I have never worked with a better team of people than I have in my office. They are outstanding and we have run a very good Government. In the sense that the Cabinet hasn't leaked very much, despite your best efforts to cause it to do so. We've been united, we've had a thoroughly traditional approach, so that's been good.
Okay now, I have a thoroughly traditional grandson, Here he is, here's Jack and here’s Daisy, and here’s Alice and Lucy. Okay now I'm going to take a couple more. No, you're right, perhaps just one more. David?
Mr Turnbull, the discussion about the ballot this week has been dominated by talk about the petition. You've been blamed in some quarters for the “chaos”, in inverted commas. What do you say to those who say it was wrong for you to insist on the 43 names and to insist on those names?
Well look, I mean this is a matter of political history and we might wrap up with that. The fact is there was a leadership ballot on Tuesday which I won convincingly.
The proposition that there should be almost immediately another ballot, is really unprecedented. So it was reasonable for me to say; "Well, if you want to call another party meeting, you better tell me why, show me evidence that a majority want to do that."
So insofar as there has been chaos this week, it has been created by the wreckers. I have done everything I can to maintain the stability of government and the stability of the Party. But, of course if people are determined to wreck, then we know they will continue to do so.
Maybe this would be a reasonable question, do you have any interest at all in –
I have no idea what's going to ask.
Picking Jack up from school maybe? Yes.
He starts next year.
[Inaudible] from here on?
No. Look, I came into politics at the very mature age of 50. I've had a very good time here in the Parliament. I’ve always been focused on what I can deliver for the Australian people.
Again, the critical thing is with politics, it's not about the politicians. That's why this week has been so dispiriting, because it just appears to be, you know, vengeance, personal ambition, factional feuding, or however you’d describe it. It hasn't had anything to do with 25 million Australians and the Australian we should be focused on above all else, are these little ones, you know, it is the next generation that we are working for here in this place. And we have achieved a great deal.
There are some things that I would have liked to have completed or done more on. But to be really honest with you, we have got so much more done in this Government and particularly in this Parliament, than I expected and certainly a lot more than any of you expected, sceptics that you all are.
So look, thank you all very much and I wish you all the best.
Above all I wish the new prime minister-elect the very best and his team.
Alice, come on, come on Jack.
Thank you all.