Australian Prime Minister Doorstop Interview – Westmead

Prime Minister

: Well welcome everybody. Welcome to Westmead, in the federal electorate of Parramatta, a proud Dharug Country. Parramatta is the most dynamic CBD in Australia, the fastest growing CBD in Australia, with more than a million square metres of office space being laid down. We’re just metres from the Westmead Innovation Precinct, one of the world’s leading centres of medical care and medical innovation. Parramatta is a growing city and an aspirational city. And I want to thank the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Housing, for bringing down a Budget that so squarely meets the needs of a growing and aspirational city like Parramatta. In this Budget, every single taxpayer in Parramatta will receive a tax cut. In this Budget, every single household will receive cost of living relief. And importantly, in this Budget, the housing measures bring to a total of $32 billion in support and new initiatives for housing across the life of the Albanese Government. And Prime Minister, that is more than any other Government has delivered for Australian housing over a comparable time period. In Parramatta, house prices have risen more than 12 per cent over the last year, rents are up more than 23 per cent, and the solution to this is housing supply. And that’s why projects like this, which deliver nearly 400 new dwellings, including accommodation for essential workers, are so important to increase housing, to reduce the cost of housing across the electorate and to make sure that we have the workers we need in important precincts like Westmead. Thanks very much.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks very much Andrew, and thanks for the warm welcome from yourself and Sally Sitou, the Member for Reid, who joined myself, the Treasurer and our Housing Minister here at this magnificent site. This is a practical example of the difference that our Government has made in just the two years since the election. This was announced and began in October 2022. We put in place, through NHIFC, funding for housing for essential workers, that’s so important. This site alone will produce some 400 dwellings, 200 of which are reserved for essential workers working in this important health and services precinct of Westmead that is so dynamic for Western Sydney here. Because it’s a mix of housing as well, it’s good social policy, mixing up affordable housing for essential workers with the private sector as well. This is an example of partnership between the private sector and the public sector to get things done in the national interest and that is something that is characterised my Government over our first two years. We produced a Budget last week that has a tax cut for every taxpayer, energy bill relief for every household, strengthened Medicare for every community and more homes in every part of Australia. In addition to that, of course, thanks to the hard work of the Treasurer and the Finance Minister and other members of the Government, but most importantly, thanks to the hard work of Australians, what we’re doing is turning around which were very turbulent global economic times. We now have real wages increasing, we have tax cuts coming so that people will earn more and keep more of what they earn. On top of that, we have productivity increasing, business investment increasing, unemployment at a historic low level as well. We want to make sure that we see through these times in a way that supports cost of living and with the cost of living measures that we put in the Budget last week, again, there are things that wouldn’t add to inflation. We’ve seen inflation moderate to almost half of what it was when we formed government two years ago. Inflation peaked in the March 2022 quarter, we’ve worked very hard to see that moderation, there’s more to do, like, there’s more work to do in creating jobs, more work to do in building homes, more work to do in strengthening Medicare, more work to do in building up our skills base with Fee Free TAFE. One of the measures we had in last week’s Budget as well was increased support for apprenticeships in the construction sector. We need more people to be working on projects like this, getting the skills that they need, as well as it being a priority of our migration program. This is a great example of the work that we have done in practical terms, of making a difference, making a difference to our economy, making a difference to the way that communities like this operate as well. And so, congratulations to all those involved. This is also employing hundreds of people, four to five hundred people on site at any time, doing good, well paid jobs, making a difference for this community. And I’m very proud to be here today. I’ll hand to the Treasurer, then to the Housing Minister, and then we’re happy to take some questions.

JIM CHALMERS, TREASURER: Thanks very much, PM, and thanks Andrew and Sally, for having us here in this wonderful part of the world. We have a housing shortage in this country, but there’s no shortage of investment or commitment or enthusiasm from the Albanese Government or from the private sector, and you’re seeing some of the fruits of that all around us. The Budget had a very big focus on housing and with a particular emphasis on growing communities like here in Western Sydney. Big investments in housing, big investments in infrastructure. All of these billions of dollars are a vote of confidence in the future of one of the most important parts of our national economy. There was more investment in housing in last Tuesday’s Budget than in all nine of our predecessors Budgets combined. Just think about that for a moment, $6 billion in new money as part of a $32 billion investment in housing. More in that one Budget last Tuesday than our predecessors managed in their nine years in office. And that’s because we know that people are doing it tough and that housing is a big part of the story. That’s why we’re building more homes for Australians to make it easier for people to build and rent and buy. And we really welcome the commitment from the private sector, from the builders and investors of this country who are working closely with the Albanese Government to turn our plans into bricks and mortar like we’re seeing here today. Now, in addition to investing substantially in housing and in infrastructure, we’re also managing the migration system in a responsible and a methodical and a considered way. And because of that, net overseas migration next year will be half what it was last year. And we’re getting the permanent migration program lower than it was when Peter Dutton was the Immigration Minister before COVID. We’re doing that in a responsible way, in a methodical and a considered way, and not in the divisive and dangerous way that our political opponents are proposing. They are very long on nasty negativity and very short on economic credibility. You don’t solve a housing shortage by making the skills shortage worse. But that’s what Peter Dutton is proposing. Now contrast that with the last couple of years of progress. Today is, of course, the two year anniversary of the election of our Government. And as the Prime Minister said, in that time we have almost halved inflation. We’ve got real wages growing again after they were falling substantially under our predecessors. And there’s been something like 820,000 jobs created on this Prime Minister’s watch. That means more people are working, more people are earning more, and more people are keeping more of what they earn because of our tax cuts. And these are the Government’s objectives. At the same time, we have made substantial progress cleaning up the mess that the Liberals and Nationals made of the Budget. We have turned two big Liberal deficits into two substantial Labor surpluses and we’ve done that by managing the Budget responsibly with almost $80 billion in savings and banking upward revisions to revenue. And because of that we’ve got debt down $150 billion this year and $185 billion next year. And that will save Australians $80 billion in interest costs over the course of the next decade. Now, we know you can’t clean up a decade of neglect in just two years, but we have made good and important progress getting inflation down, we’ve got further to go. Getting real wages growing again, creating jobs and cleaning up the Budget as well. Now, the architect of the big housing package in the budget that we’re very proud of was Julie Collins. We’ll hear from Julie and then take your questions.

JULIE COLLINS, MINISTER FOR HOUSING: Thanks Jim. It’s great to be here with Sally and Andrew and the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. What you’re seeing here today is a great example that Homes for Australia is working across the country. What we’re talking about here is 400 homes, as we’ve heard, half of them affordable rentals for key workers, for frontline workers like the midwife that I met here last time who said how important it was that she was able to live close to where she works, particularly given her job. We need more of these homes right across the country. And as the Treasurer said, the last Budget, last week, had more than $6 billion in new housing initiatives in it. This adds to what we have been doing. We have widened the remit of Housing Australia. We have put additional investments into Housing Australia, which is why projects like this are able to happen. This is just 400, of thousands of homes under construction today because of decisions taken by our Government, by the Labor Government. We want to see more homes in more places right across this country like we’re seeing here today. This has been financed through an umbrella facility through Housing Australia. I was just talking to them about a second project. This project has a $150 million loan facility. We’re talking about 300 million loan facility for projects like this. But I particularly want to thank AXA, I want to thank Deicorp and of course St George Community Housing for having us on site here today. What this shows is when we work in partnership, we can get projects like this up and running. It is only by working together and having partnerships with the sector, with industry and with other tiers of government that we are going to be able to build the 1.2 million homes that are Australia needs from the 1 July. It’s an ambitious target. It’s ambitious because it needs to be, because we need more homes for more Australians. And indeed, we also, of course, need more tradies to build more homes and as the Prime Minister said, our Budget is also focused on making sure that we have Australians with the skills they need to build more homes right across the country. I look forward to being out and about. I was in North West Tasmania yesterday where I saw more homes coming out of the ground that are going to have new tenants in them by August. I also had the privilege of meeting and talking to new tenants about how important these homes are, because we’re not just building homes for homes sake, we’re building homes to build communities for Australians who need homes. This is what it’s about. It’s about the people, about Australians on the ground. And I look forward to going around and seeing more homes under construction right across the country.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, yesterday, Peter Dutton said he can’t have a situation where Australians can’t rent a unit or a house because that unit or house is being taken up by a non-citizen. Do you agree with that statement?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Peter Dutton, of course, came up with another divisive Budget reply last week, looking at dividing Australia, looking at pointing the finger at others, rather than coming up with any fully costed plans. We know that his announcement that he would bar just for two years, just for two years, foreigners buying new homes in Australia if he were to be elected. When asked how many people that would impact, he didn’t know the figure last Friday and responded by sledging Bill Shorten rather than coming up with an answer to his own policy the morning after. We know that it’s just over a thousand that would impact. Compare that with this one project on this one site, 400 homes right here. This is how you actually get serious policy done, by having a housing policy and our Homes for Australia policy, $32 billion, stands in stark contrast to what Peter Dutton has said. Did he announce a single dollar for new housing in his Budget reply? No, he did not. That stands in stark contrast to our Housing Australia Future Fund announcement, $10 billion, we did in a Budget reply. Alternative governments need to come up with serious alternative plans that have dollars allocated to them. We did that on cheaper childcare, Housing Australia Future Fund, Rewiring the Nation plan, new energy apprenticeships, National Reconstruction Fund, fully costed plans put forward, worked through in opposition. We did the hard work so that we could hit the ground to repair 10 years of neglect. The housing sector was neglected under the former Government. We’re getting on with fixing it.

JOURNALIST: But do you agree with the statement?

PRIME MINISTER: We’re getting on with fixing it. I make my own statements. What I do is I work each and every day to make a difference. And in housing and our Homes for Australia plan, which is comprehensive, that encourages build to rent in the private sector, that encourages public private partnerships like this one, that will build increased numbers of social and affordable housing, that will make a difference for emergency housing for women and children escaping domestic violence, all of that adds up to a coherent plan. $32 billion that is there in the Budget stands in stark contrast to our opponents.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the ICC Chief Prosecutor is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders, whereas President Joe Biden says seeking the arrest warrants on Israeli leaders is outrageous. Do you agree with him?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don’t comment on court processes in Australia, let alone court processes globally, that which Australia is not a party.

JOURNALIST: Do you agree with Joe Biden’s comments?

PRIME MINISTER: I just answered the same question. Look, I don’t comment on court proceedings. What we need to concentrate on, when it comes to the Middle East, is what we have been saying from the time that on October 7, the terrorist atrocity committed by Hamas, we oppose that. We have called for the release of hostages. We have called for a humanitarian ceasefire. We have called for increased humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza. We have said that every life matters, whether it be Israeli or Palestinian. And we’ve called for progress towards a two state solution. That is where we are concentrating, playing a role where we can in promoting the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in security, in peace, and with prosperity.

JOURNALIST: Julian Assange, a development in Julian Assange overnight. Are you certain that you’ve exhausted all possible instruments from your end to try to get Julian Assange home?

PRIME MINISTER: I’m certain that we are continuing to work in a constructive fashion. Our position has been very clear, same position I had as Opposition Leader, I’ve had as Prime Minister, which is enough is enough. There’s nothing to be served by the ongoing incarceration of Mr Assange. And we continue to work very closely to achieve that outcome.

JOURNALIST: Treasurer, Telstra is sacking almost 10 per cent of its workforce, it’s going to replace them with AI. What can you do as Treasurer to ensure the safety of Australia’s jobs?

TREASURER: I think this is a very distressing day for a lot of people who’ve received this bad news today from Telstra. And we’re thinking of all of the families who are impacted by these big job cuts at a major Australian employer. We need to make sure that the services don’t suffer as a consequence of these changes. And we will be seeking advice from the ACCC about some of the claims that Telstra is making about their new pricing strategy and the role of the NBN. From our point of view, we want to make sure, and the Budget was part of this, that as our economy changes, that we get better at adapting and adopting technology, that our people are the big beneficiaries of those changes in our economy and in our technology base as well. And one of the reasons why we’re so proud that over the two years of this Government, we’ve created something like 820,000 jobs, is because we recognise that as the economy changes and the world changes, we need to be creating good, secure, well paid jobs and we need to be training people to adapt and adopt technology. And that’s our focus.

JOURNALIST: Treasurer, are you concerned that the NDIS funding deal could fall apart? Because the state are pretty angry about the new legislation going through and say it fundamentally misses the mark and that’s not in spirit of the agreement.

TREASURER: Well, we’re engaged with the states and territories on making sure that the NDIS can deliver for the people it was designed to serve. And the Prime Minister and I pay tribute to him, Minister Shorten, myself and others have been engaged for some time in a conversation with the states about how we make that possible in the context of the way that funding for the NDIS has had to grow. Now funding for the NDIS will continue to grow, it will actually continue to grow quite strongly. But everyone, state and federal, everyone associated with the scheme, has an interest in and has a responsibility to make sure that we’re getting value for money. So, obviously we engage respectfully with the states and territories on this. None of it is easy. It’s all difficult stuff, making sure that we can make the NDIS the best version of itself, including the most sustainable version of itself. We understand that the states have raised concerns, they’ve raised them privately and publicly, and that’s appropriate. But our intention here is to work with the states, not against them. Whether it’s the NDIS, whether it’s the health funding agreements, schools, legal assistance, there are a whole range of ways that we are working with the states and territories now and that conversation will be ongoing.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on the NDIS, are you confident that the legislation is right? Because the states are pretty upset about it.

PRIME MINISTER: I am confident. The legislation has been foreshadowed. We haven’t had the debate, the discussion with the House of Representatives and the Senate, but we’ve also had substantial discussion with the states. We’re providing enormous support for the states with the agreement on the table to advance health and hospitals funding, as well as, of course, the additional support that we had for housing in the Budget, as well as the discussions that are taking place on education funding going forward, as well as the significant infrastructure investment, including here in Western Sydney, we announced in last Tuesday’s Budget. The NDIS needs to be made sustainable. And what we’re talking about here isn’t something that’s any reduction, it is a lowering of the projected increase in NDIS funding, which would see it unsustainable. We want to make sure that everyone with a disability gets the support that they need so they can fully participate in Australian society. That’s the objective of the NDIS. That’s what Bill Shorten has been working towards. And Bill Shorten will continue to have discussions with the states and territories as we go forward in order to make sure that the citizens of our nation, no matter where they live, no matter which state and territory, get the support that they need.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, New Zealand has just announced its first evacuation flight is heading to New Caledonia as we speak. Will the Federal Government also send a flight to Australians stranded there?

PRIME MINISTER: We have that on standby. It hasn’t happened up to this point because the airport has been closed, but we are offering every support and so we are ready to go once the airport was reopened, early stages that there has been some improvement in the situation in New Caledonia. Our Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are continuing to work very closely with the 300 Australians who are on the register with DFAT. We suspect there are more Australians than that in New Caledonia, but we’ve been working with appropriate authorities, as we always do in times of crisis globally, we help out our citizens.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that the impacts of the GST shortfall are going to impact seats at the next election?

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry?

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that the impacts of the GST shortfall will impact seats at the next election?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we have a system where, with the Western Australia arrangements that are in place, we have a no state worse off deal that ensures that it’s the Commonwealth that picks up the financial cost of ensuring that occurs. We have record funding flowing through to states on infrastructure, on health, on education, in so many areas. We will continue to work constructively, where state and territory governments, we work through the issues. One of the problems that they had was that there were a whole lot of projects that were funded not with money, but with a media release. You didn’t have the dollars attached. You can’t drive on a media release and you can’t ride on a media release. You need real dollars based upon real costings. So, we have, in short, our $120 billion plus infrastructure program is being rolled out around the country with new projects, including significant additional funding here in Western Sydney.

JOURNALIST: The energy market operator warns delays in transmission lines in renewable projects have increased the risk of energy shortfalls. Why are these projects falling behind?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it’s pretty similar, the AEMO report, to last year, and they want to make sure there’s reliability in the grid, and that is what we are doing so. We have record numbers of solar panels put on roofs in Australia in the last twelve months. I’ll tell you what the energy market regulator has not called for, and that is for a transition to nuclear reactors. That’s the alternative. Peter Dutton’s plan is to once again press pause on action on the transition to a clean energy economy, whilst he has this so called plan on nuclear reactors, where he won’t tell you where they’re going to be, he won’t indicate who’s going to finance them, and he won’t tell you what the cost will be. What we know is that it is up to six times more costly than renewable energy. That’s not a plan, that’s a disaster. And it’s after a decade of denial and delay where they announced 22 different energy plants and didn’t land one. It contrasts with my Government, which has announced one plan for net zero, 82 per cent renewables by 2030, a reduction of 43 per cent in emissions by then, and serious policies out there that are assisting with the transition.

JOURNALIST: Should the NSW Government extend the life of Eraring?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that’s a matter for the New South Wales Government. I had a chat with the Minister Sharpe just a couple of days ago. I know that they’re considering that. We need to make sure that there is stability in the grid. That is what they are doing. The former Government, of course, Federal Government, pretended that there were going to be new coal fire power stations. Where are they? They were in office for almost a decade. None of it happened. They put money into the Collinsville study to the proponents, that was never ever going to go ahead, because it didn’t stack up for the same reason now they’re saying that nuclear reactors will stack up, but they can’t find anyone to finance them or anyone who say it will go ahead. It is a recipe for delay and we need something better than that.

JOURNALIST: The Opposition clearly wants to have a debate on migration, which could turn pretty ugly. The country has already had a divisive debate around the Voice. Are you prepared to have this debate?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Peter Dutton always looks to divide. What I look for is to unite Australia, to unite us, because if we’re optimistic about seizing the opportunities which are before us, we can really use this decade to set us up for a generation to come. There is nowhere in the world you’d rather be than Australia right now. With, in spite of some of the challenges that are before us, we have all the resources under the ground that will power the global economy in this century. We have the best solar resources in the world. We have an opportunity to have a green hydrogen industry. And I note today already, as a result of the announcement that we made in last week’s Budget, a major company speaking about producing green steel through hydrogen in Gladstone in Central Queensland. That is the sort of thing that we need. We are an economy which has created 820,000 jobs over the last two years, that’s seeing real wages increasing, is seeing inflation moderating, is seeing business investment increasing, productivity improving, and will see every Australian taxpayer get a tax cut, increase wages, be able to keep more of what they earn. That stands in stark contrast to Peter Dutton that’s always looking to divide. He’s out there saying he wants Australians to work longer for less. He’s saying that he’ll oppose the measures that we have announced for people to not be working 24 hours a day if they’re not being paid 24 hours a day. He’s announced a range of other divisive policies that don’t present a coherent way forward. We’re addressing the migration issue, we’re addressing the housing issue, we’re addressing all of the challenges that are before Australia in a considered orderly way. That is something that has characterised my Government. Jim Chalmers here has brought down three Budgets. He’s turned a $78 billion deficit last year into a $22 billion surplus, and now we’re projecting a $9.3 billion surplus going forward. That responsible policy stands in stark contrast to the waste and mismanagement and denial and delay of the former Government over ten years, including Peter Dutton, who presided over a migration number that was higher than what we are projecting going forward when he was the Minister with responsibility. Thanks very much.

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