Australian Prime Minister Press Conference – Adelaide

Prime Minister

Hi everyone. I’m Louise Miller-Frost, I’m the Federal Member for Boothby. I’d like to welcome you all to Boothby, but particularly I would like to welcome the Prime Minister here to Boothby, the Premier, and of course Colin Stirling, who’s the Vice-Chancellor, here in this fantastic building, best views to the city. Such an exciting development for Flinders University, for South Australia, and for Australia in terms of the ability to both have world cutting research, but also to then commercialise it and build the Australia that we want, the Future Made in Australia. So with that note, I will hand over to the Prime Minister. Thank you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks very much Louise. It’s great to be back here in South Australia on what’s becoming my weekly visit here to this great state and to be sharing the day with the Premier, Peter Malinauskas, with other Ministers and Members of his Government who are here. But importantly as well, just some of the 600 researchers who will work here at this magnificent new facility, some of whom have joined us here today. And I want to thank them for sharing with us the extraordinary work that they are doing. Whether it is work to control chronic pain through light rather than through drugs, whether it be work on a range of issues, helping women who are pregnant, helping to deal with ophthalmology, with a range of diseases and research that will change lives as a result of the work that is being conducted here. When I speak about a Future Made in Australia, it’s not just things to do with metals. It is to make sure that we take advantage of our human capacity here. And we’ve been very good at scientific research for a long period of time. We haven’t always made the most of the commercial opportunities which are there. And one of the things we learnt from the visit here today is some of the commercial opportunities in areas like defence as well, that will come from this facility and from the research that’s being undertaken here. This is the world’s best and it will make an enormous difference. This health and medical research building works as well, here at Flinders, with the other work that I’ve seen during my visits here. A recent visit looking at the work that is being undertaken to provide research to assist the AUKUS projects, where you are seeing Flinders at the front of the queue, making a difference here with cooperation as well with the US and the UK. And I do want to say that this university is really travelling up the rankings for good reason. It’s because of the value that they place in science, in research and in making a positive difference. Really practical research to make a difference to people’s lives here, as well as of course, making a difference in the way that health care is delivered, which assists government as well. We know that if we can intervene to stop health care being about dealing with the consequences, but if we can help preventative care based upon good science and good research, then that of course, is an ideal situation for patients, but also pretty good for governments as well in dealing with the challenges that are there with the ageing of the population, with increased pressure on hospital budgets which is there. So to Mali, the proud Premier of South Australia, it is always good to be in this state. And to Flinders, thank you for the very warm welcome here today.

PETER MALINAUSKAS, PREMIER OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Well thank you very much, Prime Minister. I can’t tell you how grateful I am as a South Australian for having a Prime Minister that gets it that actually appreciates that as a country, our standard of living only improves every time we make things at home. The Made in Australia policy is important for the nation, but it’s particularly valuable to South Australia because we have an ambition to be a high growth, high wage economy that is justified by the most productive use of our labour by using the muscle between our ears and fully deploying all that power and potential we know exists, particularly amongst young South Australians. And to that end, it’s really important that you’re here today, Prime Minister, to acknowledge an institution that is central to that effort. Flinders University is punching above its weight in a very big way. This is the fastest growing research university in the nation. It’s increased its research load by over 140 per cent in the space of only five years. That’s the sort of growth that any organisation would love. But it’s not an accident. It’s happening through some really thoughtful investments and efforts on behalf of the leadership team here and particularly Colin Sterling, who deserves great credit for it. And to be here and bear witness to this new facility that will facilitate the type of research that the Prime Minister referred to is really quite special. But Prime Minister, it’s not just your commitment to health research that matters. We’ve got the factory of the future just down the road which is co-funded between Flinders, the South Australian Government, and your Government. And of course on top of that, I know there’s your interest in the work that we’re doing around our technical colleges at the Tonsley Precinct, which has been fuelled by your commitment to investing in skills throughout the nation, which again, South Australia seems to be a front row beneficiary of, particular as we gear up for the AUKUS project. So there is a synergy between the work that has been undertaken by the federal government, the state government, and the work that is being achieved here at Flinders, that speaks to a more prosperous future in general. To the health researchers doing the work in this new building, I simply to say thank you. You know, when a patient leaves a hospital after they’ve got better, they will inevitably thank their doctor, they will think their nurse and their front line clinician. They won’t necessarily get the opportunity to thank a researcher who’s situated at a completely different facility, out of sight out of mind, but whose work is just as critical to the health and wellbeing of people in our hospitals and other health facilities around the country. So particular thanks to the researchers who showed us around and inspired us and made me look rather silly. But just as important to all the other researchers they work with as well.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Peter. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Cameron England from The Australian, in light of issues at Virgin and the AFL – Do you think it’s appropriate for Unions to get involved in dictating the appointment of CEOs and other high level officials?


JOURNALIST: How about the tightening of student visas, you announced recently. Will that impact the capacity for centres like this to fund research?

PRIME MINISTER: Not at all. Because what we’re looking at here in tightening the visa process isn’t institutions like Flinders and the work that’s being undertaken at institutions like this one. It’s stopping the abuse of the system that had been allowed to get out of control under the former Government, where people were using the visa system in order to get an entry into Australia, in order to work here and to stay here for a period of time. Institutions like this and the work that’s being undertaken at this magnificent facility is world leading. We want more of it, not less. And that’s why we’re encouraging as well, expansion of universities. One of the figures that was given before downstairs was that this university is. Where are you on equality?


PRIME MINISTER: Tenth in the world at outcomes to boost equality. This is about boosting opportunities for people. I’m the first person in my family to finish school, let alone go to university. I have said on election night, I want my Government to open those doors of opportunity and kick them wide open. We need more people with university degrees, more people with TAFE qualifications as well. And that’s why we’ve done work on TAFE, 350,000 fee free TAFE places last year. I’ve met many of them here in South Australia, including the work that’s been undertaken here at Flinders. We also have programs like the $350 million we have for fee free uni ready courses. Now, that’s occurred in a range of universities like Newcastle and others in the past. It’s a way of getting people who are from disadvantaged backgrounds, giving them a leg up and encouraging them to undertake university and that was a major new initiative, expansion we had in the Budget. We had $3 billion cut from student debt in our Budget as well. Again, an equity measure that’s so important and changing the way that the HECs debts are calculated permanently through the change that we shadowed in the Budget, it’s really important as well.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] They’re warning that thousands of jobs could go because of tightening of caps. Are caps are a long way to go in this sector that so heavily relies on them?

PRIME MINISTER: No, foreign students will continue to play an important role. It’s an important export for Australia and it’s good for our economy, it’s good for our universities, but it’s also good for our international standing. Whenever I travel into the region, you meet people who are alumni of Australian universities. In places like India that goes to the hundreds of thousands. There’s someone who’s a senior person in the Malaysian Government now who I went to university with at Sydney Uni. That’s an important component as well. One of the things we’re doing, though, is to encourage universities by giving them a bonus, if you like, if they are providing increased student accommodation that’s needed. I met with some student accommodation providers just yesterday talking about those issues and how we deal with it. The migration system, though, was in a mess that we inherited and we make no apologies for fixing it. And that’s why Jason Clare is consulting very closely with the university sector to make sure that it’s delivered in a way that is good for bringing down the numbers which we had to do, good for stopping abuse, but also good to make sure that universities can continue to provide support and to provide places for international students. Which is an important part of the university sector here in Australia.

JOURNALIST: Back on John Setka. Do you believe that he should give up on his campaign against the AFL?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes. It’s not very just common sense. I noticed a story in the Aus today saying I hadn’t answered questions. I did two full press conferences yesterday. I did a full press conference with the Canberra Press Gallery the day before, a full one with the Canberra Press Gallery the day before and radio interviews. It obviously is absurd to suggest that the decision – I’ve never heard of this bloke, to be honest. AFL, I’m not even sure what the job is running, the judiciary or the refs. The umpiring. There you go. The umpiring. That’s a matter for the AFL, frankly, and I don’t think there’s too much except to say that that’s the case. Common sense tells you that.

JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton has accused you of being out of touch with the Australian people on cost of living. Is that hypocritical when he catches charter flights or is that just part of being a travelling politician?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, I make no criticism of Peter Dutton catching a charter flight to do his job. That is his job. And he attended a conference. I read that story on Tamworth. I make no criticism of that. It’s a hard job being Leader of the Opposition. I tell you what I do make criticism of him, though, is the fact that he has done nothing but oppose every cost of living measure that’s been put forward. Peter Dutton, when we had our tax cuts for every single taxpayer, including every single South Australian taxpayer, he said, first the Coalition said they’d oppose it, then they said they’d roll it back even before they’d seen what it was. And then he said we should go to an election on it. Before he voted on it, he opposed our energy price relief plan. That has made a difference. He’s failed to support our $300 support for every energy household. Now those two things, tax cuts for every taxpayer, $300 for every household in energy bill relief will come in in three weeks’ time. Peter Dutton has said nothing positive about any of that. He’s opposed and said nothing positive about fee free TAFE helping 350,000 people. He did nothing about our cheaper childcare plan that’s reduced childcare costs by 11%. He opposed and was critical of our plan for cheaper medicines, including 60 day dispensing. That now is the subject of the agreement that we reached with community pharmacies. Peter Dutton has nothing positive to offer the Australian people. He just says no to everything. He opposes the real wage increases that we have put forward. When we proposed a $1 increase an hour for people on the minimum wage, the Coalition said the sky would fall in, the economy would fall over, jobs would be lost. Well, today’s figures show that 880,000 jobs have been created since I was elected Prime Minister. That is a record for any period of any government since federation that is positive.

JOURNALIST: He does want to ban social media to the age of 16 and use age verification to enforce it. Is that something you might look at?

PRIME MINISTER: We’re doing it. We actually have a trial funded with $6.5 million in the Budget.

JOURNALIST: That’s a bit different to actually –

PRIME MINISTER: No. Well, you’ve got to work out how you do it. How you work that out is by having a real trial to make sure that it can’t be avoided with real funding that was announced before the Budget. The funding’s in the Budget. That trial will be underway. This is Peter Dutton playing catch up. I’ll tell you who’s been ahead on that issue. It’s this bloke here, the Premier of South Australia.

JOURNALIST: Do you think 15 year olds should be banned from social media?

PRIME MINISTER: I think, well, don’t get me started on social media, because I’ll wind up and we’ll be here all afternoon and I’ve got another press conference to give in another state. But I think very clearly, and the reason why we’re doing the trial is, that social media is having a negative impact on young people. I want people to spend more time on the footy field or the netball court than they’re spending on their phones. Very clearly. And a ban, if it can be effective, is a good way to go on, I’ve said this repeatedly, repeatedly, and I continue to say it. It is an issue in which parents have raised with me, and I reckon there’s not a school end of the day program where parents, when they’re picking up their kids, aren’t talking about these issues. It is a scourge, it is negative. It is having a negative impact on young people’s mental health and on anxiety. If you look at all of the figures, then we have real issues to deal with. And what has changed in my lifetime is the impact which is there. And I have said, with regard to social media, across the board as well, social media has a social responsibility. They seem to think that their responsibility is just to make money. These big multinationals overseas. I want to make sure that the interests of young people in particular are looked after. And that’s why we’re doing this trial, to make sure that any measures can work, to make sure that what always occurs is that these companies will try to avoid mechanisms. We want to make sure that we get it right.

JOURNALIST: Is there an age limit you’d think would be more acceptable? Peter Dutton is calling for sixteen, but Premier Malinauskas says fourteen is the right age.

PRIME MINISTER: Well look, I think that sixteen is a reasonable age. That’s what we’re looking at in the work that we’ve done, that’s what I’ve said before. Peter Dutton, it’s good that he’s caught up, and I welcome him catching up.

JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton has pointed to the fact that in the last two years, we’ve let in 920,000 migrants, but only built 265,000 homes. Aren’t housing shortages just a matter of maths?

PRIME MINISTER: Peter Dutton, of course, was responsible as a Minister when the figures were, projections were made on population, that were higher than they are today. The projections that were made when he was the Minister. He also is someone who was part of a government that did nothing about housing. We’ve got a $32 billion program for housing. We’re working with states and territories, including the Malinauskas Government on issues like planning to increase housing supply. Peter Dutton has nothing but complaints and negativity. No solutions offered, just trying to pit Australian against Australian. And I note that this most divisive of leaders is also causing division in his own party. You have had in recent days frontbencher Hollie Hughes accuse another frontbencher, the Shadow Treasurer, of not just knocking her off and opposing her pre-selection in a way that would not normally be tolerated by a strong leader of a political party, to allow frontbenchers to be knocked off by other front benches through their own actions. Hollie Hughes has called this out as being about Angus Taylor trying to secure the numbers for a future Liberal leadership bid. She’s been very explicit about it. And I think that Peter Dutton, his division which he seeks to spread around our country, rather than ever looking for unity or ever looking for how we can come together, he is also causing division in his own party. And that’s before you get to the division that is there over his walking away from any climate action which has seen some 22 policies, just about, released in a week following their 22 policies they announced when they were in government and didn’t land one. This guy is incapable of putting forward anything positive and leading his party towards that.

JOURNALIST: The Premier today announced new laws will ban political donations in SA. What’s your reaction and will the Federal Government consider doing the same?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ve got our own inquiry being undertaken. Don Farrell, our Minister, another great South Australian, has initiated that work and we’re looking at more transparency in political donations. It’s something that Labor governments have always done and it’s always been undermined by Coalition governments who changed the level in which donations could be declared. We know that the extraordinary donations of people like Clive Palmer and others is something that is undermining of our democracy.

JOURNALIST: A drop in the unemployment rate is always good news. The RBA has a decision to make next week. Do you fear that with economic growth flat lining we might slip into a recession soon?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, I’m optimistic about Australia and I want to talk Australia up. I’ll leave talking Australia down to Peter Dutton. What we have is inflation is moderating. Inflation is half what it was when we came to office. Half. At the same time we’ve created, 880,000 jobs have been created on our watch. We have real wages that are increasing and that is a positive thing. We will have tax cuts coming in on July 1. And importantly as well, our government has produced two budget surpluses in a row. And that compares with just a sea of red that was created the entire time that the former government was in office. Tony Abbott came to government promising a budget surplus in his first year and every year thereafter. And they left us with a trillion dollars of debt and nothing to show for it. What we are doing is undertaking the difficult task with the work that is being undertaken, particularly by Jim Chalmers and Katy Gallagher, of making sure that inflation continues to moderate, that we get on top of those issues, which is why we designed the cost of living relief in the way that we have. Whilst making sure that we don’t engage, as some have called for in the Coalition this week as well, they’re calling for austerity. Well, we know what austerity looks like because we’ve seen it when Peter Dutton was the Health Minister in the incoming government. It meant a GP tax every time you go to the doctor. It meant a tax every time you turned up an emergency department. It meant pharmaceuticals going up, not down, which is what we’ve done. And it ripping $50 billion out of the health system. That’s what Peter Dutton did, which is why he was described as the worst Health Minister that Australia has ever had. What we want to do is to make sure that we look after people. That’s our priority. Cost of living relief is our number one policy, and that’s why as well our energy policy is aimed fairly and squarely at support for the cheapest form of new energy. We know that’s renewables, we know that nuclear is eight times the cost and fifteen years away compared with renewables, which are firmed. His policy there is a recipe for energy shortfalls, is a recipe for chasing investment away from Australia, and isn’t a plan to deal either with the challenge of climate change. But importantly, it also will make cost of living pressures worse, not better, because we know what happens when you just delay action. Thanks very much.

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