Australian Prime Minister Press Conference – Perth 8 May

Prime Minister

: Thanks for joining us, and it’s terrific to be here with the Premier and the Deputy Premier, who also happens to be the Treasurer of Western Australia, but also the Federal Infrastructure Minister, Catherine King, and members of my team, including Patrick Gorman, Sam Lim, Josh Wilson, who are here prior to, of course, our Budget, which we’ll be handing down next Tuesday. Can I firstly say that I’ve spoken to the parents of Callum and Jake Robinson this morning, Martin and Debra did want to express their thanks to all the Australians who have offered their support that is being given at such a tragic time. The loss of these two fine young men is a tragedy Along with their American friend and the hearts of all Australians go to the parents, but also to the other family and friends of Callum and Jake. It is every parent’s worst nightmare to lose a child. To lose these two brothers in such a manner at this time is a cause of incredible sorrow. And to Martin and Debra, you have the nation’s thoughts with you at this difficult time. Next week’s Budget will be important. It is focused on providing cost of living support whilst making sure that we continue to see a moderation in inflation as well as our future made in Australia agenda. That’s about dealing with the urgent necessities of cost of living support and that downward pressure on inflation, whilst also having an eye to the future – where does economic growth come from? And this morning I’ve given a speech here in Perth outlining my view that Western Australia is front and centre when it comes to our future agenda for economic growth. That there is no state better positioned to take advantage of the transition that’s occurring in the global economy than this great state of Western Australia. And part of that is, of course, our trade. Today’s announcement of a 50-50 funding split between the Commonwealth and the WA Government to make sure that the planning of all the infrastructure that will be required for Westport to go ahead when it’s road, rail, other infrastructure to make sure we’re ready to go is an important announcement. This is a project that’s been spoken about for a long period of time, but it’s a project that the Labor Government here, in conjunction with my Federal Labor Government, is determined to turn into a reality with benefit for Western Australia’s regions, with benefit for job creation here, both in the construction phase when it goes ahead, but also in the longer term, by positioning Western Australia to be able to continue to be such an important export destination that produces income for this great state of WA and indeed, income for the nation. In addition to that, today I’ve announced $566 million to map the whole of Australia, to map what is under the soil and under the seabeds. No state will benefit from that more than Western Australia again. We’ll provide this funding for Geoscience Australia in next week’s Budget. That’s the funding over ten years. This is a long term project that we need to start on now. It’s rather extraordinary that we haven’t had this planning done which can provide important information for businesses and communities about where critical minerals are, about what is under our earth and our waters to make sure that we can get that right. We can make sure that we can take advantage of that in the future as we plan for extraction of those minerals and resources and so that we can have better environmental protection as well as we go forward. The third announcement that we have today that will be a benefit to Western Australia follows the last time I was here in Perth with the Premier turning the side and looking at construction of new housing projects here. One of the issues that the whole nation is suffering from is a shortage of skilled workers. The Budget on Tuesday night will add $90 million for an extension of our Fee Free TAFE program aimed at construction workers, providing incentives for people to go into these industries. This is something that I have witnessed firsthand at TAFEs here in WA have benefited from. In addition to that, we’ll have a program of targeted migration as well, so that we get skilled workers here in areas of need. This is a part of our achieving of an increase in housing flow because we know that the key to dealing with that issue is housing supply. Next Tuesday’s Budget, we’ve worked on a range of other items with the Western Australian Government that you’ll see next Tuesday, not the least of which is investment in infrastructure here. We have a close working relationship and it’s very important that the Commonwealth and state and territory governments work in unison in order to achieve our common objectives. The great state of Western Australia is so important for our national economy and that’s why today I tick off a commitment that I made of ten visits here every year as Prime Minister. This is my 20th visit here in under two years as Prime Minister, I continue to engage with Western Australia and I thank Premier Cook for the very close relationship that we’ve been able to develop in the interests of the state of Western Australia, but also in the national interests. We’ll hear from the Premier, then from our Infrastructure Minister, then the Deputy Premier and Treasurer, and then we’ll take questions.

ROGER COOK, PREMIER OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Thank you, Prime Minister. It’s great to have Anthony Albanese in Western Australia once again as he said, for the 20th time in under two years. The Albanese Government gets Western Australia. They understand the important role that we will play in the energy transformation of Australia and the important role that Western Australia will play in the renewable energy future as a renewable energy exporter, a significant player in the critical minerals market, and how we continue to diversify our economy to continue to sustain great Western Australian jobs. The announcement today that he made as part of his vision of continuing to diversify and progress manufacturing in Australia is two really important commitments. One, $33.5 million towards our transformative Westport project, which will see the Kwinana industrial district transformed and become a key export piece of economic infrastructure. And indeed, he also outlined his vision for Geoscience Australia to continue to map the critical deposits that we have of all the resources which of course underpin our prosperity. It will complement the work that we are doing with the WA Array project and will continue to consolidate Western Australia’s position not only as a resource and oil and gas supplier to the rest of the nation, and indeed our trading partners in Southeast Asia, but also continuing to support our critical minerals industry and our move up the value chain for battery manufacture. Western Australia is on the cusp of an exciting economic future and we need to have a government in Canberra that understands our vision and complements it with great policies. The Albanese Government is doing everything it can to complement our vision for Western Australia to become a resources powerhouse, but also to become a renewable energy exporter and of course, an important partner of the global supply chain for critical minerals and battery energy manufacture. Also underpinning a lot of this stuff is understanding that people in the community need support, particularly around housing, particularly around those who are doing it tough with the cost of living. And it’s great to see the Prime Minister outline some of those policies which will obviously continue to be an important part of what we’re doing, keeping the Western Australian economy strong and helping those who are doing it tough. I’ll now hand you over to Minister King.

CATHERINE KING, MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT, REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Thanks very much, Premier and Prime Minister. And it’s fantastic also to be joined here by my friend and colleague, the Deputy Premier and Treasurer, who’s got a pretty big day and a big job tomorrow, and also our federal colleagues who are here with us as well. Well, Westport is an incredibly important project for Western Australia. We’ve been talking about it for a while. Rita has been talking to me about it ever since I took over this portfolio. As we start to see the construction work well underway on METRONET, as we’re in sort of the last quarter of this incredibly transformational project, we are looking to what are the next big construction projects for Western Australia and Westport is it. This investment today, $33.5 million, is really to do the land transport planning to ensure that when we build the port, we’ve actually got the roads and the rail ready in order to have the trucks, the rail, to actually deliver freight. This will be a transformational project for the west. In the same way, the investments we’ve co-invested with the Western Australian Government on METRONET will be for the whole of the state, but particularly for the way in which freight moves around this city. This has been a terrific partnership. I want to thank particularly Minister Saffioti for her work and the engagement of her office and her department. Really what we’re trying to do with the infrastructure investment pipeline is make sure we’re absolutely undertaking all of the work in construction, but that we’re doing the planning work for those next projects so that pipeline of work for our magnificent construction industry can continue and we’re continuing to build for jobs, build for economic growth into the future. Can I also just give a plug out, the Prime Minister has announced the $90 million for TAFE, particularly in construction. Can I say to any women who are particularly looking for what their next career might be, can I encourage you, we want more women in construction. Fee Free TAFE, no barrier for women to actually participate in what is a magnificent industry. We want to see more women in there. And the Albanese Labor Government’s commitment to Fee Free TAFE really will help with that. I’m going to hand over to the Deputy Premier.

RITA SAFFIOTI, DEPUTY PREMIER OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Thanks, Catherine. Thank you very much to the Federal Government, to the Prime Minister and to Catherine for continuing the genuine partnership we have in delivering infrastructure across the state. Of course, WA is an economic powerhouse and economic infrastructure is fundamentally important to continue to grow the economy and create jobs. Westport is a major project that now we’ve got a new partner with the Federal Government to help deliver. Now, of course, as part of Westport, there’s a lot of planning to be undertaken. We’ve already announced the preferred location and style of port and, of course, now we’re going through all the planning for the roads, rail and intermodals. This partnership will help us undertake that planning to then make further investment decisions. Economic infrastructure, as I said, is fundamental to the economic growth of WA. We’ve already seen an incredible partnership in delivering projects like METRONET and, of course, new partnerships, for example, through the Pilbara, Lumsden Point, other key ports, which very much reflect that WA is a trading state. Our ability to export will help drive our economy in the future. And of course, the ability to import efficiently also helps the economic productivity and efficiency into the future. A welcome new partnership and very excited to what lays ahead for transforming the Kwinana district and of course, revitalising Fremantle with new opportunities as well. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much. Questions?

JOURNALIST: Is this partnership here a sign of things to come? Do you expect your Government would provide money for the actual spend?

PRIME MINISTER: I’d be very surprised, knowing the Treasurer as I do of WA, if we didn’t get pitched up for that. This is a sign that we’re partners. This is an absolutely critical piece of national infrastructure and WA plays a critical role. So, we’ll get the planning done, but we’ll always be prepared to listen, just as we were on issues like Gateway WA, the delivery of METRONET, the Swan Valley Bypass on a range of projects, the Great Northern Highway. One of the things that my Government will be characterised by is support for infrastructure and support for nation building infrastructure. And when it comes to ports, there is no piece of infrastructure which is more necessary than our ports in terms of when we see our exports go out, what that is, is we see dollars come back. And here in WA, that’s absolutely critical.

JOURNALIST: The issue between Australia and China clearly aren’t helpful. Will there be any material consequences as a result for example will you be speaking to the Ambassador? Or will there be trade sanctions?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Ambassador has already been spoken to about this issue, as has people in Beijing. Look, this is unacceptable, and it was unprofessional. I have said that we’ll cooperate with China where we can, we’ll disagree where we must and we’ll engage in our national interests. This is an area of disagreement. We’ve called it out. The explanation given overnight by Chinese authorities does not satisfy any change to the position that we’ve taken. Indeed, in the wording that they have used by saying that they were near Chinese airspace is confirmation that there’s no question that the Australian Defence Force personnel were both in international waters and in international airspace, and they were undertaking work on behalf of the international community in enforcing UN sanctions against North Korea.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I just have responded. It’s very clear from the wording that they used that the ADF were doing good work on behalf of the international community in international waters and international airspace, we stand by the comments that have been made by our Defence, and we will always back them in.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’ve spoken with the Robinson family today. While you’re here in WA, will you take the opportunity to apologise to Ninette Simons?

PRIME MINISTER: Ninette Simons, my heart goes out. No one should be the subject of violence such as Ninette Simons had to put up with. It’s an appalling situation. There’s no place for violence in Australian society in any form.

JOURNALIST: Will you visit her while you’re in Perth?

PRIME MINISTER: I’m not currently scheduled to visit Ninette Simons. I think, I’ve made it very clear that Ms Simons has been subject to a terrible crime. The allegations are now before the courts, as they should be for the three alleged perpetrators.

JOURNALIST: There’s been blame put on the Community Protection Board, bail decisions under state law, but Ninette Simons has said that your Government lets her down. She believes your government let her down. Do you acknowledge that? Do you accept partial responsibility for what happened to her?

PRIME MINISTER: My heart goes out to Ninette Simons. This is a terrible tragedy. Violence is always bad. When it happens to anyone, it is bad and it’s regretful that anyone is subject to a violent attack such as this.

JOURNALIST: But why haven’t there been consequences for the Immigration Minister not overruling the recommendation of the board and slapping an ankle bracelet on this guy?

PRIME MINISTER: We have through NZYQ, to go back to what this is about, the release of people involved with NZYQ was a decision of the High Court. The High Court determined that politicians could not take punitive measures, that that was a job for the court and for legal processes at arm’s length from politicians. We have established, and anyone who was in government would have had to have dealt with the consequences of this High Court decision. One that I wouldn’t have made, one that we regret, one that we opposed. But in this country we have a separation of the judicial processes from the political processes, and what the High Court has determined is that governments, politicians can’t make decisions which are punitive and if they do they will be overturned by the court. That is what the High Court determined. Since then, we have been determining as a government a response to that. We have put forward the strongest possible legislation. And I note that the last piece of legislation that we brought forward was voted upon by Labor and Coalition members in the House of Representatives on the Tuesday and was then opposed and deferred by the Coalition and the Greens political party on the Wednesday and kicked off into a committee process so that that legislation has still not been passed. I hope that the Senate passes that legislation next week.

JOURNALIST: The phrase ‘from the river to the sea’ (inaudible).

PRIME MINISTER: What I’ve said, what I’ve said, as opposed to what other people have said, what I have said is that that phrase undermines a two state solution. The Government supports a two state solution. It supports the right of Israel to live in peace and security within secure borders. We also support justice for Palestinians and the right of Palestinians to live with peace, security and prosperity.

JOURNALIST: Does the Government still support the building of a rail link to Melbourne Airport? And how would you encourage the Victorian Government and Melbourne Airport to break the deadlock?

PRIME MINISTER: Melbourne Airport, I’ll be in Melbourne tomorrow and I can be asked there about Melbourne infrastructure. I’ll be standing up as part of, I was in Queensland yesterday with the Queensland Premier, I’ll be with the Victorian Premier tomorrow, I’ll be with the Tasmanian Premier, the ACT Chief Minister and others over the next few days.

JOURNALIST: Continuing the Israel-Palestine theme with the teenager at the centre of the terror attack here Perth, when calling triple zero, told the cops that he was partly motivated by the Australian Government’s support of Israel in that conflict. How concerning is it to you that that conflict is radicalising people here in Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: What I’d say is this, the Middle East is a complex issue with history going back hundreds of years. I think overwhelmingly Australians, some Australians will have strong views, and I understand that. Particularly people who have relatives either in Israel or in Gaza or the West Bank will have strong views and it will be, it is a difficult time. But overwhelmingly Australians and our multicultural society do not want disputes brought here to Australia. I’d say about this incident, I do want to congratulate WA police on the actions that they took. I also want to acknowledge the leaders of the Muslim community here in Perth who took strong action as well. And I echo the thoughts and comments that the Premier has made about this. We are concerned about in a broader context as well, I’ve made the comment about some social media, that social media can have a divisive impact. The use of algorithms can drive people towards more and more extreme views, and that’s something that we need to have a discussion on. It’s something I spoke about in, my first vision statement was just up there as Labor leader about Jobs and Skills Australia, where I foreshadowed some of the work on a Future Made in Australia. But my second was about the impact of social media back in 2019. I think parents on the side of netball courts and football ovals over this weekend, like last weekend, will all have a common theme, which is they talk about how do we get our kids off devices? How do we get people engaged in healthy activity? Because incidents like this where it would appear, well I won’t comment specifically because of the matters which are there. But we do know that radicalisation can be a major source of conflict. And I know that the authorities, including our security agencies, spend substantial time being concerned about this and it’s a focus of their work. Whether it be the issue that you raised, but it was also a theme as Roger will confirm, that we had when we had the National Cabinet meeting about domestic violence. The promotion of misogyny, the portrayal of violent, misogynist pornographic images can really undermine harmony and can undermine what should be respectful relationships.

JOURNALIST: On (inaudible) Prime Minister, you mentioned this morning that you were now in government trying to work with industry to avoid any duplication that may have been part of those reforms. Is the staging of it now, the acknowledgement that you went too far with it the first time. And do you think it’s hurt your electoral chances in Western Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: Not at all. It confirms here in Western Australia that we, along with the West Australian Government, want to get measures right. We consult, my government is a consultative government. We consult with business, we work cooperatively to bring people together. We think there’s a common interest for business, want to ensure that there’s good environmental outcomes. We’ve seen the consequences where that doesn’t occur. But they also want to avoid duplication. They want efficiency, we want productivity, and we want projects that should go ahead, to go ahead in a timely manner. That is our approach.

JOURNALIST: Will you make details of the third tranche of those nature positive reforms public before the next election?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, we’re consulting and I had a really constructive engagement with the business community this morning. It’s something that characterises my government, is consultation and getting details right. Thanks a lot.

/Public Release. View in full here.