Prime Minister – Transcript – Press Conference – Geelong, VIC

Liberal Party of Australia

STEPHANIE ASHER: Welcome everybody. I’m the Liberal candidate for Corangamite, Stephanie Asher. I’d like to welcome you all here today for what is a fantastic announcement. Terrific for jobs, terrific for fuel security and also terrific for the environment. I’m very pleased and excited to welcome the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, Senator Sarah Henderson, and of course my colleague, the Liberal candidate for Corio, Mr Manish Patel. At this point, I will hand over to the Prime Minister, Mr Scott Morrison.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much, Steph. Well it’s great to be here. It’s very exciting to be here. Can I also acknowledge Scott Wyatt, he’s the CEO of Viva Energy, who’s here with us today. This election is about the economy. It’s about the economy. You’re going to live it over the next 10 years. And the strength of that economy matters. That economy guarantees the essential services you rely on. It’s what guarantees Medicare. It’s what guarantees the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It’s what guarantees the pension and all the services and supports that you rely on. And so a strong economy needs a stronger future. And this election is a choice between a Government that has demonstrated our strong economic and financial management capabilities and has a strong economic plan to ensure our economy continues to grow into the future, producing the jobs and ensuring the strength of that economy to support the essential services that you rely on. Unemployment coming down to 4 per cent and believed to be falling. Having the biggest turnaround we’ve seen in our Budget of some over $100 billion in just the last 12 months. A AAA credit rating, which is also helping us to keep downward pressure on cost of living. And right now, as a result of that, we’ve been able to deliver that immediate support on cost of living pressures right across the country. Standing at one of the great refineries of Australia, but not far from here in Geelong, it’s 31 cents a litre less here in Geelong than it was before the Budget. As a result of our Government having the strength of economic management to cut the petrol excise, to cut those petrol taxes in half, at a time when we’re seeing elevated fuel prices, particularly because of the war in Ukraine. So that is very welcome, but we’ve got to do more than that because we know that not only is fuel such a basic thing that people need right across the country. And if you’ve got two cars and you’re living here in Geelong, this saving as a result of the fuel excise cut is around about $700, and that is going to be very welcome relief to families at a time like this. But the economic plan we have to keep going forward has fuel security very much at its heart. And that isn’t just about the economy, that’s about Australia’s sovereignty. At a time when we’re seeing supply chain stress, when we’re seeing global uncertainty, our ability to refine fuel here right in Australia, that is very much for our own strength and our security going into the future. And that is why I particularly want to commend Angus Taylor, who’s here with me today. Part of our plan is to be ensured that the two refineries that we have, both up in Lytton in Queensland and here in Geelong, is that we can make sure they can continue to be viable and they can continue to operate. And they’ve extended out their life here because of the very strong package of support we’ve put in place to help and keep those jobs. Now there’s 1,250 jobs both in the refinery in Queensland and here in Victoria. The investments that we’re making and announcing further today is going to ensure that we retain those jobs. If there’s another 500 jobs in both of those refineries that are involved in the construction project. Now specifically, we’re talking about $250 million worth of investment, $125 here and $125 million up in Queensland to ensure that we’re putting in new equipment, new planning, new capability here, which is also making the fuel safer and more environmentally friendly by pulling out the sulphur components of that fuel, and meeting better standards and being able to meet them earlier. And that’s been matched by the refineries themselves. They’re they’re coming to the table. There’s $500 million specifically being invested between the two of us. On top of that, you would have seen some other projects here, some $75 billion, which is also part of the work we’ve been doing, around $30 million of the steel that is going into that project that I was advised of today – that is coming out of South Australia, creating jobs in South Australia to keep for our refineries open here in Victoria and in Queensland. So that’s what an economic plan looks like when it’s real, when it does real things to keep refining capacity in Australia and enables the country to continue to have fuel security while at the same time putting downward pressure on fuel prices. I’m going to ask Angus Taylor to speak a little bit more about that package. And then happy to take some questions.

MINISTER TAYLOR: Well, thank you Prime Minister. Good to be here with my colleagues, Scott Wyatt. Great to be here with you on a good day for jobs, a good day for fuel security, and a good day to cleaner fuel. Let me start with the jobs. As the Prime Minister has said, 1,250 jobs in our refineries, here and up in Lytton in Brisbane, are secured on the back of today’s announcement of finalisation of the arrangements for establishment of low sulphur fuel capacity. This is an important investment, $250 million from the Federal Government, upward to $500 million from the two refiners to make sure we have the low sulphur fuels, to make sure that we’ve got sustainable refineries in the future. Those 1,250 jobs secured on the back of this. But on top of that, flow on jobs and we see 100 jobs not far from here at LyondellBasell, which has been secured today. We’ve just seen an arrangement between Viva and LyondellBasell to secure up those jobs on the back of the security of the refinery. But the second part of this is fuel security, and this is absolutely essential for Australians. Whether you’re a truckie, you’re a farmer, you’re a miner or a commuter, you need fuel. And having that security of local fuel production is so essential. And that’s what this arrangement, alongside stockholding obligations and 780 million litres of additional storage that are part of our broader fuel security package. But finally, this arrangement makes sure that we have to cleaner fuel. This will allow us to get below 10 parts of the million of sulphur – a billion dollars – of health benefits flowing from lower emissions from the fuel. So this is good for all Australians, over and above the fuel security benefits that it will deliver. A big thank you to Viva and to Ampol up at Lytton in Brisbane for working closely with the Government to deliver to Australians, which is what this is all about.

JOURNALIST: We’ve had some global economic indicators come in the last 24 hours. US inflation is 8.5 per cent, New Zealand’s raised its cash rate by a half a per cent. What are the potential flow on effects that you can see for Australia? And does this put extra pressure on your Government, if you’re re-elected, to cut spending to bring the Budget under control?

PRIME MINISTER: Well what you know Greg, and in what your question highlights, is that we are in a very uncertain world. The economy has many more moving parts now and with global pressures that we’re facing economically are very real. And that only, I think reinforces, why, how you manage the economy, how you engage in financial management, is very important to your future, for those who are watching on. And that’s why being able to maintain a AAA credit rating – one of only nine countries do so – through the course of this pandemic, is incredibly important, because if you can’t manage money, then that means the pressures that you face from overseas only become worse. Now we do know here that inflation in Australia is 3.5 per cent. Overseas, as you said, the United States over 8. And of course, we’re seeing very much higher inflation in other developed countries around the world. So those pressures are certainly on. But what we’ve been able to do in Australia to date is being able to ensure that we have the confidence of those rating agencies. We can see in our economic plan, that we’re investing in the things we need to invest in, just like we’re talking about here, because that underpins the strength of our economy, keeps people in jobs, makes sure our economy is more secure, while at the same time keeping expenditure under control and ensuring that we have realistic plans for the future that we can fund, without having to increase taxes. And so that’s what good financial management looks like. That’s why Australia’s financial management situation is not experiencing the same things they are overseas, and as a country, Australia has outperformed those countries, not just in terms of economic growth, not just in terms of having more jobs, but also in terms of some of these key issues. While, yes, there are inflationary pressures in our economy. Now, that is very, very true. And so who do you choose to manage the country’s finances at a time like this? They need to know what they’re talking about and they need to know what they’re doing.

JOURNALIST: Before the last election, you promised to have a Federal Anti-Corruption Commission. If you are re-elected, do you promise to put your proposal out to a vote in Parliament?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, our position on this hasn’t changed. We have a very clear proposal, detailed legislation which the Labor –

JOURNALIST: So, will you put it to Parliament? Will you put it to Parliament?

PRIME MINISTER: I haven’t finished my answer. I haven’t finished my answer. We’ve got a detailed piece of legislation, which I did table in Parliament, and our view has been the same. When the Labor Party is prepared to support that legislation in that form, then we will proceed it.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Rheem factory that was the backdrop for your big job announcement yesterday since conceded it’s actually sacking workers, Australian workers, at that factory, sending their jobs overseas to Vietnam. Doesn’t that stand in direct contradiction to the message you were delivering yesterday? Why did you select that company?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is for Rheem to outline their future plans. They’re also investing in their future. And what you’ve referred to, the voluntary redundancies at that point, that’s what they have advised us, in their future employment plans then I can refer to those. But what I can point very clearly to is companies like Rheem are investing in Australia. The manufacturing companies, advanced manufacturing companies are investing in Australia. We’re investing in Australia’s industrial capacity here. And as a Government, we delivered 375,000 jobs together with Australian businesses – more jobs than we had before the pandemic. And that’s why Australians know that when we say that we can deliver 1.3 million jobs, we have the economic plan to support that. Now, our opponents have had three years to produce an economic plan. They haven’t done that. They haven’t got an economic plan. And so now they’re trying to borrow Kevin Rudd’s policies. My suggestion is, if you can find them, try and find the ones that work.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on manufacturing jobs, on manufacturing jobs, just to follow up Mark’s question. There’s 50,000 fewer jobs in manufacturing since the last election, and 80,000 fewer since the Coalition took Government – those are ABS numbers. Doesn’t that show that your manufacturing plan isn’t working?

PRIME MINISTER: Well those numbers lag the most recent employment data and so I think what you’ll see as time goes on is the data on the central employment lags the most recent data. Now, we’ve got employment figures coming out tomorrow, and what we’ve seen is a great strengthening of the labour market. And we’re seeing that happen in the manufacturing sector as well. I mean, many of the things we’ve seen which lag data go back into a period of time when we were dealing with the pandemic. So as we’ve seen improvements in the labour market, we’ve seen unemployment fall, we would expect to see those jobs lift in the future, and that’s why we’ve invested $2.5 billion in ensuring that our advanced manufacturing sector, particularly in those 6 key sectors that we’ve highlighted, as being our priorities. And ensuring that they’re paying lower gas prices and Angus can tell you all about it, but I might ask Angus to make a few comments on the manufacturing plant, because we have a manufacturing plant. It’s based on having lower taxes, affordable energy, but on top of that investment in the, in the sectors which we know can achieve scale and achieve a competitiveness in Australia, whether it’s in the defence industry, the aerospace industry, food and beverage manufacturing, the many other sectors which we know Australia will do very well in. That’s where the jobs of the future are coming on in manufacturing and I’ll ask Angus to comment further.

MINISTER TAYLOR: Yeah, thank you PM. The fundamentals of manufacturing in this country are incredibly strong. I was over at two of our four aluminium refineries over in WA just over the last couple of days and they’re going from strength to strength. We saw in 2021 an increase of 3 per cent of the number manufacturing businesses in this country – over 3,000 new businesses, and we’ve seen this growth of new manufacturing businesses, which will translate to jobs over time. Now, that’s being driven at least partially by the $1.5 billion we’re investing in the Modern Manufacturing Strategy across those six priority areas, the Prime Minister described. Including areas like medical technology, clean energy, defence, food and beverage. These are areas where Australia has advantage, where we’ve had tailwinds, where we can create jobs and we can drive investment and that’s exactly what we’ve seen.

JOURNALIST: That phrase, your candidate for Waringah, Katherine Deves, saying that she is right on the money and that she is talking common sense. You’ve also said this week that you share her views. In a deleted social media post, she describes transgender children as surgically mutilated and sterilised. In another post, she said she was triggered by the rainbow pride flag. Which of these views exactly do you share?

PRIME MINISTER: She has withdrawn and apologised for those.

JOURNALIST: To be clear, she’s apologised after we reported on the posts today, having previously deleted them –

PRIME MINISTER: They’re not views that I was aware of. I was referring to the Bill that has been brought forward by Senator Chandler. It’s a Private Member’s Bill. The Government doesn’t have any plans for that to be a Government Bill. It’s a Private Member’s Bill and I’ve told you very clearly what my views on that Bill are.

JOURNALIST: Do you stand by, do you stand by –

JOURNALIST: There’s now been at least three times in the past week where angry punters have ambushed you or tricked you into believing that they’re supporters and clearly they are very angry with your leadership. And also so far on the campaign trail, it’s been very heavily controlled, where there’s been no street walks to meet everyday Australians. Are you concerned for your safety? Are you worried about the reaction of these punters and do you think you might lose the election?

PRIME MINISTER: No. I was very pleased to be able to spend time with Ray up in in the Hunter the other day. I listened very carefully and respectfully. And I listened to the challenges that he was facing in his own life. It was a very, it was a very complex set of issues that Ray had been dealing with, going back to when he first roasted Tanya Plibersek when she was the Minister responsible. That’s when he first started raising those issues. So, they have a long, they have a long history. Throughout my Parliamentary career, I’ve always been pleased to sit down and listen to people, understand what their problems are, and where I can, seek to solve them. On the other cases, I mean the Labor Party, effectively already apologised for what we saw last night. I mean, it was the equivalent of a pitch invasion by a Labor apparatchik. And, you know, when Anthony Albanese sets the tone for the last three years, where he basically says it’s okay to sledge and attack and engage in personal attacks for three years, you may think that’s a substitute for having an economic plan, but it’s not. But when he sets that tone, you can’t be surprised that people come and behave in that sort of way. I’m not referring to Ray. Ray was a very separate case, but as Shane Warne told his kids, manners cost nothing.

JOURNALIST: President Joe Biden has accused Vladimir Putin of genocide.


JOURNALIST: Do you agree, is there (inaudible) of genocide? But also on Ukraine, we’re hearing reports from Ukrainians in Australia are basing delays in humanitarian visas, and that transition, and therefore unable to get Government support or unable to work. Is there a reason why there is this delay?

PRIME MINISTER: I haven’t seen those reports. I’m not aware of those issues being raised. And would be pleased to follow those matters up with the Minister for Immigration if in fact that is the case. As you know we are very keen to ensure that that humanitarian support flows. I mean it’s around about 7,000 visas last time I checked – might be a little less than that – that we’ve already processed, that’s across the full visa stream for those who are coming from Ukraine. So it’s, you know, they’re coming as students, they’re coming on visitor visas, and so on. And as I announced some weeks ago, when they arrive, they can get that humanitarian visa, which gives them access to all of the things that you are mentioning, so I’m very keen to ensure that that is occurring. Straight after this I’ll be very happy to speak to the Minister for Immigration, and if you’ve got any details on that, I’d be very happy to receive it, because we want to make sure that they’re getting that support, because I know the Ukrainian community is very appreciative of the way we’ve worked very closely with them to ensure that we can deliver that support. We’ve indeed funded the Ukrainian Association in Australia to ensure that they have more resources to assist us in our engagements with the Ukrainian community in Australia to make sure that they are getting that support. Those matters haven’t been raised by the Ukrainian Association at this time, and if indeed that’s the case, then you could expect to follow up. On the other matter that you’ve raised, there’s no doubt, in my view, that war crimes and atrocities are being committed in Ukraine by, by, by, Russia. There’s no doubt that that is occurring. And Vladimir Putin must be held to account for those war crimes and atrocities, and he should be. And I believe the world will continue to seek to hold him to account for that. We are directly involved in putting people in support on the Inquiry that has been underdone, undertaken I should say, internationally. We put our own lawyers in there to assist in their investigations. We’ve actually got quite a lot of experience in investigating the Russians, when they shot down MH17, we supported that action. And, and so they know their way around and they’re actually also assisting now in investigating these atrocities and war crimes, we believe, are occurring in Ukraine right now.

JOURNALIST: Will you introduce mandatory fuel efficiency standards?


JOURNALIST: Will you introduce mandatory fuel efficiency standards, if you’re re-elected?

PRIME MINISTER: I’ll let Angus speak to that.

MINISTER TAYLOR: So getting down to below 10 parts per million for sulphur takes us most of the way we need to get to Euro 6 fuel standards. The remaining issue, which is under review, that we’re working through with the companies relating to aromatics, that work is ongoing. We expect it to be concluded this year.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister. Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, oh, sorry, not the Prime Minister. The Americans are privately saying that Australians dropped the ball when it comes to Solomon Islands. Why hasn’t the Foreign Minister get, visited, to discuss the situation with China? And doesn’t this situation raise questions over the Coalition’s plan (inaudible) on national security?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, no concerns have been raised with us, to, as you’ve outlined. we have a very close relationship with the United States. And that has not been their view. And I reject that absolutely. We have worked closely with our entire Pacific family and, even just this week I’ve been in regular contact with Prime Minister Bainimarama, following up on these matters, as the Chair of the Pacific Island Forum. And we will continue to work through these sensitive issues as a Pacific family. The suggestion that Australia should be heavy handed on these matters is wrongheaded. And I think it completely misunderstands how these matters should be handled. We strongly support the role of the United States, and the team that will be visiting Against the Solomon Islands, as you know. The Minister for the Pacific has also been sent there to discuss the likely, and of course as a friend, of Solomon Islands we remain their first call for security. We remain their first call when it comes to the issues that concern them right across their development aid. That’s why I have a Minister for the Pacific, but the way we engage with the Pacific is in a respectful way, in a direct way. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, of course, has had discussions with her counterparts, and we believe this is the most respectful and appropriate way to respect the sovereignty of Solomon Islands. The suggestion that somehow, some seem to be making, that that Solomon Islands is somehow under the control of Australia, I think, is offensive to the Solomon Islands. They are a sovereign nation. I respect their independence and they will make their own decisions about their own sovereignty. What we have been doing is ensuring that they are fully aware of the risks and the security matters that are not only of concern to Australia, but islands, Pacific nations, across the Pacific. And we have been respectfully raising those matters with the Prime Minister, and his senior Cabinet Ministers, and the officials within his Government, which is the appropriate way to handle these matters.

JOURNALIST: Victoria will host the 2026 Commonwealth Games –


JOURNALIST: …across four regional hubs, including right here in Geelong. What is your reaction to that? And will there be any Federal support including for things like state department (inaudible)?

PRIME MINISTER: Oh look, I welcome the decision that the State Government has made and I think it will be particularly great for regional Victoria, and particularly here in Geelong. And Stephanie, Steph, you might want to, might want to make a comment on this, but no requests have been made from us. Steph?

ASHER: Very exciting news I think, particularly for Geelong to be potentially hosting swimming, and diving, and triathlon, and table tennis. Big range of sports. I think it’s fantastic news for Geelong.


JOURNALIST: (inaudible).

PRIME MINISTER: Well, their voluntary redundancies. And so they’ve elected to take those packages. So I wouldn’t describe it in the way that you have.

JOURNALIST: The Australian Conservation Foundation says that the money that’s going into this (inaudible) is going to slow the transition to electric vehicles. Does your Government investing in fossil fuels beyond the level of sensible?

PRIME MINISTER: No. One of the, and I want to commend Minister Taylor – you might want to comment on this also, Angus – our net zero by 2050 commitment is based, as you know, on technology. Some $22 billion of investment in technology to reach that goal. We’ve achieved emissions reductions already, by around 20 per cent. That’s many times over what has been achieved in Canada, in New Zealand. It’s higher than the United States, it’s higher than Japan. We are achieving on this front. Like so many other countries, who frankly talk a lot more about it. But we achieve. That’s what Australians do. We do. We get there. We have targets. They’re sensible targets. We meet those targets. But it’s not just about technology, not taxes. Another important part of the strategy that Angus, Minister Taylor, has outlined, is we’re not going to tell people what choices to make. It’s up to them, what choices they want to make. We’re not going to force anybody to do something they don’t want to do. We want to make sure that the consumers drive this process. And you know what? They are. We’ve got almost, it’s now one in three, I think, households now Angus, that have solar on their roof. They’re making those choices. Good for them. And I think that’s, it’s world leading. And similarly, people who are wanting to buy electric vehicles, it’s really important that those big vehicle companies are getting those prices down at a level where they’re gonna find that a good choice for them. It’s not our policy to go and subsidise big car companies over in Europe for that. That’s a matter for them, to get their technology and their costs down so they can offer a good deal to Australian consumers when it comes to buying those vehicles. But Angus, did you want to?

MINISTER TAYLOR: Yeah. Thanks, PM. This investment enables lower emissions. Lower emission vehicles. Getting to below 10 parts per million sulphur is critical to enabling the importation of a large number of Euro 6 vehicles, and that’s what it’s all about. But on top of that, we’re investing $250 million in the Future Fuels Fund. All about making sure we have the charging and fuelling infrastructure we need. There is a hydrogen fuelling station just a short distance from where we are here today. So this is part of a broader suite of policies from the Government to reduce emissions. Through technology, not taxes, and enable choice as those lower emissions improve and they will continue to improve. We’ve seen rapid uptake of hybrid vehicles, for instance, here in Australia. And we’ll continue to see those lower emissions vehicles going to share.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, everyone. Thanks a lot, Scott. It’s been great to be here.

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