Prime Minister – Transcript – Press Conference – Ipswich, QLD

Liberal Party of Australia

SAM BIGGINS: Good morning. Sam Biggins is my name. I’m the LNP candidate for the seat of Blair at the upcoming election, where we’re standing here today. It’s fantastic to be here at TAE Aerospace with the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and the Minister for Defence, Peter Dutton. Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much, Sam. Well, I’m very pleased to be here with you, Sam. I’m very pleased to be here with Peter Dutton as Minister for Defence. I really want to commend you, Peter, for the tremendous job you’ve been doing as Minister for Defence and working so closely together to ensure that our Defence Forces have the capability they need to do the job that we require of our Defence Forces. When Peter and I came into government many years ago, the Defence budget as a share of the economy that we inherited from Labor was 1.56 per cent of the size of our economy. If we had kept defence spending at that low level, the lowest we had seen since just prior to the Second World War, then we would not have spent the additional $55 billion that we have from that time ’til this. And that investment in our Defence Forces has been building our capability each and every single day. And a lot of what you see around us here is supported by that investment. Now that investment has also lifted Australia’s standing as a nation with a very strong and capable defence force, a defence force that when the United States and the United Kingdom looked to us recently and when we engage with them to put the AUKUS agreement together, they saw a government here in Australia that was serious about our defence forces. That was serious about the role and capability of our Defence Forces, not just to service our defence needs, but so we can be a very strong partner with our allies and partners in the region. Whether that be AUKUS, whether that be combining with the Japanese and the Indian governments to ensure with the United States through our QUAD partnerships, that we can be extremely effective. And so Australia’s defence capability has been extended by our Government significantly now, with spending up over 2 per cent or around about 2 per cent of GDP, as we promised we would do. Now that combines together with another really important part of what we’re achieving here, and that is the development of our defence industry manufacturing capability, as well as our manufacturing capability in aerospace. And that’s what we see on display here at TAE. And I want to thank everybody here at TAE, the great crew here who are doing a great job ensuring that we are producing some of the most outstanding leading edge advanced manufacturing capabilities and maintenance and servicing capabilities anywhere in the world. And we are part of global teams that are supporting defence industries all around the world, particularly our defence forces in airfield works across the RAAF bases at Amberley, Pearce, Richmond and HMAS Albatross down in Nowra, where I was just very recently. That includes, you know, basic things from pavements to lighting drainage works, all of these, and maintenance works are necessary to ensure the operational effectiveness and safety of our airfields, which plays such a critical role in our defence capability. These projects are estimated to be around $430 million, $428 million to be more specific. And at each of these sites we’re talking about between $90 and $140 million being invested in upgrading these airfields for our Defence Forces, and that’s around 90 to 160 construction personnel on each side. So it’s about capability, it’s about jobs, it’s about ensuring that our defence forces can continue to do the significant job that they do all around the country. And that is part of a broader estate management task that Peter has been leading as Defence Minister, which he can speak to. Another important task that we’re engaged in is increasing the size of our defence forces. And when Peter and I were together, not that long ago at Enoggera, and we announced the increase in the size of our defence forces. Peter made the very important point that how we look after our Defence Force personnel and indeed how we look after our veterans is critical to ensuring that we can build up the recruitment of our Defence Forces, taking us up to some 80,000 and that job starts right now. Now there’ve been many improvements in terms of how we’ve invested to support our veterans. About half a billion dollars has been invested in recent years to upgrade our capability to ensure we can better support veterans when they come out of the Defence Forces. And a lot has changed. And there is, there’s a strong Defence Force veteran membership here, particularly in the seat of Blair and Ipswich and around South East Queensland. And so one of the things that has been very effective has been our Wellbeing Centres. Those Wellbeing Centres that have been in Townsville, Darwin, Perth. Adelaide, Wodonga and Nowra. And today we’re announcing that we’re extending that program for our Wellbeing Centres, some $30.6 million, announcements there to ensure that we are expanding our Wellbeing Centres. The overall cost of the program is around $70 million and that means we’re putting, establishing 14 new veterans’ Wellbeing Centres. They’re in, there’s five of them in New South Wales. There is another four of them in Queensland here, including an additional centre in South East Queensland, as well as on the Sunshine Coast in Wide Bay-Burnett region and the Mackay region, which was announced this week. In Western Australia, there is a further one there in the northern suburbs of Perth. In Victoria, there will be three in Melbourne in Geelong, Surf Coast Region, in the Mornington Peninsula. And in the ACT there’ll be one in the Capital region. Importantly, in New South Wales, up there in Newcastle and the Hunter, Mid-North Coast Region, Wagga Wagga, Western Sydney and in Greater Sydney. These Wellbeing Centres for veterans provide, and I’ve seen it firsthand when we spoken to, particularly to Phil Thompson, and we’ve got many great veterans who have formed our ranks in the Liberal and National parties who really inform the decisions that Peter and I in particular have to take and how we’re supporting our veterans. And these Wellbeing Centres are a place where veterans can go and get access to a range of services and supports, but also find the common support of their fellow veterans. And they’ve been highly successful. And when you’re doing something that works, you should keep doing it and you should do more of it where you have the capability to do that. In handing over to Peter, I’ll make this point. None of this would be possible, that $55 million we’ve spent extra on our Defence Forces, supporting our veterans with half a billion dollars of additional support, none of that would be possible unless we were running a strong economy and knew how to manage money. And ultimately, that’s what this election is about. It’s about an election where there is a choice about having a strong economy for a stronger future or a weaker economy, a weaker economy under, under Labor who Australians know can’t manage money. And their economic performance has not supported these types of investments at these levels. In fact, when they were last in government, they cut defence because they couldn’t manage money. And as Peter and I remember well, they couldn’t manage our borders either. I’ll hand over to Peter.

MINISTER DUTTON: PM, thank you very much. Firstly, I want to say thank you very much to Sam Biggins, who’s a great, energetic candidate for the seat of Blair. And I think he would bring a sort of a refreshed approach to the local representation here, which I think is well overdue in Blair. So Sam, we wish you all the very best at the upcoming election, mate. Importantly today, to the TAE staff, to the management, I just want to say thank you very much for the presentation today, but thank you for what you do in our country’s name. There are former veterans who are employed here. You have apprentices, you have advanced manufacturing as the Prime Minister pointed out, and you’re part of a workforce of about 100,000 Australians across the country who are employed to support the ADF, to help us to be the strongest we can to deter any act of aggression against our country, and to provide the men and women with the best equipment available. And the world and international reputation that you have around the world is quite remarkable. So thank you very much. It’s a great honour to be here today. I was with Terry Young in Longman yesterday, and we were speaking with some veterans there about the Prime Minister’s announcement today. Just the, the effort by the Government to pour more money in, which is required, because we do want to take care of veterans, but it’s not just about the money, it’s about the coordination of the services. And the Wellbeing Centres, the focus on families, so not just the veterans, but the spouses, the children, the grandchildren of veterans and the way in which we can provide support and services to them. We hope that we can streamline that and make it even more impactful through these centres. So it’s a significant contribution. And I’m also proud that we’re putting in almost another half a billion dollars, $428 million into upgrading airfields, providing support to the Royal Australian Air Force, who were integral in the recent flood response. They’ve been integral, obviously in uplifting Bushmasters to send to the Ukraine. They move our troops around the country and around the world every day, and we need to have the most up to date technology, the support services for the work that the RAAF and the other services do. And as the Prime Minister points out, we can’t make these investments into defence, we can’t support the 340,000 veterans we have in our country, we can’t continue to increase year on year the money that we put into defence, if we don’t run the Budget and we don’t manage the economy well. And when you consider that we were staring down 15 per cent unemployment at the start of COVID, now at 4 per cent, I want to pay tribute to the Prime Minister, not just for the work that he’s done as PM, but also as Treasurer. Many of the decisions that were made then they put us in a position today where we can invest into our veterans and into the Australian Defence Force. There’s no doubt in my mind that if Labor was in power today, we would be standing in this factory, but much, much smaller and much smaller workforce would be here. That’s the reality if you’re stripping billions of dollars out of defence each year. We don’t have the acquisition program that we’ve got in place and we don’t have the support industry around. So I’m proud to be part of a government which does support our Defence Force. It’s a very stark contrast between what we’ve been able to achieve in defence and what Labor failed to achieve by stripping billions of dollars out of defence and finding every other priority above defence when they were last in government demonstrates what they would do if they were elected at the election next month. So Australians have a lot to think about because we live in an uncertain world. We see what’s happening in the Ukraine, what’s happening in the Indo-Pacific. We need to be strong as a country. We need to make the decisions to invest in our defences, and Labor never makes those decisions. So I’m very pleased to be here today at TAE. PM, I’ll hand back to you.

JOURNALIST: PM, have you been in touch with the US Delegation Kurt Campbell today ahead of them meeting with Manasseh Sogavare? And this morning I note you have described Richard Marles comments on China as chilling (inaudible). What are you specifically accusing Labor of the in relation to China and the Solomon Islands. Are you seriously saying that Labor has been disloyal to Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: As a Government, we’re in regular contact with the United States on these issues and have been over a very long time. In fact, over the last three and a half years as Prime Minister on more than 100 occasions, I’ve had direct discussions with Pacific leaders. I was the first Prime Minister in a very long time to go to Fiji, for example, and recognise Prime Minister Bainimarama and have a direct bilateral meeting with him. A purpose visit just to go to Fiji to stand with Prime Minister Bainimarama. That was very important for Australia. Fiji is an important leader in the Pacific. Same reason why I enjoy those strong relationships with the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea. This is a constant process. It’s not just this day or that day. It is all the time that we are engaging with our Pacific family, and we do that for the obvious reasons of what’s been highlighted in the Solomon Islands. There are frailties and there are vulnerabilities. As I’ve said many times today, and Peter’s made similar remarks, the Chinese Government does not play by the same rules. We’ve seen what they’ve done in other parts of the world, and these pressures are constant, constant and have been there for years, which is why I’ve made the visits into the region that I have. Not just the Solomon Islands, to Vanuatu, to Fiji. I’ve been very active in the region and particularly in the participation in the Pacific Island Forum. And we’re looking forward to the opportunity as a Pacific family to come through and talk about what has recently occurred in the Solomon Islands, because that’s the way we’ve approached, and we’ll continue to approach, our relationship in the Pacific. And we’re not some colonial power, running around, throwing our weight around, telling people what to do. That was the approach of previous administrations. That was not well-received in the Pacific, and we’ve taken a different approach to our Pacific Step Up, which treats all of the Pacific Island leaders with great respect. And understanding their needs and issues, and ensuring that our increased investment in development assistance, in investing in their critical energy infrastructure, in their climate adaptation and resilience measures. All of these things we’ve done over a long period of time. So yes, we do that with our partners. We do it with Japan as well. We have a close dialogue with Japan on what is being done in the Pacific because they are also an important development partner for Pacific nations, as is the United States. But we are getting feedback from the meetings they are having there and, and we’ll continue to work together on ensuring a secure and stable Pacific, Southwest Pacific, with other important partners like New Zealand. And I’m in regular contact, of course, with Prime Minister Ardern on those issues. When it comes to what Richard Marles has said, Richard Marles wrote last year in August that Australia should not, should not be resisting Pacific Island nations entering into these types of agreements with the Chinese Government. I mean, it doesn’t get more blunt than that, and I’m going to ask Peter to make a few comments, because this election is not just a choice about who’s going to be Prime Minister. It’s a choice about who’s going to be the Defence Minister, who’s going to be the Home Affairs Minister, who’s going to be the Treasurer. Now I have a strong and experienced team. Richard Marles is the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party. He would be Deputy Prime Minister in an Albanese Government. I don’t know where he is today. They’ve gone to others today for comment on these things with their travelling media pack in terms of this campaign. But Richard Marles seeks to be, as we understand it, the Defence Minister in an Albanese Government. Now, I think it’s fair for people to understand the difference in the views between the two alternatives. So I’m going to ask Peter makes remarks on this as well.

MINISTER DUTTON: Thanks. Thanks, PM. Look, I think most Australians were pretty shocked when Adam Bandt spoke about there being no problem in our region stripping money from the Defence Force. But it seems when you look now at what Richard Marles has written just in the last year or so, there’s not much difference it seems, between the Greens and the Labor Party when it comes to the decisions about how to defend our country and what position you should be taking in relation to what’s happening in the Indo-Pacific. I find it quite startling that Richard Marles, as the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, could have made these statements. These weren’t statements made back in 1999 or 2010. These were statements essentially a matter of months ago, and it’s no wonder that when Richard Marles and Anthony Albanese and Penny Wong and others were sitting around a Cabinet table with Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, they stripped money out of defence and they lost control of our borders. And they don’t have the strength, frankly, to deal with the issues that our country will face into the future. And we do know that there’s a period of uncertainty. And we do know that our country needs to stand up for our values, what we believe in. We need to stand with our friends. We need to invest in the defences of this country. And Richard Marles has essentially abandoned that principle, and he wants to be the Defence Minister, because Brendan O’Connor is not up to it. We know that already. I mean, Anthony Albanese won’t endorse Brendan O’Connor. See nobody else within the caucus clearly wants to be the Home Affairs Minister. So, who would the national security team be? And as I say, they’ve always got something else to do, another priority to meet, apart from the defences of our country. And the Prime Minister and I are rock solid with the National Security Committee and the decisions that we’re making to keep our country safe in an uncertain period. And that’s a big part of what this election is about.

JOURNALIST: Minister Dutton, thank you. The Government’s talked a lot about the importance of the relationships with the Pacific nations. Do you regret making those comments in joking about sea water rising and water lapping at the doors of some of our most important neighbours? And to the Prime Minister, when did you last chat on the phone the Solomon Islands Prime Minister?

MINISTER DUTTON: So to, to answer your question. I mean, I made comments at the time which were, you know, off the cuff, flippant. I apologised for them. It’s never been raised. And, and if if you want to take Richard Marles’ word or Anthony Albanese’s word, that somehow what’s happening in the Indo-Pacific at the moment is the fault of Australia, then they don’t have any comprehension. They haven’t had the security or intelligence briefings. And Richard Marles, of course, went to Beijing. I don’t know who paid for his trip. I don’t know who he visited there. I don’t know who he spoke to. I don’t know the relationships that he formed. I don’t know who he’s kept in contact with since that time. But he came back with some certain views and he’s expressed those. And as I say, they’re very similar to Adam Bandt and the Greens. And if you doubt that Labor and the Greens are in lockstep, but then look at these comments and compare and contrast, and they’re remarkably similar. What’s changed here in our region is China under President Xi. Okay. If you look at what’s happened on the India-China land border, there have been Indian troops who have died there in the last three years at the hands of Chinese troops. Now, India hasn’t changed. India is not the aggressor. If you look at what’s happened in the East China Sea, the Chinese militia are bumping up against the Japanese Coast Guard in a provocative action on a regular basis. It’s not Japan that’s changed. Japan is not the aggressor there, China is. And if you look at what’s happening in the acts of interference within our own region, the corrupt payments in parts of Africa, the situation in Sri Lanka with the port, it’s not those countries that have changed, it’s China under President Xi. And if Labor wants you to believe somehow that what’s happened in the Indo-Pacific with the Solomon Islands or elsewhere, is the fault of the Australian Government, it just goes against all of the facts that are on the table. And I think Penny Wong has demonstrated, as much as Anthony Albanese has, in the last 48 hours that they don’t understand these issues. They’ve jumped from one position to next to the next on border protection. And frankly, they’ve done the same in relation to this issue.

PRIME MINISTER: I’ve spoken to Prime Minister Sogavare on several occasions this year and about this issue and on many occasions last year as well. Our conversations have dealt with the matters that are currently before us. They’ve also dealt with the the serious civil unrest that was occurring back in December of last year when we committed Australian Defence Forces and Federal Police on onto those matters. They’ve also involved discussions about COVID and the significant support we’ve provided to the Solomon Islands. And on this very sensitive matter, as you know, we became obviously aware, which we have been of the risk for some time now, we have followed very careful advice about the interactions that we have had, particularly direct interactions. Now I can’t go into any more details about that, but I can assure you these are complex issues and they have to be dealt with in a, in a very calibrated way. And we have been very careful to listen to those within our agencies about how is the best way to get Australia’s message across. Now, I’ve also spoken to many other Pacific island leaders as well at the same time, as well as Prime Minister Ardern, to ensure that there is a collective view that is being communicated to Prime Minister Sogavare. So not just a view of Australia, but a view of the Papua New Guinean Government, of the Solomon Islands, sorry, the Samoan Government, of the Vanuatu Government, of the Fiji.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible).

PRIME MINISTER: It was, it has been within the last month or so.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on the Solomon Islands, on the Solomon Islands, Prime Minister.

JOURNALIST: On the Solomon Islands, is it correct that an Australian intelligence agency had a direct or indirect role in leaking the draft security agreement?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I would never comment on intelligence matters of that nature. And I think you’d be surprised if I were to speak one way or the other about those issues. And no-one should take from that any meaning whatsoever. I mean, these are highly sensitive matters, Andy, you probably have a view about that. I hope I got your name right. No? I’m sorry.

JOURNALIST: On the Solomon Islands, Prime Minister, putting the politics to one side in terms of these attacks on Labor and Richard Marles’ comments, If you’re re-elected as Prime Minister, what are you going to do to prevent China getting a stranglehold in our Pacific region?

PRIME MINISTER: I’m going to keep doing what we have been doing every single day, as I said on over 100 occasions, I have had direct engagements with Pacific leaders over, over the last few years. I’ve gone into those islands. I’ve been a very active participant within the Pacific Islands Forum, our Defence Force as well. What this highlights is these are not simple issues. I mean, if it was just as easy as picking up the phone or sending a Foreign Minister, then these issues wouldn’t occur. It’s not that easy. And I think that analysis, which suggests that that’s all was required, is simplistic and doesn’t understand the complex nature of the forces that are at play here or the way that the Chinese Government operates within our region and the risks that are attached to various approaches that are made. This is a highly complex situation. Our partners understand that, our partners trust us, and we work closely with them. But we can’t kid ourselves. There is enormous pressure and influence, which is placed on Pacific Island leaders across the region, which the Chinese Government have been engaged in for some time. And as Peter rightly said, we have seen that play out in other parts of the world. So as a government, we have invested in those intelligence networks. We have invested in our defence capability. We’ve invested in our humanitarian support. And we have worked on the all of our relationships, frankly to try and restore a position where Australia had previously been seen as throwing its weight around in the region, which was never welcome. I have taken a very different approach. I’ve had a long association with Pacific countries going back to before I went into Parliament, and this is an area of keen interest for me and an area of great passion. But it is very complicated, is very risky, and our national interest always comes first in our dealings. Well, either of you. Who would like to go first?

JOURNALIST: Can you just clarify your comments as to why you haven’t spoken with the Solomon Islands Prime Minister? You said you got advice, kind of advice, you’ve been told –

PRIME MINISTER: I can’t go into the details of that Jen, that would not be appropriate. I cannot con-

JOURNALIST: Have you been told not to call him? Is that right?

PRIME MINISTER: I you can’t take from that, the any implication one way or the other. And the reason for that is these are highly sensitive, complex, national security issues. And I know people would like to know all these things, but it’s not in the national interest for Prime Ministers to just give a running commentary about how decisions are made about these things. That would be, not in Australia’s interest to do that. And so you, I would simply give you this assurance, that in the decisions that we make about how approaches are made and when approaches are made and the points that are made, that is done as part of a very careful process and we take very seriously, the informed advice that we get from our intelligence and security agencies.

JOURNALIST: Jason Clare has just delivered a very impressive press conference talking up Team Albo. Are you concerned that Mr Albanese’s absence will open you up to more scrutiny from other members of the Labor Party?

PRIME MINISTER: I welcome the comparison between my team and the Labor team. I welcome the comparisons between Peter Dutton, whether it’s Richard Marles or Brendan O’Connor. Here’s the choice you’ve got for a Defence Minister in the Labor Party. Someone who thinks it’s a good idea for Pacific Island nations to sign up to security agreements with the Chinese Government. That’s Richard Marles, option number one. Option number two, Brendan O’Connor, who, in a very competitive field of failed Labor Immigration and Border Protection ministers, was terribly responsible for the border protection failings under the former Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government. So if he can’t control the borders, how on earth could he be a worthwhile choice as a Defence Minister? My Defence Minister not only protected the borders, but is overseeing the biggest recapitalisation of our defence forces we’ve seen since the Second World War, has been an integral part of the process of us pulling the AUKUS agreement together and working with our partners in the QUAD. So, I think what people can see in our team on national security, on defence, is a well-seasoned and experienced team. I mean, Peter and I have both spent about eight years on the National Security Committee and pretty much all of that time together. We can pretty much finish each other’s sentences in understanding the risks that Australia faces, the capabilities required and how we respond to issues. Now the other issue is the Minister for Home Affairs, in Karen Andrews, who carries on the very important work Peter has done in that portfolio, and I began, when we were first elected. And Karen has continued that very strong position. In the Labor Party, no-one wants to even own up to being, who their who their Home Affairs Minister would be. Kristina Keneally seems to be the one that Anthony Albanese wants to do the job, but she doesn’t seem to be that interested or keen to take it on. So I think there’s a very clear choice, not just on the economy, but on the teams that press forward in terms of guaranteeing our national security, keeping our borders secure and our national defence. Eliza.

JOURNALIST: In March, you said your weekly conversations with Pacific leaders would ensure that there would be no incursion by Beijing in our region. You were willing to take credit then. Are you willing to claim any responsibility now for China’s new access to the Solomons?

PRIME MINISTER: You always want to achieve the prevention of these arrangements, and everything we were doing was seeking to achieve that. But there will be occasions where you’re unable for that to be the outcome. But I think Peter makes a very important point, a very important point. The reason there is a Chinese Government secret deal with Solomon Islands Government, a deal that we know where the Chinese Government does not play by the same rules of transparency that liberal democracies do in the region, and we do not engage in the same way that they do in the region. That is a result of what the Chinese Government has done. Not a result of what the Australian Government has done. The suggestion that the Australian Government In any way contributed to this arrangement being put in place, I think is absolutely false and I know it not to be the case. Australia continues to be the priority, preferred first security partner of Solomon Islands, and we have Australian Federal Police on the ground in Honiara right now, securing peace and stability for the people of Solomon Islands. And our people-to-people relations between Australia and the people of the Solomon Islands is very, very strong. But as I keep stressing, these events only highlight the vulnerabilities, the risks and security threats that exist within our region. And there’s a choice. What would Labor have done differently? If they think it’s just a matter of making a phone call, that highlights just how little they understand about the complexity and seriousness of these issues. I’ve got time for one more.

JOURNALIST: How concerned are you that Beijing is preparing to do a deal with any other Pacific Island nations? And Anthony Albanese obviously now has COVID-19, what implications do you think that will have on your campaign given his absence over the next week?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I remain concerned, as I have been for years and years and years, about the Chinese Government’s intentions within our region. And that is why we have provided the policy response that we have over many years. Increasing our investment, particularly on development assistance in the region up to over $1.8 billion a year. By being proactive in going into the region as a Prime Minister and engaging directly with Pacific leaders and speaking with them regularly as well about the security issues in our region, but particularly with the New Zealand Government, because Australia and New Zealand do work closely on these issues. And then we work with other partners, particularly like Japan and the United States. So yes, I do remain concerned about – there is constant pressure on these issues, just as there is in other parts of the region and Peter ran through them. Whether in Sri Lanka or Africa or other parts. I mean, one of the other countries that isn’t at fault in what’s happening in say the South China Sea is Vietnam. Now they are a communist country with a Communist Party leadership. They’re not at fault when it comes to their fishing boats and their deep sea exploration being threatened by coastguard vessels or others. This is the role of an assertive Chinese Government within the region, which we know firsthand has sought to coerce, whether it be through trade sanctions on Australia for our barley or our wine or any of those issues, or seeking to work against Australia’s interests more broadly around the world. And that reminds me. I mean, it was not that long ago, in fact, was just back in January. You remember when the new Chinese Ambassador, Xiao Qian, came to Australia, and he said that Australia should respond to an olive branch. It was called an olive branch. An olive branch at a time when trade sanctions were being continually imposed on Australia and Australia’s interests, were being spoken against in the region by the Chinese Government. Now, Anthony Albanese’s response to that invitation was, he said, some of the actions he said to Beijing. Some of the actions that have been taken to stop Australian products going to China should be withdrawn. Some, not all, some. Now this is really important. You cannot compromise when you’re standing up to an authoritarian government that is seeking to impose its will on the region. You can’t take a bet each way on what sanctions you’re going to cop and what sanctions you’re not going to call. So which is it? Is he going to say the bans on our wine? They’re okay, or they should go? Our barley. They should come or they should go? Should it be to the crayfishers down in Tasmania? Are they the ones who would be put on the altar of compromise by Anthony Albanese? You can’t have an each way bet on these things. I have been resolute year after year after year. I’ve called this out before other nations around the world. You’ll remember the 14 points from the Chinese Embassy, which attacked Australia over our freedom of our press, of our Parliament, of calling out the origins of the pandemic and wanting to have an independent investigation. And we were attacked for that. And the Labor Party actually attacked us for these types of actions as well. We called that out. I took it to the G7 Conference and I tabled it. And I said, as liberal democracies, we have to be aware of this and we should be taking action. Now, on the other point, I wish Anthony well with his recovery. Having had COVID, Peter’s had COVID as well, it can be an unpleasant experience for some. It can be a terribly dangerous experience for others. I hope he has very mild symptoms and I’m sure he will continue to work on in the same way as I did when I was also in isolation, putting the Budget together, dealing with the response to Ukraine as a government, chairing Cabinet and national security meetings, including dealing with the sorts of issues we’ve been discussing today. So I assume he will continue to do that and I wish him well for recovery. For us, it means apart from wishing him well, the Government, the Liberals and Nationals, the LNP here in Queensland, will just continue to make the points that we’ve made. We’ve been strong economic managers and we have a strong economic plan going forward that enables us to guarantee the essential services that Australians rely on – Medicare – to ensure that we’re able to deliver real cost of living relief right now. Whether it’s at the bowser, the $250 that is going to pensioners and others receiving those payments. That is a product of our strong economic and financial management that has seen the Budget turnaround by over $100 billion in the last 12 months. But it also ensures that we can invest in the security of our nation, in the defences of our nation, whether it’s in programs like you see on display here, whether it’s looking after our veterans or ensuring that we’re upgrading the capabilities of our air bases, which we’ve been announcing today. All of that is made possible by ensuring we have a strong economy and we have strong financial management. If you can’t do that, you can’t keep Australians safe, you can’t keep our economy strong. You can’t keep downward pressure on interest rates, which are looking to rise, downward pressure on cost of living. And so failure of economic management, failure of financial management. Australians will feel around the kitchen table and that’s why this election is so important. Thanks very much, everyone.

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