GLADYS LIU, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR CHISHOLM: Well, first of all, I just want to say happy birthday to the Prime Minister. You don’t hear the term happy birthday to the Prime Minister face-to-face, and through the media very often. So, very happy birthday to you!
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you.
GLADYS LIU, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR CHISHOLM: And modern manufacturing and supply chain is a crucial part of the economic recovery. And Extel Technologies is a significant part of it as well. It specialises in the design and production of microchips and computer [inaudible], specialising and servicing a variety of customers, including the defence and aerospace industries. And it provides opportunities, job opportunities for approximately 100 of specialist workers like the engineers and a lot of skilled factory workers as we have met. And it’s my great pleasure and privilege to have Extel Technologies in my electorate of Chisholm, and I just want to congratulate them for 30 years of production. Modern technology, modern manufacturing and supply chain is a win for Chisholm and is a win for our country.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Gladys, and thank you for those birthday wishes and to the camos, thank you very much. That’s very, very kind. I’m really pleased to be here at Extel today. I think what we’ve seen here today in many ways is a story about, you know, what is important in our global economy and our and our local economy here. You know, over the last two years, Australia, we’ve been through a lot and throughout those two years, as a Government we’ve worked hard to stand by businesses like the very ones we’re in right now. And Gladys has always understood that here in Chisholm, because she knows that businesses like this, advanced manufacturing businesses, whether they be in the aerospace industry, the defence industry, in the medical products industry, which is where we’ve been with her on many occasions here. Gladys knows how important jobs are here in Chisholm and how important the future of advanced manufacturing is here in Chisholm, and how important it is that we get the collaboration between the university sector, our scientists, our entrepreneurs, our process engineers right here in plants such as this. And that’s why our economic plan for the future is all about seeing businesses like this succeed.
Now, over the course of the pandemic, what we have been doing is, of course, getting businesses through. JobKeeper, of course, did that. The cash flow boost, of course, did that. But at the exact same time as we were working as part of our plan to get businesses through to save jobs, we were also building for the future. The instant asset write-off, the tax incentives, the lower taxes for small business, the work we did to establish the Modern Manufacturing Initiative – some $2.5 billion in the middle of the pandemic – and in particular, the work we’ve been doing on supply chains. All of this was being done in the middle of the pandemic to ensure that once we got through and we’re very close to that point now, that businesses would have a strong future afterwards. And that’s why, as we come out of this pandemic, I’m incredibly optimistic and there is the opportunity for Australia to do even better in the next three to five years. The last three years, they’ve been incredibly tough. The next three to five years will be much better. And the reason they’ll be much better is because of the economic plan that we’ve been laying out and implementing both during the pandemic to keep us strong, but to ensure post-pandemic, the jobs and the opportunities will be there.
Now, one of the key things we’ve learnt during the course of the pandemic and we’ve learnt many lessons, sure, we haven’t got everything right, I haven’t got everything right. We’ve been in one of the most extraordinary times known and there have been so many lessons learnt and that’s going to enable us to be better in the future. I’ve talked a lot about risk in this campaign. The risk of Anthony Albanese being loose with the economy and things like that, and that’s all true. But by voting for the Liberals and Nationals on the 21st of May, you’re also giving us the opportunity to put into practice all the things that we’ve of course learnt during the course of this pandemic and ensure that the policies and plans that we’ve been putting in place to secure those opportunities in the next three to five years, can be realised. So by voting for Liberals and Nationals on the 21st of May, you are, you are voting for things to be better. And a Government that has come through the most difficult periods, has learnt the lessons and ensuring we’re applying them in the years ahead.
And one of the key things we’ve learnt during the pandemic is the importance of this, supply chain resilience. You’ve seen that right here in this very plant that we’ve been walking around this morning. What the pandemic has done is it has disrupted supply chains all around the world. It’s one of the reasons that we’re seeing the cost of living going up, because of what has happened with the disruption of supply chains. But here’s the opportunity for Australia. The opportunity is, is in Australia we do things well, we get it right, the quality is right, we have the people and we’re investing in the skills and the training and the partnerships that will continue to get that right. Which is what this is all about. And that means we’ll see more advanced manufacturing here in Australia. We’ll see more and better paid jobs here in Australia as a result of these plans. Now, this is one of 27 policies that I have so far outlined and announced during the course of this campaign. 27 plans for the future to make things better and to make things stronger. And all of our policies have been submitted to the Parliamentary Budget Office and Finance costings process, and you can go to the website and you can see every single one, there’s seven more to go up that have been submitted, I understand. 27 policies that have all been submitted for costings. The Labor Party has submitted zero. Not one of their policies have been submitted for costing.
But today’s policy builds on the many initiatives to build supply chain resilience. You’ll already know what we’ve invested to ensure onshore manufacture of mRNA vaccines, and we believe that will most likely be taking place right here in Chisholm, not just in Victoria, but mostly like right here in Chisholm, because that is the best site for that to take place. Securing our supplies of urea and diesel exhaust fluid, that’s what we did in particular over the course of the summer. There were many things going on over that Summer. We remember it well. Omicron was a big challenge. But, you know, one of the other challenges we had over the Summer was to ensure we were producing the AdBlue that kept our trucks on the road. Could you imagine what would have happened over Summer had Angus Taylor and I not been able to work with industry to ensure that that AdBlue got produced and the trucks could keep running over the summer? That’s the other thing we were doing over summer. That’s what this job’s all about. There’s never just one thing or two things you’ve got to do, you’ve got to be doing things every day, and you’ve got to be across many, many issues. That’s why you can’t afford to have someone who’s loose in the Lodge. You’ve got to have someone who knows to work across all of these issues and how Government works. We’re supporting fuel refineries and fuel security. And you’ve been with us as we’ve announced those. We’re investing in the local manufacturing of PPE and other important products.
But specifically today, we’re announcing as part of our Supply Chain Resilience Initiative, over $300 million, which is supporting efforts to ensure that Australia can have and play a role in the secure supply chains of the future to create those advanced manufacturing jobs. There’s $27 million under the SCRI Program, which is 18 semiconductor and water treatment chemical projects, and Extel is one of those that received $1.4 million in grants. There’s $15 million for projects to improve the Government’s capacity to map, monitor and model critical supply chains, including $4.3 million for transport network storage investment tools. $1.3 million for a strategic national plan for semiconductors, and $10 million to support mapping and monitoring of the supply chain. And there’s $53 million for an MMI, that’s the Modern Manufacturing Initiative, started in the middle of the pandemic, for collaboration grants to establish the Australian Animal Health and Manufacturing Innovation Hub, securing supplies of critical veterinarian medicines. So we’re not just looking to manufacture human medicines with mRNA, but we’re also seeking the opportunities that are there in the veterinary space.
Now to top that off, we’ve investing $50 million today in a further Trailblazer University. Now, you’ve heard me announce those in a number of locations, and today we’re announcing our second one on recycling and clean energy. And that will be here with Deakin University. And Deakin University, as I know Gladys is very pleased about which plays such an important role in this advanced manufacturing precinct. That will be in partnership with RMIT, with Swinburne and the University of Southern Queensland and Federation University and 21 industry partners, including 16 small and medium-sized enterprises. And their work will also involve TAFE providers and the CSIRO. Now we expect this, based on the submission of all of those partners, to develop more than 100 new patents. That’s how you grow a strong economy. That’s how you get that better future. By investing in the things that change the game for Australia at a time of great disruption and you seize the opportunity. It’ll bring more than 60 new products to market and will directly deliver 250 high tech jobs and a total of 1,135 jobs over five years. We have a plan to create 1.3 million jobs and 400,000 small businesses over the next five years. That’s what a strong economic plan does. It creates a stronger economy, which means a stronger future. And that’s how you get the better future.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you said a couple of times here this morning that we’re almost through the pandemic, we’re at the end of it. Are we really though? 15,000 new infections in Victoria yesterday, 15 deaths, we’re coming into winter. Are we really through this?
PRIME MINISTER: That’s why I haven’t said we are fully through it and I’ve never said we are. Because there are, of course, the winter, and as you know, earlier in the year, working with the states and territories, we did our Winter Preparedness Plan to go through all the issues to support that, and that particularly meant ensuring vaccinations for older Australians, going back into the aged care facilities. And that’s what’s being done and that’s the plan being rolled out by the Department of Health and the states and the territories, and there’s always the risk of other variants. We’ve been watching closely some of those variants even over the course of this campaign, as I’ve been in touch with the Chief Medical Officer. But where we’re at now is we’re living with it. I think that’s fairly clear. Yes, there are large numbers of cases each day and sadly we are losing Australians and as we’ve said on many at times back some months ago, when people are passing away, they may have COVID when they pass away, but we all know that that doesn’t mean that was the contributing factor to their death. But that’s how the numbers are recorded, and I’m not suggesting any change to that. So we are living with that virus, and that virus has, it’s in the community, but people are getting on with their lives just as they are here and now. And so I think as we talk about the pandemic, we’re moving into a completely different phase now and indeed, we’re already living in it. People don’t want what they have had to live with through the pandemic going into the future. And that’s why the next three years we can look forward to with optimism and we can look forward to with hope because we’ve come through the worst of this, we believe. Now, we can’t guarantee against any other circumstances, and I wouldn’t be so foolish to suggest that. We always have to be ready and we always seek to be. But the opportunity is there now and we can’t risk that opportunity. There is the better times that are coming and that is because we’ve planned for them. We’ve planned with businesses like this to ensure that they can invest in the equipment, the contracts, the technology, the training and the skills. As a Government, we just haven’t been getting us through, we’ve been setting Australia up and that’s why I’m optimistic. Lanai.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, regional security is an issue that you say is important to you. Were you told at any stage yesterday that the former High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands was at the event? And why didn’t you talk to him?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I, well, I learnt that later. I mean, I follow protocols with my security team and when they say it’s time for me to leave, that’s what I do.
JOURNALIST: Were you told that he was at the event?
PRIME MINISTER: I, I don’t question that, I, but I have learnt that he was there in the, in the 1980s and and I’m sure he had many opinions on that. But can I tell you one of the most important things that we have done, when I first became Prime Minister, Prime Minister Bainimarama came to Australia and I hosted him at Kirribilli. And there was the formal part of the meeting, but Frank and I walked out onto the terrace, and I said to Frank, Frank, I know that Australia has not always done it the right way in the Pacific. You know, in the past Australia has acted like a bit of a colonial overlord and it stomped around and I don’t think it’s treated the Pacific peoples and families with respect. And he agreed with me and he said that was one of the key issues that had been causing angst amongst Pacific leaders. And he was very grateful that I acknowledged that. Frank and I have now become very good friends, as I have with many of the Pacific leaders, and I have sought to change the way that we deal with the Pacific. You’ve heard me mention it on so many occasions. Family, I think of Pacific leaders as equals and as family, working together to address the national security issues, which is why when these issues come up, when those threats come up, and when I engage with Pacific leaders, they know I’m doing that out of a shared concern, not just from Australia’s concern.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Coalition has traditionally been seen as strong on national security –
PRIME MINISTER: True.
JOURNALIST: … and strong on the economy. We’re now heading towards a trillion dollars in debt. China has signed a security pact with the Solomons. Have you lost the trust of the community when it comes to the economy and national security?
PRIME MINISTER: We are living at a time that is that is unprecedented in the last 70 or so years. And Australia is facing some of the biggest economic and security challenges, and indeed health challenges, a 1 in 100 year pandemic. And look where we are. We’ve got an economy that is outperforming all the seven largest advanced economies, democracies in the world. We’ve got 400,000 more people in work today than we had before the pandemic. We’ve maintained our AAA credit rating and we’re one of only nine countries to do so. And our economic plan has turned around the Budget by over $100 billion in the last 12 months. Unemployment has fallen to 4 per cent and is falling further and youth unemployment has fallen to 8.3 per cent. We’ve got 220,000 apprentices in trade training right now, the highest level since 1963. We’ve got 1.1 million more women in work today than when we first came…
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER: No, I’m sorry you’ve asked me a question about economic credentials, and I’m running …
JOURNALIST: And national security, and national security.
PRIME MINISTER: … and I’ll address those, but you’ve asked me about economic credentials. So I think it’s only fair that I’m able to set them out. 1.1 million women more in work today, having achieved record levels of female participation in the workforce. The gender pay gap has fallen from 17.4 per cent to 13.8 per cent, which means women working today are $70 a week better off than what they were under the Labor Party. And in addition, on our tax plan, it shows that women are $60 better off today than they were previously. And of course, we’re ensuring that young people are getting into trades and getting those jobs. That’s what our economic plan is doing, as well as investing in supply chain security and the advanced manufacturing opportunities of the future. Getting energy costs down by 10 per cent over the last three and a half years since I’ve been Prime Minister. That’s what our economic plan is addressing. And as a result, we’ve got issues around the world which has got upward pressure on interest rates, it’s got upward pressure on the cost of living. And so I think Australians can make the judgement about a Government that has delivered on all of that, but more importantly has had the economic plan that has been setting us up for the future, to take advantage of the opportunities that are there and realise them in the years ahead.
And on national security, you’ve asked me about that. We are the first Government to achieve access to nuclear powered submarines of any Government in Australia and plenty have tried. We have landed the first agreement, the AUKUS agreement, which is the most significant defence agreement that this country has entered into since ANZUS. We’ve ensured that we’ve turned around the massive cuts to defence that we saw under Labor, that massive chaos on our borders, to secure our border security for the future. It was Australia, that under our Government, was able to stop the boats and other countries around the world come to Australia to find out how you can achieve that. So when it comes to national security, when it comes to dealing and standing up to the Chinese Government, no Government has been more forthright than ours. Whether it’s on protecting us, on the security of our communication systems, where we were one of the first to stand up in the world. Whether it’s dealing with foreign interference, whether its ensuring we have tight foreign investment rules which we’ve strengthened over time to ensure Australia’s sovereignty is not impinged. That’s our record. That’s what we’ve been doing. Australians know they can trust that, but more importantly they know they see the strength in our Government and my Prime Ministership to stand up on those issues because they’ve seen me do it in the face of opposition, of critics and on many occasions that has been from a weak Opposition who, you know, you can’t trust with national security, and is just loose on the economy.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just on China. How many times have you met with Chinese Embassy Officials since you’ve been Prime Minister? Richard Marles has met with them and other Officials ten times in the last five years. Is that a concern to you? Are Labor doing more in this Chinese relationship?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, I have not met with a Chinese Ambassador, while, in any formal meeting while I’ve been Prime Minister and I note those reports about the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party. It comes on top of the concerning reports about him running his speeches past the Chinese Government. And now we see a very strangely high number of meetings between an Opposition Member of Parliament and and Chinese Government Officials. I mean, there’s just something doesn’t sound right about that to me.
JOURNALIST: You today announced new border protection policies which do include charging foreign criminals with their in immigration detention. You’ve had several years to announce that policy as either Immigration Minister or Prime Minister. Why are you doing it now just with a week left to go before the election campaign? Is this more politics than policy?
PRIME MINISTER: No, it’s future plans because you never rest when it comes to national security and border security.
JOURNALIST: But why didn’t you do it already?
PRIME MINISTER: We have done it for people smugglers and we made sure it could work with people smugglers. And now, whether they’re drug traffickers or bikies or others, who will as soon as they get out, we’ll punt them, we’ll punt them, they’ll go. Over 10,000, over –
JOURNALIST: But how do you make sure they pay? Because the Parliamentary Committees in the past have found that there was more than $50 million owed and about $2 million was, you know, received back.
PRIME MINISTER: That’s $2 million more than there was before, isn’t it? And that’s why it’s important. It sends a very strong message. If you come and commit a crime in this country and you’re not a citizen, A. You’ll go to jail. And when you get out, you’ll be in detention and then you’ll be sent home. And we’ve done that on more than 10,000 occasions. I started the process as Immigration and Border Protection Minister. I turned around the disgraceful record where the Labor Party just let people who came to Australia commit crimes and just let them back into the community and didn’t send them home. I started that process as Immigration and Border Protection Minister. Peter Dutton took it to a whole new level and Karen Andrews continues that process. We don’t even know who Anthony Albanese would have as their Home Affairs Minister. In fact, with Kristina Keneally she is each way and every way when it comes to border protection. On these issues, she just couldn’t be trusted to follow through.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, thank you. Just some clarity on yesterday. Was that any way to treat someone that has served the country? And also, if you could clarify, is it the job of your security detail to protect you from physical danger or to protect you from political embarrassment?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, they know what their responsibilities are. And I followed the protocols, as I always have as Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: Did you feel intimidated? I mean he’s a small man. He’s smaller than me.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, it’s not – well, I couldn’t even see him. And so you need to, I mean, in this job, it’s very important to follow protocols in relation to matters of that nature. And I just followed those protocols and I don’t…
JOURNALIST: Do you regret [inaudible].
PRIME MINISTER: No. I have great faith in the team that protects me every single day. And you’ll know that it was only a few weeks ago, about 200 metres from the very site we were at yesterday, where two of my protection detail were involved in a very serious car accident, only a few hundred metres from that very site. So excuse –
JOURNALIST: Just on the question. Will you apologise to him?
PRIME MINISTER: So, no, I’m sorry. I followed their protocols and I do that on each occasion…
JOURNALIST: Will you contact him?
PRIME MINISTER: … and I don’t question them.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER: Mark McGowan.
JOURNALIST: Mark McGowan yesterday was quite forceful about Peter Dutton saying that he finds his talk about war quite frightening. Is his rhetoric going over the top? Do you think is it damaging relations even further with Beijing?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, our objective is to ensure a peaceful and stable Indo-Pacific, and that’s what all our policies are designed to achieve. And that’s what Peter is working to achieve. That is exactly why we have entered into things like the AUKUS agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom. It’s why we’ve restored defence funding from the lowest level we have seen since before the Second World War under Labor, because they couldn’t control the borders and they couldn’t control the Budget. It wasn’t just that Labor couldn’t control the Budget and they had to cut defence, they also couldn’t put important medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. That’s what happens when you have a Party that’s just loose with finances, loose with the economy. You can’t afford a loose unit in the Lodge. And because the impact on you is very serious. It impacts on the medicines you can get access to. It impacts on your security as a nation when they can’t fund defence forces. So we’ve rebuilt that up to over 2 per cent. We’ve put in place the partnerships with our allies and our like-minded partners in the region. The Quad arrangement, now this is significant. Under our involvement and with a lot of our driving, the Quad which is Australia, India, Japan and the United States has been taken to a Leaders’ level Dialogue. Now what’s the relevance of that? It was Kevin Rudd who put an end to that at the behest of the Chinese Government. Now he was wrong about that. We fixed that by restoring the Quad, by working with Japan, working with India, working with the United States. What that does is it applies an important counterbalance in our region for peace and stability. Our defence policies are all about ensuring peace and stability in our region, not the opposite.
PRIME MINISTER: Prime Minister, you keep saying that what Australians know. Is part of your problem, that you keep telling them what they should know rather than listening to them, as with yesterday?
PRIME MINISTER: It’s it’s very important to be listening to Australians and I’ve done that all across my political career. And you know, over the last three years and particularly the last two, what Australians have needed for me from me, going through this pandemic, has been strength and resilience. Now, I admit, that hasn’t enabled Australians to see a lot of other gears in the way I work. And I know Australians know that I can be a bit of a bulldozer when it comes to issues and I suspect you guys know that too. But you know, over the last few years, that’s been pretty important to ensure we’ve been able to get through some of the most important things that we’ve had to do and land some really big security agreements with the United States and the United Kingdom. But also, I’d say with the Japanese Government, in the defence agreement we were able to, it took me three years to land that agreement and I worked with three Prime Ministers. You’ve got to be pretty determined to be able to land those sorts of things. But that doesn’t mean, because as we go into this next period on the other side of this election, I know there are things that are going to have to change with the way I do things, because we’re moving into a different time. We’re moving into a time of opportunity and working from the strong platform of strength that we’ve built and and saved in our economy in these last three years, we can now take advantage of those opportunities in the future. Resilience and strength is what we’ve needed, and that will continue to be needed. But it’s also about ensuring that now the dividend of what we’ve done gets to fix those problems in aged care, gets to ensure that we’re supporting people with disabilities, that we’re investing in the hospitals and the schools. You asked me about Mark McGowan. Look, I’ve worked closely with Mark to ensure that they’ve got the GST that they needed, that they weren’t getting and wasn’t and they weren’t getting their fair share. And I want to see that invested in schools and hospitals and infrastructure in Western Australia because it’s a growing state. You go up to the north of Perth. I was talking to a lot of residents in North Perth last night and they want to see roads. They want to see the community infrastructure and that’s why we’ve invested in the entire community recreation infrastructure in that part of the country. Yeah.
JOURNALIST: You’ve said you’ve been one of the most forthright governments on China, but going into this election, electorates like Gladys’ here in Chisholm also Reid, Bennelong, have large Chinese-Australian populations who may not have an affinity with the Chinese Government but are proud of their heritage.
PRIME MINISTER: Yes.
JOURNALIST: Are you concerned, and if you lose some of those seats at this election, that they have failed to understand or you have failed to communicate the difference between your rhetoric on the Chinese Government and Chinese people?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, you make a good point, Clare, because I’m always very careful to make this distinction. I talk about the assertive and aggressive nature of the Chinese Government, not the Chinese people. You know, Chinese-Australians are the greatest patriots you could hope for in this country. I remember being with Gladys early on in the pandemic. You’ll remember we were down at Box Hill. It was February of 2020. I mean, the pandemic at that stage had not yet hit the rapid escalation in this country that we were seeing in others. But, you know, as Chinese-Australians who were coming back out of Wuhan and coming back out of China and returning, they saved Australia as much as anyone else in the way that they came home and the way that they took precautions. Whether it was here in Melbourne or was up in Hurstville or up there in Ryde or other parts of the country. I am enormously grateful to the way that Chinese community leaders in Australia worked with the Government so carefully during the course of the pandemic and played such an important role in those early phases of the pandemic. So Clare, I agree with you. I mean, Chinese-Australians, they’re Australians, they’re Australians…
JOURNALIST: Can we hear from Gladys about this, Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER: And they’re proud about being Australians. And I’m proud of them. I’m proud of what they have done for our country. I’m proud of what they’ve achieved for our country. And so that’s why I draw a sharp and distinct line between the actions of an authoritarian government that is seeking to be coercive against Australia and to interfere in our region and the wonderful Chinese people. Chinese Australians here have family in China. They know what it’s like to live under authoritarian government. That’s why so many of them have come to Australia in the first place. Gladys herself understands and grieves terribly for what we are seeing in Hong Kong and that’s why the Australian Government has stood up for the people of Hong Kong, stood up for the people of Xinjiang, stood up for those who are oppressed in China and stood up for human rights. And there’s no group of people in Australia more passionate about standing up for their fellow, those of Chinese heritage in China, who live under that regime.
JOURNALIST: Can we ask Gladys a question?
PRIME MINISTER: Of course you can ask Gladys a question.
JOURNALIST: Gladys, are you, are you concerned, do you share concerns about the rise of China?
GLADYS LIU, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR CHISHOLM: Well, the way I look at it is I have come to the country 37 years and I became an Australian citizen 30 years ago. I’ve got my children born and raised here and I understand. Now I’m a elected member of the Australian Parliament, my job is to how to make this country a better country. For anyone, for anyone to suggest that Chinese-Australians are not Australians is…
JOURNALIST: I’m asking about the rise of China however. Are you concerned?
GLADYS LIU, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR CHISHOLM: Chinese Australians, if anyone suggests that Chinese Australians are not Australians and still have the loyalty and want to do things that is bad for Australia, I think that is offensive, offensive, divisive and un-Australian.
JOURNALIST: Gladys, I’ve spent some time in your electorate in recent weeks and I spoke to Chinese-Australian voters there. Many of them said that they were concerned about the rhetoric from your Government directed at China and they said it was making them less likely to vote for you. So what do you say to them? I mean, how can you reassure those voters?
GLADYS LIU, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR CHISHOLM: I have been at the pre-poll for four solid days. And I can tell you when you talk to a Chinese people in Australia, you don’t start by asking whether they are holding a Chinese passport, visiting this place, or come to help their children, to look after their children. Because we do have a lot of Chinese, Chinese people living in Australia at the moment, but they still holding a Chinese passport. And I’m not talking about those people. I’m talking about those who pledge a loyalty to the country. I have seen a lot of people throughout my three years as a Member of Parliament at citizenship ceremonies and I hear them pledge loyalty to Australia. So if anyone suggests Chinese-Australians are any different from all other Australians, whether they were born here or not, I think this is offensive, divisive and un-Australian.
PRIME MINISTER: Very well said, Gladys. Very well said, Gladys. Got time for one more. Yep.
JOURNALIST: Thank you. ABS figures show the overseas migration for the year ending June 2021 was the second lowest on record. The only time net migration was lower was at the end of World War II.
PRIME MINISTER: Correct.
JOURNALIST: This is crippling businesses. Where are your substantive policies that businesses are crying out for? Because nothing much has been done in the immediate term to address this issue.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, you’re right. Migration levels have been low for the last two years for the very simple reason that the borders were closed.
JOURNALIST: But where are your policies to address this issue?
PRIME MINISTER: I was just about to come to that point. I’d only been going for a couple of seconds. So, of course, that’s why immigration levels have been low. We have a 160,000 cap on migration. That hasn’t been changed and is not going to be changed. And what we are doing now is to get the migration program booted up again and there is a supply line that does that for people…
JOURNALIST: Why wouldn’t you lift the cap on migration?
PRIME MINISTER: No, sorry, I’m answering the question. I’m answering the question.
JOURNALIST: Why wouldn’t you lift the cap on migration?
PRIME MINISTER: Because we’re not even going to get close to that cap in the short-term, because we are seeking to rebuild the program, re-open the lines of people being able to come to Australia. But one of the things you always get from our policy on immigration is it’ll be balanced. It’ll always be balanced and it’ll particularly focus on the skills needs and that’s where the program needs to focus. When I was Immigration Minister, I ensured that more than two thirds of the program was focused on skills and that became a benchmark and that continues to be that and we want to continue to exceed that benchmark, so the migration program focuses on the skills we need, particularly in places just like this. Immigration, of course, has been one of the key pillars of Australia’s economic success over many generations, particularly since the post-war period. As a former Immigration Minister, I understand that. And on the border security policy that we’ve announced today, flexible and responsible migration, you know, that’s responsible, that ensures that our migration intake can be absorbed by the country, ensuring that people are going out into regional areas. This is why I’m so passionate about the advanced manufacturing opportunities and the regions. You know why people will go when they come to this country and go and live in regions? Not because you make them, but because there’s a job there, because there are services there, because there’s a life and an opportunity there. And there is there in Australia in our regions. That’s why we’ve invested $21 billion in our regions. That’s why we’ve invested $8 billion to completely transform the earning potential of regions like in the Northern Territory, and the Pilbara, up in the Hunter, and up in Central and Northern Queensland.
JOURNALIST: But businesses are still crying out for solutions, because they’re still suffering from these shortages. They’re not being alleviated.
PRIME MINISTER: And that’s why our migration program will continue to draw people to the country who will be able to go where those jobs are and when we can get the migration program focused on getting people out into those regions, then that means you won’t have a, have the congestion problems that you have in the major cities. Immigration, I know from experience is all about getting that balance right, balancing up the needs to ensure that we maintain the quality of life and and ensure not too much pressure on the services and systems and infrastructure in our cities, but also of meeting the real population needs of states like Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and getting people out in our regions. That’s exactly what our immigration policies are designed to do. That’s exactly what our economic policies are designed to do. They work together. 27 policies I’ve announced during the course of this campaign. Every single one of them submitted for the approval of costings experts in the Parliamentary Budget Office and Finance. Labor Party have not submitted one policy for costing during the course of this campaign. That should raise a question in people’s mind. You can’t afford a loose unit in the Lodge, but what you can afford is to have a Government that knows how to run the economy and is setting those opportunities up for the future. We’ve learnt a lot during this pandemic and we’re going to apply those lessons in the years ahead so we can continue to do better, to be better and ensure that better future, which is a stronger future. Thanks, everyone. Thank you.