MATT WILLIAMS MP:
Welcome all it’s great to have the Prime Minister here, the Minister for Education, the Minister for Social Services in my electorate of Hindmarsh at the Mooringe childcare centre and learning centre.
I’m a big supporter of childcare and so is the Federal Government. In terms of Hindmarsh we have around 6000 families that are beneficiaries of the Federal Government’s support for childcare - amounting to close to $8 million.
It’s great to see a childcare centre like this and all the wonderful children and the staff so thanks to Sue and the team for hosting us here today and welcome, Prime Minister.
Well thank you very much, Matt, and aren't those kids great?
Now, a really important way to keep those kids well and safe is to ensure that all children are vaccinated, and so what we have had is a No Jab, No Pay policy, as you know, and we have seen as a result of that vaccination rates improving rapidly.
This has been a very successful public health policy. The more children that are vaccinated, the safer all children are, and getting that herd immunity is absolutely critical, getting those vaccination rates right up - 95 per cent is what we seek.
Now, this policy is working. A very important date approaches - March 18th. Parents, whose children are not vaccinated by the 18th March, are at risk of losing access to childcare payments. So no jab, no pay. This is a very important date.
Now, thousands of children are being vaccinated and parents are responding responsibly, but it’s really important March 18th, if your child isn't vaccinated make sure he or she is. It keeps your child safe; it keeps every other child safe too.
These kids are our future and we want them to grow up healthy and well and vigorous and bright and sparky like they are, just like you saw them here today. They’re so inspiring, but they need, we need vaccination. This is a really important public health measure and you know it’s working.
It’s a great success here, and I'm going to ask the Education Minister and then the Social Services Minister to tell you a bit more about this very successful program, and why 18th of March is a very important date.
Thanks very much Prime Minister. The health and wellbeing of children is an essential element of their success in their learning, whether it's here in a childcare or early learning facility, in preschool, throughout their school life, and of course immunisation is critical, not just for children, but for the entire Australian population to ensure that we keep diseases at bay.
What we are seeing in relation to the no jab, no pay policy is that it's getting real effects and returns already. We've seen a 24 per cent reduction in the number of conscientious objectors around Australia, 9,500 fewer conscientious objectors than there were 12 months ago.
We are seeing a growth in the number of immunisations of young children that are occurring, lifting from 90 per cent to 92 per cent, which as the Prime Minister indicated is of course trending in the right direction to that critical 95 per cent of herd immunity, that is necessary to ensure that we do prevent the spread of disease.
So it's really important that parents heed the message, that they actually do get their children immunised because it protects their children, protects other children, and protects the entire Australian community from the risk of disease.
I'm delighted to see the success of the policy to date, and people need to heed that message and make sure they act by March 18 to protect the support services that we provide for them in terms of their family support and their childcare support, but most importantly, to protect their children and the children around them. Christian?
SOCIAL SERVICES MINISTER:
Thank you, Prime Minister and thank you, Simon and thank you, Matt for the invitation to be here.
Look as you've heard, the data and evidence that we've had in so far is very, very positive so we've had about 9,500 reduction overall of vaccination objectors from just under 40,000 to just over 30,000. Here in South Australia for instance, the immunisation rate has lifted from about 90.4 per cent to 92.5.
Now keep in mind those figures you've heard from the Prime Minister, from Simon and myself are all before the policy has really actually been in effect. So this is what's happened over the last year between December 2014 and December 2015, but we are now entering into very much the business stage of this policy.
And as Social Services Minister, part of my job is to be absolutely crystal-clear in the warnings that have to be given so that people can prepare and people have been preparing.
But March 18 is a very critical date. If at that point in time you've not entered into a catch-up arrangement for vaccinations or your children are not fully vaccinated, you stand in jeopardy of losing childcare payments.
Now, in fact, the policy has been so successful to date there has been what I could describe as a run on vaccinations over the last six months, and indeed in some states there is a small lag between having a child vaccinated and recording the fact of that vaccination on the Australian childhood immunisation register.
But as March 18, if there is any doubt on our records because of that lag, there will be a continuing payment, but if you've had not your child immunised or not entered into an arrangement for catchment, you will be accruing a debt which will have to be paid back.
So no-one will be disadvantaged because of that small lag, but unfortunately some people who don't do the right thing will find themselves either with a debt that they will have to repay or when we are certain that the vaccinations haven't occurred their childcare payments will stop.
So, 18 March is critical and I hope to be back here or in another childcare centre in the very near future with even better news about the next set of data which will be coming out shortly.
Great. Well, thank you, Christian and that's a great example of a good public health measure that is keeping all of our children healthier and safer, and working well.
So, happy to take some questions.
Prime Minister, does the US polling on Darwin port show there is some concern about Australia's security?
Well, the United States Government, and I have the advantage of having discussed this in Manila last year with the President directly, the United States Government is satisfied that the security issues relating to the lease of the port were examined carefully, and professionally, and appropriately by Defence Department as the Secretary of Defence Dennis Richardson has described on a number of occasions now.
So the work was done well. And it was assessed appropriately by Defence, by ASIO and so forth.
There is obviously some public concern over this. I mean the statistics show that nine out of 10 people thing there is some risk and almost half of them think there is quite a high risk to Australia.
Well, can I tell you as Dennis Richardson, who is our very longstanding and experienced Secretary of the Defence department, probably one of the most experienced public servants, I can't think of one of longer and more diverse experience in security areas.
As Dennis Richardson has observed, the security issues relating to that port sale were thoroughly investigated, in Australia's national interest, by the relevant security agencies. That's how we determine security issues, not with all due respect, by text message opinion polls.
Do you support the B1 bombers joining the exercises in Australia?
Well, we have a rotation of American military forces through Darwin and through Australia all the time.
So we have a very, very close Defence relationship with the United States. We have no closer relationship obviously than we do with the United States. I'm not going to comment on a particular element of that, but I can just assure you that everything we do is, in this area, is very carefully determined to ensure that our respective military forces work together as closely as possible in our mutual national interests.
And do you think China might have a reaction to that?
Well, I won't speculate about what other countries might say, but let me say to you, the closeness of the Australian relationship, security relationship with the United States is hardly a secret.
Prime Minister, you mentioned the important date of March 18. Another important date, May 10 looms, if you want to bring forward the date of the Budget, will you need to put that to Parliament next week?
Well, I know election speculation is a fascinating sport in an election year, and I don't want to discourage you from engaging in it. But I just say to you that the election will be held in the latter part of the year, and I can't add to what I've said before about that. As far as the Budget is concerned, the Budget is set down for 10th May, and that's what we are working towards.
Do you mean election in the second half of the year?
Well, the election will be held in the second part of the year, the latter part of the year, that's right, the last – that is clear. So, I know you will try to read some tea leaves in here, but I’m not going to give you the election date. It is a matter that – there are a number of factors which any government bears in mind but you're free to speculate, our job is to govern.
Prime Minister, you had a chance to meet with Premier Jay Weatherill last night, should we expect federal funding for some of the infrastructure projects that Premier Weatherill’s chasing funding for?
Well, what you can expect is that we will examine carefully any proposals that state governments bring us, including obviously South Australia, for infrastructure projects.
Since I've become Prime Minister, there has been a very important and significant change in our approach to urban infrastructure. We no longer discriminate between road and rail. We will fund rail and road projects. Hitherto, as you know, the Federal Government had not been prepared to fund urban rail.
The second very important change is this - the Federal Government has historically approached city infrastructure – urban infrastructure in particular – just as simply a giver of grants, just handing out the money and having very little involvement or influence, engagement with the project.
In the future, the Government I lead will be much more engaged. We will seek to work as partners with state governments and with city governments and we will seek to ensure that as much of our money that we put into these projects can be treated as an investment. We want to see projects that are soundly based in business principles. And so I've been saying to the premiers, if you want to build light rail, fair enough, can add a lot of value to your city, but look at it on the basis of how it will build amenity, improve liveability, improve housing affordability, improve housing supply. Do all of those things that will create real value and ensure that we get projects that are genuinely economically positive for your state or your city.
Because I can just remind you of this and perhaps leave you with this thought - every measure, every element of our policies is focused on the goal of ensuring that we complete our successful transition from an economy driven by mining construction to one that is more diverse, that is powered by innovation, that is power by entrepreneurship, that is powered by investment and enterprise. We've opened up big markets in Asia to enable us to do that. We want to build more infrastructure, we want to see more investment.
We were here in Adelaide yesterday talking about innovation in the defence industry. We are going to ensure that our huge defence spending projects, the Defence White Paper running over being decades, that that is going to make Australia stronger, not simply by buying more ships and planes, but by building Australian innovation and industry.
As far as we can, we will ensure that every dollar we can spend in Australia on Australian technology, on Australian industry will be spent here, because it makes Australia stronger and more secure, both in a military sense, but also in building up the innovation, the industry upon which ultimately all of our security relies.
So, these are all part, this is all part of our vision for 21st century Australia – strong growth, great jobs, diverse economy right across the board, and we are seeing the results. Confidence is high, investment is good, economic growth is strong. We are making the successful transition, but we can't be complacent. So that's why we keep at it, and today's measure, too, is part of that, ensuring that our children – they are our future, they’re the ones that will be building our economy in decades ahead and we want them to grow up healthy and strong.
And on that note – I thank you all very much and look forward to seeing you again soon.