Well good day on this beautiful day in Darwin. It’s been great with Natasha Griggs, the Member for Solomon to thank the Deputy Commander and ship’s company of the Cape Jarvis for the great work they do in keeping our borders secure.
I've come to Darwin to talk about our national economic plan. I’ve described that, as you saw, in the politics in the pub session last night with Natasha.
Underpinning our national economic plan, underpinning the economic security of our nation is a strong force on the border, the Australian Border Force. Ensuring that we control our borders is absolutely critical for the security and the prosperity for the future of Australia.
It is fundamental to our multicultural society, the most successful in the world, that we, the Australian people, through its Government, is able to determine who comes to Australia.
The Australian Border Force, the men and women of the Australian Border Force, are on the front line and we thank them for the great work they do.
But this great work requires strong leadership. It requires a strong and unequivocal commitment and Australians know that my Government is utterly committed, totally committed, to ensuring that the people smugglers' trade is stopped; as it has been.
Mr Shorten says that he agrees with the Government's policy, that's what he says. We have now more than two dozen - 25 at latest count - of his candidates and backbenchers, who are unhappy and disassociate themselves with, qualify their support for our policy. The reality is that they are just the tip of the iceberg. They are the symptom of a fundamental problem that Mr Shorten has which is that the Labor Party does not agree with the Government's strong policy on border protection. They do not agree with turning the boats back and regardless of what they say before the election, we know from the experience of Kevin Rudd's Government that they will not perform, that they will fail, that they lack the conviction to be strong - to be strong in Australia's interests.
Now we have seen Tanya Plibersek, Mr Shorten's deputy, qualify the matter herself. She has said that she and other candidates who have been identified as not supporting the Government's policy, she's said that she and those other candidates support Labor's border protection policy, which is different from the Government's policy.
Well how is it different? How is it different?
We know that the policies we have work. They are precisely the policies that worked under John Howard and the policies that I begged Kevin Rudd not to change. When I was Opposition Leader years ago, I begged Kevin Rudd not to undertake a massive experiment with Australia's border security.
Remember Kevin Rudd had gone to the 07 election and said he'd turn back the boats and he was going to be strong on border protection and look what happened. The Labor Party buckled, they were weak. We had 50,000 unauthorised arrivals, 1200 deaths at sea of which we know. No doubt there were more tragic deaths at sea. That is leaving us with a problem that we've had to address and we have addressed it. We are thanking the men and women of the Border Force for doing that.
But fundamentally, no matter how professional, no matter how capable, courageous and committed the Border Force is, everything depends on strong leadership, strong conviction, commitment from Government.
Labor cannot deliver that. Mr Shorten cannot deliver that. He can say all the fine words. His deputy is crab-walking away in the direction of the Greens. His candidates are crab-walking away in the direction of the Greens. They lack the conviction and they lack the commitment to keep our borders secure.
Prime Minister, another issue today is on the backpacker tax. Why has the Government backed down from that and why are you not announcing it here in Darwin where it is a big issue?
Well the matter's been announced by the Minister responsible for tax who is the Assistant Treasurer - she's effectively the Minister for revenue as you know in the system and Kelly O'Dwyer has done that and as you know we're having a six-month review of it and we're listening to the concerns from the horticultural sector and hospitality sector in particular.
You say your Government's for small business, for the economy, but hasn't this caused a massive disruption to thousands of small businesses, farmers?
Well there is no question that there have been issues with the so-called backpacker tax. That's why we're reviewing it. But I can tell you in terms of small business, and there are thousands of them here in the Northern Territory - as Natasha Griggs knows and we were meeting with some business people this morning - I'll tell you about one small business owner that I met with this morning with Natasha. Andrew. Andrew is a truck driver. He came and thanked Natasha and I for putting him back into business. Bill Shorten, his Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, part of a shocking deal done by Mr Shorten when he was in government with the Transport Workers' Union, put 50,000 owner drivers, including Andrew who we met today, out of work. They had no business so they were headed for no longer being small businesses; they were going to be out of business.
Fortunately, we were able to abolish that. Now that - Labor is going to bring that back. They've made it quite clear. The Transport Workers' Union will have that back and it is part of their agenda. Labor is the enemy of business. They are committed to undermining small business, owner operators, owner drivers in particular, in order to benefit the unions.
Given the controversy of the 99 year lease here by Chinese company, given the militarisation of islands in the South China Sea - don't you have concerns of the release of a key strategic asset to a Chinese company?
This matter was the - the security implications and issues were rigorously and thoroughly investigated by the Department of Defence and indeed by ASIO at the time of the port sale so those matters were dealt with comprehensively.
Prime Minister, the cost of the backpacker tax is some $500 million over the forward estimates, have you have factored in how much that will cost to delay that by 6 months and how much potentially the changes could cost the Budget?
I can assure you that all of those matters have been taken into account and will be reflected in the PEFO.
Your local candidate here in Solomon is down in the polls because of connections to the scandal-plagued CLP Government here in the Territory. How do you explain to voters the differences between your candidate and the CLP Government in the Territory?
I have great respect for the electors of Solomon, for the people of the Northern Territory, and they understand very well the difference between the Territory Government and the Federal Government, and what we have on the 2nd of July is an election for our Federal Government, our national government, and Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Prime Minister, why did you not want to be photographed with the Australian Border Force logo? Your predecessor Tony Abbott would have seen that as an opportunity, surely?
I'm surprised that you asked that. We've been here with the Border Force and you've had ample opportunities to photograph me with the Australian Border Force. I am proud of the Australian Border Force and I have thanked them and honoured them for the great work they do for Australia.
Border Force actually asked us not to photograph the logo because they didn't want to be politicised for this events. Are you politicising them by coming here and launching your strongest attack on Bill Shorten yet on boats?
Let me say to you that the protection of Australia's borders is a political issue. We should not be naïve about this. The Australian Border Force, the men and women of the Australian Border Force, will do a professional job for which ever government the Australian people elect on 2 July. They will do an outstanding job, whoever is Prime Minister, but everything depends on whether there is a government that is committed to keeping our borders secure.
Australians know my Government is. Our track record is there. It is there in this Government, in my Government, in Tony Abbott's government, in John Howard's government. We have an unequivocal commitment to keeping our borders secure and the people smugglers know that.
Let me be, let’s be very very frank about this. This is not a question of politics - this is a question of fact. There are over 14,000 people in Indonesia right now who came to Indonesia during the period of the Labor Government in the hope that they would be able to get on a people smuggler's boat and get to Australia. And they know they can't get through because of the commitment of my Government, because of my Government's determination to stop the boats and to turn them back when we intercept them at sea and that's why there have been no more boats. That's why we've had over 600 days without any unauthorised arrivals.
What we're getting from the Labor Party is one mixed signal after another. Not only do we have the dissension right through the Labor Party and plainly a lack of commitment to enforcing protection on the borders, not only do we have the factual track record of the Labor Party in office under Kevin Rudd but we now have the deputy leader of the Labor Party, Tanya Plibersek, saying that they have a different border protection policy, they have a Labor policy and that's what she supports.
So what is she proposing? To change the border protection policy?
All Australians will say - and I regret to say all the people smugglers will say is: "Here we go again."
It's the same old Labor. You cannot trust them on border protection. They have proved themselves to be incapable of protecting our borders in Government and now in opposition as we approach an election, they are riddled with dissent and the deputy leader of the party herself is talking about a Labor border protection policy that is different from the Government's border protection policy and the one thing we know about my Government's policy, my Government's policy as implemented by the Border Force on the border, is that we are keeping the border secure and the people smugglers have been stopped.
Thank you very much.