Doorstop with Karen McNamara MP, Dobell, NSW

 

PRIME MINISTER:

[Broadcast begins]…

..the Lakes with Karen and announcing our environment and parks policy which is going to commit $30 million to support environments like this and also to support community solar and the switching over for surf clubs - a smaller sum of $1 million - part of the $30 million policy to support the surf clubs in switching to more efficient outboard engines for their lifesaving craft.

Right here, the commitment is for $3 million to support the great work the community is doing here to ensure that the Tuggerah Lakes remain clean and become cleaner. It's very challenging, an estuarine environment like this. As there is more development, you get more runoff, you get more nutrients in the water and you see what's called the wrack, the weeds, you see along the foreshore there and a deterioration of the quality overall.

So Karen has been a formidable advocate for ensuring that the lakes are cleaned, are cleaner. That involves a lot of work on the shore side, obviously. That means installing more and better pollutant traps so that large, as you know, large bits of rubbish don't float into the lakes. But also and perhaps most critically, ensuring there is less runoff into the lakes. You see, in the natural environment before European settlement, runoff would find its way, sink into the soil and be effectively cleaned through the environment. What we've done, as we've developed our communities, we've allowed water to rush through, rush down drains and storm water pipes and so forth and it gets into rivers and lakes, sensitive environments like this, far too quickly. So the key is to slow it down. That's why one of the programs here and in many other places - this is one of the big priorities of the Great Barrier Reef, for example - is to build swales along streams. So when the run-off comes off fields, particularly with fertilisers, instead of rushing straight into the water course, it is slowed down, settles and sinks into the ground and is then naturally cleaned through the environment.

So I'm delighted to be here with Karen announcing it. It will be very important to improve the lakes. It's part of our commitment to a cleaner environment, one that is a very important part of our local economy, both here and everywhere in Australia. You know, one of our great competitive advantages as a nation are liveable cities and cleaner environment, where people want to live and work and of course visit. We've seen fantastic enterprise today, those of you who are with us at the farmers market, have seen the enterprising farmers and producers of this, the Central Coast and indeed the Lower Hunter as well, coming there with their produce and showing the type of enterprise that we're backing with our enterprise tax cuts right across the board. You see, every element of our government's policy, every element of our national economic plan, is supporting businesses like that, supporting communities, ensuring that we have strong growth and more jobs.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister can you confirm that your Communications Minister knew about the possible investigation into the NBN links some months ago and didn't tell you about it?

PRIME MINISTER:

I can yes, that’s right.

JOURNALIST:

He didn't tell you about it but he knew about it?

PRIME MINISTER:

That’s correct.

JOURNALIST:

And you think that's suitable, for the Communications Minister to know that and not tell you?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it’s entirely appropriate. That is a matter of judgement for him. The important thing to bear in mind, the critical thing, is that the Australian Federal Police investigation, the decision to investigate, and the decision to take the steps yesterday were decisions taken independently by the Australian Federal Police as the Commissioner has confirmed.

Did you have some questions?

JOURNALIST:

It was actually on a different topic though. The Central Coast just received $1.1 million for domestic violence this week. Is there – what’s happening so far as domestic violence in the Central Coast? Can we see further boosts?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, yes. Can I say that my Government, as Karen understands very well, we recognise the scourge of domestic violence. I can tell you that we understand the importance of having zero tolerance for violence against women and children, absolutely zero tolerance. We recognise, too, that this is a gender equality issue, because while not all disrespect of women leads to violence against women, that's where all violence begins. As you know, we announced – actually it was the first announcement I made as Prime Minister, with Michaelia Cash, our Minister for Women - was a substantial, over $100 million committed to frontline organisations helping women who've been the subject of domestic violence. We announced another $100 million in the budget. So it is a very, very high priority.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, you had a discussion with Alan Jones this week. How would you describe that discussion firstly. Secondly, why have you decided to go on his show and how do you think it will go?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, firstly, I've known Alan for many years, for decades. Longer than perhaps we'd care to recall. But I had a very good discussion with him, I'm looking forward to appearing on his radio program.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister Turnbull, did you or anyone acting on your behalf have any contact with NBN Co or its’ executives about this leaked material?

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I say to you that I'm not sure what you mean by that question. But the only issue here, the issue here is the integrity and the independence of the Australian Federal Police.

Let me just make this point; it should be a matter of very great regret that the Leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Attorney-General sought yesterday to attack the integrity of the Australian Federal Police. Now, Australians recognise that the national security of this country, of our nation, the safety of our people, is indivisible. It involves our armed forces. It involves border protection. It involves police, federal police, state police. It is an indivisible chain of security. The integrity of our police forces is absolutely critical.

Now, the Australian Federal Police, when they conduct an investigation, firstly they make their own decision as to whether to investigate, which they did in this particular case and then how they conduct that investigation is theirs, their decision to make, independently of government. Now, what Mr Shorten is seeking to do is to suggest that the Australian Federal Police have acted other than with integrity or other than independently. He should be ashamed of doing so.

We know, as the Commissioner said, that the AFP act with the utmost integrity and they act independently of government as they should.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, do you accept that given these documents were presupposed to be under parliamentary privilege the AFP violated their own guidelines by having an NBN Co person present there, taking photographs?

PRIME MINISTER:

I can't comment on that. The documents, I note that there's been a claim of parliamentary privilege made by Senator Conroy. The documents have not actually been tabled in Parliament, which is how parliamentary privilege is normally obtained. But really, I don't want to get into the legalities of Senator Conroy's determination to keep the police away from these documents, which were clearly stolen from the NBN Co. So he's trying to keep the police away from those. He's made a claim. Apparently it will be dealt with by the Senate when the Senate reconvenes after the election.

All I can say to you is that the police acted independently and with integrity. My Government respects that integrity and independence. It is a great pity that Mr Shorten and in particular his Shadow Attorney-General, plainly does not.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible] - guidelines in that search?

PRIME MINISTER:

You would have to address to that to the Commissioner.

JOURNALIST:

Is it appropriate that your candidate for Fremantle is dumped in these circumstances? How big a blow will this be for the Government?

PRIME MINISTER:

The candidate has stated why he stepped down.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think it’s appropriate he stepped down?

PRIME MINISTER:

He's made that decision. I think it is an appropriate decision.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, don't you think the people need to know if anyone in your office had contact with NBN Co about the leaks?

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I say to you that the fact that leaks, that there were leaks from the NBN Co was a very public matter. In fact Mr Morrow, I think, complained about it in a Senate hearing. Can I say to you about, let's talk about the NBN for a moment because this is a very important issue.

We inherited a project from the Labor Party that was utterly failed. After four years, billions of dollars of expenditure, they had passed less than two percent of all Australian premises. Now, very shortly the NBN will have passed and be available to access at a quarter of all Australian premises. As you know there's nearly a million customers on the NBN now. If you take Karen's electorate here, at the time of the last election, there was not one customer of the NBN in the whole electorate. Not one person could access the service, even if they wanted to. There is now over 55,000 people who can, premises I should say, businesses and homes, like these, that can access the NBN. Across Dobell and Robertson, across the two Central Coast seats, there is well over 100,000 premises that can access the NBN. This electorate, the build of the NBN here is more than half complete. It will be complete by 2018.

So we are proud of what we've done with the NBN. We inherited an utterly failed project. The Labor Party had no idea what it was costing. Do you know - this is an important point to bear in mind - at the time we came into government the NBN Co thought the cost of connecting a house, premises, with fibre was about $2300, that was what they said. That wasn't the case then and it's not now. It's about $3600 but another $700 in the capitalised cost of accessing the Telstra ducts and pipes and pips. What that meant was the Labor Party had no idea what this was costing. This was a project, a company that was completely dysfunctional.

Now, we put in new management, a new board. We got it sorted out. There was a lot of money that has been wasted by Labor that we can't get back. But we're getting it built and the NBN Co is a great example of what happens when you get strong leadership, leadership from a government that has strong management skills, that understands business and gets on with the job and that's what we've achieved. If the Labor Party were to win government and they were to implement their NBN policy, this is what would happen - the people who have access to the NBN now, around one million, will have to pay more, they will end up paying a lot more for their broadband services and those that are waiting for the NBN will not be having it all completed within the next few years - absolutely complete by 2020 - they could be waiting up to eight years longer. That is the reality. Labor has never been able to treat this as a business exercise, as an engineering exercise - it is all ideology and politics.

You look how accountable the NBN is. Under Labor you never knew what they were doing. The NBN publishes its rollout statistics every single week. Not quarterly, not annually, every week. It publishes its financials every 3 months. It publishes a full set of accounts every 6 months and of course an annual set of accounts. It updates its 3-year plan every year. The management has appeared, as many of you would know, you've had to sit through those long and often tedious rants from Senator Conroy, the management appears again and again before the Senate Committee. This is the most accountable and transparent government business enterprise you can imagine.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, just on this hunt for the person that was leaking. Obviously the NBN Co were trying to track them down, appeared to be something that was condoned by the minister. Obviously there were some damaging reports as a result of this, but wasn't this person in their mind at least also a whistle blower?

PRIME MINISTER:

Are you suggesting the NBN should not have sought to identify the leaks from the company? Tell me, what, are you saying the NBN should not have sought to ensure the security of their own information?

JOURNALIST:

I'm wondering whether or not this investigation should have had such a priority, given we're talking about someone who would consider themselves a whistle blower and for example national security leaks have not gone down this path of investigation and raids?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the decision to investigate was taken by the Australian Federal Police independently of government.

JOURNALIST:

Condoned by the minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

Taken independently of government and the decision to refer the matter to the federal police was taken by the NBN Co. Then the federal police had to decide whether to investigate it. They did, they made that decision independently and then they pursued their investigation. We saw some of the consequences of that just the other day.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible]…a whistle blower?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, please, please, can I just finish. The NBN Co as I have said, is a very big, very transparent, very accountable business. It is accountable to Parliament through the Senate and publishes constantly information about its progress, its financials, its targets, its rollout figures. It is as transparent as you could imagine. It is as transparent as any public listed company, if not more so. In fact I would say it's more transparent than that, provides more information.

Now, what was going on there was that there were - as we know, as you know - a series of leaks out of the company. That undermines the confidence of the people working in the company. It's very difficult to work in an organisation if you think that anything you write, any proposal you make, any discussion you have, could be leaked out. So confidentiality is important in any organisation, even, I might say, in media organisations. The management were perfectly entitled to be concerned about that, so they took the steps they did and we've seen, they asked the AFP to take, you know, take an interest in it. The AFP independently sought to investigate it and have done so.

That frankly should be the end of the commentary. What we should do, as with all the other matters the AFP is investigating, we should let them get on with their job. Mr Shorten and Mr Dreyfus' attack on the integrity of the AFP is shameful.

We’ll have one more question.

JOURNALIST:

Should the AFP be a bit more transparent perhaps about why they pursue some investigations over others in order for the public to have more confidence I guess in terms of that independence or the organisation?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I have never heard any senior political figure attack the integrity of the Australian Federal Police in the way Mark Dreyfus and Bill Shorten did yesterday. I know obviously they started to pedal backwards when they realised they had overreached but you can see what they did was attack the integrity of the men and women of the Australian Federal Police that stand between us and many threats, many dangers. Those men and women work very long hours. They're protecting Australia. They're protecting all of us. They act independently, they act with integrity, they act in very difficult circumstances. When many matters are referred to them, they decide independently whether to investigate them. They obviously have to take a practical assessment of what the prospects of a successful conclusion of an investigation may be. When they choose to investigate it, they proceed with it and then, depending on what they find, other consequences can follow.

But I can tell you, my Government stands with the police. We defend our security services. We defend our domestic security services, just as we defend the men and women working for border protection. Just as we defend the men and women in the ADF, serving overseas. National security is indivisible. Australians know where my Government stands on national security. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the men and women, including those in the Australian Federal Police, who keep us safe.

Thank you all very much.

JOURNALIST:

One last question in regards to the announcement?

PRIME MINSTER:

Ok, we will have one more. I was encouraging you to ask– I’m glad you’ve got another question. One more local question. That’s good.

JOURNALIST:

I am just wanting to know, do you think it’s going to have a flow-on effect, this announcement in regards to the tourism sector over the Central Coast not just in this?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes. Well Karen may add to that but the answer is yes. This is obviously a great tourism destination and ensuring that these beautiful but delicate estuarine environments are clean and are fresh and unpolluted is vital. Look ,managing water is very difficult in a modern environment. When you’ve got a natural environment - these estuaries - that have built up because nature has been allowed to do its work, in effect filter that water that comes in from streams from fields and forests into the lake so what we’ve got to be is smarter about the way we manage water. We’ve talked about the swales and Karen’s been involved in securing funds for swales here in the past. A swale for those that are interested is essentially a shallow ditch that slows the passage of water down so that it can reside there after a rain event and sink to the ground.

So the thing we’ve got to do is essentially mimic nature. Of course, to more mechanical things like stopping bottles and tins and plastic getting into lakes and we do that clearly with what they call gross pollutant traps.

JOURNALIST:

Just on your opinion Karen – what does that mean for the Central Coast?

KAREN MCNAMARA MP:

Well already we are seeing with the previous work that was committed by the Federal Government – we’ve seen Canton Beach, we’re now seeing families – we’re actually seeing people swimming in the lake but also here the foreshore works that we’re doing at Long Jetty is a replication of what we’ve achieved over at Canton Beach. So for the whole effect here on the Central Coast for tourism, we’re a great place to visit, we want to attract more people here and that’s why this funding here will definitely help attract tourism.

JOURNALIST:

Can I just ask regarding Egypt – what’s the latest briefing that you’ve received in terms of the why the crash occurred and have you spoken with the family of the deceased Australian-UK national?

PRIME MINISTER:

The answer to the second question is no, I have not. Our condolences, our prayers are with that family and of course the families of all those who perished in that dreadful event. As you know, it is under investigation at the moment. There are very real concerns that it has been a terrorist incident but I can’t provide any further confirmation on that at the present time.

Thank you very much.