KEVIN HOGAN MP:
Well welcome everyone and it’s a very special privilege for me today to welcome and to introduce our very special guest here today, Prime Minister it’s wonderful to have you here today in the Northern Rivers. You're very welcome.
Obviously I have the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia here as well, Barnaby, who is a regular visitor, a very welcome to you. The Deputy Leader of the Nationals, Fiona Nash who is a very regular visitor to this region as well. Great to see my colleague Luke Hartsuyker from the seat of Cowper just south of here. Great to see Matt Fraser here as well as the candidate in the Richmond electorate and great also and I know the local media will be very interested to talk to Katie Welsh from Adaptapack which this package the Prime Minister is about to announce, is very interested. Before I leave to the Prime Minister, I just want to make how excited I am as a local regional MP about this package that we're about to announce. I formed a job strategies group in this region about 8 months ago to attract new businesses to move to our region. City businesses who are expanding, who can't really expand in the cities, to attract them to regions like ours.
We have a great lifestyle, we have great infrastructure here and this package that the Prime Minister is about to announce today is crucial for regions like ours. It's going to very much help the group that I established here to help us attract new businesses and new jobs so that our children here, not only get jobs in the regions but have career choice in this region. So Prime Minister, wonderful to have you here and I'll leave it to you.
Thank you very much Kevin. It is great to be here and before I announce the jobs and investment package, can I just say how excited I was to hear about the growth here in the export of macadamias from MPC here. You know, we talk a lot about jobs and growth as you know and as you know, we talk a lot about our trade export deals. But here you have, right here around us, a cooperative owned by the growers, which a few years ago was not selling any macadamia nuts to China at all.
Now a quarter of their $200 million a year turnover, $50 million, is going to China and that is ramping up. That is an example of how the elements of our national economic plan drive jobs and growth. You can see it, you can see it right here, the success of opening up those markets and how that opens up opportunities, much greater opportunities, for employment, for investment, particularly in regional Australia.
Now the package we are announcing today is a $25 million jobs and investment package in northern NSW where we are today. It is focused on three areas. This is where Katie, her packaging innovation, is very important. We're talking about business innovation, we're talking about infrastructure, we're talking about training. They're the three areas of focus. The $25 million will attract matched funding. The aim is to partner with businesses, perhaps like MPC and others, with local government and with state government to leverage that investment to create more opportunities and greater investment, because we know investment drives employment. More investment, more economic activity, more jobs.
That's of course why in our national economic plan we are backing business. That's why we are reducing business taxes, company taxes, starting with small and medium companies, as you know, because we know that if you want more of something then you reduce the tax on it. If you do that you get more investment. Equally if you want less of something you increase the tax on it. We all know what Mr Shorten, in the most anti-business agenda Labor has presented in a generation, is doing. He's increasing taxes on investment which means less economic activity and fewer jobs.
But this package is a very important one, very important for this region, as Kevin said. It's going to inspire confidence, investment and employment and I'd ask Fiona now, as the Minister for Regional Development, whose department will administer it, to say some more about this package that we're announcing today.
MINISTER FOR REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT:
Thank you very much, Prime Minister. Our aim as the Coalition Government is to ensure that we have strong and stable regional communities into the future, so that our children and our grandchildren either want to stay in those communities or come back to those communities.
This $25 million announcement today builds on the Coalition's commitment to regional Australia and continues our investment in regional communities. We know that if we invest in our regional communities it gives them confidence. It's that confidence that enables our rural and regional communities to be strong into the future. What we're doing with this package is working with our regional communities to come up with their plan locally about what is going to drive their future right here, on the Mid North Coast and in the Northern Rivers. That is really important, because those opposite, in Labor, believe in a Canberra-driven approach.
We trust our local people to know best for their local regional communities and we will support them to do that. We believe that locally-led solutions in our regional communities are best and in partnership with those communities, this package will ensure that we drive jobs and we drive that local economic growth in our regional communities.
At this election, the Australian people are going to have a very clear choice between the Coalition with a plan for the future, a plan for jobs and growth. The Coalition that will deliver stability, the Coalition that will invest in the people in our regions. Compared to Labor, again we will potentially see the Labor - Greens alliance chaos. We're going to see no commitment to the regions and we're going to see higher taxes, more waste and more debt.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:
Well thank you very much, Prime Minister. To Fiona, my deputy, to Kevin and to Luke and to Matthew, it's great to see you here as well. You're doing a great job mate.
This is yet another example of how we're growing rural exports. Rural exports are now our second biggest export after iron ore and just to give you a bit of run down the last couple of days, we were up in Kingaroy, said how are they going in the pork industry? “Best prices in 100 years” is the report I got back.
We went up to North Queensland, to Mackay, said how are they going? They said “20 cents a pound, $600 a tonne for sugar cane”. That's incredibly strong prices. Cattle, the cattle industry? Record prices in beef cattle, record prices in meat sheep. In this industry here, we're also seeing a growth, a substantial growth in exports, a substantial growth driving wealth back into the Northern Rivers and it's all part of a plan. It's part of a plan to make sure we grow the economy, make sure we give opportunity to people to get themselves a job and to not only live in this most beautiful part, most beautiful part of Australia, but actually have a job here, to actually have a future here.
And that's why we do other things and just the other day between the seat of Page and the seat of New England and joining right up to the Downs and to Casino Meatworks. Put money on the table for the Legume-Woodenbong section of the Mount Lindesay Road, something they’ve been asking for. That's the sort of thing that gets left behind, left behind by the others, because they don't really care about the edges, they just care about what's happening predominantly in their heartland. But we look after, we look after people in these areas and we are mindful and deliver plans that deliver jobs and we have the results. That's the biggest thing about it. This Government has results. It's actually doing it. It's actually real. It's actually happening. That's something that, of course, gives great opportunity to everywhere.
Also in this package, in this money, $25 million, being matched over three years, it's once more reaching out from the community, reaching out to their own community, to attract people into work, to get them those jobs. It's not that far from here ladies and gentlemen, near Jubulum which is an Aboriginal community just near there on the other side of the river. There's Tabulam. We have the blueberries, we got Ridley Bell blueberries, their peak employment, the peak of the season. There's going to be 1,000 people, 1,000 jobs. This is why you can say, “what's this all about? All these free trade agreements, all these agreements, all this, what's it about?” Well I can show you. I can show you the people working in this factory, I can show you the people out at Jubulum, I can show you the people in the processing sector, I can take you up to Casino Meatworks and show you the people working there. That's what makes the economy tick. That's what drives it ahead. That's what makes it exciting to be part of a Coalition Government in the rural sector.
So it's great to be here today, it's great to be back with these people who have done so much work with Luke, with Matthew, with Kevin, with Fiona, friend, god and philosopher Fiona, always watching me closely and obviously with my good friend and colleague, the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Malcolm Turnbull. So all the best and God bless and no doubt you will now ask us questions about everything except what we announced.
Alright thank you. So?
Prime Minister last night was meant to be about unity at the Iftar you hosted in Kirribilli. It mustn’t have been a good look to allow a preacher in who has condemned homosexuality in the past. How was he allowed in? Did he not have background checks and do you regret it now?
The guest list was put together by my department. It was an official Government event. It is the first time an Australian Prime Minister has held an Iftar and it was a multifaith gathering. There were leaders from the Muslim community, a lot of young Muslims too, particularly a lot of very young Muslim men and women doing great things in Australia, for Australia. There were also leaders of Christian denominations, Jewish leaders, Hindu leaders, Sikhs. It was a multifaith gathering. The guest list was put together by my department. Had I known that the Sheik had made those remarks, he would not have been invited to the Iftar.
The remarks about homosexuals were drawn to my attention in the course of the evening by the Australian Newspaper who got in touch with my team and I issued then - as I said again earlier today, and I say again now - a statement of the strongest condemnation of those remarks.
Let me be very clear about this and this was the theme of my address at the Iftar and you've heard me say it many times before, you will hear me say it many times again; we are the most successful multicultural society in the world. We live together in remarkable harmony, when you look at all the disharmony in the world around us. The reason we do is because Australians follow the golden rule, which is common to all faiths - do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In other words, mutual respect.
So I regard as unacceptable and I will always condemn any remarks which disrespect any part of our community, whether it is on the basis of their sexuality, their gender, their race, their religion. This is a great country, a great success in a world of so much disharmony. Here we are, the most successful multicultural society in the world and the bedrock of that, the bedrock, the foundation is mutual respect. That is why I reach out to every community, every community in our country is part of our nation. There are those who seek to do us harm and seek to divide us and we stand up against them. We defy them. We are united, we respect each other and I will always condemn those who disrespect other Australians.
Will any action be taken against the public servants who put together that invitation list?
Look, I have spoken to the Secretary of my department and he will look into it. This was clearly an oversight. There it is.
Can I just say to you, there were 75 people at that dinner. As I said earlier, not all of them were Muslims but there were many Muslims there, most of the people at the Iftar were Muslim Australians. There were some outstanding - they were all outstanding people - but there were some people there, young people, who are doing extraordinary things. I was seated with young Muslim Australians, one of whom, for example, a young woman who is an engineer, who works on offshore oil rigs and she's an Australian, works for a big company. I was talking to journalists, I was talking to people who work in health, in law, in every occupation. You know, just as I said last night, it is wrong to view Muslim Australia, if you like, or Australian Muslims, through a narrow security prism. It is also wrong to seek to define the views of all 500,000 Muslims because of the opinions expressed by one person, by one cleric. It is a big and diverse community and our engagement with Australian Muslims is critically important for our future and, dare I say, for our security.
Remember, what do the terrorists seek to do? What do Daesh and al-Qaeda and these extremists seek to do? They say to Australian Muslims “you're not really part of Australia, that's not your home, you're not part of Australia, your home is with us over in Syria”. That's what they say. They try to alienate them. So it's vitally important that the Prime Minister of Australia, who is the Prime Minister for all Australians - and every Prime Minister is the Prime Minister for all Australians - part of my job, is to reach out to every community and re-emphasise again and again, that mutual respect is the foundation upon which our success is built.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:
Can I add one thing to that. If you ever look in regional Australia, this is no better emphasised than by the town of Mareeba, where we have had multiple faiths for many generations. When you go to that town, a good mate of mine is Rimsy Muller, he’s of the Islamic faith. When you go to towns like that, you can see overwhelmingly people have one desire, to live unharmed, to work together. It's the most beautiful metaphor of what Australia is about. How basically in that town of Mareeba you can see “there's the mosque, there's the church, they're all farmers and they all support the North Queensland Cowboys”.
If you are doing such a great job in creating employment in regional areas, could you explain why the youth unemployment rate in this region, Richmond Tweed is at 17.4% which is up from 11.4% two years ago?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:
We can talk about exactly all the programs we're rolling forward now. I just mentioned before that at Jubulum, near the Aboriginal community, just across the Clarence River, just past Tabulum, we are bringing in jobs. We are bringing jobs into the blueberry industry. Just south of here at Woolgoolga with the Sikh community at Oz Berries, we’re bringing in jobs, we're driving the agenda forward. With the work we're doing in tourism we're bringing in jobs, we’re driving the area forward. Might I remind you that our unemployment rate across the nation is 5.7%, so we're actually driving unemployment down.
When you say there is a problem, that's exactly why we have a package. That's exactly why we're in the Northern Rivers because in those areas where we say we can do more, that's where we're doing it. So this is the proactive engagement in the areas where we see the issue and this is us addressing it. It is not haphazard. It is part of a plan. But we have optimism. That's why we upgrade the road between Woodenbong and Legume between because down that road comes 430,000 head of stock. To go to the Casino Meatworks where people have jobs, where they're expanding employment. That's the sort of plan that actually drives the economy forward, gives great opportunities to people and gives them jobs.
Can I just add one thing to that, I agree with everything Barnaby said, but there is a very important element that we've got to recognise. The best way to support youth employment is to have a strong economy. If businesses are expanding, if they're growing, if there is confidence, if there is more investment, then businesses will hire more people and they will hire more young people. So an absolutely critical element is a strong economy.
That's why everything we are doing is focused on strong economic growth and more jobs. Now we also do have a youth employment package, which Scott Morrison announced in the budget, the PaTH program, - Prepare, Trial and Hire - and as you know, that is going to cater for 120,000 young people under 25 over the next 4 years. The aim for that is of course to get them job ready, get them into internships, there will be incentives to do that and then on to employment. Now that is a new, it's an innovative youth employment program. It's been welcomed right across the board by everyone - except the Labor Party and the trade unions - but ACOSS, all of the various lobbies, business lobbies, all of those groups have welcomed it. That's another element in what we're doing, but the single most important thing, believe me, is a strong economy.
You know that, if companies are growing, if they're hiring, they will take on new people and they will take on some young people as well.
[inaudible] are you feeling threatened by Janelle Saffin?
Every seat is critical including the seat of Page. But I just want to remind you of this; every federal election is close, number one.
Number two, this is going to be a very close election. Every seat matters, every vote matters. I say to every Australian - and many Australians have already voted and many more Australians will vote between now and July 2 - that every vote counts and they should treat their vote, regardless of what seat they are in, as though it was the vote, the single vote that decides the next government. Every vote counts.
Prime Minister, will Sheik Shadi be blacklisted from future government events and do you think this shows there are problems within some parts of the Muslim community with homophobia?
Look Homophobia is to be condemned anywhere, number one. We are a broad, diverse country and we respect the right of gay Australians, we respect the right of the LGBTI community and the right for them to lead their lives and gather together in peace and harmony. The massacre in Orlando, that shocking assault on the people in the gay nightclub is a shocking reminder frankly, of how much hate and intolerance there is in the world and how important it is for us to stand up for the mutual respect that I spoke about earlier. That is the very foundation of our society.
So I condemn, I deplore homophobia wherever it is to be found. It is not acceptable from a legal point of view in Australia, as you know and I'm sure that, well I know, that the Sheik has been encouraged to reflect very deeply on his remarks which were of some years ago and it's up to him how he restates or reconsiders his position.
But it is vitally important, I say this to everybody, it is vitally important for Australian leaders, whether they're political leaders or religious leaders, to recognise that at the foundation of our success is mutual respect and as I said last night, at the core of that mutual respect is love. Love for our fellow humanity. That is when we are closest to God. The most Godly thing is love and that is the foundation of that mutual respect, a love for our fellow man and woman.
Another topic, Mr Turnbull. Some of the vox pops we've been doing, voters say they will support Bill Shorten because a Labor government will protect Medicare. How concerned are you about the campaign being waged by Labor and can you guarantee the Liberal Party will not privatise Medicare?
Medicare will never ever be privatised. Medicare will never ever be sold. Medicare is a core government service. It will always be delivered by the government and every element of Medicare's activities will continue to be delivered by the government. I want to be very clear about this. What is being done by Medicare, by the government in delivering the services of Medicare, will continue to be delivered by the government.
Now what Mr Shorten is doing - and Mr Shorten knows this, by the way, very well - what he is running is a disgraceful scare campaign. He has trade union officials calling up Australians at night, targeting older Australians and saying that my Government is planning to sell off Medicare. It is absurd. It is an absurd falsehood and he should stop misleading people. He knows very well, Medicare will never be privatised. It is a core government service and we are committed to Medicare.
Barnaby – what do you think of [inaudible] saying voters in Indi should put Cathy McGowan second on the ballot paper instead of the Liberal candidate? Is this a breach of the Coalition’s agreement?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER:
Can I just say that it's like us going back to the Labor Party and making them responsible for Mark Latham and everything Mark Latham says. We have people who have formerly been strongly involved in the Liberal Party and holding responsible, as an endorsement, for everything the Liberal Party says. Now you’ve got people who are formerly members of the National Party and they’re trying to say the National Party is completely beholden to what they say.
Once you leave politics - I know this comes as a shock - you're a free agent. As much as we'd like at times to rein them in, I’m sure that if we can pass a piece of legislation, then Mr Shorten will be on the phone to Mr Latham tomorrow saying “I would like to have you temper some of your positions”. Sometimes I find Mark Latham very erudite about his views about the Australian Labor Party. I think he should be on radio and television all the time.
Prime Minister, your candidate in McEwen Chris Jermyn has had a bit of a bumpy campaign. You had this to say about him: “Chris Jermyn has the energy and drive to be a great community representive in Canberra. He’ll be a strong voice in my team.” Do you stand by that?
Well he certainly has plenty of energy and if he is elected he will be a strong voice in McEwen and he is part of the Coalition team.
Can I just say to you the issue at this election is a critical one. It's a very serious and momentous choice. The Labor Party is trying to mislead voters, mislead Australians for example, as I just observed with this disgraceful scare campaign about Medicare.
I say again, Medicare will never be privatised. Full stop. Will never be privatised. It is a core government service. It will always be delivered by the government full stop. Mr Shorten, on the subject of stop, he should stop scaring and misleading people, particularly the way the unions are targeting older Australians and trying to scare them with this absurd campaign of misleading about Medicare.
Beyond that, the big choice between now and July the 2nd is this - a stable Coalition Government with a clear national economic plan that is focused on driving strong economic growth and jobs, including jobs for young Australians, whose best prospect of a job is with a strong economy.
On the other hand, we have the chaos, the dysfunction, the uncertainty of a Labor-Greens-Independent alliance. A Labor Party led by a leader who is presenting the most anti-business agenda of any Labor leader in a generation or more. It's a very clear choice and every single vote counts.
It's going to be close. Every Australian should vote as though their vote was the one that decided the next government. Thank you very much.
Can we ask about Jo Cox, Prime Minister?
As I've said earlier today, we are all deeply shocked by the murder of the British Member of Parliament Jo Cox. This is an appalling, appalling crime, it will rock the British people. Britain, like Australia, has a political culture which compared to other countries has been relatively unmarked by violence. That is a great blessing. This is a shocking crime and I convey my condolences on behalf of the Government and the people of Australia, my condolences, our prayers and our strongest solidarity to the family of Jo Cox and to the people of the United Kingdom.