Press conference, Oran Park, NSW

 

PRIME MINISTER:

Well good morning. It’s great to be back here in Western Sydney. This is the economic heart of Sydney. This is the future of Sydney. This is where Sydney’s growth is. It’s where it’s critical that we have a big change to the way the city is planned, the way infrastructure is funded.

For many years, forever, federal governments and state governments and indeed local governments have failed to coordinate their investment. In some respects they have been like ships, passing in the night, often with the same objectives broadly speaking but with investments being made ad hoc without coordinating with each other and without coordinating with developers like Mark Perich here at Oran Park.

Now that has to change. We are putting over $3.4 billion, we being the federal government, into Western Sydney and of course the state government is making massive investments as well as indeed is local government. The role of local government is absolutely critical and I should note that I'm here today with my colleagues Angus Taylor, the Assistant Minister for Cities, Fiona Scott, the Member for Lindsay, Louise Markus, the Member for Macquarie, Craig Kelly, the Member for Hughes and of course Russell Matheson, the Member for Macarthur a former mayor of Campbelltown and of course Ned Mannoun, the Mayor of Liverpool who is our candidate in Werriwa. So we have a lot of local government representation here today. So that coordination is critical.

What we have set out in our cities policy is a very new approach to the way cities are going to be managed in the future or the way investment is going to be managed. We are establishing City Deals. We announced one in Townsville recently and today we are announcing with Mike Baird a city deal for Western Sydney. This will see for the first time systematic coordination between the federal government, the state government, local governments, coordinating with stakeholders, developers such as here at Oran Park but also the University of Western Sydney, for example. Critically, this has got to be an objective that ends with a more liveable city, greater amenity, more jobs.

My goal is to have a 30-minute city. I hasten to add that does not mean that we'd expect you to be able to get from Hornsby to Cronulla in 30 minutes. What it means is, that wherever you live in Sydney you should, or in any city in Australia, there should be within a reasonable commute jobs, a wide range of jobs, a wide range of educational opportunities and recreational opportunities.

In other words, to stop that extraordinary commuter exodus that you see here from Western Sydney every day, over 200,000 people. The airport is going to create tens of thousands of jobs, well over 30,000 jobs. There is need for nearly 200,000 new dwellings and a similar number of jobs in Western Sydney. That is going to require coordinated planning. The City Deal is a key part of that. There will be a ministerial council which will coordinate this and oversee it. The Premier will be represented - I will be represented and we'll make sure that the focus of all three levels of government is on achieving those objectives. More housing, more affordable housing. Housing affordability is a huge issue but the answer is more housing. The answer is supply. The reason housing has been unaffordable or less affordable in Sydney than it should be is because we have not been building enough houses. Governments have not been zoning enough - releasing enough land. They've not been zoning enough density. We were talking with Mark earlier about the opportunities for greater density, transport-oriented development around a new railway station. That is clearly another key part of it.

This ministerial committee, this ministerial council that will oversee this, will be a critical part of that coordination. In addition to that the CEFC, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, will be dedicating $100 million a year to investment in sustainable urban infrastructure. That could include better lighting, it could include better traffic management, it could include better water management. Some of the initiatives again that we were seeing described here earlier. That is going to be a very important part. Now these are loans that are at a concessional rate but nonetheless at a commercial rate but they're a very important part of ensuring more sustainable, liveable, greener cities.

In addition to that, we have a Smart Cities and suburbs program which is a grants program. I will ask Angus to say some more about both of these in a moment, which is $50 million. That will be competed for by local governments. That's really designed to encourage them to open up their data, to use technology more creatively, to better engage with their residents and ratepayers to enable them to better access the information council has and the services council provides.

In both respects, what we're doing is supporting our overall objective of ensuring that the Federal Government is a constructive partner in ensuring our cities become more liveable. They are vital economic assets. Believe me. Sometimes people talk about these issues of liveability and environment as though it's just a touchy-feely thing. Well, it is touchy-feely, too, it's where you live, but above all else it is a vital economic asset. Liveable cities. Cities which you can get around, with good mass transit, good recreation, with clean air, with green spaces. These are an enormous economic asset of Australia and we need to ensure that we build on them and make them even more liveable in the future. So that's our commitment.

It's a very new move for a federal government but that's a big change that I've initiated as Prime Minister and it's one that I am sure that will see us not planning cities - we are not going to tell local governments or mayors how to plan their areas, not telling state governments how to do that - but ensuring that we are part of the solution instead of being an occasional ATM. That's the big change. Angus, do you want to enlarge on that?

ASSISTANT MINISTER TAYLOR:

Thanks Prime Minister. Welcome everybody to Oran Park. What a fantastic example here of what can happen when all levels of government and the private sector work together to produce an absolutely fantastic precinct and development. That's exactly what we have here at Oran Park. Of course, that is the centrepiece of our Smart Cities policy. It's very clear to me, as someone who not only is the Assistant Minister in this area to the Prime Minister, but also as someone who represents a significant part of South-Western Sydney, that nothing affects people's lives like the place where they live, the way they get to work and everything around where they live and work.

Of course that is what our Smart Cities policy is about. I have seen first-hand time and time again how when federal, state and local government work together closely, they can achieve extraordinary things for a suburb or a city. That is why we announced several months ago that City Deals would be a centrepiece of this policy.

I'm very proud to re-affirm what the Prime Minister just said, which is that Western Sydney will be one of our first City Deals. Of course the centrepiece of that City Deal will be creating more jobs locally in Western Sydney. 200,000 people net a day travel outside of Western Sydney to get to work. We need more local jobs here, and with Badgerys Creek being built, very significant investments committed by the Federal Government - this is an opportunity to create more local jobs in Western Sydney. It's a once-in-a-generation opportunity. We will be pursuing it as part of the City Deal.

On top of that of course we already have a $3. 6 billion Western Sydney transport and road package and that package will again be a centrepiece of the City Deal. We know that we want Badgerys Creek to be rail-ready from day one. That's not just about the East-West Link to the CBD. It is also understanding that we need the North-South Link between Western Sydney, South-Western Sydney and North-Western Sydney. We need it to be rail-ready from day one.

We have two very exciting initiatives to support this City Deal and many others that will be occurring around the country over time. We have already announced Townsville. One is the Smart Cities Program, a $50 million program which is designed to support local councils to technology-enable their suburbs and cities. There are great opportunities here. We know for instance we can better utilise public spaces and carparks using technology.

We know that cities like Boston have been very smart in the way they've provided feedback from citizens to councils about what roads need repair and what other work they need to do around the region. Using technology is a fantastic way for us to improve our cities and improve interaction between our citizens, the people who live in our cities and suburbs and government at all levels.

Finally there is a Sustainable Cities Investment Fund which will be administered by the CEFC. There are great opportunities as we've seen right here in Oran Park for more sustainable cities and suburbs. Whether that is renewable energy precincts within our cities, whether it is more efficient, energy-efficient transport systems or more energy-efficient buildings, we know some of the lowest costs and best ways to reduce emissions are embedded in our cities and the way we build them.

These are fantastic opportunities. They are very important initiatives to support our Smart Cities policy. I'm proud to be announcing these with the Prime Minister in Oran Park.

PRIME MINISTER:

Very good. So do you have some questions for us?

JOURNALIST:

A question on something that Bill Shorten said yesterday about the same-sex plebiscite. He is hardening his language against holding a plebiscite and there is no indication from Labor on whether they would vote for one in Parliament in the event you win the election. What's your message to Labor about whether they should vote for that plebiscite? Will there be a mandate for holding a plebiscite if you win the election? Would you be willing to consider a conscience vote in Parliament if Labor absolutely refuses to vote for a plebiscite?

PRIME MINISTER:

David I'm not going to deal in hypotheticals. We have a very clear policy which is that every Australian will get a vote on the subject. Everyone knows about that and of course if we are successful on July 2nd then I have every expectation that the Parliament will swiftly legislate for a plebiscite and a plebiscite will be held shortly after Parliament resumes which I would assume to be in August. So I would hope that the plebiscite could be held before the end of the year.

JOURNALIST:

Can you explain for us in a policy sense what is wrong with out-sourcing the Medicare payment system? Do you apologise to the private operators who thought you were going down that path before you reversed that decision?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well can I make this clear - what the Labor Party has done is run an extraordinarily dishonest scare campaign. They have been ringing older Australians in the evening frightening them and saying “Medicare is going to be sold off, Medicare will be privatised.” This is the biggest lie of the campaign. It is extraordinary. It's not the only one of Mr Shorten's lies I must say but it is the most outrageous and the way they have sought to frighten people, particularly older Australians is really shameful.

I want to be very clear. Medicare will never ever be privatised. Medicare will never be sold. Every element of Medicare services that is currently being delivered by government will continue to be delivered by government full stop.

JOURNALIST:

Was that a captain's call by you to abandon the work on the outsourcing or did that decision go to Cabinet? When was it made?

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I say to you there has been no decision taken to outsource any part of Medicare. Some work has been done by the department so I gather but it has never been a decision of the Government to outsource any part of Medicare services. It's never come to the Cabinet to be considered to outsource any part of Medicare services. I know Chris Bowen spoke glowingly of doing something like this in the past but I can tell you this is the fact, this is the case - Medicare will never ever be privatised. It is a core government service. It will never be sold. Every element of Medicare's services that is currently being delivered by government will continue to be delivered by government. Full stop.

JOURNALIST:

Tony Abbott made an adamant statement on health funding before the last election and then reneged on it. Why should voters trust you when they couldn't trust your predecessor?

PRIME MINISTER:

This is absolutely clear. This is a question of whether services of Medicare continue to be delivered by government, entirely by government, or not. I am making a solemn commitment, an unequivocal commitment, that every element of Medicare's services will continue to be delivered by government. Full stop. We will use the Digital Transformation Office and all of the talents at our disposal to make those services more user-friendly to enable people to transact with Medicare better through their smartphones, to enable doctors to transact more effectively. We'll do all of that but it will all be done within government. I want to be very clear about this. This is a shocking scare campaign. It shows the desperation of the Labor Party that they would tell such a shocking falsehood as this. Every element of Medicare that is being delivered by government will continue to be delivered by government. Medicare will never ever be privatised.

JOURNALIST:

You say you are not going to privatise Medicare but what about other government services? New South Wales has outsourced a lot of its work to the private sector and they're about to hand down an almost debt -free budget. Is it time you take a leaf out of Mike Baird's book?

PRIME MINISTER:

I can't generalise the way you have described. You are asking a very general question about the NSW government. You should address those questions to Mr Baird.

JOURNALIST:

There's leaked internal polling showing with the help of preferences Rob Oakeshott is actually in with a chance to secure Cowper. Do you consider him an actual threat? What do you make of remarks that he's only just back in the game to raise money?

PRIME MINISTER:

The clear choice on the 2nd of July or indeed the clear choice right up to the 2nd of July because people are voting now, is between my Government - a stable Coalition Government with a clear national economic plan that will deliver stronger growth and more and better jobs. We have that clear plan, it's set out, it's the budget. Elements of it we have been discussing this morning - the Cities Policy. Smart Cities. More investment, better coordination, ensuring the Commonwealth's investment in infrastructure is better planned and better coordinated with state and local government. We have a clear plan for jobs and growth.

On the other hand you have an increasingly desperate and ragged Labor Party looking around in the midst of its scare campaigns to do deals with the Greens and with the Independents. We have some of the former members of the Julia Gillard hung Parliament band seeking to get back together. We have Mr Windsor running in New England. You have Mr Oakeshott running in Cowper. You have the Greens.

So you have on the one hand a clear national economic plan being carried out by a Coalition Government which I lead with a clear vision to ensure that Australians can seize the opportunities of these times, these exciting but challenging times, these times of great opportunity which are not without uncertainty and head winds. You do need stable government and you do need a national economic plan. We have that. On the other hand, we have the prospect of the chaos of Labor and the most anti-business Labor Leader in generations, the Greens and the Independents. It's a very clear choice - stable Coalition government, a clear national economic plan or the chaos and dysfunction of Labor, Greens and Independents.

Thank you very much.