Doorstop, Bungalow, Queensland

 

PRIME MINISTER:

Supporting our commitment of $10 million towards the innovation centre, being sponsored by James Cook University, collaborating here with the founders of the space. Again a key part of our innovation agenda is ensuring that our primary research institutions - including of course the universities - collaborate better with business and industry. It is something they actually don't do very well compared to other countries. So this is a great initiative by JCU.

I am delighted to be here with the Vice Chancellor Sandra Harding in announcing our $10 million commitment which will enable it to proceed. Of course we are also supporting strong jobs growth here, strong investment with our $20 million fund which will be led by community initiatives, whether it is in business, investment, local infrastructure, but it’s going to have to have support from the community, private sector backing, perhaps local government support as well.

That fund administered by the Department of Regional Development will also provide additional support for jobs and for growth here in Cairns.

Now can I turn to another matter that the Immigration Minister has spoken about this morning. As he has described as you know, recently the 28th people smuggling expedition has been turned back. That is to say we have turned back 28 boats.

This is total 734 passengers have been turned back in their people smuggling ventures. There were 21 on this vessel and they have been returned to Vietnam. We thank the Government there for their cooperation in ensuring the safe return of those people.

As you know there is also a vessel in Aceh that is attempting to come to Australia. Let me be quite clear about this. The people smugglers will continue to test our resolve. They have a very, very lucrative business model. We have put them out of business but they keep on trying to get back into business. They use social media very skilfully to market to their customers in a way that was not available to them a decade or so ago during the days of the Howard Government.

The challenge of people smuggling is greater than it has ever been. The only thing that stops them is the steely resolve of my Government to turn those boats back. You cannot give an inch to the people smugglers. They are very determined criminals.

The Labor Party has announced that they are going to abolish Temporary Protection Visas. This will mean that the 30,000 asylum seekers who came by boat under the Labor Government, who are in Australia, will get permanent residence.

This will send an absolutely unequivocal signal to the people smugglers that under a Labor Government anyone who manages to get to Australia on a boat will be able to stay here permanently.

It will be used aggressively as a marketing tool by people smugglers and it absolutely demonstrates that hollowness of Bill Shorten's claim that he shares the same border protection policies as us. The Temporary Protection Visas are a critical element in our border protection policies. Mr Shorten is already, before he has even won the election, he has already abandoning his commitment to our policies.

Now we saw with Kevin Rudd what he did. He committed to all of John Howard's policies. He said he would turn boats back. He said he would be strong on the borders. Then after the election, he abandoned those policies and we know what we got - 50,000 unauthorised arrivals and 1200 people drowned at sea of whom we know. There were plainly more.

It is a tragic thing to think that the Labor Party would once again be in charge of our borders. Imagine the chaos that we would be presented with under a Labor-Greens-independent government?

Even now before the election day they are abandoning critical elements in our border protection policy. They simply cannot be trusted on border protection. Only the strong resolve of a stable Coalition Government will keep the border secure and keep the people smugglers out.

JOURNALIST:

Labor has vowed to also have turn backs though this is part of their national party platform, why would things be different?

PRIME MINISTER:

Labor doesn't have the will power to do it. Kevin Rudd said he would turn boats back and he didn't. Bill Shorten said not so long ago that he had the same policy as us and he has already abandoned a key element of it, the Temporary Protection Visas. The Labor Party has got form on this. Bill Shorten is weakening already. He has 50 candidates and members and senators who are on the record as being opposed to our border protection policy. How can he in government, in alliance with the Greens and independents, possibly resist that? How can he have the resolve, how could he be trusted to have the resolve to keep our borders secure? The people smugglers test us. They know where we stand. There have been 28 expeditions that we have turned back. It’s nearly 700 days since there was a successful one. There are 734 passengers that have been returned and they are still trying to test us. Imagine what they will do to a Labor government? It will be in force, believe me, the people smugglers use social media and the modern forms of communication to market as well as anybody in this room. They are evil, but they are very adept at the way they market and they will market this weakening of Labor's policy to encourage more customers to get on their boats and set off on more expeditions.

JOURNALIST:

Will a re-elected Turnbull Government in the new Parliament make any decisions to cut spending in the areas of health, education or welfare to pay down the deficit, or can you rule that out?

PRIME MINISTER:

Our policies are all set out in the Budget, they are all set out there.

JOURNALIST:

On asylum seeker boats, Prime Minister, for the past three years, we have asked about them and been told it is "on water matters and we wouldn't get any information we wanted". What has changed now that you are now forthcoming with this information?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is very important that the public know and in particular the people smugglers know, it is very important that the people smugglers know and there would-be customers know, that boats have been turned back and they are being turned back. This is a critical part of our communication. It is important that their messaging, which is obviously designed to get people on boats, is countered by the facts of our steely resolve to stop them from putting peoples' lives at risk and challenging the sovereignty of our borders.

JOURNALIST:

Price Waterhouse Coopers has won a $5 million tender to provide management advice in relation to the payment system outsourcing project. Has that tender been scrapped or is that still undertaking?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well as I said, the Labor Party has engaged in a desperate lie about Medicare. It is shameful and indeed the President of the AMA has called them out, called Bill Shorten out today. He is peddling a desperate lie about Medicare. Let me be clear, Medicare will never ever be privatised, it will never ever be sold. The services of Medicare, the payment services will not be outsourced.

JOURNALIST:

But in relation to the Price Waterhouse Coopers contract, is that still undergoing?

PRIME MINISTER:

The administration of the research into this is a matter for the Department. Can I tell you there are many ways in which the payment system can be upgraded and it clearly needs to be, I don't think anyone argues about that. My decision and my commitment is that as the payment services are upgraded and modernised, that will be done within government full stop.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, why has Reid been chosen as the electorate for the Liberal Party launch and what is the importance of having both Mr Abbott and Mr Howard there on Sunday?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is important that our launch is well attended and of course our former prime ministers will be in attendance, as will many other leading figures in the Liberal Party. The launch will bring to a point of summation the critical choice that Australians face. On the one hand, a stable government which I lead, which has a clear economic plan for stronger economic growth and more jobs. Several elements of which we were talking about earlier today, innovation, trade, investment, small business. That is what we're focused on. We are focused on ensuring that our children and grandchildren have great jobs in the future. What we have on the other hand is the potential chaos of a Labor Government. Labor-Greens alliance, independents, they are not even talking about the economy anymore. They have got nothing productive or constructive to say anymore. They simply have desperate lies. They can't be trusted on the economy, they can't be trusted on border protection and now we see in their desperation with these falsehoods that have been denounced only this morning by the AMA itself. You can see the choice. Stability or chaos. That is the choice.

JOURNALIST:

The NSW Liberal Government has joined the complaints about the GST distribution. Gladys Berejiklian in her speech yesterday complained about New South Wales’ share falling to 81 cents in the dollar. Can you give a guarantee, given that it is the Federal Treasurer who can direct the Grants Commission on the GST distribution methodology - can you give a guarantee there will be no change to the GST formula over the term of your Government?

PRIME MINISTER:

Any change to the GST formula has to be agreed between the states. So that is the reality. Of course, we look forward to constructive discussions at future COAGs about that but it has to be agreed between the States. There will always be a bit of competitive debate between them, but they have to come to a common resolution. We collect the money but it is all theirs to spend.

JOURNALIST:

The point the AMA seems to be making today is that privatising the payments system isn't actually privatising Medicare. You are saying you won't do either - privatise the payments system or Medicare. It seems these issues are being conflated in the heat of this political debate and that actually privatising the payment system may be good policy. Aren't taxpayers missing out because of this political debate during a campaign?

PRIME MINISTER:

What the AMA President was talking about and what has been canvassed, is outsourcing the payments system, as indeed the payments system for private health insurance is managed by a private company by HICAPS. A case can be made for outsourcing services like that and of course it wouldn't amount to privatising Medicare or even privatising the service. But my decision is that this payments system will be upgraded and it will be upgraded within government. I dealt with this at some length in that very long session of Q&A on Monday night, but I will try to summarise it.

I am not an unalloyed fan of outsourcing. I think there is a risk that if you outsource too much of government services, you run the risk that you end up with very little talent or capability within government. The Medicare payments system is enormous, obviously and I believe that we can – well, it is not a question of belief, there is no doubt that we can - bring that into the 21st century and do so within government. As proof, if you need it, of how seriously I take this, one of the things I set up as Communications Minister was the Digital Transformation Office which is now part of my Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. It has the culture of a startup but it is within government and its aim is to, within government, transform the delivery of government services, rather than spending enormous amounts of money on big private firms and outside systems integrators and outsourcers.

It is a commitment that I am making to all of the elements of Medicare that are currently being provided by government, being provided by government in the future and that is absolutely consistent with my approach to these issues as demonstrated by my establishment of the Digital Transformation Office.

JOURNALIST:

The Treasurer has said that people with strong religious beliefs are often subjected to hate speech. It comes after Penny Wong said she is concerned about your idea of a gay marriage plebiscite because it could spark homophobia. Do you agree with Mr Morrison's comments and is it worth holding a plebiscite if people on both sides of the debate are going to get hurt?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have more faith in the good sense and the decency and mutual respect of Australians then Mr Shorten does. We do have debates on big issues and we don't have a lot of plebiscites in Australia. We have had a few but we have regularly had referendums and we manage to conduct them without hateful activities of the kind that he foreshadows.

The truth is that if we win the election, we will have the plebiscite, it will be conducted in a respectful manner. People do have different views on the issue, they are entitled to those views. It will be conducted in a respectful manner and we the Australian people will make a decision. As you know, I will be voting yes in the same sex marriage plebiscite but I respect the views of those who will vote no. I believe it will be carried, time will tell.

The big difference I think between me and Mr Shorten on this, is that I respect the common sense and the values and the decency of the Australian people. I respect the people that I serve enough to believe that they can have a civil conversation about this issue. Mr Shorten plainly does not. What he is basically saying to the Australian people is you can't be trusted to debate this issue. You can't be trusted to discuss this issue civilly, you can't be trusted to discuss this issue respectfully, therefore only the politicians should be able to discuss it. Well, I disagree with him. I believe all Australians will be able to make a decision on this and they will do so after a respectful, a civil debate.

Thank you very much.