Doorstop, Banyo, Queensland

 

PRIME MINISTER:

Great to see innovation, jobs, everywhere. It was great to see the all-female plumbing firm at the end too - the Tradettes - and introduce them to Paynter Dixon, a company that’s really moving on the Women in Construction initiative which is very, very positive. I’m delighted by that.

So here we are getting close to the election and the choice is very clear. Our Government, a stable Coalition majority Government with a clear national economic plan, important elements of which we've been discussing here today - employment, business tax cuts, innovation. These are critical elements in driving jobs and growth, bringing back to ABCC, restoring the rule of law to the construction industry. We've heard about that from people who are involved directly in that sector.

Also we’ve seen the alternative, the Labor Party, owning up to the fact they are going to offer in the next term of government higher deficits - $16.5 billion worth - higher debt and higher taxes. Can you imagine? In this environment, in this uncertain environment globally, where Britain has just been downgraded from AAA to AA status? That too is a momentous event, following on the vote to leave the European Union. In that environment, an Opposition is proposing to run higher debt, more deficits and higher taxes on investment, when clearly what we need now more than ever, is prudent economic management, living within our means and encouraging investment.

What is going to encourage these businesses we've seen today, to hire young Australians? The prospect of growth. How are they going to be able to afford it? By having the retained earnings to invest in their business. We're providing those incentives. What we need now is the strong economic leadership that brings the country together. We have to stick to our plan and we have to stick together with that plan, because the plan is designed and every element of it supports stronger investment, stronger growth and more jobs.

So that's the big choice, a very clear-cut choice. Every element of our plan supporting the jobs, the growth and the investment we've seen evidence of today and the innovation that ensures these firms remain competitive. The firm started by the young guy when he was 24 and decided the old business he was working for was a bit too old fashioned and thought he could do it himself. Isn't it great? He's 35 and he’s now got 100 people working for him, at the cutting edge of artificial intelligence and building design and other firms that are generations old. All of them recognising they've got to innovate, they've got to invest. We're providing the incentives to do that. That's what we critically need today; strong, clear economic plan, strong majority Coalition Government.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister economists have said that at the end of the Budget estimates period, the 4 years, the difference between your Budget position and Labor's is negligible. Some have even described it as a rounding error. Haven't you squibbed the opportunity for budget repair even if you are slightly better than Labor’s budget position by the end of that period?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Labor Party is proposing – is owning up to - this is before, of course -

JOURNALIST:

We’re not asking about that.

PRIME MINISTER:

The Labor Party is saying that they will run higher debt and higher deficits over each of the four years than us and then in the fifth year, miraculously, like Houdini, they will spring out of that hole they have dug for themselves, that budget black hole, they'll spring back into balance. Well, you really would have to believe in fairy tales to believe that.

JOURNALIST:

The sort of volatility associated with Brexit has the potential to decimate people's retirement savings. Yet your Government is going to limit to once-in-a-lifetime 1.5 million roll-over into super even if that is wiped out by a global event?

PRIME MINISTER:

You're talking about the 1.6 million into the retirement accounts?

JOURNALIST:

Sorry 1.6.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think you're - with respect - you're misrepresenting what the reform is. Firstly very few people have $1.6 million in super at any stage. Under our superannuation reforms, which make the system fairer and more flexible, particularly for people on lower incomes, there are millions of Australians who will benefit from the relief we have provided under the tax offset for people earning $37,000 or less so that their tax on their super will, in effect, be covered, be offset. Also women will benefit particularly because they come back into the workforce and catch up on concessional contributions unused. Older Australians will benefit because they can continue contributing concessionally after they're 65 and so forth.

So I understand you can criticise the design one way or another, but it makes the super system more sustainable and much fairer. There's no doubt about that.

JOURNALIST:

Your 1.6 million is wiped out then that's the only chance you get, right?

PRIME MINISTER:

The point I'm making is that if you go into retirement, if you're one of those very few people with more than $1.6 million, let's say you've got $2 million in super, you go into retirement, you have $1.6 million in your retirement account, $400,000 effectively continuing in an accumulation account, you don't pay tax on the earnings on the $1.6 million. You pay tax at 15 per cent which is a low rate of tax on the $400,000. It is still a very, very generous system.

JOURNALIST:

What’s wrong with Labor spending just a little more on public health and public education? What’s your problem with their spending on those areas which is the difference between what you're spending and what they are?

PRIME MINISTER:

Isn't it interesting that Labor is saying they are going to spend over the forwards, $2 billion more on hospitals? $2 billion dollars more on hospitals, we're spending $95 billion over five years, they're proposing to spend $2 billion more.

Don't you remember them saying that we had cut $57 billion out of hospital funding? As you'll recall, our observation was the $57 billion was mythical, it didn't exist. It was an invention of Julia Gillard's which is what Colin Barnett said and to prove our point, Labor has not sought to restore it.

JOURNALIST:

But now you're upset with them tightening their belts after you said you need to tighten yours and criticised them for spending more.

PRIME MINISTER:

We're pointing out their hypocrisy. What Labor has done again and again is peddle one falsehood after another. You've seen them they have mostly been focused on health but they have been designed to mislead and deceive Australians, particularly older Australians and the very cynical telephoning campaign they've had, with their lies about Medicare.

The fact is Labor has no positive policies that they're prepared to talk about. What they have is falsehoods that they're putting out there to frighten people. What we have is a clear economic plan which we have consistently laid out from the date of the Budget and indeed beforehand, but we brought it all together in it Budget. It is all there, it is comprehensive, it is all fully funded. It is there, it's a clear economic plan. It is positive, it is delivering jobs and growth now and it will deliver more jobs and more growth if we are returned to Government on the 2nd.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister the number of apprentices has declined drastically under the Coalition Government especially in marginal seats. Are you worried about your position in these marginal seats? How does declining apprentice numbers fit with your plan for jobs and growth?

PRIME MINISTER:

This is a historical problem that was inherited from the Labor Party. Again I'll set out the facts for you. The Labor Party cut $1.2 billion while they were in Government out of incentives for employers relating to taking up apprentices, okay? That had the consequence of reducing apprenticeships. A lot of apprentices left and there was a reduction in starts, in apprenticeship commencements. Since we came in to Government the apprenticeship starts have grown considerably. They're up 35 per cent under our Government and with reference to the Tradettes, the all-female plumbing company we were talking to earlier, plumbing commencements, plumbing apprenticeships are up, as I recall, 57 per cent. So our policies and of course stronger economic growth, is seeing more apprenticeships. But this was very much a problem, a consequence of the previous Labor Government.

Can I just make one other point too. This is in some respects an obvious point to make, but it's easy to overlook; the thing that drives apprenticeships and hiring young people, whether as apprentices or trainees the most is a strong economy. If the business feels it is growing and its’ prospects are good then it will invest and if it invests it will hire more people. If its prospects are good, it will bring on people that are inexperienced, young people that may take more time to mentor and so forth. That is why the biggest driver of youth employment is a strong economy. That’s what has driven stronger youth employment over the last year or so. It has been that stronger economic growth of course we have important programs to support youth employment, the PaTH program that Scott set out in the Budget is a very innovative one that I believe will make a very big difference, but nothing is as important as having that foundation of strong economic growth.

JOURNALIST:

You mentioned the ABCC. If you win the election but don't get enough numbers for a majority and a joint sitting, will you still put the ABCC legislation to a joint sitting? If not would that be the end of it as Government policy?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm not going to engage in a hypothetical. I'm seeking to win a majority in the House of Representatives and we're seeking to win as many Senate seats as we can. We certainly are seeking to have sufficient numbers to have a majority in a joint sitting, but I can assure you that both of the bills that were the subject of the double dissolution - and that's why we're having a double dissolution, because of those bills, both Registered Organisations and ABCC - both of those will, unless they are passed by the House and the Senate before, they will go to a joint sitting.


JOURNALIST:

Did you say Labor's Budget position is a fairy tale? Isn't yours a fairy tale as long as it rests on 16 measures that have already been blocked by the Senate from the 2014 Budget? Shouldn't you at least tell Australian people how you intend to keep your Budget in order if, as is likely, the new Senate rejects them as the old one did?

PRIME MINISTER:

Tim, I've got two points to make in response to that. The first is we don't even know who's going to be in the new Senate so you're speculating about a Senate, the membership of which has yet to be determined.

JOURNALIST:

But you’re speculating -

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no, the Government has a policy, the Government has to set out in its’ Budget what it proposes to do. What you're asking me to do is to speculate on the likely reaction of a Senate which the Australian people have not yet elected. That's my first point. So you're getting ahead of yourself, with great respect, but you are a forward thinker of course so I'd expect nothing else.

The other point I would make is that what political parties say they will support and oppose at one time is not necessarily ultimately what they will do. You have seen the Labor Party has opposed many measures of ours at which they have subsequently supported or subsequently changed their position on. The best-known of those is obviously the School Kids Bonus, which they made an iconic issue and launched petitions and campaigns and said they were going to fight all the way to election day to restore it and then did a very quick back flip on that. So I think the only way you can proceed as a Government is to set out your policies, both revenue and expenditure in your Budget, which we have done. That has brought together our economic plan and this is one of the great virtues of our economic plan, is that it is all there. There is a comprehensive document that sets it all out. It's called the Budget. It's all calculated, it's not a glossy document, it's all been checked in the Pre-Election Fiscal Outlook by the secretaries of Treasury and Finance, so it's there and Australians understand exactly what it is, what it will cost and we will be, if we are returned to Government, we will be seeking to implement all of it. Perhaps just one more.

JOURNALIST:

Has the campaign against Tony Windsor become overly personal? Do you personally stand by the attack ad that he has asked to be removed, claiming it implies he cheated on his wife?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm not going to engage in personality politics.

I would just simply make the observation - this is a historical fact - that in 2010, the voters of New England re-elected Tony Windsor, whom they regarded with every good reason, as an independent conservative member. They ended up with him supporting a Labor-Greens left-wing government led by Julia Gillard. So that's the history and the voters of New England have every reason to understand what happened last time and understand very keenly, perhaps more keenly than many others, how important it is to vote for a Liberal or a National candidate to secure a stable majority Coalition Government.

JOURNALIST:

On Brexit, one of the identified motivations of the British people in leaving, wanting to leave, was said to be migration within the European Union. The Australian non-discriminatory migration system seemed to be preferred. Now, migration is a powerful driver of economic growth. You're promising us a plan for a strong new economy. The business lobby wants to increase the Australian population to 40 million by 2055. Do you support that? Do you want a big Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Quentin we have a very sound, well-managed immigration system. Our border protection policies are resolute, as you know, so we have stopped the boats. It's more than 700 days since the last successful people smuggling expedition to Australia. So we have secured the integrity of the border so that the Australian Government decides who comes to Australia and how long they stay and on what terms they stay. That's critically important and underpins the confidence in the system and of course, you've made the point yourself, but it is one of the concerns that obviously played into the debate recently had in the United Kingdom.

As far as migration to Australia, it is overwhelmingly skills based and it responds to the demands of the economy. So where there is more demand for labour you get more skilled migration. Where there is less demand, you get less. It's working very well and I know people talk about targets and so forth. I think experience demonstrates that we are better off focusing on ensuring that our immigration system is well managed and it responds to the needs of the economy, which is exactly what ours does.

Thank you very much.