Address to the National Press Club


Thank you very much. I acknowledge we are gathered on the land of the Ngunawal people and we honour their elders, past and present.

Last week we celebrated Australia Day and around the country 16,000 people from 150 nations chose to become one of us. Like us - holders of the highest office in a democracy – citizen. Partners in the most successful multicultural society in the world. A beacon of harmony in the midst of diversity, founded on a deep tradition of mutual respect in a world of rising intolerance.

Enterprising, optimistic, resilient, compassionate and egalitarian.

In the great race of life, there is no better place to get ahead, realise your dreams, than here.

And nowhere, if you stumble and fall behind, are you more likely to get a hand up.

Few people are as prepared to have a go, take a risk, start a business as Australians. As Liberals and Nationals, we are determined to foster and reward that spirit. My Government stands for opportunity and security; the opportunity to get ahead and to get back on your feet when times are tough, built on a foundation of economic and national security.

Enabling Australians to do their best - not setting limits, not telling them what is best.

We believe in creating opportunities, but we also believe in that helping hand. We advance Australia fair. We are a generous and compassionate people. A fair go and a hand up if you fall behind, the essence of mateship that is deep in our Australian DNA.

This is reflected in our generous means-tested welfare system and highly progressive income tax system. We are a fairer, more equal society as a result.

The test therefore for every policy and every decision of my Government is this: does it create more opportunities for Australians to do their best?

Now our economic plan answered that question, emphatically.

With export trade deals that are expanding the opportunities for Australians to sell their products and services into the fastest growing markets of the world, at the same time as they reduce the cost of everyday goods, putting more money back into the hands of households.

Our Innovation and Science Agenda ensures we have more kids studying science and technology, and more research and investment in the technologies of the future.

All creating new jobs and more opportunity.

Our Defence Industry Plan not only delivers the capabilities our that ADF needs, it provides the high tech platform that reboots advanced manufacturing, delivering thousands of new jobs and unprecedented opportunities.

And our business tax cuts enable small businesses, family businesses, to invest more, hire more and compete with the rest of the world.

So it’s about creating more jobs, sustainable jobs, higher paying jobs.

We have lived through a remarkable era of prosperity, as we know, fueled by a once in a generation mining construction boom. But we must never become complacent.

New challenges abound and the competition for capital and skilled labour is fiercer today than at any point in our history. We cannot retreat into the bleak dead-end of protectionism.

We must compete aggressively to export our services in education, health, engineering, tourism and more, and we must pursue even greater access for our agriculture and our manufacturers.

Political opportunists want us to turn inward, and revert to higher barriers to trade and investment. But they are doing nothing more than playing on the fears and hardships of those in the community who feel they have not shared in the benefits of globalisation and technological change. They offer the false promise that subsidies and trade barriers, under the banner of Australian first, are the answer to protecting jobs.

But we have seen that film before. And it’s not a pretty one.

Whatever other countries may think, it is very clear that for Australia, more trade means more exports, which means more jobs and more opportunity.

Our big export trade deals have dramatically expanded the horizon for Australian business, large and small, regional and metro.

Those who oppose our export deals are really calling for less opportunity, diminished prosperity and fewer jobs.

We pursue even greater global access to the global economy because it is good for jobs, good for investment and good for Australia. Its putting our national interest, our true national interests first. Because it creates more opportunities and jobs for Australians.

Of course, we want 24 million Australians, buying Australian. But we also want 7.4 billion people around the world buying Australian.

Why would we want to limit opportunities at a time when demand for ‘made in Australia’ has never been stronger?

Beef from the Darling Downs is being served in the restaurants of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, wine from the Barossa Valley is being purchased in the bars of Tokyo and macadamias from the Northern Rivers are on the supermarket shelves of Seoul - cities each with a population larger than Sydney and Melbourne combined. Australians, in communities across our nation, are benefiting from these opportunities.

That is why - although disappointed by America’s withdrawal from the TPP - we continue to work to open more markets for our exports, with negotiations underway with India, Indonesia, the European Union and in due course, the United Kingdom.

Now when we talk about opportunity and jobs, lower taxes - in particular lower business taxes - are of critical importance.

87 per cent of the jobs in Australia are in the private sector. You don't get more jobs, higher wages or more hours by taxing the businesses that employ Australians more.

Without a competitive business tax rate, Australia will be less able to attract investment. And without investment, there will be fewer jobs.

The reality is that we are part of an intensely competitive global economy, and other countries have been cutting - and will continue to cut - their company tax rates. We cannot afford to get left behind and let Australian jobs go offshore.

Cutting business tax will create more opportunities, overwhelmingly benefitting small businesses, family-owned businesses that are the lifeblood of so many communities in our regions and in our cities.

We will begin by cutting company tax, to 27.5 per cent, for small and medium businesses with a turnover of less than $10 million.

That means a small Australian business will be able to invest more, hire more and increase wages.

Years of research - much of it commissioned by the previous Labor Government - has revealed a less obvious but very important fact: company tax is overwhelmingly a tax on workers and their salaries.

If we had a 25 per cent business tax rate today, full time workers on average weekly earnings would have an extra $750 in their pockets each and every year. Now none of this will come as a surprise to Labor who supported – in the past – but now oppose, a cut to business tax.

We want to make it easier for Australian businesses - for small and medium businesses - to invest, to hire and to grow.

Our focus is on creating opportunities, more opportunities, for Australian businesses and more jobs.

But while we want to lower business taxes, I can assure you that we do not accept self-help approaches to tax reform and our continued efforts to stamp out corporate tax avoidance continue with the Diverted Profits Tax legislation, one of the most advanced and some would say draconian measures of its kind, in the world. It will impose a 40 per cent penalty on profits earned in Australia and transferred offshore and will apply from 1 July this year to all large multinational companies.

By making sure everyone pays the right amount of tax, we can better afford to invest in the important services and infrastructure that Australians deserve.

Now there is no better way to provide Australians with a lifetime of opportunities than through education. And I know from my own experience what great teachers can do. I am the product of great teachers, and now I’m the father, and Lucy is the mother of a very dedicated teacher, another great teacher. And parents know too.

With kids heading back to school this week, parents are telling me the most common question at school pick up is: “what teacher did you get?”

My commitment to great teachers in great schools for all Australian kids is not a political soundbite, its heartfelt.

If you listened to the Opposition, unions or much of the media, you would think that the only thing that mattered was how much money the Federal Government spent on schools.

Now the truth is we invest more money, record amounts, in schools, every single year. Each and every year into the future. But not enough attention is paid to outcomes.

Over the last decade, Commonwealth school funding increased by nearly 50 per cent in real terms, but student outcomes actually declined. How can it be that funding is increasing, but results are going backwards? So our focus must be, at all times, on improving outcomes.

That includes implementing our measures to improve teacher quality. We want more great teachers in our schools and this year we’ll be seeking a new deal with the states, that ensures the massive amounts of investment by governments and parents deliver better results – the better results that our children deserve.

A quality education is the very foundation for a lifetime of opportunity.

Now balancing the Budget can sound a bit prosaic - something to satisfy the tidy instincts of the bean counters. But it is a profound moral issue.

The longer we live beyond our means, the more deficits we run, the billions more that we borrow, the more we put at risk the living standards and diminish the opportunities of our children and our grandchildren.

Now we’re making progress, but there’s still much more to do. Since the election we’ve secured over $21 billion of gross improvements to the Budget result. We’ve outlined an achievable, growth-friendly plan to return the Budget to surplus.

We’ve shown a commitment and a preparedness to reach compromise that is in the national interest. But again, there is still much, much more to do.

We’ve already set out $13 billion in further Budget savings and over the coming year, we’ll continue to work with the Opposition and the crossbench to find a way forward, to deliver those savings.

After all, we cannot leave it to our children and to their children to clean up the mess of this generation, simply because we failed – indeed refused – to live within our means.

In the same spirit, politicians must be accountable for their use of taxpayer dollars.

Coming into politics after a lifetime of business, I found the term “entitlements” rather inappropriate.

Politicians’ travel and other expenditures are business expenses and they should be spent prudently and cost-effectively. The Australian people are entitled to expect that politicians spend their money appropriately and feel let down when politicians have not. After all it is their money, not ours, and we should spend it more frugally than we would spend our own.

That's why I announced the biggest reforms to the management of parliamentarians’ expenses, in more than a generation.

These reforms speak to the very heart of our Liberal and National values - transparency, accountability, integrity. The new system will be overseen by an Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority and politicians’ expenses will be released publicly, every month.

Another important step in rebuilding public confidence in our political system is donation reform.

Overseas events - as well as those here in Australia - have shown us that the Australian people must be confident that our electoral process is free from foreign intervention or interference.

The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters is examining this complex issue, but I believe Australians expect us to ensure that only Australians and Australian businesses can seek to influence Australian elections, whether via a political party, an activist group like GetUp or an association or a union.

Such accountability is even more important when we consider the cost pressures that most Australian households face today, including in health, in child care and in energy.

We keenly understand how many families are just managing right now; the cost of everything seems to be going up much more than wages. So this year we will be asking the Senate to support our child care reforms. They will deliver the highest rate of subsidy to those who most need it. A family on $60,000 a year would pay around $15 a day per child for care.

When Parliament resumes, we will introduce a new bill that combines our child care reforms with the phase-out of the Family Tax Benefit supplements that will pay for them. We’ve been holding constructive discussions with the Senate crossbench to ensure that we can provide a strong safety net, but deliver more affordable flexible and available child care.

Now Australia’s health care system is world class - the envy of many countries - and my Government is safeguarding it for our children and our grandchildren.

Contrary to Labor's lies, we are strengthening Medicare, to secure its future and the right of every Australian to access quality health care when they need it.

We are continuing to deliver record levels of health funding. There are more GPs than ever. Bulk-billing is at record levels, and people have access to more medications, many at much lower prices. We are putting people first by delivering more personalised and coordinated care with our HealthCare Homes and mental health reforms.

In 2017, a new focus on preventive health will give people the right tools and information to live active and healthy lives.

Now ensuring more Australians can afford to buy a home is a very high a priority. There are no quick fixes or silver bullets. We need more dwellings. We need better transport - road and rail - because distance is measured in minutes, not kilometres.

That’s why our initiatives to encourage the states to fix their planning laws and make it easier to get development approvals, and get building, are so important. As are our City Deals, a key objective of which is to deliver more and more affordable dwellings, in absolute numbers and particularly in the supply of affordable housing.

Big projects like our Western Sydney Airport will play a very significant role, as will the planning reforms. There will be a lot more to come on housing in the course of this year.

Now energy bills are also making up an increasing proportion of household budgets.

If you doubt the central importance of energy security, pay a visit to South Australia, as I did when I visited Port Lincoln on the weekend.

The tuna fishermen and seafood processers there have been hit by constant power failures, massive price hikes and, to rub salt into the wound, the need to invest more in more diesel generators, to provide the backup when the South Australian grid fails next time.

But the problem goes well beyond South Australia. We have an abundance of coal, gas, sun and wind resources, not to mention uranium. Yet our energy is among the most expensive in the OECD.

States are setting huge renewable targets, far beyond that of the national RET, with no consideration given to the baseload power and storage needed for stability.

South Australia - now with the most expensive and least secure energy has had its wake-up call - one storm blacked out the entire state.

But Labor snores on, heedless of what awaits the rest of the country if Labor governments and would-be governments continue their mindless rush into renewables. This is not good enough.

Australia should be able to achieve the policy trifecta of energy that is affordable, reliable and secure and that meets our substantial global emissions reduction commitments as agreed in the Paris Climate Change Treaty last year. And all governments and industry must work together to achieve those three goals. Security, affordability and emissions reduction - that's what we need to achieve.

Families and businesses need reliable and affordable power. Nothing will more rapidly de-industrialise Australia and deter investment, more than more and more expensive, let alone less reliable energy.

Bill Shorten's energy plan, whether it is a 50 per cent RET by 2030 or double our Paris emissions reduction target by 2030, is a sure recipe to deliver much more expensive and much less reliable power.

In Victoria, the closure of Hazelwood will cost the state 20 per cent of its electricity generating capacity. Yet the Victorian Labor Government supports a 40 per cent renewable target and opposes all onshore gas development - conventional and unconventional - while Victorian gas reserves are beginning to decline as exploration fails to replace production.

Increasing gas supply in Australia is vital for our energy future and vital for industries and jobs.

But state bans on onshore gas development will result in more expensive and less reliable energy and, without gas or substantial new forms of energy storage, where will the firming power come from, to support intermittent renewables like wind and solar?

Now, we're willing to sit down with the states to determine the right incentives to enable desperately-needed, sustainable onshore gas development.

Energy storage, long neglected in Australia, will also be a priority this year.

Last week at my request, ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, agreed to work together on a new funding round for large-scale storage and other flexible capacity projects including pumped hydro.

I've also written to Alan Finkel, asking him to advise on the role of storage and pumped hydro in stabilising the grid.

Large-scale storage will support variable renewables like wind and solar. It will get more value out of existing baseload generation and it will enhance grid stability. We're going to get on with it.

Now, turning to coal. Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal. We've invested $590 million since 2009 in clean coal technology research and demonstration and yet we do not have one modern high-efficiency low-emissions coal-fired power station, let alone one with carbon capture and storage.

So here's the current picture. Old, high emissions coal-fired power stations are closing down as they age, reducing baseload capacity. They cannot simply be replaced by gas, because it's too expensive, or by wind or solar because they are intermittent.

Storage has a very big role to play, that's true. But we will need more synchronous baseload power and as the world’s largest coal exporter, we have a vested interest in showing that we can provide both lower emissions and reliable base load power with state-of-the-art clean coal-fired technology.

The next incarnation of our national energy policy should be technology agnostic. It’s security and cost that matters most, not how you deliver it.

Policy should be all of the above technologies, working together to deliver the trifecta of secure and affordable power while meeting our emission reduction commitments.

Now, this isn't an abstract issue. Higher electricity prices mean more pressure on household budgets and businesses and that's why energy will be a defining debate in this Parliament.

We're determined to help families and businesses by making electricity affordable and reliable.

Labor's policies mean higher power prices and energy insecurity. The battlelines have been drawn. It's clear that the Coalition stands for cheaper energy. We are approaching this issue clear-eyed, pragmatic and objective.

Labor's approach is driven simply by ideology, heedless of cost or the thousands of jobs that it will destroy.

Now, regional Australia is vast. No one city or town is the same as another. Many parts are thriving, others are doing it pretty tough.

But there is one common denominator - the resilience, confidence and enterprise of regional Australians and we're backing our regions with infrastructure, with new and open markets and job opportunities.

We can't succeed as a nation without our regions succeeding.

Trade is delivering more jobs in the regions.

The NBN and our mobile black spots program is improving communications.

And our massive infrastructure programs, including the Pacific, Bruce, Midland Highways, inland rail and many others are conquering the tyranny of distance.

Above all and in every way, we're working in partnership with regional communities to give them confidence in the opportunities of the future.

Now, just as regional job security is vital for our nation, national security is the foundation of every freedom we enjoy.

No peacetime government has committed more resources to national security than mine.

Our modernisation of the Defence Force, in particular our shipbuilding plan, will create thousands of new jobs and a sustainable, internationally competitive defence industry.

Our defence industry investment program is truly a historic national enterprise. Our expansion of the capabilities of our security and intelligence services gives them the means to defend us in the 21st century of terrorism and cyber warfare.

And we have secured our borders.

In contrast, Labor outsourced our migration program to people smugglers. 50,000 unauthorised arrivals, 1,200 lives lost at sea, a shocking, tragic policy failure.

Thousands of children were detained in more than a dozen new detention centres.

The system was broken.

Since 2013, Operation Sovereign Borders, an initiative that began under Prime Minister Abbott and that I've reinforced, has stopped the boats and restored integrity to our borders.

The children are out of detention. Labor left thousands of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island.

We're working with other countries, including the United States, to resettle them.

But our message is clear - if you try to come by boat to Australia, you will not succeed. You will not settle here.

Our success as a multicultural society - the world's most successful multicultural society - as an immigration nation, depends on the public's confidence that their government controls their borders. And now we do.

Now, everything we do as a government is designed to make your lives better, safer and more prosperous; generating new jobs, improving childcare, keeping power prices down, improving the performance of our schools.

The opportunity to receive a world-class education.

The opportunity to start and grow a business.

The opportunity to find a good job.

Creating more opportunities underpins everything that we do as a government.

And opportunity is built on security - job security, economic security, energy security, national security.

Our Australian values - enterprising and egalitarian, have a go and lend a hand - they're as right today as they were a century ago.

Today, together, believing we can do anything, determined that our greatest days are ahead of us, we will deliver a brighter future for our children and our grandchildren and generations to come.

Thank you very much.