Doorstop, Wacol Queensland - 5 August 2019
*Check against delivery*
SUBJECTS: Defence industries; Strait of Hormuz; Indo-Pacific security; Darwin Port; Secretaries Pompeo and Esper; Oil reserves; US shooter; Extinction Rebellion; Assisted dying; Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety
DEB FRECKLINGTON MP, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It is wonderful to have Prime Minister Scott Morrison and some of his team here in Queensland today, because we know that the only Government that is looking towards jobs and particularly manufacturing jobs is the Federal Morrison Coalition Government. So here today at Rheinmetall where we see this massive investment into jobs, into manufacturing and into protecting the Australian people. So, Prime Minister, thank you so much for coming up here and supporting these Australian jobs right here in Queensland. I would like to hand over to Minister Melissa Price.
THE HON MELISSA PRICE MP, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE INDUSTRY: Thanks, Deb, and it's great to be here at Penske and thanks very much to Penske for hosting us. Penske is doing a great job with respect to the Land 121 project and it's great to see all these Australian workers, Australian knowhow helping us with our Defence capability.
Penske's just one of 3,500 small businesses around Australia who identify as being involved in the Defence industry supply chain. And with the new Boxer contract, which of course we know Rheinmetall is building at its new Centre of Excellence, we will see some 1,400 new jobs created and even more. So I want to congratulate everyone for being involved and supporting the growth of Australian jobs and especially Australian small business sector with respect to Defence capability. Thank you. Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, Melissa. Well, thank you to you for the great job you're doing in making sure this project is getting up and getting on track and, Deb, it's wonderful to be here in Queensland and I'm joined by my Queensland colleagues Peter Dutton, of course, as our senior Queensland MP. He's just returned from the UK and, Pete, a great job on what you've been able to do on child protection there. And of course Ted O'Brien is known to you well and Ted was a real key supporter of the bid here for Land 400. I recall those days very well from when I was Treasurer, Ted, and Ted does a wonderful job coordinating with team Queensland to ensure that there are jobs on the ground here.
This is a very exciting project at a whole range of levels. I've just spent yesterday, as did the Defence Minister and the Foreign Minister, and meeting with their US counterparts. Australia does its own heavy lifting when it comes to Defence. We're committed to 2 per cent of GDP to ensure that our Defence Forces have the capability to do the job that we ask them to do. And that is to be present in theatres all around the world, in all manner of challenges and those challenges often are involved in providing humanitarian assistance and support in response to some of the world's worst disasters and that can be here in our own country and it can be overseas and making sure that our Defence Forces have that capability and that Australia is standing on its own two feet and living up to all of the things that we wish to as a country. I think that says a lot about who we are. We will hit that 2 per cent of GDP ahead of schedule and, in so doing, it's not just the defence capability keeping Australians safe both here and overseas, it is also about the jobs, as Deb said.
1,400 jobs are part of this project and those jobs aren't just here, as in Queensland, they're right around the country as part of an integrated supply chain. Our defence industry investments are creating jobs all around the country and providing a future for manufacturing here in Australia. Future jobs, future training, future apprenticeships, learning from around the world and bringing those skills and those technologies here to Australia and so they can be applied in so many other different manufacturing challenges that companies are engaged in, whether it's here in Queensland or through the supply chain. I mean, just chatting to some of the guys who are working here on this site, coming from different industries. I was chatting to one chap, he's come from the food processing industry and now he is working in defence industry. That's what this defence industry program is all about. It's about building capability of our defence forces, creating jobs, developing skills, providing new training opportunities, getting more apprentices on the grounds, providing a future for our manufacturing industries right across the country. So it is about getting on with the job. $200 billion being invested in our Defence capabilities over the next decade and beyond, well beyond, and that will ensure not just that capability now but into the future, not just those jobs now but those jobs and sustainment well into the future once the build process has been done.
So it’s a very exciting part of our Defence procurement program and our defence industries program and we look forward to its continued rollout. There will be challenges ahead and I have no doubt the partnership between the Australian Government and Rheinmetall in particular here in Penske and others, will work closely to ensure we meet all those challenges and we show the rest of the world just how well we can do this and that will create export industries for Australia with the various sorts of vehicles that we'll see manufactured here in Queensland, in Brisbane, and we look forward to that taking place in the many years to come. So, happy to take some questions.
JOURNALIST: The Land 400 Phase 3 contract's due soon. Do you have any timeframe on that and from what you've seen, will Queensland be in the box seat for that?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's an independent tender process which will go through exactly the same one that the second phase did and other phases have. And so you can expect that process to be, according to Hoyle and the best tender.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we'll be working on it over the next little while.
JOURNALIST: Will Australia join a coalition to protect shipping in the Persian Gulf?
PRIME MINISTER: These are matters that we discussed over the last few days. I think what we have to do is be very clear about what the task is here. The task is about providing freedom of shipping lanes in this very important part of the world and to ensure that any effort that we're engaged in which we would consider is part of an international effort, and there are many different partners who can play a role. It's important that we make the Strait of Hormuz safer than they currently are. The purpose here is to deescalate tensions, not to escalate them, and that has very much been the focus of the conversations we've had with our American partners over the last few days. So the Government is carefully considering this issue but I think it's very important to separate this particular initiative from the broader issues of any tensions that relate to Iran on other matters, particularly on nuclear proliferation. So that is one set of issues. This is about safe shipping lanes which is good for global peace and these are not uncommon activities for Australia or others to be engaged in. I mean, Australia is engaged in many international efforts, and Peter in particular would be familiar with many of them when it comes to countering organised criminal activity and shipping of various banned substances and materials and things of that nature. We're often engaged in those sorts of international engagements and we are very much looking at what has been put to us here [inaudible]. JOURNALIST: You mentioned you wanted to carefully consider not escalating tensions. Do you think that there is a risk that if Australia were… if such a coalition were to be formed that it could escalate tensions? PRIME MINISTER: No, I think the exact opposite. I think the international effort that's being discussed here is designed to do one thing and that is to deescalate and to ensure there's a freedom of navigation and there's safe shipping lanes through this very sensitive part of the world and that's very much what Australia would be considering and that would be our motive if we engaging in any of those operations.
JOURNALIST: Has the US ever asked to install missiles in Northern Australia?
PRIME MINISTER: No.
JOURNALIST: Would you consider it if they did ask that?
PRIME MINISTER: That's not something the Government would consider. It's not being asked of us, it's not being considered. It's not being put to us. So, you know, I think I can rule a line under that.
JOURNALIST: Is there a time where you would consider nationalising Darwin Port to bring it back under Australian control?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, as you know, that port was sold by the Northern Territory Government at a time when the Commonwealth's foreign investment rules and the processes of FIRB did not apply to that transaction. So the Commonwealth Government never approved that sale. That was a decision taken at the time by the Northern Territory Government. What our Government did in response to that - I was Treasurer at the time - is we worked with the State and Territory Governments to ensure that in a situation like that again it wouldn't be left to the sole discretion of the State and Territory Government and that those rules are now in place for those types of facilities. So we've taken action since that time but that is… what you've suggested is not something that is before the Government.
JOURNALIST: What was discussed at dinner with Mike Pompeo?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, they liked the prawns.
No, look, we had a very important relationship building discussion last night. The Secretary of State and his wife Susan - who loved Australia and had been here several times before, as well as Secretary Esper and his wife Leah - it was a good opportunity to talk about a whole range of issues around our partnership and around our relationship. A key part of our discussion centred on how we can work together for an independent sovereign Pacific as, you know, through the Pacific Step Up program. This a very high priority of our Government and we're working with partners right across the region just to support our Pacific family, to ensure that they can lift their living standards, that they can have some independence and sovereignty over their economic futures. And we have all been working in the region, as indeed as China has, and we're looking for ways everyone can work together to improve the wellbeing of our region and stability and, of course, the United States is a key partner on that project.
JOURNALIST: Just on the oil reserve deal - is it a fiscal fudge? Surely the whole point of having a reserve based here is we aren't dependent on another country.
PRIME MINISTER: No, it's not.
JOURNALIST: The US shooter posted…
PRIME MINISTER: Sorry, I couldn't quite hear you.
JOURNALIST: The US shooter posted his manifesto on a site called 8chan; how dangerous are these sorts of sites and how important is it to regulate them?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, this goes to an issue we've been pursuing, and I might ask Peter to comment on this as well. Terrorism takes many forms. But I tell you one thing, it all begins with extremism and extremism of all sorts of views, from whatever perspective. And that's why it's important that a tolerant society such as Australia gravitates towards the middle. That's the best defence against these sorts of extremist views that can metastasise into this violence. We've seen it on so many occasions and it is terribly upsetting, it is terribly distressing.
Now, in this country we're taking all of those steps to ensure we're protecting Australians, to keep them safe from these violent and extremist views. We'll have to wait and see what the investigations further show about what the nature of this particular incident was and obviously this information gets shared at various levels and anything we can learn from those events we will certainly take up those lessons. But it just shows, you've got to be eternally vigilant about these threats and we are and particularly in Peter's portfolio, we are taking action against all forms of violent extremism in Australia. Peter, do you want to comment? THE HON PETER DUTTON MP, MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: I'll just make a couple of points. Thanks, PM. Firstly, obviously in London last week we had a meeting of the Five Eyes Ministers where this was discussed along with other issues and the media companies have a particular responsibility. And the Prime
Minister obviously went at the G20, talking about how we can stop this content from being posted because it's shared by people who might copycat the actions of the individual and that is a horrific outcome. So, like any of the media companies now that carry free-to-air or paid, whatever it is, they have a level of responsibility that needs to be met by many of these online companies. And we met with some of the companies who are working with the United Kingdom, with the United States, with us, in an effort to try and pull this content down so there's a lot of work already under way. But the Prime Minister's leadership at the G20 in Osaka really went to the real issue and that is how we can stop this content from going up online and I think these media companies have lot more to do and they have a lot more significant role to play than they have in the past. I'll just finish on this point - in our country, we have been able to thwart seven attempted terrorist attacks. Sorry, we've had seven that have been successful but only on a minor scale, in part because of the gun law reform that we've had in our country over a number of years and we've been able to stop 16. Now, that is a very significant outcome for any country and means our frontline officers are doing incredibly good work and we'll continue to support that work.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Extinction Rebellion are planning to shut down Brisbane again tomorrow. Do you support their ongoing right to be causing chaos in the city?
PRIME MINISTER: We'll I'm going to leave that to the State Government to sort out. I mean, it's a free country but that doesn't take away people's responsibilities, I think, to be considerate of their fellow citizens. You know, I've said it a few times, it's OK to disagree in this country but if we could disagree a little better it would mean we'd get to work on time. You know, everyone feels passionately about things in Australia and that's fine, that's great, we're a passionate people, that's all good. But let's just think about how we go about doing that, be a bit mindful. I mean, we saw this, as we've just taken through the Parliament this past week the laws which will criminalise the actions of those who are inciting the invading of people's homes and what we're trying to say there is there's a line. You can't go and incite people to undertake acts of what are violence against people's homes. And the broader issue though is, I mean, it's OK to be passionate about topics and have strong views but let's just be a bit considerate of each other about how we express them. That sort of shouty-ness I don't think goes down well with fellow Australians and so fellow Australians will form their own judgment on these things. They don't need my help to form it.
JOURNALIST: Should there be a national law controlling assisted dying rather than States introducing it? PRIME MINISTER: We're not doing that. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: The Royal Commission is under way in Brisbane today for aged care. How important is it that operators are scrutinised and older Australians are protected?
PRIME MINISTER: Look, I initiated the Royal Commission into Aged Care and I said that we had to brace ourselves for some confronting stories. The process of a Royal Commission does many things. It helps the Government to be able to target measures that can address the issues that they've been able to uncover. But I think a Royal Commission also plays a role of enabling people who feel they've been not heard or their experiences have gone unseen to have those acknowledged and for the country as a whole to acknowledge that. And so we'll see that here in Queensland and there will be distressing cases but you can be assured of my Government's resolve to address the issues that are raised through the process of the Royal Commission. I was keen for them to be able to do exactly what they're doing and I wish them well with their work here. But for those families who've suffered these terrible indignities, you have my commitment that we'll be acting to ensure that what the Royal Commission is able to recommend to us,
that we'll be looking at all those very carefully and I think that will help us ensure that as Australians age they do so with dignity and that we build in this country a culture of respect. A culture of respect for older Australians and a culture of respect for Australians with a disability. That is another function of the Royal Commission we've had into that area as well. They're significant projects, they're expensive projects but I think they're investments that will be well made. Thank you.