TRANSCRIPT: JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE – HMAS CHOULES
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 13 AUGUST 2011
TOPICS: HMAS Choules; Malaysia Deal; Ministerial Council on Energy; Queensland LNP; Coal seam gas; Western Australia
JULIA GILLARD: It’s a great pleasure to be here today. I’m joined by the Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, I’m also joined by Minister for Defence Materiel, Jason Clare our Minister who assists Stephen Smith and joined by our Chief of Navy Ray Griggs and we are all very pleased to be here with members of the Choules family for a very special occasion. And it’s the Choules family in a mighty number around us so thank you very much for coming along today.
We’re here today to make an announcement and that announcement is that the newest vessel to join our Navy will be named in honour of Claude Choules and that is why the family is gathered here today.
Claude Choules sounds like an amazing man from his family’s stories and we know from Australia’s history that he led a truly remarkable life.
Claude served in World War One and World War Two. He was born in the United Kingdom and first served with British Navy and then migrated to Australia and served with our Navy. He lived to a remarkable age, he passed away in Perth in May this year at the age of 110.
He was our last known link to the people who served in World War One. He was consequently very special to the Australian community as well as to his family, to all of his family who are gathered here today.
I’d like to particularly acknowledge his two daughters with us today, Anne and Daphne. They are representing many generations of the Choules family, through grandsons and granddaughters to great grandsons and granddaughters and beyond, we have many generations of the family gathered with us today.
We believed it was appropriate to honour the memory of Claude Choules, to honour him as an individual but also to honour what he represents to the Australian nation. A person who showed sacrifice, a person who showed courage, a person who has become an emblem of those Australians who went and fought for us in World War One and in World War Two. Our nation is going to move to a commemoration of the centenary of Gallipoli in a few short years. That will be a time of very deep reflection about what it means to be Australian, about what it means to endure, what it means to show courage in the face of battle. We are doing that here today too by honouring Claude Choules. The vessel that will be named in his honour is of course a vessel from the United Kingdom, just like Claude himself, made in the UK but coming to serve here in our own Navy. It is a vessel that has been known in the UK service as the Largs Bay. When it comes to Australia it will be known as the HMAS Choules. I’m very pleased to be here today with so many of his family to recognise the great man and to ensure that he is recognised for all time through the naming of this vessel.
I’ll ask the Minister for Defence now to make a few comments.
STEPHEN SMITH: Prime Minister, thank you very much. This is a great day for Navy, it’s a great day for the Choules family. It’s also a very significant day for HMAS Stirling and a day which the community of Western Australia and Australia I think will respond with warmth at the naming of the Largs Bay as HMAS Choules.
I had the great honour of representing the Government at Claude Choules’ funeral in May of this year. Claude, is well known, lived to 110 years of age, as the Prime Minister has said, started his service in the Royal Navy and completed his service in the Royal Australian Navy. That day was a tremendous celebration of a great life and the warmth with which he was held, the respect and regard with which he was held was very much on display on that day and the great pride that his family had in him as a person, as a father, as a grandfather, as a great grandfather and also the great pride they had in his service to two navies. So this is a celebration, it’s a terrific day for the family and when I met Anne and Daphne and Adrian, Claude’s son, I wasn’t expecting to be introduced to an extended family of hundreds. Some of whom, a small number of whom, are on display today. But over the years this base, HMAS Stirling, has come to be very close to the family, supporting Claude, being close to Claude, and the Prime Minister and the Chief of Navy and Minister for Defence Materiel have just come from having looking at a portion of the Claude which will hang in the mess here and part of the mess will be officially named the Claude Choules Room, so there’s a lot of warmth at the HMAS Stirling for Claude and the family.
So we’re very pleased to make the announcement today, I’m also pleased to indicate that on our current plan, HMAS Choules will arrive in Australia in December. It’ll arrive in Fremantle and in Fremantle we will formally commission the ship into the Australian Navy and that will be another cause for tremendous celebration. This is a significant year for Navy, it’s Navy’s centenary, its one hundredth year of Navy and there are a number of reasons linked to the centenary which make it appropriate for the Largs Bay to be named the HMAS Choules and I call on Ray Griggs the Chief of Navy to make some remarks in the that respect. Thank you.
RAY GRIGGS: Thank you Minister, and Prime Minister thank you for coming down to Stirling today to make this announcement. It is truly a great Navy day, the naming of this ship is a very, very important part of the fabric of the Navy. The ship, its name, the story around the name and the symbolism of that story is critical to the identity of a ship. It’s critical to the men and women who serve in that ship, it binds them together and gives them a great sense of purpose, so it’s important that when we do name a ship that the name is significant and I think you’ve already heard from both the Prime Minister and the Minister that naming the ship after Claude Choules, is significant. It’s significant, his last links back to World War One, it’s significant that he spent 40 years of his life devoted to two navies, serving two navies and two nations and it’s very significant to me in our centenary year that Claude represents, the name not only represent his story but the story of tens of thousands of other sailors whom make this Navy what is, what it has been and what it will be in the future. What we do is largely unseen. This morning there are 1000 sailors in the RAN at sea, doing their business out of sight and sometimes out of mind, but they’re there, they’re doing it every day and they will find this naming today incredibly powerful, that it recognises not only the exceptional man that Claude was but the exceptional people that have made up this Navy over the last 100 years and that make up the Navy today.
About two weeks ago with Minister Clare, I was very privileged to be on board the future HMAS Choules in the UK. It is a fantastic ship, it is extremely well designed and it will do what it needs to do for us in terms of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exceptionally well. It will help evacuate Australian nationals should they get into trouble in trouble spots around the region. It is exceptionally well designed for that purpose. I’m very, very eagerly awaiting its arrival in Fremantle in December and very much look forward to formally welcoming HMAS Choules to the Royal Australian Navy.
JULIA GILLARD: Thank you very much and thank you once again to the family, to Daphne and Anne and everyone that’s gathered here today. We had the opportunity before to have a few brief reflections on what is it to have lived such a long life and some of Claude’s secrets – cod liver oil, molasses, wheat germ, a few things like that. But it’s a great honour to be with you today for announcing the name of the HMAS Choules. We’re very happy to take questions on this announcement and following that we’ll move to broader questions of the day.
JOURNALIST: When is the boat, or ship coming to Australia?
JULIA GILLARD: I think with all of these Naval Officers around you, you’d better say ship or you’ll get into all sorts of trouble. It will be arriving in December.
JOURNALIST: Is it going to be based here?
JULIA GILLARD: I’ll turn to our experts to tell you all about its duty.
STEPHEN SMITH: It’ll arrive in Australiain December, it’ll arrive in Fremantle, our proposal is to formally commission the ship in Fremantle. The formal commissioning of the ship essentially sees the ship’s company boarding the vessel. Whilst there is certainly a capacity to port the ship at HMAS Stirling, our current plan is to port the ship at Fleet Base East in Sydney but given its primary task is heavy amphibious lift for disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, we’re expecting in the fullness of time it’ll see time in a range of ports across the length and breadth of the country.
JOURNALIST: That will be its main use?
STEPHEN SMITH: It’s providing a heavy amphibious lift capability for us until the arrival in the middle of this decade of our two large landing helicopter docks from Spain. A heavy amphibious lift vessel gives you the capacity to move supplies for disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, but also to move troops and equipment as required. For example we have stabilisation missions in the Solomon Islands and in East Timor, when those missions were established you need heavy amphibious lift and also heavy airlift to move the equipment and personnel concerned. We are expecting that the HMAS Choules will be ready and available for disaster relief purposes at the commencement of the cyclone season early next year.
JULIA GILLARD: Any other questions on today’s announcement? No? Are there other questions on issues of the day?
JULIA GILLARD: We are determined to smash the people smuggler’s business model through our arrangement with Malaysia, of course that arrangement is now the subject of High Court proceedings and we believe we have a legally sound case. So we will work through before the High Court so that we can implement our arrangement with Malaysia but I would send this message very loud and clear to people smugglers and to asylum seekers who are contemplating paying a lot of money and risking their own life and potentially the lives of members of their family, and that message is no one should get on a boat and assume that they will have their claim processed in Australia. We will be looking to remove people to Malaysia and of course we are concluding discussions with PNG about the opening of a centre there, so no one should make the assumption that if they come by boat that their claim will be processed here and that they will be able to remain in Australia.
JOURNALIST: The Government’s latest statement on this latest arrival says that they’re being assessed before being removed to another country, why doesn’t it say the country – is it Malaysia?
JULIA GILLARD: We used the terminology ‘third country’ in the past, obviously our aim is the return people to Malaysia, we cannot do that until the High Court proceedings are concluded. We believe we have a legally sound case and once those proceedings conclude then people should assume that they are liable for transfer to Malaysia. We’ve been very clear indeed, our aim is the smash the people smuggler’s business model so we have a concluded arrangement with Malaysia and we are working through for a concluded arrangement with PNG.
JULIA GILLARD: We’ve made it consistently clear there are no blanket exemptions. There will be pre assessments, pre transfer assessments but there are no blanket exemptions. So no one of any age or gender or family circumstance should make the assumption that if they get on a boat they’ll have their claims processed in Australia.
JOURNALIST: [Indistinct] the Comcare report, about the ability of Serco to train staff does the Government have any concerns [indistinct]?
JULIA GILLARD: I think we have to be clear about the separate arrangements here, we’ve since early May have been speaking about our desire to conclude an arrangement with PNG. Of course there was a lot of change in the politics and the life of that nation as a result of Sir Michael’s illness and now a new Prime Minister has emerged and we are speaking to the new Prime Minster who has indicated that he is very receptive to having a centre in PNG. On the Serco issue and the Comcare report that was made public, became public a couple of days ago, this is a report from a few months ago and the Department of Immigration has said it is already responding to the recommendations in that report. Working in a detention centre is a challenging environment and obviously Comcare has pointed to some things that need to be done differently and the department is already responding to that.
JOURNALIST: Are you going to try and bring forward the High Court hearing?
JULIA GILLARD: There is a directions hearing on Monday, so that’s the next proceeding in the High Court.
JOURNALIST: Since the Malaysian deal was signed or announced at least, there have been 260 arrivals. Does that mean the solution has already failed?
JULIA GILLARD: We are yet to fully implement the Malaysia arrangement because of the High Court proceedings but obviously we need to argue the legal case in the High Court, we believe we’ve got a strong legal case, beyond the court proceedings we want to implement the Malaysia arrangements which means people will be taken to Malaysia, they’ll take their place alongside 90,000 other asylum seekers in Malaysia, that is where people should be assuming they will end up.
JOURNALIST: Will the Manus Island plan make a difference and [indistinct] be up and running?
JULIA GILLARD: We expect it to be up in running in a number of weeks, we need to conclude an arrangement with PNG, but as the PNG Prime Minster has made very clear he is very supportive of us entering such an arrangement.
JOURNALIST: But will it make a difference?
JULIA GILLARD: Our whole aim here is to smash the people smugglers business model, to end any expectation that asylum seekers have that if they come to Australia they will have claims processed here and be able to stay, that is at the heart of the arrangement we’ve come to with Malaysia.
We also said under the Bali framework that we would look for other bilateral discussions, we entered into them with PNG and now they are working their way to conclusion.
JOURNALIST: The Federal Government has an energy star rating on homes, are you concerned that some people say [indistinct] may affect their retail value [indistinct]?
JULIA GILLARD: I think it’s very important to have some facts on the table here. The story you refer to is a reference to a consultation paper under a Council of Australian Governments process that is through the Ministerial Council on Energy where the Federal Minister and the relevant state ministers come and sit round a table. They’ve issued a consultation paper, nothing more. If people have got views then of course they can respond to the consultation paper, that’s what it’s for and absolutely no decisions have been taken by the Federal Government on that matter.
JOURNALIST: Can I get your reaction to the Cairns Liberal Nationals candidate Paul Freebody calling you evil and hoping you’ll end up like JFK? [Indistinct]
JULIA GILLARD: Well you would need to ask him that. What I think needs to happen here is that the LNP needs to investigate this matter and determine for itself whether they believe this man is a suitable candidate and representative of their party.
JULIA GILLARD: I’ll leave that to the LNP to make that decision as to whether he is a suitable candidate for their political party.
JOURNALIST: He says his email has been doctored but he actually meant that you should get the same treatment as Kevin Rudd. Either way do the comments -
JULIA GILLARD: I’m not going be drawn on the details of this, this is a matter for the LNP. They’re putting him forward to people as a candidate that people should consider voting for and sending to the state parliament in Queensland. If the LNP is presenting him as a candidate for election as a parliamentarian then it’s for the LNP to be satisfied that he is a suitable person.
JOURNALIST: [Indistinct] lack of respect?
JULIA GILLARD: Once again it’s the LNP that are presenting him as someone people should vote for, it’s the LNP to see if he’s a suitable candidate to enter an electoral race bearing their party mantle.
JOURNALIST: Earlier this morning Tony Abbott [indistinct] saying that basically the Government is anti-West Australian because of the mining tax and carbon tax. What do you say about that?
JULIA GILLARD: Here we go again, that’s what I say about that. Mr Abbott and his relentless negativity, here he is plying it again in Western Australia. But I think the major problem for Mr Abbott here is he will say different things to different audiences, he’s here in Western Australia today at a party conference, last time he went to a party conference he told Peter Reith that he’d vote for him as party president then voted for Alan Stockdale. He’s here in Western Australia saying that he’s the best friend of the mining industry at the same time he’s telling farmers in NSW and Queensland that he’s on their side. He says on the one had that mining is all an issue for state government, that’s what he says to Colin Barnett, at the same time he’s talking about regulating mining and taking it out of state government hands and making it a matter for him. So typical conduct where different things are said to different people. What I believe Mr Abbott should be focusing on at this point is his $70 billion black hole and telling Australians what is he going to do, if he’s ever elected as Prime Minster, do what? End Medicare payments for four years, people would have to pay to go to the doctor, there would be no more Medicare money? Stop aged pensioners getting paid the aged pension for two years? What would they do for two years without the aged pension? They’re the kind of measures you’d need to enact to save $70 billion.
JOURNALIST: On the coal seam gas comments, should farmers have the right to deny miners access to their land?
JULIA GILLARD: This is a question on your mind today because Tony Abbott has made some comments. On the one hand he says to miners I’m absolutely in lock step with you, anything you want, then he makes these comments obviously sending a message to farmers. I think it’s for Mr Abbott to explain how this all possibly adds up.
JOURNALIST: Do you and your Government appreciate how important WA is to the national economy?
JULIA GILLARD: We certainly do and let’s go through it, I’m very happy to. As Prime Minister because I understand the contribution of WA to the national economy and its legitimate concerns about GST revenue, I’ve put in place a review of the distribution of GST responding to those concerns. I also understand here in Western Australia, the resources sector is growing, it’s growing rapidly, it’s hungry for skills, it’s hungry for infrastructure, it’s hungry for people. That’s why in the recent budget we enacted a $3 billion skills package, one that will work in direct partnership with industry including the resources industry.
It’s why we are determined to keep building infrastructure in Western Australia, it’s why we’ve tailored our migration settings so major projects in Western Australia through enterprise migration agreements can get the people that they need.
It’s why as we’ve designed the Minerals Resource Rent Tax that we’ve listened to the voices of miners in Western Australia to get all of the details right. It’s why we want to give other businesses in Western Australia the benefits a lower company tax rate, why we want to help small businesses with special tax breaks, why we want to make sure people in Western Australia get a better superannuation deal. Why we want to make sure WA gets infrastructure from proceeds of that tax and of course on all of these issues that are on the minds of Western Australia we’ve worked to deliver, for a long period of time there wasn’t delivery of a health reform agreement here, now there is with literally extra hundreds of millions of dollars, indeed billions of dollars flowing into the hospitals of Western Australia. So it’s one thing to do the relentless negativity, it’s another thing to actually act to get things done that matter to the people of Western Australia as they go to work, as they take a family member to the local hospital, as they think about the their retirement income and their future, as they use the infrastructure that this state needs.
Thank you very much.