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Source: Australia Government Ministerial Statements

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well welcome all to the great electorate of Hume where much of this project is occurring, I’m Angus Taylor and I’m delighted to be here with my local colleagues Melissa McIntosh, neighbouring electorate of Lindsay, where a great deal of the work around this new city is going on and also Stuart Ayres and Peter Sidgreaves, local state members, and of course my many ministerial colleagues here today. Prime Minister, Mathias Cormann, Alan Tudge, and of course Michael McCormack the Deputy Prime Minister. I am incredibly proud that this enormous project is going on, on the edge of my electorate and with it a new city being built, a 30 minute city, a city which will focus on local jobs. And of course I know Melissa as well is very, very focussed and very passionate about making sure we have more local jobs in Western Sydney and that of course is what this project is all about. Again thank you for being here and welcome here today.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much. Thanks Angus, Melissa and all the colleagues who are here with me today particularly Stuart Ayres, not only being a great member out here in Western Sydney but also representing the Premier today. I said outside, this is about jobs. Over 330,000 jobs created in the last year. Jobs for young people, jobs for older Australians as well. This is a rapidly changing part of Sydney. This project says an enormous amount about our Government’s commitment to the future of the Australian economy. And the future of this wonderful city and state but also in particular the future of Western Sydney. Young people will come to this very experience centre, they’ll see 25 million cubic metres of earth being moved to create this amazing airport, an airport that will reach out to the entire world connecting this growth part of our economy to the rest of the world whether it’s freight, whether it’s with passengers, whether it’s the aero-tropolis and the technology industries and the logistics and freight industries that will build around this part of Sydney connecting to other parts of the country. This is how you grow an economy. This is how you keep an economy strong and it’s been a hard fought battle over many years from the day we were elected five and a half years ago, almost six years ago now. We have been working to bring this about, making the changes that needed to be made, forcing ahead where we needed to force ahead together and in particular being able to work hand in glove together with the New South Wales State Government and local governments. This has been a true partnership to get us to where we are today but it’s all about the future. It’s all about jobs. And while the Australian economy faces difficult global challenges at present. These are challenges that we understood would come. That’s why we committed to these projects so long ago. Early on in our term as a government, laying the foundations to get through the process to ensure that we can be where we’re at today. And as Minister Tudge said earlier, a project that is on track, on budget, on timetable to deliver for the people of Australia. So it’s very exciting to be here today. I’ll leave it for the Deputy Prime Minister and Stuart Ayres to comment further on the project but to see the kids out here today and to know that they could look out that window and see their future, their future jobs. I spoke to one of the girls she said she wanted to be a pilot and others said “yeah I reckon I’ll work here”. She doesn’t know what job yet, but she reckons her future is here as well. And that’s what you want to hear. That’s why we do these projects. That’s why so many of us here because we so always been so committed to this project. We’re incredibly excited about it and I’ll ask the Deputy Prime Minister to say a few words and then Stuart Ayres.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, THE HON MICHAEL MCCORMACK MP: Thank you Prime Minister and it’s great to be here in this wonderful modern new experience centre where locals and indeed people from right across Australia, right across the world, can come and see the new runway construction eventually can come and see planes taking off, landing, at what is Western Sydney’s gateway to the world, at what is the world’s gateway to Western Sydney. A state of the art airport being built right here in Western Sydney and a state of the art airport indeed being built by the Liberal Nationals Federal and State governments. We’re getting on with building the nation building infrastructure that Australians want, need, deserve, and expect we’re getting on with building not just for the here and now but for the future. Both the state and federal governments have an eye to the future. We have a plan. We have a vision. And right here right now we’re getting on and doing that. Stewart.

STUART AYRES: Thank you very much. This is a trial blazing project that will change the face of Western Sydney and at its focus, it’s about creating 200,000 new jobs in Western Sydney so people can work closer to home. This only happens when you have a Commonwealth and state government working hand in hand and absolutely committed to delivering for people here in Western Sydney. That’s what we’ve got today, and that’s why we’re seeing over 20 billion dollars worth of infrastructure being invested in across western Sydney. The catalyst for that was this airport. We simply wouldn’t be here unless the Commonwealth Government was brave enough to commit over five billion dollars in investment in this community, off the back of that we’re seeing the formation of a new city, new rail lines, and new jobs closer to where people live. When we say nation building you couldn’t get a better example than where you are standing today.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you Stuart, can I also thank Paul O’Sullivan and the whole team here at Western Sydney international Nancy-Bird Walton airport for the great job that they’ve been doing. But can I particularly thank the people of Western Sydney for their tremendous support for this project. It’s been their support that has enabled us I think to move so quickly, and that support I know will continue to in the future because the people in Western Sydney see the benefits, they see what’s in front of them and this experience centre will give them the further opportunity to see that on a daily basis. So thank you to the people of Western Sydney for getting behind this project and getting behind your future. Happy to take questions, why don’t we start with questions on this project first but I have no doubt there will be other matters you’d like to canvas.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister how much does this experience centre cost and who’s paying for it?

PRIME MINISTER: Well it’s all within the scope of the Western Sydney Airport’s overall project budget.

JOURNALIST: But how much taxpayer money?

PRIME MINISTER: that’s a commercial in-confidence matter.

JOURNALIST: So you can’t tell us how much?

PRIME MINISTER: No because that was commercial in confidence.

JOURNALIST: Your media release says that you expect tourists will come here. Can you really expect that tourists will want to visit Sydney, go to the Opera House, Bondi Beach, Harbour Bridge, and the Western Sydney airport experience?

PRIME MINISTER: Why wouldn’t they?

JOURNALIST: Do you really think they will?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, sure, why not?

JOURNALIST: How many tourists are you forecasting will visit?

PRIME MINISTER: As many as we can cater for. There’ll be a lot of schoolkids coming here too which I think is really important. I mean when I was a kid we went out on an open excursion the Warragamba Dam we visited the experience centre just like this. I remember it to this day. And kids will remember going to this centre and they’ll go home and they’ll tell their parents, and they’ll say what’s happening out there the airport is fantastic mum and dad. And that’s what this is about, it’s about people understanding what’s happening in their community.

JOURNALIST: Do you expect it to become a tourist attraction? Do you?

PRIME MINISTER: I’m happy for people to come and visit it, why not! Look at the, look at the story that’s being told. I mean if people are coming out to Western Sydney why wouldn’t you stop in and have a look?

JOURNALIST: The first line of your media release says it will be- tourists will be coming here. I just wonder what the Government’s basing that on?

PRIME MINISTER: Because it’s a great facility that tells a wonderful story about Western Sydney.

JOURNALIST: Predominantly it’s just government promotional videos being played over and over again is that, you think it’s a tourist attraction?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what I just saw was the history of Western Sydney. I’d encourage you to go and have a look at it and actually look at the videos that are there. It tells the story of the development of this entire part of this wonderful city. I’m very proud of my city. I have been a Sydneysider pretty much all of my life and I’m so proud of what this city has achieved, not just over my lifetime, but the generations of Australians who have made this city what it is, and going back into our Indigenous history, that’s the story that’s being told here. These are stories of Australia. I think people want to know the stories of Australia. And here they can hear them.

JOURNALIST: Is that why so many ministers are here today?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, so many ministers are here today because we’re very excited about what we’re doing. We’re so pumped about this airport. I mean, you may not be familiar with the decisions that this Government had to take, to make this a reality. It was no small thing. No small thing at all. And there are a lot of brave decisions that had to be taken. So, yeah, we took them. And that’s why this airport is being built and if it wasn’t for our Government, this airport would not be being built.

JOURNALIST: PM on another issue – do you think people are rightly suspicious about the timing of the release of the information surrounding this sixth boat coming from Sri Lanka considering the current debate regarding the Tamil family?

PRIME MINISTER: It’s just a simple fact. It’s a fact.

JOURNALIST:  But why release the information now?

PRIME MINISTER: We have regularly released this information, after these incidents have occurred. And it’s a reminder, frankly, of the reality of the situation that this Government deals with on a day-to-day basis. I mean, I was there back in 2013. I was the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection back then. I remember the human tragedy. I remember the absolute chaos and dysfunction and I remember having to gather together people to address this very wicked problem which our Government addressed. But it’s one that we remain vigilant about and it’s one that we understand what is necessary to ensure that you can keep the integrity of your borders in place. I mean, I remember when it all turned to custard under Labor, I remember people standing in the Parliament and weeping. I remember people seeing the terrible scenes and wondering, “How did all this happen?” It happens when you forget what is necessary to keep your borders intact.

JOURNALIST: Can you understand why some members of the Australian public would be cynical about the timing?

PRIME MINISTER: No.

JOURNALIST: Given it happened four weeks ago?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, these are things that are regularly released after the event. People will remember very well that it was my policy not to release that information at the time of it happening. These things happen later. It’s important that Australians understand the full perspective of the decisions that the Government has to take. And they remain difficult decisions. They remain very difficult decisions, and they’re not taken easily. And that’s why it’s important that we have to continue on with the very successful program that we have had because I know what happens when people forget. I know what happens when people think it’s OK to make an exception here or there. I remember what happened. I remember the deaths. I remember those terrible images, and I will never allow that to happen again if it’s within my power, and where it’s within my power, they are the decisions my Government takes.

JOURNALIST: Why not use discretion to let the Tamil family stay in Australia, wouldn’t that be the humane thing to do?

PRIME MINISTER: 1,500 people have already been sent back to Sri Lanka under the same circumstances, we have a process in this country, under our border protection regime, if people have illegally entered Australia, as they did under the previous government, they had their claims assessed. In this case, their claims were found to be invalid. They were never told they could settle in Australia, they were aware of that the entire time, and while I understand the deep human issues around this, you have got to think about the implications for this. It went through every court, to our highest court in the land and every single one of those courts upheld the decisions that were taken: Now at a time when there are increasing push factors come out of Sri Lanka, the worst possible thing you can do was to send a decision, send a message which said, “You know what – if you come illegally to Australia, and the courts say you don’t have a claim, and the Government say you don’t have a claim, then the Government just might make an exception because there’s been a public reaction. Now, that’s not how you run strong borders. I know what happens when you send those messages back into those communities, whether it’s in Sri Lanka or the more than 10,000 people sitting in Indonesia right now who would get on a boat tomorrow if they thought this Government was changing its position. So I do understand the real feeling about this and the desire for there to be an exception but I know what the consequences are of allowing those exceptions. They can return to Sri Lanka and they can make an application to come to Australia under the same processes as everyone else, anywhere else in the world. And I would hope they do. I would hope they do. But they didn’t come to the country in the appropriate way. They have not been found to have an asylum claim. And to have changed our policy on this, or to exercise intervention powers on this, would be to send exactly the wrong message to those who are looking to sell tickets to vulnerable people looking to get on boats, it would send them the exact wrong message and that’s not something that I in good conscious can allow to happen and nor can my ministers.

JOURNALIST: So are there any circumstances for this under which this family- they could stay?

PRIME MINISTER: There’s a matter that’s currently before the courts and I’ll allow that to take its course through the courts. That’s a process, we have respected the process the entire way. But I need to be very clear to those who might be sitting in Indonesia or Sri Lanka or anywhere else – my Government’s policy has not changed.

JOURNALIST: Do you think you’re out of step and the Government is out of step with the public mood on this? I know- I’ve heard what you have said, but do you think you’re out of step?

PRIME MINISTER: It’s not about the public mood, it’s about what is the right decision in Australia’s national interests to ensure that the integrity of our border protection regime is maintained. Because just like when Kevin Rudd thought it was alright to get rid of temporary protection visas in August of 2008 and then 50,000 people turned up on 800 boats and 1,200 people died, I’m sure he felt that it might have been the humane thing to do. But what I do know is that what followed was tragedy and chaos.

JOURNALIST: PM just to be clear – is it now the Government’s policy that you will release information about boat arrivals four weeks after they come, is that now the policy?

PRIME MINISTER: The Government releases information as it believes it’s important to do so.

JOURNALIST: And why was it important to do so today?

PRIME MINISTER: We followed a practice that we have in the past and I think that keeps the issue of the ever-present threat of illegal arrivals to Australia foremost in the public’s mind.

JOURNALIST: Do you believe that people smuggling trade has restarted?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the evidence – it never stopped seeking to pursue its business. It just came up against a Government that was able to defeat it, time and time and time and time again. You know how that happened? Resolve. Determination. The ability to understand the consequences of decisions. The ability to maintain the integrity of a regime that has saved lives.

JOURNALIST: Just on another issue if I can?

PRIME MINISTER: Sure.

JOURNALIST: What is the Government doing to broaden the tourism market so we’re not relying so much on visitors from one country such as China?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, this has been going on for some time now, and we have been – I was just in Vietnam just last- the week before last. We have always been diversifying our markets whether it’s to India or whether it’s to North America or indeed into Europe and other parts of South-East Asia. There has been incredibly strong growth out of China, and the China market remains a really important part of our international tourism industry, but whether it’s on tourism or whether it’s on trade. Right now on trade we’re working on two agreements. One prospectively, one right now. One is with the European Union and I was just discussing those matters with the German Chancellor and the Italian Prime Minister just the other day. And, of course, when Brexit occurs, then we’ll be in a position to move off that starting line very quickly in the UK as well and I have discussed those matters with Prime Minister Johnson. So in this world of increasing global tensions, particularly between the two biggest economies in the world, it is important to diversify and the Government has taken action on that since we were first elected. Our trade agreements when we came to Government, I think from memory, covered about 27 per cent of our trade. It now covers 70 per cent. That’s what diversification looks like. We’re doing the same with our tourism markets.

JOURNALIST: The national accounts out tomorrow are expected to show weak growth in the Australian economy. Should Australians be preparing for a recession?

PRIME MINISTER: We were very aware of the challenges that Australia was facing in the global economy when we prepared this year’s budget. That’s why there’s – we increased the infrastructure spend to $100 billion. That’s why we put in place the tax cuts which we were able to legislate in that first week of July. That’s why we invested in skills. That’s why we have invested in expanding our trade agreements. All of this was part of this year’s budget, in the full knowledge that we would be facing a very difficult quarter, particularly in that June quarter, and I suspect the June quarter results will be soft, but what matters is the plan that is already in place to address that, both now and into the future. I mean the June quarter, of course, does not include the second of the cash rate reductions from the RBA nor does it include the tax cuts that came through. And I note today that CoreLogic’s house price data shows that we have seen an improvement, and they have put that improvement down to the stability in Federal Government and the other improvements that they have seen in credit easing as well as the cash rate and tax cut impacts on the economy. So our view is we have got the plan, let’s have a look at the September quarter results which will take into account obviously the first round impacts of what came out of the tax cuts and the cash rate cuts, and then we’ll go from there. You know, in difficult global economic times, Australians don’t want a Government that responds with knee-jerk reactions. They voted for a Government that had a plan, that put that plan to them in the last Budget. They re-elected us as Government to implement that plan. We’ll get about that plan in a very measured and cool-headed way. Last time, you know, we had a Government that reacted in a knee-jerk way, we’re still paying the debt off now, and will be for the rest of this decade. What you’ll get from my Government is a much more sound-headed, cool-headed, measured approach, which has laid out the plans like what were in here today. This is part of our economic plan. This is what we put in place years ago, to address these very circumstances.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can I ask – what is your reaction to the increasing violence in West Papua?

PRIME MINISTER: This is a matter that the UN is dealing with in the current human rights investigation and that’s got the full cooperation of the Indonesian Government. And so, as we discussed at the recent Pacific Islands Forum, it’s very important that that process is enabled to be facilitated and undertaken and we’ll, I’ll wait for the outcomes of that process. We support that process and that’s where our focus is. That’s the practical measures that are being undertaken now and so let’s let that process follow before making any further comment.

JOURNALIST: How concerned are you about seventy year old Australian democracy activist Van Kham Chau, apologies for my pronunciation, being prosecuted in Vietnam?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, this will be a consular matter and I’ll be referring that to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and if I have any further update to provide on that, but in these cases our consular officials do an outstanding job as they are in a number of places at the moment, in very sensitive circumstances. And it’s always been my policy to ensure that we pursue these matters through diplomatic channels and I’m not in the habit of making public comment on them because I’ve never found that to assist the individuals involved.

JOURNALIST: Just on the sluggish economic times. Given what we have discussed, do you think the current payout perks to Senators and Members are too generous? I know there’s an independent process there. Do you think given the difficult economic times it should be incumbent on politicians to voluntary look to shave some of those perks?

PRIME MINISTER: These are arrangements that were put in place some time ago, and I’m sure when anyone leaves a job, not of their own choosing, there are arrangements that are in place for people who do that. I mean if you were to be let go, made redundant today by your news organisation, then I’m sure there would be a contractual arrangement for you to have some support when you left that job not by your own hand.

JOURNALIST: I hope you don’t know something I don’t?

[Laughter]

PRIME MINISTER: All I’m saying is these arrangements exist in the private sector, they exist in the public sector and they don’t discriminate whether you’re a politician or you’re a journalist. Thanks very much.

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