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Source: Prime Minister of Australia

MR ANGELO KOTSES, MANAGING DIRECTOR & OWNER, BICKFORD’S GROUP: Welcome to Bickford’s. We’re here to open up our new production line that is world quality. It gives us an opportunity to upskill our people. It gives us a chance to bring out some new products like we’re bringing out today. And it enables us to take products to the world. So on behalf of Bickford’s I’ve got to say thank you Premier for coming here. Thank you Premier for inviting the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, welcome. Thank you so much. Premier.

THE HON. STEVEN MARSHALL MP, PREMIER OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Well, it’s a great day for South Australia. The Prime Minister has just opened this fantastic new facility, this world-class facility which is going to secure jobs in this state, right around this country and take the fabulous produce from South Australia, convert it into product and then export it interstate and overseas and bring money back into this state. So massive congratulations to Angelo, message congratulations to the PM. Thank you very much for coming along. 

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Premier. It’s great to be here, Steven. This is a wonderful family business, a tremendous success story. But also a wonderful story of determination. A determination to make the best of things and to create a great family business, a great Australian business that is actually reaching out across the world. Today as you heard we put $2.5 million into this new line that has been put here at Bickford’s. Some $20 million worth of investment. It’s part of the program which is rolling on to a new program over the next four years which is a co-investment of $160 million into these types of initiatives all around the country. Whether it’s here in South Australia or anywhere else around the country that has a $50 million direct injection of investment by the Commonwealth Government and Minister Karen Andrews will be announcing that and going into further details. But I thought it was important that on that same day we were launching this new nationwide program we were here talking about the investments that we’re already making, and particularly here in South Australia. 

The Australian economy is growing. Yesterday we saw figures which showed that the economy continues to grow. We’re going into our 29th year of consecutive economic growth in this country. And the reason for it is because of companies like Bickford’s. Companies, family businesses, run by the Kotses family who continue to invest, train their workers to expand into new product lines, to seek out new markets. That’s how you grow the Australian economy and that’s what’s happening here with this tremendous company that not only has a footprint here in South Australia but in Queensland as well and other places. So this is the story of the Australian economy. It’s also the story of Australia’s incredible immigration success. What we’re also doing today is we’re announcing the regional component of our immigration program. And the Minister for Immigration will be going into further details about that. But what the Premier and I have worked on for some time as part of this program earlier in the year is to ensure that we’re getting those new people who want to come to Australia and make their future in Australia is in getting them to the places where we need them. With more jobs and more opportunities. And that includes right here in South Australia. 

South Australia has a categorisation under the scheme which enables them to access the regional part of the permanent migration program. And that means… well I met a young engineer who has studied in Lahore and he’s here putting together this plant together. The number of other workers that I spoke to here on the shop floor today come from all different parts of the world. From the Philippines, from India, from South Africa. This is a great story of Australia’s immigration success as it is of Australia’s family business success.

So I’m here because I believe in this company. I believe in the future of South Australia. And I believe in the future of the Australian economy which will continue to grow under sound economic management. Happy to take some questions on this matter and then we can move to questions on federal issues and I’m sure the Premier is happy to take a few questions on state issues. 

JOURNALIST: How important is today’s bottling announcement in terms of local projects [inaudible] overseas produce?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is connecting and providing the pull-through for those producers here in South Australia. I mean, whether it’s in South Australia or other parts of the country – Australia’s future as a food bowl for the rest of Asia. We [inaudible] more than 40 million people out of Australia already and that can grow. Our Ag 2030 Strategy is to see this generate $100 billion industry and that’s what it’s capable of doing in our food sector through the agricultural produce and you won’t find any better than here in South Australia. And that means the jobs and the economic investment that flows from those jobs goes into those regional communities and it makes them sustainable for the future. But, you know, to get stuff growing out there in the regional places you’ve got to have businesses like this that can take it and connect it in a processed form into markets all around the world. So that is why I’m here. This brings so many parts of Australia’s economic plan together. Our export markets, our immigration program, our investing in technology, our investing in skills. All of this is necessary. I mean, the people who used to work on this line would have got paid a third of what they get paid today because of the skills required to do what they do today and the value add that they are putting with every single job that comes into this plan. So that is the future of Australia’s manufacturing. Quality, good and growing wages, connected to markets right across our own part of the world and far more broadly. 

JOURNALIST: You spoke about economic growth. Yesterday’s figures were some we hadn’t seen since the GFC. When you talk about a Budget surplus, is it worth it [inaudible] when the economy is going backwards?

PRIME MINISTER: The Australian economy grew by 1.4 per cent. Through the year at 1.9 per cent in year average terms which was only slightly below what we said it would be in the Budget for 2018-19. The Australian economy is growing. It’s growing. In the last quarter, the UK economy went backwards. The German economy, the powerhouse of Europe, went backwards. Singapore went backwards. Australia went forward. So we’re facing tough global economic times and South Australia is no stranger to that. But our economic plan is ensuring that Australia can grow through these challenges. And that’s what yesterday’s figures showed. The Labor Party likes to talk down the Australian economy and look, they’re welcome to do that if that’s what they really think. I take a positive and optimistic view and yesterday’s numbers supported that view because it showed the Australian economy was growing and is growing and the plan we have in place is supporting that growth. A plan we put in the Budget. The tough economic circumstances we face are no surprise to the Coalition. That’s why we framed the Budget we did. Why did Labor go to the election saying ‘we want to put $387 billion of higher taxes on the economy’? That would have wiped… that would have been just a slap in the face not just to South Australia but jobs all around the country.

JOURNALIST: So you’re committed to that Budget surplus no matter what? 

PRIME MINISTER: The surplus is a key part of the Government’s economic plan and it works together with our investment in skills, our investment in infrastructure, our investment in expanding our trade markets in innovation, in research, in indeed the $160 million, $50 million of which is coming from the Commonwealth through the program which is being announced today. 

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that an Ambassador’s home has been raided by police even if she wasn’t the target of the raids?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is a matter for the Australian Federal Police. I would expect… I’m not privy, as you wouldn’t expect me to be, for an investigation undertaken by law enforcement authorities at a Commonwealth level to be aware of the operational details of that. It would be concerning if I was. So this is a matter for the AFP and I can only direct you to them in terms of what the nature of that is and I will continue to support them and the work they do each and every day. But the matters of that specifically is for the AFP. 

JOURNALIST: Is this about sending a message to Government officials though?

PRIME MINISTER: It’s the AFP just doing their job. I’ve seen a lot of speculation about what this is about. They must have received operational briefings that haven’t been provided to the Government. I would caution people to not be speculative in looking at issues like this. I would caution against that. The details of this investigation would be known to the AFP and to draw links to other things I think is just mere speculation. 

JOURNALIST: Anthony Albanese has called on you today to make an unequivocal statement in support of press freedoms after those raids. Will you do that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there’s no question about the Government’s commitment to press freedom. We’re absolutely committed to press freedom. And we’re also absolutely committed to every Australian being subject to the rule of law. I am. All of you are. Everyone who worked in this factory is. There’s no one who is above the law in this country. And the law will apply. And a wonderful part about our democracy is press freedom. And that’s not under threat in this country from my government or anyone else.

JOURNALIST: We’ve seen raid after raid. Would you say the Department of Home Affairs have too much power in this case, even though you talk about the AFP being independent?

PRIME MINISTER: No. I wouldn’t say that. Would you?

JOURNALIST: I’m asking you.

PRIME MINISTER: No, I don’t agree with that statement. 

JOURNALIST: Is there adequate protection for whistleblowers?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes.

JOURNALIST: In regard to the Tamil family have you changed your mind in allowing them to stay?

PRIME MINISTER: No. The thing you know about me on border protection is I’m consistent. I’ve been consistent on this issue for my entire time in public life. When I say something, I mean it. I don’t go flip-flopping around to suit the particular opinions of the day. I mean, Anthony Albanese said in 2013 that if you came to Australia illegally by boat then you should not be settled here. But then just in the past week he’s changed his mind about that and says you should be settled here. Which is it? That’s not how you run your borders. Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party have learned nothing from their failures. I absolutely understand the empathy and the compassion that is behind what has been suggested to the Government. I understand. But I also understand that you have to take decisions when it comes to the integrity of your immigration program and as that particularly applies to your border protection regime that ensures the integrity of that process. Because that’s what saves lives. That’s what ensures there is integrity in our process. Now, the family at the center of this, they are going through a court process. That court process should be respected. I’m certainly going to respect it. There are some 6,000 others that Labor allowed to come illegally into Australia who’ve been found not to be refugees. They’re going through a court process. We will respect that too. There are 1,500 people who have been sent back to Sri Lanka who were found not to be refugees and they followed the process as well. I’m not going to go into some populist running of our program. I’m going to be consistent. Australians expect that of me and have always seen that from me. And what they’re seeing from Labor and others is flip-flops. Flip-flops. And you cannot run your border Based on flip-flops. 

JOURNALIST: But Prime Minister, if the Government has plans to extend the remit of spying agencies inside Australia, does the public have a right to know?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Government doesn’t have that plan.

JOURNALIST: If you were, would the public have a right to know?

PRIME MINISTER: But the Government doesn’t have that plan. So, I mean, I don’t really know how to respond to the question. The Government has no such plans. It never did. And so it’s a hypothetical.

JOURNALIST: Can we expect to see evidence of your infrastructure talks with state leaders in the December mid-year economic figures?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, you’ll continue to see that. I mean, yesterday the national accounts figures, for example, would not have taken into account because of timing issues the tax cuts. Or the second cash rate reduction that was provided in July. And nor would it have taken into account the escalating level of infrastructure investment. That infrastructure investment this year will be just shy of $10 billion and that will scale up over the forward estimates to up to $12 billion. And it’s over $100 billion over the next 10 years. And we’ve been working with the Premier and other premiers around the country – I was with Premier Andrews yesterday – about getting a lot of these projects that we’re both committed to and just getting them happening on the ground. And that’s really important for jobs. Now, we are really starting to hit our head on the ceiling in terms of how much infrastructure work you can get underway at any one time. And that’s actually putting some cost pressures into the system, we saw that with a particular project in Melbourne yesterday. So we’re getting cracking on this. We’ve got a plan to make the economy stronger. We took that plan to the Australian people. That plan included managing our money wisely to ensure that Australia got back to its first surplus in 12 years. The first whiff of a surplus and Labor wants to blow it all. That’s how they wrecked the joint last time. The first hint of public opinion and they want to trash the border protection regime. These guys, they’re flip-flops. They’re flakes. And you can’t run a country by being a flake. You’ve got to be consistent, stable, calm, measured, have a plan, implement your plan. That’s what we’re doing. That’s what the Premier is doing here in South Australia. And that’s why he’ll be able to turn South Australia around. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, workers at Christmas Island are saying that all three detention facilities are operating fully staffed yet empty from February until the Tamil family was detained. What is that costing taxpayers and why aren’t you closing it?

PRIME MINISTER: We reopened those facilities to deal, on advice, by the Medivac Bill that was passed through the Parliament earlier this year. And by reopening that facility, strangely, there weren’t so many applications. So I can say that I think it’s been quite effective as part of our response to that measure and I’m looking forward to that Bill being reconsidered by the Parliament and our border protection regime being restored [inaudible].

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop are giving evidence in front of a Senate committee on their new jobs. Do you think their new jobs pass the pub test?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet made it perfectly clear that they did. So that’s a matter for him to advise me on and he did and he appeared before the inquiry. I mean, there’s some politics going on here and some of that sort of thing. That sort of happens in the bubble. I’ll leave that stuff in the bubble and we’re going to keep on cracking on building infrastructure, supporting manufacturing, creating jobs, and ensuring we realise the strong growth prospects for Australia’s future. Thanks very much.

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