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Source: Prime Minister of Australia

BRIDGET ARCHER MP: It’s fantastic to welcome Prime Minister Scott Morrison back to Launceston today for the opening of Macquarie House with Premier Will Hodgman and state colleague Michael Ferguson and Wendy Askew. We’ve just conducted the ribbon-cutting ceremony for this fantastic redeveloped space here and I’ll hand over to the Prime Minister to say some words about that. 

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much. Great to be back here in Launceston with you Bridget and of course with the Premier Will Hodgman and his team. It’s wonderful coming to Launceston on a day like today and it’s not just because it’s the northern Tasmania Football League Grand Final, the Parrots v Sharks. I’ll be backing the Parrots and J-Rod. I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with J-Rod from many months ago when we caught up for that first time. I understand he’s got a serious knee injury so he won’t be taking the field but he will be running the water I understand. 

But when you look at this wonderful building here which is why we are here in Tasmania today this speaks to both the past and the future of Tasmania. As I said upstairs this speaks of the wonderful heritage that is being preserved and respected here in Launceston in this wonderful city that has also been the subject of our city deal. But it also talks to the future of innovation and not just technical innovation but agricultural innovation and many other sectors that are the mainstay of the northern Tasmanian economy. And to just be upstairs talking to some of the entrepreneurs who are going to be resident in here and pursuing their businesses. I was just talking to Ram and, you know, Ram is putting business processing systems into our farms all around northern Tasmania. He’s got 25 clients now and what that is doing is two things – it is making the farms more efficient, it’s making the farms more profitable and it’s also giving the farmers more time with their families. And so that has win-win written all over it. And these are the sorts of innovations and the opportunities we want to see birthed here in the Macquarie House Innovation Hub. 

I want to thank also the Mayor here for his wonderful support for this project and getting it up and running. This has been a long time in the making and it’s taken the vision of a lot of people over a long period of time. And as you walk through this building you will just be blown away, I think, by the wonderful architecture challenges that have been overcome, the merging of energy efficiency with celebrating what is the heritage and you get a couple of great views of the clock tower too out of this building as well which are pretty special. So that’s what making a wonderful city is all about, projects like this. We’ve put in over $2.8 million dollars into this project because we believed in it and now it’s for the Innovation Hub to make it the reality for the northern Tasmanian economy. The northern Tasmanian economy looks forward, it’s optimistic, it’s part of what I think we see in many parts of the country. But it’s so exciting to see an optimistic, forward-looking regional economy. There are many regions facing challenges around the country today. Many of them, in particular, devastated by drought and doing it really tough. Others, where I was yesterday up in Canungra which are doing it tough by fire. Tasmania is no stranger to fire, Will and I were up in the Huon Valley last year and seeing what was happening there. And those communities have bounced back and I know they will up there in Canungra and the many other parts of Queensland and New South Wales that are affected. 

But here in regional Tasmania wonderful leadership, a wonderful project and we’re so pleased to be here backing in Launceston, backing in Tasmania and that backs in Australia. I’m going to hand it over to Will who’s been a great partner on so many things and it’s great to be here with him and I really appreciate the wonderful working relationship that our governments have together. Will.

THE HON WILL HODGMAN MP, PREMIER OF TASMANIA: Well, thanks ScoMo. Excellent. And can I also acknowledge federal colleagues and my state Minister Michael Ferguson the Minister for State Growth, Science and Innovation. And of course this is a hub for another thing that Tasmania does exceptionally well and that’s create, innovate and in so many areas we are world leaders. So it’s wonderful to have a new premises that will inspire Tasmanians to be at their creative best and to ensure that we continue to be a place that’s growing, that’s expanding our capabilities and also an attractive place to come and live and work. The Prime Minister is a former Treasurer who would’ve no doubt noticed the recent national data that shows that Tasmania’s economy is the fastest-growing in the country. We are the best-performing state. Our state final demand is twice the national average and 10,000 jobs lost under a Labor government, 13,000 jobs now for Tasmanians under Liberal governments in Tasmania and nationally. And importantly, what we are determined to do as governments is work together. That’s what Tasmanians expect of us and that’s the best way to deliver results. I will not spend too much time dwelling on what I described is like a reality TV show this week that is the Labor Party. It is really more like a soap opera and to see a party so internally divided, focused on itself and less focused on Tasmanians is an appalling reflection of how far the Labor Party has not come in this state. But under my government, working very closely with the Morrison government, we’re delivering for Tasmanians. I want to again acknowledge the significant commitments that the Morrison government has made to our state. Close to a billion dollars in infrastructure investments right across Tasmania to support our growing economy and in so many ways complementing what we are doing as a state government. And also to acknowledge the recent decision by the Commonwealth to retire Tasmania’s housing debt. Now that just gives us so much more capacity to support those in Tasmania who need a roof over their heads and to invest more into affordable housing which we are doing at a fast pace and that in itself is not only providing more homes for Tasmanians but also creating more jobs for our building and construction sector to keep Tasmania’s economy the strongest performing in the country. So we will continue, unlike our opponents, to focus on what’s important to Tasmanians to keep our economy the strongest performing in the country as it has been and we will also work very closely with the Commonwealth to invest in things that are important to Tasmanians. So that’s our track record and it’s great to have the Prime Minister back in the state again.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much Will. Happy to take questions. And to the Mayor Albert Van Zetten again can I say thank you to him for his leadership, not just on this project. We’re doing many projects together and it’s making Launceston an even greater city. But happy to take questions on this project and if we have time one or two others.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you agree with Tasmania’s new transgender laws which allow birth certificates… gender is to be removed from birth certificates. What do you think? Should that be scrapped?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’m the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia. I’m not a member of the Tasmanian Parliament and when they are issues like this, whether they be in the Tasmanian Parliament or New South Wales Parliament or Western Australian Parliament, I respect those parliaments to work through their issues in their jurisdictions. These aren’t matters before the Federal Parliament and so I’m sure state parliamentarians here are more than capable of dealing with issues in their jurisdiction.

JOURNALIST: But do you think that should be a law?

PRIME MINISTER: It’s not for me to venture opinions on these things. It’s for those who have the responsibility in those parliaments for these decisions to make here and I don’t think they need any interference from me in Canberra.

JOURNALIST: Have you been briefed at all about job uncertainty with TEMCO in the Tamar Valley? Have you got a message for those workers?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, and Will may want to comment on this as well. But look, we’ll work closely as Bridget Archer has been working with particularly our ministers, Minister Andrews, at what the options are here. But things are still a bit uncertain in terms of where their decisions are at and so we’ll work closely with them on this issue, as we would in similar circumstances in other places. And so it’s about understanding what the challenges are and it’s about understanding what they say the future as. But it’s also… these things are a reminder that your economy can never stay still. Your economy needs to be constantly diversifying and expanding and looking at new opportunities in new sectors. And really that’s what today is all about. So, you know, I am concerned about that issue as I would be about any similar plant in any part of the country. But what I’ve also seen around the country is when these economic circumstances impact on regional communities I’ve seen an enormous capability of those places to bounce back and to seek out new opportunities as well. So you’ve got to work on both and we are. But the Premier might want to comment that as well.

THE HON. WILL HODGMAN MP, PREMIER OF TASMANIA: Yeah look, it is something that State, Commonwealth and local governments will work closely on – another great feature of this beautiful city – yeah look, certainly we’re continuing to ensure that we are kept abreast of any plans at Bell Bay. We are working closely with the Commonwealth government, local government and also with the company to understand what their plans are but there’s still some time to go in the process. But I think it’s also important to acknowledge and to recognise that we’re doing a lot to ensure there are more job opportunities, more investment in this state, more diversification in our economy. Our collective efforts to transform Tasmania, to be Australia’s renewable energy battery is one such example. And the projects that are being co-funded by the Commonwealth and the state and which will deliver potentially thousands of jobs, millions of dollars of investment into Tasmania. This is the sort of planning work that we are undertaking to keep our economy strong and Tasmanians employed.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, will you be visiting the Launceston General Hospital during your visit? There’s been a lot of issues raised at the Hospital even as early as this week with the Four Corners report. 

PRIME MINISTER: I won’t have the opportunity to do that on this occasion. But on my many visits to Launceston this year one of those visits involved the outlining of our plan for over $90 million dollars of investment throughout the north of Tasmania in particular, which is investing in those health services. From mental health services to anti-natal services, to ensuring the cutting down the waiting lists here and in hospitals in Tasmania. The state government and the Commonwealth government entered into an agreement some time ago to ensure that there is the sustainable resourcing and funding of hospitals not just here in Tasmania, but all around the country. So we have record funding, record funding both now and in the future which is going into providing health care. We have bulk billing rates now for GP services at record highs – record highs – and we’ve got PBS listings funding those lifesaving and life-improving drugs also at record levels and ensuring that anything that is recommended by the advisory board is actually listed. And so, you know, there’s a lot of investment going into health and the reason that is happening is because we know how to manage a budget. There are many calls on the budget all the time and we prioritise that investment in health and the well-being of our citizens, whether here in Launceston or anywhere else in the country.

JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to Jacqui Lambie about gaining her support for the Ensuring Integrity Bill?

PRIME MINISTER: Well look, we’re working with all the crossbench members and that’s because the Labor Party will not vote to kick out union bosses who behave in an ugly way in the Australian economy. Now, the Labor Party says it wants to get rid of John Setka. John Setka is staging a sit-in in the Labor Party which they seem to be completely unable to deal with. Now, whether it’s the sit-in of John said here in Western Australia… sorry, in Victoria, the sit-in of John Setka in Victoria or the walkout in Western Australia of factions warring with each other in the Labor Party in Western Australia. The chaos that is occurring here that the Premier has referred to in Tasmania. The Aldi plastic bags in New South Wales and goodness knows what’s going on in Queensland. I mean, all of this I think says a lot about a Labor Party characterised by chaos and confusion. Now, why would the Labor Party not want to vote for a Bill that outlawed people who are serial lawbreakers in our workplaces? Why would you vote not to do that? I welcome the engagement we’ve had with Senator Lambie, I respect Senator Lambie and I think the sort of abuse that Senator Lambie has copped from John Setka is absolutely unacceptable. But frankly, the guy has form. He has massive form and I can tell you, there’s more John Setka’s in the union movement and the Labor Party where he came from. And so they, you know, they can try and get rid of john Setka – try, and they seem to be failing. But there’s a lot more where he came from and his remarks that have been reported about Jacqui Lambie I think are very, very offensive and very disappointing. We’ll treat all members of Parliament with respect. All of them. Jacqui Lambie, I respect the fact that she’s overcome some really significant challenges in her own life. She’s served our country. She’s found a way back into the Parliament. She deserves respect, not the sort of abuse that we’ve seen levelled at her, particularly for being prepared to consider voting for the Bill. And even just by being prepared to consider voting for it she’s being subject to all this bullying of her. But you know, I reckon Jackie’s made of tougher stuff than that. I reckon Jackie can deal with that. But that doesn’t it.

JOURNALIST: On to Gladys Liu, you’ve said there are grubby undertones to the accusations being levelled against her. What are those undertones?

PRIME MINISTER: I’ve made my remarks on that earlier this week, I should say, and I don’t propose to say any more. I think I was pretty fulsome in that press conference and I stand by every word. Thanks very much.