Source: Prime Minister of Australia
GAVIN PEARCE MP, MEMBER FOR BRADDON: Well g’day everyone and welcome to the northwest. Welcome to Burnie. And I trust we’re all here to report on a great agricultural show, the 100th show here in the northwest coast in Burnie. I’m joined here by of course the Prime Minister, We thank the Prime Minister for taking the time out to visit Tasmania once again. Our Premier Will Hodgman, the State Agricultural Minister and indeed our Federal Agriculture Minister in Bridget McKenzie. We’re also joined by Senator Richard Colbeck. Ladies and gentlemen of the press, please if today we could promote this as best we can. I think it’s important for our region and for our people that have worked so hard. I’ll hand over to the PM.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Gav, well it’s great to be here for the hundredth Burnie show and as I just said as the show was opened, this is a wonderful testimony to the ongoing vibrancy of agricultural and regional and rural communities all around the country. We know that around our country at the moment there are just so many rural and regional communities that are hurting and you don’t need just to be in drought to be hurting. And there are communities that have been affected by floods up there in North Queensland in large sprawling grazing districts. And you know these are the challenges that exist in the modern day competitiveness of the agricultural sector. But here in Tasmania we have a sector that is doing famously well supported by great trade agreements. That is ensuring that the produce of Tasmania is finding its way into markets like never before around the world and prices to support it. And as we walk around this Show here today and we talk to people in the community I’ve always been encouraged particularly here in north western, northern Tasmania by the optimism, by the vibrancy, by the confidence and that’s the product of you know we’re seeing the unemployment rate here fall from 9 per cent to 6.2 per cent. We’re seeing jobs created. We’re seeing jobs created in the agricultural sector. There are the great projects that are being pursued together with the State Government and Will Hodgman and the team whether it’s battery of the nation, or the many other projects we’re doing which are going to have a big impact here in north west Tasmania and in northern Tasmania.
But today we’re celebrating agricultural shows. Agricultural shows are a great opportunity for communities to come together. And to celebrate their achievements and basically show what they can do. And to come together as communities to celebrate those achievements and we’re announcing today the commencement of the 20 million dollar program which is going in to support agricultural shows all around the country. I’m going to ask the Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie to talk a bit more about that. But it’s just another part of the way we’re trying to support agricultural communities. And in those communities that are doing it really tough, they’re great opportunities for them to come together and support each other. I’ve seen that firsthand as I’ve visited some of those shows in drought affected parts of the country. It is an opportunity for farmers and agricultural communities to support each other and to get alongside each other and to encourage each other. Today, the Drought Minister has announced a further 13, just over $13 million in support for on farm water infrastructure that is in addition to what we announced last Friday which is the hundred million dollars particularly around financial assistance both to households and into rural communities whether through St Vinnies or the Salvos and other programs that are putting money directly into communities but also putting money into the pockets of farming households with much more relaxed and more flexible arrangements so they can get that assistance.
The drought is the first call on the budget. It’s our first priority in addressing those immediate fiscal needs but longer term it’s also about investing in the necessary water infrastructure. It’s not just dams, it’s pipes, it’s irrigation systems. It’s ensuring that we’re putting the plumbing in place. We can’t make it rain but we can ensure that we’re building for the future and we’re providing the financial assistance to support those communities to be able to make their way through these very drought-affected times. So with that Bridg, come and tell us more about our investment in the Shows.
SENATOR THE HON BRIDGET MCKENZIE, MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE: Thanks PM, look it’s fantastic to be on the North-West Coast of one of those turnaround states where agriculture is just going gangbusters. And it’s here in Tasmania. Very, very proud to be part of a government that is seeking to bridge the gap between urban Australians and those of us who live out in the regions and work in the regions and work in agriculture. And agricultural shows are a key part of our task to do that. So we have small shows, we have large shows. This program will mean that you can apply for up to half a million dollars, to not just upgrade your grandstands and build critical infrastructure but to purchase those sort of the movable infrastructure that might make your show much more attractive to get not just the locals along but the people down the road, the people from Hobart, and the people from Melbourne to get out into the region and to see the great horse events, the fantastic cattle and sheep that we’ve got but also so many of our agricultural shows are the place where you can grow the largest pumpkin, if you’re really good- If you’ve got a great vegie patch your local show is where you can get due recognition, if you make the best jelly slice in town, well it’s your local agricultural show where you’ll be able to put that on show and get the due recognition.
So by backing our agricultural shows across the country, we’re backing vibrant sustainable regions and regional communities who are proud of who they are, proud of where they come from, and very proud of what they do. We will stand with our regional communities particularly in this tough time of drought. And their agricultural show is often one event in the season where they can get off farm, meet with the community, have a look at what everyone else is doing, celebrate what they do and enjoy each other’s company and get together. So I’m very proud to be part of a government that’s backing agricultural shows right across the country.
ROB WILSON, CHAIR AGRICULTURAL SHOWS AUSTRALIA: Good afternoon everyone, I’m Rob Wilson I chair Agricultural Shows of Australia which is the peak body for that all the 580 shows that operate every year in Australia. And we were talking about, the Minister and the Prime Minister talking about communities, and that’s true. They are the lifeblood of communities everywhere. We use around 30,000 volunteers that run shows every year and we provide actually an economic impact to the community of close to a billion dollars now. And it is the resilience of farmers that has seen the resilience of agricultural shows not only here in Burnie but nearby, Campbelltown has had its 150th year, every year there’s a handful of shows that are now reaching their hundred years but also there’s new societies popping up around the country as well. And that’s a testimony to the communities and the people and the $20 million which will go for not only the infrastructure but as the minister said for other sustainable activities reflecting the community, looking at education, looking at technology, looking at digital platforms that we can use now to keep that resilience going. And we now hope for another hundred and fifty years, ag societies will be viable right around Australia.
THE HON WILL HODGMAN MP, PREMIER OF TASMANIA: I’m delighted to be here today at the Burnie show with so many of my parliamentary colleagues and so many members of this community. The Burnie show 2019 is like so much of what Tasmania is about now. Bigger, better, stronger, more people involved. It’s the place to be and we’re delighted to see such a great community effort to restore life into a show that like many across our state has had difficult periods. As a state government we’ve invested more into supporting our regional shows because they are the lifeblood of communities right across the state and we’ll continue to do so. And similarly the announcement by the Commonwealth Government today it shows once again that we’re working in sync to deliver positive things for our communities while other political parties worry about things that don’t matter to Tasmanians we are very much working together to keep our economy strong, to invest in services that Tasmanians need to keep this state powering ahead as it is and with more opportunities than ever before. So I want to thank again the Prime Minister for being back in Tasmania and to just highlight the strong collaboration we have whether it be supporting our agricultural sector which is grown by about 10 per cent in the last year alone and that’s largely driven through the policies of not only the Commonwealth government and mine but also through the strength and resilience of a more confident farming community. In fact the most confident in the country. So, wonderful to have so many people with us today in what is the turnaround state in the nation.
PRIME MINISTER: Very true. Now questions on this matter and then we can go to questions on other matters and we’ll excuse some of our guests.
JOURNALIST: Quick one for Rob?
PREMIER: You do Rob, and then we’ll, we won’t run away.
JOURNALIST: Nationally, how tough have times been for some of these regional shows?
WILSON: It varies around the country and some shows that have had some difficulty and perhaps go into, take a year off, but more often than not they’re back again they get a strong committee around them. We have a very very strong next gen group right around Australia. Every state now has next gen groups and we have our rural ambassador programs and our younger judges and paraders and we’re educating and encouraging young people to come up, and they’re now taking roles on committees. We’ve got very young people now, president of show societies and taking an active role along with our volunteers, the people who do a sterling job in all the shows that have been there for a very long time. So it’s now a good mix of the experience but certainly the next gen becoming involved. So sure in some areas it’s tough but the show mostly goes on.
PRIME MINISTER: Any other questions on the matter of the announcement today? This is the first time I’ve done a press conference to the sounds of country music. I might make it a normal practice.
JOURNALIST: On native animals, how, are there better ways to protect native animals in the wake of the attack on the wombat in South Australia?
PRIME MINISTER: Well that is something that is predominantly the domain of the State Government in terms of those types of, Will might want to comment on that. And obviously the Commonwealth has a range of legislation which relates to the native species and so on. And so. We’ll continue to support those types of initiatives. But is there anything you want to add to that Will?
PRIME MINISTER: Could we ask some questions of you first Prime Minister? What’s your response to charges laid against CommInsure?
PRIME MINISTER: Well as we are moving on to other areas I don’t want to sort of detain Rob [inaudible].
That’s obviously a very serious issue and it’s a product of the process doing its job and where financial institutions do the wrong thing, well that’s the reason we have prosecutors, that’s the reason why we have regulators and that’s the sort of thing they should be doing and they should be pursuing those and that should find its way through the normal process through the courts.
JOURNALIST: Could you define negative globalism for us Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER: Well any time frankly that global organisations think that they have a greater mandate over a country than the country themselves. I mean I answer to no higher authority than the people of Australia. I don’t answer to international institutions or global organisations, and our interests and our policies will be set in Australia by Australians and by the will of the Australian people. Australia has an exemplary record when it comes to our international participation in constructive programs, everything from peacekeeping, to aid support, to our engagement in multilateral forums. That’s all positive. But Australia’s interests will determine our involvement and we won’t be copping from any global organisation or institution any instructions or directions that are at odds with our national interest and with any presumption that somehow some global agenda is bigger than Australia.
JOURNALIST: Could you give us an example where an unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy has sought to coerce Australia or to impose a mandate?
PRIME MINISTER: Australia’s policies, whether it’s on border protection or anywhere else have been set by Australians, in our interests. And there’s plenty of commentary about what Australia should and shouldn’t do on these and other issues. I’m just simply making the point that under my Government, our policies will be accountable to Australians first and only.
JOURNALIST: There must be threats for you to make a point?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I have observed now over many years as a Minister and as a Prime Minister that growing global agendas need to frankly recognise at the end of the day that it’s nation states who are sovereign. And it’s nation states that will set their rules, their policies, and they’ll do that- particularly in democracies like Australia which is subject to the ballot box and the rule of law. So I don’t have an issue, I’m engaged in many multilateral institutions but the ones I find most constructive are the ones that represent respect the sovereignty of each individual state and we’ve taken issues to an election, we’ve taking policies to an election. Well they’re the policies I’ll implement I won’t be pushed into other policies by global institutions.
JOURNALIST: Could you give us an example though?
PRIME MINISTER: I think I’ve covered the issue.
JOURNALIST: You’ve had members of your party talk about moving more federal public service jobs to regional areas. But the numbers in Tasmania have actually been declining. Was this just an empty promise on regional jobs?
PRIME MINISTER: Well what I think is great is the unemployment rate here in Braddon has fallen from 9 per cent to 6.2 per cent. I’m interested in jobs, in north western Tasmania, in northern Tasmania, and right across Tasmania. I want to see jobs, see I disagree with the Labor Party. I don’t think the way to create jobs is just to employ more public servants. I think the way to create jobs is to have a successful agricultural sector, a successful forestry sector, a successful mining sector. But the Labor Party seems to want to apologise for all of those industries, not us. We support all of those industries proudly. These are Australian jobs that are being created here in Tasmania by these great private sector efforts. You know, you want to create jobs. You’ve got to have a vibrant private economy. And that’s always been the focus of our attention.
JOURNALIST: [inaudible] accountable internationalist bureaucracies?
PRIME MINISTER: I think we covered that one off.
JOURNALIST: Lachlan’s question was about moving public service jobs to Tasmania, not creating them?
PRIME MINISTER: And we’ll continue to look at those opportunities, we have a Minister for decentralisation and he’s taken on that job since the election. He will bring forward proposals to cabinet where he thinks it’s in the best interests of the running of those organisations and where we can spread those benefits we will.
JOURNALIST: [inaudible] Major General Day’s report on the drought public?
PRIME MINISTER: I couldn’t hear the start of the question?
JOURNALIST: Will you make a Major General Day’s report public?
PRIME MINISTER: We’ll be responding formally to that report quite soon. And it has obviously played a key role in informing a lot of the drought response that we’ve already made. I mean Major General Day reported to Cabinet some time ago as did the drought envoy, as well, prior to the last election and so all of that information, all of that considerable work that was done has been feeding into the constant drought response that we’ve been making. I mean that’s the nature of responding to this drought. There’s just not one report and one response and that’s it, set and forget. That’s not the way you deal with this. And in some areas this drought has been going on for seven years. And so you need a constant, a constant response and that needs to be continually informed. That’s why the Treasurer has been out in drought affected areas just this week. That’s why I was out there last week. That’s why all of my ministers are out there and listening to the issues that are on the ground and responding. $100 million last week, $13.2 million today. We will continue to respond for as long as the drought circumstances demand it.
JOURNALIST: Have you read the drought coordinator’s report?
PRIME MINISTER: Of course I have.
JOURNALIST: How come the Treasurer hasn’t?
PRIME MINISTER: It’s going through Cabinet and he was certainly there when the drought coordinator reported to Cabinet. It’s going through a Cabinet process as we speak and he’s part of that Cabinet process.
JOURNALIST: At tomorrow’s state liberal Council, they’re going to put up a motion that the federal government call on China to respect the rule of law, democracy, and civil liberties of Hong Kong. Do you think it’s up to the state to try and direct foreign policy?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I think the motion is an expression, I think, of the concern of Australians and Tasmanians in particular about the events that we’re seeing unfold in Hong Kong. The Australian Government and I, and the Foreign Minister have similarly expressed our concern about those events. But our response has been one to counsel restraint and respect for the one country, two systems arrangement, and for that to be honoured, and we’ll continue to follow that path as a Commonwealth Government. I mean, in the Liberal Party members put up motions, the parliamentary parties are the ones that set policies. That’s what’s different between us and the Labor Party, in the Labor Party they’re bound by these things and in the Liberal party that’s not how our party runs, it was never set up that way. But it is an important sentiment to acknowledge, that there are real concerns about this. And I think those concerns are felt right across the country, but how we manage them and how we respond to them, we do carefully and we do constructively.
JOURNALIST: On Alexander Downer, what do you say to US Republicans including supporters of Donald Trump who say that Alexander Downer is part of an international conspiracy?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I think it’s laughable. And the Ambassador has communicated that in the United States already, so I’d refer you to his comments and I endorse them.
JOURNALIST: There’s another motion in the Liberal conference calling for Tony Abbott to be appointed the ambassador to the Holy See would you support that?
PRIME MINISTER: We’ll make those judgements. But I can tell you that Mr Abbott has no interest in serving in that role. So that would mean that the recommendation would be quite moot.
JOURNALIST: The Burnie Show is a far cry from the UN, how do you rank the two?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I’d rather be at the Burnie Show. Every day of the week. And I’d rather be in Australia every day of the week too.
QUESTION: Scott, can I ask an ordinary question, to do with this drought, and I have followed it. There was one farmer, on the news probably last year some time. And he had dug three pits and stored feed in those pits, so for three years he managed to keep himself going. Now is his expertise on that being looked at, asked about to help other farmers because, with a lot of the feed being brought in, yes that’s all very well because it’s given out when it’s eaten, but if it’s stored it means every farmer will have that possibility of storage?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, now thank you for the question. This was one of the key issues that came up in the national drought summit we held about this time last year. And that’s why one of our immediate responses after last year’s drought summit was to increase the incentives that we had and through the tax system to encourage the development of those silage capabilities and capacities. You’re absolutely right. While you’ve got to deal in response to the drought to the immediate needs which are basically financial, then the issues going down the track, opportunities to develop on farm water infrastructure, broader water infrastructure and not just dams and pipelines, and other forms of irrigation infrastructure but it’s also silage.
QUESTION: Is that farmer being involved?
PRIME MINISTER: I can only assume there’s been some input, I couldn’t- not knowing specifically the chap.
QUESTION: Well there should be because he’s been there and he’s doing it.
PRIME MINISTER: This is where we’re getting our information from. I get them from farmers.
QUESTION: Just look him up, because he’s the only one who’s done it.
PRIME MINISTER: Well there are a lot of farmers who invested in silage. It’s not true to say there’s only been one. There’s been many of them and many of them have been taking up that incentive that we put in place a year ago to plan for future, because the one thing that I’m always impressed with by our farming community particularly those impacted by drought Is they’re planning for when it rains. They have not resigned themselves to any other circumstance of it not raining, and they have hope for the future and it’s important that we continue to give them that hope. Now many farmers during the course of the drought will make decisions about whether they choose to stay on the land or not. And that’s a difficult, and it’s a hard decision for them to make. And we have to support them in that decision. That’s why last week one of the things we announced was further financial assistance for farmers who were looking to change their skills base and get trained in different areas and to enable them to earn more off-farm income to support them to stay on the land. So we have a very comprehensive and deep and wide drought response. It was born out of the national drought summit about this time last year. That is our drought strategy which we continue to implement. But it is an ever receding finishing post. We never stop. We will keep responding and we will keep listening. Thank you very much for your question.
JOURNALIST: On private health insurance. The private health care lobby is pushing for tax breaks for employers to pay for the private health insurance for workers. Would the government consider that type of plan?
PRIME MINISTER: Well we’re very keen to ensure that we arrest, particularly amongst younger people, the take up of private health insurance having fallen in recent times. I wouldn’t say those falls are dramatic, but they have receded and that is a concern. That’s why in the past our side of politics when we’ve been in government have been the ones that put in place the incentives for people to hold private health insurance. When Labor was in power they were stripping those away because they couldn’t fund their Budget and they just attacked private health insurance. And I didn’t think that was a very far sighted view. So we will seek to ensure that the right incentives are in place. We’ll be considering all the options that are available as we proceed in to next year’s budget and to ensure that we can maintain a great private health insurance system in this country. I think it’s one of the great features of our health system that it is a hybrid of both the public and the private systems. We don’t rely all on one, like they do in the United States essentially in the private sphere, or all on the public sphere, as we see in the UK and places like that. Australia’s health system is quite unique. It is very effective. And it is the envy of the world pretty much in the way it is structured. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, it doesn’t mean there’s not more we have to do as Will and I often discuss, and premiers discuss all the time, at leader-level about what we have to do in health, but we want to make sure that our hybrid private public system remains vibrant and so we will always listen to suggestions but we’ve got to make those decisions consistent with the budget rules and your priorities. But that’s why you have a strong economy by the way. If you don’t have a strong economy you don’t have a strong budget. If you don’t have a strong budget you can’t invest in hospitals and schools or in rural agricultural shows. And that’s why having a strong economy, driven by vibrant industries like agriculture is so critical to the services that Australians rely on, so it’s been great great to see you. I’m going to go enjoy the show. Cheers.