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Source: Prime Minister of Australia

GARY STEWART, MANAGING DIRECTOR RHEINMETALL: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for taking the time to celebrate and recognise the opening of this incredible military vehicle centre of excellence here today opened by the Prime Minister of Australia and attended by by dignitaries from the Australian Defence Force, the federal government and the state opposition. So it’s a wonderful day, representing a lot of hard work over five years to create the world’s best integrated military vehicle manufacturing and design centre, employing over 450 people in and around Australia with 330 here in Queensland right now and growing to over 450 Queenslanders working from this facility from the end of next year. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much, Gary. And it’s great to be here again with Deb Frecklington. Can I also acknowledge the Chief of Army, who has also been here with us today. It’s also great to have my colleagues here with me here today. And can I say to you, Ted, in particular, as I know Deb would, in many respects because I remember when Land 400 was going through the process you were there and led quite a Queensland charge amongst my Queensland colleagues. And we always took the view that we would make these amazing vehicles where it was in the national interest to do so and where that capability can be best established and that’s right here in Queensland. And today is a very exciting day to be opening this MILVEHCOE facility. The MILVEHCOE facility here is the best in its class anywhere in the world, not just in Australia, not just in the southern hemisphere, but anywhere in the world. And I think that speaks volumes about what Australians can do. This facility is state of the art. And out of this facility, we will see Land 400 Boxers, some $5 billion investment, both in the manufacturing of these incredible vehicles, together with how they’re training and and put into place in Australia. A $5 billion investment that our Government has put in place and seen through. What we’re doing here, some years ago, we made the decision as a Government that we were going to rebuild Australia’s defence manufacturing capability. And what you see here is the realisation of that vision from announcement to delivery once again for our Government. Two per cent of GDP for our defence spending is not a target. It’s reality. It is now the floor for our investment in Australia’s sovereign manufacturing capability in defence. We’re building armoured vehicles. We’re building ships. We’re building planes and the components, importantly thereof, for the Joint Strike Fighter in Australia. That is all being made possible because our Government made a decision to make the defence of our country and its capability a reality. And that reality is now before you. Australia is safer because of this facility and the investments that go behind it. Australia will also be more prosperous as a result of it because of the capabilities that have been developed.

This facility is about jobs. Importantly, jobs for Queenslanders. And this facility demonstrates the manufacturing plan and its future as we outlined it in the Budget. We want to see more of this in Australia. We want to see this advanced manufacturing capability boosted into the future. And our manufacturing plan, which sits within this year’s Budget, is all designed to see this that we can not just do this here in defence as we’re demonstrating but we can do it in space, we can do it in food and beverage. We can do it in the mining sector. We can do it in the recycling sector. And all these core sectors that we’ve identified and we’ve demonstrated here in this facility, Gary, about what Australians can do and the skills that we have and the capabilities that we have.

So I’m excited to be here today to open this incredible facility. It’s another page turned in Australia’s advanced manufacturing story. And there’ll be many more pages into the future, and that will mean many more jobs right here in Queensland. This is how we come back from the COVID-19 recession. This is how we build back from the COVID-19 recession by pressing forward with these investments to building our capabilities across all industries. And another area that will be benefiting these types of operations significantly is what we’ve announced about the full expensing of capital equipment. Investing in the advanced systems and the advanced machinery that goes into a plant like this  to ensure that they can have the equipment necessary to be competitive and the immediate expense will be a big part of ensuring that our manufacturers can get access to all of the equipment in the capital leads that they have to grow their businesses. Because these businesses will grow, as we already heard today, and congratulations, Gary, on the order of some $150 million for the Hungarian military putting our turrets on their armoured vehicles. That demonstrates that once you can do it here, you can do it anywhere. And I loved what you had to say, Gary, about our defence industry, our defence purchasing and procurement here in Australia. We’re going from importer to exporter. That’s a full 180 degree turnaround. And that’s what’s being achieved by advancing our manufacturing capability here in Australia.

So, Deb, I’m very pleased to have you here with me, because this is also going to be part of a precinct. Not only, I note today, that rego is going to be cheaper under an LNP government here in Queensland, perhaps, we might wait a few more months. We might register these vehicles here in Queensland, their rego will be cheaper under an LNP government. But seriously, I want to congratulate you for your keen interest in this facility here and I know what you have planned if you were to be elected premier about how this facility will sit with another facility very nearby, which will create the critical mass both in the technology and the design and the services and support systems and the many other industries that feed into a massive project like this. That’s how you get Queenslanders working and that’s how you get jobs happening here. Our plans of the Government that I lead and the one that Deb would hope to will mesh strongly. They’ll go together well, whether it’s building infrastructure, whether it’s advanced manufacturing or whether it’s taking the burden off families and lowering their costs. Whether it’s in the tax cuts that we’ve already provided. 2.3 million Queenslanders benefiting from those tax cuts, which are law. They’re as real as this building and the many other things that Deb has planned for the state. So I’m going to hand over to Deb and then we might take a few questions.

THE HON. DEB FRECKLINGTON, LEADER OF THE QUEENSLAND LNP: Thank you very much, PM. And can I as well thank the Rheinmetall people for inviting me here today. Gary, it’s been a wonderful, wonderful day. Great to see the PM getting around in that armoured vehicle, PM. Well done. But today, it is a really exciting day for Queensland to have the Prime Minister of Australia here in Queensland talking about their plan for manufacturing and growing those advanced manufacturing industries. And that’s exactly what a future LNP government wants to do right here in Queensland. Now, this is an incredible facility. We need to train up the people to work here. And that’s exactly why an LNP government will partner with Rheinmetall, $135 million co-contribution towards a Defence Industries Technology Precinct. We want those advanced manufacturing, those future jobs to be trained right here in this facility. So it’s a very exciting day. We know that Queenslanders deserve those jobs. Highest unemployment rate for the last four years. Queenslanders deserve better. And we know that our kids who were looking to train up, whether it’s to be engineers or designers, welders, any of those types of jobs like Gary was talking about, they should be able to learn and train here and very importantly, secure a job here, right in Queensland. So it’s great to be here, PM. Wonderful to be here with you. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. Happy to take questions, particularly on the facility. I know Gary is available for questions on that if you like, as well. Why don’t we sort of start on that space, then come and join us, and then if there are issues you want to move to, very happy to do that. First of all, about this facility.

JOURNALIST: It’s on the same topic. There’s talk that the government is looking to replace the 22 Tiger air choppers that we have, the helicopters we have, with 29 Apache choppers. That’ll take away 500 jobs from Queensland. Is there any truth to that?

PRIME MINISTER: All of all the decisions we make around the defence procurement are as a result of long-term planning. Those all go through our National Security Committee of Cabinet, so, look, I don’t indulge rumours when it comes to these things. If there are ever announcements about those things, we’ve always been quite transparent about that when and if decisions are made. What we’re here today to do is demonstrate that no government has been committed to defence jobs here in Queensland like our Government. And this is the proof that this is the absolute proof of that. And the Land 400 programme demonstrates Queensland’s capability. As I said, the reason it’s being built here is because Queensland has the capability and that’s why they’ll always do very well when it comes to our defence procurement and the manufacturing capability that’s been established here.

JOURNALIST: How come you couldn’t find a spot for Deb in that tank today?

PRIME MINISTER: There was only two slots at the top.

JOURNALIST: Some more down the bottom though…

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’m sure that there was some safety issues around how these things work. I would only assume. But I was pleased to be up here to be able to open this facility as Prime Minister. This is the realisation of a very big vision for our defence capability and jobs in this country. As Prime Minister and as someone who’s been in our Cabinet since we were first elected seven years ago, this is the proof of our commitments and what we announced today was sure to deliver that as what we’ve announced in the past of delivering that promise.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] travel to the UK in 2022…

PRIME MINISTER: Just before we move off this topic, I’m happy to come to these questions but are there any more questions on this topic? 

JOURNALIST: Gary, [inaudible] why do you need $135 million of state government money to build additional facilities here?

GARY STEWART, MANAGING DIRECTOR RHEINMETALL: So the whole purpose of building a viable Australian industrial capability is somewhere that we can train the next generation of apprentices and graduates in the core manufacturing and design skills and also alongside that in research and development necessary to not just be able to build the existing products well, but to be able to develop, create and introduce the new technologies that will go on to improve defence capability here in Australia and export to the world.

JOURNALIST: So would you build the facility without that contribution from the state government? Have you had conversations with the Labor Government about a similar contribution, $135 million?

GARY STEWART, MANAGING DIRECTOR RHEINMETALL: This has not been initiated by us. It’s a plan about how we can expand our existing [inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER: So thank you very much, Gary, and thanks for having us here today and congratulations again on such a tremendous achievement.

JOURNALIST: A question from our Canberra bureau regarding the Restart wage subsidy for older Australians. Has it been as successful as you had hoped?

PRIME MINISTER: 50,000 Australians over the age of 50 got themselves into a job because of the program. And so I’m very pleased with the progress of that program. There are thousands of people right now who are actually taking advantage of that program as we speak. And that’s in addition to the adult apprentices. That’s about a $4,000 subsidy that supports adult apprentices change their skills mid-career and that increasingly occurs. And when you think about this place and you think about Queensland, too, I think, and obviously the hospitality sector here in Queensland is going through some really tough times. And as we know with COVID-19, it’s hard to predict how long those times will be difficult. But that said, there will be many as a result of the COVID-19 recession, who will look at their skills and they’ll look at where they are. They may have lost employment. They may have been in the aviation sector, for example, and they may be looking to redeploy. There are so many programmes that support Australians looking to change and train up on the skills. 340,000 places that we made available through for the JobTrainer program around the country. That program is delivering training places for people of all ages. When we put that together, we are very conscious of the need not only to train younger people, but to train those who may be shifting careers in their 50s or their 40s. And regardless of what your gender is or what your age is or what your experiences, these programs are designed to find the meet and meet the need. And that’s why our economic recovery plan from the COVID-19 recession is going to benefit people right across the country. It’s a plan for all of Australia and for all Australians.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, if the incentives in the Budget aren’t enough to get businesses hiring people again before there’s a vaccine where would the government look to to get more people back into jobs?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think a key part of what we’ve been able to do is continue not just to plan and put programs in place, but we’ve been able to respond and respond fast. This is why we’ve been careful to announce initiatives, taking into account the best information we have at the time. Back in March very little was known about the COVID-19 virus and we had to proceed carefully. We gave ourselves time. We put the JobKeeper and JobSeeker supports in place, the doubling of the safety net for Australians in JobSeeker. What that enabled us to do is look towards a budget in October where we could put new initiatives in place to drive job creation, to drive investment, to get people to bring forward decisions. A key part of our plan to get Australia out of the COVID-19 recession is to bring forward the decisions that would otherwise not be made. Decisions to hire, the decisions to invest, bringing forward the tax cuts that we’d already legislated. Our tax cuts, both stage two, stage three, they were already law. And we’ve brought forward stage two to bring forward some of those spending decisions by low and middle income earners in particular. And so what you’ll find from our Government as we manage the Australian economy through its biggest set of challenges since the Great Depression is you’ll find us highly responsive. You’ll find us highly cautious. We’ll be targeted. We will be proportionate. And where necessary, it will be temporary and has been. That has been necessary with the stimulus we put into the economy. But the longer term prospects like we’re seeing here in our manufacturing industries in particular, we will make the investments that build the strength of the economy longer term. But whether it’s in manufacturing or in digital transformation, in this Budget, there was $800 million that was going towards digital transformation of our economy. That’s going to support everything from a local coffee shop to get paid more quickly and to pay their suppliers more quickly to some of the largest companies in this country. So this is a broad-based plan. So we will continue to implement our plans, but be careful to monitor the situation very carefully and to respond and upgrade as necessary.

JOURNALIST: You sit on the National Security Council, we’re told that this is a done deal to buy the Apaches. That’s 496 jobs.

PRIME MINISTER: I’ve already given my response to that.

JOURNALIST: You didn’t answer the question.

PRIME MINISTER: These are matters of national security and I don’t discuss matters of national security during press conferences.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned about keeping the manufacturing jobs here in Queensland?

PRIME MINISTER: I am and that’s why we’re here today. We are keeping manufacturing jobs in Queensland through the record investments we have in our defence industry.

JOURNALIST: Steven Miles has accused you of taking a week off running the country to run the LNP’s campaign. What do you say to that?

PRIME MINISTER: I think this guy’s got to grow up. I really think he does. The defence of our country is a serious business. Managing the Australia economy out of the worst recession, the COVID recession, since the Great Depression, is serious. And I think those sort of careless and juvenile remarks reflect terribly on him. Being Prime Minister is the greatest responsibility that anyone could have in public life. And to be here to talk to Queenslanders this week about how our Budget and our economic plans are going to get Queenslanders back into work. That may have been something that has escaped him, but it certainly hasn’t escaped me. So I’ve noticed that he’s made the odd remark about us. And I’d encourage him to focus on doing his job and to frankly grow up.

JOURNALIST: If we can’t travel to the UK and Europe until 2022, where can we go and what is the plan for a travel bubble?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the first step of that is New Zealand And it will be very soon that New Zealanders who are on the paddock I think right about now with the Wallabies over there in Wellington – go the Wallabies, I haven’t seen the score – but they will be the first and they will be able to come to New South Wales and to the ACT and the Northern Territory. Now, the reason they won’t be able to come to Queensland is because there is still a requirement for them to quarantine for two weeks here in Queensland. Now, when that is no longer necessary, great, it will be tremendous for the Queensland tourism industry that that would be possible. But the reason we can’t have it up in there because it will take up places in the quarantine capacity here in Queensland that will prevent Australians, Queenslanders, coming home to Queensland from overseas. So I look forward to a time when that can be safely done.

From there, we are already talking to those in the Pacific family. I have had a number of discussions with Pacific leaders this week. There have also been discussions that I’ve had a number of discussions with Pacific leaders this week. There have also been discussions I have had with the Prime Minister of Japan. The Foreign Minister this week has been talking to the Prime Minister of Singapore. And so there are a number of other countries. I’ve already also had discussions with the President of Korea, South Korea. There are a number of countries that have performed well on the health front and Australia and those countries are one of a handful of countries that have had the same level of success. But we have to go cautiously, very, very cautiously. COVID-19 hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s still there. And it is no less aggressive today than it was six months ago. And we need to keep the habit of COVID safe behaviours, whether it’s here in Queensland or New South Wales or Victoria or Western Australia or anywhere else. Borders don’t protect you from the virus. The virus moves. And if infections are created here in Queensland or anywhere else, for that matter, it is the testing and the tracing regimes and of course, the social distancing and other COVID safe behaviours that are really, really necessary. So we’ve got to keep our guard up. And that guard is not just about borders where they’ve been put in place. We only want borders to be there for as long as they have to be there and only for medical reasons. As I said yesterday, there’s no quibble with the border. The issue is that they should only be there as long as they have to be, because you’ve got to balance the economics with the health and then they can be safely opened. I hope that’s very soon, but that is not a decision for me to make.

JOURNALIST: On your youth wage subsidy scheme, are you prepared to make any concessions to get that through the Senate by Christmas?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I wouldn’t see why I’d have to. Why would the Labor Party want to oppose getting young people into work? I mean, if the Labor Party wants to oppose young people going into work, I’ll let them explain that. And I think the Australian people will make their own judgement on them. I’m not aware that that’s their position. I’m not aware of many of their positions, to be honest. There was an opportunity this week for the Leader of the Opposition to put aside once and for all their plan for higher taxes. They took them to the last election and they’re still standing by all of them. And so it’s hard to know what their positions are. The Leader of the Opposition likes to have a bet each way on pretty much everything and he seems to be having that on taxes.

JOURNALIST: On those lines on party politics, yesterday you suggested that if the Fecklington government is elected, that it would be good for Queensland because more projects would come through. Are you saying you will disadvantage the state if they have a Labor government?

PRIME MINISTER: No, no, I’m always happy to work with the Queensland government. Always happy to. We’ve had some frustrations, they haven’t been, I mean, I have been pretty transparent about that. We’ve made progress. I’d like to make more progress. Always do. I just want to see Queenslanders in jobs. And anyone who’s got a plan to get Queenslanders has jobs, which Deb Frecklington has and the LNP, well, we’ve got a lot to work with, a lot in common, a lot in common when it comes to getting Queenslanders into it. Thanks very much for your time.

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