Source: Prime Minister of Australia
Melissa McIntosh, Federal Member for Lindsay: Hello everyone, welcome to Penrith and what a great news story this is. Prime Minister, to Minister Andrews, Minister Payne, and Anthony Pratt, I’m so proud that we are backing manufacturing in Western Sydney, and in my community and now we’ve got Visy coming in to Penrith. And that is great news. Anthony and I had a conversation about how much we both want to back Australian manufacturing and I’m really really pleased that Anthony and Visy is in Western Sydney, more local jobs, and we are getting manufacturing back in Australia.
Anthony, would you like to say a few words? Thank you very much.
Anthony Pratt, Executive Chairman of Visy Industries: Welcome Prime Minister, it’s an honour to have you at Visy Glass Penrith. The Prime Minister through his great economic leadership has initiated a renaissance in Australian manufacturing. Which means more skilled jobs and higher wages. The coronavirus has reinforce manufacturing self sufficiency. Visy applauds the Prime Minister’s six sector manufacturing focus, including our two sectors, recycling and clean energy, and food and beverage manufacturing. Spurred on by this, Visy is proud to have made the biggest Australian manufacturing acquisition of 2020, a $1 billion deal to make glass bottles. Today we are pledging to invest and additional $2 billion over the next 10 years which will create thousands of new green collar, well paying manufacturing jobs, and bring our total investment value in Australia to $11 billion dollars. Now, $380 million of that investment has been brought forward over the next 18 months because of the government’s accelerated depreciation policy. It’ll be spent increasing the recycled content of glass bottles in Australia from 30 percent to 70 percent, including offering councils a glass recycling bin. It will also be reducing landfills by building another clean energy plant in Victoria that runs on paper mill rejects, converting also our Brisbane paper mill to running on paper mill projects that were previously going to landfill, a drum pulper in Victoria to use waste paper, previously going to landfill, and doubling our one hundred percent recycled plastics factory in New South Wales, as well as water recycling projects to reduce water usage at our recycled paper mills by 40 percent. These initiatives will not only reduce landfills but also increase the recycled content of our customer’s packaging, which we call remanufactured right here in Australia. So thank you again, Prime Minister, for your great leadership. Thank you.
Prime Minister: Well, thank you, Anthony. And to all the wonderful Visy team here in western Sydney and indeed right around the country. On Sunday, I joined Jane Malysiak, one of Australia’s many migrants who have come to this country, to get a shot in the arm, to give us the boost to come out of the covid-19 pandemic. I’m now joined by Anthony Pratt, one of Australia’s great migrant families, and he’s given us a shot in the arm when it comes to Australia’s comeback, economic comeback from the covid-19 recovery. Anthony and and Visy are a great Australian company, and it’s on display around us here. Their vote of confidence in western Sydney, their vote of confidence in Australia gives us the great confidence, I think, to continue the economic recovery that is underway in Australia. It is born of both his vision for Australia and how he sees his company’s role in the future of this country, as they always have. But as he said, it’s also born of the policy settings we’ve put in place as a government to encourage exactly this type of a commitment and exactly this type of investment. We just saw yesterday that the non mining investment figures that we saw coming back in the December quarter shows a turnaround. We saw an almost 5 per cent increase in new investment in plant and equipment. I was with the Advanced Manufacturing Taskforce out here in western Sydney that Melissa has brought together, out here in western Sydney to translate our modern manufacturing strategy on the ground here in western Sydney. And Visy’s announcement today, through Anthony just totally backs this in. It backs in the jobs, it backs in the technology, it backs in the investment, it backs in Australia. And for that Anthony, I’m truly grateful for your belief in where we’re going as a country. The other thing it does, though, is it connects with our government’s absolute commitment to boost our circular economy industries here in Australia, our recycling industries here in Australia. We are very serious about this. And to see Visy, who is a world leader in the circular economy here and particularly in the United States as well. And as we learned today, when you use recycled glass, it reduces the amount of energy you need in the process to make those jars and those bottles by one third. So it’s not only great for the circular economy, it’s also great for reducing emissions.
So what we see here today is just so many things coming together. Our belief in western Sydney. The jobs that are going to come from the economic comeback from the COVID-19 recession, what we see is the policies of the government working to deliver the investment on the ground, to see the investment in new plant and equipment, which wins contracts and create jobs. And it sees the investments going into industries that are reducing emissions and making Australia a cleaner and more environmentally sustainable place. That’s quite a package, and that is all being brought together. And it’s happening here in Australia, we’ve been making things in Australia for a very long time. And we’re making them now and we’re going to keep making them in the future. We’re making them here in western Sydney on this very site for a very long time. We are going to keep making them here in western Sydney as a result of the policies we’ve put in place.
So it’s very exciting to be here. I’m joined by Karen Andrews, the Minister for Industry. She’ll speak in a moment. And she has been leading our Modern Manufacturing Strategy.
But before I do that, I want to make a comment on another very important issue, and that is the passing of Sir Michael Somare, the first Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. He has been over the course of his amazing life, the champion of the sovereignty and independence of the people of Papua New Guinea. I consider the people of Papua New Guinea our family, always have. I have been in contact this morning with Prime Minister Marape, James, my very good friend, and passed on to him and to Lady Veronica, our deepest condolences and sympathies for the Papua New Guinean people. There will be great mourning across Papua New Guinea, from the lowlands to the highlands, to the villages, to the cities. Sir Michael was an extraordinary man of his generation. He was the light of his generation, which has lighted up the path for Papua New Guineans today and into the future. And so I just want to honour him in his passing and reaffirm Australia’s great friendship- more than friendship, our family relationship with the people of Papua New Guinea.
I’m going to ask Karen to say a few words and then we’re very happy to take questions.
The Hon. Karen Andrews MP, Minister for Industry, Science, and Technology: Thank you, Prime Minister. And of course, my deepest sympathies to the people of Papua New Guinea.
Anthony Pratt gets manufacturing. He would not be investing billions of dollars here if he did not see a future in Aussie manufacturing. Scott Morrison gets manufacturing, the Morrison government gets manufacturing. And that’s why we are well underway, delivering the modern manufacturing strategy, which names six key priority areas, Visy is leading in two of those areas. Firstly, recycling and clean energy and of course, the work that they do with food and beverage manufacturing of the packaging. So with the opening of these rounds, what we are doing as a government is driving investment in manufacturing here in Australia. That is going to be underpinned by the work that we are doing across the significant economic pillars of industrial relations, of tax, and particularly what we are doing with driving energy prices down. This is really the start of the manufacturing recovery here in Australia. Congratulations to Visy. I thank you so much for your commitment. This means so much to us here in Australia, and I’m sure it means a lot for the workers here of Visy. Thank you.
Prime Minister: So, as usual, if we could address, while we are here today, I’m happy to take questions on that. And I’m sure Anthony’s happy to take questions on Visy’s role here. And then I’m happy to take questions on other matters.
Journalist: Prime Minister, on this investment, it’s only as good as the jobs it creates. Underemployment is still a bit of a sore point for some people. Some million people are underemployed. Want more hours? Is that something your government is concerned about in the COVID bounce back?
Prime Minister: Absolutely. And that’s why our policies are in place to address just that. We’re seeing underemployment falling. We’re seeing unemployment falling. We’re seeing the number of people on JobKeeper in this quarter alone, people coming off JobKeeper, again, far more than we’d anticipated. We saw that in the last quarter as well. You know, we’re seeing apprentices in work. We have almost 60,000 apprentices here in New South Wales right now who are in those jobs right now because of the apprenticeship subsidies we have put in place during the COVID-19 recession, 58,000 thereabouts here in New South Wales right now. We met some apprentices here today, but they are specifically supported; they are in small businesses, they are medium sized businesses. When we went into the covid-19 pandemic, one of the first initiatives we took economically was to say we’ve got to support those apprentices because they would have been the first to go and all the training and all the hard work all the commitment, you know their parents encouraging them to get a trade and go and take that decision. And we want to see more Australians do that. And I hope those who may be considering a trade and going into an apprenticeship take a message from that, that our government believes in you taking on that apprenticeship and sticking at that apprenticeship. And why at the greatest risk to apprentices being driven out of the workforce, we stepped up and made sure that apprentices could stay in jobs. And as the recovery has begun, we’re getting new apprentices into jobs. So I understand from Visy that their investments here, we’re talking thousands of jobs. We’re talking thousands of jobs here. How many? Well, it’s you know, that is going to continue to be driven by the effective outpouring of that investment and the bringing forward of some over $350 million. That’s right, isn’t it Anthony, over $350 million. And that involves about $100 million specifically right here in this very plant, as I understand it. So that is what’s going to get people back into work. That’s what’s going to keep apprentices in work and that’s what’s going to get more hours.
Journalist: Prime Minister, Visy are one of Australia’s largest private companies. They’ve got the confidence to invest $2 billion dollars. What about smaller businesses, though? Are they looking to invest long term in the context of border closures, which can shut things down at the drop of a hat?
Prime Minister: Well, what I was excited about today with Melissa McIntosh, the member for Lindsay is she has brought together an advanced manufacturing taskforce to translate what Karen and I are doing at a national level. She’s making sure it’s delivering here on a local level. Just like she is on Dunheved Road and Mulgoa Road and the extra MRI machines out here in western Sydney, which I know Marise Payne’s thrilled about as well as a resident of western Sydney and Patron Senator for a long time. So she’s delivering on the ground for those local, small and medium sized businesses here as part of this strategy. And, you know, whether I’m here in western Sydney or I’m up in north Queensland or out in outback Queensland or anywhere else in the country, down in Victoria, I’m walking into shop floor after shop floor. And what I’m seeing is new equipment. And that’s what those CAPEX figures from yesterday was demonstrating, that, this is small and medium sized businesses. I walk in and the first thing they say to me is, let me show you this new whizz bang bit of kit we’ve got here on the floor and I’ll go over there. And there’s lots of buttons and there’s lot there’s lasers in there. There’s all sorts of things. I don’t know what it means or how it works, but they do and it’s massively improving their productivity. So, yes, I’m excited that we’re seeing small and medium sized and large businesses like Visy invest more. And that’s great for the economy. But it also has a long term benefit because it means those businesses are more able, they’ve got better kit, they’ve got up to date care. And the accelerated depreciation, the tax incentives for investment are working. Our plan for economic recovery is working.
Journalist: Prime Minister, what can you tell us about a situation with vials of Pfizer going to an aged care home, St Vincent’s aged care home in Werribee, in Victoria? Has there been some kind of stuff up? What details do you know about it?
Prime Minister: Well we are 4 days, today’s day five of a nine-month rollout of vaccination. I can tell you that over 90 aged care facilities have now been supported through those vaccinations. I can tell you that some 23,000 Australians already, as at the end of day four, have been able to receive those vaccinations. And in the early days where there are logistical difficulties, where there is anything of that nature, and indeed with the cases of the increased doses that were applied up in Queensland, I’m very pleased to hear that both of those individuals are well and one has actually returned to their facility I understand today. But where issues arise, they are quickly dealt with, they’re identified, they’re worked through. You’d expect that with any vaccination programme of this scale. And so where things don’t go completely to plan, they’re quickly addressed, as you’ve seen happen this this week. And that’s why it’s so important that where things of this nature occur, it’s important that I provide that reassurance that these things are addressed. And I think for all leaders to do the same thing. The vaccination programme could not be more important to Australia’s future. And as we continue to roll it out, where there are things that are learnt in the early phases, they will be applied to ensure the most important thing, and that is the safety of Australians and the safety of this vaccine.
Journalist: Prime Minister, you must know you must know from your own experience, you’ve had family members in nursing homes and many people here have and to get cancelled on at the last minute. We’ve seen more cases of it today in Sydney and Victoria and Brisbane, that’s very anxiety inducing for our frail Australians?
Prime Minister: As I said, over 90 aged care facilities have already had the vaccination,
Journalist: Out of 240.
Prime Minister: And there’ll be more. And the Health Minister will update on when we get to those numbers. We’re in day four of a nine month programme, and each day as that rolls out, it’ll continue to improve. We said it would start slow and it would get to a pace and a scale, and that’s exactly where we’re heading. So I would say to those families to not be anxious about that, that in the early phases, if there are logistical issues that arise with the programme, they’ll be quickly addressed and then they’ll soon be followed up and the vaccinations will arrive. And over the course of a number of days if necessary, if it takes that long, then that’ll be rectified. People are working hard to deliver this on the ground. This is mobilising quite a national effort. It’s mobilising a state and territory effort as well. And that’s why I’m absolutely confident that as we go from day to day, the lessons of each day will only make the system better, more improved. But at all times, at all times, safety is the paramount issue.
Journalist: [inaudible] in relation to Kate Jenkins the sexual harassment commissioner, [inaudible]?
Prime Minister: You’re talking about the Respect at Work?
Prime Minister: Respect at Work, do you want to address that Marise?
Senator the Hon. Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Thank you very much, Prime Minister. The Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s report, Respect at Work, is a groundbreaking piece of work, in the Women’s Economic Security Statement, which was released in October last year. We began the implementation process of a number of those recommendations, particularly including the establishment of the Respect at Work Council, which will be chaired by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner herself. The recommendations across I think there are 55 of them across a broad range of areas cover government, they cover business, they cover industry. They cover state and territory authorities and a number of regulatory agencies, both Commonwealth and state and territory. The Attorney General who has responsibility for the implementation of the report, is working through that process. Amanda Stoker has now taken on responsibility for, as the newly appointed assistant minister for the bringing together of all of those bodies in the recommendations as they’ve set out in the respect at work report. And we look forward to making the government response as soon as possible.
Senator the Hon. Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Well, I think the Women’s Economic Security Statement actually covers 9 of those recommendations, and they are the ones which the Commonwealth was able to respond to in the context of the Budget and the WESS itself. The rest, as I say, are very multilayered. This is a whole of Australia workplace issue. We don’t need to be reminded, but we have been reminded very, very acutely in the last two weeks of the importance of the work that has been done by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner. An unsafe workplace is unsafe for everyone. Nobody should have to work in that environment. And we are very focussed on bringing those recommendations together and implementing them through the government reporting process.
Journalist: Prime Minister, has Phil Gaetjens spoken to your office about his report? Has he given you any indication of when it’s going to be finalised, whether you’re going to share those results?
Prime Minister: I can give you the same answer I gave to the house yesterday, it was the same questions. No, I don’t have a firm timing on when that report, I expect it to be provided to me at the earliest possible opportunity. And and, yes, he has been making engagements with my office to follow up those matters. And when I receive that report, I can report further.
Journalist: Pfizer’s given some updated, sorry, Pfizer’s given some updated information on cold storage for their, for their vials, have you spoken to them or are you across those details will it make them,
Prime Minister: Yeah I am, look this is this is potentially exciting news. There’s been an approval from Pfizer for cold storage, which, as we know, has to be under the prior approval of I think sub-71 degrees. And as part of our contract with Pfizer, that included dealing with the cold chain logistics for the delivery of those doses. Now, they’re saying that can now be done at a refrigerated temperature. As I understand it. Now, our approval to use the Pfizer vaccine in Australia is not based on federal approvals in the United States or in Europe or anywhere else. It’s provided by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration. Now, I’m aware today the Minister for Health has been in contact with Professor Skerritt about that matter. And, of course, the TGA will consider that at the earliest possible opportunity, and has asked Pfizer to bring forward what has been provided on that so they can consider it. And in doing so, I’d remind you, because it goes to my earlier comments. I remember Professor Skerritt saying that having approved a vaccine, he said, the work has just begun. It hasn’t concluded. And what we’re learning with the vaccine and the vaccination rollout is there are always things to add. There are always things to learn from. And there is new science. There are new findings. We’re already seeing whether out of the United Kingdom or Europe or Israel or the United States, we’re seeing some very, very positive results, which is improving our level of confidence, not reducing it. And so that’s why just focussing on the day to day tasks of the vaccination is what my government is focussed on. It’s what the state governments are focussed on. It’s what the health and medical industry is focussed on, to just continue to do it safely. And every piece of new information we can gain to improve that is very, very welcome. But I just want to assure Australians that the doses of vaccine that are provided in Australia are done on the basis of Australia’s medical experts approving those vaccines and not just their chemistry, but their manufacturing as well and how that is done. And so Professor Skerritt is the same head of the TGA that approves those vaccines, that approves the vaccines that we take our children to. And we trust them to provide those vaccines.
Journalist: Prime Minister, the Australian government believes that it won this round with the tech giants vs the Australian government, and is the legislation really worth it now that we’ve got deals being struck outside the media code, and what industry is next now that media is out of the way? To make these tech giants as you say, pay their fair share?
Prime Minister: Well, you know, Australia under my government always stands up for itself. We always do that. We have a great and strong belief in Australia’s sovereignty and where we think, where we think that is being compromised or under challenge, then I can assure you my government will always step up. Now, in this case, it’s been an issue we’ve been involved in for some time, whether it’s getting them to pay more tax, their fair share of their tax, whether it’s ensuring that the rules that exist in the digital world are as strong as those that exist in the physical world. And that’s everything from a safety ensuring that our vulnerable Australians, particularly children, are not exposed to violent and sexual content, ensuring that terrorist incitement content is dealt with. We have led the charge on all of these issues, as we indeed have with the big global tech giants when it comes to not paying Australian news services, what they should be paid to support our independent media sector. The code was critical to ensuring that the arrangements that have now been struck between the global tech giants and those media companies so Australians can have a free media, that was essential for that. But, you know, my answer to the broader question is what I want in the digital world is I want the rules there, the safety there, the protections that are, there that exist in the real world. I want that to exist in the digital world. Global tech giants, you know they’re changing the world. But we can’t let them run the world. You know, people in free societies like Australia who go to ballot boxes and who go and they vote, that’s who should run the world. The people and citizens of the nations of the world, not big global tech giants. They produce amazing technology that does amazing things. We’ve seen the impact of technology here in this very place, and it’s exciting. But at the end of the day, all of these things must be accountable to sovereign elected governments, which means that at the end of the day, Australians should be in charge.
Journalist: The final report of the Aged Care Royal Commission has been officially handed down. I don’t know if you’ve had time to be briefed on it yet, but have you or what do you expect?
Prime Minister: Well, I called the Royal Commission into aged care as one of my first acts as Prime Minister because I was deeply distressed at many of the things that had been reported to me. And having been a member of Parliament for some time and worked in my own local community, aware of the great challenges that were facing that sector. I said at the time of calling the Royal Commission that above all, we needed to establish a culture of respect for older Australians in both how we provide care and how they lived through that portion of their lives, because fundamentally many problems can stem from a lack of that respect. So I called the Royal Commission knowing full well that it would be, it would be candid that it would provide very raw advice to governments and to all Australians and to state governments as well. All of us where we have responsibilities. But obviously the federal government has the primary responsibility here. So I did that because I wanted to know and so I expect to receive a copy of that report today, and I will spend the weekend working through that carefully, and I will be together with the Health Minister and the Aged Care Services Minister providing an interim response soon after. And, of course, the substantive response, which I have pledged on behalf of my government, that will come as part of the Budget process this year. Its timing, I think, is well placed to ensure that we can incorporate that in our response in this year’s budget. But I will say, as the Royal Commission has gone on, the government has not sat idle. When I came to the job of Prime Minister, we were investing an extra $1 billion dollars every single year in aged care, and we’re now investing an additional billion and a half dollars every year in aged care services and out over the forward estimates we have tripled the number of in-home aged care places. And in fact, right now the number of in-home aged care places has been extended from our most recent announcement in December, is rolling out at an extra 1,200 a week. 1,200 a week. The aged care quality commission oversight, ensuring that people are safe and protected, that their rights are respected, that they are respected. That is why I called the Royal Commission. This Royal Commission, I think, will identify serious, serious and disturbing issues that are a product of decades, decades. And it’s important that I think the government is then supported by the parliament right across all parties. And we get on with the things that we need to do to address the recommendations that are put to government. So I look forward to hopefully a bipartisan, a multi partisan approach to us addressing those issues. And this issue is about our family members. It’s about individual Australians and the way we deal with this it has to be beyond politics. We have to focus on getting the solutions right. Having called the Royal Commission, I’m committed to addressing the many issues that I’m sure will be raised in it. Anyway, thank you all very much. Good to be with you.