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Sydney News

  • Written by Malcolm Turnbull

This is a great service. It's a great concept and I'm really proud to open it. This is the type of innovative frontline work in mental health that is so transformative. It's the deinstitutionalisation of mental health services and of course, the next stage, which some of you may have talked about with Isa and Emma in particular, is the use of digital applications - smartphone apps- that enable young people to seek help and do so in a much more private, more intimate way, even than coming to a very non-judgemental, non-clinicy place like this. So, no, this is great. So I'm delighted to be here and good to see you all here too.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister this week there's been two bad opinion polls for the Coalition. Why don't you think your message is getting through to voters? And do you believe that it can be turned around?

PRIME MINISTER:

This has been a great week. We've been rolling out examples of our national economic plan day after day. We've been opening and announcing initiatives on economic infrastructure, on the South Coast and airport and a port. We've been talking about the importance of tourism - one of our biggest exports, as you know - and getting bigger with 2017, being the year of Australia-China tourism. There in Puffing Billy in the Dandenongs and of course, what we've been describing and setting out our plans for water infrastructure in Central Queensland. $1 billion of additional agricultural production and over 2,000 jobs there in Central Queensland.

You know we have a plan, an economic plan, for jobs and growth and as every day of this campaign goes by, Australians see its practical application and what it means for jobs in their community, jobs in the Yarra Valley, jobs in Central Queensland, jobs on the South Coast - right across the country, we're laying that out. So it's been a great week and I have to say, without wanting to be, you know unduly partisan on this wonderful day, here at Headspace, on the other hand, you have from the Labor Party no plan, just lots of politics, lots of politics.

JOURNALIST:

Why hasn't your great week resonated with voters though? Why isn’t your plan having any impact on the polls? And what do you need to change so it does?

PRIME MINISTER:

Our economic plan is committed to driving jobs and growth right across Australia and Australians can see that and we're very pleased with the reception we're getting.

JOURNALIST:

Bill Shorten says systematic racism is still rife in Australia. Do you agree with him in some pockets?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, look, we are not as a nation - If you talk about Australia as a whole, are we free entirely from racism? Clearly not. But I have to say we are the most successful multicultural society in the world.

There is more work to do. This is not something to be complacent about. This is a work in progress. As I said yesterday about reconciliation - this is a journey. It's an important journey. It's one we come to with a commitment, passion, love and we do that - love of each other, mutual respect, love for Australia and we are a stronger nation every day. We are committed to those values.

JOURNALIST:

The architect of the Safe Schools program, Roz Ward, was yesterday forced to resign after she posted items on Facebook describing the Australian flag as racist. She resigned from her position she'd been appointed to by the Victorian Government. Does that demonstrate that concerns people had early on about Safe Schools were valid?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, it will certainly - those events that you've just described, will certainly underline concerns many people had about the way in which that program was managed but I just want to reiterate that my Government and all of us as parents, in my case, Lucy and my case, as grandparents - are absolutely committed to ensuring that there is no, to having zero tolerance for bullying. Kids should be able to, every school should be safe. Kids should be safe from bullying, whether it is on the basis of their sexual orientation, their race, their religion, their appearance - right across the board.

Mutual respect, as I said earlier- that is the key ingredient in our very successful multicultural society and it's a key ingredient in the harmony that we all seek to attain in our great Australian family.

JOURNALIST:

In Melbourne this morning, Chris Jermyn has had a Jaymes Diaz moment, he was unable when asked by reporters to explain the Government's position on the Medicare rebate freeze. Are you going to give him a talking to?

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you for the inquiry but I'm sure that all of our - I know you enjoy taxing our candidates with these questions. Our position on all of these policy issues is very clear and you know, this is where there’s a marked distinction from, you know, there's a candidate for election to Parliament in Victoria that actually - another candidate that deserves a bit of attention on the question of policy and that of course is Bill Shorten. Because Bill Shorten, what is Bill Shorten's position on important economic issues?

I learnt this morning that he made his captain's pick - his decision to abandon Labor's promise – a promise, a pledge they made to restore the Schoolkids Bonus. He made his decision to backflip on that on Thursday. Yesterday, he wasn't prepared to say when he'd made that decision but he said today he made it on Thursday and he said the reason that he did, was because he saw the PEFO, the Pre-election Fiscal Outlook that’s put out, as you know, by the Department of Finance and the Treasury. Now there was nothing in the PEFO that was at odds or different from what was in the Budget,  nor would you expect there to be, because the Budget was only a few weeks ago.

So this was just a political decision. There was no basis in policy. He had milked all of the political gain from saying he was going to restore the Schoolkids Bonus, he'd milked that for years and then cynically, at the last minute, when he was called out for the huge black hole of unfunded promises, he does a backflip on Thursday without apparently consulting his Shadow Cabinet. So I think on policy matters, when we're addressing questions of Victorian candidates, I think Bill Shorten should be right at the top of the list.

JOURNALIST:

Given the significance of what you're doing in Melbourne this afternoon on the Long Walk, there have been pretty violent protests in Melbourne's northern suburbs this morning between the United Patriots Front and anti-racism rallies. What message have you got to them?

PRIME MINISTER:

My message is one I gave a moment ago and that I give every day, which is that we are the most successful multicultural society in the world. In a world of extraordinary disharmony, where so many people are at odds with each other on the basis of religion and race, cultural background. Here in Australia we have a very harmonious society and the key element in that is mutual respect. All of us are enriched by the diversity in which we live. We are united, we have so much in common and we are stronger and more prosperous as a nation because of that diversity.

So my message today and every day, as your Prime Minister, is that mutual respect, respect for each other, giving the respect to others that we ask them and expect them to give to us, that is the key to our success - the most successful multicultural society in the world. It's something we should be proud of today and every day. It's one of our great achievements.

JOURNALIST:

What about people in your party room who don't support constitutional recognition. Are they respecting Aboriginal people?

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I tell you the Government's position is to support the recognition of our first peoples in the Constitution and we have a process under way with our Referendum Council and as you know, they're consulting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and leaders, with a view to coming forward with a set of words, a set of amendments, that they would propose and that Mr Shorten and I, and the Parliament as a whole, will consider and then, once agreement is reached, take that before the Australian people for their judgement - as we must - under the Constitution and we aim to do so next year.

My party, my Government is committed to that constitutional recognition, but we obviously have to have the form of words, the amendment coming from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, because it has to be an amendment that is not only acceptable and supported by the broader Australian community, in the referendum but it also to be an amendment that is meaningful - that sings, that speaks to the First Australians. I'll just conclude on this if I may. We just had a welcome for country here from Uncle Peter. Now he comes, his family come from La Perouse.  That is a remarkable Aboriginal community. Talk about resilience and continuity - the families that live at La Perouse, come from La Perouse - the Lapa mob they call themselves - they have occupied the shores of Botany Bay for tens of thousands of years and despite all of the settlement, despite the airport, the huge city, all of the injustice and oppression, despite all of that, they've maintained that continuity, right there in the centre of our biggest city.

What an extraordinary story of resilience, of pride, what an extraordinary example to all of us and something that we will, I believe, next year, recognise in our Constitution. Thank you all very much.

ENDS

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