JASON WOOD: Thanks, everyone. Right to go? My name's Jason Wood I’m the federal member for La Trobe. It's absolutely fantastic again to have Prime Minister Scott Morrison in La Trobe and here today in Officer South can I also acknowledge, having read here, the CEO of Simmons Homes and Denita from the Master Builders Association, and in particular to Thalia and Mitchell, this is your home. Congratulations. They were here under the or used the HomeBuilder programme. $25,000 dollars to get them in to the new home owners market.
La Trobe, you may not be aware, is in actual fact the fastest growing federal electorate in the country. For those who have driven along the Monash Freeway today, that was an announcement when Prime Minister was Treasurer back in March 2016, $500 million dollars. In actual fact, we've even put more federal funding into that, extra lanes from Clyde Road locally to Cardinia Road, but also South Gippsland Highway to Warrigal Road.
There's a lot of new infrastructure obviously going in to La Trobe. From new car parks to keeping people employed during this COVID pandemic has been something really important for us locally. So it's been keeping the tradies, especially from areas like Pakenham and some are on site here today. The HomeBuilder has been really important for us, not only locally, but nationally. And again, that's just fantastic to have the PM here today. A regular visitor to La Trobe. Thank you so much PM.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much. Well, thank you very much, Jason, and particularly to you, Mitchell and Thalia, congratulations not only on taking on this wonderful opportunity you have here to build your first home, but congratulations on your engagement and your wedding next year, which is also tremendous news. And god bless you with all of that, I hope, you look forward to the preparations, I think planning a wedding can sometimes can be more difficult than building a house you might find over the course of the next year. But that's tremendous to be here with you. And to Denita, thank you also for joining us here today.
Australia's response to the pandemic is working. And it is working, and that is being recognised, particularly when you compare how Australia's response to the pandemic plays out to the experience of so many other countries around the world. That pandemic response has, of course, been about the extraordinary effort and the response that has gone into the health impacts of the pandemic. But it has also been about the response that we've put in relation to the economy. We said at the outset, save livelihoods, save lives. And we are doing both of those things. Our responses, the policies we put in place, the programmes we've put in place, are working and we're seeing the evidence of that. In January, we saw 100,000 Australians come off JobSeeker. We saw at the end of September, some 2.1 million Australians come off JobKeeper, some 450,000 businesses back on their feet as the comeback of the Australian economy continued. It’s lights, camera, jobs when it comes to the support and incentives we've put in place for our film industry as the rest of the world are seeing Australia's response to the pandemic. And they're saying that's where we need to be. That's where they're getting it right. And you know, whether it was JobKeeper or JobSeeker, the cash flow boost or the many other things that has seen Australia come through this with the strength that we have to date, HomeBuilder was one of those key projects, one of those key policies. And, you know, when we announced that policy, it had it’s septics, it had its critics. They said nobody was going to take this on. Not only did they take it on, but they've taken it on far beyond our expectations. Some, just shy of 82,000 applications. This is a pipeline of work of some $18 billion dollars, a residential building and construction industry, which you see on display here and so many places like it around the country was looking at a chasm at the end of September or thereabouts of last year. And now it is looking at a pipeline of two years at least of new work. That's a product of confidence. It's a product of the right policy settings. We just saw in the confidence statistics released yesterday, once again more optimists than pessimists in Australia about our economic future. That's because of the resilience and great optimism of Australians, no doubt. But backed in by the policies that they can see are working and are working for them, they're certainly working for Mitchell and Thalia here, as they can realise their dream of their first home as they move into it later this year. And then they are married next year. So that's exciting as a Prime Minister, it's exciting as a government to see that when you design these programmes that they get these types of results. This is what it was intended to do. This is what it is doing. And I think that is giving Australians great confidence. Now that's not to say there won't be bumps along the road still, that there are still not challenges, of course there are. But we are taking them, those challenges. We're dealing with them. There are sectors of the Australian economy that continue to have real challenges. The aviation sector in particular, as Secretary Kennedy was remarking earlier today, that's true. But we'll work through those issues and challenges, just like we've worked through all of the others, getting Australians back into work, getting businesses back on their feet, getting Australia moving forward strongly again. And that comeback certainly started last year. And I expect over the course of this year, over the course of this year, we will see that momentum continue. You know, we're taking Australia out of crisis. We're taking us beyond the crisis. A crisis we want to be behind us. And I think all Australians feel that way. And our policies are leading us out of crisis and they're leading us into growth. I'm going to ask Denita to say a few words and then we're happy to take some questions.
DENITA WAWN, CEO MASTER BUILDERS AUSTRALIA: Thank you, Prime Minister. Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia. It is no exaggeration to say that the industry was going to fall off a cliff when we put a proposal to the federal government in April about looking at incentives to try and get people back into the industry and back building homes. We saw contracts cancelled and sales dry up. When we announced HomeBuilder and I was thankful to stand there on a frozen, cold Googong morning, we in our wildest dreams never expected the success that we've had. But what has it meant? It has meant that we've seen, as the Prime Minister said, 82,000 applications, has resulted in around about $2 billion spent by the government. But let's look bigger picture. That means $18 billion to $20 billion worth of building activity. But it goes further, that then equates to $60 billion dollars worth of economic activity in the community because the residential building industry has a three times multiplier effect of economic activity, the biggest of any industry. So this is not just saving the jobs of our industry, but it is also saving the jobs of the building supply companies. It's also saving those guys, selling the bacon and egg and the coffees at the local store. It has had a significant impact throughout the community and we are very grateful to the federal government in providing this incentive and secondly, extending it. It is a pipeline of work that has meant we can keep hundreds of thousands of people in their jobs, but more importantly, create new jobs. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. I'm happy to take some questions, Denita is sort of joining us for questions on this programme. And then we can move to other economic issues, if you'd like, or other issues as you'd like. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: When will the HomeBuilder programme come to an end or do you intend to keep running it right throughout this year?
PRIME MINISTER: The programme settings have been finalised now, so it has had a role in getting these sort of important projects brought forward and happening. And so the settings have now been finalised. So those opportunities that have been put in place, people have realised them. And the whole point of these programmes, whether it's JobKeeper, whether it's HomeBuilder, whether it's the COVID supplement on JobSeeker, all of these were designed as temporary, targeted, proportionate measures to stand in the gap during the crisis and then enable the economy to stand on its own two feet. We're not looking at renting an economy in the future. We're looking at having an economy that stands strongly on its own two feet.
JOURNALIST: Many of those incentives end next month, what's your plan to make sure the economy doesn’t fall off a cliff after that?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, there's $240 billion dollars, in fact, $251 to be specific more broadly, that has been pumped into the Australian economy in a record period of time. That money is now sitting on the balance sheets of households and businesses all around the country. Confidence is what unlocks that and then takes the Australian economy into the next phase. But the measures we still have in place, very important ones. The Job Hiring Credit, the JobMaker Job Hiring Credit, the apprenticeship support initiatives they continue, the instant expensing which continues, which drives the investment, as the Reserve Bank governor himself has said. The challenge now is about the investment that comes from the private sector. There is a point of handoff where the private sector stands up and that means the government sector has done its job. Supports that we provide more generally over time they continue, of course they do, the social safety net, a strong and effective incentivised tax system, R&D concession, those sorts of things. They keep the investment flowing. And when you look at particularly our manufacturing programme, $1.5 billion dollars, investing in critical manufacturing industries, the investment we're putting into new energy technologies, all of this continue to support what we're doing as an Australian economy, working together, governments, business, research institutions, scientific community and so on. So our plan is for the Australian economy to stand on its feet, for the Australian economy to get well clear of the crisis. You don't run an Australian economy on crisis settings when you’ve got through the crisis. We still have some challenges ahead of us, but we are certainly moving beyond that.
JOURNALIST: Speaking of the challenges, here in Melbourne are you concerned by the outbreak out of hotel quarantine, [inaudible] Holiday Inn at the airport. And are you concerned at all by the government's handling of that, given that they have said repeatedly that Victoria's hotel standard is the gold standard?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I would be here if I wasn't confident. I’ve just flown down from Sydney today. That's why I'm here, business as usual for me being in Melbourne here today. But I'd say this. Look, I seek to support every state to be as successful as they possibly can be in what they're doing to manage the health issues around the COVID pandemic. So, you know, I don't have a favourite in any of this. I'm not looking to score them. I'm just looking to support them in what they're doing. And that's what Australians would expect of me. And so, you know, how they talk about each other is up to them. I'll leave that to them. But what Australians, I think, want to see is us working together. And I've got to say, the states and territories do, they do work together. They might have the odd state sledge here and there. But honestly, at the end of the day, that's not something I'm particularly interested in. I'm more interested in how they're doing things on the ground. We're putting significant support in to support the Victorian government here, as we did when Victoria hit the wall in the middle of last year and we worked with them to get Victoria out of that situation. We'll work through them on this situation. But as I said last Friday, the risk, the risk matrix is changing this year and our responses will change this year. You know we understand what happens and we learn from it and it gets stronger and stronger and stronger. So I believe our system is stronger today than it was 3 months ago, than it was 6 months ago, than it was 9 months ago. And that's why it gives me and I think Australians greater confidence to step forward into 2021. We'll manage these things along the way. We have, and I suspect that will continue.
JOURNALIST: And the European Union overnight gave approval for vaccines, Pfizer vaccines to be shipped out, does that now give a clearer timeline for when the first jab will be?
PRIME MINISTER: I'll have a bit more to say about that in the not too distant future.
JOURNALIST: Can’t say it now?
PRIME MINISTER: Not today. I won't be saying that. But I want to thank my ministers in particular, Ministers Hunt and Minister Payne and all of their teams in the Department of Health and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We have worked through those issues constructively. We have very good relationships with the European Union. I, of course, have spoken to Ursula von der Leyen on many occasions over the course of the pandemic. And, you know, I've spoken to a lot of the European leaders, too, and I'm very aware of the extreme pressure that has been on them in relation to their access to vaccines. So I think Australia has done very well to maintain our supply lines here as has been confirmed by the European Union. So, you know, we're on track.
JOURNALIST: Did you have to intervene to get those ships on the way?
PRIME MINISTER: This is a- no, I wouldn't, no I wouldn't put it in that way. No, I wouldn't. Basically, the supply lines have been kept open as we expected them to.
JOURNALIST: They did put a ban in place so what got them to-
PRIME MINISTER: Well, that was an interpretation of what that ban meant for Australia. And I think that was misread.
JOURNALIST: So there wasn't a ban on them heading to Australia?
PRIME MINISTER: Australia wasn't the issue.
JOURNALIST: Is there any discussions around the borders given what’s going on in Victoria?
PRIME MINISTER: With who?
JOURNALIST: The borders, any border closure- any discussions, are you aware of? Given South Australia has closed their borders to us?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, they're matters for states, as you know. And as you know, I've always been an advocate of the hotspot approach and making that as localised as possible because that's what keeps Australia open. My objective is to keep Australians safe and to keep Australia as open as possible, because that's what builds the confidence and unlocks $250 billion dollars that the Commonwealth government has put in to support and strengthen the economy over the next year and beyond, including with projects like this programme here with HomeBuilder. And so it is a partnership, I think, with the states to ensure that we maintain that momentum and the risk tolerance that I think is within the Australian community. And I should say the risk resilience that has now been built up in states right around the country, has been on display. We had those shocks earlier this year and the systems passed the test. Now, that's not to say there won't be the odd issue here in this facility or in that state or in this place or that place. But the, I think the implications of that, particularly as the year progresses, will change and therefore the responses will change as well.
JOURNALIST: Is it time for a fundamental change to hotel quarantine?
PRIME MINISTER: No. I mean, the hotel quarantine programme has seen some 211,000 people come through it. And we're talking about a handful of cases. I mean, this is a system the rest of the world wants to replicate. And this is a system that has been very effective in protecting Australia. And that's why all the states and territories agreed last year that this was the right way to go and it has proved itself to be the right way to go. That doesn't mean there still aren’t challenges now, particularly as we've seen additional strains. But I applaud the work that's been done, whether it's by the Victorian government here with the changes that they've made over these last few months in particular, I think they're good changes. I think the way that they've moved on testing of quarantine workforces, good changes, and that information has been shared with other states and territories. We've established the National Resilience Facility at Howard Springs in the Northern Territory, which is what the recommendation was of the review that we undertook. And we'll consider other options if we think they're viable. But that's the facility that we've focussed on and that's the one we're expanding and that's the facility we bring the majority of our charter flights through so as not to put those charter flight pressures on other states and territories. But the hotel quarantine system has certainly had its shocks along the way. But when you step back and you look at the scoreboard in terms of how Australia has fared compared to all the other countries in the world, now, it's good for us to be hard marker's on ourselves. I'm not saying we shouldn't, and we should try and get to as perfect a situation as we possibly can. But I've got to tell you, Australia's got about as close to that mark as anyone else has in the world. And the states have done, I think, a tremendous job in doing that. And of course, you know, I'm grateful to New South Wales for taking the lion's share of that load.
JOURNALIST: Paul Kelly, did yesterday or the day before announce a review into the hotel quarantine system. What's that going to achieve though if you’re saying,
PRIME MINISTER: No I wouldn't describe it like that. I mean, there's a constant process going on with the medical expert panel, a constant process going on as to how they can continue to improve things and learn the lessons from what's happening. It's not a static process. It's a dynamic process. And it's been that dynamic process since this began in March, which has seen its constant improvement. So, no, I wouldn't describe it in that way. I'd just say it's just them doing their job, as they have been doing all along.
JOURNALIST: Just back to Cassie’s point, on the border closures, have you been briefed on the truck crash that occurred at Serviceton on the South Australian - Victorian border overnight? There’s been some indications that was-
PRIME MINISTER: No I haven’t had any full briefing on that. I've been in transit obviously since early this morning, and I haven't had that opportunity. So it wouldn't be appropriate for me to make comment on that.
JOURNALIST: Just on the economy. Will you commit to lifting the rate of JobSeeker? There are people who will struggle when that, when the Coronavirus supplement is removed?
PRIME MINISTER: These are matters we're still considering. And when we're in a position to make a statement on those, then we will.
JOURNALIST: Just on industrial relations, Labor says your changes to the better off overall test will see workers conditions and wages slashed. How can you guarantee that won’t happen?
PRIME MINISTER: Labor is engaged in massive overreach and their claims are simply untrue. We saw yesterday the leader of the opposition, we saw Labor demonstrate that they just don't know how to think things through. I mean, they weren't that flash on policy when they were in government. I think they've got worse in opposition. They just don't think through the consequences of what they're saying. And then they would leave you to bear the cost of those consequences because they haven't thought of them. You know, government requires you to think through those things. And that's what we've done. You know, we thought through the impacts and the implications of our policies to respond to the pandemic and how it would all come together, and that's why we set out at the start of the pandemic some really clear principles to guide us. Temporary, proportionate, using existing delivery mechanisms, engaging and effective with other arms of policy, monetary policy. We set all this out, and that guided our decision making. I've got no idea what's guiding the Labor Party, and I don't think the Australian people do either.
Thanks very much, everyone.