Thank you very much, Sabra. Can I begin by acknowledging the Ngunnawal People, elders, past, present and emerging, can I also acknowledge any serving men and women in our Defence forces, or any veterans who are in the room and simply say to you, thank you for your service. I'm very pleased to be here today. This is an important tradition and part of our electoral process here in Australia. That the leaders of both parties, major parties going into an Election present themselves before the National Press Club. It's part of the process, it's part of what Australians, I think, expect; for our leaders to come and submit themselves to our dear friends in the media here in Canberra before the election. It's about accountability. It's about submitting yourself to scrutiny. It's about showing respect for the electoral process and the decision that Australians will make importantly this weekend.
Election campaigns are not coronation tours as some seem to think they are. There’s an event happening somewhere else today, elsewhere in the country, in Sydney where I understand that is much more the tone of that event. Very much focused on a self-congratulatory process in a party hoopla-style event. That’s not what's happening here today. What's happening here today, is part of the discipline of our electoral process in this country; fronting up to take the questions which I'm pleased to do.
I understand, my advice is that it's been a long time since Leader of the Opposition has not presented themselves here for such an address. You’ve got to go back to John Hewson in 1993.
Anyway, that said I'm pleased to be here and happy to have the opportunity to share with Australians and to be subject to the questions of the media today. This will be a close election. That is not something I think anyone was writing two months ago, six months ago, eight months ago or even longer. But it is a close election and it will be a close election and that is certainly, I think, the consensus that has emerged particularly in recent days, a fact now realised.
What that means to Australians watching this today is you will decide. Every single vote that is cast on this weekend, this Saturday, will decide who leads our country for the next three years. Who will form government and it will determine not just the three years that are in front of us, but I believe the next decade that Australia will live in, The next decade of the economy that Australians will live in and the choices that they will have. So every Australian, as you are making up your minds in the last few days, as so many more will and even as they walk towards the ballot box on Saturday, they will be making up their minds. Don't let anyone tell you that this election is run and done. Don't let anyone tell you that your vote doesn’t count - because it will. Every single vote will count. You are empowered with this great and important choice.
Australians I think take their elections very seriously and always have. But you know, it doesn't mean that they spend all their waking moments thinking about politics. That's reserved for Canberra, I think. They don't think about this all the time. But that doesn't mean they take this decision less seriously than anyone else. They don't think about it all the time, because frankly they have better things to do with their lives and they expect those who come and form governments and leaders who they elect, to get on and do the job, to get about it.
And they go back to what they get about; their daily lives. Raising their families, run their businesses, go to work, save to buy a home, buy a home, study to secure a better future for themselves, save for their retirement so they can be independent and have choices, care for perhaps a disabled child or an elderly parent, or indeed your partner, over the course of your entire life and it’s now your job - your loving job - to be providing care to your partner in your closing years. To enjoy life by spending it with friends and family. To volunteer at local sports clubs or at the local surf lifesaving club or the Rural Fire Service or the emergency services, being part of the community. These are the honest, decent, humble aspirations of Australians going about their lives. That's what they are focused on. That's what matters to them.
They have no time for shouty debates in politics. They have no time for Twitter trolling, sit-in protests, sit-in protests or any of these other forms of political activity. They’re too busy doing the things that matter most to them and frankly build our country and make it stronger every single day. They are Australians going quietly about their lives, planning and steadfastly pursuing their own goals for their own futures.
Over the course of this campaign, well before and over my entire political and public life and indeed before that, I’ve had the great privilege of meeting with Australians right around the country and listening carefully with them. Those who have just bought their home or saving for it, small business owners and the smile on their face as they tell me about the young apprentice who is just about to complete that four and a half year apprenticeship. How they have helped change that young person's life. Another family who has started a family business, one that's been running it for 30 years and is passing it on to their next generation. Or in farms hit by floods, farms hit by drought, just carefully listening to them. Australians who are retiring from a lifetime of hard work, having paid taxes and are now looking forward to pursuing their retirement together with their loved ones.
You know, I think Australia is made stronger, by Australians. It's Australians that are the source of our strength. It’s them pursuing their own aspirations that makes our country strong. The lives they wish to lead, the families they form, the homes that they make, the businesses they start and run, the savings they put aside, the communities they build, the legacy they leave. That is what makes Australia stronger, more resilient, safer, more secure. Australians being Australians.
I believe that this election is not so much at all about Australians deciding which side they’re going to be on, Liberal, Labor and the many other myriad choices there are, it's got nothing to do with that. They’re trying to work out; ‘Which one of these are on my side?’ That's the question they’re asking. It's not about joining the blue team or the red team. It's about asking; ‘Which of those teams is actually for me and focused on me and what I want for my family and what I'm trying to achieve? Do they think I'm the answer or do they think they are?’ I believe that's what Australians are doing as we go across this election.
So, I see my job in this campaign as Prime Minister leading a Liberal and National Government, it’s not to convince Australians to join my side, but to demonstrate to them each and every day I have the privilege to serve, that our Government and our policies are firmly on theirs.
I believe Australians have also become far more discerning, even more discerning in making these choices. Far more realistic too, when forming judgements about who really is on their side. They quickly see through I think today, tired old claims that if the government could just spend more of your money, they could solve all of your problems. They've seen that before and they've seen where it ends. They know they end up paying for it and paying for it and paying for it.
So as we go into this election, I think Australians are not looking for big-spending, big-taxing programmes directed up as vision. That's no vision.
What they’re looking for is something that's real, something that's credible, something that's achievable and is being achieved. Something they know they can afford - not the bill they can't afford - something that they know they can rely on and someone they know they can really trust.
At this election, my proposal is actually quite straightforward. I have been making it each and every day. I believe that Australians are the answer to meeting the challenges that we face as a nation. I believe Australians are the answer to securing our future prosperity and the opportunities that are there in front of us.
I believe they are. Our Government believes that Australians are the source of a stronger economy and a stronger society and a safer nation. We choose - our government - your aspirations, we choose the life, the job, the future you see for yourself in your town, in your home, in your suburb, in your family. We don't see our Government as the centre of your world, we see you as the centre of our world, as a government, putting your aspirations and what you want to achieve at the top of our list.
See, there will be a bit of talk today about; ‘it's time’. Well, let me tell you what it's time for, let me tell you what it’s really time for today. It’s time to create 1.25 million new jobs and that's what our economic plan outlines. It’s time to see 250,000 more small and family businesses created in this country, creating prosperity and opportunities for people right across our country. It’s time to see 250,000 young people over the next five years go and get a job, and get that job because of the economy that they are living in and the choices they have and the support of programmes. Whether it’s support for 80,000 new apprentices to get that training or to ensure that the businesses they will go and work for will be there and they’ll be thriving. Not just in our big cities but right across the country whether it’s out there in Wangaratta where I was yesterday or up in Gladstone or over in Perth, in Kununurra, down in the suburbs of Adelaide or indeed with ‘J-Rod’ over there just out of Launceston. Quite a character, I hope you get the chance to meet him, I certainly enjoyed meeting him. He’s a great guy.
So creating 1.25 million jobs is what it’s time for. That’s what our economic plan has being delivering and what it will continue to deliver. 1.3 million jobs already created. I won’t go through all the statistics today because you’ve heard them, 100,000 jobs for young people that we created in just one year. That’s what it’s time for. It’s time for a stronger economy to continue, it’s also time to maintain and achieve those Budget surpluses that pay down the debt. From a Government that knows how to do that job and has proved itself to do that job. The Budget comes back into surplus for the first time next year in twelve years. Not by accident, not by chance, but by a Government that knows how to keep its expenditure under control and it’s taxes, to support a stronger economy. To ensure that Australians are taken off welfare and put into work. That’s what is balancing the Budget. Not higher taxes.
What is balancing the Budget, is the hard work of Australians each and every day, being supported and enabled and facilitated by a Government that understands that it’s a stronger economy that makes Australia stronger, not government taking all of your money and pretending to have all the answers.
It’s time to continue to deliver the tax relief that Australians deserve. Not just the tax relief that we have already legislated, but the tax relief that we will legislate if elected this Saturday and we recall the Parliament and we pass those laws, to provide further tax relief for families and small and family businesses into the future. Tax relief that enables Australians. You know tax can sometimes be a pretty dry topic, it’s not one that is often talked about in the pubs and clubs of Australia - except when it comes time to pay it. If someone is asking you to pay more, that’s for sure. But let me tell you why tax is such an important issues to define the difference between the alternatives at this election.
If you think that Australians are really the answer to the questions being posed to our country at the moment then you ensure that they keep more of what they earn. If you really think that.
If you don’t you think the government should have more of what they earn. Because you think that the government is the answer to the problem, not Australians themselves.
See for me taxation is a key litmus test of what you really think about the capacity and ability of the Australian people. If Australians have the opportunity to have the choice about where they’re investing their hard-won money - in their families, in their futures, in their plans - if you really believe that you’ll let them keep more of it.
If you don’t, you’ll take more of it off them. That’s the difference between Bill Shorten and I at this election. I’m saying I want all Australians to keep more of what they earn. Not just some, I want all Australians to keep more of what they earn, because I believe that they’re the answer to a stronger economy in this country. I believe that if you give them that go, then they’ll have a go and they’ll get a go and Australia will be stronger as a result.
I believe that now is the time to guarantee that increased funding for essential services, hospitals, schools and roads as we have been doing to record levels. Hospitals up 60 per cent. Public schools up 60 per cent. Medicare at record levels. 2,000 medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. A strong track record of delivering on the essential services. Building the East West Link, building the Fast Rail from Melbourne to Geelong. Building the Melbourne Airport link realising one of the biggest projects of infrastructure this country has seen, the Western Sydney International Nancy Bird Walton Airport and the rail and road infrastructure that supports it and makes a reality. Realising the interconnector between Tasmania and the mainland in Victoria, the Marinus Link. Advancing the Battery of the Nation, and the Snowy 2.0 project. All of this is what we’ve achieved in guaranteeing the essentials that Australians rely on. It’s time to do all of that. That’s what we are going to do. It’s time also to keep Australians safe and our borders secure as our Government always has and Liberals and Nationals can always be trusted to do.
But I can tell you what it’s not the time to do; now is not the time for a weaker economy. Now is not the time for policies and an experiment that puts our economy under unnecessary pressure when we’re facing the challenges that we’re facing.
Over the last five and a half years or Government has had to deal with one of the most significant impacts on our economy that we've seen as a nation. One of the biggest tests to our AAA credit rating and indeed, our economic growth and the record levels of growth we have seen now in our 28th year. That was the fall-off in investment after the mining investment boom that took $80 billion out of our economy. We grew through it. Because we were backing in small and family businesses and Australians, to get on with what they were doing each and every day, putting investments in place through the instant asset write-off, making sure that they knew when they put in, they would be able to take out and then put in again.
So now is not the time, with trade tensions between China and the United States. Now is not the time when there is uncertainty in the security environment. Now is certainly not the time to do things that will weaken our economy.
A key part of that is, now is not the time to impose $387 billion of a higher tax burden on our economy, weighing it down, holding it down, holding it back, impacting on every single Australian. Every single one of the 25 million and more Australians there are today around the country. 1 million Australians specifically impacted by their retiree tax, which will withdraw the company tax already paid and extended as a credit to every single shareholder in this country. But not some, according to the Labor Party under their policy. No, they’ll be denied that. Everyone else can get it, the same credit from the tax paid by the company that flows through to every single shareholder in this country, but not for some. Not for a million Australians for whom Bill Shorten will deny that to. He’ll take it. Like Rosalie over there living in Ken Wyatt’s electorate of Hasluck, who I saw the other day when I visited Perth; $1,800 out of her $30,000 income. No refund for her, no credit for her. She invested in that company, like every other shareholder, but no credit for her. That's her private health insurance. It's people's money to go and say their grandkids, to pay their electricity bill. This is their money. They've paid taxes all their lives.
Now is not the time to go and hit Rosalie. Now is not the time to hit a million Australians whose sin, according to Chris Bowen and Bill Shorten, is they’ve gone and invested in an Australian company. Planned for their future and set themselves up for retirement.
Now is not the time for a housing tax that will undermine the value of your home, or put up your rent. Those are the two things that will happen as a result of Labor's housing tax changes. Rents will be higher than they would otherwise be and your home value, two-thirds of Australians either live in a house that they own outright or they’re paying a mortgage on. Every single one of them, impacted by Labor's housing tax.
Now is not the time to see the biggest asset that you’ve ever invested in with the sweat of your own hard work and effort in your life, to be undermined because of a Labor Party that just simply wants to tax everybody more.
Now is not the time to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission and basically see the ACTU and Sally McManus effectively be the silent shareholder and silent board member, on every board, of every private and public company, in the country.
Now is not the time to bring lawlessness back to our building and construction industry, particularly when we’re proceeding with the biggest investment in infrastructure programmes around the country of some $100 billion. Now is not the time for that.
Now is not the time for invasive new laws that Labor would seek to do, telling farmers what they can and can't do on their land and holding them back.
Now is the time to support those farmers. Now is the time to pass the Drought Fund Bill, which Labor refused to pass when we were last in Parliament. Now is the time to recognise that they need us to stand with them, as I have done, as Michael McCormack has done and as we have done together as a Coalition Government, giving people hope in the most difficult of circumstances.
Now is not the time to put a Labor Party that has never demonstrated their ability to manage money, in charge of a $2 trillion economy, which is what it will be next year.
The one thing I get the biggest head nod about around the country as I’ve moved around is I’ve said to people - particularly among retirees I’ve got to say - I say; ‘Have you ever noticed that people who can't manage money always end up spending more of it? And when they have spent it all, they always end up coming after yours?’ And they all agree. That's what a Labor government would look like.
Labor have never demonstrated they can manage money. They are proposing the biggest spending of a government that we have ever seen in this country. If only their capacity to spend money was as good as their capacity to want to spend money. Their ability to actually spend on programmes effectively means what you have heard, is just the starting price. We know how much bigger that price gets. It goes up and up. Pink Batts, we all remember it, school halls, cash-for-clunkers, border failures.
The bill that you can't afford will just keep rising and rising and rising, because Labor have never proven an ability manage money in this country.
If you can't manage money you can't run the country.
Now is not the time to turn back.
Now is not the time to say to those Australians who have worked so hard to get us where we are today, to have grown through these difficult and hard times, now is not the time to say to those who’ve saved up and bought their first home that apparently; ‘Negative equity is ok’, as Chris Bowen said today. ‘It is Ok for the value of your house to fall as a result of the government's policy - not a problem’.
No, it is. It’s actually a big one, I think. Worked hard for it, saved it for it, Australians have worked hard to get where they are. Now is not the time to say to them they have to turn back on what they have been able to achieve and put at risk what they have already built up. It's certainly not the time to say to them that your opportunities in the future should also be delayed or deferred, because a Labor government has a whole bunch of ideas that they want to spend your money on. Now is not the time.
Now is the time to stop Labor's higher taxed this Saturday, by voting Liberal and voting Nationals.
Now is the time to stop Labor's reckless spending from starting by voting Liberals and Nationals on Saturday.
Now is the time to build our economy together and secure your future, by voting Liberals and Nationals this Saturday.
Now is the time, now is the time to ensure that as we go into this next decade we build the economy you want to live in.
Because it is real. It determines what job you have. It determines your own future, the choices that you have and I want the economy for Australia that enables Australians' aspirations to be realised. From buying your first home, to saving for your retirement, to working hard every day, they are honest, decent aspirations of quiet Australians that I want to back in.
Labor wants to tax them more and that is fundamentally what is going on in this election. That’s why this election is such an important choice about where we are going further and where we're going into the future as a country. So, I'm asking Australians, I'm asking Australians to vote Liberal and Nationals this Saturday. To elect me and not Bill Shorten as your prime minister, so I can continue to get on with the job while you get on with your job. You can trust me to do that. You can trust me too diligently and every day get on with the task and the job that I've outlined at this election campaign and that me and my team are hungry and eager to get on with.
It's been eight months since I have been in this job. It has been an incredible privilege and pleasure.
But I can tell you, I'm just getting started.
The hunger for Australia and achieving the aspirations of Australia, it is burning deep within me. I'm asking Australians to let me get on with the job and let me on this Saturday by voting Liberal and Nationals get on with the job of realising your future.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS, NATIONAL PRESS CLUB
THURSDAY 16 MAY 2019
SABRA LANE: Thank you Prime Minister, our first question is from David Crowe.
JOURNALIST: Thank you, David Crowe from the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, thanks very much for your speech here this week, Prime Minister. My question is on some of the campaign tactics we’ve seen today. We’ve seen Malcolm Turnbull's son, Alex Turnbull fund robo-calls to voters in Victoria, saying at this election don't vote Liberal. Two questions about that, what’s your response to Alex Turnbull on his message to voters and with Malcolm Turnbull, do you think he's helped or hindered your campaign at this election?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, neither of those issues are things I intended to be distracted by. What I'm focused on - and you raise the issue of those robo-calls, they’re going into the electorate of Flinders where Greg Hunt has served as that member for many years. He's served his community well and tirelessly. This is the Health Minister which we read, I think in the Economist Intelligence Unit today, which has said that Australia is the best-prepared to deal with cancer, in the world today. Greg Hunt is the Health Minister. That's something to vote for in Flinders. Greg Hunt is the Health Minister that has led us, particularly in these recent years, to achieve 2,000 medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
So when I sit down with Luke Emery and his mum Donna, and they now have access Orkambi or I met Vince who has access to Tagrissio another lung cancer drug, or I sit down and speak to those with spinal muscular atrophy ... you know, Jen has given me plenty of good advice in my time. She shared some at an event a few weeks ago, when she said that she knew through friends of hers who’s kids suffered from SMA. They were coming to Canberra, I was Treasurer at the time and she said; ‘You make sure you get yourself to that briefing’. I did and I was immediately convinced. I went and spoke to Greg Hunt about it and Greg said; ‘Let's do this. Let's do this’.
So to those electors in Flinders, you have a decent, compassionate, hard-working Member of Parliament that has served his community from that day he was first elected to this. An Environment Minister that ensured we will be meeting our Kyoto 2020 targets, when we inherited a 700 million plus tonne deficit when we came to Government. Someone who has taken action on climate change. Someone who has taken action to ensure the health services that Australians rely on are delivered and delivered beyond their expectations.
So, my commendation to those who are receiving those calls is to hang up and to reflect and to vote for Greg Hunt in Flinders. Because he's someone you can rely on.
LANE: Colleagues, I might to remind you one question per person. We’ve got a long list of journos. If you ask double headers, it deprives someone else of a question. The next is from Annika Smethurst.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, a few weeks ago you were in WA and a retiree asked you, would you reverse the changes Labor wants to introduce about franking credits. I spoke to him after that and he said he felt like you gave him that commitment. Given you a tax plan 7 or 8 years in the future, will you reverse any changes Labor plans to bring in about franking credits at the first opportunity, if given that opportunity?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I don't agree with the presumption of your question and I’ll tell you why. Because I'm asking people to vote Liberals and Nationals on Saturday, to prevent Labor's retiree tax being introduced. That's the election we're at. I'm interested in the election we're going to this Saturday and ensuring, ensuring that Labor's retiree tax will not thieve the money of hard-working retirees. Will not reach into their pockets and take thousands of dollars away from them.
The only way to stop Labor's retiree tax is to vote Liberal and National this Saturday.
LANE: Phil Coorey.
JOURNALIST: Phil Coorey from the Financial Review. On wages, the Coalition has been saying that the best way to raise wages is to grow the economy and the demand for labour will eventually force pay rises. Yet we have seen today an uptick in the unemployment rate from 5.0 to 5.2, albeit with an increase in the participation rate. But at what level does the unemployment rate got to get to before your formula for wage rises actually kicks in?
PRIME MINISTER: Well we’ve already seen - as you probably know Phil, this occurred during my time as Treasurer - that the wage price index has risen from 1.9 to 2.3. So we’ve already seen the tightening in the labour market achieve that modest improvement. It’s something the Reserve Bank Governor has often referred to and he has forecast that trend will continue into the future. I also have that view.
But I tell you what will slow wages growth into the future; what will slow it is $387 of higher taxes on the economy. What will slow it is a union movement - and particularly the militant part of that union movement - slowing down work on building sites and putting up the price of everything you build in this country. I’ll tell you what will slow it; a housing tax that will erode consumer confidence in the economy and lead to what is already a challenge when it comes to consumer spending, becoming a much more serious issue. As I know you know, because we have had these discussions in press conferences and other places before, the two things that were most impacting on Australia's Triple A credit rating, were firstly, they wanted confidence that the Budget would be brought back into surplus on the timetable that the Government had set out. When I became Treasurer that was the major question that was being raised. I said, I remember it was is at a press conference in Western Australia, the first MYEFO and I said the surplus would be delivered in 20-21. Then it was our task for Mathias and I and the entire economic team, to go about making sure we achieved that year on year. We convinced them and we’re actually going to achieve it one year ahead of schedule. That job was done and the AAA rating was made stronger because of that.
But the other thing was ratings agencies concern about a hard landing in the housing market. As you know, house prices were rising in Sydney and Melbourne at double digit rates, about 18 per cent in Sydney. For that to be running that hot for that long, they were very concerned about a housing market crash in this country. Now, right across, whether it’s those looking into Australia or those riding on the Australian economy here, the good news is we've had a soft landing in the housing market of Australia. Affirmed by the ratings agencies, which is another reason while we were able to ensure the Triple A rating under our Government’s administration. The risk of Labor's housing tax is now with the market having softened, to further undermine values does run the risk of a concrete landing in the housing market that would erode consumer confidence and lead to a slowing in the growth of the economy.
That's why it's just such a bad idea.
They have made the case for it in times past, when housing prices were growing at double digit rates. That’s not happening now. The justification for why they put this forward in the past, is not there.
The only justification that was ever really there for Labor's housing tax, is they want more of your money so they can spend it. That is the rationale for everything they are doing on tax. So I would say; if you want wages to go up, vote Liberal and National this Saturday because that way you will have a stronger economy. That way you won't have the crushing impact of housing taxes and other taxes that will slow the economy and mean that the business you work for will not be doing as well as it's otherwise would under a Liberal and National Government.
LANE: How much longer will those workers have to wait for [inaudible], I think that’s what Phil was saying.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, this continues to improve each month and as I said, over the last 12 months we have gone from 1.9 to 2.3. But I tell you what won't get wages moving; employing more lawyers, which seems to be Bill's plan to increase people's wages. I don't think anyone in this country wants to get a wage rise, on the back of someone else they work with, getting the sack.
You know who will feel that pressure when you have these things forced by regulation? Women. People working as casuals. Young people looking for those extra hours. People wanting to do an overtime shift. That’s what goes, that’s what goes. I don't want the false economy wage increase. I want the real wage increase that comes from businesses doing better, our economy expanding and Australians having confidence in the future.
JOURNALIST: Peter van Onselen for Network Ten. Firstly, Prime Minister, thanks very much for showing up this week. I think it's important that leaders do that and thanks in advance for answering this question.
PRIME MINISTER: He's confident!
JOURNALIST: You were part of a Cabinet that made a virtue of giving the Australian people the right to decide whether same-sex marriage became law via a plebiscite. Yet when it went to the vote for that will of the people to be enacted, you couldn't bring yourself to stay in the Chamber, you left the Chamber. The only other Cabinet Minister that did that was Barnaby Joyce. I'm wondering why you chose to do that?
PRIME MINISTER: Well first of all, same-sex marriage is not an issue at this election. It thankfully and I think pleasingly was resolved almost two years ago. I was part of the Government that ensured it was resolved and to follow a process that ensured that it would be resolved.
I’d certainly remind you that the previous Labor government didn't do that. In fact, those who said they were for the change actually voted against it in the Chamber. Labor members in the Senate and the House, indeed the Labor prime minister at the time voted against that change.
What we did is ensured that when this change was made, that it was done in a way that all Australians understood that this was the will of the Australian people. I think that was the best way for that change to be made and I wasn't going to stand in the way of that change if that indeed was the will of the Australian people. I didn't and I was true to my word on that. I will always be true to my word on these things. I’ll always be consistent and I'm pleased it was resolved. I'm pleased it’s no longer an issue that separates Australians. I'm pleased that now everyone can plan for their own future with confidence when it comes to these issues. I'm glad it's resolved and I'm glad as a country, we have been able to move on. I was very pleased to be part of a Cabinet that worked out how to achieve that, to deal with a very controversial issue. But we did it ultimately in a way that brought Australians together and that all Australians can now have that decision and move forward.
JOURNALIST: Joe Kelly with The Australian. Prime Minister, you’ve said that you would lead your Party from the middle, from the centre. Climate change has divided the Liberal Party for 10 years and there are lots of people who would like to see the Government do more than meet it’s 26 to 28 per cent emissions reduction targets. I would like to ask you, how would you reposition the Government and unite the Liberals as a Party that can lead from the centre on climate change? What more can you do on this front to end the climate wars?
PRIME MINISTER: Meet our targets, meet our commitments. Say what we're going to do and then do it. Take real action on climate change, which is what we're doing. Not walk away from those commitments, not pretend we shouldn't make them. We should make them and we have made them and we've set them out soon after coming into government. We've kept the same commitment of a 26 to 28 per cent reduction, that has been the same policy of this Government since it was first articulated and has been carried through by our Government. We will meet the 2020 targets, that wasn't going to happen when we came to government. What we inherited from Labor, was a deficit of over 700 million tonnes and now, we're going to beat it by more than 360 million tonnes.
That has been made possible, as I said before, by the great work that particularly Greg Hunt did and has been followed through by the Ministers who have followed. It means we will meet that target in 2030. See Australians I don’t think, want us to choose between having a job and taking action on climate change and we're facilitating that choice.
We're ensuring that Australia meets its global commitments in a responsible way that doesn't disadvantage Australia to other countries that we compete with. That ensures we do our bit as we should, our commitments are not terribly dissimilar to many countries of similar size and scale. Our commitments will ensure that by 2030, we will have halved our emissions per capita in this country and reduced our emissions intensity by two thirds. I don't call those light commitments, I call them real commitments. We're going to achieve them we’ve set out a plan which I did in early February this year. Our $3.5 billion plan through the Climate Solutions Fund and all the measures, set it out as to what we we’re going to achieve. We won't be forcing companies up there in Central Queensland or out there in Wodonga or over in Western Australia in the resources industry, or in the cement industry or in the livestock industry or in the mining industry or the gas industry, to go and just send money overseas for some programme, who knows what it does? When that investment which could be as much as $35 billion, would be better spent here on Australian jobs and innovation and technology and all of these things. I think that's a good plan.
You know, under our Government in 2017 we hit a record for renewable investments in this country. It was the third highest per capita in the world, it’s $11 billion and it was seventh highest overall in the world. We've got $25 billion in those investments coming in between 2018 and 2020. There are 2.1 million more households now with panels on their roof, than there was when we came to government, around 980,000 then. We are taking action on climate change. We will continue to take action on climate change and I have demonstrated that by staying focused on the commitments we make and delivering the policies that deliver on those commitments. Harking back to what I said in my remarks: real, achievable, delivered, reliable. That's what I'll do, that's what governing from the centre looks like.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Andrew Probyn from the ABC. A remarkable story has broken in the United States that points to a massacre that happened in Uganda that killed two Brits, two Kiwis, four Americans. Now, some of the people believed to be responsible for that massacre were brought to America where they were in jail for many, many years. The story notes - and it's been confirmed by the ABC - that two of these Rwandans were brought to Australia in November last year as part of the people swap that Malcolm Turnbull arranged with Barack Obama. How is it that a Coalition that puts border security, national security, people's security, should bring two suspected murderers to Australia, where are they and isn't this utterly scandalous?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I would simply say this; that every single person that comes to Australia under any such arrangements are the subject of both character and security assessments by Australian security agencies and our immigration authorities. Now, I don't intend to make a commentary on allegations that have been made in open source information, but simply to assure Australians that they’re the processes that we undertake. These are the same security agencies that have thwarted 15 terrorist attacks. These are the same security agencies and related agencies that I worked with five and a half years ago to put an end to the border chaos that we inherited from the Labor Party. These are the same people who each and every day in many cases, put themselves at risk in certain situations to protect Australia's national security and their safety.
So, matters of national security aren't things I’ve ever canvassed in specifics in open forums such as this. Allegations I know have been made out there in the public forum, but what I can assure Australians of is this; that our Government will always ensure that those character and national security considerations are undertaken for anyone who seeks to enter this country.
JOURNALIST: Are they in detention?
PRIME MINISTER: I’ve given you my answer.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Sheradyn Holderhead from The Daily Telegraph. Bill Shorten has committed to reviewing Newstart if elected. You’ve previously said before that if you were going to look at increasing any welfare payments you would first look at the aged pension. I wonder, if elected would you consider reviewing the aged pension to see if it is possible to increase that?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, you're right to say that's how I responded to an answer, if that's indeed what was on the Government's agenda. What I think is very cruel about what Labor has said about Newstart, is they’re seeking to lead people on to think there will be an increase in Newstart. But they haven't budgeted for that. They have made no provision for that in what they set out in their costings before this election. See, I don't lead people on. I don't let them think I'm going to do something that I'm not going to do. If I'm going to do something, I'm up-front with them about it and I tell them. I certainly do that before an election.
I think what Labor has done in trying to let people think that there’s going to be an increase in Newstart ... if that's their intention, fine. Say so. Tell us how you're going to pay for it. But you don't get to do it without telling people how you pay for it. And if you're not going to do it, you shouldn't be playing with people's lives by suggesting you might. I think it's been a very dishonest position that the Labor Party has put at this election about Newstart.
People know our position. It goes up twice a year, it moves with the cost of living. Our approach to assisting people on Newstart has been principally in our success in getting people off Newstart and actually getting them into a job. In record numbers and particularly young people. But I also note people who are on Newstart, 99 per cent of them are also in receipt of other support payments, whether that be rental assistance or other support payments that they’re eligible for.
You can't have a social security safety net in this country unless you have a stronger economy. This is the bit that really has always troubled me about Labor's big-spending, big-taxing agenda. The experiment they make with the economy in doing it, pretty much always - if not always - results in higher spending, without achieving the objectives, massive cost blow-outs because they’re not very good at spending money well. Then all that ends up doing, is ensuring that they have less resources at the end of the day to do the absolute required things you have to do as a government.
That's why they stopped listing medicines on the PBS; because they ran out of money. That's why they started delaying and cancelling hundreds of defence projects and allowed our Defence spending to fall to 1.56 per cent. You know, when Labor get in in this country, when that happens in this country - we've seen it all before - their appetite for spending far outweighs their competence in terms of how they spend money.
What that means is the things that people really rely on at the end of the day, as we've seen in the Northern Territory - they were making the same promises up there in the Northern Territory election and look where they are now. Having to go back on all of them and have severe cuts, up there in the Northern Territory. Why? Because once again, Labor have shown they don't know how to manage money.
So, I'm not going to make those sort of promises to people before an election. If you're in receipt of Newstart at the moment, what I will say is I’ll do everything I can to get you off Newstart and get you into a job. We’ve got a record for being able to achieve that. But I won't make you a promise that says your Newstart is going to go up if that’s not something that is actually a costed policy, being clear about the rest of Australian people about how I’m going do that.
I think it's a bit of a cruel hoax for the Labor Party to play with people who are on very fixed and limited incomes.
LANE: Samantha Maiden
PRIME MINISTER: Hey, Sam.
JOURNALIST: Hey, how are you going? Once upon a time as Treasurer, not that long ago, you were enthusiastically looking at options for negative gearing, so much so that some of your Cabinet colleagues that say on occasion the prime minister had to complain about the fact that he regarded you as front-running the debate in the media before it had been agreed. So, my question is, did you ever take a proposal for negative gearing reforms to budget subcommittees, the Expenditure Review Committee, did you return to the issue after the 2016 election and order more economic modelling on the proposal for consideration and if you did, isn't it hypocritical to run the scare campaign that you have on negative gearing during the election?
PRIME MINISTER: Well Sam, I can answer you - the answer to the question was actually in the 2017-18 Budget where we made changes to negative gearing that related to what were allowable deductions for expenses related to investment properties. We actually looked at a range of things and ensuring there was integrity in the system. We actually took them forward and I actually put them in the Budget after an election. So, through that period of time when you form Budgets, you look at a whole range of issues, you consider a whole range of options and then you make decisions. The decisions that you make are set out in the Budget. So the answer to the question is actually in the Budgets that I handed down.
We have no plans - in fact we will not be making changes to negative gearing in the future, absolutely not. Just like I won't be making any changes to take away or erode in any way, shape or form, people's private health insurance rebate. Labor will not make that commitment to you at this election. We were here in this very room at the debate where I challenged the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten, to rule out any changes to the private health insurance rebate. He couldn't and he wouldn't and I think that should be some cause for concern.
So as a Treasurer, Sam, you can be absolutely confident that as I formed a Budget, I would look at many, many options and particularly at a time, back in 2016-17 where bringing the Budget back into balance and meeting that 2021 surplus commitment, was a serious task. But we made decisions and those decisions are set out in the Budget and that's why I think Australians can have confidence. My record when it comes to these issues are in the Budgets that I delivered and the results that those Budgets delivered, particularly the last two where our Budget was able to exceed the outcome set out at the beginning of year by $10 billion in each year's case. Which is how we have been able to now get to a position where we’ll achieve a Budget surplus in 2019-20. So if you want to know what I think about things, read my budgets.
JOURNALIST: David Speers from Sky News, thanks for your address today. Can I return to Andrew Probyn's question about these Rwandans? Your Government did make a pretty big deal in the debate over Labor's Medevac laws that it would allow suspected murderers to come into the country, this was a terrible thing. I'm still unclear from your answer earlier, can you give an assurance here today, a guarantee that no suspected murderers have been allowed in under your Government's watch?
PRIME MINISTER: Well as I said David - I’ll just repeat my answer - I can assure you that the full security and character test assessments were undertaken by our security agencies in relation to all persons who have entered Australia.
JOURNALIST: Katharine Murphy, when the Government in 2016 used it’s position as a creditor to seek the appointment of a special purpose liquidator to look at the collapse of Queensland Nickel and also Clive Palmer's actions personally, Michaelia Cash said at that time that the Government would use every power as it’s disposal to hold responsible company officers to account. Roll forward to today, Clive Palmer is now a vote that you potentially will have to court in the Senate after Saturday night. So how does the Government intend to manage the conflict between pursuing Palmer in the courts and courting his vote in the Senate? And has Mr Palmer sought leniency at all in discussions about preferences and if he does, over the course of the next Government, will the answer always be no?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes, it will be done. The answer is ‘no’ in relation to the other matters that you’ve raised and we’ll continue to pursue that measure through the courts with full vigor. We’re very confident in our ability to pursue that as we absolutely should.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Tim Shaw Radio 2CC in Canberra. We found out this morning that more than 450,000 young Australians aged 19 will be voting for the first time in this federal election. Could you consider going back to when you were 19 and the advice you sought about ‘how do I vote in this damn federal election’ and what's your message to those 19-year-old Australian young men and women? They’re aspirational, you're saying now it's time, can you tell them at home and right around Australia how it’s their time?
PRIME MINISTER: Well thanks for the question. I’ll tell you the advice my dad used to give me, he still gives me good advice I still get plenty of advice from my dad. But when I started work and I was coming out of university and looking to go into work, Dad the first thing you’ve got to do is take out private health insurance. It’s good advice, taking responsibility for yourself and others. It wasn't too much longer after I go to university that Jenny and I got married and you all know our story from there.
But the advice I would give to young people is this; I remember when I came out of university and I went into the recession that we apparently had to have, according to Paul Keating and Labor. I remember 1 million people out of work. I remember people I knew who couldn't get jobs - people who studied hard, worked hard in their lives and they were out of work.
I remember that around that time, parents and friends and others were paying 17 per cent interest rates. Small businesses were going out of business. That was the last recession we had in this country. I lived through it as a working Australian as I suspect many people in this room here did. More than half the people who will vote at the election on Saturday, will never have lived through a recession in their working life. I never want them to. I never want them to and the way you do that, is by ensuring you keep the economy strong. We must take action on climate change and we are. We must take action to ensure that all of those who need the support of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, get it. We must take action to combat youth suicide in this country and I’ve set aside more than half a billion dollars to deal with that. Taking action on renewables, ensuring a clean and secure future. We must do all of these things and we are going to and we’ll continue to do these things.
But you can't do any of them if you can't manage money and you don’t have a strong economy.
You know, countries that don't have a strong economy and governments that don’t know how to manage money - they’re not taking action on climate change. They’re not, they can't.
They don't have a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme which means a 13-year-old boy can get access to a drug for cystic fibrosis that costs $40.30, not $250,000.
Countries that don't manage money well and don’t have a strong economy, they can't do that.
They don't have pension.
They don't have Newstart.
They don’t have any of these schemes. If you don't have a strong economy, then none of these things can happen in the same way they do here in Australia. We can never take this for granted. The hard work that was done by previous generations to gift to us who are here today and the younger generations coming through - I talked about that last Sunday as a promise to Australians, of Australia. We all are custodians of that promise.
But no-one is trusted more with that promise, than the prime minister you elect and you will have the opportunity to do that on Saturday. So I would say to them as you look out over the next decade of your life, the economy you live in will determine whether you can buy a house. It will determine what job you can have and whether the company you want to work for will be there, or the company you're going to start will take off. It will determine so many of your choices.
I want you to live in an economy where you can have those choices and where together, as a country and as a society, we take action on the things that are also very important to all of us as Australians.
But you must be able to do it from a position of a strong economy.
If you don't have that, basically you don't have the ticket to ride, when it comes to all these other issues that are so important and I know and motivate young people strongly, as they should. I love the passion of young people and the passion of young people needs to be supported and assisted, I think by the wisdom of safe and secure financial management, which enables all of them to realise their aspirations.
You know, in 2007 when Kevin Rudd was elected, he said he would be a fiscal conservative. He said he would do a lot of things. He didn't represent himself to the country in the way that he then went and ran the country. When government changed in 2007, it has taken us now more than a decade to get back to where John Howard left us in 2007. Whether it's the Budget, whether it's employment as a share of the economy, on so many of these issues it has taken us more than a decade to get back.
Vote Labor once, you will pay for it for a decade.
What we want to do with our plans is continue that strong growth, which enables us to take action on the issues that really matter.
JOURNALIST: Olivia Leeming from the Seven Network, Tony Abbott has said that he is willing to lead the Liberal Party again if he survives this election. If you end up in Opposition, would you be willing to step aside for his return and if you win, would you promote him to your frontbench?
PRIME MINISTER: You know what? This election isn't about individuals, it's not about my future, it's not about any other politicians' future. It's not about the personality game which I know fascinates people in Canberra.
It's about the Australians I was talking about before. It's about their future, about the choices I want them to have. It's about the home I want young people to be able to buy. I can't tell you how energised I have been by standing in the near-completed kitchens of first home buyers around this country. Whether in country towns, or suburbs out of Melbourne or Sydney or anywhere else, the look on their face at what they have been able to achieve is priceless. People ask me; ‘How have you been so energised in this campaign?’ If you meet that many Australians in that short period of time, you can't help but be energetic, because of the way they inspire you every day.
And that's what lights me up. You know, I used to say to people when I would try and get them involved in politics, I used to use this process; I’d try to talk them out of it. I thought; ‘If I can talk you out of running for office, you shouldn't run’. Because if you do this as your calling, as your vocation in life, you need to understand one thing really importantly and that is people are the reason you do job. If you don't get on with people, if they're not what motivates you inside, find another job. Do something else. I'm sure the skills can be applied well in many other disciplines. If you want to serve this country as it’s leader, you want to set policy directions for the next decade, then in your heart, you must burn with the passion for the Australian people like no-one else. That's what must motivate you to serve, not power, not ambition, not numbers, not the nonsense of Canberra and the games that are played in the bubble. It must be those Australians that I’ve had the privilege of being with for every day I have served in this Parliament. Particularly to serve in the privilege of Prime Minister. They will light me up and infuse me every single day and if Australians give me that opportunity on Saturday, they can be absolutely assured that I will burn for you every day, every single day, so you can achieve your ambitions, your aspirations, your desires. That is what's at the top of my agenda. I'm for you, I'm asking you to vote for me.