Minister Andrews: Good Morning. The Liberal National Government has committed an additional $40 million to fund a number of far reaching projects around Australia that are going to significantly increase the health and well-being of Australians into the future. One of the projects that has received funding is from OncoRes, where Doctor Katharine Giles has developed a tool that will improve the accuracy of cancer surgery. Now, we know that is going to have a huge impact on the economics in term of the cost of admissions to hospital and return admissions to hospitals. So with improved accuracy of the cancer surgery we will be able to reduce the times that a patient may have to return to hospital for further surgery. That has an enormous impact also on the cancer patient, for their health and well-being and also the families who are affected by cancer.
This is the single largest commitment that has ever been made to fund these types of projects and it can only be done because the Coalition has built such a strong economy. If we don’t have a strong economy, we don’t have the opportunity to fund projects such as this that will improve the health and well-being of so many Australians and potentially globally.
Journalist: Just about the potentially imported vehicles. How do you think voters will feel about Federal politicians getting new imported vehicles for work trips?
Minister Andrews: The Department of Finance is about to start a trial for new vehicles to be used by COMCAR. There has already been a first stage of the process where I understand about 18 types of vehicles were tested. There are now seven different types of vehicles that will be tested over the coming months. What’s important for taxpayers to know is the Liberal National Government is absolutely committed to getting the best possible outcome for taxpayer’s dollars. So when the vehicles are assessed we will be looking at value for money and to make sure that the cost of these vehicles over their life is providing the best possible outcome for taxpayer dollars.
So it’s very important to the Liberal National Government that we ensure there is value for money for taxpayers. So the trial for COMCAR vehicles will make sure that the outcome provides the best possible value for money for Australian taxpayers.
Journalist: Isn’t the purchasing of imported vehicles for the COMCAR fleet the inevitable result of the closure of Australia’s car industry under your Government’s watch?
Minister Andrews: Well it’s clear that the automotive industry in Australia has undergone massive transformations over many years, so this is just not a recent occurrence. There has been significant support that has been provided by this Government over a number of years. What’s important now is that the Government is working with the automotive industry and providing them with support to transition into other parts of manufacturing. Manufacturing in Australia is alive and well and just over the last 12 months alone we’ve had an additional 80 to 90,000 jobs that have come into manufacturing in Australia. For the automotive industry, it means that there will be new opportunities as we start to look at how we can support vehicles that are imported into Australia with after-sales, after-market service. Many of the manufacturers in the Australian car industry are transitioning to look at manufacturing parts for imported vehicles. So there is certainly some good news in the automotive sector in Australia.
Journalist: But would the Government consider Labor’s suggestion to purchase cars from companies such as General Motors and Ford that still have a bit of a presence in Australia?
Minister Andrews: We are prepared to conduct a trial to look at what the best possible outcome is for taxpayer dollars. I’m not prepared to pre-empt any of the outcomes of this particular trial, it needs to be open, it needs to be transparent and it needs to be able to provide significant taxpayer opportunities to make sure that we are getting the best possible outcomes.
*Issues with ABC microphone*
Journalist: Sorry Minister, I will just ask that again. Would the Government consider Labor’s suggestion to purchase cars from companies like General Motors and Ford that still have a bit of a presence in Australia?
Minister Andrews: I’m not going to pre-empt the outcome of the trial. What I think is important is the Department of Finance goes through the proper process to assess the vehicles, the seven vehicles that are being looked at, at the moment and that the vehicle that is chosen is going to provide good value for money for the Australian taxpayer.
Journalist: Given that there is no local car industry to protect is it now time to consider removing the luxury car tax from imported vehicles?
Minister Andrews: I think that what is important is that the automotive sector in Australia is actually alive and well but it has transformed. So instead of manufacturing vehicles we are looking at the after-market, the after-sales area and looking at providing proper support through maintenance for vehicles through the manufacturing of parts for imported vehicles here in Australia too. I’d much rather focus on the positive which is providing jobs and great opportunities for our young people and those that have to translate from vehicle manufacturing into other areas, to provide them with the best opportunity for ongoing employment.
Journalist: So no tax cut?
Minister Andrews: I’m not prepared to commit to that at this point in time.
Journalist: Does the Government have any concerns over the US President’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria?
Minister Andrews: As the Prime Minister has already said, we are absolutely committed to fighting the war on terrorism. We are also committed to the approach that we have taken in the Middle East and to maintaining our presence there. Having said that, we are very committed to our alliance with the United States. We have been close allies for many years and we’ll continue to work closely and cooperatively with the United States.
Journalist: So Australia disagrees that IS has been defeated?
Minister Andrews: Australia is committed to fighting the war on terrorism and we are prepared to commit to maintaining the presence that we currently have in the Middle East. And we will continue to work with the United States to understand their position and work with them cooperatively.
Journalist: Does the letter from 21 congressmen ease any worries you might have about US-Australia relations?
Minister Andrews: Australia and the United States have had a very long and enduring relationship and we will continue to work with the United States to make sure that we continue to work with them in a positive and collaborative manner. The United States Congress has been very supportive of Australia in a number of areas and I should mention the United States Congress is also looking at opportunities to support Australia with our endeavours in the space industry and space sector as well too. So there certainly have been very strong signs of continued cooperation in the space industry, which is a US$345 billion sector, that we will continue our close cooperation there. So I am sure that over the coming months and years that Australia and the United States will continue their close level of cooperation.