KAREN ANDREWS: Well, hello. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here at Neumanns here on the Gold Coast. Neumanns are, quite frankly, a shining lot of local manufacturing here on the Gold Coast, employing about 160 workers on this site, 350 across the Gold Coast and then more broadly, about 550. They’re a great example of the work that the Morrison government is promoting to build manufacturing, not just here on the Gold Coast but right across Australia.
Now, this week, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer unveiled the jobs plan for Australia to lead us out of the recovery. A central part of that is the manufacturing strategy, the modern manufacturing strategy to make it happen here in Australia. We are a proud nation. We want to build things and the manufacturing strategy is going to lead us to continue to make things right here in Australia. It is a strategy that is built on competitiveness, resilience and scale.
So today we have here the Prime Minister of Australia. We have the state leader of the LNP, Deb Frecklington. We have my federal colleague, the Member for Moncrieff, Angie Bell, and the state member for Currumbin, Laura Gerber. It’s a pleasure, Prime Minister, to have you here, and to say a few words.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much, Karen, and it’s great to be here at Neumann Steel. They make things here at Neumann Steel, they’ve been making them for a long time. They’re going to keep making them here and they’re going to keep making them here because of the plans and the policies that we are putting in place to support what they’re doing. They’re going to keep making things here because of their commitment to their business. This is a family business, which has been running for a long time. There are three generations of Australians working here in this business and there’ll be more generations to come.
But that will only happen, so long as we have the plans and support to back them in. And particularly during these incredibly difficult times over the last six months, being able to keep people in jobs, being able to keep producing here out of this plant and particularly being able to draw on the increased demand in the residential building industry because our plans are integrated. They work together to reinforce everything that we’re seeking to have happen.
I’m here to get Queenslanders working again, and that’s it’s great to be here with Deb Frecklington. But I particularly want to thank Karen Andrews, we’re in Karen’s electorate today, and here locally they’ll know Karen as their great local member. Others will know her as an engineer. I know her as my fantastic Minister for Industry. And she’s not just an engineer. She’s an architect of this plan and what she has done to bring this plan together, her knowledge of plants just like this one and the ones around the corner there, whether it’s sophisticated recycling technologies and manufacturing or it’s the production work that is happening here in these big sheds. I mean, this is where we want to see Australia continue to go. Australian manufacturing is competitive and can continue to be competitive, but it needs to have the right settings to be able to keep going forward.
In this week’s Budget, we continued to lay down those settings and supports to ensure that companies like Neumann Steel can continue to see success in the future. To ensure they have the right tax settings, to ensure they can invest in new equipment as they seek out new markets. We’ve just seen the exciting work that is being done with recycled plastics to be used in the residential building industry. Innovation, recycling, manufacturing, heavy industry; all happening here on the Gold Coast and we need to keep that happening. And for that to happen, you’ve got to keep innovating. You’ve got to have research and development. You’ve got to invest in new plant and equipment. All of the policies we announced this week are doing just that. Supporting that R&D, supporting in particular as part of this plan, supporting recycling industries here in Queensland to ensure that we can compete and we can go forward.
Now, the other thing we announced this week, and there are many, many workers here as part of Neumann Steel, but there are 2.3 million Queenslanders who will be getting the tax cut that we legislated yesterday in Canberra. Two million of those Queensland workers are on low to middle incomes. That’s where our focus has been. And that’s going to put money back in the pockets of Queenslanders. And the more Queenslanders we get working, Deb, the more they’re going to benefit from those tax plans. And that’s why we put the job hiring credit in place here. And that means here in Queensland, people are coming off the JobSeeker payment. Young people going into a job will get a $200 a week, job hiring credit for companies like this and so many of them around Queensland to ensure that they can put people back on again. Now, that’s really important because here in Queensland, while states like New South Wales have seen a grow-back in their employment by some 70 per cent since the pit of the COVID-19 recession. Same true down in South Australia, just under 70 per cent here in Queensland, that those jobs coming back have only come back at 44 per cent. So we’ve got a lot more to do to get Queenslanders working again. And these plans, combined with the excellent plans that Deb Frederickton is putting in place here in Queensland, will really get Queensland working again. It’ll get Australia working again. And it will see Queensland being increasingly more competitive, not just here in Australia, but we’re a country that makes things to export them offshore and to sell things around the world. And the technology and the know how we have. That’s what Karen’s plan, the make it happen plan for Australian manufacturing, achieves.
The last point is about getting more reliable and affordable energy and whether it’s the gas or, indeed, the plans that Deb has for lower and more affordable and reliable energy. This is what supports industries like this. If you can’t get the gas to support our energy industry, our manufacturing industry, you can’t support the jobs that rely on that. And that’s exactly what our plan that we announced in the Budget this week is all about.
So it’s great to be here in Queensland. I’ve been itching to come back to Queensland and it’s wonderful to be here and in the blue sky state. And it’s got a blue sky future, there’s no doubt about that. And by lower taxes and getting people back into jobs, supporting the manufacturing industries as we’re doing here, particularly things like recycling, that leads into supporting what’s happening here in the residential building industry. That makes me pretty excited. Every time I come to Queensland, you know, I get revved up by the energy that’s up here and we know it can be just so much better. And we’re looking to make sure that’s a reality. So on that note, a Queenslander that I know who works very hard, Deb Frecklington. Deb.
DEB FRECKLINGTON: Thank you very much, PM. Let’s make it happen and get Queensland working again. It is fantastic to have the Prime Minister of Australia here in the Sunshine State with his strong economic leadership that has saved Queenslanders. Thank you, PM. Thank you to your government. Thank you to the Morrison government for what you’ve done to save Queenslanders and their jobs during these hard, hard times.
The PM’s just talked about it. The Queensland highest unemployment rate in the nation for four years. Completely unacceptable. Now, we do need, the LNP’s strong economic plan, partnering with the strong economic leadership of the Scott Morrison federal government to get Queensland working again. And here at Neumanns, we’ve seen it. We’ve seen the next generation of workers right here on the Gold Coast. We’ve seen Neumanns want to expand, become a powerhouse manufacturer. And they can do that if we end up with the LNP in government here in Queensland with the exciting announcements that I have been making this week up and down the coast of Queensland. About reducing manufacturers electricity costs by 20 per cent. Now, it’s the LNP that have got that strong economic plan to get Queenslanders working again. So, PM, I cannot wait to get to work for Queensland with you and the federal government after October 31.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. We’re happy to take some questions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, should Queensland’s borders open on November 1 if that’s not the health advice?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, everything should be driven by the health advice and that health advice should be transparent, it should be clear to all. It should be backed up by the medical evidence that is available and that should be openly shared. That’s what I’ve always said. It’s important that as borders are imposed and where state governments have made those decisions, that it be done in a consistent way. There can’t be double standards. There needs to be a clear understanding of how these rules work.
Just talking to one of our senior apprentices here today who has just become a grandfather, having to travel up from the Tweed and the fact that he hasn’t been able to see his granddaughter for six months since she was born. That must be really tough. I have no doubt that that’s really tough. The borders had been put in place to deal with health protections in the middle of COVID-19. I’m not having a quibble with that. I’m just saying that wherever possible they’ve got to be clear, they’ve got to be transparent and they’ve got to be done without double standards.
It’s not about the borders. It’s about how you implement them and how you can compassionately work with the needs that need to be worked with, and to ensure that you can keep the economic impact of those borders as minimised as possible. Here in Queensland, of course, you can’t escape the fact that, I mean, Queensland depends very heavily on its tourism and hospitality industry. And the domestic tourism industry is incredibly important to Queensland. I know that from my own experience before I went into parliament and Queensland’s domestic tourism industry has always relied heavily on the New South Wales and Victorian markets coming up for what is always a great holiday in Queensland. And of course, with what has happened in Victoria, then that has had a big impact here in Queensland. But that’s why you would only have borders in for as long as you absolutely have to have them. They’re not something, I suppose, to boast of. They’re things that are necessary but are regrettably necessary in many occasions. And so when you have to have them, well, let’s have them based on medical advice and for only as long as you absolutely have to, because the longer they’re there, the more they do stop jobs.
JOURNALIST: The Queensland Government has granted exemptions to an airline boss and we’ve also got other families who have had things like families dying and cancer patients having to serve out hotel quarantine. What do you make of that?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, again, exemptions apply to all rules. And I’ve argued for exemptions for those, whether it’s to ensure that people can convalesce at home rather than in their hotels or particularly in the case which I had intended to raise privately about allowing a young girl to go to her father’s funeral. So exemptions should be there, but they should be applied consistently and they can’t be one rule for some and a different rule for others when it comes to exemptions. I spent 14 days in the ACT before coming up here. I didn’t seek any special rules to come to Queensland. I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese, didn’t spend 14 days. Maybe Anthony is not so keen to come up here, I don’t know.
DEB FRECKLINGTON: We’re happy to have him here.
PRIME MINISTER: Deb has been keen for me to come for some time. I’m happy to be here with Deb and to be here supporting what she’s trying to do to get Queenslanders working again here. But they’re the rules, you abide by the rules, but the rules have got to be applied even handedly. Queenslanders are fair-minded people. And they understand when you’ve got to put borders in place and I have no doubt the vast majority of Queenslanders have been very supportive of that, as has Deb. But you’ve just got to apply them fairly. People understand what a fair go means.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, sorry, Deb Frecklington has promised to widen the Bruce Highway. It’s going to cost $33 million. 80 per cent federal funding is needed. Are you going to give her the money?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ve got over $10 billion right now as part of our building the Bruce plan, and that continues to roll out. The majority of that funding is still to hit the ground. What we have done in this Budget is we’ve set up a longer-term design and plan that can support the type of programme that Deb’s laid out. So we’re getting ready. We’re getting ready for should Deb be elected and the LNP be elected here soon, which is a decision for Queenslanders, of course. But I can assure you, because I’ve seen this already happen.
When Steven Marshall became, when Steven Marshall became the Premier of South Australia, for years down in South Australia, you had the same old thing. You had the Labor Premier always looking to pick fights with Canberra and I see that happens here. That’s just politics. It doesn’t get anything done. And when Steve Marshall became the Premier of South Australia, we were able to get so much done in South Australia. The National Space Agency’s based down there. You’ve got the big shipyards that have been built down there. We just got on with stuff. It just became so much easier because you’re working with people who wanted to work with you, not pick fights with you all the time. I’m not looking to pick fights with anyone in Queensland. I just want to get things done. And if Deb Frecklington is elected, then I can tell you what, it’s going to really change things up here in Queensland because we’ve got to be able to get moving.
JOURNALIST: Your Budget is based on Queensland’s borders opening on November 1st and Western Australia opening in April. But the Victorian shutdown is already costing $14 billion. What is the cost of other border closures to the country and how can your Budget plan possibly succeed if these borders stay closed?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the assumptions that go into any budget are a mix of issues. I mean, it’s everything from we made those assumptions about the Western Australian borders, if they opened sooner than that would be better. If they open later, that will come at a further cost. We’re assuming in the Budget that the iron ore price is going to be at $55 a tonne and most recently it’s been up over a $100 a tonne. So there were swings and roundabouts in any budget. And then there are provisions in the contingency reserve in that budget, which is at a historic level in this budget because we know how uncertain it is. And, you know, that’s how you budget properly. And I know Deb understands this well, Karen certainly understands it sitting around the Cabinet table, she hears it from me and Josh all the time.
You know, you’ve got to make sensible judgements about the best information you have at the time and then you’ve got to keep making judgements. And during this COVID-19 recession, from the very day it hit, the Treasurer and I have been very keen to ensure that we just keep trying to get the best information and you make the decisions you need to make when you have that best information. You’ve got to make them in a timely way. And I think that’s what we’ve shown, whether it’s, you know, keeping millions of Australians in work through JobKeeper and supporting those who’ve lost jobs with a doubling of the JobSeeker payment or now getting Australians back into work, getting Queenslanders working again with our JobMaker hiring credit here. I think that’s going to be great for the people looking to get back into jobs while keeping everybody who’s in one in a job. And things like our adult apprentice scheme and the Restart Program, which provides up to $10,000 wage subsidies for people over the age of 50 who have been on JobSeeker for six months, then they can get access to those hiring subsidies as well for those workers. So your budget lays out a plan. It’s based on the best information that you can have. But this Budget, as I say, 2.3 million Queenslanders as of yesterday were sent a message by the Australian Parliament that you can keep more of what you earn and I’m very pleased that we’re able to move so swiftly.
JOURNALIST: When people see that money in their pay packets?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, that will flow towards the end of the year. The two things that need to happen. First thing has happened, we passed it through the Parliament. The Tax Office then needs to provide those schedules, which they already hard at work doing now. And then that goes through into the pay cycle and the accounting systems are then updated and then that will start to find its way in once businesses are able to make the adjustments to people’s withholding tax. There are others that come later in the year because they’re tied around your end of year assessment. And what we don’t want to have happen is get to the end of the year where people have been having to pay extra tax because they might have been taxed too low a rate or too high a rate or however it might pan out. So that’s the standard way to deal with those things and what I do know is, this Government has delivered tax cuts like none other, and we haven’t done it by raising taxes in other areas. What we’ve done is we know Australians should keep more of what they earn and that is even more important during a COVID-19 recession like we see here. We want Australians to be able to draw more on what they’ve earned and not for that to go to Canberra.
JOURNALIST: Just one from Canberra, more than half a million young Aussies have completely wiped out their super accounts with the early withdrawal scheme. Has the scheme set them up for a less funded retirement which would lead to the pension earlier? Or do you stand by it?
PRIME MINISTER: I totally stand by it. What we’ve enabled people to do is use their own money. It’s not Canberra’s money. It’s not the union’s money. It’s not the industry fund’s money. I’m always surprised by the argument that comes from the union movement and the Labor Party. They think your super, the money you earned and you saved, belongs to them. To rack up the fees year after year after year. But when you really need it, which is right now, and this is helping Australians ensure that they don’t get behind on their mortgage payments and they can keep their house, that they can keep their kids in a low-cost independent school, or it’s ensuring that despite these really hard times, they might get to go away and have a short holiday this year, whereas otherwise they’d be holidaying at home. These are the things, from paying the bills to paying for school excursions and things like this, or whatever it happens to be. It’s their money. It’s their choice. I’m not going to go around telling Australians how to spend their own money. That’s not my job. They’re quite, quite able to know what they should be doing with their own money and I’ll always stand up for what people earn. I want them to keep more of it and I want them to have access to it when they need it.
JOURNALIST: Just back on the Bruce, you mentioned you’re getting ready. Does that mean you’re getting ready to fund it 80-20 should Deb win?
PRIME MINISTER: We’re getting ready to ensure we understand the full cost and what’s involved. But what I stress again is that we are building projects on the Bruce from Brisbane to Cairns. That’s happening now, all the way up. And over the course of this week, I’ll have the opportunity to see how a few of those are going. But we’ve been building the Bruce as a Government for many years now and we’re going to be building it in the future. Whether it’s down here, Karen, you might want to talk about the work we’re doing on the M1 and other things and Angie as well. You know, our road programme here in Queensland was held back for many years, trying to get agreement. I was pleased that I was able to come up here, it was about this time last year, I think it was, Deb, and we finally got the Queensland government over the line on a number of projects and I announced those with the premier. And I appreciate that. But, gosh, it took a long time to get there. I suspect Deb and I will come to an agreement a lot more quickly than that because she’s not looking to pick a fight with me or carry on with any politics.
JOURNALIST: How is Annastacia Palaszczuk [inaudible]?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’ve worked very closely with the Queensland government and the Premier and the National Cabinet, the Premier has played an important role in that National Cabinet process and her officials. So I make no criticism of that. I appreciate the opportunity that people, officials, politicians of different stripes and all of that have been able to band together to deal with a health crisis. And I have no doubt Deb would strongly support that as well. If she were to have the opportunity and became elected Premier, I have absolutely no doubt that she would do an outstanding role sitting around that National Cabinet table as well. So I don’t think that’s an issue that’s at risk in terms of managing the COVID-19 pandemic from a health perspective. I’d be very confident that the work that Deb and her team would do would match that, that as has been done by the current Queensland government and that we will continue to keep Australians safe and healthy.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Australian…
PRIME MINISTER: I couldn’t quite hear that.
JOURNALIST: Australian writer Yang Hengjun has been formally charged with espionage in China. What’s your reaction to that?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ve been providing consular support there for some time and it never assists, I think, in these circumstances for me to offer any real extensive commentary on these issues and I’m sure you’d understand that. We will continue to provide that consular assistance. We’re obviously keen and have been stressing in all our diplomatic engagements around this issue that there should be transparency, there should be a fair and just process. And these are the things that we stand for as Australians and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t expect the same for any Australian, wherever they are in the world, including in the PRC. So we’ll continue to provide that support there and work with the processes that have been established.
The system there is very different to the system here in Australia, and that can cause some anxiety. But I can assure you that the Australian Government and, you know, I’m often very impressed with the work that our public servants do, particularly during this pandemic. And Karen would know that working together, putting plants together like this, we’ve got some amazing people who do work here. But I never fail to be impressed by the work of our Department of Foreign Affairs Consular Service. They do extraordinary work. I mean, these are the same people that went into Wuhan when no one knew really what was going on there and the size of the risks there. And, you know, they got in a car, drove to Wuhan and got hundreds of Australians out of that in the initial part of that pandemic phase. So they know what they’re doing and they’ll be providing tremendous support.
JOURNALIST: Are you going to be campaigning with Deb in the regions?
PRIME MINISTER: Looking forward to being with Deb wherever. She is free to join me at any time and because we know each other well.
DEB FRECKLINGTON: Just you wait and see.
PRIME MINISTER: We work well together and what I love about what Deb is putting forward is it’s a positive plan. I mean, this is a positive plan. The Budget is a positive plan for the economic recovery of Australia from the COVID-19 recession. It’s a positive plan to get Queenslanders working again. Deb also has a positive plan to get Queenslanders working again. And so that’s why you’ll find us joined at the elbow and at the hip when it comes to our economic policies and getting Queenslanders working again. But thank you also to Neumann Steel, it’s been tremendous to be here with you. I am blown away by what you’re doing with that recycling, really excited by that. That is just Aussie ingenuity, innovation at its best and I’m looking forward to seeing that not only on the slabs of Australian homes being built under our HomeBuilder program but on the slabs of homes being built, whether it is in China or the United States or Canada, and also across the ditch. And by the way, go the Wallabies. Cheers.