Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet - Australian Government

05/19/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/19/2021 05:05

Doorstop - Bayswater North VIC

THE HON MICHAEL SUKKAR MP, ASSISTANT TREASURER, MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND MINISTER FOR HOMELESSNESS, SOCIAL AND COMMUNITY HOUSING: Okay, well, good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us here at PACCAR. It's wonderful to have the Prime Minister with us here today in the Deakin electorate, Bayswater North, at PACCAR, which manufactures, amongst other things, the iconic Kenworth truck. Kenworth is an iconic brand. It's a brand that I know holds a special place in the hearts of many Australians. And we're very proud that this is a manufacturing success story for Australia, and as Andrew and the PACCAR team have shown us here this morning, and Noelle from an engineering perspective, this is a thriving business. And it was only a year ago when COVID‑19 hit, the uncertainty that fell over the whole economy also impacted this business. But with the Morison Government acting swiftly, with the instant asset write-off, instant expensing measures, we've actually now seen at PACCAR the number of Kenworth trucks that are coming off the production line right here has virtually doubled. And that just means more jobs, more jobs for the people who live in my electorate, and it's a really outstanding success story. So it's wonderful to have the Prime Minister joining us here today. It's recognition of the outstanding work of the entire workforce here at PACCAR. They've risen to the occasion, like so many Australians, in extraordinarily difficult times, and now we're seeing some of the fruits of that hard work. So, Prime Minister, we're very grateful to have you here today, and I know the PACCAR team's been really excited to have you here as well.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Michael. Well, it's great to be here at Kenworth. It's great to be joined by Andrew and Noelle. She's got a team of 120 engineers here making all of this happen, making sure that we've got Australian trucks for Australian conditions, made by Australians, made here in Australia. It's great to be here with Michael Sukkar and can, before I go to what I was going to address today, Michael, congratulations on the HomeBuilder fund, particularly here in Victoria - $128 million already out the door supporting people here in Victoria. First homeowners, in particular, families, build their first home, not just buy their first home, build their first home. Some 38,000 applications have come through that programme here in Victoria, and Michael you've done a great job getting Australians into their first home. Nothing better than the look on the face of an Australian when they've got a job or they've got and bought their first home. It's a tremendous accomplishment and we're helping Australians achieve that.

Our plan for Australia's recovery from the COVID‑19 pandemic is fuelled by keeping taxes low. It's fuelled by lower taxes. Right across this plant here, Australians are paying lower taxes now because of the cuts we've put to taxes so they can keep more of what they earn. But more significantly, I suppose, than that, is what they're working on is being bought by businesses that are paying lower taxes. And because of the instant expensing measures, and indeed because of the loss carry-back measures and the many other supports, lower tax rate now for small businesses - 25 per cent from the 1st of July of this year. All of this support, lower taxes, is underpinning Australia's economic recovery from the COVID‑19 pandemic.

Now is the worst possible time that anyone could think of raising taxes, if there's ever a good time to raise taxes. Coalition, the Liberal Nationals, we don't agree with raising taxes. We know that if you keep taxes low, then Australians can keep more of what they earn, and they're going to do a good job with it. They're going to look after their families. They're going to continue to participate in a rebounding and strengthening economy, which keeps everybody else in work. And so lower taxes is absolutely critical to Australia's economic recovery. That's why it concerns me that taxes are rising here in Victoria under the Labor Government. And equally, the Federal Labor Party is looking to increase taxes as well. That's not how you grow your economy. That's not how you get people in work. That's not how you help them buy their first home. You achieve those things by keeping taxes low. And to see Kenworth here as the, some of the workers I've spoken to here this morning, they've been working here for more than 30 years and they've never seen it this busy, never seen it this busy. Putting out over 20 trucks a day - that's what they're seeking to achieve at the moment, and that's just to keep pace with the demand that is being fuelled by ensuring lower taxes for Australian businesses right across the country.

There's a big job to do here in Australia, a huge job to do. And businesses are rolling up their sleeves. Workers are rolling up their sleeves, and they're being supported by the lower tax environment that we've created. Andrew's going to talk more, a bit more about that, about what it means here for Kenworth. But congratulations on what's a banner year for them. And I've got to tell you, it was pretty exciting to get behind the wheel. These are big machines and they do an important job keeping Australia in the way we've been able to keep Australia over the course of this pandemic. Keeping those trucks moving has been critically important. And keeping them rolling out of the factories here will be very important as we build our recovery under a lower taxes environment. Thanks Andrew.

ANDREW HADJIKAKOU, MANAGING DIRECTOR, PACCAR AUSTRALIA: Welcome everyone to PACCAR Australia, the home of Kenworth. We've been building these glorious machines here for 50 years, celebrated this year in March. We want to thank the Government for their foresight in extending the instant asset write-off, which has helped our customers now buy more trucks than ever before. And it's kept us busy and we've been employing many hundreds of people in order to meet that demand. Thank you very much to the Prime Minister for coming today and Federal Minister Sukkar to share in this moment with us. Last year was a year like no other. The uncertainty that surrounded us all and the fact the Government had designated PACCAR as an essential service kept us moving and supporting our communities during a 100-year pandemic like never seen before. On behalf of all of our great employees here at PACCAR, I wanted to thank the Government once again for their foresight and helping the Australian economy move forward. Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Andrew. Happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: You touched on the Victorian Budget a bit earlier, how the Andrews Government plans to increase stamp duty. What do you want to see from the Victorian Budget?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, that's for the Victorian Government to address and we've worked closely with the Victorian State Government over the course of the pandemic. But what we're focussed on is Australia's recovery. And what I know is that Australia's recovery is built on lower taxes. And if you put taxes up, it slows growth. If you put taxes up, it takes away incentive for people. If you put taxes up, it takes away jobs. And anyone who's interested in increasing taxes has to square with the Australian people - how many jobs are going to go? You know, we guarantee the essential services that Australians rely on by growing our economy. That's how we're able to commit what we're doing on aged care and on mental health support, which you've seen in this Budget. That's based on having lower taxes and a growing and stronger economy.

JOURNALIST: You've had the proposal for our independent quarantine facility for a couple of weeks' now. When are we going to hear whether or not [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: You're right, it's only been a couple of weeks. It just came in just before the Budget. And so we're working, officials are working closely together through those proposals now. And when we're in a position to say a bit more about it then, then we will. But I've been, I think, pretty clear that I think it's a very comprehensive proposal. I think it addresses critical issues that haven't been addressed by other proposals. I've just come from Queensland. Who's going to run the facility, how's the infection control work, all of these kinds of things, what are the capital costs involved, how are the operational expenses going to be handled and what are they? I think it's a very comprehensive proposal. And importantly, what the Victorian Government is saying is this is not coming to replace hotel quarantine. This is, this would be there to supplement hotel quarantine. So they see it very much as these two things coming together. And so I think it's a very constructive and comprehensive proposal, and we'll keep working together with the Victorian Government, and when we're in a position to say more we will.

JOURNALIST: Why is it a good use of taxpayers' money to spend up to $600 million on a gas-fired power station in the Hunter Valley?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm glad you asked me about that. There's a 1,000 megawatts that's coming out of reliable power in New South Wales. It's coming out because the Liddell Power Station is closing down. You saw what happened here in Victoria when coal-fired power stations closed down - electricity prices went up. And so what we're doing is we're, we're closing that gap. We're ensuring that there's 660 megawatts of additional reliable energy going into the, the energy capacity of our country, on top of the 330 megawatts which is being done by EnergyAustralia, to ensure that that gap, that hole that is left in reliable power, dispatchable power in New South Wales will be closed. In Victoria, when they closed the coal-fired power stations and didn't replace them, the power prices went up. I want to see the downward pressure on electricity prices. And the other thing about gas-fired power stations is this: it supports the renewable energy in the system. Wind doesn't always blow, sun doesn't always shine. And you need firming power from gas to ensure that those renewable energy investments are effective. Battery development is still at a very early stage and gas is an important transition fuel to support the transition of Australia's energy economy over the next 20, 30 years. So it's an important investment to keep downward pressure on electricity prices. If you don't fill that gap, Australian households, Australian businesses will be paying more for their power, just like we saw here in Victoria where there was no plan to ensure that we filled the hole left behind by closing down those plants.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] believe it won't boost reliability. They don't think it's needed [inaudible]. They, and they feel it drive, it won't drive down prices ever. Are they wrong and you're right?

PRIME MINISTER: I've heard the criticisms, I've heard the criticisms of those who don't mind electricity prices going up. I don't agree with them. I don't want electricity prices going up. Those in the energy industry don't mind it when energy prices go up because their profits go up. I'm for energy prices going down so Australian households can afford costs of living. So I'm not here to spruik for the energy industry. I'm here to spruik for Australian households. I'm here to back them in and make sure their electricity prices go down. So I know there's plenty of clever people out there who don't mind electricity prices going up for the big energy companies. I want to see those energy prices under control and going down, as we've seen since the last election.

JOURNALIST: If vaccine passports are introduced to Australia, will they only be necessary when borders are closed, or would you be implementing that at all times?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, this is a next step. And what's important is it's, it's not safe and won't be for some time for Australia's international borders to open fully. That's just not a safe thing to do. It's been critical to Australians living the way we are. And that's why we will continue to be very cautious on that. But we are working on the next steps. And this is one of those important next steps. I look forward to working through, in a comprehensive way, those proposals with the state and territory governments, and, and I look forward to a constructive way forward. We've got to plan for when we reopen, but it's not safe to do it yet. And so we'll keep planning and we'll get those processes in place. And it's not like, you know, think we'll be closed one day, open the next. It will be a gradual process, as I've said many times.

JOURNALIST: Australians stuck in India have called for more repat flights from the Government. Is that something you're considering?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we're running five at the moment this month. And, and I want to particularly thank here in Victoria, who will have one later this month, Queensland, as well as New South Wales. I mean, New South Wales has been doing the heavy lifting on Australians coming back home now for, for months and months and months. And I'm looking forward to Victoria lifting their caps in the future, which means we can bring more Australians, but especially we can bring more Victorians home. A lot of people from New South Wales have been coming home because the caps have been a lot higher in New South Wales, and they've done a fantastic job both with their quarantine as well as their, their further rings of containment on contact tracing. And I think the Victorian Government have really stepped up there as well. So we'll, we've got five flights in place at the moment, and we'll do that safely. We will bring people home safely.

JOURNALIST: The State Government is considering setting up a new safe injecting room on Flinders Street. Considering your experience of Melbourne, what do you think of this idea? And do you think it's an appropriate site for such a facility?

PRIME MINISTER: They're matters for the Victorian Government.

JOURNALIST: With regards to the vaccine, there's a survey today that up to 30 per cent of Australians don't feel confident to get a jab. Do we have a major confidence problem on our hands here?

PRIME MINISTER: 70 per cent of Australians do want to get vaccinated, and I'm looking forward to them taking up that opportunity. I want to commend the Victorian Government for the great job they're doing here on the rollout of the vaccine. They've got another major centre opening up today. I thank them for that. So those 70 per cent of Australians, when it's when your opportunity, particularly if you're over 50, then I'd encourage you to do that.

JOURNALIST: There are some doctors, though, who are saying that people over 50 are not getting the AstraZeneca jab because they're worried about blood clots.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we're now running at around, just shy of 450,000 people getting vaccinated a week. It's growing, it'll continue to grow, and I look forward to that continuing. And I thank the Victorian Government for their partnership.

JOURNALIST: If a third of Australians don't get the jab though, how is that going to impact how we move into the future with regards to borders?

PRIME MINISTER: We're just focussing on making sure that we're giving that opportunity for Australians to get vaccinated.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, have you politicised for domestic benefit the tensions with China, as Labor suggests?

PRIME MINISTER: No. Australians can always rely on the Liberals and the Nationals, the Coalition Government, to do what's right in Australia's national security interests. Australians under a Coalition Government will always stand up for Australia, always stand up for Australia, and we've demonstrated that, whether it's the additional support you've seen in this Budget for our intelligence and security agencies, whether it's the fact that it was this Government that brought defence spending back to two per cent and more of, of our the size of our economy. I mean, when we came to Government defence spending in this country under Labor, which was basically sacrificed for Labor's mismanagement of the economy, fell to levels lower than before the Second World War. We have spent the time rebuilding our Defence Force capability and looking forward into the future and backing that up. But I can tell you how we do it. We do it because we have policies that are focussed on having a strong economy. If you don't focus on the economy, then you can't guarantee the essential services Australians rely on. You can't support investments in defence and our national security that Australians rely on, that enables Australia to stand up for itself. So our policies on lower taxes are as much about supporting every business out there in the country, and every employee out there in the country, as it is about keeping Australians safe and keeping Australians supported by the services they rely on.

JOURNALIST: The, there's obviously the proposal about quarantine, but then there's also one about international students and economic cohorts being able to come back to Victoria. That's been on the desk up there in Canberra for quite a few weeks' now, as well. Is there any feedback on whether that could happen?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think, again, quite a few weeks, that's not quite a few months or it's not even 12 months.

JOURNALIST: There's a sense of urgency about their situation [inaudible], Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Of course there is, and we'll look at all of those. We've taken those proposals in, in good faith and we'll work in good faith with the Victorian Government. These are all things that you need to prepare for. But I want to be very clear with Australians that I will act in Australia's economic and safety interests. That's what I will always do. Throughout the pandemic we've protected lives and we've protected livelihoods, and we're going to keep doing this. Australians are living in this country like few people in developed economies anywhere in the world today, and that's been hard work by Australians. It's been hard work by the people working in this plant here, who worked through the pandemic, put COVIDSafe practices in place, kept the trucks rolling out so the trucks can keep rolling around the country. Australians have worked so hard to achieve what we've achieved over the last 18 months. As a Government we've sought to back them in, and now we're going to need to keep taxes low so we can support Australia's recovery. Thanks very much for being here today.